Saturday, 20 November 2010

The Trek

My first attempt at story-writing. Didn't quite work out.




---
Sonia and Meera just couldn't stop smiling! They were setting off for their first trek in few hours time. They giggled at the thought of the fun they were going to have – new friends, trekking and playing in the snow and singing and dancing around the bonfire.
What the girls didn't admit to each other was the fact that they were hoping to meet their Prince Charming! That was their secret!
At 5 pm, they were at the Pune Railway Station, shepherded by Sonia's father. They spotted the group of trekkers and went over to meet Avadhoot, the group leader. The girls were the youngest member of the group going to Pubbar Valley near Shimla.
There were quick introductions and Sonia found herself half in love already.
Meera noticed her friend blushing. And guessed the reason behind it.
She quickly tugged Sonia's hand when they were boarding the train.
“What's up?” Meera whispered into her ears.
“Sssh...In some time,” said Sonia with a smile.
As the train chugged away out of the station, Avadhoot ensured that all the team members were comfortable.
Then he and Aniruddh started going over the itinerary with other members of the team.
The girls were huddled together.
“Who is HE?” Meera looked around the group.
“They all look older...” Meera thought. “Fossils!” she smiled.
She tried to catch Sonia's eye, but Sonia was staring at Aniruddh. Now Meera knew.
Later the girls excused themselves to the loo.
In a quick whisper, Meera asked, “Aniruddh, isn't it?”.
Sonia nodded.
“He is old. Must be in late 20s...”
“So what?” Sonia readied herself for a fight.
In her mind, Sonia was already confronting and bringing her parents around for her marriage with Aniruddh.
“So what if he is older than me? Who says that we can't stay together?” Sonia questioned Meera.
Meera gaped.
“No one,” she mumbled. Good Luck!
She walked past Sonia to their compartment.
Sonia followed her with a swing in her steps and smile on her lips.
She felt she was Simran – Kajol of DDLJ.
The setting was so right. Train journey, snow, songs and dance. Sonia was already dreaming.
Anirudh and Avadhoot were huddled together, making innumerable calls for their transport and food during the trek.
After the last call, Aniruddh stretched out his legs, and noticed the girls.
“So, which school you are in?” he asked Meera.
Sonia quickly answered. “We are college students.”
“Oh! Grad students?” Great!,” smiled Aniruddh.
“Junior College students,” informed Meera ignoring Sonia's dirty look.
“Ummm. Good! And, good night. Rest all you can. Trekking can be difficult,” he smiled and left to check on other team mates.
Sonia turned to glare at Meera. But Meera had wisely snuggled into her mattress.
Sonia then opened her bag and pulled out a sheet. She settled in to dream of Aniruddh – Aniruddh helping her when she twists her ankle, covering her with a bed spread when she feels cold, consoling her when she misses her parents, getting her water when she accidentally bites into a mirchi...
“Wake up... you”.
Sonia opens her eyes slowly to see Aniruddh towering over her.
“What's your name? You sleep like a log...Hurry up now. The breakfast is here. We need to go over the itinerary again,” Aniruddh spoke rapidly and then left.
The rest of the train journey passed away in a dream for Sonia. Meera knew that she had not even noticed that Aniruddh, who was an old fossil, was treating them like kids.
“For a 20 something guy we are kids... Best to leave the girl alone,” she shrugged.

Aniruddh was right. The trek was not all that easy. In fact NOT easy at all.
“I wonder where we got the idea of playing in snow and having swinging bonfire nights,” Meera thought aloud.
“You are such a SPOIL SPORT Meera. It's so beautiful out here,” Sonia pointed out.
“Yea..yea. A perfect romantic setting,” Meera thought it was the right time to give Sonia a piece of her mind. “See Sonia...Aniruddh is way older than us. Stop, Let me finish,” she told Sonia, who opened her mouth to speak.
“I know how you feel about him. But its very silly. He treats us like kids. You better get out the idea that he is in love with you or whatever,” Meera finished.
Sonia had tears in her eyes.
“He does. You will see,” she said and left to catch up with the others.
At night, Aniruddh saw the girl shivering in sleep.
“Looks like she hasn't got extra bedding. Better cover her up. Else she will catch a cold,” Aniruddh quickly covered her up with a quilt.
Next morning Sonia awoke to find herself covered in a maroon quilt.
“Whose is this?” she turned to ask Meera.
“Hey sleepy head. Morning,” Aniruddh smiled at her.
“You really sleep like a log. Last night you were shivering and yet you didn't wake up to get the extra mattress. I covered you up in that quilt. You didn't even stir...” Aniruddh smiled some more. “Come, have hot cocoa or it will grow cold.”
Sonia turned to Meera as soon as he left. “See,” was all that she said.

