Writing 101: Day20 – My Most Prized Possession: The Blessed Ring of Luck

Material things have never the motivating factors in my life. Sure, I love having a car and owning a house but somehow they were never the reasons behind any of the important decisions that I have made in my life till now. So understandably, my most prized possession is something that may not be of great monetary value but holds immeasurable value to me emotionally. It is a ring.

This ring is a golden ring with a big stone embedded in it. It was presented to me by my parents on the occasion of my eighteenth birthday, the day I officially became an adult. It marks the end of an era in my life and the beginning of a new one. It symbolizes my transition from a dreamy and sometimes lazy child to the slightly jaded and equally lazy adult that I have become. I always wear the ring. It is my good luck charm. And in a weird way, I feel that it also holds my parents’ blessings. I have been on my own for the last decade and this ring has always made me feel that my parents are there for me.

You might ask why I consider it to be my good luck charm. Well consider this. It was the placement season during my MBA and it was the first Group Discussion that I was appearing for, to get a job. Suddenly, I realized that the ring was not on my finger. I tried to go back to my hostel to get it. But there was no time. The previous group had already finished their Group Discussion and we were being called in. I have always been a good enough speaker but that day somehow, my words just would not come out. Now you might present with the very valid argument that since I was so obsessed with the ring and considered myself at a disadvantage without its presence, hence I mentally accepted defeat and hence my bad performance. But a warrior never leaves for battle without his favorite sword and the ring is a weapon for me. Without it I am incomplete and not able to deliver my hundred percent. Call me superstitious but I just cannot function to the best of my ability without it.

The ring is not just a good luck charm, it is also a symbol of my independence while at the same time reminding me of my origin. Making my own way in the world away from my parents, the ring keeps me rooted to the values that my parents have instilled in me. It gives me the courage to follow my dreams and beliefs and be who I really am. It is like to magic ring of the Green Lantern which gives me the power to fight against everything that comes in my way of achieving my dreams. And just like the ring needs to be recharged from time to time by the Green Lantern, so I have to visit my parents to get myself and my ring recharged.

Also, when it comes to this ring, I like to believe that what goes around comes around. I have lost it a couple of times but always managed to get it back. I remember when I was in college, there was an occasion when I could not find it. I searched everywhere in my hostel room, asked my roommates if they had seen it and practically done everything to recover it. But, I just could not remember where I had kept it. I assumed it had fallen off somewhere. I was very depressed and called up my Dad. He said he would get me a new one but to me my ring was irreplaceable. Anyways, I was sleeping at night when I dreamt that the ring was under my bed. I immediately woke up and started searching for it much to the chagrin of my roommates who were awakened by the ruckus that I was creating in the middle of the night. Finally, I checked inside my bucket which I kept under the bed. In the bucket was a soap case and the ring was embedded in the soap. I was so relieved that I almost cried.

There are other things also that I value a lot, like the dictionary which never left my study table no matter where I went. It had belonged to my father once and when my sister needed a dictionary, I gave it away to her. But, the ring I cannot think of giving away ever. Such is my attachment to it. It is indeed my most prized possession.

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Writing 101: Day19 – Free Writing: Walking through the Corridors of the Past

Recently, I visited the state of Tamil Nadu for an official tour. I was stationed in Madurai for a week. I have been to Madurai earlier as well but never managed to visit the Meenakshi Temple which is a famous tourist as well as religious place in Madurai. People from all over the world come to see this amazing work of art and appreciate its timelessness and beauty. So, this time I squeezed out enough time from my meetings and managed to visit the temple on the last day of my stay in Madurai.

As it is a religious place and as is common in Hindu religious places of worship, I had to submit my shoes at the entrance. The security also kept aside my mirror and a pack of chewing gum. Then I entered the temple campus. There are two shrines in the same campus. First, there is the one dedicated to Lord Shiva, the “Mahadeva” (Supreme God). I have never been a very religious person but I am a big follower of the Lord Shiva and the constant chanting of “Om Namah Shiva” calms my nerves as nothing else in this world. The moment I crossed all the checking and security, it was like entering into a different world.

Meenakshi Temple

Meenakshi Temple

The entire temple is made of stone which has withstood thousands of years. It was built somewhere in between 1623-1655 A.D. The sculptures were so intricate and beautiful that it made me marvel at the powers of perception and depiction of the artists who created them. The colorful crowd all moved around with the purpose of offering their prayers and at one side of the door was an elephant. Not a sculpture but a live one. And it was a showman. It lifted up its trunk to greet every passer-by and then demanded money by making sounds and extending its trunk. It is unbelievable how well animals can be trained. But, somehow even with an element of modern day consumerism, the presence of the elephant added to my feeling of being transported back in time.

