Dec 14, 2009

In which we shop till we drop at the bangkok airport and almost miss the flight

I went to Tokyo in November. I haven’t posted about this trip because frankly it just went by in a daze. It was a whirlwind of a trip where I worked like a maniac and came back totally exhausted. When I was not working I was taking my two ‘visiting- Japan-for the –first –time colleagues’ sightseeing. One of the disadvantages of knowing a city intimately is that you are expected to take first time visitors around. Not that I mind that but these two guys were a little bit too enthusiastic for my liking. So enthusiastic that they didn’t mind sightseeing at night after a hard days toil even when it was bitterly cold and raining. Tokyo is one city I love but walking the streets of Tokyo in freezing rain with two camera happy guys does not make a very cheerful me. They were so camera happy and so narcissistic that they wanted their snap clicked every damn second. Since I was not too keen on posing for photographs I was assigned the task of clicking them. So I stood there trembling with hands turning almost blue with cold as they preened themselves before posing in front of whatever they chose to be photographed with. Some of the interesting places they posed at besides posing in front of every temple, monument and high rise in Tokyo were:

  • At the office reception area - at 8.55 in the morning when a whole lot of people were rushing in to punch in their cards before 9 a.m. People had to dodge past them as they posed right in the middle of the rather narrow reception area. Finally the guard told them politely to move off.
  • In the conference room – They tried a variety of poses here such as sitting in the conference room chair,next to the white board pretending to give a presentation,next to the huge glass windows as the view outside is quite spectacular(you can see Tokyo bay and all). All this while the next team that was to occupy the conference room stood outside holding on to their laptops and notebooks and quietly cursing under their breaths.
  • Next to the cycles in the cycle stand at Tokyo Station- hey may be they like cycles!
  • Next to an old lady selling fish-much to her irritation as they were just holding up customers.
  • On top of the directions pole while trying to balance on its railing with one foot. (Please don’t even ask why)
  • At every restaurant they asked the waitresses to take photographs of every single thing that they ate, re taking shots till they were satisfied while we sat there holding our chopsticks and trying to smile as the food got progressively cold.

Any how one good thing that came out of this trip was that I got to drink star bucks coffee by the gallon and eat a lot of my favorite Japanese food. I also met a dear friend after almost a year although I could only spend a few hours with her.These things things compensated for a lot of other discomforts. :-)
But I digress, what I really want to talk about is the return journey. While returning,we had a stop over at Bangkok for four hours.This is where I said a not too sorrowful goodbye to my colleagues who were headed towards Mumbai and devoted myself to some serious shopping.
Now, I am not a compulsive shopper and shopping does not feature under my favorite activities but I felt I needed a treat after enduring a lot of work related things and people in Tokyo.My first stop was at the perfumes area. I love perfumes and I walked about as if in a trance my nose quivering in anticipation of sniffing all sort of exotic fragrances. Buy only 1 or 2 perfumes I strictly told myself, because I have many at home that are still unused or unfinished. But I was like a women possessed and ended up buying 3 – Chanel, Estée Lauder and Christian Dior. Then I took myself to Boots body products and bought half the shop much to the delight of the salespeople.The sales lady actually asked me which airlines I was boarding as she was worried if I would be allowed to carry so much liquid stuff inside. Next stop was at a shop selling Thai herbal products and here I went totally berserk.I am a sucker for creams and lotions and didn’t know what to leave and what to buy. And everything seemed so so cheap and reasonable as I was converting from Japanese Yen to Baht.I bought enough stuff to last me two lifetimes. I was feeling very smug and satisfied till I came home and converted from baht to rupees. Thing didn’t look so rosy then ! Anyhow after spending a few happy hours scouring through the shops I decided to end my duty free adventure by buying chocolates. I was busy filling the shopping cart with celebrations and after eights when I happened to glance at my watch. It was 7.10 p.m.The boarding time of my flight was 6.45 p.m.Immediately I went into panic mode and started fluttering about like a chicken with its head cut off. Thankfully I knew where the boarding gate was but it was about 10 minutes away from where I was so I made a mad dash towards it leaving everyone in the vicinity to stare behind me with their mouths agape. The mad dash was in no way easy as I was weighted down by huge shopping bags. I had to go down at least 3 escalators and I think if there is ever a contest of running down escalators carrying a lot of baggage in hand I would win it hands down. I reached the gate and as I stood their panting I realized that there was no one is sight. I mean not a single soul. I was filled with panic at the thought that the flight had already left when I saw a notice saying that my flight was now shifted to gate C1 which was actually on the floor I was originally on. So everyone at the Bangkok airport was once again treated to the riveting sight of a woman laden with shopping bags tearing across floors as if a hound of dogs were after her. Another mad dash and sprint over the escalators and running cross entire floors I reached gate C1 and almost collapsed at the feet of the Thai airways staff. Needless to say I was the last passenger to get in. In retrospection I think all the panic was really uncalled for as obviously they would have announced my name and looked around for me at the departure area had I not reached on time. But all in all the people at the Bangkok airport got a free bit of entertainment. The sight me running crazily across the airport with hair and bags flying in all directions is something they will not forget in a hurry !

Dec 2, 2009

Is it better to go along with the flow?

There is a Childrens day festival in Japan called Koi-Nobori.Koi, as the carp fish is called in Japanese is supposed to be so powerful that its known to swim its way upstream against the current. To the Japanese it is a symbol of determination and perseverance. On Koi-nobori, they hang carp shaped wind streamers on their roofs hoping that their children will grow up to be as strong and courageous as the carp.
Swimming against the current is something we do so often in our lives. Faced with unfavorable circumstances, we try to fight them, determined to change things or to somehow get out of the situation we are in. Most of the times it works, our perseverance pays off and we succeed in getting what we want. But there are times in our lives when however determined we might be, however hard we might try, things just dont seem to work out.Eventually there comes a time when we get fed up of struggling and all we want to do is to let go and sit back. So what do you do then, do you continue your uphill struggle or do you step back and let God take care of things?By no means am I trying to say that one should not act to overcome difficult situations or obstacles. What I mean to say is when we have tried everything in our power and fought till the last ounce of courage and determination, but the night still seems dark and never ending, perhaps we should just stop struggling and try to go along with the flow. Perhaps we should get out of the driving seat of life for a while and let God handle things for us.

What would you do if faced with such a situation?

Nov 30, 2009

Ruskin Bond Magic again !

What happens when my absolute favorite writer Ruskin Bond and Vishal Bhardwaj come together once again- Magic I am sure!
Am sooo looking forward to this !
Earlier Vishal Bhardwaj had made The Blue Umbrella - a delightful story written by Ruskin Bond into a childrens film.It was a lovely movie but in the original story the plot is much more simple and uncomplicated. In the movie many new subplots and characters have been introduced. But I guess this is a liberty every director takes while turning a short story into a full fledged movie. I had thoroughly enjoyed the story and had already formed an image of Binya and the other characters in my mind.The Movie was entirely different from what I had expected but it was different in an interesting captivating sort of way.
This time Vishal Bhardwaj has decided to turn another short story of Ruskin Bond -Susanna’s Seven Husbands into a movie.Ruskin Bond usually sticks to stories about mountains and the simple folks that live there but Susanna’s Seven Husbands is a rather morbid tale about how a young woman disposes of her seven husbands!
Now what needs to be seen is how Vishal Bhardwaj deals with this plot !

