Saturday, May 23, 2020

Yaadein


I am grateful that I and my loved ones are safe and healthy. I am grateful that these are the only things that I am missing and not the basic necessities in life. Yet I wonder - why this suffering at all? Don't we have enough misery on Earth.

Hoping and praying for this to pass. Please take care..


Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Z is for... Zen with my Zen


I started driving a car in the year 2004 and began an adventurous journey. Although I love my life in all its glory and don’t regret a single moment, I have to say my years with a car were the best years of my life.

You see, I started dating the Boy in the same year, and without a car, I don’t know how I would have managed to romance him. His college was in the outskirts of the city separated from my B-school by 25 kilometres. The journey involved driving alongside enormous trucks, and deceiving cows, my parents, and the college guard - not in the same order. I must say, with great finesse, I made the trip several times the result of which is a successful 11-year old marriage. *winks*

This red Zen was initially bought for my sister-in-law, but I, in a not-so-dramatic way, snatched the keys to my freedom from her. The two years that I was in college, we could have made a Saas-bahu saga in my house with me being the crafty nanad. I strategized a lot when it came to taking the car with me, and she, poor thing, just let me be. Also, she was the sole secret-keeper of my story with the Boy and was terrified of being an accomplice to my crime in front of the entire family. I guess her strategy to let me be with the Boy so that I can get married to him sooner worked well too. She now owns every key in the house.

My B-school adventures would have been dull without my red Zen. Apart from driving to college, I drove my friends to their homes, restaurants, theatres, Xerox copy places, several corporate offices, hospitals, etc. Hospitals? One fine evening, the Boy met with a massive accident. Now his 10-year-old bike could compete with any bicycle, yet it could not handle a new road on the highway! Imagine! He was admitted and underwent a surgery, I made several visits with my friends to the hospital, and that is how I met his family and his friends. Ah, that story is for another day.

Speaking of accidents, one fine morning I was driving on an empty road. The tape was playing Mahi ve from Kal ho Na ho, my favourite movie of that year. Like my dad on the wheels, I was dancing to the tunes. Suddenly a car, coming from nowhere, crossed the road without looking in my direction. There was a loud noise – from my brakes, the bang and then my heart.

Thankfully no one was hurt, except my poor red Zen. It seemed someone had punched her stomach and she was holding it in from the front. I parked my car in the corner and called my brother. He came with my father and I was driven to my college in another car. I cried after the first class was over, but that was short lived. My dad called me that afternoon telling me that my red Zen will be fine in two days and I can take it again. I loved his assurance which made me confident too.

That red Zen is no longer with us. It was replaced by another red car which is nowhere close to it. I miss it, and I miss driving. I burnt three clutches while driving the red Zen due to inability of switching my legs. We have automatic cars now, but I fear driving. Although Uber makes everything easier, I will never forget those three years with my red Zen – the best there could ever be.

P.S. If you don't want your children to date, don't give them a car/bike. Also, if you don't want your children to have the best years of their lives, don't give them a car/bike. Catch 22, much?

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Today is the last of A2Z. I am thankful to many bloggers who visited my humble blog and gave me the confidence to write fiction. I am my best critique and so I know where I stand, yet I am grateful for your remarks. And even though this AtoZ is over, I'd be visiting all the blogs that I have been reading. You know who you are since you have my comments...big hug! I will also try and visit the blogs that I could not read due to the stress of writing. 

I am hoping for a long journey with the new ones. See you all on the other side!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Y is for.. Yearbook tale


When I got her friend request on Facebook, I could not recognise her at first. I scrolled her page to see all the pictures and realised she was the same, quiet girl from school.

I still remember the first morning she had walked into our class of 45 students. Her sparkling white shirt over crisp grey skirt partitioned by a brand-new grey and red belt already disassociated her from the rest of us. It was our last year in school, and parents were not keen on spending on new uniform for their 16-year olds. Eager to start a new life, we were not interested either.

‘Where can I keep my bag?’ she inquired upon entering.

‘You can place yourself in the front row, Ma’am will come and find you a spot,’ I replied trying to stop myself from smiling too much.

She kept her belongings on a bench and looked around for the timetable on the softboard, and then started to copy from it for future reference.

My friends and I stood in the last rows and spoke about her in hushed tones. ‘I hope I am not separated from you because of her, you won’t even have much space to sit!’ Payal remarked with her eyes rolling.

‘Shh, now don’t be mean. I can easily fit in with her,’ I said putting my hand on Payal’s mouth. ‘I am worried how the boys will react.’

The boys had occupied the last row at the opposite end and had been chuckling all along. Every student who entered kept his bag on his seat and joined the hullabaloo. Suddenly one of them walked up to the blackboard and changed the number of students from 45 to 48. There was a loud uproar on their side.

