Monday, December 15, 2008

Where am I ?

It is indeed a good experience to see Jackie Chan's movie. Most of them are full of comical fights and quick apt reactions. "Who am I", is one such movie that gave a similar enjoyable experience and made me go thinking of the title of the film and its relevance in today's world. So many a soul have wondered about the word 'I' in the title.

Indeed it is food for the mind to understand one's existence in this world, the purpose and the destiny that each has in store. So many articles have been written on soul, mind, self, God, destiny; indeed its human nature to question the real and accept the surreal. Man's existence lies in the fact of his ability and readiness to question himself. Nature has made such a wonderful creature ie a human and endowed superior qualities like intelligence(confirm with call center professionals' list of stupid questions), ability to adapt (ability to create hostile situations too!), ability to question self evaluate(examinations losing their credibility); the list can go on.

At this junction, I feel blessed just to study the environment or surrounding around me. 'Where am I?', is in fact a relevant question for me given the current times and things happening in the world. Its not just about the bombs exploding and killing innocent people, its more than that; its something to do with trying to terrorise the human mind and prodding it to distrust the other soul. What good will come out of all this distrust? Man is driving the economy or is the economy driving the man? Aren't we running after the stock market, which probably is after just a market; a place to shop but not stop. I am sure it is not going to take care of mother nature or our future generation.

Why is it that along with the distrust and no clear destination for mankind, do we still continue to keep our eyes closed to the real truth? Only HE knows.

Our daily needs have no limit and we keep on craving for more and more. Our grandparents lived in a different era where men and women had different roles in the family and society. Their needs were basic and they craved for more; this was achieved successfully by the next generation, our parents. Indeed they had all that their parents had and to top it all they also managed to get more materialistic things. But their wants did not end there, they left the seed of wanting more in their children. Did we not get all that our parents had and tried to do even better by having still more materialistic comforts ? Are we not facing the problems of exercise and obesity ?

The problem of dissatisfaction still remains, only its nature changes. We are still in want of something. What is this something ? Is it materialistic comforts or is it physical well being or is it the spiritual well being ? None as an individual can take us to the destination, and to make matters worse, we don't know what is the destination and the journey. Saints have come and gone and spoken about the combination of all the three does lead to salvation. Our mind is too small to understand the true meaning of salvation, but doing our bit in keeping our mind, body and soul rejuvenated, is what leads to true happiness.

The journey that we undertake is what defines who we are, where we are. Let the journey be the destination and not a means for the final destination. 'Where am I ?' is not a question asked by a person who is lost, it is rather for a person who wants to go somewhere.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The two Pigeons

I really wonder the way Pune looked 15 years ago; I had heard of people wearing sweaters in summer mornings and the winters being chilly and the landscape near the city was lush and green. Thats what I heard, never saw; for I came to Pune when the economic growth of people and Pune was on the upswing and the city was witnessing a drastic change; a change not only in the weather but also the culture. I still remember the summer vacation that my aunt invited me and my sister to her new home and what a cool and green pune city was !

Times change and so do people and so do situations ! I am now happily married and settled in my own house in Pune. My husband is a 'cosmopolitan naturalist', he manages to keep greenery around him by using potted plants. Our little daughter is no less; she brings her muddy feet in the house and loves to knead the mud instead of the flour. In addition to these two, our house is warm and inviting; be it friends or neighbours or the two pigeons who have made the bathroom window, their home.

Every morning, I can see their silhouettes

Against the window, and at day break,

They fly in the open inviting, bluish orange sky.

They come back now and then

To rest on the window till refreshed again.

Once or twice, I have observed

Only one bird sits on the abode

Not because the other lost its way

But because it was busy till the whole day.

Working towards finding two square meals

It flew away farther than the hills,

Isn't this what we are facing in our life ?

Letting life slip by when we are toiling all the while?

On our way to glory,

how many of us do worry,

About the missed togetherness

and the cherished close tenderness !

Am I not the pigeon and waiting

for the other to come home?