Nov 3, 2009

55 Fiction - Winter Frost

The door slammed and she heard him leave.Loneliness and despair clutched at her heart like cold hands. She shivered, opened the door and stepped out. The first rose was peeping its way out of the almost- gone winter frost. The sun warmed her skin but her heart remained covered with a layer of ice.

My Favorite Home - A poem

In continuation of My Favorite Places, Here's a poem written by my 9 yr old niece Shaivalini immediately after she went back home to Auckland after visiting us in India. I think it speaks really poignantly about how much she misses us.

(Click to enlarge)

I love you Shaivalini and I miss you very very much !

Oct 27, 2009

So whats your favorite Place !

I was watching an old Friends episode the other day. The one where Monika has just broken up with Richard and is so stressed out that she cannot sleep. Phoebe tells her to think of her favorite place in order to relax.
That got me thinking.Each one of us has a favorite place. A safe and peaceful haven where we are always the happiest, where we’d rather be than anywhere else.
Here are my favourite places in no particular order:

Bank of the Ganges – Ganeshpur
Ganeshpur is a small hamlet above Uttarkashi. We discovered this place quite by chance and fell instantly in love with it. The Ganges there is sparkling clean, unblemished by the pollution it faces in the bigger towns like Haridwar. At Ganeshpur it’s very fast flowing and turbulent and going inside the river is impossible. But the bank has many comfortable boulders to sit on; you can see the snow clad mountains in the distance and the river meandering down from them. The nearest village is miles away and the only sound is that of the river. Whenever my mind is in turmoil, all I have to do is close my eyes think of this place. Instantly my mind becomes calm.

My Apartment in Kobe
I lived in Kobe for a little more than a year. My apartment there was rather small, barely big enough for me. But I never wanted to change it because of the spectacular view it offered. It was a corner apt, on the 11th floor and the balcony ran on three sides. From two of the balconies one could clearly see the hills – lush green in summer and monsoons, a medley of colors in autumn– rust, orange, red, yellow. In winter the branches of the trees would be laden with snow and the sun glittering of them would make a wonderful sight. The view was breath taking in all seasons. From the third balcony I could see the sea, shimmering away in the distance. I could see the view outside from my desk, from the kitchen and even from my bed. That was the best part. Wherever I was in that small apartment, I just had to lift my head to see the sea or the hills! Unfortunately I will never go back to that apartment again but I still count it among my favorite places !

Our house in Chandigarh
It’s spacious and has huge floor to almost ceiling windows that make the house sunny and warm in winter and let the cool breeze in during summers. Bright sunshiny rooms, Soft billowing curtains, sofas with cushions in pastel shades, paintings made by my aunt on the walls, flowers and potted plants everywhere; this house is a haven I must turn to at least once a month.

Starbucks Cafe in kobe
Kobe memories again ! If ever there was a fan of Starbucks coffee its me!. Tucked in a corner away from the hustle bustle of the main street, this particular starbucks was one of my favorite haunts. I would go there with my laptop or a book, sink into their soft cushiony sofas, tuck my legs under me, think, read, write or simply observe life passing by as I sipped on the delicious brew. It was large enough so that I could always find a peaceful corner at any time of the day. The staff was always courteous and never bothered me even when I spent hours there. I have been to so many starbucks since but I so miss that one!

So whats your favorite place :-)

Oct 13, 2009

Writer's Block !

Why is it that an idea for a blog post always strikes me when I have no access to a laptop or paper. Like when I am driving or travelling. I half form the blog post in my mind; witty catchy sentences and phrases swirl around in my head and I am dying to jot them down. But Once I am in front of my laptop – nothing ! My mind goes blank and I am really at a loss on how to put down my thoughts. The words don’t come and the sentences that sounded witty and brilliant in my head look drab and boring on my computer screen. Now what kind of Writer's Block is that !

Ever happened to any of you?

Oct 8, 2009

The travails of a Cab User

The long suffering Lumbar muscles finally collapsed thanks to Delhi's treacherous roads and after having a look at the groaning shuffling me the doctor asked me to stop driving altogether if I wanted to salvage what was left of my back. And so it was with great regret that I handed over the car keys to my parents and resigned myself to using the office cab. And using the cab dear readers is not that simple. One would think that just instructing the driver about the pick up point and writing official mails on the subject should be enough. Well not really.
Day 1- Morning.
I am at the designated pick up point and have been waiting there for a good 15 minutes. My phone rings.
Cabby – Madam aap kaha hai?
Me- xyz jagah ke saamne. cab ka wait kar rahi hoon
Cabby – madam aap main road pe aa jaao na. Main kab se waha khada hoon.
(Main rd is a good 10 minutes walk)
Me – Kyun bhaiya? Aapko to main rd se andar ana than na. Maine bataya tha phone pe.
Cabby – madam main bhool gaya.
Me – toh ab aa jao
Cabby –Aap main road pe aa jao
Me – mujhe main road tak walk karne mein 10 minute lagenge aur aapko 2-3 min.
Cabby- madam reverse karke back lena padega na.
Me – (very sarcastically) Kyun bhaiya reverse gear kharab hai kya ?
Finally he arrives and we start off – a good half hour late.Other users of the cab are not amused at being kept waiting at their respective stops for so long. The new joinee in the cab (me!) does not exactly get a very heart warming welcome.
Day 1 Evening
After a hard days slog everyone is waiting to just sit back in the cab and sleep all the way home. The cab starts, the AC does not. Apparently the AC is not working and there is no other cab available. So we endure a 2 hour journey by the end of which we all know what a tandoori chicken feels like.
Day 2
I am picked up on time and so is everyone else. The cab today is a rickety old vehicle but as long as it’s on time and the AC is working no one is complaining. Good spirits prevail. But at the Ashram red light, the engine coughs and sputters and then promptly dies on us. The driver makes valiant efforts to revive the engine as we wait with bated breath. Finally he gives up, gets down cursing, opens the bonnet and starts fiddling inside.
An auto stops at the red light and the sight of four people sitting in the cab while the driver is tinkering and banging about the engine is too much for the curious auto driver.
"Kya hua madam?" – he asks an already harried occupant of the cab. "Kya gadi kharaab ho gayi?".
"Nahi bhaiya hamein beech sadak mein gaadi rokna accha lagta hai" she replies.
Apparently the sarcasm is lost on him because he then proceeds to ask our driver the same question. Then they both have a very animated discussion and the auto guy brings forth a tool from his auto and our man proceeds to bang about the engine with it and curse some more.

Finally we call office and are told a replacement cab is on the way. The cab reaches us after an hour and by that time we are too tired and wilted to care about anything.
Tomorrow – Day 3.
Wish me luck !

