baggout Blogging Contest

Monday, October 29, 2007

Your Ways

Your Ways

I cherish the golden moment
You tugged at my heartstring
With your divine melodies

Lifting my soul to the skies
Like a fool I tried to join in
Only to break the spell
Broken hearted and forsaken
I stand and muse
For what fault of mine!
Oh God!What fault of mine!
I felt you by my side
In a room full of people
You came to meIn the dark lonely night
Bursting with prideI misjudged my might.
Victorious, I tried to sing
Alas my pride has broken the string.
You were here!Now you are gone,
I know, though, I am not alone.
You are there in the air I breathe
Your songs , my Love , the flowers sing
You are gone, but not forever
Heartless you’re not
And you do care
To show me how the different ways
All reach you
In the coming days
I’ll find them out one by one
Thank you, Love,
I am not undone!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Page from my Diary

The Bird
The Bird on her golden perch, strained her neck and bent her head
To look around and down,
You should never try to fly, her master said.
The master had a little son, who opened the tiny chain
Tie me oh boy lest I fall cried the bird but in vain
The boy was but only a kid; he could not undo what he did
And he left the bird unchained.
A howling wind came rushing in
Rocking the golden stand
Loosing her grip, the bird fell down
Frightened and out of her mind.
The wings on her back trembled and shuddered
But what for, the bird never knew,
She dared to look up and there she saw
Her kith and kin in the blue
Flying and diving and soaring in the sky
Like kites without thread
She picked up her wings to join her folks
On the sky over her head
The master came running with chain in hand
Waving to his pet in the sky
She is not looking back, she is not looking down
To the chains she bade goodbye

Me and my dear soul

Me and my dear Soul

With deep resonant voice the ocean beckons me
Time and again I jump into its savage arms
The sun jumping out of the waterbed rises up the sky
Thousand waves revolving all round we make love
And I come ashore exhausted and breathlessly happy!
Then I jump again and again in the blue-green water,
Sand and salty water, the sea and me
Oh my! What a place to be!!
The sun crawls back in to the waters
Stars peeping out of the night sky
I sit down below chin on my knees.
Darkness all around, but the stars above
Fiercely growling the mighty waves keep
Bouncing back impatiently on the shore
But I have closed my doors
Shutting out the roaring ocean
I plunge deeper inside
Some one is calling
Come, be one with me
I am here waiting for you
For ever and ever
Oh what a lovely voice, such serenity
I lose myself into the one and only,
So near and so close
Oh my! What a place to be
My dear soul and me!!

Friday, October 26, 2007

My Window in the East

My Window in the East

My small window in the East
I keep it open, day in day out-
Wondering at the flood gate of light
Washing away the dark corners in my room.
I keep this window open,
hoping for only a gentle touch,
Vibes from your world - if you send.
My window in the East
I do not shut
I stand and wait and stare out at the stormy night
Soaked to the bone and
Waiting for you
Are you coming!
Doubt! I never do .
Do you know my address!
My small window in the East.

A tribute to the eternal poet

The poet

My eternal poet!
How I wish I could write your name in my book
I marvel that my secret wish was known to you
And you wrote all the verses for me.
All day long I hummed those songs
Oh my master player,
Behold, you have turned me into your Veena
Full of your own melodies
You grinned when I took up my brush
To paint you with my colors.
And oh eternal playboy,
you have drenched me
With all your hues
The grand night approaching,
I was busyPreparing my offerings,
My heart beating fast
My aching heart’s desire was not hidden from you
Oh my eternal lover!
Gently you put all my fears to rest
Embracing me with your all pervading love.



Before you enter Tukai’s house you would find a huge krishnachura tree, branches full of velvety lush green leaves, washed clean by a rains last night.. Pinky was so fond of this tree.- her favourite tree. She could touch the branches from their roof and pluck flowers, playing with the petals and long stems .The tree, though belonged to Tukai, but was more fond of Pinky it seemed and that was why it I spread its branches with leaves and flowers towards their roof only. Pinky searched for the flowers to pluck but could not find any near at hand and was coming down the stairs when she found them talking together , agitated and gesticulating. They mean, dadi, monima and mimiaunti (Monima’s younger sister ) Monima was speaking in a high pitched voice- this must be the work of that naughty old bham ( old Mole ) ….a bunch of bananas, all finished ! Dadi looked to all with a vacant look – just think of it! So, this was the problem. There was a satyanarayan puja scheduled for today. Being very pious, dadi kept fruits to be offered to the deity at a corner of the room only last night and this morning they are all gone- all twelve of them. Dadi was squatting on the floor, eyebrows raised almost touching the hairline , eyes round and lips making perfect round O. Mimi, who had come to spend her vacation seconded monima vehemently. Yes masima (aunty), it must be the handiwork of a bad old Bham. I have heard they use their hands when they eat. Pinky couldn’t restrain herself any more and could not conceal her doubt of the absurdity of their suggestion –“but how can Tukai’s jethu (uncle) have twelve bananas at a time and how could even he do that without any of us spotting him?” There was an unusual silence in the room broken first by Dadi ‘Pinky will you stop talking nonsense and confuse me further. What ! where does Tukai’s jethu come in the picture . Pinky came forward and tried to say: You know nothing Dadi, Tukai’s Jethu is a Bham, ask Mimiaunty?” Pinky who has never seen a Mole, the small burrowing mammal , and was not even aware of its existence, thought it is some kind of a name for his friend’s dark and fat uncle. The fact is Mimi, a bubbly young maiden, was in the habit of calling people by funny names, like she had named the fat and round milkman Ramu as ‘Hontka” , the extra smart news paper vender vendor as “Sharukh” and for some reason not known to Pinky she named Tukai’s uncle, a sturdy and very dark bald man ,who was most often seen standing on this side of their first floor veranda inspecting the activities of this young lady , ‘Old Bham’. Pinky often wandered why should she call Uncle old, for he did not seem that much old to Pinky and she was yet to ask anybody as to what ‘Bham’ stood for. Coming back to the present we saw that Mimiaunty did not let Pinky finish and her voice was drowned by a torrent of denial from Mimiaunty. See how she lies. Stop making up stories Pinky and go play with Bablu and Bhulo. Don’t comment about things you don’t understand . You have no business butting in where elders are discussing serious matter. Monima gave a stern and suspicious look to mimiaunty and would have crossed further but her attention was diverted by what her sister was saying now : ‘I am telling you masima the bham would come in the dead of night and no body would know. They walk very silently and they can climb pipe and tree alike. This huge tree that you have grown before your building makes an easy access to your house for such animals and for that matter for thieves also. You must cut that tree down. ‘No, please don’t’ Pinky screamed. You can’t do that. Dadi said solemnly ‘I see, you have a point there Mimi. We must do something about it.’ Monima did’nt said anything but laid Pinky away from the room tactfully. Next morning Pinky was still in bed and dreamt that she had gone to the Circus with Bablu , Mimiaunty, Monima and Mama . There was a small girl in a short pink frock who was walking on a rope high up. Suddenly the rope became a branch of a tree with beautiful red flowers and the branch broke and started falling down together with the girl and people down below cried out … her, help her.. the tree is falling…, the noise continued and became louder. Pinky opened her eyes and heard a lot of people talking together outside her room, in the veranda. Pinky quickly got out of her bed and rushed out. There she saw, Dadi, Monima and Mimiaunty having an agitated conversation with Tukai’s uncle, who was standing on their side of the veranda. Uncle was visibly angry and almost violet with anger. ‘It is not…..good…I mean… not…er .. at all fair that you should cut that tree without my……our consent. You should have known …don’t you know….that the tree is…….was planted by us only.’ He was so angry, he had to grope for the right word and took a long time to finish each sentence. ‘If it is your tree, you should keep its branches to your side only Montu. If your tree disturbs us we have every right to cut it’…. Dadi was so happy with her logic. But Masima, it is a tree, I can’t very well ask it to draw back its branches from spreading in that direction. You are being absolutely illogical. Uncle almost jumped like a baboon. You are being illogical. You don’t know what logic is- Dadi A kya.. kaun giraya lakri… kaun hai upar….(what is this.. who has fell the tree, who is up there) the local constable Ramdin was strolling by, while a small branch of the tree fell on his head. Ramdin stopped and looked up and saw two legs hanging from a solid branch covered with thick green leaves and flowers. The legs belonged to Kesto, the community sweeper, who was trying his best to hide every other part of his body from the constable down below by the foliage. Kaun hai, moo to dikha…chal.. niche aaa (who is there, show me your face, come to the police station) Kesto, peeped from behind the flowers and leaves and said in a small voice ..nehi, nehi, mai nehi, oo hai upar varanda me (no, no it is not me, there she is up on the varanda) kya, mai burbak hoon. Mai dekh raha hoo,tum upar baitha, haath me kulhar our bol raha hai mai nehi. Abhi utar, chal thaneme. (what, am I a fool. I can see you sitting up there with an axe in hand and you say, it is not me. Come down , come to the police station) Ramdin stamped his feet and the fat baton on the ground. Atlast dadi relented and said ‘Ramdin, let him go. I asked Kesto to cut the branches.’ “Lekin kiu, maiji, aap jante ho na, per girana kanunjan gunha hai” (“But why lady, you should know it is a criminal offence to fell trees without permission”) But it is only some branches and not the whole tree, constable. “oo bhi gunha hai!” That too is an offence. Ramdin was not convinced. But what can I do ? the big black bham comes by that branch to our house and create nuisance. Today it came and ate all the fruits kept for Narayanpuja. Now that bit of information shook Ramdin to the core, being a thoroughly religious individual himself. He looked up at Tukai’s uncle and said ‘ yeh to thik baat naahi aache. Aapne bham cheriyechen keno. U bham pujar fal kheye liyeche. Ee to thik baat naahi aache. (this is not right. Why did you let loose the Mole. It has eaten fruits kept for worship. This is not right) Tukai’s Uncle jumped twelve inches from the ground and ground his teethe. “What nonsense. Is bham (Mole) a thing to be kept as a pet? It is not my fault that a bham should climb the tree to their house.” Ramdin’s face became crimson with rage “ to up hume nonsense kaha? Up chaliye thaneme. Ek to upne bham cheriyechen –upar se gaali dichhen.” (So you have called me nonsence. Come to the Police Station. You have let loose the mole and over and above you are calling me names.” Things were turning bad to worse and inquisitive people were enjoying every bit of it from windows and veranda of other building as also on the lane down below . Mama who returned from his tour the night before, went down and called Ramdin aside. After a few notes exchanged hands further unpleasantness was averted. After that incident for a few weeks there was cold war between the two families excepting Tukai and Pinky, who were secretly immensely happy and relieved that a catastrophe could be avoided for the time being and tree was very much there with bright red flowers and green leaves and as a taken of appreciation of their support it showered a few petals and flowers on them, to show its love and affection for the two little loving souls.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Your Mirror

