Saturday, October 8, 2016


Read Part 1 here

Stephen sipped his cup of tea gingerly as he shifted glances between Ghanshyam and Meera. “I wanted to talk to you about your son Neeraj.”

“I don’t want to talk anything about that devil.” Ghanshyam walked out, his face red in fury.

Meera lowered her head in anguish. “What is there to talk? You probably would have heard everything from the inspector.”

Stephen gave her a blank look. “Not much. He said your son was involved in the riots. I talked to Mustafa and he says you are like family to him. I want to know why Neeraj killed his best friend.”

Tears poured down her cheeks as she buried her face between her hands and continued sobbing copiously. “I don’t know. I don’t understand. I never will. They were inseparable. They didn’t have any other friends. They didn’t need any. They had each other. They played cricket the day before. It was Ilyas’ birthday that week. We all ate biryani at his place. I don’t want to know. Satan’s shadow loomed over all of us that day.”

Stephen looked her straight in the eye. “Mustafa doesn’t know this?”

There was nothing but pain there. “No, the inspector never told anyone. He said it would serve no purpose. Lots of lives were lost that day and lots more shattered beyond repair. He said that was enough damage for one lifetime and more.”

Stephen’s next question stung. “Do you think he might still be alive somewhere?”

But Meera had made her peace as well. “I hope not. For his own sake!”


Stephen looked at Inspector Ravikant in a different light this time. “You are a good man.”

“No one is. Some try. Some fake it. Others don’t know what that means. I live two blocks away from them. Every day I cross their houses on the way to the station. Ilyas and Neeraj will always be playing cricket on the street, day and night. On my way back in the evening, I will play with them for half an hour every day. They were such happy kids. They were full of love. But hate turned to be so much more powerful and vicious. A part of me died that day. It was not death that shook me. It was the abuse of life! It was the brutality and the callousness with which people were killed, abused, raped, burnt, tortured and mangled that day that convinced of the pure evil that is dormant inside all of us. Religion is just one avenue that lets the inner devil out.” Ravikant’s agony made Stephen’s pale in comparison.

 “I think Neeraj is still alive. And I believe you know where he is.” Stephen’s words shook Ravikant.

“I don’t know if Neeraj is still alive or not. But he had always wanted to go away from here, as far as he could go. As far as the road would take him! To the farthest point he could ever reach! Where all the seas merged into one! He had told me that when he could go no more, he would sit and stare at infinity forever.”

Stephen thanked Ravikant who stopped him on his tracks. “Don’t try to find him. For your own sake! What will you get out of it?”

Stephen smiled. “I want to know why!”

Ravikant shook his head. “And then?”

Stephen shrugged his shoulders as he walked out. “You are a good man, Ravikant.” He meant it more than ever.


Stephen knew where he had to go. He had to go on until he could go no more. A place where the land ends and water begins to spread around its wings into eternity! A place where the water meets the horizon to host the sun in all its glory! A place where the three seas merge into one: Kanyakumari! He immediately set off to the southernmost part of India in search of Neeraj. He initially wondered how he was going to look for a boy in a huge town like that. But it wasn’t as difficult as he thought! After all, he knew where to look for. After one month of wandering around, on one glorious evening when the sky was lit up by the sun going to bed and the moon waking up by its side, Stephen finally saw Neeraj in the twilight. He was selling groundnuts in the beach. He followed the unsuspecting boy home.

Neeraj sat on the floor in his small hut whereas Stephen sat on the only chair that looked like it would fall apart any time. The squeaking of the chair was the only sound amidst the grave silence. Even the air in between them was still. No words were spoken. A few glares were exchanged.

Stephen did not take his eye off Neeraj who was intently staring at the floor. His eyes had no fear, no anger, no pain, no remorse! He was happy! There was a stoic calm in his demeanor that infuriated Stephen. How could one be so cold blooded?

When he finally spoke, his words reverberated thunderously across the sand walls. “Looks like you are living quite a life here. Especially after what you did in Deogarh!”

The mention of Deogarh stirred Neeraj a bit. He looked at Stephen for a moment but then turned his gaze away to the door.

Stephen spoke with rage. “Don’t you have any heart? How could there be so much vengeance in such a young mind?”

His wrath had no effect on Neeraj who had fixated his gaze on the door. It was not sure if he was waiting for someone to come and relieve him of the misery or signaling Stephen to leave. Stephen was going nowhere without an answer. “Speak up. Why did you kill the boy who loved you unconditionally? Why did you abandon your parents who adored you? And how can you lead an escapist life like this so peacefully?” He did not get one.

Stephen’s blood was boiling. He had not seen anyone more cruel or inhuman. He was so mad that he did not know what to do. He got up with ferocity and rushed towards Neeraj to confront him when he heard a sound at the door.

“Neeraj….. I am home my friend. Look what I made for you today. Pineapple Kulfi. Your favorite!” 

It was Ilyas. Stephen’s heart stopped for a second.


Ravikant saw a letter lying on his desk. It was from Stephen Dayashankar. He quickly ripped it open with trepidation. He was not ready for what came next.

“Ravi… You will not admit it. But I am sure you have been waiting for my letter every single day. And I have been dying to write you this letter. I found Neeraj. Yes I did. He is in Kanyakumari. But you won’t believe what else I saw. I saw Ilyas. Yes, you read it correct. Ilyas is still alive. He is alive! The two little devils are together. Both of them live in a small hut by the sea. Neeraj sells groundnuts in the beach whereas Ilyas has a small kulfi shop. They sent you their regards. They both are so happy. I had tears in my eyes. There is still humanity left in this world. 

Ilyas, Neeraj, Ghanshyam, Meera and Mustafa have all found the worlds they want to inhabit and the lives they want to live. They have all made their peace with nature and God. I think we have got our closure too. I guess it is good bye from me my friend.” 

