Nov 30, 2011

Lessons from life

It was a hot and humid day in Mumbai and Heena was heading off to work. She boarded the morning local for work and stood at a spot under the fan. "Good morning, it's not working," said a fellow lady passenger. Heena got annoyed by the "Good morning" part and chose to ignore the lady.

The train halted at the next station. A guy jumped in to Heena's bogie. Before the women could revolt, he turned the fan on and jumped out. All he did was that he hit the fan blade with his pen. Before jumping out, he stared at Heena and said "works every time". He looked back and she smiled at him.

She got off the train at the last station. On the platform, a kid (beggar) started tapping her knee, asking for money to be placed on his palm. She ignored initially but got frustrated as the kid refused to let go. She was about to shout on the kid. But, a guy came from behind and gave the kid a biscuit packet. "Hi, I'm Vikram. I am the reason you are not sweating at the moment," he said.

Heena: "Oh! Yes. How come you are.."
Vikram: "Well, I thought I impressed you with the fan trick. So I boarded the train and kept looking for where you would get down. You know, in such situations, chances are that I would end up asking the girl out for coffee and she would not say no," he said.
Heena: "Ha ha. You know, I don't know how to tackle these beggars"
Vikram: "Tackle is a wrong word. Say face. Tea?"
Heena: "So how come you had a biscuit packet with you"
Vikram: "I have lots. I carry the Rs 2 Parle-G packets with me all the time. It helps me face the beggars. I don't want to give them money and I also don't want to use my judgment in choosing which beggars to help out. Actually, it's easier for girls to practice this, you all carry bags with you all the time, right? .. anyway, do you like Tea with Parle-G?"
Heena: "I do, but no. And hey, thanks for tips"
Vikram: "No problem, these fans will help me someday, for sure". He winked and left.

Heena ended up having a good start to the hot day. She started walking to her office and kept thinking about the guy and his tips & tricks. She stopped at a small shop to buy a cigarette. The vendor denied having change for Rs 10. She happily picked up 2 packets of the small Parle-G instead of the change.

The 2 packets got exhausted on the same day. Heena liked the feeling that she wasn't ignoring or tackling the beggars anymore. "Simple yet profound thought," she felt. She started practicing this habit and also told her friends about it.


A few months later, Heena was travelling to her native place which was a few hours of train journey from Mumbai. She placed her luggage below her berth in the train and went out to roam at the platform for some time. She had her iPod on and waited at the platform for the green signal.

She shuffled upon the playlist to listen to her favorite song "Sweet child o'mine."

"She's got a smile that it seems to me ..

Just then, a little girl came and tapped on her knee with a steel glass. Heena was surprised at the timing. She looked at the smiling little girl - blue eyes, fair, a tattered t-shirt, a dirty pant with pockets hanging out and brown dusty hair. The black tear marks on her cheeks made Heena feel pity. She checked her bag. One biscuit packet was there. She offered the packet to the little girl.

One hanging pocket went back in.

The little girl raised her glass to tap again but Heena turned towards a small shop to buy a water bottle. "Fifteen rupees," said the shop owner. "It says twelve on the bottle," said Heena. "And I say fifteen," replied the shop owner, without any change in his facial expressions. She took the headphones out of her ears and started arguing.

The little girl kept following Heena. She started tapping on her knee again. Heena looked at her and told the shop owner - "look, I do not have biscuits left in my bag .. you give me one packet .. I want to give it to this beggar .. you will still save one rupee". The shop owner gave up and handed over one packet to Heena.

The train honked as the green signal was given. As the train was about to leave in a few seconds, Heena handed over the packet to the little girl and rushed in to the train. She sat on her berth, opened up her water bottle and looked at the little girl from the window. Both pockets were in now. She smiled. The little girl, however, had confused expressions on her face.

Heena put the headphones back to her ears. Her favorite song was nearing its end. She took a gulp of water and placed her bag on the seat. The train began to move.

When she looked outside again, her eyes widened. As the train started moving slowly, she kept staring through her window -

The water tap on the station platform was at a certain height. The shop owner was filling water in the little girl's steel glass. The little girl took the water to her father, a crippled boot polisher, who worked at the station platform. She wasn't a beggar.

A tear maneuvered through Heena's cheek, depositing the black mascara on its sides, leaving a black tear mark. A permanent one.

.. where do we go now?" .. the song ended.


Nov 4, 2011

Mama, I'm coming home

The mid-term college break is on and Vikram is on his way back to his hometown. The train is about to reach the station which is at the end of the town. Vikram loves the last few minutes of this journey as he signs out of Facebook, shuts his laptop and stares through his Side Lower seat window.

It's drizzling outside. He observes the hometown run past his eyes. The scenes amuse him -

Poor people in huts near the railway tracks waving at his black window, hoping there is someone inside waving back.

A girl carrying on her head an earthen water pot. Visible behind her is the sex doctor advert at a distant wall.

A chameleon looking up to the rainbow in the sky, wondering if it could adapt by seeing.

A number of factories at the cheap outskirt land. The homeless yet costly outskirt land.

He found one of the scenes very intriguing - a group of children playing cricket. He has seen children play cricket before. From a moving train, although, it looked different and profound, as if the moment carries hidden emotions and beauty, which is not observable otherwise. "Which is a more appropriate phrase - 'Point of View' or 'Position of View'", he thought.

It is the feel of such phenomenon that makes Vikram take a tour inside his brain. Time stops and his stoned eyes are flooded with flashes from memory which could prove relevant in deciphering the phenomenon.
The train arrives at station and the crowd rush breaks his thought process. He packs his luggage, gets out of the station, stops a cab, opens the cab door, sits inside, opens the laptop and signs in to Facebook. He then watches a video shared by many of his friends -

"Sir, zindagi mein bahut haar ka saamna kiya hai, toh confidence kam ho gaya hai", says Sushil Kumar (a computer operator and an IAS aspirant from Bihar) while chatting with Amitabh Bacchan. Sushil then went on to become the first person to win 5 crores at KBC.

Vikram liked the video. He scrolled down to check more videos and updates from friends. "Mama, I'm coming home", he updated his own status while logging out.

Vikram has never heard this song. He has just seen his friends put up this status before they go home. So he thought it would be cool to do the same. It helps him feed to the personality he thinks he has among his peers.

Vikram is scared to express what he feels. He does what others do. His thoughts are no good, he is taught by the dominating plastic world. In return, there's a writer the living world left unnoticed.

Sushil Kumar, on the other hand, was courageous and went through the trouble of getting a shot at the KBC Hotseat. He was down on confidence but not on faith.

If only Vikram had liked the video for the message it actually carried.

Have faith, Mama's boy. Be yourself!