Payal and Riddhima could not contain their laughter. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to laugh with my old classmates or feel bad for the newcomer who was, thankfully, unaware of the joke.

The school bell rang, and it was time for our first period. Mrs. Newton entered the class and looked at fresh entrant in the front row.

‘Ah, you must be Yati Shukla,’ she said, lovingly putting her arm around the new girl. She looked around and introduced her to us. And then her eyes stopped at me, the class monitor. ‘Nisha, you will sit with her and help her adjust, is that ok?’

‘Yes Ma’am,’ I answered picking up my already packed bag. The boys looked at me with their mischievous eyes and I pretended to be completely fine with the shift.

Mrs. Newton took the attendance and stood up to scribble the number of students on the board. When she turned, her fingers stopped for a few seconds reading the number 48. We all thought she was conjuring a harsh punishment in her head. There was pin drop silence in class. She calmly took the duster and changed the number to 46. Then she turned around and looked at me and my eyes dropped with shame. At that moment we both knew that Yati won’t be making many friends this year.

And that is why I was surprised to see that only 10 years later, she had 1500 friends on Facebook. Yati now had perfectly sculpted body and oodles of make-up on her face which made her look very different from the chubby girl she was. Many of her photographs included celebrities from Bollywood, and on further stalking, I realised that she was a celebrated Public Relations Manager for countless.

And then there were my other classmates, all 44 of them, on her friend-list, some successful, some stuck in the same era, but none who had bothered to talk to her in that one year of high school.



Monday, April 27, 2020

X is for... X'mas in Prague


There was a life before Covid19. A life in which we were working crazy hours, travelling the world and planning an exciting 2020. I was there too.

But before 2019 ended, the Boy and I decided to take an impromptu trip to Prague. Normally, we plan our vacations one year in advance, but 2019 was different. We went to a Naturecare Institute for 13 days and badly needed a vacation after that. We did not have any leaves left so had to utilize just the four days of public holidays in December. Luckily, we had a valid Schenghen visa.

Can you blame us for loving this city?

So, we scouted for the cheapest ticket, which wasn’t so cheap considering school holidays had already started, and landed in Prague, for the second time in four years.

We based ourselves in a different area, it was freezing cold and every nook and corner was decorated in Christmas spirit. It was a very different Prague that I had seen last time. Only this time, it was more magical!

Different squares were decorated and there were a lot of Christmas markets.
The food and the wine was incredible.

Prague is a city out of a fairytale, Christmas makes it more dreamy.


Anyway, I was keen to take a photo in the same spot as I did on my last visit. That particular picture had won me 500 USD, so it was special. Also, it was my most favourite picture from all my albums.

We took the exact same tram and walked over to Letna Park. Since the daylight hours were much less, we could not reach the spot on time. When we reached the place, I took a hundred pictures but it did not come out exactly the same. Then the Boy searched for the last one and then matched the scenery! We walked a bit more and found the exact same spot!

In four years, I seem to have aged more, and the light is less, other than that, everything looks picture perfect!

Me in  Dec 2019

Award winning, fave picture, me in Oct 2016


The next day, the Boy went to exchange some money in a shop. We had walked a lot so I decided to sit on a bench while he hunted for the best rates. Prague can be pretty tricky when it comes to exchanging Koruna. Anyway, while he was gone I was just looking at my phone when a man came and sat rather close to me. I felt he was staring at me and I did not like the vibe.

I immediately got up and walked close to a mother who was sitting on another bench with her three children. There was no space on the bench and so I just stood there praying that they don’t leave before the Boy comes. I was so scared that I didn’t even try to check if that man was gone or if he was still following me. The family stayed for a bit and then walked away. I immediately found another spot I could go to if the man came back!

I was sitting on one of these benches during the day..
So, these things happen when you are travelling! Unpleasant experiences are a part of the travelling game. Nonetheless, they make you smarter, like I was the moment I saw the man sit next to me!

On another note, do visit a European city in second half of December. The Christmas markets are beautiful, and the weather is not too cold to handle. Prague is my last travel memory before Covid, and certainly one of the best ones. 

Please, please, please visit these cities once during Christmas time.
You won't regret it!


Sunday, April 26, 2020

W is for... Worthwhile


Sid is the first of my four children. And as the world knows, firstborns are a mother’s first love. Sid is mine. He was coming back home after 12 long years with his wife and so many memories came rushing back.

As an older brother, Sid is calm, patient, caring and loving. As an eldest son, he is responsible, brave and has always shown great initiative. So, when he called me that afternoon to discuss his situation with Triya, I knew he was dealing with one of the hardest decisions of his life.

‘Mum, she says she doesn’t want to have children. I don’t know what I want,’ he said sounding extremely concerned.

