Saturday, 14 June 2014

Rain in the City

Rain in the city

It  was  pouring  heavily. A woman  was  looking  in  to  the  night  through  her  window. She  turned  to  reveal  a  well  lit  drawing  room  in  a  high  rise  apartment. A  man  was  sitting  on  a  desk  in  a  corner  writing  by  the  light  of  a  table  lamp. The  woman  came  toward  him.
“Madhav, what  are  you  doing?”
“You  never  have  time  for  me.”
He  did  not  reply. She  grew  impatient.
“Madhav, what  is  your  problem?”
“What  is  your  problem  Vaani?”
“Talk to  me.”
“Okay. Say what do you want to say.”
“It’s raining heavily outside.” Madhav resumed his writing.
“You are not listening.”
“I am listening.”
“What did I say then?”
“It’s raining heavily.”
“So what? What can we do about it?”
“Don’t you feel anything? There is a storm out there. God knows how many huts will be destroyed. How many families will suffer.”
“Are you feeling sad?”
“Aren’t you?”
“No?” She was bewildered at his insensitive demeanour.
“Now before you draw any conclusion, let me tell you something. Universe has its own rule. Everything is balanced out. So if there is destruction somewhere, somewhere else there is creation. So I am not sad, because I know this rain might destroy something but it will create something beautiful too.”
“You and you philosophies. You know what write your stupid story.”
She went over to the armchair and stood there irresolutely. She came back after a few seconds.
“Shall I switch off the lights?”
“Why?” he asked.
“You can write by the lamp light. Why keep all the lights on? There is enough light coming from the lamp.”
“No. I don’t like the darkness. See there is enough darkness outside. We need to balance it out, Universe’s rule.” He finished his sentence with a chuckle. He knew this would annoy his wife the most.
“Madhav...” Her sentence was cut short by a phone’s ring. Madhav’s phone was ringing.
“Hello..” Someone said something from the other side.
“Yes it’s me.” A pause. “What? When?”
The other person took some time explaining.
“Okay. Okay. What can we do now? Wait for her to calm down.” Another  pause.
“Yes, yes. I know. Bye.”
“Who was it?” asked Vaani.
“Agni. Swadha discovered about Malini.”
“What? How? This had to happen. I knew it. How long did Agnivesh thought he could hide about Malini. What did he say?”
“Not to tell you anything.”
“Calm down now.”
“How did she find out anyways?”
Agni and Swadha’s story
Swadha was returning from an emergency operation when she got stuck in the rain. Somewhere a road had washed out and the traffic was being diverted to another route. She kept on looking at the watch on her dashboard. It was already 9 in the evening. She was really late. She dialled Agni’s number on her phone. It was out reach. Now she was feeling really frustrated.
The traffic was moving slowly and there was no way she could reach home before 11. Signal tuned to red again. She swore loudly. Suddenly she remembered a short cut nearby. All she had to do was to take a left from the next cut instead of going straight. She remembered the route well. When the signal turned green she sped toward the cut. No longer had she tuned left she realised her mistake. The road was clogged with water and a few vehicles were trying to make their way slowly. She cursed her fate. She could not go back as there was no U-turn around and the street she had left was already jam packed with cars. She decided to brave her way on this road. Driving slowly she made her way through to the t-point. From there she turned into a deserted road. She drove quickly but fate had other things in store for her.
