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She.

Draped in white,
She,
Born in hospital
With all the glee
She bloomed like a flower
Away from thorns
A daughter, a sister
Cheeks, red and curls, brown
Embracing red as she marries
Discovers a life
That’s not about fairies
A brunt of home
She, a wife, a mother
Eyes glisten bright
Hiding all the trouble
She grows old
A stick, no teeth
Her soulmate has died
She’s all bleak
When end comes near
God, they see
Draped in white
She.

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Just Another Day

You wonder, how resilient
Are those sunflowers
At the backyard
Fighting the winters
To be able to see
The sun, afresh.
I see a sunflower
Everyday, in you
Tackling issues
And waiting in calm
To be ready to bloom
In the morning, yet again.

The story that wasn’t

Twirling to the song,
I giggle endlessly

Trying to plie and flip
As I open my arms
Not sure if
I should move along
To this catchy beat
That’s taking me away
To the world of happiness
As I go on with my sway

What was that phrase
In the ‘Kite Runner’?
“They only let you
be this happy
When they’re preparing to take
Something from you”
Well let’s just risk this once
I will see what to do
So I take a leap
To get in to that place
But guess I’ll fall
And break my legs

Jittery, I close my eyes
Waking up to realize
I was dreaming all along
Of the things that I want
But what’s the harm
To give it a try?
Let me play the song
And live the dream
In real life

So now I’m twirling to the song
And I’m giggling endlessly.

The Song

You wrote a song for me
Said it entails everything
From what we had since the beginning
You added tunes and jingles
Took all the efforts you could
And presented it to me
On a sunny day, in the woods
I didn’t like it
It broke your heart
Disheartened, you went away
Somewhere far.
Turns out the song
Got imprinted in my head,
I listened to it everyday
Till my death.

Nostalgia: Part 1- Durgashtami

As I sit with a cup of tea on my balcony, I realize it’s my favourite time of the year. With my birthday and Diwali approaching I could sense the festivity in the air, except that this air isn’t something I’m familiar with. I’m habitual of a much higher frequency oscillating in the air, the frequency of the enchanting music playing in durga pandaals in every nook. That’s the difference between a metropolitan and a town. The euphony fades in the noisy, busy city. But it persists in a town in different forms.

For some, it is a religious belief; for others, it’s an awaited celebration filling excitement in the hearts of people. No points for guessing, I was among the latter ones. Every Ashtami, I and my cousins would plan to visit every single pandaal in the town, a sort of tradition that was bound to be followed. Surprisingly, I never came across such a tradition in 3 years of my life in a metropolitan simply because of a busy life stuck amidst clubs, malls and highways.

To be stuck in the crowd and wait in a queue for a glance of the idol is a memory I’ll always cherish.

Routine

An old weighing scale, probably rusted; a mat; notebooks and pencil: That’s what she carries everyday when she leaves home for school at 8 in the morning. As the school bell rings at 2 in the afternoon, all the kids run towards the gate barging each other. She is calm. She wouldn’t run. She has a brunt on her shoulder; not of the weighing scale but of her siblings, her senescent mother. So she can’t afford even a single scratch on the scale lest she falls. She marches to the same spot she’s been sitting on for last 4 months, earning whatever she could with that old machine. She sits on the mat she brings with her and keeps the weighing scale in front of her. Her elder brother sells balloons. At 9 in the night he picks her up and both of them return home.

This is her routine. She didn’t choose her life to be this way. She has dreams. But she cannot curse fate for where she is. In fact she’s glad that her destiny isn’t worse than this girl she was friends with, who was abducted and never made her way back home.

She sits beside her weighing scale and finishes her homework whenever she is free. She is dedicated to studies. Some days she would see customers, some days she wouldn’t. Strange gazes caught her, some of pity and some of sympathy. Some try to help her by offering food. She doesn’t like to accept offers for free, for that makes her feel like a beggar which she doesn’t approve of. She may not have money but she has self-esteem. Sometimes she has to keep her dignity aside for the sake of her family. So she keeps the offerings. But ever since her father abandoned the family she has promised to herself that she will stand on her feet to see her family in a position better than ever.

Apart from pity and sympathy, she receives gazes of lust as well. Shady lechers would pass by, sometimes even brushing up against her. She’s 12 years old but is mature enough to perceive the secret abductions going on. “Who knows what’s on the other side of this veil of expressions the random strangers have covered their faces with”, she thinks. Is there a cliff of ‘child labour’ one can be pushed off to? Or even a worse trap from which one is never coming back?” She’s alert and conscientious. That’s all what she can be. Life’s not easy. But she has faith that one morning when she wakes up, this routine of hers will end forever.

