Spicy Rasam

Not a cooking or food blog! I just share what's cooking in my mind.

To read the part 2, click here

India, 1998

Janani walked towards bakery and stood near the juice shop outside the bakery. She searched for Shobana. She was no where to be found. She looked at her Casio watch. It was 3:00 pm. Janani sighed and sat on the big rock near the juice shop. It was Friday. Shobana and Janani always had cream bun in the bakery near their school every Friday. Where is Shobana? Janani thought. She dug inside her pocket and took the 5 rupees she had saved to buy cream bun. She badly wanted to taste the delicacy, but she wanted to enjoy the sweet bun with her friend. So, she waited.

Janani waited till 3:45 pm, got a cream bun and started to push her cycle home. As she turned towards the 2nd junction, from where she and Shobana usually started to cycle. She had finished her bun and wiped her mouth on her sleeves and realised after a second that she will be bashed for this by her mother. ‘The cream is white, maybe it won’t show,’ she thought. As she got on her cycle, she could feel that one of the tyres were punctured. She got down to check. It was the back tyre. Janani pushed her cycle to nearest repair shop. “Anna! Cycle puncture,” she said. The repairperson walked towards Janani and checker the cycle’s tyres. “Yeah!” he said and started to mend it. Janani walked to the small plastic stool outside the shop and sat down. She absently stared at the Hanuman picture on the wall of the shop, when she heard a “Hi!”. Janani turned to see who it was.

“Hi!” repeated Rishi.

“Hi!” said Janani and turned back.

“I am Rishi!” he said.

Janani turned to look at the pestering boy. “Ok!” she said and turned way.

“Aaa…. My cycle’s chain broke,” he said.

“Mmmmm…hmmm” said Janani with a frustrated voice.

“Hmmm…” said Rishi and turned away. “She does not want to talk to me, Angel!” he said, and Janani turned to look at him to see to who he was talking to. “I know! I know! What can I do?” he continued.

Janani looked at the space he was looking at. She could not see anyone. ‘Who is he talking to?’ she thought. Rishi turned toward Janani, “She says to tell you to be careful when crossing the road. I am sorry! But she’s keeps asking me to tell you this,” said Rishi.

“Who?” asked Janani.

“Aaammmm… I call her Angel. You cannot see her, but she is very nice. Look! Just be careful, OK?” said Rishi and got up to leave. He walked towards his cycle and rode away.

‘Wasn’t his cycle’s chain broke?’ thought Janani.

‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑

Janani waited in the junction to cross the road. Her cycle’s tyre was completely ruined. She had to come with her father to pay and collect her cycle. She was preoccupied. Why did Shobana not show up? How will she go to school tomorrow? Who was that boy? The signal went green and the person beside her started to walk; so did Janani.

‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑

Parvindher stepped on the brake, but his lorry kept moving with the same pace. He frantically pressed more in vain. He looked up and saw an auto parked near the signal. He pressed more. His brakes worked fine just a few minutes back. What happened?

‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑

‘Did he tell me his name?’ thought Janani as she crossed the road. She suddenly remembered that he asked her to be careful while crossing the road. She turned to look at the parked vehicles and saw a lorry coming fast at her in her peripheral. It was coming straight at the parked Autorickshaw wherein a mother and a daughter were seated. She looked at the lorry again. It was moving very fast. Janani, habitually searched for bright eyes. She stopped and looked around. She was nowhere to be found. Janani was scared now. What can she do? She started to move towards the autorickshaw. Rishi caught her hand and pulled her back. Just a few seconds later, the lorry dashed the autorickshaw and their screams were deafening. Janani stood there perplexed, shocked and angry. She turned to Rishi, who looked calm, and asked, “Why? How did you know?”

“This is their fate. Don’t interfere,” he said, let go of her hand and walked away. Janani stood there in shock. “Hey!” she heard bright eyes call. She turned to look at her with anger-filled eyes. Janani crossed the rest of the road and walked fast. She could not stop the over-flowing tears. Bright Eyes follower her in silence.

