Thursday, October 22, 2009

The house and the mango tree...

What is a house after all? It is just walls and a few windows, a front and a back porch, a garage, a terrace, a few doors, and some people who call it home. Isn't it? Or is there something we missed?

May be we missed the small room up the stairway which had a rickety cot and a tiny bulb that hung over that cot. This room saw not only idle afternoons of tea and chit chats, but probably also saw some serious studying being done late at nights, probably it also saw the first kiss exchanged by an amorous and nervous young boy, and maybe it saw tears of rejection as well as joy. Today if we were to ask its long forgotten, cobwebbed and cracked walls to speak, maybe we would see a lot of important and not so important truths emerge.

What about the Huge Mango tree behind the house? The one that was used as a landmark. Many kids, many generations climbed its branches, planted by the grand old man who designed and built each room, each wall of this house, in memory of his eternal love. The tree, seasoned and weathered, has stood proud the test of all times. Did anybody know the simple story behind this planting? Did they know that the grand old man had once loved a woman deeply. The tree was planted as a sapling to grow with their growing love, so that one day they could point it to their grandchildren and say,"This is how huge our love is!!" They never got the chance to culminate the love, but the tree stood as a loving symbol of all that was beautiful once upon a time.

Then of course there is the inner courtyard. The humdrum of daily life, the washing of clothes and utensils, the tulsi at the centre, the diya that burnt each night only to fade with the rising of the sun. The lounging chair that was always kept here with an adjacent table with the day's newspaper and a glass of water. It was on this chair that the grand old man breathed his last at the age of 92.

The terrace, was the most romantic of places, this house saw. All the children of the grand old man got married here. Under the canopy of the stars and the brilliance of the moon, the sons had chanted their vows, pledging life long loyalty and love to their brides. What does it matter now that some loyalties were betrayed down the line, love was often compromised in the passing of the years. But on the day the sons brought home their wives, the terrace was the witness to the first exchange of shy glances, of the hope of a future to be built in this house. It was also the witness down the line to the wobbling feet of the kids born, of songs being sung on stormy nights, of lullabies cooed to drowsy ears, of drying clothes in winter afternoons, of sun soaking pickles, of naughty years and drinking bouts.

The house with its walls and doors, with its front and back porch, with its cobweb and ruined plaster is to be broken down. In it's place will emerge a multi-storeyed apartment. A functional and modern place with amenities that are required, with easy maintenance and upkeep, free form the mildew of the past. The decision has been reached, the sons have agreed. Its just a matter of time before the mango tree is cut down, before the existence of the room on the terrace, the inner courtyard, and the terrace itself crumbles down to the touch of a bulldozer.

We move with times, from the ashes of the old, rises the new. There is nothing unsightly about all this, there is no fight, there are no differences, its for the ease of all and the betterment of the future generation. Just that I needed to tell the tale of a house that was designed by a grand old man, brick by brick, the tale of a love that did not see the light of the day and yet weathered the storms of the night.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Seven Today

He is seven today. seven years he's been teaching me, changing me, loving me. Getting me to think like him, to understand him, to accept him, yes seven years is a short time..but he is trying and so am I. There is no goal apart from enjoying the journey.

If I have sat with him teaching him phonetics, he has in turn taught me that everything in life cannot be pushed, there is a time for things to fall in place, it took him a little longer than his peers to grasp words, to read, to write. I shouted, I cried, I ran up the wall time and again..but he was not ready yet. And then one day..he just read a story book to me, just like that! I have no photographic record of that moment, but I think I just jumped up and down the bed hugging him to me. He was 6 then.

He took to maths like a pro. There is always a star that he proudly shows on every page of this subject notebook. He still at times writes his 7 the other way round, but his mental grasp of arithmetic has helped me many times at the counters of the super markets. he is quick to point out the change due, and how much easier it would be for me to buy him a kinder egg rather than count the change.