Oct 7, 2009

55 Fiction - Melacholy

Tumbled thoughts in a jumbled mind. Everything topsy turvey inside my head. Despondency and listlessness, sadness for things that could not be, remembering lost dreams that have slipped away like sand through fingers. They say that Night is always darkest just before dawn. But hasn’t this night already lasted too long?

Sep 13, 2009

Of Backaches and Boredom

Since middle of last week, the rain gods have been rather benevolent towards rain parched Delhi; the heavens have opened up and it has poured and poured.
Rains mean standing outside letting the downpour soak you to the skin, of breathing in the heavenly smell of wet mud, or as meira puts it of going chapak chapak in the puddles.It means sitting outside and watching the plants and tress emerge a bright emerald from their drab brown covering of dust and eating pakoras or feasting on Bhuttas.
So have I been doing all this? Well not really. Very erratic working hours, getting stuck in 3 hours long traffic jams (thanks again to the self same rains and delhi roads!) has left me with a very painful back. The doctor had one look at the groaning shuffling me and ordered complete rest. So here I am flat on my back and going out of my mind with boredom. All the books in the library have been read, dozens of phone calls made to friends and family, TV watched mindlessly and endlessly but I am still bored to death and very moody. And when I am moody I am crappy and snappy and not easy to be with at all.
But there is a tree just outside my window and I can see the rain drops falling from its leaves like pearl drops. And I just heard a koyal singing outside.
Life is not so bad after all !

Aug 27, 2009

55 Fiction and a prize !

Here’s a 55 fiction story I wrote for a contest held at work. We were given a theme and had to write something in 55 words or less in 20 minutes. My theme was ‘Nature’ -and I won the first prize. Yay !!
The picture was clicked by me at Rishikesh !

She sat outside, waiting for the Sunrise, her mood as dark as the Night Sky. Slowly the sun peeped out from behind the mountains, bright and shiny as a newly minted coin, its rays like yellow arrows against a backdrop of flaming orange sky. Suddenly, all was well with the World again.

Aug 18, 2009

An Oasis of Greenery

The flats in our block are in a sort of semi circle and bang in the middle of that semi circle there is a park. Many years ago it was totally barren with not even a blade of grass growing in it. Even the smallest gust of wind would blow the dust from the park into our houses and we would crib and grumble. The kids would not play in that park and no one would go for walks there because everyone simply found it too dusty and dirty.
One fine day,a retired gentlemen living in one of the flats decided to put this piece of land to good use. He asked the municipal gardeners to come and grow grass, put in some plants and generally create some greenery. Obviously the gardeners couldn’t be bothered. When he forced them to come saying that the park was a municipal park and hence their responsibility; they came but all they did was lie in the shade and smoke beedis. They had the long list of excuses, the water pump is broken, the garden hose is not long enough, our equipment is too old etc etc. Undaunted, the gentleman took things in his own hands. He visited the local nursery, got some seeds and started to grow grass in the park. He dug up the earth, made flower beds and started planting flowers. By this time the rest of us grew interested in what he was doing. We all came forward to help. We got together and painted the park’s outer walls. The rusted gate was replaced with a new one. A jogging track was put in. Swings were brought in for kids and benches for people to sit on. We didn’t get a penny from the MCD- the people who were actually responsible for the park. We all pooled in with whatever time, money and resources we could spare.
The retired people all pitched in with the watering and general maintenance. Others pitched in buying new plants and doing the heavy stuff like carrying around flower pots or the heavy digging. The kids took it upon themselves to ensure no one was plucking flowers or littering the park. I am sure they also got valuable lessons in gardening and most importantly on the value of team work. We started a park fund, replaced the faulty water pump and brought in two gardeners.
The days when a windy day meant dusty houses are long gone. Now a fine wind finds almost everyone in the park, playing, relaxing after a hard days work or just catching up. You can smell the raat ki raani and the mogra as soon as you enter.The flower beds are filled with roses, dahlias, sunflowers, marigolds and many exotic flowers. A corner of the park is devoted to growing herbs that everyone uses as seasoning and for minor ailments.

I am lucky enough to have our front door open right in front of the park and we have a fantastic view of the greenery from our living room. The snap here was taken from my living room window when it had just finished raining. There are hardly any flowers in this season but the greenery is just amazing.

This park is not only an oasis in the madness and heat and traffic and general chaos of Delhi; but it speaks volumes about what a little bit of determination and a lot of team work can achieve!

Aug 13, 2009

The Greatest Gift !

A while back one of my favorite bloggers Preeti Shenoy asked this question on her blog. It got me thinking. Sometimes the best gifts that we get are not tangible objects but acts that end up changing our lives or at least influencing us greatly.
The best gift I ever got was from my grandfather. A teacher by profession, my grandfather was also a writer and a great dramatist. Whenever I visited my grandparent’s house during my holidays I followed him around like a shadow. Everyday I would accompany him on his morning walk and he would considerably slow down his speed to accommodate my small steps. Once we were out on a walk just after it had finished raining and we saw a peacock with its wings spread out, dancing in all its glory. These walks with him are one of my most cherished memories.

He was a great story teller and it was on these walks that he would tell me stories. They were usually out of the panchatantra or about some mythological character. One day I was pestering him for a story as usual when he suddenly asked me to tell him a story instead. I let my imagination run wild and told him a tale involving elephants and tigers and a village boy who befriends them. I guess something in my imagination must have caught his fancy because the next day he got me a note pad and asked me to start writing stories, poems or whatever came to my mind. He would read what I wrote everyday and give me his opinion. He taught me the secrets of story telling and encouraged and nourished whatever small talent I had for creative writing. He would be delighted when ever I got praised for writing a good essay in school or whenever something I wrote got published in a kid’s magazine. As I wrote in my post on childhood reads, I also had full access to his library and he is the one who introduced me to the magic world of books.
This love for literature and writing that my grandfather has inculcated in me is the greatest gift anyone could have ever given me!

Aug 12, 2009

Of Rains and spicy Bhuttas

The heavens opened up yesterday and it poured and poured and poured in Delhi. Once it stopped raining, I saw many bhutta (corn on the cob) sellers around the park infront of my house. Some squatting on the road and some with push carts; all surrounded by people and doing a very brisk trade. They seemed to have sprung out of nowhere as if intuitively knowing that people will queue up to buy bhuttas once the downpour ends. Personally I think rains and Bhuttas are meant to go together. So I bought myself a Bhutta and ate it piping hot and spicy as I strolled through the park. Now this park is a schleduded area sheltered by huge Gulmohar and Neem trees.It’s like a personal park for the few flats that surround it. In the evening it’s filled with aunties sitting on benches and gossiping, kids playing on the swings or people like me trying to jog. So there I was strolling unconcernedly and eating my bhutta when the ladies sitting on the bench spied me. The sight of me eating a bhutta sparked off a discussion on various recipes involving corn. On an impulse one of the elderly neighbors asked her husband to get a few bhuttas so that she could roast them in the microwave.
I stopped to talk to one of the kids playing on the swings and she asked her mom if she could have a bhutta too. Suddenly all the kids wanted to eat bhuttas and started pestering their maids/moms for them. The bhutta seller was called over with his cart and soon all the kids and most of the moms were clamoring around him. By this time I had finished my bhutta and was geared up to start my evening jogging session. Meanwhile the elderly neighbors had bought their bhuttas,microwaved them, cut them into little pieces, added lemon and spice to them and were now offering them to everyone in the park. They offered me some and when I politely declined saying that I had just eaten one, they said “c mon eat it after all you are the one who has sparked off this Bhutta eating epidemic today!