She had moved a few hundred metres ahead when her car broke down. She tried to restart it but her efforts went in vain. She opened the car door and climbed down. This move sealed her fate. She had kept her phone in her lap after she last tried Agni’s number and completely forgot about it. Her phone fell with a thud in the murky rain water below. This time she swore loudly. She bent down and picked her phone from the water. The phone had switched off. She tried to restart it but her phone too ditched her. She suppressed an instant urge to cry loudly. She looked around to see for some help. No car was coming this way. She was all alone on this street. She began to feel scared. After all crime against women was not new in the Capital. There were houses on the other side of the street. She decided to go and ask for help in one of them. She picked her bag, locked her car and made her way to the nearest house. She read the name-plate. It belonged to some Mr. Kakkar. She went towards the second house. The name-plate read Miss Sahay. She pressed the door bell.
A few minutes later she heard someone open the door. A woman stood in the doorway. Swadha could not see her face as she was standing against the light. Had she seen her face she would have known something was wrong. She began telling her plight to the woman and that she only needed to use the phone. She had finished speaking when she heard a man’s voice from behind the woman.
“Who is it Malini?”
The voice was oddly familiar. The man came closer. Things could not have gone more wrong that day. There in front of her stood Agni, wearing a bath robe. Swadha stood there stupefied. Staring from the woman to Agni. Agni could not speak anything for a minute then he regained his consciousness.
“I can explain everything. I WILL explain everything Swadha.” Said he.
“Oh, will you now?” Swadha said in a tone mixed with fury and sarcasm. “I think I should let you two enjoy.” She grabbed the door handle and slammed it shut in their face.
                                    .                       .                       .
“So that’s how Swadha found out about Agni and Malini.” said Madhav.
“And where is Swadha?” asked Vaani.
“She called the cops. They gave her a lift home. She is very angry.”
“She should be and Agnivesh deserves it. It was only a matter of time before they separated.”
“Make me a cup of coffee.”
Vaani went to the kitchen. She put the kettle on the burner. It had begun to drizzle now. She looked at the drops which fell on the window pane. They were making a curious pattern. Vaani lost herself in thoughts. Her stupor was broken by the whistle from the kettle. She made coffee and returned to the drawing room.
“Madhav I was thinking.”
“What were you thinking now?”
“That thing you said about Universe’s rule. So according to you everything is balanced out. How will the universe balance this out?”
“A couple got separated today. A little love lost. How will this get balanced?”
“Wait and see. Universe has all the answers.”
Vaani smiled. Madhav always had a way with words. She looked at the sheet of paper Madhav had finished writing on.
“What’s this....wait a second. Isn’t this Agni and Swadha’s story?”
“Yes it is.”
“What are you? Mad. You wrote a story about them? What do you...” She was cut short by a phone’s ring. Her phone was ringing.
The person from the other side sound very excited.
“Really. Wow. When did it happen?” asked Vaani.
A pause in which the other person launched into an explanation.
“I am so happy for you. Why don’t you come over tomorrow?”
Another pause.
“Yes, yes. Indeed. He took a long time though. Congratulations dear. Bye.”
She disconnected the call.
“It was Siya, Raghav finally proposed her for marriage.”
“Nice? That’s it.” She said impatiently. “Aren’t you happy for them?”
“Yes I am.”
“Sometimes I fail to understand you.”
“What is it that you don’t understand?”
“You were rooting for Raghav to propose Siya and now that he has done it all you have got to say is Nice?”
Madhav began to laugh.