Tears rolled down Ravikant’s cheeks as he smiled from the heart after a very long  time.


                                                                                                                   - A SHORT STORY BY RAJ

Thursday, September 29, 2016


“Stephen Dayashankar is a visual artist who has been taking photographs for over fifteen years. He became interested in photography at the age of sixteen upon seeing the works of Robert Capa and has since devoted his life to creating expressive images.” The announcer’s voice barely registered in his mind. “Why do you want to kill me? We were friends yesterday.” A little boy engulfed in terror. A masked face brimming with anger! He closed his eyes. It made no difference!   

The anchor’s words resonated across the audience. “In Stephen’s own words, the language of photography is potent and expanding by the day. Photographs hold infinite power to influence, reform, incite, heal, provoke and cure. The pictures that hold the most power are quite often the ones that are the most devastating.” A sword smeared in warm blood flashed through his mind opening up a wound in his heart.

“Stephen has dedicated his life to mirror people’s lives, echo their sufferings and transmit those emotions to the world. We pruned several hundreds of photographs before selecting his masterpiece for the “Photograph of the Year” award. This picture was not powerful because it was on the front page of newspapers. It is powerful because it is in the minds of the people of this country. Its influence was birthed by the audience and the movement that it spurred.” The voices in his head were getting stronger. “You should not be here Sir. You should leave right now if you want to live.”

“His dramatic capture etched the entire horror of Deogarh into our memory. The small boy running for his life being chased by another young lad clad in saffron will haunt us forever. A blood dripping sword in his hand, his assailant’s masked face conveyed an emotion unlike any other. The small boy’s visage and fate half captured as he runs past a brick wall with the sword inches away from his neck.” The anchor’s chronicle of his photograph sent a shiver down his spine. He could hear a distant wail. A helpless yelp of looming death amidst loud cries of anguish, clanking of swords and disturbing smell of rotten flesh and frozen blood! He closed his ears. It grew louder!

“So without further ado, we present to you the man who inspired us all to rise above communal hatred and work religiously towards bringing down the iron curtain of religion with his poignant photograph: Mr.Stephen Dayashankar.” A headless torso twitched violently trying one last time to hang on to life. Acid smoke engulfed his lungs. A tear droplet made its way out.

 “Sir, could you please come forward to receive your award?” The sea of people in front of him metamorphosed into an ocean of corpses and skeletons. One of them slowly limped towards him with one arm extended.“Mr.Stephen… Are you all right?” 

He walked out of the auditorium with tears running down his cheeks profusely.


Ravikant Pandey sat at his desk sipping his tea lazily and glanced through a case file rather reluctantly. He thought a few inmates would trickle in but did not expect a visitor.
“You don’t seem from around here. I don’t think you have come to the wrong address either. What do you want?”

“My name is Stephen Dayashankar. I am a photojournalist. I believe you were the Inspector in charge when the riots of Deogarh happened.”

The mention of the riots brought a stark change in Ravikant’s expression. “Your face seemed familiar. Now I know why. What do you want now?”

Stephen ignored the generous sarcasm in the Inspector’s voice. “I want to know what happened to a few people who were entangled in the riots.”

“The ones in your photograph?” Ravikant’s voice was stern.

“Yes. Have you seen it?” Stephen offered a copy. The inspector showed it away. 

“Everyone in this country has probably seen your photograph. It is not worth seeing again.”

Stephen was prepared for insults. “Do you know what happened to these kids?”

Ravikant continued perusing his file. “Probably dead!”

The lack of emotion in Ravikant’s voice annoyed Stephen. “Probably? Are you not sure?”

“More than 200 people died that day. I didn’t keep track.”

Stephen was clearly flustered. “Please don’t be so irresponsible and insensitive to human life.”

Ravikant was nonchalant. “If you see as many deaths as I do, you will be worse.”

Stephen was writhing in anger. “I will probably do something to prevent those deaths. Back to my question: Are both of them dead?”

“I can’t say for sure. Several bodies were mangled so badly that they were completely unrecognizable. But as far as I could tell, Ilyas, the boy who was being chased was most likely killed. There was no way he could have escaped. As for the boy who tried and probably killed him, Neeraj, there is a chance he could have fled the town, though I would give it a very low chance.”

Stephen was not impressed. “Can you give me their addresses?”

Ravikant gave him a sharp glare. “You have done enough already. Can you leave them alone?”

Stephen had had enough. “Look here Inspector. If you want to play hard ball, be my guest. I can make one phone call and you will get one the very next minute from your superiors and then you will be forced to give me the address yourself. I don’t want to that yet. And trust me, I am not here officially. I am here for my own sake. Any conversation I will have with their families will stay and die with me.”

Ravikant grudgingly wrote the addresses on a piece of paper and handed it to Stephen who walked out of the police station in a hurry.


Mustafa was a middle aged man in his late forties. He was tall and well built, walked with a slight limp and had a long half white beard. He seemed quite surprised to see a visitor at his door. He ushered Stephen in. No words were spoken for several minutes. Stephen finally decided to break the silence. “I am here to talk about your son.”

Mustafa remained stoic. “What is left to talk?”

Stephen spoke with a heavy heart. “I had seen his eyes just before they disappeared behind that brick wall. He was pale and terrified. Fear and horror had engulfed him. But I also saw a small glimmer of hope in his eyes. I couldn’t understand that. How can one feel hope in such despair? How can one think about life when death is inches away? Those eyes have haunted me for the past six months. I haven’t been able to sleep. He must have been a special boy.”