With so many thoughts, you can well imagine that the life has become complex indeed ! The green pastures are now replaced by dark roads and a concrete junlge stands in between. What refreshes me the most is the existence of nature, though scattered. Do we not take efforts to have the greenery around us? Thats because we feel a part of nature. The desire to be a part of the whole eternity and our longing for togetherness with nature. Its very refreshing to see the birds flying daily out of their homes in the morning and coming back in the evening.

My window friends give a whole new dimension to me and my husband's relationship, our home, our flying in and out of the house and cherishing the togetherness.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A knight in shining armour

Trekking is an activity that is enjoyed by most and talked of by the rest. A visit to Bhimashankar is indeed very enjoyable in the rainy season, when you see puddles and toads and slippery roads! Nature is at its best with lush green grass, wet green trees, green toads and green algae and the smell of wet earth and the sounds of running water and the list goes on.

It was on one such trip that I noticed my husband's enthusiasm for trekking and exploring nature. He had mentioned it previously too but this was the first time I got to see the sparkle in his eyes when we were literally walking on clouds, the spring in his walk when we were walking on nature's carpet, the slurpy sound that he made while drinking hot tea and the increase in his appetite not for food but for taking in the fresh air and explaining all feelings to his wife and daughter.

Though the day saw clouds descending and ascending, we had enough visibility to see 10 feet of our surrounding and off we all went to the climbing down mountain activity; man-child-woman. For a child, nothing is as interesting as a walk on stones, pebbles and mud and touching everything in the way to see how it feels. Our daughter gathered so many precious stones that it looked more of a geological trip. And who would be the best person to carry the load? Of course, her father!

The three of us made our way down the zig zag path snaking down. We could not exactly see the destination, but in my husband's words, we were on the right track. He was more worried about having to take care of two inexperienced trekkers rather than the poor visibility due to clouds. Our daughter was the most daring person, leaving no scope for destination definition, she went down further and further, forgetting the fact that the climb up was yet to start.

And when it started, there was no stopping, we three went climbing up and up for we could only see the tall trees and the wind blowing at the clouds, I wonder if this can indeed be described as being on cloud nine ! My husband, walking ahead of us and leading, would stop to see our progress and except for one patch of the climb, everything was fine. At that patch, our leader picked up the little girl and put her on better grounds, hey! but what about me. I got worried. And there it was, a strong, firm hand coming towards me and ready to pull me up.

Oh! what a moment ! I truly felt like a lady who was being asked by the prince to hold his arm and be pulled up on the horse. My husband had suddenly turned a knight in shining armour and quickly enough, I grabbed his extended arm and was pulled up a steep incline. My expression in the eyes changed and the world appeared even more beautiful. Quickly the three of us ran for the top and get a glimpse of the world below. Once there, we could see the clouds running, making me wonder, whether we were all competing or synchronizing the run?

Nature has its own ways of unfolding situations before us. And I got to see my husband in a different light even on a cloudy and foggy day. Things will always be the same, but the way we see them, will keep on changing.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A bird in bush is two in hand !!

I am sure you find the saying not correct, but I have purposefully written it for a situation when I heard strange noises coming from the children's bedroom. They sounded like some animals quarelling or a new instrument playing or most probably a new mobile ringtone. With a perplexed mind, I went to see if my daughter was upto some prank or enjoying somebody else's prank.

And there she was making some interesting noises and looking out of the window; window which overlooked the potted plants and a beautiful garden of lush green lawn and a very serene marble temple. Curious, I went to her to enquire about the significance of these beating of vocal chords. I was happily given an answer that this was for the purpose of calling out so many birds to come and sit on the window sill and talk to her. And for inviting these birds, she was making so many types of noises.

This was quite a revelation to me. I had never thought of inviting birds by calling out to them near a window. And the stranger thing was yet to come. In one of the potted plants stood one paper parrot that my child had made in her craft class. She was using this piece of art as a bait to attract birds and sit on the window sill and to make the effect of bird, authentic, she was making noises imitating all possible varieties of birds !

