Literary Ambitions

6th March, 2013 : Radio Gaga

Tune into any radiostation and brace yourself for the barrage of advertisements. Ranging from Real Estate (Zonasha Paradiso) to silks and even schools. What is particularly galling is that occasional ad about an ordinary property at a godforsaken end of the city having the usual amenities but voiced in the most sultry/throaty voice possible. Gosh, the nerve.
How is that silly voice supposed to attract me towards buying a piece of land?

Or how about that ad which proclaims "Now everybody wants to get married!". Sheesh.

And when hospitals begin to advertise commercially, I tend to wonder if I'm too idealistic.
There is that sheepish moment when you begin to take note of the new song you're listening to when suddenly, it hits you; It's not a movie song. It's a cunningly composed Advertisement.

All this is bearable and well within "limits" because when you hear a father informing a child (financially inclined, whatte prodigy!) about a certain mutual fund/ insurance policy you can't help but wonder what's wrong with the world. And our finance-Champ doesn't stop there. "Papa, can I also have this policy?" #FacePalm

Kindly tell me why a Chinese guy mumbling his Cantonese will entice me to try their technology? Even if its the exotic sounding foot reflexology.

Any advertisement veteran will dismiss by laments with a languid "We Mean Business" or suchlike but I'm still the naive idealist.

True enough, they want to sell their product. But why make it so blatantly obvious? (!) I've seen and heard some very creative/ intelligent ads that do a lot more than stubbornly insist that we buy their wares.

Now let me appreciate the esteemed RJs/MJs in their venerable radio waves.

Most are bearable. I'll go even further to say that some are even good. I don't wish to be critical because going on air knowing that half the city is listening to you can be an intimidating fact. From exam tension related talk to the latest buzz in Btown, Radio hosts surely deserve credit for innovation and spreading cheer.

Most RJs have interesting shows and are up to date with the latest news ("I wish I had such a high IQ!" ) and even conduct polls "Do you think Rahul Gandhi is right in deciding not to marry and start a family (sic) ?" [Yeah. Ok.]

The Bakra/ Supari/ Shendi where they prank an unsuspecting soul is pretty hilarious.
RJs have certainly come a long way from 2007-08 when my favorite RJs were RJ Pavithra and RJ Pallavi. 
The frankness of some RJs can be disarming.("It's a mad morning!") The other tidbits like "Koffee with Kiran" or "Sultan's School of Speech" oscillate between garish/borderline vulgar and funny.

The occasional irritants are those who sound too lazy and lackadaisical or with interesting pronunciation. (I know Women's Day is around the corner but what is this about "Wemen"? Or is it, God forbid, Wee-Men?!)

Are some voices modified to sound more "Radio Friendly"? Because, surely, not every male is blessed with that deep baritone (HAHAHA. *Cough*) or every female with a glamorous sounding sexy voice. (What am I saying?)
How these composers manage to give a seemingly simple number like 94.3 or 93.5 a tune is beyond me. Interesting or not, after some time it tends to grate on (my) ears.

Oh Yes, amidst all of this, there are the Songs!

What I appreciate is the Sunday/Thursday show at 10pm on Radio Indigo hosted by Dr. Shyam Bhat to address issues of a few people related to family, career and relationships. Good Job :)
All said and done, whether its 94.3, 91.9, 104 93.5 FM (or even 102.9 and 100.1 which surreptitiously listen to), a friendly voice is always a great comfort (when your away from friends and family in a hostel).

All said and done, it's a LOT  better than listening to the monotony of 95.6 MHz.

Written when Radio was a companion. 

A Poem

She endures in silence.

She serenades with unmatched beauty and grace
Through rocky terrain and rural plains.
To temple towns and swelling cities,
She lends her holy presence.

She hails from the high North;
The snow clad abode is her ancestral home.
From the gentle confines of the mighty peaks
she descends with zest and zeal,
Only to mellow down to a stately cascade.

But alas, her illustrious heritage and purity
are disregarded and she is defiled
by ignorance and mindless Faith.
Once revered as a symbol of divinity,
She now languishes in neglect and depravity.

She grieves in silence at her fall from grace
for the fault of the human race.
Her tears flow unrecognized and her pain is forgotten
as she carries the burden of mankind-
The race which chooses to drown its sins in her,
She plunges into the sea for solace.

What makes me 'me'?

