By the Ocean

An old villa facing the ocean on a summer beach stands still.

Three steps take you into the house through a blue colored two-way door, a string of bells hang above it lightly tingling with the ocean breeze.

A white intricate design of rangoli greets you at the doorstep, you step in and walk on the red floored tiles and enter an authentic South Indian home.

In the open hall area hangs an oonjal wooden swing with iron-link chains anchored to the ceiling. The oonjal is decorated with two maroon bolster pillows on the sides.

The swing directly faces the entrance door, when left open, the door acts as a window to the ocean galore.

Tall pillars standing impressively in the middle of the house holding its weight.

The aroma of ghee from kitchen, freshly prepared vadas, and filter coffee drags you further in. Steamed rice cakes continue to cook in the pressure cooker with the whistle going on and off.

Just by the kitchen is an open area with an open ceiling and right in the center of it is a tulsi plant.

Dressed in a sari with a damp towel wrapped around her wet hair, she waters the tulsi plant and does puja.

Two little girls cheerfully run in the open area holding up their orange-colored lehengas and dropping a few buds of mogra flowers from their hair onto the ground while playing.

There is lively banter and cheerfulness in the air. Grandma talks incessantly with the maid while the maid washes clothes just around the corner of the house on a stone slab.

A stairway leads you to several more rooms, a young fifteen-year old girl walks on the corridor holding a book in her hand and reciting poems in her sing-song voice.

Just when we are about to enter one of the rooms, I wake up with a startle to the sounds of loud impatient honking from vehicles across the street. I look out the window and see streets bustling with people and cars, surrounded by tall blocks of boring concrete buildings. I let out a loud sigh thinking of my heartwarming South Indian dream and get back to living the usual fast-paced city life.

adult book boring face
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In a Lapse

I wake up in a daze. I open my eyes and see the blue sky above my head surrounded by trees. I sit up with a startle and look around in panic, too many trees and scattered fallen leaves on the ground.

Where am I?

What is this place?

“I think I am in a forest, somewhere deep inside a forest.”

I stand up in fright to see if anyone was around. I start walking slowly, worried that I would get lost. I fear of getting deeper into the forest with no way out.

I do not cry for help or make any noise. I just keep walking. Walking carefully, always alert, searching for some kind of a trail or sign that could lead me out of this strange forest. My mind is a blur and then suddenly I heard something. The sound wasn’t from the forest, it sounded like moving cars. I run towards the direction of the sound hoping that I would hear it again.

I finally see a highway far ahead. I feel relieved but I do not move. I just stand motionless and continue staring ahead because I do not recognize this place. This isn’t my home, I am in a foreign land. This feels does not like home, I do not belong in this world anymore.

Something has changed. I slowly lift my hand and touch the back of my shoulder. There was a swelling with a bulge on my back, with something jutting out. I quickly turn my head to look. Wings. There were wings on my back, in the color of my skin, they feel like a part of me now. I try to move them and surprisingly they move with ease like any other part of me. I try flapping them slowly, they move smoothly and effortlessly. Slowly I can feel my feet rising above the ground. I get frightened and stop moving and end up abruptly falling on the ground.

Then it all the memories come whooshing back to me. The night was as dark as a night could be, hazy vision, swollen fingers reaching for me in an inebriated state, and then the fall. I had fallen from my balcony but I did not drop to the ground, I had grown wings and flown away from the miseries of the world.

I shut up my eyes and stop looking ahead at the highway. I turn back towards the forest and slowly start moving. But this time I don’t walk, I fly.

woman s face
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A simple chai

A misty morning.

I watch Ganesh get out of his gunny sack and stretch. The streets are wet due to the mist in the air. It must have been a pretty chilly night, I wonder how Ganesh manages to sleep every night on the street and wake up with a smile.

His wooden cart is always parked right by his side. Ganesh wakes up every morning and makes Adrak wali chai and hot badam milk with honey in his chai thela. I can never miss his garam chai every morning and on rainy days. We all have fond memories of drinking chai in the rain and I guess this is one of mine. Every time it rains, I run across the street to his thela and say,  “Ganesh, one hot ginger tea please..” and hand him ten rupees. He smilingly nods and gives me my sweet cup of tea which I sip and enjoy while watching the rain.