So much planning done for the sole purpose of having a birdie friend. It made me wonder about the original English proverb of having a bird in hand is equal to two in the bush. We tend to forget what we have and start looking at something which is indeed there but has its own freedom too! At times, we should be only admiring the freedom of such beings and appreciate the fact that happiness comes from feeling free. Take away the freedom and we are faced with sadness and suffocation.

Things in nature are to be admired not desired.

And here is my daughter, trying to befriend her nature friends by using an artificial bird and noises to have one such bird and coming and singing with her. Indeed, the purpose of this activity is having a bird friend and not owning it.

My child is also like a bird, having the freedom to choose and express her thoughts and the best that I can do as a parent is only admire and respect her way of expressing her feelings and not strangle them.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Purple Eyed Man

Many a times I wonder, about the programmes on television for children, whether indeed the cartoons are kids or grown ups as cartoon kids !! The amazement turns to anger when I see innocence lost and spirit nipped in programs such as shin chan, Ben 10, Conan etc. It also makes me realize that more is yet to come.

The other day, my daughter was since evening talking about "Are you afraid of the dark?", a program which only explores your deepest fears, but causes much of an impact on the developing mind. It was because of one such story that my little one had a nightmare of a purple eyed man chasing her. She woke up at night and tried to find her mother. I was not aware of my daughter's state and the purple eyed man. But she was so clear, she told me her nightmare and all I could see was some purple colour in the dark and my mind still unclear as to the talk going on between us.

I held my dear one close to my heart and she slept peacefully in the cocoon of my embrace. That moment, I felt so much at peace; to see my child safe and breating deeply and happy to be near her mother. The purple colour no longer appeared to be the villain in my child's life, it was more of only a colour; colour that adds life to a painting, gives vibrancy to the other colours.

The morning came with yellows and orange hues;
and then the sky got blue.
What I remember is the colour Purple
for it brought me closer to my little girl.

The purple eyed man is nowhere to be seen;
he was afterall existing only within.
He left when it was morning,
leaving the two of us laughing !

The incident made me think, that in life the fear is only within. Why then do we try to find the world ie outside as the source or cause of misery. It is not that the world is black or white, it has shades of grey too, but what I like most is taking in the colours that are here there everywhere. And on second thoughts, I realized that maybe my daughter missed her father who was away from home for some work. What a menifestation of insecurity!

Have we ever thought of the purple eyed man? Does he not see the colour purple everywhere? In fact he sees the world differently than we do. And don't forget that there are three 'truths'; one is your truth, second is my truth and the third is the real truth. So how can we judge the purple eyed man? He only represents a fear that lies within us. If ony we could do away with our fears ! How nice would it be to enjoy the strengths that each and every individual on this earth possesses ! All of us will be happy indeed to put ourselves to good use and cause.

Television or technology is here to stay, what I can do is let only the impressions of colours make way.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Diamonds are a Girl's best friends

One day, over a cup of hot ginger tea, I sat with myself beside me, all quiet and the distant sound of a vehicle or so. How happy I felt to talk to myself !! This solitude came not because of lonliness but because of a bad throat infection which left my vocal cords all useless. Not a word could I utter ! People found it funny, I found it to be a tonic, not for my body, but my soul. Such thoughts came to me when I suddenly realised that even a friend is a tonic to your confidence, ego, mind and so many things that just you can share with a friend.

No childhood goes without a friend, you are together to fight, play, fool others, play pranks, enjoy, share your ideas and fantasies and so many things. Such friendships are so close to your heart, you will share everything later on also when you accidentally meet your childhood friend. I have been blessed to have so many friends who helped me grow and helped me to fight even if it meant fighting with the friend !! I recall such days as they gave me a good foundation to stand on my feet and see the world not only with the amazement like that of a child but also with the so called 'maturity' of a young woman.

