Category Archives: Daily Life

What have I done?

What have I done?
I have seen a lot in life.
I have experienced true love.
I have felt bitter hate.
I have laughed like it was my last time.
I have cried like a little child would.
I have stood face to face with the truth.
I have been a victim of inconspicuous lies.
I have believed blindly, only to suffer later.
I have questioned many, as a result.
I have got angry over small things.
I have provided calm when it was needed.
I have held grudges.
I have made enemies.
I have forgiven.
I have gained friends.
I have remembered things that seemingly don’t matter.
I have forgotten events that appear to have changed my life.
I have been alone for as long as I can remember.
I have become a part of the community without effort.
I have celebrated life.
I have wished for death.
What have I done?
I have learned.
I have been human.

 

Stars: Candles of our Childhood

Stars. Hot balls of illuminated gas millions of miles away, results of narrow cosmic chances.

The same stars, due to these enormous distances, appear as pinpoints of twinkling light. And so distant these stars are, that the light that left them eons ago, reach us now. And in that way, looking at them is like peering into the past. But that is not the only way stars make us look back in the past. Some of us travel time in our own ways.

When I first wondered why stars existed, I was perhaps six or seven, enjoying my summer vacations at my grandma’s house. These were times of the mid-90s, and there was less pollution than there is now. Moreover, there were frequent power failures in Mumbra. As irritated as we were due to the extreme May heat, we were helpless. This was the time when color televisions were still not that popular, but I was still happy that there was a black and white one at my grandmother’s house. In my house, however, the only electrical appliance of note was a cassette tape. But these were useless boxes during power failures. My cousin and I were little, and not too comfortable playing in the dark, so we would often sit surrounding a lit candle after sundown, and this would really annoy the adults, because our shadows were proper hindrances to their chores. Consequently, the candle would be placed atop a small wooden cupboard. This was still manageable for us, as the light wouldn’t hurt our eyes now. We would sit in the candle-lit room till power resumed, or till the only source of light flickered away and extinguished, after which we’d run to the kitchen. It had the only emergency lamp in the entire house, but we avoided it out of fear of being scolded.

Just before one of these unpredictable power failures, our mothers decided to take us to the building terrace. They told us we would enjoy the cold evening breeze, though I knew the enjoyment was more theirs than ours. Part of the terrace has a sloping roof, with one half of the slope descending toward the rest of the terrace. We liked it immediately! Due to its smooth tarring, we could slide and roll on it. We enjoyed so much that we didn’t realize that the lights had went out. About half an hour later, tired of climbing a slope rather steep for our age, my cousin and I sat at its base, reclining and looking up at the sky. It was a beautiful sight! The waning moon hardly disturbed the darkness of the rest of the sky. I knew my cousin looked up, too, because we both were quiet. Being the younger one and looking up to me for knowledge, he asked, “How does the sky have so many stars?” I was as clueless as he was, and regarding his question carefully, I looked up again. Indeed, there were a huge number of them, so many that I had never seen so much starlight in one go.

“I think these are candles”, I replied.

“Candles? Why would someone light candles so high up?” he enquired.

“Simple. When there is a power failure in grandma’s house, we light candles so we don’t get scared. In the sky, when there is a power failure, God lights candles so that those living there don’t get scared”, I said.
“What is moon then?”

“It is the largest of the candles.”
I looked at the moon to escape the discomforting ambiguity of my answer.

“A candle?”

“Of course, or why would it become smaller every day?”

“But it becomes larger too, sometimes. And look at its shape. I don’t think it is a candle.”

“It appears to be a different type of candle.”

“Why don’t we have a candle like the moon?”

I was growing irritated, not because of my cousin’s questions, but because of my own inability to answer them. I remained quiet. At the same time, I was curious, too. Were these really distant candles? How did they last all night? They would flicker, but why wouldn’t they get extinguished? And why would someone light so many small but only one large candle? I continued to wonder, while reclining at my new favorite place in Mumbra. We drew imaginary lines between stars, forming patterns, mostly letters in our names. We wrote in different styles, inventing many of our own constellations in the process. For reasons I was not yet familiar with, I felt at peace looking up. The sky had a quiet way about it. The soft breeze had put my cousin to sleep, but I wasn’t really sleepy. We remained till power resumed, and our mothers took us away.

At times, when I look up now, I find myself remembering that night. I smile at the how stupid my answers were, at my lost innocence. I try to recall the patterns we created, but I am largely unsuccessful, perhaps because I cannot find many of the stars that completed our patterns. It saddens me, but it is not difficult to not think about it for long. We live busy lives now, and we have other things to worry about. Not that our childhoods were not busy, but somehow it was far more enriching and gratifying. It was easy to be curious about something as commonplace as a night sky filled with stars.

