Monday, March 25, 2013

One last time..

          It was past midnight when the cellphone beeped. For a moment she thought it was her alarm going off and woke up with a start. She checked her phone and realised  it Jay who had messaged her. "Strange! This late in the night on a  weekday? Must have been partying!" she thought. The text read,
              "I m on your terrace. Come up fast."
         Was she dreaming? Should she pinch herself and confirm like they show in the movies? Jay coming up on her terrace to meet her like some bollywood romantic film hero was sooo out of question! But then he never texted her late in the night ever. Was this some prank? Just as she was about to call him and ask him what the matter was, her screen flashed " Incoming call- Jay".
         "Riya you will freeze me in this cold yaar. Come soon."
          Okay  now she was all excited. She snapped the phone shut. Quickly combed her hair and hurriedly applied lip balm. She pulled on a shrug and checked herself in the mirror. Maybe this was going to be one the most romantic days of her life!
          She tiptoed out of her room and sneaked to the terrace of their house.
          Jay stood there smiling at her. So this really was a surprise and not a prank!
           He was wearing the red tshirt which she had gifted him. He didn't wear that often because he thought it looked too bright. They had argued on it so many times. She loved the colour on him but he couldn't see that. His gaze was fixed on her as she slowly walked towards him. There was something special about him today. Like the way he was looking at her as if devouring each moment. The way his face shone in the moonlight. It was pitch dark except for the lone lamp (which stood the damage from cricket balls) on the terrace. As she stood close to him, so many questions in her mind, he slightly stroked her hair.
           "Jay what has happened to you?" she asked when she noticed he hadn't once spoken.
           "Just watching you." he smiled shyly.
           "So what's the occasion?" she raised her eyebrow.
            He traced her brow with his finger.
            " I always wondered how you raise only one of your eyebrow."
            They both giggled.
           He walked her towards the swing on the terrace and gently sat her down. He sat  besides her silently.
         "You always wanted me to be romantic right? Sorry I wasn't the kind you wanted." He said
         "Jay I never meant it like that. Ofcourse I would have liked if you did something special once in a while but you don't have to be sorry. Its not a prime requirement." She replied wondering where this conversation was heading. Was he upset ? Was he going to leave her over that ?
          "You could have always found someone who could do that for you. But you stood by me. Through the years we were together. I should have tried to meet your expectations. I didn't."
          " Jay please don't start this.."
          "Shh.. I will make it upto you today.. For all that I didn't say.."
          " I m bad at expressing myself. I always was. I never told you how much I liked it when you always took efforts to make all the occasions special. I like the way you get excited about every little thing. The way you remember all important days for me. The way you pray for me. I like that I can always count on you to wait for me. The way you melt away with just a few smileys that I send you. I like the way you always click loads of pictures and store random things just for the sake of memories. I like the way you are are beaming with happiness right now."
           Oh my God! Was this Jay who was telling all this? She hugged him. She was teary eyed. How silly her tears were. Flowing away after hearing all that she had waited to hear from him.
           "Riya you are beautiful and I m lucky to have found you. Don't ever doubt that okay?"
            He then sat on his knees and rested his head on her lap. She gently stroked his hair.
           "Riya you should paint more often. I know you are studying something else but this is were your passion is. Let yourself free with your hobby. It makes you happy and don't lose it for anything. Don't worry about what others think of you. You are awesome the way you are. Don't fret too much about how others will react to your decisions. Promise me you will never compromise on your choices."
            " I promise. Jay its as if you are giving me a goodbye speech. Its freaking me."
            " Riya, you remember you liked a book in hobby ideas showroom? The one which had pictures of couples in every stage of life? Well I wanted to make something like that for you and I think I succeeded to an extent. Its not as good but here it is." He handed her a crimson red album.
             What could she ask for more? Her joy knew no bounds when she saw the collection. So many photographs of them together with quotes on each. Most of them were clicked by her but there were some which she hadn't seen! OMG Jay had clicked them without her knowing it. It was the best gift of her life from Jay.
            "Remember Riya the day when you asked me what I would do if you were dead? I told you I would cry some days and then move on. You were so pissed that day. Riya truly that was what I would do. I m telling you that what you should do when I m no more there with you. Move on to better things. Better people and better opportunities. Cry for the person and smile for the memories and then leave it behind to make new ones."
            "Jay I wouldn't.. I can't.." she was stung by his words.
            "You have to.." He looked straight into her eyes. He stood up and kissed her forehead.
            She closed her eyes and when she opened it she was alone. On a swing that was gently rocking.