Mustafa smiled for the first time. “Extremely! I have not seen a happier child in my life. He was happy with everything. He lived life with abandon. He had a small world. He painted it with smiles. May be God wasn’t happy without him and wanted him back to spread joy in heaven. In a way, I am glad I didn’t see his corpse. I have never seen him without a smile on his face and at least it will stay that way. I can spend the rest of my life with the image of his beaming face emblazoned in my heart.”

Stephen dreaded his next question. “Why are you still here?”

Mustafa had made his peace already. “This is my home. This is my world. I have lived here all my life. These are my people. The people I have known for years. I have spent my life’s best days here, shared happiness and sorrow alike with my friends. What happened that day was unlike this place. It was possessed by some evil spirit. Darkness had consumed us that day. The people who killed were not from here. They came from some wicked place, unleashed terror and slipped into the night, leaving us broken and battered. But they still could not divide us. No one will ever. I will die here knowing that there will be more than four people ready to shoulder me to my grave.”

Stephen decided not to rekindle any more painful memories. “Thank you for talking to me. I can’t offer you any solace but you will be in my prayers every day. I need to talk to some more people. Can you tell me where this address is?”

What Mustafa said sent a shiver down Stephen’s spine. “Oh… they are our neighbors. Wonderful people! Ghanshyam and I have been best friends for the last 20 years. Ilyas and Neeraj were inseparable. But life has played a deadly game with them too. They lost Neeraj that day and have never been the same ever again.”

                                                                                                 TO BE CONCLUDED (NEXT WEEK)…. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016


A few months ago, I wrote you my first letter. And dare I warn you: The first of many. It still seems like you came into our world yesterday. But very soon you would have spent a full year lighting up our lives with bliss and excitement. Time just flies by at break neck speed and before we know it you would grow from a tiny little prankster into a cute little monster. You have given us a lot of firsts and very soon they will turn into lasts and there will be a new set of firsts and so on. In this crazy maze of time I don’t want to lose track of all those beautiful firsts (and lasts) that you give us every other day.

The firsts will be precious, the lasts will be agonizing, but several years from now, they all will be precious little bits and pieces that we will have of you to savor. I don’t want to lose those to time. Your mom and I would love to treasure every single moment of your existence but it is not humanly possible. But we will try our level best to lock up as much of you as possible in our brain cells and pen scribbles. 

Putting you to sleep on my shoulders is a bliss that I have grown too used to in the last year. It is something that I look forward to every single day. The way you wrap your arms around my neck, bury your head in my shoulders while your gentle breath tickles my neck thaws my heart. I know you are getting bigger and stronger by the day and soon there will be a time when I can no longer put you to sleep in my arms. I still don’t know how I am going to handle that. We will deal with it when we get there. But for now, I am not letting you out of my arms.

I have grown into such a big fan of your toothless smile that it almost feels weird when I see those little teeth trying to make their way out. I know your smile is going to look as gorgeous as ever, but still it feels like I am going to miss something so precious. It has been a while since I have felt time move in my life. But now you have given me a new meaning for time and its mystique.

Very soon you will take your very first step. Literally! Without our support. With your very own tiny little feet. We will try to hold you, clasp you so that you don’t fall. You will signal us to stop. You will say you have got it. And then off you will go. Exploring our little house two baby steps at a time. And soon enough, before we realize, our legs won’t be fast enough to keep up with you as you set out to explore bigger things. 

Whenever I think of you, the first thought that runs through my mind is that how cool it would be if time stops right now. At this very second! Why do I think that way? Why? I don’t have the answer to that question. Well, then, I don’t have answers to many more questions. Why is it that I cry sometimes when I sing you a lullaby? Why is it that I don’t want to let you off my shoulders long after you are sound asleep? Why is it that I find it idyllic to sit next to you and watch you sleep? Why is it that I find it hard to decide whether to smile or cry when you wake up from your sleep and give me your cutest smile? Why is it that I don’t want you to grow out of that cute little dress? Why is that I find it difficult to replace your toothless smile with your twin bunny tooth giggle even though it is equally gorgeous? Why is it that I don’t want to wipe off the guacamole mustache that you have expertly designed after you have tired your mom off trying to feed you?

Why is it that I want to keep smelling you? Where does that divine scent come from? And how is it that it has already changed 4 times? Why is it that I want to gently bite your silky soft ears every time I see them? Why is it that whenever we go to buy you a dress, we come back with three? Why is it that when I am in office I can’t resist the urge to pick up my phone every half an hour to see a picture of yours? Why is that I melt like a chocolate every time you look at me endearingly with these big eyes and a beaming smile as you jump up and down in excitement? Why is it that I feel I have infinite energy inside me when I am jumping and singing and dancing with you? Why is it that I feel I am a child all over again? So many questions. So many emotions. So many memories. I don’t know but I don’t want to lose any of it. I know I will but I am sure you will replace those with more amazing and exhilarating antics of yours.

I guess I can go on and I sure will. I will keep pouring my heart out into these letters. These will serve as my version of the Hogwarts’ pensieve (remember Albus Dumbeldore’s memory machine) to immortalize and crystallize some of the many beautiful and precious memories of your childhood. I guess you will read them when you read them. And probably you will laugh at some of the silliness in those letters like any adult would. But I hope somewhere in the back of your mind, the child in you would vaguely remember your miniature version of the great times we had and giggle gleefully (the toothless version). And then when you look at your old man, you will realize how much he has loved you!

Sunday, September 11, 2016


A couple of aliens wanted to explore the outer space and somehow landed on Earth. Since we have so much to offer, the aliens had a tough time deciding which place on earth they should visit first. Check out what they decided!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


His head was splitting. It seemed like every nerve was revolting, ready to explode any minute. His heart had lost its mirth long ago, but today it seems to have given up its spirit. His purpose in doubt; his existence questioned. He felt pain no more. He had had enough of it. Numbness had engulfed his veins. He felt like a slaughter sacrifice waiting his turn at the altar. Only a little too desperately. He looked at his friend who was sitting right in front of him. What has life done to us, he thought?

We were so happy, vivacious, lived life by the minute and enjoyed every second of it. We felt invincible. We fought in the mud, got drenched in the rain, sang out of tune, danced like nobody was watching, screamed at the top of our lungs. We sat for hours staring at nothing, talked for hours about nothing. We went on a long drive to nowhere, ate and drank everything we could get our hands on, fished in the pond for hours only to get a shoe for a prized catch, fished for a few more hours in search of its pair without luck, roamed the streets in the night with carefree abandon, spent the very last ounce of energy in our bodies and came back to crash into our beds as if never to wake up again. And then we woke up the next day fresh and ready for another adventure.

And so life rolled on amidst chaos, excitement, fervor and charm. Day after day went by chasing nothing and enjoying everything. I wish I had never woken up after one of those days. But I did. And here I am. A changed man. A deflated man. A lost man. A man no more.

His thoughts brought him back to reality. He looked at his friend again who smiled casually. There was the same innocence and zeal that he had seen years ago. How could that be possible? When did we part ways? How does he not have any of life’s scars? Why has God been so kind to him? Or maybe was he too cruel to me? Is he even there? His blood started boiling even more. His friend still had his smile as he looked at him with even eyes. That made him even more livid.

“What is it that makes you so happy? Seeing me like this. Helpless, hapless and hopeless. Seems like life has been very kind to you my friend. If you had been me, then probably you wouldn’t even be here. Do you know how much I have endured? Do you know how it feels when your wing is ripped apart? Feather by feather. Do you know what it does to your self-esteem? Have you felt scrutiny? Have you experienced love? Do you know how it feels to yearn for affection and not receive any? Have you experienced failure? Do you know how it is to fail in the eyes of your friends? Your family? Your foes? And the coup de grace! Do you how excruciating it is to finally fail in your own eyes? The final fall!  

Have you ever thought how would after life be? Would it be more peaceful? It certainly sounds more mysterious. Do heaven and hell exist? Wonder where I would go. Will I be transported through space to get there? It would be cool to see some planets on the way. And be it hell or heaven that I reach, I probably will be better off than I am now. I wouldn’t have to work consistently to satisfy others. I won’t be judged. I would already have been judged. I can be myself. I won’t be a disappointment to the people I know as they won’t be there. Well at least I hope so.

Yes, I have considered death. I have no shame in admitting it. You may think I am a coward. Well heck, maybe I am. Isn’t it easier to just press the shutdown button? We can restart in a new life if there is something like that or be lost into obscurity. Isn’t that an interesting prospect? To myself and to the people who are tired of me? May be. But I can’t muster courage for that either. Will someone miss me? Am I disappointing them again? For one last time. Do I owe them to live? Do I owe myself a death? I can’t seem to decide. Like every other decision, I put this one off too.

Why don’t you say something? Are you deaf? That would be so cool actually. But I know you can hear me. The smirk on your lips tells me you are enjoying this. You think you are safe inside that mirror. You think it is cool to see me make a fool of myself in front of you. In front you, of all people? While you stand there majestically reminding me again and again of my glorified past!  

He looked at the man in front of him who was so calm and composed, so carefree and happy, so blissful and na├»ve, so simple and kind, so full of life and love. This was a man he once knew. This was a man he once loved. This was a man he once was. He wondered how long it had been since he left him inside the mirror. He couldn’t remember. That was the man he still wanted to be. Everyday! Or even just for one day! A wry smile came to his lips. He laughed it up. Life indeed does strange things to you.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


A few months ago, I had promised to come back with more fun stories about our cute little monster. Well, she has been keeping us busy and extremely happy with all her antics and there has never been a dull moment. That had kept me from penning my daddy tales for a while. But they are way too special not to capture and freeze in time and so here I am back with some more cute excerpts from the Maya diaries. Well, having said that, I actually wrote this a while back but I guess not much has changed.

For starters, our little one is not very much into drinking her milk (she is very interested in tea though). Well then, that is not really a surprise as I guess lot of kids don’t. She can yell and shake and move for hours and not get tired. You give her milk and she will start her fake cry. And then you take the bottle out, she will give you her cute smile. The little rascal! The only way to feed her is to pin her down like a chicken and arrest her arms and legs and keep the bottle in her mouth, let her complete her fuss routine and then she will start drinking. But thankfully we have a Plan B. We put her to sleep first and then feed her. We tag team this in a quick two step routine. One of us puts her to sleep while the other is ready with the feeding bottle and a pillow. If you have ever watched Formula One racing, this will remind you of a pit stop wherein the driver drives in at the perfect speed, bringing the car to a screeching halt and the pit crew expertly changes the tires and refuels at break neck speed. 

We all know that infants like putting things in their mouth or licking anything that they can get their hands and tongue on. This one is no different. No object, animate or inanimate, living or otherwise, is exempt from the lick test. But this one gets very creative at that. She is one picky licker I say. She tries to compare the tastes of the things she has licked. For example, the other day she was busy licking her finger. Or rather fingers I should say as her whole hand was pretty much insider her mouth. As I was lying by her side, she noticed that I have fingers too. That got her excited. She grabbed my hand and started scanning my fingers. She took a while to pick her favorite. Index finger it was. She then slowly pulled it towards her mouth and started licking it. You should see her expression change. She was a bit confused I guess. Do I like it or not? Hmm… I have an idea, she thought. So with my finger still in her mouth, she inserted one of her fingers into the mouth. Parallel testing went on for a few seconds and then the verdict was out. She pushed my hand out and continued sucking her finger, until I finally pulled it out. She gave a short glare but then started searching for her next target.

