Thursday, February 21, 2008

A missed happy memory

Appu Ghar was closing down forever. The News channels across the board were flashing headlines like – Bye bye Appu!, The final ride, Children bid farewell to Appu.

Appu Ghar was as old as Pallavi was. She felt she had a connection with Appu Ghar that she had never known before. Apart from their common birthdays there was nothing common to both she thought. She had no special memories of Appu Ghar.

She just remembered the last time, some 14 years ago, she had been to Appu Ghar with her father, aunt (father’s sister), cousin and grandfather. She remembers she had felt lonely at the happiest place for kids of Delhi without her mother accompanying her. Though a child herself, being the eldest of the children of the family she had by then learnt the tact of sensing when her elders used the children to fight their battles and justify their complexes. The trip to Appu Ghar that she had anticipated as a fun filled day with her father and cousin turned out to be a competition. She was forced to go on high rides that made her nervous and nauseous. The scared look on her face would pop-up despite her trying her level best to mask it with nervous laughter. That scared look did not garner sympathy for her in her elders’ hearts. Her father read it as a deed of cruel defiance on part of his daughter to belittle him in front of his father and sister. Her younger cousin brother sought the opportunity to bask in the exhilaration that his gender granted him fearlessness as a birthright. The grandfather and aunt had never been close to actually care about or even notice what little Pallavi felt.

Since that last visit, Pallavi had always avoided going to Appu Ghar. “The rides are not my thing”, she told her friends. “Its summers for Christ Sake!”; “It’s too cold to enjoy ice-creams in this season”; “Just the idea of rain dance is grotesque”. These were some of the other excuses that helped her in refusing to go to Appu Ghar, the place that everyone her age was remembering on the various news channels. 24 years after its opening, Appu Ghar was closing to make way for the Supreme Court parking and the Metro. Though Appu Ghar did not spell any happy memories Pallavi felt a stab of pain every time she chanced to see a TV news story on the sad departure of Appu.

It was one of the places where she had wanted to go to redeem her self and create a happy memory. She had badly wanted to be a part of the history of happy times that many happy children had had visiting Appu Ghar with family, hoards of cousins and crowd of friends. She was angry with the Supreme Court for snatching away the opportunity from her. But like many others who felt connected to Appu Ghar, Pallavi bid farewell to the happy orange elephant.

P.S: My first attempt at fiction. Please feel free to be critical :-)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

*Conditions apply

Life is beautiful!*

*Conditions apply.

The SMS that had me splitting my ends with laughter suddenly became profound when I read it when my mood was a little off. The mind that is a dangerous master and a wonderful slave got to work and began to enumerate the conditions to make life beautiful.

A smiling face
God’s grace
Family’s support
Friends to court
Tears of joy
Freedom to not be coy
To keep warm enough clothes
Have a circle of people I chose
Smell of the wet ground
50 rupees unexpectedly found
A happy phone call
At India Gate playing ball
Flowers in spring
Tea cups going ting
Baby’s fragrance
Jumping the fence
On the radio my favorite song
At 8, the morning factory gong
Walking in the rain
Sometimes being a plain Jane
Shah Rukh Khan
Filmy Khandaan
Pajama parties at night
A loud street fight
Running to catch the bus
Creating a lot of fuss
Cleaning sprees
The lush green trees
Salty tears
Combating fears
Power to make a point
CCD, the coffee joint!

I just realized I can check all the conditions to make my life beautiful.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Two good men for every bad one

A train journey is so much like life in fast forward mode. My first trip of the year has lead to my turning into a theorist. The postulates of my theory are – “The assortment of people you can meet while boarding a train is directly proportional to the people you will encounter in a lifetime.” “There are two good men for every bad one.”

As I boarded the Gondwana Express from Jabalpur on 2nd February 2008 I was hoping for a good journey back home to my family n friends in Delhi. I was also trying to match real life to reel life. I wanted a ‘Jab we met’ story to happen. What did really happen was something that I had never fathomed. It was like death… it happens to other people not me.

For starters, I did not get my preferred side lower berth. Instead I got an upper berth in the coach. The gentleman just opposite to my seat introduced himself as Colonel Sandeep Jaitley. His rank led to me to change my opinion of his weird hand shake that had sent my woman’s instinct ringing a sounding alarm. He started the conversation in good enough English and within five minutes he decided to progress to “tu tadaka” (very informal use of Hindi language). As my female instinct again warned me I just reproached at it saying he is just an over friendly and over zealous kind of a man.

There were 2 other men occupying the same coach. They were nice and polite. Moreover, they were railway officials one of whom I later realized about to meet my mother for some official work in two days time. The four of us were discussing things that are mandatory topics in any train journey – weather, politics, tea and the condition of the country/railway/business etc. in retrospect though I think I had seen the two men and the other passengers occupying the side berth look at the Colonel of the Indian Army with suspicion.

While talking he hit me with his foot under the small table that adorns the 2nd AC bogies of the Indian trains. Again giving him the benefit of doubt (foolishly enough) I just retreated my feet back. One of the reasons why I did not scream at that point in time was also because I was traveling alone and was not sure whether anyone would help. When the man suggested that I wake-up chatting with him till 11:30 pm in the night that was IT. I excused myself and went straight to my berth. Covered my head with the blanket and pretended to sleep. And before I knew it I was sound asleep.

To my utter horror the man tugged at my blanket. I jerked and looked up to see a complete drunk Colonel Sandeep Jaitley. I shouted, “Please don’t do that again.”
Rolled back to the other side and slept again hoping that the shout was enough of a scare to the drunkard. As if flouting the rules by consuming alcohol in the train was not enough that sleaze of a man had the nerves to get down his berth and then move his palm on my thighs as I was sleeping.

Imagine my horror as I jumped down the berth screaming and shouting, tears running down my cheeks involuntarily. I was hysterical. And never have I been more proud of having a loud voice and an even louder personality. Everyone around the coach gathered. They shouted at the drunkard. Some aunties took me to the next coach. Seats were immediately exchanged. All I kept repeating was, “if an army Colonel behaves like this what are we to expect from the civilians?” The two uncles from railways took me under their wings. Suddenly I had strangers in an unknown place taking care of me in a way that perhaps only my family could. I was reassured again and again. Was given hot tea and then before realizing it engaged in a conversation that was engrossing and riveting. Within 2 hours I had listened to views on politics, religion, medicine and career. I had actively participated in the discussion too after a point.

Dinner was a party. We all shared food, jokes and hearty laughs. And in the meantime, Deepak Gupta uncle and M.K. Gupta uncle, Dr. Shukla aunty and Abhishek (M.K. Gupta uncle’s son) were constantly looking over me and taking care of anything and everything I needed. When it was time to switch off the lights on that awful evening I had turned into a theorist.

“The assortment of people you can meet while boarding a train is directly proportional to the people you will encounter in a lifetime.”

For every bad Colonel Sandeep Jaitley there are Deepak Gupta and M.K. Gupta. Life is not all bad and just like on the Gondwana Express running between Jabalpur and Hazarat Nizammudin on 2nd-3rd February 2008 there are two good men for every bad one in life as well.