• Category Archives praveen
  • Featured Image The Peepul Tree

    It’s been almost 20 years.  I am back in the town as the district magistrate, where I spent a most of my childhood . I was yet to get the bungalow from the government so had to stay in the guesthouse for the time being. I was being driven in an open SUV to the guesthouse and I could feel the air with an essence of memories.  The area looked familiar, a river flowing by, kids playing around. The road now had some potholes opposite to those days, when we could find some road in the potholes. The chauffeur was talkative, addressing me as ‘sahib-ji’ (a substitute for ‘sir’ in Hindi). He was almost 3-5 years elder as it looked from his appearance.  Long dense mustache, slightly grown beard and short hairs, well wet with some excessively strong mustard oil and a well-built body. He was happy and tension free, whereas I was not. His (legitimate) income will be around one fifth of what I could earn legally, still he was more satisfied and relaxed. I was not very happy as I had to He was trying to explain me about the town especially temples and the banks of the river with religious importance. To be frank I was getting annoyed and was just trying to be polite by nodding my head in response to his words, some times with a sound “hmm!”

    Soon we reached the guesthouse, I paid some tip to the chauffeur saying “will fire you if you continue being talkative” within my heart, but the words that came out of my mouth were “you stay here I may go out in the evening”. The housekeepers took my luggage and lead me to my cottage. I gave him some money asked him to get some soft drinks as was the hot and humid month of July and I was not sure if I could get safe drinking water in there. I had more trust in the American cola companies than the motherlands ground water. Any way he went happily to fulfill my orders. I threw my self on the couch peeping out through the wooden window. The river, the temple and sound of bell in the temple, devotional songs being played there. When I was partially lost in nostalgia, I heard a knock on my door, it was the housekeeper with cola.  I thanked the housekeeper.  Planning to go the bed to have a nap. In order to make my nap go undisturbed, curbing the noise coming from outside was the priority. I moved to the window to shut it.  I could get a bigger picture from here. Women entering the temple, with a corner of their saaree called aanchal, on their head after taking a holy dip in the river, some of them pouring the holy water over the Peepul (Sacred fig) tree and kids playing cricket in the ground beside the tree. Peepul tree and cricket! Some memories forced me to look at Peepul again. It is the same peepul tree, as green as it used to be, as thick as it used to be and as sacred as it used to be, it did not seem that it got older.

    I refuted the idea of closing the widow returned to the couch. Memories coming to my eyes like a Bollywood movie of 80’s. 20 years ago I lived in this town. As the son of district magistrate I had all the luxuries, respect and care.  But respect stuff was limited to the grown ups. There is no such thing among the kids. They play together, fight and then play again. No one knows whom is what and neither they care.  I use to play cricket with my folks here in the same ground. The shadow of the Peepul tree; use to be our strategy room, dressing room, dugout and celebration arena. I used to dominate the game every time.  Not because I was a very good player, but because the playing kit belonged to me. Others had to bear my offenses if they wanted to play and I made full use of it. They have to bowl me out at least twice to really get me out of batting.  They have to get out if I am bowling even if they are not. Every time I use to threaten them that I will take my game kit if they do not accept my rules unconditionally. I was the undeclared captain, umpire, referee and manager of the playing troop.  Beside the cricket kit I always use to have a lot of tasty food and drinks with me that was another benefit for them. Another thing that made me rule the troop if not the game was that with my repute it was easier to get the ball back if someone hits it to one of the houses. But kids are kids every time they do not accept your illegal demands. That use to create kiddy fights and finally leaving me crying back to home with my kit. But there was one good thing, next day we again played as usual.


    Image source: http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?231464

    That evening, I was batting even after being out three times (may be more I don’t remember), my dictatorship in the troop has prevailed. Chintu was bowling. He had me twice, once bowled out and once caught behind by the wicketkeeper. On being bowled out I just said it had bounced twice so it is not valid ball. Everyone saw it did not. But I knew they had to accept my words. A clear cheating and I got away with that. Second time when the player behind caught the ball coming off my bat I claimed it never touched the bat. Another clean cheating. Everyone saw that it touched the edge of the bat, everyone heard the sound of collision between leather and wood including me, but at that time I wanted to bat. There was a lot of argument this time. I used my trick; “I am telling it never touched my bat just spun away from it if you continue this cheating with me I will carry the bat and other things let me see how you play.” Chintu came cracking at me he said “you are cheating you are out twice its my turn to bat”. I continued with my trickery. “If you continue cheating with me I will not play with you guys I am telling I am not out” Suddenly another guy says   “even we don’t want to play with a cheater like find your way back home”. I said OK go to hell and started collected my stuff. I was expecting that now they will accept my conditions, I had tried this before and most often I was successful. This time was no exception. Chintu with anger said “OK we give you a last chance but this time no cheating” Well I got what I wanted but wanted it with pride so I said “what cheating I was never out, you are cheating I don’t play with cheaters like you” I was sure of the victory for my although not in the game and it worked. He said ok “go and bat”.  

    After two balls the haunting came again. I was run out, by almost a meter.  I was no ready to quit. I said “I reached made it” This time I faced a lot of anger for everyone. Any dictator does not continue for a long time. This time I had to quit. I said “OK what can I do if all of you are cheating but I was not out. But who can win against you cheaters.”  Chintu came forward and took the bat from me. I was already angry with him. I said “it is getting late the game is over for the day”. In the game of cricket all the kids like to bat their full session but who wants to bowl. We just bowled with a hope for our batting turn if the person batting gets out. My statement angered Chintu. He said what the hell is this? You kept on batting even after being out and now when its my chance how can you leave.  I replied to show my dominance “I cannot play throughout the day for your batting I have to go home”. And by the time reached under the Peepul tree. packing the stuff. I thought what I am asking for myself are my rights after all every thing belongs to me, I get the ball when if breaks Sharma uncles window, without any reprimands for these boys. I have all the right to decide about the game here. He came on to me and said “you cannot go like that  enough of your cheating I will have my batting”. I said I don’t care, go to hell I am leaving. 

    He came onto me holding my collars “I will take my batting, what do you think. I also caught his collar.  He was at least 20 cm taller and 15 kilo heavier than I was.  But as a kid usually do not make all these calculations before entering a fight. They just enter into it. A fight has already started between the two of us under the peepul tree. I had no supporters among the kids everyone was supporting Chintu (Yeah stop cursing me I know he was right). I was all onto me hitting me I suddenly grabbed the bat and hit him on his upper leg. The hit was strong but not enough for a guy like Chintu. He suddenly turned and hit me two punches really tough ones. I started crying, tears rolled down my eyes. Every one including Chintu got scared; the girly weakness that always acts as a weapon had worked for me that evening. They escaped and vanished. It all happened under that peepul tree. I also forgot everything and returned home without any signs of tears and crying. 

    My mom said tomorrow we are moving to another city as your dad has been transferred. I was really happy that I will get to see a new city, new school new people. My folks in that city never entered my mind. That was my last evening in this town. Not letting Chintu bat came haunting my mind today evening. It was all I could remember. The flashback was gone, I was back into present when I realized its 7:30 in the evening. I came out of my cottage without any nap. Found my talkative chauffeur and asked him to take me to that Peepul tree. He looked at me in a weird fashion as if I had asked him to take me to a cemetery. But he had to follow my orders.  I reached under tree soon. I climbed over the tree embankment. Some similar tree awakened Buddha thousands year ago. I was not hoping for any awakening but just thought “Although the sins that I committed that day were not big but if I could fix them”. I asked my chauffeur. The kids still play cricket here? He said yes ‘sahibji’ we all have grown up here playing this game. I continued “I was 10 when I use to live here and play. You must know some of the kids from that era. Any idea about, Shashi, Chintu and..” Before I could complete he asked me “what did you ask ‘sahibji’ “Chitu”? “ I said “yes do you by any chance happen to know him?” He smiled and said “not Chintu sahibji, Cheeranjiv his full name is Cheeranjiv.” I never tried to know his real name as I never felt the need. I looked at him as he continued “Shashi is a peon in a small school in a village close to the town.”  I desperately asked “…and Chintu?” He replied “right in front of you sahibji”. I looked at him closely and got myself convinced to accept that he was Chintu. I said “I remember the last day I had here, you batting chance is still due for which you hit me”

