Sunday, January 21, 2007

Life on Wheels

Dated: Feb 20th 2006

If you can call an eight by ten metal box as a living room, then I was in my living room. It was a nice room with full of windows and lots of air and sunlight. The train pulling along my room, chugged slowly amidst the wonderful lush greenery of the picturesque Western Ghats and darted in and out of the bushes and played hide and seek with the river flowing beside the tracks. The train was almost empty, but the ambience needed conversation to make it complete.

“How old are you?” I asked my nearest neighbour. Others in the cubicle around were already occupied. My neighbour was a new entrant, and I had to do the ice-breaking stuff.

“Enough to know the world”, my neighbour replied defiantly. He looked like a kiddo. “How about you?”

A return question means a lot of things. Firstly, it shows the other person doesn’t mind talking. Secondly, it shows a genuine interest in you, which kind of puts you in the spotlight!

“Aw, never mind. Suffice it to say I have seen it all.”

“Seen it all?”

I looked outside the window, and I could see all my years whooshing past me. I was an old man. I guess everyone goes through the phase.

“You know, when I was first fitted into this world of mine, I was like a High School kiddo just out of school and into employment. All gaga and enthused. I liked being what I was. It was like I was in a servicing industry and helping people.”

“I know the feeling.”

“In this industry of ours, over the period of years, you get to know so many people, you get to know so many of their lives, and their wide culture, but at the end of the day, you have to bid them farewell. And you have so much of experience and maturity after all you have been through.”

“Well, what are the different kind of people you have met and experiences you have undergone?”

“Lets see now, when I was a year old in this business, there was this lady who always chose to get serviced by me. I mean always. It was like a miracle. I never could fathom a reason why she chose me all the time! It was the time of my life. Day in and day out, I used to look forward to it. I guess God does give every one a chance and makes us happy and gives us something to look forward to, you know, just to pep us all up. This went on for quite a while before she had to move out of town. I sure do miss her.” My neighbour just smiled.

“And then, a year later, I was hired by the film industry.”

“No kidding!”

“Sure enough! I have acted along with the likes of Kamal Hassan and Sridevi.”


“Yep! Ever seen Sadma? I was in that movie.”

“Shoot! That’s unbelievable!”

“Aw, nothing about it. I mean everyone remembers Kamal Hassan’s acting in that last scene, but how many notices me, huh? That’s the strange part of life, you know. You are in the limelight, yet you are not. I mean, it’s like God giving you a chocolate, and all that is fine and great, but at the same time, he gives the guy beside you a chocolate and a milk shake. The whole fun of you having a chocolate pops off when you see the guy beside you has something better than you.”

“Sure enough, there will be another guy beside you who would not even have chocolates to start off with and he will be feeling low seeing you! I guess that’s why they call life is a great leveler.”

“You mean like cricket? Cricket is a great leveler. I love cricket.”

“Me too. Hey, did you have any interaction with any of the cricketers?”

“Naw. They are too highly paid to be with our company. However, 2 years after the Sadma, I did service some ex-cricketers though. People around hardly recognized them, but I did. Felt sort of sorry for them. Its like, one day, you are the hero and being cheered at by 60,000 people and a year later, you are nobody. As I said, God gives everyone an equal chance. Every dog has its day. But a point later, He moves on. When there is nothing much expected from an individual, He moves onto the younger generation. But to be fair on His part, it’s understandable. There are thousands of us coming out every day, and we cannot expect him to be nice and good to us and keep giving us miracles all the time.”

“Well, what other experiences?”

“Two years later, I met with an accident, which almost tore me into two. But I escaped by a whisker. I lost my consciousness for a long time, and before I knew, I was in a different department and there were kids playing all over me! I love kids! They are so full of innocence and wild and imaginative and pure.”

My neighbour remained silent. I guess now he realized I was indeed old. It explained me digressing away from responses to his question. So I continued,
“And then three years later, there was this great robbery in the night for which I was a witness.”

This brought the attention back to my neighbour. “Is it?! Tell me all about it!”
“Nothing to say about it except that, however much the thief or the bandit is much the same as any other human being, with the same set of eyes and ears and what-not, there is something about the professional thieves of this world who somehow have this power of reducing the contents of your brain to a cauliflower and sending the vocal chords to a much deserved holidays to the Himalayas. It paralyses you and you just become a vegetable, numb to any reaction, but witness with trepidation and hope fervently in all selfishness that nothing happens to you.”

“Human nature, I would say” replied my mate. He seemed more than a kiddo.

I suddenly felt exhausted. All this chit-chat and memories had made me tiring and I needed to take a nap. I told him so, “Well, if you want to hear my entire story, you need more than 1000 words! We can continue this chat sometime later. Anyhow we are going to be cooped up here for a long time to come.”

“One last question, sir. If you were to be born again, what would you be?”

I looked at him in the same way Sachin Tendulkar would have looked at anyone asking him what he would want to be if he were to born again. “Just the same, Kiddo. Berth No. 41 in a passenger train.”


Dated: 10th Dec, 2003

The pain was excruciating and unbearable. He writhed in agony. Too much of blood had gushed out from many parts of his body. Breathing had become difficult. Opening the eyelids was an impossible task. He was laid down on the operation table with the doctors working on him trying furiously to save his life. Frantically they pumped his chest to make sure that the heart didn’t give up. Blood continually dripped from a container to the catheter that made its way into his body through an opening in his right arm.

It wasn’t long before the doctors realized it was no use. The patient had lost enormous quantity of blood. The heart was slowing down ever so gradually and continually. The patient was losing consciousness. He was being relieved of his pain. He was given pain-killers and sleeping tablets, but the doctors knew his losing consciousness was not the effect of those drugs. He was about to go into a state of comatose, an obvious oblivion before the eternity of Death would welcome him with open arms.

There was nothing else they could do. They had done everything they could think of. With just a nod amongst themselves, the doctors conveyed to the senior residents what had to be done. Slowly, reluctantly, with sagging shoulders, like batsmen who get out without scoring a single run, the doctors filed away from the Operation Theatre. It was a bitter fact that although they could perform miracles with people’s lives, they still weren’t God.

The patient was shifted from the OT to the ICU and was put on a ventilator, while the blood continued to drip slowly into his body. His heart beat was continuously monitored by the ECG, but the graph was going down. Glucose was also provided to him. It was all they could do for this patient. The senior nurse-in-charge lightly patted the arms of the patient, shook her head, as if muttering to herself, “You just cant fight the Fates”, and passed on, letting the machines take care of him.

Within the next hour, with the identification established, phone calls were made, the news was communicated, and there was a gush of people to the hospital, all wanting to enter the ICU. Since there was not much hope in the victim surviving the night, what with the failing graph of the ECG, the doctors allowed one at a time inside the ICU to pay their last visit. It was now, the residents told them, just a matter of few hours…

* * *

The accident had occurred within the last hour, although it seemed hours before. The patient was on a vehicle and was hit by another vehicle coming from the right in one of the lesser-known junctions of the city, unmanned by the signals. It was none of the two drivers’ mistake, but just a mutual misunderstanding and a wrong analytical call by both the parties. The speed, too, was well under control, but the disaster seemed to be of very high magnitude. Neither of the two could curse the other for the mishap, because, both had incurred serious head injuries.

The passersby had taken responsibility and soon, the ambulance was on its way. On the way to the hospital, one of the victims succumbed to the injuries, while the other just managed to hold on. But after the emergency operation, and several other medications given, the other victim too seemed to be out of the doctors’ reach.

* * *

He tried to comprehend the happenings, meticulously, one by one. His memory had become hazy since he last felt the crunch of the other vehicle hit him. He had fallen hard on the ground. There were distinctive snaps of many bones in his body. Soon, his hands were covered with blood. His vision became groggy and everything seemed to be in red. The wind was completely knocked out of him, and breathing had become tough. But, incredibly, he hadn’t felt any pain. But that was then.

He had realized he was a victim of the major accident and slowly allowed himself to lie spread-eagled on the road, while the onlookers crowded around him. The excruciating pain then came over him and made him cry out hoarsely, but no voice came out. The ambulance was a flash of memory. Then the sedations took over him. Later, he could visualize more than see the doctors fighting a lost battle. He had to smile a light resigned smile to himself. So, then, this was Death. You experience it only once in life. You might as well enjoy it. He again drifted back to oblivion.

He was brought back to life by an occasional human touch. He didn’t have the power to see, but he could hear at times the soft weep of different adults, one at a time. There was also a faint beep-beep of the ECG, and he realized he was in the ICU, although he wasn’t aware when he was brought there from the OT. Strange, that he was the cause for the people crying. He didn’t want others to cry for him. True, the love and care made us all sentimentally attached, but he didn’t want others to be sad because of his departure. After all, everyone has got to die, some day or the other.

He wanted to think of many people in his life for one last time, but he had lost all control over his mind and the mind drifted away, powered both by sedatives and exhaustion, like a fhuge crest of a high-tide wave. The last thing he could realize was the full meaning of the phrase ‘The Jaws of Death’…

* * *

She entered the ICU, and took one look at him. Her heart fell. Her legs felt weak and she felt groundless. Her mouth became dry, the tears welled up in her eyes and she held the entrance door for support and strength. The sight of him in bandages, ventilator, dripping blood, glucose, ECG and the huge gashes on his face were too much for her to take in. She had prepared herself as much as possible, but the harsh reality of it all hit her like never before.

Yet, miraculously, she got a quick hold of herself. She controlled the tears, gained the strength back and her usual composure, brushed herself lightly, put on a light smile to her lips and went near him comfortably, as if she had just entered her best friend’s house. She took the chair beside his bed, looked at his smiling face imploringly, and as carefully as possible, took his hand in both of hers and let it rest lightly on the bed.