Sonia was dressed in tight jeans and a nice pink coloured kurti, which set off her complexion. She was going to meet Aniruddh today!
It was a very noisy evening at the reunion. All the trekkers were meeting at Vaishali for coffee.
Sonia found herself looking at Aniruddh ever so often. But, he was always laughing and chatting with someone else. He had only once smiled her way and remarked, 'Hey sleepyhead!'
Meera, who was sitting next to her, was persuaded by her friend to talk to Aniruddh.
At the end of the reunion, Meera was pushed by Sonia into Aniruddh's path.
“Hey! See you then,” Aniruddh smiled.
Meera was conscious of Sonia looking their way.
“Hi....errr I wanted to speak to you about something,” she croaked.
“Well...go on then..” he said.
“It's about Sonia,” Meera hesitated.
“Sonia? Oh, your friend? What about her?” Aniruddh looked at Sonia.
Sonia melted.
“She...she likes you. So,” she was cut short by Aniruddh.
“She LIKES me?” guffawed Aniruddh. “I am sorry. I know it sounds cruel. Do you know how old I am? I am 29! And, you must be 15-16, right?”
He then strode towards Sonia.
“Girl...grow up. I am sorry. You will outgrow this fancy. It's not LOVE. It's an infatuation. It's a beautiful feeling but its wasted in this case. Take care and don't be foolish,” he held her hands.
Sonia looked down to find her hands held tightly by Aniruddh.
“He is holding my hands! BUT...
Sonia learnt to grow up the hard way.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

For Aai...

This was written for a contest. Results will be declared in June. Wish me Luck.


----
I was home after almost six months. I stood in the veranda with the bag hanging down from my shoulder. The garden looked lush green and neatly manicured.
My growing up years have been associated with this place and its transformation from a vacant plot, into a kitchen garden and then in to a 'wildly growing' garden. There were trees, thickets, shrubs, potted plant, cactus, flowering plant, money plant...you name it and we had it. Or rather my mother had it.
My parents, who wanted to build a small house, had pooled their meager resources to buy the land. When the house was being built, we (my elder sibling and I) often accompanied our parents to see the construction. The area surrounding the house, looked dusty and barren except for few trees.
“Teak! That's teakwood tree,” Aai shrieked loudly.
I had looked around to see if anyone had overheard us.
“And”, she said pointing to another tree in the distance, “that is sal.”
I nodded. I didn't really care for the house or the trees. It looked dull and boring.
After moving into the new house, my mother quit her job at the PSU. I thought that was crazy.
I had asked her, “What are you going to do at home?”
She had smiled and said, “Do up this place.”
I had stared at her because I never really thought my mother was the 'domesticated' type.
Finally I said, “I hope you do something nice for my bedroom then...”
“Wait and watch”, was the reply.
My bedroom window overlooked a tiny patch. Soon I could see orange, red and golden heads – marigold flowers.
Aai had planted the seeds by dozens it seems.
“It looks nice,” I had thought.
She had also planted tomato seeds in the patch near the kitchen. Soon we were eating tomatoes, bhendi and sweet lime.
Aai had never studied horticulture, but the plants grew at her touch. She bought books on various plant species, made notes, watched Aamchi Maati Amchi Mansa and went off on her own “field trips”. It was embarrassing to accompany her on the “field trips” as she would pull out any weed and put it in her plastic bag, or approach the neighbours with her hearty laugh and persuasive manner and come away with at least one sapling.
I wished she would “outgrew this fancy,” because since she was not working, she had become a watch dog of sorts.
We had no compound wall or wiring then around our plot. So invariably many laman women, would sneak in the afternoon trying to chop off the branches of teak and sal trees.
My mother would sit up in the bed at the slightest sound. The sleep in her eyes would clear and she would listen keenly.
“Listen...just get up,” she would wake me up from my siesta. “Just go and check if the laman women are here and then shoo them away. Go, go.”
I was in no mood to go and chase the women. But didn't I mention that Aai was a very persuasive woman?
Sure enough, the laman were there pulling at the trees.
“Aye suno...jao yahan se,” I used to call out weakly.
The women didn't even bother to look at me.
And then a voice used to bellow out, “Aye suno. Tum logo jate ho ki nahi yahan se? Ya police ko bulaon? Is ped ki kimat pata hai tumhe?”
By now Aai was out of the bed and the house into the garden and on the other side of the thicket talking, cajoling and threatening the women.
I used to stand, half hidden by the door, wondering what would happen to my mother.
However, the women left quietly and Aai used to come in, lock the door and go to the bedroom. In a matter of minutes, she would be snoring!
After the first crop of marigold flowers, Aai planted papaya and palm trees.
The papaya was very sweet and so were the guavas!
“We don't have a mango tree,” I remarked one afternoon.
My maternal grandfather owned an aamrai in Konkan. Aai got him to send us a crate of hapus mangoes and planted the 'bata' of one mango in the garden.
The mango tree took 12 years to flower, but Aai never lost hope. She used to water it lovingly thrice a day and also spoke to it in Konkani... the magic worked!
The juice from the leaves of the mango trees reduced my father's sugar levels...the wheat grass juice stopped the bleeding from my nose! She experimented with fruits, flowers and us – and it all worked.
When I moved to Pune for studies and called home, I used to get an update on all the members of the family.
“Your father is keeping well. Can you smell the ratrani? It has blossomed. I am sitting right next to it..When are you coming home? Come soon, your favourite gulmohar tree is in bloom. Fiery red...what a lovely colour! I am sending you some guavas with your sister. Eat them. Juicy ones from our tree. The bluebird came and sat on the window sill. The sparrows too. I can't spot the mynah though..”Aai continued.
Sometimes I wondered if she really cared for us. Plants and trees and birds occupied her mind space more than us - her children.
---
Now, my mother is no more. The garden is there, the trees are there, the flowers are in full bloom, in a riot of colour, the fragrance of ratrani and mogra still lingers in the air – all protected by the compound wall.
What is missing is her loud voice and magic!
Today, as a grown up 29-year-old, I realised what my mother meant by “doing up the place.”
She was “doing up” the area around the house with plants. The joy and beauty of the growing plants and cooing of the birds had found its way into my house.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

