Pune to Howrah…


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25th of December, 2010

I was falling short of my breath while running over the bridge at Pune railway station to catch Duronto Express stationed at Platform number 2. It was about to depart at any moment, and for the first time in my life, and I was about to miss out on a train. Unlike an IT guy, I pushed everyone aside who came in between, and finally made my way to coach number A2 before the train started to crawl.

That was an inaugural journey for Pune-Kolkata Duronto express, which kick-started as a prestigious project by then Rail Minister Mamta Banerji to provide a premium alternative to passengers who traveled within the rail routes that connected the capital cities of India. The train was neatly decorated like any unfortunate groom in India. But, I was happy to see the much-needed elevation of the services in trains although it was short-lived.

The train had already picked up the pace and shortly the refreshment was served. All my fellow passengers were extremely delighted to receive the evening snacks, which turned out to be delicious in every possible sense.  And while I was totally engrossed with the delicacies on my plate, someone asked me politely if I wanted to have some more sweets. That was the time I first saw her.

An unprecedented beauty with a blend of kindness in every word spoken by her. She must be in her early twenties and a college-going student. My tender mind started calculating her age along with the possibilities of her having a boyfriend. She seemed to be a complete marvel created by lord Ganesha himself. A beautiful set of eyes carefully placed over the innocent face that shined like a snow-clad mountain range of the Himalayas in a broad daylight.

I was so mesmerized that I even forgot what she was actually talking about. Yes, it was absolutely worth running for over the railway bridge to catch a train if one knew about her being a co-passenger. In fact, it was even worth dying for.

And before I could even answer, someone spoke in between to interrupt the uncontrolled rhythmic wild imaginations of mine, “I guess I can have it.” I looked for the intruder only to find a mal-nourished soul sitting next to me. He appeared like a die-hard desperate Romeo in a constant hunt for a Juliet.

I gave a gentle smile to him without uttering a word, which might have happened subconsciously as a result of attending long hours of frequent grooming sessions at the office. Else, the ghost of a Bihari residing in me wanted to tell, “Haan tumhi kha lo saale manhoosh. Tumra baap toa kabhi laddu dekha nahi hoga ii janam me (Yes, you can have it, my ill fated-friend because even your forefathers might not have had the occasion to savor the sweets in their entire lives.) ”

Sooner than later to be realized, they started conversing with each other and she was giggling over the most sub-standard jokes that can ever be ever heard, which further made it suffocating. So, like an evident looser, I got up from my place and went straight to the never again to be seen as a well-maintained loo, and lit a cigarette. In those days, it was my way of repentance of sin.

With mixed thoughts, I returned back and settled myself on the upper birth and started reading a novel. She too was reading a book titled PS-I Love You. Certainly, not my kind as my inclination was more towards Munshi Prem Chand kinda stories. Before I fall asleep, I heard her talking to someone angrily over the phone. Must be her boyfriend, I thought.

That night passed uninterrupted and I continued dreaming for long hours until woken up by the service guy for tea and breakfast. Mr. mal-nourished guy was back in the game of impressing the pretty lady, with his cheap tricks of praising every single word spoken by her even when she spoke about someone else. Not sure why, but I seemed to enjoy being jealous for the first time in my life.

I went down and sat near the window seat and continued reading the book. They were chattering about their professions and then suddenly out of nowhere, he asked me, “So, you too work for a bank?”

“Even worst. I am a software engineer at an American MNC.”, I said suppressing my urge to kick his ass. The ghost in me was getting back in form.

“Oh, that’s great. I work at HSBC, Pune. Felt like I saw you somewhere in the head office at Kalyani Nagar.” He was not letting me get rid of him, so I decided to unleash the hell upon him.

“No, I don’t think so. I never met you or anyone like you before, at any stage of my life.” He seemed to be offended, which I surely wanted to.

She was hearing all of it silently and with clutched hairs, she looked more stunning and desirable. I avoided my level best to look at her. I had a feeling that she did not like me being rude to that guy. So, I chose my words carefully and avoided being resentful. Soon, I realized that every other boy in that compartment was passing nearby my seat to have a glimpse of her beauty. For a precise moment, our eyes met each other and that was a breathtaking moment. I felt the tickle in my heart like a common protocol of love at the very inception of it.

“Looks like you are from Pune itself.” She asked me. This time I had no choice left other than addressing her face to face.

“No. I actually come from Patna,” I said precisely assuming her to be a Bengali as they are known to have beautiful skin, eyes, and hair.

“So, how long you had been working in Pune?” She wanted to know more about me, and I wanted that conversation to be eternal.

“It’s been nearly nine months and I am in love with it. I find it quite serene unlike any other developed city in India which are mostly chaotic.” I said cautiously.

“You need to find peace and harmony even in the midst of a cacophony of chaos,” She said with her pretty generous smile over the face.

With that one statement of her, I was able to estimate depth of her thought process. I could not believe my luck for having a beautiful girl seeking interest in knowing me. Even I wanted to know more about her, wanted to talk a lot, but then the guy sitting next to me interrupted again.

Arrey Sir, aapne toa apna naam bataya hi nahi(You did not mention your name)?”

“Maybe it is not worth sharing for.” I was literally struggling to suppress my frustration but somehow managed to smile. I cursed the soft skill trainers from the core of my heart who made me so tolerant.

“Oh, come on. Every name is worth sharing. By the way, I am Paritosh.” He shook his hands with me without my consent.

“Paritosh. Such a unique name.” I said.

“Are you making fun of me? It’s a common Bengali name.” His broad teeth with black gum made his smile horrible.

“My name is Nilesh Ranjan.” I wanted to cut short that conversation with him as much as possible, but he was not giving up and I was losing my sanity.

Dada aap toa Bihari hai. Aapko to UPSC dena chahiye. Hoye ki nahi?(Brother, how come you are in another profession. Afterall, Biharis keep chasing the dream of UPSC)” There he overstepped the line which protected him till that moment.

The outspoken ghost residing in me already took the charge of it and said, “With that kind of calculation, you should be a lower division clerk at a Marxist, Leninist, or some shitty communist party offices in Bengal.”

Everyone in that compartment burst out in laughter. He was devastated. From being a woman charmer, he found himself transformed into a snake charmer and I won the long-surviving battle against him.

She too was grinning cheerfully. The train was about to reach Jamshedpur station, which was a technical stoppage. Mr. Paritosh decided to deboard the train.

“But, you were supposed to go till Kolkata. Why are you getting down here?” She enquired.

“Actually, I belong to Jamshedpur itself. I had no idea that the train has got a stoppage here as well. So, it is better to get down here.” He said with a sad face.

To be continued in next part(The Howrah Bridge)..  https://randomwithlife.com/2020/05/09/the-howrah-bridge/

 

The Infidels!!


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After months of feud with Pashtuns in northern most barren regions of Afghanistan, finally there was peace for some couple of days. At least, I thought so. But others in my regiment believed that hide and seek of bloodshed will soon begin.

Nevertheless, I continued being a soldier. A tough one who was trained to witness the atrocities around him without believing into any sort of classifications between life and dream. For sure I was never a demon however I pretended to be the one in the field, but there was a slogan “Allah ho Akbar”  in particular often used by those murderers which made me hate them much like a demon.

I wanted to cut every throat which dared to speak those words while holding the gun or assault rifles into their hands. And I did it. On third peaceful night, they came back unleashing hell on us. They attacked us with rocket launchers and mortars. I took the position with howitzer gun, but my hand reached out to my army knife hearing the enchanting of “Allah ho Akbar”. My commanding officer saw me with the knife,” Are you going to counter those motherfuckers with that knife?”

“I will slit their throats half and will make them bleed slowly like they torture other beings on this earth. Let them reach to us and I assure you that not a single son of those Muslim bitches will see the dawning today.”

“Look son, we are not here to hate an entire race or religion. We are here to spread a message that no one has been able to find a safe heaven in this world after attacking Americans. Your motives look sordid to me and your words are actually giving me shiver.”

I partially heard what he said in between the heavy noise of artillery. In those peaceful three days, we fixed the barbs to ambush them. Everything was going as per the plan as they were slowly approaching our camp. Our sensor tracked total 60 of them. Our commanding officer executed a blast to create a shock as soon as all of them assembled within our premises considering us dead. And there I was, catching each one of them to slit their throats off. Within few minutes of it I was able to create several mini fountains of blood out of their necks. I kicked their bodies, laughed out loudly and mocked them by saying, “Allah ho Akbar”. Nobody in my unit could believe their eyes.

“What are you trying to demonstrate son?”, asked the unit head.

“Whoever is out there in the woods watching us, should know that there is no existence of Allah, Christ or any damn fucking god for these soon to be dying monsters.”

That night no one spoke to me and soon backup force was there to cover us up. We had to start in next couple of hours to change our base location. We got orders to reach to a nearby Pakistan’s border and wait for the next set of instructions. Our convoy started heading to Torkham from Jalalabad. By noon we reached somewhere near to Goshta where we decided to have our meals which obviously was nothing more than kebab.

Just 18 KMs before we could reach the small town of Torkham, a launcher came and struck to the vehicle ahead of mine. Surprisingly, such a heavy army vehicle toppled 4 times in the air before sliding down into the valley. Similar was the fate of the one I was riding along with 7 fellow commandos, but we were out by that time. It was blissful to see the sky full of fire from every direction and the target was our convoy. We took the cover behind the rocks on that hilly route. I was running out of the time as sun was about to set and that made me assemble my sniper rifle in less than 50 seconds. We were total 13 by now and so I instructed vehicles that followed us to abort their journey and ask for backup. After that I took my position with my rifle from behind a rock which provided me with a natural camouflage due to yellow light of sun. Once again, I was on killing spree.

Within 7 minutes of time, I executed and neutralized more than 12 militants over the hill who were bombing us with RPG. The copper rain of bullets was stopped quickly after that. We waited there for some more time and then slowly started marching ahead at the very first sign of the darkness. It was one of the biggest risks of our lives. A single flashlight in the air could have revealed our positions on the rocky street and we still had 17 KMs to cover before reaching the base camp of Torkham. We were running like marathon guys covering each other.

