Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Ragpicker

I dedicate this short story to Stephen Anthony, my brother from the blogworld and The Solitary Writer. This short story is for the 200th post on your blog which you had honoured me with, Ste. Hope you like my attempt at fiction :-)

Mornings without my toast sandwich at Durga's was unimaginable. Like a daily ritual, lured by the taste of Babubhai's sandwiches, which has a tendency to linger on your tongue well after its consumed, I would end up daily at this roadside joint for my bite. Today is no different. Here I am, biting into my toast sandwich. Savouring the melting butter and crunchy bread in my mouth. I look around me. Everyone is in a tearing hurry. Motorbikes zig zag their way through the traffic while irritated drivers shout at the ones in front sticking their heads out of their vehicles, egging them to move. The chirping of birds gets lost in the constant honks of motor vehicles. Its mayhem everywhere. Curses and abuses flow around like it were running out of fashion. A Parsi looking guy is concerned about the scratch the speeding motorbike just left on his brand new car. His abuses get lost in another set of honks from the vehicles behind him. Two Muslim women take advantage of the halt and cross the road along with their children. They walk past me shaking their heads and cursing the rising traffic related problems of this city. I see a young man get out of his rickshaw stuck in the jam and making his way to the front with files clutched tightly in his hands. All set for the interview, I think. I can feel the tension writ large on his face. He hardly notices the beggar who pleads him for alms, but folds his hands and seeks blessings from the temple at the corner while still finding his way out of this jungle of vehicles. Pleading for Divine intervention. Strange how our prayers are so dependent on each other. For beggar, it would have been like answer to his prayers if the young guy would have dropped a couple of nickels in his bowl. And the young chap desires divine help to impress the person he is going to meet, so that he drops the job offer in his bowl. In this sea of vehicles and irritated audience, there is hardly anyone who has a smile on his face. I see tense faces, angry ones, irritated bunch and the vocal lot.

Babubhai places my tea on the table. I take a sip and marvel at the fact that how conveniently we have forgotten to smile. There are seemingly a million forces at work to wipe off that smile from your face. All that matters is how to cling on to the next rope from the one that you are hanging from presently. All I see around is childhood lost. Innocence raped. Conscience murdered.

I glance at my watch. Its 9:00 am. Time to move. I gulp the remnants of my cup and head to clear my dues. I let out a small shriek at the new set of honks from the background. That's when I notice the little ragpicker behind this bread stall, combing through the garbage and sorting out stuff. In that moment, to me his garbage bag looks like the route to salvation for all the discarded articles within his sight. Those who go into his back are in with a chance for a better tomorrow while the others retire to their destiny. The ragpicker goes about his business and moves his hands through the garbage like an expert. His hands have been trained to sift wheat from the chaff. He has been thrown in front of life to face its brutalities and survive, while his peers are parroting their way through Darwin's theory of survival of the fittest. Strange are the ways of nature.

My thoughts are interrupted with a sudden change of expression on the face of the ragpicker. He seems to have come across something significant for him to let go off his bag and get completely involved with the catch. At a closer glance, I recognize the wrapping. A bar of chocolate. As the ragpicker unwraps his find, I can see a beam of happiness in that smile of his. The smile of contentment. Unwary and uncaring of what lies ahead in the day. Just enjoying this moment of bliss. Living in the moment. I smile having witnessed this scene. I silently wish how better off we would be if we could start living and enjoying the moment while it lasts instead of worrying about what lies ahead. I silently wish for some sanity in this seemingly insane world. I silently wish for the lost childhood in each one of us. I silently wish for a better tomorrow.


*Pic courtesy : Sandwich wallah - Novin

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Classroom

It felt great coming back to college after 15 years. Nothing had changed. The same old classrooms, same old corridors, same old stairways winding upwards and that same old welcoming breeze. I felt immune to the chill of Delhi winters from the moment I stepped into the School of Management. Guess it's something that places you feel secure in does to you. You feel that invisible, securing presence around you. I walked straight towards my classroom, to unlock all the memories that I had fought back for 15 long years.

