Friday, November 28, 2014

Ganga Needs a Snan

(This short-story is written for Indiblogger's contest #AbMontuBolega for Strepsils. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter. Through a satirical short-story, I bring out the attention that the river Ganga deserves because, as Montu says, bin bole ab nahin chalega.)
It was in Badrinath that Shuklaji met a hermit who'd asked him to bathe in Ganga to get rid of his misery. Ramesh Shukla, a religious businessman from Darbhanga, Bihar, had been running a successful saree shop for over twenty years, but last year, after his shop caught fire, he had lost his entire fortune. Even after one year of tireless efforts, he had not been able to reinstate his business back to affluence. He cursed his luck for not having insured his shop, despite having planned life insurances for every member of his family.
One month ago, when he visited Jagannath Temple at Puri to pray for his goodwill, he received a life-changing advice to take a Ganga-snan to bring his fortune back. The chief pundit at Puri, after plundering his remaining wealth, enlightened him that everything had been conspired by the will of Ganga-maiyya to remind her son, who had been neglecting her for long, to meet her. Shuklaji took the hermit's clairvoyant words by heart and decided that he would go back into the tender lap of the holy mother Ganga as soon as possible and pray to transform the fate of his family, which consisted of his wife and two daughters of marriageable age.
Shuklaji remembered his childhood that was spent alongside Ganga-maiyya. When Ramesh Shukla was not Shuklaji but just Ramu, he often visited his grandfather's sprawling bungalow at Patna that was surrounded by peepul and mango trees on three sides and Ganga-maiyya on the rear side. His entire childhood was spent jumping in the cradle of the holy river. He owed a lot of things to river - his ability to swim that has kept him fit over the years, his risk-appetite that made him swim through the river from ghats to ghats, his disease-free childhood because the holy water strengthened his immunity. But with time, the pressure to earn and sustain his family had cut his ties with the holy mother.
From Puri, Shuklaji boarded a direct train to Patna instead of his hometown Darbhanga, and when he got down, he straightaway hired an auto to take him to Mahendru Ghat. He stripped himself to his undergarments and jumped into the holy river, without thinking twice. As he completed his first dubki, he realized the sea change that the river of his childhood had seen over the years. The water now reeked of filth, it had assumed a dark brown colour that resembled Jhaji's evening tea and it didn't even taste sweet, instead bitter. Nevertheless, in sheer belief of transforming his fate, he spent forty-five minutes in the holy river, even quenched his thirst with it, and came out only when his fingertips and toes got pruned.
Feeling accomplished and nostalgic, Shuklaji bowed in reverence to Ganga-maiyya before leaving for Darbhanga. No miracle happened for the next two days and he, along with his family, kept waiting. Three days later he sensed a severe stomach-ache and kept dismissing it, until he couldn't tolerate it. He was rushed to the hospital, where he succumbed to his pain in seven hours straight. Police feared a conspiracy and asked for a postmortem report. One day later, the newspaper report read, 'Businessman in loss dies by accidentally consuming poison.'
As promised, Ganga-snan relieved him of his misery and his wife received fourteen lac rupees from LIC the next month, with which she married both the daughters in the following year.

The brown Ganga water at Patna's Mahendru Ghat (clicked by me)

There are places that need cleaning, people who deserve your attention & authorities who need to hear your opinions! Don’t be a silent spectator. Raise your voice and make a difference. We know that raising our voices against all that is dirty in our country is a power that we all have. Let’s exercise the power of our voice & work towards a Swach Bharat. This is what the Strepsil's AbMontuBolega campaign is all about. Kyuki Bin Bole Ab Nahi Chalega!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Will you die for me?

They are a happy couple. Just married - three years ago. Both of them were supposed to have an arranged marriage, but each of them - on the day of their marriage fell in love. With each other. Their arranged marriage turned into a love marriage without anyone having gotten to know about it. 

He is logical; she prefers thinking with her heart. She is an ardent believer of God; he, an atheist, rather an agnostic, if logic could prove God's existence, he'd believe. 

One Fine Sunday
It was 9.30 am and he walked into his wife, cold and silent, cutting vegetables in the kitchen. He took out a packet of peas from the fridge and stood next to his wife, peeling them. She didn't reciprocate. Her vexation showed. Last week, she had urged him to take some time out for her, but deadlines after deadlines stole his days and weariness shadowed his nights. Having peeled a quarter of the lot, he tried to figure how to initiate a conversation that could bring back the lost touch. Unable to think he hurled a few of those peas into his mouth; they were bland.

"Will you die for me?" he asked out of nowhere, as if blandness of the peas provoked such an alarming question. The sharp knife in her hand came to a stand-still. Her eyes were questioning his question, as if it were repugnant. She could not think with her heart this time, rather she did not want to.

"I'll certainly kill you if you talk about 'death'." She pointed the knife towards him making him comforted that his death was imminent.

"Honey, I am not kidding. Please answer. Will you die for me?"
"What kind of question is this? I'm already quite annoyed. Don't annoy me more."
"Please don't get irritated. I want an answer, I have something in my mind."
"You and your mind. A helluva combination. You already know the answer! I'll certainly," she said.
"Was that what you wanted to assure? Satisfied?"
"Not yet. One more question. A difficult one this time." He said.
"Ah! Another headache approaching. Shoot, I've no options left."
"That's like a good wife. So here is my question - If you had been given a choice between these two things - Me dying for you or you dying for me, what would you've chosen?"
"You're sick. What is the matter with you? Why these sudden talks about death?"
"No questions. First answer my question." He dominated.
"You're never gonna mend - will always remain weird. By the way, the question was not so difficult. In fact, not at all. I wonder you even have to ask. I will let you live honey and a thousand times over. I will do it without any second thought."

"Gotcha! This is where my BIG question comes. Don't you think that you are acting selfish by letting me live because when you will be gone, you'll stay in peace. While, I will be tortured not to find you anymore for my entire life, with nothing but your memories burning my heart every moment. You are choosing the easy path buddy. This way you want me to face more misery, don't you?" He struck the bull's eye.

"But your parents will need you. My parents will miss me but my brother will look after them." She tried to think with her mind.
"Suppose there are no obligations at all. Then what will you choose?" He was much better at thinking with his mind.
"Still I'll let you live because in this way, I'll have some peace in the other world until you come and join me." She taunted. She forwent the option of thinking with her mind.
"Come on. Answer me seriously! Will you let me live and die everyday missing you more and more than ever?"
"Hmmmmmmmmmm. You have thought it out very well."
"This is a paradox." He said with pride, as if he would be awarded the Nobel Prize for this brilliant discovery. Noble Prize for love. Alas, there is no such category, otherwise she would be a recipient of a thousand of them.

She was lost - in thinking - this time with her heart. Suddenly, she said, "No, it isn't."

"What? You've an answer to this! what's the catch?" His pride was transformed into the curiosity for the reply that was to come.
"Well, the catch is my love does not need my presence. It is in fact your strength, not your weakness." Her heart gave sound defeat to his logic. He however was not convinced.
"I did not understand"

"I know you are dumb. Listen carefully this time - in my absence you will miss me but you'll realize in some time that I never want you to miss me in a way that hurts you but in a way that inspires you to make a meaningful life, fulfill all those dreams and do all those things that I couldn't do. Love is not for fretting over, rather it is to help you feel alive forever." Her words left him spell-bound.

"Have I ever told you that I love you?" He asked.
"No, but many other guys did tell me that - actually, too many times!"

"Naughty." He exclaimed naughtily and tried to catch her, she ran away and they played Chor-Police in their drawing room for a while, until the chor caught the police. The chor hugged the police, the most endearing embrace ever.

"You're bad, but I still love you." He said with his voice full of emotions while the hug was still on.
"Promise me that you'll always love me like this."
"Always, I promise. And you promise me you'll miss me in a way that'll inspire you to make a meaningful life, fulfill all those dreams and do all those things that I couldn't do."

She was stunned. She didn't make the promise. Why would she? She didn't find his last line pleasing at all.

"What? What do you mean by that?" She said being a bit horrified.
"Honey, I have been diagnosed with final-stage pancreatic cancer. I've got just two months to live."

Her tongue parched, her feet stiffened, her eyes turned wet, her hug became tightened holding him tauter than ever before. She was standing there in a fix. She did not know what to say, what to do or what to hope for. Her heart sank - sank deep within her heart. She could not locate it, nor did she try. She just held him close to her sunken heart, trying to make him rediscover it within her. The wet eyes, the heavy breath and the emotional setback brought more tears and she cried raining her trapped emotions into his ears - as loud as possible.

"Duffer. You screamed directly into my ears. You fool, I was just kidding that time. What do you think, I would leave you so soon? I have a whole lifetime to pester you again and again." He laughed extravagantly.

"I hate you! I hate you jerk!" She struck his toes hardly with her feet. He jumped in pain of that ping, but nevertheless relished it. Her embrace became the tightest ever.

"I love you. Your jerk has found another jerk for himself."

Her sunken heart found a saviour in him, and she was delighted, primarily because the saviour was he - himself. The tears of heartbreak turned into tears of immense joy, and started flowing more and more.

Her heart was throbbing in joy - so loud - that even he could hear it. She was happy as never before and he was happy as never after. He tossed some peas into his mouth once again. They tasted sweet.

Written for indiblogger's Happy Hours for Parachute Advansed Body Lotion. You can view their 'touching' video here: