Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Ahana Smiles ...

“Amma ... why doesn’t little Ahana smile" asked Madhav while he had one more mouthful of the rice and dal mix which his mother gave.

Janaki was without any answer to little Madhav's question like always. She looked up to the sky as if asking God, "how can I answer such questions" and she looked at the shining eyes of Madhav still waiting for an answer from her as he chewed away the last gulp of food. Janaki wiped the forehead with the back of her hand carefully without smearing the few traces food on her hand while feeding her son.

"Why don’t we ask her tomorrow, or ask Krichbhagwan" Janaki smiled and replied.

Krichbhagwan was the name Madhav liked to call Lord Krishna, whom he liked more than anyone. But for Janaki Madhav was Krichbhagwan himself, the curly hair which swayed like feathers of peacock, the smooth skin which was as soft as butter, the smile which was so pure and the way he walked with little steps.... Janaki at times kept looking at the tiny foot marks on the floor Madhav would leave on the floor while he walked with wet feet after a wash. Janaki and Madhav had a world of their own and their playfulness and love could never be seen elsewhere.

The sweet kisses on the little feet Janaki loved to give, the tiny hands which rested on Janaki's face while Madhav slept... even Janardhan, Janaki's husband, would call them inseparables... with a smile on his face, which spoke volumes about the pride he had for his treasures Janaki and Madhav.

Janaki and Madhav spent the night in the dream world till the morning sun shines on the world for the next day. As the usual practice Janaki woke up before sunrise and carefully took the little hand holding her and placed it on a pillow and got up to quickly finish the chores before Madhav woke up. While she was busy Madhav woke up with the same question in mind, about Ahanas smiles. Madhav sneak out of the house towards the Krichbhagwan temple, to ask him. Hardly did anyone see him sneak into the temple as everyone were in their own world.

Madhav approached the Krichbhagwan idol and asked him "Krichbhagwan Krichbhavan ... why doesn’t Ahana smile?" from behind the idol Madhav heard the tinkling of anklets, a dark complexioned sweet smiling kid was hiding behind the idol. His smile was captive and magical.

"You want to see Ahana smile ... I know what to do" said the attractive curly haired boy wearing yellow silk dhoti.
Madhav was excited
"What should I do...? What should I do ..." Madhav asked eagerly.
"Hmmm... so you don’t know how difficult it is... still you want to know" asked the boy
"I want to see her smile ... she would look so beautiful with a smile on" replied Madhav.
"Well then... here is the way... if you cross the river of anger, go through the forest of fear and climb the hill of pain and you will reach a valley of happiness, bring a flower from the garden of Santhoshmai, and Ahana will smile again"
Madhav smiled his best and thanked the little boy and was about to leave when the boy stopped him.
"Here take my flute and this peacock feather and they will help you in your journey... and this small pack of butter for you to eat on the way" the boy handed them over.

With just the desire to see smiles on the smile less lips of Ahana Madhav set out on his adventure. Meanwhile Janaki burst into tears not able to find her son at home. Janardhan had started looking for him and within no time the whole village was searching for Madhav. They did not know what to do or where to search for the tiny one. Janaki never stopped crying and rushed to the temple crying to pray for her son’s safety. While she was praying the little boy from behind the idol came and touched her and the whole village froze. Everything stopped. People turned to still figurines, trees stopped swaying, and birds froze mid air and remained as if they were paused.

Madhav started happily running towards the hill the little boy had pointed and reached the river of anger. The raging river was furious and was lashing its anger on the rocks on the bed. The mighty river was turning rocks to sand with its strength. Madhav was standing on the bank of the river when a little fish jumped out of water. Madhav saw the fish gasping for air without water and gently picked it with his soft hands and put it back into a calm portion of the river on its side. The fish looked out from the surface of the water and smiled.

"Thank you little one... I am Ekabudhi, a fish who lives in the river of anger, thanks for saving my life. May I help you" asked the fish
"I want to go to the valley of happiness and need to cross the river of anger" said Madhav with the worry on his face
The fish looked at the peacock feather he had kept safely in his hand
"Oh you are Krishna's friend... I know that’s his... just place the feather on the water and you will have a way to cross the river" said Ekabudhi with excitement in its voice.

Madhav went to the river and placed the peacock feather on the water. It was a magical sight when the river calmed down with the touch of the feather and split into two giving way to Madhav to walk on the soft sandy river bed to go across. Madhav reached the other side, picked the feather from the water, waved at Ekabudhi and continued on his trail.

Madhav kept running towards the hill which was in sight and soon saw the light around him go dark in the forest where the trees shaded the sunlight. The forest of fear tried to scare Madhav with its darkness, the fear of the unknown. But the only thought in Madhav's mind still was Ahana's smiles. But soon he started feeling hungry and sat down under a tree. He was about to open the butter package the little boy had given him when a whole band of gorillas surrounded Madhav. 
Madhav smiled and asked "Are you hungry" and extended the pack of butter towards them.
The tough heart of the apes melt like butter with the smiles of Madhav. And the leader said "I am Kapeendra, the leader of the Gorillas...What are you doing in this forest of fears my little one"
Madhav narrated the whole story while having the butter from the pack which he shared with the gorillas too.
Kapeendra picked Madhav up "Don’t fear, we will help you get to the hill of pain, but not beyond that"
Madhav slept hugging the gorilla in his hairy chest and when he opened his eyes, they were at the foothills of the hill of pain. Kapeendra gently put him down and waved Madhav goodbye with a smile.

It was noon and the hill of pain was too steep. Madhav knew not how to climb the hill and playfully tapped one of the rocks with the flute the little boy had given him. The rock transformed to a huge black swan Mahabaka.
"Oh little one... what brings you to the hill of pain and why did you wake me from my years of cursed sleep... who are you" asked Mahabaka.
Madhav smiled and told the swan the whole story.

"Climb on... I would take you to the valley of happiness" said Mahabaka.
Madhav happily climbed the swan and it swooshed to the skies above the hill and flew down to the valley of happiness. As Madhav climbed down Mahabaka looked towards him and said "The flute you have is a magical one... keep it safe. I am sure it belongs to Krishna"
Madhav was anxious and eager to rush to Santhoshmai's house in the valley of happiness, so just smiled as he tucked the flute in his waistband. He waved Mahabaka sweet byes and ran towards the house in a distance where he could see a garden full of smiling violet flowers.

"Santhoshmai... Santhoshmai...."Madhav called out
Old Santhoshmai came with a bright sweet toothless smile. "Is it you Krishna..." asked Santhoshmai.
"No I am Madhav... and I want Ahana to smile" he said in a confident tone.
The old woman hugged Madhav and took him to the nearby bush and plucked a bunch of flowers and handed it over to him.
"Give it to Ahana and she will smile again my blessed one" said the old lady.
Madhav's happiness knew no bounds...He was sure that Ahana would smile again.
"It's going to be dusk and I don’t want you to go through the forest again" said Santhoshmai. She went inside her hut and brought a cup of warm milk.
"Drink this and you will be back to your village again"

Madhav happily took the cup of milk and drank it while holding firmly to the bunch of flowers which Santhoshmai had given him. The last drop from the cup was finished and in a flash Madhav was in his bed, as if he had just woken up. Madhav felt it was all a dream. He looked out of the window to see everything normal. Ahana was standing in front of her house still without the smiles. Madhav looked at his hand to see the bunch of violet flowers whose stalks were firmly clenched in his fist. He ran out and gave Ahana the flowers to see a beautiful smile bloom in her lips.

"Madhav..." he heard his mother call him. The smile was very precious and made Madhav smile too. Without saying anything he ran to his mother.
Janakai lifted him up and kissed him gently on his cheeks and asked "Where were you... I have been calling you for so long"
Madhav smiled at Ahana as he was carried home and the secret of the smiles remained with Madhav and Ahana. Madhav knew it was his Krichbhagwan who helped him cross the river of anger, cross the forest of fears and fly over the hill of pain to reach the valley of happiness to fetch the smiling flowers for Ahana.
"Amma... Krichbhagwan makes everyone happy" he said with all the excitement
"Yes my darling he does" said Janaki. The memories of Madhav missing had been erased from all the villagers’ minds by the little boy Krishna with a touch. Madhav knew how to overcome fear, pain and anger to bring smiles to his loved ones.

"Thank you Krichbhagwan" said Madhav with an everlasting smile.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Santa and Little Joe ...

It was a cold December and the season of Christmas. Every boy and girl in the world had written to Santa for the gifts they wanted from him. Little Joe too wanted his gift from Santa, the toy train he had seen at the toy store. He wrote a sweet mail to Santa a few days before Christmas...

Dear Santa,

Have you seen the sweet toy train?
It runs in the sun as well as rain
It has the smile and red hot nose
Has the chimney and the water hose

I have been a good boy for a while
I said thanks and please and smile
When someone smiles at me
That’s all you need to give to me


He finished writing the mail and wiped his naughty pink face with the back of his hand and folded the letter well and kept the letter in the stocking meant for Santa. The shining brown eyes kept staring at the stocking by the side of the fireplace. Every night Little Joe walked to his bedroom, looking back again and again at the stocking where he expected Santa to gift him his toy train. He smelt always of chocolates he had been gobbling one after the other all day long. 

The news spread far and wide from the words of one of the elves at the North Pole that the biggest bag of gifts is to the little town of Nicholasville, far away from the city of London. Joe was so happy to hear his dad Big Joe tell this to his Mamma Mary. He was sure that he would get the sweet toy train from Santa. It was Christmas Eve and the night was a special one. Every house had Christmas trees adorned with glass balls and sweet candies. Every house had the fireplace where the stockings that awaited Santa's arrival.

Santa Claus came all the way from the North Pole with toys for all the children as per the list they wrote to him.  On the eve of Christmas, Santa came riding his sleigh with Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, Olive and the red nosed Rudolf, to the small village and deliver the gifts to the children of the village.  As the sleigh flew down from the starry sky, Santa saw the small village lit up with lights of different colors. The village had an aroma of hot chocolate and freshly baked plum cakes and ginger bread. The aroma, made Santa a bit hungry, but smiled as usual

"Ho Ho Ho ... It’s the village I know
Here I come with the gifts for all
Those kids good and smiled for all
Not for the naughty little brats"

Santa took the biggest bag of gifts and got down from the sleigh, jumped into every house through the chimney and filled the stockings with the gifts, one after the other. Naughty Little Joe had not slept and kept looking at the fireplace and lo... there comes Santa. Little Joe tip toed to the door and hid himself while watching Santa take a beautiful colored ball and put it in the stocking. Little Joe was disappointed.... he had asked for the sweet toy train... and looked at the bag Santa had placed on the red chair near the tree. There it was... the sweet toy train... whose could it be... who the lucky boy...was Little Joe was eager to know. 

He walked out of the house and followed Santa. Santa walked slow, but steady with his huge tummy and the red woolen fur coat with white wool at the cuffs. He changed the huge bag from one shoulder to the other as he whistled and walked to a dark alley next street. Little Joe was so curious he kept walking behind Santa, running his fingers through the curly brown hair from time to time. Santa smiled as the chocolaty smell reached his nose and he knew Little Joe was behind him, but kept walking. He reached the door of an old run down house of the poor cobbler Mr. Brush. Mr. Brush was not well, and his son Harry worked on the streets polishing shoes for a living, as It was his earnings alone that got them the food every day. Santa slowly opened the door as the chimney was broken and kept the whole bag near the small tree which had a few candies. Drank a glug of chocolate that was kept for him. As he walked out, Joe rushed to him and shook him by the belt that held the tummy from falling. 

"Why does Harry get all that ... why... Santa... tell me why"

Santa kept his plump finger on his sweet red lips and said

"Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh ...."

He took the magic kerchief from his pocket and held Little Joe close to him and waved. "Poof ..." and they became invisible. They saw Little Harry with his torn woolen sweater and worn out pants, torn shoes, stitched to perfection. He pulled on a cap and walked out with all the gifts Santa had given him. He walked from home to home seeing children who did not have even a fireplace to keep them warm. He kept the best of the best toys and shared it with them. Every time he kept a gift near the window of a child, Harry smiled more, and Santa looked at Little Joy with a smile so priceless. It was almost dawn and Santa and Little Joe saw Harry walk back home with the empty bag... Harry had given away all that he got but earned a smile so precious for a year to come. He was the happiest child in the whole village, as the joy is in giving and sharing what you have. 

Santa held the small hand of Little Joe and walked back as it was almost sunrise and he had to leave. But before he left Santa smiled at Joe and put him to sleep. Joe woke up to see his dad Big Joe standing to wish him Merry Christmas with the sweet toy train. Little Joe could not believe his eyes....He thanked his dada and ran through the streets holding the toy train close to himself. Holding it as tight as he could as he ran to Harry's house. He knocked the door and waited... puffing and panting in the cold winter morning.

Harry opened the door and saw Little Joe standing with the sweet toy train. Little Joe extended his arms giving Harry the toy train he wanted so badly. Tears wiped the dust from Harry's face. He wiped the tears with the hands and took the Christmas gift from Little Joe... As Little Joe walked back, he too had a sweet smile on his face and seeing all this his Dada Big Joe was so happy and proud... and so was Santa who was flying through the clouds back home at the North Pole... sure to come back with a huge bag of gifts for Little Joe next Christmas.

Gratia the beautiful Mermaid

Deep within the sea so blue, deep within the heart of the sea, there lies a kingdom of the mermaids and men. Of all the mermaids the queen of the land gave birth to the most charming mermaid ever born. The king and queen gave her the name "Gratia". She grew up among the others with love and care. Everyone adored her beauty. 

Her twinkling eyes like stars 
Were as blue as the sea
Her beauty was beyond words 
What one could ever see

She grew with the shining pearl oysters who gave her the pearls to wear, and the corals who beaded the coral crown. Her skin was as delicate white as the mountain snow. But, about her beauty, the world far away did not ever know. Fishes came to her to share the smiles and the weeds tried to hold her back when it was time for her to go. 

Once a fisherman lost his way and came to the lost world of the mermaids and men. He saw the most beautiful Gratia playing with the school of fish. He was stunned by her beauty. He kept looking at her till it was dark and she flapped her tail fins and swam down to the palace down under the sea. The fisherman let himself lay on his boat looking up at the starry sky. But wherever he looked he just saw the beautiful mermaid princess. As soon as the sun rose in the east, the fisherman tried to get back to his village, all the while thinking about the beautiful mermaid he saw. He reached home and sat his eyes wide open in a daze. Everyone rushed to him and kept asking him what had happened. He blurted out in amazement

I saw a mermaid fair and bright
She was real but shines like gold
It is, by far, the beautiful sight
That I will, in my heart hold

Her golden hair & deep blue eyes
Shiny silver fins that shines
Charming as a spring sunrise
Beauty that no word defines

Hearing the fisherman talk about the beauty of Gratia, many more went to the unknown land just to get a glimpse of the beauty beyond words. Everyone adored her, praising her and sing songs on her beauty and charm. Gratia knew very well that all of them had come to adore her charm. She smiled at them, waved at them with a smile. More and more came to know about her beauty and came rushing to see her in the sea. 

All this went into her heart like a shot of poison called pride. She was lost in her own beauty that she stopped caring for the weeds and corals, never mind the shells and pearls. She kept away from the fishes too and said they were ugly too. The fishes were saddened, the weeds kept away, oysters never opened their heart to give Gratia a pearl, corals made her crowns no more. 

Days passed and Gratia spent hours looking only at herself. As the people gathered around she would swim with a haughty flap of her tail fins. Her smile too was colored with the purple of pride. A child who was in a boat cried out

"She is a witch... see her smile"

And people got scared hearing the child. The people stopped coming to the part of the sea, where mermaid sat alone in the bed with no fishes or corals around. Weeds grew away from her and her smile was of dark purple pride. The twinkle in her eyes were gone, the shine and smile were also gone. Gratia was lonely in the sea bed with no one around to adore her beauty. Gratia went to the king, her father, and cried

"There is no one to smile at me
None to share or care for me
I was the most charming one
But no one wants me to have fun"

The king looked at the pride which had taken the shine away. He said calmly to his daughter

"Once you had a heart that cared
A lovely smile that happiness shared
That’s the beauty of the heart my love
You are precious when you love"

All night Gratia cried and turned the sea water more salty. The sobs shook the heart of the sea and a tiny fish came to her. With his little fins the small fish wiped the tears of Gratia. Pat her with the tail fins and tickled her to smile. With the morning sun trickle through the sea, the little fish had brought a school of fish to the princess. He also brought a crown from the corals and pearls from the oysters. The weeds came along and hugged the mermaid princess and Gratia was smiling pink of happiness again. Since then, mermaids taking the lesson from Gratia, never heeded to the words of flattery from men from the land. They kept themselves within the sea and their friends, as you are precious when you have those who care... around you.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Mellow & The Palace of Hearts

Once upon a time in a far off land there was a Palace of hearts. Closed to all, covered in the dust of grey as the sad loneliness. No one saw the prince who lived in it. He had shut himself in the palace of heart far from everyone. He did not get out of the palace not let anyone come inside it. No one dared to walk near it, or to care for the dried up garden in front of it. The darkness of the night and the scorching sun wore the palace and its garden down ...

But there was a young blue eyed, rosy cheeked girl who was as soft as a morning glory but with a smile more bright, as beautiful as the full moon but without the blemishes...with golden hair plaited in two braids to the sides tied with pink ribbons, as pink as her cheeks and chin. She lived in the nearby village and was the baker’s daughter Miss. Mellow. She used to walk to the gates every day and feel sad about the wilting plants and withering flowers. She always wanted somehow to get inside the palace grounds to care for the plants. She always thought...

"How beautiful it would be 
If the palace was shining right, 
All the day and all the night 
The plants in bloom fresh & bright"

She tried jumping over the tall palace gates, but failed. She tried finding a way into the garden, but could not. She saw a small rat near the palace walls trying to dig a hole in the ground. She walked up to him and said:

"Oh my little rodent Mr. Rat.... 
My name is Miss Mellow Baker
Can you help me get in quicker 
And feed to make you strong & fat"

The rat smiled at her and nodded. She ran back home and came back with a loaf of bread and yummy cheese. Rat’s heart was filled with happiness.

"If I make a hole for you to get in, 
Would you be the one so kind enough 
To feed my starving friends so thin
And make them smile & some grin" 
asked Mr. Rat

Seeing a way to get into the garden, Mellow was so happy. She said

"It would be a pleasure..." and went running to her dad Mr. Baker. 

