The Friend

“Tara…Tara…where are you?” Teena called out to Tara in her room looking for her everywhere below the bed, behind the cupboard, behind the curtains but Tara was nowhere in sight. Now Teena was getting really anxious. A few minutes back Tara was right there playing with her, laughing and joking and suddenly she had disappeared. “She must have got upset” thought Teena. Tara had suggested that they both should sneak out into the jungle once Teena’s parents were asleep at night. She said that there was a bewitching garden in the middle of the jungle which was frequented by fairies. They were wish granting fairies. One could ask them to fulfil any wish.

Though Tara was Teena’s best friend, it was hard to believe this story. How could there be wish granting fairies? Fairies only existed in fairy tales. When she refused saying that mom would be really angry, Tara got so upset that she even broke Teena’s favourite pen stand. In fact Teena ought to have been angry but it was always the other way round. Even if it was Tara’s mistake, she never relented. Every time Teena only went to her to pacify her anger.

Since Tara was nowhere to be found, Teena went out of her room  to have dinner. When Maya, her mom, saw her gloomy face, she asked her what was the matter. Teena replied sadly, “Mom Tara is angry with me again. She went away without telling me.” “Oh God! When will this Tara leave you? How many times have I told you Tara does not exist. She is just your imagination. She has to go forever,” Maya yelled at Teena. Teena looked at Maya shocked, “No mom its not so, Tara does exist. She is with me all the time.” Teena started sobbing having said this.

Maya felt really helpless. She was the one who had introduced Tara to Teena when Teena was three years old. Her husband had died in a car crash while on his way to Gurgaon. They had a poultry farm on the outskirts of the city and there was no other house in their neighbourhood. Maya had to look after the business after her husband’s death. She remained so busy that she hardly got any time for Teena. Teena moved around the farm like a lonely planet and had no one to talk to or play with. So Maya created an imaginary friend for Teena and named her Tara. Teena’s imagination had just begun to develop. She actually began imagining Tara and started talking to her endlessly and sharing all her toys with her and playing with her the whole day. This kept Teena busy and extremely happy and helped Maya to pursue her work without any problem.

What began as just a game, gradually started becoming an obsession. Her imaginary friend became a reality for her. Now Teena was entering her adolescence. She was old enough to understand the difference between reality and imagination. Maya had tried to counsel her several times but Teena  simply refused to understand. She had also consulted a psychiatrist and her therapies went on for a few years but still no riddance. Maya was really worried and didn’t know what to do. Teena had spent so much time with Tara especially during the years she was not with Teena that now Tara had become an important part of her life. Tara had grown with her, played with her, bathed with her, studied with her and done all the creative and uncreative activities with her. Teena had become very happy, active, communicative and creative after Tara came into her life. Since the changes in her were so positive, Maya never minded her involvement. But now Tara had started troubling Teena. She had started throwing tantrums, pressing and pushing her for all the wrong things and breaking her favourite possessions. Teena had recently started complaining a lot about Tara. “Tara hits me mumma…doesn’t let me do my homework, breaks my things, gets angry with me, wants me to go into the dreary jungle at night” Teena would often complain. Maya thought now was the right time to get rid of Tara. She had a plan.

The next day she made Teena’s favourite apple pie. The aroma filled the whole house. Teena’s mouth watered for it but just before serving it to Teena, Maya threw it into the dustbin and told Teena that Tara came to the table as soon as the pie was ready and gobbled it all up. Teena was shocked. How could it be true? But she couldn’t do anything. Maya had recently bought a beautiful dress for Teena. She cut it into two halves and then ran screaming to Teena, “Look what Tara did to your dress”. Teena couldn’t believe her eyes. She scolded Tara in her imagination and vowed never to talk to her.
The next day Maya opened her hair and messed them up and then started screaming, “Teena come fast…Tara is pulling my hair”. When Teena rushed in, Maya pretended as if Tara was trying to strangulate her and acted as if she was getting choked and struggling to free herself. Teena too imagined the same and quickly came to her mother’s rescue.

After that her mother held Teena’s hands and said, “Teena let Tara go.  She has become a wild child. She is trying to kill me. Tell her today that you no longer wish to see her and just get rid of her.  She has become a bad girl. She must leave now.  “Ok mom, I’ll ask her to leave. I love you mom and I will not let her harm you.” This gave Maya quite a relief and she thought that finally now she would be able to get rid of her problem.