Inspite of yesterdays rain its a really hot day. Perhaps today I should walk through the park with an ice cream in hand!

Jul 28, 2009

Quirks of Fate!

A few months back I was warned rather strongly by an astrologer (unsolicited advice off course since I never asked him!) that for the next few months I would be extremely accident prone. There could be some blood loss, broken bones, things falling on me and even electrocution (the guy didn’t leave anything to chance did he !).
I am really not a believer in astrology but I've been trying to figure out If I've had any unforeseen and sudden accidents in the past few months and I just realized that I've had quite a few!. And all of them are weird and funny.
Here’s a list –
1) On a trek to Kedarnath in May, was walking along quietly admiring the snow peaks when suddenly a pony went berserk and rushed towards us pinning me and a friend against the mountain. End Result – Bruised shoulder blade where I hit the rocks. The friend escaped unhurt. The guy in the pony fell off though, and that too right in the middle of pony shit!
On the same trek after walking on for about 2 kms I sprained my left ankle. (This time I was holding on to a railing and walking - quirks of fate!)
2) A few weeks later, in Chandigarh I was sitting on a rug on the floor. While getting up the rug slipped from under me (I really don’t know how!) and bang I hit the wall and slid down slowly along with the rug while trying to find a grip for support. End Result - hurt shoulder when I hit the wall and hurt elbow when I finally hit the floor. Nothing broken thankfully!
3) In June I was walking down the stairs at work. It was raining and the stairs were slippery. Slipped on the last few steps and the posterior hit every step with a definite thump. End Result - A very bruised behind and for the next few days, I winced in pain every time I sat down.

4) June Again – Was in the kitchen and wanted to make tea. Tried to lift a pan but dropped it immediately yelping in pain. The maid had just boiled some water in it and it was still very hot. End Result - Fingers got all blistered in spite of turning on the tap and running cold water over hand. Typed with one hand for a week.
5) In the beginning of July, was standing outside the house talking to a neighbor. We were standing very close to the parked cars. His daughter (a very recent car learner) suddenly backed the car (without warning and in the wrong direction) and almost ran me over. End Result – Bruised knees and a neighbors daughter who is now dead scared of me. (Snarled at her and asked if she knew that the rear view mirror is actually for looking at objects behind the car and not just for retouching your lipstick.)

6) July - Went to Vrindavan and decided to pay a visit to the Banke Bihari Temple. The temple was extremely crowded that day. As soon as the temple doors opened, There was an almost stampede and I was propelled along in the rush of people behind me who could not even wait a second more to catch a glimpse of their beloved God. Could not stop in time and hit my head hard on a low beam. End Result - a big bump and now I also know what it means to see stars during daytime.

Not a bad collection of bruises and bumps eh! Better than broken bones and electrocution tho !

Jul 24, 2009

In case of medical emergencies......

At 8 p.m on a quiet Sunday evening, My Bua(Father's Sister) in Chandigarh was engrossed in preparing material for the workshop she was to take the next morning. She went to the kitchen for a glass of water and saw a huge cobweb swaying gently on the kitchen wall. Irritated that her usually spic and span house had a cobweb and gently cursing the maid; she grabbed a broom and climbed on a table (look at her luck the table was right under the cobweb!). Not dissuaded at all by the small table and her totally insufficient height of 5 feet 2 inches she stood up on tip toe to swipe away the cobweb, promptly lost her footing, came tumbling down and dislocated and broke her wrist in three places.
Keeping her wits about her she ran down the stairs to the neighbors who were not at home. She ran to neighbors across the street who took one look at her arm and jumped in the car to take her to a hospital.They took her to one of the most prominent private hospitals in the city (their branches are all over the country) where the emergency ward attendant did not even deign to get up from his chair. “We don’t take in emergencies on Sunday evenings and anyway there are no doctors available” he told them. And he said all this in a very matter of a fact manner as if he was talking of tickets not being available for a film show and not of a medical emergency. WTF!
After a brief but pointless argument they drove away to another private hospital and were told that Head doctor saab is on holiday in Shimla. But why don’t you get admitted and he will have a look at your arm tomorrow evening when he returns. Meanwhile would you like a private or a semi private room? There was no offer of painkillers or temporary plasters from the other doctors.

By that time the arm was horribly swollen and the pain was excruciating.
Another private hospital and another refusal-we don’t take in emergencies on Sundays. (What do these hospitals think- emergencies take a weekly off too and don’t happen on Sundays?)
Resigned to their fate they went to the next possible option – Govt hospital sector 32. And what a surprise! There was a wheelchair waiting right outside as they drove up the emergency ward, The people inside took one look at her arm and escorted her to orthopedics dept without much fuss. And by the time the neighbors had filled in the forms and paid whatever little amount that had to be paid, x-ray was done and soon Bua’s arm was neatly encased in nice white plaster. Bua is a big fan of govt hospitals now. As she told me when I went visiting her from Delhi, they are dirty, they are overcrowded, the doctors are harassed and underpaid. But they think of you first and not how they can take advantage of your desperate situation to fleece you.
It got me thinking though – This was a emergency but not in a major life threatening way – What if someone is almost dying or bleeding to death and is still refused to be taken in by hospital after hospital even if the desperate relatives or friends are almost begging for medical help ?
Makes me scared even to think about it.