She asked whether she could have three loaves of bread for her friends. And the loving caring dad, Mr. Baker, gave her the three freshly baked loaves with a smile. She went to her Mamma Mrs. Maple Baker and asked for cheese for her friends, and with a sweet smile she gave it to Mellow. She put the bread and cheese in a basket and ran back to the palace wall where Mr. Rat and a pack of rodent friends were waiting. There were House mouse, deer mouse, voles, moles, roof rats, packrats, wood rats, gophers and all the other kinds who were waiting for the return of Mellow. As Mellow was running towards them they could smell the freshly baked bread and the cheese... their ears stood up and they too stood up in their hind legs waiting for the food. 

She carefully shared the bread with each one of them and after food they all set to work. They kept digging and digging all day long. By the end of the day there was a tunnel in the ground but not enough for Mellow to get through. Her blue eyes were filled with excitement but got wet with tears as she could not get inside the garden. 

"Don’t you worry Miss Mellow... we will make it big enough for you to go through by dawn." said the wise Mr. Rat.

Mellow walked back home thinking about the dawn when she could get into the palace and water the plants. She could hardly sleep but slept off in the sweet dreams of getting to the garden the next morning. Mellow woke up at the first hoot of the rooster. 

"Cock-ary-koooo Cock-ary-koooo"

She took three more loaves of bread and ran to the palace of hearts with enough cheese for the pack. To her surprise the morning sun was shining, showing her way to the garden, a tunnel fit for her with tiny steps to the size of her soft flowery feet. Mr. Rat was waiting for her at the entrance of the tunnel. The blue glassy eyes smiled at Mr. Rat and Mellow thanked the pack and gave them the tasty treats. The pack of rodents went their way with the basket. 

Mellow walked down and then up into a new world. A world that was dried up with no water, plants were tired and sad with no more flowers to entice the colorful butterflies. Mellow ran from one corner of the garden to the other searching for water. She reached the pond at the other end, but there was nothing there to fetch the water to the plants. Mellow made up her mind. She stepped into the cold pond and drenched herself in the water. Then she would run across the garden to water the plants. She did the running and watering all through the day and by the time the sun set, the garden had enough water. All the plants were happy. She did the same the next day.... and the next day and the next day for a whole week.

On the eighth day the plants were eagerly waiting and the buds in the plants were looking at the end of the tunnel visible to them. But Mellow was not there. Mellow had fallen sick. Her body was hot like a hot oven. Her fever did not let her get up from the bed. She wanted to go to the garden and water the plants. The plants were sad too. They prayed hard to God all day long. And Baker and Maple sat by the bedside of their daughter Mellow and kept giving her soup and put the cold cloth patch to bring her fever down. God heard the plants prayers and it started raining. The rain was pouring on the palace of hearts. It washed the palace shining bright. The windows got clear again and when the sun shined bright the next day the prince saw light fall into the hall. He rushed to the window to see the plants in bloom. He ran out of the palace to see the beautiful garden full of fragrant flowers. He asked the plants and the butterflies 

"Oh what a magic has come greet.... 
I have never seen a sight so bright
Who did all this, and it’s such a treat
Tell me flowers that shine so bright"

The flowers smiled and told the prince the whole story. The palace of hearts was shining bright and so did the prince's heart....He ran to the village in search of her. He ran from house to house asking for Mr. Baker. And finally the prince reached the bakers home and knocked. Mellow opened the door getting up from bed, and saw the prince stand in front of her with eager eyes. Her smile was magical and the prince knew it was her. He grabbed the hands of Mellow and started running towards the palace. From a distance Mellow could not believe her eyes. The dull gray palace was shining bright in the sun, the fragrance of the flowers reached from far. The white shining palace was like a jewel in the crown when she reached the wide open palace gates, where the all the flowers were greeting the prince holding Mellows hands....

From that day on.... there was not a single day when the plants did not bloom and Mellow was crowned the queen as the prince took on the reign. The king and queen lived in the palace of hearts happily ever after... and the doors of the palace remain open for all those who cared and shared some smiles.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Fragrance of life ...

The air outside was dry, and Kannan felt as if he could breath no more of the dry air around him. He walked in the busy lawyer’s office and sat on the row of chairs in the lobby. The glass window behind him, open to the sky, had the sun setting and with it seemed as if Kannan's hopes were setting too. The thoughts just came back to him again and again.

"Sorry... it was nice working with you" the oversized HR Manager with his oddly placed spectacles on the tip of the nose said with a straight face devoid of any emotions, handing Kannan the relieving orders.

" said" tried Kannan to reply but words were not coming to him

He took the envelope and opened it. It had his tickets back home and the final cheque as the settlement amount. It was Kannan's efforts to save his colleague’s job that held him responsible and had to take the brunt.

As he waited for his turn, Kannan was sitting with his heart sinking and eyes closed. It was then he had a strange feeling. A familiar fragrance... something which grabbed his attention. A tall man in white kurta, blue jacket over it and denims, in his fifties with salt and pepper well trimmed hair, walked with a bag in his hand dragged smoothly on the glassy floors of the office lobby stopped near him and turned and looked at Kannan.

"May I ..." He asked with a smile which had a strange aura about it.
"Sure..." said Kannan in a low voice.
"Murad" He extended his hands for a shake and Kannan reciprocated with a worried look in his face.

There were moments of silence, before Murad asked Kannan, "Would you like to have a coffee?"
Kannan smiled affirmatively "Yes"

Murad walked to the coffee machine and took two cups from it. The whirring sound of the machine and the smell of coffee, started relieving Kannan of the stress in his head. 

"Do I really need to file a case to get the job back which I really don’t need" Kannan thought to himself, when Murad came back to the seat next to him and handed the cup of hot coffee. As they started sipping from the paper cup, Murad turned towards Kannan and said

"You seemed to be too worried about something, are you ok"
"Yeah... I lost my job yesterday and for no reason of mine" said Kannan
"Oh that’s sad, but how does it affect you..." asked Murad
Kannan's brows knit in a strange expression as if asking why he would ever ask such a question
"I mean .... You are young and still have a great life ahead of you... don’t you see the positive in it" asked Murad.