From an early age I have been exposed to a variety of opportunities and challenges alike. I have always been encouraged to try my strengths in diverse fields and excel in them; be it academics, sports or extracurricular activities such as music, art and quizzing. This upbringing, coupled with an innate sense of inquisition has imbibed in me the urge to learn more and acquire knowledge.

The knowledge one can assimilate is infinite and the Indian Philosophy of 'Success and failure are part of the eternal cycle, it is the knowledge attained that matters' has inspired me to strive for excellence. With this penchant for knowledge, I forayed into the exciting terrain of quizzing; an activity I have pursued since my elementary school. From fjords in Norway and Moai statues of Easter Island to the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem, quizzing has been my window to the world outside. In my high school I was the only girl who participated in quizzes. Although I was initially apprehensive, it soon motivated me to work harder and be the best among my counterparts. Over the years quizzing has helped me transcend personal boundaries and emerge as a confident individual with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Quizzing helped me stay on top of my game in class and made academics an exciting prospect.

Hardwork and determination have helped me achieve my goals despite all odds. I've always been intrigued to experiment and venture into different activities. Be it Harvard Model UN, heading a photography committee or even trekking in the Nilgiris, I've eagerly explored a variety activities and worked hard to give it my best.

Apart from quizzing, music and badminton have also been integral parts of my life. Learning Indian classical music, with all its intricacies and minute variations has taught me to strive for perfection in all that I do. Badminton began as a pastime but soon transformed into a passion. Badminton has instilled the spirit of competitiveness as well as a sense of sportsmanship in me. 

The birth of a sibling when I was in high school was initially a mammoth challenge since we all had to alter our lifestyle to accommodate the youngest member of the family. It seemed like waking up after a decade in utopia, for now, life was everything but perfect. Responsibilities, fragile, unpredictable conditions coupled with a bawling baby was one way of looking at it.

Thankfully I envisioned an opportunity: An opportunity to grow; as a person and as a student. It has been one of the best decisions of my life. What intrigued me was how the once motionless baby learnt to make sense of the world around her. Over the months, gurgling sounds turned to fairly legitimate words, serendipitous movements turned to well coordinated steps and through an unwavering spirit, she was one among us. 

Her birth sparked a desired to delve deeper into the uncharted terrains of neuroscience and this was further ignited by viewing her growth from the standpoint of psychology. To observe her evolve, learn from her mistakes and piece together the jigsaw puzzle called life has been a captivating experience. The brain with its curiously confounding functioning, is the neuroscientist's muse, an elusive enchanting enigma. Psychology helped to explain how the dynamics of our family changed and enlightened me about the power of the mind. 

Coming from a society where inequality continues to persist, I hope to bridge the gap between both ends of the spectrum. My experiences have exposed me to poverty and hunger in society as well as wealth and wastefulness. I intend to provide better healthcare as well as provide a solution to neurological disorders. I believe passion comes with a cause. I have a cause; to cure the maladies of the mind, uncover the reasons behind them and make the world a better place for mankind.

Colorado College! ED II

When I decided to apply to colleges in the US, I had specific requirements in mind. I researched online and interacted with a few well-informed people before I concluded that Colorado College would be the best place for me.
Given my love for the outdoors, Colorado College has the perfect location for me to continue my intellectual expedition. The stately beauty of mountains, the panoramic views from summits and the adrenaline rush of adventure sports has always beckoned to me.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity of whitewater rafting in the Sutlej River, at the foothills of the Himalayas. It was here that I developed a bond with nature. To relive that experience at Colorado is an enchanting prospect I look forward to.
There is no definite route to achieve our goals. I realized this when I went trekking in the hills of South India. Our guide, a trained trekker, apprised us on the modus operandi of trekking and rock climbing. Despite his guidance and assistance from my father, I found the climb steep and unconquerable. The guide even dictated where I should place my foot to balance myself. I stopped for a moment and thought, "Surely,I know how to balance myself! I just have to listen to myself". And then, I began with renewed vigour, and succeeded. I scaled the heights of the hill with ease; all because I know where my footing is. No one knows better than that! 
Colorado College is known to offer this freedom to its students where they can find their 'foothold' and excel in their field. This only augments the fact that Colorado College is where I can truly thrive and grow as an individual as well as continue my academic pursuit.

At CC I hope to contribute to the vibrant student life as well as partake in community based programs. I intend to have a symbiotic relationship with CC, akin to that in lichens, where I can contribute to the academic research while deriving intellectual nourishment and a 'home' from the College.

In Molecular Biology, I've learnt that in the genetic code, a single codon specifies only one amino acid; there is no scope for ambiguity. Similarly, I strongly believe that CC is 'the' best college for me and there is no scope for uncertainty and hence applying Early Decision is a natural choice for me.

Mount Holyoke!
What do you miss most from your childhood?

It was a simple life back then.
My childhood was synonymous with carefree abandon and freedom in every aspect. I lived in the Castle of Innocence, built from the unrealistic bricks of imagination and fortified by creativity.

Watching the fluffy white clouds drift across the blue sky, setting paper boats afloat on a rainy day or even racing downhill on my cycle were 'major projects' I created for myself. Infact, I had a project to accomplish everyday!
One of these included watching a flower blossom. Having planted the sapling, I was determined to "see the flower bloom". Against all sane advice from my parents, I sat rooted the spot and fixed a beady eye on the plant; I was determined to detect the slightest trace of a petal unfurling. But alas, Fate had ordained otherwise and I fell asleep. When I woke up with the first rays of sunshine, the bright yellow rose was a miracle to my innocent mind.

Another activity I vociferously indulged in was starting my own "clubs". These clubs were started for nature, maths, music or even astronomy and our sole ambition was to "discover something new". So it was not unusual to find a motley group of girls armed with notebooks and magnifying glasses, scrutinizing a surprised insect or a bewildered butterfly.

It was in my childhood that I forged an unbreakable bond with Nature; a bond that has taught me to value and conserve our resources and above all ingrained a deep sense of belonging with Nature.

Teenage has brought its own set of trials and tribulations but my formative years have enabled me to face any hardships with optimism and courage. Be it academic pursuits or social responsibilities, I'm now engaged in a different but equally exciting "project". The creativity and spirit of inquiry have fuelled the ambition of excelling in academics and my love for Nature has transformed into a passion in conservation of biodiversity.

But those magical years of life can never truly be replaced. Gone are the days when I could hop, skip and jump across the street without wondering what anybody would think. Gone are the days when I proposed solutions to the world's problems ignorant of the reality of life. It is this simplicity that I miss most from my childhood. Simplicity, that makes communication easier, learning uncomplicated and dreams, a reality. It is essential that we cling on to the vestiges of this innocuous trait, for it holds the key to our happiness in life.

Being Woman..

Every evening, Veena spent an hour at the park. A short and slightly plump woman of forty, Veena had been told that exercise and a balanced diet was the only way to cope with diabetes. The park was usually crowded in the evenings. Several ladies discussing domestic issues monopolized the walking track, middle aged men walked in a medium pace in clusters while techies jostled in-between these groups jogging spiritedly and occasionally children raced through the track, bumping their way through.

In such conditions, one inadvertently heard snatches of conversations that entertained the listener greatly. Young working women chatted about their workplace and the challenges of managing the household, middle aged ladies complaining about their husbands, children, in-laws, domestic helpers and generally everybody who disagreed with them while the grannies mostly hobbled around at a slow pace or discussed the achievements of their grandchildren in the comforts of a bench. The men on the other hand mostly discussed politics and cricket while some ranted about their wives.

One evening, as Veena was walking towards the park, three girls, probably in their pre-teens came out of the park. They appeared to be having a deep discussion. The girl in the middle looked confused and upset while the other two were doing the talking.

“Accept it, you were born a girl and will remain one all your life” said one of the two.

“Yeah, what makes you feel so bad about it? You can’t change things. Accept the fact” added the other.

The girl in between them remained silent but it was clear from her skeptical looks that she wasn’t convinced.

Veena smiled to herself as she heard this. It reminded her of her own search for an identity during her youth. 

Born in village near Bangalore, Veena, for most of her childhood had hated herself. It came as a consequence of the continual nagging of her family. Since she was born in a patriarchal family, Veena’s birth was heralded as “yet another bundle of expenses” and she had been looked down upon for the only reason that she was a girl. Initially it had surprised her innocent mind, but over time she grew accustomed to the ways of her family.

Her teenage years were tormented. She could no longer stand the snide remarks, the unwarranted chiding and longed for love and affection. What amazed her was that her detractors were mostly the female members of the family. Didn’t they realize that they were no different?

In her quest for love and appreciation, she participated in boys’ games and helped the men on the fields, hoping that she would finally gain acceptance in her family. She was mistaken. They had found another reason to castigate her. 

“Since you’ve had the misfortune of being born as a girl, at least behave like one! What’s all this tomboy behavior?” berated her grandmother. 

Veena had a miserable time during those years and had grown to consider being born a girl as a curse. Out of desperation and determination to get away from the wretched backwardness of her village, she left the village in the hope of a better life in Bangalore. 

Due to the kindness of a stranger, she found employment and consequently, a good income and an accommodation. Here, Veena was exposed to the changing times, the progression in women’s empowerment and the rapidly evolving society.

Over time, she met a man, who loved and cared for her, for who she was and Veena settled down happily. She continued to work post marriage and they lived a contented life. She had made no attempt to reunite with her family and neither had they succeeded in tracing her. She was happier than ever before, yet the scars of her childhood left her in self-doubt and demoralized her at times.

Things changed forever on 20th September 1990, in a small room in a hospital, as she held her new born daughter in her hands. As she looked at the bundle of joy, tears brimmed in her eyes. She felt a strange, inexplicable sensation tingling in her; the beauty of Motherhood. She had never before felt so elated; despite the pain that seared through her, she felt at peace with herself. Motherhood had made her embrace the joy of being a woman.

She smiled to herself. She saw some similarity in the girl’s predicament. But she knew, a time would come, when the girl would feel ecstatic about what she probably regretted being today…

 A few days back, I heard the exact same conversation as I've mentioned in the story, as I was walking to the park.. And that set me thinking.. Probably "Over thinking" :P

Magical Munnar.

They were in the undulating hills of Munnar. There was green all around; a treat for those confined in concrete jungles. As the sun set behind the mist and mountains, darkness gently descended over Paradise on Earth.

Shruthi and Deepak sat in silence. It was Deepak’s idea to unwind over the weekend. But both knew the real reason: It was yet another attempt to mend the strains that had emerged. Incredible though it seemed, they had nothing to say except for idle comments on the scenery or the weather. 

They watched the bonfire until the embers died down and then made their way back to their room through the lantern-lit pathway that illuminated the enchanted surroundings.The air was heady with night queens blossoming among the bushes.It looked magical, but they were lost in their own world to notice the surreal beauty in their midst.

“Beautiful place…” said Deepak to no one in particular.

“Hmm. Good Night’” said Shruthi as she snuggled cozily in bed.
The next day they took a walk through the tea estate. Women worked in clusters, trimming the shrubs and cutting the leaves. The air had a whiff of tea wafting from the nearby refinery and the murmur of chatting workers echoed through the hills.

Deepak glanced at Shruthi, as she listlessly walked on. Where was the sparkle in her eye, the witty chatter and the spirit in her life that had captivated him? He wondered. Then, he realized that neither was he the solid rock of support for her anymore. With a twinge of guilt, he reminisced about the good old days, when he surprised her with gifts and flowers, when he was there for her as a shoulder to cry on, when their lives revolved around each other and nothing else…

“Roti curry or Rice rasam?” Shruthi asked him. They were in the resort restaurant. 

He woke up from his reverie. “Uh, Anything…I’ll have whatever you’re having.” he said. 

Shruthi arched her eyebrows but said nothing.

“Shruthi, there’s a Lake nearby with boating facility. Shall we go?” he asked tentatively as they progressed to the dessert.

She nodded affirmatively and returned to scrutinizing the table.

The car swerved gently as they ascended downhill, towards the town. The sky was overcast and grey. Shruthi sat humming to the Bollywood songs on the stereo. ‘Barso Re’ sang Shreya Ghoshal as big drops of water splashed on the windscreen. The air was now chilly and the wind howled through the hills.

Shruthi was enthralled. “Let’s get out!” she said excitedly to Deepak.

Deepak smiled. He saw traces of the old Shruthi surface from the depths of Time. He quickly stopped the car and they got out to soak in the drizzle. 

They stood there for a long time. As they got drenched in the rain, remorse and regret over the past washed over them and then was replaced by a new zeal and zest. 

Deepak placed a protective hand over Shruthi as they walked towards a bench, which seemed to be there just for them. She didn’t shirk away this time; she knew this was a transformation. Deepak too, was elated. He had forgotten how beautiful Shruthi was; her face shone with radiance and pure joy of rain and romance. 

They sat observing the scenery. They had nothing to say, the eyes said it all. Somewhere a bird chirped blithely. The trees glistened with raindrops hanging from the leaves like glittery diamonds. The hills looked greener and somewhat fresher after the shower. And they unconsciously added to the beauty of God’s creation, as they embraced.

Old Man By The Shed..

Sanjay slowed down. As he proceeded to park his cycle outside the school, he glanced at the shed. There he was; the old man was as regular as the sun and the stars. He sat on a ragged mat and watched the children enter the hallowed portals of Vidya Niketan, one of the best schools in the city. He was unkempt and filthy but his crooked smile and twinkling eyes made you look beyond his disheveled appearance.

Sanjay had been seeing the Old Man By The Shed ever since he joined Vidya Niketan more than a decade ago. He neither liked nor disliked him. He was in his own world which consisted of gizmos, games, girls, good grades and little else. Yet, Sanjay always spared a quick nod and a hint of a smile for the old man, which he eagerly returned. Although they had never spoken till date, they shared a special bond.

Rain or shine, the old man was always there. The school authorities had been unsuccessful in evacuating him from the shed and since he was mostly a harmless soul, they left him in peace.

But one cold December morning, the shed wore a deserted look. The sole occupant was missing. Sanjay peeped into the dilapidated structure, that was his home, but it was empty. His belongings were scattered and strewn all over the floor. Something is wrong, he thought. He looked at his watch and considered the plan that was forming in his head. 

He hopped back onto his cycle and went to the eatery at the end of the street. The owner of ‘Priya Darshini’ was known to sponsor the Old Man’s meals for free. He approached one of the waiters who delivered his meals to his shed.

“Uncle, do you know where the old man near my school is?” he asked.

The waiter blinked. “Why are you so curious, boy?” he inquired. Sanjay shifted uncomfortably and said with a touch of asperity, “How does it matter? Do you know where he is or not?”

The waiter grinned and replied “Calm down, young man. I know where he is. Last night, a few men from a nearby slum tried to occupy his shed. They were a bit rough with him. But before they could do any serious damage to the old man, we rushed to his aid and chased those men away. They won’t come back again” he declared, with an air of finality.

“So where is he right now?” asked Sanjay.

“At DG hospital.” He replied.

Sanjay thanked him and walked away thinking deeply. He wasn’t satisfied. He wanted to see the Old Man for himself and be sure that he was alright.  “I’ll risk it” he said to himself and approached the front desk with some trepidation.

“I want to see the old man who was admitted last night.” Said Sanjay, ”He’s my friend”, he added a little peevishly in response to the receptionist’s surprised look. 

“Room 108. First floor.” She said, still looking at Sanjay curiously.

As Sanjay made his way through long labyrinths of sick and suffering patients, he wondered what on earth he was doing here. He was surprised that he cared for the old man. He had never really bothered about him all these years, but now; he realized he was probably wrong.

He entered the room and saw the Old Man lying limp and bandaged. For nearly a minute, boy and man looked at each other. The old man smiled and the scars on his face deepened. Sanjay was still appalled at the damage the rogues had inflicted on the poor man. The old man looked frail and weak. But Sanjay’s visit brightened his eyes and he beamed happily.

“It is very kind of you to visit me, son” said the old man in halting English. “I’ve been seeing you for nearly 10 years. You’re a good boy.” 

Sanjay smiled. He had no grandparents of his own. He was beginning to like this Old Man.
“What’s your name, Grandpa?” asked Sanjay.

“Karim Khan” said the old man with a chuckle. “You’ve seen me for so long and you never knew my name?” he asked incredulously. Sanjay smiled sheepishly.

As the days passed, Sanjay and Karim Khan forged a wonderful friendship and both of them looked forward to each other’s company. They exchanged stories and spent time analyzing every cricket match. Karim, Sanjay discovered, was quite a well-read man and enthralled him with stories of Wars and Battles that made history come alive.

One evening, nearly 2 years after the incident that brought them together, Sanjay contemplated about what a mammoth change Karim Khan had brought about in his life; it’s these things that make life beautiful, he thought.

True, Life is all about journey, rather than merely the destination. And it’s these experiences that make the journey worthwhile…

'Rao' Rambles.

1936. In the tiny hamlet of Hosur, Kamala and her husband Ramachandra Rao lived in a modest house. They were relatively well off, thanks to the good harvest. With four sons and a daughter, Kamala had a tough time managing the household in the early years. Ramachandra had completed his secondary school education and thus had the privilege of being an assistant to the District Collector. Thus, the family was respected by the village and they lead a comfortable life.

Years passed, and the village flourished; its fields were replenished by the Hemavathi. It was the period of War and Ramachandra, much to the chagrin of his wife, decided to participate in the Freedom Struggle. The boys considered this heroic and wholeheartedly supported their father and on 13th June, 1943, he left the house, in spite of Kamala’s pleas, never to return alive.

Kamala was distraught. She controlled her grief to tackle the impending question: How was she going to raise four boys and a girl singlehandedly? She decided to work; something unheard of for a woman in those conservative days. Nevertheless, after much persuasion, she was offered her husband’s job. She appointed a helper to inspect the fields and ensured that they were not neglected.

Kamala was now an ambitious woman. Her dedication impressed the Collector and he recommended her for the Panchayat Committee. In a matter of months, she was appointed and her pay increased manifold. She now travelled by an ambassador and wielded much power in the district. After her tenure, which coincided with the graduation of her sons, she retired from politics, since they now produced handsome salaries.

The fields, however, were now literally in deep water. The Government proposed the construction of a dam across Hemavathi and this resulted in flooding of several acres of land. The compensation was meager and approaching the court was a long and arduous route. It was in this situation that her third son, Surya Narayan approached her with a request. Now Kamala always had a soft corner for Surya Narayan, her most ambitious son, with a desire to see the world. It reminded her of her younger days when she had dreams of travelling across the ocean to other countries.

She knew the reason for his approach. For long, he had nurtured the idea of studying in America. So it was no surprise, when he requested for financial assistance. She couldn’t refuse, but neither did she have the resources. 

Then, she remembered the Oak Chest. During her marriage, her mother gave her the ornate wooden Chest which contained antique gold jewelry. It had been passed down from generations and was now in Kamala’s possession. With a heavy heart, she gave the Chest to her son. Mother and son stood looking at the Chest; she, with a tinge of regret and he, with hope and happiness. He promised to buy it back for her and she nodded absently. Neither mother nor son mentioned this to anybody.

Surya Narayan did his MBA from Harvard University. After his graduation, he began working there. He was now accustomed to the American lifestyle and did not intend to return. Fate however, had decided otherwise.
Kamala was now aged and the old woman still stayed in Hosur, while her sons had migrated to Bangalore in search of better opportunities. She longed to look at her heirlooms before her death, but did not dare tell her sons about it. She prayed for Surya Narayan to return. Only, he heard her prayers a little too late.

When he returned after his prosperous stint in the US, it was for the occasion of Kamala’s funeral.  He was reminded of the promise he made, nearly a decade ago. As he scoured her room, he found a letter addressed to him.

“I know you will return. I only hope it is before I leave this world. My one wish is to see the Oak Chest. Please…”

Tears welled up as he remembered the forgotten promise…

This is my "boldest" piece till date. Haha. I wrote it without anybody in mind. I think I like it.
 If you're gonna read any further, please ignore the fact that "I" am the author. Thanku.

She sat by the porch looking at the setting sun. The sky was now a faint tinge of orange interspersed in the blue. 

It brought back memories of the lost days. The years lost. Her youth, which was now a thing of the past, flashed before her. Those who knew about it were no more to tell the tale.

She grew up in a quaint village near the East coast. The sun, the sand and the sea; that was all her life revolved around. She wasn’t really academically inclined and in those days, it didn’t matter either, so she preferred going boating with Ajay or climbing trees with Arvind, or maybe just stargazing on a clear night with Vani and Varun. 

She was the black sheep in the house. Her siblings, accustomed to her wayward and lackadaisical lifestyle, didn’t chide her anymore, but regarded her as nothing more than a piece of furniture. Being the youngest in the family helped, and she was adored by her ageing father.

The years passed, and she grew up to be a young damsel. Her sisters, after completing their basic education, were now married into wealthy households. Her brothers too, were either studying or working in good positions. First, it was her grandmother, then an aunt, and a neighbor; all suggesting the same thing: she should be married soon. The time was ripe.

Only, she had no matrimonial inclinations. She did not wish to be tied down. She could not imagine such a life. The rendezvous under the trees, by the setting sun on the beach, inside the ruined temple on the hill; this was her life. 

She rebelled. She created a scandal of sorts by running away to “The big city” with the postman. It broke her father’s heart and he did not live to see her again.  The sleepy village did not hear about her until a few years later, when the schoolmaster’s son announced to all those who cared to listen, that She was now married to a wealthy politician and lived in a lavish bungalow. Although, it was unlike her, they were happy that she had finally “settled down”.

It was the year 1950. She returned. Well into her thirties, she was now a mother of two. She was no longer the dusky temptress. Age had mellowed her down, or so people thought. They proved to be wrong. She now lived in her childhood house. She was seen by the beach every evening. By the setting sun, she stood, looking into the distance. Was she waiting for her knight-in-shining-armor? 

The house had few visitors, most of whom preferred to make nocturnal visits. Her life was a mystery and try as they might; the simple villagers could not solve the enigma. For nearly 10 years, she lived there. Her children had none of her charm and grace and neither did they did not resemble her even remotely.

She left the village in 1960, never to set foot again. She relocated to Bombay. A sprawling mansion facing the Arabian Sea was her new residence. Her children now lived across the vast Ocean in another continent but she preferred her seaside villa. She was content with her evening walks by the shore. Here again, she had few acquaintances and fewer friends. She rarely ventured into the city. Visitors were a rare sight.

Age encumbered her strolls. Gone were the days of the maiden who broke many a heart. The deep dark circles were the only remnants of her striking eyes which mesmerized many men decades ago. The lustrous black hair was reduced to a grey crop and her face was wrinkled with time. Yet, her heart was young. She contented herself with gazing at the sea from her porch, with such longing in her eyes, that it wasn’t hard to know the reason for her ritual.

It was yet another day. Circa 1995. She sat by the porch looking at the setting sun. The sky was now a faint tinge of orange interspersed in the blue. Life, she thought, was a journey, and she had nearly reached her Destination.

Here lies the soul

Of a lady in love with the sea.

Neither by life nor by death

Shall the two lovers part.

Thus read her grave, just as she had desired.

Dreams From Another World.

She sat outside the hut, on the barren ground, with books scattered around her. They were meant for kindergarten kids, but she couldn't make any sense out of it.

Malli enjoyed looking at these picture books. She tried to decipher the words printed below the pictures, but they remained a mystery. This was her favorite pastime.

Although her parents were construction workers and could not afford to get her educated, 10-year old Malli had big dreams. She was unlike the other kids of her clan who had resigned to their fate. Malli seldom helped her parents in the constructions. She loved wandering through the streets, playing in the children's park and making new friends. Malli was a simple girl, but despite the tattered frock and unkempt hair, she had a beauty of her own. Her brown eyes sparkled with infinite joy and her short, wavy hair was carelessly plaited. She flitted in and out of the building like a colorful butterfly.

All her life, Malli moved from one place to another, building houses and moving on. 
"When are we going to build our own house?" she often asked her parents, but they looked away furtively and mumbled something incoherent.

Making friends came easily to Malli, irrespective of social status. However, when she came  to Bangalore, the swanky malls, high rise apartments and sophistication left her overawed initially. 
But soon, she made friends at the local park and often got the old books of these kids. Of course, some parents shooed her away, considering her to be a bad influence on their children, while some snobbish children were downright rude to her. But these were exceptions and Malli, with her radiant smile and pleasant chatter, managed to win over most people.

"I'm off to the park" Malli said to her mother and skipped her way to the park on a Sunday morning. Seeing a group of kids of her age, Malli sensed an opportunity to make new friends. 

"Can I join you?" she asked with a shy smile. The group exchanged surprised looks and were unsure of what to say. They appeared to be from affluent families.

"I'm Malli. I want to play with you" she said, venturing further.

The children didn't want to upset her, but they felt they couldn't include her either. Before they could say anything, the mother of one of the boys in the group, seeing Malli among the children, arrived there. 

She eyed Malli suspiciously and asked her sternly, "Who are you? What do you want with these kids?"

Malli was rather nervous, but said, with all the courage she could muster "I'm Malli. Can I play with them?".

"You want to play with them? she said scornfully. Malli was stunned and went pale. She had never felt so humiliated. She suddenly noticed that all the kids were dressed in clean clothes while she was clad in a worn out tunic. The five children looked away uncomfortably. 
One of them hesitantly said "Maybe.. she can play with us..".

"Anmol, No." said the mother firmly.

Malli did not want to hear anymore. She turned away, her eyes swimming with tears, and ran back to her hut and cried.
For the next few days, she she did not venture near the park. On her insistence, her parents made a Jhula out of thick rope. So she contented herself with swinging from a tree branch all day long.

Malli and her parents rose early and after a hard day's work, they went to bed early. Although they were busy and spent little time with Malli, they loved her more than anything else in the world and she knew this. She never complained or sulked about their poverty because she knew they worked hard for a living. Some nights there wouldn't be much to eat, but they made sure Malli never went to bed hungry, even if it meant they had to.
In the same street, there were several children, but they never came out to play. There were two boys of her age, three girls slightly older than her, a three year old boy and two college girls. She liked to observe them and imagined what their world would be like.

One day, one of the college girls smiled at her. Malli, after her experience with strangers, was a little wary. She returned a hesitant smile. But soon, she was at ease, for Aditi seemed to be a nice girl and they quickly became friends. Every afteernoon, Malli waited eagerly for Aditi and the two girls chattered about their lives; Malli about her lifestyle and Aditi about college and studies.

"Aditi, I want to read books. I want to learn to write. Will you teach me? Please" Malli asked her with such eagerness that Aditi was touched and readily agreed.  From that day, Aditi taught Malli for twenty minutes. Malli's dedication inspired Aditi and she was pleased with her pupil's progress.
As the days passed, Malli mastered the language under the tutelage of Aditi. One evening, when Malli, slowly, but confidently finished reading an article on Thomas Alva Edison, Aditi watched her student with quiet pride.

"Aditi, what does ambition mean?" asked Malli.

Aditi thought for a moment and then said "Ambition is something you want to achieve as an adult. For that you will have to work hard. What's your ambition Malli?"

Malli replied instantly, "I want to become Aditi".

Aditi was puzzled. "Explain", she said.

"Yes, I want to become like you when I grow up. I want to teach other girls like me to read and write. That's my ambition" she said with childlike innocence.

Aditi had no words. With tears of joy, she hugged her first student, who had taught her much more than she had.

Dad had forgotten to get the birds back from the terrace and after I reminded him, we rushed upstairs and got drenched in the torrent. We covered the bird with a blanket and brought it downstairs.The cage looked damp and the birds were huddled in a corner (visibly shaken after surviving a thunderstorm (of sorts)) Before I went downstairs, I took a last look at the overcast sky; it looked fascinating.

The sky was a an amalgam of purple, red and orange embellished with the white streaks of lightning. After this, I went back and buried my nose in Wodehouse, but I couldn't get engrossed anymore (My sincere apologies to Mr.PGW). A strange thought was forming in my head. 

Something about the atmosphere outside intrigued me. I've never felt such a strong urge. I simply had to yield to it. So I grabbed a towel, opened the door noiselessly and crept out stealthily to avoid being spotted by my sister. The rusted latches creaked and groaned despite my futile attempts to keep it a clandestine affair.

Although the velocity of the rainfall had reduced,it was pouring nevertheless. As I stood there, shivering, I felt a flurry of emotions: Happiness, fear, confusion, ecstasy, trepidation. For some unexplainable reason, as much as I wanted to stay, I felt an equally strong desire to return to the cozy confines of my 

Flashes of lightning gave the surroundings an unearthly brightness. Thunder accompanied lightning with equal force and vigour. There was a chill in the air. I could see construction workers of a nearby building watching the rain. For them, It signalled the end of day's work. The glittering lights of some mall or shopping arcade gleamed from the distance. 

I clutched the towel tightly and ventured out to face the sky only to retreat within seconds to the safety of the sheltered roof. I spent a few more minutes ruminating on what was  it that attracted me. I've always wanted to get wet but something holds me back. It's either the thought of being rebuked by my mom or catching a cold that will eventually result in the result of the family sniffing and sneezing. But today, I didn't care two hoots. 
It was the call of the wild. The call of my Spirit.

Reader(s) please note: 

Yes, I can get frightfully philosophical at times. :)

The above post was first written and then typed. You could acknowledge my painstaking effort by commenting xD

And NO, this is not the story. That is a masterpiece and hence, Patience.