Your Mirror

Our first encounter! But I don’t’ know.
Though I smelt you in my mother’s womb from the word ‘go’
Admonished by father I cried, a naughty child
You were in my papa’s voice, in his stern stride
My girlhood friends and mates –
I loved them all with burning desire ,
With my body and soul
The thread in your hand
You smiled all through
But even till then, I have never known you
Until the day my first born was lying in my arms
A tiny little angel – my bundle of joy
So pure and gentle, my tears ran out
Inside I was laughing
Yo are here no doubt
The innocence, the purity
The love that it draws
Picture of divinity
Your mirror shows

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Pinky had carefully drawn big squares for playing ekka-dokka when Tukai came and peeped over her shoulders. ‘Oh my! What big squares! Are you sure we can jump over them’ Tukai was clearly skeptical of her own jumping powers. ‘Why not , look here how I jump. It is so easy’ So saying a buoyant Pinky started jumping over the marks. Tukai took a step forward eagerly ‘let me try. But it is so hot out here. I am feeling queer……. thirsty….Pinky will you….’ tukai stopped talking and started tumbling down slowly like a Pack of cards . A strange sound started coming from Tukai’s open mouth- aanha…aanha…. Pinky looked awestricken at Tukai’s half closed eyes and began the fastest run in her life . Pinky knew what it was. It must be tetanus. She was sure. Only two days back, Pinky and Tukai were climbing the guava tree when Tukai fell from the lowest branch and scratched her arm. Pinky insisted that she should tell her mother and get an injection but Tukai would not listen. She was such a coward, so afraid of the needle. Though in her heart of hearts Pinky admitted that if it was Pinky, she herself would not have divulged the news for fear of the needle. But outside she put on a brave façade and urged Tukai to come along and get a proper medical attention. Tukai begged and begged of Pinky not to disclose the incident and a reluctant Pinky had to give in . Now see what happened. Dadi and Monima were in Dadi’s room . Dadi was busy reading the newspaper with her spectacles balanced precariously on the tip of her nose and Monima was busy knitting a pullover for Bablu. The ceiling fan was moving in full speed. It was mid April and quite hot outside. But the room was cool and comfortable. Bablu and Bhulo were no where to be seen and were most probably playing with ball in the garden. It was quite evident from Dadi’s countenance that the news that she was reading was quite pleasant. There was an overall atmosphere of congeniality in the room when it was rudely shaken by a sudden and violent intrusion in the form of a shrieking and disheveled Pinky who came panting and pale like a sheet of paper, ‘dadi, dadi, monima, monima, a disaster…a disaster . Come soon’ Dadi took a little time to comprehend and looked up from her newspaper with resignation written large on her face but did not show much alarm. But Monima acted so strange. The ball of wool and the half finished sweater fell from her hand ’ What is it Pinky ? Is it Bablu? What happened to my Babulu.. Where is my Bablu?” Pinky took a deep breath and a step backward. No no, it is not Bablu Monima, but Tukai. She has fallen down and is not talking. A somewhat relieved Monima and now an anxious dadi trouped behind a pensive Pinky to the spot, which was way up on the roof. Pinky sensed a stabbing pain deep in side. How panicked Monima looked and how strangely she cried ‘My Bablu..’ Pinky’s little soul some how realized that because Bablu was her own son, she was so upset. Would she have been that much perturbed if it was Pinky and would she have cried saying ‘My Pinky’ ? Pinky doubted it very much. Tukai was taken downstairs to Pinky’s room. But Doctor uncle said it was nothing serious but too much heat and a heavy dinner the night before that she had had at the wedding ceremony of her relative had a combined effect on her. A little rest and a few glasses of water with salt and sugar would be enough to make her fit and running. Pinky was sitting by her side when Rangakakima, Tukai’s mother, came rushing in. Rangakakima loved Pinky and showered her with hugs and kisses whenever Pinky visited their house. She was Pinky’s favourite as she had a mole on her chin just like Pinky’s mother had. Though Pinky did not remember her mother but she has seen the mole in her picture in the silver photo frame that is kept beside dadi’s bed But today Rangakakima came like a storm and did not even look once at Pinky. She bent over Tukai, and murmured in a broken voice ‘Tukai, my dear little girl. Are you ok?’ To Pinky it seemed as if a frog was crocking through her voice. And Tukai ! She also did not even think of Pinky. Did not care how much Pinky was worried for her and went home timidly with Rangakakima. And she claimed she was Pinky’s best friend. Pinky felt so much let down, neglected, and utterly forsaken. For some unknown reason Pinky felt like crying. Bablu stood by her side and tugged softly at her hand. Pinky brushed him rudely and said ‘ don’t you dare come to me.’ Monima now turned to Pinky…. ” How many times have I told you not to go to the open in this blazing sun. But no, you would not listen” ‘Ok, I am a bad girl. I do whatever I wish. I don’t care about what anybody says. I WILL go in the blazing sun and I WOULD be sitting under it the whole day long. I DON’T CARE ABOUT WHAT YOU SAY“ cried Pinky at the top of her voice. A dumbfounded dadi looked at her and exclaimed “Oh God ! What ever is the matter ? Why are you so upset? Calm down child. Come down.” “Why then she always picks on me?” Pinky cried defiantly? Monima was furious – Maa, I have told you, that you are spoiling her to no end. See how insolent she has become. She will be naughty and over and above she would answer back. How dare is she. Pinky I am warning you. Be very careful in future. If ever I catch you on the wrong foot again you will be sorry that you crossed my path”. And she gave a good spank on her back. See how unjust monima is, Pinky talked to herself silently. She would love Bablu more and on top of that she would strike me.. The whole day Pinky avoided Bablu like a plague. For some unknown reason she could not tolerate the sight of Bablu. She did not talk to anybody at all and kept to herself. No body was aware of the turmoil inside her little soul, how hurt she was and how angry at the world as a whole for the injustice of it. Little Bablu avoided her and kept at a distance. That night Pinky went to sleep crying and feeling angry and desolate. Next morning Pinky felt odd and flushed and very uneasy. She went back to her bed shivering from a very high fever. She found a towel lying on the floor, covered herself with it and went into a drowsy sleep. Not finding Pinky in the breakfast table, Monima went in search and the sight of the little orphan lying alone in that fashion pierced her heart like a sharp dagger. To say Monima and Dadi were flustered would be to grossly understate. Both the elders were so upset and cursed themselves so mercilessly that doctor uncle had to intervene and console them like two children. The whole day Monima never left Pinky’s side. Gave her medicine, took her temperature, stroked her tenderly. Next day Pinky was feeling much better. After two days the fever was gone but she was not allowed to leave the bed. Monima still fussed and refused to leave her side. Around noon, after giving Pinky a hot body sponge and washing her head with cold water, and after feeding her piping hot chicken stew with bread, monima was reading out a story while Pinky and Bablu and even Bhulo listened with rapt attention when Ramala-aunti, Monima’s friend and next door neighbor entered the room. ‘Seema (it was Monima’s name) I have got two tickets for matinee show of the new movie now showing at Menoka. Get ready fast. The show starts at 2.30 sharp’. But Monima showed no interest ‘please excuse me this time, I can’t go’. ‘ But why not? It is a real good movie. I have gone through the review in today’s paper’ coaxed Romala. ‘Please Romala, can’t you see Pinky is not well. How can I go to a movie, leaving her alone . No, no, I am not coming’ Monima was very definite in her assertion. Romala aunty was not at all happy ‘really Seema, you are making too much of a fuss. She is not that ill and Masima(meaning Pinky’s dadi) will be at home. Won’t she?” “May be, but I am not feeling like going to a movie and that is final.” Pinky’s pillow became wet with the flow of warm and salty tear drops that flew right from the bottom of her six and half year old heart. Bablu exclaimed “ma, ma, didi is crying.” Monima got worried ‘ oh dear. You are not feeling well ? See for yourself, if you don’t listen to elders, you suffer. Come on, dear girl, don’t cry’ ‘If I listened to you , I wouldn’t have known naa? Pinky whispered through her sobs. What would you have not known, child ? Monima was at a loss. Little Pinky felt shy and she put her head in her aunty’s soft and warm bosom and whispered ‘That you are a Jewel , my Moni MAA’ (jewel-mother)

