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January 27, 2013

Snow White

It was hot and sunny."Drink your milk", my mother nagged me .At this point every single thing around me was irritating me. It was anxiety raising its destructive head. "I feel full already. I had the idlis, now I am done." I yelled back. I ran to rinse my mouth and tidy up my face and hair."Where is daddy? I need to get there on time". I yelled again. My father didn't value reaching anywhere on time. He was always taking it slow and easy .Chatting casually with anyone he met on the road. He would definitely make me late on my important day. "Daddy, daddy the place is on the other end of town, we have to start now. I cannot be late". This was important to me. I had to nail this one. The aptitude test for Infy. Getting everything right was the only thing on my mind. This was an off campus selection and it was a rare opportunity. I was trying to recall the entire problem solving from Summers and Shakuntala Devi. My father appeared. "You have to come back on your own, I cannot wait until it’s over", he told me. That was okay, I could manage back but I never went to that part of the town."It’s too far for taking an auto rickshaw back, I still cribbed. "So then take a bus", he replied. Some fury started bubbling inside. That was an unnecessary inconvenience. Taking a bus. What if I got through the test, I would have to hurry back and prepare for the interviews next day. Waiting for a bus is just going to waste all my time. Not to mention I would get really tired and sleepy. But I decided to let that go and focus on getting the perpetual un-punctual father of mine out through the door.

As usual he wanted to dust the car a bit. I sat inside slowly seeping with fury. They do very well understand I get all crabby under tension, why can't they help me calm down instead of agitate me further, I wondered. I never really understood my parents. At this stage in my life I particularly wanted to run away from them. I was eager to get a job and move out. I had not landed any campus selections. I wanted to explore life, more importantly the world on my own. With my extra conservative and righteous parents it was not possible.

As we travelled from signal to signal I started wondering what so many people were doing early in the morning on the roads on a Sunday. I dared not express loudly thereby giving my father a chance to lecture me on patience. We finally reached the place, an old college with a sprawling campus. So many trees lined the paths within. The old Victorian architecture was very intimidating.

I flew out of the car the second he stopped. "I can find everything on my own. Bye daddy", I waved goodbye. "Wait up, All the best dear...don’t be nervous...take time to solve the questions carefully", he managed a smile even when he was disappointed to be not accompanying me further. I ran all the way, found my exam hall and ran some more. I prayed hard, dear God, let me get through please.

As I sat in my place I looked around. All smart boys and pretty girls. I never thought of myself as pretty. There was a very fair girl sitting a few seats ahead of me. She was dressed well and looked very confident. I am sure life is a piece of cake for her, I mused. Truly a Snow White. People would be falling all over her to help her. If she clears the written today she will sail through the interview in a breeze. That is if it’s a guy who interviews her. He may even put her on his team. My warped mind started envisioning. Then the test began and I had to pull all my brain into solving it.

The test was easy. After the test it was announced that we would have to wait for sometime to know if we cleared it or not.  I decided that I would head for the canteen since my stomach had started to grumble and rumble. I did not look at any one around me. I knew I had a book with me and I was planning on losing myself in it.

When I sat down in the canteen with my samosas and coffee, I noticed that Snow White from my exam hall was walking in. She met my eyes and smiled. I had no other option but to smile. How come she is alone? I wondered. All the guys were eyeing her earlier. She took her tea and walked towards me. Oh no, I groaned within. I couldn't leave my samosas behind and run , could I ? She smiled again and dropped herself on the chair opposite me on my table.”Hello, you mind if I join you?” she asked.”Not at all, please...” I motioned with my hand. “I am Koshni, I was in your same exam hall”, she revealed. “Oh, is that so? I am Rachel”, I found it uncomfortable to disclose that I had noticed her. Petty jealousy. I have so many vices.