“What are you laughing about?”
“See. There is your Universe’s rule working.”
Vaani paused,then he too started laughing.
“Now you will write a story on them too.”
“Yes, I will.”
Raghav and Siya’s Story
It was pouring heavily when Siya got stuck in the heavy traffic jam on the outer ring road. There was no way she could reach her hotel on time. Everyone around in their cars was honking to their best possible capacity. It was highly irritating. She could have been sitting in the warm, cosy bed of her hotel room but here she was drenched in rain, listening to the crash sound of car horns. She laid her head on the steering wheel and cursed the moment she had decided to step out of her hotel room. She wanted to talk to someone. She picked up her phone and dialled the first number that came to her mind. When she saw the name on her screen she smiled to herself. It was so obvious and yet so unexpected. Raghav was just a friend and yet whenever she needed a shoulder or needed to hear a reassuring voice his name was the first to come in mind.  She waited for the call to get connected. A ring went through and the call got disconnected. A message flashed on the screen “I am in a meeting. Call you later.” She felt disappointed. Then she typed a message “I am stuck. I need you.” and sent it. After she had hit the send button, she realized what she had written. She hit her head on the steering wheel.
“Why oh why? Why did I write that?”
Another message flashed on her screen “Where are you?”
“Near the MG Road flyover.”
There was no more message. She turned on the radio. A romantic number was playing. Siya smiled to herself. Atleast something was good today. Call it her luck or  coincidence the radio channel kept on playing her favourite numbers. Soon she was singing at the top of her voice. Suddenly someone tapped on her car window. She jumped with a start.
“RAGHAV......oh thank god its you. You scared me.”
“What are you doing here? You were supposed to be in your hotel room.”
“Yes Aarti needed some help in shopping. She went to the airport and I stayed back to have dinner. Now I am stuck.”
She realized Raghav was still standing in the rain.
“Oh I am so sorry. Come in.” She opened the car door for him. He settled in the seat next to her.
“I love that song” said Raghav about the song playing on the radio.
“Where’s your car?”
“I left it in the parking of the Metro mall, two streets down from here.”
“And you walked all the way down here?”
“I had to. I couldn’t drive in this jam, could I?” he paused then said “How come you are alone?”
“What do you mean?” asked Siya and almost instantly realized that he had been asking about the page 3 news about her. Some tabloid had reported that she was dating a rich hotelier.
“That’s rubbish. You don’t believe that. Do you? Because...” she said impatiently.
“Nothing. What are you doing here? Weren’t you in a meeting?”
“Yeah. You were stuck right. And I couldn’t leave you alone, could I?”
“Well, you could if you wanted to.”
“But I didn’t because...” An awkward silence fell between them.  
A moment later Siya asked “because?”
They both fell silent again. Suddenly Raghav turned toward her and looked into her eyes. What he said next was what Siya had been waiting to hear for a long time.
“Will you marry me, Siya?”
“Never mind.”
“No. I mean yes.”
“But Siya I am neither an hotelier nor a business man. I am mediocre. I am just a manager...”
Siya cut him short. “Wait. Why do you think so much? If it really bothers you I will leave all this. I did not ask to be an heiress. I don’t even want to be. I just want to be happy... with you.”
She paused. They looked at each other. Siya began to say something. Raghav shushed her. There was a lifetime worth of time to talk.
                                    .                       .                       .

