Angels Are Not In Heaven, They Are Around You!

It was pouring last night. Rain drops were filtering through the palm leaves and falling on the dry concrete land. At a distance some where, koel was calling out to her partner, weather was romantic, moon was playing hide and seek with the clouds and the breeze was making soothing sound. When the weather is so fine you must enjoy it outdoor, so we took umbrellas to guard ourselves from the rain and walked out on the road. Humans are strange beings, we want to enjoy the nature but on our own terms. We want to enjoy the rain but not get wet.

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While we were walking and talking, we saw a man walking his dog in the rain. A closer look and I identified him as my neighbour who was walking his dog, Brisky, in the rain. We approached each other and I jokingly asked him, if has got caught in the rain unexpectedly. His reply surprised me, he said, he walks Brisky out every day after her dinner because she suffers from arthritis and walk is good for her. Helps her deal with the pain. I further asked him, why was he getting drenched and walking without umbrella. He replied, because Brisky is getting wet in the rain so he cannot be using umbrella. He feels bad about it.

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It’s so easy to not bother about other’s comfort. It’s easy to provide comfort to others. But it takes a lot of unconditional, pure love to give up your own comfort for others. Men like Shibu, my neighbour, are rare but I am glad I know one!

Pained and Irrational Me

Traffic signal was turning orange, I stepped on accelerator to cross the signal before it turned red. I missed it by nick of time. Impatient, restless as I am, turned the volume up to the maximum while I waited for the signal to turn green again.

A face appeared on the side window, she knocked on the window glass with quivering hands. I don’t give alms to beggars but she was not begging. She looked like a dignified lady, she was selling ‘agarbattis/essence stick’ on the Chirag Delhi traffic signal. It was late in the night, she was probably trying to make last sale of the day. I rolled the window down and bought a box of agarbattis.

When I bought them, I didn’t know if they will ever be used. Unfortunately, they were lit  in front of my father’s photograph, the very next day.

I still cross that signal often. That lady still sells agarbattis there. For very long, I didn’t look at her to avoid evil omen. I was too sacred to look at her, it wasn’t her fault but how do you convince a grieving heart.

Time has healed the wounds. I am not scared of her anymore but I still don’t have courage to buy agarbattis from her. I don’t think, I can ever be that brave.

First Salary. First Learning.

I don’t read newspaper.

I didn’t read it back then. It depresses me to read so much negativity.

Sitting on my terrace, sipping early morning tea, 15 years back, I flipped the page of ‘Times Of India’. I don’t remember why, but I did. In the middle, on the double spread was a Samsung mobile phone advertisement. I clearly remember it was a silver colour mobile phone, you could flip it open from the centre.

I was fresh in college and the mobile phone was new to the world and were very expensive. Those days, even incoming calls were charged for Rs 32 per pulse. So it was just not the handset, keeping a phone was exorbitant. There were only 3 players in the market – Airtel, Hutch and BSNL/MTNL. Idea, Reliance, Aircel was yet to venture. Hutch was yet to be bought over by Vodafone. Mobile phone had a flaunt value since only few carried it.

None of my family members had mobile phone. I had not thought of buying it either till the time I saw that advertisement. There was something about that phone that was calling out to me. Mesmerised, I asked my father to buy me that phone.

My father looked at me and said,

‘If you need that phone, you have to earn it.’

I was per perplexed, I was 18, how will I earn such an expensive phone. I had never worked in my life. So I asked my father,

‘I don’t know what to do to make that kind of money. I am under graduate, unskilled, who will employ me? How will I earn money?’

He explained, ‘If you need things in your life, you have to work hard and find a way to make money, so you can afford what you want.’

That made sense to me but I was still direction less. How will I make Rs 16000 ??? It was a lot of money.

I wanted the phone. It had casted a spell on me, I just couldn’t get it out of my mind. I was ready to work for it, I just didn’t know what to do to earn money.

Then one day, while walking through Bhikaiji Came Place in New Delhi, I saw an advertisement pasted on the wall of Hyatt Regency. They were looking for interns for some job. Since I had little knowledge about anything, I don’t clearly remember for what exact profile they were looking for.

The phone was on my mind so I applied. I filled the form, pasted my picture and dropped it in their office. A week later, I got a call for an interview. I appeared and was selected for the front office job.

