Posted in Memories

A Tale through Time 

It was December 2006, I was returning home from job after a visit to the bank on the way . Just a few yards before my home, the rickshaw slowed down and I opened my purse to take out the fare. Suddenly someone patted me on the shoulder and I turned around with a smile expecting it to be a neighbour. A huge strange face of a middle aged man on motorbike grinned at me, snatched the open purse in my lap and sped away! All in a few seconds!

Since the police station was just 5 minutes away, I immediately went there to lodge a FIR. Some officer was there and he very assuringly told me not to worry as they would give the snatcher a chase. I was told to lead them to the spot where the snatching took place. So I did but no report was written. Next day on inquiring from the station, we were told that the culprit was not caught. Still the report was not written. When I involved an ex student of mine, a policeman himself, he hinted at offering bribe to get the report written! Then I was informed by a reputed person that I should not insist on the FIR as it would not be lodged.  The said police station was already being pulled up by the IG for not being able to check the unabated crime in the area and they avoided putting any new case on record. I was also warned to ward off! When I insisted the SHO offered a haul of stolen phones and asked me to take my pick! Shocked I approached higher authorities in being pulled up the SHO arrived drunken at my door late one night hurling threats! I dropped the idea of FIR!

When I narrated the entire story to my aged father, he lapsed into shocked silence. After a few days he shared a very different story with me. Here it is in his own words:

“When I was only 10 years of age, My father was a draftsmen’s in chief Engineer canals office at Montgomery, (Now in Pakistan). I often got fever and was diagnosed to be suffering from Tonsil trouble and a fit case for operation. My father consulted my maternal uncle, Dr. K.C. Khanna who was serving then as a professor in History at Govt. College, Lahore, (Now in Pakistan). Consequensent with my mother to Lahore, near Montgomery. Dr. K.C. Khanna, my uncle took me to colonel Dr. Kaul, a specialist, who after proper Examination got me admitted in the Hospital and fixed a date for the required operation after two days. On my recovery I was discharged from the Hospital and stayed at my uncle’s residence for a few days more. It was then that incident occurred. The other day, my uncle brought 3 pass – tickets of the Drama being played at the club-theatre. It was decided that my Aunt would accompany my mother and me to the theatre. We saw the Drama and enjoyed it. On return, we hired a tonga (House driven-cart) which then used to be the common mode ofconveyance. There was a nip in the air, it being a winter night. I was sitting on the front seat of the tonga. My mother thus made me wear her own costly shawl (wrap around). Reaching home, we all got down and went upstairs. A little while later, my mother enquired about her shawl that I was made to wear in the tonga. I replied that while getting down from the tonga, I had placed it in a corner of the front seat occupied by me. It had been left in the tonga! Hearing this my mother became very sad, because not only that the shawl was very costly, it had been brought by my uncle from abroad and gifted to his sister (my mother) on her birthday. On hearing the whole incident my uncle got upset and worried. He at once occupied the chair near the telephone table. He did not have any sleep that night night and kept on calling different people known and friendly to him, for help and consultation, to find the shawl left in the tonga through my stupid mistake. He found a colleague f who was very intimately known to the S.H.O., incharge thana (police Station ) situated near the club. Theatre, from where the tonga was hired by us. Thorough proper intensive enquiries made by the said SHO and his employees from the incharge tonga station the identity of the tonga man was revealed. He had deposited the shawl in the tonga station shelf to be returned to us the next morning. By sheer courtesy the S.H.O. concerned sent the said shawl to us, through one of his employers, who as far as I remember was of an A.S.I. Rank. My uncle thanked the gentleman and served him tea. Courtesy and honesty were not extinct then. Those were the days!”

