/* What would you do if a
whale was to suddenly wash up on your sea shore? That is what happened to the
inhabitants of Raigad district of Maharashtra when a blue whale landed up on
the coast of Revas. They tried to put it back into the water but the poor Leviathanic
creature died and had to be buried at the coast itself. There was a time when
we rejoiced in Captain Ahab’s sperm whale exploits and his pursuance of Moby
Dick. But times have definitely changed. With the white whale or the Beluga
whale in the list of critically endangered species, we have the largest mammal
on earth-the blue whale washing up on our shores instead of our naval forces
going out to sea to catch some of those giant powerful sperm whales. */
assaulted? Go for an out-of-court settlement
/* We have heard of
mediation and out-of-court settlements in matters of family and property
disputes. It is an effective way to offload some of the enormous pile of cases
from the courts. But to extend this to criminal acts is not just a travesty of
justice but an admission that rape is as mundane as a property dispute these days, if not more prevalent. By taking away the minor's say in the verdict, the Madras High Court has accorded no value to the trauma that she must have undergone. Consider the fact that a person who is raped has to go through the rigorous and ruthless cross-examination (like the humiliating two-finger tests) to make her/his voice heard and file a report. Not just these cases drag on for years, but now are being dismissed out of court in a cavalier manner. An overhaul of the legal system today is more necessary than ever before. */
/* That is what the UP
govt is saying apparently. As the freelance journalist Jagendra Singh is burnt
for publishing reports of corruption and land grabbing against some hotshot
names including MP RM Verma, one is even surer of the sobriquet attached to
UP-the land of the goons. Where might is still right and pelf is power, the
concepts of human rights and freedom of expression crumble. Despite the video
with the immolated man himself saying ‘why burn me, they could have beaten me’, the
UP govt. is making efforts to prove that it was a case of suicide by grossly
misinterpreting the autopsy. Offering 30 lakh INR to the family and jobs to the
deceased journo’s two sons, they are trying to burnish their image and come off clean. The message? You
talk. You burn. Period. */
Every single hour and
every single day, hundreds of trains shuttle back and forth between cities. On
one such day, one such train happened to contain two people whom we are
interested in. It was a father and his three-year-old daughter. They boarded
the train, settled into a seat; the father seating her daughter near the window
while he talked to his wife and the mother of the child trying to assuage her
fears regarding the trip. Somehow, a situation had turned up when this
motherless trip had to be undertaken. Understandably, the mother was worried
sick and wanted to ensure everything would be all right. After a hundred
assurances and cute goodbyes between the mother and the kid, the train whizzed
off, taking the father-daughter duo on an excursion to another city.
It was 9 p.m. and they were
in the midst of their dinner. The girl was making faces and refusing to eat
much. The father, as opposed to his wont, tried to cajole her into eating a few
morsels luring her by the prospect of an ice cream afterwards. The girl took
one bite and stared out the window, which was black and glassy. She could no
longer see the tranquil scenery of the countryside through the sealed window; all
that she saw was the face of a girl with unchewed food in her mouth
staring back at her. The father broke his chappati in two and stuffed the
pieces into his mouth. Suddenly, a man from the pantry ran past them. A few
more men went in succession. The father felt like getting up and sounding out
what the matter was. Leaving his plate aside and instructing the kid not to
stray from her assigned seat, he got up to investigate. It came out that there
was a fire in one of the compartments and things were getting panicky. Now what
Before that, let me fast
forward to the present day. That kid with the unchewed food in her mouth is
talking to you right now. And it was my father who went to find out the cause
of the hullabaloo. Now, what happened next I don't clearly remember. In fact, I
don't remember anything at all. While I grew up, mom would tell everyone how
she had reached the station frantically to inquire about the train after
hearing a news bulletin about a fire breaking out; how agitated she had been
that day and how madly relieved they had all been after finding me and my father
safe. I don't know if dad had acted as a hero then. Probably he did. Frankly, I
But what I do remember is
him picking me up from school when I missed my school bus. I remember him being
enthusiastic about my career (sometimes more than me!). I remember him undertaking
a ‘city tour’ while I took countless entrance exams. I remember myself believing that everything in life is free ‘cause well, he paid for it all without
me being any the wiser!
