April 2014

Sunday 20th april 2014…we met these kids at the ghats of Ganges in Varanasi.  They were in the age group of 8 to 10. We were sitting on the steps of one of the ghats when they approached and requested us to offer coins to the mother Ganges (by throwing coins into waters).

Since I can remember I have seen people following this ritual of offering coins (money) to the holy Ganges as a  way of paying obeisance, showing respect. When trains, buses or other vehicles crossed a river bridge people make a point to offer coins, throwing it through windows. Quite a common scene.  And when the water levels are low, one can find children of fishermen in their boats waiting for such offerings and the moment one threw a coin they will jump into the water to get it. As a kid I watched the entire process with utter fascination. I felt awed by the courage and expertise of those young boys. I wondered at their sense  of precision to guess where the coin might land in water.

As the kids were playing and swimming around us asking to throw coins , we kept talking to them. All of them enjoying bare bodied. One of them who talked a lot seemed the smartest.

What is your name?


and your brother’s?


 How your name is so modern while your brothers…

Actually my name is Aditya but I like to be called Vicky.

That brought a smile on my face.

Sunder was also talking and playing with the kids in the waters. He asked, you seem to be an expert, teach me some swimming…the kid smiled with pride and said…no, I don’t know much…When I too asked him to teach swimming to uncle, with all the seriousness of a professional came a reply,  yes I can teach but…but there should be some charges (haan, sikha sakta hoon par sikhane ka kuchh lagega)…Ohh….

The kids were taking dives from the steps of ghat and from the boats anchored nearby. They were now assured that they will be paid for this.

Sunder told Vicky, I am asking aunty if she dives like you I will pay her twenty rupees for that.

Vicky said,  Oh no! she will hurt herself,  for us it’s altogether different.  His confidence charmed us.

Sunder once again said,  Ok, diving from the steps could be dangerous but she can dive from the boat, then there won’t be the risk of hitting the steps.

This time Vicky stared at sunder with all seriousness and asked with a pause, ‘ unko dubone ka irada hai kya?[ do you want her to drown]






Kids definitely are the most honest lessons in happiness. They teach us to enjoy the moment as the next might not be same.The time spent in the company of these kids was refreshing like the cool waters on that hot day.









Alive In You

That’s a lofty title, I know. And believe it or not, I know her. Even more amazing (to me) is that I’m married to her.

One might think the world’s best mom would be someone with years of motherly experience and a number of kids — someone who has been doing it for a long time. My wife, Katie, doesn’t come close to qualifying under those terms. You see, we’re new parents. Our first son, Randol Thomas, was born on Thursday at 12:56 a.m. at the incredibly young gestational age of 25 weeks and 4 days. That happy moment had a sad ending when our baby boy lost his life later that morning at 5:20 a.m. after struggling for hours to try and breathe with what we knew were severely underdeveloped lungs — something we knew would be an issue after my wife’s water broke at just 18 weeks.

So how could…

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I stand there decked in all finery. The glittering starry lights drape my exterior. Today from rooftop to the ground floor every room,hall is brightly lit.  Bright colored festoons adorn each door . Rich thick rows of red roses and sparkling yellow marigolds  adorn the freshly painted grand front door. Fast dance numbers are continuously blaring out of the music system installed in the open courtyard near the gate. Rustling silks,glittering jewelry,booming laughter, teasing giggles— every atom of my being is reverberating with joy and happiness. I am brimming with life still deep down there in the dark interiors of earth the stones of my foundations are moist with the  unshed tears remembering the hands ,who laid down them some 25 years back with so much love and dreams.

The hands of my first master,who converted a patch of rough land into a home for his family. He must have been a young man in his late 20s when he started giving shape to me brick by brick,inch by inch. I still remember how enthusiastic, choosy and particular was he about each and every specification. He wanted his home to be just perfect. Loosing his parents at a very young age he never had his own home since he could remember.  Being shunted from one to another relative as per their convenience and needs every time a new wall rose around  him  and he coiled in the dark corners of his being. No body could fathom his craving for a little bit of stability, a small quiet niche for himself. His heart was full of muted cries,suppressed emotions . No body had an inkling of the passive storm raging in his heart. He heard quietly the discussions among the relatives of their being full of kindness and humanity to take care of an orphaned child. But that was not the whole truth. However he was very young and knew that to survive in the world he needs the shelter of his uncles and aunts. but all this time with clenched teeth and fiery determination he waited for his growing up ,his completing education.

The day he joined the bank, he felt that his dream of having his own home is about to be realized. Even before he became eligible for housing loan he started looking for a plot in a good location. He wanted to settle for the best in his means. And then he finalized this east facing piece of land in the upcoming colony. It was just few steps away from the central road of the colony.just perfect as it being away from the main road, the peace and privacy will be intact and in the future his own family will enjoy the facilities and conveniences of being near to the the main road. How he deliberated over all the finer details while chalking the future  plans for  his home.

How I came to know about all his these dreams and thoughts ? I know, you are thinking that I had not come to my being at that time. Right you are . but from the day the foundation stone was laid down he bared his soul to the earth and air of the place. The unshared pain, the agony of the loss of his parents all the torturous memories he tried to bury deep under my foundation and started dreaming about a bright future as the walls started rising.

By the time the structure of the three room set of the ground floor was erected ,he had another good news to share with me. His marriage to a girl of well established family has been finalized. I can still recall the happy note of his voice while he discussed a bit altered plan of my lay out and design with the mason- in- charge. He wanted to add one more room as this girl had two younger sisters and one brother and he wanted them to visit and stay with them quite often. The thought of having a big family around him was like the first shower on dry, parched earth.

And the day he performed the house warming pooja with his young bride was perhaps the most fulfilling moment of his life. Then started a long phase of selecting  home decor and furniture items. I can still visualize his curly top bent on various home interior magazines and brochures scattered on floor.

Sound of steps on the staircase broke my reverie. Who can come upstairs at this time? Whole house is abuzz with the activities in the ground and first floor. Who would want to come to the dark solitude of the rooftop ? Oh it”s Biji, the old grandma of the house. The dragging of feet and the heavy breathing gave her away. If not Biji,who else ? I should have known it.Though she had neither met nor known my earlier master yet besides me she is the only one who often remembers the family. She very slowly opened the lock of the small room at the corner of roof. The doors creaked a little. They always do as if protesting . Inside them the past is kept alive. When Biji forcefully  kept few of the items and pictures belonging to my first master along with all the family members, I too was quite perplexed. But gradually listening to her unburdening herself in the solitude and privacy of that room , I gathered it was not for that unknown family but herself that she needed to preserve the past. But that is altogether a different story. My mind has started wandering away and getting lost in various alleys. I am getting old and the burden of untold secrets, unshared pains of my occupants is taking it’s  toil.

Through the open door I could have a glimpse of the lovely wooden cradle  he bought for his first born, his little princess. Due to  Biji’s  regular care and upkeep it still shines and the red, yellow, greens have not faded. With the sight of cradle came flooding the memories of those happy times. Four years after the baby girl, arrived the son of the family. How fulfilled and complete he felt. Life went on pretty smoothly. During all this period his soft spoken, smiling wife lingered by his side almost like his shadow.  She never demanded anything and always agreed to what he said or decided. Some times he  almost wished her to throw tantrums, quarrel and argue about petty things like wives of other people. But the very next moment he chided himself and thanked God for such simple hearted life partner.

He felt the first pang of disappointment when his daughter was about six or may be seven years old and the school teacher pointed out that  the girl took time to pick up the things told in the class and mostly kept to herself. She did not mix up with other kids like a normal child. But so caught up was he with the  belief of his world being perfect and happy that he refused to see anything unusual in it. He started spending more time with the daughter to teach her and make her understand, learn. But with the passing of years he had to admit that her princess has some …… problem. As his sisters-in- laws got married and were busy in their lives and mother-in-law too could not visit them due to growing age and increased frailty, the home started showing sign of mismanagement. He realized slowly that all is not normal with his dear wife too. She too suffered from minor mental, behavioral disorders. He watched with great concern the cracks in his happy world but with all his might he tried to keep  it intact. However  son was his pride and constant support in maintaining the order. As he advanced in his career ,the work pressure and responsibilities too increased. On the other hand the conditions of both mother and daughter deteriorated. Now returning from office he had to  spend  time in kitchen and arranging the home. He wanted his son to remain unaffected from the gradually getting more and more depressing atmosphere of the home, so he sent him to boarding school. Now he was alone to fight with daunting circumstances. And he did face it with exemplary courage. However the increasing pressure, stress and strain proved a bit too much to handle. With horror he watched his world slowly crumbling apart. The layers of dust on furniture thickened, food items rot, clothes lay scattered all over the place.