Now interestingly, she has developed a special liking for my nose though. If that is available, she never misses a chance to have a bite. The other day she tried licking my nose but I guess it was a little out of grasp. But she is never one to give up. So she reached out and grabbed both my ears with her hands and pulled me close to her face and then started licking it. I loved it so much that I let her do that for a little bit before I gently pulled away. She gave me a shy smile. I guess that meant “yummy”. She is one hell of a prankster I tell you.

The little one is Miss Curiosity. She takes note of every single little detail around her. It is very easy to take care of her as she hardly fusses. We take her around to every room in the house and she spends about 20 minutes observing everything carefully. Once she is done with the room, she will give a little grunt which is a go ahead for us to move on to the next attraction. And she has her favorites as well. There is a world map in the living room that she just loves. We can stand there for hours and she would still keep staring at it in rapt attention. Oh yeah… Madam loves watching herself. Be it the mirror or the calendar with her pictures galore, she keeps looking on without batting an eyelid.
Recently she has taken to music. We listen to a lot of songs and she has been a victim of passive singing as well. So tired of all this, occasionally she goes into concert mode herself. I must say she maintains a fairly good rhythm (a aa.. a aa aaa… aa aaa.. aa aaa aaa a..). And boy… can she reach high pitch or what! Her decibel levels are frankly unbelievable and off the charts. And she does some hand gesturing to go along with that as well. Now once I got very excited and started singing along, not at her level of finesse but whatever I could muster (aa aa.. a aaa aa aaa aaaa aa..). Madam was not impressed. Smart ass she is… She takes her left hand and puts it on my mouth and then continues with her singing. Message delivered, I guess. I must say she is a little more considerate when she is about to sleep. She lets me sing along then as I rock her.

And if she is not singing, she likes to hear me sing. Or at least that is what I like to believe. Until she starts speaking and breaks my bubble. And no prizes for guessing, I am a very bad singer. I have a selection of five songs which I sing regularly as I walk around rocking her and often times she is probably asleep by the time I reach the fourth song. But of late, she has started listening more and I have to expand my repertoire. But the good thing is there is one song (which by the way is my all-time favorite) that she just loves and it manages to put her to sleep eight out of ten times. I know what you are thinking…. Why not sing that first? Well, unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. So, the only thing I have to make sure is to never let my wife sing that song to Maya. Then she would come to know how bad I really am and I don’t want that to happen, just yet.

But it is while sleeping she gives us some of the best moments. Putting her to sleep itself is great fun. The moment I put her on my shoulders, she herself adjusts into a comfortable position and then does the cutest thing. She puts her arms around my neck in a cute puppy hug. This was one such occasion where I had just rocked her to sleep and then sat down in the sofa with her sleeping in my lap. She had kept her hands on my cheek, so softly with so much of love. Now as she was asleep, her hand was slowly slipping down. It made its way to my chin. Then it was slowly about to drop down. How could I let that happen? As her finger tips disconnected, I gradually lowered my chin. Now my chin was touching her hand again. Her hand was almost near her cute little tummy and my neck was almost at a 90 degrees. But her hand was still on my cheek and that was all I cared about. There was a sound. She stirred and my heart skipped a beat. I quickly wrapped my arm around her head to comfort her. My ear was near her heart and my hand was on her head. It was almost as if I could hear 2 beats: her heart and her brain. Another bang. This time I was sure she was going to wake up and cry. She just shifted a little bit and wrapped her arms around my arm and deposited her face into my bicep and continued sleeping. And that gentle smile when she sleeps…. Ah… that is something to die for.

Well, I guess I can go on. But I will stop for now to be back later. She is filling our lives with countless cute and memorable moments every single day. Every such moment is worth cherishing and reliving over and over again. And these memoirs will instantly transport me back in time and I can watch poetry unfold once again in front of my eyes. Sometimes we wish she never grows up. We think what if she stays this tiny little bouquet that we could keep wrapped in the warmth of our arms. But then… life writes its own script, doesn’t it? 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016


Death, I believe is the ultimate mystery. Life is known, at least for the most part. Death is not, again for the most part. Probably we can feel every other emotion that is out there to be felt. But death lurks in the dark. It is just around the corner all our lives, but we don’t live to see it. Yet it embraces each and every one of us eventually. When it decides to, depends on our luck or the lack of it. But even though we mostly don’t see our death coming or prefer not to think about it, we experience death more than we realize. What we understand from it will differ and will shape our eventual tryst with it.

As I sit there watching you sleep as peacefully as ever, I feel numb. I have lost a sense of time or place. I know I am going somewhere but I don’t feel myself moving. I don’t feel the sun scorching my skin. I have lost every other sense but sight. I see you in front of me, sleeping with a gentle smile across your lips just like any other day. But something is different. Today is not every other day. Although I want it to be more than ever. I don’t recognize the streets I have driven by for the last 35 years. I don’t realize how much time we were there together in that van, seeing each other like it was the first time we set eyes on each other. I don’t remember our first encounter. And you wouldn’t remember our last.

I have never seen you cry. You have never seen me cry. Not for long I guess. I see my entire childhood flash in front of my eyes and the only thing that is constant in every frame is you. I sit there in vacuum as a single tear is resisting gravity in a last ditch attempt to prevent my defeat. All through my life, you have let me win every game we have played. I guess it is about time I lost. The tear agrees.

The lone tear slowly makes its way down my cheek as I sit there still in disbelief. There is a storm of despair stirring inside me as I try hard and resist every single tear it produces. Don’t they say one should cry his heart out? I don’t want to. Every tear is a memory. Your memory. I want to keep it inside me forever. This storm is never going to die. The tears are never going to stop. But I know I will never let you go.