"Situations change and so does time,
friends come and go with love still there in the heart of thine. "

Time spent in the college with a new found set of friends is so cherished. Whether it is bunking classes to go to see movies or sharing a plate of uttappa, going to the library for the purpose of studies and ending up chatting with your buddies, preparing for study notes together and fighting over the subject with each other, such things are what constitute the colourful college life. I still enjoy and smile when I recall these memories.

Even after taking up a responsible job, tendency of humans to bind and socialise hardly diminishes, the circle of friends always increases, instead of sharing the uttappa, we share thoughts over a cup of tea, instead of bunking classes, we strain our glasses (spectacles).

So many facets of a person get polished over a period of time that the personality shines. A diamond is nothing but a stone, it gets picked up and polished to reveal the true colour, clarity, cut, carat and this is what leads to the cost. A person who has got his facets of the personality polished is like a diamond, so precious not because of self but because of all the friends who made him so valuable. Every soul touches so many other souls to become more and more polished and in turn also help polish the other.

'Diamonds are a girl's best friends' is indeed true, not for the precious stones but for all the souls who have her a strong person to shine in this world.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The day I was born…..

The day I was born…..

Many a soul have wondered on this thought when they reminiscise about themselves, their achievements, their childhood……the list can be endless. So many wonder ‘I am so lucky…..’ , ‘The world is so lucky….’; even I have had this thought on all my daughter’s birthdays.

I still vividly remember the pain that started around three in the early morning, the LABOUR pain. I had been so worried about being able to recognize pain as labour pain, and there it was!! No woman would have any doubts about this pain being the one. And there I was, in so much hurry to go to the hospital! At that time, there was only one thought, “once I am in the hospital, my pain will be more manageable and my baby will come to me. So lets hurry to the hospital”. And needless to say, don’t ever argue with a woman in such a situation. My dad, one of those peculiar dads, the ones who get worried but don’t know what to do; started cleaning the car at four in the morning. Till then, my mother and mother in law were discussing about the frequency of contractions. Here I was in pain and all my dear ones were irritating me further.

At last! We reached the hospital and the room and I was hopeful of seeing my baby quickly, but then the doctor too had her say about the time and all I could do was remember the advice of others and the books and keep my cool.

Luckily for me, my pain ended at about 8 in the morning when I saw my daughter and heard her sigh. But what worried me was that she was not crying. Don’t they show in all held her upside down and patted her back, but no sound. Then it started, music to my ears and relief to the doctor. I think the first cry of the baby is the best, later on it turns to jazz.

Six years passed, with every year showing a different side to my daughter. Her father is completely in her hands. That must be true for all fathers. My parents have always been there for me and my sister, no matter what reason and season.

I took up a job and my in laws are always there for my daughter to hold her, to wipe away her tears, to tell her a story, to hear her stories and talks, to see her dance, to teach her, to show her the rainbow, to let her play in the rain and so many things that only a child can make the grand parents take to becoming a child once again.

A few days back, when my daughter came home after playtime, I went to her with the apple in my hand so that she would be happy. But what !! the daughter I knew, who was me, myself, suddenly and rudely turned me away. I retreated without a word with hurt in my eyes quite visible. My daughter immediately saw my reaction to her action and felt so bad at having done this to me. She came running behind me and pleaded with me with different valid reasons, her apologies all brimming and bursting from the corner of her eyes. I was distraught myself and my hurt too was about to spill over. We both hugged each other and held each other close. All hurt and remorse was washed away. I was so happy that my daughter had shown such courage and understanding to accept her bad behavior and realize her mistake and also to make her mother understand her.

We both became ‘friends’ again.

The incident made me realize that cutting the umbilical cord does not separate the mother and the baby; the bonding still remains; what is it then that separates the two?

It is the longing for individuality.

A mother who brings and nurtures a child in this world, a father who provides a shade for the child to grow till he is ready to face the sunlight, grand parents who provide the necessary water and rainbows; and friends who make you stand taller and more confident; all contribute to the building up of a personality.

I am so happy to see us all together and together we see a child becoming an individual.