Monkey Business

Pinky was jumping around the room almost like a baby monkey without a tail. Whoop, whoop, Whoop and thud, thud, thud, jumping from the divan on the floor and again up on the chair. Bhulo was sitting on the floor , watching her move with watchful and keen eyes, wagging his tail and was about to follow suit when “Oh stop it, Pinky; you are getting on my nerves. This is not a jungle but my study and you are disturbing my concentration”- grumbled Mama. “Don’t be such a spoilsport Mama!” Pinky complained with a pout; “you know I am the great monkey in our school’s drama in the Annual prize distribution programme.” “Don’t make me laugh, why in the drama, you are the little monkey in home also, you need not practice so much, you need no rehearsal. And now get lost, don’t make me angry.” “And you are the wicked devil,” muttered Pinky under her breath but she had no option but to run outside on the courtyard with Bhulo on her toe and start rehearsing, this time on real grass and on real trees. December has gone past. This is early January, a beautiful and cool Sunday morning The morning sun was blazing high and Pinky felt like being embraced by a warm and soft blanket. This year Pinky has managed to get a small role in their school’s drama. She is doing the ‘little pet monkey of the poor queen’ . In the beginning though Pinky objected – “give me the little princess’s role instead. I want to wear beautiful dresses”. “Look here Pinky anybody can do the role of a King, or queen or a princess as we are all humans. But just imagine imitating a monkey! It really needs strong acting prowess. We know only you can do justice to this role”. So Pinky had to oblige. She could not very well let them down. Pinky..eee…eee, some one was calling. Bhulo pricked his ears and ran towards the gate. Pinky looked over her shoulder, but could not find anyone. Pinky tiptoed towards the gate. There she was, waiting with a finger on her lips. “What is it Tukai ?” Pinky enquired in a studied whisper. “Come along, a circus party has come; they have camped near the railway overbridge.” “Look at those girls Pinky. They will walk on ropes wearing shiny dresses. I have seen their pictures on the posters” – Tukai was all excited. “Where are the cages for the monkeys, I must see how they behave, like how they laugh, how they cry, how even they eat bananas.” “Oh no Pinky not again. Stop being a monkey for a while, will you?” “I see, you are not my best friend! You should help me to be a perfect monkey” – a glum Pinky complained. Suddenly Bhulo emitted a mild bark as if to warn the girls . “Hey you girls, what are you doing there?”- A very fat and ominous looking fellow came out of one of the tents. He had a green and white checkered pajama and a crimson t-shirt on him. “Come inside I will show you my cages full of animals.” Pinky , Tukai and Bhulo were half way across the meadow before he could even finish his sentence. “We are very lucky to have escaped unharmed you know Tukai, Mama said these people kidnap kids and put them in their cages. That is why they are called ‘kidnappers’. They capture the kids and then put them to sleep and mesmerize them into animals and let them perform the shows. Didn’t you hear he said ‘come I will throw you in my cage’ ?” “But I thought he said I will show you the cages”- Tukai intervened doubtfully. “You don’t know anything. They will call you on false pretext and then …ok… if you don’t believe you can go back on your own.” Pinky was visibly hurt that Tukai questioned her knowledge on kidnappers. None of the girls narrated the incident to their respective elders though. On the big day Pinky was up and about in the wee hours and ready before dawn. The school gates though were opened only after 10 in the morning and the dress rehearsal started at about 12 noon. Everything was going smooth as ice cream. All the dresses, like that of the Queen and King, their Kings men were very good but the mask and the costume for the good little monkey was superb. Everybody was highly impressed. “Pinky, really, you look like a monkey out of the jungle book, such a beautiful tail” and Pinky was as happy as could be. They were served a lovely lunch full of fried potatoes and sweets and Pinky was so hungry she cleaned her plate like new. Purnima madam, their games teacher saw her empty plate and put two extra sweets on it- “I am giving you sweets in advance for looking so much like a monkey only and after the play is over, if you do your part well, I will give you a chocolate,” she patted pinky on her head. The show started at 5.30 and progressed without much hitch. Pinky had six scenes to her credit. In the first scene, the monkey was seen sitting beside a animal-trader and having a banana and the king bought it from the trader. Pinky was so natural in her hunched position and the way she ate the banana that the audience, mainly her classmates and family clapped hugely. Next she was seen sitting beside the sleeping queen, who was banished from the palace and lived alone in a mud hut. Pinky was supposed to sit for a while and quietly go out of the room in search of the palace and the king but Pinky thought that she would act a little more natural and started to pick lice from the sleeping queens hair as she had seen monkeys do. Leena a student of class VII, who was the sad queen in the play was not expecting any such move and jumped up in a most un-queenly manner with a hand on her head and exclaimed “what mischief are you at?” But the audience could not guess that it was an extra and the things passed of with only a stern look from their teacher. In her next few appearances Pinky was very cautious and acted as she was told. In the last scene, the monkey was to come on stage and the king (played by Rumpa, a Class X student ) would present him with a pearl necklace. Pinky was supposed to wait on back sage but she thought, there being two more scenes to be enacted before her scene was due, she could safely go out and have one or two toffees that she spotted in the teachers common room, which by then was thankfully left vacant, the teachers being busy watching the drama either as audience or managing the girls on stage. After a successful mission, Pinky was coming up on the stage, a very happy and content soul hopping two steps at a time, when her tail got tangled in a hook in the bottom stair. She frantically tried to free herself. All this while, unnoticed by everybody, a lone monkey escaping from the circus party was sitting on the top of the false ceiling made over the king’s throne and watching the proceeding down below with a keen animal interest. He had a very strong impulse to jump on to the stage and snatch the bananas but held himself back as he was suspicious of Pinky in the guise of a monkey. Years of training told him that he should beware of this creature but as Pinky was no where to be seen and the king howled “Oh monkey come and take your reward” for a couple of times, obviously to cover up the time gap, the monkey jumped down on to the stage and stood up before the king. Every body was a little puzzled. “Hey have you changed your costume?” Kabita a student of class V, standing beside the king and waiving a huge hand fan, muttered under her breath. The monkey made a face and said ‘cheeek, keeech, , cheek, keech’. “Don’t overact “(this was in a whisper and then in a loud voice) , “come here and take your reward”- the king extended his hand but the monkey was not interested in the necklace . He was hungry and he eyed the plate full of sweets and fruits placed before the king and showed him his teeth. “Oh naughty monkey, “ Rumpa invented a new dialogue line “take your reward or else..” Making a violent face, only to scare off the humans on the stage the monkey made a dash for the fruits. Realization dawned on people on the stage a little late and Pandemonium broke loose. The girls in their colourful, costumes screamed and scurried for cover. “It is a real monkey, it will bite us” “where is Pinky- has she turned into a monkey” and some one thoughtfully pulled the curtains down. In the audience Tukai almost fainted. Pinky was right ! The fat man has turned Pinky into a real monkey. And she jumped out of her seat and ran to the headmistress. Mrs Banani Haldar, a small, plump and fair woman having a very amicable disposition have just started taking a late Tiffin when Tukai rushed into her room panting and flushed ‘Big Aunty, Big Aunty , come, come Pinky has turned into a real monkey. It is not my fault. It is the fat man at the Circus”. Mrs Haldar looked on at Tukai uncomprehendingly, her eyes round and mouth wide open , full of sweets, which she forgot to swallow. The news that Pinky had turned into a real monkey, was puzzling enough to be digested, to be added with the vehement denial that Tukai was in no way responsible for the transformation, which she obviously could not be even if the transformation was real, which in itself was a matter of great disbelief and a further incoherent allusion to some strange fat man in a circus made her brain stop functioning for a while. Mrs Haldar was a very level headed woman, quite capable of dealing with the incongruities of little souls, but Tukai’s submission was too complicated and too sudden even for her consumption. Bahadur, the school caretaker, in the meantime, came and led the monkey away from the stage after tempting him with the bananas. Pinky was still toiling hard to free herself from the tangle. She did not want to spoil her costume. But when bits of conversation on stage and the screams reached Pinky’s ears she tugged at her tail mercilessly which came midway off into her hand. At last Pinky entered the stage. Oblivious of the commotion around, she stretched out her hand and said “Oh Rumpadi, I am a here, my tail got shucked, now you can give me my reward” In the excitement she forgot her lines somewhat. “Now you can give me my reward” - Rumpa mimicked “where were you . can’t you see the curtains are down?” All the girls pounced on Pinky. ““See what you have done, you have spoiled the whole show, it was going so smoothly, every body was clapping and only for you…” “But what can I do, my tail got stuck naa.?” Pinky whimpered in a nasal voice! “So what! You could have come without a tail or for that matter without costume also. Your antics are so much like a monkey nobody would have missed the tail. And any way, why were you not on backstage? You were supposed to wait outside for your scene? You stupid girl!” “We should have known better than to take you in our play and that too as a monkey. See what happened. Your friend came in search of you and spoiled everything. Next time you come a begging for a role in the play, we know you will, and then we will see.” Struck with the disaster, the girls, as girls of their age would be, unconsciously linked Pinky’s absence with the misadventure of the monkey and were being unreasonably harsh and critical of Pinky. Their games teacher came to Pinky’s rescue, ‘ girls, you should not blame poor little Pinky, you know. It is not her fault that a monkey should escape from the circus party and target your play. And it is only an accident that her tail got stuck.” And the teacher even actually gave the tearful (which the senior girls were sure was faked) and naughty Pinky a pat on the back and a chocolate as a consolation. The seniors looked on helpless and angry. They knew their teacher was right but still they had a feeling that Pinky was some how responsible for the mishap. Pinky, her hand held firmly by the teacher, looked back at the girls and gave them a perfect one sided grin which had a very uncanny similarity to that of the monkey in the jungle book.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Yellow shirt