It was 3 p.m. in India, meaning it was 5.30 a.m. in New York. My son was never a morning person, it had been a long night.

‘I see. Well, do you love her?’ I asked trying to get my thoughts together. In the last one year, all Sid could talk about was Triya, and I already knew how special she was.

‘Of course. You know I was going to propose to her next month in the Bahamas. She somehow gauged my plan and told me upfront. She wants to marry me but says that she will never consider having a kid. She seems determined, Ma.’

Triya reminded me of my sister Seema when she was younger. When Sid was born, she was there with me to help me with every single chore. She cared for him like a mother would, but when she got married, she decided that she would always want to be childfree. She said she found kids extremely needy, she found motherhood like a guilt-trip and that she thought she loved her life the way it was and didn’t want to change a thing.

‘I am worried that even if I decide to let go, I might resent this later,’ Sid continued from the other side. He told me about Triya’s life and her struggles with her mother as a teenager. Her reasons were justifiable, and given my experience with Seema, I had little doubt that Triya will change her mind.

‘You have looked after your siblings as your own children, Sid. I believe you know a little bit about having kids. Now it is up to you – if you love Triya and want to spend the rest of your life with her, then you need to stand by her decision,’ I explained, couldn’t believing the words that were coming out of my mouth. Sid was going to be one of the heirs to a generation old, multi-million, family business. His children were going to be my first grand-children and I was already looking forward to his return and starting a family. This could change everything.

-

Today was their fourth wedding anniversary and Sid said he had a surprise announcement to make. I had my thali and everything ready to welcome Triya in our home. Sid had promised us that he would work in an American bank for a while and then come back to handle the investments part of the business. His father was looking forward to this, and I was looking forward to spending more time with my two kids, and possibly, a grand kid.

‘Mum, dad, Triya and I have decided to open a primary school for underprivileged children. This way we will be involved with many young lives and will be able to make a difference,’ he declared after settling down.

I looked at Triya sitting next to him, with her hand in his and her eyes gleaming with pride. If there was a mirror, my eyes would have looked the same.

You can read more about Triya in :


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This story is a part of AtoZ challenge by Blogchatter. For the 2020 challenge, I'll be writing some travel stories and some stories that originate in my life but find a way into this blog through fiction. Also, I am new at this ;)




Friday, April 24, 2020

V is for… Vande Mataram



I am fortunate to have grown up in the city of Lucknow. While the world sings glory of its Tunde Kebab, Awadhi Biryani, Chikankari and beautiful architecture, I have another beautiful story to tell. And it began right from when I was in kindergarten.

My parents enrolled me in a co-education convent school situated right in the middle of the city. This school was constructed in the premises of a huge church which was frequented by all Christians in the city.

Every year we celebrated Christmas with great fervor. Come December and we had a dedicated class for Christmas carols. I grew up singing Silent Night more than I recited the Gayatri Mantra. We sold stamps and raised funds for some Christian organisation. We also read many stories about Jesus Christ in our Moral Science lessons.

During this time, we were allowed one visit to the main church with the whole class. This day was looked forward to with great excitement since this church had beautiful sculptures which told the story of Jesus Christ. After the prayer session, we even got some prasad by the Bishop.

Since this school was in the centre of the town, we had people from all walks of life. Come Eid and my class smelled of biryani and kababs. We would huddle in a corner and fight for seviyaan and sheermal. Each class had many a Khan, Hasan, Abbas and Mohammad to fulfil its own culinary needs. We never had to look beyond.

Lucknow is also home to many karigars who specialise in zardozi and chikankari. Being from a family that deals in hand-embroidered Indian clothes, we were fortunate to get our own tiffin during Eid which lasted us many days. And well, how can I forget my eidi.. an envelope with money that we got on visiting one of these families on Eid.

Diwali was always special. We made new clothes every year and wore them with great enthusiasm. First, we went to our shop to do the pooja, then my cousin’s shop, followed by their home and then my own. Food, crackers, Diwali lights, cards, pooja, the works made Diwali a much-awaited festival.

How can I not include Gurupurab in this? Being worshipers of Gurunanak, we visited the gurdwara religiously. My father helped serve the langar each year on the auspicious occasion of birth of Gurunanak. We listened to Granthis singing, and then hummed along. Ek Onkar has helped me sail through many a difficult time…

Having grown up in this environment, I find it hard to understand how people in our country have suddenly become intolerant towards each other. Didn’t we all have friends from all religions or was it just my city? I have always loved the fact that our country is so varied in every way – food, culture, people, flora, fauna and architecture. Our culture would not be the way it is if it wasn’t for our diversity. And without our culture, we are just a massive population of 1.3 billion people fighting poverty, hunger, dirt and increasing population.