“So that’s... Siya and Raghav’s story.”
“Why don’t you give it a rest, all this writing.”
“Why are you annoyed?”
“Well, you never write a story about me?” Said Vanni laughingly.
“Maybe I have already written one.” Madhav said sheepishly.
“What! Really. Show me.”
“It’s getting late.”Madhav left his chair yawning. “I will show you some other time.”
They switched off the lights and darkness fell.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

A Page from a Diary

Divya was standing alone on the platform. The big clock at the end was showing that it was quarter to eleven and she was late. It was either her imagination or the metro indeed was late today. It was still 6 minutes before the next metro was due to arrive.  She had had yet another row with her mother minutes before leaving. She was now getting fed up of all these arguments. She did not want to think about what her mother had said and so tried to register the few passengers who were standing on the platform. An old woman was resting on the iron railing on the other side trying to cool herself off with the pallu of her saree. A few college students were loitering here and there, presumably waiting for some friend. A woman was walking up the stairs with her small daughter in tow, on her side of the platform. Divya began to look at her, not out of curiosity but out of sheer boredom.
The woman was carrying a number of bags in one hand and held onto her daughter with the other hand. When she reached the platform she settled herself on one of the chairs beneath the large clock. No sooner had she placed her bags on the chair beside her that her daughter began to cry. The woman tried to calm her down but the child seemed too adamant on something. The woman finally resigned and stood up. She picked up her daughter and then with some difficulty picked all her bags too. Then she began to walk slowly down the platform. The child stopped crying immediately. Divya felt surprised at how the woman was able to carry all the bags and her daughter all at the same time in her hands.
“It must be so difficult”, thought Divya “but then mothers are supposed to be that way, aren’t they? Always doing the most difficult things to keep their children happy.”
 Suddenly Divya began to feel remorse for quarrelling with her mother. After all whatever she said was for her own good. Her mother had gone against the whole family to make sure Divya could follow her dream of becoming a dancer. And here she was always at loggerheads with her mother.
“I will just say sorry and...” Her train of thoughts was broken by the swishing sound made by the arriving metro. It came to a halt and the door of the ladies compartment opened in front of her. She entered the compartment and found a few seats were empty. This line of metro was usually less crowded than the others. She searched for a corner seat and settled in it. The mother daughter duo from the station boarded the same compartment and had settled in a seat opposite her. Their eyes suddenly locked and Divya smiled at her, a smile of gratitude toward all mothers.
                                                     .     .     .
Madhvi had become a housewife the day she learned of her pregnancy. Her husband Keshav earned enough to support the family and sponsor a yearly vacation to some remote place. Her life was good. It was only fair that she quit her job when the baby was due to arrive. But she missed her job, her workplace. It felt like her life lacked purpose. Once Sana began to go to playschool, Madhvi’s restlessness began to grow. It was not the anxiety of a mother from being away from her child. It was an emptiness, a blank space in her heart. The feeling was particularly high today so she decided to step out and visit her childhood friend in Greater Kailash. The driver had been summoned at the office by Keshav so Madhvi decided to take the metro.
Soon she realised it was a terrible decision. Madhvi was carrying four bags laden with Sana’s toys, other essentials and a few gifts for Priya and her twins. It was already difficult managing all the bags when Sana decided that he could not walk anymore and Madhvi must carry her and stroll around. Madhvi felt irritated with her daughter. Sana would just not stop crying. She was about to slap her when her eyes fell on the young woman a few yards away looking at them. She restrained herself and picked Sana up. It was difficult but she knew she could not slap Sana here, not when that girl was looking her.
People judge. All they know is to judge others. Who cares if her daughter was indeed annoying her? Who cares if she could no longer find a purpose in life? All people knew was to judge, to say that she slapped her innocent daughter. Will they ever know what a brat her daughter is?
By the time metro arrived Madhvi was bitter. She entered the compartment and found a vacant seat. She arranged her bags before her. Sana climbed in the adjacent seat and began looking at the dreary scenery outside. The girl from the platform was sitting opposite her. Their eyes met and she gave her a pleasant smile. Madhvi too forced a smile on her lips.
She looked around at other women sitting in the compartment. She looked at their faces. Each looked at peace with their life. Madhvi began to feel more discontented. The metro halted at the next station. An old woman entered and just in tow was a veiled woman. The veiled woman was pregnant. The old woman looked uncertainly around the compartment and spotted a vacant seat in the same row as Madhvi. She asked other women to shift a little a make room for her daughter-in-law as well. The two women sat with some difficulty. The old woman was ranting about how women nowadays ran to doctors for the smallest problems. Soon she began chatting with the elderly lady sitting next to her. The old woman seemed to be obsessed with the idea of having a grandson. The woman was talking so loudly that Madhvi could hardly miss out any of her words. The old woman told the other woman that she had three grand-daughters and this would be her fourth grand-child. She was hoping vehemently that this time her daughter-in-law delivered a grandson. She had had enough of daughters in her house.
Madhvi began to feel pity for the veiled woman. What kind of life she had where the value of her whole existence was weighed by her capability of giving birth to a son. She looked at the veiled woman, sitting silently beside her mother-in-law, making no movement, no retort, silently accepting all that her mother-in-law heaped on her. She felt her heart ache. Suddenly she realised how fortunate she was. Her family loved Sana and Keshav’s whole life revolved around her. Madhvi, herself felt that her in-laws had become more protective toward her after she had given birth to Sana. And to her? To her she meant the whole world and beyond. She suddenly felt a twinge of guilt for wanting to slap her daughter. After all kids her age wanted, rather needed their parents’ attention. And it was not Sana’s fault that she quit her job. It was her independent choice.
She suddenly bent forward and kissed Sana on the forehead. Sana gave a jubilant cry and kissed Madhvi on her cheeks in return. Madhvi’s eyes suddenly met with the old woman’s and she gave her a defiant smile.

                                                .       .       .

Bhavri had faced many tribulations in life. On every step she had to bear the consequences of being a girl. She was taken out of school when she was eight and found herself toiling in the kitchen learning tricks of making sumptuous meals to please her prospective in-laws. When she was fifteen she found herself betrothed to an unknown man and only two years later she came to know that her husband’s name was Mukhiya Jadhav. Married into a family of twelve members, and being the eldest daughter-in-law Bhavri spent most of her next three years in her new home in the kitchen cooking, cleaning and tending to old grand parents-in-law. And then her child bearing years began. Her first pregnancy ended in miscarriage and during the second time she gave birth to a dead child. In the third attempt she gave birth to a girl. Her in-laws were not happy but they did not crib much as the girl was the first to survive. They took it as a sign that others would follow. She gave birth to two more girls before she had Bhuvan. She had to bear a lot of taunts and abuse until God decided to put Bhuvan in her lap. Her life did not improve much after that but the looming fear of a co-wife did vanish away. Subsequent years were difficult. After marrying off all her daughters to grooms her husband selected, she finally set on her quest to find a suitable daughter-in-law for herself. Her dreams however were thwarted when she realised her mother-in-law had already zeroed in on a girl from the neighbouring village. The girl now sat beside her.
Bhavri had a bitter life but she resolved that she wouldn’t let her daughter-in-law go through the hell she went through. When the first grand-daughter arrived Bhavri was overjoyed. She could see the shadow of her own daughters in the little one. She was determinant that her grand-daughter will not be neglected in the same way as her daughters. It was a blow when her daughter-in-law refused to breast feed the little girl calling her an unfortunate wretch. She wanted, she had hoped for a son and this girl had soiled all her dreams. Birth of two more girls embittered her daughter-in-law further. She distanced herself from her children. She came from a family of five brothers and in her growing years had heard the importance of bearing sons. 
Bhavri’s daughter-in-law soon began to wane away. It was the fear of the worst which made Bhavri wish fervently that God put a son in her daughter-in-law’s lap. To keep her daughter-in-law happy and make her agreeable, Bhavri started reiterating her views. When the mother would be away, she would pamper the little girls and in front of her she pretended to scold them. How difficult it was for her nobody knew. Her family, too, found the daughter-in-law in the right foot. After all what good would it bring to love a daughter? Daughters only lighten their father’s purse.
The woman beside her had stopped talking. Bhavri began looking around. Her eyes rested on the little girl looking out the metro window. She reminded Bhavri of her own youngest grand-daughter. She looked intently at the little girl and was reminded of the promise she had made to her own grand-daughters to bring toys from the big city for them. The mother of the little girl suddenly bent forward and kissed her. The small scene between the mother and daughter filled Bhavri’s heart with light. Her eyes met with the eyes of the mother, she smiled at Bhavri. Her smile said a lot. Bhavri suddenly felt weakened and humiliated. She just stared back at the woman. And as sudden as the kiss between the mother-daughter duo, it dawned on Bhavri that she must stop pretending. She must stand up for the happiness of her grand-daughters who are so conveniently ignored by their own mother. She would not let history repeat. Her grand-daughters will not have the same fate as her own daughters.
She pulled her eyes away from the woman and looked in the other direction. A young girl was sitting across from her. A young girl, travelling alone, sitting independently this is what her grand-daughters will become. The girl suddenly looked up. Bhavri smiled at her, a smile of hope.

Divya smiled back.