Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Delhi - Khushwant Singh

This is one of those very few books I have marked for a second reading.

It took the author 20 years to write this book and I think I know why.

It is a story of Delhi.
But a story told like never before.
Actually, a story never told before.

I say this because the history that you discover in this book is unlike anything that you have come across in history textbooks before. It is history told not by those curious travelers who enquired into the past but by those who were responsible for making history themselves.
Taimur Lung, Nadir Shah, Aurangzeb, Meer Taqi Meer(a poet), Bahadur Shah Zafar, Alice Gladwell and others narrate their stories in first person.

As you read …..”I, the emperor of Hindustan, swear by the name of Allah that all that I say is truth and nothing but the complete truth”….. the ring of this opening line gives credibility to the rest of the story that follows…

A lot of time and effort must have been spent in reaching the right sources and that’s why it took the authors 20 long years!

Of all the tales of cities in this world, the tale of Delhi has got to be the most tragic one. A city that was raised to the skies and razed to the ground a thousand times over.

As I read the book I became attached to the city that came alive before my eyes.

The story begins with one of the Mughal emperors, spans six to seven hundred years and ends with the 1984 Sikh riots that followed the assassination of Indira Gandhi.
All episodes of the past are interspersed with a continuous thread of the present – this thread of present, being the story of the narrator himself – a commoner, an unscrupulous tour guide working in the embassy and indulging his libido in anybody and everybody beginning from a local hermaphrodite or a Hijda, right up to his foreign tourists.

The narrator loves his city and his love stems not from the prevailing condition of the city but from knowing the story of the city very well and all that the city has endured.

As the narrator guides his friends and acquaintances through the ruins of the past that lay strewn all over the historic city… tombs, memorials, Durgahs and monuments… he is transported to a past time. As he rests against this pillar or that wall, he replays in his mind a battle that was fought here or a king that was slain there…and thus, an episode of the past unfolds…

“…Shah Jahan was not as Zalim as his fathers had been. Although he had killed his brother’s families when he came to the throne, he did not hurt any one else. But just like his father, grandfather and great grand fathers, he also liked women. His favourite was a queen whom he kept pregnant from the day he married her. In the 14 years they were married, she had 14 sons and daughters. She couldn’t take anymore and died giving birth to her 14th child. The badshah was so sad he decided to build the biggest and the most beautiful grave over her body. Taj Mahal…”

“…Many people lived both Hindu and Muslim lives. They had two names, one Hindu and one Muslim, they celebrated both festivals etc, to save their lives and they were held in contempt by both religions and societies for being neither here nor there…”

“…As if he had not had his fill of blood after destroying the infidels, temples, idols, etc... Aurangzeb in his deathbed expresses deep regret about not having destroyed completely, the Marathas, the Rajputs, Jats and Sikhs…”

…Delhi is said to have become like a living skeleton…

Burnt in flames till every building was reduced to ashes
How fair a city was the heart that love put to the fire!

…I make a vow that as long as I live, I will never come this way again. Delhi is a city where dust drifts in deserted lanes; in days gone by in this very city, a man could fill his lap with gold…

I was reminded of a line from Garcia Marquez’s “One Hundred years of Solitude”. You could replace the word “family” with the word “Delhi” and the statement would be as true.

The history of Delhi is a wheel of endless repetitions that would have gone on spilling into eternity were it not for the progressive and irremediable wearing of the axle.

It is that part of history which hurts as you read, which brings your blood to a boil...
The savages from Mongol, Turk, Samarkhand who plundered, pillaged and looted Hindustan...The period of Mughal rule where people were unhappiest…
Now I understand why Indians welcomed the British who overthrew the Mughals.

I can identify with the narrator when he says “I would have shot the lame bastard (Taimur Lung) dead, I would have slaughtered the Mongols, Turks, Tartars and other central Asian savages and sent them screaming back to Samarkhand”.

The first few pages are distasteful as they are full of references to rustic uncouth people lacking finesse, their filthy ways, filthy language, illicit sex etc. that the city of Delhi has a preponderance of, at least at a superficial level.

I don’t understand why the narrator in first person had to assume the character of a loathsome guide laying every other woman he came across…why could not the narrator be a tourist, a decent guide or a dweller of the city who was simply attached to the city?
The dirty pages that fill half the book make the reading annoying…what with vivid descriptions of the hijda giving pleasures to the narrator… The novel would have been much better if these pages had been filled something else (anything else). It does not even titillate you with its third class characters conversing in real bad language.
Having read three of his works, I don’t understand the author’s preoccupation/obsession with sex.

This author has an unbelievable capacity for unsavoury, distasteful writing. One whole chapter is devoted to intestinal wind.

This is the most distasteful/unsavoury thing I have ever read. Yuck! He has expounded on categories and classifications of wind… the attitude of different nations and people towards it. I don’t know how the author could face his relatives, kith and kin and his friends after the book was published.

I made note of the following as I read….some facts….some thoughts… My usual habit… :-)

“Tilpat – Legend has it that it was one of Pandava’s five villages…”

“…The Yamuna is only a fraction less holy than the Ganga! She is Sarjuga, Daughter of the Sun; she is also Triyama, sister of Yama the ruler of the dead. And since she was born on Mount Kalinda, she has yet another name, Kalinda Nandini, daughter of the black mountain. The Vedas were washed up by it’s flood, Krishna bathed in her waters…”

“New Delhi was previously known as Raisina…”

“…Nature provides that a man who slaves all day should spend the hours of night in a palace full of houris, whereas a king who wield the scepter by day should have his sleep disturbed by nightmares of rebellion and assassination. Thus does allah dispense justice. To one man, he gives pleasure by day misery by night; to another he gives travail from sunrise to sunset, the joys of paradise from sunset to sunrise…”

“The better part of generosity is speedy giving…”

This book is a must read.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

By The River Ganga She Sat Down And Wept

The place that has seen sages, hermits, saints, meditation, penance, salvation, Yoga and epiphany.
Rishikesh. On the banks of the Ganges.

The place that saw tears.
For, in Rishikesh, on the banks of Ganges, she sat down and wept.

I have wondered why happiness brings tears.
Happiness, when it comes after a long time, brings along with it a realization of all the sorrow one has had to live with, in the past and a realization of all that one was entitled to enjoy but was deprived of, for no perceivable fault of theirs.
One becomes consumed in self pity.

What was it that brought tears to her eyes on the banks of the Ganges in Rishikesh?

Ganges. A solemn name. She was drawn to that solemn name and all that it stood for.
She sat down, her feet immersed in the river up to her ankles.
As the sun came closer to the horizon, all sounds retreated to the background – the noise of street hawkers, the vulgarity of the motor vehicles, the clutter of people, the chirping of the birds, the bells in the temple. As the day came to a close, all sounds became tired.

All that the girl could hear was the gurgle and murmur of the river.

It was evening. There was a gentle breeze.
The Ganges was flowing in the valley in all her breadth, depth and calm.
Her swell was overwhelming.
Her music was a silent drone.
Her mood was contemplative.
Her disposition was grave. It was the disposition of someone who had seen it all, someone who had known it all.
She had been flowing thus since eternity, after all.

The girl heaved a sigh.
She was aware of herself and of the Ganges whose proximity was overpowering and humbling. She was aware of just the two of them and nothing else.
Such an atmosphere of vast spaces filled with silence, the close proximity of an emblem of eternity such as a river that has been flowing ever since, that has seen it all and from whom nothing can be hidden, predispose a person to come to a reckoning with life and to realize the summation of his life; and all this, more certainly with a feeling of poignance than without.

As the girl sat there, contemplating all that she had gained and all that she had lost… what pained her most was not the loss of something but the realization that there was not much to lose. There had never been.

Such is the quality of love. One, who has love in their life, has everything. And one, who does not have love, has nothing.
She had everything and yet, there was a lacuna.