For all the time in the world, she just looked at him, smiled at him and held his hand and allowed the warmth of her hand to be felt by him, as if to assure him that, “Everything is going to be alright now that I am here.” She felt comfortably close to him and the sight of the gashes, blood and ventilator were no longer threatening. She continued to stare at him and became absolutely ignorant of the continuous hustle-bustle of the nurses, doctors around her. For all that she cared, the only people in the entire universe were the patient on the bed and herself.

For her, there was peace all around, a soothing tranquility that gave an enormous peace of mind. It was as if she was meditating with her eyes open. She did not allow herself to think what the resident doctor has said that these were his last few hours. All she felt was limitless and unconditional care towards him and she knew that he needed her very badly. If she herself was the patient, she knew, he would have done exactly the same thing what she was doing now. She wasn’t even thinking of the time spent with him earlier in her life, nor the future life without him, but allowed the massive calm of the ocean envelop her. And she experienced in this, an eternal bliss. And that made her continue smiling…

* * *

Something peculiar was happening to him that he wasn’t particularly aware of. For all he knew, he was asleep, rather unconscious – call it whatever – and now, he was brought back to life. His brain was processing thoughts, recalling events and he suddenly remembered himself thinking last something on the lines of the Jaws of Death. But amidst this all, he could feel a pleasant sense of life all around, like bright, colourful flowers everywhere. Can a sedative have such an effect? The pain in the body could still be felt, but the pleasantness in the mind had won over the pain. Strangely, there was an urge of utter joy and content. And then he felt the hand of someone soft carefully caressing his own hand. He instantly knew who it was, and his joy knew no bounds. It was only she who had the power to induce such joyous feelings in him.

The hand had all the effect of bringing life back to him. It was pure. It was innocent, charming, simple, nice and plainly good. In effect, he realized with a shock, unbelievably so, it seemed as if the hand was infusing life back onto him. When she was doing so much for him, the least he could do was try.

With an extreme effort, he opened his eyelids carefully – which seemed as heavy as logs – and looked at her. He had half-expected this, and indeed, it was true. She was smiling at him, as if he had just gotten up from a deep sleep. In spite of the smile, her face was covered completely with tears, probably unknown to herself, and seeing him open his eyes, she could no longer control herself. She burst out crying and smiling at the same time and this sudden action brought some resident doctors to scramble up to see if the patient had at last breathed his last.

What they saw instead astonished them beyond comprehension. Looking incredulously at the blinking man on the bed, and the now-almost-normal graph on the ECG accompanied by the steady rhythm of the beep-beep, the resident doctors ran to the senior doctors with their mouths open to inform of a miracle that had just occurred.

Still unaware of the happenings around, she continued to hold onto his hand, and stare at him, as if to say, “I will never let you leave me.” He would have tried to whisper “Thanks”, but the two of them had long ago agreed not to use such formalities to one another. He looked back at her with as much of the same intensity as he could muster and managed a feeble smile of gratitude.

The ICU, for the two of them, was transformed from the doorstep of Death to a beautiful garden of joy and content and a place full of bright coloured flowers all around…


PS: One more post on similar lines...:

The whiteness all around was dazzling. Trying to cheer up the atmosphere, I guess. The walls were white, the lights were bright, the doctors had white coat, the patients were covered in white sheets. I stood beside her, dazed and numb. I was shivering too, and I was pretty sure it was not because I was wet from head to toe. There were gashes everywhere - on her face, hands, palm, neck and a deep cut on the chin and bruises on the head. With acute pain all around and a short loss of memory, she was bandaged at multiple places and an IV feeding her right arm.

Occasionally she would awaken and mumble about wanting to go home and be with parents and cry uncontrollably, and due to the resultant headache, she would sleep off again. Looking at her face, all the wonderful memories came flooding back. There was so much Life in her, with her bubbling enthusiasm and an amazing sense of humour. The playful joyousness was infectious and one could not help laughing even when one was the intended recipient of the pun. Her mimicry and bouts of imitation matched the best and left people rolling clutching their midriffs! And now, all I could see was pain replacing the smile on her face. Its just a matter of time, I convinced myself, before she became her normal self.

The time was about 3 PM when the 911 was called and she was brought into the hospital in the stretcher. Each time I looked at the clock, it had raced by an hour, and I hardly had any inkling of it. It was as if time and world had stopped and I was set in a trance with no thought of food or water or anyone else and the only thought was her. I neither could sit nor leave her and walk around, and all I ended up doing was stand beside her for hours together and just stroke her head and constanly mumble that everything was alright.

She was then taken to the CT scan room for head and neck scan. The doctor asked me to step outside the CT scan room while she is being scanned, and all that I could do was just stand a step outside the CT scan room door. The bench on the opposite wall seemed too far away and the wait was killing. All I could do was bow down my head and clasp my hands tightly and offer an heart-felt prayer.

The doc came out in need of something from the opposite lab. She found me standing a step from the door and me looking at the door as if my life depended on it. She just nodded an understanding smile and went on without bothering to remind me there was a bench to sit. As another friend of mine keeps saying, prayers really work. CT scan results were very encouraging and there seemed to be nothing majorly wrong.

Back again in the ER which became now a temporary home. Again the consolations, the stroking of the head, the fighting-off of the innumerous thoughts and worries that strangely keep cropping up at times like this, and it was perhaps the combination of physical and mental exhaustion, I found myself sitting on the chair beside her and having slept off with a comforting hand on her head.

It was about 9 PM when the doctor finally gave the Go-Ahead and had her discharged with a list of instructions of Dos and Donts. It was still difficult for her to walk to talk or move about freely, but atleast she did not have anything broken nor was she asked to be admitted in hospital. That alone was a cheerful news. Thank You, God.

Its the first time in my life that I had to sit in an Emergency Room to take care of a loved one. I realised how difficult it is to look at the wounds and yet have a smile on the face with tear-filled eyes just so to boost the patient's hopes. Perhaps the mental agony faced by the person who takes care of the patient matches the actual physical agony faced by the patient but then there is no way of knowing. It was a heartening moment and one that can never ever be forgotten.

God bless you, Princess!

The Last Minute

Exactly at 1700 hrs, he pushed the throttle forward, and the train started moving. The enormous power with which a single engine pulled about ten bogeys fascinated him. As the train gathered momentum, the whole engine shook and settled into a nice rhythm. He looked out the window at the ten bogeys that were dutifully following the engine. Hundreds of people were scampering at the moving train: many were waving at their loved ones, bidding tearful adieu; many were running desperately to aboard with baggage on their shoulders, but as the last of the bogeys departed the platform, there was a look of utter despair and loss on the few who could not make it. A small girl was crying with a teddy bear, sorry to see the train go without being able to aboard with her parents.

He saw all this and felt sad. He had half a mind to stop the train so that the late-comers boarded, but he was bound by his duty. His human sentiments were not to interfere with his official work. And so he shut off his mind from the sorry group at the platform and looked ahead. The journey was scheduled to last for 12 hours, and he wanted to enjoy the travel before the sun set.

* * *

The train chugged along, whistling and cooing. The sight of the train moving amidst foliage of greenery, amidst the mountain passes, into the tunnels, through the gorges, on the bridges was breath-taking. For a bystander, it was like a toy train that God had initiated and the eyes never left the locomotive, and for passengers, the charisma of the flora all around held their breath. It was like a natural mobile resort and he felt proud to be guiding them all. Despite his umpteenth journey on this train as the official driver, it still was an ecstasy to watch the scenic beauty that encompassed him.

He had joined the railways as a trainee in his teens, but his natural ability to learn, and his boundless love of trains made him move the ladders of corporate corridors quickly and he was the train driver now for the last ten years, executing his job to perfection. He was an expert and all his colleagues respected him for his infallibility. He still loved his job as he loved it on his first day.

* * *

The train moved through a curved track and slowly descended the last of the mountains in its sojourn. The digital clock in the engine showed 2058 hrs. He was on time. But the journey was still in its youth, and about 8 more hours were still remaining. He knew exactly when to speed, where to slow down and where to go cautiously. Experience had rendered him many a tough situations and he had come out in flying colours on all occasions. He was a reliable man and he knew it. He also knew that right now, 658 people's lives were in his hands, his responsibility. He felt the pride swell in his heart and a small smile touched his lips. His assistant saw the smile, but did not say anything.

The train now had reached a level terrain. This was the time to accelerate. In consent with his assistant, he pushed the throttle forward. The train going currently at 50 kmph, after a few seconds touched 120 kmph. He knew there were no signal posts for the next few kilometers to stop or halt the train and he was at liberty to accelerate.

With the train going at such high speed, he was full of senses. His nerves were at the edge as the air whizzed past him. He was slightly scared, but at the same time thrilled. He enjoyed this thoroughly. The train’s headlights made the next one kilometer fairly visible, provided there is no fog. With the train traveling at 120 kmph, a single kilometer was covered in 30 seconds, which meant that the driver should know the tracks like the back of his hands.

Yet, at 2127 hrs, he sensed something was wrong. His trained eyes told him everything was not as it should be. As he and his assistant gazed through the binoculars the next stretch of a kilometer, it dawned upon them that a huge boulder was sitting prettily on the track, obviously because of landslide caused due to the heavy rains of the season. Involuntarily, his one hand went to the horn (as if by some miracle, the boulder would move away) and the other hand triggered the emergency brakes. He sensed small beads of sweat on his forehead. At that fraction of a second, he realized something. He was going to die, along with many others, within the next minute. He had done everything he could, but by applying brakes, he knew he hadn’t avoided death, but delayed it by a few seconds.

His first thought was ways of escape. His mind was blank. Apart from jumping out of the train, he had none. But jumping out of the train traveling at 100 kmph onto a rock-filled terrain would kill him anyway. He then realized he was destined to die and this was his last minute on earth. His mind raced as a kaleidoscope of feelings went through him. He thought about his dear wife and kids. He thought about his parents, his teachers, his well-wishers, his colleagues and friends. He wanted to see them one last time. Alas, this was the time of Death. Then, he thought about the 658 people in the train. He felt groundless. The thought of killing almost half as many people in one go hit him hard. He couldn’t swallow. So this is what Death feels like.