The next morning, Maya went to Teena’s room thinking that finally Teena must have got rid of Tara. When she entered, she got the shock of her life. The whole room was in a mess. Teena’s wrist had a big cut and there was blood all around. “What happened?” She screamed. “Tara did this mom. She said she would never leave me and cut my wrist”. Maya fell to the floor helpless.

Nirbhaya Revisited

Being a writer I have a strong urge to write about several things happening around me. I have written on myriad topics so far. One issue which has stormed my imaginative brain is the Nirbhaya Rape Case. Though I have on many occasions during my conversations expressed my pain and angst against the heinous crime, and sworn vengeance upon the culprits, and my longing for justice was to a great extent even satisfied when the perpetrators were given death sentence, still I would today like to revisit the entire incident and recreate it with the power of my imagination and here take some artistic liberty.

There was a girl named Nirbhaya who was an extraordinarily brave child. Her parents had shifted to New Delhi from a village in Uttar Pradesh after selling their ancestral property so that they could give their children the best of education. While she was growing up, her parents noticed that Nirbhaya was a blessed child. Whenever any injustice would occur around her for example cruelty to animals , children, women or the helpless, she would be filled with rage, her eyes and face would redden as if Godess Durga herself had been reincarnated and she would then pounce upon the inflicter to stop him or her with such fury and courage that the person would simply run for his or her life.

Many incidents had occured before the parents eyes and many had been reported to them. They had even visited a psychiatrist who said that she had Dissociative Personality Disorder or was a Split Personality. Normally Nirbhaya was a very gentle and sweet girl, always smiling and was an excellent performer in academics as well. But whenever she came across an unjust situation, she behaved as if Godess Durga had possessed her and then only God could save those who were the cause of trouble. She had never killed anyone so far but had given serious injuries. The psychiatrist said that probably a TV show that she had watched in childhood or maybe our mythological stories had made her imagine herself as Durga and she had lived with the thought to such an extent that Durga had become a part of her personality. Her gentle self was predominant over the other Durga self which jumped up to the surface whenever she thought that an injustice was happening.
Nirbhaya grew up into a smart girl. She became a student of Physiotherapy. She was the braveheart of her college, fearless and sincere. She had even attained Den 10 in Taikwondo. On 16th December 2012, an incident occurred which was a life changing and law changing event. Nirbhaya was returning home from a movie along with her male friend. It was 9:30 pm. She boarded a bus from Munirka. There were only six people on board the bus including the driver.

Let’s look at the incidents which occurred a few hours back. Six men Ram Singh, Mukesh Singh, Viney Sharma , Pavan Gupta, Akshay Thakur and Mohammad Afroz were partying and drinking together. After a few drinks they thought of having some fun. Ram Singh was a bus driver. He drove a school bus. The bus he drove on weekdays was not supposed to be driven at night. Still they took the bus out. First they robbed a carpenter by taking him in the bus and looting him of all his money. They then threw him out of the bus.

After some time they spotted Nirbhaya with her friend at the Munirka bus stop. They called them saying that the bus was going in the direction of their home. The two boarded the bus. Suddenly Nirbhaya’s friend noticed that the bus had taken a different route. He got suspicious and objected. The five passengers started abusing him and that led to a schuffle. The driver kept driving while the passengers started hitting the friend. One of them even took an iron rod to hit him when Nirbhaya who was all this while trying to stop them, came in between and caught the rod.
The man seized her by her hair and pulled her towards him and tried to nab her down but her eyes and face turned red with fury as if she was possessed by some divine spirit. Her taikwondo training showed its real impact and she started jumping, kicking, somersaulting and throwing her attackers on the bus floor. She shouted at her friend to make the driver stop the bus. A PCR van by now had noticed the bus running at full speed breaking all speed limits. The carpenter too had reported a similar bus. So the van started following the bus.

Just as her friend was leaping forward towards the driver, one of the attackers hit him on the head with the rod. When Nirbhaya saw this she was so furious that she kicked that man, snatched the rod and kept hitting him on the head till he died. She then started swinging the rod left and right fatally injuring all the attackers. When she was done with the five of them, she ran towards Ram Singh with lightening speed and held him by his hair, ordered him to stop the bus, pulled him out from his seat and threw him out of the bus. The police had reached by then and they rushed inside. They were stunned to see the sight. Five men were lying in pools of blood on the floor, one was unconscious and bleeding profusely on the seat. Out of those five one was dead. They couldn’t believe that a lean girl of 23 could cause such mayhem.