Kannan and Murad had a long chat regarding the misfortunes of life, the problems faced and the issues which sometimes grips a person strangling him to an emotionless stillness. And Murad said

"My dear... nothing comes before its time and nothing stays after its time"

His words were like instant magic potion which cleared the worries in Kannan's head.

"You can start fresh as long as you have the heart to do so" continued Murad. "If I were to brood at my problems at this age and you know no one comes to a lawyer’s office for fun... I would not be smiling"

The air around him seemed to have a special fragrance... a fragrance which Kannan could not place where he felt the same before. Was it when he left Dubai in 98, was it when he got the call for a new job, was it when he received the award, was it when Narayan was born, was it when .... No... Kannan could not place it to any particular situation... but was sure that the fragrance was very familiar.

"Thanks Murad Sir... Hope to see you again soon" said Kannan, and walked to the receptionist.
"Please cancel my appointment... "

Kannan walked out of the lawyer’s office and had a smile ...a content smile on his face. Murad's face, the fragrance, the words all kept ringing in his head as he headed home, packed, went to the airport and reached back to Appa and Amma. As he entered 5 year old Narayan was smiling at him, dressed in a small white dhoti and a silky red shirt. Shining like a star, the smiles had something special. 

"Ah... Kannan..." Appa called out in surprise and excitement "We were going to Guruvayoor... you never told that you would be coming" said Appa

Amma was spell bound as she walked to the hall where Kannan was standing with his bags, straight from the airport. 

"I will join you in a minute..." said Kannan. He quickly washed and took a dhoti from Appa's cabinet and pulled a white shirt on. Tied his hair in a pony tail and brushed his salt and pepper beard quickly to shed the few drops of water in them after the wash. 

"I will drive said Kannan" opening the passenger seat to Appa. 

Appa smiled and got himself comfortable in the seat. Amma and Narayan sat in the back seat and the drive began with Hanuman chalisa playing on the stereo system with Kannan singing along. From time to time Kannan kept looking back as he drove and saw Narayan playing with his Ammamma and after a while tired and sleeping in her lap. The bhajans kept changing from one to the other and the drive seemed to lighten the worries in Kannan's head. He talked out the issues he had and his decision to start fresh again to Appa. Appa smiled and consoled him. By evening they reached the temple premises and Kannan parked the car and got out breathing the air around the place where millions come to shed their fears and a few tears. 

Kannan held Narayan by his hand and the small boy kept looking at his Appa with a smile as Kannan looked at Appa with the same smile. Just the matter of age. As they reached the doors of the sanctum sanctorum, the people were calling out with faith 

"Krishna.... Guruvayoorappa....Bhaktavalsala.... Narayana ..."

And Narayan who had secured his place in his appas arms, hugged him and asked him in his ears
"Why are they calling me..."

Kannan smiled and gently patted on Narayan's face. He took the next step in and his eyes started flowing with tears... the same fragrance... the smell of sandal, flowers and tulsi... the same fragrance... the one he experienced at every juncture of life when it changed... it was the same ... Kannan's eyes were overflowing with tears and the tears cleared the eyes for him to have a look at Guruvayoorappan himself, smiling...

With folded hands, faith in the heart, and Narayan by his side...Kannan knew one thing for sure looking at Guruvayoorappan... He comes in the form of many to lead him towards the right path. He just has to call him for help. After the darshan, Kannan's heart filled with joy as he received the prasadam from the puajri. The sandal paste, the few tulsi leaves and flowers in the leaf. Kannan put the sandal paste on Narayan's forehead and then on his own. He held the prasadam close to his face and took a deep breath...

"It’s Him... It’s Him..."

Thursday, June 30, 2016

A savings account of memories ...

It was after a very long time that Kannan went back to home, and was trying to clear the cupboard. 

"Clutter has to be cleared ...." thought Kannan

Amma came with his morning cup of filter coffee, steaming hot with strong smell of the freshly brewed coffee. It was different from all the mugs of coffee at the stores as it also had mothers love in it. Amma smiled and said

"After so many years, your cupboard is going to get a new life ... at last"

Kannan smiled back, took the cup from Amma and sipped the cup of love. It was a unique feeling when the hot coffee went down his throat, refreshing him. He continued taking out old book, papers, files and all that had been stacked for years. Some old photographs, faded negatives in the translucent covers, note books, texts and so much more. The dust from them made him cough a bit, but the feeling of going back in time seeing the writings, the books and the memories associated with it was worth every moment of it. He got a blue plastic bound book among the loads of things. He wiped it with a cloth and opened it.

"New Bank of India.... Kannan Iyer.... SB Account ... 1453"

It was the first ever bank account he had. Every small amount of money he got, be it for Vishu or from periyamma as a reward for his achievements in academics as a blessing, or the small amounts of money he took from Appa for cleaning the car or selling old paper. All that went into the account sparing a bit for his books from the book store Paico. He went through each line of it and the first deposit of 5000 rupees dated March 12, 1984. He remembered walking into the bank along with Amma and starting the first ever Bank account in his life with the money he got for his upanayanam. Appa had asked Amma to go with him to start the account. Saving little by little started with that day in his life. 

When he got the blue passbook from the accountant at the teller counter, which he could hardly reach, the nine year old Kannan had a smile worth a million in the Swiss bank. 

"Appa.... I will clean the car every week" said the young Kannan "two rupees for car and one rupee for the scooter" was his demand.

Appa patted on his back with a glowing smile and said "Done"

The hard earned money was stored in a box he kept secretly inside his study table which had a green sticker on the inner wall which read "Chant Hare Krishna and Be Happy". Every time he opened the desk he would look at the sticker and chant and then look at his safely saved money, to be deposited in the bank.

Months went by and every month Kannan would go with Amma to the bank to deposit the small amounts counting it with care every time he did. He would walk into the huge bank premises as if he owned the world tightly holding the red velvet pouch which Ammamma had given him and give it to the teller along with his pass book.

Kannan stopped the cleaning for a while and was seeing every small entry in the passbook. The money he had saved as a child. He saw a withdrawal entry in it. 


Kannan smiled looking at that entry. That was the time when Videocon had launched the economical version of a walkman. It was 300, as Kannan saw it in the Sunday Supplement of Indian Express. The advertisement enticed him and he decided to buy one for himself. 