    The element of embarrassment and fear alloyed in his eyes and he said, that was the childhood sahibji, hope you have forgiven me for that. I laughed and said Chintu you were right on that day I must fix the wrongdoings of the past.  Lets have a game tomorrow evening. “Sahibji forgive me I forgot that please you forget that as well” he said. But, I prevailed and a game was organized the next day.

    All the cricketing stuff was organized along with spectators sitting under the peepul tree. The peepul tree was witness how I approach to fix the misdeeds of the past. Those who were older supported me but the kids supporting Chintu.  The game started. I had to start with batting and Chintu had to bowl me out to get his batting turn. There were 10 other kids who were supposed to field for us. I started with an honest mindset. Chintu was no more a player that he used to be. But at the 3rd ball I faced I nicked the ball and one of the kid behind caught it. It was completely against my honor to get out in the beginning itself, I decided to say no to the honesty and claimed, “I did not nick the ball”. It was a clear nick everyone saw that but no one could resist because of my reputation. Even Chintu said you must be right sahibji. Twenty years ago, his reaction used to be completely different.  Again on the sixth ball I was trapped leg before wicket, the ball hitting me on pad right in front of the stumps. My reaction was the same. I quietly move my foot a bit forward and said this is not leg before wicket, see I am leaning forward (Assuming no one saw my moving foot).  Chintu accepted this as well.  The third time I got stumped but slowly moved foot inside the crease line I called the umpire to prove that I was not out. The kid behind me got angry but I was still powerful if not with game then with  my social status. 

    The entire thing did not last long. I had to accept when I was clean bowled after few deliveries. Now I had to save a target of score of 11 while bowling. I was already dark. The first ball went past Chintu. Something came to my mind, I can use darkness to defy the umpire, Chintu and the truth. I threw another ball past him and appealed for a caught behind. I knew he never touched the ball, but I pretended that I heard a nick. With my short argument with umpire and Chintu I could convince both of them. Chintu said “If sahibji is telling that he heard a nick I must have nicked the ball, otherwise why would he do so.” I was victorious, the elder ones greeted me with applause, though the kids did not like the way I played. I was feeling happy to have saved my rep, no matter how I did that. I was thinking I won the game and fixed what went wrong 20 years ago. The peepul tree was not witnessing anything new. Infact things never changed. Elder ones were still influenced buy personal reputation, kids had nothing to do with that. I was still using my social position to win games and prove my control over the game. The only thing that was different was Chintu’s attitude, today he was accepting whatever I said, he was not a kid any more.



  • Featured Image India: Young at the age of 65

    Namastey (Greetings), 

    I am India, a 65 years young country. Well my my actual age is few thousands years in terms of civilization but I was reborn 65 years ago from my ashes created by colonialism, losing some feathers in the process. To introduce myself, I am the worlds largest democracy, one of the oldest civilization, birthplace of four major religions of the world followed by a quarter of world’s population and I house around 17.5% of world population. 

    Historically, I was one the worlds first urban civilization, first country  to have developed counting, zero and decimal. The civilization I cradled was the first to start a university, a proper language and grammar system and was among the first one to know that the earth revolves around the sun. Perhaps one of the few countries with more than five kings titled “the great”.  I was the richest country in the entire world before I was captured and killed and was called the Golden Bird, or the Jewel of British Crown. 

    Well enough of history. Today, I have the second largest army, fourth largest air-force and navy. One of the most modernized air-force in the world. My navy in the only “to be Blue water navy” in Asia. I am one of the few recognized nuclear powers on earth, one of the five countries to have a lunar mission and  only 2nd with a lunar landing mission. I have the second fastest growing economy across the world. When the big power reduce their research  budgets I double them. There are only two countries in the world that generate more number of scientists and engineers than I do. The world is being cured by the doctors and nurses I trained. I own, the 2nd largest railway network, largest communication network. I have 8 of world’s 100 richest people.  

