Monday, February 22, 2010

Retrospect - A Short Story

The Sun's beautiful evening rays fell on his numb face. It had no sensory effects even as he watched its progress until the sky darkened. His Dream was shattered!

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Jan 1996

Gurpreet Singh was a happy man. Got married to his childhood love Gurneet and managed to get an unlikely gift as dowry. A brand new Videocon 21" colour TV. He had a compelling reason. Prepared to buy him a motor-bike, the in-laws were dumb-founded at this unusual request. 15-20km from his village (Khera Gajju), he had a bakery-cum-dabba shop opposite the - "Punjabi University" on the outskirts of Patiala. A truck driver, who frequently visited his shop, famously nick-named him "Gajju". Indeed, the traffic passing on the NH-64 created more opportunity for his shop than the college goers. It would all change in a month's time.


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April 2009

Today had to be his most awaited day. Sachin Singh showed no signs of nervousness/anxiety. Neither had he contemplated if he can fail. His coach never missed an opportunity to remind him: "All fail by fearing and also shivering".
Much as he would have liked his father to have accompanied him, he was content having his mother for company. Presently he could see her doing a silent prayer.

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Gajju was deep in thought over the preparations for the evening. Very cleverly he had acted ill to force Sachin leave without him. 'Got cold. Go with mother'. After-all the occasion demanded extravagant celebrations. Something unique & graceful that would envy the neighbours. Something that Sachin would just love it. His chain of thought suddenly hit upon an excellent idea as he remembered a TV show.

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It was time for glory. Sachin grew in confidence seeing other contenders flop. His chance seemed to come after an eternity. Running in to bowl at him was a gentle medium-pacer. The ball hit the turf ever-so-slowly and bounced. He was readying to smack the ball to long-on when the ball moved slightly before reaching the bat and took the edge instead of flying over the ropes. Not overwhelmed by the miss, he adjusted his stance to counter the swing. But next ball swung the other way and took the top-edge of the bat. Tension started to creep-in now despite being groomed to be confident. He told himself to see the ball and then swing the bat. A quick look towards his mother gave him assurance. He marked a middle-stump stance to counter whichever way the ball-swung. The bowler too thought over what would be going in the batsman's mind. He produced a gem - the ball just pitched and went straight ahead, knocking the stumps. The selector had seen enough and crossed against Sachin's name. Glory had ended before it had begun. His mother sensed what had happened and quickly reached her son to take him away. The Saree was soon wet with tears.

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The age of cell-phones meant that Gajju received the fatal SMS immediately - 'Sachin not selected in the under-13 district cricket team'. He had been to the roof to ponder upon the preparations. He was so sure that his son cannot fail. His dream had come shattering down. Despite himself, tears rolled down his cheeks. He wondered what could have gone wrong with his coaching. Yes, he had never played cricket. But did his best to teach his son. Everyone in the village had praised his son. The other boys feared his batting.
It was getting dark and he seemed to realize it now. After being confused and heartbreaks, there was clarity now. Our brain has this interesting potential of giving hope after complete despair. But for hope it is nigh impossible to live. Once hope settles in, we take things all-together in a different prospective. The setting of sun had epitomized itself in his mind as "end of dream" without himself being aware of it. Now suddenly he found the optimism - there is sunrise after a sunset. A thought now disturbed him heavily. He began tracing why his son was playing cricket. Was it not because of his passion rather than his son's? Against his father's wishes, he had named the child Sachin, breaking away the tradition of naming with "Guru" variants. He asked Waheguru's pardon. Better late than never. Important arrangements had to be made...

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Sachin, I will try explaining to him. Failing doesn't mean end of world. He will understand. Just be with me when he speaks.
"He will beat me up... The other day I got severe scoldings for coming one minute late to practice." More tears flowed...

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Gajju soon reached his shop (Gajju Bakers) & ordered for cakes to be delivered in certain shapes. He had to personally go there to show the shapes he cut from newspapers and some of his son's paintings.
There wasn't time to waste. He drove fast in his 'swift'. He let a smile thinking back on how the master-stroke of getting a TV as dowry helped his growth from an ordinary shop to one of the biggest in the locality. He had timed the marriage to get ready for the 1996 cricket WC. He now had plans to open branches in Patiala and Rajpura.
A bus-stopped in front and silhouette of a woman and a boy appeared. He cursed his bad-luck as he drove towards his wife & son. Sachin was almost hidden in his mother's arms. It did not help that his lie was now out in open. They drove silently to home and Sachin immediately went to his room and shut himself up. He wanted to atleast drown-out the thunderous scoldings he was expecting.
Gajju started talking in broken english to catch his son's attention.
"You interested in music also... studies also you good.. cricket you can try next year also.. we go to Patiala, you will also get good coaching. I also know.. you like cricket as I also like cricket... you also tell what u like... I won't force you to play cricket also..."
Sachin was surprised. He suspected it to be trap but could not ignore the passion with which his father had said it. He felt grateful to have such a father. He opened the door without being asked for and hugged his father.
"Sorry"
"I also should say Sorry"
Soon the tears gave way to smile and then excitement - for now he can spend more time playing guitar. He was having a large guitar shaped cake which was strikingly similar to his drawing leaving aside the cakes in shape of cricket equipments.

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Thanks to Karthik and Srini for their kind help.