The Yellow Shirt

It was mid august, the air hot and humid, the sky cloudy and so was the heart of Rubina. Rubina family, comprising of mother, Ranu De, father Ramani De and brother Ranjan had moved in to their new home at Garia in extreme south Calcutta. Rubina had been born and brought up at Dumdum cantonment, extreme north of the city and had a host of friends and friendly neighbours the thought of whom made her heart heavy and depressed. Mr De and his family stayed so long at a rented house at North Calcutta where buildings were separated by so narrow margins that you could almost touch one another from the different roofs and Rubina, used to such narrow lanes and by lanes found herself lost and lonely. She now had a whole room and an attached balcony to herself and sitting on the balcony she was lazily observing the people down below when her attention was drawn to a yellow shirt and the young man in it, in precisely that order. The young man who held her attention was in his mid twenties and the owner of an attractive tanned complexion, a latest haircut, medium height and athletic physic. She could not see his face and felt curious until he looked up at her with a. pair of intense eyes almost angry and those were the only features that she was aware of when she looked into those eyes. Rubina heard some one shout at her ‘Does Ranjan leave here?” and she was conscious of another young man beside the yellow shirt. The companion repeated his question and Rubina came back to her senses, “Yes, yes, please wait” and she went to look for her brother.

Rubina was seventeen and had just finished her school. Rubina had an extremely sweet disposition, so much so that her looks more often than not reflected that sweetness. Otherwise she had almost plain features, her eyes though were big and black with naturally thick black lashes, a small but sharp nose and a soft and round chin. She was not fair , neither was she dark and she was quite tall by Bengali standards. Basically Rubina was conservative and shy by nature and so long she did not have any boy friend. This chance meeting with the young man in yellow shirt bowled her out completely. Gone was the state of melancholy – the days of boredom, her heart suddenly started singing songs, her eyes became mysteriously shiny, her skin glowed and she danced around the house, looking at herself in mirrors and blushing for no apparent reasons. That night she had a strange dream; she saw a man waving at her. It was a rose garden full of yellow roses .A beautiful melody was in the air. She thought roses should emit good smell and not good music and she put her hand out to pick one, when the rose garden turned into a huge yellow shirt . Rubina looked at the man who had a yellow shirt on but she could not make out his face, so she started walking towards him but her legs wont carry her, they felt so heavy and she tried and tried and to her despair saw the man turn and vanish -she came out of her sleep crying.

Bikash was a graduate engineer working with a business house situated near Park Street area where he spotted Rubina waiting for Metro on her way back from Loretto college. Bikash was attracted by her innocent looks and a devastating figure , which mother nature had generously endowed with youth. Her slim stature had well shaped full breasts and a round and slightly heavy hip, which gave an impression to the onlooker as if she was a delicate creeper with blossoms, which were heavy on it which reminded him of Kalidas’s Shakuntala. Bikash considered himself good looking and attractive to the other sex and was disappointed to find that the girl never looked at him. Rubina by nature was sober and dignified ,did not look at people when out in the streets. Bikash made a habit of taking the same train every day and after he got tired of catching her eyes, he made enquiries and found out that she had a brother who was a fellow student. That is how he made friends with him and visited their house. Rubina was blissfully unaware of the chain of events and saw him for the first time.

Nearly a year and a half have passed. Bikash would come dutifully everyday and spend sometime with Ranjan, helping him with his studies and showing no apparent desire to befriend Rubina, which most of Ranjan’s friends were in the habit of and which impressed him immensely. But Bikash would invariably choose the day and time when Rubina was at home and thus their eyes met, and many unspoken words were communicated without the knowledge of the unsuspecting elders.

Bikash could read the interest in her eyes and played for time but never spoke to her. He would come and chat with Ranjan making enough room in his heart as he was quite an eligible bachelor and ultimately approached him for the hand of his sister. By that time Ranjan was quite taken up with his senior and was also highly impressed with his sobriety and on his part he apprised his parents of the situation. That evening Rubina came back from her evening classes and heard them discussing about her marriage and immediately flared up.

“Why do you want to give me away in marriage so soon, am I a burden on you?” She cried. Her parents and brother were moved and refrained from speaking anything more about the proposal as they were not aware of her feelings for Bikash and Rubina in her turn was in the dark about the would-be-husband and never dreamt that it could be Bikash they were talking about. When Bikash heard that he had been rejected, his male ego was hurt so much that he married the very first girl that his mother chose for him and that too at quite a young age for today’s standard

For sometime now Bikash’s regular visits had stopped suddenly. An anxious Rubina waited at the specific time on her balcony, only to return to her room broken hearted. There was no Bikash in sight.

‘Dada one of your friends came while you were not home.” Rubina was dying with curiosity to know his name

Who was it?

Well I don’t know his name but I saw him the other day in a yellow shirt. Ranjan was thoughtful for a while and then exclaimed- oh Bikash? But he is supposed to be in Delhi now, he has got a job there. You must have been mistaken., Rubina.

So his name was Bikash?. Bikash …Rubina murmured to herself, her heart pounding with unknown fear and a hitherto unknown feeling . Her tender soul felt so hurt, he is gone, he is not in Kolkata and she did not know: why, why ,why , how could he.

Ranjan looked at his sister for a while then asked – do you like Bikash?

Rubina blushed – I hardly know him dada.

Yes , yes, ofcourse, my mistake. Ranjan attributed her blushed countenance to natural shyness, but still he remained thoughtful.

After sometime Ranjan again came to Rubina’s room. Rubina looked at her brother questioningly with wide innocent eyes. Rubina- funny that you said you saw Bikash. Did you know Bikash asked for your hand in marriage! Nothing could have been a greater news for her but for the tense that Ranjan used in breaking the news. He asked for my hand? “‘ Yes , remember , you got so upset when we were talking about your marriage’- it was him and after you declined he acted very queer for days and I thought may be there was something between you and you had ditched him. For Bikash said something about girls should not be trusted . And I was all the more surprised at his sudden marriage. I was thinking of asking you about you.

Alas ..If only Ranjan knew what blows he was aiming at his darling sister.

Rubina, when she heard about the marriage was shocked and broken hearted. How could he, she thought, as if he could not gauge from her looks how taken up she was with him. Her young heart bled and she cried so much on her pillow that in the morning her mother was shocked to see her swollen eyes. Days rolled into nights and months into years, and after two more years a very eligible match was found for Rubina, a very good scholar and a professor, though ten years her senior Mridul Sen was a jovial soul, well liked and popular among friends and students alike. Rubina did not say no, as there was no young attractive man in yellow shirt waiting for her with open arms. In her heart of hearts she still pined for his love that was now reserved for somebody else. As a loving heart sees no reason, she craved for her unfulfilled romance and quite unreasonably harbored anti feeling for the unfortunate husband .

Mridul with his inherent affectionate nature treated his young wife with sensitivity and care and attributed her aloof and somewhat curt behaviour to immaturity and side effects of being separated from loved ones at the tender age of nineteen.

On the third day after their marriage, as was their custom, Mridul came to Rubina’s house and by chance Bikash chose the very day for visiting Ranjan with his wife. Ranjan’s wife Sheela was a simple soul, pretty and plump.

Ranjan introduced the four among themselves and jokingly said that Mridul could get his sisters hand only because she refused Bikash. Before Mridul could react, Bikash said in a haste, thank God she refused or else how could I get a gem of a wife like Sheela! hee, hee, hee….the young man giggled to hide his embarrassment . Rubina looked at him in stunned disbelief. Such an effeminate voice! Is this the man she wanted to get married to, a man with a voice like a woman, giggles like a girl, no wonder he chose bright yellow of a shirt to show off the whiteness of his skin- such a dandy. Here Rubina was a little too harsh on him for it was the yellow shirt that made her notice the man in it and never before had she thought the colour too loud or effeminate .Really it is God’s grace that she escaped by a hair’s breath, otherwise she would have to be tied down to this man with a woman’s voice the whole life, she shuddered at the thought. Mridul was watching his wife closely and asked anxiously ‘ darling are you ok?”

For the first time since their marriage Rubina looked at her husband with gratitude and with love and marveled at the baritone, so reassuring and ofcourse so masculine- and said smiling, no dear it is nothing , I was only thinking of a yellow shirt.

For my soul mate

I saw you standing far, far away,

With your arms folded as you do.

A gust of wind came my way,

Bringing in your scent.

I took a step or two,

Fear lurching in my heart.

Suddenly I looked back

And it was the moon.

I ran as fast as I could

And was in your arms

holding me tight.

My eyes could not see you smile.

For, for my eyes it was a knight.

The river flew from my eyes

Dropping into your soul.

I saw the waves coming our way

Fury and passion blended in two.

My heart was laughing and crying for I knew

At last it was you and only you.



A battered maid was just about to change Karuna’s Life.

It was a late afternoon in September, Durga Puja was round the corner and I had just woken from a siesta. I felt too lazy to get up and make tea for myself, so I waited for Maya – our maid. She was a kindly soul, very faithful and docile, but frail and almost bird-like. She’d come every morning and evening, with her curly black hair tied in a knot near her neck. I wondered what she was up to today and why she hadn’t yet come, was it Ramu ? Just the thought of the ruffian repulsed me. He had made Maya’s life miserable. He left Maya for another woman a year ago, but he still made demands on her. A dark, stocky fellow, Ramu had meanness pouring out of his beady little eyes.

Just as I was beginning to think of making that cup of tea myself, the phone rang. I answered,


“Do you know Maya Mondol?” A gruff voice asked from the other end.
“Yes, she’s our maid. Why? Who is this ?” I asked. There was no answer, but just a clattering and then Maya’s voice came feebly from the receiver, “Boudi, please help me. Ramu has beaten me very badly. I am at the Jadavpur police station.”

“How? What happened?” I asked, shocked and yet with a familiar feeling of anger against Ramu.

“I was returning from the milk depot and Ramu met me on the street. He asked for money, but when I refused to give him, he started beating me up. The people around stopped him and brought us here. Oh Boudi, I don’t know what to do ?”

“Wait there, I am coming,” I replied.
“Who was that? What happened? And where are you going?” demanded Suren, my husband.

“It was Maya, she’s at the police station, Ramu beat her up badly. I am going to get her,” I replied quickly, as I got my handbag.

“Are you mad, Karuna? You are going to the police station, that too for Maya?!”

“But Suren, she need help!”
“You are going nowhere, and that’s final,” declared Suren in a tone that said there was going to be no further discussion.

I made two cups of tea. I looked at Suren, sipping his tea noisily and enjoying himself, his sharp features silhouetted against the evening sky. The desire to drink my cup suddenly vanished.

Two days later, Maya returned to work. Her left eye was swollen and had turned an ill shade of blue-black. Her left side of jaw was also swollen. I felt so guilty; it was like I had let myself down. Ramu was still in Police custody and Maya dreaded his release. I consoled her and assured that I won’t let Ramu harm her in any way, that I will take care of her and keep her with us. That day, we talked at length and Maya cried a lot. The next morning, we were getting ready to leave for work, when suddenly there was a loud knock on the door and someone shouted outside. It was Ramu – angry and all set to fight,
“Where is my wife? I have come to take her home.”

I felt Maya crouching behind me, “ I am not your wife any more, you have a new wife now, you brute, I am staying with Boudi,” Maya cried in a shrill voice.

“Come with me Maya, I say! Durga is with child again. Who will cook and look after the other matters? Demanded Ramu furiously.

“Get out of my house this moment or I will call the police. Maya is not going with you,” I said firmly.

“Karuna, let Maya go.” It was Suren. When I didn’t, he came and forcefully shoved me out of the way and pushed Maya towards Ramu.

With a leer and a triumphant grin, Ramu grabbed Maya’s arm. Maya looked at me with an appeal in her eyes, which turned into despair soon. I looked at the tears that reflected the pain, hurt and helplessness that engulfed Maya and the pain in them made my heart ache.

That night, Suren made advances, perhaps to make amends but I felt repulsed.

“Still angry?” he asked trying to cajole and then added, “Forget it darling. Who is Maya, any way? Is she dearer to you than your husband?”

“Please, Suren, I don’t feel like it,” I tried to push him away, but it was futile.
The next day, I left a note for Suren:
“Maya is not dearer to me, Suren. But my self esteem is. You lack basic courtesy and sensitivity – the two things I value most. I am under no illusion that you hold me in any higher esteem than you do Maya.

I am not leaving you because of yesterday, last night, or for Maya. I have been contemplating this move for a long time. I am well aware that there are thousands of Mayas in this part of the world, including me, and I know that I do not have the power to change their fate but at least I can try to change a few. Take care.




You came to me in my sleep
I know !
My eyes closed, I didn’t see you though
But my soul was touched aglow
You left so silently
I looked here and there
But for the penchant and burning passion
You have left nothing behind
That’d remind me that you were so near
With you my sleep is gone
Wide eyed I stand and wait
Hoping you would return some day
To keep another date
My room is bound by fences
Full of thorn and dust
Is that why you keep away dear
Remove them I must!
I will turn my yard a garden
Clean it with my hands
Making a garland with the choicest flowers
I would wait for you to the end
The thorns may prick and blood may flow
But I wont feel the pain
With Flowers I would stand and wait
For you to come again
The crimson sky with vermilion would bid adieu to the sun
I would stand and wait

Monday, October 22, 2007

A Date With Madam Verse

A date with Madam Verse!

Will you be my mate?
Will you share with me
My melancholy tunes
Of the lonely afternoons
Like the barren meadow?
Would you hold them in you?
Let me get lost into your innocent eyes for a while
Please come running into my bosom
Don’t get scared of me
Don’t say I am a fool
Ride with me to the clouds,
down the ocean
Or in the greens,
Please don’t run away,
Trust me, be my fate
Come let us blow away the void
Journeying into the empyrean
Breaking free of chains
Will you be my love today ,
will you be my mate?



On the other side of sixty, serene, frail and still beautiful Sudha considered herself to be a poet. she could create pictures with words and she thought those pictures were poems, small, beautiful and sentimental. Some of them were green some red and most of them were blue . The whole day she sits by her window, looking vacantly and wistfully out in the streets where there are people, young and old, rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, loitering, standing or hurrying. From the first floor, the forms below do not seem too distant. She wrapped the shawl tightly round her shoulders to keep away the cold wind blowing from the North. It is December, 2003.

Nearly forty-five to fifty years back, on a wintry afternoon Sudha & Binodini were on their way back from school. Two days more and the school will close for Christmas .The chill wintry wind pierced the part of their exposed skin making it brittle. Both of them were wearing blue cardigan on their school uniform but winter those days’ mused Sudha were really cold, much colder than what it is today.

Binodini was new to their school. She came to the town with her parents only a year back. Binodini’s father was a government official, so they learnt, and a very high official with a lot of influence.

So long Sudha was the first girl of their class. She was the apple of her teachers’ eye so to speak. But, Binodini, to her dismay, turned out to be a better student. Binodini was not only better in studies but she was also a very good athlete too. Sudha was becoming extremely jealous of Binodini, or we may say Sudha was upset that she was loosing ground to this new girl. Sudha used to write poems and they were not bad either. Sudha’s father Mr Bankim Roy worked with a publishing house and he had promised his daughter that he would soon publish her poems in a book form.

Sudha declared happily –Papa is going to publish my poems in a book form. Secretly she felt superior to Binodini. After all writing poetry needs a lot of talent and not everybody can do that if they wanted to.

Really ! Binodini sounded wistful.

Yes and papa says there will be my picture too in the book.

I also write poems and every body says they are very good- Binodini said tentatively and then added in an uncertain voice- will your papa publish my poems also?

Sudha started walking very fast and almost ran the rest of the distance leaving a baffled Binodini behind.

Why should Binodini write poetry too ! Why cant she leave some place for Sudha, Ever since Binodini joined their school Binodini had dethroned Sudha. Bright, supple and boyish Binodini has become the first girl, the best player, the class monitor and now she says she can write poetry too Sudha must do something to stop this girl from writing poetry.

At school however Sudha struggled hard to keep her cool and make it up with Binodini. She went out of her way to be friendly and wanted to see her poems. The unsuspecting Binodini was only too glad to oblige and she promised to bring her diary. The next day Binodini bought a beautiful read diary. It was a hard bound diary with golden borders. Inside binodini had written in her small and round handwriting some twenty poems in black ink.

If you let me take it home, I would show them to my father. He might publish a book for you too- ventured Sudha.

Binodini was so excited and also so happy- Oh you are so nice, Sudha. From today you are my best friend. I would dedicate my book to you only- Binodini exclaimed.

The phone started ringing. Its shrill sound cut into the smooth thread of her memory like a sharp razor. After all these years, these memories are almost as fresh as if they happened only yesterday . These are the lanes and by lanes that Sudha travels every day without fail, remembering every small detail, stopping at every hurdle, looking carefully at every corner- “who can it be”- Sudha came back to the present with a jerk , pushed the chair back.

Rima’s shrill voice forced Sudha to keep the receiver away from her ear- Didu what are you doing? Still seating by the window? Is my pullover ready?

A faint smile lighted up Sudha’s face, softened by her love for the owner of the voice at the other end –“No darling the buttoning and seaming are to be done yet.”
Do it quick Didu- next week we are going to Shimla from school.- A very demanding and bubbly voice indeed; Sudha could almost visualize the pout accompanying it
Ok dear come tomorrow evening - it will be ready for you.

Next morning before the first period a very buoyant Binodini approached Sudha =” Here are my poems” Binodini gave her a hard bound beautiful red diary with golden border.
I will give it to my Papa –Sudha said solemnly.

That night sudha went tiptoed into her father’s study. ‘Papa- may I seat on your table and fill my pen with ink from your inkpot please?”
“Ok dear! But be very careful. Don’t mess up things. I have important papers there”.
“No papa, I will be careful”
Sudha took the inkpot from Papa’s desk opened the diary and emptied a generous portion of the blue-black liquid on it and watched with satisfaction the river of blue ink engulfing the little creations like raindrops.

Binodini could not belief her ears- but how, but why.
“I am so sorry,” Sudha made an angelic face, so innocent, so devoid of guilt that poor Binodini never could imagine the treachery hidden behind it “ feel like a murderer. Papa asked me to put the diary on his desk- but how was I to know that he had forgotten to put the lid on the inkpot. The whole inkpot overturned and all your poems have been washed away.” Sudha brought tears to her eyes.