He wondered how many of them would die. The night was still early, and the rescue team would come only after hours. People would lie here moaning, shrieking for hours. He could just imagine what would happen. The engine would get completely smashed. Minimum 4 bogeys will ram into one another. Unsuspecting, sleeping passengers would have their bodies pierced with the hard metal of the train body. 658 people’s lives were in his hands, and although no fault of his, he failed. Many would die, many would be crippled for life. He would be blamed for speeding. The Railway Minister perhaps would be sacked for insufficient protection of the tracks. A small tear welled up in his eyes.

He then thought about the family which had missed this train, the despairing look in their eyes, standing on the platform, shocked at their unpunctuality; the crying girl with the teddy bear. Thank God they were late! They were destined to live. He smiled one last time.

The night was filled with the gushing air and the screaming train. He saw the boulder nearing. He was one of the privileged few who could see Death in a solid form approaching at 100 kmph. He looked at his assistant. He was much younger, and incredulous shock was written all over him.

It was nobody’s mistake, and yet, as the boulder was just a few feet away, his assistant heard him say “I am sorry, God. Forgive me”.

The train rammed into the huge boulder at a speed of 83 kmph.

Life is Beautiful

Dated: Aug 13th 2002

Elysian and ambivalent feelings fought with one another as the public transport vehicle came to a halt in front of me, and forced me to make amends on my prior decree that one has to wait for hours to get the appropriate commuter bus. But then, I guess, it was just one of those days when all the things click unexpectedly well, and there you are, thinking, “Life is Beautiful”. Still unable to elucidate the event that had just befolded in front of me, I, with the crowd, was forced to mount the bus and occupy, fortunately for me, a window seat.

Comfortably placed, the eyes to wander over the busy bus-station, thronged with people of different caste, creed, colour, language and dress was ineluctable, as I waited for the driver to replenish his depleted vitamins, and it was in this setting that I was able to look, as a non-living and non-emotional soul-less body, over the crowd with their myriad emotions, almost a kaleidoscope of lachrymose, ecstasy, ennui, sanguine and lugubriousness, some travelling from one part of the city to the other, and others who had made this bus-station as their second house.

In multitudes, they moved about, each with a story of his own. The thought never stopped to fascinate me. Invariably, the first to catch my attention was a couple standing near a pillar. Such was the bliss that the company each enjoyed that, for all the bustling around them, they might have been luxuriously placed romantically in a park, engrossed in a subject of common interest. Romance at the bus stand! What an oxymoron! It was as if a soldier feels safe when he’s fighting with the enemy rather than when he’s sleeping at night!

Then there was this blind man, whose apparel suggested his unemployment, and the tiny cigarette between his lips, cupped by his hands suggested his addiction. He inhaled slowly, fully, taking pleasure in every moment, as if there’s no tomorrow. When there was no more left, he slowly paced a few yards with the traditional stick and bumped into the pillar where the couple was. This sudden action brought back the couple into reality, and to follow the norms of regelation, they made their way to the next pillar.

Oblivious of this, the blind man groped around. Wrinkling her nose, a woman carrying a kid of about a year old tried her best to avoid him and resumed my place in waiting for her bus. A philanthropist came on the scene and took the hand of the blind man, and asked him where he wanted to go. Upon obtaining the intelligence, he guided the man to the appropriate bus. How different he was from the woman who ignored the invalid! The mental happiness of the man who helped was pellucid, while the woman repined superfluously and was evidently in dark clouds.

Then a student with overflowing backpack took the seat beside me. Exhaustion and sleep played on his face as he waited for the comforts of his house. The scene was nostalgic of my own teenhood. Then, suddenly, a commotion took place on the platform outside, followed subsequently by a wail of an old woman, purporting the message of her being dispossessed of her valuable carriage. This effected a couple of young volunteers to run behind a fleeing personality. The anger of the woman, predictably, metamorphosed into a collection of tears.

Helpless, as I was, I joined the category of mute spectators, although the adrenaline inside me was running high with all the excitement, but did not venture to give away my prized seat. Not so my companion. Inspite of the apparent exhaustion, the student went out to the platform with renewed vigour, to console the woman. On the pretext of providing medical assistance to her, my ex-companion and the unfortunate victim along with a couple of others made way to a nearby place deemed fit enough to satisfy their requirements.

Atlast, my bus driver resumed his position. All this adventure had quite made the clock stand still and I was unaware of how long it had been. The conductor made his way towards me. I then realised that my wallet was not in its original resting-place. My search became frantic, until it dawned upon me that I, too, was pickpocket. Cursing the God with unprintable expletives and balled fists punching into thin air for giving birth to so many pickpockets, I was forced to sacrifice my seat and dismount the bus.

It was then that my grey cells got into action; a hasty board meeting followed by a brief inquiry into the happenings of the last few moments resulted in a conclusive verdict that the commotion that took place on the platform was just staged as a diversion, while I was one of the real victims, perhaps along with other mute spectators. The fleeing personality, the wailing woman, the student and the men, who rushed to help the woman were all the clever cohorts of a single gang. Depleted of Vitamin M, it made me think, now, “Is Life beautiful?”


Dated: Nov 21st 2001

There was fear deep down in his throat. His heart was beating faster than it should. His stomach was going topsy-turvy & knotting itself in curls. But his face betrayed all this. His eyes were calm & full of peace. He had a manufactured broad smile on his lips. And his walk was brisk & full of gaiety. He was afraid, and – paradoxically – the fear made him eager to get the job done, for the waiting was the worst part, & the encounter itself was like ether. He made his way through the rough terrain & the jungle, occasionally came across some of his own men, who warned him against what he was doing, but he carried on. He had nothing to lose, not after what happened the previous day, except perhaps his life, which was now nothing to him, or he wouldn’t be doing this job. Then suddenly, unexpectedly, an open space arrived. This was more dangerous. The enemy could easily see him now. Perhaps shoot at him too. But he continued walking towards the LOC.
The bullets started arriving, & the stomach increased its churning. Any small movement near the LOC caused this. He had expected it. But none of them were aimed at him. He knew it wouldn’t be. Shooting was just a warning, an indication that you are not supposed to be where you are, from the enemy camp. He knew their orders, for he had given the same orders to his troops on his side of the border. It was not a rule followed strictly, but an unspoken treaty, a protocol.
Perhaps it was the smile, perhaps it was his dress code, a Sunday white kurta – and not the usual army uniform – with pockets that revealed what it contained – one that a peasant might wear on a cool, summer night – or perhaps it was his upstretched arms, an indication of surrender & being unarmed, or perhaps all the above made the shooting stop altogether while he could sense the enemy looking down at him with a feeling of whats-up attitude. He stopped walking. This was it. The hyped-up LOC. Either he was dead now, or a minute later. He waited, hands outstretched, palms wide open.
He didn’t die. His message went across. Army personnel behind a far-away rock made his way slowly toward him pointing his rifle. Gupta knew there were a hundred men watching him. So if ever he could kill the army man, the hundred men would tear him into a hundred pieces within one-hundredth of a second. He also knew – as did the man approaching him - his own hundred men were watching the encounter too. And he had specifically ordered cease-fire. Even if he was shot at.
The man came upto about thirty feet’s distance from him & shouted in his native language, “What do you want?”
“Peace”, Gupta said simply & immediately.
The man’s reaction changed from incomprehension to utter confusion & then finally to ridiculousness. “Who are you?” The rifle in his hand didn’t move an inch.
He told him. The incharge for this part of the LOC.
The man’s reaction again changed from disbelief to amazement & then finally rested at admiration. Not every chief came to risk his life this easily, far less in a Sunday kurta. The man asked for proof. Slowly, Gupta’s hand went to the breast pocket & he got his ID card. He threw it towards the man. The man squinted at it & was satisfied. He asked again, “What do you want?”
“I want to see your chief.” The man forbid himself in asking why again. He looked at Gupta for a long time, estimated his innocence & request, & slowly retreated with his gun still pointing at him. He said, “Wait here. Hands down.”
Gupta stood under the lovely November sun for 2 most tense hours he had ever spent, hardly moving before he saw a group of men towards him, headed apparently by the chief. He was a brave man. He knew, as well as Gupta, that he was a dead target now for Gupta’s hiding personnel. It was clear that even he cared less for his life. Gupta wondered why. The chief neared Gupta & picked up the fallen ID. “Name, rank?” Gupta told him. Then the chief gave his name & rank, like a true Army man. Mohammad was his name.
“And what do you want?” Mohammad asked. Gupta gave the same reply he had given the soldier. Mohammad’s reaction was more mature. He just looked at him curiously & inquisitively, wanting more answer. So Gupta continued, “Tell me, Major, do you really hate India?”
The question caught him off-balance. He chose his words carefully. “Not exactly. I am just doing my job, which is guarding the border.”
The relief in Gupta was all too apparent for anybody to see. His hopes increased. Any other man would have said ‘Yes’ instantly. Mohammad was on the same frequency as his. The Gods were on his side. His job became all the more easier now. “Excellent. And I don’t hate Pakistan.”
Gupta immediately came to the point. “ So I want us to be friends. Love thy neighbour.” Mohammad looked at him for a long moment, wondering whether he was serious. And then decided he was serious. He made up his mind. “Meet me here, alone, tomorrow, same time.” With that Mohammad threw the ID at him & he & his army walked away, leaving Gupta stranded. His hopes fell, but only just. He picked up the ID & slowly walked back.