All the injured were taken to the hospital. Nirbhaya too had a few injuries. So she too was taken to the hospital first. The next day she and her friend were called to the police station and questioned. She faintly remembered what she had done in a fit of rage. But she along with her friend were able to give the police a clear account of the incidents. The police built a case of self defense. So she was not taken into custody. Ram Singh was jailed but he after a few months was found dead in his cell. The one who had died in the bus was a juvenile. The remaining four were given life imprisonment on account of attempt to rape and murder, kidnapping, theft, harrassment. Many NGO’s became active and several discussions on national television led to the establishment of fast track courts to give quick judgements on rape cases. Nirbhaya became synonymous with courage and self defense. Parents wanted their daughters to be as fearless and brave as Nirbhaya. So self-defense training for girls became a compulsory subject  in schools. This training began to be called Nirbhaya Training. Nirbhaya has become a role model for all girls.

Dragons

A dragon is a large, serpentine legendary creature that appears in the folklore of many cultures around the world. Beliefs about dragons vary considerably through regions, but dragons in western cultures since the High Middle Ages have often been depicted as winged, horned, four-legged, and capable of breathing fire. Dragons in eastern cultures are usually depicted as wingless, four-legged, serpentine creatures with above-average intelligence.

A dragon is a mythical creature. There is no scientific evidence to support their existence even in the prehistoric times. But they have from times immemorial titillated human imagination. In early cultures, the dragons were often seen as mighty serpents and beasts that were either extremely benevolent or fearsome and difficult to kill. The beliefs of a region are often influenced by geographical location. Eastern cultures often saw dragons as a knowledgeable deity that had power over storms and water. Additionally, they also saw the dragon as a powerful and benevolent creature that could ward off evil.

Western cultures had a very different perspective. They often saw dragons as evil beasts that revelled in killing and chaos. Many dragons are depicted as living in dark and dangerous places that were often perilous for men in ancient times. Additionally, they were often thought to guard hoards of treasure.
In both cultures, dragons were largely thought to be wingless before the Medieval Ages.

There are many myths related to dragons.
Dragons are thought to have guarded hoards of treasure which is the most common belief about the creature. Another myth is that dragon’s blood held special properties that gave anyone with access to it unique opportunities. If, for example, a person was to dip a sword or knife into dragon blood and stab someone with it, their wound would never heal. However, not all things associated with dragon blood are bad. It is also thought that dragon blood gives a person the ability to see into the future.

It is also thought that dragons from the Eastern world have the ability to change size and shape. In fact, most of the dragons from Eastern legends have the ability to change into human form at will.

Now the question arises how the dragons came into existence in the human imagination.There are several theories as to where the dragon myth could have come from. These theories span from inspiration from existing creatures to undiscovered lifeforms and fossil remains. Some also believe that these giant serpents were created as a way of demonstrating the power of certain religious deities. Some of the theories are as follows:

Existing Creatures:
One of the most obvious answers to  what  inspired the dragon myth is simply that existing creatures inspired the stories. When we look at stories like ‘Thakane, the Princess Dragon Slayer,’ it is apparent to most who study this story that the water dragon in question is actually a crocodile.
Other creatures who are thought to have inspired various stories include snakes, eels, and monitor lizards or perhaps some yet to be discovered reptile.

Fossil Remains:
There are also those who believe our ancestors may have been inspired by the fossil remains of dinosaurs and other megafauna when they created their tales. This is another popular theory, especially since many of the cultures with dragon tales are in areas where many fossils have been discovered.

Religion:
Another theory is that religion could have inspired the dragon myths. This is partially because it was so common for Mesopotamian and Near Eastern cultures to have stories of storm gods overcoming mighty serpent beasts. One of the most popular of these myths to survive in modern day is the tale of Yahweh and his prophesized battle with Leviathan.

Fear:
Last, but certainly not least, it is also possible that our own fear and primal instincts inspired the legends. Many scientists hypothesize that humans may have a pre-programed fear instinct towards snakes and other reptiles. This theory, combined with the places that dragons were said to exist (oceans, lakes, dark caves, and other perilous locations) could suggest that dragon myths were created as a cautionary tale to man.

