I remember (P-1)

The incidences of this story are more than 2000 years old. I was much younger then, but details of those memories still clearly float in front of my eyes. With the passage of time the scenes may have turned a little sepia but they still play back faithfully. The landscape was hilly all around, but the hills were not very tall. The trees or bushes were very few and far apart. Yet it was not exactly a desert.

On that particular day, sun had just gone behind the western hillocks. Winter had set in. So, it felt quite cold after sun set. But unaffected by the clean, cool breeze of dusk, I noticed three wise elderly men resting on a plateau near my village. They were watching the redness of western sky and scattered patched of red clouds. Their smiling eyes seemed to be looking far away in the distance, as if they were able to see the edge of the world. They seemed to be enjoying the uninterrupted panorama all around. These wise men were there because they were tired of their journey and were hungry. One of them untied a knot of his simple whitish cloth containing some bread and few boiled eggs and was eating silently. Others were in the process of opening their pieces of bread, meat and potatoes from the pockets of their tattered but flowing robes. Their faces looked peaceful. They had three cloth bags, each filled with carpenter’s tools, like hammer, saw and plainer. They seemed so content as if the whole world belonged to them. They had kept their tool bags very respectfully, close to them. I thought they might be traveling saints or sages who spread the message of love and harmony among all. They surely did not look like carpenters to me. I approached them curiously. As they saw me one said, ‘oh hello, come here taste this bread’ and offered a piece to me. The offer was so unexpected that I just took the piece and humbly took a bite. ‘Are you carpenters or saints?’ I asked. They all seemed amused. Huh huh huh, one laughed. Both, we are both. We move from village to village, teaching people values of love, family life and respect for your profession.’ Other filled in, ‘and if it is required in every new village we do carpenter’s job too, since we need to survive until we move on to next place.’ ‘We don’t live on alms. We like to earn our bread. You go home now it is getting dark’, last one said. ‘Let me stay’, I pleaded. ‘My village is right down there and I can sprint down to my home in a few moments.’ They seemed to agree.
I knew all the saints then used to preach only about virtues of love, living harmoniously in a family, to be useful to your community, importance of studies, staying healthy, caring for young ones and respect for elders. All the saints did have self respect of earning their own bread, rather than living off society.
The redness of the sky had faded and gradually was turning dark blue. A few bright stars had emerged in the eastern sky. I noticed that there were three exceptionally bright stars just above us. To my utter surprise the stars had the same formation in the sky as the three resting saints on the earth. I thought when you feel love, you see it in everything that you see and if you think you met spiritual people you connect heaven to it. But it is just a co-incidence, I knew. The narrow path going down looked very lonely and dark now. As I watched, they decided to spend the night under those stars. May be they too will notice the formation of stars when they look up while lying down; I thought.
If one looked down from the hill top, two villages could be seen in the distance due to their twinkling dim lights and the rising smoke from a few thatched roofs. Saints fell suddenly quiet. They had begun meditation.

In a few minutes I heard some voices. They seemed to be coming from unseen part of the path down below. I looked. Nothing was in sight. Even in meditation saints seemed to be concentrating on those human voices. As the sound grew louder they opened their eyes and we all looked in the direction of those sounds. They looked a little surprised now. Soon they noticed three people. I too saw them. As they approached near we could see, a balding old man, an old woman and another woman who had a very large stomach. ‘Oh’, one said, ‘she is having a baby.’ Another one, ‘where are they going? Reaching any where from here would take them very long’! ‘They also must have walked a long way to get here’, third said. They felt sorry especially for the young woman and wondered why at such time they all had to venture this far! The voices became a little clear now. It seemed that they have been thrown out from their own village due to the shame of pregnant woman. Perhaps she was not married or may be her husband died. Men were so horrible and superstitious those days. They believed that if the husband died then the woman must be evil. Poor women, they really had bad deal those days.

Whimpering and crying pregnant woman suddenly stopped walking and sat down moaning with pain. Old woman looked at her face closely. The man was breathing hard standing a little away. She walked to him and spoke softly. She then guided pregnant woman away from the path and took her behind small bushes. The man too sat down on path now and buried his forehead between his palms. His head moved side to side. Even from that far he looked a picture of frustration and sadness. Stifled cries of woman were filling the air and the anxious old woman kept saying, ‘Meera don’t scream so loudly. Be soft Meera!’
On the hill these saintly carpenters knew what was going to happen next. And I was going to learn something new. Suppressed painful cries of the young woman went on for a few moments more and then a long silence descended… finally bubble of silence broke with a weak howl that announced the arrival of a new soul. Watching this drama from a distance was such a strong experience for us all. They raised their hands in prayer and looked up. Stars were already looking at them. They mentally blessed the new born and got busy among themselves.

But what happened next was totally unexpected! Old woman had wrapped the crying baby in a cloth and kept it by the side of path. We were horrified to see that the young woman was being forcibly dragged by the other two and leaving the new born behind on the deserted path. The young woman was so reluctant to leave the baby. Being weak she got dragged away. She kept crying bitterly, looking back all the time at the small bundle kept at the side of the path; at the mercy of… no one in sight.

Trudging slowly three of them turned around the hill and went out of sight. Their voices too faded away… and soon the cries of the baby started filling the empty space once again. The saints looked at each other and at me. It was impossible for anyone to just sit and not reach out to rescue the baby. They collected all their stuff and started walking down in a careful hurry. The family had left the baby along with the name of its mother, Meera!

They picked up the noisy bundle gingerly. It was a boy. He kicked and wriggled. I too saw his face. He had black curly hair. His frantically moving fingers got caught in beard of its carrier. They put some water in his mouth and looked around at the trees to find some fruits. I found a dead wood and threw it hard at a fruit tree. It sent some fruits back. I got them to the saints. They squeazed the fruits and dropped the juice drops in baby’s mouth.

Darkness of night was everywhere. A saint carrying the baby told me that they will need to reach the baby some safe place, where regular feeds for it can be arranged. One put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘it was high time you too went home’. I agreed. They quickly organized their things started walking in the direction baby’s family had gone.

Being alone I too started climbing down to my house. I knew they will have tough time, finding the baby’s parents. And they if don’t find them the baby some how will have to be brought up by them only. Soon three carpenter saints and the newborn baby turned out of sight.

I sprinted down. My mother had all the rights to yell at me. But I felt so very happy with the unbelievable experience I just had. It was an amazing story to tell her and everyone else.

Soothing Night

It was deep into the night. Even dogs had stopped barking. Only changing notes of cricket sounds gave a semblance of time dragging itself on.

He was restless; turning and twisting on his sunken bed under the thatched roof of the hut. His every little movement made the bamboos of his cot squeal loudly in the deafening quiet of the night and then… quieted down. He was used to it. He felt as though the sound was being produced by his own body movements, by his own bones. There was nothing to be noticed in it. Cot actually seemed like extension of his body. Was it a month… less… maybe more? It has been just too many days… and nights on this cot, knitted with zigzagging ropes made of grass and coconut hair.

Her ruffled hair was flying all over her face. End of her sari was on the floor, exposing her lose, torn blouse.
“What’s wrong with you?”
Disturbed, he turned to his side. Deep etching of cot ropes’ zigzagging pattern was seen on his thin bare back. It seemed as if the pattern was his nerves and not impressions from the cot. Nerves in geometrical form! His own nerves have gone all haywire, with no symmetry; narrow somewhere, thick elsewhere, knotted at some place and suddenly getting entangled around a bone. Her flying hair! Nerves are meant to hold people together. Like nerves of this cot, keep the cot in place. Hold your nerves, they say.
“You should have told me that you can’t do this.”
A thin layer of sweat appeared on his temple. Involuntarily his palm wiped it off before it trickled down to his eyes.
“Uhh… ohhh, unnnn”, he moaned in sleep.
“I am leaving… And listen, I am taking Bubbli with me… So don’t go informing the police… How can anyone trust you with a one year old?”

With a jerk, he sat up. Instantly darkness enveloped every detail in front of his eyes. His head spun due to weakness. He held his face and waited. After recovering, he reached out for jug of water. He has been doing it for many days now, living on water. He finished it in two swigs. It had to be refilled from the hand pump. He got up. But due to next bout of darkness, he banged into the wooden pillar. He knew he had to find ways to handle his weakness. He hadn’t seen food for days. He didn’t know when he ate last. But there was an image of rice and a piece of jaggery. Was it day or night? Memory failed him, forget it… he did not want to tax brains. He moved very carefully towards the hand pump. He grabbed the handle rather heavily, pushing it down by his falling weight. Few drops of water emerged from large mouth of the pump. He kept the jug from where the drops emerged.

Straining his back, he lifted the handle and pressed it down again, and again, a few times. When the sound of filling jug said, it is half full; he stopped. His entire energy was emptied in filling half a jug of water. He turned back, took a few swigs again and put the jug in the niche. He then carefully moved towards the room; stopped at door and held onto it for support, to face the void inside. A beam of moonlight was angled across the room. Entering from a hole in the thatched roof, it had settled on Bubbli’s pillow in a small circular patch…

For a shocking moment, patch of moonlight seemed like Bubbli’s face on the pillow. He sat down near in a surge of grief… gently he picked up the pillow and hugged it tight. With his face soaked in tears, he started feeling Bubbli’s entire bed with his trembling fingers and then… lied down on it, crouching like a baby.

The patch of moonlight had now settled on his face.

Page from the Past

Mr. Dev Anand (Dev saab) huge Indian actor, producer, director expired on December 3, 2011 in London.

He died in his sleep due to a massive heart attack (as reported).

Many people in Mumbai’s film circle, knew about my 12 year long association with him and Navketan. Here are some of the condolences messages from my family and friends:

(PS: please do not bother about the spellings and spaces etc. i have retained them as it is.)

G S Bhaskar: Sir, joining you in prayers for Devsaab, the rarest of rare gems. You are fortunate to be associated with Navketan with with that wonderful humanbeing. Pranam. -bhaskar G. S.

(Reply: Thanks Bhaskar. He got such glowing tributes from all over. Take care)

J R Kamble: DEEPEST CONDOLENCE . DEV SAAB IS MO MORE… He lived in DES AND DIED IN PARDES. I saw DES PARDES IN DES -BOMBAY AND PARDES – SINGAPORE. I saw his last in FTII.

(ReplyL)

Pranav Mehta: Mama. I am sorry on the demise of Dev Anand ji. It is a great loss to the country.

(Reply: Thanks pranav, I’m feeling very sad, after years. Happy to shed a few tears)

Meera Bhardwaj: Dev anandji’s death mst hv jogd sevral memoris.

(Reply: Yes Meera. Feeling very upset, choked, sometime tearful 😦

Apy: hey Arun. personal nostalgia must b flooding,

(Reply: Yes it is)

Prashant Desai: May the soul of Dev Anand rest in peace. V wil miss u Devsaab

(Reply: Yes prashant true)

KK Jaisawal: So sad… Dev saab is no more

(Reply: Yes i m very upset)

Indu: Dev uncle died this morning in london

(Reply: Yes came to know thanks, very sad)

Hersh Kohli: Uncle Dev died of heart attack in London

Tarun Hriday: Hope u r abreast Dev Anand dies in London. 2011 witnessed a lot of deaths from field of art n culture n films. One more coincidence kalika arriving today only. Tarun

(Reply: Yes Munna strangely your sms was first, then Hersh. I just spoke to him… I am feeling very sad. I knew the time was ripe. But i am happy that i felt choked and tearful for him)

Wrote to Amit: Feeling like crying…extremely sad

(His reply: Dev Saab: Eternal!)

During shooting of Ishq Ishq Ishq, 1974

11.07.06

Time 6.24pm, date July 11, 2006, Western Railway trains and stations, Mumbai’s test in tolerance, patience, resilience and helpfulness, duration 11 min.

