Rainbow Dreams

The white powder beckoned to him. He cut it into a thin strip and snorted. It hit him instantly, and he felt energized, an enchanced sense of well-being, a rapture beyond the most euphoric state of existence. He held his hand out for an intravenous hit. Someone injected him and he rose even higher, experiencing a whole body orgasm. His toes curled, his head jerked back in sheer pleasure. He was not of this world any more.

I walk into a field of golden maize. The sky is all colours of the rainbow, many-hued clouds float overhead. A warm sunshine bathes the world. I lie down, the soil beneath cool to my body, the clouds forming patterns above me. I see angels and swans and faces of people I know. I hear soft footfalls near me. I sit up and see the most beautiful girl walking towards me through the field. She shimmers, an ethereal glow surrounds her like a halo. She is dressed in white that catches all the colours around her. Her face holds a beatific smile. She approaches me, her delicate feet are bare and she almost floats, so gentle are her steps. I put up a hand to shield my eyes, she shines so bright. She leans forward towards me and I see her face. Its Moira. She holds her hand out to me, and I take it. She pulls me up and we're running across the golden field holding hands, the tall stalks of maize swaying as we part them, a warm breeze brushing my face. I close my eyes and breathe in the perfumed air.




I open my eyes and it is night.

"Mac, Mac" someone shook him. He moaned in protest and beat away the hand that was pounding his shoulder. Half awake, he looked at a glass that had been placed in his hand. He took a swig at its contents and fell back into an induced reverie.

I am standing alone in the field. A pale light falls on everything. The sky is black with streaks of bright green, brilliant blue, and hues of purple and red. The maize has withered and the dried stalks droop lifelessly. I panic and look around for Moira. She is nowhere to be seen. I cry out in anguish, I can't bear to lose her again, not when I just found her after all this time. It is suddenly pitch black and I can't see anything. I run aimlessly into the darkness, tripping, falling, scratching, scraping. I call out her name. Moira, Moira. She doesn't answer. My heart is pounding in my chest. I crash into something. Suddenly, the pale light returns, washing over everything. I have hit a tree, a dead tree, with a dry, grey trunk. I look fearfully up at it. It branches are leafless and brittle. A deathly whistle issues when the wind blows through them. I see something swinging on one of the branches on the other side. I creep slowly around the trunk. Her gown black and in tatters, the torn wisps flying around her ankles, Moira hangs by her neck.




Mac woke up screaming. He thrashed about, and crouched up against the wall. He pulled his knees up to his chest and sobbed pitiously. Moira... the one girl he had ever loved, the girl who had been raped by her incestuous uncle. He could still hear her scream as she jumped out the window in a bid to escape her rapist. Mac had not reached in time to save her. He did reach in time to see her uncle fall to his death on the stairs as he stumbled out in a drunken stupor. Mac did not have the satisfaction to tear the fiend into pieces with his own hands. Instead he was left to cope with his own grief. He stumbled to the bar. A glass was placed in his hand, and he added a cocktail of drugs to it. He downed his Brompton's cocktail - coke, heroin and alcohol. A potent mixture, a lethal dose.


I am standing in a perfectly white room. The walls, ceiling and floor stretch endlessly away. I cannot make out silhouttes or lines distinguishing them. It is pleasantly cool. My eyes are riveted on one, and only one, feature of the room, the most beautiful one - Moira. She is smiling at me and beckons me to follow her. She turns and ascends an invisible flight of stairs. I follow anxiously, wordlessly. All I want is to be close to her. I climb and climb. The steps stretch endlessly upwards. Suddenly, the stairs end. The world opens out to a burst of colours. Moira stands beside me. We stand silently holding hands as we watch the Northern Lights play across the starry sky.




Mac pulled himself on to the roof of the skyscraper. A strong wind threatened to blow him off as he stood swaying perilously. He lurched with jerks and uncertain movements towards the ledge. The lights and sights of Vegas lay twinkling before his eyes. He stood at the edge of the roof, his arms opened wide. For one brief second, he was perfectly lucid, his eyes were clear and intelligent. Then he closed his eyes and stepped off.

I am weightless, lighter than a feather. I am flying, and Moira flies with me. We both laugh merrily, leaving a trail of gold and silver and sparkling lights behind us. We twirl through rose-rimmed clouds, dance on air. I pull her close to myself and kiss her softly. I breathe in her perfume, feel her hair brushing my face, her fingers intertwined in mine. I am blissful, content and at peace. I sleep, holding her.



If by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son

... Reborn

Rekha - Reborn

Rekha went home to her parents. For weeks, she kept herself isolated, staying mostly in her room, coming out only for infrequent meals or going to the temple. Her parents were worried, and had several fearsome thoughts, each worse than the others. Her mother tried talking to her when she first returned, "What happened my baby? Did someone hurt you? Don't be afraid to tell us, we will support you in every way possible. We are here for you, your whole family is with you." Hearing the worry, love and gentleness in her mother's voice broke the dam of tears and she wept at her mother's shoulder. In the end, all she said was, "I wasn't the one who was hurt. I wasn't the victim." Beyond this, she didn't speak a word despite repeated questioning.

She had started praying quite a lot, begging to be forgiven for what she had done. She contemplated suicide on several occassions but held back when she saw her worried parents. Meditation helped her set her thoughts in order. One night, she asked her mother if God forgave even the basest of humans. Her mother replied, "You are forgiven the moment you accept your faults and are willing to do something about them." Slowly, Rekha began feeling better, the heaviness in her heart dispelled by the growing conviction that she could set things right. She knew what she had to do.

Her mission was clear - to help young, unwed women like her answer that most difficult question "Do you want to abort?" and support them in whichever course they chose to take. She put her years of corporate wisdom into setting up an organization to provide cheap medical care both for abortion and in case the mother decided to deliver the baby, assist with adoptions, child care, social awareness and acceptance. But most of all, each of those women would be given love, confidence, faith and the unshakable assurance that their path was the right one to take. To heal the scars on their soul more than those on their body.

Two years on, Rekha's venture Aasha had helped hundreds of girls take a decision and stand by it rather than take their lives. Every time she held a baby that the mother had decided to carry through with help from Aasha, Rekha was reborn. Every time she saw a girl go through an abortion and emerge whole in body and soul, she was reborn.

Satish - Reborn
After the break-up, Satish immersed himself in his work. He was the first to come to office, the last to leave. His co-workers were overwhelmed by the intensity of his work and ferocity of his demeanour. His boss herself suggested he take a break, and even offered to send him to Goa on company expense for a conference. He declined all offers to ease up. He dreaded going back to an empty house full of memories of love and togetherness. He started drinking to get some sleep. Soon he was drinking incessantly, passing out instead of sleeping. He lost sense of time, days blurred into weeks, weeks turned to months. He tried contacting Rekha millions of times, but always hit a dead end. None of her friends knew her contact number or address, her brother in London refused to take his calls. He stopped speaking to his family, shunned his friends. He wanted to drown in his own misery.

It was two years since she had left. He had tried flushing out every last vestige of the love that flowed through his veins like blood, and had failed miserably. He was now ready to stop living.

Satish stood swaying on the bridge. The dark, deep waters of the ocean seemed to call out to him. He laughed out loud, feeling freer today than ever. As he stood savouring the weightlessness he was already feeling, he saw a young girl standing a few feet away. She looked forlorn, lost and hopeless. She peeped apprehensively over the edge of the bridge and stepped back shuddering. She closed her eyes and extended one bare foot over the edge. At the last minute, she pulled back, and then slid to the ground shivering and weeping inconsolably. Satish's heart melted as he saw the sobs racking her body. He approached her cautiously, "Why don't we step back just a little bit more and talk". She allowed herself to be led a safe distance away from the edge. He looked at her face in the yellow illumination of the street light. She was barely in her teens, 14 or 15 at most. Her tear streaked face held limpid red-rimmed eyes full of sorrow and fear. Satish put on his most fatherly fashion although he hadn't spoken to anyone in weeks, "Tell me all about it."

Her story came pouring out amidst wheezing sobs and dry hiccups. A teenage cousin "brother", suggestions of an experiment, fondling quickly turning out of control, innocence betrayed at the hands of the trusted. And there she was, herself a child, bearing a child. Satish felt closer to this bedraggled girl than anyone since... Her. He pushed all thoughts of Rekha out of his mind for the time being. He gave the girl his hand. "There are ways of solving this. Let's get some help. You have your whole life ahead of you. You don't need to do this". The poor shivering child hugged him tight, weeping copiously, "Bhaiya, please help me. I want to live, want to go back home, back to school."

Satish watched in wonder as competent hands took the child into their care at the shelter. He had seen the address in the newspaper, and for some reason he recalled it today. Aasha. He needed some hope himself. Today not one, but two lives had been recalled from Death. Helping the girl had been like balm to his wounds. He sat in the waiting room to make sure the girl was taken care of. He thought of how scared she had been, and began to understand how Rekha must have felt and how he hadn't had the patience to listen.

Then he heard her voice. He was sure his near-death experience had made her more real in his heart and mind. He could hardly believe it when he saw her before his eyes. She was entering the shelter, talking to a couple of women, discussing a new case. She hadn't seen him yet, but at that instant Satish was reborn.

Epilogue
Rekha and Satish got married two months after their reunion. They picked up where they had left off. True to his promise, Satish raised three babies with Rekha. Together, they helped raise over a hundred babies born at Aasha.

Unborn...

The Question - Unborn?
"Are you both married?"
Rekha and Satish looked at each other awkwardly. Satish answered, "No.. we're engaged to be married." The doctor looked wholly unconvinced, but did not pass a judgement. "Well, I'm afraid Rekha is pregnant"

Six weeks ago, they had consummated their relationship under the heady influence of a bottle of wine, a candlelight dinner on the beach, the cool, salty sea-breeze and the full moon riding the cloudless sky. They were both sure that their togetherness was meant to be.. and that they would spend the rest of their lives with each other. All was well until Rekha missed her monthly cycle and started feeling giddy in the mornings. By then, they had moved in together, and they decided to visit a doctor to confirm their suspicions.

Rekha was in shock. She was unnaturally composed when the doctor asked matter-of-factly if they wanted to keep the "fetus". Satish recognised and appreciated the doctor's attempt to make them comfortable with the idea of abortion by not referring to it as a baby. Somehow, the doctor's sympathetic attitude brought home the truth more forcefully. He replied quietly, "We need some time to think about this". "I understand. But this decision had better be made sooner than later. It would be best for everyone." "Thank you doctor".

As soon as they left the clinic, Rekha burst into tears. They streamed down her cheeks as she hugged herself tight, running her hand over her stomach helplessly. Satish was torn to see her so distraught, besides the anguish of having the most difficult decision of his life hanging over him. He held her close, and managed to calm her down. "Let's sit down and talk about this sweetheart. We'll figure something out. I love you, and always will. I'll never leave you. We're in this together, and for life."

The Answer - Unborn.
Two hours later, they sat miserably across from each other in a CCD outlet near the clinic. It was clear right at the outset that they were in no position to have a baby. They simply could not subject their families to the social trauma and the subsequent repercussions. They both had siblings to think of, and the effect this would have on their prospects. They weren't prepared to fight it out with society when the pain could be avoided. What they couldn't come to terms with was the question of whether they could live with it if they opted for an abortion.

"Is it murder if we do it? Are we killing a baby?" Rekha asked tremulously.
"I don't think it is. There is no baby as yet. It is unformed. The doctor said the fetus isn't a human being yet. She was pretty emphatic on that point. But if we wait any longer, it will become one." Satish was trying to convince himself as much as consoling Rekha.
"We can't keep it, can we? We could go live in the U.S.. Our GRE scores were pretty good. Maybe we could get admitted to the same college and leave together. We could always tell everyone later that we got married in the U.S. and had a baby right away. We could tell our parents the truth later, once we're away from here. That way, they won't have to face a social boycott. Satish.. I'm scared. What if we never have children again? What if this drives us apart instead of brining us together?"
"Rekha, I love you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I would never leave you, no matter what. We are in this together, we'll always be together. This is our decision to take - not yours, not mine. And even though your Green Card master plan may work, I don't think you'd be able to fly by the time we get everything done."

Rekha smiled through her tears at his attempt at humour. Satish smiled back, looking visibly relieved. He held her hands in his. They were cold to the touch. He rubbed her hands to warm them. "We need not hurry.. Let's take our time, and we can do it whenever you are comfortable with it. I'm with you every step of the way." She nodded wordlessly and sat staring into the distance for a while. "I want it done right now". Satish was a bit surprised, "Are you sure". "Yes. Right now. Before it can grow anymore."

The Aftermath
The procedure was short and painless. She was wheeled into an operating room, anesthesised and the next thing she knew, she was waking up in a hospital bed with Satish sitting anxiously by her side. "How are you feeling? Are you in pain? I was so worried, but you were so brave darling. No fuss at all. We'll have loads of children, I promise. I'll change diapers, clean up baby poop, walk them to sleep in the middle of the night - whatever you want me to do." He hugged her tightly. She was relieved - to feel no pain or discomfort and much much more so to have Satish with her. She blinked back tears that were threatening to spill again and smiled weakly,"Promise? Don't go back on your word later."She was discharged within hours and they returned home.

For days, Rekha would wake up crying in the night and Satish would rock her back to sleep. They would sit up at times convincing each other that they had done nothing wrong, that this was best for everyone, that they could not have done anything else. Day by day, Rekha grew more remorseful, and Satish started getting irritated about it "Stop thinking about it already. Its been over two months. Its done and over with". After being admonished by him once or twice , she stopped telling him about her insecurities and the wounds in her soul that were still raw. They drifted apart, Rekha battling her inner demons, Satish finding himself disenchanted and unable to cope with her continuing depression. Eight months after that day, they decided to break up and go their separate ways.

[contd.]

Be yourself

There comes a time when you must stand alone.

You must feel confident enough within yourself to follow your own dreams.
You must be willing to make sacrifices.
You must be capable of changing and rearranging your priorities so that your final goal can be achieved.
Sometimes, familiarity and comfort need to be challenged.
There are times when you must take a few extra chances and create your own realities.
Be strong enough to at least try to make your life better.
Be confident enough that you won't settle for a compromise just to get by.
Appreciate yourself by allowing yourself the opportunities to grow, develop, and find your true sense of purpose in this life.
Don't stand in someone else's shadow when it's your sunlight that should lead the way.

[Author unknown]

Mixed Juice - The Strung-out Delhiite, Served Fresh

A typical day travelling in a DTC bus - Kicking, head butting and elbowing your way inside the overstuffed bus, finding a foothold on the steps, swallowed by the crowd of at least 20 men who somehow contrive to stand at the doorway together, momentarily spit back out on the road by the same crowd, and then swallowed again just as the bus begins to move.

A DTC bus defies all theories of volume and space. It is possible for over a thousand people to travel in the same bus at the same time, and yet it does not burst at the seams. One can only imagine that the bus magically expands, or passengers magically contract on entering its hallowed portals.

The usual number of people in a DTC bus

The conductor is seated conveniently at the window seat next to the door. The passenger unfortunate enough to sit next to the conductor is constantly stamped, pinched, punched, slapped and poked by the bodyless hands extending to buy tickets. Your first task is obtaining your tickets by shouting your destination, waving the money under the conductor's nose, your hand disjointed from the rest of your body, finally clutching the scraps of paper thrust into your palm by the conductor. Always best to have exact change, as you may not be able to approach the conductor again.

You need not make plans for independent motion once inside the bus. Your progress from point A to point B inside the bus is like that of a stick of sugarcane through a thresher - you are squeezed through a human wringing machine into gaps and crevices. Your emerge hand-first as you try and prise your way through the jungle of arms and legs, your head follows, your eyeballs popping as all air is pinched out of your lungs. Your juicing is abruptly paused and you discover you have left your foot behind, caught in a tangle of shoes, bags and sandled feet, all sticking in different directions, others as helpless as you in the direction of their journey through the bus. A vigorous jiggle later, you manage to free your foot, only to find that your bag is now caught in someone's neck. The harder you tug, the bluer that someone turns with you choking her or him.

As you try to avoid murder while retaining your possessions, you find that someone is trying to amputate your free arm by wrenching at the shoulder. You accordingly twist your torso to counter the twist in your arm, while still maintaining a steady grip with your other hand on your bag. You end up facing in a completely new direction, squashed against a bony back, from where you can neither observe your bag nor ascertain if you are still two handed. You are also poked in your ribs by an unknown adversary, your legs are still being dragged by the human thresher.

At this point, you are at a 45 degree angle, your feet at the vertex moving away from the rest of your body at a steady pace, your hands forming a T-shape with your head in between. As with all other physical rules, gravity is also defied as you do not fall, but are suspended in this position for a few uncomfortable seconds while your bag is thankfully freed from a sore neck, your twisted arm finds respite in a momentary relaxation of force and your feet are released from their involuntary march. You find yourself roughly vertical again. By this time, you have reached "your spot", where you will spend the remainder of your journey, unless there are any major upheavals.

One has to create this spot for oneself inside the bus. Elbows, knees, necks and backs are bent at impossible angles to fit snugly into the jigsaw of human body parts in the narrow corridor between the seat columns. Each seat is designed to accomodate two people, and yet miraculously as many as four can be seen sitting in a zig-zag formation - posteriors positioned alternately on the back and front edges of the seat. Those who manage to sit experience numbness in their gripping fingers and cramped legs within 5 minutes of sitting, post which they are unable to move even if they want to. Ironically, miscreants with a misplaced sense of humour have scratched out the ma in "Mahilayein" to read "Hilayein" on the back of reserved seats.

The real challenge is when a lady demands her reserved rights be given and asks a male to vacate the "Ladies" seat. A complex choreography of moves follows as the man gingerly gets up from the seat, waking up his sleeping legs and lurching forward into the seat in front as he tries to punch his way out of the seat and into the human rapids in the aisle. The woman counters his way out with her own way into the seat. The whole procedure has a liquid-like quality about it, like water seamlessly filling a glass. The man, meanwhile, is left to his own devices to create his spot.

Depending on the distance from your stop, you need to make preparations to deboard.
Ideally, if your stop is

  • less than 10 minutes away, you should enter from the front door and hop off and back on at each stop till you reach yours.
  • 10 to 15 minutes away, you should be in constant motion to make your way from the back of the bus (where you enter) to the front of the bus (where you exit).
  • more than 15 minutes away, you can pause midway, create a spot for yourself, take a brief breather, and then plunge into the human thresher again to reach the front door in time.

Stepping gracefully off the bus is an art, developed over several journeys worth of practice. You need to stand your ground at the door against the wave of departing passengers attempting to pop you out. You need to swing off the bus with a spring to your step, facing forward. You finally touch Mother Earth battered, bruised, sweaty and reduced to a pulp, but triumphant and more than a little relieved. You become philosophical even, realising that the DTC bus is an equalizer of humanity across caste, creed, religion, age and gender. Then, being the true Delhiite, you shrug it all off and carry on with your life.


Silent Symphony - The Painter in the Park

Jakob
The Painter in the Park
I loved her from the moment I saw her. For days, I had watched her from my seat in the park. I would observe her every morning, setting up her easel, unpacking her satchel full of paint bottles, tubes, turpentine, rag cloths, brushes of every size and thickness, stretching her unfinished canvas on to the easel. She would fill a bucket of water from the fountain in the park, then pull a paint-splotched smock over the top of her head and smooth it out to cover her dress. She would smile and nod at the regulars - the hot dog vendor, the ice cream boy, the dog walker with the chihuahua and the St. Bernard, the morning and evening joggers. She never smiled or nodded at me. Every evening at 5, she would pack up. I never had the nerve to follow her. I don't think she even knew I existed....

She was painting the park in the Fall. Her colours were warm, her strokes bold yet soft, fuzzy around the edges. She wanted to capture the essence of autumn, the falling leaves, the russet tones, the gentle breeze. I knew what she wanted, for I walked past her every day, pretending to read a book. I would double back to look at her painting. She had a keen eye, her brush putting the park on canvas. I watched jealously as she drew a couple of college boys laughing and playing frisbee in the sunshine, grudging them the attention they received from her.. the attention I was thirsting for.

Silent Symphony
Her painting had something new each day - the exuberance of youth, the innocence of a baby, the tenderness of its mother, the warmth of the morning sunshine, the flavour of sizzling Sunday afternoon barbecues wafting from the surrounding neighbourhoods, the slight chill of the evening breeze, the overall harmony of the sights, smells and sounds of Autumn. I wasn't sure of the last one - for I was deaf, and mute for all practical purposes.

Which is what drove me completely mad. I could think of volumes to say to her, my fingers forming the words as I thought them in my mind, a soundless symphony filled with tender love and fiery passion, infinite patience and reckless haste, perfect understanding and insatiable curiosity. And yet, how could she fathom the depths of silence.....

And so continued my mute worship. I saw her every day, absorbing every movement she made, every flick of her delicate fingers, her graceful stance, her poise. I would pass by her every day, double back, look at her painting, observe her secretly. She smelt like turpentine and canvas and citrus and roses, a woodsy scent which intoxicated me. I would breathe in deeply whenever I passed her, try and take a part of her with me, within me. She never acknowledged me in those 15 days that she came to the park. And yet, I only loved her ever more with every passing day...

The Last Day
One day, after she had set herself up for the morning, she did not lift her brush. She simply sat on a nearby bench and looked at her painting for over an hour. And then she packed her paints and her brushes and the rag cloths and the turpentine. She emptied the unsullied water back into the fountain pond. She left the easel standing on the grass, slung her satchel over her shoulder and walked away. She took a few steps, and then returned, stooped briefly over the painting and then walked briskly away.

I sat on the bench she had vacated, the rest of the day. I could not comprehend what had happened. I waited for her to return. As morning turned to night, and the moon came out, it suddenly hit me like a punch in the gut, leaving me gasping for breath as it sunk in - She had left, probably never to return. I sat numb and motionless. I had guarded that painting all day, shooing away curious passersby with a rough wave of my hand. The regulars gave me strange looks, wondering where she was, and who I was. I did not feel foolish, only empty, a gaping void in my chest where my heart used to be. Although we had never once made eye contact, I felt as though she had taken my life force with her.

There was nothing more for me to do that day. I carefully removed the painting from the easel, rolled it up, folded the easel, tucked both under my arm, and left for home.

Narrator
The Painting
Back home, Jakob set up the painting on the easel. For the first time all day, he looked at the finished painting. She had captured the scene beautifully. It was as though the park in all its autumn glory, had come alive on canvas. The exquisitely portrayed people seemed to possess characters of their own even in paint.

Jakob's heartbeats quickened when he saw himself in the painting, at the bottom left hand corner. He was seated on his bench, the opened book face down beside him, his legs carelessly crossed, a smile on his face. One hand lay outstretched on the rim of the bench, the other on his lap. He was looking at a mother-and-child pair.

The mother was holding the baby in her arms, and the baby appeared to be crooning with delight. The baby's fingers were curled up and it held its mother's finger in its fist. The mother was pointing out to her baby the ducks in the fountain pond. Jakob followed the mother's hand.

There were three ducks in a V-formation, two of them preening each other, the third swimming away from them. Following the V arrowhead, he saw two girls playing with dolls, their fingers twisting the dolls' hairs into elaborate braids. A breeze blew the girls' hairs astray.

The wind appeared to continue on its way, blowing a trail of dried leaves towards the group of college boys playing frisbee, particularly one boy who had his eyes on the approaching frisbee, legs bent slightly at the knees, poised to jump, hands at the ready, fingers stretched.

Following the boy's gaze above the frisbee, Jakob made out a butterfly. It had a delicate, almost translucent quality about its wings, and it seemed to be carried on the breeze and not flying by itself. It dipped tentatively towards another butterfly flitting among the flowers below. A ray of sunshine fell on this butterfly, filtered through the red leaves of a tree. The white lily on which the butterfly sat was cupped in her hands.

She stooped to smell the lily's scent, but her eyes were fixed on Jakob. Her eyes brimmed with longing and tenderness and, Jakob was almost sure, with love.

And then suddenly, Jakob saw a pattern throughout the painting. Every character in the painting had their fingers spelling in sign language - "I love you". He gasped.. how could it be true? Was he seeing signs where there were none? He sat looking at the painting, unable to accept what he could see, sure that he was seeing what he wanted so desperately to be true. He searched behind the canvas for any clues that might lead him to her. He finally saw the tiny etching on the bottom right hand corner of the painting - "If only I could hear what I wanted you to say"
Unemployment doesn't suit me...
It's like you're not on a diet anymore, but then you discover you don't want to eat that ice cream after all....

Dream Girl de ja vu

Amol stood on the dusty platform of the busstand, trying hard to decipher among the urging shouts of the conductors, the name of his destination. He was sweaty, tired and sleepy and had an 8-hour journey ahead of him. Finally he saw a bus going to the City. He ran towards it as he saw it slowly pulling out of its spot and jumped on to the footboard. Heaving a sigh of relief, he climbed into the bus.

His eyes automatically began scanning the interior for an empty seat. They rested momentarily on a space between a plump middle aged woman at the window and a rake thin old man perched on the aisle seat. Grampa lifted his posterior and added of his own fragrance to the already stuffy bus, and the woman at the window leaned as much out of it as she could without actually exiting the bus. Amol abandoned it without a second thought and his eyes flitted to a corner seat, but rejected it immediately when he saw the other two seats occupied by a father-mother-infant family. He did not want to sleep with the baby bawling in his ear all the time. His eyes moved further towards the back of the bus, and he could scarcely believe he had missed seeing her for all of the 10 seconds since he had boarded the bus....

She sat by herself at the window, her face glowing and fresh inspite of the heat and grime that seemed to pervade the very atmosphere. The rose pink duppata that rested lightly on her head framed her face perfectly, silky strands of hair blowing in gentle wisps across her doe-eyes, that she kept tucking behind her ear with a charming grace. He rushed to occupy the hallowed spot beside her before the other eager boarder standing right behind him could push him out of the way. He stumbled over an overstuffed airbag, jumped over a lumpy sack of potatoes and climbed over two suitcases stacked thoughtfully one on top of the other, all placed strategically in the narrow passage between the two columns of seats on either side of the rickety bus. He came to a staggering stop at the seat where she sat, and enquired politely, "May I sit here".

She looked at him, nodded, and then turned back to the window. He set down his backpack on the seat, located an empty spot in the overhead shelf and shoved his backpack there. He sat down with a flourish beside her, quickly running his fingers through his hair, wishing that his palms were not so clammy and his hair would magically arrange itself into cool-looking spikes. He sat slightly away from her for he did not want to appear like a lout. He also did not look at her directly, preferring instead to face straight ahead and sneakily peek at her through the side of his eye. This gave him a headache and left him partially cross-eyed within 3 minutes, so he abandoned this strategy for some "I-do-this-for-my-posture" stretching and neck exercises, wherein he could get a glimpse of her every 2-3 seconds as he rotated his neck in her direction. She continued to gaze steadfastly out of the window, sparing him nary a glance.