Today, if I call him,
even if it’s a single ring, he will surely call back, even when he is top-hole
busy or driving(let not the traffic guys read this!). Even when he cavils about
me and my driving, he was the one who didn’t give up on me. He was the one who
rode shotgun, shouting instructions, and pulling the handbrake right before I
could smash into the car ahead. At times, I felt like asking mom to teach me
how to drive but she refused point blank saying she couldn’t face
life-threatening situations like that. He is the one who agreed to give me the
car keys and didn’t get out of the car like my brother who said ‘safety first’
and scooted off. When dad is asked to bring vegetables or evening snacks, he
will probably act grumpy but he will most definitely bring it all home, even
when he has almost reached the parking lot and spotted a particularly desirable
parking space. Although dad avoids shopping centres like the weight-conscious girls
avoid pizzas, he will let us indulge ourselves to the fullest. When we buy
outrageously expensive dresses, all he will buy for himself is a pair of shoes,
that too just because his old ones are no longer usable.
I could go on and on but
you get the drift, right? And that is why even when I don’t much remember what
happened on that fateful night on the burning train, I don’t once doubt that he
had been the hero in the situation. Because he is the kind of guy who will do
something outstanding and yet won’t put up a facebook status about it (the way
I do for instance-not the outstanding part, just the status). Content to be out of the limelight, happy to work in the backdrop, not much into hype and the like,
he is a selfmade man. An entrepreneur with a sweet tooth (pity he is diabetic!)
and a simple man, he has no airs and no pretence about him. It would have been
a grave error if I had forgotten to wish him today. Happy Father’s Day, Dad!
Thank you for being there!
Remember Star Trek with
its famous USS Enterprise moving at warp speed with Capt Kirk in command? Or consider
the recent confounding sci-fi thrillers like ‘Gravity’ and ‘Interstellar’
talking of 'n' dimensions and wormholes and space travel. I would seem a
relic if I say that our favourite sci-fis just came true because
let's face it, today's space flicks more or less reflect the actual nature and
scope of the space research of the times. A case in point being Philae probe
'waking up' on Sunday on a far flung comet in the Milky Way called 67P. Last
November it landed on the icy comet and like a full-blown movie script, bumped
into a ditch and switched off after 60 hours. It's mothership Rosetta which
launched the probe into the comet is still in the orbit which is somewhere in
the Kuiper belt. It could not transmit any information till a miracle happened
a few days ago and the probe tweeted
"Hello Earth! Can you hear me?"
Aah!! How musical does this particular tweet sound, so replete with the
happiness of having found a long lost friend, a friend who had been lost in the
wide wide---not world mind you! The world is too tiny to be of any significance
in this context; I am talking of the universe-and space, vast amounts of space,
where distance and time are interchangeable, where the unfathomable distance
defies the speed of light, where we measure the time in years. In that vast
space, we have our own messengers and one such i.e the probe Philae is sending messages to us
from an address from where it takes 16 minutes for a radio signal to reach us.
Poor Philae! How lonely you must be! In those vast swathes of nothingness, among
the stars and the unknown gases and the blackness and the lack of light and
sometimes, the abundance of it! We are so glad to hear from you! The space guys
must be celebrating Christmas early. The space aficionados must be waiting
anxiously to devour all the data that the faithful bot collected for us. It is
supposed that the probe fell into a ditch on the comet's surface and so the
batteries ran out and couldn't be recharged by the sun. Now when the comet is
at a perihelion distance, the sun has infused life into the comatose probe and
once again it is transmitting.
And what do we expect to find? It is surmised
that the remnants of the solar system are carried by the comets which transfer
these gases and matter to the planets where they sojourn while on their space
odyssey. Some such comets might have landed on the earth sometime, produced the
craters and gifted it with life-producing gases of the likes of O2 and N2. Is
it even possible? Well, anything is possible. You have seen how pollen is
carried by wind, leaves and various other agents and transferred to the flowers
for new seeds and the birth of new plants? Couldn't it be possible that these
comets are the universal pollen agents helping to bring about life? What with
Pluto back in the league of planets, one must admit anything is possible. Those
skeptics who still scoff at the plausibility of life outside earth will
do better to listen to Elon Musk, who has invested billions on his Project
Space X. He is affirmative that Mars has life or at least some other planet surely
does. He has already planned inter planetary trips and even booked the
candidates for the excursions, even if they are one-way trips for the time
being. I was wondering if the criminals could be given such a ticket to outer
space and made to feel actual sequestration? Not much chance for relapse, is
there? Food for thought!
This weekend, we decided to go on a
road trip. So, after hiring an SUV, eight of us set off on a road adventure.