He is forgetful with names, with dates, with the lyrics of his prayers and school songs, but he can play a tune from start to finish. He can swim like a fish and somersault like a dolphin. He is spooked terribly by ghosts. He is fond of barbies and race cars. He loves the outdoors and cannot sit still for more than a minute. He is expressive, he is naughty, he is my bond- Seven today.

lets see the years that went by..

There are highs, lows, major road blocks, soaring moments, and moments when I want to pull out whatever hair is left on my head..but I have to admit there is never a dull moment with my boy around! Happy Birthday Soumya!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Thin Fakir from India...

The other day my daugher asked me, "Maa, what did Gandhiji give the Indians?" Feeling proud that she should ask me this question, I was making a mental list of all the things we, as a nation have, because of him and many who followed his blueprint in those formative years. Seeing me take so much of time, I guess she lost her patience and came up with the answer herself," He gave us a holiday every year on the 2nd of October!" She smiled and went away, My jaws dropped and I was left feeling sad. I know shes just a kid and we have all gone through these jokes, but it was just not fair. Each time I read his biography, each time I see the film made by Attenborough, I choke up at this small man and his immense courage, the way he stood tall, the power of his gaze, the sharpness of his wit, the charm, the childlike jubiliance. he, like many who strive to create a difference, was a controversial figure. There have been people who have opposed his views, in his lifetime and also after it. His views on partition, his non violence approach, many have said he taught us the concept of 'strikes' and 'bandhs'.

Yes, he did introduce us to these weapons, but at that time we used it against the British, and today it has become a blunt weapon, becuause we have pushed it far too much, we have used it for all sundry purposes and more, so its lost its effect and brought in vices of its own, so is Gandhiji to be blamed for this wrong usage?

There are many known and unknown facets to his life, today in dedication to him, I would like to share this day of his life with you all..

When most of India was looking at the glittering lights of Delhi on the midnight of 14th August 1947, awaiting the dawn. Glittering lights, loud slogans and a poetic assertion of Late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who said: "At the stroke of the midnight hour when the world sleeps India will awake to life and freedom and a soul of a nation long suppressed will find utterance." There was darkness in Calcutta. Gandhi was agonized. A few weeks prior to Independence Day of 1947, an emissary of Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel was sent to Gandhi at Calcutta, who was working for peace and harmony among the Hindus and Muslims. The emissary reached at midnight. He said: "I have brought an important letter for you from Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel." "Have you taken your food?", asked Gandhi. When the emissary said " No", Gandhi served him food. And after food, Gandhi opened the letter from Nehru and Patel. They had written: "Bapu you are the father of the nation. 15th August 1947, will be the first Independence Day and we want you to come to Delhi to give us the blessings." Gandhi said: " How stupid!. When Bengal is burning, Hindus and Muslims are killing each other and I hear the cries of their agony in the darkness of Calcutta, how can I go to Delhi with the glittering lights?" These were the heart-rending words of Gandhi. He said "I have to live here for the establishment of peace in Bengal and if need be, I have to give up my life for ensuring that there is harmony and peace." The emissary started for his return journey in the morning. It was a moving sight, full of human touch. Gandhi gave the emissary a sendoff. He was standing below a tree. A dry leaf fell from the tree. Gandhi picked it up and put it on his palm and said: " My friend, you are going back to Delhi. What gift can Gandhi give to Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel? I am a man without power and wealth. Give this dry leaf to Nehru and Patel, as my first Independence day gift." And when he was saying this, tears came from the eyes of the emissary. And with a sense of humour Gandhi said: " How great is God? He did not want Gandhi to send that dry leaf. He made it wet. It is glistening with laughter. Carry this leaf as a gift full of your tears." That was Gandhi's human touch.

I hope kids today and from the generations to come can understand his philosophy and his strength before applauding him for giving us all a holiday on the 2nd of October, every year. I havent had the chance of speaking to my daughter after the joke, but will do so one of these days, if not they, who will spread his message to the whole world now, that he is so long gone.