Excited I went home and informed my parents about it. Hearing that, they were shell-shocked. They had bigger dreams for me and here I was wanting to work in a hotel for a phone. They didn’t say anything negative. They were more in wait and watch mode.

I worked for a month and got  Rs 12000 as salary. It was a big amount for that time for a 18-year-old undergraduate. I took the money home and gave it to my mother, she returned it back to me and happily asked me to do whatever I wanted to do with it.

I was still short of Rs 4000 which meant I had to work more.

As I was walking out of the house to meet up with my friends, my father called me and handed me Rs 4000 and told me to buy the phone. I didn’t understand why would he do that since now I was working and I could very well afford it in another month’s time.

He said, ‘I was wanting you to understand the value of money, nothing comes easy and nothing comes free. You have to work for it. And since you have understood that you don’t need to work  for money, any more. You should focus on your studies.’

I quit my job the very next day and went straight to Karol Bagh market to buy the phone.

Years have passed but his words are still fresh in my mind. After that, I have never ever asked for money from anybody in my life. I know, I have to earn it!

Delayed Tooth Fairy

‘I need to buy more clothes.’

‘My tooth is hurting.’

‘New shoes too, I think i need floaters. It’s so hot in Delhi’

‘I think it’s not hurting, it is just being sensitive.’

‘I am getting out of school uniform, finally!’

‘Should I see a doctor??’

‘How will I commute?’

‘It’s not even a molar, what can be wrong with my canine?’

‘May be, I should take auto or ask papa for the car?’

‘I think it’s going to fall off, I can barely touch it, it’s so sensitive.’

‘Or should I do car pool with somebody.’

‘I need to see a doctor, it needs to be treated.’

I realise I was talking to my self, sitting on the coffee table in front of TV. There was an option to sit on the sofa or on the chair but I chose table. Teenager mind works differently, may be it is a sign of liberation. Not adhering to the rules of the world, doing things their way. My mind was constantly shuttling between college, which was going to start in a week and my tooth, which was not in good health for some reasons i couldn’t fathom.

Just then my cousin walked in, who was visiting her Orthodontist. I chose to accompany her and show my tooth to the doctor. I wanted to settle down the problem before the college started.

College in India is the epitome of freedom. From the age of 3 when you start schooling, you live by rules, designed by others. Your parents choose the school and the school decides rest of your life. Most of your early and teenage years go shuttling between school, tuition and some extra curricular classes like music, sports or dance. You live half of your life till 18 in one uniform, wearing same style of shoes, sporting same kind of hair style, travelling in the same school bus, day after day.

College on the other hand is freedom!

You decide everything yourself, starting from college itself. Everyday is a new day, new friends, new experience, newly found freedom, a restriction and limitation free life.

Since you lived most of your life wearing one uniform to school thus in college you pay extra attention dressing up, clothes and shoes are chosen with care, hair is done in latest style colouring and shading them as per popular trend, accessory adds the required spunk to the personality. You are the babe. You are the dude. All ready to take on the world, armed with your confidence and personality.

At this age, you some how get license to date. Unofficially though. You must have been in a relationship in the past but your parents never accepted,  encouraged or even acknowledged it. Your parents always believed and tried making you believe that you are too young for any other relationship besides being son/daughter or sister/brother. So the wonderful time college is, besides exploring what would you want to do to make your money you would also explore with much eagerness, who would you want to spend all your money with?

I was on the verge of freedom.

Since my tooth was hurting, I visited the doctor with my cousin in Defence Colony. They have a lovely three floor house and half of it is converted in dental clinic, where husband and wife practice. In one of the many visits, I learned that their son is also studying some form of dentistry and will join them as soon as he is done. Why is that important to me??? because later it turned out that he was quite delightful, chocolate looking and the driving force behind our punctuality. I never ever missed any appointment.

I am seated on the dental chair, in not so relaxed position, my wide mouth open with doctor’s apparatus inside my mouth. Light glaring on me from the high volt lamp which is positioned right on top of me my face.

‘Which one is sensitive? This one?’

He hits his tool on my tooth and excruciating pain goes through my jaw and hits my head.

‘Yeah.’

I can barely speak with my mouth wide open.

‘Does it pain now?’

He hits it from a different angle.

‘Yes, it does.’

I want to scream and hit him back. If it is hurting from one angle, it will hurt from another.

‘Ok, looks like you are still a baby.’

‘Humm, what?’

‘You have a milk tooth.’

‘What??????’

‘Yeah, you have a milk tooth, it didn’t fall all this while.’

‘I am 18, how is it possible?’

‘It is, you have a milk tooth. It didn’t fall and your earlier doctor didn’t remove it.’

We are Indians, dental health only appears in our scheme of things when it is utmost necessary. We would avoid seeing the dentist as much as we can. Even when the need arises, we would delay it as much as we can. This is one habit which is common from north to south and east to west. It is also consistent across all religion and cast.

It’s still sinking in. I couldn’t react physically or emotionally as he is still inspecting my teeth.

‘Have you ever been to a dentist earlier?’

He didn’t wait for my reply.

‘Looks like you have cavity. Let’s see, one, two, three Hmm ok, now top, four, five, six.’

‘You have cavity in 6 teeth and your wisdom tooth is tilted,’

I am cursing myself, why did I ever come, I could have lived with the sensitive tooth. Anyway the pain was not permanent.

Finally, his hands out of my mouth. Glaring lights switched off. We are having man to man discussion, or in this case man to woman with baby tooth.

‘So I suggest, we fix your cavities first, remove your wisdom tooth, it’s any way not required and then remove your milk tooth.’

‘ Is there anyway to avoid it.’

‘No, if you want healthy teeth in the future.’

‘Great, since I have no choice, let’s go with it.’

I am novice in this field, so my imagination is limiting me. I can’t imagine what more can happen with my teeth, I am in for a big surprise.

‘But once we remove your milk tooth, it will leave a gap in your lower jaw.’

Boom! I am hit by a rock, obviously it didn’t occur to me.

‘And since it is in the front, it will look quite odd.’

I really want to pinch myself and wake up, it’s not happening to me. My college is going to start in a week’s time. I can’t go to college without my tooth.

‘How will I look?’

‘Everybody will laugh at me?’

‘Who would want to befriend a weird-looking girl? God no!’

‘So, to cover up the gap, we need to pull your teeth together, for that we will put braces.’

Now, I want to die.

Braces in college? They are bad enough when you are in school but in college. I am freaked out beyond my wits.

Since there is no escape and I have to get the milk tooth extracted and wear braces to look decent again, I am hoping it won’t last long. May be in six months braces would come off. I am in for another shocker.

‘Braces are slow process , it will take at least 2.5 yrs to 3 yrs.’

‘That’s all of my college life!’

‘Are you saying I have to wear braces for 3 years to fix my teeth.’

‘Pretty much, but depending upon your progress, it may come out earlier.’

‘When do you want to start.’

After that I had nothing to say. I had to go with it, I wanted my teeth to be in good condition to be able to chew at 60.’

First day of my college, I carefully chose my clothes, wore best of my denim with white top and canvas shoes. I entered college campus, my teeth decorated with glittering braces. I had option, I could have chosen coloured ones, i preferred silver.

Nobody seems to notice my braces. If they did, they didn’t mention it. I was surprised by general kindness of people, they were letting me be and not taking dig at steel in my mouth. Some of them were extra supportive, as they found my braces cute, it’s pointless to mention that they were mostly boys.

For the next three years in the college I was known as cute girl with braces. I thank god for that, it could have been weird girl with braces.

As humans, we tend to exaggerate and blow any situation into a big problem by thinking negatively and giving it an undue importance, it may or may not even be a problem. As it happens most of the time, it may be just any other situation which needs to be dealt with, at times with some care.

Expensive Shit!

Guide, ‘It’s USD 1,100 per kg.’

Me, ‘Is it made of gold?’

Guide, ‘No, shit.’

Me, with wide eyes and shocked face, ‘Mind your language.’

Guide, ‘Ma’am, i am serious, it is made of shit.’

Me, ‘You are kidding me right?’

Guide, ‘No, i am serious, it can actually go upto USD 3000 per kg.’

Me, unbelievingly, ‘No way…… you can’t be serious, you are shitting me!’

Some time back, we visited Coorg, beautiful, serene, lush green coffee plantation, 5 hours away from Bangalore.