The first few hours passed blissfully with everyone chatting merrily. But soon
one could hear only one's own voice and didn't know whom to address because
everyone was talking to everyone else. As the bout of talking ceased, we
started withdrawing to our own worlds; some retired to their phones, some
stared out the window while others started snacking.
There are some things which happen
almost all at once. People sometimes have a tendency to think alike, and we are
often influenced by what others are doing and start doing the same thing. I got
my earphones out and started browsing through my playlists. Almost
simultaneously, three of my companions took out their headphones. One of us had
one of those tiny speakers shaped like a soda can. Music wafted through it, a
lot like a fizzy drink would have, had the can been what it represented.
Immediately, everyone hounded the guy with the speakers.
"Play this one. I have such an
"This is that famous Beyonce
track. The one from the Grey movie!"
"Forget all that. Play
And the one who had got the speakers
started regretting it instantly. A few of the songs were played while others
couldn't see the light of day. Finally, the owner of the speakers decided to
play his own songs and started playing them loud. Everyone else lost interest
and went back to their headphones. Suddenly, B in the front began to bleat and
cry. On closer inspection, we realized that he was singing. So immersed was he
in the song that he couldn't hear Y sitting beside him, asking him to shut up.
"I can't listen to my songs.
Will you please stop singing?"
He took one plug out of his ear and
Y reiterated her problem. He put his
earplugs back on and started raving louder than ever. Someone at the back had
taken cue as well. C was trying miserably to imitate the song she was listening
to and ended up spoiling the experience for everyone. Y turned around with a
dangerous expression on her face.
But that was to no avail. Soon, two
more joined in the braying and the cacophony threatened to impair the hearing
abilities of the rest of the company. When asked to stop or ordered to 'put an
end to this drama', they replied that their freedom of speech was getting
curbed. Y fumed. I advised her to use some earplugs herself. But she was not an
easy person to assuage.
"If that is their right to
sing, their 'freedom of speech', this is my right to not be sung to, my right
to silence! I can't stand this!"
The musical road trip had weirdly turned into a battleground for rights. No one knew how to solve this conundrum. How can the right to sing and the right to not listen to songs coexist? Who was impinging on whose rights? Even though B's right to sing appeared more valid, Y's right to NOT listen to B sing could not be undermined either. Being a minority, Y's voice could not be heard. And the right to remain silent or the right to avoid songs was an ambiguous right no one had heard of. Those of us who were neutral just didn't know how to go about it.
A vehement debate ensued. We argued and fought while the serene hills and fields flashed past the window. Before I knew it, nearly everyone had hit the sack within an hour. I too was snoozing, my hand over the seat cushion. An eerie quiet pervaded the car now, like that of a battlefield with slain soldiers after a battle. Suddenly, I heard a tune followed by some words. It was a very old song, of the time of my parents'. The driver had made the best of the situation while everyone was exhausted and asleep. He was playing his favorite song, exercising his right to music while everyone else was utilizing his/her right to repose.
( This post has been tagged as a WOW post as a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda. ) The
day was young and fresh as he sprayed the plants in the verandah with water. He
went leisurely from one plant to the other, bathing the leaves and
enjoying the morning breeze. As the little boy’s eyes roved over the
surroundings, he suddenly went rigid, his gaze fixated on a point many floors
below their flat. He dashed inside the house calling, "Grandpa! Grandpa!
Please come out!" Within a few minutes, the two generations were standing
together; the younger one pointing down at a narrow gulley.
at the pigeon! It's so badly hurt; it will die! Can't we save it?" the
little kid bleated pitifully. The old man followed his grandson's gaze and
descried a puny bald creature with a few feathers sticking out of its body,
most of its left eye gone, replaced with a yellowish gooey bulge and the rest
of the body sprayed with a deep crimson shade, something that might act as an
emetic for the faint-hearted.
guy...I'm afraid he is too far gone to be saved...he is almost at the finishing
do you mean it can’t be saved? I want to save it! And what is the finishing
has bled way too much. Some cat must have got it.”
poor boy looked horrified.
grandfather continued in a kinder voice, “As for the finish line, well...some
reach this line in a dash. You know, how, in a race, when it looks so close,
you just double your speed and cross that line? It’s like that with some. While
others take their own sweet time to reach it. The pace does not really matter.
However, there are some unfortunate ones who are tantalizingly close to the
line and yet, take ages to cross it, through no fault of their own. That poor
pigeon is just such a creature. The best thing would be for it to be put out of
its misery the soonest possible.”
