Dark Night

I always considered my city to be safe. Let me be more specific, I always thought that my city was safe for women

Living with my wife and two daughters coupled with a job that involved a fair bit of travel, this was quite comforting

It must have been one of those tiring days at work. I came back mentally exhausted after a grueling day’s work at the office. I was looking forward to the company of my wife and kids within the comfort of our home.

As I was nearing my home, I glanced at my watch…. 8.00 pm. It was winter time and was getting dark quite soon anyway.

I parked my car and dashed inside my house to remove my shoes, tie, and parked myself on my favorite place… the recliner.

I asked my wife about the whereabouts of my daughter and she replied that she had gone to the nearby supermarket to pick up some stuff. The supermarket must be about a Kilometer and a half from my house. A good evening walk I thought. The road leading from the supermarket to our house was a series of lanes and by lanes and no street lights all along. A couple of shops especially a Baskin Robbins shop enroute used to be the lone lighted spot along the way. But something that evening made me feel a bit uncomfortable. That  feeling was not usual. I wanted her to be back soon. Fathers are always possessive about their daughters.

As if my intuition was not wrong, barely had I finished my coffee, I got a call on my mobile, I checked it was my daughter on the other side.

I picked the call. I could hear her voice in panic. Dad I am in trouble..

What happned? I asked.

With a quivering voice, she said she is being stalked. She said she was  fearing for her life….

Oh God! The normally cheerful child and would not have called without reason. I asked her to explain. She said, the road was pitch dark. She could only hear the rustle of the leaves behind her and once when she turned the noise stopped. In the darkness she could just see the eyes for a split second. Then she started walking fast. The rustle grew faster. She could not talk further … I could feel the tension and panic in her

Panic gripped me too. I always felt the city to be safe, so was our neighbourhood. I could never imagine such a thing occurring in this place. I started sweating. No time to waste. I picked up my car keys and dashed out. On the way I called her again and asked her to run to that Baskin Robbins shop which we were familiar. She said it was still quite far and as I hung up I could almost feel her shrieking….

The drive should not take more than 5 minutes, but seemed to be never ending. I drove through the road, which I thought she would have taken and almost reached the supermarket. No sight of her. If I catch that guy I will kill him, get him hanged. The thoughts raged in me

I turned and drove back. The street was pitch dark, only the feeble head light of my car provided some light. I stopped on the way to check if she was nearby. What if the guy had gagged her? Or worse still held her by a knife or gun. I was drenched in sweat when I could not see any sign of anything moving in that place.

I drove further up and was nearing the Baskin Robbins outlet.  I just veered into the parking lot.

My thought was to first call the cops and report the matter. I just got down from the car and peered into the shop only to find her standing there all shaken up

I was thankful that she was there, but had to report the matter anyhow.

I led her out of the outlet and asked her to describe what she saw.   She could only describe the two shining eyes and nothing more.

After all how much more can you see of a black cat in the dark!!!

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT

I never believed in the concept of “Love at first sight”.  Forget that, I never thought I would ever fall in love. It was not as if  I was full of myself. It was just that I used to be so much detached, so laissez faire in my approach. I could have never imagined that cupid would strike me one day

Well they say, that Cupid always strikes when least expected…..

Those were the days when one would wander aimlessly in the town market or in the shopping mall. My childhood friends were my constant companions and partners in crime. We had almost perfected the “Art of doing nothing” a total inspiration from the legendary J.B Priestly.

We were not the ogling kind, but we did not miss any opportunity to behold as John Keats would have described….”A thing of beauty”

My friends were very happy with my company because they felt I would never be competition as I was indifferent and they could pursue their target without any fear of competition.  I on the other hand was happy to hear their hearts out and offer my shoulder to them for comfort

I don’t remember exactly what day and date it was, but I remember the sequence of events. We were loitering as usual in a mall, with no specific agenda. My two friends were busy with their roving eyes and as we were passing through, my eyes fell on her for the first time. It was just a glance and it was over…………but not really. That night the event kept playing in my mind again and again. The next day I went alone to the mall, something which I had never done before. I was hoping and praying to see her again and my heart skipped a beat when I saw her again.

I could not take my eyes off her, it was what I can say “ Love at first sight”.  I wished she was mine. I can say candidly she was sexy. I liked her figure and the curves and was imagining the pleasure of holding her in my hand all for myself

I wooed her many times and with a great deal of effort finally she was mine. My friends were shocked at my revelation. They accused me of being unfair to them, that i never shared my feelings with them. As they saw both of us together they could not help envying me. I was also mean enough to flaunt her where ever I could and whenever I could and I could not help feeling a swell of pride when I saw the envious look from others.

My parents never liked her but I kept convincing them that she was the best fit for me and they gave up after a while. They never  accepted her as part of me.

That was quite a while ago……………

Things changed now. I felt she was not the same as before. Gone, were the smooth and loving emotion she had with me. She started acting more and more cranky. The frequency of our fights increased, and it was showing on me. My parents were having the proverbial last laugh with a look that always said “We told you so”.  My friends also were least interested in her now.  I too had no more interesting stories and anecdotes to share with them. My manly instincts said that I no longer found her attractive.  The same sexiness that I used to ogle was now an eyesore. Her changed attitude added fuel to fire

After a lot of deliberation with myself I decided that it was time to part. We did have some great time together. I would always cherish the memories that I had with her, after all she was my first crush. How can I forget her, but I now needed to move on. I will move on. I am now waiting for the next and the latest version of the iphone…….”

 

From the Street corner with love

He sat on the balcony of his house, with his newspaper in hand and a cup of coffee by the side. It used to be one of those foregone routine to all in the family. No one ever disturbed him during that time. That day suddenly as if he went into a trance he gazed at the end of the street. The distant look was confusing. This was not the first time either.

Immediately his mind was flooded with memories of the past

Many a moons had passed since, he started his journey from a small in descript village, from a poverty stricken family, to where he lived now in a bustling metropolis and a comfortable life by any standards

The playful chatter of friends and cousins whether it was in the pool or in the nearby woods, it did help to forget the uncertainty of the future. It was a large family and no one had a distinct identity. All merged into one big sorry group, which did find their own ways of reaction to life. It was a different time then…

He could never tell whether he loved to study and or was it his vision. But against all odds he did manage to go to college and finish it too. That was a first in the family. He ensured that his younger siblings also fared equally well or better. He refused to get drawn into the business of the family which had just started to thrive. He reminisced that he wanted to chart his own destiny.

The coffee was getting cold. He got up to for his refill

He came back and the gaze was up again.

He could never pin point when in his life he developed so many different hobbies. He smiled as he started to sip the second cup of coffee.

The weather was getting cold, he never liked the cold, he loved to read and read, spend hours and hours over texts related to his interest or otherwise

He remembered his first contribution to the college magazine, did that spur him to write more? In the years to come he wrote so many articles, so many publications would reject, so many would publish, but his enthusiasm was un wavered. He fondness of music was average,  but he could tell the right notes from the wrong. Technically perfect.  That was enigmatic.

He could never forget his past, it used to keep coming back, the memories of a childhood when he grew up as an under privileged. Later he was to patronize the local orphanage where every time he wound enter the premises the kids there would come running to him from a distance knowing fully well that he would surely come with some goodies for them. Oh.. so much water has flown under the bridge.

He could not help missing the long list of friends many of whom were no more, many of them moved on to other places. He looked up and saw his wife watching him intently. She knew that look, she could feel that look, she had seen that many times over.

He shuffled and rattled out the day’s top news to her and they engaged in their favorite pass time – Argue. When they were done, they made up over food. He loved his food

That day was something, something strange, he felt this many a times before, but that day the urge was more. The look in his eyes were telling a story

A story of the days gone by. The past had so many misses in life, and so many near misses. But also as many triumphs.  As the memories enveloped him, he realized that he was desirous of the arrival of a figure that would walk right in from the corner of the street so that he could get up, put his newspaper down, and open the gate, and hug him tightly. A hug that would radiate all the feelings of missing him for so many days the heartbeat of love all permeating

One need not have been a psychologist to empathize with him, his feelings were like an open book for everyone to read and live

In the city of joy where I live currently, I could not escape laying my hands on Tagore’s classic “The Cabulliwalah”. The story that ends with the grand old man with the distant look in his eyes in search of the vision of his daughter who would have grown up like the effervescent character Mini of marriageable age. Tagore’s description invariable brought a tear in my eyes every time I read it.  I could relate to what that look could have been.

Just as I could empathize the feeling of the protognist in Tagore’s classic, I could feel that look of his to the end of the street having missed his near and dear ones for long as would his wife, as would his neighbours

I too miss you dad!!

Life Still Goes On

I felt good about something that day.

My flight touched down the Kolkata airport runway and I closed my eyes in a silent prayer. I am back after a hectic trip covering 4 countries over 18 days. I was looking forward to reaching my home. I switched on my phone- 11.30 pm. Targeting home by 1.30 am.

My apartment complex is about 40 kms from the airport. Most of the app cab drivers cancel the trip after hearing the destination and it is indeed a long wait at the app cab stand which is usually highly chaotic. I was cursing myself under my breath to have got into this situation

After the endless wait at the carousal to get my luggage, I booked the cab, and Viola! It allotted the driver instantly. Given the past record, I knew that it will take a couple of iterations to get my cab going to Joka,   the southernmost part of Kolkata city.  Surprise, Surprise, as I walked towards the taxi stand, I got a call and the driver asked my destination, normally I hesitate, but this time I gave it immediately and asked him if he would come. “ Of course sir” was the instant reply. I could not help smiling with joy.

Utpal was ordinary looking youth typical Bengali features, unlike other drivers he immediately got down and opened the boot of the car and took my luggage to put it in. The long journey began. Something about him was likeable. He was knowledgeable, he was ambitious, looked like he was a hard working guy. He shared his story how he purchased the car and manages to support his small family. I always appreciate guys who are roughing it out without losing hope. He was in his own way an entrepreneur, who was directing his own future, fully under control and I really felt good for him as I have felt good on many other such occasions. Technology has surely given opportunity to thousands to earn their living on their own, working for themselves a change that I have seen happening across the Indian landscape.