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Posted in Poetry

The White Snake 

It sat curled up
In scaly layers
On the floor
Just where my bed ended
Looking at me
In rapt concentration
The massive white snake

Alone in my room
(Our house follows
The ritual of isolation
Religiously )
I didn’t know
What to do
The screams stifled
In fear
Body lapsed in stillness

Suddenly my dog
Came rushing in
And stood between me
And the white entity

He ,my dog
Has yet not learnt
To place the
‘Do not Disturb’ sign
Around his neck ,at night

I ran out
But stood in the courtyard
Lookin back at the scene
In my room

The beast and the being
Looking at each other
Doing nothing !
The snake listless
At the unwanted
Change of prey
And my dog
Undecided about
Which layer to bite first

Drenched in sweat
I woke up
The dog lying at my feet
Snoring slightly

Every night
I see the scaly layers
And hug my dog even closer
While the house follows
Religiously
The culture of isolation

Posted in Poetry

Inside Kill 

A nibble here
A bite there
The chewing
The gnawing
Defeaning crunching

My heart
Being devoured
Bit by bit

The slush of blood
Choking
Residues of hope and life
Maimed heartbeats
Stutter
And surrender
Beastly, bloody teeth 

Break into

Cacophony of victory

Relishing the last piece 

Of my flesh and muscle

The kill complete

Posted in Memories

Unorthodox Indian Mother- in- law !

Smt Lal Devi, my grandma with my parents at the eternal symbol of love The Taj Mahal, Agra in the 50s 

Karwa Chauth is a ritualistic fast in India which the wife keeps for the long life of her husband. She is expected to get up much before sunrise, eat and drink and then fast without food or water till the moonrise. Most Hindu families follow this tradition and the mother-in -law is the pivotal figure here, orchestrising the entire ritual; it being a matter of her beloved son’s long life!

My mother, though herself from a Jat Sikh family, fell in love and married a Hindu. She was very weak in health when she got married. First Karwa Chauth day arrived! Dadi maa, my paternal grandma, though an illiterate woman brought up in an atmosphere of tradition and rituals decided to behave in avcompketely unorthodox way! Knowing my mom’s passion for tea, Dadi maa lied to her that it was allowed to have fruit and tea! My mother was unaware if the nuances of the fast and did not know that it was an entire day fast without food and water! It was only later that she came to know from her sister in law about it! My Grandma had shown amazing kindness to my mom and guts to go against tradition and religious belief!
The second Karwa Chauth my grand ma did not allow my mother to keep the fast but asked my father to keep it for himself! Being a sober husband and a gentleman, he agreed. Since it is almost a 16 hour fast, there is the ritual of Sargi which allows the fasting person to have proper food and water early in the morning before the sunrise. The day my Papa fasted, he did not wake up early to have his meal and hence his fast turned out to be much longer as dinner the previous day was his last meal! Came the third fast and my grandma told both my parents not to keep it! My mom left for heavenly abode in 2014, after a long battle with cancer last year and my father, an old man with sharp memory, still smiles at this memory every year on the fast day. “I didn’t keep the fast for myself, but for her”, he says. When asked why didn’t wake up early to have his meal, he simply says “I forgot!”

Posted in Memories

“This is Michael Jackson ! “

Late Mrs Ranjit Malhotra

” This is Michael Jackson !”, she shouted in excitement and tried to do moon walk .Did not quite succeed, decided to sway her hips a little instead . This time did catch the rhythm and the joy reflected in her eyes. Then she walked to the washroom; the walker supporting her all the way.

This was my 87 year old mother, in 2014, late Mrs Ranjit (A Punjabi name meaning the one who wins a battle), fighting a losing battle with cancer. After Mastectomy at the age of 85, she had developed Myelodysplastic syndrome and had to be hospitalised frequently for blood transfusion. Two bad operations on her broken femur in 2004 and 2006 had already made her dependent on the walker. One eye was useless too as the cornea transplant had given her light only for 10 years.

But she was Ranjit, a perky, die hard spirit who decided to fight cancer with music! For two years s constantly playing on her keyboard, tunes not only familiar but the new ones she heard on my husband’s laptop or TV.

The moon walk attempt was just as we were preparing for another visit to the hospital on August 30, 2014. We didn’t know it was going to be her last. As she got up from her wheel chair to go to the wash room before the taxi’s arrival ; my husband showed her MJ’s video on his phone and she started swaying .

“This is Michael Jackson!” resounds in my ears whenever I hear his music or watch a video of his .

What better tribute to the great star, to music or to life itself .