After about 2 minutes of neck rotation Amol was slightly dizzy and discovered he had now developed a crick in his neck and would have to rotate it counter-clockwise for the next 2 minutes to set it right. While he was massaging his neck after this rigorous routine, he took a chance and tipped his head to one side so he could look at her and not disturb the crick at the same time. She was smiling, her lips pulled back inspite of themselves, as she bit down on her lower lip and struggled not to grin. A dimple played up on her cheek, as he almost expected it would.

Amol felt his heart rising up to clog his throat as he realised she was strugging not to laugh at him. So she had noticed him. He was ecstatic. She had seen him and his feeble attempts at concealing his desire to gaze upon her countenance as knights of yore would their fair maidens'. He shook his head to dispel the 'Ye Olde English' cheesy lines that were typing themselves on his mind. He realised he shouldn't have shaken his head when a twinge of shooting pain throttled his neck. He yelped and put a hand up to massage it. At this point, she could control herself no longer and she giggled prettily, a tinkling laugh that made the tiny hairs on the back of his cricked neck stand on their ends. He was thrilled to the very core, and he could hardly believe it when she spoke in silvery tones, "You should probably keep your head still for some time"

Amol grinned sheepishly and shyly massaged his neck. The girl smiled and went back to looking out the window. Amol cleared his throat nervously and said, "How long does it take to reach the City?" "About 5 hours, depending on the traffic". Amol's heart leapt about 5 feet in response. 5 whole hours with her.. he would make the most of them. Like any other young, hot-blooded IITian starved of female companionship, he too would leave no chance to spend time in the company of a beautiful girl, no matter how temporary the tryst might be.

Amol was already convinced she was his dream girl. He replayed her dimple in his mind, took a quick look at her to confirm the same, confirmed it in the smile on her face, then went back to his thoughts. He would start the conversation casually, bring it around somehow to exchanging names and basic biodata type info - where you're from, what you do kind of info, then slip in references to family -brothers, sisters, mom-dad, any husbands (God forbid) lurking in the background. This would put him firmly in place for other conversation openings and carry on from there. He would obviously play up his IIT background - always reliable for an admiring glance, word or gesture. He would modestly brush it off as being nothing, and turn to discuss his internship in Europe, his current job in an MNC. Basically everything that would put him far ahead of the competition when it came to choosing a partner. He would end the journey with her phone number in hand and a promise to stay in touch. She was the one for him....

While he was still contemplating his opening move, the bus jerked to a stop and the girl got up. She waited politely for him to give way. Amol stood up, dumbfounded and heartbroken, and kept standing mutely as he watched her get off the bus without a glance in his direction. He sat down slowly, and rested his head in his hands. He berated himself for not doing anything, for letting her slip away, without even asking her name. Now he would never find her. He had lost the only chance he had of finding his dream girl.

His face was still buried in his hands when he heard a clear voice ask, "May I sit here". A light green duppata fluttered in the breeze from the window. Amol looked up, and smiled.  Dream girl de ja vu.....

The End of the Beginning

Tomorrow is my last day in office... the end of the beginning of my career.. My first job no longer lasts...

Don't know where my new beginnings lie......

Kyun Phir Mile Sur Mera Tumhara???

Mile Sur Mera Tumhara - The golden oldie that kept an entire nation glued in front of their TV sets inspite of its antenna-serviced grainy video footage, bridged gaps between entire generations and generated (still does!) a feel-good national integration message has been hijacked, Bolly-Ass-phyxiated and reduced to a pale and largely out-of-sync mess. If Phir Mile Sur Mera Tumhara was intended to send the same messages of Unity in Diversity and communal harmony that the original masterpiece did so effectively, then it has failed miserably. An Epic Disaster of 2012-esque Proportions is the phrase that springs to mind when one watches this blatant tribute to Woods (NOT the Tiger variety) - Bolly, Molly, Colly, Tolly and any other 'ollys' that I may inadvertently have missed.

The video begins with A.R. Rahman standing on the roof of his house and playing what is labelled a Fingerboard. This instrument bears a striking resemblance to a red carpet, and seems to be a directorial touch highlighting Rahman's frequent traipses down its Oscar counterpart. It is only at the very end of Rahman's piece that the tune starts vaguely resembling Mile Sur Mera Tumhara.

At this point, the limelight shifts to the Big B of Bollywood, lending his characteristic deep throated vocals to the opening lines. Strangely we have some dhik-chik-dhik-chik beats in the background that make Bachchan Saab sound slightly like a rapster.

The scene moves to a white sandy beach with Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy belting out a verse that goes from an aalap to a resounding crescendo - entertaining, but misplaced at the beginning of the video...
Anoushka Shankar (or is this the other Grammy nominated one?? I always get confused between the two) plays the sitar, her nails suitably painted to match the exact colour of the sitar. At least this one delivers a much needed New-Gen-Yuppie-With-Traditional-Indian-Values message.

Next we have our very own Surya from Namma Tamilnaad (also known as Rajnikant-Land to ignorant North Indians) thumping his chest and waving his hands about for all he's worth.

While Shreya,with her melifluous voice, adds sur to the proceedings, the footage rolls over to a needlessly demure Aishwarya who refuses to meet the camera eye-to-eye till the last second, at which point hubby Abhishek joins in with Sonuu Niigaammm (he numerologically changed his name) providing the background pipes. They stroll down hand in hand, presenting a strong family front, putting to rest all rumors of unreported break-ups.

Telugu Superstar Mahesh Babu is seen in the company of a clutch of octogenarians. He seems incapable of not smiling long enough to mouth the lyrics even. He strolls firmly towards the camera, ignoring the expectant grandma on the bottom left hand corner of the screen, and hogs all the screenspace by himself.

We see Pandit Shivkumar Sharma with an overeager-beaver son (?) in front of the Qutub Minar. Aal-ij-still-well at this point, till we suddenly see the J&K ambassador - hold your breath don't - Rohit Bal, reclining on a shikara and buying paalak from the local folk.

The usually loud and over-the-top Punju brigade come up with the most sober piece in this mish-mash, with Gurdass Mann and Juhi Chawla bringing a soothing note to the proceedings.

Ustad Zakir Hussain and his colleagues pump up the tempo with zesty beats and the well-known Waah-Ustad-Waah head banging that made him so lovable and popular. Tabla rocks!

Aamar shoor moder shoor.... and Bhupen Hazarikaji with a trembling timbre..

Shilpa Shetty representing Rajasthan (Royals) makes for a bang-your-head-against-the-wall moment...

Shirtless and Practically Pantless Salman (you can count the rips and holes in his jeans) plays with hearing-impaired children, and takes a snap at a tiny tot in the end...

Ustad Rashid Khan (here again I need confirmation) gives a beautiful rendition of Mile-Sur-Mera-Tumhara, among the few (way too few) high points of this why-did-you-remake

Sivamani beats water, Kavita Krishnamurthy and family sync up on the violin....

Deepika Padukone serenades like a siren, standing on a stone near a waterfall, wearing a micro dress that is totally uncalled-for, Priyanka is given a folksy voice that doesn't suit her...

Some random footage of Orissa beaches and crowded streets... Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and sons on the sarod...

Yesudas + Boat Racing + Elephants = Kerala - Mamootty

Some guy on a bus (pardon my ignorance of obscure Gujju singers)... Maharashtra and Goa pieces follow..

Next we have a skilfull and graceful Kuchipudi (?) performance by Shobana, interspersed with some inane and unimaginative hand waving by Shiamak Davar..

Aamir Khan does a Taare-Zameen-Par-Aate-Kya-Khandala mix that somehow manages to look cute...

Horror of horrors, we have Sonuu Niigaammm who has come out of hibernation from an obscure Himalayan cave and now closely resembles a bright blue bearded bear, singing 5 second long words in what is supposed to be a Gen-Now style of wo-ho-hooooo music... Shahid making a fool of himself... Ranbir looking almost as unkempt as Sonuu.. winding up with K-K-K-King Khan in his arms-wide-open Kal-Ho-Na-Ho pose in front of the Bandra-Worli Sealink...

The final chorus led by none other than K. Jo. without whom no Bollywood extravaganza can be complete..

As we move to the last 60 seconds of this long drawn seemingly hours long B/C/M/T-ollywood tribute that lasts more than 15 minutes from end  to end, a sudden realization dawns upon the bright bulbs who made this that they had somehow managed to sideline anything of actual value to India - sports and soldiers.. and so a hasty-pasty literally last minute hodge-podge with Vijender Singh and Sushil Kumar and Abhinav Bindra in one frame, Baichung running and singing at the same time and thankfully Mary Kom with some well deserved footage, Saina Nehwal in a blink-and-you-miss-it appearance and less than 30 seconds given to our soldiers, with no footage of how they defend our borders in the numbing cold of Kashmir or even the Amar Jawan Jyoti...

Missing - Sachin, Dhoni and the rest of the cricket team, Lata Mangeshkar (who alone would have taken this to the next level), the Indian hockey team (men and women), industrialists and entrepreneurs like Azim Premji, Ratan Tata and the Ambanis, today's young politicos like Rahul Gandhi, Sachin Pilot, Omar Abdullah and others (NOT Sadhu Yadav, Babu Yadav, Hooda shooda and the like).. I could think of tons of other folks who should have been featured but weren't...

This could have been so much better.. and yet....What a wasted opportunity!
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