By the time we reached home, he built a rapport enough to say that he would drop me and pick me up from the airport every time I travelled. No need to book the app, just call him. Over the time I called him many times, and he was full of enthusiasm every time explaining his success stories, how he overcame some life challenges, stories about his friends, stories about a passenger who was rude or a damsel in distress whom he helped. I figured out he had a set of friends who used to keep calling him for advice in their tight situations and he used to offer solution or advise with aplomb. The ride to and from the airport had become a thing which I started looking forward to. I knew this guy will go places…

Many months later during one of the trips I could see his conversations being disjointed, random and clearly lacking content. Sign of a man who was tensed. During that trip, to the airport, he would have hit the security barricade, but for my alarm at the last moment. As I alighted I asked if everything was ok. He confessed that he was tense, I wished him luck!

Since then he did not pick up my calls and I was back to the grind with the app cabs. Nature is also strange, we eventually get used to anything if it persists and then we say life goes on.

It therefore came as a surprise when I got a call from him last week. He told that could not pick my calls before for many reasons, but now he is ready again for the job. As luck would have it I had to travel back to Kolkata that night and asked him to come and pick me up. He agreed

As we were driving home, he narrated his story of how a series of wrongs how many calculations misfired and gone was the confident tone of an Indian youth who was ready to face the world. Here was a guy reduced to driving someone else’s car, his car being seized by the finance companies for nonpayment of EMIs. I could feel so many dreams having crushed within him. The hope for a better living for his wife, his daughter, the real world had been unfair to a hardworking guy. I did not ask for the reason but I could not control sadness enveloping me.

That was a Saturday night, the next day afternoon as I was browsing the channels, I saw the old classic movie, a story of similar hopes and dreams dashed despite hard work; all quirk of fate, Bimal Roy’s movie Do Bhiga  Zameen. That was the year 1953

So many decades later, many such stories still re run, despite the giant strides of development I could not help thinking how many such Utpals of the world have had stars in their eyes only to be brought to the ground resigning to their fate that their flight would never take off or their flight crash landed before it took off. They exist in thousands along with the few who made it big whose success stories are taught in the B schools.

The parallel of this story which I experienced firsthand, to the classic movie could not be missed. It brought tears in my eyes, lump in my throat…. I switched off the TV, closed my eyes to introspect deeper and deeper giving a thought for the vanquished, fully aware that life still goes on………

THE TERMINAL

“Air India regrets to announce a delay in the departure of flight no XXX to Mumbai”

An Ominous open ended announcement, with no concrete information of how long the delay

My elder colleague RR and I looked at each other and instinctively headed towards the seating area of the airport near the departure gates.  I could hear similar announcements about other airlines too

We then got to know that there was an airspace curfew in view of some tests being conducted by the army and air force. We braced ourselves for some indefinite delay and headed to the food court area

On this fateful day, I discovered the joy of doing something new….

RR is not great at conversing, so I was getting myself prepared to start reading a book which is how I spend time on such occasions

As more and more airlines announced the delays, the waiting area was starting to get crowded

I was really feeling bored, how I wished that I would be on that flight and reach home so that I could relax and sleep, but here I was at the airport bracing for at-least 3 to 4 hours of delay

The conversation with RR was mundane, he was replying in his typical style monosyllables and it has a great rub off effect on me, if he asked something or remarked about something I also began to instinctively reply in monosyllables

In the crowded hall I saw many people around me, sipping coffee, some of them discussing animatedly, some joking and having fun. Slowly I started looking and observing more and more people.

At the far end of the hall I could see a group of 4 people.  I could not make out what they were conversing, but at that moment it did not matter to me, I started to observe them, I started to script the situation. One guy who stood as if he is facing the rest: must be the BOSS.  One of the guys was very active; he was trying to impress the BOSS. His body language was clearly showing he was going all out to agree to boss, trying to please him. The other guy was trying to interject, but the boss was rebutting. The guy must have got a mouthful during the review meeting in the office and he was still not able to make up. The third guy seemed like a rebel. He was trying to move away from the sphere influence, an occasional short comment is all that he seemed to offer. That guy must be disliking his boss. I started developing the story in my mind.

I had to be careful, and keep looking around once in a while so that neither the group feels being watched and gets conscious nor should anyone around me also catch me observing them deeply that would be very embarrassing.

I was looking for cues, what kind of an organization? What kind of business? My mind started to expand, different scenarios, a soap opera was forming in my mind

I don’t know how much time had elapsed when I asked RR whether there was any announcement? He replied in the negative. He was sitting there with and expression of a person bored in life. But he was always like that…..

I turned around I could see a young couple very close to where I was seated.  Not young enough to be classified and “married recently” , but not old enough either. Interesting!

Middle class family! Not very rich- modestly dressed. Must have come to attend a family function, the “Mehdi” on her arm gave it away!

They were having an argument….surely! She was not in a good mood. He was trying to woo her. She was snapping. I think the controversy was on what to eat or something. I was playing the words in my mind.  Her in between smile was a proof that their love was intact. But they were arguing on. He was pointing at the different counters at the food court. NO SAYS SHE. Finally as if picking up a “Bramhastra” she opened her hand luggage and took out a packet of Gujarati thepla.

This was getting interesting. How to stereotype these two? Their families and so on and so forth

Before I could realize, I had spent 3 hours and never realized the passage of so much time.

As I was boarding the flight, I realized I did something that day which I never did before…. I was observing people and interpreting their stories without listening to the conversation or intruding their space or attention.

Suddenly I realized that I had gained something. I realized this was a great way to spend time when you don’t have anything to do. Just observe the people around you and you will be reading great stories- some maybe true, most of them may be imaginary, but who cares, it’s just between me and me!

I had found a solution to the problem that had been plaguing me all through my career while waiting at a station, bus stop, or at the airport, over even when I am stuck in a traffic jam in a cab

Now it does not scare me. A delayed arrival of a train, the other day, set my eyes on a rural poor woman admonishing her child. She has so much to handle so many challenges, surely living in poverty, trying to make ends meet and so many frustrations being downloaded on the kid. What if she is working and her husband is blowing all that away gambling and drinking!

The discovery of the art of observing people without making them realize it, helps me these days to overcome any such otherwise boring situations.

The experience at the airport TERMINAL (a title inspired by my one of my fav movies) has rejuvenated my passion to work, travel and work

The other day I was stuck in a traffic jam in a cab which would not move… I just turned my head out of the window, and saw a mother and a daughter inside the car beside me surely having a fight over…..

But that story we shall keep for another day….

One Rainy Day in Muscat

Ever since I landed in Muscat more than a decade ago, many things have changed in my life. I landed here with my very young children and so you can say they are brought up in Oman. During many social gatherings, I used to overhear people talk about their kids saying, “Oh! these kids are different you know….they are gulfies…..For a long time I did not know, what that means . I could hardly ever get to accept  that , just because they grew up in a different geography, they would be different

I did not rake my brains on this subject. My mind was searching for an answer which I could never get. The answer to the basic question, what is different  about these children in the gulf over the children who are growing up back home in India apart from of course, the existence of basic luxuries of airconditioned homes, cars , malls etc?

I was to get that answer only a few, maybe 3 or 4 years back one rainy day in Muscat.

It was work as usual in the office, and I got ready for one more day of long meetings with our business partners.

As I drove to my office, I could see dark clouds on the horizon

Once settled in the office, I got started for the meeting scheduled for the day. That day I had a high powered delegation from Japan and I knew it was going to be a very hard meeting with them. A long day of very hard negotiations,

It was well past the hour of 11 and we had just about warmed up in the meeting after the routine meet and greets etc etc. I could hear the rumblings of the clouds. Someone who went out for a smoke, returned and remarked, “There is likely hood of a rain in Muscat today”, We all got back to our discussions

Suddenly the rumblings of the clouds grew louder and as I tried to gaze out of the room, I could see darkness enveloping the city…”Oh my God, it’s going to rain hard I thought….My mind went to my kid who was in school…they must be enjoying the rains I thought….Lucky childhood …. How I missed it

The ring on the intercom brought me back from my thoughts. It was one of my colleagues MK on the other end and also staying in the same apartment complex….”it is going to rain heavily, we got to take the kids back from school…Can’t depend on the bus driver…Can you go and pick them up? I am myself not confident of driving in the rain.. I told him it is very difficult for me because of the meeting

As if apocalypse had struck, within minutes I had other colleagues calling up, other colleagues who were also staying in the same building as I. My wife called with a usual panic in her voice, “ there is going to be a heavy downpour and the school has declared a holiday..” As a school kid I would have said hurrah! I would have jumped with joy,

These Japanese are tough negotiators I thought, they are not going to give in easily. I was here caught in the classic between the devil and the deep sea…. I had to focus, focus, but what about the kid? How will they get back?

My colleague called back, I told him it is not possible for me to excuse from the meeting …too important and you go and pick up…From my heart I knew it was a very poor alternative, but no choice. He said he will go. I said keep messaging me of your progress

We were discussing the tender, the ministry profile, the background of the requirement, the quantities and the past history of our dismal performance on this tender. MK called and said he is starting… it is raining very heavily, I can barely see a couple of mts ahead, there is a traffic jam at the Sheraton signal, looks like it will take 1 hour to reach the school..

Go back to calculations… these Japanese are giving a complicated pricing mechanism…I have to first get a fix on my landed cost…

45 minutes on… MK called , he said he is just about reach school. “I don’t know how I will be able to locate the kids. I have to locate them before they board the bus otherwise they will be stuck in it”…  How I wished that I could have handled this rather than leaving it to MK

Is all Ok Iyer San? Asked the Japanese and I mumbled a feeble yeah…just getting my daughter picked from school.. I could see a wry smile on his face..a sweat on my brow would have given it away

Called my wife, the kids are in the car finally at 1 PM… she was still not ok..; I could feel it in her voice

It was raining sheets of water …I could visualize the traffic jam on the roads… It just needs to drizzle in this town and there is chaos.

