Jul 15, 2013

The One Minute Rain

In the morning, I usually find some birds sitting on the small extension outside my window. They fly away the moment I touch the window pane. From my window, I see a garden below. People walk, run, practice yoga, stroll with their their pets and meditate. Behind the garden and between two tall buildings, I see hundreds of huts (a slum). Also visible is a big green mountain close to the slum. It has a temple on it's top. Every two minutes, Airplanes appear from behind the temple, in their final stage of descent towards the Mumbai airport.

On a lovely Sunday morning a few days ago, a gush of cold and moist breeze woke me up. To increase the intake, I slid my window open completely. To my surprise, I saw a pigeon sitting there who chose not to fly away. I shuffled upon some soothing songs and stood there for a few seconds.

In the garden, an uncle was practicing breathing exercises with his eyes closed. An elderly aunt's dog stared at him behind her back as she chatted up with her morning-walk buddy. She finished her chat, pulled the leash and started strolling. There were about 10 more people walking and running around, looking down all the time for some reason. Only a little girl was prepared for an unexpected shower. She carried a fancy umbrella with her as she swayed around the garden.

A few birds were flying around in the sky. As a plane appeared from behind the mountain, I observed that the sky behind it was very dark. Soon, I saw thousands of birds flying up from the slum roofs. It reminded me of the scene from the movie 300 - a storm of arrows shot by a million Persians towards 300 Spartans. "Wow!" I screamed and called my flat-mates.

It was a thunderous rain-front, pouncing menacingly towards the slum with it's downpour. As it reached the slum, big drops falling over the roof-tops produced a loud noise.

Birds have an extraordinary sensory perception. Respecting the monstrous cloud, they cleared themselves out of its way. The pigeon sitting near my window possibly had a brilliant perception too. It anticipated the onslaught much before.

Before my flat-mates could turn up, the rain-front had reached the garden. The little girl pushed the button to open her umbrella. It flipped before it could open up completely and flew away. She ran to pick it up. The elderly aunt went blank and stood where she was. The dog ran backward, pulling the leash out of her hand. It looked around for shelter while she got drenched over the next few seconds. The walkers and runners were lost in themselves anyway; they were late to react and had a similar fate. Uncle was the last one to clear the garden area.

The fast-moving clouds vanished from the crime scene within a minute, as if claiming innocence.

With no more threat around, the pigeon from my window took a stylish flight towards the garden.

"I knew it," it said to the passing cloud.

It glided down towards a boundary wall. Preparing for its landing on the drenched boundary wall, it flapped its wings swiftly to reduce its speed and extended its claws towards the wall-top.

To no one's notice and my delight, it slipped on some algae, lost balance and slid in to a little pool of water.

"Gotcha!" it heard as a reply.


Mar 11, 2013

The lucky coin

Every morning, sun-rays leaked through the fissures in the tiled roof of the small house Cheeku lived in. They tickled Cheeku's cheeks. The first few minutes of flux was gentle and snooze-able. With every passing minute, the intensity of sun rays used to grow. Also used to grow Ma's pitch of voice - "Uth ja beta."

This wake up routine was followed up by hurried preparations to school. Ma fed him breakfast as he wore the school uniform and tied the shoe laces.

Cheeku: "Kab theek karoge ye chhatt?"
Ma: "Baarish ke pehle."
Cheeku: "Pichle saal bhi yahi kaha tha!"
Ma: "Alarm hai ye teri .. late nahi ho raha tu school ke liye aaj?"
Cheeku: "He he .. waise ek baat poochni thi aapse. Sab dost school se wapas aate huye ice-cream khate hain. Kitni garmi hai, roz ek rupaya de sakti ho?"
Ma (after a pause and while tucking his shirt): "Haan, kyu nahi. Chal, roz tere bag mein rakh diya karungi. Par ice-cream hi khana us se, aur koi shaitani nahi. Theek hai?"
Cheeku (with a big smile on his face): "Haan!"

Much of the money she got from her pension was used up in her medicine bills. But how could she deny her grandson an innocent pleasure costing just Rs. 1? She started to place a coin in the front pocket of his bag.


On their way back from school everyday, to beat the summer afternoon, most of Cheeku's friends used to buy ice-cream. Cheeku, however, used to quench his thirst at the Pyau (a thatched water-hut) nearby the ice-cream vendor's cart-trolley.

With a coin in the bag, it had been tough for him to avoid the temptation of ice-cream. But the kick of getting to compete in the game of Lattoo overpowered that temptation. He knew he wouldn't get any money for betting in the game, so he lied to Ma.

After carefully aligning the thread around the nail and in to the grooves, you take a stance and swirl the Lattoo from one hand as you place the opponent's coin in the other hand. To win, you have to land your swirling Lattoo on the coin. If you are able to, you get that coin. Else, the opponent gets a shot at your coin. If it's a tie, the game continues till there is a winner.

Cheeku had been trying to master the art but failed and lost all his coins. One day, an opponent dared Cheeku - "Aaj Mahatma Gandhi ki photo hai mere rupaye mein. Aaj bhi harega tu!" Cheeku turned the dare in to splits of laughter at the playground - "Chashma toot gaya unka." Luckily, his top's nail landed right on Gandhi's glasses.

The next day, on his way back from school in a happy mood, King Cheeku had a coin in his bag (the one Ma placed in the morning) and two coins in his pocket (the one he'd bet and the one he'd won a day earlier). When he went to the Pyau with three coins in possession, he allowed himself to feel indebted to the operator and donated a coin from his pocket. He knew people do it. It was his turn to be generous.

After a few days, however, Cheeku started to regret his good deed at the Pyau. The only coin he'd won was not with him anymore. The day he donated that coin, he lost the other two coins in back to back games. And since then, he could not win a single game.

Thinking may be Gandhi was lucky for him, he decided he would request the operator to trade the special coin he donated with a normal coin. When he went to the Pyau, he found it shut. He inquired with the ice-cream vendor who told him that the lady who ran it was not well. She fainted and the locals rushed her to the nearest hospital.

"Aaj hi hona tha ye," he thought. To sooth his dry throat without the free water, he had only one choice. "Bhaiyya ek orange dena," he ordered the vendor.

He slurped the orange dolly and unzipped the front pocket of his bag to take the coin out to pay to the vendor. The bag fell as he lost the grip in shock.

It was the same coin.