The van stops. I see people around me. Nothing registers. They take you away from me momentarily. I hear voices in my head. I meander in a trance as I find you on a wooden bed. You seem comfortable. I am told to say and do things. I comply mechanically. The thought that I might not see your face again makes its way into my head for the first time. I shudder. I close my eyes. I see your face. It doesn’t exactly look like how you are now. It is not the very first one that I remember as a child either. It is a unique mixture of your face that I grew up watching and adoring all these years. It is your face just for me. I fear no more.

Several years ago, I lost something. My loss was painful, at first. I then got used to it pretty soon. I could never forget it, but I learnt to live with it. Or rather without it. But it took me several years to realize what that did to you. I have always known you to be such a tough guy that I didn’t imagine the extent my loss would affect you. You never told me. But one day I saw it in your eyes. I saw a different man. A man whom you managed to hide well from me. A man more endearing than you already were.  

 Fire and smoke engulf me. Your thought alone consumes me. I come back the next day. You are still there. Well, in pieces. They say you burned all night. I am asked to collect your bones. I want to keep one. I am told not to. Well, I don’t have to worry as you are in my bones. I put your remains in a copper pot and bathe you in milk. I am supposed to give you to Mother Nature. I am not ready to let you go. I reluctantly go to the sea and am about to open the pot when all of a sudden a giant wave comes roaring as she grabs you away from me in a flash. I stand there transfixed having lost your last physical remains. Looks like nature was so eager to have you amidst her. I am sure you will love her company. But I hope you will miss me occasionally and step out from wherever you are to see what I am up to. I will look out for you.  

I come back home. I look into the mirror. I see you. I reminisce of all that has transpired. It was a strange day. You wore my shirt. I wore your dhoti. I burned with you. And you will live with me. Forever!

Saturday, April 2, 2016


Hania looked out into the canyon and took a deep breath. “He is standing right in front of you, my friend. And no, he is not famous. Nobody knows about him. Never knew!” For the first time, a shiver went down Jordan’s spine.

“I was one of those who didn’t fit in anywhere. I refused to accept the fact that this world has become incompatible to us. I tried very hard to prove guys like you wrong. I wanted to prove that this world is as much ours as it is yours. And in trying to do so, somewhere I started becoming one of you. I drifted away from my people, travelled the world, made new friends and embraced the new world I was seeing and feeling with open arms. I became a wanderer and in the end I forgot what I was searching for. In my attempt to study and understand and imbibe different cultures of the world, I slowly forgot mine; until I came back here to scale the mountain that had cradled my childhood!” Hania’s reminiscence filled Jordan with awe and intrigue. “So you came here and never went back?”

“Well, I almost did. I got through the Death Gorge. It took me 5 days. There was very little life left when I got to Hullu point. There I saw a mule. A lonely mule! It was freezing, hungry and dying. It had been abandoned by a hiking group as it was wounded and couldn’t carry them anymore. We were company to each other for the next 2 days. I nursed its wounds and fed her my food and left with a promise to come back. I returned with food and medicines after 3 days. She kept her promise and held her life for me. She died the next day. I never went back. Did you know every year nearly 10-15 mules are abandoned here to die in the cold. Now they have a friend to take care of them. They don’t deserve to die because of you people!” There were flames of anger and pain in Hania’s eyes.

“So it is you who makes these little dresses for these animals and birds! Very sweet indeed.” Jordan murmured. He looked at Hania’s little abode. “You seem pretty well stocked up, eh?”

“Well, I still visit your world once in a while my friend. Go up to the town and eat your food and try your new drinks, learn about the latest fashion trends, breathe your polluted air and come back amused. I always wonder how much longer will nature accommodate mankind! So I am trying to compensate for the sins you guys commit by helping these creatures as much as I can. Trust me, they are the best companions you can ever get.” Jordan smiled from his heart for the first time as a bird came and sat on Hania’s shoulder. Life was teaching Jordan an important lesson through Hania.

“Well.. you must get going now, my friend! Someone must be desperately waiting for you!” Hania patted Jordan’s shoulder in a fatherly affection.

“What do you mean desperately waiting?” Jordan was a little surprised.

“You will find out my friend. Well.. let me tell you a short cut to get to the top. You see that bush right there and a small alley behind it. Go through that, you will have to pass a tunnel and then cut through a sharp canyon turn and it will take you back to the trail and you will be in Hopi point in an hour. Now get going before the snow storm gets worse! It was nice seeing you, my boy!” Hania gave Jordan a huge bear hug.

Jordan’s mind was completely preoccupied during his mechanical trail back to the top of the canyon. Hania’s visage and his electric voice captivated and mystified him profoundly. He didn’t even realize that he was at Hopi point and all his friends were running towards him. Radhika jumped upon him and hugged him tightly as if she was never going to let him go. There were tears in his eyes. Hania’s words flashed through Jordan’s mind once again.

Hopi Point – Hermit’s Rest:
There was no doubt it was one hell of an adventure. But they were sad it was coming to an end. Jordan was calming his senses and resting his sore legs at Hermit’s rest as he recounted his adventures to Steven and Ming. He was scared to mention about Hania though. Meanwhile Radhika was looking for keepsakes in the gift shop. Soon she came back with a bag full of goodies and started flaunting them off. “Here take a look at this bird here. This is vintage Hopi art work! Isn’t it cute?”

“What is it in its wings?” Ming was curious. Radhika was worked up. “Oh.. this is the hand made replica of the famous fashion bird that has been spotted occasionally in the canyon. How it gets its dress has been an unsolved mystery! There are several stories around it. You see that lady over there. She knows a few such stories if you are interested!” The lady looked real spooky! Ming said he would rather pass.