In the modern age of satellite imagery and smart phone photos and videos, it’s simply implausible that any giant, winged fire-breathers inhabit Earth’s lands or skies unseen. However, only a few centuries ago rumors of dragons seemed to have been confirmed by eyewitness accounts from sailors returning from Indonesia who reported encountering dragons. They were actually Komodo dragons, a type of monitor lizards which can be aggressive, deadly, and reach 10 feet in length. It was previously believed that the bite of a Komodo dragon was especially deadly because of toxic bacteria in its mouth, though that myth was debunked in 2013 by a team of researchers from the University of Queensland who discovered that the Komodo dragon’s mouths are no dirtier than those of other carnivores.

Films and television series have played an important role in keeping the dragon myth alive. The Game of Thrones which was the greatest television show ever had the  dragon plot as one of its main plots and theme and the dragons had a very strong symbolic significance. The audience fall in love with the three dragons Drogon, Viserian and Rhaegal at once and cry out in fury at the death of Viserian and Rhaegal. The Hungarian Horntail of Harry Potter, Elliot of Pete’s Dragon, Draco of Dragonheart, the adorable dragons of How to Train Your Dragon Franchise, Smaug of Hobbit trilogy are some of the other famous dragons. Hence the dragon may be a mythical, legendary creature but it continues to stir the imagination in the modern times.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

It was Saurabh’s fifteenth birthday. Instead of feeling happy and joyous, he was contemplating upon ways of ending his life. He had been watching You Tube videos on the easiest way of ending one’s life since last night. He had a group presentation at school for which he along with his team had prepared really hard. So he thought  of giving this last presentation and then end his life after school. He had always been a brilliant boy academically. All the teachers were really fond of him. He was very well behaved, gentle and kind and had great public speaking skills. He had won several awards in debates and declamations and had represented his school on the state and national levels several times. He didn’t want his team to fail because of him so he decided to go for it one last time.
He knew his mom would have posted a cute message for him on facebook, so he quickly opened facebook on his phone. The moment he saw the message, his eyes began twinkling. He was filled with new energy and vibrance. He started jumping with joy. At once he ran to his mother in the kitchen and hugged her. “Oh mom! I can’t believe you did this. This is the best birthday gift I can ever have. Thank you mom”. He hugged her once again and ran off to the bus stand.

His team gave a fantastic presentation that day and the whole auditorium echoed with the sound of applause. The entire senior school was present in the auditorium. Saurabh took the mike and began, “Hello friends and my respected teachers. Thanks for the loud applause and motivation. I would now like to tell you a story. Please be patient and listen to the whole story. There lives a boy amongst us who was born fifteen years back. Ever since he was five years old, he felt he was not what he was supposed to be. Though he was born a boy, he didn’t feel or think like a boy. He loved the way girls dressed up. He wanted so much to dress up like them, to wear those flouncing , frilly, flowery frocks. He wanted to buy those lovely dolls and those exciting doll houses whenever he went to a toy shop. He wanted to grow his hair long, decorate them with colourful ribbons and clips. He loved everything that the girls loved.

But alas! no one cared for what he wanted. His parents always bought guns and cars for him. Whether he wanted or not, he was made to dress up as a boy. Sometimes he stole his mom’s lipstick and make – up and then quietly wore the make-up in the solitude of his room. This gave him utter satisfaction. At school he always hung around with girls. He loved their delicate ways and could relate with their games. He hated pushing and kicking, something that the other boys loved doing. He even loved to talk like the girls talked – gently combined with style and attitude. He loved to sit and gossip with the girls in the games period while the other boys played football, kicked, pushed and fought.

As he grew older his fascination for the feminine grew deeper. Whenever he looked into the mirror he saw a girl in the mirror instead of a boy. He felt as though God had created him with a male body but a female heart and mind. He wished that the mirror had been a magic mirror which could answer his question, “Mirror mirror on the wall, who am I, a boy or a girl?”

Life was becoming miserable for him. He questioned his gender identity. How could he be two different beings at the same time – a boy from the outside and a girl inside? He desired to be a girl, craved to be a girl, felt and thought like a girl, yet looked like a boy. What a paradox ! He fought with God for being so unfair with him. Sometimes he felt like killing himself.

A few days back he draped his mother’s sari around himself and wore her make-up and clicked pictures with his phone. Later his dad while fiddling with his phone saw those pictures. His dad was so furious that he slapped him and shut him in his room without food and water for the whole day. His dad had tried to push him into sports  like football and boxing but the boy hated these sports. His father had often noticed his inclination for girlish things and had reprimanded him. He had even cursed his mother for spoiling him.

At home his father didn’t let him live and at school his classmates always picked him and made fun of him. They called him a gay as if gay was a cuss word. They laughed at him and made him feel as if he was useless and worthless. His only saving grace was his academic excellence which earned him some respect. If someone understood him in this whole wide world, it was his mother. But she too was helpless.

Today on his fifteenth birthday, he was so gloomy and frustrated with his life that he wanted to end his life. He had made up his mind completely but then he saw his mother’s message on facebook. She had clicked a picture of this boy wrapped in his sheet while asleep without his knowing and posted the picture with the lines “It’s a Girl“. Oh my God! What a beautiful way of disclosing to the world that her child was assigned the wrong gender on birth. Though the sex was male but the gender ought to be a girl. Now whether you understand or not but this is the fact. You want to know who this boy is? The one standing right in front of you. Yes it’s me friends. I have been through a turbulent childhood but today having poured out my heart and the truth of my life before you all, I feel liberated. I can now breathe and live like a girl. My transition into a girl will now be easy. I will not die but live now. Thank you for lending me your ears.”

From that day Saurabh saw the mirror with confidence. He saw his real image . He found his true identity. He knew which gender he belonged to.

To Let in the Day

She at last opened the door to …
Let in the light of knowledge
Drive away the darkness of ignorance
Let the girls too learn the letters
Let the girls too prove their worth
Let the girls too breathe in fresh air
Let the girls too feel liberated.
She at last opened the door…
To take the bullet in the head
To rise from the ashes
Like a phoenix and prove
That the days of suppression are over
That its time to now watch the show
Of  girls performing and beating
Everyone in their own games
And proving that they are here to stay
They are here to conquer and rule.
She is none other than Malala Yousafzai.

Yousafzai was born to a Pashtun family in Mingora, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. Her family ran a chain of schools in the region. Malala was particularly inspired by her father’s thoughts and humanitarian work. In early 2009, when she was 11–12, she wrote a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC Urdu detailing her life during the Pakistani Taliban occupation of Swat. Thenceforth she rose in prominence, giving interviews in print and on television, and she was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize by activist Desmond Tutu.

On 9th October 2012, while on a bus in the Swat District, after taking an exam, Yousafzai and two other girls were shot by a Pakistani Taliban gunman in an assassination attempt in retaliation for her activism and promotion of education for girls which the Taliban strongly condemned. The gunman fled the scene. Yousafzai was hit in the head with a bullet and remained unconscious and in critical condition at the Rawalpindi Institute of Cardiology, but her condition was very critical and she had to be transferred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, UK. The attempt on her life sparked an international outpouring of support for Yousafzai.

The Pakistani Taliban were internationally denounced by governments, human rights organizations and feminist groups. Pakistani Taliban officials responded to condemnation by further denouncing Yousafzai, indicating plans for a possible second assassination attempt, which was justified as a religious obligation. Their statements resulted in further international condemnation.

Soon after her recovery, Yousafzai became a prominent activist for the right to education. In Birmingham, she co-founded the Malala Fund, a non-profit organisation and in 2013, she co-authored I Am Malala, an international best seller. In 2012, she was the recipient of Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize and the 2013 Sakharov Prize. A trail of honours and awards followed this and she finally received the highest honour, the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. All her life she has been committed to girls’ education especially in the Swat valley where girls were barred from education by Taliban millitants. She finally opened the door to a new life for all the girls and women of that region and drove away the darkness of ignorance. We salute you Malala for your terrific journey, your contribution towards a great cause and your tremendous courage.

The Cottage in the Forest

I still have vivid memories of visiting Hazaribagh National Park as a child. I think I must have been ten years old then. We lived in a beautiful two room cottage with an attached pantry right in the middle of the jungle. There were huge windows with sturdy glass panes which gave a breathless view of the forest outside. There was a small, pretty garden around the cottage with splendid flowers blooming. The cottage seemed to be straight out of a fairyland.

Very close to our cottage a stream flowed whose gurgling sound could be heard from our cottage besides the other forest sounds. The mornings in the forest would be bewitching. One could see nature in its full bloom and radiance. It was a pleasure watching the resplendent flowers, trees, bushes, birds and the small animals in all their glorious colours. But nights were definitely eerie.

After sunset the same gurgling of the stream sounded ghostly and the crackling sound of the cricket was very scary. The attendant would bring us an early dinner because after dark movement for him became difficult due to the nocturnal wild animals prowling for prey.

We stayed there for three nights. On the first day we trekked the nearby forest area. The guide showed us all the beaitiful spots in the jungle. The night too was eventless. We were so tired that we hugged the pillow to sleep immediately. The next morning we started early for a jungle safari and spotted a few wild animals including leapards and the tiger. That was my first experience of seeing wild animals in their natural habitat other than the zoo and the circus ( my kids have no idea what a circus is ).

After dinner we sat by the window looking outside through the glass in the hope of spottimg a wild animal. For nearly two hours we kept sitting and nothing happened. My parents got bored and went off to sleep. I and my brother were really hopeful of seeing something so we carried on. After a while we heard a rustle outside. My eyes became wide open. I tried to strain hard to see the animal but I could see nothing. It was pitch dark outside. I stuck my face to the window pane cupping the sides of my eyes with my hands to see properly. Suddenly a face of a man grinning at me sprang up from nowhere on the outside right in front of me ! Startled I fell back and screamed. My parents rushed in on hearing my scream. My brother too had seen the sinister face which disappeared as suddenly as it had appeared. My parents opened the door and searched near the house but could see nothing.

We searched for footsteps in the morning too but found nothing. Later the attendant who brought food for us told us that a buffalo was found killed very near the cottage. Probably a tiger had hunted at night really close to the cottage. We asked about the man we saw but he had no idea. He just said that no man dares to wander in the wild at night on foot. I still remember the sinister look on the face that had scared both me and my brother out of our wits so well that I am sure it was not a figment of our imagination. How could both of us imagine the same thing? No one had an answer and I will never be able to find an answer but even today the memory of that scary, grinning face gives me the shivers.

Death

The inevitable, the constant..
That sneaks into our lives
Sometimes without a warning,
On silent, deadly feet…
To cast a spell of deathlike silence.

No pleas can melt it.
No money can distract it.
No threat can stop it
No love can woo it.
No hatred can shoo it.

It is heartless and cold.
It is indifferent and bold.
It is impartial and stubborn.
It is mighty and powerful.
It is invisible yet dreadful.

It is absolutely unconcerned
Of who or what we are !
Just creeps into our lives
Overturns plans even before we realize
Leaving a deathly vacuum behind.

The invincible, the unsurmountable
It is Death, the unchallengeable !

Love By the Sea

This summer, while sitting on the Baga beach, one evening, I was fascinated by the two lovers completely lost in each other. They had no clue of what was going on around them, no idea of who was sitting near them or watching them. The love birds were lost in what seemed to be boundless love for each other…romancing each other by the sea…under the starry sky. Their deep engagement with each other was making me jealous, making me wonder whether true love really existed.
I really sat admiring them for quite sometime till I got exhausted…bored and left them to themselves… glowing in each other’s love.

The next day I woke up and sat with my cup of tea and morning newspaper. The headline gave me a nervous shock. It read,
Love Strangulated: Honour Killings of a Haryana Couple. The picture showed my star crossed lovers lying dead on the very spot I left them under the protection of the stars. Had I sat there for a little while longer, I would have perhaps been a witness to their murder. Their short rendezvous with love and life was over and so was mine. Really, love kills.

Flowers for the Lover

Flowers for the Lover
Susan was really fascinated by the man sitting with balloons, cake and a bouquet on the seat next to her in the bus. She was going home after work. It was almost 5:30 pm. Not being able to restraint herself, she finally asked, “So it seems its someone’s birthday today”. “Ah yes, its my wife’s birthday” the man replied cheerfully. “You see she wanted me to take an off from work and spend the whole day with her. But there was lot of work in the office. I had to go. She must be terribly angry with me . So all this is to please her” he continued.

Susan was really impressed. She wished her husband too could be this sensitive. The romance in their marriage seemed to have vanished. There were frequent squabbles. Almost every day both fought over something or the other and then left for work. When they came back they didn’t bother to reconcile, just carried on with their daily affairs mechanically. Their fights would be about as simple things as the husband leaving the wet towel on the bed, the wife not serving warm food, the husband failing to come home on time to fulfil a movie plan, the wife failing to keep the house organized and clean. These frequent tiffs were getting very stressful for Susan.

A few months later she happened to meet the same man on the bus while returning from work. This time he had a big card and a bouquet of roses in his hands. “Hi ! What’s the occasion this time?” Susan asked curiously. “Oh hi, nice meeting you. Well this time its our anniversary” he replied with a big smile. Susan was impressed once again. She recalled how they had planned movie and dinner in a plush restaurant on their anniversary but her husband could not keep his promise. He had an urgent meeting and returned at 9:00 pm. The movie was already over and then they fought till 10 and went off to sleep on empty stomachs in different rooms. What an amazing anniversary celebration ! She thought irritated.

The man clicked his fingers to bring Susan back to the present. “Sorry, you got me thinking about my relationship with my husband.”. The man looked at her thoughtfully and began, “Don’t think a lot. Just take life easy. It’s really short. You will not even get to know and it will be over. Enjoy every moment with your spouse. Enjoy the fights too. After the fight do something special for your spouse to make that fight memorable. I too used to fight a lot with my wife. I used to deliberately hurt her. The last time I fought with her because she spent all the money I gave her for the household expenditure before the month ended. When she asked for more money, I grew furious. I screamed at her without trying to find out where she spent the money. In fact I used to give her a meagre amount and always got mad on her if she overspent.”

Susan got interested in his story. “So now have you stopped fighting?” “No I still fight with her but not for overspending but for leaving me” he replied solemnly. Susan was surprised, “I can’t understand. Has she left you? Then for whom are these flowers?” “These flowers are for my dead wife Rose. She loved red roses. She died of Tuberculosis. She hid her disease from me because she was scared of overspending. By the time I got to know, there was such intense damage done by the disease that it became impossible to save her. I still repent for not being able to make up for all our fights. Most of the times it was my fault. But I could never do anything special for her when she was alive. I am trying to celebrate with her now. These flowers are for her grave.”

Susan was thunderstruck. She couldn’t believe her ears. She had always admired this man for his profound love for his wife. But by the time he realized his love, it was too late. She learnt the biggest lesson that day. It is better to express your love to your partner’s living ears rather than his silent ears. Susan had made up her mind. She would change the way she treated her relationship and bring in more love and compatibility so that her husband could bring flowers for her and not for her grave.

My Journey to Workaholism

I had never been a workholic. I was always a fun loving freak and loved to enjoy life. Yes during exams of course I gave my 100 percent and could study the whole day and whole night because that was the only time I studied ( I hope my children don’t read this ). But in every person’s life there are life changing moments and I too had my moment.

I was employed as a lecturer in a premium University. Shortly after my appointment, I started working on my Ph.D. A new job with 3 to 4 lectures everyday, was extremely taxing as I had to go well prepared to face my smart and intelligent students. My Ph.D supervisor too was a hard task master who kept me on my toes and grilled me thoroughly. So life was really tough for me when my parents decided to get me married.

Despite all this rigmarole I got married in a very socially active family. The socializing seemed never to end. A new marriage needed time to develop understanding and make adjustments. Since it was a joint family there were greater adjustments to be made. There were more people to please. It was tougher to prove oneself. So household chores and responsibilities were added to my list of daily works. I used to wake up at 4:00 am to focus on my Ph.D. Then quickly finish all the kitchen work and other household work and rush to college. After college I would again immerse myself in the household work. Somehow I would take out a few hours in the evenings to prepare my lectures. Then it would be dinner time and the day would end. Amidst all this I also had to take out time for my husband lest he should feel neglected.

After two years of marriage I was blessed with my first child. My Ph.D and all other work were going on full swing and I had another bundle of work to take care of. Motherhood is a full time job and extremely demanding. So now you can imagine with a small child, Ph.D, job and a joint family I had almost become a pendulum. When my son was just seven months old, my father in law had a stroke and his left side of the body got paralysed. He too needed complete care and attention. I was so affected by his paralysis that I joined Buddhism to chant for his good health. Everyday I would chant for him for two hours. So another goal was now to be achieved.

I suddenly found myself surrounded with work and more work. My fun loving and carefree attitude went for a ride and hard work replaced everything. I actualy started working almost the whole day. Gradually I became restless in the absence of work. I actually became a workaholic. Even today after so many years, I have not changed. I am like the lioness on prowl sniffing new work for myself. During this lockdown too I was the busiest person with all the household work and the online classes, yet I fished out a new task for myself. I took to creative writing for the first time ever and I am still on it.