July 1995 : Sara took admission in St Xavier’s Mumbai, one of the best colleges in India. She wanted to be a journalist, so she opted for English Honours for her degree course. She had local guardians in Mumbai, however she preferred to stay in a hostel to spare herself of the complications that arise with relatives. Initially the long ragging sessions which stretched late into the night were really distressful. Despite the late nights, they would have to wake up at 5:00 in the morning and go around wishing their seniors Good Morning !
Sara being a small town girl, was finding it difficult to cope up with all the ragging protocols. So every weekend she would run off to her local guardians. This was one such weekend when she was home – yes her relatives’ house which she had earlier tried avoiding in order to taste freedom in the real sense was now home to her and it provided the best succour during those awful ragging days.
She was having breakfast with her uncle, aunt and cousin when one of her cousin’s friend came to see him. “Sara this is Nitin . Nitin meet my cousin Sara” , her cousin Dipesh quickly introduced. Nitin was tall, lean and quite good looking. He was wearing a yellow Lee Cooper T shirt over blue denims. Sara liked him at the first sight. But it was certainly not love at first sight. That day the three of them sat together to chit chat. Sara really liked Nitin’s sense of humour.
Next weekend she was back at her cousin’s place. It was a Friday and Nitin was already there when she reached the house. Sara was very excited to see him though she did not express her excitement on her face. She really hoped that the butterflies in her stomach did not fly out to expose themselves. ” Hey Sara why don’t you join us for the movie ? It would be fun” Her cousin asked her excitedly. Before she could open her mouth, her cousin asked Nitin to book the ticket. Sara’s excitement knew no bounds !
The movie was fun more so because of the wonderful company she had. They had a gala time. After that weekend she started looking forward to her short visits to her cousin’s house and her meetings with Nitin. Nitin never expressed himself but she had a feeling that he looked forward to her visits too. Every time she came, he too would find excuses to come to meet her cousin. Gradually they became really close. They started talking a lot and sharing their thoughts, opinions and aspirations.
Nitin wanted to do MBA from IIM Ahmedabad for which he was preparing hard. He had to crack CAT anyhow. Sara wanted to do journalism from a good institute. But she still had time as it was the first year of her graduation. The CAT exams were in November. Nitin got 99.8 percentile. He got through the interviews too and got admission in the institite of his dreams. “So when are you moving to Ahmedabad?” Sara asked in desperation. Her heart felt heavy. ” In a week” was Nitin’s curt reply. Sara collected herself and continued, ” Nitin I wish to say something. Please don’t get angry if you don’t like what I am about to say. I..er..actually..er have started liking you a lot…as in I think..umm…I am in love with you” She could feel the blood gushing to her cheeks.
Nitin surprisingly smiled at her and replied, ” Same here. I mean… I too love you. “What! Why didn’t you tell me before?” Sara looked at him questioningly. ” Because I was not sure about this long distance relationship. I don’t know whether it would last. But if you are ready, I too am” he replied. That night both love birds could not sleep. Soon Nitin was off to Ahmedabad and Sara was left to pine for him. They communicated through letters as there were no mobile phones then. After two years there were campus placements and he got placed with Coca Cola at Atlanta, USA on a hefty pay package ! All his dreams were coming true.
So this long distance thing would have to continue for a few more years. Sara was actually not sure so she decided to break up. Though Nitin was willing to continue, Sara was adamant to break up as she was convinced that it would be difficult to pull on especially for Nitin who would have so many distractions. A day before Nitin was leaving for Atlanta, they both met at Cafe Coffee Day. Sara broke the news that she did not want to continue the relationship. Despite Nitin’s efforts, she did not come around. They both finally left with a heavy heart.
July 2000: Sara was super excited as she had got placed with NDTV and was moving to Delhi. She came to meet her cousin with whom she had grown really attached over all these years. While they were talking, after fifteen minutes, the door bell rang. Her cousin asked her to open the door. When she opened the door, she got the shock of her life. Nitin was standing right before her ! “Oh my God! After all these years…” she fell short of words. “Yes I have come for you” He replied as he walked in.”I changed to PepsiCo and took up posting in Gurgaon as I wanted to be with you. I could never forget you and despite no letters or phone calls from you I still could not get attracted to anyone else. It’s only you I love and want to be with” he replied lovingly. She could not believe her ears. She too was still madly in love with him. He told her how he had been in touch with her cousin all along to follow Sara’s whereabouts. He had confessed everything to her cousin who had been quite positive about their relationship.
They both flew to Delhi together and after settling her down in Delhi, he left for Gurgaon. They were finally together, only separated by a few miles but now they could meet every weekend. They got married in 2003 and are happily married for seventeen years . True love survives the test of time and the constraints of distances! True love lasts and is sure to come back.
Lets peep into life – Life is a bazaar, Sometimes comprehensible, Sometimes bizarre. People flow in and out – Like the ebb and flow of tide. Enter this bustling bazaar, With empty bags of innocence. Leave this buzzing bazaar With full bags of sin. One haggles to buy time, But eventually pays for each crime. This bazaar is replete, With fun and merriment indeed, But chaos finds its way through The chasms we create. Everyone pushes and nudges, To get to the front. But only the strong and agile, Are the victorious ones. The multiple faces and shades Have different stories to narrate. A day in a sweaty bazaar Presents life’s myriad facades.
The world has changed ! Our perceptions, life style, thought process have all undergone a tremendous change and all because of a lethal, invisible enemy ! There are many things happening today that were unseen and unheard of a few months back. The greatest among these are the on line classes and all the hullabaloo around these classes. Never had the teachers thought that they would be needed to lock themselves up in a room with their respective gadget as companion and stare at it for several hours. Never had the students thought that such a day would come when they would be privileged to not go to school, wake up late even on week days, sit and take classes without a bath in night suits (unless the school is strict enough), switch off the video and the mike while the teacher is teaching and open another window to play video games. Only a teacher can understand the pain of such classes !
I have been a teacher all my life right from when I was a toddler or maybe even when I was born! I was a difficult child – very stubborn, wilful, rebellious even as an infant and taught my parents how to handle such children. So they were my first students! Then as I grew up, I developed this penchant for becoming a teacher and teaching everyone from my parents to my servant and even punishing them for not doing their homework. In school and college I was teaching my friends all the time and explaining lessons sometimes even better than the teacher ! So they loved me for my teaching skills. I chose teaching as my profession later. Nothing could have been more apt for me and I take pride in the fact that my students loved me and I adored them. Our bonding was real and reciprocal.
But these on line classes have given a jolt to my confidence. Even after so many years of teaching I have started doubting my teaching skills. The connection is lost most of the times. I am not talking of just the internet connection but also the human connection. While I have even managed a physical class of seventy five students with ease and panache all these years, now to manage a virtual class of forty five students has become a herculean task for me. Firstly its difficult to draw every student’s attention towards me as they have their multiple distractions and once I start the class its absolutely impossible to check on each and every student on the screen. So sometimes the students just switch off the video to go about their other more attractive activities.
I miss the moving around in the class while teaching, building a rapport with my students and reading their expressions, using my full throated expressive voice, facial expressions, gestures and hand movement to make them understand better and enjoy every moment of my class. I miss their jokes, pranks and their anecdotes. I miss the exquisite look of satisfaction and bliss when they have understood a point or heard one of my motivational narrations. Yes I miss all those physical teaching moments.
But I am trying to accept just as the students are trying to come to terms with this “new normal”. To cover up for my physical presence I share presentations, videos, notes which too are taking a toll. Precisely while earlier I used to be free once I came home, now I combat the whole day with the virtual world neglecting my own kids and home. So while lockdown meant complete freedom for many, it meant complete captivity for me.
Despite all the turbulance in my teaching and domestic world, its disastrous to hear from parents, “Oh, the teachers are only taking on line classes. They hardly have to do anything. Our children don’t attend as it is. They are not interested. Why pay the fees? What is the school doing to deserve this fees?” The parents rubbish the teachers’ and school’s efforts in one thoughtless moment slamming down all the meticulous efforts taken. Parents refuse to submit the school fees. I understand they too have their financial problems and their financial flow has also either stopped or been disrupted but most of the schools are open to discussion and cooperation. I am against fulfilling the unreasonable demands made by the schools like transport charges, annual charges, lab and library charges, building charges, activity charges etc. but the tuition fees ought to be paid.The brunt is being borne by the teachers in the end. They are slogging day and night and then are not even being paid for the tedium they are undertaking. Some schools have paid half the salaries and some have not paid at all for all this work of two months as the schools claim that they don’t have funds due to the non payment of fees.
In the end I too am a parent and now it will be difficult for me to pay the school fees as I have not received my salary for two months. So we all are caught in a vicious circle but I guess this is the new normal along with wearing masks, constant hand washing and sanitization. We will have to learn to live with pay cuts, unemployment, reduced spending till the world and the economy heals.
Samuel was very angry. His wife was pregnant full time. The mid wife was sure that the baby may come by evening or maybe the next day. They were waiting for the labour pains to start when the boy running stray errands at the market place came rushing in and said panting , ” Hey Sam, Joseph is calling you. He needs to send you to Nuceria.” “But why?” I am on leave today. The baby may come anytime. I need to be beside Susana,” he said angrily.
Joseph was the resort owner in which Samuel worked. “Okay just come once, he said its extremely urgent” gasped the boy. Samuel kicked the floor in frustation and after making some basic arrangements accompanied the boy to the resort. Joseph was standing at the gate and as soon as he saw Samuel approaching, he came towards Samuel. “Sam its urgent. You need to go to Nuceria. There you’ll find David. This is the address. He will give you the supply of wine bottles we need for tomorrow. There are going to be over a hundred tourists from Greece. We are running short of wine.You can take my horse cart” Joseph added hurriedly. “But you know my wife….you can send someone else…why me? Why can’t David come to deliver?” Sam was irritated.
” Don’t worry about Susana. I will send Mary to be by her side till you come back. David can come only by Monday and today is Friday. Just rush and come back by late evening. I’ll handle everything here” Joseph was adamant. Samuel gave up and prepared himself to leave immediately. He sent the errand boy to inform his wife. Just as he was about to leave, the earth shook. Everyone felt the tremours for a few seconds. ” Gosh ! Its an earthquake ” I am not going Joseph. If it happens again and if its severe how will Susana manage? ” He sounded worried.. ” Oh don’t you worry we all are here. These tremours keep coming. Nothing happens in the end ” Joseph tried to calm him down.
Pompeii was the hub of trade and travel. It was the Las Vegas of ancient times. People flocked in large numbers from even beyond Rome for tourism and trade.It was the centre of trending fashion and beauty. The women were stylish and used varied hairstyle and make up. The Roman beauty ideal was a white face, bright red lips and very dark eyes and to maintain this they used a variety of cosmetics. There were ampitheatres, fighting arenas, resorts, brothels, bathhouses, taverns, massive functioning kitchens, market places, squares, restaurants, gymnasium, even a hotel. Paintings, mosaics, murals, pottery expressed the city’s artistic inclination and taste. The city had everything the rich and famous wanted.
It was the weekend and Samuel knew that Joseph was going to have a tough time without him. He rode the horse cart as fast as he could. He had barely gone a hundred miles when he heard a loud explosion coming from the direction of Mount Vesuvius. Startled he looked and could not believe his eyes. Mount Vesuvius was exuding fire. It looked as though a pine tree rose very high in the sky and then broke into branches. The flood of fire was all over the land. The air was shrouded in a thick layer of dust and it was as dark as night even in broad daylight. Rocks, pumice, fire and ash was engulfing the land. Samuel fell to his knees. He could see this sight from so far so Pompeii would have melted by now. He began groaning in grief.
Immediately he turned around. He had to save Susana. He rode as fast as he could but as he started nearing Pompeii, he knew everything was over. There were burnt trees everywhere. The superheated poisonous gas and pulverized rocks had swallowed everything. He could not go beyond fifty miles. The heat and clogged air was making it difficult for him to go any further. So he stopped at an inn for the night. The next day he waited till evening to start his journey. When he reached Pompeii he could not comprehend the sight. He had never seen something like this. The entire city was buried under sixty feet of ash and pumice. He desperately tried reaching his home but it was impossible. The city had turned to stone ! There was not a creature in sight. Every living thing had changed into stone! He ran hither and thither crying, screaming, howling but there was no one in sight and stones don’t respond.
Two thousand years later the sight was excavated. Every buried person, building, pot, pan, artifact was preserved under the debris. Everything was stone ! It was intriguing to see even the expressions of horror on the faces of the victims – all preserved for centuries. They also excavated a woman in her full time. Was this Samuel’s Susana? Every figure narrates a story. So many stories were turned to stone. The city of the rich and the fashionable was turned to stone. Life was turned to stone till rediscovered again. Wish the magic spell could be cast away by a magic wand bringing the city bustling back to life.
The teacher was awestruck when she heard Isha’s story. Isha had found her great grandfather’s diary a few days back buried deep in the collection of books they had at home. The diary revealed that her great grandfather had served in the Azad Hind Fauj and had fought against the British. He first fought for the British in the 1941 – 42 Malayan conquest during when he was taken as Prisoner of War by the Japanese army. He was then recruited in the Azad Hind Fauj by the Japanese to fight against the British for India’s independence.
During his training period he also met Isha’s great grandmother who was a woman soldier in Rani of Jhansi regiment which was an all women regiment. They fell in love and vowed to get married if they remained alive after India got its independence. They both belonged to Kolkata and kept their promise and did get married in 1948. Her great grandfather mentioned some not so well known facts about the Azad Hind Fauj in the diary:
“Azad Hind Fauj was one of the very few armies to have an all women’s combat regiment. It was a treat to watch women soldiers fighting with such courage. The patriotic composition ‘Kadam kadam badhaye ja kept us on the move on our long marches between 1942 to 1945. It was the main source of energy and inspiration for us. Though we had fought for our country’s independence and given the British a major blow, Nehru was against the INA and did not allow even a single soldier who had served in INA to be inducted in the post independence army. So I had to take up a teacher’s job in a government school. Azad Hind Fauj was the first native Indian army to win a battle against the British. Netaji was so popular with the Indians that he was weighed three times on weight balance against jewellery, gold, money that INA received as donation. My wife Santoshi also donated all her jewellery. Everyone in the army lived in complete peace and harmony. There were no religious, gender, caste, class bias. The jawans and officers ate together and ate the same food. Netaji wanted to make an army comprising a stregth of 10 lakhs but the Japanese got so shocked with the proposal that they did not let that happen. Finally INA had a strength of 60000. Though there are many stories about Netaji’s death, I strongly believe that he died in the plane crash on 18th August 1945, when his fully loaded Japanese plane crashed in Japanese Taiwan. No British gun could ever kill Netaji. However Netaji will always remain in my heart.”
As soon as Isha finished reading this excerpt from the diary before the class, all the students shouted, ” You give me blood. I ‘ll give you freedom.” This was an apt homage to one of the greatest leaders who masterminded the British government’s fall through blood,.grit and courage on his 123rd birthday.
” Doctor saheb , doctor saheb….please check this child. We found him in the pond .He had drowned himself ” One of the two men who had brought the nearly dead child gasped. The doctor asked them to lay the child on the examination table and quickly got up from his seat. He was around five years old.
The junior doctor and the attendant too came rushing into the cabin. The doctor thoroughly examined the child while the junior doctor and the attendant watched. “No pulse….no heart beat” the doctor sighed. “In layman’s language the child is dead.” ” Sir let’s declare him brought dead and give him away to these men otherwise they’ll think we couldn’t save him and they may attack us. One can’t really trust these rustics. You know what I mean” , the junior doctor advised in a worried tone.
” No I will definitely give it a shot. I will try at least once. The boy is dead. Now either he survives or he remains dead. There’s nothing to lose and quite possibly we may succeed in reviving him. So I will try till the last.” The doctor sounded determined to take that chance. So the junior doctor kept quiet. The doctor immediately injected emergency drugs and put him on oxygen cylinder. Simultaneously he gave him cardiac massage. Then gave the child mouth to mouth respiration. He kept trying vigorously for ten minutes. The junior doctor again advised , ” doctor sahab nothing will happen. Let’s not try further. Its a waste of time.” By now the doctor had also lost hope. He had tried everything possible. He was panting with all the stress now.
” Okay take off the oxygen. I’ll speak to those men “. Just as the junior was about to take off the oxygen, the boy took a deep breath.” Doctor sahab ! the child…the child..” screamed the junior. The doctor’s happiness knew no bounds. The boy was actually breathing ! He had really saved a dead boy ! The two men fell on the doctor’s feet. “You are God. When we brought him here, we knew he was dead. But we thought that let the doctor declare him dead. But you brought him back to life ! This is a miracle ! This is unbelievable ! Please give us your shoes. We will place them at the altar of our home and worship them from now on.”
The doctor just smiled and asked the little boy, “What’s your name ? Where do you live?” The boy quietly replied ” Madan ” He had no idea where he lived. The two men who had brought him there were complete strangers but they still took the effort to bring the child to a doctor and the doctor without thinking of his fees took the call of trying his best to save the child.
This is a remarkable example of goodness and service. People now a days don’t bother to stop to help an accident victim. Doctors these days declare a dead person alive and keep him on ventilator for days to mint money out of even a dead man. The doctors’ scams have really grown during the pandemic and some hospitals have made people suffer and made a great deal of money through their sufferings.
The doctor in this story is my own father and I salute him for what he did.
Thud! Crash! That was all and then we could only feel the falling of the car into the gallows….to hell probably! Was there anyone to even hear our screams ? But the screams were reflexive. Then suddenly the car hit something probably a rock jutting out and it stopped falling. We were hanging on a rock of the hill we had fallen off!
It was 4:00 am of a cool summer day. We had been driving to Manali. Four of us were besties and we were super excited an evening before as we had completed our graduation and we had thought of celebrating in Manali . We had stopped a few minutes back to use the washroom and getting attracted by the beautiful landscape we had clicked pictures even though it was dark. We had not known that only after a few minutes of drive we would have a collision with a truck and fall off the hill with the sound of shattering glass and crashing metal to hang from a rock !
Luckily we all were alive though badly wounded. I had severe neck and back injuries and had fallen unconscious. When I woke up, I was in the hospital. We had collided with an army truck and those army people had made sure to save each one of us. I was saved but my spinal chord had injuries leading to paralysis of my lower body. The doctors profecied ” Varun you will never be able to walk”. “So that’s the end of my life. My dreams of becoming a deejay will never be fulfilled.” I thought dejected and shattered. I fell into a pit of misery.
I lost my zest for life. Every night I had nightmares of my fall and I would wake up screaming. My friends and relatives gave up all hopes on me. But then I read about Sir Paul Johnson the only deejay on wheel chair in the world. His biography was the turning point in my life. I started learning piano at home. Music calmed my soul. It healed my soul and brought solace to my turbulent life.
I applied in a deejaying school in Delhi but faced rejection due to my disability. That was the beginning of a series of rejections but I did not give up. I knew I had to make a come back for my dead father who nurtured my interest in music when alive, for my mourning mother and for myself. I still remember that I couldn”t make it to interviews because those buildings were not wheel chair friendly.
Three years after my accident I finally got to perform at Kitty Su, an upscale night club of Lalit hotel, in New Delhi. There I was spotted by Keshav Suri, Executive Director of The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group. He offered the gig to be the resident deejay at the nightclub. From there my life took off as DJ Aamish. I toured the whole country performing in all Kitty Su clubs. Everywhere I went I had my Microsoft Surface Book 2 as my constant companion. It was my portable studio on which I made music.
When I am behind the console, I am the man in charge. I create an electrifying ambience and everyone jives to the music I play and they want me to go on without stopping for hours. No one ever finds out that I am on wheel chair because I enjoy the music as much as they do. Today I am the only deejay on wheel chair in India !
“No one wants their identity or their potential to be perceived in the context of their disability. I speak on behalf of everyone who has a disability, everywhere in the world. We yearn for inclusion.” ( Deejay Aamish )