At the entrance to the inner temple was a ticket counter. I could go and stand in the “free” line without paying any fee but the queue was longer there or I could buy a ticket of Rs 20 or Rs 100 and become a part of the shorter queue. The amount of entrance fee is, of course, inversely proportional to the length of the queue. Finally as soon as I entered the inner temple of Lord Shiva , the “aarti” (evening worship) started. The people around me said we were lucky to be able to witness it. In the darkness the idol of Lord Shiva could hardly be seen but the rhythmic sound of the bells and the thousands of oil lamps created a magical atmosphere.

Beautiful statue

Beautiful statue

After offering my prayers there, I went to the main Meenakshi temple. The name Meenakshi means fish-eyed (meena-fish and akshi-eyes). She is an incarnation of Shiva’s wife Parvati and the principal deity of this temple. Again here, there was a long queue and special tickets. So, I purchased one and entered the inner temple. Somehow looking at the architecture, the beautiful carvings, I was not at all concerned with the queue or crowd. I tried to take it all in as much as possible. After offering my prayers and coming out of this inner temple of Goddess Meenakshi, I wandered around and chanced upon a long corridor where strangely I found myself alone.

Walking though that corridor, I could not help but wonder how many different people from different periods of time, having different versions of “reality” have walked through this same corridor. I pondered over the frailty of this temporary human life as opposed to the permanence of the work we do and leave behind. This beautiful creation has transcended time itself. I was reminded of those beautiful lines written by my favorite poet John Keats in his “Ode on a Grecian Urn”:

“When old age shall this generation waste,

Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woes

Than ours, a friend to man,”

It was a truly spiritual experience for me.

Writing 101: Day18 – The Last Good bye

I love sitting on the rocking chair on our balcony. I can look at the entire neighborhood from here. And I love the sound as the chair rocks against the floor. “Khat, khat, khat”, I love to close my eyes and think that I am sitting atop a horse galloping to some far away land.

Suddenly, I hear the agitated voices of many grown-ups together. I look across the street and see that it is coming from Mrs. Pauley’s house. Mrs. Pauley is an old lady staying just opposite to our house. She makes the best cookies and whenever I visit her, she gives me one. Of late though, she hasn’t been baking any cookies. Not since Mr. Pauley “passed away” three months ago. I don’t really know what that means but Mom says that we move on to a better place than this world.

I see some policemen looking very serious bringing out Mrs. Pauley through the door. Is she crying? What is she saying to the men? And why is there a small bag in her hand? I have never seen her going anywhere ever. The only time she would be out of the house would be when she and Mr. Pauley used to go to the Church every Sunday.

I call my Mom, “Mom, come to the balcony. See where Mrs. Pauley is going.”

“What? What are you saying?”, Mom shouts back.

“Come outside now Mom”.

Mom finally comes out and tries to figure what is happening. By this time, I see some more people in our neighborhood coming out of their houses to see what is going on. I also see Mr. Smith. He is the landlord of Mrs. Pauley. He never used to come here before but lately, I have seen him many times here. I don’t like him. He speaks very rudely to Mrs. Pauley.

By this time, I see Mrs. Pauley is walking towards the gate. “Mom, where are they taking her?”

I look up to see that there are tears in Mom’s eyes too. “They are taking her away because she could not pay the rent. She doesn’t have money. I can’t believe that none of her sons helped her. Six sons and not one of them have the good sense to do something for her after all she has done for them.”

I suddenly remember the place where Dad keeps his money and start going inside. “Where are you going?”

“Mom, we can give her the money. Then they will not take Mrs. Pauley away.”

“It’s a good idea honey, but we don’t have so much money as to pay her rent. We can hardly manage ours”, Mom says in a broken voice.

“But Mom, can’t we stop them?”

“I wish we could baby”, my Mom says sadly.

Just at that moment, Mrs. Pauley looks up at me and waves sadly.

 

Three days have passed since Mrs. Pauley was taken away and it is Sunday. I want to go meet her today. I rush to Mom to remind her.

“Baby, I didn’t tell you but we can’t go see Mrs. Pauley”, Mom says very softly.

“But Mom, you promised”, I wail.

“I know but honey, Mrs. Pauley is no more”

“What does that mean?”, I don’t understand what Mom says.

“That means that she has also passed away like Mr. Pauley. They are together now.”

“Oh that is good then”, I say. Though I will not get to eat any of her delicious cookies, I am happy that Mrs. Pauley is with her husband. She was always happy with him.

Writing 101: Day17 – Up, up and away: My fear

Sounds of laughter and fragrances of different food items somehow get through the haze of fear. I clutch the railing of the small box tightly. My knuckles turn almost white. The motor turns on with a growl and I close my eyes tightly. As if that would somehow negate the reality!

And then up goes the box and with it me and my friend Deb. Deb’s voice reaches my ear “Ayyeeee Dipsss…its awesome, ain’t it?” I look at her and try to utter something but only manage a weird sound. “Oh Gawd, don’t tell me you are scared”, she drawls.

Too ashamed to admit my fear, I keep quiet and try not to look down. Suddenly the box starts moving down with a whoosh. It seems like everything that I have eaten in the fair is churning in my stomach. My box comes down and I feel like jumping out of it onto the ground. But, my pride is at stake here. I continue to cling onto the seat and endure the horrendous ride.

Finally after about fifteen times of eye-shutting, stomach churning and Deb’s happy squeals, it stops. I rush out of the box as soon as possible. I make a promise to myself. I am never getting up on that darned ferris wheel thing again. No Sir, not even if my life depended on it.

Writing 101: Day16 – The Notebook: Lost…only to be found

She steps into the attic. It has been a long time since she has last come here. She notices that all the boxes are neatly stacked but covered with dust. She has been accustomed to seeing every nook and corner of the house absolutely clean. Her mother had been an athlete once and somehow she has always felt that her agility at getting things done results from there. But recently, her mother seems to have slowed down somehow. She had never paid much attention before because she was too busy with her job and her boyfriend and her own life. But this time, with both those things very effectively removed from her mind and life, she has not been able to overlook the fact that both her parents seems to have aged a lot. She has realized that she has been selfish and negligent with them. And the way that they have welcomed her back knowing that she has resigned from her job and been dumped by her boyfriend, has only made her feel more ashamed and guilty.

But, it is better late than never. Now that she has come home, she plans to get the house renovated at once, something her father has wanted to do for a long time. Her father has never been good at such commonplace and worldly things like money and construction. So, at the request of her mother, she has come up here at the attic to clean the place and remove the important stuff so that the rest of the things can be disposed of.

Looking through all the boxes, she notices that her mother has not thrown away a single thing that belonged to her. Every school text book, scrap book, every uniform that ever belonged to her has been neatly packed in boxes. It is almost as if her whole childhood has been preserved in these boxes. Going through the things, she feels like she is peeping back into her childhood days.

And then she discovers it, the fat hardbound notebook which used to be her diary. It was the notebook which held her every secret, her dreams and aspirations, her thoughts and imagination. She thought that she had lost it but it seems her mother had found it somewhere and preserved it here. She goes through the yellowish pages reading the poems that she had composed as a teenager, the fictional characters that she had created in the stories, her thoughts and ruminations. She remembers the time when writing meant everything to her.

That was before she understood the value of money. That was before she understood the struggles her parents had to go through to put a proper meal on the table because her father had no “real job”. He is a painter and though he is quite well-known now, it was not easy for them during her teenage years. That was when she had decided that she will not grow up to be like her father. She will earn money, lots and lots of it. And her parents would never have to suffer any more. However, the more she became involved with her career, the more she moved away from her parents. Thinking about those childhood dreams now brings tears to her eyes. Really who has she turned into? Who has she become?

Her father may not have earned a lot of money, but he has always followed his heart and dreams. He has remained true to himself and to his wife. Who has she been true to? So involved is she in her thoughts that she does not hear the footsteps of her father entering the attic. She suddenly feels his hand on her head and looks up with tears brimming in her eyes.

“What’s wrong honey”, he asks in his ever gentle tones.

“Nothing Dad”, she whispers” I just found something that I had lost a long time ago”.

“What is it?”

“Nothing much, just myself”.

They look into each others’ eyes and smile with total comprehension.

Writing 101: Day15 – An Event to Remember

In this lifetime, I have come across many important events that have colored my imagination, chiseled my thoughts and shaped my personality. But when I think of one event without which a part of me would never even exist my mind takes me back to an evening of 16th August. I was too young to remember all the details but I do recollect that I had been waiting for that day to come, the day when I would hold him in my arms, the day when I would first see my little brother.

From the day my parents had told me that I would be having a little brother or sister to play with me, I was overjoyed. I had been the youngest member of a huge family and I couldn’t wait for someone to arrive who would be younger to me. However, once he arrived, I was a little disappointed. He was so small and weak. How could he be my playmate? Also, why had I never considered the possibility that I would have to share the attention of my parents and family with him?

But, as the days passed he became bigger and stronger. He started responding to my antics by gurgling with laughter and moving his tiny hands and legs. And I started loving him as I had never loved anybody else. I still remember the time when my Mom told me to watch over him and not lift him. But, telling me not to do something always has the equal and opposite effect. So, I lifted him in my arms when suddenly the telephone rang. I was so shocked by the sudden ringing that I almost dropped him but I myself took the fall and saved him from hitting the floor somehow. I think that is when I realized that my life would never be the same. It dawned on me that I had to protect that little being. That was the day when life and my little brother taught me about responsibility.

I cannot imagine how my life would be without him. Dancing in the rain in the monsoon, getting all muddy playing football in the front yard, fighting with each other and pulling each other’s hair out, all those unforgettable moments of childhood would vanish in a second. And then as we grew up, talking about our crushes and love life, discussing our jobs, having that occasional drink when both of us would get so philosophical that we would talk about everything from Plato to Tagore, all that would be gone as well. Of course, I have a sister too. But, she is so much younger to me that I didn’t get to spend much of my childhood with her.

I often think that the connection that we have with our siblings is elemental. Imagine no other people on earth are made of the exact same elements as you and your siblings. You share the same origin, parents, family and background. Life may take you different ways during your lifetime but you are like branches of a tree having the same root and however far away you are from each other, you got to come back to the roots some time.

So, had my parents decided not to have any more children after me, I would have missed out on a whole side of my life. Thanks Mom and Dad for not taking that decision.

Writing 101: Day13 – Finding the lost..

She moves around the kitchen like a well-oiled machine. Cooking two curries simultaneously is something she has managed to do over the many years. In fact, on the festive occasions, she still manages to cook a three course meal without any help from anyone. Trying to take out some spices to put in her simmering curry, she opens the bottle. She takes some coriander powder and sprinkles it all over her curry. Now she has to mix it with the rest of the ingredients with the ladle. But wait, where is the ladle? She turns a cursory glance around the counter. No, it is not there. She goes towards the shelves where all the bottles and spices are. She must have put it while looking for the spice. But no, it is not there as well. Looking frantically now, she starts searching the entire kitchen.

And while searching for that lost ladle, she is reminded of all the things she has found. She is lucky to have found a husband who loves and respects her, more so now after twenty five years of marriage. She had chosen a man for herself who, a lot of people thought, was not right for her. She is a practical soul, a woman who moves on despite all the obstacles, a go-getter. On the other hand, her husband is an artist, a man who lives in the world of imagination and who is apparently irresponsible and impractical. But, she knew what she was getting into. He may not seem to care about normal worldly things but he loves her with a passion that an ordinary man cannot comprehend. In fact, she herself cannot believe sometimes that such a talented man could fall in love with such a simple woman like her. Together, they have built a beautiful home and raised a wonderful daughter. They have seen ups and downs in life but everything has fallen in place.

But somewhere down the line, while being there for her husband, tending to his needs every day, giving birth and taking care of her daughter, she has indeed lost “herself”. She has sacrificed so much. Once a state-level athlete, she gave up sports on the insistence of her father. A girl is supposed to marry and become a mother. She cannot spend her entire life running around and collecting trophies. No, that just doesn’t work. Her husband gave her much happiness. But when she thinks about the feeling of freedom that she used to feel while sprinting across the tracks, the wind caressing her hair, her every muscle and instinct in tandem focused on the finish line, she feels like she is a loser. She should have fought a little bit harder. Now, the only place where she uses her skills is while juggling with the utensils or sprinting across the hallway to get to the milk before it overflows while boiling.

“Krrriiiingg…kriinnng”

The sound of the telephone breaks into her thoughts. Getting out of her reverie, she sprints out of the kitchen and grabs the phone. “Hello”, she says breathlessly.

“Hello Mom”, the voice on the other end says. It is her daughter. “I am coming home”.

Suddenly all the feelings that she has lost something, vanishes. She feels as light as the air. And she realizes that what she has found in life is far more precious than what she has lost.

Walking down in a daze of happiness after this realization, she enters the kitchen and her eyes fall on that very thing that she was searching for, her ladle. She had put it in the other bowl where the other curry was cooking. She picks up the ladle, smiles to herself and continues cooking.