          Seconds later she got a call. She knew this was meant to be a prank!! Jay is sooo going to pay for this.
         It was "Incoming call Jay."
         "Jay where the hell are you?"
         "Riya, Varun here. Jay was in an accident on his way home."
         "What? Where is he?" Riya was shrieking.
         "He is no more. He passed away few seconds back."
         "Hello Riya, are you there???"

         She frantically checked her phone records. She hadn't deleted anything. Yet there was no record of Jay calling her at midnight and neither the text message.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Tears of destruction

             They say never let a woman's tear seep into the ground. So much has this thought been ingrained in the culture of this land that it is a phrase to say, "Why make a girl's tear touch the earth" to convey that " why hurt a girl"!
             It is for the lust of land that great wars are waged. Blinded by the riches of the lush green earth and a quest for power,  many a great kingdoms have dwindled. This is one such story..

             They all lived in a joint family as people did in those days. Two brothers and their respective families. Their house overlooked a large verandah covered with the rich red soil of the region. Rows of ropes ran parallel to the periphery of the compound. Clothes washed on stone in one corner of the house were put to dry on these ropes and were promptly dried courtesy the smiling sun.
             The fields surrounded the house on all sides. A narrow path led from the house and through the fields onto the main road that took one to the market. The land was bountiful and acres of field bestowed plenty of grains to establish the house as the most prominent of those times. Happy as the superficial facade may seem, all was not well within the house.
              One of the brothers was not happy sharing the riches with the other. Jealousy and greed claimed all fraternal feelings. The  burning desire to become the lord of the house and thereby the richest man of the village engulfed his thoughts day and night. He was waiting for the right opportunity to strike and he found one soon.
            The people in the house were out in the fields. In those days the field work was done by the members of the house itself. Field labors were few. The elder brother returned home in the afternoon sooner than others and the younger one, who always kept a tab on his movements, followed him stealthily.
             Without delay, he killed the elder brother in one swift movement of the field sickle. He was yet to withdraw his sickle when he heard the sharp cry of a woman in the house. His elder brother's wife had seen the cold blooded murder of her husband by her brother-in-law. She came out rushing and her cries made others in the field alert. The younger brother quickly dumped his sickle and acted equally shocked. The poor woman cried and pined for justice for the ruthless killing of her husband by his brother. The family did nothing and turned a deaf ear. Not only were they aware of the devious schemes of the younger brother, they also defended him. They pushed out the widow from the house in the scorching summer heat.
             The house was fully aware of the power the younger one yielded and who was capable of killing anyone who dared to cross his path. Maybe it was to safeguard their own position in the house or maybe it was to save the widow ( after all she had to look after her children) from being killed, the rest of the family participated in this grave injustice.
              Broken, hurt beyond measure and left to her own devices, the poor woman along with her children walked through the narrow road. As she crossed the compound, her tears dampened the earth and the clothes drying on the ropes caught fire...
             Too consumed by her sorrow, she kept on walking, her kids following her through the maze of roads in the fields. Her tears soaked the mother earth in sorrow so much that the entire stretch, the woman passed through, became barren. It is now a  wilderness what was once a treasure of a land.
            They say, years after the woman left the house, no one could still put clothes to dry on ropes in that compound. They caught fire as soon as they were put. The family gradually deteriorating in wealth as the land refused to bear grains. The descendants of the house were falling sick or meandered on wrong paths before they vanished completely. No known descendants survived. As to what happened to the wronged woman and her children is little known..
            And they say.. Never let a woman's tear seep into  the ground...

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

From a far away land..

              Stories live forever. Sometimes they evolve in the years that they pass through. Sometimes they are preserved in the papyrus scrolls of time, untouched. The most lasting and creative form of passing on a story is by the word of mouth. I call it most creative because as the story travels from one teller to the other, each receiver adds his own perceived or imagined bit and gives it a new turn or paints it in a new shade.
              I get drawn to stories like a moth to flame. It could be my imaginations or some eavesdropping abilities that make for most of my own stories.
              I fancy the pictures showing an all knowing grandma, who sits by in the evening surrounded by her grandchildren, telling tales of a distant land. The tales that the past generation has to offer is often full of mystery and magic. Maybe it was just the lack of understanding of certain sciences or maybe there was magic!! Nevertheless these stories are enthralling!
              Why am I giving a backdrop to my story writing and listening history? Well, my stating the above things will probably make it easier for you to digest the story I m about to tell. The story isn't mine to explain the details and answer doubts. It is something which came to me from a man in his 90s right now. I happened to have been an audience by chance. Strangely, out of the people there who were actually sitting around him, the story found its way to someone who did not know this gentleman. Yes, it was me. Somewhere, somehow this story came to me and in a far away land it is getting delivered to many through this blog. Then there are stories which you need to listen and imbibe without worrying about the details...

