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 time...as 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.

"But...you 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..."