India, 1986

Parimala cooked as she kept an eye on Janani. Her mother was making idli batter in the huge wet grinder on the kitchen floor. Ambujam looked at the baby who was on her stomach and was taking turns biting all her toys. The baby looked up at Ambujam. Ambujam made funny faces and the baby laughed. “Mom!” called Parimala.

“Yeah!” said Ambujam in between making funny faces.

“She’s just 2-months old. She’s on her stomach, laughs, bites stuff. Are these normal?” asked Parimala.

Ambujam stopped what she did and looked at her daughter. She looked worried. She could understand why. This was not normal. Nothing about Janani was normal. The birth, the baby’s development, her daughter’s recovery. Nothing was normal. She was not going to tell her daughter that. “No dear! Look. Today’s kids are very forward. Maybe it is a generation thing. She is good. All this is normal. Just enjoy her growth,” said Ambujam and did a balloon face as she looked at the baby and got a baby giggle in return. Parimala smiled and sighed. Just then, Janani pushed her palms on the floor and moved. Her mom and Parimala looked at the small human with joyful surprise. “It is going to be hard to explain all this to the doctor, right?” said Parimala, not taking her eyes off the baby. “Hmmm” said Ambujam, “Swaddle Janani, maybe she won’t notice.”

Parimala turned to look at her mother with a are-you-kidding-me look.

 

To read the part 4, click here

Sanskrit to be offered at all levels of school, higher education; Check ...

New Education policy 2020 (NEP 2020) has paved the way to make drastic changes in India’s educational system. These changes will be implemented in a slow and steady phase, giving people enough time to get used to the introductions.

I am going to talk about a few things that loved and did not love in the policies (Did not love, does not mean, hate guys! I just don’t think these will work). The new policy, no doubt, is a breath of fresh air for many people who longed to have a working educational system that cultivates thinking habit and does not foster mindless following. And honestly, there are many things I loved.

However, this is a huge change. Many people who have trained themselves to follow the age-old educational system will have a hard time accepting the new changes. For example, “This will help you in your boards,” is a phrase kids hear from a lot of people around them. I have heard my kid’s teachers, my friends, myself say this phrase (Come on! It is a common card to make the kid study! Of course, I used it!). Many parents concentrate on academics and text-learning, not caring if the child enjoys the subject.

My friend would say, “I am developing reading habit in my daughter. She reads one page every day.” When I asked her why just one page? She promptly said, “One page is a great deal yaar! Slowly she will read two pages, three pages and so on…” My friend has quantified reading. The child hated reading but performed the task so that her mom will get off her back. This broke my heart. Because, reading should be fun. The child should enjoy it. If the child hates it, stop forcing! Find out what the child is interested in, let the child explore, and be there to guide them when they need you. They are not your project; they are mini humans.

Now that I am done with my rant! (Hehe! See how sure I am that my friend in question won’t read this!)

10 NGOs rejuvenating education in India - GiveIndia's Blog

Stuff I loved about NEP (2020):

  • Emphasis on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy, no rigid separation between academic streams, extracurricular, vocational streams in schools ; Vocational Education to start  from Class 6 with Internships

  • Assessment reforms with 360 degree Holistic Progress Card, tracking Student Progress for achieving Learning Outcomes

  • National Research Foundation to be established to foster a strong research culture

This is a welcome change. Now people! Search the meaning of Numeracy. If you have already done it! Well done! (I googled too!! 😊) I love that our government is segregating Literacy and Numeracy. Because they are not the same.

In the current curriculum, students who do all the homework, submit all the projects, do well in exams, have good handwriting (for the love of god! My hand writing has been Calibri for the past 8 years.. it was Time new Roman before!), and are good verbally are good students. If they do not do all these, they are “other” kids (ones who could not care for authority-pleasing). See where I am going with this? The non-“other kids” are literate.

I know of a kid who was extremely bad in studies. When I say studies, I mean science, math, and social studies, but he was an exceptional artist who can draw, paint, sketch and his bag was always full of color pencils and drawing sheets (The kid’s bag got mixed up with my son’s! So, go to know about his talent!). And my own son who loves science and Math. He is not very artsy. He does not like to read. But can research, read, and watch videos on otters’ habitat, Hydrogen atom, and Jupiter’s atmosphere. These kids are put in the “other” kids bucket. Because the school is not equipped to deal with them.

I really hope this new approach will enable children to grow in the right direction.

  • Ensuring Universal Access at all levels of school education NEP 2020 advocates increased use of technology with equity; National Educational Technology Forum to be created

  • NEP 2020 emphasizes setting up of Gender Inclusion Fund, Special Education Zones for disadvantaged regions and groups

This is essential. All children have the right to be educated and to have a fair opportunity. By denying education, we are denying choice, opportunity, growth and inclusion. I hope this change will ensure rural parts of India get technology access and in-turn education (since, both seem interrelated now).

Quotas and benefits in the employment front will change nothing when the foundation, which is education, is lacking. They kids will not feel included (this may seem small, but it affects a young mind) unless they are exposed to information and knowledge from a young age. Without the feeling of being included, they will face psychological pressure. I am sure when the right foundation is given, kids will not even use quotas and the caste column will have an “NA.”

Few mentionable features that support the above statements:

Source: https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1642049

Financial support for students

Efforts will be made to incentivize the merit of students belonging to SC, ST, OBC, and other SEDGs. The National Scholarship Portal will be expanded to support, foster, and track the progress of students receiving scholarships. Private HEIs will be encouraged to offer larger numbers of free ships and scholarships to their students.

Open and Distance Learning

This will be expanded to play a significant role in increasing GER. Measures such as online courses and digital repositories, funding for research, improved student services, credit-based recognition of MOOCs, etc., will be taken to ensure it is at par with the highest quality in-class programmes.

Online Education and Digital Education:

A comprehensive set of recommendations for promoting online education consequent to the recent rise in epidemics and pandemics in order to ensure preparedness with alternative modes of quality education whenever and wherever traditional and in-person modes of education are not possible, has been covered. A dedicated unit for the purpose of orchestrating the building of digital infrastructure, digital content and capacity building will be created in the MHRD to look after the e-education needs of both school and higher education.

Technology in education

An autonomous body, the National Educational Technology Forum (NETF), will be created to provide a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology to enhance learning, assessment, planning, administration. Appropriate integration of technology into all levels of education will be done to improve classroom processes, support teacher professional development, enhance educational access for disadvantaged groups and streamline educational planning, administration and management

  • Robust Teacher Recruitment and Career Path

This is my favorite (I am not kidding! I literally had a smile ear-to-ear when I read this. My family kept peeking to check what mom(ster) is reading). High time! I would say. Teachers are the architects of a country. They build the next generation. And how much do we pay them? How are they selected? Majority of the workforce in teaching is women. Why? I am going to be honest here. A woman’s income is considered a secondary income in most households. Their career, therefore, is secondary. Majority workforce are people who earn the secondary income in their families? That’s not right. (I am not demeaning women people! Just stating facts. Women have children. We have nature-given responsibilities.)

Where are people who love to teach and are exceptionally good in their related field? Where did they all go? They are all in jobs that pay more. Increase the quality of a teacher’s career path and we lay the foundation of a strong country. After all, it is Matha, Pitha, Guru, Dheivam. A teacher is more than a god. They can make a child’s future.

Few mentionable features that support the above statements:

Source: https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1642049

Teacher Education

A new and comprehensive National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education, NCFTE 2021, will be formulated by the NCTE in consultation with NCERT. By 2030, the minimum degree qualification for teaching will be a 4-year integrated B.Ed. degree. Stringent action will be taken against substandard stand-alone Teacher Education Institutions (TEIs).

  • Increase GER to 50 % by 2035

NEP 2020 aims to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education including vocational education from 26.3% (2018) to 50% by 2035. 3.5 Crore new seats will be added to Higher education institutions.

This was music to my ears. GER is a component that direly needed the government’s attention. Because if this is low, then the quotas that they so “generously” allocate in graduations courses remain unfulfilled and are used by rich caste-holders who just use it to reduce spending. This is what I meant by opportunity.

 

Stuff I did not love so much about NEP (2020):

  • Teaching upto at least Grade 5 to be in mother tongue/ regional language

How are they going to implement this when the internal migration is all-time high in India? Indian states have varying mother tongues. A huge population lives away from their mother-state. We speak Tamil at home, and Hindi and Marathi away form home. A friend of mine speaks Telugu at home and Malayalam away from home. Another friend speaks Marathi at home and Hindi away form home. And another friend is a Gujarati, married to a Punjabi, who lives in Chennai.