I travel often and in any of my visits to numerous destinations in India and abroad, i have never ever attended any hotel organised programs, such as baking, cooking, dancing, yoga, rock climbing, scuba diving, painting and many such interesting, creative programs, which the very attentive hotel staff design to keep their guests occupied. Imagine not attending yoga session at Ananda in Himalayas, not attending scuba diving sessions in Phi Phi island, not attending baking classes in Paris, not attending history tour in Italy, not attending fishing in Langkawi island. It’s blasphemy.

On the trip to Coorg, i realised i am missing out a lot by letting go off these wonderful, entertaining and educational sessions, they are specially designed keeping tourists in mind, i should benefit from them. I promised myself to attend and educate myself, starting from this very holiday.    

In Coorg, on our second day we attended a guided tour around the plantation. The guide took us around the coffee plantation, describing and detailing various vegetation and taking us through the life cycle of coffee from the time they are seeds to the time they land in our cups. We wandered in the lush green bush of coffee touching, feeling and smelling aroma of coffee beans/cherries. After two hours, exhausted going up and down the the slopes, we returned to the hotel. The guide lead us to the hotel coffee workshop for coffee tasting session. It’s here, we tasted the most exotic coffee in the world, for the first time and i think for the last.

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‘The coffee you are having is one of the most expensive coffee, it’s Kopi Luwak’, the guide announced with pride.

Kopi Luwak sounded exotic but nobody payed heed, everybody in the group was exhausted and all they wanted to do was to drink their coffee in peace. Nobody made any effort to know what is Kopi Luwak, that didn’t seem to demotivate the guide, he continued,

‘It is made from cat’s shit.’

I nearly choked and spilled my coffee after hearing that. The guide continued,

‘The mountain cat, Civet, eats the finest coffee berries and poops them out, our farm people collects the poop, clean, roast and grind the beans, to serve you, the world’s most exotic flavour.’

In the state of shock, i asked him, ‘So basically we are drinking cat’s poop and it is suppose to be exotic.’

‘Yes, m’am, it’s exotic and most expensive type of coffee, it originated in Indonesia in 18th century’.

I kept my coffee mug aside and made two mental notes, first, I will inform the hotel staff about this guy’s lunacy and second I will check about the exotic coffee before i inform the hotel staff.

Foreign land linkage didn’t help me much, my thoughts were in turmoil, there was hurricane in my mind, how can poop be exotic ???? Is this guy mad? so i googled and as we all know google is next to god, it has all the answers. 

Eureka moment, we were actually sipping world’s finest poop!

Google for better or worse have all the answers, Palm Civet is a kind of cat that eats finest coffee cherries, the cherries goes through fermentation process during digestion in the cats intestine, while the fruit part of the cherries gets digested, the beans does not, in about one and half day the cat egest the beans in their feces, the farm people collect the beans from the poop, cleans, roasts and grinds them to make the world’s most expensive coffee.

So why is it so special??

Firstly, Palm Civet is a smart cat, she only eats the finest cherries so her poop ensures the finest quality of beans available in the region. Secondly, the fermentation process in the intestine alters the flavour of the beans, resulting in better tasting coffee. Some doubt it and some buy it at the price of gold!

I am north Indian bred, we are tea people, coffee for us is Caf’e Coffee Day, Barista and lately Starbucks and i am sure they don’t serve exotic coffee to common people, thank god for that.

Tea, i believe is less adventures, i am not too sure though, i will let you know after my visit to tea planation in Assam!

Had You Met My Fridge

The Fridge has moved to the kitchen making space for the pink bohemian rack. He is upset for the rack may be good looking but Fridge has stories to tell. Rack has pretty flower shape loops and a mighty fiery Owl sitting on the top, next to a miniature Fire Station but the Fridge has magnets, some of them are pretty and some of them are not but each one of them have travelled back with it’s owner from destinations far away, carrying wonders of their land.

Whenever any guest arrives they admire the rack, the owl, the fire station but not many visit the kitchen. Had they visited, the magnets on the Fridge would have told them –

That the owners walked on the beach of Tanjung Rhu hand in hand, enjoying the sun changing colours from bright yellow to orange to pink.

That they saw the city from the dizzying height of Twin Towers, in Kuala Lumpur.

