Of brave men and the stormy sea

She sat heavily on the sofa. Her round shapeless body made her smile. Well almost there! 9 months over now. Lt. Ajit her young husband had promised that they would together welcome their firstborn. So he should be home  soon she thought.  The bell rang and in walked Lt. Vijay to check on her. It was his duty to see that all was well with the families. To help them with anything they needed. The navy was one big family. Normally the person left behind took charge of this duty voluntarily.

She looked at him a little anxiously. He seemed a little uneasy though he talked very cheerfully. She had been noticing this since last couple of days. So how are you today ? He asked her . She told him that she was feeling uneasy since a couple of days. As though something was amiss.  Wasn’t there a storm on the southern  coast. Would that delay the ship’s program.  But Lt. Vijay  assured her not to worry. Everything was under control. Even after he left the uneasiness wouldn’t leave her.

Next morning Lt vijay  came rather early. He was elated and happy. He came in .   Thank the lord all is well he said. Last three days were so stressful. Why she asked what happened. And this is what he told her

Lt. Ajit was an acting executive officer that is second in command of the ship. His ship was a black swan class sloop HMIS  Jumna( U21) used by the Royal Indian Navy during the World war II. Later after India became a republic it joined the Indian Navy as a survey ship. It was a stately old lady that worked diligently.  After finishing their work at Cochin they left the port to return to Bombay.  Those days the only means of communication was the wireless .  Somehow they missed geting an important message in time. It was a warning about an imminent  storm. No sailing for the next three days the signal said and had warned about a huge storm that was likely to hit .

Unaware of the weather forecast, ship sailed into the Arabian sea as per the schedule hoping to reach Goa after one and half days. Suddenly the  the sky became dark as the clouds thickened.  The winds roared and the sea became choppy. Mountain waves lashed furiously at the ship.  First the crew tried to get out of the storm but  it was caught in the very eye of the storm.  Initially every body rushed to empty the decks of the water left by these fierce waves. But slowly men started becoming desperate. Vomitting and cursing. This continued for nearly 24 hours. One by one the members of the crew got desolate and coming out of this predicament safe seemed difficult. It was then decided to issue life jackets to everyone. They were short of three jackets. Young Lt. Ajit opted to do without one as two other brave men.

The ship struggled valiantly. So did the three men. Lt. Ajay was on the bridge keeping watch . Since it was impossible to stand with the heavy rolling and pitching he had tied himself to the Compass pelorus .  He continued to steer the ship futilely.  The sea  battered the ship relentlessly. It seemed in no mood to subside. On the shores there was an alert issued and they were waiting and praying .  The deteriorating conditions made any rescue attempt risky.

After 56 hours the storm abated and the sea was  calm and serene .  The  ship was brought into the harbour. The tired gallant Officer and sailors went into their cabins dehydrated and fell into a deep slumber.  Rest of the crew and the navy were grateful that the three intrepid men and the Gritty old lady had brought each and every person home safely.

Later the three men were commended for their valour. For Lt. Ajay however   he was happy to have been able to keep his promise and be home in time to receive the newborn.





Bhakti- pure devotion

Nobody knew where she came from. She was a frail girl about 20 years of age. One could not say she was beautiful nor could one find anything particularly unattractive  about her.  She arrived one day with a suitcase. And checked into the dormitory of the ashram.  Those days our spiritual Guruji stayed in what was called then shakti kutir. Very few people were allowed in.

She stood at the gate of this shakti kutir waiting to meet the Guruji.  She waited 2 days and 3 nights. All through the hot days and cold nights.   Waiting patiently and hopefully. What she didn’t know was Guruji was away.

Then she saw him coming. There was a complete transformation in her. Her eyes lit up with great love and devotion.  Forgotten were the hardships. She ran and touched his feet.  “Oh you have come “said Guruji. “You have a lot to do now.  But first go and rest have your meals. Come tomorrow in the vedashala at 8 o clock in the morning.”

And so she worked in the kitchen cutting vegetables making rotis and serving the devotees with full devotion. She helped the teachers in the vedashala and in the ayurvedic clinic. She swept the rooms and tended the gardens. She fed the cows and talked to them . She made herself useful wherever she went. Since she had became an active ashramite she got her own room with a kitchenette. She was also paid monthly for her personal expenses.

That was 15 years ago. I was in the ashram recently. There was a satsang. It was crowded as usual specially so since Guruji was also attending. The bhajan started by a beautiful melodious voice. A voice that touched your very being. Every note lulled your chattering mind to rest.  It put one into a meditative state.   Satyam Shivam sundaram. Everyone felt those chants. There was a promise of joyful reunion with the divine. The words did not matter. The voice took you upwards to contentment peace and finally to that elusive bliss that every soul desires for.  There was pin drop silence though there were around 5000 people .  Eyes were closed and vibrations were felt . It was one of those rare moments when mind intellect and spirit become one.

The singer was the same anonymous lady. Everybody calls her Didi now. Her face glowed with ethereal happiness. She doesn’t need to meet her Guruji anymore. She has understood that the physical form is not necessary. She has found and realised the Guru Tatva. She has merged with the divinity.





A life crashed

Many a times real life imitates the reel one. Priya was sitting at the Mumbai airport waiting for her flight to Panaji. She had been to Bangalore to appear for her LLB examinations.  Now finally it was over. She felt she had done well. Lt.Cdr. Rohan her husband had taken a week  off to look after their 3 year old son. Her mother had very kindly offered to look after them both during the day.

Her flight from Bangalore to Panaji for some reason was diverted to Mumbai. So she was going to be delayed . She sat in the lounge and idly looked at the TV screen. Some air crash in Hyderabad where an air show was being held. Oh my god she thought that’s Rohans colleagues. Thank god Rohan is at home. Then feeling selfish she guiltily tried to find out what had really happened. The name of the pilot was not given. She prayed that somehow the pilot was safe. It had happened before. She had seen how traumatic it was for those left behind.

She landed at the panaji airport and decided to take a cab instead of the regular shuttle. As she came out a group of white uniformed people came rushing towards her. “Ma’am let me take your bag”, one of them said. She was confused. Why were they here. Their grim and drawn faces struck terror in her heart. ” Tell me what’s going on. ” she asked them “There has been an accident. We will take you to the hospital.” Replied the senior officer.” No I want to know right now.” She asked with rising panic.

It so happened that there was an air show planned by the flying squadron of the Indian navy at Hyderabad. Lots of VIPS had been invited. But one of thebpilots took ill. Rohan was requested to replace him. He was an ace pilot with many a laurels to his credit.  It was a matter of routine. He left his son in the play school. Half an hour flight to Hyderabad and half an hour back . Half an hour at the show. Well he should be back by lunch time.

He loved flying. Much against his mother s wishes he had taken this branch. His poor mother kept on praying to every diety she could find  for his safety.

He took the plane through the intricate loops to the delight of the spectators. Suddenly his plane started going down. He tried every thing he could. Time was short. Probably he realised nothing could be done. So he took the plane away from the residential area . It got entangled in the high tension wires. There was a bolt of fire as everybody gasped shocked. But while dying he saved lives.

Priya was dry eyed. “Thank you for telling me the truth” .  Everybody looked with wonder as she walked towards the waiting vehicle. At the moment she had to be a brave wife of a very courageous warrior. Pain would come later


Little cherub

The big smile with which he greeted me surprised me. Then he reached for my mobile phone which I had in my hand. Aarav is the new boy to join my class. I work as a volunteer in the local school here. He is completely obsessed with mobile phones and computers. Though he is about eight years of age he has joined the school recently. He is Autistic!  As  it always happens it takes a while to accept the fact that your child who looks so angelic and normal is never going to be like the children of his age.  The parents also do not get the right advice .  Early intervention which is very important in such cases somehow does not happen in many cases.

The special teacher and the medical professionals were baffled by this obsession. He refused to sit or stay still ( that is normal with autistic children) till he had the keyboard.  Many a times he got aggressive and refused to go home. His mother was in tears. When we asked how he got so addicted to computers, she said they started showing him some cartoons some nursery rhymes. He quietened down. So after that to keep him busy they gave him what he wanted with the result he couldn’t stay away from it. He found his happiness or some sort of connection.

We decided to wean him gently from this addiction. He got to use computers as a reward when he finished the activity given to him. It took almost six months. But now he understands that he has to finish his assignments in time if he wants his reward.

Things are a little better now. He is less aggressive and more adjusted. We hope to use computer to advantage as he learns further

Small dreams

She was massaging my back. I closed my eyes and relaxed. Her de-stressing was to talk in which i wasnt expected to join . And so it went:

Didi  why is mother in law a bad name? Why should it always have a negativity attached to it?  But its true my mother in law was very demanding. But she was an old timer. I had decided long time back to be a mother to my son’s wife. Well he got married last year. I told my daughter in law, look we have to live in this jhopadptti. But I don’t want you living like that forever. You have studied till the 8th. You go on studying. Help me in the household chores whenever you can but finish at least 10 th. Then you will get a job in the mall or an office. You life will be made. I don’t mind working extra time

But she doesn’t want to study. You know I always dreamt of going to school learning to read and write.  I pray to god maybe in my next birth my dream will be fulfilled!

“Why rukhmini wait for the next birth? “I said “you can learn to read and write even now”. But who will teach me she wondered. ” Get a book and pencil. Come tomorrow after you finish your work . I will teach you.”

Next day she came clutching a book with pencil eraser and sharpner in hand and with an uncertain smile.  That was six months ago. She has mastered the alphabets and can read small sentences.

I asked her when did she get time to study. “You know didi Ihave time waiting on the station for the local to come. I do my writing then. When in the train I read and repeat whatever we do in the day. Don’t you think I should be able to read books soon?

Amazing . One can learn so much from people around us!

behaviourial issues

We bought tickets and were waiting our turn to enter the hall. Two young mothers walked in with their four kids. One of them looked in our direction and said ” how can they bring such crazy kids to a public place! Why can’t they just put them away in some institution? I wouldn’t ever be seen with such monstrosity.  Fortunately the mothers of my Autistic children do not understand English so well. But they realized something rude was being said. I  went quietly to the ladies . ” oh you have come to watch the movie? How nice! Which school do your children go to? It was one of the well known school in our area. “I want you to do one thing”, I said  “please watch how my school children watch the movie and how they conduct themselves when we go to lunch at the M’cdonald s.”

We were seated behind them. Our children waited to be seated whilst there was  a row with the other four children on who was to sit where. During the movie they that is the other four  shifted places several times disturbing the others. In the interval there was a loud demand for popcorns chocolates and sodas from the normal children whereas the so called abnormal kids waited to be given whatever their mothers gave and  ate and drank happily.

After the movie we went for lunch. We asked our kids for their choices and got them what they wanted whilst they sat enjoying every moment. The mothers and kids walked in with loud arguments . As they settled with their burgers and fries one of them threw the soda on the other angrily and a fight ensued. The mothers looked sheepishly at us.

The lady had a change of heart. She came to us and apologized.  Hopefully her

Hoping for Justice

I was in Delhi with by brother in law and sister in law.  They are the parents of Nupur Talwar. We were in the car which was taking us to Dasna jail. We had permission to meet both Rajesh and Nupur. I was watching  my brother in law whom we call Bhau. He was sitting in the front seat and telling me how they had to commute regularly to the court.

He is 83 years of age and former Indian Air Force Officer. Coming from a very modest family he worked his way through college before joining the forces. After doing that he did everything to help his young Brothers to achieve the career they aspired. My husband the youngest brother was then a Naval officer. Our having the same kind of life as services families brought us closer. We understood the life each of us faced. Our children went to the government Central school,  learnt different sports, and spoke a similar language. Discipline was imbibed naturally in this environment. Simple things like being punctual, respecting the elders, opening doors for the ladies were never taught. These old fashioned traditions just got rooted in the children .Public display of emotions or speaking loudly were never done. You always did that in private.

Here was a man who had lived a tough life.. Worked diligently and sincerely. Always. Together with my sister in law Lata they instilled  in their children the right values. Told their children to never get bogged down by any adversities. He always said that when you are right Face them boldly and with clear mind .  But I am sure he never thought his daughter would ever have to face such a catastrophic situation.

He stood ramrod straight giving her support. He knew both of them were innocent. Both of them were being punished for a crime of not their making. He grieved in private. But never did one see him broken down. He was always trying to find some way to help. Always met and talked to people whom he thought would help his case. His life now has become a mission to help them come out honorably.

This octogenarian always has a word of encouragement when he goes to meet the hapless couple. This is the battle wherein his daughter and son in law are caught. The ever hopeful , he feels that a battle lost does not mean the war is over. He is gearing up to fight this war to its logical end .

He still believe s justice will be done

A Damned Soul

He had a smile on his face. He had scored the highest in his class for his project. The professor had appreciated his efforts. With a shy smile he wrote her name.  Leena. He was in love with her. She too seemed partial to him. They had known each other since schooldays. Life was good. He was happy.

There was a gust of cold wind. The room was suddenly filled with loud voices. He looked every where. The door was closed .   Who was laughing ? The voices became louder more menacing. This was happening a lot since a few days now. There were people out to hurt him kill him .  they could read his thoughts. They would follow him everywhere. he didn’t know why. He tried talking to his older sister. She thought it was just his imagination. How could anybody read his mind? His father thought he was just making up stories. His mother was annoyed that he had broken her favorite mirror. She would not believe that he was just trying to protect himself from those people. He desperately thought Who will help me? Who  will believe me?

The buzz grew louder and louder pushing him into the corner. With hands on his ears he cried , he begged to let him be. Crouched in the corner he told them he would obey all their orders and do whatever  they wanted. The noise was unbearable.  He  pleaded , “Okay you want me to drink from this bottle I will but please please don’t attack me “. He drank deeply from the  green bottle.

The drink that he took was the poisonous baygon spray. Deadly Schizophrenia had just set in.

Musings of a centenarian

My father is 97  of age and a second world war veteran.  Apart from hearing deprivation he is as fit as he can be and  has a sharp memory  He therefore  makes his views known .rarely stops to hear what the other person has to say. He asked me what I was reading so keenly. I told him it was A new book called Arushi written recently.  He has been following the case carefully and just cannot understand why Nupur and Rajesh should be punished.

So this is what he had to say:

Tell my why should parents kill their daughter and that too an only child whatever the provocation was. They are doctors. If they really wanted to do away with her they could have done it in so many more  painless way.  why kill her in the flat ?  Use your common sense girl.
The police say they were not given the key to open the terrace door. Don’t the police check anything and everything once a crime is committed? You mean to say they did not break open the door? Aren’t they supposed to do that? Since when do they need permission.
And you say a dentist scalpel was used. How ridiculous? That tiny piece of blade. Less than half an inch .  it must have been khukhri. I am sure .The servants did it. Most nepalis have it. There were some Gurkha and Nepalis I knew in the army. They always had khukri. Have they really checked the servants? The judiciary the CBI and the police have messed up the case you say. But aren’t they the professional s. They are to keep us secure and safe from unsocial elements .   You know when we got the Independence we were so happy and hopeful of having an honest and progressive government.  What have we come to!

Seeing his agitation I quickly reminded him of the time  for his daily wheelchair walk.
As he was leaving he brightened up considerably.  He said since we have voted for a different government things will change won’t they ? I said yes certainly.

Let him live in the comfort of this hope

A mother who didn’t cry

The other day when I had attended the launching of Arushi the book two ladies came and sat next to me. They were your typical South Bombay  (blue blooded )who thought anything beyond Dadar was ” so very rustic”. It was fun to watch them blowing kisses and greeting people they knew. Dressed in latest trend and heavily jewelled( a ring in every finger) they talked About the book.

Their conversation went something like this

The parents did it. Who else could ?  The mother didn’t even cry how can she be so ruthless. I am sure she must be her stepmother? I would have been devastated. And mind you Avirook has been paid well or else why would anyone write?

These hen brained ladies made me angry and also sad. I have known Nupur since her childhood. My husband who was also in the Indian navy as her father my brother in law in the Indian Air force. The similar background got us closer to each other.  Nupur was a very hard working and a  sincere girl.  I have seen her grow up to a very dedicated and loving mother wife and daughter

In the services we always keep our emotions in control. Not for us to cry and yell as they do in soap operas.  The family learns to live out of the boxes transferred frequently. Sometimes you get your own accommodation some times you just share a house with another family. New school new towns new friends. Father away on duties for days together.  You learn right from young days to face situations and tackle them firmly.

This is exactly what happened. Nupur s whole life was shattered beyond repair. She became numb not emotionless. She knew she couldn’t afford to go to pieces. Rajesh was in jail for no fault of his. The world had gone topsy turvy. The very systems on which one relied to give  justice was flawed. She lost her precious child, husband was in jail and her reputation tarnished by vulgar insinuations. Unfortunately she still believed in our justice and investigation agencies. So she did what any army kid does. Stiff upper lip. She did not have the luxury to grieve. She soldiered on . This was seen by the media as cruel and insensitive and  it went against their image of a soap opera generated image of a mother.