We figured out the landed costs over pizza and coke and now we were on the last stretch. What is the margin that I have to keep for my company?

1.30 pm…MK where are you? ,…… Boss too much traffic, we are just on the Darsait flyover…its bumper to bumper , will take atleast 1 hour to reach Al Khuwair… I spoke to my daughter asked her if she is fine …return call back to wife on the update…she is still not convinced…still more sweat on my brow

Its 2.30 pm  we cracked the deal… the Japanese understood the nuances of the Oman market finally, agreed to the margin structure, my owners ought to be happy I thought…thought interrupted…wife on the other side “they have still not reached….”

Call to MK….”Where are you?” general panic in my voice

“Qurum” replies MK with a great deal of frustration in his voice

Its more than 1 and half hour and the kid is on the road…. When will this rain stop?

The meeting room is generally upbeat, all seem to be happy that we reached a middle ground with a more than decent chance to win the tender…my mind is not able to share the light mood

I excuse myself and go to my chamber call up to my daughter..She replies feebly…yes I reached home…its 3 pm …I speak to my wife, she is ok now. I call and thank MK….he has had a tough day more than 5 hours on the road…

I slump on my seat..totally fagged out. Don’t know how much of it was the meeting and how much was the tension

While returning home in that evening the road was desolate, rains stopped, wet roads, some places water logged, but the drive home was smooth

It was a tough day…over a hot steaming cup of coffee my mind wandered back to my childhood days when I used to walk back home from school every day, it must be about 4 kms and atleast three places water would log up to knee or waist high… it was fun. We used to walk in a group, cheer each other, protect our school bags inplastic and walk back home wading through the water

Back here in Musat, 35 years later I was thinking how my mother would have felt. If I was so tense with everything in place, even though my daughter was in the comfort of an AC car, even though she was under the care of my friend and other kids, I was tense. I spoke to her atleast thrice that afternoon, my mom would have no clue where I was, she would have to just wait for me till I arrived

My eyes were moist, how much tension she should have taken… I had to find that out…

That weekend I spoke to her for a long time.. I told her what we went through that week

“Maa those days there was not even a phone in our house and you knew that between school and home many places water logs, how did you manage your thought?

There was a pause at the other end and with a characteristic tone where I could visualize the smile on her lips and love and affection in her eyes I heard from the other end….”I knew and always knew you will arrive”

The situation nearly same, the kids nearly same age, two different times, two different parents and the difference in response to the situation..which as I recollect today, by us as parents is what probably makes these kids more gulfies than they could have been otherwise

That one rainy day in Muscat …said it all

 

Walk of life

These days everyone is an expert on any random subject. The most natural expertise seems to be on how to run the country.

The organization I work is not a very large organization and one of the very nice practices in this organization is about the key people getting together every day for lunch, which includes the owner and his family. The discussion on the lunch table can be on any subject and on debatable issues there is an animated point and counter point. Most of the times I felt that people with divergent views used to leave the lunch room even more convinced about their views, which of course corroborates Dale Carnegie’s golden words “NO ONE EVER WON AN ARGUMENT”

By nature I am apolitical, because I feel I do not have the requisite knowledge or information to understand the nuances of the poltik. It was one of those discussions at the lunch table where I found it quite embarrassing to not have a view when most of the people around were discussing about the giant strides the current government has taken.  The long bridges, the big statues , the waterways and what not. I could not make up my mind.

From the way the colleagues were extolling the current government , it was as if we are on the threshold of becoming a super power. I was not getting the drift. My mind was confused. Having traveled and seen so many other countries I felt we have a long way to go, but here on the discussion table, we were  winners, or atleast we were on the threshold of a great victory as a nation. The ruling class be it at the center or the provincial government s all were rocking. I was promptly shouted down when I attempted a feeble counter argument to the whole development story and in my prudence I decided that the best thing would have been to keep my mouth shut

As a routine that evening I went out for a walk with my colleague with whom I share the company guest house. Winter had already settled down and it used to be quite an experience to walk in the winter nights adequately clothed with wollens and jackets.

My colleague was a young lad, MBA from a premier institute and working in my department under me,. Full of energy, full of opinions, full of everything… As we started walking, after a while he broke the silence. He broached the afternoon discussion yet again, may be , he sensed my predicament.

The night was dark, not many people on the roads, an occasional late office sitter was hurriedly making his way back to home. The last of the commuting buses were also honking their way back to the final destination of the day.

Abhijeet took off from probably where we left in the afternoon.

He went on to state how the previous governments did nothing for the country and all real progress was happening now.

He listed the lakhs of crores of rupees which previous governments had siphoned due to corruption. Frankly speaking, while he was rattling off these figures I was just trying to count the number of zeroes in these figures.

He listed how the country has jumped some ‘x’ number of places in the ease of doing business ranking. He extrapolated the size of our economy in the next 10 years at the current rate of growth.  He rattled off figures of the industrial production, agricultural growth, the banking sector reforms.