That the Pizza was massive, cheesy and yummy beyond description at the restaurant, in the  Vatican City.

That they got lost, many a times looking for unpronounceable places in Italy.

That in the by lanes of Cannes, they found Italy.

That they met artists at St Paul who creates breath taking, mesmerising work.

That in Louvre, Mona Lisa is a small painting protected by glass, electric alarms and armed  guards. They could not even get close to it as hundreds of tourists were trying to click picture for their face book wall.

That they cruised on the river Seine and Paris looked like a dream that night.

That Thai salad they ordered in Bangkok, had baby Octopus and pieces of Shark.

That they spend new years in  a quaint town, Hua Hin, in the hotel room drinking fine wine.

That the father missed his little angle on Christmas, in Innsbruck as the snow clad  town came alive with glittering Christmas lights at night.

That the Madras spice chocolates in Paris are to die for.

That in the historical George town in Malyasia, they saw colourful  dragons painted on the walls of houses, reminiscent of old world China.  

So much to tell, but alas, kitchen is  his new abode and not many will come admiring him there. Just like life, while a good heart has so much to offer but beauty is preferred many a times.

One Fine Rainy Day

It’s pouring cats and dogs, Delhi roads can’t take 2 minutes of rain and here it is raining for last 2 hrs resulting in water logging, jam and chaos. It’s taken Sunanda, over 3hrs to travel 6km and now few meters away from her Bungalow, she is stranded as her car has broken down. She is a resident of plush New Friends Colony, not all places in Delhi have to face the heat of the government not getting along with Centre, the colony is well maintained, clean and green, roads are smooth lined with Ashoka tree on both the sides.

Today is different, rain is creating havoc, there is water logging even in front of A-143 /2,  so the only way out is to walk. Sunanda gets out of the car and start wading through the mini pool when she hears slow whimper, due to raindrops plummeting all around her she can’t really figure if it’s a dog, cat or any other animal. Chances of other animals is quite less since Delhi is a civilised city and only street dogs, cats and cows throng the town. She looks around but nobody is in the sight, water is covering every inch of the road, within 2 minutes she’s dripping wet and now does not mind the rain. She starts combing the water, few steps towards her left she sees an open manhole with wooden blog stuck on either side of it. She walks toward it and in her horror finds a small puppy dangling from it, making the painful noice to make his presence felt. She quickly gets down on her knees, put her hand in the sewer to rescue him from the sewer flood. The puppy immediately clings on to the only hope in sight. She takes him out gently, embraces him warmly and brings him home.

Saturday being a holiday everybody is at home. Sunanda wakes up to realise that the puppy she brought home last night is creating havoc as Rob, her Alsatian and Diana, the Labrador is not quite getting along with him. Though he is tiny and scared but he is strong willed and displaying as much courage as 2 pound of flesh can display in front of 30. She quickly gets out of the bed, hearing her mother’s voice over the dog’s barking and howling. At the breakfast table, her mother announces that she need to let go of the new addition in her brood and as she is already tired of 2 dogs and a rabbit. Sunanda being in office entire day, her mother is the one taking care of the entire Malhotra family that would include the dogs and the rabbit. Sunanda knows what can be debated and what is already a lost battle with her mother, she understands that it’s not easy for her mother to handle the entire clan all by herself. As they are talking, her brother, Arjun, walks in and take the seat opposite her, next to her mother, clear indication that he is not on her side, on this issue. She just have to let go.

During the day she decides to let go of Matty, the sewer dog. With heavy heart she leaves him some distance away from A-143/2 and walks back home. Next day, on her way to office she finds him in front of the gate, remembering her mother’s sermon, she ignores him and drives away. In the evening, he is still there. Next morning, he is still waiting, seeing his dedication and fondness for her, she melts down and decide to provide for him, take care of him but outside of the house since he doesn’t have visa for the bungalow.

She instructed the guard to provide Matty meal thrice a day and to let him sleep outside the gate next to his chair. She started meeting Matty twice daily, on the way to office and on her way back. No matter what time she returned she found him waiting, he would meet her and then wander off in the by lanes of New Friends Colony. The routine continued for two years, Matty well fed by the guard grew up into a handsome dog.