Binodini was shell shocked. Of course , it was an accident but still Sudha could have been a little more careful. Throughout the school session Binodini kept by herself refusing to talk to anybody. She did not volunteer to solve any of the problems posed by their maths teacher, arousing a lot of curiosity among her class maters and a lot of concern on the part of her teacher. When she reached home, Binodini went straight to her room and jumped on her bed face down and sobbed her heart out. Binodini’s mother however was a very practical woman. She stroked her head gently and said “look here child don’t cry and don’t lose heart. You must try to remember what you wrote and try to reconstruct them once again. Take it as a challenge. If you could write those twenty poems at such a young age, you would definitely be able to write many more as you grow up. Next time be very careful when you give anybody your writings to read. First make a copy and keep it with you then you can easily give them to whoever you like. So do get up, wipe your tears and start again from this moment.”

Down the street corner came a little procession, four people carrying a body and the rest walked solemnly behind chanting- Ram Naam Satya Hai, Raam Naam Satya Hai. The strong smell of incense reached Sudha even up at her first floor window.

Ram Naam Satya Hai, Raam Naam Satya Hai- They were taking Papa to the burning ghat. Sudha looked fascinatingly at the body covered with white sheet, garlanded and incense burning at his feet. Sudha was only fourteen and already an orphan. Sudha’s mother died while giving birth to their only child. Her father never married again. Sudha lived with her father and her widowed grandmother. That fateful morning she was called back from school at the second session. Sudha came back with Shekharkaku, who was absolutely silent throughout the journey from school. Sudha asked so many times as to the reason why she was being taken home suddenly. The thought never crossed her mind that something so dreadful could have happened to her father. She learnt later from grandma that her father suddenly collapsed on the way to office at the bus stand. People there recognized him and bought him home. Their family doctor was called and he pronounced him dead. Family and friends were informed, preparations were made for the funeral and Sudha was brought back from school.

Somebody had decorated his forehead with sandalwood paste , had covered his body with spotless white sheet . They had also put on a lot of white flowers on him. People were touching the his feet which were sticking out of the cover. Someone took Sudha and asked her touch his feet. Mechanically Sudha stooped low and touched his feet and instantly drew back shocked. Her father was cold as ice. She took a step back and clutched her grandma like she was lost .
They started taking up the bamboo stretcher that he was lying on and murmured under their breath ‘Ram naam satya hai…” She stared blankly and uncomprehendingly at the little procession taking away with them the most precious thing in her life and strangely enough the first thing that struck her was that her book of poem would now never be published.

Sudha spotted the postman. She was already at the doorstep when the postman pushed the bell. Ms Sudha Rani Saha, 15 Chandramoni Lane, Kolkata 700020, the name and address written neatly in her own hand stared back at her. Sudha tore open the envelope a sadistic smile hovering on her face-

The Editor sends his complements for your contribution but regrets his inability to reproduce the poems.

Sudha opened her father’s chest of drawers and carefully put the note alongside the ones collected since he died.

She came back to her study. The next post would come only at about 4 pm. There is enough time to finish reading Binodini’s latest Book of Poems



When I entered the room every thing seemed so dark I could not make out the figure lying on the bed. . The wooden doors and windowpanes were shut tight excepting the door by which I entered. Gradually things started taking shape. The room was reeking with the smell of stale vomiting and then I saw her lying on a single bed that stood by the wall in the western side of the room. A human skeleton. Nothing in that figure could relate to the image I held of Pishi-moni. Only the head and a bent knee were exposed to an otherwise covered figure. A horribly shrunken, discoloured and rickety frame of the once beautiful person that I was so fond of was lying listless, almost like a body without the trace of life in it. She was covered with a dark coloured printed blanket. A matching pillow case framed her small head. The bedspread , pillow cover and the blanket were proof of being costly once upon a time. Just below her bed was an open bucket and from this the foul stench of retching hit me like a bullet. During my brief stay pishi-moni threw up on the bucket three times.

“She is dying” Priya announced before us, it seemed to me, to create a dramatic effect. Myself and my two teenage daughters were admiring the exhibition of Sparkles diamond jewelry being held at the small ball room in Park Hote when we bumped into Priya, Priyambada Sengupta to be more precise, the vibrant chatterbox, as she was secretly called by us, her relations by marriage.

We looked at her uncomprehendingly?

“It is my ma-in-law, your Pishi-moni. Doctor’s have given notice. There is no chance of survival .It can be any day now. You may come and look her up if you want to. Ok! I am pushing off.” So saying, she vanished mingling with the crowd. She came and went like a whirlwind robbing me of my peace of mind.

The sentence kept coming back throughout the week. “She is dying” . my childhood days floated before my mind’s eye like a chain of delightful dreams. Pishi-moni was our favourite aunt. She was the most intelligent among them all also. Pishi-moni was youngest of the six children that my grandfather had. Those days, we used to spend our holidays at our father’s native place at Uttarpara.. My grandfather had a huge house, with a vast garden which held a pond as well. The garden was full of trees, particularly mango, guava. Pishi-moni would lead us in all our mischievous explorations including making merry on the trees, plucking unripe mangos and guavas, jumping on the pond and swimming to our hearts delight..

She would also arrange for picnics near the pond. We would prepare an oven with three pieces of bricks and make fire with broken twigs. Pishi-moni would then prepare food items like potato curry and rice. Most days the potato would be undercooked and the rice overcooked. Pishi-moni would put enough chilly to make our mouth burn, but we would enjoy it nevertheless gulping water with every mouth full. We would finish off with home made sweets, which Pishi-moni would make us steal from grandma’s room.

I particularly remember the day when I was caught stealing “narkel nadu’ (home made sweets from coconut) from grandma’ cupboard and was made to stand on one leg in the corner of her room with my hands on my ears. Grandma would have let me go unpunished but I was caught by my own mother. As was our secret rule I did not divulge the names of our gang members but somebody informed pishimoni of my plight. She came and straight away declared that it was all her fault only and that she had directed me to steal from grandma. In our childhood one would require a lot of courage to own up to such crime, as our elders were not misers in terms of meting out justice to their juniors. Such punishment as standing on one leg with your hands on your ears, standing bent down like a chair , writing down 120 times that you are sorry, etc were their favourite . From that day on Pishi-moni became my idol.

To us Pishi-moni was the picture of perfection. So loving, so witty and so strong. Later in life when I grew into womanhood and was happily married, I came to know of her disastrous married life. I still remember the day she got married. In a red silken saree woven with golden zari all over and traditional make-up, with gold ornaments that almost covered her small and delicate frame from head to foot, she appeared to me as the princess from my story books. Sambaranda, as I called my new found uncle, her husband was equally, if not more stunning in his looks. Tall, handsome and princely, the envy of the woman folk present on the occasion. After a few years of happy married life, pishi-moni was confronted with a second wife with a child. The marriage it seemed was not registered and the woman was from a very doubtful background. But as I told you before, she was the picture of strength and she dealt with such transgression with so much dignity and resilience that others including my own inquisitive mother could not get the whole truth out of her. Sambaranda was actually in awe of his wife and behind her back carried on with innumerable such affairs with the opposite sex, much to the embarrassment and grief of our beloved Pishi-moni. Ultimately Pishi-moni severed all ties with Sambaranda and lived alone with their only son Ajay.

A very grand reception was given to all when, Ajoy, Pishi-moni’s son was born and also at the wedding of this son with now famous Priya. By the time Ajay graduated from B.E. college, Shibpur and joined a Multinational Company, Sambaranda returned to Pishi-moni, the prodigal husband, a man broken in health , spirit and purse. Sambaranda’s widowed mother, however was living with Pishi-moni all through and told her only son that he can come back only if Pishi-moni forgave and allowed him to and an ever graceful Pishi-moni obliged both. Priya was just the opposite of Pishi-moni. That she talked too much was to underestimate. She talked non-stop and she talked loud to the discomfort of the general listener. She was handsome in a crude sense of the term. A tall, fair and broad girl , in short a buxom woman, with a square face, small nose and smaller eyes, she had a mean look about her. We usually tried to avoid her in the family gatherings as she did not fit in with our mental picture of Pishi-moni’s immediate family.

I was aware that Pishi-moni was suffering from cancer and that her days were numbered. I have also met her in some family gatherings about may be a year back. She appeared washed out and very ill, but still she retained her cheerfulness and her innate strength that I admired most in her.

I decided I must give her a visit. Pishi-moni lived with her son and daughter-in-law in their new pent-house in the posh Alipore area. Sambaranda passed away after a brief illness about a year and half ago.. I went up to the first floor landing. A young girl in her early twenties answered my calling bell. It appeared she was the caretaker appointed by Ajoy & Priya to look after Pishi-moni and from her I could gather that Ajoy and Priya were out and after enquiring about my antecedents she led me to pishi-moni’s room. The room seemed almost dark when I first entered it but gradually things started taking shape before my eyes.

I sat on the chair kept beside her bed most probably for the nursemaid and put my hand gently on Pishi-moni’ burning forehead. There was no response from the ailing figure and I called her in almost a whisper, for I found it difficult to find my normal voice. The nursemaid came to my aid and shook the frail frame with vigour and called in a loud and ugly voice

‘ get up masima (aunty) , see who has come “.