Jul 16, 2009

The Great Himalayan Getaway-5

The Glory of Kedarnath
We reached our rooms in Kedarnath at around 4 p.m and after a sumptuous and a much relished meal of aloo parathas and chole bathure we had a bath and then headed towards the temple. The Kedarnath temple lies nestled in a valley between snow clad mountains. Inside the temple complex just at the entrance, a huge Nandi made of stone sits as if guarding the Shivaling. Along with a maddening rush of pilgrims the temple also has a few resident sadhus. With wild eyes and matted hair they were covered with ashes and wore nothing but a small loincloth totally unaffected by the almost arctic cold. It was almost time for the evening Aarti when we entered the main temple. Not everyone is allowed inside the sanctum sanctorum during that time and most of us stood outside next to the statue of Nandi. Spiritually, it was a truly exhilarating experience. The air vibrated with the sounds of conches and cymbals interspersed with cries of Jai Kedar. Standing there in the temple, listening to the invocations surrounded by the pristine beauty of the Himalayas we all felt an indescribable sense of peace.
After the Aarti we decided to buy tickets for the special Pooja but were a little disappointed when we got a time slot of 1 a.m in the morning. We had hoped for a much more reasonable time of 5 am or so. We went back to our rooms and tried valiantly to stay awake till 1 a.m. The cold by then was almost unbearable and inspite of the layers upon layers of woolens that we were wearing we still shivered. At quarter to 1 we left for the temple again.
Walking to the temple in the dead of the night was a very different but a spiritually enriching experience. In the evening the town was a whirlwind of activity. The temple was crowded and the narrow lanes were swarming with pilgrims and sadhus alike. Now there was not a soul in sight and there was a pin drop silence around us. It was a full moon night and the bright moon made the snow glitter as if someone had taken sheets of pure silver and spread it on the mountains. The sky was clear and the stars shone brightly like fireflies behind a backdrop of dark velvet cloth. We walked on in the hushed and silent night, soaking in the peace and quiet. The beauty we saw that night was almost celestial. It filled us with an overwhelming sense of serenity and we felt a close affinity with god.The temple was totally deserted but the inner sanctum was open where the priests were getting ready for the Pooja. There was no one else in the temple except us and the priests. The Shivaling that we could only catch a few glimpses of during the day was decorated with flowers and Chandan. We did Pooja and had Darshan to our hearts content.
After the Pooja we trooped back to our rooms and slept for a few hours. In the morning again after a breakfast of parathas we headed back to Gaurikund, totally uplifted by our spiritual experience.

The Great Himalayan Getaway-4

The Road to Kedarnath
We could hear the cries of Jai Kedar from the pilgrims as we made our arduous way up to Kedarnath. To reach Kedarnath, one starts trekking from Gaurikund, a small rather dirty loooking place with restaurants and rest houses piled haphazardly on the mountains. It was chock-c-block with people, ponies, palakiwalas and what nots. But once we left behind the smell of ponies, the dust and crushing rush of Humanity, the rest of the trek was simply spectacular.
It had just finished raining and the mountains were lush green. The Mandakini meandered between the mountains as if keeping us company. The path snaked upwards through alpine forests and we passed many waterfalls. Up till Rambara, the midway point between Gaurikind and Kedarnath; the snow clad chaukhamba peaks were just faint smudges in the distance. They kept appearing and disappearing behind the mountains as if playing hide and seek with us. But after Rambara, as we took a steep turn we suddenly found ourselves face to face with them. We stood there mesmerized, aching muscles forgotten; taking in their magnificent beauty. The Mountains were covered almost totally with snow and as the sunlight reflected off them, it seemed that the peaks were on fire. As we walked on, the green foliage we saw earlier was replaced by bare jagged mountains; black where not clad in snow. The beauty here was stark and rugged rather than gentle. The altitude rises steeply after Rambara and even the fittest amongst us were left breathless, but these were minor irritants compared to the panorama enfolding around us. The last 1-2 kilometers to Kedarnath are almost a flat plateau. We could clearly see the cluster of mountains that surround the temple, they seemed so tantalizingly close. The mountain slopes were carpeted with green grass and patches of wildflowers grew here and there. The sides of the path were dotted with huge boulders and some spots had patches of snow that had not yet melted.
We crossed the iron bridge that spans the river Manadakini and at last reached the Kedarnath temple.

Jul 7, 2009

The Great Himalayan Getaway-3

A day’s travel from Rishikesh brought us to Sonprayag;a quaint little hamlet at the base of kedarnath. Since almost everyone who wants to trek up to Kedarnath stays at Gaurikund and not Sonprayag, Sonprayag’s natural beauty is still untarnished to a great extent.
We stayed at a villa belonging to one of the most reputed business Houses of the country. Perched almost on top of the mountain, the villa was in the midst of a lush green forest and had a beautiful garden filled with exotic flowers. A steep climb down the slope led you to the river Mandakini; roaring and tumbling down from the locks of Lord Shiva. The water was so sparkling clean that we could clearly see the stones in the river bed.
It was a magical time for all of us. Away from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, we spent all our time either taking long walks through the hushed forest or sitting at the river bank taking in the natural splendor around us. It was a god given opportunity to rewind, reconnect with ourselves and get rejuvenated in that peaceful and serene environment.

We spent a few blissful days at Sonprayag and then decided to go on to Kedarnath.

Jun 17, 2009

The Great Himalayan Getaway-2

Sunrise at Rishikesh
Next morning I was up and out at the river bank before sunup. The Ganges at that time was not turbulent or fast flowing but rather calm; flowing slowly and steadily like an old woman on a sedate afternoon drive. The reason I was standing there groggy and bleary eyed at that ungodly hour was that I wanted to capture the sunrise on my camera.
The first hint of the sunrise came when the dark blue sky slowly started turning a pale pink, the stars getting extinguished one by one as if someone was blowing out candles.
Then the sun peaked out from behind the mountains, as shiny as a newly minted coin, a hue of yellow with just a hint of red at the rim. Slowly it rose higher and higher, painting the sky first a rosy pink and then a bright orange. Rays of sunlight burst forth from behind the mountains as if someone had let go a quiver full of brilliant yellow arrows. Far away I could hear the priests blowing their conches and starting the morning Pooja in the many temples that dot Rishikesh. I sat their mesmerized;the sound of the conches as gentle and soothing as the breeze in my face,and watched the sun turn the sky and the river into a glorious molten gold.

The Great Himalayan Getaway -1

Rishikesh – Of Spirituality and Rain Storms!
Last month I escaped the burning blistering cauldron that is Delhi and went for a very well deserving holiday to Kedarnath and Sonprayag. So here's a glimpse into the adventure !
We started early enough from Delhi, and managed to cross the Meerut Muzzaffarnagar chaos without any major mishap and reach Rishikesh at lunchtime. The first thing we all did after dumping our luggage was make a beeline for the River bank. The place we stayed in was actually on the outskirts of Rishikesh and had its own personal ghat. Unlike the usual ghats in the city, which are frequented by all and sundry this was really clean since it’s privately owned. Across the bank was the Rajaji National Park and we could see herds of deer and a few elephants drinking water. After a dip in the refreshingly cool waters, we sat on the grass and desultorily argued about what to do in the afternoon- River Rafting or a visit to The Divine Life Society Bookshop. But a very sumptuous Rajasthani lunch left us totally sated and lulled by the afternoon heat we fell into a stupor all plans of River Rafting forgotten. In the evening we did go to the Divine Life Society to buy books. The bookshop was closed but we decided to stick around and attend their Aarti and Satsang.
The Divine Life Society was started by Swami Sivananda, a great saint and visionary. The last time I visited the ashram, I was just a child of 10.My most haunting memory of that time is the evening Satsang. The Satsang began with a particular hymn that had a very lilting tune and the person who sang it had a voice as sweet and pure as nectar. I remember sitting there fidgeting with all the restlessness of a 10 year old till he began to sing and mom told me to close my eyes and just listen. Although I couldn’t really understand all the words, something in his melodious voice slowly started to calm my soul and still my mind.Even this time the Satsang was really peaceful. Another thing I noticed was that majority of the people attending the Satsang were rather young (age group 25-45) and there were many foreigners – mainly Japanese.After the Satsang we went to visit a Swami ji living in the Divine Life society. He invited us to his rooms and the first thing I noticed was a book on his desk titled the” Beginners Guide to Japanese”. When I asked him why he was learning Japanese he said that there were many Japanese devotees visiting the Ashram but their English was not always very good and so he had decided to learn Japanese to make communication easier!
Later we decided to cross the river and go to the other side of Rishikesh. Now there are two ways to cross Gangaji at Rishikesh, you can either go by boat or use the Ram jhoola (a long suspension bridge across the river). We decided to go by boat. It was almost twilight when we started and we could see the lights from the temples twinkling in the distance and the reflection of the deeyas turning the water into gold as hundreds of devotes gathered together on the banks for the evening aarti.
We roamed around for a while; ate dinner at Chotiwala restaurant and then decided to head back using the Ram Jhoola.Now Ram Jhoola is the slightly less famous version of the very famous Lakhman Jhoola. This suspension bridge is rather narrow and sways precariously even with the slightest wind. I personally don’t think it’s safe for anything other than human traffic; but all sort of vehicles pass through it, be it scooters, bicycles, pushcarts and even cows. As a result you are left cursing and swearing as you try to maintain your balance on this swaying creaking piece of ancient architecture, while being jostled by assorted traffic from all sides.Since it was rather late by the time we got to it, the Ram Jhoola was mercifully empty with just a few people going across. It was drizzling and a bit windy when we left Chotiwala but just as we started to cross the bridge, the rain came sweeping down bringing with it almost gale force winds. The jhoola swung side to side and the River was suddenly dark and turbulent beneath us, its foamy waters crashing at the rocks. Laughing and clutching at our flying hair and clothes, with the rain stinging our faces; we ran across the bridge enjoying every minute of this adventure.

Apr 24, 2009

Why I Love Ruskin Bond

Imagine yourself in a beautiful mountain valley, where everything is so quiet that all you can hear is the sound of a mountain stream and of the wind rustling through the deodars. As you gaze at the snow peaked mountains, can you slowly feel peace and calmness descend on you? - this is what Ruskin bond’s writings do to me. His writings have the power to lift me out of any gloom and transport me to a world filled with happiness and serenity.
He is the epitome of austerity and simplicity and this is reflected both in his writings and in his life. The power of his words lie in their simple wisdom and gentle humor which I feel is much more difficult to accomplish than any complicated piece of writing. He does not write romantic ballads or suspense thrillers, his stories are about the Himalayas and the simple hill people who dwell there.
I guess I am a bit of a dreamer like him, wanting and believing in the simple pleasures of life. The kind of life I would love to lead is the kind of life he is leading right now; tucked away among the mountains, doing what he loves to do best– Writing.
In his book’ The India I love’ he talks about his love for writing and living in the mountains - [Life isn’t a bed of roses .. and I have never had the comfort or luxuries that wealth can provide. But here I am doing my own thing, in my own time and in my own way. What more can I ask of Life?’]

Indeed .. what more can one ask of life !

Apr 22, 2009

When Londoners come calling

We have visitors from London. The hugs and kisses have been exchanged, gifts have been given, opened and fawned over. The visitors consist of my aunt, uncle and their two daughters. Daughter 1 – a shopoholic in her very well preserved 40s is a fanatic for perfumes and make up and is rather self possessed. Also she is totally into “spirituality” and does not as much as breathe before consulting her psychic and Tarot readers. Daughter no 2 and Husband are seasoned travelers who live out of well worn jeans and t shirts. They live in their own world, at their own terms, taking out time to travel to a new country every year. The elder sister carries Gucci travel bags; the younger one rucksacks.
The shopaholic comes to India often – obstentially to visit us but actually to Shop. She is very popular among her younger cousins because if you ask her to get you one estee lauder perfume she will get you three more plus hoards of body shop and Chanel products. The staunch devotee that I am of estee lauder and a sucker for perfumes; she ranks pretty high on my list of favorite cousins.
This time she told us how far she had progressed on her spiritual path and was in the process of letting go of her attachments and desires. This was rather surprising coming from someone who had just bought two diamonds earrings and half a dozen designer bags and shoes! Daughter no 2 on the other hand is less hung up on shopping and more on sightseeing. While the elder one is diligently combing through each and every mall in Delhi, gurgaon and Noida, the younger one spent days poking around ancient havelis in Chandani Chawk and sampling the gourmet delights of old Delhi and is now planning to go trekking in remote Himalayas.
The only thing in common between the two sisters is the long sharp nose that each one of us cousins has inherited from our Grandfather. That’s another thing actually – All of us cousins on my mothers side – have a long, sharp pointed noses that stick out of even the broadest brim hats. Noses that are the first to catch and quiver at even the faintest olfactory sensation, the kind of noses that would put even Pinocchio to shame.
So coming back to the two sisters; as I said they are totally different from each other. One a certified shopaholic and worshipper of everything branded; the other a staunch socialist who fights the shut down of small stores and businesses tooth and nail and only uses organic products. The elder one an active participant in family gossip sessions, the younger one not too attached to or even bothered about familial ties.So we are torn between taking one to malls, tailors, jewelers and cooking health food and digging out maps of Delhi and pouring over Himalayan trek routes with the other.
Given their diverse personalities and interests, this is turning out to be a very interesting two weeks I feel!

Mar 6, 2009

Parking Blues

Yesterday mom and I were getting ready for bed when the door bell rang.
Opening the door revealed this very bossy looking female who lives three doors away but never bothers to wish or smile when we pass each other.
Bossy Female: Excuse me aunty – can you please move your car.
Mom – Why?
Bossy Female: Because I want to park my car there.
Mom – But beta why do you want me to move my car. Why not park your car somewhere else. (Our car was parked in its designated place)
Bossy Female – Because I have just bought a new Honda and you have a wagonR (yes she actually said this) so I would like to park my car safely in the parking lot. You can park yours anywhere.
Mom- Huh !
Eventually mom told her politely but firmly that she can take her ultra selfish self and new shiny car and go to hell.
I have seen selfish neighbors before but you lady take the cake for chutzpah!

Feb 17, 2009

If you are a Punjabi living in Delhi ...

We were discussing Dev D at the work and I was told by some guys that you need a different sort of mindset to enjoy it and you can only appreciate the movie fully if you have ever lived in a hostel. Huh! (According to them 7 out of 10 people who live in hostels are on drugs and you need to be around such people to understand the movie).Weird I must say because I spent 5 years in JNU and I still couldn’t fathom the so called brilliance behind the movie.
Also, the self -same people tell me that this film very well depicts what the rich kids of rich businessmen in Punjab do and what happens if you live in Delhi as a student/all alone (apparently you don’t go to college at all but spent all your time doing drugs). Now as a Punjabi born and brought up in Delhi I take very strong umbrage to that. I just don’t get it... I guess all Punjabi kids ride about town in huge expensive cars and go abroad to study .. Then they come back and fool around with their girl friends and when the girl friend marries someone else they shift to pahargunj and do drugs…Thanks guys for educating me about my people !
While the whole world raves on about Anurag K’s bold and psychedelic take on life, all that my intelligent friends could get out of the movie is what kind of people Punjabis are. I am not saying that Anurag Kashyap shouldn’t have used Pahargunj or Punjab as backdrops. . What irks me is the kind of compartmentalization and generalization people do.
All I want to do right now is spew few of the choicest of Punjabi Gaalis on them ..

Feb 6, 2009

Childhood Reads

One of my earliest memories is of the passage connecting the living room to the study in my grandfathers’ house. Bookshelves lined both sides of the passage and they were filled with the Readers Digest. My grandfather was an avid reader and he had started subscribing to the Readers Digest as far back as the 1960s and he had saved every single copy. I remember sitting on the cold floor, just a child of 8; breathing in the musty crumbly smell that I have always associated since with old books; trying to make sense of the stories and trying to solve word power.
I started my childhood readings with Champak – I remember devouring the whole magazine in two days and then pestering my mom to get me another copy not understanding that it I would have to wait till the next month to get it. Champak was followed by Nandan, chanda mama and children’s world. And then came the glorious years of Target magazine. This wonderful magazine started by Living Media was a fabulous mix of stories, comic strips and General Knowledge. I don’t think there is any child who grew up in the 80s who has not read Target. We started subscribing to it as soon as it started getting published in the 80s when I was barely 4 and my brother 11. We continued till 1995 although by then I was too grown up for a ‘children’s magazine’. But I could never give it up. Ruskin Bond, Sigrun Srivastava, Geeta Dharmarajan, Mala Marwha, Vatsala Kaul – Target introduced me to these wonderful children’s writers and they did a great deal in inculcating the love for literature in me.
Another favorite childhood read was Amar Chitra Katha. I guess you can call them our first desi comic books. Beautifully illustrated with stories out of our mythology.
A few years back when cleaning up my grandfather’s house, my aunt decided to throw away the entire readers digest collection. I insisted on bringing it to Delhi; dumped in the back seat of our car. It has a place of honor in my bookshelves now along with all the old editions of Target. I take them down sometimes, to leaf through them and to re-live the pleasures of childhood reading.

Jan 17, 2009

Bloom Where you are planted

Although I work in the IT industry, I am not an IT person – I am a non techie – someone with a humanities background stuck in an IT company –When I started learning the language (Japanese) I had visions of myself wearing ethnic clothes from Fab India, doing literary translations and discussing Indo- Japanese art and literature over coffee. The only thing that has come true is that I wear ethnic clothes. Instead of doing literary translations I translate technical specifications and instead of discussing literature over coffee I spent my time with so called techie nerds who think Yasunari Kawabata is not worth knowing because he didn’t write an idiots guide to Java programming.
I wrote this post earlier about being stuck in a job we don’t really like but the truth is that in this country literary translation jobs are as rare as unicorns and what gets the bread butter on your table are usually jobs which we don’t like 100%.

My mom had a poster on her office wall that said [Bloom where you are Planted]. She always wanted to be a doctor but due to some quirk of fate, she ended up a teacher. Once when I was cribbing to her about my job, she told me how badly she wanted to study medicine and how disappointed she was when she couldn't. But she said “Once I was a teacher I put all my disappointments aside and tried my very best to be a damn good one”. And she has whole generations of grateful students to show for her dedication and commitment.
And so as I toil and tumble, and grumble about my job, I try to Bloom Where I am planted.

Jan 7, 2009

The month that was

Sometimes recession has its benefits. One of the benefits I got was that I managed to get almost the whole of December off to spend with my brother and sister in law who were visiting from New Zealand. The month was spent in Chandigarh in the “new house” with its huge floor to ceiling windows and airy rooms. But the only problem was that Chandigarh can be really cold in winter and airy rooms and floor to ceiling windows that are so delightful in summer aren't that great in winter.
Any how before Bhaiya and Bhabhi landed in India, there were frenzied discussions on the phone on how this holiday was supposd to be quality family time and mom shouldn't be spending it all in the kitchen cooking for us. We didn’t want mom in the kitchen but we still wanted to eat all the delicious holiday food; so we promptly went ahead and hired a cook in honor of Bhaiya’s visit. Harbans the cook came armed with his own tools - One huge kitchen knife and his own kitchen towels. And once he was firmly installed in the kitchen out poured dish after dish of sumptuous food.
The day started with cups of ginger tea which the cook brought to our rooms. After that we hogged on paranthas .. aloo, methi, gobhi, mooli; you name it we had it. And when Paranthas got too monotonous we shifted to bread rolls and Gajar halwa.
And when all this got too boring we spiced it up in the evenings with chaat and tikkis or pakoras.
Does it seem as if we spent all our time eating? Well ya actually we did! Rest of the time was spent in talking and catching up and generally arguing and giving in to incessant demands from a very adorable niece and nephew to either play ball or go to the park or the Lake.
And since I am so fond of bullet points…The highlights of the visit were:

  • The good food whiffed up by the cook.
  • Sitting on the big comfy sofa, legs curled up beneath us, conversations – sometimes desultory and lazy, sometimes animated arguments, sometimes just reminsces
  • Shaivalini (my niece) excited about the treasure hunt I organized for her. I bought 10 gifts for her (as she turned 10 this year) and hid them around the house. Even I couldn’t have imagined her excitement as she found each gift.
  • Bhabhis Birthday on 19th December. Two adorable kids with hand made birthday cards. Yellow roses and orchids. Early morning scramble to get the flowers and birthday cards in order before bhabhi emerges from her room. Mission failed due to Dad missing at the last minute and Vibhu (My nephew) howling because we didn’t let him hold the flowers. The howls eventually brought Bhabhi out before we could surprise her with the flowers.
  • Visit to numerous parks and Sukhna Lake and McDonald with the two kiddos. The kiddos had a lot of fun because I never said no to anything they wanted to so they had a great time playing in the mud, having fries and ice creams at all times and generally having a blast.
  • Watching Innumerable Dvds of Thomas and Friends. Vibhu loves it and his day doesn’t end till he has watched Thomas the Tank engine at least a trillion times. Every one in the family now knows each and every train engine in the Thomas and friends series intimately.
  • Sunbaths and Saunas, lazing around in the balcony eating oranges and drinking juice.
  • My birthday on 6th January. We decide to celebrate it on 6th even though it’s a week day. Later move it to 3rd as I had to absolutely get back to Delhi on 4th.Venue decided- Ramgarh fort. Venue changed to a restaurant as both kids down with tonsils and too sick to be out in the open. Later venue changed to home as both kids still not well enough to go even to a restaurant. On 3rd Venue changed from our house to Bhabhi’s mom’s house as the kids not well enough to brave the cold and come to Dadi’s house from Nani’s. So we put the food into huge containers and went to “Naani’s” house. Kids too irritable and cranky for a Birthday celebration.

So thats how it went. its rather strange isn`t it... we spend most of the yr waiting to get together;then when we do get together its such a whirlwind of a holiday...catching up, talking, arguing, eating, visiting,shopping, sleeping..before you realize it its over and you are left with your nostalgia and a kaleidoscope of memories .. and you tuck away each and every memory in your mind, to be taken out later and savoured ... as you eagerly wait for the next family vacation.

Jan 5, 2009

A story for Shaivalini

My brother and his family visited us from New Zealand in Decemeber and I spent a blissfull month with them in Chandigarh.More about that later, but here is a story I wrote for my 10 year old niece Shaivalini. Shaivalini loves to read and paint and she also writes stories. She is a very creative and imaginative child and I wanted to gift her a story written by myself because I know how much she appreciates creative writing.

Bina and the Bird
There was a little girl called Bina, who lived high up in the mountains in a house with a red roof. She lived with her grandpa and her grandma and had a dog called buddy and a goat called Tinker Bell as pets. In front of the house was a big vegetable garden in which grandpa grew corn and all sorts of vegetables. Behind the house were cherry and chestnut trees. In winter the mountains would be covered with snow and nothing would grow in the garden. But the chestnut trees would be full of chestnuts. In the cold winter evenings as the snow fell outside; Bina’s grandma would roast the chestnuts in the pine wood fire and Bina would sit munching those as she listened to stories from her grandfather. Most of grandpa’s stories were about the birds and animals that lived nearby.
Summer was when Bina had most fun. She would spend all her time in the garden playing with buddy. This was the time when the flowers would be in full bloom and the garden would be a riot of colors. Summer was also when the cherries in the cherry tree would ripen. Bina would spend hours sitting in the cherry tree eating the cherries. She was a strong and sturdy girl and could climb up the trees almost as well as the squirrels. Buddy loved to eat cherries too but he could not climb trees and he would mope around the tree feeling very sorry for himself till Bina climbed down. Sometimes Bina would throw the cherries down to him so that he could eat them too.
Bina could sit in her favorite cherry tree and daydream for hours. One of her favorite day dreams was that she is flying high up in the blue sky along with the birds, as free as them. She often wondered how beautiful the world would look from up there and how it would feel to play among the clouds.
Summer was also the time when the corn ripened. Bina’s grandma would put the corn out on the roof to dry. The birds that lived in the cherry and the chestnut trees loved to eat the corn and they would come flying down to eat it as soon as grandma had spread it out. It was Buddy’s job to shoo them away. Buddy didn’t like to eat the corn but he loved to run after the birds. But the birds were always too quick for him.
One day as usual Grandma spread out the corn to dry. Soon the roof was filled with birds trying to eat the corn. As soon as Buddy saw the birds he ran after them. But this time one of the birds was not quick enough for Buddy. A swipe of his paw hit the bird hard and the poor bird lay there on the roof chirping piteously. Bina shooed Buddy away before he could do further damage and ran inside with the bird cupped in her hands. When grandma examined the bird she found that half of its wing was broken. She wound it up tightly using a piece of bandage while the poor little bird lay there in Bina’s hands chirping feebly. Grandpa took an old shoe box and filled it with straw and cotton wool to make a bed for the bird. “There, the poor thing should be comfortable in this” he said.
Everyday Bina would get up in the morning and run to the cardboard box to see how the little bird was doing. After she came back from school, Bina would take the little bird out in the garden. She would talk to the bird telling it about her school, her friends and about her teacher Miss Lotty who wore thick spectacles and always gave a lot of homework.
Slowly the bird stop being afraid of Bina. It would perch on Bina’s shoulder chirping and singing to itself whenever Bina took it outside. One day grandma said “Look the wing is almost healed now; soon the bird should be able to fly.” And as if to prove grandma right, that afternoon when Bina took the bird outside it tried to get off her shoulder and fly about for a while. The poor bird wasn’t very successful at first. It could only give a few short flaps of its wings and then plop! It fell in the garden among the marigolds. Laughing Bina ran to pick it up.
But soon the little bird grew stronger and stronger and could fly round and round the garden without falling down. “It’s soon going to fly away to join its friends.” Said Grandpa happily. But Bina wasn’t happy. She had made friends with the bird and she didn’t want it to fly away. She wanted the bird to stay so that she could play with it and tell it stories. So Bina went to the market and bought a cage for her Bird. The cage was really big and had a lot of space for the bird to move about. It had a small perch on which the bird could sit and sing if it wanted and it also had a little bowl for food and water. Bina thought the bird would be very happy in its new home. “It’s so much better than the card board box” she thought. Bina hopped and skipped all the way home with the cage. As soon as she reached home she put the bird in its new cage. Look little birdie she said, “isn’t this a nice home. You have a perch to sit on and a pretty little bowl to eat out of”. Bina hung the cage with the bird inside in the balcony so that the bird could look at the other birds and trees outside and feel the fresh air.
But the bird didn’t seem too happy in its new home. It stopped singing and just sat in its cage looking sadly at the other birds flying by. How strange thought Bina, I wonder why the bird is not happy !
“I wonder why my little bird is so sad” said Bina to Grandpa. “I think it’s sad because you have locked it up in a cage. Now it can’t fly about the garden as it used to. ”Said Grandpa.
“But Grandpa, I’ve got it such a beautiful cage. Why does it need to go outside? I feed it all kind of yummy things and talk to it and sing to it all the time.”
“That’s because in the cage the bird can’t fly; it has no freedom. It can’t feel the wind in its wings nor can it race his friends up to the clouds and play with them”.
“You should let the bird go” said grandma. “See how unhappy it looks.”
But Bina didn’t want to let the bird go. “It’s my friend now I’ll miss it if it goes” Said Bina.
That night as Bina lay snuggled up next to her grandma she had a dream. She dreamt that she was a bird flying high up in the sky. Up and up she went till she could almost touch the sun and everything down below looked so small. She flitted in and out of the clouds playing with them. On and On Bina flew, enjoying her freedom and singing to herself.
She grew tired of playing and flew down to sit in her favorite cherry tree. Suddenly something dark fell on her. She tried to fly away but couldn’t. A bird catcher had caught her in his net. Soon the bird catcher took her home and put her in a cage. It was a big cage and the bird catcher gave her tasty things to eat but Bina was not happy. Her cage felt dark and cold and she felt as if she couldn’t breathe. She looked out longingly at the flowers and the trees, they were so near yet she couldn’t fly out to them. Suddenly Bina got up with a start. So this is how it feels to be caught in a cage. No wonder my poor bird is so unhappy she thought.
Next Morning Bina ran to the cage and took out her little bird. “I am sorry little birdie” she said, “now I understand how unhappy you must be in the cage”. She went to the window; lifted her hands and let the bird fly out. Up and up the bird flew, soaring high towards the sky, and with it Bina felt as if she was flying too!!

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