The first blast ripped the first class compartment of Churchgate-Borivli 6.00pm train at 6.24pm, near Khar station. About 15 people initially were reported to be admitted in hospitals. Soon the news of more blasts started pouring in and the death toll started moving up dramatically. In 11 minutes Mumbai’s life line endured 7 such massive explosions, on its trains and the stations. Other places where blasts occurred are Bandra, Jogeshwari, Mahim, Mira Road, Matunga and the last one Borivali at 6.35 pm. They say Borivali had two charges, out of which cops were able to defuse one. What it means is no mean thing. It means that in the sprawling platforms at the Borivali station the unsuspecting bag was noticed and identified by the cops, the bomb disposal squad called, explosives confirmed and then defused. In fact when I heard about this, I got a little hopeful of culprits getting caught soon. Because the cops could get some lead by finding the way the bomb was assembled, technology used and also if lucky they may be able to dust some finger prints off it. Sure enough the latest from the police is that they ‘may have some lead’. Mumbai Police is ‘one of the best in the world’, was observed by the famous Scotland Yard, many years back.

Any way the bad boys had done their home work well and chose the best time to do their black deeds. The time chosen was when the trains are so tightly packed that people like me would think of taking the next train. It has been understood that all the parcels fitted with explosive devices were placed in at the starting point, Churchgate itself.

It is not difficult to imagine how easy it is to leave a brief case or a gift with time-bombs on the top shelf and just wait outside casually, till the signal turns ‘go’. As the train starts to move, try to catch it but miss it, then walk out calmly and get dissolved into the streams of unsuspecting public.

My family’s brush with high voltage tension happened with my wife’s brother took the Churchgate-Borivli train from around the same ill fated time. His office confirmed that he left at 5.50pm. We were looking at the news channels all the time. He normally reaches home by 7.30pm; but he did not until 9.30pm. No telephone call from him made the situation very bad at home. As the time passed the tension multiplied many fold. To make it worse someone noticed a dead body resembling him. We were ready to go out to find him if he did not call, when he finally did a little after 9.30pm. He ultimately reached home safely around 10.30pm. He spent more than 4 hrs on his fateful return journey. And yes he was in the train that was just behind the blasted train at Matunga! All the passengers were asked to evacuate on the track, walk back to Dadar and head for the exit immediately. He had to walk from Dadar to Mahim (about 6KM) and from there finally someone gave him a lift in a traffic snarl, moving slower than a train of snails.

Next day he called us at 9.30am today to tell his powerful story. Can you believe he was calling from his office? That means he again got his usual 7.53 train from Andheri – just ‘the day after’! This is the spirit of a common Mumbaikar!

According to current reports, the death toll in the serial blasts has reached 190 plus with more than 700 injured.

Actually July 11, started with the blasts in Kashmir. Nearly 10 people lost their lives. The attack was aimed at the children and tourists. But when something happens far away from you, it does not affect you that strongly. It is like you don’t get the heat from a fire that may be blazing far away. Not for the reason of non-concern; but because there are no emotional strings with the location, environment or even people. Emotional concern and scare flares up as the people close to you, people of your city, your fellow travelers, trains or buses that you travel in are affected.

It is rather sad that most of us are not sensitive enough to get affected by the destructions else where; like in Gaza, Iraq, Serbia… but it can’t be helped, can it?

Imaginary Us

I finished my arguments silently

She had heard me patiently

Looked hard at my face

Lowered her eyes and slowly… turned away

She walked a few steps towards the setting sun

Sun was red in the face

Was it angry red?

Or hopeless red

She stopped after a few steps

Sun sank a little lower

Her lengthening shadow had crawled towards me

Then it waited

Soon sun lowered even more

Her shadow was at my feet now

Gradually it started climbing on me

That made me uneasy

I turned away from it

I saw my own shadow going away from me

Her shadow was missing here

It was on me, on myself

That froze me

Soon shadows started getting weak

Thankfully

I turned back and saw red rim of sun

I turned again towards my shadow

I saw it dissolving into the darkness

I waited till it was no more

My body also had no shadow

I looked to find rim of the sun

But couldn’t…

Shockingly

The space between me and the sun

… Was blank