Stars. Hot balls of illuminated gas millions of miles away, results of narrow cosmic chances.

And it is because of one of these chances that we exist, and are capable of wondering.

(Image Credits: Marc Van Norden. Click here to be redirected to the  original image)

The Frail Furball

“Wake up, Salman! You will be late for work!”

“Gah! 5 minutes more please…”

When I woke up ‘5 minutes’ later, half an hour had passed. As I looked at the clock while running to the bathroom, with my towel mopping the floor graciously without much effort, I realized I had approximately 25 minutes to bathe, get ready, comb my hair (always takes a bit of time), have breakfast, catch an auto rickshaw, reach the station and catch my regular train. Considering the fact that this was routine stuff, I was slightly less troubled in my mind. Afterall, I had been desperately trying to reach office on time since ages, in vain. I had been so unsuccessful in this endeavor, that my not-so-on-time arrivals earned me another epithet – “Late Latif.” This, too, was routine stuff. I had been a “Monday Man” (for falling ill a lot, mostly on Mondays), “The Prolific Patient” (for falling ill a lot) and “Mr.Clumsy-pants” (for falling a lot).

Deciding while bathing, that I needed to skip breakfast to ensure my rare moment of punctuality, I quickly rushed to change my clothes. It didn’t take long for me to realize that they were not taken out last night from the cupboard. This was a big ask, considering that the cupboard was in the upper room. Perhaps the only challenge more demanding was that I had to rush upstairs on a ladder (there were no stairs) wearing nothing but a towel around my waist. I hardly had any time to ponder. Frenzied, I rushed upstairs and quickly went across the room. In no time at all, I was ready and combing my hair looking at the mirror. I had shaved last evening, and my skin gleamed, and I grinned at how good a job was done by my barber. The reflection of a white ball of fur, lying on the floor just behind me, caught my attention. It was a cat.

Now it was not a surprise that felines loved our upper room – it was their favorite place to hang out when they weren’t pouncing around on roofs. Even with windows shut, they always found a way to sneak in and rest on a cloth fallen from a clothesline. I admit they had been a nuisance, sometimes, but I have always loved cats. I always make it a point to show love to these fluffy creatures, provided they are tame and do not get uncomfortable.

I turned around and advanced towards the animal, half expecting it to run away. But it stayed still as I brought my hand near it. It was not asleep and was looking at me. But it did not move. As my hand made contact with its soft fur, it started to get up. I felt a shiver it its body, and before I could assume that it was getting ready to run away, it no longer attempted to stand up, coming back to its original state. It was for the first time since the moments of my first encounter with it, that I noticed its extreme weakness. The outline of its ribcage peeped out at places from underneath the surface of its skin. It blinked very rarely, and produced no sound at all since I first saw it. What looked like a curled-up ball of fur, was now a mute bag of bones. I was convinced it would die if I didn’t help, and images of a pet that died years ago flashed before me. All this was shattering my heart.

Leaving the comb on the floor, I rushed downstairs to the kitchen. Finding a steel bowl with great difficulty (Our kitchen was a maze of utensils), I poured some fresh milk and came back upstairs. The sapless kitten still lay there, too frail to even change its position. I lifted it in my hands and somehow tried to bring its mouth to that of the bowl. As its whiskers touched the surface of the white liquid, its tongue began lapping it hurriedly. It almost fell out of my hands into the bowl, as I struggled to ensure it did not. It seemed as if the milk was pulling the kitten towards itself. In around two minutes, the bowl was empty. I went back downstairs to get some more milk. But when I returned, the animal was gone. I scoured the entire room, but the feline was nowhere to be found. Worried and surprised, I slowly started to descend down the ladder. The open window, that was not open earlier, grabbed my fancy. I came back up again and looked outside from that window. My worries faded and I smiled silently for a few moments. My little ball of fur was sitting on the opposite roof, licking its paw. My smile was more a result of disbelief than of happiness. Surely, such a small quantity of milk would not have been enough to bring the kitten back to life. It was too weak to move its limbs, the same limbs it was now cleaning merrily with its tongue.

While having breakfast, I looked at the tea in my cup for sometime. It was about the same quantity as the milk the kitten had sipped. Many questions crossed my mind: Where would the kitten go? Would it get more food? Would it live long enough? I could no longer eat in peace, so I stood and left without finishing my breakfast. If there have been times when I ran away from a straining thought, this was surely one of it. As I walked towards the rickshaw stand, I saw the the cat sitting at the edge of the pavement, stretching and yawning. Changing my direction at once, I went near it. I was already convinced that it was the same animal, but before I could touch it once again, it got up and ran away. I genuinely smiled for the second time during the day, not due to disbelief this time, but from happiness. As I saw it disappear at a distance, I boarded the rickshaw and left for work. I was happy to be late this time.

Kitten

(Image is for representation purpose only, and is owned by its author)

Death of the Dilemma

Should I go, or should I not?”

It must have been one of the rare times in the history of humanity that a person was confused between entering a building and climbing up to the third floor, or not. Most people need just the first step to convince themselves. I needed three floors. For precisely 7 minutes, I stood there and kept tackling my thought. I would not let go. My eyes remained fixed on the third floor window all the while. I turned around and left the compound. I could not take myself building so much suspense for me. “No big deal! I haven’t been there for over a year. Doesn’t matter if I did not go there today”, I explained to myself while on the way in an auto rickshaw. My other self kept quiet. My phone rang. It was Mom, who said that I had to collect some jewelry from an aunt and deliver it to another aunt in Amrut Nagar.

“Amrut Nagar?”, I confirmed and mother responded in the affirmative. I was returning from the same location. It was the same place where I stood under that building, lost in confusion. In no time, I was going back there, a box-ful of ornaments in my hand. “Sometimes, all you need is a sign”, my other self gave back a long-pending reply. Quickly, I delivered the box to my aunt and looked at the remnants of my deliberation about my visit to an old friend’s house.

When I say ‘friend’s house’, it would hardly appear to be a matter to be so perplexed about. But it DID matter to me. I had not been there for more than a year and five months (Yes, I kept a track of the time). All this time I had avoided that place as much as I could. There had been many such moments when I had stood and stared at the third-floor window, wondering if I should go upstairs and meet my second family (I would call them this). Every time I would return, just explaining to myself some way or the other. And all this was for a reason.

It is said that people with true friends are lucky. While I don’t really doubt this saying, I believe that there is hardly a person as fortunate as the one who is also loved by his/her friend’s family as one of their own. My friend’s family loved me dearly, and I realized my superior luck very soon. It was only a matter of time when they were my mother, my father, my brother and my sister. The only wrong thing that they did was they lived right next to my ex-girlfriend’s house. When I was planning to marry her, my second family tried to help me. In return, they were banished by their own neighbors. And then, they banished me. The only thing more painful was that they never said it to me by themselves. It was a long day, I recollect.

It only took a phone call to my present girlfriend to end this mental disarray. She encouraged me to go and meet them. When my mind was waist-deep in confusedness, she de-cluttered it in one moment. Some people understand what calms you down more than you can ever understand. I walked away again, but this time, I wanted to buy something to eat. When I get worried or nervous, food helps me (and maybe, this is one reason I am turning so fat now). But I did not want to eat alone, so I bought some shawarmas for them and a huge pack of chocolate for my friend’s little son. While returning, I watched daylight fade, and since I was walking in Mumbra, surroundings began to lose visibility as there was no power, not even on the streets. I reached the building and was on the stairwell without a second thought. As I stood in darkness on the third floor, the heat of freshly-prepared shawarmas warmed my fingers , as I continued to gasp out of exhaustion. I did not want to change my mind midway, so I ran as fast as it was possible for me. I knocked the door and waited for what I felt was an enormously long minute. The door creaked open, and lights began to glow. Power had resumed.

The Entrance

What Do I Seek?

What a lovely poem, this is! Uday Mane, thou art a great writer! 🙂

The Murmuring Old Man

“Write a composition on ‘An hour at the railway station.'”

“What the hell! Again?!”

My interjection was valid, even though it was just in my thoughts; our teachers had probably ran out of ideas about topics to write essays on. I may have been wrong, but any student writing essays on the same subject every year since 3 years would feel the same as I did. I mean, how come something at a damn railway station could possibly be worth writing about? I used to travel from my school in CST to Mumbra every day. I couldn’t control my urge to get on a train after barely 5 minutes, such was the monotony. Trains were only slightly better. Except huge crowds, high decibel quarrels and the never-ending blabber of office-goers (I couldn’t afford a walkman in those days and mobile phones and MP3 players were only objects of fantasy, so I learnt to endure), there was hardly a single thing worthy of being described in words. I would still try to imagine being a youth who had nothing better to do than observing a railway platform.

Fortunately, I do not have to any longer do that. I do travel over a long distance each day (Ambernath to Vikhroli). Railway stations are pretty boring still, apart from some few instances. I ended up writing my first blog post about one such instance. But there was another one which left a far deeper impact on me.

It was the month of Ramadan and like every year, I decided it was better to get off at Mumbra (a station right in the middle of my journey) for evening prayers. It helped me being on schedule and making sure prayers weren’t missed. It is the time of the year when I suddenly become very spiritual and religious. I rarely get so worried about these things otherwise. And I admit, it is a shame. I was standing on the platform one evening, waiting for my usual Badlapur train. Like every day, there was nothing interesting happening and I fiddled with my cellphone. There were 3 trains to halt there before mine arrived, and the first one just came in.

“Kya yeh Badlapur train hai?” (Is this the Badlapur train?)

I looked at the source of the voice. It was a man, a very old man. He must have been in his 80s. I noticed his clothes – he wore a torn-and-stitched-numerous-times kurta-pyjama, with a torn waistcoat on top of it. The only bit of cloth on his frail body that was not restitched was his prayer cap. He had a small beard which seemed to have lost a lot of hair. I noticed he was murmuring something, and paused to inquire once again.

“Badlapur ki train hai?”

“Nahin, baba, Dombivili ki hai” (No, old man, this is a train to Dombivili), I answered.

“Shukriya! Khuda aapko iski Jazaa de!” (Thank You! May God reward you for helping me), he said.

He had a rough voice, may be because he had cold. He coughed intermittently and cleared his throat every few minutes. He carried a little bag on his shoulder, but it did not seem to contain much. He had a cane that helped him balance himself. Between coughs and clearing his throat, he kept murmuring inaudibly. I couldn’t help notice that all this while, he kept looking straight ahead, with his staff helping him stand. I realized he was blind.

I kept the phone in my pocket and I felt it was better to help him find a place to sit. He did not want to, though. “Saara din toh baitha hi rehta hun bheek maangne ke liye…” (I keep sitting the entire day while I beg), he said in his rough voice. I left him alone and watched him from a distance. He kept murmuring, and other people watched him, too. Though he wasn’t begging now, some individuals came forward and offered him alms. I went to him and kept a ten rupee note in his hand. He said ‘Bismillah’ (I begin in the name of God) and took the money and put it in his waistcoat pocket.

The Badlapur train arrived, and I helped him get in through the crowd, all the way inside. I asked a commuter to get up and let the old man sit. He readily obliged. I stood near the old man and tried to absorb the pushes that the old man would get from the crowd. He sat and continued to murmur. After Kalyan (a major station) passed, most of the crowd got off and I got a seat right beside him. For the first time during this entire journey, I looked at him closely. I knew he was very old, but he looked even older now. His face was a maze of wrinkles, his eyes did not exist, and he had no teeth. And he kept murmuring. I tried to listen what it was, and as soon as I did, I was really amazed. The man was praying.

When we reached Ambernath, we spoke properly for the first time. I asked him where he lived, to which he mentioned a very distant part of the town (I cannot clearly remember the name). He told me he lived with his wife and sister in a small hut. He had no children and the children of his sister had thrown her out of the house. Since there was no one else to look after them, the blind old man had to resort to begging. But after every few sentences and some coughing, he would state that God has been kind and he was thankful that he could still pray and earn.

“Khuda ka shukr hai, kuchh na hone se toh behtar hi hai!” (I am thankful to God that this is better than nothing at all), he said, with his smiling face looking into the nothingness in front of him. I helped him board a rickshaw and paid the fare beforehand. That was the least I could do for him. As I bid farewell to the old man, he held my hand and said a small prayer, a prayer I could not hear but feel. My eyes were dampened a bit. I felt sad – Not about this old man having to work at this age in this condition. I was sad about myself. I felt sad about the world.

We keep cribbing about the absence of little things in our lives and behave as if God has been unjust towards us. We pray to God and thank Him only on special occasions. But there are people who never forget Him, who have much less than what we have and are still thankful for whatever little their fate allows them to hold on to. Every idle moment, that man prayed. Despite being old and unable to see, he thanked God for keeping him able enough to feed his old wife and sister. He never complained. I am sure these moments in my life would have made a great composition for my school. It made me believe that may be not an hour, but a few minutes on a railway station or a train are worth living, not just writing about. I never met the old man again and I do not know what he prayed for me. But whatever it was, it made me a better human being.

Thank you, God.

Beggar

Image is for representation  purpose only.
Image courtesy: muslimtune.com

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The walls we try to break…

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Imagine there is a wall. You believe it will break, and you keep punching it. Every time you punch it, you get hurt. But you want it to break… and you don’t give up hope. You keep punching, it keeps hurting.
After a long time, you realize that there are a lot of doorways. But you continue to punch the wall, because you want that reward, that satisfaction of having broken it, because you spent so much time and energy on it. But what you don’t realize is that since it is not going to break, there won’t be any satisfaction. You are thinking too much about the wall.

Just like this wall, there are people. No matter how hard you try to get into their hearts by breaking barriers, they don’t care about what you feel. And they don’t change. Even if you get hurt.The wise thing is to stop punching. Just let the wall be.

No one… Absolutely NO ONE has the right to take you for granted!
Not even a wall.
No matter how much you love a person, if your feelings are not understood and reciprocated, then you are just punching that wall.

Look for a door. There may be an open one.

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