Well, ‘the day I was born….’ is not the day that my mother gave birth to me; it is not the day that I gave birth to my daughter; it is the day that I see my daughter becoming more independent, more mature, more caring, more understanding and above all; moving from a daughter to an individual. It is so beautiful and joyful to see your baby grow. Your baby who was you, yourself, a part of you and the love you share with your better half.

Monday, July 7, 2008

I am Magnificent

I am Magnificent

Standing tall on the mountainous slopes of the Konkan region, I breathe with pride the fresh air and the warmth of the newly watered soil. The first rain has been a boon for me and my baked and cracked skin. Ah! Those hot summer days! They send a shiver down my spine. Birds around me would be so happy in the mornings to welcome the sun and a new day but by midday, they would all retire in their cozy nests, away from the sun’s glare.

I have no other place to go except to be on the slopes, holding the soil in place and watching the day break and sun set. No other similar friend in the vicinity to talk to me and hear me talk of my thoughts.

“I long to go out and play,
and sway my arms to the music, all day.
How I wish I could also jump with joy
and run like the lanky boy. “

The Konkan Express passes me by everyday. The train is such an elegant piece of man’s creation! With such dignity and majestic stature, the train breezes past the landscape, bringing life to all and I swell with pride just waving at it. That’s life. Life is indeed strange, I can only stand and wave!

What is it that pulls me down? Why not I climb mountains and cross the rivers? The greens and browns are sure for me, but why not I wish for the reds and blues of thee?

It is only when something holds me for support and climbs up and up, that I feel happy to have lent support. It is only when something grows near me that I find a friend and a companion. I am indeed happy to have them and the trains moving past me everyday. They whistle and huff and puff and I feel lucky to be there waving at so many passengers.

Life is indeed beautiful and I am also a part of it. So many souls look around to get a glimpse of the beautiful landscape and exclaim in delight, “wow! Such a magnificent tree!” Yes. Indeed I m the big and beautiful tamarind tree. Kids love to come and have the sour fruit. I bear with dignity their attempts at getting the fruit. Its so nice to feel wanted and at the same time want all to come to me, build homes on my branches and sing to the world. Mother nature has always been fascinating to me.

It’s all in the mind.…..

It’s all in the mind.…..

I am always apprehensive when I am about to visit places where I have been before. It is a feeling that is hard to describe. One is happy to go to such a place as it refreshes your pleasant memories associated with it and deep within the feeling of being what one was before, surfaces in the turbulent mind. Turbulent mind – because one has lot of expectations related to meeting the same set of people or the same places, confusion related to others expectation of you, whether some other person will recognize you or not. Such emotions well up only due to the changes that a person has witnessed within as well as in the outside world.

With such thoughts, I made my way down to the majestic building. I looked around to see all the familiarity and then the grand gate stood before me. How nice! I had not expected this, what a pleasant surprise! Ah, there were a few changes that I could see once inside. It suited the overall environment. All the vehicles were orderly arranged which was something rare before.

I stepped inside the porch and the carvings on the wall called out to me. ‘Still the same’, I thought. The bats had made such niches their home and once or twice you could also see the other birds. The smell of years old dust was still there. My anxiety was laid to rest. I felt happy to be in familiar territory. The tiles were broken at a few places more than I remember, had to happen with so many enthusiastic youngsters walking down the aisle everyday, day after day.

The summer season had done its duty of reaching to the darkest corners and making all the possible corners, free of bacteria. The rains would surely take care of washing down all the things, be it trees or buildings or roads. The winter will also ensure to make its contribution, by giving warmth to all. Indeed its not just warmth, its much more. Leave aside the seasons, it’s the colour within that comes because of so many dedicated and familiar people.

The MS University of Baroda, is what I have been talking of. Ah! There is Anjali Ma’am and I am relieved that she recognizes me. She has changed since I last saw her as a student, with some more weight and straight hair, she is looking great. I found HJP Sir sitting in his cabin and reading some books, as expected.