I hope we can find common grounds and start celebrating with each other rather than finding flaws in every small thing. I wish to see my country exactly how I saw it as a kid. Today, we are either right wing or left wing. The seemingly tolerant ones trying to bring peace are called names, bigots to be precise. Whatsapp groups are filled with hate messages. Friends become foes and cousins become enemies on simplest of discussions. 

It saddens me that we are no more a tolerant nation. Will this bring us a brighter tomorrow? Only time will tell... 

Thursday, April 23, 2020

U is for... Unexpected

‘Honey, the guest list is ready, when do you want me to send out the invites?’ Kiran asked as she put her arms around Dhawan who was sitting on the dining table chair. Dhawan kept his phone down which had her picture as the wallpaper and kissed the front of her palms pulling her in front of himself.

‘Whenever you think it is okay, my love. But first sit down and try this,’ he said taking out a pouch from his pocket.

The solitaire was the size of a football and it fit Kiran’s ring finger perfectly well.  ‘Oh, honey, you remembered?’ Kiran exclaimed getting up and kissing Dhawan on his lips.

It was a long-promised anniversary present from Dhawan. Although Kiran could walk into the jewellery store and buy a whole rack, Dhawan liked to surprise her with small gifts every now and then. It was like a tradition.

‘Your suitcase is packed for your London meeting. You have to come back by Wednesday, okay?’ Kiran said her eyes fixated on the ring.

‘But the party is on Sunday, why do you want me back so early?’

‘I want you back because I miss you when you are not here. And I know you can finish your work by then!’

It had been 25 years to Kiran and Dhawan’s marriage, but they were still the envy of their whole circle like when they were newlyweds. They ate from the same plate, stayed by each other’s side in every party, danced in sync and laughed like best friends.

‘Tamanna is also going to say a speech – something on the lines of how she wants a partner like you and have a marriage like ours. Isn’t it sweet of our daughter?’ Kiran stated gleaming with pride and sauntered towards the kitchen.

‘They don’t make couples like us anymore,’ Dhawan quoted with a chuckle and Kiran laughed in agreement.

As always, she dropped her husband at the airport that afternoon and kissed him goodbye. ‘Come back sooner than you promised, okay?’ she demanded with a pout on her face.

‘Only if you don’t disturb me with a thousand phone calls to discuss our anniversary party!’

‘Ah, now you watch out, I will call you a million times.’

Ram babu, the driver, rolled his eyes from behind the wheels. This couple was too sweet for his appetite, yet he had to listen to all their mush talks when they were in the car. All his friends had some gossip to share, he had none. He was missing out on all the extra cash his fellow-drivers were making from their bosses to keep mum about their respective affairs, while Ram babu just got his monthly salary and nothing else. He had to pay a price for their fidelity.

Maybe your boss has a mistress in London, he goes there every month, Billu had said in hushed tones a few weeks back.

It was possible. Or maybe madam has a boyfriend in the ashram in Pune otherwise she didn’t seem the type who would listen to bhajans for days every few months.

‘Ram babu, take me to the jeweller,’ he heard Kiran say as she closed the door behind him.

‘Ji Madam,’ Ram babu retorted, curiously looking at his madam trying to find clues. He could drive to the jeweller with closed eyes, Kiran went there to buy jewels like he went to the market to buy vegetables.

After she got off the car to walk into the store, Ram babu got a call on his cell phone. ‘Ram babu, I think I have left my second mobile phone in the car. Find it and take it to your home. Err, do you like Black Label whiskey? I will get a bottle for you,’ Dhawan blabbered from the other end.

Ram babu hurried to the back seat and found the phone under the cover where Dhawan was sitting. He kept the phone in his shirt’s pocket and replied, ‘Found the phone sir, you don’t worry about it,’ he said giggling to himself as if he had just won a lottery.

While looking for the phone he noticed his madam had forgotten her purse. He picked it up and rushed to the store. The security guard stopped him asking where he was headed.

‘Kiran madam is inside, I want to give her this purse,’ informed Ram babu showing the purse to the guard.

‘But madam is not here yet. I think she must be having tea first with her friends in the hotel next door.’

Ram babu scouted the restaurant, but there was no sign of Kiran. Disappointed, he decided to wait outside in the car.

Half an hour later, he saw Kiran come out of the hotel. She then walked inside the jewellery store next door.

Five minutes later, Raj sir, whom he knew as Tamana’s friends’ father, hurried towards his car from inside the hotel.

‘They took one hour to fix my ring,’ Kiran said angrily entering the car.

Ram babu just smiled starting the ignition. ‘Madam, look, isn’t that Raj sir’s car. I just saw him walk out from inside the hotel,’ he clarified staring at Kiran through the rear-view mirror.

He had unexpectedly hit a jackpot today.