* * *

Same fear. Same knots. Same smile. Same dress. Same time. Same place. But more positive & determination. Gupta had planned his attack through words today, now that he had an idea what sort of a person Mohammad was. Mohammad came early. Gupta greeted him friendly. “Good Morning, Major.”

“Good Morning.” Mohammad’s voice gave nothing away. But Gupta went ahead nevertheless, with his plan:
“Let me explain, Major, before I hear your decision,” began Gupta. “Life is short. A man lives just 40 prime years. In that span, one must make most of it. Not by worrying what your neighbour is going to do in the night. Not by constantly keeping a watch with rifles. Dammit, we are learned men. We are grown-ups. We should not quarrel & squabble like children. We must respect one another’s existence in this world. And the first thing we can do is be on friendly terms with our neighbour. I am not the Prime Minister of India. So I can’t have it all. But I am in charge of this region. I want peace. I give you my word, we will not infiltrate or invade your side of the LOC, & I hope you do not too. This way, we can pull all our army personnel away from the border, wasting their time watching so-called enemies & put them to better use. Let’s face it. We are like two houses side by side. No house keeps watch on the other. You have your space & we have ours. Let’s be happy with one another. Let’s do away with rifles & grenades. Innocent people die for nothing.

“Our countries spend millions of tax-payers’ money everyday just to see that there are no attacks from the enemies. What a waste when there are billions of people homeless & without food. Why should we fight one another? Why should we hate one another? We will respect you as human beings & you respect us as human beings. We should not be animals preying on one another. I kill you. You kill us back. There’s no end to it. There’s no point in it. After all, everybody is going to die one day or the other. So, as long as we live, let us live happily. I beg of you, let there be harmony. Let us make this world a better place to live. I will allow any of your men to come to my region, to meet people, to establish relations. After all, we are neighbours. We might need your help. You might need our help. I cannot speak for the whole of LOC, but as long as I have control of this stretch of LOC, I want to be friends with you. Are you game?”
Gupta looked intently at Mohammad. That’s it. His job was over. The ball was now in Mohammad’s court. A smile lit up Mohammad’s face. “Well said, Major. But you need not have said at all for I had already decided to be game. I agree to befriend you.” For a moment they stood there looking at each other. Then something snapped & like some kind of a magnet, they were drawn to each other & they hugged. This was it. A simple solution to a seemingly unsolvable problem. There would be no more tension. One could live in peace & harmony.

Gupta was then one of the happiest persons on the Earth. He had achieved what his wife always wanted him to achieve. She’d definitely be pleased, thought Gupta. Mohammad too was elated. No enmity with India meant his job tension would be decreased by 80% while he still got the same pay. All that was now left to do was to talk to the various militant outfits like how Gupta talked, & advise them not to perpetrate the ultimate human glory of peace atleast in this part of the region. If only he could ask them to do so in all other regions as well, there would be no innocent deaths at all, in either country. In time, he decided, he’d try to do that too.

Gupta invited Mohammad for a lunch the next day & Gupta, in return, was given an open invitation. An unwritten treaty was agreed upon, based purely on belief & friendship, of not watching any longer the other party in anticipation of an attack for there would be no attack. In effect, the region in Pakistan & the region in India may well have been two lovely loving neighbouring villages. Soon peace & harmony led to prosperity. No bad elements were detected by both sides, & those that were detected were taken care of. Pure love prevailed. Children in India played with children in Pakistan. Women exchanged dishes. Men exchanged drinks. And all it took to bring about this change were not rifles or grenades, but a simple kurta & loads of love.

It was a month before Mohammad came to know that the real reason why Gupta had taken such a risk on that November day was that, just on the previous day, Gupta’s wife had died by the Pakistan army’s random shoot-out. It was remarkable, almost superhuman, that the death of his wife did not trigger another here-we-go-again stuff of hate-machine in him, but rather a crave for love & a desire that nobody else should be killed unnecessarily. The death redefined Neighbours. It was another month before Gupta came to know that the real reason why Mohammad had agreed was that even his wife had died the same day Gupta’s wife had died by the Indian Army’s random shoot-out.

Why Money?

Dated: Nov 21st 2001

“If you take out money, half of the world’s problems are solved right there.” The Naked Face. Sidney Sheldon. 1970. (Modified for general audience!)

Consider a fictitious Mr.A waking up in the morning & brushing his teeth. The brush is for free & so is the toothpaste. He freshens up. He prepares a breakfast: the bread, the butter, the jam & the lot are all for free. He switches on the TV – which he got for free along with washing machine, refrigerator, wet grinder, system & other gizmos.

He then visits the market. He asks for all that he wants & he gets what he wants – all for free. Question now is if the job of the vendor is to sell – rather, give away – vegetables & he gets no money in return, how will he survive. The catch is even he has access to all the things free. Everybody can have everything they want for free. So much so that even the farmer, who provides the vendor with the necessary stuff, can arrive at the market in a posh car, for the car is free! Everybody can have his or her own favourite cars! Now, the farmers do not have to bargain with the vendors & the vendors do not have to bargain with the customers.

Suppose Mr. A decides to have a house built. He approaches a contractor & gives him the details. The contractor gets the bricks, mortar, cement & other necessary materials – all free of cost – with help of lorries running on free fuel. Since it is the contractor’s job to build the house, he sees to it that the house is built with the best materials. No stealing, or inappropriate mixture of cement & sand. For even he has access to everything just as the President of USA! So, there shall be no cheating.

Like this, the advantages of a life without money are enormously high. Nobody cheats for there is nothing to cheat for! There will never again exist a gap between the rich & the poor for everybody have equal access to everything. There shall never again be robbery, theft, burglary, murder for gain, property, jewelry, strikes against less pay, illiteracy, poverty, frauds, ill-constructed buildings, child labour, loan problems, Budget & most of important of all, no worry. No profit, no loss for no one.

Everybody shall have the right to enjoy. That’s what life is for. To enjoy. To be Happy. Not to kill others, nor to worry, nor to be sad, nor to die of poverty. Death of millions because of poverty is one of the saddest things in the world. We ourselves have created an evil called “Money” & those who do not have it are poor & those who have it are rich. The poor have to live in huts & the rich in mansions. If a poor man has cancer, he should die a miserable death but if the rich man has cancer, he can have the best medical attention. Why do we need money?

Can’t everybody live equally, without distinctions being made? Man invented things which has helped mankind in leaps & bounds & have caused less worry than those felt by medieval people. He invented light, electronic gadgets, solutions to medical challenges, computer & various other things to which all are eternally grateful. But Man also invented things that cause constant worry, an anxiety & unnecessary deaths of millions. He invented religion, caste, creed, colour, but the worst invention of all was the concept of money.

Happiness is a wondrous commodity. The more you give, the more you have. Life is about enjoying, about finding & discoveries the mystery & the beauty of the nature, about appreciating art & skill of millions of people, about tasting the best foods at various parts of the world, about having content at one’s house & in one’s job, about helping the medically unfit, about giving joy to others, about having a wonderful & happy community, about sharing everything with a partner, about sports, about music & deriving enjoyment & bliss from each of these. It is a great pity that each one of them comes with a price tag. A normal man can have none of the above. Why? Because he cannot afford what people of yesteryears invented the concept of “money”. Why oh why do we need money?

But then if it all becomes so easy in life, then what will be life all about? Lazy people will just have the best of the houses built in the best places of the world & watch the TV all day until he gets bored, & then, & then comes the time when he wants to do something. Every single individual in this world – however low he is on IQ - wants to be busy, to do something of worthy & capable to his calibre. It is upto the individual to decide what he wants to be & to do. He can have the occupation that gives him the most satisfaction rather than join a course – as is done nowadays – which assures him of most fortune. He can be a simple vendor, or a doctor, or a contractor, a carpenter, a software professional, a bus conductor or even might venture out for research. There is no distinguishing in labour, for there is no pay in any of them! Everybody is important, as everybody’s contribution to the world is important. No job is greater than anybody else’s. All jobs are equal & all are treated with equal respect.

Attention has to be given to make life as much easier as possible with least amount of suffering. Such as in the case of water scarcity, methods have to be devised to make seawater potable. Studies are needed in the field of ET, astronomical discoveries, alternate sources to prevent the depletion of natural resources, sophistication in biodegradable products & many such things on similar lines, & all for the betterment of mankind. So in this way, people can learn what they like to learn & do what they want to do. Students need not have the usual dilemma, about choosing an undesirable, but wholly profitable line of work for their own financial betterment. Everybody works for everybody. Communal harmony thrives. Earth becomes Heaven if there is no money.

There are some disadvantages too. For instance, consider a great event, such as a cricket match. True, there will be no distinction between the gallery & the pavilion stands, for nobody pays anything. But then, in the real world, some people might opt out because of the money factor, that is, there will be a limited number of people attending such events leading to better crowd management. But if there’s no money, virtually the whole city tries to enter the stadium, & crowd management becomes impossible. One way out of this problem is the policy of first come first serve basis as well as the priority policy. It might help marginally, but it still is a problem nevertheless. Like this example, there will be some unnoticed instances that will be a nuisance when no money exists

There comes the job of the Government. It must exist to see to it that all events around the city go on peacefully, without mindless killings. There shall always exist the other nightmarish inventions of man like caste-difference riots, which needs to be looked into, as well as curbing of hatred amongst neighbour countries, deportation, herald vital education for the budding youth & curbing of alcoholics & drug-addictions (for the alcohol & drug will be free of cost!), encouraging healthy competition amongst manufacturers of goods & products, promote efficiency in an organisation, tackle diseases like epidemics, curb extremists encouraging terrorism, control law-breakers, etc..

If such a world ever came to exist, there will be no slums, no beggars, no banks, no frauds from financial companies, no smuggling, no hunger, no wars, no tax, no strikes, & in short, no problems at all. Preconceived notions are the locks on the doors to wisdom, freedom & happiness. Its time something’s done about money.

But then, if everything that’s written is implemented, then we would be living a different life altogether!

Mary's Marriage

Dated: Oct 1st 2001

“Home sweet home. It is so nice to be back home after 3 long weeks.”
“Welcome, indeed, dear.”
“Harry, I need to speak to you urgently.”
“Me, too.”
“Eh? Well, after me, then, all right?”
“Very well.”
“You know what?”
“I had my schooling at the Oxford University. They taught me that if you are told ‘You know what?’ then you are supposed to say ‘No, what?’ even if you do know what is being talked about.”
“Oh, shut up! Mary has attained the age of marriage.”
“Mary Stuart?”
“Mary Patterson. Your daughter, dammit!”
“By the way, who’s Mary Stuart?”
“A character in Alistair MacLean`s novel ‘Bear Island’.”
“Harry, she was our classmate, wasn’t she?”
“Was she?”
“Stop acting. I always wondered how you married me while all the time you were staring at her.”
“What rubbish. I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“So, you are still in touch with her, are you?”
“Would you believe me if I say ‘No’?”
“Well, there you are then. Tinkerty-tonk. Marriage is a bachelor’s blunder to taste the thunder. No use justifying one’s innocence to a lady.”
“If that is so why did her name crop up?”
“The name just happened to chance by my lips.”
“Are you lying?”
“Would you believe me if I say ‘No’?”
“Mary Patterson didn’t happen to chance by your lips.”
“Forget it, now. Everybody has a past, you know.”
“So you admit that she was your girl friend?”
“Would you believe me if I say ‘No’ & that I was just saying a general feeling experienced in the present day generation.”
“Well, there you are then. Tinkerty-tonk again. Tally-ho, too, not to mention tantivy!”
“A crime once denied is twice committed.”
“There are two times a man understands a woman – before marriage & after marriage.”
“What was that again?”
“I was just wishing Adam had died with all his ribs intact.”
“Adam died?”
“I was talking about the first man. Adam & Eve”
“By the way, who were you talking about?”
“A character in Robin Cook’s novel ‘Mindbend’.”
“Sally, he was our classmate, wasn’t he?”
“Was he?”
“Stop acting. I always wondered how you married me while all the time you were staring at him.”
“What rubbish. I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“Jeez, you are a liar!”
“And you are a cheat!”
“Fine! Now that we have identified ourselves, we might as well get on with it.”
“We might as well get on with what?”
“For Sake’s pete, you---.”
“You mean, ‘For Pete’s sake’.
“A tongue of the slip.”
“ ‘A slip of the tongue’, Harry.”
“Whatever. What I intend to say is that you started the conversation.”
“I did?”
“Trust a woman on the witness box & you might as well start walking to the gallows.”
“I guess it was about Mary.”
“Mary westmacott?”
“Now who?”
“Pen-name of Agatha Christie.”
“I shall refrain from the trodden conversation.”
“My life on Earth has increased by one day.”
“I saw her kissing her boy friend.”
“Bless the Lord!”
“She’s not a lesbian.”
“Please, Harry, be serious.”
“I guess she was just whispering in his mouth.”
“Next thing I know, hugging means rubbing each other’s backs.”
“They were doing that too?”
“They will, if we don’t act fast.”
“But what’s wrong in rubbing each other’s backs? It relieves Mary of her constant back-aches.”
“How could I ever have married you?”
“Sometimes I wonder the same thing myself.”
“You are one of the stupidest persons I have ever seen.”
“I rather not bother repeating the same sentences.”
“Can you not ever take life seriously? She’s your daughter after all, dammit.”
“True, she’s my daughter. But why are you worried?”
“She’s my daughter, too, Harry.”
“Ah, but that’s what you think.”
“WHAT?!! What do you mean?”
“The baby you delivered died immediately upon arrival. Bypassed Hell to go to Heaven. Since you badly needed a girl & somebody in the same hospital didn’t, we replaced the babies.”
“AAAHHH!!! Not my baby? This is not true. This cannot be true.”
“Would you believe me if I say that indeed it is not true.”
“Of course not. Atlast you have confessed. I always wondered how she didn’t resemble me at all.”
“Now that you feel I have confessed, I might as well tell you everything.”
“What do you mean ‘everything’?”
“Shouldn’t you be asking why I didn’t tell you all this earlier?”
“Why didn’t you tell me all this earlier?”
“A case of selective amnesia, I guess.”
“Oh, I feel sick. I feel like killing myself. I feel like killing you first, though.”
“Better today than Monday.”
“Nothing. About killing me. I said better be quick about it. There are deserving girls waiting for me in the next world.”
“Wait a minute! You fathered Mary, didn’t you?”
“I thought you will never get to it.”
“Oh my God!”
“Remember you yourselves said: ‘She’s your daughter, after all’ & I replied: ‘True’.”
“Who’s her mother?”
“Why do you think she’s called Mary?”
“Mary Stuart? Oh, Harry, what have you done?”
“Do you want me to spell it out?”
“But, this complicates the matters.”
“What matters?”
“Mary is in love with Rod.”
“Mary is in love with a stick?”
“Upper case ‘R’. But he’s a stick all right. Rod is Mary Stuart’s son.”
“Sister marries brother, then?”
“Step-brother, please. Or is he your son, too?”
“But Mary’s married to Swanson.”
“My god! So much for the faith & trust in this world. But Swanson thinks Rod is his son?”
“Past tense.”
“Past tense?”
“Now he knows then?”
“Then he’s not living with Mary?”
“Where is he living, then?”
“The next world.”
“You are getting deaf.”
“But what do you mean, the next world?”
“Murdered?!! But who..?”
“Mary Stuart.”
“Adam murdered Swanson & framed it on Mary.”
“But why did he murder Swanson?”
“To have Mary.”
“Mary Patterson?”
“Mary Stuart.”
“Lord! What is happening to the world? I will go bonkers now.”
“Adam had proved time & again he had less grey cells.”
“Less? Non-existent, I would say.”
“He is, now.”
“His grey cells are non-existent now?”
“He is non-existent now.”
“You are getting deaf.”
“I am not getting deaf. When I said ‘What!’. I didn’t mean ‘What?’, I meant ‘What!’.”
“What on Earth are you talking about?”
“Forget it. But what do you mean, non-existent?”
“Murdered?!! But who..?”
“Jesus H. Christ!”
“I said not Jesus H. Christ. It’s Rod who murdered Adam.”
“But why?”
“Because his father sent his mother to jail after killing his step-father.”
“But Rod himself will be jailed then?”
“Apparently not.”
“How do you mean?”
“He’s framed me.”
“Should you repeat everything I say?”
“Should I repeat----.oh, I guess my tongue’s got used to it! But Why you?”
“Because I had a relationship with his mother.”
“He knows?”
“Mary told him.”
“Mary Stuart?”
“Mary Patterson.”
“She knows?!!”
“I told her.”
“I told Mary Patterson what Mary Stuart had told me not to tell Mary Patterson & Mary Patterson told Rod what I had told her not to tell.”
“You couldn’t have put it better.”
“Anyway, the Police will be here any minute.”
“The Police will be---. But you are so calm.”
“I have nothing to fear. As I said, the girls in the next world are desperate for me.”
“In the jail?”
“I will be dead on Monday morning 10:00am.”
“Surely you will not commit suicide?”
“Of course not.”
“Then how do you know---?”
“The judge told me.”
“The judge told you?!!”
“Here we go again.”
“But you didn’t do anything.”
“Ah, but that’s what you think.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean what I say.”
“But what’ll happen to me?”
“Mary will look after you.”
“Not now. Now that she knows I am not her mother.”
“Mary is a nice girl.”
“And she’s going to be married to Rod.”
“Past tense.”
“Past tense?”
“She was going to.”
“She changed her mind?”
“Forced to.”
“Forced to, by whom?”
“Mother Nature.”
“Nature? Whatever happened to Rod?”
“Murdered?!! But who..?”
“Isn’t that supposed to be ‘AAAAAHHHHH!!!’?”
“I thought a little change will do the climate a lot good. Why ever in the hell did you murder Rod?”
“Because he killed his father & framed me.”
“Why do I get all the problems of this world? Come back, oh, Jesus, come back & save the world.”
“It’d be better if we move out there ourselves.”
“I said it’d be better---“
“I know what you said. By ‘Eh?’, I meant I didn’t understand what you said.”
“I meant, instead of Jesus & Company coming back, it might be better if we---.”
“That’s not the point, Harry. You fool! What have you done! Poor Mary. She might commit suicide.”
“If she does, you will be the odd one out. You might as well join us in our journey to the next world. But you would rather not be my wife.”
“You are insane. You are all insane. Where is Mary?”
“She’s gone to her friend’s house to get a gun.”
“A gun?!! To shoot herself?!!”
“I vaguely remember her threatening me that she’d kill me first & then shoot herself”.
“Everybody has gone crazy! You talk of killing people as if you are having tea.”
“How did you know?”
“Don’t tell me you were having tea while you were killing Rod?”
“Wow, you were there?”
“I don’t believe this. This can’t be true. How can all this happen in just 3 weeks? You must be lying.”
“I am.”
“I am lying since I told you Mary’s not your daughter. Mary is your daughter. Rod is Swanson & Mary Stuart’s son. Adam is Mary’s brother. None of them is dead nor jailed.”
“But why did you lie to me?”
“You did not think Mary resembled you. You always suspected me. You never believed me. So I thought I might as well play with you.”
“Oh, Harry, you fooled me properly.”
“Lacking in grey cells, too, is my wife. Talking of grey cells, Adam was always the topper in our class.”
“Hey, you wanted to tell me something too?”
“I wanted to tell you that Mary Patterson, our daughter, loves Rod, Swanson & Mary Stuart’s son, & that I have arranged their marriage to be held on Monday.”
“The day you die?”
“Father of the bride is the most sufferer in the wedding.”
“Oh, Harry, I love you.”
“I love you, too, Mary ...ouch! I love you, too, Sally.”