The entrance to the classrooms had been freshly painted with a coat of cream colour. It looked seemingly wet. It arrested my impulse to push open the doors and soak in the feeling of being present in the room that had shaped me. To unlock all the memories the room held. I could pay a fortune to shout, "Present Sir", when the professors would call out "Nisha Nayak". 15 years of climbing the corporate ladder had given me all the comforts I could have asked for when I started off. I was happily married with two kids. I had the most caring husband I could have asked for. And I loved him, atleast tried my best to. However hard I would try, I could never love someone as much as I had loved Nishant. This was the classroom where we had spent countless hours discussing about everything under the sun. He was the craziest and funniest person I had ever known. If only I could have told him that I loved him, then maybe things would have been different today. But maybe he didn't love me. Atleast he would have told me so if he did, despite him being the most shy guy on planet when it came to matters of love. Wasn't that what I loved about him most? The way he would blush when you tried teasing him. Atleast I should have tried getting out his feelings for me. Wasn't I waiting for a mere "Do You?" from his side to succumb? Or was it just the figment of my imagination? I would never know. He was as friendly with other girls as he was with me. Neither was I among the prettiest, nor the smartest to even dream of a "Yes" from his side. So why would I have bothered asking him out? Aren't boys supposed to do that? Things are so much easier for today's generation with emails & mobile texts & what not! Ask me how difficult it was to bring pen to paper. The little notes I used to leave for Nishant in the secret compartment of our desk, the existence of which only we two knew, and waiting for his replies were the only thing I looked forward to. How I wished one of those notes would contain an "I Love You" scribbled somewhere in between those lines. Till the very day he left before us at the end of the course for a family emergency, I had waited and prayed for him to express his feelings. I was such a fool in believing that Nishant loved me. But I knew I did, because I have never felt anything as pure and as strong as my feelings towards him till this date. Not even towards my husband for 10 years. My every morning used to start with him by my side in the classroom and end with him waving me goodbye. I had learnt to live without him. Last 15 years I had shut his memories away. Till this very day when this classroom brought back all those moments back.

I could not control myself and swinged open the doors. The smell of wood and chalk filled my nostrils. I glanced at my watch. 7:30 am. There was still time before students of the current batch would start trickling in. I was scheduled to give a guest lecture at 9 am. I stood at the centre and ran my eyes through the semi circle arrangement of seats. They hadn't changed the furniture. Just a fresh coat of polish had left the old benches shining like new. My row was the fourth from the start. I saw there were two Nisha's in this batch and their nameplates were in place where me and Nishant used to sit. I walked towards those seats, minus the spring in my steps back in college days when the mere thought of sitting besides Nishant would send my pulse racing. I sat on my seat and looked around to visualise my other batchmates around me. Did I even notice who all sat where back then? My mind used to be so preoccupied with Nishant that it did not have the faintest clue about the surroundings. Questions came crashing again to my mind. Why did he have to leave like this without a single word? Why hadn't he left his number with any of his friends or on the official records? Why had he not come to me before leaving? He couldn't even wait to bid me goodbye. Even if he didn't love me the way I used to, we were friends enough for him to say those parting words to me. For me, the relation with this classroom ended the day Kaveri told me that Nishant had to leave for his home all of a sudden. It didn't make much of a difference because our final exams were over and after a week more of formalities and paperwork, we were all headed to our homes & careers. I had not stepped into this classroom since then. Someone had sucked the life out of this classroom. Till this very moment, I had done pretty well to resist a place I simply loved being in. I settled in my seat which was a routine for me 15 years back. I looked at my desk and ran my hands on it. On impulse, my hands reached out for the bottom of the desk to slide out the small shaft of wood. Then as if acting on a mind of its own, the fingers reached out for a small box shaped wooden box open at the sides from under the shaft. Our little secret box. Where me and Nishant used to leave small notes for each other. I pulled it out. Seemed like no one had discovered this place post our times. I placed the box at the desk. For a moment I couldn't beleive my eyes. There was a note tucked in there. With trembling hands I pulled out the yellow note and opened it.

"Dearest Nisha. I have always loved you. I don't know if you do love me as well. I don't have the guts to ask you out and face rejection. A lot has happened in the last 24 hours. My stepmother has filed for a divorce from Dad for reasons I don't know and Dad has suffered a major stroke an hour back. I have to immediately leave for home. I have not told anyone anything about this personal mess up of my family. But before leaving, I just wanted to confess my love and not live with the feeling that I never tried. I know you will check this secret cabinet for sure tomorrow morning when you attend classes, like we do as a ritual every day. And If you love me as well, please call me at my home #022-34332. No regrets if you don't, because you have taught me what falling in love with someone is. You have taught me there are reasons apart from breakfast to look forward to in a new day when you retire to bed. You have taught me the wonders a smile of a loved one can do on you. And every day of the last two years, I have lived every moment just to see that smile on you. You bring sunshine into my dark life every morning with your note in our secret compartment. Just wanted you to know. I love you. Nishant"

A few drops blotted few words on the note. Drops of my bleeding heart.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Alumni Ki Kahaani, Unki Zubaani - Blogisode 1

The world is crazy. Managers crazier! So how can the students turned "so called" managers who passed out of the hallowed portals (*Conditions apply) of the School of management be any different? The yeM Bee yAe team tracks down some well known alumnus from the School of Management and presents in a 2 min capsule their struggles with this crazy world. How have these guys managed to survive the system? How have they managed to tackle the pressures of life? What is their secret ingredient?

This whole new reality blog series puts these alumnus under the microscope of humour and shares their secret of success with the mortals.

Recruit 1: Nal-jyoti Kumar (Batch XIV)

And the juggernaut rolls......