Travelling from NFC to Gurgaon is getting hectic and their new Sushant Lok home is also ready, the Malhotra family decides to move closer to Sunanda’s and Arjun’s office. Pandit declares 17th of April auspicious enough for them to move. Movers and Packers is assigned and packing starts two days early, Rob and Diana gets shipped to Sushant Lok a week in advance to stay with the guard. Matty continues with his routine unaware of the development. On 17th, truck gets loaded and leaves for the new abode. Sunanda along with her mother are last to leave in their silver Honda City.

Sunanda bids Matty farewell with heavy reluctant heart and take to the wheels. She starts the car engine, presses the accelerator and drive out towards the Ring Road. In the rear view mirror she sees Matty following them, he follows them for next 5 min and then runs out of sight. Though it is Sunday but traffic is not on a holiday. Towards Nehru Place, traffic is crawling at the snail’s pace, suddenly out of no where, Matty appears next to Mrs Malhotra’s window, trying to climb up the the car window with his little paw to see his friend, mother, guardian, care taker. In the first, Sunanda doesn’t understand Matty’s affection for her mother but seeing her mother warmly smile towards him she gets the connection, it was her mother who provided and took care of him all these years, while she was away in office. She may not have given him entry into the house but he held a special place in her heart.

As the signal turns green, she opens the door of the car and Matty happily jumps in to be a permanent resident of Sushant Lok.

Not So Sexy Laila

Stage is dazzling with psychedelic pink, crimson, blue and other non definable colours. Crowd is seated and impatient as the next performance is on the cult ‘Laila Me Laila’ song. In the past, the blazing hot Zeenat Aman have gyrated on the song lighting the screen on fire and recently seductress of our times, Sunny Leone have scorched the screen with her moves.

Music is blasting through speakers and piercing through my ear drums, i am seconds away from getting deaf but the crowd is undaunted since they are all eagerly waiting for the next performance and a large percentage of them is beyond senior citizenship tag, intensity of sound hardly matters. Youngsters who have wandered away listening to ‘O mere watan ke logo’, an old song from Bollywood movie, have returned back and taken positions on either side of stage and are ready with their smart phones to click the sexy sirens.

Cometh the moment, the smoke machine goes on an overdrive, stage gets blurred, song starts and five women dressed in red, black skirt and top ensemble with golden details come out swaying with their tambourine. Crowd is yelling and going delirious, some of them are hooting and commenting, laughing and sniggering. The first thing i notice is, each one of them is far from being hot and sexy, in fact they are huge and their body have no shape, they are more sack like. When they are moving from one step to another the body is not curving and flowing as they have too much of belly. They are not hot, sexy, beautiful in largely excepted worldly parameters. They are not even cool. On that moment, i thought, Why are they doing it to themselves? Why did they choose this song? Why are they on stage dancing? Why are they subjecting themselves to this humiliation?

Performance gets over, i eat dinner on the venue and start walking back towards my home in the dark moonlit night. Holding my little ones hand, i feel ashamed of myself for not seeing the courage those ladies would have put to get on the stage, for not seeing the efforts it would have taken to coordinate on that song, for not seeing their hard work, dedication, for not seeing the beauty in the performance, for not seeing their confident smile instead all the hooting and sniggering, for not being encouraging, for not being supportive, for not being human.

I, who was in their shoes 2 years back when i was 30 kg over weight post my baby, did not feel for that stupendous courage and effort those ladies have displayed, though only for that slight fleeting moment. I felt let down by myself for seeing outer packaging and not seeing beyond.

Given a choice everybody would want to look beautiful outwards but real beauty lies beyond. It was in their confidence, in their courage, in their belief, in that smile who knew it all but still kept the promise of smiling, in their effort, in their hard work, in their rigour, in their conviction, in them!

Not so sexy but very beautiful lailas!

Cheap But Priceless

It’s a big day. A very big day. A very blessed day. My daughter turns 3 today.

I am nervous, it’s a house party for kids and elders and should be nothing to be nervous about but I am nervous. It’s a new city, new friends, new colleagues, new expectations. I have checked and crossed checked yesterday, i have called and confirmed all the arrangements. So i am hoping it to be a fine celebration. Actually, i am hoping to make it a day to remember.