There are few things and situations that never change or rather you don’t expect them to change. You feel at home only because you find them the way you expected them to be. Isn’t this what we always feel? I missed you all when I went to MSU. I could see us all sitting on vehicles in the parking lot and felt like going to myself and say “did you miss me?”

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Ghoom Barabar Ghoom

Our Trip : Ghoom Barabar Ghoom

The idea of going independently on a tour was so fascinating that plans started to take a concrete shape even before we realized it. The discussion ranged from a shopping list to what one would be actually wearing and doing. No stone was left unturned as to the activities which would entertain us. It may not be wrong on part to say that our group enjoyed talking nineteen to the dozen.

Frantic phone calls between the group members as to the amount of luggage and that too ‘smart’ luggage preoccupied our thoughts and the amount of discussion and interest ensured that we were on our way; for now at least to the railway station. Indeed, the Vadodara railway station has such a grand look, one feels invited; feels as if we need to go and travel.

The Dehradun Express, a train which takes a very long time but was very convenient for our group. The morning of 18th Dec saw a very busy time for 10 families to see their children on the tour. Can you imagine, younger siblings giving advice to the older ones!!

The bright lights of the oncoming train filled our hearts with excitement and as the rolling wheels of the train stopped, time stopped!! Our bogie was nowhere in sight. Surely there must be some mistake.

“arrreee… who S2 toh wahan hai, ekdum last” called Vijay, our friend.

This sentence created a hectic activity among at least 25 people who started to rush. The number of people to see us ‘off’ was more than the actual travelers.

Everybody got in but now the train would not budge. Satisfaction is rare. If the train does not come, it is a problem. If the train comes and you don’t it’s a big problem. But when the train does not move when you are seated, it sure means wishing ‘goodbye’ every 2 minutes!!

I always say ‘tata..ta…..ta..’ when leaving but this time Aai(mother) got so fed up that my parents left before the train could leave the platform. Even Sheetal was supposed to report for her work. She did all the packing and I hope I’ll remember where she has kept what. Even her list is very complicated. “Bring me dry mehendi coloured bandhani saree” said she and the other day she showed me another brown shade.

“Hmmm” !! people and their idea of shades.

Shefali’s sister came after her birthday bash and examinations. See Mona’s sister, giving her last minute instructions of not eating anything ‘baharwala’ or talking to strangers. Those “what would my big sister do without me” was all I read in those 3; Sheetal, Sonu and Vasudha. These 3 sure make a flock.

Only Poonam scores in case of bossing. I whish I had a sister like Mili – so cute and obedient or may be the grass is greener on the other side. Poonam felt so much of responsibility, she came 45 minutes early, may be because we are going to stay at her home.

All of us had prepared very well for the journey. Proper blankets and snacks would surely see us through. But at what time was the train going to start? Wasn’t it late already?

Ah, the movement of the train and we were moving. ‘Bye Goodbye…’ so it went. We were laughing and having fun when we decided to play a game where any word related to computers is to be told. This was invented by Lavanya, the ever bright and her own self person. she always joked about how her father was burdened with a child like her. She sure had the ability to laugh at herself.

The game was obviously being dominated by the Java people, NT (Neerav Thakkar) and Lokesh. NT wouldn’t lose a chance to win and Lokesh would always find some out of the blue solution. Poonam and Lavanya stuck to their C++ concepts and Shefu and myself explored VB for carrying on the game. But where was Nimit?? Peacefully sleeping! Wonder what had got into him. Some problem, I suppose he is those types who do not believe that talking lessens your problems. I hope he is his normal self again, after all a tour without his soul would be the worst thing.

And look at Neerav Shah (Dada), with eyes closed and ears all attendtion, he would give us some solution. But dada has not sense. He sleeps with his spectacles or may be he wants to see clearer dreams. I heard wearing coloured lens makes your dreams of that colour. God!! And my doctor advised me to remove the lens before going to bed. What confusions!!