As the discussion went on I was listening intently to internalize the same. He jumped to the topic of national pride, how the all inclusive growth policy has contributed the nation’s success. The great digital revolution was his passionate subject. He explained how ecommerce, e banking was the pivot of our success, digital payments et all….

I could not help also feel the same. Did I find my answer??

We were returning back and out of instinct I advised him that we walk on the sidewalk than on the road, lest someone knock us over in the darkness of the night… notwithstanding the eco friendly street lights.

As we were making our way thorough, on the sidewalk, his aggression and conviction grew with every point and if not for his views, I was impressed with his theatrics and conviction and the deep knowledge on variety of macro economics

We were just close to our complex which is quite a posh one, my eyes just fell on the ground at the right time to avoid a hump on the side walk.

In the darkness of the night I almost missed what I thought was a manhole cover standing up. As I jumped over it and turned back to curse the municipality, I saw the bump move.  As I moved ahead keeping pace with Abhijeet I realized it was a man covered in a blanket sleeping at peace with himself on the sidewalk of this metro, the blanket for all purposes must have been donated by a corporate as part of their CSR activity.

The realization had a deep impact on me, in this world of high GDPs, ecommerce, digital revolution, giant infrastructures, here was still a man suffering for basic basic needs, no shelter, probably no food either . How do we improve the life of these poor and downtrodden? How do we reduce the inequality in the society? I had found the perfect example to push my point that while our developments have been commendable but still a lot more needs to be done at the ground level if we want the benefits of development to percolate down to every section of the society

I was just about start my version of the argument and was just about to interrupt Abhijeet when Dale Carnegie’s statement reverberated in my mind again “ No one ever won an argument” and “A man who has been convinced in an argument, is not convinced still “

I decided to keep quite and keep walking…..

DO I MISS YOU???

Her departure was as sudden as the first meeting!!!!

I did say the goodbyes with a very heavy heart after all our relationship had lasted 25 years and now I had to bid her adieu. I was not sure if she too felt the same way, for I knew that she would find someone like me or better than me sooner or later. The memories of the first meeting as with any love affair still fresh in my mind……

I had just enrolled myself to the engineering college. The campus, the institute, made my parents swell with pride that their son made it and was on course for a successful life having taken the first step towards being a professional. The days of protected environs at home over. I was now alone with a whole new world unraveling before me. I had a new set of friends from diverse backgrounds.

It was during one of those gatherings, where you try to get to know each other that I met her and saw from close quarters for the first time. I cannot say it was love at first sight. Neither did she vie for my attention. In retrospect I think it was that attitude of her’s what made her desirable. She mixed freely with the guys and each one had a star in their eyes while she was with them.

Then on that fateful day I broke the ice with her, surprisingly she was more than willing to accept me and thus began our long story together.

Innumerable moments were shared together. Times of joy and sorrow. At successes and failures. In a group or all alone. We cherished each others company. I surely did. I longed to be with her and looked for every opportunity with her.

Many times some of my friends would tell me that She is not worthy of me and I would resent. Some said I am draining my resources on her and that she does not care but I could not believe it. I loved her more and even when her demands kept going up I gave in always. After all, love is not calculated by the color of money.

My mother came to know about my affair with her from some family friend (I really did not understand what business they had in prying into my personal life). Coming from a traditional family this was blasphemy and my mother confronted me on her affair. I had to admit, because I never lie. She was heartbroken. For her sake, for my mother’s sake I kept all discussion concerning her away. Even if her name came up during talks I skirted them wisely.

Before marriage my wife asked if I had anything to confess and I told her about my affair with her, my liking for her, but surprisingly she accepted her. I do not really know if it was a challenge she took up or believed that she would wean me away from her over a period of time. Discussions about her would come up once in a while and she was not the same as before. Wife dearest no longer accepted her as she used to before marriage.

Slowly I kept her away from my wife, But the more she was away, the more the desire to reach out to her.

Over period of time I heard stories about her that she never cared for anyone. I asked myself one day, that, if this was true, how she could care for me then… Was this long long love story a one sided one. Even though my head believed it, my heart was not ready to. After all we had spend such great deal of time together all of that unconditional love.

I knew and realized that I was not the only one in her life. I heard and saw how she did not care for others who perished because of her but she would not care a damn!!

Oh my God!!! Is she the one really for me? I asked this question again and again. In the past so many times I tried to stay away from her but could not. I would, like her other lovers of her go back crawling to her.

But today as I was on the threshold of a new age era in life I asked myself what I would gift myself this birthday… what is it that I want… I could not think of any…

Then!!! Instead of getting something I decided to give up. I decided that I shall not have anything to do with her. All the money that i spend on her, I would rather spend on a noble cause, maybe for a poor child or for any other noble cause but would not spend on her…

Twenty five years after I first courted my affair with her I gave her up…. I gave up smoking!

But I know she is around waiting to have a go at me once again… I shall resist, she will have a go at you too… not sure if you can resist too. She is charming, she has style she has panache.. But is she good enough for you????

An Evening in Kolkata

I am a habitual late sitter in office. Even at the beginning of my career almost 3 decades back, I used to sit back late after working hours, because I enjoy my work.

Unfortunately, this trait was infectious, much to the chagrin of the wives of my married colleagues then, who used to reprimand me during social gatherings. I have however refrained from wearing it on my sleeve as I quietly go about my work

Recently life and work brought me to a new job in this City of Joy, and within a few days I was back to my routine of sitting back at my desk working beyond the official working hours of 6.30pm

A colleague of mine, Amit, lived next door and much to my comfort we used to commute to office in his car daily. This time I met a match with Amit, who too loved sitting back late at office for work.

It was Durga Puja time. General festivities all around but I will never be able to forget an evening in this new city.

That day early morning the car broke down and we had to hail one of the taxi services and ended up reaching office late.

First thing in the morning I spilled the coffee on my table… shape of things to come.  I called up my bank for an update to a change in my account and it was still going to take some time….damn…

As if this was not enough, Boss asked for an update on an assignment which I had totally forgotten, I had to make up an unconvincing story and walked out of his cabin swearing under my breath. Having forgotten to bring my lunch box added to the misery for the day. I thought the best thing would be to end the day with some positive news and hence called one of our loyal customers who would always confirm an order and the time was also ripe for him to place an order. But as they say when it rains it pours, my client at the other end informed me that times were not good, inventories were high and we would have to wait for some more time before we could expect an order from him… Nothing seemed right that day and by early evening say by 4.00 pm, I was just praying and hoping that the day would end soon..

I wanted to dash to my apartment, take a hot shower a quick dinner and crash…that is what I wanted. As if God answered my prayer Amit called up on the intercom and asked if we could leave early. At least it was ending the way I wanted and before he could change his mind, I wound up my work and was waiting for him at the lounge. He too must have been in some sort of hurry for he was at me almost instantaneously. I looked at my watch it was 6.00 pm almost an hour and half ahead of our normal time

We decided to take a pool cab to save on the fare. The driver reported at the gate of the office and we were ready to go: 6.15. The ride would take us 40-45 minutes that makes it 7.00 pm… not bad… almost an hour and half ahead of our routine schedule

Both of us got in and the first 20 minutes went by without any other passenger getting in and neither of us spoke to each other both lost in our world of problems, I suspect he too didn’t have a particularly pleasant day in the office too.

I glanced at my watch…. 6.25 pm and another 15-20 minutes we would be home and I could feel myself breathing deep,  cool,  more relaxed than ever during the day

We were hardly 10 minutes from home and the silence of the taxi was broken when the taxi driver’s phone rang. There was an animated conversation in the local language. I could make out that it was a passenger at the other end. Apparently the driver’s smart phone had a glitch due to which he did not get notification for a new passenger having booked a ride and that passenger called him. Having rebooted the phone he could see the ride and passenger assigned. I could read the passenger’s name as Surojit.

The driver explained that he could not cancel the ride and will have to turn back to pick the passenger but assured it would not take long. I did not sweat much because I had all the time in the evening… it was still only 6.40..

Having turned back I just broke the silence with some light hearted conversation with Amit and we got into office gossip. It was quite strange we shared some similar opinion about the stock markets, the people and many other things, little did I realize that it was more than 30 mins since we turned back and we had not picked the passenger yet. Its 7.10 pm we are still on the main road travelling back!!!!

I asked the cabbie and he said still a little way away.

For those who are familiar with Kolkata, the lanes and by lanes present quite a challenge even to an experienced driver, sometimes I wonder how miraculously cars cross each other without brushing each other and at times leaving gap for pedestrian to walk between them as if he were strolling in a garden

We were stuck in one such by lane. It is almost 7.30 pm .. In between the passenger must have called at least 3 times to enquire where the car was. I cursed him…. The least he could have done was to cancel the ride and book another one if he was getting so late (so were we now)… It was almost our regular time office leaving time……..

After negotiating the snake shaped by-lanes and maneuvering many other vehicles I thought we reached a dead end. It is almost 8.00 pm now. I heard the guy call at the other end,… damn….. this guy he screwed my evening…

He still didn’t seem to give up. He insisted that the car enter what would have been one of the narrowest roads I have seen in my life. I asked the driver to ask him to come at this end of the road, the driver was clearly uncomfortable doing that and said so many people in this city want to be picked up from their door step as if it is their right since they booked the ride.

Surely the guy could have walked to the end of this road and made it easy for all of us. I decided I have to give this guy a piece of my mind

I could see the guy waving his hand to the driver… nothing wrong with the guy… seemed to be in his early to mid 40s and when we reached he asked the driver to turn back before he could get in

This guy is nuts I thought…. The driver must surely be having some strong reason to take all this shit… may be a family to feed, loan to pay for the car… whatever. This arrogant guy waited for the car to take a U turn and come back for him. The guy looked so full of attitude. As the car approached him he did not show any sense of urgency.