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The ballon guy has arrived. I have asked him to get pink and white balloon, though many will believe it’s cliche, against feminism and blah blah but i believe there is nothing wrong in being a girly girl as far as she turns out to be a strong girly girl. He is going to decorate the garden with some fancy balloon arrangements. So, he starts inflating them one by one using the machine. I think my neighbours will wake up with loud cacophony coming from his machine and before they bless my little one, they will curse me for breaking their sound sleep. He has promised 400 balloons, though the number seemed small to me but now inflated they are covering every inch of the  dinning room floor and garden. There is hardly any arrangement, they are all over. Amaira, in her night pyjamas is having ball of a time jumping all over them. In the drive way, the guy incharge of bouncing castle is trying to inflate it, again using machine but much bigger. Now inflated, it is fully occupying the driveway, so people will have to hop on the castle to make it to the garden. So much for planning. I have just been enlightened that the machine will have to run all through out to keep the castle inflated. So now the choice is ours, either we can sing and hear the birthday song or hear this loud industrial sound from machine, will take the call when the moment arrives. Tattoo artist is here, without my knowing he has exchanged his table with barbecue table which is bigger and far more sturdy hence the grill guy have to manage with small wobbly cane table. Why didn’t i think of all this while planning? 

12.00 noon, Guest arrives, in happy and jolly mood. Thankfully, one thing which has gone as planned is food, it has arrived on time, before guests. Everybody is wishing Amaira and handing her colourfully wrapped gift packets. Kids are loving the castle and have started bouncing even before entering the garden. Tattoo artist is put to use, Amairs has got Spiderman tattooed on her left arm a bit of mismatch with her white and pink floral dress, but then who says pretty can’t be strong. I have got orange flowers painted on my right arm, to go with my pale pink dress. One of the girl asked me for kid’s food and i am wondering what is kid’s food, got enlightened when she clarified that she is asking for candies and pop corns. Party is in the full swing wth kids running in and out of the garden, of the bouncing castle, of their parents lap and arms. Food is relished and enjoyed by all. Overall it’s a good party. Everybody is appearing to be having fun.

At night, surrounded by gift packets in our living room, Amaira is supremely excited to unwrap the joy and wonder these packets hold. One by one, the packet is torn open, there is a bright red dress in one, there is a little orange bag in another, there is jumping Peppa Pig wrapped up in shiny silver  paper, drum sets to wake up the sleeping neighbours, Barbie doll with tiny hai styling kit, drawing book with crayons….. little wonders are unwrapped one after the other and smile on her face is getting bigger and bigger. Reshma, my help walks in and is about to say something but then she holds herself back and get  busy in collecting all the torn papers and sheets, ribbons and bows, she selects few to save for herself and rest she discards.

Next day, it’s a regular day Amaira is just back from school and is running around the house, i seat her in the play room to feed her lunch. Reshma walks in carrying a plate of dal, vegetables and roti, she place it on table and move on to do different errand. Towards the end of the meal, she returns back, taking small steps towards us, she gives me a hesitating smile, i notice a bright yellow  shiny packet in her hand. she in subdued tone tells me that she has a birthday present for Amaira, I smiling, ask her why didn’t she give it yesterday? She tells me, it is of small amount and is very petty in front of other gifts so she was shy and reluctant to give it in front of others. I go completely mum, I don’t know how to react, i am too overwhelmed with her warmth and love. She is all of 17, her family pulled her out of school to put her to work to repay the loan they took to marry her sister, she gives away all her salary to her mother, she does’t spend one rupee on herself but she saved money to buy Amaira a birthday gift.

Amiara savagely unwraps the gift in all the excitement and find a Barbie imitation in orange dress. She loves it, she hugged and kissed the doll to show her affection while i merely smiled at Reshma’s kind and loving gesture. Nothing i would say can express what i feel. I am fortunate to have her.

Some relationship are formed due to blood connection, some are formed because of the situation / circumstances  and some are formed purely because of unconditional love !

To Hell And Back

Rishikesh is a holy mystical place visited by many across the world to attain peace and calm but the youth prefers adventure over the divinity.

This is our second trip to Rishikesh, first one was beyond awesome. We were all high on adrenaline after the rafting adventure, finding our way through mighty Ganges is no small feat. Motivated by our first non eventful victory, we have embarked on our second. So here we are, packed in our car on the way to Rishikesh.