D - Company

For the last few days I have been humming Door Koi Roshan Hua Ek Chehra...from Thakshak, one of my favourite films.
On a whim, I am listing down few romantic (ahem ahem)songs which begin with D
Alright, the first one is Deewana Hua Badal from Kashmir ki Kali. Next one is Dooba Dooba of Silk Route (Loved the sea in this one). Then comes Dil Deewana From Maine Pyar Kiya (Bhagyashree's yellow sari...YUCK!). Dil Tadap Tadap Ke from Madhumati...
Deewana...Haan Deewana from Parde.
There are others too like Dard-e-Disco and Dhoom Machale...but I am not so enamoured of them...

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Remember Me?

The new advts by Vodafone are cute, throwback to school days - particularly the one in which a girl saves a seat next to her for a friend. It was the same with all of us, I guess - likes and dislikes, friends, best friends and 'enemies'.I don't want to talk of my school enemies here - too petty and now when I look back, I think I made much ado of small things.
My bench partner, the one I remember, was Aarti Kurkure, in Std I. I don't remember whom I sat next to in jr and sr kg.
In Std III, I think it was Suparna. I don't remember the last name. I think she left the school after that one year. I particularly remember Std III very well because I lost my first tooth (front one - gaping hole, I tell you) on my birthday. It came out when I was eating lady finger veggie from my tiffin box. Suparna, who was sitting next to me in the class, made me drink water and rinse my mouth.
For days I worried that the tooth might now grow back and every morning I used to check if it had grown in the night. Add to that my mother's threat who said that if I touched the gap in my teeth with my tongue, the replacement might just disappear. I don't remember who I shared my bench with in Std IV and V. But, I do remember I had got very friendly with Parineeta, a girl from Darjeeling. I remember asking her if she was Chinese. I think till Std X, Pari and I were bench partners.
The class topper (Pari) and the class dumbo (me). We were good friends. We kept in touch when I came to college in Pune. Till junior college, we wrote letters, embellished with sparkles and designs, cards etc. After that we lost touch. I remember her birthday (March 9) every year, but somehow have never wished her.
We met again on FB, but except adding her as a friend and replying to her "Remember Me?" with "Of course Pari...how can I forget you" I never made an attempt to contact her again. She is in the same town.
I wonder why there's a difference or lack of communication with people who were friends for years. Even if we do meet, I can't imagine the dialogue. What am I going to say?

Friday, 5 November 2010

Something to Crib

Today's Diwali...
And, I am in a crabby mood. (Isn't that an old story?)
So...let me just put down in points what I am missing in life at this point: 3.30 in the afternoon, Nov 5.
Here goes:
1)My pen friends and the letters we used to write.
Status: I'm not in touch with any of them.
2)My old camera. I clicked my college life and niece's photographs with it
Status: Left it in the almirah of my cupboard. Don't know if its working.
3)My old diaries. Used to write pages and pages when in college
Status: Burnt them. I am regretting!
4)Mogra flowers. Reminds me of Aai.
Status: Have to go back home and see if they are in bloom.
5)Chocolates. I used to hunt for them in my sister's bag, cupboard.
Status: I can and still eat them by dozens. But they don't taste that good.
6)Rains. The thunderstorm and the lightning.
Status: It doesn't rain in Pune. It just drizzles and cleans the road.
7)My home.
Status: It's still standing, rock-solid. I hope it does forever. I want to go back to it again and again – as long as I live. It should outlive me.

Okay...if you haven't understood...I am missing home.
But here I am sitting in the office writing weepy blogs.