Radhika turned her attention to Jordan who was already looking bewildered. “Hey.. check out this new book I got. I am sure you would love reading this one. It is about the Death Gorge. You must have been somewhere close to this for sure, right. Am so glad you didn’t find it. Otherwise they might have had to revise this book again to accommodate you as well!” She gave him a naughty wink and everyone burst out into laughter.

Jordan grabbed the book from here hand. “Oh.. wow.. Sounds fascinating! what is it about?”

“Well, it is an exclusive account about the hitherto never ventured and suicidal stretch from Skeleton Point through the Death Gorge up to the safety zone near the Hullu Point. Apparently 10 people have ventured into this death trap and none of them ever returned.” Radhika rolled her eyes in fear.

This was getting very interesting for Jordan now. “Are you sure none of them returned?”

“Well, they say that they found the bodies of 9 of them down in the Canyon; 4 of whom washed up on the shores the Colorado River. Nothing was ever found about the tenth guy. Here take a look at his picture here. The guy went to Harvard, can you believe that! Seems like a damn interesting fellow! He was a scholar and a world traveler apparently!” Radhika was going on and on while Jordan’s eyes were fixated on the picture of Hania. Yes, it was him. Only he was much younger!

Then, at that moment, he saw something written at the bottom of the picture that brought his heartbeat to a stand still and drove a shiver through his spine.


                                                                                                              - A SHORT STORY BY RAJ

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


Kaibab Trail - South Rim, Grand Canyon:

Nature has its own unique and unfussy way of imposing itself on human beings. It didn’t take too long for Ming, Steven and Radhika to understand that. In a span of 6 hours, they had encountered almost everything at the Grand Canyon, which they had fondly nicknamed as “The Greatest Hole on the Earth”. Thunderous rainstorms and lightning had left them stranded and shell shocked for hours in the middle of a treacherously strenuous trail that had slowly started showing its chameleon-esque nature. They already had to deal with loose footing and rock fall that came unannounced while an encounter with wild life was always a scare even though they had met only the friendliest of creatures so far. A heavy snow fall shut them off completely as the rain had started to thicken and its successor, ice was more incisive and cruel. They had overstayed their welcome at the trail and hunger and dehydration slowly set in as they ran out of all supplies. But clearly nature was not done with them as it landed its final and most lethal blow. Jordan, the fourth and most experienced hiker of the group was missing for the past 3 hours.

Radhika was fuming. “He should have come by now. He said he will meet us at the Hullu point. The idiot always does something crazy like this. What was the need for that maniac to explore that new route all alone? God knows where the hell he is now!”

“Relax Radz. Trust the man. He is a pro but remember he is a psycho as well. It is one deadly combination. He will make it all right. I am sure he is going to sneak up on us from somewhere and freak you out totally!” Steven was still optimistic about his best buddy.

Ming had other things in his mind. “Yeah.. I hope so too. The dude is totally nuts but he is a tough nut. But hey.. we can’t stay here for long. We will starve ourselves to death if the cold doesn’t kill us before that. I say we head up to the Hopi point and wait for him up there.”

“Yeah, let’s do that. Guess I could do with some hot chocolate at Hermit’s rest. “Radhika’s voice was trembling behind the brave smile she put up. She felt something strange inside she couldn’t understand or explain!

Unknown Location – near Death Gorge, Grand Canyon:

Jordan was a daredevil. His passion in life was to do things most people would only dream about. His life was one big adventure and he had loved every bit of it. Until now!

Nature was capable of breaking even the hardest of men and today it looked like it might succeed in overwhelming the gritty Jordan. He was clearly cheated by this perfidious new path that had taken him far away from the trail and into the canyon which was transferring its chill through his spine. It was beginning to break him down!

He was breathing heavily, clasping his hands together, partly to warm himself and partly in a small prayer to God. He was completely lost! At that moment he saw a strange thing. He saw a bird that flew past his ears. But there was something strange about it. It was wearing a dress. He rubbed his eyes again to make sure he was not hallucinating due to dehydration. But there it was. It had 2 small flaps covering its wings which looked like wrist bands. And it had something in its legs that looked like tiny little socks. Was his mind imagining things? A strange feeling of fear and death started to engulf him.

“Lost your way perhaps?” He was petrified by the suddenness and shrillness of the voice that came from behind him. It was a man. A man in this God forsaken place! That could not be true he thought. The figure that stood in front of him was tall, strong and slightly inhuman. It was a man alright. A man who seemed to have borne the brunt of both nature and life! A man who looked strong and wise from age and experience! He had a look in his eyes that intimidated Jordan.   

“What brings you here, my friend? I am afraid you should not be here!” The man’s voice was hoarse and Jordan despised its tone which had a hint of calm arrogance.

“I know who you are. You belong to one of those ancient tribes, aren’t you? The Havasu or Huala something!” Jordan tried to gather himself as his mind was scrambling to assimilate all that he was seeing.

The man stroked his long beard and looked impressed. “I am happy somebody still knows about us. My name is Hania and you are almost right. I descend from the Havasupai clan.” He extended his hand and Jordan shook it very skeptically. An Incredible surge of warmth flowed from Hania’s body through Jordan and he felt quite rejuvenated.

“Oh yeah.. you guys.. I have read about you. You have been calling the Grand Canyon your home, isn’t it? Still a few of you left, trying to survive in a world that has become incompatible to you! Well, guess what, you don’t control this place no more, fella!

Hania gave him a profound smile. “Nobody can control nature, my friend. And you, right now, would know that more than anybody. Lost, tired, hungry and angry amidst ruthless mountains and a devastating cold that can rip your soul out and freeze it to death; nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, nothing to embrace, no one to hold on to! Tell me, who is in control, my man?”

Clearly Jordan was getting irritated now. “Oh come on! I have been hiking for 10 years now. This is just a strenuous hike, not an impossible one. Stop scaring me, will ya?”

