Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Hariya was lying motionless on the road. Blood was dripping from his forehead and had spread itself into a small pond around him. His air supply was cut off by the herd of people who were witnessing their daily spectacle. His eyes were fading and his mind was slipping into oblivion. There was one last image that swept through his eyes. He saw his ailing mother in the hospital bed waiting for her son to return with money in time for her operation. He wanted to tell her that everything will be fine and life would be as before. He felt someone lift him and carry him somewhere. Then he saw the streets, the crowds, the lights, the shops, all moving against him at a frantic pace. He tried to look up and through the corner of his eye he saw the face of a man looking down at him with compassion.

It was Manilal’s last day. He had been waiting for this day for over a year. He had served this office as a loyal watchman for 10 years. He was very grateful to his master, Kamal Babu who had given him the job almost instantaneously. He had just returned after serving the Army (first British, then Indian) for 25 years, but still served his new master with the same dedication. He guarded the office like it was his own house. Everyone in the office was fond of him. He used to tell them tales of war and his fascinating adventures during lunch time. Often times, even Kamal Babu would listen in. The story everyone liked the most was that epic tale wherein Manilal’s father had made sure that their ancestral gold watch made its way to Manilal. His father was killed in battle but his friend had staged a heroic escape and had come all the way to give Manilal the ancestral watch. Manilal claimed that it was not his watch he got that day: it was his destiny that was handed over to him!  

Manilal started with 25 rupees a month and had put most of it in his office provident fund. With his army savings, he had married off his only daughter to a post-master and she was leading a happy life in the neighboring village. Manilal intended to spend his retirement life peacefully with his wife Parul. He was planning to use part of his savings to get a sewing machine for her as she was very passionate about stitching and knitting. With the rest of his savings, he would go on a long pilgrimage trip with her. He had decided on the list of places they would visit, and even their exact order. With a heavy heart, he went into Kamal Babu’s room and delivered one last salute. Kamal Babu came to him and gave him a tight hug.

“Manilal... you have been a loyal and sincere watchman. And a wonderful friend to all of us. We will all miss you and your stories! Anyways... here is a reward for your hard work. Your provident fund money of 4000 rupees and an extra 1000 as a token of appreciation from our side! We will also give you a pension of 15 rupees per month.” His eyes were wet.

“I will miss you very much Sahib. This has been like my home. Thank you so much Sahib. You are very kind. I will come every month to see you all.” He bid goodbye to all his office friends and after one long final look at his chair, left the place and people, happy and sad, light and heavy.  On his way back home, after every 5 paces, he stopped and felt his 5000 rupees with a sense of pride and excitement. His mind brooded over everything he was going to do with it and he would press the rewind button to relive his dream one last time again. Then his eyes fell on a kulfi vendor and he felt the sudden urge to indulge himself. He ordered 2 kulfis and took his time to savor them slowly. It was bliss!

Manilal had found a slip in Hariya’s shirt pocket which had a prescription for Nirmala and had the name Grand Hospital on it. Manilal had immediately rushed Hariya to a rickshaw wala and had instructed him to get to that hospital as soon as he can. Manilal had seen blood so many times in his life and knew how to handle the situation. He slowly wiped all the blood from Hariya’s face while constantly caressing the back of his head.  He then browsed the contents of Hariya’s big purse to see if he could find more details about the man. Suddenly his eyes lit up as he saw lots of currency notes; 6000 rupees to be precise. Greed and his own misfortune put an ugly thought in his mind and he vehemently tried to fight it off. All the principles and virtues that had shaped his life so far seemed to be at stake! Can he tell his wife that he was so engrossed in the divine taste of a kulfi that he didn’t see or feel some crook cut his hand bag and slip away with the small packet which had his lifetime savings? Or should he cash in on this God given stroke of luck in the form of an injured helpless man? After much deliberation, he took 5000 rupees from Hariya’s purse and slipped it into his pocket.

A train of thoughts and emotions were hustling inside Manilal. Should he leave before the man wakes up and finds out everything? Was he so stone-hearted that he will leave the man without even knowing whether he will live or not? The doctor came out to put an end to his agony. “You brought him in time. He is out of danger now. He has lost lot of blood. He is still unconscious. You can go in and take a look.”

“No doctor. I am happy he is alive. I should take leave now.” Manilal started walking away tentatively when the doctor stopped him. “You should at least see his old mother who would want to thank you for saving her son’s life!” Saying so, the doctor dragged him to another ward where Hariya’s mother was laying half-unconscious. On hearing that Manilal saved her son’s life, her face gave out an emotion of gratitude and she folded her hands in a gesture that half broke Manilal’s heart. He gave her an awkward smile and walked out with the doctor.

“Fate! It is a cruel animal. You see, Hariya went out to get the money for her operation. Now see what has happened. I hope she will last to see him one last time. Sometimes I hate my profession!” The doctor gave out a helpless sigh. Manilal’s conscience punctured his heart and his guilt stifled him.

“How much for her operation?” Manilal asked hesitantly. “7500 rupees!” The doctor looked at Manilal hopefully.

Manilal thought for a while. He handed over 6000 rupees to the doctor. “Take this money and start the operation. I will soon be back with the rest of the money!” The doctor’s face was choked with pride for this selfless man and he fled to make arrangements for the operation. Manilal looked at his ancestral watch. Having lost the earnings of his lifetime and soon to be deprived of his only prized possession, Manilal walked out of the hospital feeling richer and prouder than ever!

Hariya was born into a family that was replete with misery and poverty. His father had died early leaving Hariya and his mother with a lot of debt as heritage. Her mother worked in neighbors’ houses to make ends meet and sold her kidney to pay off the debt and send him to school. Hariya grew up to be an educated, knowledgeable yet unemployed youth. His mother’s hardships forced him to take up a job as a server in a hotel. Just when it looked like his mother could put her miseries behind and rest at home, her other kidney failed. Perched at the local tea shop, he had thought in vain about every single possible option to raise the money for his mother’s operation while puffing out 10 cigarettes in the process. That was when he saw Manilal come out of his office and noticed him stroke his bag every other minute as if he was guarding a fortune!

                                                                                                            ....A SHORT STORY BY RAJ!

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Conversations” by Sujatha is one of the first blogs I started reading. The first thing that strikes you about her writing is that it is so simple yet very elegant and you feel an instant connect. She has that uncanny knack of making her topics so intriguing and keeps readers engrossed through her exquisite and intelligent writing. There is not a topic she cannot write on and she makes you feel and think about it. Her writing is thought provoking, meaningful and fulfilling at the same time which is why it makes such wonderful reading. 

So I was really thrilled at the opportunity to write a blog post for her. It was indeed a privilege and honor. Thank you very much Sujatha. And this is how I came to think about a "PARALLEL UNIVERSE"!

“Almost every one of us has a thing for legacy! We dream of seeing our names in tabloids and billboards; our heart pulses up on every mention of our name. We all like to outlive our time in this world in some philosophical form unless your idea of mortality is to store a few of your skin cells in a Petri dish inside a robot programmed to live forever. But half way through our lives, we are smart (or foolish) enough to realize that greatness is destined to a select few who go on to change this world for good (or bad) and thrust their legacy into history books and their neighbors alike. So what do we do?”

To find out, please read my post PARALLEL UNIVERSE at:   

Monday, January 16, 2012

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Why do we watch a movie? For different reasons all right! But the most basic reason is that we want to have a good time, relax, enjoy and unwind from a tiring day and the most important element we look for in the movie is entertainment. How often do we watch a movie for the sheer brilliance of the maker and for the splendor of his creation! Which is why, I am very happy that I watched Pather Panchali last week. I had tried watching it a month ago but couldn’t and eventually returned the movie. I am glad it gave me a second chance by getting into my line of sight at the library last week again. Otherwise I would have been deprived of what is considered as one of the greatest films ever made.   

The movie starts with a cute little girl stealing guavas from an orchard (that was once theirs). She then comes home and silently hides it in her grandmother’s basket. The expression in the face of the old lady (who has been neglected by everyone else), when she sees that fruit is one gem that wouldn’t leave your memory soon. And I tell you: Not many movies make me cry. Well, Pather Panchali means “Song of the Road” or “Lament of the Path”. To me it is a beautiful song of a loving family, filled with joy and pain, love and anguish. It is the best human document I have ever seen!

The story is a painful chapter in the lives of an impoverished family living in the decrepit ancestral home in a small village. The father, Harihar, is a simpleton who earns a meager living as a priest and is easily exploited by others. But he is very talented and dreams of being an author of scholarly plays and poems. His wife’s character Sarbajaya, is a beautiful portrayal of a struggling embittered woman who carries the family along, listens to the taunts of her neighbors and perennially worries about their future. You hate her when she asks the old lady to leave the house, but you feel for her when she tells her husband that she also had dreams. Her struggle to make ends meet everyday is a painful tale, remarkably told.

And then there are Durga and Apu. They bring you the smiles. And then the tears! They are the doting and playful brother and sister. They share the simple joys of life, such as sitting quietly under a tree, chasing each other, running through the fields to catch a glimpse of a speeding train, running after the candy man who passes through the village, watching a famous play and viewing pictures in a bioscope shown by a traveling vendor. To me, Pather Panchali is a story of Durga. Her touching relationship with her granny, her playful love and motherly affection towards Apu, her longing to be a woman and her fascination for marriage, her penchant to stealing: all make her a fascinating character that is at the heart of this story. She melts your heart when she covers Apu as they are getting drenched in the rain and says: “Rain rain go away”. And when she eventually dies of fever, storm, incessant rains and lack of medical or financial help, all the pain, suffering and misery that grip the family will engulf you and you will feel a lament deep down in your soul! 

Finally there is the old aunt who seeks refuge in the house. The hardships faced by the old lady in the house will prick your heart. That was the reason I gave up on this movie a month ago. I just couldn’t bear her predicament. The way she is questioned, scolded and ill-treated will melt your heart. It is torturously painful to see her shuttle between the two houses for shelter and food and then eventually die, abandoned, under a tree. The scene where she is asked to leave and she waits with a longing look in her eyes hoping against hope to be called back is just too much to handle. And all this with no drama, exactly how it happens in real life, which is what makes it even more shocking and disturbing.

I can go on but will not. There are several memorable scenes in the movie that will just mesmerize you. They are very simple but have an amazing depth in portraying the ever so complex human emotions and hence are very compelling. They leave you spell bound. The scene towards the end of the movie where Apu finds a necklace that Durga had earlier denied having stolen and throws it into the pond is very deep and intriguing. The soul-stirring music and the brilliantly shot scenes, artistic and realistic at the same time, filled with little nuances of human emotion lend a poetic brilliance and lyrical realism to this movie which in the end ceases to be one. All you see is life unfolding in front of you. The final sight of the family leaving the village in an ox-cart with the sad memory of a lost one in their hearts will stay in your eyes and hearts forever!

Monday, January 2, 2012


As we enter the new year, here is the lingering image of a trend that is relevant not just to 2011 but  for the last couple of years. It is the failure of banks and bankers. Here is hoping for a more bankable 2012. :)

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