Tag Archives: short story

~नमक स्वाद अनुसार~


कभी मम्मी कह दे कि आज  ज़रा और  पढ़ लो, Exam नज़दीक आ रहे हैं।  तो लो ! पढाई वहीँ ठप  हो जाती; बड़ा ठेस पहुँचता स्वाभिमान को। अगले दिन सुबह के  तीन बजे, आँखें मलती हुई , गुनगुनाकर , नींद से लड़कर पढ़ती। Mummy  पानी पीने  के लिए  उठकर देखती और कहती, “इतनी भी क्या पढ़ाई ! पागल हो जाओगी !” फ़िर तो ! नींद गायब और चार घंटों  धुआँधार  पढ़ाई  शुरू !
 
उसे आदत  नहीं थी  कि कोशिश में उसकी कभी कोई कमी रह जाए। चाहे painting बनाने में हो, लोगों से मीठी बातें करने में या किताबों  में डूब कर अपने कल  का सपना देखने में। आस- पड़ोस  का आदर्श कहलाना, सबकी नज़रों में अपनी गरीमा  बनाये रखने  में… उसे खुद पर काफ़ी ग़ुरूर था।  अच्छाई की इतनी गंदी  आदत लगी थी उसको , की किसीसे न बुरा बोल पाती और न ही सेह पाती।  ख़ैर आदत भी अति ही थी। … 
 
वक़्त के पहिये पलटते गए,  किताबों  की भीड़ में टहलती -खोती , खोजती – ग़ुम होती। …अपने  राह कुछ चुने,  कुछ  बनाए ।  पर कोशिश हमेशा जारी रहती। 
 
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बावजूद इसके कोई खुश न था ! कभी बिंदी का आकार छोटा लगता , तो कभी हाथों में कँगन कम दिखते , कभी बहुत बातूनी लगती , तो कभी “चाय बनाने के लिए भी आलसी “… 
रसोई कभी आयी नहीं थी उसको।  अब आने की कोशिश पूरी थी।  डर और खुद पे भरोसे की कमी…कोशिश जितनी ही गहरी थी । 
 
पिछले कुछ सालों में कोशिश कुछ कम पड़ रही थी, शायद ; चाहे कितना भी जान लगा दे वो।  हर बार उसके कोशिश की मुलाकात किसी के सलाह से, मज़ाक से , नुस्खों से या फिर तानों से होती।
 
ग़ुरूर क्या ? यहाँ  हर सुबह अपने स्वाभिमान को टटोलती।  
 
“तुम कोशिश करोगी, तो कर पाओगी।  ये इतनी बड़ी चीज़ तो है नहीं। चलो आज की सब्ज़ी तुम अकेले बना लो। देखते हैं। ”  
 
हर दो मिनट में उसके एक चमच मसाले के बाद माँ  स्वाद चखती।  “अरे और ज़रा सा डलेगा शायद … अरे ये तोह तेज़ डल गया… ज़रा सा ध्यान देना ज़रूरी है। …”  हमेशा वो उससे भी सतर्क रहते, कि कहीं गलती से भी उससे गलती न हो जाये। 
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कहाँ वो यहाँ ज़िन्दगी अपनाने चली थी ! यहाँ तोह उसकी गलती भी उसकी अपनी नहीं हो सकती थी ! 
 
सलाह इतने सलीक़े से आते, की कब घाव कर निकल गए, किसीको पता भी नहीं चलता। हर बार वह कहती , “जी माँ , सही बताया आपने।  अगली बार फ़िर  कोशिश करती हूँ, पूरे मन से ।” कई बार तो इतना मुस्कुरा कर कहती कि मानो , किसीने मुसकान  को चेहरे पे  Fevicol से चिपकायी हो।   
 
मन!? मन तो दद्वं  में ऐसे उलझा होता , रोज़ खुद से ये कहता, ” तुम कह क्यों नहीं देती उनसे ? तुम सेह क्यों लेती हो हमेशा ? तुम्हारी कोशिश कुछ कम नहीं थी… बल्कि उनकी कोशिश पूरी है, की तुम्हारी कोशिश को नकार दें !”
 
“कब बोलना सीखेगी अपने लिए !?! बस कह डालो।  कि तुम्हें चुभती हैं ये 108 नुस्ख़े उनके…की तुम्हें भी तकलीफ़ होती है … “
 
रात भर उसकी अच्छाई -बुराई  उसके मन में जंग लड़ लेते।  और शहीद होती तो उसकी नींद, उसका सुकून। काग़ज़ पर लिख कर, Book Shelf  पर चिपकाकर वो सो जाती , ” लेहरों से डरकर नौका पार नहीं होती।  कोशिश करने वालों की कभी हार नहीं होती।  “
 
महीने बीत जाते  और उसकी कोशिश हमेशा कम पड़ जाती।  कभी चाय में चीनी कम  तो कभी सब्ज़ी में नमक ज़्यादा पड़ जाती। … 
 