The game ended finally and we played Antakshari for some time, before one of the passengers offered us a tabla as back ground music. Must say it was a “musical dabba”. In between, we had many singers and dancers with the asbestos as their musical instruments.

By the way, after the breakfast of bread, jam, butter, we had revitalized our energy and it showed in ur next game of continents. Then came the delicious spicy pulao brought by NT. Remember, those ants in Africa which devour anything that comes in their path. You could say the same about us.

Sitting here in Ratlam, I can already feel my stomach’s demands. Poonam, Shefu, NT, Nimit are standing on the platform or on steady ground and I am writing this sitting in the train and hearing my stomach. Lavanya and Mona are sleeping peacefully and Purvi is writing her own diary not allowing me to read y own to others lest our thoughts get mixed up.

19th December, 1999

Wonder the amount of food we can eat! No limit. We finished off sandwiches, pulao, puri bhaji, tea, chikki etc in one day.

Today’s day dawned with a refreshing smile on everybody’s lips except Shefu, who was on the verge of crying because we woke her up. Ha..ha..ha….

Mona had threee cups of tea in less than half an hour and I had two. Lavanya got up at 9:00 blabbering about some ‘blue box’. I think she might be dreaming about her won blue sweater. NT had some problem sleeping; could be because of no blanket or the torch and lens case kept near him. To top it all he brought a ’20 brushing toothpaste’ which was given to all to check the 20 times theory. Wow! Such generosity at the cost of proving his theory or was it the other way round?

Neerav was the sleeping beauty of the group with a sleeping bag and Poonam’s jacket and Mona’s slippers. He is those ‘udharu types’, Lokesh the ‘fireman’ and Nimit the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ types with his unique cap.

Poonam has now asked Lavanya to keep silent for 45 minutes. Now there is no fun without her chatter, but thankfully I am getting time to continue with my writing. Everybody else is also quiet and poor me, I am quiet and busy writing. Nevertheless our group is a very good mix of all types, the silent, the chirpy, the naughty, the enthusiastic, the smart and what not; all have a special place in my heart.

With 4 of our group playing Crazy 8 and Napolean, the others passed time chatting and soon there was time for Shefu’s thepla which were over in no time. Then the chips and popcorn were done away with.

Suddenly, there was a change in the scenery, with Dehradun approaching, the air became more and more pure and the trees and flowers increased and most of all, our spirits rose. I hope I don’t sound like ‘the dead rising’

The train screeched to a halt at 6:00 pm and Uncle and his friend, Mr Goel were at the station who were simply surprised at the amount of luggage we were carrying. Anyway, the 10 of us with 26 bags managed to squeeze ourselves in 2 cars (the WinZip facility as they say).

A refreshing snack of freshly baked pastries and namkeen and adrak ki chai added a pink colour to our cold nose and cheeks. By 9:00, everybody had had a bath and felt warm and snug and dinner was the best part. Aunty’s rajma was too good with steaming rice and salad and pickle.

21st December, 1999

As planned on 20th, the sumo arrived on time at 8:00 am and we were all to go to Mussoorie. Confusion starts at the beginning and that is what happened. Getting ready then having a breakfast, not to mention the constant chatter, Uncle and Aunty managed to see us off by 8:30 am. So far, so good.

The first place of visit was the lake where many of us were feeling giddy. But the boating in the lake made everybody feel fine. Everybody was taking photographs of somebody or we were just banging into each others boats and shouting and then came the time to alight from the boat. Shouts of ‘oh, the waters so cold’, ‘it’s too deep’, ‘there are aquatic plants’ filled the air.

The next stop was at Kempty Falls where water turns into milk and flows though mountains by cutting them and carving a path of its own. The splash of water, the feel of water droplets on our face because of the fall, gave such a nice feeling; we took photographs and then moved towards our sumo.

The next destination was the company garden which very few people were interested to see so we moved to Mussoorie Mall. The shops in Mussoorie were nice, there was the roadside painting hawker who prices each painting at 1200/-. Too much!! Then there were woolens and softies. Lavanya and myself purchased the same sweater at 150/- and then the rest bought 11 sweaters or jackets of the same type for themselves or their friends.