Sisters tried to help but some how the mother and daughter developed a dislike towards the people who tried to rectify their ways. They gradually shut themselves in the house. He too  was slowly cut off from the social circle. He did not have enough time to maintain and reciprocate the relation. Perhaps not enough will and wish too was left. Now he felt defeated. destiny has been cruel to him. He suffered bouts of depressions. He still wanted to take care of his family. He loved them. They were an integral part of his being. He went for his treatment and went on pulling along. In the mean time the son completed his engineering and secured a job too.The boy was the only flicker of light in otherwise dark world of his.

For last few months he was feeling that he is loosening his hold on himself. For wife and daughter the doctor had already told that there is no hope of any improvement in their condition. He used to serve them food before leaving for office and when returned found the dry plates lying there on the dining table. Some times they not even took bath . He arranged for care taker too but none of them proved to be of any help. Rather all of them took advantage of the helplessness of his wife and daughter and took away valuables from home. The struggle made him tired to heart. He lost the will to fight anymore. To maintain his own sanity was proving difficult for him.

That day his son informed him that he had bagged a scholarship to study further in a prestigious foreign university. After a long time I saw him brimming with happiness. He applied for a ten days leave from office as he wanted to get the home readied for his son. He wanted his son to have loads of pleasant memories before flying to far off destination. The boy was to visit home after a week. I too heaved a sigh of relief and prayed to God for his revived spirit but our this happiness too was short lived.

Only a day of his leave had passed when he got a call from his one colleague informing him that in his disturbed mental state he has overlooked certain procedures/entries in office which gave enough room to miscreants to commit a fraud and now the bosses are preparing to frame him. He contacted people and tried to sort out the things but to no avail.  With the passing of each day it became more and more clear that there is no chance of his saving himself. he has to bear the punishment which could be imprisonment too.He shuddered to think about the condition of his daughter and wife in his absence, the mental torture, social embarrassment of his son. Would the boy be able to proceed to study under such circumstances ? he knew he would not leave his mother and sister unattended and sacrifice his career ,his dreams for their sake. He knew his boy would not run from his responsibilities. He was his son. The thought of his son brought a smile on his face. But how could he bear to see his son ruin his life.

I still remember him muttering incoherently” I know I am haunted with some black powers, nothing good could ever come across around me. I am cursed.” and there after his jaws clasped into a stony silence.

The boy arrived at his appointed time and both father and son shared all the plans. After a long time I smiled and laughed. Both father and son cleaned me and tried their best to restore my lost glory.

It was the last day of his leave. He had to report to bank next day and people there were waiting to serve him notice . All this time they were busy in strengthening the case against him. That night he talked to his son for long hours. he went down the memory lane remembering the time when both the children were kids. The son too enjoyed it. he knew his father would feel lost without him. He assured him that he would write a mail to him daily as talking frequently from there would not be possible. He told that once he would be back after completing the course he would take all of them with him at his place of work and he need not work any more. It would be easier for him to take care of mother and sister once he did not have pressure of office work.  All four of them would live together. He listened to his son silently with his heart brimming with love and eyes overflowing with tears. It was late in the night when the son drifted into sleep while he lay awake on his bed.

At that moment I too was having mixed feelings. I was happy that the boy is so caring and concerned but the thought of impending doom and probabilities of shattering of his dreams made my heart heavy. Poor boy was totally unaware of the circumstances his father was facing. Later on when he would come to know about it, I know, his heart would be full of remorse and deep sadness. But presently he was blissfully resting in the arms of deep slumber.

The night suddenly grew very still. I don’t know why but an eerie feeling gripped me in it’s clutches. I remember myself shuddering but then got relaxed, the gloom and depression had taken over this home for such a long time that happy moments made me unnecessarily apprehensive.  With a shrug I loosened myself and slowly surrendered  to the arms of peaceful night.

bang…bang…bang….I trembled with the sound of three gun shots. It was early morning and I had not yet woken up when the gun shots resounded. Seconds later shrieks of the boy ripped me. On the bed lay motionless  bodies of the mother and daughter. Their blood coloring the white roses of the bed sheet into deep red and my master lay in heap on the floor near the bed. He shot them point blank in sleep. They did not suffer any pain….how could he let them feel it, he loved them so much.

Long after the three bodies were removed,the dry stains of blood  on floor, on walls seemed like his tears. I could feel his touch, his caressing. I was his dream. He shaped me, nurtured me and even after he was gone he clung to me. People termed me haunted. For months I stood in utter darkness alone. They feared me, avoided me but every night when the moon shone over me I could feel him smiling through that lone star. He gave me company day in, day out and then one day Biji crossed my threshold like a boon to end the curse.

Was Biji not afraid of me ?  Why she coaxed his sons to purchase me? Was the low price of the property only reason. No, she in her life had to two abandon her two homes. Every time she started from scratch and piece by piece built  homes full of life and then had to leave them due to political disturbances, riots. In me perhaps she saw the reflections of her those homes and wanted to make me alive once again. Down within her she hoped some one unknown must be showing that concern and respect to her memories too.

Those who live  the pain and loss can only understand it. Those who are shattered can only restructure. She had known sufferings,borne loss and found her way out of the depth. Her experiences, her struggle had made her develop a sensitivity, an understanding of life and filled her heart with compassion, gentleness and a deep loving concern. She infused life in me.   I was once again filled with life and laughter.

After lighting the lamp before the family picture of my first master she was going down . People were calling her. The groom party was about to leave to bring the new bride to me …. fresh dreams were to take shapes, new beiginings awaited ……













It must have been around 5 oçlock in the evening . We were having our  tea when suddenly our son told us,” çome on we will take you on a jungle trek.”

”jungle trek! at this hour?” we sounded incredulous and confused. His housing society stands few steps off the busy bustling main road.We knew the city stretched miles and miles on all the sides.To reach anything remotely resembling a forest easily could have taken at least two to three hours.How come he is throwing such a proposal. we were visiting our DIL  for the  first time .

”come on .come on. move.”, he smiled and we walked towards lift. Instead of going to basement to take out his car , he started moving towards the back of housing society. We reached a small gate in the outer boundary wall of the society where a guard was posted and we were to  record our entry.  The gate led us to a big patch of green surrounded by high rise buildings,multi-storeyed apartments and row houses from all sides.

There was an adequately big water body with a dense growth of bushes and shrubs at the center of the land. Flock of birds visited and inhabited these bushes. A path encircling the pond and natural vegetation around it was laid. Under the shade of big, ages old trees few stone benches were erected and  a brick boundary wall circumvented the area. Four gates, one from each direction lead to it. The approach to this place was only through the societies surrounding it.

The area is used only by the inhabitants of the societies surrounding it. Entry is allowed for fixed hours in the mornings and evenings. It’s difficult to imagine that so near to the bustling road, screeching vehicles, honking horns lies this quiet, tranquil island in it’s natural glory. Elderly people sitting on the benches facing the water watching the activities of the birds, young kids running around safely getting acquainted with new leaves and birds, one or two budding photographers trying to capture flight of birds and magnificence of setting sun, youngsters jogging and running,  it was really a very cozy and lovely place.

Most of the housing societies and apartments irrespective of the city and state have been constructed by erasing the landscapes, cutting  down the trees and leveling the depths of waters, heights of hills. May be that’s the demand of time, cost of progress, but can we not try to preserve such small landscapes in their natural forms in between. I don’t know whether the builders of the all the four projects consented to keep this patch in it’s natural form to provide this extra pleasure to their customer or any other technical issue compelled them to leave it like that but oblivious to  all the hue and cry of the cities busting at seams such quiet havens  definitely act like soothing balms on over stressed nerves. On weekends to spend some leisurely hours in the company of nature, one does not have to face the tension of driving through the snail speed chaotic traffic .They can enjoy some peaceful moments, quiet,retrospective time at their door steps. To me that spot was like soul inside the bodily frame. A”thank you” note to mother nature. Wish more builders and promoters plan to preserve the nature in it’s original form in between , near to housing societies.

I definitely have got one more reason and a very strong one too for eagerly looking forward to visit my DIL.


















pics by sunder iyer and namita sunder