Soon we crossed the dangerous arena of hilly terrain, but now we had to run for almost 6 miles in the middle of a dense forest. Our radio stopped working due to canopy of trees and using the satellite phone could have led to us in vulnerable situation. So, we decided to proceed without letting anyone know about the coordinates in between the howl of dangerous wild animals. Through my night vision glasses I could see them, but luckily none of them chose to enhance our trouble. Within an hour we were close to the base and our radio signals were back, but fate had something else reserved for me.

As soon as I came out of the wood, a bullet came piercing my right leg. I signaled my team to back off and stay within the cover of forest, but I was trapped from the two directions. Going back into the woods was not a choice I was left with. They wanted to capture me alive for some reasons. Finally, I chose to jump off the cliff on the left side of me. God alone knows how many bones were broken out of that action of mine. All I could remember is that heavy package of my body and armors were rolling up while sliding through the rocky terrains in sheer darkness. And thousands of bullets followed me up, but none of it reached anywhere closer to me. I do not have any remembrance of when and where I lost my consciousness.

On fourth day, I woke up carrying an extreme pain on the left part of my body particularly in leg which seemed to be plastered using some primitive techniques. After several attempt to bear that pain, I finally gave up and screamed my heart out. An old lady came from nowhere and kept the conical tip of an unfiltered hookah stuffed with opium in between my lips and signaled to smoke it off. It worked magically as I felt the relief after just having few puffs from it.

“Initially we thought you are dead, but my son did not give up on you and forced me to listen your half-hidden heartbeats. Trust me it’s the benevolence of an eight-year aged guy that you are still alive.”

I turned my head towards the right to see the person who spoke those words. It was a tall muscular figure dressed much like those filthy Pashtuns whom I was slaughtering few days back. His name was Abdullah and he was the head of that village tribe. I greeted him like I was trained to. He came closer to me and sat on a woven chair next to my cot and took my hand in his hands and gently kissed it. Soon, a boy came out from another hut and sat on Abdullah’s lap.

“He is my son Zabir. He is the one who spotted you lying in those thorny bushes and informed us. Your left leg was badly mutilated. It took around 7 hours for us to take out all the bullets from your leg. Your main femur bone, tibia and fibula has got 6 fractures all together and it may take another 45 days for you to recover completely. I hope you understand that. We saved your life because I know you American soldiers are risking your lives to free this land from Taliban.”

“Are you from northern alliance?”, I asked with serious weakness in my voice.

“Yes, I am. I am also guardian of this village and you are safe here till the time you don’t do anything stupid. Be our guest for couple of months. Help our kids to learn some English.”, saying that he got up with two heavy assault rifles on his heavy shoulders and left with few other armed men.

In between Zabir came with a burqa clad woman. She said something in her language which I certainly did not understand but through gesture I thought it was a way to greet. She brought some food in a bone china plate. Since I was not strong enough to get up from the cot all by myself, few boys came to assist me to provide a semi-sleeping position. Her face was covered and so I could only see her eyes through that veil.

She wrapped some kebab into a piece of wheat bread and fed me. With first bite itself I cursed, “Is there anything else to eat in this god forbidden country apart from kebabs?”

She got little petrified, but I requested her through sign language to feed me more as I was hungry like hell. She gave me something to drink. Not sure what it was but it did the job to quench my thirst. I thanked her and tried to start some conversation.

“My name is Allen. What’s your name my dear lady?”

She quickly got up from her place and rushed back into the hut without saying anything. Obviously, she did not understand English. All this time Zabir was looking at me in puzzle. I asked him to come closer to me.

“Who is she? Your Mother?”, I asked while giving him some comfort. He nodded in no.

“Alright. Then she must be your Sister I guess.” This time he nodded into yes.

“So, what’s her name? I mean like you are Zabir, I am Allen. What’s her name?”, I somehow tried to make his understand what I was trying to say. He looked puzzled but then he said, “Alia! Her name is Alia.”

“Oh, that’s such a beautiful name.”, I then requested him to get my bag which was way too heavy for an eight-year aged kid. Still, he managed to bring to me. I took out a pouch which had some chocolates and energy bars. I gave some to him and the kids around there. Then I took out a bigger one and asked Zabir to give it to Alia. He went inside the hut singing something. I guess she was standing right there behind the curtain watching everything.

Days started to pass, and I slowly got comfortable with their language. I heard them sloganeering “Allah ho Akbar” at many instances but never felt threatened or found it scary. So, what was different between those Pashtuns and this tribe? Both were having the same religion and god. I tried capturing the moments through the lens of my camera, but women were very shy to come closer to it. Alia fed me two times during the daytime in the absence of any village men. One day I clicked the picture of her beautiful eyes with her permission.

I tried talking to her at multiple instances, but she never replied and preferred to watch me talking to kids and old women from behind the curtain. She looked at every equipment of mine with utter delight and one day I gifted my expensive watch to her. After a lot of resistance, she finally wore it over her left wrist. In those days I fixed many primitive electronic equipment they had like radios, television and transistors but none of my devices were working which could establish the contact with my unit. I requested Abdullah at many occasions to inform the headquarters about me being alive. Somehow, they will evict me out from there. He said it could be dangerous if the information about giving shelter to an American soldier spreads around as his village was constantly under the attack by Talibs.

On fourth week I was mostly cured but still had to use the crutches to walk. Thankfully, both my hands started to work to the extent when I could use my heavy weapons and the army knife. I woke up hearing someone screaming loudly with his gun pointed at me. Abdullah and others were flexing their muscles with that man. I quickly got down from the cot and aimed my 9 mm pistol at him.

“Put it down you fool.”, said Abdullah signalling me to put down my gun. I followed his instructions considering gravity of the situation. Soon that man left with furious anger. He spit on the ground and promised to return with hundreds of mujahids.

Zabir came closer to me and hugged me tightly. I asked him, “Who is that guy? And why is he aiming his gun at me?”

“He is among Talib. Every month he comes to patrol our village to ensure that we follow the Saria law as stated in Hadith. He is angry to find that we are protecting an infidel. He has threatened that every man and boy of this village will be slaughtered, and women will be taken away as sex slaves if we do not handover you to them.”, He started crying while saying all that.

I hugged him and said, “Do not worry. Nothing will happen to you or Alia.”

“Did you really mock Allah like that man was saying? He said that giving shelter to an infidel will bring anger from Allah to this village and we all will die of plague.”

“Yes, I did mock the god because of a very less understanding about it. I never thought there was any humanitarian side associated to it as well while reciting his name. Before coming to this village, I always heard the name of Allah by those monsters.”, I said that with brutal honesty. Entire village was gathered to hear me out and make their own assessment about an infidel.

“Allah is above all. He is the only forgiving force to those sinners and that is why it is even more important for those murderers to recite his name. We will have to shift you somewhere else as it is no way safer for you to stay here. Those Talibs can come anytime now after knowing your presence in this village.”, Abdullah came in rescue of mine seeing the mood of the villagers.

“What’s going on Abdullah? I told you to inform the US army base in Torkham. Look, now everyone is in trouble because of me.”

“I did so. They will also be coming but you never know who is going to be the first.”, replied Abdullah.

I decided to walk with them, but they put me on a donkey along with other stuffs and shifted me to a safe house outside the village. It was a small one room hut with a tin roof in between the campus of a small school which they termed as Madrassa. Next day Alia came with some eatables to me all alone and kept staring at me from behind the veil while I was having the food. I gathered all my courage and took the hold of her hands. In all those 26 days I fell in love with her without even seeing her face. She did not resist me and lifted her veil from the face.

“Oh dear! You are so beautiful!! Nothing can be more generous towards an infidel to see your face before leaving this world.”, I said looking at her blissful eyes and slowly kept her hands over my chest. We kept kissing each other for hours. It appeared like time has stopped there relentlessly. My life was changed, and I was no more a soldier. She took me back into my childhood when it was difficult to differentiate between life and dream.

Next day I spoke to Abdullah and shared my ideas with him. “I wish to take both Zabir and Alia with me to America after I am done here. Your country is a beautiful place but it’s war conflicted. I want to marry Alia and give her a new life far away from those gunshots.”

He did not reply to me instantly but after few moments took my hand and kissed it gently. “You are a noble soul indeed and I am sure I can never provide a better future to Zabir and Alia here. Who will look after them if something happens to me?”

It’s been a week since I shifted to this place and it’s constantly raining from last couple of days. Alia also did not turn up today. Around 3 PM I heard an attack from rocket launcher. I took the position with my rifle, but the village was beyond the range of it. Walking through the barren land till the village gate could be suicidal. I was worried about Alia who took my knife yesterday. With every sound of a gunshot my heart started to pound badly.

The rain is relentless. I hear it thrumming on the metal roof and running down the broken pipe into the mud, and I moisten my cracked lips with my tongue. I wonder if they’ll bring me food and water. I wonder if they’re coming at all…

 

                                                                     The End

The Deceit


It was monsoon on the streets of Mumbai, and I was waiting for her at the famous Oberoi Cafe near Malad flyover. At last, she turned up after making me wait for almost 15 minutes. She accompanied by two of her assistants, who seemed to be a kind of identical crooks. I had the table reserved, which made it easier for her to spot me. She shook my hands with utter firmness.

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“My apologies for being late Mr. Shyam as I got caught up in a traffic jam due to heavy downpour near Goregoan signal. I am Prabha Tiwari, your appointed attorney and these two gentlemen are here to assist me in documenting our conversation to prepare a case.”

I never understand the fact that why women lawyers are so hyped about, especially those who have rusty guys with heavy mustache as their assistants. I had the initial hesitation to discuss a case related to divorce to another woman because I always believed that they have a kind of prejudice against all the men. Somehow, she sensed it with another over hyped sixth sense of her.

“So, tell me all about your marriage without hiding any facts and nuances related to it. Has your wife been cynically lunatic, medically unfit or is she cheating upon you in some or other way? I had done my little research on your life and found that it was quite a love marriage without having love at first sight, which is good. I admire such concepts of life where things are based on facts rather than instincts but was not really able to relate it to a stockbroker.” She said that many things breathlessly with a witch kind of smile over her broad face.

I decided to tell her everything about it right from the inception of my relationship with my wife. She switched on a recording device before I could start.

“Back in year 2014, when everything seems to be falling apart in my life, a woman appeared from nowhere and held my hands firmly. It was the time when I thought of giving up on myself and anything associated to me. But she ignited that flame and brought me back into the game, which I almost lost few weeks back. I incurred so much of loss to my organization that they were about to show pink slip to me, but some members from the board of directors were still having faith in me. They appointed her as my personal secretory.”

I got into stock market again, did my research thoroughly and made some smart investments and all that turned the wheel of fortune towards me. I became the star once again, got rid of any overhead liabilities on me, went to meet my parents and brought them back from their world of sorrow and agony. They agreed to come and stay with me at my new flat here at Versova.

After few days of success and celebration, I finally acquired the courage to propose her to marry me near the bank of river Ganga during one of our vacations in Uttarkashi. She seemed to be skeptical initially but later had to trust me after I made her hear out my heartbeat.

She asked me to light a cigarette for her and after having few puffs from it, she said “Yes, let’s get married and settle down. Our association has been favorable from quite some time, so let’s make best out of it.” And then she winked at me with a pretty smile over her face. River Ganga never appeared so serene to me before. Such was the bliss seeing her around me.

We got married in the month of July and went to Paris for honeymoon. Soon after the trip, we resumed back to our work. She continued to be my personal secretory and did all the financial assessment for all that transactions I did in those days. I must tell you that she was an unmatched analyst in terms of risk assessment of any financial deals we made. Not a single anticipation of her went in vein. Many a times I felt that she was way smarter than me and deserved to be on my chair as Managing Director of the company. My obsession increased for her with every passing day and one evening while having coffee on our terrace garden I said, “I love you Issica and I can never imagine a life without you even for a moment”.

She looked at me in dismay, which gave a shiver to me from inside. I wondered what went wrong. She said, “I love you too, but please do not say things which you don’t really mean. Such words from men are very likely to be a kind of sweeping statement, which are often said metaphorically.”

That night I hugged her tight on bed in a way to cast her all over my chest. She too curled up like a baby in my arms and kissed my forehead. I asked her gently, “Why did you choose to marry me? You could have said no there in Uttarkashi. I mean just look at you. You are beautiful, educated and quite an achiever. You must be having a lot of choices to make. There were bunch of younger souls than me in office, who were dying to seek your attention even for a second.”

She looked straight into my eyes and said, “I know where all this is coming from. So, let me clear your doubts. The day I was appointed as a personal secretory of yours, I realized that I needed you more than you needed me. I saw you struggling to make time to speak to your parents and friends despite so much of pressure at work, which showed that you truly value relationships. Your marriage proposal might have been in heist, but that certainly was an opportunity for me to have a wonderful husband like you in my life. On top of it you are a marketing genius with a golden heart. You treat people with respect irrespective of their social stature and such a trait is rare to find these days.”

“I felt little peace with myself like a typical male chauvinist after hearing her out, but somehow that insecurity was already instilled in me.” I took a pause and asked the waiter to serve another round of coffee.

“So, how did you end up suspecting your wife for infidelity despite having such a romantic chemistry between you two?” asked the lawyer.

“Nothing starts suddenly. First, she stopped cooking the breakfast for me, which she did out of passion every morning. Initially, I thought it’s just the burden of work, so I hired a cook and instructed him to follow her orders. Then she stopped travelling to office with me and preferred to drive herself.”

“Did you try to speak to her or met anyone from her family like parents?”

“Yes, I did. She never answered me for any of my questions. She says that she had been orphaned when she was 22 in age. In last 5 years of our marriage, I haven’t seen anyone in her life whom she could refer to as a friend of her.”

“How did you find out that she is cheating upon you? I mean is this just a kind of speculation or do you really have any evidence to prove that?” asked the lawyer.

“I have a reason to believe so. Couple of months back, she took few days of leave from office citing health conditions. One day it was bit late for me at work, so I decided to have my dinner at a famous Irani Cafe near to my house.” I said.

“So, what happened there?”

There was a couple sitting in the cafe when I walked in. As the light was low, I didn’t know who they were until the woman turned around, and I saw it was my wife.

“So, you mean all this which you call infidelity started from there?”, Ms. Prabha asked.

That caused some sort of irritation in me and I said, “I wonder how they call you a prestigious lawyer because I see you as a person full of prejudice. Do you really believe that I can simply declare her a cheat by mere seeing her sharing a table with another man?”

“My job is to suspect everyone including my clients because most of them lie to me shamelessly and expect me to win the case for them. I really don’t care who you are personally till the time you are paying up my bills. Anyways, shall we continue to this as I am not left with much of the time. You wanted us to file the case tomorrow. Right?”

Even I wanted to get rid of narrating a story. So, I continued, “The issue was not seeing her with someone over there at Cafe rather it was the way I saw her. She never appeared that happy to me before. She was holding the hand of the person with poise and everything looked like a perfect romantic date. She was wearing the same red dress that I bought her during our honeymoon trip in Paris”

“Did you recognize the person she was dating with?”, the lawyer.

“No, I told you before that due to low light I was not able to see the face of that person. But I believe it was one of my colleagues Amar as he was in tremendous love with her before we got married. He continued flirting with her even after our marriage.”

“Did you take any kind of photograph to prove that your wife is actually seeing someone known or unknown to you? I mean we must convince the judge not to let you go under serious counselling, which is very likely to happen if we simply go with hypothesis without anything to prove”, She said while making few notes.

“I did try to do so, but not sure what went wrong with the camera of my mobile phone. Everything came so clearly except her new boyfriend. In fact, I took the service of a detective agency as well.”

She looked at me suspiciously and frowned. “You hired a detective agency against your wife!! And what did they come up with?”

“They simply wasted my money. They deployed one dedicated person behind my wife for around a month and they found nothing against her. They saw her in that Cafe multiple times, but all alone.”

“In short, we do not have anything against her to prove the betrayal, which is okay. Did you ever tell your wife that you want to separate out from her?” She was still frowning.

“I did say that to her but never had the courage to mention the reason for it. Somehow, I didn’t want to offend her. She asked whether I have found someone else to live with. I felt like laughing at, but then I saw her weeping for long throughout the night. I still wonder why she cried?”

Ms. Prabha looked at one of her assistants and he nodded about something in ‘Yes’ to her. She asked, “Where is she staying now a days? I am sure she is not staying with you anymore.”

“Yes, you are actually right about it. After couple of days when I came back from office, a note from her was lying at the door. She has mentioned that she has rented a house in a nearby locality and she was fine. Same day I received her resignation.”

Finally, one of the lawyer’s assistant spoke, “Can you please take a day off tomorrow? I need you at my clinic for around 3 to 4 hours to have some important sessions. Trust me this is serious!”

“And by the way who are you Sir?”, I asked gently to the gentleman.

“I am Dr.Mhatre, a clinical psychiatrist. An expert in such cases. Many lawyers seek my services in a matter like this.”

I did not understand what he meant, but before I could say anything, they were gone leaving me puzzled.

Next day, I went to see the psychiatrist. Ms. Prabha was also sitting there. She greeted me with generosity and guided me to a well decorated room. I was offered a glass of wine. “So, what is this about?” I said to her.

“Alright. Let me be very straight to you. Based on our discussion we feel that you had a kind of delusion. We feel that you are being mistaken someone else with your wife. You might have seen some other lady wearing a similar kind of red gown that you bought for your wife in Paris.”

I was literally pissed off and wanted to break that glass of wine over her head. “You mean I am being illusion ed by considering some random woman as my wife in café. You must be joking.”

“No, she is not!!”, said Dr. Mhatre from behind. I did not see him coming.

He further continued, “And I can prove that to you. Let me ask you a question. Why do you think that detective agency failed to get anything about her in 30 days even after deploying their best men behind her? If she is having a perfect romantic relationship as you said and witnessed, then why others are not seeing it?”

For the first time in my life, I was not having answers to so many questions. I felt perplexed by all his questions. Anticipating my reactions, he pointed towards the projected screen. It displayed the CCTV footage of same Irani Cafe near to my house where I saw my wife dating someone.

“I have gathered those footage from the Cafe you mentioned yesterday specially for all those days when you felt your wife’s presence over there.”

“Felt?”, I failed to control my obvious reaction to his words.

“Yes, my friend. Because half the time she was not even there. Coincidentally, she went there two to three times on the dates mentioned by you, but just look at footage about what it says.”

The CCTV footage was showing her having coffee all by herself at a corner without accompanying anyone. Nonetheless, she was not wearing red gown in any of those footage.

One thing was getting clearer that my wife was not seeing anyone as per the available records, but the fact remained same that I saw her with my own eyes holding someone’s hand in that Cafe.

“Okay. Let’s do a virtual reality session. It’s simple. Please wear this head device. We are going to create a simulation to recreate the cafe’s situation. Let’s see what we can find through this. You will be able to hear me throughout this session and let me know wherever you find it uncomfortable.”

He handed a kind of heavy mobile device to me with head gear and bands associated to it. I was not knowing what was going around me, but I wore that device which totally covered my eyes and area around it. He switched on something and once again I found myself standing in the same Irani Café. It was an evening time and there were couples mostly students having coffee and chattering their hearts out.

“Did you see her?”

“Not yet!!”, I replied.

I took a corner seat in the cafe and ordered my favorite late and continued rolling my eyes at every corner of it. And there she was. I smiled to find her in the same red gown, and someone was sitting opposite to her. She was holding his hand exactly the way I saw her the other day.

“What do you see now?”

“I see her sitting with her boyfriend.”

“How does she look?”

“Stunning like she always been.”

“How do you feel?”

“I feel totally in love with her. I want to tell her that how much I love her and cannot live without her even for a moment.”

“Whom she is sharing the table with?”

That I was not sure of once again due to low light.

“Then why don’t you go bit closer and see it by yourself. In that way we may have some evidence against her. Right?”, This time it was Ms. Prabha and hearing those words from her scared me to the core. Now, I had no intentions to gather any evidence against my wife. I had nothing in me except love for her and it felt so ecstatic. Still, I decided to go.

Every step of mine towards her was taking my breath away and I was feeling numbness in my legs. My lips were getting dried up. And there I was, just behind her. I could smell the perfume she was smearing on.

“Now, can you please kneel down a bit and see the person she is dating with?”, It was a mixed voice of two three people.

I slowly knelled and saw who it was for the first time in last six months. I felt the gush in my adrenaline.

“What happen Mr. Shyam? Tell us who was it?”, asked Mhatre impatiently.

I wanted to tell them but fell short of words which made me to cry inconsolably. He took away that VR (Virtual Reality) device from my head and asked me to relax but I wept for next half an hour.

“Hope you are feeling better now!!”, asked the lawyer.

“Yes.”

“Can you please share with us about what you saw there? I mean if you are comfortable then only.”

I gathered all my strength and said, “It was me!! All this time I was seeing the romantic part of me sharing the table with her in that cafe.”

 

The End

 

 

 

 

 

My first blind date with life!!


December, 2011, I was not doing well at any front of life with anything. It can be termed as a kind of rough phase of life when even things known to you for a long time suddenly started appearing to be unknown and strange. So, I decided to run away like I always did in that part of my life without thinking much about after effect of such an approach towards life.

Sunset

At 2 0 clock early in the morning, I started my bike and simply hit the road taking the first exit to Nagar Road which was around 3 Km from my residence. Due to almost zero traffic, I quickly reached to Pune- Mumbai highway and my first stop to have a cup of tea was at Satara. All this time I failed to realize that I drove for almost 5 hours without taking a break. What was wrong with me? Was I being possessed by some kind of ghost or whether I was out of my mind? Nevertheless, it was a blissful morning and the surroundings was perfected due to sheer presence of windmills, in fact a lot of them. I bet nothing could be more charming than a place like that to have a cup of tea.

Even at that moment of time I was not sure where I was heading to. Left part of my brain was compelling me to return back to Pune from there itself and the right was insisting on taking the road to Goa. I swear to god that till the last sip of tea I had no answer to my own questions. Anyways, I thanked the tea shop owner for that wonderful cup of tea and the unmatched freshness of it. I started my Royal En-field in the direction which shown Goa over the green board.

Because of winter, sun appeared little friendly and sunlight made it like a blessing all the way. Around 11 0 clock, I felt like all my bones were cursing me to make them starve for more than 15 hours. So, I decided to have some meal at a small rustic line hotel. The freshness of tea was still there and I was in no mood to ruin the feel of it by swallowing any other form of food, but my body was not supporting my spirit. I managed to make myself comfortable at a corner on a dusty cot woven by coconut coir ropes. To my surprise it was way more comfortable than any of the couch I used so far even at any five star hotel. I got no idea when I actually fall asleep. When I finally woke up, my entire body was lurching on that poor cot. And a mid aged woman was standing there with a bottle of mineral water. She immediately passed it to me seeing me awake.

“How long had I been sleeping here?”, I said checking my cell phone for time.

“Almost 45 minutes.”, She replied in pure accent of Kolhapur. She then brought a small sheet of paper which I correctly guessed for being a menu card.

“You can give me anything which you find good. I am very hungry right now and got no strength left to make a choice.”

She instructed a teenager boy to get some kind of rice plate. And then she turned to me and asked, “Where are you coming from and where actually are you heading to?”

And that was something difficult to answer, but then she was waiting for me to say something. Finally I cooked up a story and said,”I am coming from Pune and going to meet a friend in Kolhapur.”

She did not seem to be convinced and went inside to check on another customer, who was shouting his lungs out for late arrival of food that he ordered. Lady went to calm him down and to my surprise his entire mood changed and he started flirting with her.

She came back to me after 10 minutes with a plate which had chapati, rice and some real spiced vegetable curries kept in it. She then said,”You better be knowing the place you are heading to . I suggest you visit the small Bhavani temple down the lane which is hardly 5 km from here.”

“What is so special about that temple?”, I still regret about asking that question.

“For you it is not going to be just a temple.”, I could see the flair in her eyes and that stopped me from asking any further questions to her. I quickly finished up my food and reached out to her for paying up for it. She took it and returned me the change.

I was in no mood to visit a temple at that hour of time. My body was tired and it was asking for a bed to spread upon, but somehow my bike automatically turned to that lane. It was a village road with lot of blind curves. From a distance I could see a small temple standing tall in between a stream of water. I parked my bike at a flower shop. A small girl insisted me to buy some flowers for deity. I bought some from her and also requested her to take care of my bag.

Before taking the first step on the stair case, I left my shoes. After climbing the final step, I realized that temple was actually surrounded by a kind of mysterious river with mild current of flow. One was supposed to cross that stream of water to reach the main door of temple. The priest over the main gate signaled me that water was just knee deep and so nothing to worry about. So, I did not bother to open my shirt and set my foot in water. The moment I reached in the middle of it, the level of water reached to my shoulders and I was struggling to keep my walking steady because of the current. I decided to swim across it to reach the temple, but thought of taking a dip first. So, I took off my shirt and threw it towards the stair case.

And there she was standing with her generous toothless smile beneath the water. Yes, I could easily recognize her. It was my grandmother who died almost a year ago in 2010. I took another dip and this time I saw the lady whom I met at the rusty hotel, the lady who asked me to visit the temple. She too smiled at me. Out of fear I immediately came out breathing heavily. But, then I decided to take a third plunge into the water defying the fear and that was the time I saw a young lady in yellow sari and black cardigan sweater. Her face was bright and was shining miraculously under the water and her smile was infectious.

I came out and started swimming towards the main door to worship the deity. The priest looked at me and I gave a smile to him because that was all I was left with. He laughed out loudly like he knew everything I experienced underwater. He marked my head with red and white vermilion and guided me towards the sanctum. No way it was an idol inside because it looked like a kind of living goddess was residing inside. It was shining golden from top to bottom with eyes closed.

“Why the eyes of deity are closed?”, I asked the priest.

He smiled and said,”No, its not closed. Go little closer and see again.”

I went little closer and looked again. Slowly, the pair of eyes started to open up and within seconds it was wide open and looked straight to me. This time I saw that only girl in my life whom I called “bitch” once out of anger after a heated argument some 5 years back. I fell down on my knees, sobbed inconsolably and begged for mercy and forgiveness.

“You are forgiven now Son”, said the priest from behind.

I turned to him with folded hands. He came closer to me and kept his hands over my forehead and enchanted some mantras in Sanskrit.

“Blessed is the one who gets to see the deity in her original form and blessed is the one who get a chance to realize their mistakes. Take a resolution today that you will not insult or humiliate any women in your life again.”

I did not say anything and started walking back towards the river. It was all dried up and there was not even a drop of water left. I reached at the shop where the little girl was holding my bag with utmost care. I gave her the money for the flowers I bought and said,”All the flowers got washed away in the river when I was taking the dip. I did not get the chance to offer it to goddess.”

“That is how goddess accept those flowers. Here is your bag.”

I gave 50 rupees to her before I started my bike and drove back to Pune. That was my first date with life and I still cherish every moment of it.

By: Nilesh Ranjan

THE WITCH OF HASTINAPUR!!


draupdi

 

After almost 10 years of their marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Verma were finally blessed with a baby boy. They gave him the name Prem Chand Verma after a very famous Indian Writer Munshi PremChand. Prem was a sensitive child and was prone to serious influences by the fictitious and mythological characters. By the time he finished up his school and reached college, he already had Geeta, Ramayana, and Mahabharata quite handy to him. In those days, he was studying in the first year at Hansraj College under Delhi University. He pursued the subject History much against his parent’s wish as they were quite skeptical about the kind of future that Prem was slowly heading towards. He wanted to join the archeological survey of India to explore the ancient temples and the hidden facts related to them.

His mother was suspicious about his mysterious behavior due to some of the scary developments in his personality. He got himself clean shaved and started keeping long hair like girls. She was also taken aback after seeing the kind of appearances his friends were having as most of them seemed to be like drug addicts. He was also becoming more conscious of his looks and appeared more feminine. One day he was found doing something very weird when his mother walked into the room just as he was about to apply her new lipstick. She was startled. He was startled. “What are you doing with my lipstick? It’s new…I haven’t used it so far. Couldn’t you have waited?” He smiled and handed it back to her. “I forgot to tell you…I am playing Draupadi in our college production… rehearsals start this evening.”

“Draupadi!! Are you serious?”

“Yes, I am. What’s wrong with that?”

“Doesn’t your college have enough girls to play such female characters rather than a guy doing so? I mean why do you have to get into the feminine mode. Mark my words. Your father will not be delighted to know about such a stunt of yours.”

“I know that he won’t be happy. But, I got reasons to play that role because it has got historical significance in this country. No one in my college, particularly in my batch, has got any fair idea about her real character. None of them have ever studied the Mahabharata from so many angles as I did. Even professors from my department do not get into such discussions with me and very often they do cross verify their knowledge with me before participating in any seminar.”

“That doesn’t necessarily mean that you ought to wear a sari to demonstrate your extensive understanding of Draupadi and her character. In your time who cares about what happened then in the era of Mahabharata and Ramayana. So, I request you to please give up such imprudence and try to be a little sane.”

“Mom! I am not being imprudent, and I do not get carried away by some juicy stories just like that. At any given time if you feel that I am bringing shame to you or Dad then just let me know. I will quit doing all that I want to do in my life.”

His mother knew that he was probably right in his claims about knowing the old scriptures better than others. She preferred to discontinue that argument and thought to bring it back at the dinner table in his father’s presence.

That evening Prem invited two of his college friends Mrinal and Abhilasa for dinner at home. He knew that he will need them to convince his father. But was disappointed to see that no one was showing any sort of interest to discuss it.

The next day, it was Sunday. He got up late and rushed to the breakfast table as he never wanted to upset his father because on Sunday particularly he expected everyone to have breakfast together.

“Good Morning Dad!!”

“Good Morning Son. I wanted to talk to you last night itself after your mother shared some of the peculiar facts about your likings these days.”

“Yes, I know. She is not very happy with some of the choices that I have made.”