This is not just her story. A huge population is vulnerable to poverty and illiteracy. Many kids are under the risk of child trafficking, child labour and sexual abuse. Unless an effort is made to educate them and spread awareness, they will continue to suffer due to their state of naiveté.

भाषा: Language

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“When people fall into servitude, so long as they cling to their language, it is as they held the key to their prison.” I remember the quote from the story, ’The last lesson’ by Alphonse Daudet from my class 12th English textbook. It says, the only nexus that binds the people together when they’re slaves to a colony is their language. I relate to it as I’ve gone through the Indian history texts- slogans by our leaders, writings by Indian authors have remained the subjects of our study. From freedom fighters to our Prime Minister, everyone has been trying to endorse our native language, Hindi, to bind the country and to use it as an antidote against any external threat.

The other day while I was teaching Ankit and Shrawan, I asked them to study their Hindi textbook. To my surprise, they refused to do so saying they don’t like studying Hindi; and English is the only language they are good at. I simpered, because I know that they recite numbers or mathematical tables in Hindi and they can’t write or speak number names in English. So if I write 56 and ask what it is they’ll speak “chhappan” instead of “fifty six”. In fact I even mocked at myself for not realizing how important it was to stick to a language that’s in your roots, no matter how well-versed you become with your second language. I remember once my Hindi teacher was chiding us showing us the mirror of reality. She said, “You think English is superior so you won’t study Hindi. But if I make you stand here and ask to speak, you can neither give a proper speech in Hindi nor in English.” That’s true. In a race to become a classy English speaker, we turned a blind eye to the language we’re brought up with.

Hindi doesn’t have an official recognition as the ‘National’ language, simply because India celebrates various cultural and ethnic diversities. But I do press on the fact that one’s native language, whatever it be, needs to be felt proud of. You’re not expected to profess a second language when you’re born.  Your language binds you with your community, makes you stand out in the crowd of unknown people. That’s why, I remember, Mr. Modi once refused to give his speech in English even though he might be good at it. Various world leaders such as Xi Jinping, Francois Hollande, Shinzo Abe and Angela Merkel prefer to give speeches in their native languages. What is it then that makes us reluctant to accept that we might not be a pro English speaker? Why aren’t we proud to be conversant with the languages our country represents?

Of course one needs to be familiar with a language everyone follows globally to walk shoulder to shoulder with the world but should subsequently represent the locale he comes from.

Do you remember the first day of your college/school when one of the batch mates was speaking the same regional language you do? If yes, then you know the sort of happiness I am talking about.  As Nelson Mandela once said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”.

 

Kharab Chai

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We’ve seen sellers fighting to be the best in the competitive market, trying to serve the best of products and services at customers’ disposal. But how many of you have observed sellers trying to sell the worst?

Years back I was traveling by a train to the holy city of Varanasi. We had entered the borders of Uttar Pradesh and I started observing vendors selling different specialties of their cities. While some offered the famous ‘Agra petha’ others resorted to tea/coffee. Needless to say that Indians, who start their day with tea, wouldn’t deny for a sip or two. Myriad of sellers came to offer tea claiming to be the best. Some accepted the offer, some didn’t.

Then came a vendor shouting,”duniya ki sabse kharab chai”,”kharab chai le lo” (Try the worst tea of the world). Everyone started staring at him. After all, what sort of image was he creating for his product? He was actually using REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY to intrigue the passengers. Reverse psychology is a technique involving a behavior that is opposite to the one desired, with the expectation that this approach will encourage the subject to do what actually is desired: the opposite of what is suggested. Everyone ordered a cup of tea out of curiosity to know how bad the taste of tea could be. This would work for the seller in two ways- first; nobody could claim their money for bad taste because he had already apprised them of it. Second; if they liked the tea, they’d recommend it to others or easily identify him the next time they travel by that route. With loyalty of customers it also provided him an edge over his competitors. I had the chance to taste the ginger flavoured tea and I indeed recommended it to others. I even heard a passenger praising him and advising not to claim his tea the worst as it could be misleading. Now when I recall the conversation I realize little did the passenger and I know how these sellers used smart marketing in a common market to survive. The strategy might have been copied by a lot more train vendors but I never saw any other line of business taking such an intrepid step.

A while back I was traveling via Madhya Pradesh when I heard a tea seller shouting ‘Kharab chai’. I smiled; reminisced the incident that took place ten years back; ordered a cup of tea appreciating the existence of this gimmick; looked through the window as the fog covered the stalls; and enjoyed the ‘kharab chai’ voraciously.