    My people claim that we never attacked any country, but thats not true, Indian kings attacked and ruled Srilanka and parts of old Persian empire, and my people still continue to attack within the country in terms of caste, religion, region and language. Most of the attack on me were the invited by my own people be it Moghuls or British.


    No boasting around anymore, lets go to the irony. I have about one third of poor people of the world and $2 Trillion of my money illegally lies in other countries.  Though, I started the university system in the world, a quarter of my population is illiterate. I provide doctors across the globe but I have 0.7 hospital beds per 1000 as compared the international requirement of 3.96 and so is the trend in number of doctors. Some of my kings planted trees around the roads and today I am among the worlds highest CO2 emitter. We have a sex ratio where males outnumber females, a result of aborting female child although many of my people worship female Gods.  I import more than we export, even after such growth of economy. My national animal tiger is endangered in my own lap. I have a high desertification rate a lot of people do not get clean drinking water. Concretization of land has led to reduction in ground water recharge.

    But all is not lost. I turn 65 today, I have many years of life ahead.  I believe my people can generate more wealth, fight to get back the trillions. Respect female child with equal rights, educate people, develop infrastructure without disturbing ecological and natural balance. Some of the efforts have already started paying. I am the one considered among the top countries in harvesting renewable sources of energy. The emissions are being cut in an ordered way, methods of enginnering a more eco-friendly infrastructure is evolving. People who left me for a better future want to come back. My people own some emperial companies. I am striking back. Hopefully the illegal flow of money and legal flow of Brain will slow and ultimately stop one day in near future. 

    You know good thing about my people that they always hope positive no matter what the situation is. And, I am still young enough to enjoy the fruits from their efforts.

    Have a great week ahead,

    India




  • Featured Image The New Year Column

    Happy New Year, oho wait..!  well let me take this opportunity to wish something bigger “Happy New Decade!” Writing a column at this onset can take two ways, either I write what happened during this year (or decade) or write what can happen in coming days within a length that does not test your reading patience. Daunting, isn’t it ? Talking about history does not make sense as I know, “the only thing we can learn from history is that we don’t learn anything from history” (Not my words).  

    Images: www.goodreads.com and www.enlightenedredneck.com 



    I will tell you about an incident that I came across this new year party. Two personalities meeting and greeting each other, one looks very tired, consumed and aged, the other one is enthusiastic, energetic and young. It is a farewell evening for one and welcome for the other.


    The aged one greets the younger “Hi buddy I am the decade 2001-10″, “It is a pleasure to meet you Sir ! I am your successor 2011-20″ replies the younger. 



    “I promise you to do far better than you did” says 2011-20 with sarcasm. 


    “Thats will be stupendous pal, hope you match your promise. Moreover, I promised the same to my predecessor 1991-00 and I do not know where do I stand on the verge of my retirement.” replies the 2001-10. 


    With an arrogant smile the other replies “At the abyss sir. What you have given during your tenure is just war, catastrophes, disputes, crisis and problems.” 


    “Buddy I have also given development, advancement and solution to long lasting problems. ” Says the older one with a sign of politeness hiding the anger. 


    “As long as I can see sir, from your very childhood you have given wars, killings and hatred that still continues. 2001 started with the twin tower incident and the after effects are still there. you had Iraq war, Afghanistan war, terrorism, climate change, economic crisis all sorts of problems. Who can rate you as a decade of achievements, you just carried the thousands of year civilization into a plunge.” Says 2011-20 aggressively.


    “But I also brought development see mars rovers, decoding life, internet use telecom technologies so many things. I also had the emerging powers at the world’s stage. The poverty reduced. And the negative things you are talking about was was in some way inherited from my predecessors.” Claims 2001-10 with anger


    “And thats why you aggravated these inheritances and passed on to me. You are providing me with a thorny couch and ask me to do better. But believe me, I am going to change it.” Shouts 2011-20


    This triggers the anger in the outgoing decade and is ready to lock horn with the upcoming decade. Before it could get worse, I interfere with a laughter. “Hi poor fellows you are fighting over an issue that is a folly. Well before I tell you further, let me introduce myself. I am a representative of the world, a human representative.”