It’s a long weekend, entire Delhi is on the road heading in all possible directions. Roads to Rishikesh are mainly smooth by Indian standards, we by pass green paddy fields, get stuck in the city jam, get stuck behind some super slow moving trucks, eat tandoori parathas in the highway dhaba, more jam and then more. We are going to camp in jungle near one of the Ganges tributary, trying our best to make it on time, it usually take 4.5 hrs but we have been on the road for over 9. Finally we reach, its divine, anybody coming from city find aloof jungle setting calming and relaxing and thats an irony of sort since we are here for adventure. There are 12 hi-end camps placed in a circle, they are actually only namesake camps as they are fitted with all modern day facilities, geezer for warm running water, air conditioners for dealing with hot afternoons, wooden beds done up nicely in jodhpur print bedsheets and quilts, in camp service for food and beverages, personal toilets, things you miss you most when in wilds. We enjoy bonfire in the evening, eat free snacks and relish the drink of our choice. We are all set for tomorrow.

An instructor is going to accompany and help us navigate through the ferocious Ganges. The instructor is giving us usual safety instructions… it’s an extreme sport, teamwork is required blah blah,  i am ignoring as i am busy checking out the crowd. And there are way too many people, yesterday roads were crowded today it will be river. We put on our life jacket and helmet, we are looking more like a warrior then sailor. Armed with our paddles we are ready to take on the mighty Ganges.

Thumbsup and we start the adventure. The rapids are named very interestingly, Golf course, Sweet Sixteen, Wall, Go to hell, Cross fire depending upon the thrill they provide. 

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We are trying to coordinate and navigate through rough waters, mostly my paddle miss the water as its too bumpy and when it does touch, i can hardly paddle through, within minutes its clear i have no strength no, stamina and no paddling skills. Now all i have to do is hold on and pretend to paddle as it is a team work and i don’t want to be spoilsport.  The instructor is smarter then i thought, he guessed it the minute the plan brewed in my head, he is continuously nudging me with his paddle, his way of motivating. Adrenaline reaches to its peak every time we sail through rapid, it gets bumpy, the boat swings from left to right, instructor screams incomprehensible things and we make it through. It’s scary and fun.

‘Go to Hell’ is arriving next, suppose to be tough one and like the name suggest, it promises hair raising experience. We are all geared up to brave it. As it approaches, the instructor yells something, again i can barely comprehend, it engulf us so quickily that i loose track of whats happening, the raft gets entangled in the water swirl and is going round and round, next i feel myself flying in air away from my raft and landing deep in river, saved by cms from hitting the rock. Deep in water unable to breath, pushed by water current, huge waves are showing no mercy,  they are pushing me back as i am trying to make my way up. I am getting scared, worried, anxious, nervous, loosing track of time, i am in water for couple of seconds? couple of minutes? i have no idea, i cannot breath, i am going to loose my life in water, away from everybody i love. Fear takes over courage.

When you know there is no way out,  either you can fight or you can give up without fighting. I made up my mind not to die. Not today atleast. Not like this. Not away from everybody i love. But this is a different kind of battle, I have to fight within to stay calm, not to loose nerve, to think positive, to hope that somebody will pull me out of water, somebody will save me, river is too rough and mighty i can’t fight it, i just have to wait for help to arrive, i have to believe it will. This kind of battle are toughest to fight, the enemy is within you, trying to pull you down, reasoning why things will not work , why you will not survive.

I survived. Help arrived after 2 km or so, i was pulled out of water by a raft ahead of us.

Next we arrived at the hill point from where people jump in river for additional thrill. It’s about 30ft high. As the raft stopped, i got up to walk up the hill.  Instructor had something to say, i thought he will praise me for my bravery, instead he said, ‘Madam aaj ke liye kaafi adventure naahee ho gaya’. I just made face and settled for Maggi instead, the place is called the Maggi point.

What happens to you is in your hand, don’t let anybody make you believe that you will not make it. You are stronger then you know!

PS: My family till date don’t believe that i could actually think in that situation. That i thought about buoyancy, the upward force that will push me back on the surface or breathing while i am out and holding by breath when i am in. I used all i knew to stay positive because that’s all was required. That’s all i could do.