“That’s okay because at this juncture of life everyone tries to make unconventional choices as an endeavor to do something different and which is rarely understood by anyone else except the one who made such choices during his/her time. But, the important thing is that some of those choices leave a permanent mark on your personality and you may find it difficult to shred it off at later stages of your life. So, what this Draupadi thing is all about?”

“Nothing of that serious. As you know my interest in exploring the historical and religious facts about this country. So, for the first time, I am getting a chance to depict the knowledge that I have acquired so far after working so hard on ancient scripts. I am going to be the part of a play for my college production which is named ‘The witch of Hastinapur’.”

His father was stunned to hear the theme and looked straight into his eyes and said, “And I am sure that such a title must be the part of your exploration as well.”

“Yes. But, how did you know that?”

“Come on Prem!! After all, I am your father. I may not be able to spend a lot of time with you guys, but have a pretty good idea about your capabilities to think differently and at any given time I got no issues with that. The only thing that worries me like your mother that you may retain some of the girlish characters if you continue to play such frenzy characters. Another thing that I would like to ask you why did you choose to play Draupadi as there were a lot of impressive characters in the tale of Mahabharata.”

“You are right Dad. I wanted to play the role of Karna initially and was selected for that, but the unit was struggling to find the right match for the Draupadi role. So, I took that responsibility because her character has an eternal influence on me and I feel ecstatic to read more and more about her. Even the great sage Ved Vyas was afraid while reading her palm. You will be happy to know that many great theatre personalities like Girish Karnad, Asrani, Deepti Nawal, etc. are going to be the judge at the event and I may get a breakthrough if they like my performance.”

“Hmm. Then I am okay with that. Go ahead and rehearse well. And I am also sure that you will honor me and your mother by changing your way of living after you are done with all this. I would expect you to get your hair trimmed like a boy.”

“Sure, Dad! I need some money to buy clothes.”

“Please get them from your mother as I am getting late for the club. I told her yesterday itself to give you five thousand rupees which she might have forgotten for obvious reasons.” His father left hurriedly after fifteen minutes of a brief discussion with Prem. All this time his mother was knitting a sweater without paying much attention to their conversation. She knew that her husband is a skilled father and he knows where to draw the line. Without saying much, he got into Prem’s psych and preferred to extend his support.

Next two days, Prem did not return home citing the reason for late-night rehearsals. On the third day, he came and asked the mother to accompany him. Before she could have understood anything, he already took some of her favorite saree out of her wardrobe.

“But, where exactly are we going son?”

“No please, I am not going to tell you. It’s a surprise.”

She got ready as per his wish and they took a bus as some of his friends were already boarded into it. Quickly she realized that they were heading to the famous Jantar Mantar and his son was going to be the part of a street play. That was the time she flushed out all the preconceived notions she was having and prepared herself for a pleasant surprise.

At Jantar Mantar, there were clapping and roaring from every corner of it by the young spectators. She was offered a seat with college faculties. Prem told her to be seated there as he needed to change for the skid.

“Take your time son. I would love to see a new avatar of yours today.”, Mother said with immense love in her eyes.

Prem’s mother took out her cell phone and sent a text to her husband. “Guess What? I am at Jantar Mantar watching a street play. Prem is going to play an important character in the show.”

Within a few seconds, she received the text. “Great. I am glad that you went there. Enjoy your time.”

In less than 15 minutes, the show got started. Five guys who were all dressed up like ancient princesses were dragging out a person dressed up as a tribal man. He was wrapped up in the tiger’s skin along with a waistband of human skulls. He was having a crown of colorful bird’s feather with heavy rings in both the ears. He was begging for his life and was weeping inconsolably, “Please allow me to open the eyes of Lord Shiva or else it will bring bad luck to everyone in this city of Indraprastha”

One of the princes with heavy built came and roared in loudest possible voice, “Your job is done Mayasur and you are well paid for the same. The eyes of our deity lord Shiva will be opened by the holy priest after the much needed Praan Pratistha (A Hindu ritual performed before inaugurating a temple). The temple has already been washed by the holy water of Ganga and so no Shudras are supposed to enter the temple premises. Tomorrow, we have a big day as all the famous kings will be here from across the country. You can go and take the refuse near Indra’s house on the bank of river Yamuna.”

And after saying that the eldest prince instructed some of the soldiers to get the known architect of Indraprastha city ‘Mayasur’ thrown away at the bank of river Yamuna.

The wailing monster met the fate as per the king’s wish without caring much about what he was blabbering all the way. It was the time when they were returning after dumping the monster at the river bank, they heard him loud and clear. They turned back to look at the most horrifying scene of their lives.

He was shivering out of anger and hatred. His eyes were burning red over his black muddy face. With Yamuna river water in one of his palm, he started chanting some mantras and then started cursing the city that was designed and created by him and his clan with a lot of love, passion, and intelligence. With utter hatred in his voice he roared like a wounded lion, “May your women deceit their men; may your daughters get raped in their own houses; may you kill your brothers for even a small fraction of wealth. May you all see the worst atrocities of this universe; may the cruel foreign attackers be the ruler of this city.” He then closed his eyes, chanted some mantras again and threw the Yamuna water back into it, and hit the ground with immense strength of his fist. With that hit, an artificially created thunderstorm rocked the arena of Jantar Mantar.

There was a pin drop silence among the crowd. It seemed like everyone present there started to believe that all the atrocities in Delhi are because of Mayasur’s curse during the time of Mahabharata. After the closing remarks, everyone gave the standing ovation to the actors who played their characters well. That was the time when she realized that the character of Mayasur was being played by her son Prem and she was appalled by such a magical performance. How come a guy from a very ordinary background and parents can develop such a great talent? Must have worked very hard to achieve that level of excellence in his work.

With mixed thoughts, she came back home and kept on thinking about it for the rest of the day. She was not able to talk about it to anyone. Not even to her husband at the dinner table. Prem continued to stay with at the college’s hostel with friends citing the same reason for rehearsals.

On the day of the annual function celebration, Prem insisted his mother over the phone to invite some of the relatives as well which she politely refused but also convinced him that her refusal had nothing to do with the kind of role he was going to perform. At 6 PM, Mr. and Mrs. Verma reached the venue at the DU campus. One of his friends assisted them to get the seat in the second row which was reserved for the parents of all the participants. After an hour of speeches, dance programs, and other acts finally, the play was announced.

It got started with the scene of Draupadi’s marriage as the stage was set up like a king’s court and Prem was sitting on a soft couch with heavy makeup and jewelry. He had draped the yellow-colored silk saree so well, eyebrows were properly lined and there was a rare kind of elegance on his face. His mother’s heart sank to see his son like that and she started to feel suffocated. “I can’t see him like that in a women’s attire. I feel something wrong has happened as no boy can look so girlish whatever you do.”

For a moment Prem’s father was also taken aback, but then he controlled the situation and convinced her that these days makeups can turn anyone into anything. In between their discussion, the play reached the point when Draupadi started to insult Karna as per Krishna’s plan. “How come you being a son of a chariot driver can even tame a dream-like marrying the princess of Panchal? I would prefer to maintain celibacy all my life rather than marrying a shudra (lower caste guy) like you.”

Naturally, it did not go well with Karna. He took out his bow and arrow immediately to kill her but then someone reminded him that a warrior can’t attack a woman. He then threw his bow aside and said to Draupadi, “History is witnessing this Panchali. Very soon a time will come when you too will be stripped in a king’s court and then only God will be able to protect you. I have paid the cost for being Shudra today and you will pay the cost for insulting a warrior who was invited by your father to participate in this swayamvar(Ancient way of marriage in India when a girl had to choose her husband among many prospective grooms).”

The crowd was mum seeing the intense performance of both the characters. In the next scene, the setup was for the moment when Draupadi was dragged by her hair by Dushashan in the court of Hastinapur after her five-husbands lost her in the game to dicing to the crown prince Duryodhan who further instructed his brother to strip her down and place her naked on his lap.

Prem was draped in a white saree from shoulder to knee length like it was mentioned in scriptures. That was the time when his father too got worried as there were some prominent changes in his body that could never be achieved through makeup. Undoubtedly, he was appearing like a young girl. In the play, the character of Dushashan gave the best of his endeavor to strip him down but was not able to.

In between Draupadi looked at Karna for help and he laughed out loud and said, “Remember Panchali! That day you insulted me by calling me the son of a chariot driver. Look around and see those five husbands of yours standing there like a slave who did not think twice while placing you on a bet. At least this Shudra could have never let that happen. And now coming back to the matter to help you. In our ancient scripts, it has been mentioned that a woman who sleeps with more than four men should be considered as a whore and for a whore, there is no shame.”

She roared like a lioness and cursed Hastinapur with a full vengeance and furious anger, “None of you will be alive in coming future to mock any other women in your lives again. All your generations will be slaughtered like animals in war. And Karna you will see the worst and most insulting death that any warrior will ever witness in history. Yes, history is witnessing this that how you who claim to be a warrior tried to strip down a woman for vengeance.

There was a big round of applaud for such a great performance and many of the spectators were left with tears in their eyes.

By midnight Mr. and Mrs. Verma got the confirmation that their son was no more a boy. He was operated, and his sex was changed as per his wish and he got his name registered as Krishna-another name of Draupadi. The next morning Mrs. Verma died of cardiac arrest and after few days Mr. Verma left Delhi forever and went to live near a shrine at Gangotri.

By: Nilesh Ranjan

The nation that bleeds for no reason!!


shopian1

On the 18th of October 2012, troops of 159 Battalion CRPF launched an operation against the Naxalites at Chakrabandha forest, PS- Dumaria, Dist. Gaya(Bihar) under the leadership of my brave husband Captain Nirala Singh. As the troops were advancing towards their target and had reached till village Barha, the Naxalites, who were waiting in an ambush blasted a series of IEDs and opened fire at them indiscriminately. One of the vehicles came under the direct impact of the blast and its occupants sustained severe injuries. The troops immediately took positions and opened fire in retaliation. The Naxalites had carefully planned the ambush and were occupying all the dominating heights in the vicinity.

It was getting late enough to be worried. I once again stepped into the balcony and looked down. Except for a drenched street dog that was lying down miserably near the gate, there was not a soul to be seen anywhere. Rain water had puddled under the lamp post. A breeze ruffled the mango tree in the courtyard and a few twigs fell down and broke. Thunder rumbled in the distance. Did I hear a soft knock at the door? I turned back and walked slowly towards the door. Suspiciously, I opened it to see the constable Hari Ram standing there with his legs trembling. I requested him to come inside and gave a glass of water when he was sitting silently looking outside the window.

“Is everything alright Hariji?”, I asked him softly keeping my heart and soul in one piece.

“I really don’t know madam, but heard that Nirala Saheb was asking for reinforcement from the headquarter over the wireless. He was speaking to DIG sir in a very fumbling voice in between the cacophony of gun battle, which was clearly audible from the other side. I got to know that Ramjee sir is badly injured in an IED blast.” He said with an immense sadness in his voice.

“We policemen are the biggest sufferers of this endless battle madam. Ramjee Sir has just started his career last year. He is such a gentleman unlike many officers of his age, who are always in hangover by gulping the liquor provided by the traitors. He is still untouched by any sort of corruption and carry a sense of wisdom all the time. Sometimes I really wonder why a learned person like him joined the force to get killed like dogs. “

“Don’t worry that much Hariji as god always accompany the strong-willed people. I know my husband and he is no how lesser than a miracle. He will not let Ramjee die till the very last of his own breath. He is very protective for his team and if by any chance death comes anywhere closer then he will be the first one to give his own life. That is the kind of commitment he shows towards his duty.”, I said firmly suppressing my urge to cry my heart out. In the last 8 years of his service, my husband had been attacked for more than twenty-five times by the so called Red Army and suffered several bullet injuries in such gun battles.

I remember when I saw him for the first time. He was standing silently at one corner of the room beside his mother during our match making ritual. As a commanding officer, he was having a broad shoulder with very well-formed muscles and a pair of determined eyes. Initially, I was hesitant to marry him due to some obvious reason for being a daughter of an army personnel, but it was the humility and softness in his voice that attracted me more and more towards him. I became very submissive to him and wanted to share some part of his dreams. His love for the stray dogs and small kids was commendable. He very often brought the abandoned pups and other injured animals at home, gave proper treatment to their wounds, fed them well and then ensured to provide them a well sheltered NGOs meant for animals. Such was his kindness and that made him a charismatic leader well respected in his battalion both among senior and junior officers.

I was never sure about the kind of job he does until that night when he suddenly started to weep inconsolably and said that he has become a cold-blooded murderer to survive against those Naxalites. On further enquiry, I got to know that during one such operation he slit the throat of a 13-year aged kid, who was holding an assault rifle and was firing continuously at his unit without any provocation. He kept on urging the boy to drop his weapon and he will spare him, but he appeared to be intoxicated by the hollowness of poverty and hunger in the tribal areas having immense hatred for the federal force for some genuine reasons.

Many of such boys were given birth by their raped mothers without even knowing their illegitimate fathers, who mere considered the tribal women as the means to quench their occasional thirst to avenge their murdered fellow officers in frequent combats with Naxalites in those areas. It was all the part of operation green hunt launched by the central government in conjunction with states like Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh to neutralize the rebels. But, no one knew that such practices by local Policemen were not at all entertained by the CRPF men as they were trained to carry a very high moral and dignity unlike the state police force.

After that night, he frequently started to share with me more about his job and raids over the tribal village. He ensured that not a single villager was manhandled and given them the much-required empathy for their sufferings. According to my husband, those tribal were being sandwiched between the government and Naxalites. Their kids were forcibly snatched away to join the armed revolution against the government forces. In sort those kids were the first line of defence for the Naxalites to trap the CRPF men at the very entrance of the jungle. The CRPF has decided to put more boots on grounds with better firepower to tackle the Maoists in their strongholds after an incidence of year 2010 at Dante Wada, Chhattisgarh where federal forces suffered a string of fatal setback by losing 76 of its men.

“May god bless them and I wish to see all my colleagues in one pieces back again at the cantonment. We need people like Nirala Saheb and Ramjee Sir in a situation like this when we all are losing the hope for our lives. I will take your leave madam and will come back tomorrow morning with further updates. Do not hesitate to call me for anything you need. I can understand the pain you have to go through in days like this.” Hari Ram brought me back from all what I was thinking.

I got up from my place to see him off the main gate and waited for Lavanya to come back. Lavanya-loving daughter of a loving father. She too had a dream to join the armed forces like her father in those days and I never came in between her and her ambitions. From a very tender age of 5 itself she started to learn the ancient Indian Martial Art. That day she came flashing a medal that she won at a district level karate championship. She came looking for her father and got disappointed to know that he has been out on a trip to Jungle with his troops. In those days, she hardly saw her father at home as he was mostly occupied in the fierce battle against some of the very dreaded militants. He often used to tell her that they are our own countrymen, who are not happy with the kind of federal structure we have. They were forced to take law in their hands due to the long-term negligence, discrimination and suppression against them even after the independence.

“Isn’t there a solution for all that?”, I asked him on a normal day while massaging his head.

“No dear. Not in any near future. It will continue till the time there will be no one to fight. Looks like we are all cursed by those mothers who were repeatedly raped and whose children were butchered in front of them by both the sides. Sometimes for being a suspected rebel and sometimes for being a suspected police informer.” He said with heaviness in his voice.

Next day, he came back with some of his troopers wrapped up in tricolour, whose immortal spirits had already left their mortal ruins for others like them to get inspired and continue the battle. Shaheed SI Ramjee Ram was one of them. Before the reinforcement could reach, Nirala Singh had already lost 7 of his men and his left hand was chopped off by the Naxalites, who took it away along with the head of Ramjee’s pierced body as souvenirs. Such was their brutalism and hatred for our men in uniforms. They were all awarded the Police Medal for Gallantry posthumously by the Honourable President of India in 2013.

These days my husband works for a leading journal as a war journalist and keep on highlighting the story of all the wounded souls in the tribal area. Even today after so many years and after losing one of his limb in such battle, he still believes that it is being fought for no noble cause from either side. For CRPF men the battle is just to survive against all the odds and for Naxalites it has become more like a funded game played on the corpse of poor people. In one of his articles, it was mentioned that he never expected the nation to bleed for that long in between the competition to kill more number of enemies from both the sides. He thought that it will soon get over with growing industrialization and growth in those areas where the kids of red zone area will get the better earning for their livelihoods, but he was proven to be wrong when Naxalites killed one of the top executives of a multinational company. It was not going to be an easy war in either way but like true soldier he continued his battle against the red army.

****The End****

Love was just a coincidence-Part II


love-sadness-psychotherapy

The next 4 years of journey at defense academy was not at all a smooth sail for Hussain. He did face some minor hiccups of biased training officers and the major prejudice for being a Muslim among his fellow inmates. His passion and loyalty to serve the country as an army personnel was tried and tested at several occasions at times in a hard way. And like most of the other times he emerged out clean without having any damage to his soul. In fact, he was able to uproot the preconceived notion of his fellow mates about any particular community.

In any of his letters, he never mentioned any such pain to his father in particular because it was his father who taught him not to regret his decisions at any stage of life. In some of his letters to Gurmeet, he mentioned about the kind of physical assignments purposely given to him to sever his spirit. But, like a tough wooden boat he remained calm and composed. He believed that Allah might be having a test of his love and compassion for the country. In one of the photographs, the physical built of Hussain was clearly evident as he appeared very robust in it due to his broad shoulder along with a well grown mustache over his face. The picture was taken during an excursion of cadets at Bhorghat(small hilly village in the suburbs of Pune).

In one of the letters, Gurmeet replied,’You still have the same set of eyes brother. Determined and full of kindness. We all miss you a lot.’ Hussain smiled and kept the letter in a file meant for preserving such love.

At academy, he was studying mathematics, science, army’s law, mountaineering, swimming and other arms and ammunition related subjects. He was inclined towards studying all of it keeping an attitude of Leonardo-da-Vinci. His mathematical ability and precision was well acknowledged by everyone at the academy. Slowly the magic of his highly spirited personality started working by the end of second year. At many occasions, he did read the Urdu poetry flawlessly and that earned him a great reputation and admiration among the cadets and training officers. He learnt to play guitar efficiently, which made everyone believe that he was indeed a quick learner of things. He won several medals for gun shots and athletic assignments.

In the second half of the third year, he was sent to the Himalayas base camp for several mountain climbing training and assignments. He was able to conquer all of them without a single injury on his body. Sometimes going along with your passion is more blissful than anything else in this world. During those days of Himalayas, he learnt to meditate at a monastery and soon mastered the art of yoga by practicing it daily with acute commitment. It brought a different level of peace and serenity over his face and he started carrying a charismatic persona around him. Over their return to the academy, his mates mocked him for being a monk. At times they use to ask,’Hussain Miyan, are you planning to switch to Buddhism now?’

‘You see, I was already a Sikh because of my childhood friend Gurmeet. With you guys, I became a Hindu in last three years. So, I do not see any harm in switching to Buddhism now. On top of it I don’t need to worry about insane clashes between Hindus and Muslims.’

And they giggled and screamed all together “Babaaa”.

Finally, the day came when he received the very first letter from her in those years of academy. It was written on a pink paper with shining ink. Surprisingly letter was stamped by some Delhi’s post office. He opened and read it again and again like holy verses of Quran.

Dear Hussain,

Hope you did not forget me. You must be wondering that why it took so long for me to write a letter to you. The sudden and unfortunate death of Abbu was a kind of thunderclap on my family. Everyone of us knows the fact that nothing is permanent in this world and we all are mere mortals, but life forces us to realize such harsh facts at a time when we are least prepared for the it. Ammi got bed ridden due to after shock of Abbu’s death and being the eldest among all my three siblings, I had to ensure that Ammi’s soul remains intact with her body because none of us are prepared for being orphans. That made me a paranoid for initial two years as I used to check whether Ammi was breathing or not during her sleep. My younger brother Adil has got admission at Zamia Milia Islamina college, Delhi. So, I came all the way from Aligarh to ensure that he get the proper hostel room accommodation. I got your address from Julie almost an year back and keep on getting updates about your training and assignments. That’s the only source of my hope and happiness. Knowing about your achievements has always been so eternal. Life is bit difficult in Aligarh at Bade Abbu’s house. He is a cleric and very infamous for his fundamentalism in political circle. At times, I do feel suffocated due to serious restrictions imposed by him, but the fact of not having my father alive makes me very vulnerable to this world. I have learnt that in a very hard way and so it is less painful now. I want to return back to my city Patna Sahib and I am sure I will be there anytime soon. Ammi is getting better and is slowly moving on with life specially after Adil showed the kind of determination you had with yourself. Want to write a lot more, but at the same time don’t want to burden you with miseries of my life. One good thing is that I have completed part 2 of my graduation and got second position in University. You can reply to me at my college address as I will have the privilege to collect it from the administration building.

Eagerly waiting for your reply. 

Yours forever

Sazia

Keeping the letter below his pillow, he left out to swim. It was a no moon night and he was simply floating keeping his back in water seeing the large cluster of stars up in the sky. Today everything appeared so ecstatic to him. He was much more determined to marry Sazia than before after seeing the control over her emotions in her letter. Now, he was pretty sure that his emotions will be safe in her hands. ‘God bless my Sazia!’ He muttered to himself.

Next day after finishing his work and assignments, he got down to reply back to her without having an idea from where to start. For one hour he struggled and kept on tearing papers. Finally, he established peace with himself.

Dear Sazia,

There was nothing surprising about receiving your first letter after 3 years. At times, time is the only healer we have got. I was not in your situation and so hardly can estimate the level of pain you might have gone through after Neem Sir passed away. Such kind of losses are irreparable in life, but like they always say during army training that pain is temporary and the glory is forever. Life goes on with series of such experiences. In all these three years, not a single day of my life has passed without thinking about you. There had been times, when I felt very unfortunate for not being able to assist you in any way in your bad time. May be I was not destined to. May be I was supposed to bear the pain of heavy arms and physical training in a hope to come back in a better shape to serve you better. This is going to be my last six months at academy and I will soon be travelling to our hometown before joining Indian Army as a commissioned officer. So far, results for me had been overwhelming and I hope not to have any surprises in whatever time left here. From your end it was good to know that your Ammi is getting back in shape and Adil got admission at such a prestigious college. Pay my regards to Ammi. I don’t know how to put it and so to make it simple I would like to say that my love for you has enhanced to a much greater extent and I feel like marrying you right away. But, need your opinion about the same before I speak to my parents. I am enclosing a latest photograph of mine along with this letter which may bring some more relief to you. Please do wait for me. I will come back very soon for you my love.

Always yours

Hussan Iqbal

The letter was sent to the Aligarh Muslim University’s address through registry post and was quickly received by Sazia within 3 days. The stamp from an army base made her blush and she pasted the letter to her chest like she was giving a tight hug to the sender himself. The first thing that came out of envelope was his photograph. The robust and determined Hussain with same spark in eyes and same innocence over the face. She quickly finished reading the letter and looked at the sky whispering to herself,’Did you see that Abbu? Your student is going to help us all to emerge out of this misery.’

In her next letter which came almost after a month, she mentioned that her uncle is planning to get her married to his elder son. It was also mentioned that she will be travelling to Patna Sahib in next week for around a month to sell their house over there.

Reading the letter, Hussain quickly applied for the leaves of 10 days citing the medical condition of his parents and booked his tickets for Patna Sahib. It was the month of January and also month of holy Ramadan. He was instructed not to keep fasting seeing the toughness of arm and ammunition training, but he won the confidence of officers showing his strong willingness to do the fasting. He told his officers that keeping fast makes him feel closer to the mighty god and helps him focus more on his tasks.

Next week he took the train from Pune. The one and only Pune-Patna express, which connects many states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh to Pune. He kept his army jacket with himself knowing the kind of weather he will have to face in Bihar in the midst of winter season because temperature of cities which are on the line of river Ganga plunges closer to the freezing point at night. The sun gets eclipsed by dense fog and cloud for almost a month. Through out the journey he kept thinking about her. She might have grown into a beautiful young women like Juhi Chawla(in her sister’s word). Due to heavy fog train got delay by 12 hours and he reached somewhere around 8 PM to Patna Sahib. The market was lively due to Ramadan otherwise during winter people prefers to stay closer to fire woods within the closed doors of their houses.

He crossed the market and walked for around 4 km, which gave him little warmth to his frozen legs and some energy to knock the door at Gurmeet’s house before going to his own. The door was opened by Gurmeet’s father who felt surprised and blessed to see the young Hussain in Army uniform. Hussain touched his feet to seek his blessings and he in return touched his cheeks with both hands out of compassion. ‘Waahe Guru!!’

He took hold of Hussain’s strong shoulder and gave a warm hug to him and then almost dragged him inside the door with full strength to protect him from cold wave.

‘Gurmeet, please come and see who is at our door.’

Gurmeet came out running from kitchen and surprisingly looked at him. He screamed out of joy. ‘Kaake!! Why did not you mention about your trip? I should have come down to receive you.’

‘It was planned out of sudden. Did not get time to write a letter or call you guys? So, how are the things going on?’

‘With god’s grace everything is going fine. I have started to help my father at our ancestral shop in gurudwara complex, which gives him free hand to spend more time at kirtan. Mother is in a much better condition after operation for arthritis. She has gone to my grandmother’s house with sisters. Rizwan has gone to Mumbai for an examination. Will be back in two days. So, its only me and daddy here. Come inside the kitchen. Coincidentally, I was preparing your favorite halwa today.’

‘That’s great! But make it quickly as I have to reach home on time otherwise  I will keep on struggling to get in my own house.’

‘Don’t worry. I will drop you.’

They had some chat while having halwa in kitchen. Hussain told his friend about the reason behind his surprise visit, which Gurmeet has already anticipated. After all, he knew about all the nerves in Hussain’s body.

Reaching at Hussain’s door, Gurmeet asked him to hide behind so that his family members do not see him. He knocked the door and the youngest one opened it.

‘Ammi, Gurmeet bhaijaan has come.’

Ammi came out quickly. ‘What is it beta which brings you here at this time? Come inside. Don’t stand outside. You will catch the cold.’

‘I came to handover a gift to you.’

‘Nonsense. First you step inside and sit beside the fire. Why you guys have to trouble me all the time rather than helping me out?’

‘Here is your gift.’

It was Hussain with his signature smile all over his face. Ammi could not believe her eyes. He bent down to touch Ammi’s feet, who caught his hand in between and hugged him.

‘I will take a leave Aunty as daddy is waiting for dinner. Take care of him. I will come tomorrow morning for breakfast’, saying that Gurmeet left.

All three sisters came running to their brother, who brought lot of gifts for all of them from army cant. There was a beautiful shrug kept in his bag, which his youngest sister pulled out. Hussain took it away from her hand to tease her and said,’ This one is for Juhi Chawla.’

She started to cry seeing such a cruelty from his brother. She never expected him of such a behavior towards her and like a heart broken she returned back all the dresses and dry fruits to him and shouted badly ,’ Give all of them to her.’

‘It was you who started calling her Juhi Chawla and now you are jealous of her. You are turning out to be a dayan(witch) day by day.’ Hussain mocked her to death laughing out loudly.

‘You just leave my hands and go better sit in her lap. And I don’t need to be jealous of anyone as she is not that beautiful. Even our maid is better looking than her.’

‘O Really! Then our maid must be Madhuri Dixit.’

Ammi came with a cup of tea and screamed at him,’ You started again with the ritual to trouble her. And you the little monster. From where did you get so much of anger, jealousy and hatred in you. If you have to fight him then why you keep on praying for his safety all the time. Now go and finish you home works. Will call you once dinner is ready’.

Abbu was off to duty like he always was. Hussain took off his shoes and jacket and handed it over to Ammi, who kept them at an appropriate place. He told her that he only got ten days of leave to celebrate Eid festival with family. He did mentioned that after completing the training it would be difficult to manage the leaves frequently and so they all will have to shift with him. Ammi was glad that he was there for Eid.

Next day, early morning both Gurmeet and Hussain reached to Rizwan’s house. Like everyone they too were surprised to see Hussain but not Julie. She was pretty confident about why he was hovering in Patna Sahib. She quickly went to Sazia’s house riding her cycle and came back in an hour having a letter from her. At that time both of them were having their tea with her mother near the fire wood. She carefully handed the letter to Hussain who got up from his place and asked Gurmeet to come along. Before Rizwan’s mother could understand anything, they were  gone.

The letter said,’Request you to please come with your Ammi and Abbu’. Hussain looked puzzled for a moment, but then he asked Gurmeet to take him to her house. With little reluctance, Gurmeet started his scooter and drove towards Neem Sir’s house. There she was standing at the door talking to some neighboring women. She rushed inside her house seeing him coming at her house. Hussain asked Gurmeet to wait there at the famous Samosa’s shop before getting down at her door. Without any hesitation and fear about the locality, he knocked the door. In fact, seeing the kind of built and army jacket, no body in that colony could have actually dared to threat him in any way. He was having his Rayban over his eyes, which gave a tough look to him. Her mother came at door. He went ahead and touched her before saying,’ Assallam wale kum Chachi. Remember me. I am Hussain Iqbal. On that fateful day, me along with my family were going to have lunch cooked by you. We were invited by Sir.’

‘Wale kum salam beta. What a surprise? Just look at you. You are a grown man now. I was not able to recognize you at first. Please come inside. Its not very clean as you know it was closed for almost three and half years. We are still dusting it out.’

‘I completely understand Chachi. Forgive me for suddenly coming like that. I hope I did not cause any trouble to you’, Hussain said taking a chair, which was not in a very good shape but manageable.

‘I have heard so much about you from my daughter and was always seeing you in my dreams wondering how you might be appearing in Army Uniform.’

‘Chachi, I will come straight to the point. I want you and Sazia to please come with me to my house. But, before that I would like to have some words with her.’