Author's Note:
Although this is purely a fictional work, the books I've read, my personal experiences, social interaction, etc. have all helped me in penning (or rather blogging) this story. So, if you find something familiar, pardon my liberty in using it here and in my future stories. And not to forget, thanks to Google - Patiala
This being my first attempt at a story, I would be grateful if any short-comings are pointed out. :)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lonely journey, lost camera, lots of love...

Feb 10 and I had reason to be anxious. After all, I was late by around 30min and no signs of bus to airport for around 25min. Never before had I even gone near an airport. Was contemplating for auto when the bus finally arrived at 6:25am. Though I reached an hr and half b4 my flight to Delhi, I got only a middle seat and that too beside the wings. My first take-off was smooth and cleared a few concerns hovering in mind without reason. Two business ppl seated either side of me greeted each other, ignoring my unkempt outlook. The one near the window put on the sun-shade to shut the partial view completely. With nothing to do, I penned for the first time about my experience including such mundane details like number of exits and trolley counts. And, atlast the flight mode of my cell had a use for listening music & playing games.
The flight landed half an hr b4 the scheduled time. Delhi temperature was 17C and fog had moistened the wings. Soon enough my cousin arrived and we "snailed" through the Delhi traffic. What to say about Dwaraka? Apartments, apartments and even more apartments..big ones.. and all occupied.. areas there named as: sector-1, 2, etc!! Placing a foot on their marble floor made me realize why ppl in North use slippers inside the house. It was ice cold :(. My cousins children greeted me "uncle" and soon enough I realized that I had attended this cousin's marriage! Now, 10 yrs later, I had come to attend another cousin's marriage. Phew..
My family (father, mother and elder brother Arpit) coming via train got delayed. So, had to go with my uncle to Loharu (a place in Haryana, 6 Km from my native village - Bhawtari in Rajasthan). So much crowd in bus. Wonder how they ppl manage to get in and get down. If that's the case in relatively outer region of Delhi, wonder the condition in main city? Three buses and 5-6 hrs later reached my uncle's (bride's father) place.Not a min passed, and the cousins gathered there were all over me. Though I remembered only few of them, everyone knew me! Had dinner with five others in one plate and shortly afterward my family members arrived. I was damn tired but my 'beloved' cousins would not let me sleep. To keep them involved, I did a few hand tricks and they made a mini circus out of me. Dance program started and I had some respite only after about an hr. A thermo-coat and 2inch thick blanket saw me through the ice-cold night.
Early morning on Thursday, I got a rude shock. My camera was missing. Someone had opened the side zip, cut the intersecting cloth and taken away the camera. Seeing the handiwork it was concluded that this was done during my bus travel the previous day. It seems there are hand-held x-ray devices for such works! I had little time to moan as we got ready and around 5:30am, we reached a temple where we had to go bare-footed and bare-handed :(. An hr later we started back with imperceptible hands & legs. The same multi-persons-in-one-plate policy was followed for breakfast.
Shortly, the various ceremonies for the bride started. With my camera lost, Arpit's camera was the only option left. And his batteries soon drained out. We searched in vain for compatible batteries, even trying out the ordinary ones which lasted only 3-4 snaps. Finally, we got rechargeable ones for rent from studios! Around 4pm, we started to Bhiwani where the marriage would take place. It gave me an opportunity to catch up with sleep and around 5:30pm we reached the marriage hall.
We had snacks and got ready for the occasion. Traditions seem to be changing for good. The arrangement is that relatives/friends (not so close to groom) of the bridegroom can arrive before the 'Barat' (Barat is procession of family, relatives, and friends of groom that accompany the groom to bride's home for official wedding ceremony). Food, seating & dance-floor had been arranged for such guests. I have to mention about this kid (from the groom side) who went on the dance-floor. He stood firmly at a place, and just kept swaying back & forth!
We had dinner (again following multi-persons-in-one-plate to save cost :D) and the wait started for the Barat to arrive. Around 10-10:30-pm, I could see them arriving with big band & bursting crackers. They would arrive at the gate only after 12:00am! The couple were Garlanded on a circularly rotating platform and lead to hall. Photo-session with relatives followed which took almost an hr!. I was damn too tired to stay awake anymore and went-off to sleep. Thankfully the 2-inch thick blankets were in place here too.
Woke up around 5:30am. The last rites of the marriage ceremony were still going on, mostly about giving money/clothes to relatives and gold jewelery to the groom. We helped to bring down the bride's things which would fit only in no less than a mini-van! And the painful moment arrived - of that of sending off the bride. An interesting ritual took place after that - a women from our side would dip in mix of "kumkum" and paste on both sides of shirt of men from the groom's side & hand over a 50Rs. note.
Its already a very long post. The rest of my stay included visiting my native village Bhawtari and my Mom's sister place in Jhunjhunu. On Sunday morning, around 3:30am, we started to Delhi in Wagon-R. The cab was booked so that I can reach in time for my flight to bangalore at 9:40am. It was so foggy that it was difficult to see 2-3m ahead. But the journey was safe and we reached the airport by 7am itself. I bid good-bye to my family and embarked on another lonely flight journey. I added few lines to my flight experience. And yeah, I forgot that notepad in aircraft itself. So much for penning for the first time.
It was gr8 experience to visit again those places, walk down same lanes of the yester-years, those rooms & terrace we played, that well we bathed, the banyan tree, mouth-freshener "Chutki", the railway stations, the warmth of relatives & cousins & their children and many more. Something to remember and cherish forever.

To complete the title of this post,
"...Life is a Journey, Life is a Lesson."

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