I do not know much about Ganesh, I’ve never given it a thought. I have always seen him selling chai opposite my house and all I know is that I associate my fond memories of growing up drinking badam milk and tea in the rain under his chai thela. He must be everyone’s favorite in the neighborhood, rich and poor stop by his stall to drink his tea. I wonder why I am giving it so much thought? I guess I am only thankful because every time I look at his stall I subconsciously smile. The little pleasures in life come from the simple things that people do towards humankind.

silver round accessory with storage
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Basket Full

At 8.52 AM, I left home to get to work. I need to walk a kilometer to get to the bus stop. A pretty sunny day so I walk faster to avoid getting tanned. A long walk uphill, carrying my bag of bricks on my back. Huffing and puffing, I finally reach my stop, hoping the bus to be on time.

The bus is supposed to arrive by 9.15 AM but it is never on time. Sometimes it’s early and sometimes it’s way too late. However, I am always on time, peasants such as me cannot afford to be late. It arrived by 9.25 AM, surprisingly the bus wasn’t crowded and I got a seat by the window. Today, seems to be a fine day!

People who take public transport would understand the importance of getting a seat in a bus. You need to pray, pray really hard for the bus to be less crowded so you can get a seat alone by the window. Now, praying for it to be empty is asking for too much!

Overcrowded buses are a nightmare, human life is very cheap here. Nobody finds it surprising to see people hanging from the doors of a moving bus. In fact, they find it disturbing to even look at something so unpleasant so they turn away as though it’s an open can of overspilling garbage.

Sometimes, it even becomes difficult to breathe in buses stuffed with humans, you get tossed around in the bus as more bodies come rushing towards you. You try to adjust your position and try to squeeze yourself, hoping you will shrink in size when the bus gets fuller, managing to balance yourself holding on to your heavy bag, while also keeping a careful watch of not being robbed or molested. However, today is not one of those days, today I will sit like a king on my throne and enjoy the view outside from the window.

While being stuck in a jam at a traffic signal, I notice two little girls selling marigold flowers by the corner of a street. Such innocent and happy faces they have, inviting busy bodies to come and buy their fresh yellow marigold flowers.

The girls are mostly ignored, some quieten them down with a wave of their hand, some ridicule the girls, and very few stopped by to buy. But, the girls didn’t really care, they are happy sitting next each other with a basket of flowers in front of their laps under the open sky. I watch them giggle, laugh at people passing by while also managing to sell flowers because they do not want to upset their parents who are just by their side.

They do not understand the meaning of hardship, they are content. No worries of the world can take those smiles away from them. I sat there in the bus admiring their joy and their simplicity, wishing the miseries of the world do not take away their innocence and beautiful smiles.

While I complain about the hardships of my life, I realize I have a job that pays me every month even when there is no work at times. Unlike the girls, who will have to sleep on an empty stomach if they do not manage to sell their basket full of marigold flowers.

girl smiling
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I Watched Him

He stood long and alone,

With feet buried in the soft, warm sand.

He looked vacantly ahead at the ocean

Watching the waves rise angrily

Thrashing into each other

falling down,

then flowing away calmly into the ocean again.

 

He stood long and alone,

Till the sun began to set

turning the sky into red.

He buried his hands into his pockets

and continued staring ahead.

Gently Falls the Bakula – Sudha Murthy

#BookReview

If you are looking for a simple and a sweet short story to read, then Gently Falls the Bakula is a great pick for a slow Sunday afternoon. Like a breeze, this story will take you into the beautiful small town of South Karnataka called Hubli, where the childhood love of the two protagonists, Shrimati and Shrikant, blossoms under the evergreen Bakula tree.

Shrimati and Shrikant are competitive, intellectual classmates and neighbors who soon turn into friends, they eventually fall in love with each other and then get married. However, this book is not just a sweet love story. It’s also about how Shrikant being an over-ambitious husband gets caught up in climbing the ladder of success in the corporate world and ends up ignoring the aspirations and dreams of his wife. Shrimati being an equally smart and intelligent woman, gives up her career and her love for history only to support her husband, Shrikant. She silently and submissively lives her life fulfilling the demands of her husband, while pushing aside her own desires and needs. After years of dominance and neglect, Shrimati finally decides to give importance to her own life and pursues her dreams.

This book deals with the old stereotypes of male dominance, submissiveness of women, women empowerment, gender equality, and small town mentality. Gently Falls the Bakula is beautifully written by the famous Indian author, Sudha Murthy.  The book highlights how one needs to give equal importance to work and family. While pursuing ambitions and fulfilling individualist dreams, one must not go so far ahead that they end up leaving behind their family and loved ones. This book is an interesting read and I recommend that you give yourself the time to indulge in this easy to read and extremely well-written, sweet short story.