फ़िर एक दिन , धैर्य हार मान लेता है।  कोशिश करने सी ही इनकार कर देता है। 
 
कमरे में चेहरा पोछते हुए इक खाली पन्ने पर वह लिखती , ” अति का भला न बोलना , अति की भली न चुप।  अति का भला न बरसना, अति  की भली न धूप ” इस काग़ज़ को पुराने वाले के ऊपर चिपकाती। महीनों तक वो उस काग़ज़  को पढ़ती… अपने रूह में उन शब्दों की सेना बनती। और कमरे से बहार निकलते ही उस सेना को भूला देती। 
 
रसोई से प्रेशर कुकर की सीटी और माँ की पुकार ,अब खाना लगाने की सलाह दे रहे थे।  नमक की डिबिया को वह मेज़ पर रख लेती- आज उसे मालूम था की सब्ज़ी में नमक कम था। आज तक न नमक उसका, न फ़ैसले उसके, न ही गलती ही उसकी हो पायी थी।  सब कुछ तो बस सलाह था !
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खाना खाते खाते दो चार सलाह और मिल गए थे , “Recipe Book में जैसा लिखा हो , बस उतना भी कर लेने से ठीक बन जाता है। कोई बात नहीं , अगली बार कर लेना। …” 
 
इस बार “कोई बात” ज़रूर थी।  इस बार सालों से सुना हुआ “अगली बार ” , कानों से गुज़र कर दिल पे नहीं , स्वाभिमान पे लगा था । 
 
Recipe book  की और झाँकती , उसकी मुस्कान अब Fevicol  वाली न थी। अपने कटोरे की सब्ज़ी में नमक डाल कर उसने नमक की डिबिया उनके ओर  बढ़ाई ….. आवाज़ में उसकी, गरीमा  लौट आयी थी…  
 
“माँ जी।  में नहीं कह रही हूँ। आपके Recipe Book में लिखा है , ‘नमक स्वाद अनुसार’ ! “
 
किसीके गले से निवाला उतरा नहीं और वो सुकून से अपना खाना ख़तम कर, थाली रसोई में रख, हाथ धोकर अपने कमरे में चली गयी। 
अपने डायरी के पहले पन्ने पर, भगवान् के नाम के नीचे, बड़े बड़े अक्षरों से लिखा , “नमक स्वाद अनुसार ” … 
 
और हँस पड़ी। 
PS: Excerpts of the two poems cited above are from Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s ‘Koshish karne waalon ki kabhi haar nai Hoti’  and from Kabir Das ke Dohe, respectively.
The characters bear no resemblance to the author, yet they bear all resemblance to all the women out there, who juggle with their aspirations in life and struggle with their rites of passage in marriage.
And one fine day, become the Namak Halal/ Haram (depending on whom they bear allegiance to ) and say it aloud, “Namak Swaad Anusaar”
Peace.
🙂

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?

Banyan Tree

 

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 Oyster fought the Ocean.


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Thrown to the shores, the sands and the slipper marks of people- the oyster struggles to get back to the sea. It is flung to the rocks again and again, again and again…slapped by the tides.

With the shell the oyster shows them, the rocks think it doesn’t hurt the oyster- the oyster is hard. But little do they know, the oyster has a soul that can melt at the slightest of sands, sun and suffering.
But the oyster hides it soul so soft with a shell so tough. Because it knows the world doesn’t pity the meek, it pains them. The world gains nothing, nothing but sinful succour.

The oyester is tired, wants to stop this fight, give up and sit back on the beach.
But it wont. Because it knows, either way it can’t survive.
It is fated for the sea, or fated to die striving to reach the sea.

In the fight between the ocean and the oyster, between fate and the fated, luck and the last struggles, an intruder breaks in…

It slips into the oyster’s shell, an intruder who cannot be expelled.

The parasite knows and the oyster knows too.
In the end, only one would survive- either an empty shell of a dead oyster and a triumphant parasite; or a pearl, shining gratitude towards its soft creator.

With time the oyster transforms the parasite into an object of admiration from an object of abject dislike- into a pearl drop.

But to do this the oyster has to survive the attempts of murder by this enemy hiding within its own soul.
It had won over the waves, shelling itself hard. The waves, the ocean were the enemy outside.
But it has to win over the parasite too, the enemy within. It cannot shell now, this enemy has holed into its soft soul.
It might have been soft, but it has to be strong now.
And Sometimes soft can be strong too…

It is a tussle between strength and intent,
between malice and benevolence,
between traitor and the truth.

And the bet is, the one who would win over the other would survive and transform the other.
Transform beyond thoughts into someone whom the world will love, into someone who would love thyself too…

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A pearl drop is born. A parasite has died.
The weary oyster ogles at the ocean, knowing it has survived.

Intent wins over strength,
Benevolence over malice,
Truth over the traitor.

The oyster returns to the sea,unknown, anonymous.
The pearl is treasured, adored, famous.

The Ocean fought the Oyster.
The Pearl won.