Don’t even get me started on the blue-collar workforce who are migrating to big cities for work. Their mother tongue is not the same as the local language. Standardizing education with respect to a person’s mother tongue is a way of saying stay at your own place. Do not leave. This will create new problems.

I understand that a kid’s foundation is strong in mother tongue. This can be implemented in Pre-school level, with options in talking-language for the kids, by recruiting teachers with multi-lingual talent.

  • No talk about free education

Education, till high school, should be freely available. That’s it!

I hope all this is implemented and works. I hope the middlemen do not hamper this wonderful policy’s implementation. I hope the government looks more into the policy and include and exclude few details by keeping an open mind. Let’s say, a growing policy? A dynamic one. To suit the information age!

To read the part 1, click here

India, 1996

Janani walked fast towards the milk depot. Her grandmother was waiting in the queue. She had to hurry and give her the milk container and tokens. They had recently moved to this suburb. It was still developing and mostly green and wild. Janani had seen snakes a few times when she played with her friends. She was used to small animals like mongoose, wild pigs and deer. Janani will be 10 years in a few months; her mom had promised to buy cake. She smiled as she thought of that.

‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑

Shekkar walked with small steps behind Janani. He smiled vilely as he thought how easy this was going to be. Shekkar had recently moved in with his parents. He worked in the local post office and loved young women; a name he used for girl children. His plan was clear in his mind. Surprise her, grab her and run. Should be easy. She was quite small. As he thought of his plan, he moved fast.

“Hey!” he heard a girl call. He turned to see who it was. There was no one. When he turned to look at Janani, she was running–hopping and moving further away. “Shit!” he swore and walked fast. “Hey! Shekkar!” he heard the voice again. The voice was sweet and delicious to his corrupt mind. He turned to see who it was. A small girl was standing in front of him. She wore a blue frock. She smiled at him. She had a brown complexion, black eyes and uneven teeth. She had two badly made plaits. Sunlight reflected off her shiny earrings. She wore a small bindi and a streak of vibudhi in her forehead. Her hair was too straight.

“Hey…….!!” Cooed Shekkar, “Hey baby! How do you know my name?” his was not afraid of the little girl, and he went to crouch in front of her. Her eyes were shining. They were too bright. He felt like she was delving into his soul. He swallowed. He was a little scared now. He could not look away. He felt like she was washing his mind and soul. He was in excruciating pain but could not shout or move. The pain suddenly stopped. She placed a hand on his shoulders and said, “Go now!”

There was just one destination in Shekkar’s mind. He felt like he would die if he did not speak the truth to the police. So! he walked! Walked fast towards the police station.

‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑

“Paati!” yelled Janani fondly. Her grandmother turned to look at Janani with a bright smile. “You came straight to the milk depot, right? Did not stop to play with some animal?” asked her grandmother. “No Granny! Just one bad animal… but ‘bright eyes’ took care of him,” said Janani as she played with a loose thread on her sleeve. Her grandmother sighed and caressed Janani’s head. Janani had been seeing things that others do not from a young age. She was worried about her. She turned to look at the milk counter. Mrs. Narendhran was inserting the milk token in the slot. The token was for ½ liter. Milk poured into the container Mrs. Narandhran had placed. She took container and left.

As they moved from 10th in line to 3rd in line, “Ambujam Maami…. Getting milk?” asked Mr. Baasi hoping to start a conversation. Ambujam, Janani’s grandmother, smiled and nodded. Baasi opened a milk sweet wrapped in butter paper and talked as he split it into two, “Keep Janu safe,” he said pointing to Janani, “Just heard from the sub-inspector that a bad guy surrendered in the police station. The bastard had been targeting children,” he said and gave half the sweet to Janani. Janani smiled and got the sweet from him.

“OK then! See you around,” he said to Ambujam and walked away. Ambujam turned to Janani who was intently eating the sweet. “Did ‘bright eyes’ do this?” she asked. Janani nodded. “Next time you see bright eyes, tell me. I want to talk to her,” said Ambujam.

Janani looked surprised. “Paati! She does not show up when you are there. I am safe with you,” said Janani and continued to eat the sweet. “Right!” chuckled Ambujam.

India, 1986

“What are you going to name the child?” asked the pandit in the temple. “Janani,” replied Ashokan with glee. He held the child carefully as he covered her up more, since she kicked the sheets off.

The pandit recited few hymns and placed vibudhi on Janani’s forehead. Ashokan gave the child to Parimala and thanked the pandit.

As they were leaving the temple, “Wait!” said the pandit and ran towards them. “Wait! Here..” he handed a bowl of Sakkara Pongal. “Today is a special day. We had performed special pooja and this is the neivedhyam,” he said, “Unfortunately, due to the rain, not many devotees turned up. Please take this,” said the pandit.

Ashokan smiled and took the bowl form him. “Go safely!” said the pandit and left.

‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑

“Ashok! Do you want Sakkara Pongal?” asked Parimala when they got home and settled down. Janani was an active child for a newborn. She kicked nonstop and always turned to her side. Parimala was worried and placed Janani on a small bed near the kitchen to keep an eye on her.

“Yes please!” said Ashokan as he played with Janani. “Hey! She is looking right at me. Is that normal?” asked Ashokan in-between making funny faces.

“Don’t know!” said Parimala, “I should ask amma.”

“See! She is following me!” said Ashokan and jumped. The baby’s eyes were following his actions. “Here!” said Parimala and handed a bowl of Sakkara Pongal to Ashokan. As they ate the sweet dish, they both felt sleepy. Soon, after few bites, both the parents fell asleep beside the baby.

“Wa…. Na.. wa….” Janani made sounds and tried to lift her hips up. A small girl in blue frock walked towards the baby and sat near her. She started to played with the baby’s chubby cheeks. “You are such a cutie!” said the girl. She lay down beside the baby. The baby looked at the girl and smiled. “You understand me! Don’t you?” asked the girl. “Ca… tha….. ca…” said the baby.

“I know you can!” said the girl and rested her head beside the baby’s thin pillow. “I am here to welcome you!” said the girl and sighed happily. The girl stood up and went to the kitchen. She looked at the bowl with Sakkara Pongal. A spoon by itself scooped the sweet dish and started to feed the girl. “Your neivedhyam is delicious,” said the girl as she looked at the baby who was trying to move her legs and turn her head in an angle to look at the girl. The girl chuckled and went to lift the baby up. After half hour, the girl placed the baby in her small bed and left.

To read the part 3, click here

 

India, 1986

Aashi walked fast towards the autorickshaw stand to escape the rain. “Baba Sahib hospital,” she said as she bent over to see the driver’s face.

“80 rs.” he said and continued to drink his chai.

“80? I know it is raining, but come on.. 80? I’ll give 50,” she negotiated.

“80! The roads are filled with water. I am risking my life by agreeing to this savari,” he negotiated.

“Fine!” she said and tried to close her umbrella as she sat inside the autorickshaw, but in vain. She was soaking wet. She sighed. Her son was not feeling well. She should have stayed home, but for some reason she had wanted to go to work today.

“Aashi! Are you mad?” her husband had asked, “The hospital is in a low-lying area. It is risky. Call the head nurse and ask for leave,” he’d instructed but on deaf ears. Aashi was already readying her handbag. “Niren! I have to go!” she said as he searched for the umbrella.

“Why? Why do you.. have! to go?” asked Niren with barely contained frustration.

“Because I have to!” replied Aashi with brimming eyes, “I do not know why! I have to,” she said as she walked out the house.

As she sat in the autorickshaw she absently looked at the busy, wet streets of Bandra, Mumbai, she thought about her dream last night. She is not a religious person. She was not a devout Hindu. Why had she got that dream?.

 

‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑

India, 1993

Rishi stood near the west gate of his school with fearful eyes. He was a timid boy with a simple mind. He was afraid to go inside the school. The last bell will sound in few minutes. He closed his eyes to will the fear away, but all he got were flashbacks.

‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑

“Oh my god! This loser has so much of craft items in his bag,” said Rajesh, the math teacher’s boy.