"Amma ... when are you going to the bank" Kannan asked Amma who was busy preparing biriyani for lunch. 
"Tomorrow... why what happened... deposit" asked Amma stirring the masala which gave the kitchen a unique smell of the spices.
"No ... I want to buy something... withdrawal" Kannan said with a proud smile.
"Ok" replied Amma

The day went looking forward to the next morning when he would go to the bank to withdraw money. Kannan checked again at night before sleep,

"Amma ... take me to the bank ... okay"
Tired with the day’s work, with sleepy eyes, Amma removed her spectacles and kept on the bedside table and smiled affirmatively.

Kannan woke up early, finished his bath, prayers and got dressed up, ready to go to the bank with Amma. Every now and then he would go and check whether Amma is getting ready. And the moment he saw Amma ready he rushed and put his shiny black shoes on which he had kept polished the previous evening. He was looking at his best when he held Amma's hands and walked with her to the bank which was just a block away. 

The person who took the red pouch every time looked at Kannan walk in and extended his arms as if to take the red pouch. Kannan smiled at him and said

"No... I want to withdraw money"

His eyes sparkled as he took the withdrawal slip and signed it and gave it to Amma for her signature as it was mandatory for the guardian’s signature for minor accounts. He took the money in his hands as Amma watched him take it with the brightest of expressions she had seen. He carefully put all the notes in the brown wallet he had hid in his back pocket, the one which he got when they shopped for the previous festival from the cloth store. The wallet had the emblem of the store embossed on it and the address of the shop printed in white inside.

"Amma... I will come soon... can I go shopping" asked Kannan.

For a 10 year old, he was taller and the town was known to him with his frequent visits to the book shops nearby. 

"Careful" Amma said "Cross the road with care and come back soon"

Kannan walked with the money in his pocket and kept looking back where Amma was standing in front of the bank seeing her son walk with his head held high. There was a smile on her which Kannan never could forget. 

Kannan walked into the electronics shop and asked the person behind the counter where there was a huge hoarding of the newly launched Videocon Walkman. 

"I want a walkman" said the 10 year old to the salesman.

The salesman looked with wonder. He showed the small black box which had the three buttons on top and a headset. 

"Do you want to see how it works" He asked.
"Yes ... please" replied Kannan

He inserted the cassette and played it for Kannan and put the headset on the young boy's head. Kannan head the song ring in his head and just fell in love with the experience. Private sound system... he thought to himself.

"Pack it please ..." said Kannan and took the purse out and carefully counted three notes of hundred and gave it to the salesman.
"At the cash counter please " said the salesman still not able to believe his eyes, seeing the small boy doing his shopping with style.

Walking out of the store, Kannan looked at the world outside, the bright new world where he had done shopping for himself, with his own money he had saved. He started walking back and saw a cloth store and the mannequin adorned with a peacock blue churidar with black leaves design on it. It looked very attractive. Kannan walked into the store after checking again for his wallet. 

It was evening and Kannan was sipping the coffee Amma had given him and Akka walked in after her embroidery class, she used to attend, as it was holidays for both of them. Kannan looked at her enter and quickly rushed to the study room where he had unpacked the walkman and came back to the dining table with his walkman. Put on the headset and kept glancing at Akka, and her reactions seeing him have a new walkman.

"Oh new walkman..." asked Akka
"Ya... mine" said Kannan

The tease did not go well, but Akka kept her calm and asked
"Can I see it..?"
"Sure..." was Kannan's reply.

He handed the walkman and switched it on for her and as she was listening to the song, ran back to the room. He opened the cupboard and took the white plastic carry bag which had a package in it. Came back in style and looked at Akka who was enjoying the song.

"This is for you... from me... Happy Birthday" said Kannan

The surprise and the smile on her face was priceless. She opened the package and it was the flowy peacock blue churidar for her from her little brother. Even till date, Akka has that churidar that her little brother had given her. Old but kept safe as a priceless possession, and Kannan knows it too. 

Kannan sat down to write his diary that night after cleaning the cupboard and giving it a new life as Amma said. He wrote:
"Money saved remains as it is... but spent for loved ones gifts you memories to treasure worth a million times its value" and smiled, putting his pen down.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The First Stage ...

It was yet another event in Kannan's life and Narayan was on stage for the first time. Kannan had his usual set of butterflies in his stomach. The fear and the apprehension had kept him going all these years were there when his son was on stage. The stage always beckoned again and again since childhood. Kannan spent hours to write the speech for him on teacher’s day for Narayan. The pride he had when Narayan rehearsed his lines with style. He saw the smile on Narayan's face when he was rendering his lines to perfection. 

Kannan remembered the first time he was on stage when he was in his Upper Kindergarten. He was enacting a play as the King in "The Sleeping Beauty". Seema played his Queen, Roshini was a fairy and Sheena was the princess. Kids of the same class rehearsed the play over and over again and the day arrived when the play was to be staged. The orange cape, red silk dress and the shoes with the silver lining all gave Kannan a smile which was beyond compare. He went on stage and played his part to the fullest. For years he kept looking at the pictures with pride. Amma was there to see the play, but never expressed her joy thinking it would spoil him. 

The next time was when he was in his Class 1, when he was to give a speech on Teacher's day. The speech was written by Kottayam Thatha and he took pride when Kannan rendered those lines.

"Dear Parents Teachers and my dear friends.... I would like to tell you about our teachers, who make us what we are...." Kannan had learnt those lines by rote and said as if he understood all that he was saying. Kottayam Thatha in his white shirt and dhoti was sitting eagerly to listen to his brother's grandson speak so well. Kannan saw the tears in his eyes when he completed the speech with those two magical words "Thank You"

"Kottayam Thatha... did I say it right" Kannan asked
"Yes Kanna ... you did" He smiled, wiped the tears of joy with his hands and hugged him.

The day when Kannan was to deliver his speech had arrived, but Kottayam Thatha had to leave. Kannan waved goodbye to Thatha the previous evening. As he was leaving, he asked Kannan to say those lines again and Kannan stood on the steps and said it with style to see Kottayam Thatha's eyes fill with joy.

It was teacher’s day and Kannan was at his best. The red and black chequered shorts and the red tie with the school badge, hair cut to perfection and groomed like an army officer at his best. Kannan looked at the mirror many times before he went to the dining table to have his breakfast quickly before rushing to school. Akka was already at the table with her cream top, blue skirt and hair braided well in two pigtails on the sides tied with black ribbon. 

"Amma... give me breakfast quick" said Kannan
"Coming" said Amma

Kannan held the piece of paper, which had the script, in his hand which Kottayam Thatha had given him. He was reading it over and over again with a smile. 

"What is that" asked Akka

For a second Kannan felt blank. and replied

"I had told you... I am giving a speech for Teachers Day today... are you not coming" Kannan asked eagerly
"No we also have something in our class" replied Akka quickly finishing her breakfast.
"Amma..." called out Kannan
"Yes Kanna..." was the reply from the kitchen
"Are you not coming to school today to listen to my speech" asked Kannan
"I don’t know... have loads of work, Appa also has given me a lot of work... I have heard you say the speech so many times" said Amma as she came to the fining table from the kitchen wiping her sweat from the forehead with the back of her hand.

Kannan felt sad and his face did show it.

"Now don’t sulk... be a good boy... I know you will do well" Amma said

Kannan folded the piece of paper and put it in his shirt pocket. He finished his breakfast and rushed to school. 

The festivities added color to the same premises Kannan and his friends spent all the time. The steps of the school turned to be the place where the stage was put up and the back drop read "Teachers Day 81". All the students from different classes walked to the corridor which was the venue for the event. There were parents and other elders too, who were there to witness the festivities. Kannan looked at the stage and there were butterflies in his stomach, which was a new feeling for him. He wanted to do his best and there was the feeling "What if I go wrong..." Kannan prayed hard and was waiting for the name to be called...

"Kannan ... One B" the speakers boomed as the crowd stood there listening. It had teachers, his classmates, his school mates, their parent and so many people. Kannan stepped on the stage with a smile. There was only one thing in mind when he was on stage. How happy Kottayam Thatha would be if he were there. He just thought of those eyes with tears of joy. Kannan walked to the mic, which was set to his height. He adjusted it with his little hands and started

"Dear Parents, Teachers and my dear friends...."

With a thumping heart Kannan finished his speech in a flow, not even stopping for a doubt, as Thatha had trained him so well with the lines. As he finished Kannan said

"Thank You"

The corridor of the school, overflowing with the sea of people, burst into applause seeing the little one finish the speech in confidence and style. The claps gave Kannan the sense of satisfaction and happiness. He was full of joy. His eyes searched for a familiar face among the crowd.... the eyes looked far ... kept looking for his loved ones.... kept looking for Amma, Akka or Appa.... no one was seen. He stood there by the side of the stage and each time a performance finished he saw the child’s parent come and lift him up with smiles galore and hug him. Kannan kept looking if someone would come and hug him too.  His face dropped like a flower in the midday sun and his heart sank deep. 

The event concluded with Victoria miss coming on stage and thanking everyone. Kannan stood there as everyone left, expecting someone to come to him too. But no one came. Kannan had the joy in his heart, about how well he did, but it was washed away by the waves of sadness which rose from the fact that there was no one to hug him. 

"Hey Kannan... You were great on stage" Kannan heard a little voice call out to him
With a smile Kannan turned to see Ajai standing there, waiting for him. Both of them smiled at each other and walked with hands over the shoulders. The friends smile and appreciation made Kannan smile again. They walked through the school gates back home, both being there for the other. 

There were many gathering where Amma made Kannan deliver the speech before uncles and friends, but Kannan felt the lack every time he did. He had no one to lift him up in their arms and hug him. History was repeating itself with Narayan giving his first speech on Teachers day. But there was a difference this time, Kannan was there to see his son on stage and the eyes fill with a smile and take pride. He was there waiting to run up to him and hug him as soon as the speech finished.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Sleepless Night ...

Travel was both fun and work for Kannan. There were days when weekdays were regular job and on weekends he would leave on his bike in the morning and return with a smile on the face along with the dirt of the dusty roads late in the night as a part of his second job, rather a passion. The smile would be from all the accomplishments for the day, having trained his team far and wide in the multilevel marketing. It was a Sunday and Kannan set out on his work early in the morning. 

Appa was out for his morning walk, Amma and Priya were sleeping. Sunday being a lazy day he knew they would wake up late. Kannan got himself ready in a pair of jeans and a jacket which carried the world for him. Each pocket was filled with something or the other for the day. The jacket was more of a pocket holder than a riding jacket. His choice of black for the ride was to hide the dirt and dust while he traveled far. He put his goggles on and got on the bike leaving a note on the dining table

"Will be late... off to work... Love Kannan"

As he drove into the morning roads the trees shaded his face from the morning sun, light enough to warm a smile, the streets were smiling with fragrant flowers, and morning had just started with its own set of activities. The bells of bicycles with newspaper rang a few bells; the milkman was also stopping by houses delivering milk at the doorstep. There were temple goers and the temples had their morning prayers on the worn out speakers. Kannan drove past the city and got on to the highway. The smell of freshly brewed tea and vadas lured Kannan as he passed every small tea shop. Hard to resist he stopped by for a tea and snack. He saw a small boy by the side of the tea shop in rags. His smile was fading off in hunger and seeing his eyes crave for a snack, Kannan got him a vada and a tea. The smile which blossomed gave him more energy to set out with double the vigour. The day was fruitful and he met his team in Tamil Nadu. Marthandam, Nagecoil, Kanyakumari, the list seemed endless. It was already half past nine when he wound up the last team meeting in Kanyakumari. 

"Sir... it was really interesting to see you handle your team" Said Vimal, one of his team members
Kannan smiled and was filled with joy to see his team active and revved up. 
"Would you have dinner with us" Vimal asked
"With Pleasure" said Kannan

They went to Vimal's house, a small portion of a row house where the poverty had taken its toll. The happiness with which Vimal's sister served the hot idlis made it tastier. The sambhar which smelled more of love than coriander, the idlis which looked more like smiley. The dinner was over a series of discussions on when the next meeting would be and what the plans were for the same. 

Deep in his heart, he was so happy and excited and with the smile started back home. Kannan checked his watch and it was well past 11. The day’s achievements, the small boy’s smiles, Vimal and his team mate’s love for him all kept him going and reached home by 1 in the night. He parked his bike and looked at the mirror on the bike. His eyes were sunk and the dirt had made them black as if he was returning from a boxing bout. But the sparkle in it was priceless. He was soaked in sweat but gave him the satisfaction of a successful day. He looked up to see the apartment lights were switched on. 

"Who is awake at this hour" Kannan thought and punched the third floor button of the lift. 

The lift came to a halt and the corridor was dark. The light from home was seeping through the gap of the slightly open door. Kannan opened the door to find Amma and Priya in the hall room.

"Oh you did not sleep" asked Kannan
"What on earth do you think you are doing" asked Amma angrily

Kannan saw Priya's eyes wet with tears. He understood that the discussion between them would have been about him. 

"The meeting got late and had dinner ... so... I" Kannan tried to explain
"I don't want explanations" Priya said in an affirmative voice moist with worry and concern
"How can you be careless like this... don't you know we are here.... couldn't you just call once from somewhere" Amma's 

started her firing with an arsenal of questions.

Kannan remained silent and stood there at the line of fire like a fallen soldier. The questions died down and night settled in another couple of minutes of scoffs scorn and shouting. The night was not as comfortable as Kannan's heart wanted to share the success of the day but in return he went into the dumps mentally. 

It was Monday morning and as Kannan woke up, he saw a cup of coffee by the bedside. Priya was getting ready to go to the temple, from where she would go to her parents home and then to work. No exchange of byes or morning wishes were there for the day owing to the previous night. Kannan sipped the coffee and went to the hall room to check the headlines. 

"Amma... I am going... see you in the evening" said Priya to Amma and walked away.

Kannan remained silent and was brushing through the news, when he felt a warm hand touch his arms. Kannan looked up and saw Amma. Fresh after a bath and prayers, but eyes revealed the sleepless night she had. She was smiling but still worried at heart.

"Don't feel bad" said Amma
"I scolded you as Priya would feel left out if I don't share her worries and concerns... we were worried... But I saw the sense of achievement in the smile you had when you walked in"

Kannan could not say anything seeing the care which kept her awake and rendered her sleepless. There are moments in life when we do certain things for others and get hurt ourselves, little did Kannan know how difficult it was for Amma. He saw Amma get back to the kitchen where the morning breakfast was keeping Amma busy. Kannan kept the coffee cup in the sink for washing and turned to Amma with a smile.

"I am sorry Amma... will try and avoid such situations" said Kannan.

The smile on Amma's face said it all. The day began with love and all the happiness of the previous day’s accomplishments.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Smiles come back home ...

"Smile please" said Babu Uncle of Ensign Studio

The studio was always a place of wonder for Kannan. He smiled at the amazing sights around him. Before the picture was clicked Kannan walked around the studio and the dressing room, he saw camera's of different kinds set to take pictures, the huge sheets of colored paper for the background. The red carpeted floor, the dressing room with a mirror and the smell of the orange and white tin of Cuticura powder kept on the dressing table by the mirror, the different combs and brushes, the coats and ties on the hanger on the wall, the huge reflectors and flashes of the studio floor, Kannan was lost in the world of photography. Kannan loved photography from a very young age and for the nine year old in his blue jeans which he got from Jean shack the previous day and well pressed white and blue chequered shirt, prim proper stood with Amma in her violet saree and Akka in her blue and white frock with hair tied up in two pig tails on the sides.

"Click", The huge white umbrellas flashed a lightning and the photo was taken.

The picture was for Appa and that picture was very special with Amma and Akka. All that he understood then was that Appa has got a job in Nigeria and that he would be flying in an aero plane soon, with the smiling family picture. Appa was at the counter checking for the date when he would get his passport size photograph and the family photo. The evening was young and the next in line was dinner at Bharath Tourist Home, a restaurant which they went for celebrating special occasions or weekend eat outs. 

As the dinner started Kannan heard Appa talk to Amma. While having the dosa silently he heard his words

"They say I will have to fly in two weeks" said Appa
"And how will you manage" Amma asked
"Will have to... and you three can come after two years" Appa replied

The silence after that statement said it all. It was for the better prospects of the family, but the separation was painful. There were no many smiles during the dinner. The aroma of the food did not lure the heart, nor did it make a difference as it usually did. The silence followed them till all slept that night.

Kannan opened his eyes the next day to see Appa get ready to go to office. He got up from the bed and ran to Appa and hugged him, holding the leg as it was the pillar of his love that he would not leave even at the cost of his life. Appa smiled and gave a pat on his cheeks.

"Chandu.... Kanna.... Good morning" Appa said with love

Kannan smiled and asked

"Appa... are you going to foreign"
"Yes Kanna ... and you will come too ... soon" said Appa.

The smile was slowly melting away to sad stares. The thought of being away from Appa was hurting Kannan for sure. The whole day at office Gopal, Kannan's Appa, found it difficult to forget the eyes which were looking at him in the morning when Kannan asked about his trip. Around 3pm he received a call

"Gopal Sir... call for you" said the receptionist and transferred the call.

"Hello" said Appa
"Mr. Gopal, you have to pay 30,000 for the visa and associated expenses"
"Ok" said Appa and continued "When should I make the payment"
"A weeks time... thank you"

As a matter of fact 30,000 was big money then, but it was not so difficult for him. The money was arranged in two days time. The list for purchase was made and home was more of silence than celebrations of the new avenue. Every day was mechanical as days nudged towards the day when the payment was to be made. More of sleepless nights for Appa and Amma. 

Appa reached office and dialed the number of the agent who was making arrangement for the placement. All procedures of interviews and forms to be filled was done and it was the agent on the other end of the call

"I am not interested" said Appa to the Agent.

He came back home that evening with a smile on his face. He hugged Kannan who ran to him as he came back home.

"You are so happy... what happened" Amma asked
"Yes. I said "No" to the Agent, I am not going ...."

Smiles returned home that evening as the heart filled with hopes of being together and not being separated from the family. Appa's life was completely for the three most precious people in his life - His family. Kannan, Pachai will have their Appa close to them. Amma smiled with a sigh of relief that they need not think about being away from him. Life is a choice we make as we live each day. And the choice Appa made between more money and more love was obvious. He chose love .... That choice would forever remain a lesson for Kannan when he grows up, and the picture they took at Ensign Studio will remind him of the same.