    “Could you elaborate your intentions ?” says one of them 


    Yes off course my dear (with nefarious smile) I said. “I am here to tell your exact role. You guys are into some kind of illusion. What makes you believe that you control the world, you can take it on the course you like? Just wake up folks, its we who are on the driving seat. You are merely the witnesses. You can just feel the course we steer on, we create war make peace, we love we hate. If we want war we wage it, we create crisis and sometimes even disasters. You cant even close your eyes to avoid watching them, you are just witnesses and we keep the records of our deeds within you. So stop bandying with and grab a drink enjoy the evening. We need you for the future.”


    Their heads went down and I said 


    “Happy new year, happy new decade.. and went deeper into the party with my drink.”


    cheers,



  • Featured Image Nostalgia

    Eight years! siting on the window seat of train I was just getting myself anxious. The train stopped and I managed to get my slim body out of the door through the crowd rather easily. It’s 4.30 AM, January morning with chilling breeze around. Feeling the cold I made myself shrink in my warm jacket. My unfolded fist wandered inside the pocket looking for the mobile. I dialed dad with freezing fingers to know if someone is coming to pick me up. After a short conversation I was asked to wait for sometime. I thought of satisfying my anxiety with a look outside the station. It was a changed city with new building structures and more of cars than rickshaws but people still looked the same. Starting off their day early in the morning even at 3 degree Celsius with freezing wind and visibility limiting fog. I reached near the temple which was unchanged and still looked new, separated by a street from a mosque; both crowded for morning prayers. In the flower shop the keepers were busy in handling the customers and occasionally sprinkling water on the flowers to make them appear fresh. I reached the narrow street there.


    The street with which I share some pleasant memories. Two teenagers, a boy and a girl, The girl is looking at the flowers in the shop and the boy is waiting for his mom outside the temple. My mom never asked me to enter the temple as I used to make fun of her so called GODS. We looked at each other and exchanged a smile. Both of us had some hesitation to approach and talk to each other. Now the funny irony was we studied in the same school same class and don’t need unnecessary introduction. Well, the hesitation did not last longer than 2-3 minutes. 
    “Hello Ayesha, how come here?”
    As if I did not know that she must be here with her dad offering fajr prayers after morning aajaan inside the mosque. She smiled and gave me the answer I already knew. Now I did not know how to continue with our conversation. 
    She came to rescue me out of it, by asking “how come you in a temple? As far as I know you are an atheist, with a sarcastic smile.”
    This took me by surprise,. I did not expect her to know this part of me, as very few of school-mates knew this, at least not her. I could easily hide my inner expression of surprise with a short laugh. 
    “That’s why I was forced to stay out of the temple by Mom, I said. And you are busy looking at these flowers,” 
    I asked to continue with the conversation, she answered yes and these red roses are my favorites. We barely had talk for few minutes as it seemed to me at that time, I saw mom coming out. Honestly speaking, I was not very glad to see her coming out so soon. Anyway I introduced Ayesha to mom and she greeted mom in by touching her feet. It is a usual of greeting elders in India. In turn she got a hug from my mom and some blessing with the sweets from the temple. After a short conversation between mom and Ayesha we had to say goodbye for the day and I moved towards my car with mom, but did not forget to wave my hands before throwing myself at the driving seat. I was 15 at that time but could drive without hesitation. This is one  of the awards of being related to the city police chief in India.