“Empty his bag, man,” said Dhananjay with a cruel smile. Rajesh nodded and looked at Rishi who was sitting clutching his knees in the corner of the old PT room. Rajesh did not want to do this, but he was afraid Dhananjay will target him if he does not do it. He emptied the bag, and a ton of craft items from colours to glitter all fell out.

Dhananjay laughed cruelly and came to squat near the bag. “What do we have here?” He took a paper parrot in his hand and crushed it as he looked at Rishi. “You! useless freak! Why can’t you just be a boy. Why do you have to behave like a girl?  Dhannanjay went near Rishi and started to kick him. Rajesh watched helplessly.

Rishi looked at Rajesh silently, as he was kicked around, with pleading eyes. Rajesh closed his eyes and closed his fist. ‘Please save Rishi, God,” he prayed. Rishi understood that Rajesh was afraid to help him. He closed his eyes and prayed, ‘Please save me, God!’

‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑

Rishi opened his tearful eyes. He held the gate tighter. He saw a broken razor blade on the sand. He took it in his hands. His mind wandered and thought of scenarios that will take him away from this situation.

“What are you doing?” he heard a girl say.

“Huh?” asked Rishi as he tried to look at her through the tears.

“Come on! The bell is going to ring! Come on!” she said as she grabbed his wrist and pulled him towards the school. He dropped the blade in fear of hurting the girl and followed her limply.

“Which class?” she asked.

“5 B” he replied in a low voice. She turned and smiled at him. She had a brown complexion, black eyes and uneven teeth. She had two badly made plaits. Sunlight reflected off her shiny earrings. She wore a small bindi and a streak of vibudhi in her forehead. Her hair was too straight. The ones that escaped the badly made plaits stood like needles on her forehead. Her eyes were too lively. They were like two moons but warm like he sun. Rishi inadvertently smiled. “You go in!” she said and waited for him to go in. Rishi, for some reason, felt safe and… strong. He walked inside his class. His math teacher was teaching Probability; she was also Rajesh’s mom. He turned to look at Dhananjay. He was smiling cruelly. “Why are you late, Rishi?” his teacher asked with a stern voice.

He turned to look at the girl. She smiled and gestured, ‘Go on!’ “Go to your seat,” his teacher said and walked towards the black board. Rishi turned to look at Dhananjay. Something changed in Rishi’s mind. He turned to look at the girl again. As he looked at her, he said aloud, “Ma’am Dhananjay bullies me.” For some reason, his teacher heard this loud and clear, amidst the chattering of young voices.

“What?” she asked, as she stopped writing on the board. Rajesh stood up from his place and said, “Mom! Rishi is telling the truth……” he fiddled with the eraser for a second, “I was part of it too……” Tears rolled down Rajesh’s cheeks. Months of torturing Rishi was eating away his soul. Guilt was killing him. “I was afraid of Dhananjay………….” He looked at Dhananjay who looked scared. Rajesh dropped the eraser. ‘No more’ he thought. He had wanted to be cool. He wanted to be part of the group. He wanted to belong. He turned to look at Rishi, who was smiling. Rajesh smiled too. “I was afraid to tell you, mom,.” he finished with a teary voice.

“I was afraid to come to school. I was afraid to live. That is why I am late, ma’am,” said Rishi.

The math teacher stood there dumb felled for some time. She looked past Rishi at the girl outside the class door. The girl had a glow surrounding her. The teacher squinted to look at her. She smiled and walked away.

“Dhananjay!” she yelled, and the boy stood up with scared eyes. “Shall we go to the principal’s office, Rishi?” she asked, and Rishi smiled brightly. “Yes, Ma’am,” he replied.

India, 1986

Aashi walked towards the hospital building with wide steps. The autorickshaw had stopped in the beginning of the street. There was water logging on the roads. The gate to the hospital was wide open. A Naga Linga (Cannon ball) tree stood tall neat the gate. As Aashi walked past the tree, the flowers’ fragrance reached her nose. The fragrance combined with the rain was divine smell.

She stopped in her track and looked at the tree. It had flowers; during the monsoons. Her eyes went wide with shock. Were there flowers yesterday? She thought. “Nurse Aashi!” she heard Deepika yell. Aashi placed a reminder on that thought and walked towards Deepika.

“Aashi! Com quick!” she said as she ran/walked towards Operating rooms. Deepika gestured Aashi towards the Prep room and went into operating room 3. Aashi went in the prep room and startled as she heard a cry of a woman in labour. Aashi had been a gynaecology nurse for 6 years. She was witful and logical. Her trained ears told her this woman will deliver in the next 5 mins. Aashi walked her hands and walked into the operating room. Deepika and Manjula were trying their best to keep the woman and her child alive. They were both newbies who were scared out of their wits. Manjula was crying and holding the woman’s hand. “Where is the doctor?” Aashi asked.

“He is stuck in traffic, I think. He had left 2 hours ago,” said Deepika. She was checking the crowning and doing her best to keep the woman reassured. Aashi took her place and checked the crowning. She moved and checked the baby’s position. The baby was ready. Aashi took the file from Manjula and checked some details. “Parimala!” she called and got the woman’s attention. “Push! The baby is ready. Push every time you get a contraction,” said Aashi.

Parimala nodded and followed. Aashi kept giving instructions and Parimala followed. Deepika and Mnjula readied the baby carrier and sterilised the scissors. Deepika looked on as Aashi expertly handled the situation. But then, Aashi did not know what Deepika knew. Parimala was scheduled for a caesarean next week. She was 41 years old. Parimala was the wife of an TV mechanic. Her pregnancy was a miracle. The couple had given up on trying. Today morning, Deepika had received a call from Parimala’s husband that they are on their way to the hospital. Deepika had called the doctor and he was shocked. He was afraid Parimala will not be able to handle it, considering her age.

“PUSH!” screamed Aashi and pulled Deepika out of her retrospection. Deepika watched as Parimala pushed the baby out. Manjula helped Aashi cut the umbilical chord. Aashi placed the baby on the baby carrier and Manjula took the baby for a wash. “Thank you!” said Parimala with teary eyes as she looked at Aashi. Aashi smiled and nodded. She checked Parimala and waited for the placenta to fall. “Relax!” she told Parimala and walked out the operating room. She leaned on the wall and looked at the naga linga tree. She remembered her dream. She closed her eyes and thought of the baby. Was what she saw real? Was she just remembering her dream and daydreaming? Maybe she is just tired. The baby looked in her eyes. It smiled and started to cry.

Definitely a daydream. Decided Aashi. Newborn babies do not look at a person’s eyes. Aashi walked to the room where Deepika was cleaning the baby and wrapping it in a clean towel. She was smiling at the baby as Aashi walked in.

“She’s beautiful!” said Deepika with teary eyes.

“You did good Deepu!” said Aashi, touching her shoulder.

Deepika looked at Aashi and said, “You saved us all today, Sister. You saved us all.” Aashi looked at the baby in Deepika’s hand. “Want to take her to her mother? I will clean up,” asked Deepika.

Aashi smiled and got the baby from her hand. As she walked to the room, she stopped and looked t the Naga linga tree. All the branches were turned towards her and the tree was on full bloom. She turned to look at the baby. It looked like she had 5 hands on each side. Aashi blinked and looked again. The baby turned in her hand. There were 2 hands. Aashi sighed and kept walking towards the baby’s mother. She hugged the baby to her bosom. She felt herself warming up.

To read part 2, click here.

Sharon swiped her ID card to enter into the office. The doors remained closed. She tried again. They still remained closed. Sharon sighed and tried again; they still remained closed. She heard the similar “access denied” voice message from her vicinity. She turned towards the direction of the voice message. There was another guy who was trying to gain access. He got the same message. The guy looked at Sharon looking at him and walked over. Sharon deduced that he wanted to try it in the machine she was swiping. He did. The same voice over repeated. “Access denied”. “I think the machines are broken!” he declared. Sharon nodded. Another employee entered, swiped his ID card, and got access. Sharon and the guy looked at each other, puzzled. Both waited in the reception for the IT personnel to fix the issue.

‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑

Sharon had been waiting for the lifts for 15 mins now. Somehow, the lift that was much farther always opened and she could never get in. She sighed and started to look at her phone. She heard someone walk towards the lobby and turned towards the footsteps. It was the same guy who could not swipe his ID card. She had found out that his name was Preetham. They nodded at each other. Just then, the lift near Sharon opened. They both entered. Lift doors closed. Just when it reached above 3rd floor, it suddenly stopped with a jerk. Preetham screamed. Sharon glared at him. They were in there for a whole 5 mins now. Preetham seemed scared. Sharon sighed and asked, “Badam?”

“Huh?” asked Preetham.

“You want some Badam?” asked Sharon again.

“Ahmmm… what if I want water after I eat it?” asked Preetham. Sharon showed him her fully filled water bottle. Preetham got the badam box from her and took a few.

“I also have idli for breakfast. I am going to eat. You want some?” asked Sharon. Preetham nodded. They both shared idli and chutney. Preetham saw that Sharon was wearing a dangling metal earrings. It moved every time she moved. The sight was beautiful. Preetham slowly calmed down. He even wished they could spend more time in the lift.

‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑

Preetham was trying to start his car for the 5th time. It was just not starting. He turned the engine off and got out of the car. He called his mechanic and stated the situation. Then, he proceeded to take his bag and walk out of the parking lot. He saw a woman in a scooter coming his way. He stopped to let the scooter pass. The scooter stopped beside him and The woman lifted the helmet. “Hi!” Sharon said.

“Hi!” replied Preetham, pleasantly surprised.

“Going home?” she asked.

“Yes!” he replied.

“Sit! I’ll drop you till the main gate,” she said.

“No problem! I’ll walk,” said Preetham.

“Where do you stay?” she asked.

“Mauli Marg,” replied Preetham.

“Well! I am going to my Aunt’s place. I go through Mauli Marg. Come on, I’ll drop you,” said Sharon.

Preetham thought for a second and decided to go with Sharon.

‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑

“I cannot believe you did not get your Visa man,” said Preetham’s friend.

Preetham sighed, smiled and looked at his friend. “It is OK man! I was not very keen anyway,” said Preetham as he typed on his computer.

“How can you be so casual. People would kill for onsite opportunities. You almost had it man. Look! It is OK to feel sad,” said his friend.

Preetham smiled. Weirdly, he was not feeling sad. He was confused as to why he was not feeling sad too. It felt right, somehow.

“Anyway! The new BA is joining today. You will have to give her some KT on the application,” said his friend.

“OK! When will she be coming to this office?” asked Preetham.

“She joined 2 days back. Should be coming today. Anyway, verify with the HR,” said his friend.

‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑

“Sharon! It has just been one week since your divorce. Do you have to get back to work immediately?” asked her mother worriedly.

“Mom! Life does not stop after divorce. I have to eat, live. I need money. I have to work. So please stop worrying,” said Sharon as she packed her things in her bag.

“OK dear! Just… just be happy,” said her mother in a teary voice.

“All set Sharon?” asked the HR as she came to stand near the desk. Sharon nodded. “Mom! I have to go! I’ll call you later?” she asked on the phone.

“OK! Bye sweetie!” said her mother and cut the call.

“I have booked a cab for you to go the head office. You have to meet Preetham. He is the project Manager. He’ll fill you in on your responsibilities,” said the HR.

“OK! Thanks! Neeta,” said Sharon and left to board the cab.

‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑

Preetham filled his coffee cup and took a cookie along with him to the desk. There was no one in the cubicle. Strange, he thought. As he kept the coffee down, “I thought the name Preetham sounded familiar!” he heard someone say and looked up.

It was Sharon. She smiled brightly at him and he forgot about the coffee, cookie and himself.

 

‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑

“What are you up to now?” asked God 1 to God 2. God 2 immediately hid the board and pretended to meditate.

“For the love of all gods, are you messing up people’s lives again?” asked God 2.

“Hey! humans are dumb in matters of relationships. They need divine intervention,” said God 1.

“More like a bored God’s time pass,” said God 2 and sat near God 1, “Anyway! Show me! Are they falling in love?” asked God 2.

God 1 smiled and took the board out, which showed Preetham and Sharon laughing and having a conversation.

%d bloggers like this: