Monthly Archives: July 2014

LOVE. Lost and found.


A Hindu married a Muslim,
And two sisters grew in the womb,
Little then did they know,
They will build each others tomb…

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Borders are like birds,
They will fly wherever they want to.
Nations are like clouds,
They will drift wherever they like to.

But people are the skies,
They will have to stay back,
To witness all birds and clouds,
Good-bad, light and dark.

Soldiers, wars, battles, gun fights,
Matters trivial, wrongs and rights…
One after the other, shot after shot,
The opportunity for love- lost.
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Mountains, rivers, valleys and snow.
What do we fight for,
Do we really know?

We are warring over the Indus,
So much blood, so much loss!
Diplomacy determined, treaty after treaty.
But let’s sign just one for, only water and humanity

Long back the two sisters separated,
From a womb- beaten, exasperated.
The blood evaporated,
In the two lands devastated.
But their love reverberated.
Somehow it was fated…

Across fences, across borders,
Across politics and Army’s orders.
Across Namaste and Namaaz.
Singing stories of sisterhood,
That once was…

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Nations emerged, religions evolved,
The hatred remained, but the love too revolved.

Across Diwali,Holi or Eid,
Connections emerged from deep beneath.
Untying knots, tied by cynics,
Uniting hearts, broken by fanatics.

Why haven’t we learnt anything from,
Your Ammi and my Mummy,
Who were Mothers with a big heart?
Why do we build  such Narrow Nations,
Where love breathes its last?

Why can’t we prize peace,
Over guns and grenades?
Why can’t we silently separate,
But yet not part ways?

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Long ago, A Muslim married a Hindu,
And two sisters were born,
To tell the world a story,
With so much to learn.

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PS:  I grew up learning that nations could be friends or enemies too. And that nations could love and hate, just like you. And this brought along the story that  history had to tell and with it so many notions of good, bad, ugly…hostile or friendly.
But who were the nations? Were they not the people who lived in them?
And how can nations hate, when their people loved each other?

I never could understand the “facts” that history presented.
I never could understand the “acts” that present demanded,
but yet had to be drawn from history.
Couldn’t we just start fresh- reset, rewind, unlock and clear our mind?
Shed the burden of the past?

And then one day, I was fortunate to meet the people, whose nation I had so long known. It struck me then that, had I known that there could exist a love unknown? I met Maria Imran here. We instantly fell in love with each others thoughts, and perhaps with each other too.
Two people-from two religions, from two nations, from two lands, across one border, from one womb of time.
Both were devout patriots, both religious. And perhaps that united us more than it could have divided. Gradually the bonds grew stronger, until I had fallen in love with this tiny part of Pakistan, yes in  Maria Imran.
She had written a piece about me and I had been overjoyed, overwhelmed with tears. I had wanted to dedicate something to her, but never found my words worthy of her. Yet, today on Eid, I thought of gifting her this, my love.
To,
Meri Pyaari Maria.
Hope you like my Eid gift.
The stories that we knew, weren’t that true.
But we have begun new stories now…and hope these would turn true.
The rest of our story waits to be written with time.
Until then , I Believe,love is lost.And found.

With love,
From across the border.
Pamela

The Banyan Tree


The Sun shone bright that morning. Its rays scorching the soil, sucking away the last drop of last monsoon with an invisible straw, scathing the skin. Yet, the birds chirped, the squirrels squeaked and the snakes hissed happily beneath the shade of the Banyan Tree.

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The stubborn Banyan Tree who was their friend and protector, their shade and shelter, their guide and mentor. And how couldn’t it be? For decades now it had helped them grow, eat , play, cheat the sun, beat the heat, fight the rain, find a place called home, survive… Live.

With the sun going behind the mountains, they would all gather together to discuss their day, weary yet cheery. The sparrows would brag how they spotted their kids soaring higher than the eagles. The squirrels sqeaked how they visited their kids in the nearby hillock, who brought them an exotic fruit available only at those wonder hills. The snakes would swell with pride talking about their children who now marked the biggest territory of the far off jungles, which they wouldn’t dare venture themselves.

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But there was a mute spectator too. He wouldn’t speak a word these days, pretending he hadn’t heard any of their fantasy tales. But he would silently shed tears into the moonlight, his heart wondering where did he go wrong…

Can a mighty Banyan ever go wrong? Had his mini refugees been right!?! Impossible!! The little sparrows, can they ever soar. At all? They would fall from the branches, like dried fruits and he would catch them in his vines. The snake hatchlings were timid little things, shivering, even scared to emerge from his bark crevices and see the light. Can they ever mark their own territories in far off forests? The squirrels who knew nothing more than squeaking all day, who borrowed his leftover figs to survive the rainy days… now their kids were discovering exotic fruits! Stories. All chimerical stories, just to mock his sorrow, his fate.

There was a time, when he would advice them how to raise their kids. He would scorn at the squirrels who would let their kids fall from tall branches, thud on the mud, and break their toes. He would chide the snakes who left their scared hatchlings alone to hunt for the day, while the hawks loomed in the sky. Teaching fearlessness or foolishness, teaching self protection or evading responsibility?
He wouldn’t talk to the sparrows, the heartless sparrows, who had pushed away their children from their nests one day. Can a home really be small to fit in family? Selfish!

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He had planned it all well ahead. Had mentally marked the spots on the mud, where he would plant his saplings and watch them grow. And he had watched them grow fast- haughty, confident and with the pride of a father who saw his reflection in his children. But they had grown too fast and outgrown his plan. They resembled him in every manner- confidence, competition and conceit.

Their vines entwined, they would strangle each other till death over a beam of sunshine, until their Father pleaded them to stop. Their roots would push and shove the mud to squeeze in the scarce drop of water. They wouldn’t ever speak to each other, let alone remind themselves they were a family.

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But time had paced up fast. The Banyan Tree looked at his children, and sulked. He couldn’t be proud of them. How could he? His children fought all through, for the sun, the water, the space, the air. So much so that the play-pals of childhood had now grown into competitors, rather enemies- where one’s comfort certainly meant a pain to the others. Unwillingly, unknowingly, he too had become a party to the competition, as he was the mightiest of them all.
They struggled in his shadow to spread their twigs and waited for his death to grow into their full might. They were like him, his reflections- strong yet stubborn. But were they really his children ever?

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He had grown old. The strength had given way to senile sighs now. His branches had stooped low, touching the grounds. Yet the sparrows, ever so grateful, stayed on. His barks had decayed, hollowed, torn apart by the vines of his children. Yet, the snakes couldn’t abandon him. The figs had dwindled and dried. Yet the squirrels said, they were sweet.
These Refugees! Do they need Him? Or does He need them? He had asked his heart this question ever since he thought of shoving those selfish sparrows away…

Once he discussed with the sparrow, elated, how he had wisely marked where to place his sons. But the foolish sparrows! They asked him to reconsider his decision. They even dared to offer him to place his sons in the nearby hills! Atrocious! They had driven away their own kids and now wanted him to do the same! Never!!

But then why wasn’t he happy like the Sparrows? Why wasn’t he a proud father? Why was he a mute spectator, waiting patiently for his death- if only that could give some solace to his children?

Tears streamed down, shining like diamonds in the moonlight. There came the Sparrow. Flapped its wings like a flying kerchief, with futile attempts at wiping dry the tears of a mighty Banyan tree.

The Banyan had known long ago, there were some answers to his own queries that he never wanted to know. But now, his knowing or not knowing made no difference at all. It was too late to even rewind time.

It had spoken a lot, listened too little. Taught too much, learnt too little.

He gaped helplessly into the Sparrow’s tiny eyes, as if asking, “Tell me. Where did I go wrong?”

And with compassion the sparrow spoke.
“ When we meet our children in the skies, see them kissing the clouds, singing songs of success- we feel proud. Had we not thrown them out of our nests, they wouldn’t ever have learnt flying. Now we can breathe our last in peace, that our children have learnt enough to stay back safe and happy, even when we go.
My friend, you never spoke to me for all these years for the offer that I made to you that day. But all that I ever wanted was, never to let you see this day. On the hills they would have grown mightier than you, taller than your plans. You would have been a proud Father. Winds would have brought the fragrance of their woods to you. Birds would have narrated you how your children were as kind as you were- letting them build big nests on their branches. The Sun would have told you, how without your children’s shade on those bald hills, the Earth would have cursed him…

That was Pride my friend. That was Bliss.

 

Image credits: Quilled banyan tree images from papercrafts.blogspot.in

 

The Fighter Father


She was 6 years old. She stood frozen with her mother on the streets of Kanyakumari at 4 o clock in the morning, hoping the dawn to break, and the noise to fade away.Her Father was trying to fight it out with a rogue taxi driver, who thought to extract the maximum from clueless tourists…
“You can grab my collar Sir. No insults traded. I am a Taxi Driver. My work is to make money. Earn it . Sweat it. Cheat. or Snatch it.
What if I do the same to you? Look at your wife and daughter!”
But wrong was wrong. Who will see the right, if everybody was blinded by choice to the might of the wrong?
My mother warned, ” Someday you will not be in a state to fight any more. We will sit beside you and moan. You are a fighter- F.I.N.E!  But You are a husband and father too…”

That day came soon. Two decades later.

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22nd June, 2014. I watched the news flash blood soaked images of Daddy frantically. The scrolls reading-“A Thief had attacked a  Scientist, in a communally charged area…The DRDO Regional Director, while trying to nab a pickpocket in Charminar, stabbed...”
He walked valiantly into the Police Station, grabbing onto his cuts . Blood oozing out like water from a fountain.He told the Police who he was and called up Mother to say he was fine and fainted.

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48 Stitches. 46 cms long cut,4.5 cms deep, nearly missing the spleen and vitals.
Had it hit? I don’t even want to imagine that!
Lying on the hospital sofa for 10 days and more, I wondered…
My Father was stabbed while trying to get back the stolen cell phone of a colleague.They had been there in Hyderabad to attend a Director’s Annual Conference. That was the last day of the 3 day meet.
He was to catch a flight back home that evening.
23rd June was their Marriage Anniversary.

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Here sat my Mom receiving flowers from an ocean of visitors. Yes. Get well soon.
Doctors cluttered to ‘personally‘ talk to the man who was all over the Newspapers. Political parties queued up to offer their ‘apologies’. Colleagues across the country from almost the entire DRDO spectrum, were a pillar of strength that even family couldn’t provide. Unknown people walked in to get a glimpse of The Man
Here lay a HERO. My Fighter Father.

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What was so unusual about this?! Each day,each moment,in each corner of India, somebody burgled somebody else. So many other somebodys watched over passively,”it happens!!“. Many somebodys lost their lives- stabbed, wounded, bleeding till death… So W.H.A.T?!

Yes there was something unusual for sure.
Here lay a man, who bled for one, who wasn’t related to him by blood.  People didn’t do that every day, not even for themselves.
What did he gain?
An indefinite vacation in the hospital-thronged by well wishers. A tonne of apples, oranges and pomegranates. A much needed company of his children. Lights-Camera-Action! from the media, who savoured each bit of such ‘nearly extinct human species‘.  And the idea that he was so liked by so many, so much regarded, so very connected to so many unconnected people.
What did he lose?
Buckets of blood, that would take months to replenish. Some really important tasks that had to be done for the family. His own very expensive glasses.The clothes, that were a gift from his children.Lots of money on buying overpriced flight tickets,   & on uncountable phone calls. Flak of cynics who thought he was foolishly quixotic.

Oh! That meant there was more to be lost than gained.

I listened to him narrate to the visitors. Couple of Muslim representatives from a political party visited to apologize. They had met the convict, a “17” year old Muslim boy , in the juvenile home. He had asked them to convey his Sorry to my father- or so did they say.
Why was it being viewed from a communal angle I really couldn’t comprehend. The thief was Muslim, but so were most of the Nurses who took care of Daddy, just like his daughters. And so were many empathetic sympathizers.

It struck me then that we had completely forgotten about the boy. He was a Muslim so what? We didn’t have any anger against him, neither against a religion that was being made a casualty like truth. He was a victim as well- of poverty, of ignorance and of society’s indifference to humanity and compassion.

The boy had stabbed while my father held onto his hand, trying to reason with him, “you are my son’s age. Please give back whatever you have stolen“. But in a bid to escape, he had nervously stabbed and run away.

This was his 4th such crime. He had been caught by the Police earlier as well and put in the juvenile home.
Did it reform him in any miniscule manner?
He was fed and clothed and sheltered there and sent back with a license- to steal, rape, kill, whatever? Oh! He was a juvenile after all.
And in a country like India where birth records were as cautiously maintained as its Family Planning efforts, 17 years 11 months and 17 years 12 months definitely could be differentiated with pin-drop precision?!?

A thought to be spared also was- had not Daddy been in such privileged position, would  justice still have been delivered? Would he still have received the medical aid and attention with urgency?

He narrated, how he incessantly kept on insisting who he was, before he could get the Police help and bring in a sense of urgency. Had he been a somebody, he could have simply bled to death in a Police station while trying to file an FIR.

Then there were many who were good economists. They aptly calculated how he wasted more resources than he could save.
Well, Ethics and Economics never got on well!

But there were many many others who were proud of him and considered him unconditionally brave. Had they not stood with us in such trying times, it was hard to say, if Daddy could have recovered the trauma.

Such times in life are a watershed. They are revelations of who we thought are friends but turn out to be strangers by choice- bystanders in our life’s battles. And of who we thought were strangers but get strangely enmeshed with our lives.

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35  then, his blood boiled against the unjust, unfair, corrupt.
53 now, but the Specific heat capacity of his blood has still not gone up with age. And so he let his blood flow for the right, 20 years back, and still can- 20 years from now.

Papers would get new sensational news, the ‘ reformed juvenile‘ would be back again, people would forget most of this story soon.
But some of it would certainly be remembered, that there are still such foolish, impractical and unnecessarily brave people left in this big bad world who make most of us pause and introspect what we are and what should we be!

Hyderabad gave us the blood that flowed down from his body, and as tears down our eyes. Hyderabad gave us the Love, that bound our hearts and our lives. Hyderabad thus gave us the people we can so truly call- Blood relations. 20140628_212134

Yet a line from the news flash haunts my mind constantly, “This incident has nothing to do with DRDO affairs”.
True. But how promptly we close our eyes, ears, mouths, minds and hearts, at the slightest thought of “unnecessarily involving” ourselves in “unrelated” events that do not concern us.
Every truth is seen as an alleged lie. Every lie is treated as a proven truth. So much so that, we never step out from our comfort zones in seeking the right, in fighting the wrong.
Until the accident has happened to us, we think ‘it happens!!’, but we never ask, ‘why?’,  ‘How can we fight it out?‘ We just promptly declare, “this alleged incident has nothing to do with our affairs.”

Nothing has changed and nothing was supposed to- to be practical. But what has changed is, the thought that Heroes do exist and most of them donot make it to the TV. They are Anonymous. They are among us. They are within us, waiting to be woken up from slumber, called up to say, ” yes, it has something to do with me, although it has nothing to do with me.

PS: Rajiv Gupta Uncle and Laxmi Aunty. I have no words to thank you. And perhaps family is never thanked. All I can say is your affection makes me miss even the hospital days. 🙂
Vikas Uncle and Poonam Aunty, Paritosh Uncle and Sandhya Aunty and Venkat Uncle- for all that you have done for us, ‘Thank you’ would be a very small word. You made Hyderabad a home away from home.