I cringed involuntarily’ be careful, I wanted to say but refrained. The shake was too much for the frail body on the bed and she looked up at me with fear written large on her eyes. I smiled and stroked her gently to calm her and said ‘Pishi-moni, it is me Sujata, your Suji (it was her nickname for me)’. The fear changed slowly to a very vague and distant look in her tired eyes. Clearly, she was finding it difficult to place me. Sujata, she repeated the word slowly and deliberately in a very weak and almost inaudible voice. I had to come closer to hear what she was saying.

‘Sujata, will you give me something to eat. I am hungry.’

With horror I looked at my Pishi-moni, the strong willed woman. The picture of perfection in my mind started crumbling down violently.

‘Don’t start that again before the visitors. You have had what boudimoni directed to me to feed you with. Have more and you are sure to vomit. It is me who cleans the dirt. You know “ this was directed at me “boudimoni takes so much care of her still she is not happy. She is, after all , a nuisance. She is a cunning old woman. See, how she asked for food from you. This is only to make you feel bad about boudimoni “

The shrill and crass voice rang out clear and ugly . Pishi-moni looked helplessly at her and then at me.”

I could not help myself and asked her to shut up rather curtly. Sensing my disapproval the girl rambled on in her coarse voice

“Yes, it is very easy for people to feel sympathy for her . They come and go away. Boudimoni has to take care of this old baggage of bones. She is doing so much for her, spending so much money, still people only criticize her.”

May be it is true that any food at this time might be harmful for the patient but could she not demand to be treated with a little more dignity perhaps. I looked at the girl and wondered at the uncanny resemblance with her employer, Madam Priya, her boudimoni.

I still remember the way Pishi-moni nursed her own old and ailing mother-in-law. She might not have provided her with the luxuries of a paid nurse, and costly surroundings, but she treated her with dignity. She treated her with gentleness and care. She treated her with love. I always marveled at the near fresh and spotless white look of the cloths on and around the old and ailing woman. I could almost smell the ever-present sweet fragrance that emanated from the incense burning in a stand near the bed. I had seen an earthen pot with the lid always on kept under her bed. I have witnessed how very careful and gentle Pishi-moni was in handling the old woman. And yet here she is at her deathbed, at the mercy of a paid nurse, who is not even instructed to handle her with care and respect. She was not probably aware that the first and foremost duty of a nursemaid is to treat her patients, who are totally at her mercy, with dignity. I wondered at the irony of fate. As I knew Pishi-moni, the last thing she would tolerate was indignity. Life is so full of contradictions. One who chose to live alone but with dignity was destined to die without it.

It seemed Ajay and Priya would be late so I prepared to leave when I realized Pishi-moni wanted to say something. Again I bent close and she whispered in a halting and incoherent manner which if phrased properly would sound something like this “Don’t get cross with Priya. She is doing her best. I should not have lived so long. Pray to God that I may join your Sambaranda soon”.

Night of dark shadows

Night of dark shadows

I saw her enter the room. Wow! what a figure. I pretended to be busy with my files. Let her stand there waiting. I mentally laid her flat on the floor. Damn her. Nothing I do seem to touch her by a feather. What is so special about her! They ask me…. my friends? Well that she does not respond to my signals is enough to turn me on. Well even I thought I am taking too much of a time, so I looked up from my files..”Yes, Reema !” I leaned back and raised my eyebrows and gleefully noticed the slight exasperation in her expression..

Here are the details of bills outstanding with our H.O.. Manish said you wanted it. Reema sounded impatient. I was laughing inside. I pushed back my chair and took three quick and long steps and stood just behind her looking down her low-cut neckline the paper in her hand and….. guess what! She stood there red faced and flustered Cool as a cucumber she was not any more but red as an apple and I like eating them just as ripe as she was. Hmm….The devil of a phone started ringing and she left the room. Damn it. The picture of Ranu’s fat bottom hit me in the middle. Curse her! Curse her hunger like a starving Hippo, you feed her and go on feeding her, she would only want more.

Reluctantly I picked up the phone
“It is me, Ranu here!’ the same line every day
“Yes Ranu darling, what is it!”
“You have not taken your lunch box today!” Yesterday it was my blood pressure pill …. the freshly ironed and scented handkerchief, the day before…..
“I was in a hurry darling. Don’t worry I will have something from the office canteen.’
“Be careful, don’t take too much fried things, it is bad for your ulcer”
“Ok darling I would be careful”
“and don’t forget to take your medicine before the meal. It works better that way”
“As you wish Ma’m”

Manish walked in and leaned over my desk with two hands on the table a worried expression in his eyes. Not that Manish was worried about anything, he just have that kind of a face , with drooping lips and sagging jaw lines, he loves to carry on him a sad face. “Why don’t you try Dr. D R Mecheta . She is very good. If you want I can make an appointment for you, she is a very good friend of my sister”

“Well, thanks Manish. I suppose I will have to try her also. But I am seriously thinking of going for a surrogate mother. It is costly, I know, but still worth trying. Don’t you think so?”

“Well, it depends. It is always hard to chose some one for being a surrogate mother to your baby, isn’t it?”

“May be, but I don’t have any choice. If I don’t go for that Ranu is sure to go for adoption. But before that I would like to have a last try. “

What lovely cleavage.. and her skin, oh my …. smooth as butter. She gives me a tingle every time I look down her… you know what!. Baby you just wait and see. The day I catch you, you would simply stick by me. They all do.

I reached for my mobile. Dr Benugopal Majumdar !! I would like to have an appointment with you. If you would be so kind to give me a date .Next Friday.. at 7.45 pm.!! Mr & Mrs Rudraneel Sen . Ok doc. Thanks a lot.

I could imagine what is going on now at my antechamber. That sad-faced weakling would comfort the firebrand Reena with open arms. and there conversation would be something like this.

Oh what a creep; I feeling like slapping him every time I go into his room Reema is sure to exclaim with apparent disgust and I get more turned on when she is in that mood.

I could never have guessed that this chum of mine was head over heals in love with her had I not caught them talking in the following line a few days back.

Manish gave her a sheepish grin. “Most woman melt under his macho gaze and he is not at all used to being ignored by them. So be careful lady”.

What the hell !! He can’t even touch me by my hair…

Don’t tell me you are modern day Sita.

Well, I could if only you’d find a Rama for me.

Reema, you are absolutely nearsighted. Am I not good enough for you. I am the most eligible bachelor in town, trust me. Manish sounded wistful

Reema looked at him sharply . You know Manish how fond I am of you.

But only as a friend. Isn’t it so? Am I so uninteresting Reema. Really, you make my self esteem go down the drain.

Please Manish don’t make it so difficult for me. You know I like you sooooo much.. You are a darling. You would make a very good husband no doubt about it. But you know how it is with my family. Who ever marries me, has to take Bibi in dowry,

Why don’t you put her in an asylum?

Please Manish I don’t want to enter into a debate where no body wins. You know my mind. I am not going to leave my sis in the ditch. You don’t want me to act inhuman –do you? If you want me, you have to accept her. And that is final.

The next few hours both of them would work with utmost concentration carefully avoiding any conversation.

I realized I have a dung headed bloke of a friend who cant even convince the woman he loves that it is a sin, wasting her assets for the sake of an imbecile sister, who should have been in an asylum long back, both for her own good as well as for the society at large.

Had I not done so? Am I not human? I could have kept my brother with me and driven Ranu out of her mind and out of my life. According to that prude , I am a brute, a selfish wolf.. To hell with her. What does she know, what does anybody else know of the sleepless nights I have to spend, the dark days of guilt that I had to bear. What do people know of the dark shadows covering my existence? Was it my fault that my father and mother should beget an imbecile, a half-wit and leave the creature to their able son and go for a joyride heavenwards together or was it towards hell. I still remember the evening the two left for their weekend booze party from which they would invariably return drunk to their toenails in the wee hours of the night, when I slept with my baby brother by my side, clinging to me like a leech. The two would howl like dogs and fight like cats for long until the steam would go out of their flaring nostrils and both of them would slump to their bed like two heavy logs. But that fateful night there was no sound of the car screeching to a sudden halt, the garage gate being opened , heavy footsteps coming up the stairs accompanied by filthy and high pitched abuses. Instead, the police discovered the car in shambles, the front seats smashed with the impact of hitting headway a road roller that was parked at the wrong side of the road. It seemed the car hit the road roller headlong coming in a breakneck speed. Their lifeless bodies were extricated from the mess after carefully cutting door at the driver’s side. I was 21 and my baby brother was only 7 . They had left a fortune for us. A huge house at the posh locality of Manadavile Gardens at south Kolkata. Two cars. A bank locker full of jewelry and a fat pass book.

I had already completed my masters in Economics and finished my MBA with flying colours. My kid brother could never even finish his nursery lessons. He had an ugly gait and impaired speech but otherwise looked normal. Any one who did not notice him for a few minutes would take him to be normal, may be a little odd, may be a little spoilt. His nursemaid handled him with care, dressed and fed him properly and took him out for walks regularly in the afternoon. But he was fanatic in his love for me. Once I was in, he would not let any one come near him. Dada..dada… dada… he would dance like a two year old, clutching my hand.