If her life could be likened to a musical performance, then love was like the shruti in her life. Other notes of music rise and fall but the shruti sounds all the time, accompanying all other notes, as the lutes are plucked and strummed on a Tamburi, by the never tiring fingers of the musician.

And this shruti of love resounded, not with an abundance of love in life but with a craving and thirst, born out of a deprivation of love.

Precious years of childhood had been wasted in unnecessary admonition, chastising, rebuking, vigilance, estrangement and what not.
The most painful of them all was estrangement. Scoldings and beatings can be taken. Quarrels and skirmishes can be forgotten. But estrangement? How pitiable it is to be looked down upon like an untouchable by your own blood…
How hurtful it is not to belong to your own home.
It was estrangement that did most of the damage …to her heart and her soul during those formative years. And how long those wounds took to heal!
It was upon healing that the realization came of how much damage the wounds had done!

As the bud blossomed…
She talked about love, read love stories, wrote about love in her poems, dreamed about love, sang love songs and listened to love. But that wretched feeling! The ever elusive one!

Precious years passed, but the waiting never came to an end. She had clung to the parachute of hope for a long time and her soul had begun to ache. Even the thirst had begun to die.

Love remained deeply entrenched…the shruti sounded ever more loudly.

The cool breeze caressed her face, her hair and her body.
The river spoke words of care to her in gurgles and murmur.
The girl cupped her hand, filled it with some water and drank it. The water was sweet.

The Ganges listened patiently without uttering a word. She understood all. She did not protest once. She only knew how to give. Never did she take away anything from anyone.
She was so full of life, so complete, unbelievably flawless and full of love like a mother.

Mother! Mother…… When was the last time she had received a hug or a kiss from her mother? When was the last time she rested her head in her mother’s lap? She did not even remember… neither a comforting touch, nor a comforting word. Not in a long time… Never… Not once.

The woman who had given her birth had drifted away in those years…irrevocably lost in nagging… complaining… comparisons… pleasing the society and relatives…generation gap…she drifted away and away from the outstretched arms of a needy girl…

The Ganges was listening. A mother was listening.
The girl became overwhelmed. All that was bottled up within for years came up swelling and rising, rupturing every barrier of self control until the floodgates were forced open and tears flowed…

By the river Ganga, she sat down and wept…

…Over the ruins of her childhood…over love that had eluded her always…over the loss of a mother she never had in the first place….over the denial of a mother’s love to her, the love that every child in the universe was entitled to…she continued to weep… even as the shruti continued to sound…

By the river Ganga, she sat down and wept.

Friday, March 20, 2009


After Murudeshwar, it was Goa.

The next morning, we woke up really early before dawn and left to Goa. The four of us and Melvit’s parents.

The drive was beautiful. We passed over several bridges, built over backwaters and on both sides of the bridge, there were beautiful coconut grooves. Sometimes we moved along the shores for a brief stretch and looked hungrily at the vast sea, the beaches and the horizon. There were islands here and there. As the sun rose, the picture became lovelier. But it also became warmer.

Within 5 hours, we were in Goa.

The first place we visited was St. Xavier’s church.

The thousand year old relics of St. Xavier. 10 years ago when my father took us all to Goa, the body was in the open, enclosed in a glass case and we got a good look at it… now the location has been changed … it is less accessible … and you cannot even see it… perhaps the body has degenerated further…

The exterior of the church…

Goan churches may be known for their splendor but none can beat the St. Philomena’s church in Mysore as far as the exteriors are concerned… I will post pictures of it soon…

And then we went to another church close to the Xavier’s church.

After the church and museum, we went to Mangeshi temple.

This was one of those many many temples attacked and desecrated by the missionaries. The deity was shifted to here or a new temple built …

I bought a hat, a few knit tops and we all had lunch at this place…

We then visited the Mahalasa temple…

This too was desecrated by the missionaries and had to be shifted to this new place

Another church ... think this was in Panjim...this is supposedly where the movie “Josh” was shot. Sprawling over a large square of land…and having lots of space on all its sides, painted in white, it looks so solemn...

It was past 4 in the afternoon… it was time… to go to THE BEACH…

The waterfront was beautiful

We walked to this vantage point called Vasco de Gama(below) or something… I was so busy taking pictures that I did not make note of the names of all the churches… the beaches etc…

From the vantage point, we got a 360 degree view of the sea.. water and water as far as eyes could see… ships, boats, skies and clouds…

We proceeded to another beach where I saw the most magical sunset of my life…

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bishabriksha - Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay

Bishabriksha (poison tree) is set in Bankim Chandra’s own time.
Nagendra gives refuge to a young widow Kundanandini in his own house, who is orphaned after the death of her father.
He becomes attracted to the girl and is torn between his devoted wife Suryamukhi and the beautiful Kundanandini. There are other characters like Kamalamani, Nagendra’s sister, Taracharan who is desirous of Kundanandini, etc...

The work paints an adequate picture of the Bengal society, its norms, traditions, conventions etc. during a bygone period. Huge Havelis, palanquins, many many servants and separate quarters for all people…

The pages are strewn with some literary splendour, some insights into human emotions and a definite story… but this one is not as good as Kapalakundala. Sometimes, some details get too painful… unlike Kapalakundala where there is absolutely no redundancy… the details could have been presented much better…

One thing from this novel that I could not gather was that a woman’s only identity was her appearance. Every woman is described using parameters such as complexion, shape of eyes, nose, lips, height, length of hair etc…when a man is attracted to one, it apparently is only because of the way she looks.
This certainly cannot be attributed to the author’s mindset but to the times in which he lived, the seemingly small role that women were perceived to be playing in a family (perceived by men & the society)and an aspect of sociology that prevailed during the author’s time.

The translation is disappointing. It actually surprised me. It would have been good if the translator had translated only the purport or intent of a sentence instead of doing a literal word by word translation.

Worshipping tobacco god, goddess of alcohol…and many such others…

Some metaphors and similes actually sound ugly post translation. They would sound very normal in Bengali or any Indian vernacular but in English, they seem nonsensical. A non Indian reading these lines will be perplexed.
Perhaps, one should keep all these in mind while translating a work and where appropriate, avoid literal translation and use their own words to convey the net effect/purport, the summary or the gist.

This work is a typical Bengali tragedy – the state of affairs continues progressively from bad to worse. There is progressive deterioration of a family until nothing is left except wretchedness. The reading has not a single protagonist to look at and feel Ah! at least this one is living happily…Everyone and everything is wracked. It becomes more and more saddening for the reader.

If you are a Bengali fan or a Bankim Chandra fan, do read. It does not take long…just a few pages.

And then, there are fragments of splendor. Read on…

Love ripens through estrangement…

The unchanging devotion that I have towards him remains and will remain for as long as this clay is not mingled with the earth...

Nagendra opened the window and clusters of insects came and entered his bedroom. Kundanandini, watching from the garden wondered what in this world was needed to be born as an insect!

There are many sensations in the mind which people call love. But it is the state of mind in which we are ready of our own accord to sacrifice our own happiness for the happiness of another is correctly called love. ‘Ready of our own accord’, that is, not because of knowing our duty or in the desire for virtue…

When the qualities of one who is an object of love are apprehended by the faculties of the mind, and the heart, becoming enchanted by these qualities is drawn towards that person and is moved, then the desire for union with that person who holds these qualities is born and devotion towards that person grows. The result is sympathy and in the end, self forgetfulness and self renunciation. This is truly love.

Fascination born of beauty is not so. The intensity of all the upheaval of the mind which arises from the sight of beauty becomes less with recurrence. That is, it is allayed by repetition. This is not so with what arises from qualities. For beauty is a single thing – everyday, it is manifested in the same way. Qualities manifest themselves newly day by day in new actions.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Matter Of Interpretation

Company management, in an effort to keep us motivated sends us emails like the one below… Read on…

An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer-contractor of his plans to leave the construction business and live a more leisurely life with his wife while enjoying his extended family. He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. They could get by.

The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter said yes, but in time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end his career.

When the carpenter finished his work and the builder came to inspect the house, the contractor handed the front door key to the carpenter. "This is your house," he said, "my gift to you." What a shock! What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently. Now he had to live in the home he had built none too well.

So it is with us. We build our lives, reacting rather than acting, willing to put up less than the best. Then with a shock we look at the situation we have created and find that we are now living in the house we have built. If we had realized the outcome, we would have done it differently.

Think of yourself as the carpenter. Think about your house. Each day you hammer a nail, place a board, or erect a wall, build wisely.

It is the only life you will ever build. Even if you live it for only one day more, that day deserves to be lived graciously and with dignity.

Remember, "Life is a do-it-yourself project."

Beautiful story methinks!


It’s amazing how people can churn stories, theories, arguments, anecdotes to prove their point, to justify what they do, to persuade others to act in a certain way.
Certainly, where there is a will, there is a way!

Not that I don’t agree with the moral of the story above. But I am amused by the many different ways in which a free thinker, not easily influenced by persuasive people and societies may choose to interpret this!

The fact that this message is coming from an Indian IT company that perennially presses people to work overtime, pays very little, cuts corners and is now trying extract some more by circulating ‘inspirational messages’ such as this, is all the more a reason why you should try to interpret it in a way that the management does not intend you to!

The following is my advice...

Build the right life – First of all, find your true calling. If your true calling is to paint or write poems, do not do carpentry or software programming for 30 years of your life! And if you have to do it(like most of the software programmers who are not in love with programming), do as little of it as you can! Go home early!

Build not structures but meaning – If you have been doing copy – paste work in most of your software projects (for companies like Wal-Mart who want a software to sell more cheese pizzas and diet coke to already obese people), you know how meaningless your job is…so don’t try to excel in it… join painting classes to add colour and meaning to your life!

Build the best – Let not some boss decide what is best for you. Let not your building aim at satisfying a person other than yourself! You build what is best for YOU!

Build for value – Build not for money ! Ask how your work/building is making the world a better place!

Build everyday – if you are building what you like and what is meaningful, do not seek retirement!
Retire everyday – if the above condition is not true in your case, then retire every day. Do not wait until building is over!

And generally…
Build as little as you can – Any reduction in human activity is good for the environment!

As I said….. it’s a matter of interpretation!!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


October 2008

I had taken a 4 month break in my career, after CSC-FCG and before Sumeru.
Melvit(Melvit Violet Gomes! nice name na?), a dear friend had 10 days holidays(we were roommates in this PG when I was living on Airport road). This blood sucking company called Huwawei that she works for had bestowed a little mercy on her.
So Melvit went to her hometown, Thernamakki, near Bhatkal, near Mangalore. Myself and two of her colleagues had been invited to visit her place.

We let her spend 6 days with her family alone and then decided to attack their privacy.
I cannot thank aunty and uncle enough for their hospitality! Food prepared specially for us, unlimited fruit salad, juice to keep us cool in that heat… everything served with a motherly affection…
Truly, small town people are the best in the country!

So the first day, we visited Murudeshwar which was less than 3 kilometers from her place. We went by a van crowded with the local folks. It was very hot and we were sweating like anything. The sun was preparing to submerge in the waters of the Arabian sea. We had sometime before we could catch the drama.

The temple loomed large before us. It was so much more than I had expected.

Anybody visiting Murudeshwar can expect to see something spectacular. This businessman called R N Shetty surely has a fancy for extravagance and magnificence.
The ground for his work is a small hillock called Kanduka Giri surrounded by the sea on three sides, which he owns!

If you go now, you will see on this hillock, a shiva temple with a really tall Gopura(249 feet tall – tallest Gopura in the world), a huge Shiva statue(123 feet high) and other smaller statues and interesting work of art surrounding the Shiva statue on all sides.

Murudeshwar is a place that offers many a good in one package.
Since the hillock projects into water, on both sides of Murudeshwar you will find the sea beach bordered by coconut groves. There are ferry boats that will take you sailing into the sea.

There is a restaurant built close to the beach, but well into the waters. As you enter the restaurant, you get this feeling that you are floating on water. If you sit really long, you could feel dizzy.

You can see it in the picture below.

The shiva statue …

Artwork surrounding the statue

View of the temple as you climb up to the statue.

At the base of the shiva statue is a cave in which they have depicted the sthalapurana, legend of the place in the form of sculpture.

Beyond the shiva statue is the vast sea.
All tourists eventually assemble here to watch the drama of sunset.

We went to the restaurant and I recollected vaguely, memories of my previous visit to Murudeshwar more than 10 years ago with my parents, when we had dined in the same restaurant, probably at the same table! Of course, we were much younger then and had been way more excited about floating on water than this time.

We strolled around the area and saw some more artwork. It was dark already. The moon shone clearly.

I tried to capture the temple Gopura and the moon in one shot.

We returned home and hogged some more fruit salad.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Farewell Of A Nomad - Part 1

1986. Mysore.

It was time to say good bye.
I had lived in this house ever since I could remember. I had no memory of any place before this. I had just completed 1st standard in Teresian primary school. The foundation had been laid. And a good one.

The soil was fertile and our garden had flourished. My father had himself planted all the plants and trees when he bought this house four years ago.
The croutons, the Ashoka trees and the Christmas tree were growing well. The bougainvillea had grown wild. Its boughs laden with pink flowers had claimed most of the front portion of the house. The pomegranate tree had given healthy, tasty and great looking fruits.

When I had found this resting place, my father had been transferred to a village called Nagamangala. There were no English schools there. It had been decided, after a brief consultation with me of course, that I would stay in my grandmother’s home in Hassan, for a year.

On the day of departure, I stood in front of my house, looked at our home and our garden with a keenness and with a fondness I had not felt before. I looked at everything as if it was for the last time. With complete Innocence and devotion, I prostrated before my home.

1987. Hassan.

The time for reunion had come. My father had taken transfer to Sira, a town where there was an English school.

As I got into the auto with … who had come to fetch me, my heart felt heavy. I waved my hand, hoping that I would come back to live here.
I would miss my grandmother’s home that stood at the centre of a sprawling piece of land 100 by 120. I would miss the huge garden. The house was full of people; my grandparents, two of my aunts who had not been married at that time, two of my uncles, cousins and many guests. My aunts had taught me, bathed me, combed my hair, dressed me up, pampered me and sometimes, censured me. I would miss all that.
There was a cowshed in the backyard. I had got so used the sounds of their calling which were answered by either the cowboy or one of the family members with a bucket of water or some straw. The cows would be milked every day. I had even seen a cow giving birth to a calf.
When one of the cows had died, all of us had stood together to bid farewell as it was dragged away by a bullock cart. Everyone was in tears.

I would miss the calling sounds of these cattle.

1988. Sira.

I had spent one year in this place.
My father got a promotion. He had been transferred to this place called Bharuch in Gujarat, a place that I had never heard before.
I felt nothing. It had been a dry, arid place. Literally and figuratively.

1990. Bharuch.

My father was transferred to Ahmedabad, another city in the same state.
Those two years had been really eventful.
Our independent house in the small town of Bharuch was a charming thing.
Green grass grew all around the house. I looked at the stone benches in our garden. Our family had spent many an indolent evening after dinner on these benches, sometimes biting into roasted corn cobs, sometimes enjoying the messy Seethaphal, what with spitting all those seeds one after the other, while looking at the Gopura of the temple that loomed before our house from a distance. The red flag on top of the Gopura fluttered tirelessly in the air day and night.

There was the Parijata shrub next to the gate. Those early mornings, when I would wake up to go to Hindustani music classes, I would walk by a bed of Parijatha flowers, delicate looking, cream coloured petals with a tinge of saffron in the center. Their fragrance permeated the air, filling the surroundings with a divine scent. For one last time, I looked at the humble Parijatha that stood by the gate like an innocent offering. I don’t remember having seen a Parijatha shrub after that till today.

As I stood there, I thought of the playground in front of the temple where thousands of colourfully dressed men and women played Garba and Dandiya Raas during Navarathri. Throughout the night the beats of dandiya sticks could be heard in perfect rhythm.

I thought of my music classes and teacher. Our guru had become so fond of my voice that he would ask me to sing before everybody else in those early hours of the morning. As I sang Shyama Sundara Madana Mohana Jago Mere Lala…, he would close his eyes, smile with satisfaction and nod his head this way and that as if he had been transported to another world.

I thought of those voices that sang the proclamation “Saugandh Raam Ki Khate Hai Hum Mandir Yahin Banayenge”. Curfew had been declared many a time during the Hindu Muslim strife and schools had been closed, much to our delight.

I said bye to Urvi, my friend and daughter of Sharadaben who lived across our house. Urvi had half taught me how to ride a bicycle. Little did I know then that my riding lesson would become complete only after 14 years.
Julie, her sister was much younger. Kamlesh, was younger still.
I had not said bye to Sakeena, a Muslim girl and my best friend in school.

I turned and walked towards our backyard which had been the scene of most of our activities. There stood the almond tree. Thick and strong, about 7 feet tall, casting a dense shadow. When we had arrived here, it was just 2 feet in height. A fugitive cat had jumped on it in a hurry to escape and the slender stem had broken into two with just a thin bark holding it together. My mother had tied it to a pole. And look how much it had grown in 2 years. I could still see the scar.
As if to repay my mother for her kindness, the tree gave her its shadow as she washed vessels under it in the afternoons.

And the backyard! Me and my brother had divided the land into two. We had planted pink, yellow and orange flowering creepers, some groundnut plants, lentils, tomato and what not! It had become the purpose of our living. We ran to our respective plots all the time to discover new developments – the first thing after waking up in the morning, the first thing after returning from school…and so on. A newly blossomed flower, a new bud, a new twig, new leaves and new fruit…all brought such excitement. Once we had been able to harvest enough lentil from my plot to prepare sambhar, which I had been so proud of.
For one last time, I looked at our garden. And one more time, my heart felt heavy.

1992. Ahmedabad.

Dad had been transferred to Bangalore. Mom and Dad were happy to be returning to family and relatives.
I had a heavy heart as usual.

Vora aunty, our neighbor had invited us for a farewell dinner.
How I had relished all that she had prepared! Dhokla, Muthiya, brown dhokla…I have forgotten the others. Nimita, Vora aunty’s daughter and my classmate had enjoyed Dosas, Idlis, Rasam and Bisibelebhath that my mom had prepared. We would exchange lunchboxes during the afternoon recess.

Me, Murali (my bro), Nimita and Nishita(Nimita’s sister) had played the game of Business(which in think is also known as Monopoly) for hours together.
I had started making a Business set with the help of cardboard and colour papers. Even before I had finished, Vora aunty presented a new Business game set to us on the occasion of Murali’s birthday. It was a dream come true!
Nimita had taken a special liking to Murali as she did not have a brother of her own.
Once, when playing games on the terrace, Murali had hit Nimita and she had run home crying.

The time of departure arrived.
I went to the terrace and looked at hotel Patang, the revolving hotel where we had never been in those two years.
From the same terrace we had flown kites during Uttarayan with other children in the apartments. Although the festival was only for a day, kite flying happened for a season. On the day of the festival which was the last day, an expert had been invited to fly special kites. He first flew the kite and once it became steady, he began to attach, one by one, paper lanterns which had candles inside them and let go of some more string. In the end, there flew in the dark, an invisible kite with an invisible string and all you could see was a series of paper lanterns floating in the air. How incredible it had been! I had flown kites too. My brother would hold the spindle for me and I would hold it for him.

From our balcony on the second floor (on top of which was the terrace), the tall and beautiful Neerav and Neeldeep apartments could be seen. All of us had passed so much time just looking at the grand buildings, while devouring liters and liters of Vadilal icecream.
For one last time, I stood on that balcony. And one more time, my heart felt heavy.