‘Yes, I can understand. Time has changed and for me it changed the day your teacher left me alone to sail with three kids. Sazia has already mentioned everything about you and her few months before. I never been face to face with you and so I was quite skeptical about it. But, now I am quite confident that you two will make a very nice couple. There is a problem, but we will discuss about it later. First let you two decide how to take things forward.’

She went inside to look for Sazia, who was shivering and blushing at the same time. Her mother understood what she was going through. In that age, love is the only beautiful thing guys and girls are aware of. At least, it gives them the hope to live for a right cause, to perform for the betterment of this world.

“Hello Hussain!!”, She said from behind the curtain.

Hearing his name from her always made his heart shake. He replied back to her,’ Hello Sazia!! How are you girl? Please come in front of me as I am having very less time to manage all this. Please don’t hide behind the curtains. I can’t manage everything alone and need you by my side.’

She came out quickly and stood right in front of him. Her head was covered by a red colored stole. He looked at her from so close for the first time. Her eyes were having the dark circle around it clearly stating her condition. But, even then there was a spark in her eyes and she looked confident and that may be by seeing her love coming all the way to Patna Sahib just for her. Just for the sake of her happiness.

Hussain looked straight into her eyes and said,’Sazia my love, I can see that we got a situation to deal with. And I am pretty sure that we will handle it efficiently. But, the question arises that are you really willing to marry me at this stage and take an additional responsibility of marriage apart from what you already have? ‘

‘It has truly nothing to do with what I think and believe into. We are little indebted by the support rendered by my uncle after my father passed away. Next month, he want me to get married to his elder son. He has already informed all the relatives and arranged most of the things for marriage without even asking me or Ammi. I bought some time by convincing him that we need to sell the property of Patna Sahib. I too want to let Adil complete at least half of his engineering education, want to finish my graduation,  want you to have sometime to settle down after completing your academy and there are other things as well in to-do list. But, every time things does not go as per our desire. In case, you need sometime then please do let me know as I have already burdened your soul a lot.’

”Hmm”, said Hussain and got up from his chair.

Ammi purposely left them alone and was listening to their conversation behind the curtain. She adored the level of maturity both were showing towards each other. She closed her eyes and whispered,’ Allah, please show some mercy upon these kids. Help them out to fulfil their dreams. I am ready to pay any cost for the sake of her happiness.’ By this time she knew that by marrying Hussain her daughter will live life with pride and dignity.

She looked from the corner by removing the curtain slightly. Hussain went little closer to Sazia and kept his hand over her wet cheek and softly said,’Go and call Ammi.’ Ammi came out instantly from behind the curtains. He quickly removed his hand from Sazia’s cheek.

‘Well, I got some work to finish in market and I guess it may take about an hour or two for all of you to get ready. I will be back in sometime and then we will go to my house. I guess Abbu will be back from duty by that time. Chachi, you had never met my parents before and so please don’t keep any preconceived notion about them. They are one of the most lovely persons you might ever come across. You can ask Sazia about it.’

‘I don’t need to ask her beta. Any parents who give this soil a son like you is having greatness in itself. The sacrifice a parent does to send their only son in army is not comparable to any other thing in this world. But, I just want to understand that are your parents aware about all this. Or are you going to give a shock of lifetime to them?’

‘There is nothing to be shocked about in it Chachi. My father had never been against the love and his only concern remains with the timing of it in the larger interest of youngsters. I am pretty sure he will not mind it. He may get upset the way things are staged up, but we can’t help it out as the circumstance is like that. Now, if you please allow me then my friend Gurmeet is waiting outside for me.’

Before Hussain could turn back, her mother came forward and kissed his forehead and handed a five hundred rupees note to him. He was little puzzled, but kept the note in his pocket like her blessings without making it complicated.

‘What an honest eyes that child has got? Reminds me of your Abbu.’, Ammi said to Sazia with teary eyes. She asked her to come in her arms and Sazia ran to hug her mother. For few moments they wept on each other’s shoulder before Ammi kissed her hands and said,’Allah has brought him to us due to good deeds of your father. Now, go and please get ready. He is an army personal and may be little punctual with time.’

Sazia blushed and slowly went to clean the bathroom as there were lot of cobwebs and lizards hovering over the walls everywhere. Her sister Alia was cleaning up the hand pump area and washed the room where Urdu teacher used to take his classes. By any means, there were no reason to believe that they had any intentions to sell the house. Sazia told her to finish up things and take bath quickly.

Hussain went to the fish market, little away from his locality and famous for fresh fish transported from a city named Darbhanga(famous for the production of betel leaves, fox nut and special variety of fishes). He bought 3 kgs of medium sized fish and one kg of small sized catfish. While coming back he bought some dry fruits as well for Ammi to prepare his delicacies on the auspicious day of Eid.

‘I am driving the vehicle to our favorite tea shop near college. I was wondering from morning itself that what I was actually forgetting and now realized that it was that shop’, said Hussain while driving the scooter and also staring at the new buildings that were mushrooming up in the outskirts of the city.

‘They say that their is a proposed township planned at this location and probably the cluster of building under construction are the part of it. And yes, please do take me to that tea shop. It’s been long for me as well. Last year me and Rizwan went there due to some work at college. After that it never even came to our mind. Perhaps you were the biggest fan of that tea during college time.’, Gurmeet said.

‘Yes,indeed.’

‘Come on Hussain. You are under the training for being an army officer. Don’t they provide good tea at the canteen there?’

‘Nobody provides you tea. You just have to make it as per your own taste. They give you hot red tea, milk separately and sugar cubes. So, I stopped having tea and switched to coffee. Food is good as one gets a lot of choice.’

‘Of course, you mentioned it to me several times in your letters. Shall I ask you something if you please don’t mind?’

Hussain looked at him by slightly turning around, but Gurmeet patted on his back and insisted to look ahead while driving. ‘Huh!! Like it really matters to you if I mind. Nonsense.’

‘Are you serious about this marriage thing and that too with Sazia who is just 19 in age? Do you really believe that either of you hold the level of maturity required to sustain a marriage? I mean I am not sure how your father will react to it.’

‘Honestly speaking I got no answer to any of your questions. Sometimes it’s wise not to have all the answers. This is life quite real unlike what I do at academy.’

‘Sorry, I did not get the last one. So, you mean that whatever you are doing at academy is not real. You are literally driving me crazy now. Anyways not your problem rather it’s the blind lover kind of syndrome that I see in you. You are becoming poetic-the one, which pisses me off.’

‘Let me handle you better at the tea shop.’, Hussain said angrily.

Rahne doa miyaan!! Sab samajhta hun main..(leave it my friend. I understand every bit of it)’, Gurmeet said without paying much attention to his friend’s anger. He was quite familiar with that kind of artificial anger Hussain was showing. One cup of good tea was good enough to sublime it.

After having first sip of tea, he kept the cup aside and caught the collar of Gurmeet and brought him little closer to him and said,’Yes, I am in tremendous love with her and may be I am even blind folded by it. So, do you find any loss to the mankind or to our friendship? Are you jealous of seeing me getting married?’

‘Yes you idiot, I am jealous by seeing you getting married. So, what you will do? Will you find one for me as well?’. Now, it was Gurmeet, who was holding Hussain’s collar. The tea shop owner was familiar with their typical way of fighting each other and so he ignored, but other customers started running away seeing the possibility of a big fight between two young men with heavy physical built.

Shop owner came out running to both of them with folded hands requesting them to stop the display of their physical strengths as he was loosing business in that hour. They were released from each other’s grip and soon they were seen having their cup of tea sitting beside each other.

‘You can’t have a girl like her because you will get overwhelmed by it and may attain a kind of insanity. You are not at all brave like other Sikhs and often start sulking over small things. In sort, you are an emotional fool.’

‘You are insulting me now. Me being emotional is not my weakness.’

‘Of course, it is not. But, tomorrow if her uncle comes along with his gang to disrupt my marriage and take her along with him to Aligarh then what you are you going to do? Let me guess!! You will weep either on my shoulder or on Rizwan’s shoulder.’

‘Enough!!’, Gurmeet took out his kripan(sword) tied to his waist like all other Sikhs. ‘I will chop their balls if they dare to come anywhere closer to you or her. I may be an emotional fool, but surely not a coward. I am a true follower of Guru Govind Singh and a true friend of yours. So, please stop provoking me.’

Hussain burst out in laughter, but the shop owner was scared to death. ‘Now, will you please bring down your kripan back to rest. Also, drop me to the famous pir-dargah and then please go and give the fish to Ammi and do tell her to expect some guests. Also, ask your father to join us at lunch. He is supposed to be there along with my parents over such discussions.’

‘By the way, who all are the guests my child?’, Ammi asked Gurmeet.

He shrugged his shoulders and said,’Not sure, but I guess it’s our late Urdu teacher’s family. His wife and daughters. Now, please don’t ask me anything more about it. Like your philosopher son has preached me few minutes back that it is wise not to have all the answers, I have decided not apply my brain over such matter.’

‘You are right my son. You all are grown up and so becoming philosophical with parents. Go, don’t tell me anything. I will explore it myself. Will you be joining us at lunch time? And do take lunch for your father. I will cook for him as well.’, saying that Ammi got down near a water tap to wash the fish.

‘He too will be joining us for lunch.’, said Gurmeet and ran out of the gate.

Ammi raised her face up, but he was already gone. She quickly understood that something was going on, which she had not been made aware of. May be his son is up to something that he was not comfortable sharing with his mother for the first time in his life. ‘God bless these fools!!’, She muttered to herself and went back to work.

She was happy to know that she will be able to see the beautiful face of Sazia almost after four years. She had the deepest sympathy for her family. Losing man of the house can cause an irreparable loss to the women. She was able to empathize with Sazia because of her own upbringing by widowed mother and later by elder brothers after mother’s demise.

After offering a chaadar(a green cotton sheet with some holy words written on it in Urdu) to the pir baba at pir-dargah, Hussain left for Sazia’s house. In good and bad times, Hussain’s faith remained intact in pir baba. He strongly believed that at times blind faith becomes the most powerful thing in this world. It does miracle under exceptional circumstances. May be he was right.

To be continued….