By this time I should have been relaxing at home after my dinner and here I am its 8.20 pm stuck in some obscure by lane of Kolkata waiting for this nut to board the cab. It will take atleast another 15 minutes to hit the main road now and with the festival traffic at its peak…. I was livid

The end seemed worse than the full day now. My frustration was at its peak with a little nudge I would have been yelling at someone

This guy waited for almost an hour for this cab to pick him up and he has does not even have the courtesy to make life easier for all by waking a few steps to the better part of the by lane. No remorse, not even an apology to all of us

The car stopped and this guy does not seem to be in a hurry to get in

He was standing almost at the door step. The driver had already mentioned about so many passengers who would want to be picked up right in front of their door step as if it was their right and privilege.

The guy standing right at his door step opened the front door and out of nowhere from the door behind I saw a figure crouching out of the house a frail old woman barely able to hold herself. This guy held her and put her to sit in the front seat and opened the rear door to squeeze himself in

I was struck by lightining… so the guy had a reason……

The car started its onward journey, by this time I was more late than a normal late sitting day at the office. Almost 10 mins passed in complete silence bar the occasional croak by the old lady who I would have placed in the mid 70s… almost my mothers age.

Then quietly as we were negotiating to enter the main road the guy asked the driver to confirm if we were to be dropped first, the driver replied in the affirmative.. he looked at me and smiled. I still felt the guy could surely have cancelled the trip and booked another cab or cancelled his trip altogether. Its 8.45

A call on his phone disturbed my thoughts, I could hear someone shouting at the other end and could figure out he telling them that he is on the way, and had to cancel three rides before he could find a car pool ready to reach him in the deepest of the by lanes during the heavy festival traffic time. As he kept the phone almost reading my mind he said, that it was his mother, and she had to reach the hospital urgently for a dialysis which was highly overdue and it was the dialysis center calling him because the staff had to leave given that it was festival time.

The entire ride started playing back on mind, I slumped in my seat, my thoughts, what I harbored against this man who must have been so tense not getting a cab to take his mother for an overdue medical emergency procedure, the calls he must have been getting from the clinic, they pressure he would have endured of almost missing the appointment and here I was agitated for having lost a chance for a peaceful evening to make up for a bad day which did not seem so bad after all

Our car reached the gates of our residential complex, it was 9.15 pm Amit and I got down and walked back, me in total silence, ashamed at the thoughts my mind had, what if he had had to cancel this ride too, what if I too had urged the driver to go on drop me first and then pick him up… here was a mother fighting for life, a son hoping against hope and I …..

That day, that ride, in the city of joy, an evening in Kolkata changed the way I look at things , changed the way I should look at things……

AT THE BEGINNING….

AT THE BEGINNING….

My daughter asked me why “Broken kite”, you are not broken yet…I named this just on instinct without giving second thoughts but it never occurred to me that someone would perceive it negatively

The most obvious thing is why would someone name their blog “Kati Patang (Broken kite)” does it sound like a loser?

What would be a natural reaction to this name?

Obviously at first instance everybody would tend to stereotype me as a loser, a person who cannot control his life. Lead the life of drifter.

Honestly speaking though we tend to think we can control all that we do and in firm control of all that is happening to us, don’t we feel that many times, in fact many a times things just happen as if by divine intervention. Both,  positive and negative.

But this is not a falling  kite… it is broken kite… the broken kite’s journey is controlled by someone above, and it sails, sails higher, then comes down,  then again a whiff of wind takes it up further and further and finally after its destined journey, it falls down. So much like our lives

Kites have always fascinated me,. “Uttarayan” the kite flying festival in India has always been my favorite. Though celebrated on 14th Jan, my festivities during school days would start from 23rd Dec the day our Christmas vacation in school started

The joy of spending time on our terraces on the D day flying kites the whole day, preparations for which would have started weeks  earlier. In India we cut others flying kites and it seems like battle royale in the skies played one after the other and the thrill of winning and the despondency of losing still reverberates in my ears and I long to relive that day again.

How can I forget how my parents and sister used to rally behind me the whole day to ensure I had a great time, unimaginable in this era. Holding the “Firki” and me shouting at them when my kite is cut and me jumping in joy when I win a battle in the skies it  used to be a roller coaster ride of emotions. And finally of course the joy of catching a broken kite… the prized possession which would fly up the next day

The fascination for the kite continues to live even to this day though it has been more than 2 decades since I flew a kite. Back in India after almost 15 years in middle-east I look forward to it soon

In the last 5 decades, my life has been a story of ups and downs many successes quite a few failures like any ordinary person.

Just as a whiff of fresh air sets sail to the broken kite on a newer trajectory, life has offered me the same benevolence. Life has offered me so many enriching experiences and also given opportunity to observe the world in different facets, just as the kite observes from high above. The journey has been awesome to say the least

This broken kite shall share life experiences big or small, relevant or irrelevant, happy or sad, whatever way, but those experiences which I have observed, felt and experienced.

It would be great if you join me on the ride, which is not really a roller coaster, but one of ups and downs twists and turns and not yet fallen…..