He showed the first signs of violence, when I introduced Ranu, my bride to him. Ranu was a very loving young woman, full of sympathy for my unfortunate kid brother but he grew violent whenever Ranu made an effort to be friendly. He spurned all her efforts with iron feast. He would deliberately and cunningly spoil her food, her dresses, her cosmetics. The first hurdle was to remove him from my bedroom. His attendant had to fight every night to put him to sleep in his room. He was now grown up , a sixteen year old, and had immense physical power. And I had to replace the frail woman with a sturdy man servant. But like a cunning fox, he would pretend to fall asleep and as soon as the attendant dozed off to sleep, he would come out of the room and start banging on our door. He had an uncanny intuition to chose the time when Ranu and I were in an intimate mood. After one and a half years Ranu gave me the ultimatum, “Either I stay, or your brother”. I could not blame her.

My brother accompanied me to the asylum that would be his home for the rest of his life, like a faithful little dog, putting all his trust in his benefactor, his elder brother, who was more like a father and a mother figure to him. After all the formalities were done, the relevant papers signed, cheques given, I handed over my brother to their custody . The child looked up at me with his big innocent, trusting eyes and haltingly uttered.. dada.. you.. come. Like a butcher I disentangled my hand from his grip . You go in baby… I would come afterwards.

Those halting wards started hunting me day in day out. Dada.. you.. come.. I could not sleep, could not eat.. could not rest and could not work. How could that child live without me. How hurt he must be. Six months went past and I received a letter from them that my brother was in a better state and that I might take him home with me. So one day I set out for the asylum with my car . I did not tell Ranu anything about it. Kid was so happy to see me again. But he seemed changed. He did not come running into me but stood there at the door smiling uncertainly. I opened my arms and embraced him into a bear hug.

The doctors gave me his prescriptions and advised me to keep him away from Ranu as far as possible. Though the kid was far better but after all he was mentally retarded from birth and he regarded me as his sole property. He felt extremely insecure whenever he found me and Ranu together, sensing the intimacy.

I had booked a room at Hotel Seahawk at Digha for two of us and drove our car a few more kilo meters to Digha, the asylum being situated halfway between Kolkata and Digha. We reached the hotel in the afternoon and spent the day watching the sea from our terrace. It was a deluxe room and sea facing. The food was excellent. I ordered all the favourite dishes for my brother. In the evening we went for a walk along the shore . kid was terribly excited to see the roadside stalls. I watched my brother chatter incoherently, so happy, so excited, to be alone with his beloved dada. That night we slept like two children closely embracing each other. We were to leave the hotel in the afternoon so in the morning after breakfast I took Kid to the sea. I jumped into the sea and asked him to sit on the sand. As I guessed rightly , after a while he started coming step by step into the water towards me. Dada.. dada… I .. too .. come. My brother had never been at the seaside and he knew nothing about oceans, its depth, its waves, its enormity and its dangers. But he was very fond of his bathtub in our huge old fashioned bathroom.. I pretended not to hear him and he was already waste deep in water when I spotted the waves coming his way and I saw his two hands searching for mine over the swirling waters.

It was an accident. DO YOU HEAR ME- IT WAS AN ACCIDENT. Nobody blamed me. But the voice had never left me since then. It cries in my sleep, in my waking hours.. in imagination, in my love, in my hatred…… dada…. dada…. dada.

The Sissy

 I heard the voices using abusive language; a door banged, some one groaned. I bolted all the windows but the sound would not cease. The strong scent of incense engulfed me... Beads of perspiration appeared on my forehead, my heart thumping loud inside me, I opened the door and tiptoed out into the passage halting at grandpa's room. Listening to the sound of deep rhythmic breathing calmed my nerves somewhat... I stood a few seconds before Sumi's closed door. My lovely little sister. I tried to keep from getting scared, tried to get my thoughts off some place else, tried to think about days when Sumi would lie beside me whimpering softly, afraid of offending father. I would stroke her curly hair softly, telling stories, trying to put her back to sleep. Those were the days when father would come late, dragging his unsteady feet, smelling heavily of alcohol. He would beat mother, would use filthy language forcing her to his room. I wished I was strong and big and could drive that man out of our life. But I would fall asleep with Sumi on my side, her small frame curled beside me, stains of tear visible on her chubby cheeks.
The day it happened I was at school and was sent home early. I saw gathering of a small crowd before our house. I ran up the stairs and looked for mother but she was nowhere to be seen. I saw Grandpa sitting in a sofa with his face hidden between his hands. "Where is mother?", I cried but no body replied. Grandpa looked up and made me sit by his side. "Your mother is no more" he said gently. Later I learnt that there was a terrible fight between the two, when father declared he was going to leave us and marry Ritu auntie and stormed out of the house. After he left mother went into her room and closed the door from inside. She hanged herself.
We went to the crematorium. I performed her last rites, they said, it is a son's duly. I was twelve... I saw serious looking people talking in hushed voices, scattered all over the place. Then we went up some stairs and saw a kind of platform where three or four bodies were laid in a row of makeshift bamboo stretchers. One of them was my mother. I was suffocated by the scent of heavy incense burning at her side. Extreme terror seized me, my limbs started trembling and all I wanted was to flee from the ghastly place but I had to stay on. The rituals that followed left me weak and exhausted. Every time I touched mother with those burning sticks, I fancied mother flinched, then they pushed her body behind iron doors, into burning flames... I wanted to put my face into mother's bosom and cry but mother was no more. I could not eat or sleep for days and months. Memories of crematorium haunting me. We were shifted to grandpa's house, me and Sumi and we were admitted to new schools, every thing changing about me all on a sudden.
Sumi was developing into a lovely young girl. At times, she would appear a stranger too. "Sumi, my little sister, please do not grow up. I will tell you stories, I would sing lullaby's and put you to sleep, we would play hide and seek, like in the past" I would cry silently. But she was growing up fast. The boys at the street corner would make comments after her, whistling while she passed by and I would feel like throttling them. The punks, the rascals, I would fume inside but I did not have enough courage, afraid they would batter my skinny body to the ground and I would look the other way, sense of hopelessness and frustration making me all the more miserable. I could feel the eyes of the punks piercing my back, sniggering at me. At night the voices would come and keep me awake sleep eluding me. I was loosing appetite feeling tired all the time. I was going down on all fronts. My progress at school hit the bottom. I could not concentrate on anything. Grandpa never reproached me but I knew he too was tired of me. My teachers in school made me feel like a heel and lowly fellow, a good for nothing. They need not try so hard though, 'cause that was exactly what I thought of myself. I was thrown in a dark and miserable world with no one to turn to for help.
But no, there was Chanchal, a local youth I had become friendly with recently. He was a very tough guy, a little rough though and he drinks a lot but the local punks treated him with respect... I liked him Chanchal by my side I could even look at the rascals straight in the eyes, which was a very rare thing that I could do these days. I hid my eyes, the best way to prevent people from guessing what is going in your mind.
I was waiting at the bus stop on my way back from school, when the familiar a face peeped out of the front window of a white Maruti. "Hallow Suman, how are you? Returning from school, I see! And how is your sister and grandpa boy? Come in, I will drop you home" he opened the door and to my horror I found myself sliding into the seat beside him, answering the questions obediently. Father talked to me a lot, asking in detail about me and Sumi. I could not hit back at him, nor could I feel any hatred towards my tormentor. On the contrary, I felt secured by his side in a vague sort of way. I even wished he would come back to us. He dropped me at the corner and drove away and I returned home devastated and hating myself even more. Why should I always be a failure? How could I stoop so low, how could I be such a weakling, letting him use such patronizing tone. That night I was kept awake by all kind of voices condemning me, shame, shame they were saying. I sat crouched in a corner with my back to the wall. I had started feeling my body at places at regular interval to make sure that I was a man. I had a nagging fear at the back of mind that I was going through a sex change and soon turn into a female body. I expressed my fear to some of my friends but the fools either laughed like they were going made or gave me suspicious looks, as if I was speaking through my hat, cracking nasty jokes. My lower abdomen was aching but I dare not open the door, instead I relieved myself in a corner of the room and moped off the mess with an old shirt...
Today, Bishu came. I despise him, a snoopy sort of fellow. He put his nose too close to my ear for my comfort and whispered "Do you know your sister is going out with boys. She is particularly friendly with Chanchal. I saw them coming out of the park after dark...
I waited for Sumi anger boiling inside. So she is going to the parks with Chanchal. How dare they, betraying my trust... . She was coming up the stairs, two at a time when I blocked her way her shoulder length curly black hair surrounding her angelic face, looking as fresh as a flower. "is it true, you are going around with Chanchal?" I demanded. Sumi looked at me with those wonderfully innocent eyes and said defiantly "Yes, so what?' her defiant attitude dampened my spirit somewhat "Don't associate with Chanchal. He is a bad guy" I tried to sound authoritative. Sumi laughed at me with sarcasm "Really! And who are you to tell me that. Look at yourself... You are a spineless creature looking the other way when nasty people comment and whistle at your sister in the street. Chanchal has guts, he can protect me. Don't try to act big brother with me, you Sissy" she screamed at me.
I felt the weakness coming back to my legs. I could feel my face drained of colour, then I felt a sudden rush of blood. I fled to my room like a shooed canine with its tail between its legs. My throat felt dry. There was a terrible pain in my chest. I could not bear it any longer. "My Sumi, my own little sister. I have told you not to grow up. Why did you grow up. You are not my Sumi. You are some one else. How could you be so cruel?"
The night was lonely, everybody slept but me. I came back to my room, bolted the door from inside and brought out the carefully made noose with grandpa's dhoti from under the mattress. I looked at the ceiling fan. It was too high. I could not reach the fan. I took a stool and I tied one corner f the dhoti with the fan and put the noose around my neck and kicked the stool from beneath my feet.