The Prime Minister

Dated: 7th Sept, 2001

“The important thing is to take part in a contest”, my lecturer had said. I did. He even said, “The essential thing is to win.” I did. But the magnitude of difference between the average contests that I had taken part in and won, and this one was so large that me feelings and the sense of elation might as well have been on the moon. The victory – now that I have created he atmosphere, I might as well get on with it – gave me the most enviable and coveted position – certainly not on the moon – that any man in this country would give a year’s salary to taste the essence of power, the luxuries of the world – after all, the elite belongs to the elite – the best of the hotels, cooks, and more importantly, the freedom to whiplash the erring and the brute, and get back none in response! But I had no intention of putting my tongue to degrading expletives and unprintable invectives for I had a good schooling. Rather I believed soft words broke hard hearts. Also, I am a man of no violence: physical or verbal. And I had been taught that a flawless leader was one who should follow his followers. Still, the fact that a billion people will do as you told them to, gives a heady feeling even to the few healthy ones alive, though the interests of one and all is to be the life and breath of one’s living. But, yes, it was great to be the Prime Minister of India.

There was so much to do, so much to change. I called all my ministers and succinctly told them all I expected from them. Even as jaws started dropping – I believe shock is best expressed when news comes without preamble and any expectation – I told them of my preconceived notion of cutting their salary by half and stripping them off all their free allowances. “Enough living in Heaven”, I told them. “Now live like how people under you live.” While shock was just chameleoning into controlled hostility and who-the-hell-did-we-elect attitude, I assured them that they would have it all back in installments proportionate to the positive achievements in their respective departments. As a follower, I cut my own salary to just live-able and told them so, and it was then that they realized I was just not any other Prime Minister.

The move to levy heavy taxes on giant firms was opposed by thousands but was agreed by millions when I assured the bourgeois a better standard of living. The Bill passed, and sure enough, to live up to my words, I had roads constructed at least-expected but most-required places and all the existing roads were made to satisfy the European standards, thereby effecting a marked decrease in importing of petroleum products, while simultaneously the offenders of traffic signals and signs were severely reprimanded. Also an order was issued that new buildings must be constructed where all slum-dwellers must be shifted to. Within months, the number of slums in the country decreased to a bare minimum.

I introduced a sufficient amount of public transportation system and a stringent law of ‘No Standing’ aboard a mobile bus. Similarly, arrack and smoking industries were banned, taking cue from what they themselves said that their products were injurious to health. Some of the employers were educated with basic skills of medicine to cater to the under-privileged in a host of heretofore-neglected villages. After all, they, the employers, were the people most eligible to take away sufferings from people, when they in the first place, were candidates to have caused them.

I scrapped a mission to send astronauts to mars to check on ETs. “Take care of people here first,” I snapped. “Then think of other planets.” I hence put the massive amount of money saved to educational institutions. (The Gods were on my side: no calamities ever occurred during my term. But then, God helps those who help themselves!) I made it a point to see to it that the money I had sanctioned was the money received to the end party, without any slip-offs in between at the numerous tables. Anybody dealing with bribes were fired and punished. Competition gradually grew amongst the people and corruption started seeing the sunset. People started enjoying themselves and life stopped being a pure, unadulterated hell as the wheels of the industry moved swiftly and efficiently.

I had been observant over the years that while a part of the country had floods, the other part was in constant drought. So I saw to it that pipes were laid appropriately to convert flood water to potable water in the drought-hit areas. Researchers were encouraged to convert salt-filled-sea-water to potable too. Within months, there was no dearth of water in any part of the country.

I introduced ‘No Fail’ policy where students never failed. This reduced the tension and anxiety of the gay and blossom years of a child. Results showed: the number of students committing suicides decreased. If they got less marks, they deserved a lesser fashionable job and contrarily, they ended up being VIPs if they fell on the good side of the percentages. No point in failing the lesser intellects, idling them off a year. Surely they will be good in something that might as well be a boon to the country. Memory-based exams were discarded and application-based approaches were encouraged.

I bridged the gap between the rich and the poor. No point in giving one software professional a 30K salary while four cable laying men got 5K each. Both the jobs are equally important. Why not share the 50k equally by all the five? Because of this policy, the rich did not get richer and the poor did not get poorer. National Income Rate improved.

Police forces improved, by recruiting the unemployed million. Constables were given bikes instead of cycles and rifles were replaced by Peacemaker Colts. Hardened criminals were executed: the lesser the population the better! Punishment became unbearable for the tough ones and scope for atonement was provided for the amateurs. Burglaries and other criminal activities, hence, turned its nose up and went for an evening stroll, never to return.

Polluting vehicles were seen to, trees were planted at all possible places, tourism thrived, spitting was banned in public places, sufficient and clean rest rooms were placed at appropriate places, manpower was utilized, natural resources were tapped and peace and harmony prospered everywhere. NRIs itched to come back. India stopped being a place to get out of. Reports flowed in, that it came under the Top Fifty nations of the globe. It was heaven in India.

I was praised by one and all. I had done my bit to the country. “Not only live and let live, but live and help live.” Half of the citizens praised me, while the other half belonged to the group that calls itself ‘The Critics’ who cursed whatever anybody did. I stopped being the PM just about the time I started receiving death threats, when my intercom buzzed. I tried to press it off, but felt my hands touch an alarm clock. I was even more obfuscated when my eyes opened. I looked around me. Suddenly I was transported to the mind and body and soul of a 22-year-old ambitious, handicapped and imaginative boy that I was. Dreamland, I reflected, had its own weird illogicality.

I got up groggily and thought over the number of companies I had applied to for a job. Who gives a job for a once-upon-a-time failed candidate, I wondered? The accident which had made me to fail in one of the 400-odd examinations that a student takes before getting a job was caused due to an unmarked speed-breaker on a calm road. The resulting handicap prevented me from getting a respectable job.

I got the morning newspaper. I could have closed my eyes and narrated the headlines: Militants kill innocent people; constables’ futile pursuit in bicycles and rifles while gang speeds away in a Ford and Mauser; PM having time-pass talks with another leader; hike in MPs salary for doing a great job: first throwing chairs and then walking out of the Parliament in session; a convicted person wins election in a small town; villagers dying because of lack of food; Food rotting in storage houses as Government undecided about disbursement; smoking causes lung cancer – as if we did not know 2 plus 2 is 4; roof-topped buses nose-diving into waterless rivers because of poor construction of the bridges; bribes to get license as well as death certificate; pollution; felling of trees; robbers having a field day – and by chance, if caught, out the very next day by an act called bribe, oops, bail ; a true story about a man having 3 6-digit worth cars and his gardener’s house having no proper roof; a mission to Mars and so it went on. It ended with a report that said that floods and drought at different parts of the country would continue for the next 3 months for the 3rd consecutive year.

It is so nice to dream that which can never happen…

The Classroom

Dated: 19th Dec, 1999. Published with editions on April 4th, 2000 in Bangalore Times section of The Times of India with title as If only we could mass bunk.

I entered the classroom and took my place at the last bench of the middle row, from which place I had a vantage view on all my fellow-mates in the three rows. It was always fun to attend the Monday morning class and watch what my friends did. Though, I must confess, not all my friends ever did attend this class. By one glance around the class, I estimated that only half of the original strength was present. The other half, I guessed were busy in playing cricket, shuttle and various other physically prospective – and thereby mentally prospective – games, which I suppose was a far, far better option than attending this third-degree torture of a class. But attend, I did, for, the minimum requirement of attendance was 75% for us to be eligible to sit for the examinations, and mine was at the border. “In college, you don’t attend the class to learn, you attend to get the attendance,” a senior had once told me.

The bell rang, and there was a generous groan, for it was the start of the torture. Mere sitting was a problem. The lecturer entered. Half of those present got up as a mark of respect and the other half just sat, looking warily at him, apparently more interested in chewing the gums in their mouths. Once the lecturer had settled himself after cleaning the board, he gave the attendance. There were ten proxies and the lecturer could not make out that all ten were given by a single person! Once the attendance got done, he gave a hasty glance at the notes in his hands and started the monologue. The moment he turned towards the board, Jayant, the daring rowdy of the class, slipped out through the door coolly, as if he was going out of a theatre.

For once, I really tried hard to concentrate on what he was saying. Ten minutes later, I failed. What he said never made sense, far less, never went into head. The concepts were too complicated to comprehend, the explanations and examples insufficient to satisfy us and the topic always beyond our range of imagination. Moreover, he lacked in the art of simple narration, and that made the situation a hell lot worse to us. To put everything in a capsule, one could easily sum it up as “An hour’s waste in life.” An hour a day implies four hours a week, sixteen a month and approximately seven days a year! Forget games, the time could have been well spent even in the library. Damn that 75%. Whoever made that rule was making some of us waste our time rather than instill any discipline in us.

I casually glanced beside me. Anil and his friends had already started their usual tradition of playing various types of games. Either it was cards or tic-tac-toe or book-cricket or housie, or if they were bored with all these, they would invent their own game added with some highly entertaining rules. Well, well, well.

I leaned forward and listened to what Rajesh was whispering so intently to his friend. I came to know that he was narrating the story of the newly-released Aishwarya Rai film. The lecturer, oblivious as usual, continued to write some equations on the board, which meant nothing more than a collection of alphabet sprinkled with inexplicable mathematical intricacies for the students.

I shifted my vision next to the front-benchers, and predictably every one of them was attentive. While one was nodding constantly, the other was furiously writing whatever was lectured. The other two studious ones were listening intently and any one could easily say that his lecture was only for those four.