               In Mangalore, almost every house worships a spirit. Yes, besides the 33000 crore dieties, it is a custom to worship the spirit known as bootas. This boota is not "bhoot" but a guardian spirit. Legend states that these bootas are actually the herd of Lord Shiva. While Lord Shiva decided to make the Kailash his abode, his herd travelled further south and settled in the kingdom of Nagas. There are places of worship for Nagas in Mangalore. It is said that through Naga worship, we please the Nagas from whom the land was claimed for human settling. Naga and Boota are given more importance in terms of rituals than other dieties. Each house has a guardian spirit. Each family line has a guardian spirit and every community has a guardian spirit. In a land, so rich with spirit worship, it is not unbelievable that spirits make their presence felt.
               A small village of poor peasants was settled near this water body. As to when and how this pond came into being, no one knows. The depth of this pond has been of great mystery. The correct depth has never been found out.
              The pond was said to have a spirit. A benevolent spirit at that. It was unusual to worship a water body without evidence of its powers and powers it mighty had!
             It is said that decades ago, the father of a girl cried. He was too poor to marry off his daughter. How could a father give his daughter in marriage without a piece of jewellery on her wedding day? It is common to wear jewellery of relatives on the wedding day and return it after the grand feast in such communities. It is common knowledge that the girl's family cannot afford to adorn her with riches. But years back it might have been a social stigma to ask for someone's jewellery and hence this father was in distress.
The spirit in the pond, unable to stop the stream of tears passing into it, decided to intervene. It presented the jewels on the banks much to the delight of the poor farmer.
              The wedding was done and the farmer true to his nature returned the jewellery on the banks of the pond. From this incident onwards, the poor girls of the settlement shed their precious tears in desire of getting married with glory. The spirit never failed to help.
              Over the years, daughters of the settlement were honorably married and then returned their present to the pond. Human mind, with all its desires and ambitions, often succumbs to greed. This was bound to happen with the bounties the pond offered. One poor peasant girl, dazzled by the jewellery and blinded by the naive desires, with held a nose ring. What was the pond supposed to know!  A small nose ring wouldn't make a huge difference to the bounty the pond had bestowed. Or so she thought. Little did she know the consequences of her foolishness and the ire that she invoked.
             The spirit, angered by the show of dishonesty, never ever helped anyone.

            It is said that the pond is calm. It never harms anyone near the banks. Women wash clothes sitting by the banks. The harmless looking pond is furious otherwise. Anything that goes into it is thrown out, charred. The reason for the burning of things is not known and the heaviest of the things thrown in, come out floating.
           It  once happened that a woman was washing clothes sitting by the sides of the pond. Her detergent bar just slipped and in a bid to lay hands on it she lost her balance and fell into the pond. 2 men from her family ran to her rescue. None of the three could be saved. The pond pulled them deep inside and threw out the bodies.. charred..

            Mysterious, isn't it? I could think of so many reasons to analyse why things might be happening. Maybe there was someone who overheard the plea of the peasant and offered to help. A good Samaritan maybe!
          Maybe the pond has geothermal energy.. Maybe it pulls down object due to some force and throws it out later as a balancing act. But the theories don't hold as much charm as the lore passed on... :)

         If one introspects further, the underlying message is clear. The spirits, no matter how benevolent, were cheated by the treacherous human greed. Nature gets back too! You just cannot take anything for granted.. Do not invoke the ire of someone just because they have been good to you :) 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Mirror Image..

               It was past midnight when Rita was done with the last chapter. It was the last exam of the semester. Good, Rita thought. She was done with the syllabus and could revise in the morning. Mentally she made plans of going to the movies after the exam was done." Once the exam is done I m going to sleep straight 12 hours!" she decided.
               She rose from her chair and stretched herself. She carefully tucked the notes in her bag, took a sip of water and headed to the washroom. She was ready to sleep and then she saw her hair comb on the bed. The dressing table was right opposite to her bed. Making an effort, she walked to the dressing table and stared at the mirror.
               A week of sleep deprivation had made her eyes look weary and deep dark circles around them.
Then she saw the circles deepening around her eyes and her eyes almost popping out of those deep hollows. She touched her eyes but the image didn't.
               Then she saw her mirror image smiling at her....