Poonam, Lavanya and myself went till the end of the mall and walking back was a big effort. The chill was biting and piercing and at that time, Harish’s words rang in our ears – “you will need to wear 3 sweaters in all”.

23rd December, 1999

The first day when we did not see the dawn, and slept tile 9:30 am was a very normal day to be explored. Reading the ‘The Times of India’, in the filtering sunlight, sitting on the chair was a very warm experience in the chilling cold.

A heavy breakfast at 11:00 and a Vikram to Paltan bazaar found us in the bargaining market of Dehradun. The whole length of the street was colourful with this and that and one wished to buy some of this and that.

Purvi started off for her windcheater. I was trying to locate a saree blouse for my mother. Lavanya was trying hard to pass time and appear interested in others. Poonam had decided to stay with her mother. Shefu had made good bargains regarding her own shopping list. And what about Nimit, NT, Lokesh and Neerav? Busy in finding a gift for Poonam and Lokesh, each was running here and there trying to get the best bargain.

Such confusion ruled over us that each was going in a different direction. In this scenario, Nimit was sitting quietly, eating a pastry in front of Gaylords. We all gathered around Nimit and Purvi asked Neerav to try on her wind cheater.

“There’s a fault with this piece” said NS. One should have seen Purvi’s wide eyed surprised face. See her quick footsteps and see others concerned look. What to oversee and what not, so LG and myself went to some other part of the street.

After some time, Shefu, Purvi, LG and me had Chinese. I wonder if it was Chinese Chinese or Punjabi Chinese? All Punjabi masala and no garlic ginger paste, made it taste different.

Wonder of wonders! While going towards Gaylords, we met the gift searching party with a good proposal of telephones. Anyway, we were least interested in the technical portion and so having left the selection procedure(comes often as one appears for campus interviews) to this group, we went to Gaylords for a hearty snack of pastries. Ooh, the delicious pastries, chocolate, pineapple etc ; all were mouth watering. And damn cheap too! Unlike Baroda.

“Let’s go to the fancy store” called Poonam, our guide and host. “You are sure to get nice sweaters”

And off we went.

I selected a sweater for Baba and so did Shefu. Purvi went for a cardigan for her mother. Lokesh was busy selecting from the kids wear for Gudiya, his niece. That done, we realized we had no time sense; no time table to stick to. It was already 6:30 well past 4:30 when we were supposed to visit the computer division at ONGC. Anyway, we always enjoy shopping and bargaining.

This is life; eat, sleep, shop and enjoy!

At night after a dinner of hot chhole and rice, we again carried on with our ‘group discussion’. “Trrrr iingg…..” rang the telephone. It was Mona, telling us to pack her bags for her to travel to Jaipur. She would jin us later. What a mess. Each had enough on oneself and then to carry something extra. Oh no, so the whole burden was shifted to LG only because both were project partners.

24th December, 1999

Alas! The day to leave Dehradun arrived. Our plan was to go to Jaipur by a bus. But there was no organization on part of the travelers. Few were ready well on time but then what about the others on the other side? Hah. Dressing, eating, talking, hurrying, shouting, packing all at once! Uncle and Auntie made us hurry so as to catch the bus and reach Delhi on time.

The us journey was peaceful, except for half an hours traffic jam. Our bus also failed and all men had to get down and ‘maaro dhakka’. They huffed and puffed and then the bus budged and rolled and was thus started.

After some time, we reached Cheetal Grand, a resort worth watching and being watched at that place. The place is too good. The flowers, the music, the people, the ‘mahoal’ was just out of this world. There was a cage for birds who where eating so much grain that they looked obese.

We reached Delhi at around 3:30pm and went straight to Bikaner House to catch a bus to Jaipur. After the reservations, it was time to have some lunch at the Dhaba opposite to the Bikaner House.

The bus journey in Silverline was too silent except for the seats at the back.