I then looked at the second bench. I was not amazed at what I saw. Sure, they were writing, too, but then I knew what they were writing. They were completing their practical record books, for they had their lab that day! Behind them, The Giggling Girls, which is how we call them, as expected were giggling away the class, cracking silly jokes and laughing under their breath. In front of them sat a far more sophisticated ‘Julia Roberts’. She was busy applying a light coat of lipstick to the already reddened lips. I peered more closely, and sure enough, there it was, the small round mirror in her hand. Boy, oh boy.

My next place of interest was the third-row benches beside the sun-lit windows. An expert was reflecting the sunlight on to the lecturer’s shirt through his watch, and moving it as the lecturer moved, thus causing some ripples of laughter. A boy in front of him, far more decent, just spent his time gazing at the scenery that lay beyond the window and the college premises. He was deep in thought, I came to know when I asked him later, on what would happen to Tendulkar’s average if he got a hundred in the second successive innings.

Vijay was drawing an excellent replica of Prime Minister Vajpayee on the bench. His diagrams of lecturers were even more fascinating. He was an excellent artist. Honed properly, he could become famous. But his parents coerced him to undergo technical education – for that is where the money is – rather than go into something more passive such as Arts and Painting. What a waste of natural talent. The bespectacled Ravi beside him was poring over The Week in great detail. I guessed it would either be Outlook or India Today tomorrow. On the contrary, Nawaz beside him was far more interested in Sports and Film fare.

My gaze then fell on Ramanujan. He was working out problems in mathematics, though it was not that class going on. Math always interested in him. He hardly looked up at the board and the lecturer hardly looked at him or the others. Neither the students nor the lecturer were hardly interested in what went on in the classroom. The lecturer didn’t bother about what the students were doing and equivalently, as if to maintain an unsaid balance, the students didn’t bother about what the lecturer was doing.

Ramya was staring at a photo of the latest Bollywood Hero Salman Khan for the past 20 minutes. Navya had created a record of completing 2 full pages of her own signatures, 100 in each – a feat she had been trying to achieve since the time I know her. Mohan was tearing a long sheet of paper into thin chits, quite simply. Reshma was having a postponed breakfast. Varun was solving that day’s crossword. Divya was singing the latest Rehman hit. And then there were the two groups of students, one each from the first and the third row, enjoying themselves thoroughly throwing balls of paper at each other whenever the lecturer turned towards the board. Each hit fetched a point and a miss fetched the other team a point. During the Indo-Pak war, the middle row was considered as the LOC, with Hindustan on one side and India on the other.

Then there was Nalini, who always kept falling from her sleep, even though she had the temerity to sit in the first bench. Malini beside her was much more respectful. She slept with her eyes open. Manu always used the desk to rest his head on and soon he’d be fast asleep. So much so, that it would take three of his friends to wake him up after the class is over. But Ramesh topped every sleeper. He always used the entire last bench to sleep, as if it was a cot, and the scene was further more hyped by the use of his bag as the pillow!

But then it would not be like this in all the classes. There will always be one lecturer who got the respect of the entire class. Everyone would attend and there will be no giggling, no Salman, no sleeping, no playing and no nothing. The lecturer would spell-bound the students into the world of academics in such a gripping fashion that once the time is up, the students would groan why ever the class came to an end. Such would be the lecturer’s charisma and style that students will be waiting for his next class with gusto! So, then, I put the blame squarely on this lecturer, who failed comprehensively in catching the attention or gaining the respect of the students.

With my vision having completed the entire class, the lecturer had just completed, I was later informed form the front-benchers, the second chapter. And to think, there was just 20 days to go for the end of the term, and still 3 huge chapters were left. But, alas, the next class, taken by the Head-Of-Dept, would be even worse. Someone suggested we mass-bunk the class. One class was more than enough for one day! Thankfully, everyone, including the front-benchers, agreed. Within minutes, the classroom was empty.

The HOD informed us later that he was never humiliated like this ever before. Atleast 5 students used to attend his class. And because of the mass-bunk, he told us he would never take our class again. As if we would regret what we did. On the contrary, it was exactly what we wanted. We were thankful and grateful to him, though we were decent enough not to express it. The event, though, fuelled us to think of mass-bunking all the classes!

Boy, this was college.

Harry 'n' Sally

Dated: 19th June, 1999

“I first saw her in a bus-stop. She was damn beautiful. Remember the time I told you how I wanted my wife to be? Medium height, slim, pretty face, sweet voice, blue eyes, silky hair? Well, she had it all, and she had more…

“The fact that I used to see her every day in the bus-stop made me attracted to her in quantum leaps. However, I had no opportunity to talk to her. But, I opportunity knocked on my door once when she left her purse in the bus-stop. I kept it and the next day was the first day I spoke to her. Boy, what a sweet voice she had. Soon, we got to know each other and the amazing thing is, she is from Bangalore too. She has lived here with her widow aunt for the last 12 years. And her name’s Sally.

“Each day, we met in the bus-stop on our way to our respective jobs, and we used to talk about each other. We became a little close and a few days later, we came to the bus-stop a few minutes earlier, so that we could talk more. I began telling her each and every minute detail of the things that happened in my life and even she did the same. We became very good friends. I liked her and her ways of leading life, and I could see her like me too. The thrill of seeing a girl and talking to her is something one has to experience to believe it. I guess she felt the same, too. The fact that she used to think about me even during the times of the her doing her job led to my concluding that there was, what I call, the Presence of Mind in both of us.

“One could easily see the apprehension and hesitation in her – the combined effect of the increased heartbeat and the shyness – when I first asked her out on a date. And guess what, she accepted! I took her to the Nirula’s and, boy, was I happy that day! The next day was to a movie. And the next to the Lotus mahal. And the next…oh! It went on and on and on.

“Being with her made me happy and forget all my problems and the same holds true for her, too, for, even she openly said it as I did. Its what I call, again, The Power of Love. I guess my heartbeat touched 100 when I first held her hand and said: “I like you” and 120, the next day, when I said: “I love you.” She just smiled on both the occasions, but the smile said it all.

“Once, she became ill and couldn’t come. I missed her and told her so, and imagine what? She said she missed me too! I am experiencing the best times in my life and I want it to continue till I die.

“Proposing to her wasn’t difficult, for I knew she’d accept. A simple “Will you marry me?” was more that enough and perhaps she was waiting all the time, for, immediately she replied: “Yes”. A simple marriage took place in the marriage registrar and we went to Simla, Darjeeling, Nainital and Mussoorie for our honeymoon. Wow, what a time I had. I never thought life would be so complete. I cant live without her now and I am sure she cant live without me, too. We both are too much attached to each other. Its as if we are in heaven.

“Sorry, I being your best friend, couldn’t call you or inform you about my marriage. I promise you a treat when I come there the next year, with my beautiful, wonderful wife. I wish you were here with me to share my happiness.

“Her infectious happiness, her irrepressible gaiety, her obvious delight in life were all of such intensity that even the brute of all species would never raise a word against her. Sometimes I wonder whether I deserve her, and I really cannot come up with an answer as to why she chose me when there are a hundred people who love her and will continue to do so until they die. I don’t think any of them grudged her to me, and I cant think of any of them who would have hesitated to kill me had I brought her to harm. To arouse feelings like that in people, you have to be something very special. That was Sally. Something very rare indeed. Her goodness surrounded her like a tangible and a visible magnetic field. Sally, oh, Sally is all my life.

“I forgot to ask. How are you? How about marriage? Oh! One more thing. My health’s not too good. That has been a major concern for her. But I think I am going to get alright. Atleast for her sake.

“Expecting your letter soon.

“Boy, the world is a great place to live.”

Nick closed the letter and wiped a tear off his face. He was so happy, for Harry, and for the girl.

The letter from Harry had come that day, but he had a fair idea what its contents were the moment it came. The call from Delhi had come a few days ago and he was overjoyed when he first heard the news. He hadn’t given away the information then and he meant it to be a surprise to both Harry and Sally. Harry hadn’t called. “The bastard. He never calls,” Nick said aloud and smiled.

That night, Nick called Harry and told him he received the letter. He congratulated him and wished him a happy married life. Lastly, he added, “Ah! One more thing. I want a favour from you.”


“I believe you have told about me to your wife.”


“My request is, please don’t use my real name while telling her anything about me. Its too embarrassing. Only my family members and you, know it.”

“You thought I’d say it without your permission? I am sad you haven’t understood me properly. You are as much as she means to me. Don’t worry.”

“Thanks. And, by the way, I have got a surprise for both of you. And you will be overjoyed when you come to know of it.”

“What is it?”

“I will tell you on the day you give me your treat.”

“It’s a deal.”

* * *

Four months later, Nick received one more letter. The postman apologied that because of the mistake in entering the proper address by the sender, the letter had remained in the post office for the past 1 month and it had taken them in the post office the said time to decipher the proper address. The letter was from Harry. Nick had a fair idea what its contents were.

“Hi Nick! I have got bad news. No problem with Sally. She is as wonderful as she can ever be. Its my health. Its worsened. Remember what I told you in the last letter? ‘I am experiencing the best times in my life and I want it to continue till I die.’ Well, my wish is fulfilled. I experienced the best times of my life till my last with Sally

“I have cancer and its too late to be cured now. The doctor said I am going to die in 2 weeks time. I cant come there, so I hope you will visit me, before I leave this world. Sally doesn’t know this. Shes going to be heart-broken when I die. She might even take the Ultimate step. I want you to be with me when I go. I want you to take good care of my wife, the one wonderful person I know apart from you.

“Expecting your visit soon.

“Boy, the world is a sick place to live.”

Nick closed the letter. “The bastard. He never calls”, he said aloud and looked at a small photo on his table. “Why didn’t you call?” he asked the photo a hundredth time. He wiped a tear off from his face. He was so sad, for Harry, and for the girl.

A beautiful girl was smiling from the photo. The infectious happiness. Sally had succumbed to a massive heart attack at the same time and same day Harry had died.

The ‘surprise’ was left unsaid to Harry.

Sally had been Nick’s sister for the last 24 years.


Dated: 18th June, 1999

I was in my final year of education when I first saw her. She wasn’t beautiful in any context of speaking, but, she was hardly a person who would pass off without a second glance by any of those who saw her. She stayed at my neighbour’s place, but I never knew her name, if she had one, nor did I ever bother to know. She’d always be there, in her room, just outside my room’s window.

I do not know if she saw me as much as I have seen her. She was always busy in her room. Going round and round, doing nothing in particular, eating non-vegetarian stuff and the rot – not that I complained. She never studied and I – being poor in studies – envied her, for I had to constantly put my nose into books to get good grades lest the knuckles of despondency hit me.

I wasn’t in love with her, but I must say, she was a very important girl in my life leave alone neither did I know her personally nor did I know her name. In a way, she was what people generally say as, the woman behind the successful man. Because I used to see her only when I came to my room to study. But generally whenever I study, the mind wanders away, as it usually happens, and so does the eyes. Whenever my eyes set on her, I would say to myself, “No girls for me. Not yet, anyway,” and I used to laugh. And it was back to studies. The process continued and the result: my eyes fell more to the books, I studied and I got respectable grades. The woman behind the man indeed!

I did not know her exact age, but knew enough that she was ready to move with the boy whom she liked. Predictably, a few months later, she had had a boy friend. I didn’t feel jealous – how could I? – but I missed her, for, she hardly was in the room; always roaming around with that boyfriend of hers. A few days later, she was back in her room, but I could detect a sense of depression in her, because she wasn’t bustling around as she used to on other days. I concluded that perhaps she had broken off with him. I couldn’t summon the guts to talk to her through the window any time, for fear that my parents would hear me and think all ridiculous things about me. You know them! A boy talking to a girl always sends sparks flying! So there was no way for me to go to her and say, “C’mon, it’s not the end of the world. There’s always going to be someone else.”

Anyway, later, she disappeared for a few months and returned back with an extended stomach meaning pregnant. I guess the marriage was a silent affair. Our neighbour was anyway a silent community, and a person from that community is expected to be silent about her activities anyway.

Now she is back again in her room. Not bustling, for her stomach’s sake, but she is back. She looks quite contended. Naturally, she is going to go off once her baby is delivered.

I wish I could talk to her just once before she goes off. I wish I could somehow congratulate her when she gets her baby.

If only lizards understood what men talked…

If Only I Were A Little Brilliant...

Dated: 23rd June 1998

“I am a failure. My friends are all born winners, while I am a born loser!” These are some of the common sentences that a student utters, when the fat-headed ‘Depression’ spreads its frail fingers on him, whenever he gets marks which does not support his head on his shoulder.

People say that all are equally brilliant. Then, why did he get more marks and I got comparatively less? Was it because he worked hard – what one says in the usual language as : ‘He used to work very hard, you know, for about 10 hrs a day’ – and I didn’t?

Well, here’s the facts: I studied as much as any student who has got more marks than me has studied, as far as the ‘hours of study’ is concerned. But the important witness of my hard work was missing: I had got less marks. Why?

The basic reason is that all of us students are different. Each one is unique in his or her own way. My method of study was different, comparatively slower and hence could cover less portion and apparently less effective. But that’s my capability and I cant push myself more harder. Anyway, there has to be a demarcation between the Intelligent and me. If everyone bats like Sachin Tendulkar, then what will be so special in Sachin? I can perhaps try even more, but one knows what one’s limits are, and I think, I stretched myself to my limit. Any much harder, & I would have been a hospital.

The real reason why some students get less marks than their counterparts, even when they have given their 100% is that God made them like that. This is of course, with the assumption that the 100% effort has been made. For instance, take me. I hope I am not brash when I say, that I work quite hard. And I got some respectable percentage, sufficient to keep my head high, but not sufficient enough to get a berth in the merit pool for a good branch.

I made certain mistakes, which could have been easily avoided. For eg., I read ‘4’ in one of the question as ‘a’! now, I don’t have to study 10 hrs a day to read ‘4’ as ‘a’. True, it sounds impossible, but yet it happened! Even when I revised the paper, I couldn’t find my flaw. It was only when I came out of the hall could I detect my mistake. Nine times out of ten, I would have seen it as ‘4’, but that one chance just happened to be inside those 3 crucial-life-deciding-hours. Perhaps, that is why, they say, ‘Ultimately, there is the hand of God’.

So, what my point is, is that, it is just not hard work that counts, it is the luck and the level of brilliance and infallibility. The time factor comes here. For eg., for a certain problem, the obtaining of the solution for an extraordinarily genius and brilliant student, can take about 5 minutes. But for an average student, fortunate, though he is in obtaining the solution, will be able to solve, a little late, say 10 minutes, though his Thought Process – which is handled by Him – will be in full throttle. But that extra 5 minutes is vital. He may never get it. There, then lies the demarcation between the genius and the average. E. Balwer Lytton rightly said “Talent does what it can, but genius does what it must.”

Undoubtedly, what comes before all this, is that there must be the required hard work from the individual. “Success is a ladder which cannot be climbed with your hands in pockets.” The student must give his 100%. ”An attempt maybe a failure, but there should not be a failure of attempt.” Mind you, the world is very competitive and if you don’t or cant do, there is another person who can do. Those who try to do something and fail are infinitely better than those who do nothing and succeed. For any marks, you decide 75% and God decides the other 25%. Therefore, make sure you get the entire 75% that is yours.

Another important factor is luck. Luck favours those with pluck. Anyone must be genuinely lucky to get good marks. For eg., take me. Just before the day of chemistry exam, I couldn’t read one whole important chapter. I just happened to be lucky, for, the next day, very few simple question came from that chapter and for those, I knew the answers. The very next day, I couldn’t go through – because of lack of time – one small chapter in Mathematics. Many questions, weighing heavy marks came from that chapter. I mean, why did only that question had to come? Why not any question other than that? Its pure bad luck.

Sometimes, nothing goes right. You just cant help it. What is a dust particle entered your eyes at the exam hall and it pained like hell, that you couldn’t see anything at all. Believe me, its happened. What if you had met with an accident while on your way to the Board exam center? I mean, there are a hundred things that could go wrong, if God wants it. Sidney Sheldon, hence says in one of his novels, “It’s the Fates. You cant fight the Fates.” Hence if you have got less marks, just don’t be too sad. There was always the possibility that you might have got even lesser marks. Or perhaps, your paper had been misplaced. Sorry, for this pessimistic attitude, and hope for God’s sake nothing like this happens to anybody, but there you are, that’s life. Anything’s possible says an ad. How true! So, what I am to drive at is the fact the, as far, as possible, be happy with the marks that you have obtained, for, “When we have not what we like, we must like what we have.” All one can say is that, just when you come out of the Hall, be sure to have given your best shot.

It is truly said that “When God closes one door, he opens another.” Surely, you will be good at something. Less marks doesn’t imply the end of the world. Swami Vivekananda, hence said “The greatest sin is to think yourself weak.” True, that you have to bear all the criticisms and poking comments from the non-too-understanding acquaintances, but be brave enough to cross this threshold phase and await a better future. Remember what Napolean Bonaparte said : “It requires more courage to suffer than to die.”

There’s always a better tomorrow. A new day with a new hope. Be an optimist, for “An optimist is a person who sees a light that is not there, but a pessimist is a fool who tried to blow it out.” There will always be another chance. As an other ad says, “You never know what you can become!”

A Reminiscence

Dated: Dec 1997 [Published in Vijaya College Magazine – 1997-98]

She held the World No. 1 ranking in Women’s Tennis for a total of 381 weeks, that is 7 years and 17 weeks. She won the Australian Open Singles title 3 times and US Open 4 times. She has won Singles title in 8 countries and has won in Wimbledon a record 9 times. She won a total of 18 Grand Slam Singles tile. She also reached a record of 23 consecutive finals from June 12, 1983 to November 25, 1984. She has won 74 straight matches in 1984 and played against Chris Evert 80 times, losing the first 25 matches against her, but finishing their career head-to-head 43-37. Apart from that, she has won both singles and doubles title at the same event record 84 times. She has won 167 Singles titles, beating Jimmy Conners’ Men’s record of 109. She has also won $20,052,227 in prize money, enough to compete against Bill Gates, by winning 1438 of her 1649 competitive singles matches, losing a mere 211. In recognition of her feat of winning the Virgina Slims title of Chicago 12 times, Chicago has declared February 12, 1992 as Martina Navratilova Day.

Martina Navratilova. The name may not mean anything to he young kids. But the very name was talked in all hype a couple of years ago when she dominated Women’s Tennis. And the very name used to send chills down the spines of the likes of Steffi Graf, Chris Evert and Margaret Court, against whom she used to go great guns, firing on all cylinders by executing the greatest of tennis shots.

There were many who sighed their greatest sighs in relief when the heard that Martina retired from tennis – amidst others’ tears – but unarguable and undoubtedly there was that bit of admiration, that respect and that bit of appreciation to one of the greatest Woman Tennis player of all times. None, not even her bitter loggerheads and her ever-so-few critics, could abstain from appreciating the way in which she used to exquisitely execute her back-hand down the lines, her lobs, her drops, her serves, her returns and her smashes, across the one thing she loves most of all through her life, the tennis court.

Many a time her opposite was left stranded yards away from the yellow ball which would have whizzed past any hope of getting at it, with a speed, which could have equaled, if not greater than, Michael Schumaker’s in the Grand Prix, thereby mesmerizing the audience and keeping them gasping for air because her shots were tremendous and so full of magnificience, that it took the breath out of them. It is no wonder that whenever people talk about her, it is always in the caliber of greatest admiration.

And now, there is Martina Hingis named after her. Navratilova in the making? Perhaps!