    Next week we met in the school bus. Our houses were not very far so we used to travel through the same bus to school. But today it was different we were not just exchanging smiles but worded smiles. 
    She suddenly came with a question, 
    “You were surprised on that day when I called you an atheist, weren’t you ?” 
    Ah! I don’t how the hell girls can know something even if you try your best to hide it from them. I think that makes them a better spy (Mr. Ian Flemming your movies should have a female bond). I just smiled with acceptance. She laughed and told the reason was Priyanka (Only my good friends and anti’s knew about this quality). It was enjoyable to know that she used to talk about me before.  For the first and last time I was happy with what Priyanka did. She was an annoyer for me before. I just thanked her without blabbering a word. During the next days we talked more often than ever, with words and without words. Once in the school park she told me again that she loves red roses perhaps for the 9th time in 10 days. To admit, at that time I was stupid enough to not understand the meaning hidden in her words, and I continued to be idiot for next few days.


    The entire class was on an excursion to the city zoo, few of the students got intentionally lost from the troop during the visit., and fortunately we were a part of this lost bunch. We in pairs then departed from each other before reappearing in more or less an hour. After jocund excursion and the better one hour (When she got a red rose finally) we came back to our homes. I was talking to sis (the way I address my elder sister) I told her about Ayesha. And next morning it was a teasing day. Sis and Big B had entered a collaboration to banter me. Well anyone will love doing this if a 15 year old boy says he is in love. I was embarrassed, but had to bear it anyway. By evening Mom and dad had joined the collaboration, and I had no savior. Mom started saying I met my daughter in law and I support my little son. I don’t care about the religion stuff. And then she laughed at me. I was peeved, blushed and irritated simultaneously with their remarks and tried to show that I am getting angry. Anyway, it continued with a slow decrease in its intensity through the days.


    Eid- Ul- Fitar invitation brought a reason to meet her parents. I was determined to behave in the best possible to impress way. I did not need a lot of change or rehearsal as I was already a well behaved boy. Believe me I did more just accomplishing the job in my hand. The impression that I left that day won me the freedom to meet and talk to her more often than I used to enjoy before. But it was because their parent still took us as kids. This is probably one issue that has never been resolved and will never get resolved. All the parent take their kids to be kids even if they turn into grand parents.


    That morning she came and without saying even Hi moved into the lecture room. The teacher was inside so verbal communication was difficult. I thought of playing the postman game. The game was very simple and efficient way to communicate in presence of teacher. The sender writes something on a piece of paper and the paper passes to the person you want to communicate with, through class mates, hiding beneath the desks and tables.
     “What happened? Why are you not talking to me?” I asked. 
    After a long journey of 11 people it came back to me. 
    “Khaalaa jaan saw us yesterday and she told mom about us”, was the answer. 
    The news was not good but like a fearless lone warrior engulfed in enemies den I wrote 
    “so what?” 
    She wrote that we will talk after the lecture. 
    As soon as the lecture was over I rushed towards and almost screamed at her, 
    “so what if Khaalaa saw us ? Its still the same we love each other”. 
    She, without saying anything started crying and now I was down. 
    Trying to console her I said, “why do you worry its not a big issue”. 
    In sobbing voice she replied “no, its not possible to continue with this anymore. Mom slapped me yesterday. Look I come from an orthodox muslim family. My parents will never accept anything like this and that too with a hindu boy”. 
    “What the hell? don’t you think its just stupid and nothing else?” 
    She came closer and then said 
    “we would continue to friends but it cant continue in the same way anymore”. 
    “Friends! shut up” I barked. This is very typical of girls first carry you to a stage where they call you more than a friend and suddenly freeze with this kind of end. It was all getting to an end very suddenly and awfully


    I somehow managed to attend rest of the lecture came back home and cried for sometime hiding in a blanket. Then onwards I met her everyday for next 30 days or so but no talks, just  staring and hiding from each other. Board exams came and went. I went to a different school to continue with studies and then moved to the medical school. Next two years of study and preparation for medical school never gave me enough time to remember or forget Ayesha. Dad was transferred from that city, so never had a chance to visit this city of good old memories. Today after 8 years just trying to remember incidents that had happened, getting deeper into nostalgia. From the street I could see two teenagers who started with a story here.
    I was so drowned into all these memories suddenly the mobile vibration woke me up and without looking at the call I asked 
    “yes dad where are you?”  
    Oh I can see dad’s car coming, gotta go…..