Hania was his composed self. “Of course. It is neither a deadly hike nor or impossible one. But only as long as you are in the trail! You are way off it my friend. Probably drifted off around the skeleton point! You have no idea where you are. I call it the “Near Death Gorge!”

“Hmm… Never heard of it dude. What do others call it?” Jordan sneered.

Hania’s response was icy cold. “The Death Gorge!”

Jordan had a smirk on his face. “Well.. tell you what! You are doing a pretty decent job of scaring the hell out of me. Now what is it that is so deadly about this passage?”

“I am just telling you the truth my friend. In the 800 years of history that has been recorded, 10 people have wandered into this place losing their way on the trail, and attempted to get back to the top through this narrow pass. Only one of them survived!”

There was something about Hania that Jordan could not understand. “Whoa… That is something. Must be a pretty famous guy! First man in 800 years and all. Who is he?”

Hania looked out into the canyon and took a deep breath. “He is standing right in front of you, my friend. And no, he is not famous. Nobody knows about him. Never knew!” For the first time, a shiver went down Jordan’s spine. 

                                                                                           TO BE CONCLUDED (NEXT WEEK)…. 

Saturday, February 27, 2016


Five years ago, I wrote a love letter. To the most beautiful woman I know. Now, I write another letter. To the most beautiful girl I will ever know. My life is constantly changing from “good” to “great” to “couldn’t be any better”. And that is because of these ladies in my life. As the little one continues to grow at break neck speed, I have decided to just sit down and assimilate all the love and beauty around me and imagine how she will be and what she will say and do as every other day goes by. And as my mind always likes fantasizing things, let me push the fast forward button and see where we go.

First of all, whenever you read this, DON’T LAUGH. Though I can’t wait for you to look at this letter and give me the look. I know you are right now busy drinking up your milk but soon time will slow down and you will stop outgrowing your clothes faster than I get my next haircut. There will be several such moments where time will stand still for us to cherish each other. And I look forward to them oh so eagerly. But for now, here is me, just wondering and imagining things on your behalf. Don’t worry… your time will come soon. Allow me to humor you for now!

This is a random letter with no rhyme or reason, no end or purpose. It is just an outpour of my mind and heart. It is all the things that I want you to do in life and all the things that I want for you from life. You will be surrounded by so many wonderful people and you will meet many such more. And make no mistake you will face a lot of tough circumstances and people as well but I am sure you will be strong enough to come off unscathed. I want you to take everything in your stride and march along and not for once turn back circumspectly. For I have always got your back.

I don’t want you to be the best in everything. I don’t want you to try either. I want you to figure out what you like to do, what makes you happy, what satiates your inner hunger, what burns your fire, what compels you to wake up every morning with a big smile on your face. I want you to find it and give it your best. I want you to fail. I want you to fall. And I want you to get right back up. I want you to dream. However simple, trivial, complex, weird, lovely your dream is, try your best to live it. Hold on to people who encourage you to achieve that dream and egg on others to achieve theirs. Life will be simple but happy.

I want you to explore music. If you have your mother’s genes, you might become a star one day. If you have mine, well, don’t worry. I will build a bigger bathroom in our house. And probably get you drums. Not related in any way to the bathroom, in case you are wondering. You are a smart girl. I am sure you will get it.

I want you to learn lots of languages. If I had a chance to pick, I would at least do: Tamil, English, Hindi, Mandarin, Spanish and French. With the first five, you will be able to speak with almost everyone in this world. The last one is just for fun.  And then I want you to travel the world. With us. Alone. With someone else. However you want. Just be a wanderlust for a while. Soak in all the fresh air, the diverse cultures, scenic pastures, breathtaking vistas and most importantly the enlightening human interactions. That will teach you a lot more than classrooms and books will ever do. Now I know what you are thinking… you little devil. You are still going to school by the way. You are allowed to bunk the occasional class and go to movies with us.

I want you to find your love. A man or woman who will love you more than me. Err… let me rephrase that… who will try to love you more than me. Don’t go looking for it. But if you find it, don’t let it go. You will know when it is for real. Or if you want to go it alone, you will have an old man and woman giving you company as far as life lets us to.
I want you to enjoy the little pleasures of life. I want you to walk with me in pouring rain and then enjoy some delicious ice cream. I want you to finish yours faster and fight with me for a bite of mine. I want you to play with us in the snow, hurl snow balls with a cute ferocity and then sit by the window sipping your mother’s refreshing tea.

I want you to try your hand at cooking. I want you to forget to add salt and look at me with a sheepish grin. I want you to add too much spice and wonder if I am crying out of joy or of the chili. And then I want you to perfect the art and cook delicious delicacies for me. And if you want to sleep in one day, don’t worry. I will get you breakfast in bed with some hot filter coffee.

I want you to be humble. I want you to be bold. I want you to be gentle. I want you to be strong. I want you to be kind. I want you to be expressive. I want you to be passionate. I want you to be level headed. I want you to be rational. I want you to be eccentric. I want you to love. I want you to be loved. I want you to be creative. I want you to be happy. I want you to be: you.

I can go on, but hey, this is not my last letter to you.

Parents more often than not, tend to dream through the eyes of their children. They try to correct their life’s failings or accentuate their life’s successes through the burdened shoulders of their kids. I am most certainly aware of that fallacy and have no intentions of committing that mistake. If we eliminate “Expectations” from life and from others, we will be a lot saner and happier. And so will others.

So by no means, this letter is a “to do” list for you. By the way, I have always hated those. This is just a jobless father fantasizing about some lovely moments for and with his daughter. I won’t be sad if you didn’t do the things that are in this letter. I am sure you will figure out other cool things to do and your dad and mom will be there with you or watching from a distance.

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