We went on to discuss some questions and I tried to glance into my book signaling of my total disinterest in her company. She never took the hint. After we were done in the canteen there was still a lot of time left, so we decided to stroll around. “I am guessing that you are from South”, she told me suddenly. “Yes I am and you look like you are from the North”, I laughed. I replied “Yes, All the way up North, I am from Kashmir”, she revealed. I was a bit excited. Never met a Kashmiri before. Kashmir was indeed alluring. All the beauty and the strife. “Can we sit in the shades of some tree, please...I think I am starting to get rashes from the hot sun”, she said. She showed me her arms which were indeed getting very red. “We Kashmiris are not used to really hot climate.Very sensitive skin to sun.” She told me as we sat down. “So then why are you here? ” I blurted out and tried not to sound too rude. She smiled again. “I am a Kashmiri Pundit. We sort of ran away from Kashmir overnight for saving our lives. If I could I would go back and live there among apple trees and snowy mountains”, her smile was starting to fade. What an insensitive idiot I am.”I am so sorry, I didn't mean it like that”, I apologized. “I know. You really don’t know and so it’s ok. Our whole family left our homes and land and travelled down to Jammu fearing our lives. I hear that they have burnt down our homes by now. From Jammu I was offered a place in a school in Pune since the Govt had given some reservation in schools for Kashmiri refugees. I stayed here in a hostel.” She told me with sadness. From a princess to a refugee overnight, I concluded. “Your family stayed back in Jammu?” I asked. “Yes”, she replied “My father found some small work. His brother’s family also shared our one bedroom flat in Jammu. My uncle owned a medicine store in Kashmir. He used to take home cash in bundles and baskets. He didn’t even have money to by milk for his children. Some of the loyal workers back in our orchards still send us some cash, God bless them”

I never had such a first hand knowledge of what the displaced Kashmiris faced. This was really shocking and I didn’t know how to handle the situation. She seemed to be in the mood to talk. Maybe she felt she could bare her helplessness to a stranger who she never was going to see again. No one is ever comfortable sharing weak moments even when it’s not their fault.
She continued “I am the eldest. I have a younger brother and sister. They are still in school. Next year my brother will go to college. I am planning to bring him here. When I was in college I had taken up some odd jobs to support myself. After college I joined a call center as I needed the cash. Couldn’t keep burdening my family. I feel so bad that I couldn’t land a campus placement.”
I sensed that she was starting to unravel. Her eyes were getting moist. I thought I would change the subject. ”Look at that beautiful flower” I pointed to the Gulmohar tree. She looked and nodded.”Do you know that so many movies were shot in our orchards back in Kashmir? It is a lovely place. There is no place like that anywhere else in the whole world. I was still a child when we left but I remember. I remember every blade of glass. I remember every snow flake. All I want to do is go back to my home and orchards.”

“How is your rash now?” I asked her. She looked at her arm and stroked it gently.”It’s ok now. So many of us fell sick in Jammu and Delhi because we couldn’t adjust to the climate.”
I felt a pull towards her. I put an arm over her and said “I think you are very brave and very hard working. You will surely make your family proud and I am so glad to have met you.” I was a bit shocked hearing these words from my own mouth.

She managed to smile and then we walked back to the main entrance where the results were being called out. I had cleared and she hadn’t. We walked together again to the bus stop and she gave me tips about my interview the next day. She seemed to be genuinely happy for me. How could she not be so bitter after all she went through? I have such a disdain towards everyone and I even don’t know why. I had such a wrong picture about her easy life. And now she is cheering me on where she had lost. I truly admired her. I knew I could never be so giving and beautiful. She was so lovely to look at and even lovelier to be with. She had no hatred, no pull you down mind games. I felt ashamed of taking everything for granted. My parents and every comfort they provided wasn’t a small blessing. No small blessing at all. Can’t say that I suddenly turned into an ideal daughter but I was much more thankful and respectful.

I never met Koshni again but I can never forget her. When small plans go awry and irritate me I think of her and wish her well in all endeavors. She was proof to me that no matter how unfair life treats you its still worth a smile. Life is not just a win but beauty, a gentle glow of friendship and a joyful helping hand. Snow White, I pray that you find your way back home. One day the reign of the evil Queen will end and you will live happily ever after.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda

January 24, 2013

A Loud Customer

I don’t like loud people, neither those who talk about themselves a lot. Its not that I like people who talk a lot but I start disliking them if they talk about their own stuff all the time. I know a person who does that and I can’t do much to escape her. I almost admire her for her many other qualities but when she starts off I feel suffocated. "I did this because of this reason,  my baby did that oh he is cute , co clever…". And she is least bit interested in what ever I may have wanted to add, explain or share. Maybe she has already made up her mind about me and she feels she knows everything about me and all that I do and think. I myself have no clue of that yet. I don’t plan much in advance and neither do set targets. Much of a free fall my days are. Sailing only on my whims and fancies. And of course the wishes of the little ones who pull and push me.

Now coming back to the loud people. I find them bossy, bullying. Why do they talk so loudly? And assuming a position of power of sorts..ordering about. The other evening I was buying grocery at my neighborhood kirana guy. Suddenly in waltzes the loud customer. She had a royal air in her nose..all pointed up to the sky. Give me this..give me that. All of us, the regulars were suddenly fading into the background. The shop hands ran helter skelter to gather her demands. I felt awkward. Why was I made to wait when I came in earlier on. But I just couldn't muster up the guts to tell.

I had taken bread after careful scouting for its elusive expiry date and all. I remembered laying it on the table top, along with my other items. Suddenly I see bread with the queen’s baggage. I plucked it out and kept it along with mine. After a few seconds her eyes started to flash and she yelled—where’s my bread..where did it go and suddenly I spied two bread packets on my heap !!! I smiled at her and sheepishly presented a peace offering …My mistake I thought you took my packet when I had put mine over there…heee heee.
She did not make a fuss over the accusation or my robbery but ordered the shop hands further to speed her billing. Anyways getting her quickly out of there was a very good idea. She made all of us nervous.

Why do people order about loudly? Does that make them feel more powerful? Does that get them things done faster? Maybe. But they wouldn't get good friends. They wouldn't be welcome anywhere. And of course they would get written about or bitched about for sure. 

What do we do about them? Let them have their way to avoid a showdown..or get them out quickly because they give us the jitters ? Do we stand up tall and tell them to pipe down ? I wish the world worked that way...but sadly wherever it maybe the bullies seem to have it easy. A small veggie shop or an IT giant like Infy.The person who can intimidate others successfully gets the trophy

January 23, 2013

One Stormy Evening

A two year olds tantrum is what tests you. Do you give in?  Do you break down? Do you get angry? Do you hold your ground and weather it out? Everything you read in all the child experts columns do not necessarily flash in front of your eyes…to try option a or option b .The loud crying..the pushing..tugging at your hands. The huge tears welling up in red puffy eyes …do they melt your heart or drive you mad. You would think the little toddler would tire after crying in vain for so he doesn’t…he doesn’t relent. He will push you until you concede. You have a million things to do..cook dinner…get your elder one ready for important test tomorrow..Straighten some parts of the house before the leader of the pack gets home and starts cribbing about the mess. And yet…the storm doesn’t subside. Your throat starts to hurt as you are yelling…you don’t even realize when you start yelling….at what moment did you loose cool. You have to yell if anyone should hear your voice..thats the decibel level of the little lungs. There is nothing left in the house to distract him. Your shoulder muscles are wearing out. The prayer in your heart becomes loud on your lips. O lord make this stop..make this crying stop….help me to do something. But apparently the good Lord wants you to go through this. This is your test as a parent. You need to be firm and do not give in to the unreasonable demand. But you cannot do it in a way that your child would feel less loved and bewildered or hurt. It’s a storm you have to help your child face. Its his storm and you are the navigator. Everyday is so full of chores and challenges but you alone are the guide who will show them what’s important …doing things on time or doing things with love. Messy for sure…late dinner for sure..revising spellings in the loo.. but I am here for you and I am going to let nothing hurt you. Not my frustration nor even you yourself. That may be a little protect you from yourself but I will keep my eyes open.