Why can’t it be saved? Why can’t it live?”
can live. In fact, it will and that is what is so miserable about it. It is at
a stage worse than death. A vegetative stage out of which it cannot extricate
itself. It’s like you are stuck in a limbo; you cannot take that one step that
will take you to the finishing line. Neither can you keep walking, meandering or
charting new courses. It is a stalemate; a period, which seems to extend
forever. The only thing one can do is pray that such a state never befalls
anyone. You don’t want to be stuck indefinitely, waiting ponderously for the
line to reach you.”
discourse had chilled him to the core all those years ago. He had still wanted
the bird to survive, to live as long as it could manage.
now, when he saw his dear grandpa enervated by a debilitating illness lying in
a hospital bed in a comatose state himself, he finally realized the import of
what the old man had said at that point of time. While everyone shed tears and
lamented his state, he knew what his grandpa would have wanted- a dash to
the finish line, not an insect-like crawl but a heroic dash. He could only
envisage how his grandfather must abhor his current condition, but all he could do
was pray- pray for him to reach the end line as soon as possible, just like
they had prayed a long time ago for the poor pigeon.
A ravishing red rose
bobbed along at the level of my waist as I chatted animatedly with my brother
while strolling lazily in the market. I had barely looked down to see its
source when a coarse voice called, “May God bless the thriving couple!”
It was a disheveled
urchin carrying a bunch of roses, some still buds and others past bloom. His
feet were bare and his brown hair fell all over his face. I walked resolutely
ahead, wondering that the new-age tramps no longer played on the human sense of
sympathy at disabilities but had now reverted to well wishes aimed at
“Bhaiyya looks like
Salman Khan and Didi looks like Katrina Kaif. What a couple!” said the kid, who
was determined to dog us. I don’t know what came to me but I blurted out, “He is
my brother!” and went away laughing before the ragamuffin could cook up some
new comment about the eternal fraternal bond and the undying devotion of a
brother towards a sister or any such crap.
I have come across many
brands of beggars. There are those at the traffic signal who live off the red
traffic light, which gives them the opportunity to hound vehicles by rapping on
their windows or thrusting some unwanted article like penny dreadfuls, mobile
covers or shades, inside them via some carelessly unclosed window. If there is
a kid with you, then you will attract extra attention from the balloon guys or
the toy sellers. There are obviously those typical women in tattered sarees
with a kid on one arm and a kid on the side, who ask for ‘something in
the name of God’ while pointing to the baby who has snot flowing
copiously from his dirty little nose. But the ones who take the cake are
definitely the eunuchs who will start with a compliment that panders to one’s
vanity and move on to threats of a malediction in case one doesn’t shell out
My mother immediately
took out a twenty-rupee note when once, such a person reached us and looking at
me, said to her, “You have such a beautiful daughter. May God bless her with a
wonderful husband!” That had touched a nerve. So while I rolled my eyes, my
mother promptly gave the person some amount that was certainly more than what
she would have given a ‘general’ mendicant. “These people can curse you and it
often comes true. They have a certain faith and power.” She explained to me,
trying to assuage my anger and skepticism.
I used to be sort of proud
of the fact that I never fell for such tricks. I never stopped to hear any
insistent plea or see any attractive gimmick. Actually, I have never understood
how to respond to beggars. Should I help them or should I be wary of them? The
situation of the country and the disillusionment that has prevented us from
believing the stranger on the street makes me wonder if I am not sinning by not
helping those who might benefit by a few coins? My doubts continue to assail me
however it was the following incident that turned the tables on me. I was
standing at a bus stop, checking my watch when a thin woman came up to me and
said “Hello”. I turned to look at her. “Good Morning” she continued. Out of
sheer habit, I responded with a hello, although the rational senses of my mind
had started smelling something wrong.
“Please...” she said and
extended a white sheet of paper towards me.
“Charity”, she said and
took out a pen. As I looked at the odd sheet, I realized that the winds of
change had transformed the uncouth beggars into proper professional destitutes.
Globalization has brought many things to India, not least the culture of the
west. But this evidence of the westernization of the community of the indigents
had taken me by surprise. A few words in well-accented English and a pen and
paper can give an overhaul to the image of a panhandler. It can make
incredulous people like me listen and put skeptics in a dilemma whether to
contribute to ‘charity’ or not. Thankfully, the bus arrived before I could be
tricked any further. Next time when I encountered a girl roaming about with a
piece of paper, I quickly steered clear before she could accost me further.
Change, thou has swept the world!