Thursday, August 20, 2015



( Photo Avtar Mota )

To this photo  , I am adding  my short  story " Don’t Say Bangaluru Again " This story appeared in four parts on my Facebook Page recently..


                                                (  DON’T SAY BANGALURU AGAIN )

When Aasha ji advised  Ramesh  Kumar Koul, her suasband  to go to Bangaluru and see their newly married daughter and son in law , he pretended as if he heard nothing. This typical style of Ramesh Kumar to avoid conversation was quite familiar to Aasha Ji. Quite often she did not drag her conversation sensing Ramesh  Kumar’s disinterest . Possibly this was not the moment to leave conversation at that point . She did not keep quiet and continued .

“ I say to you, look this way . Where are you lost ? Don’t you ever think about Sweety ? It has been more than six months now . We do not know anything about Sweety and Rohit Ji.I don’t  believe these telephone calls . What do we get out of these calls ? Just ” I  am fine “ or “How are you ?” . And then the usual line “ We shall talk tomorrow. I am busy today “.  Is this communication ? I am sick of this style that these youngsters have adopted. We don’t  know facts . We don’t  know which direction these people are going . We don’t  know what they are eating. We don’t  know how they are living . You should have gone twice up till  now but you appear to take these things lightly. ”

Ramesh Kumar kept quiet. Sometimes he felt that staying in his home for full day after retirement was a curse . He better tell his wife that he had a job and leave at 10 a. m.  in the morning and return at 6 p.m. to save himself from these daily grilling sessions . For him , Aasha ji was there in the house only to rake up any and every issue to create unending annoyance for him. But then he also thought that to some extent she was right . He had seen Sweety talking  on her mobile phone for hours when she received calls from her colleagues or friends . She also chatted with so many friends on internet as and when she came to Jammu from Bangaluru where she had been staying for the last three years .And to her parents , she would simply say “ Are you fine? Okay , We shall Talk tomorrow. I am busy today “. Both Aasha ji l and Ramesh Kumar were long waiting for that ‘Tomorrow’ to arrive . It never did.

Ramesh Kumar would also think that there was no Issue worth talking between Sweety and her parents except a mutual reassurance that all were fine . With friends she had issues of her age , job and future .

“young children are sharp and better equipped to understand and decide what was best for them. “

Consoling himself with these thoughts , Ramesh Kumar would often feel that all was fine. That made him to stop further thinking on this issue .

Now that he could not avoid going to Bangaluru , Ramesh Kumar started his preparations . He booked his air ticket and bought  Kulcha , Rajmash , Kashmiri Brinjals , Nadru ( lotus roots ) , rice powder , a packet of Barfi  from Pahalwan’s shop , Kadam ( Kohlrabi  ) Pickle ,Vaarimuth ( small black Beans consumed by Kashmiris ), a small wood carving house boat , a papier mache Kangri , one kg of Kagzi walnuts , Kashmiri spices from Prasad Koul’s shop , Burzil almonds and a small 5 gm packet of Pamore Saffron and finally green leafy Haak . Aasha ji had accompanied him and selected most of these items .

When Ramesh Kumar asked Aasha ji as to who would cook all these vegetables , she  had said this :-

“It is not so difficult. Sweety is there . Let you go first , both of you should help each other to enjoy all this stuff. I wish I could go . Even if you have to cook something for the children , there is no issue . We live for them only. Had Rinku not been in his ten plus two final class , I would have loved to go personally . But I can’t  leave him alone at this crucial period . Who shall make him to get up at 5 a. m.  for the tuition  classes  ? And listen,  don’t you ever ring up that Nalini   , your cousin sister . We had enough from this relation of yours . She didn’t have the courtesy to invite Sweety and Rohit Ji for a lunch or dinner . Leave that Lunch or dinner aside , she has not invited them even for a simple  cup of tea . All your relations are like that . They demand respect from us but never exhibit it when their turn comes . Don’t telephone her about your presence in Bangaluru .”

That day all flights from jammu airport got delayed due to inclement weather . Inspite of leaving Jammu at 11.30 a.m. , Ramesh Kumar reached Bangaluru at 6 p.m.  He was tired and not in a goof mood. He also felt cheated when the Airline staff at Jammu asked him to pay Rs1700 for the extra baggage that he was carrying.  

When he reached Sweety’s flat , it was locked . “ O God! where to go now? ”, he said to himself .He decided to  knock at the door of the adjacent flat .As he did so , an elderly person came out and conveyed politely that they don’t  know anything about Sweety and her husband . They neither had  the keys of the flat nor any information. Accordingly , he could provide no assistance on this front. Thanking him for opening the door , Ramesh Kumar picked up his luggage and came down by the building lift to meet thesecurity guard at the entrance. The guard informed him that he too had no information and offered to keep his luggage in safe custody till Sweety and her husband arrive.

Ramesh Kumar decided to call Sweety on her mobile .First , second and third ring and pat came the reply in a hush tone .

“ Papa , please wait . I am in my  office . It shall take me about an hour to reach home. Rohit is coming to pick me up. “

Ramesh kumar also informed his safe arrival to Aasha ji . While he was busy on his mobile , the  security guard had brought him a cup of tea and made him to sit on his bed cum cot. Gossip followed . Kashmir problem, general corruption in the country and finally sandalwood smuggler Veerapan came up for discussions . Impressed , the guard kept listening .

At 9 p. m.  , Sweety and Rohit arrived in a car. Hugging , smiles and together they proceeded  to the flat . Ramesh kumar wanted to talk about his long wait and seek reasons as to why the flat key was not kept with the neighbour or the guard but decided to forget all that he went through. Once inside the flat,he wanted to have a bath and go to sleep . Sweety switched on the TV set for the news . Together they heard the news while Rohit busied himself with his laptop. Sweety was also busy with her mobile and intermittently looked towards the TV and her father. That was the communication environment in the room .

Before the newsreader shifted to weather report / forecast , the door bell rang. A boy entered with some food packets that had possibly been ordered by Sweety . And then she suddenly declared ..

“ Papa , let us have food .”

Somehow, Ramesh Kumar  ate the oily and spicy food served in  the disposable plates . Drinking half a bottle of mineral water , he felt like going to bed immediately. Bangaluru was pleasant in August . He went to the bed room , changed his clothes and had a dreamless sleep waking up at 6.30 a. m. This was the time when Asha ji would bring him a cup of hot tea along with the morning newspaper. That made him to feel something like a king in his house . Where to get the tea ? How shall he begin his day without the usual cup of tea ? He kept thinking . He opened the window and saw groups of people in the park below the flats . Morning walkers in sports shoes and tidy  clothes . Women and children walking briskly over the circular track in the park. Hawkers distributing newspapers to the residents of the flats . Newspapers  with pages secured by tight rubber bands  being  thrown up like projectile  with perfect skill and  even to the  fourth floor . Just below his bed room window in the open balcony ,he found a newspaper . That kept him busy for about one hour . What to do now ?

He went to the kitchen and to his surprise , he found the sink full of unwashed utensils . Plates , cups , saucers , glasses and spoons . The maid had possibly not come the previous day. He opened the refrigerator and found that there was no milk . Sugar and tea, he could locate but then he could never  drink black tea. He came out and looked at the wall clock that kept ticking in the silence of the flat .It was 7.30 a. m.  He went near the bedroom door of Sweety , put his ear close to the door but could hear nothing. No sound from inside the room. He believed that Sweety and Rohit must be sleeping. Why disturb them ?after all his cup of tea was not that important .

“ Let me take a shower and finish with my shaving now “,  he said to himself.

Another half an hour and it was 8 a.m. . He again went to Sweety’s bed room and found total silence .

“They must have slept late . It is unwise to knock and disturb them. “,  he said to himself and returned to his bedroom to revisit the newspaper pages .

He thought of going to the market to buy milk and bread and make Breakfast for everyone . But then he did not have the keys of the main door. He was warned by Aasha ji not to venture out without door key in the pocket. The door if closed , would only open from outside with a key.

“So what to do now”, he said to himself.

It was 8.30 a.m. and as per his information , Sweety and Rohit  had to leave at 9.15 a.m. for their office .He again came closer to their bed room door. There was no sound or movement inside. Now he started feeling that things were not normal. Something was wrong . And then at  8.40 a.m. , status quo continued . Should he knock at the door ? Should he ring Sweety on her mobile ? Will it be decent if they were actually sleeping?  No! No! something is fishy . They should have been ready to leave by now. Should he inform Asha Ji back in Jammu ? No ! No! she will get disturbed unnecessarily. Why not open the gunny bag that had Nadru , Haak , Kulcha and all that stuff and keep everything in refrigerator. He finished it quickly with his ears and eyes focused at Sweety’s bed room. It was 8 50 a. m.  and Status quo continued . Now he felt seriously worried .

“ Should he call the guard ?’

“ Should he inform his wife Asha Ji ?”

“ Should he break open the door ?”

  Had he come to Bangaluru to see all this ? ”

“ O God ! what is this punishment ?”

“ I  don’t need the tea or  breakfast ?”

“What to do now  as  something is surely wrong over here ? ”

A whirlwind of disturbing thoughts gave him a shooting headache . He kept talking to himself. A cigarette was all that he needed at that moment but where to get it.

It was 8.55 a.m.  and suddenly he heard some movement inside the room. He came closer to the door and  heard some commotion in the attached wash room . The toilet tap was open and then somebody opened the wardrobe . He heaved a sigh of relief, radnk a glassful of water and felt as if his hand had come underneath a boulder but now he had managed to get it released safely .

It was 9.15 a.m. when the door of  Sweety’s bedroom opened . She and Rohit were ready to leave for their offices .

“ Papa, we have already ordered some items online like eggs , fruits , vegetables , India Gate Basmati rice , bread ,toned milk, butter and some grocery . The delivery boy shall be here in half an hour or so . The maid shall come at 10 a.m.  She has a set of keys with her . May be you need to go out, so keep this set of keys in your pocket. The maid will prepare your breakfast and lunch . I have already talked to her about it. She shall make chapatis and some dry vegetable for our dinner . You should have your breakfast with bread and eggs . If you can, please make some Rajmash the way mummy makes it . You know how mummy makes them spicy and chatpati with a little of tamarind, ginger and all that . You better guide the maid and she can make it herself . ”

Sweety opened the refrigerator door and saw it stuffed with what Ramesh Kumar had brought from Jammu .

“ Please remove all this to create space for what has been ordered from the Mall. Okay bye .”, saying so, Sweety and Rohit hurried towards the building lift .

“ Very strange , It looks as if this younger generation does not need  breakfast . Shall they go to their office without eating anything and  work all the day? What for do they earn if they can not have timely and proper diet ? I do not understand . This is not done. They are simply playing with their health. I better buy them a sandwich maker . I better Buy them the filling stuff , some olive oil , a bottle of tomato sauce and a bread today . Let them start it from tomorrow. So simple . Just spread the filling stuff on the bread , apply little olive oil to bread pieces and put it inside the sandwich maker . Switch on the power and have your hot stuffed and tasty sandwiches with sauce . I forgot their lunch issue .Shall they not have their lunch?Where shall they have it? I can’t see them like this anymore .I need to do something. “

That was what weighed heavily in his mind at that moment. But then he also thought that they might Be going straight to the office canteen for their breakfast . He had heard that many corporate offices run subsidised canteens for their staff. He wanted to clarify this issue once for all and free his mind.

“ Let me first ask Sweety about this breakfast issue . May be my sandwich maker shall go waste ? May be they have some better arrangement in their office . And for home made breakfast , you need to get up at 7.00 a.m. To get up at 7.00a.m.  , you need to sleep at 11.30 p.m. at the most . This younger generation has changed their body clock by sleeping at 2.30 a.m.  How can they get up at 7 a.m.? And this Sweety is now dependent on the maid for everything. Can’t she cook two cups of rice for their dinner ? Eating stale chapatis for dinner shall make them sick some day . I am going to discuss all these issues with her tonight . I am going to buy them a small rice cooker . That should make their system smooth .Very simple to handle . Just two cups of water in a cup of rice and nothing more .”

With these thoughts in mind , Ramesh Kumar suddenly turned pensive .He also wanted to have a general look inside the house . For this , he first went to Sweety’s bedroom and found Rohit’s night suit on the floor . The calendar page had not been changed since last three months  . The shaving razor and the shaving foam container were in the wash room sink. Two wet towels were lying on the bed . A half filled coffee mug was lying underneath the bed . On the side table, near the bed , lay a half eaten rusty apple with a kitchen knife close by .No one had opened the rubber bands of the newspapers for so many days and these had been thrown in the lower shelf of the bedroom cupboard .

Moving to the  kitchen , he found that the refrigerator had not been cleaned since long . The washing machine too revealed similar story. A packet of Prasad Kaul’s Kashmiri Mirch powder that Aasha ji had given to Sweety during her  Shivratri visit to Jammu , was lying unopened in the kitchen cupboard. She had forgotten to keep it in the refrigerator as was suggested to her by Aasha ji.

“ This is not a family house. Everything is in disorder over here . They live like inmates of a college hostel. This sweety has not learnt anything from her mother . “ , Ramesh Kumar said to himself.

But then he also realized that she had lived away from her parents for so many years .She had left her  once she cleared her ten plus two examination . The crucial period when she should have picked up all these things and other values was spent away from home .

“ She was not to be blamed totally . A girl who is sharp and efficient at her job , can pick up all this with a little effort. I better send Aasha Ji for a fortnight next time. Everything shall be perfect to the desired level . “ These comforting thoughts made Ramesh Kumar forget all and move ahead. .

While he was about to move to kitchen , the door bell rang .The delivery boy from some shopping Mall had come and placed the bill and the ordered items on the lobby floor .Ramesh Kumar checked the items physically with the bill and found them in order .It was 11 a.m.  now. The maid had to come at 10.00 a.m. sharp but had not turned up .Ramesh kumar felt hungry but disorder was prevalent everywhere . The kitchen  the sink , the refrigerator , the wash rooms and the bed rooms .

He came to kitchen side . Looking at the upper Shelf of the kitchen Almirah for some small pressure cooker for cooking Rajmash , he found a new 3 litre rice cooker lying unopened over there . As per the complementary tag attached to it , the rice cooker had been gifted by some friend to Sweety on her marriage . To cook Rajmash , he now needed to wash the pressure cooker lying in the sink .

It was 11.15 a. m. now and the maid had not turned up. Accordingly Ramesh kumar decided to do some purposeful work . He thought it better to begin with washing of the  utensils lying  in the sink . He opened his shirt and threw it on the lobby chair and went to the kitchen sink . Thereafter he cleaned the refrigerator and put the ordered stuff inside it . It was 11.45 a.m.  when he decided to make a cup of tea which he drank along with a Kashmiri bakery Kulcha that he had brought from Jammu. He now decided to cook Rajmash . And for that he had many other things to do . He went to the market and bought a pack of tamarind , fresh ginger from the vegetable seller , cigarettes , onions and a new gasket for the pressure cooker that he had washed clean .He also opened the rice cooker wrapper that he had seen in the kitchen cupboard shelf.

When he finished with cooking of Rajmash , it was 2 p.m. and he felt like having another cup of tea. In Jammu , by this time , Aasha ji would normally serve him his lunch and he would go for his usual sleep . This was the time when Aasha ji would close his bedroom door and switch on the television set  to watch her favourite  serial .

As he started to prepare his tea , the door bell rang. An elderly man was at the door. The guest wanted to enter and say something. Opening the door , Ramesh kumar, ushered the guest in and made him  sit comfortably.

“ I am T. Rangachari , your next door neighbour. I am sorry I didn’t  recognize you yesterday. You are Sakshi’s ( Sweety ) father . The guard told me all. Are you comfortable ? Any help or support you need ,  do call me. Don’t feel it , my son and daughter in law are busy and they are a little shy to mix with neighbours . This younger generation  is  busy in their own affairs .I retired as principal of a degree college  in  Madurai ,  Tamil Nadu. This is our flat and my son woks in Infosys .My daughter in law is a Gujrati girl. She is also an engineer with Samsung. In fact we came last month only as she delivered a baby . She is on maternity leave and is now going to her parental home next week . Her  father is an officer in  the State Bank of India and posted at Ahemdabad at the moment . We plan to stay a month more whereafter my daughter in law shall bring her mother for the  day care of the baby . We may come after

Deepawali for another three months since my daughter in law’s mother is going to Texas,  USA where her own daughter in law is in a family way . So either we or her parents shall keep coming till the baby is about three  years . Once the child starts going to school, things shall get better organized and parental support may  not be a necessity then. We have to provide this support to our children to enable them to work and earn for their families . That is the present reality of life . “

“ Yes sir , life is like that . And once the child is about three  years old , shall you not stay with them ? ”, said Ramesh Kumar .

“ What for Mr Koul ? We are happy at Madurai . I have recognition and some identity over there . Here , only the guard has time to listen to what I say . Children have a busy life schedule and their demands and priorities are at cross with our demands and priorities . Should we stand against the flow , if we can not move with the flow ? Never Mr Koul. And then this life is a highway. We have walked enough , we need to create space for others to walk freely. By word others I mean those who follow us. We must be more sensitive to their feelings and aspirations .”

“ I do not get what you say Sir. You mean that as parents , we have a utility value ?’

“ No! No ! Mr Kaul , you understood it differently . Children are not against us in any way. They are straight and simple . We were tricky and double talkers . They don’t  have time for all that we picked up from our elders to remain connected in social life . Wasn’t that a phony life ?”

“ Sir I didn’t  get what you want to say ? “

“ Fine I put it this way . You should allow a plant to grow independently . No plant shall grow under the shade of a tree. Every plant needs its independent share of free air ,  sunlight and natural water . We should not create any hindrance in that flow but be facilitators  of that flow ”

Ramesh kumar was a little shaken by this discussion and replies from Mr Rangachari . But his adaptability made him to knock off this thought from his mind and move ahead .

“ It is destined who shall prepare or cook and who shall finally eat . May be this cup of tea, that is in the kitchen , was destined for this guest . “ Thinking so , he brought the tea and some Barfi that he had brought from Jammu and offered to Mr Rangachari

“ Why this formality . Aren’t you haviong tea.?. Are you sure it was not for you ? “

“ No ! no formality sir , I had my tea sometime back. You see , one gets acidity with so much of tea. I avoid it now .”

  So you have come all the way from that militancy affected and the disturbed area . I have never been to that side of the country but we hear a lot of things about that area . Militancy , border crossing , firing , strikes , demonstration and all that . Something is even in today’s newspaper .”

“ I read that . That is Kupwara's border area . Kupwara is a district head quarter in  the kashmir valley .Jammu and Srinagar cities are separated by hills and a road distance is about 300 km . Jammu is also known as City of Temples . Jammu is a peaceful area . Except some isolated incidents here and there , even kashmir is peaceful now . It is not 1990 atmosphere any more.You should also not base your opinion only from reports appearing in  the newspapers or headlines flashed by TV channels . Quite often, that may not give you a correct picture of the ground realities. Come to Vaishno Devi ji some day and see for yourself. I would even suggest plan a visit to the  Kashmir valley next year.”

“ Yes ,  Vaishno Devi ji goddess shrine . My wife’s brother is posted in Udhampur Northern Command HQ. He is a brigadier in the  army. Every time he talks to us, he invites us to Vaishno Devi ji shrine . The militancy and the firing news keeps us undecided . I am told that the army can manage a special Darshan at the shrine . My brother in law says that he shall come personally to Pathankote to pick us up in his vehicle. I do not know where all these places are . But frankly speaking , we are afraid to travel to that area .


After Mr Rangacharti left, Ramesh Kumar felt like going to sleep. He thought it better to bolt the main door of the flat from inside . While doing so , he also saw an envelope that had been thrown in from the door chink by some courier company’s delivery boy .It was an invitation for some share holders meeting by Tata Motors . The envelope was addressed to Rohit who had obviously made some investment in shares of Tata Motors .

He kept the envelope in Sweety’s bedroom and then Put the ceiling fan at full speed . Spreading a mat underneath the fan , he slept on the floor . When he got up it was about 6.30 p.m. . The hot August sun had mellowed down in Bangaluru. He had possibly slept at odd time of the day and as a result when he woke up, he felt a little moody and sullen. The day was on its last legs but life had set itself in motion below in the open space around the flats . Opening the lobby window , he looked at the park below and saw children playing badminton , cricket with rubber balls or enjoying bicycle rides on the track inside the park. He also saw groups of elderly people sitting on benches in the park and busy talking to each other. Everybody  looked happy and worriless at that moment . Even birds returning to their nests looked joyous and cheerful while flying freely in the evening sky .

“ Does the evening sun spread so much happiness ? In Jammu , I have never noticed how and when this day light slips into darkness . My mother would sigh at daybreak and say ‘ O God ! why did this dawn come again? ’ Now I understand that some people feel embarrassed at day break as well. Can evenings also be so cheerful ? Does the mind start preparing itself for another dawn ?Does human hope recreate itself every evening ? Does a man feel the futility of the day at dawn or sunrise ? Very strange. ”,  Ramesh Kumar said this to himself. He had turned philosophical and pensive.

Sometimes he would get these mood swings with his daytime sleep in jammu also . In Jammu , he would go for his daytime sleep at 2 p. m.  and get up at 3.30 p. m. . He had to be ready for PHE ( Public Health Engineering ) water supply in his area which would be turned on around 4 p. m.  That kept him busy till 5.30 p.m. Everyday he needed to switch on the electric motor and fill his rooftop water tank . Thereafter he would water the lawn and flower pots and finally fill up the underground water storage tank. Thereafter a shower followed by his evening tea that Aasha Ji would bring him while he sat in a chair in the lawn.

“ What is the use of this lawn I ask ? You can not sit for a minute over here . So many mosquitoes . They starts attacking your feet and lower limbs or the exposed body parts . We spend so much in terms of the manure, insecticide sprays , gardener’s wages , electric bill for watering , repeated turf mowing and buying all these ornamental plants but can’t sit for a minute over here . We better grow some vegetables over here .“ He would repeatedly tell this  Asha ji as and when he sat in his lawn.

It was Aasha ji who was against all this else he would have since started growing vegetables .

For a moment he forgot he was in Bangaluru .Shifting his thought back to Bangaluru , he went inside the kitchen and wanted to make a cup of Tea for himself. He also put two bread slices inside the toaster lying on the kitchen slab to make them hot and crispy. No butter as he had elevated cholesterol levels and was advised caution . Thereafter went down to KFC store nearby that he had seen in the morning and bought some fried chicken leg pieces which he put inside the Refrigerator .

” Now I need to make some chutney from walnut kernel , Dhania , ginger and curd for them the way Sweety’s mother makes it . How tasty she makes it ? I need to prepare some fruit salad as well . They must be really tired and hungry on their return . Let them enjoy this simple home food . I know sweety relishes that chutney with Rajmash and Basmati rice . I remember her school days.  Sometimes , she would eat simple Rajma - Chawal in the school canteen and bring back her lunch untouched  . How fast do these little girls grow and change ? Strange and unbelievable . Cooking rice is a ten minute job.So easy with this rice cooker now. But it would have been too cheap of me if Rohit was not made to eat some non vegetarian stuff. After all he is a son in law. He can’t be offered simple Rajmash. This time KFC chicken but surely next time I need to cook some tasty mutton Rogan Josh . But surely this KFC chicken tastes like a fried fish and then it is neat and clean . Let me see what they like for tomorrow . “ Ramesh Kumar felt happy at these thoughts . He now decided wash some fruits for preparing the Salad . He had just peeled one apple when his mobile bell rang .

“ It is sweety . She must be coming early today . That is like a good girl . I need to tell her to bring some Ice cream . How good to have some ice cream after the dinner . I must pay for that “ It was sweety on the other side .

“ Hello! hello! . Sweety Beta … Bring some ice cream with you . No problem , come at your convenience “

“ Fine . Ice cream shall come . No worry . Papa listen . We are going to have our dinner with my senior colleague Kalpana Kamath . She is going to South Korea on a project and she has invited some office colleagues for a dinner today . In fact she had told us at least one week before but the date was undecided as her husband had to come from Chennai . Now that her husband has come today , she has invited us tonight . Rohit is also joining me . We shall be going straight to Kalpana’s residence from our office .So please have your dinner and don’t wait for us . In case you feel like sleeping , do sleep . I have the additional door key with me . Good night ”

“ But the Rajmash and KFC chicken ? And you know the maid had not come today “

“ What did you do then ?. Let me see what best I can do ”

Ramesh Kumar was taken aback with this news .

“ What to do now? Where to keep all this Rajmash and chicken ? What to do with all this stuff that I brought from Jammu ? What for did I clean all this and put myself to this strain ?” He kept thinking all this and then thought it better to do some purposeful work .

He put the Rajmash inside the refrigerator and cursed himself and his wife first for having forced him to come to Bangaluru and then for suggesting to carry all that stuff , which according to him , would eventually go waste now .

Except Barfi  from Pahalwan’s Jammu shop lying in the refrigerator , everything else that he brought from Jammu was lying in a bag kept in  the lobby . He opened this bag and found that the green Haak and  the kohalrabi ( Kadam )  that was so fresh had dried up and turned yellow partly. He removed the yellow leaves and kept the remaining Haak and kohalrabi in a polythene bag that he placed inside the refrigerator. He also broke the long lotus roots ( Nadru ) to smaller pieces and put them in a plastic bowl half filled with fresh water . He then placed the bowl inside the refrigerator. He also kept the walnut wood ( carved ) houseboat and papier mache Kangri inside Lobby show case . The remaining items he kept inside the bag only.

He felt like smoking and took out a cigarette from the pack that he had purchased from the market .

Opening the lobby window to allow smoke to escape out , he switched on the TV and heard about incessant rains in Jammu with River Tawi crossing its danger mark. That made him a little worried about Rinku and Aasha ji.

“ The weather had been cloudy and it had been drizzling since last three days over there when I left but it has suddenly taken a worst turn . How would have Rinku gone for his tuitions in these rains ? A motor bicycle is of no use in this weather . The forecast informs rains for 72 hours more in and around Jammu . This Bhagwati Nagar area is going to get flooded now . O God ! save us from the floods. I should have bought a plot of land in Janipur side . It was very cheap that side in 1991. And see how fast it developed . But here in Bhagwati Nagar , river Tawi is often frightening during rainy season . “

He looked for his mobile phone and then spoke to his wife and Rinku . Informing them that he was fine , He advised them to shift to Janipur side in case rains do not stop . His younger brother lived in that area and he also spoke to him about his absence from Jammu and the threat of floods looming large in Bhagwati Nagar area . Asha Ji didn’t  like his seeking help from his brother and assured him that she shall manage everything herself.

“ If I feel any problem , I will shift to Tosha’s house . Why do you involve everyone ? I do not live alone in Bhagwati Nagar .More than thirty thousand people live in this colony . Rest assured, relax and attend to the work for which you have gone to that place . ”

Tosha was Aasha ji’s sister .This communication with his family in Jammu disturbed him. It was 8.45 p. m. now . He had no appetite for his dinner .He wanted to call on Mr Rangachari for a change but then the door bell rang and a boy delivered some packed food and ice cream.

“ I am not here for eating and enjoying myself with this hotel food . How happy it would have been if we would have sat together for our dinner ? This younger generation does not know the value of money . They spend it like water . If only Sweety and Rohit sat and talked freely , I would have made them understand benefits of saving money for the future .The bank fixed deposit schemes , LIC plans  and ULIP etc. I believe they are investing in share market . Very risky investment and then the returns are purely market driven.  O God ! what is this new generation. I also had age and generation differences with my father but I never had my own way . I knew what hurt him and what pleased him.. But this younger generation appears to be without emotions. You can not love them too much . They get irritated . Where is the question of showing them your resentment or anger ? Who likes to have this hotel food without children, family , friends and well wishers . I am not a writer. I am not a poet or a painter who needs solitude for creative work. I am an ordinary social creature. I need communication , company , children and the  family around me . I am not an Island that some familiar traveller may visit now and then . I am a city and a crowd that likes to live with collective consciousness . I need to share my happiness and sorrows . If I had my way , I would not eat this food .But that shall complicate the issues and I have not come to this place for such like things . “

Ramesh Kumar was again thoughtful and serious . It was his first day only and he felt as if he had lived for months in Bangaluru. Reluctantly , he ate the packed meal that had been ordered by Sweety for him . He placed the ice cream in the freezer of the Refrigerator as he did not feel any need or mood to have it at that moment . It was 10.00 p.m. now.

“What to do now ? I can’t  sleep so early . I should not have slept during the day . Let me switch on the TV. “ He kept changing the channels and finally stopped at “ Kasheer” channel . Some comedy play of Shadi Lal Koul , his favourite actor was being telecast from this channel. He stuck to it and it made him feel little relaxed .

He must have finally slept at 11.30 p.m. . Sweety and Rohit had not returned by then . When he woke up it was 7 a.m.. As he moved towards the kitchen to get some drinking water , he found sweety’s bed room door open . Surprised at this , he opened the door but neither sweety nor Rohit could be seen.

“ Had they not returned the previous night ? Had they left early today ? ”

This development made him tense and restless . Returning to his bed room ,  he saw   an envelope near his  pillow. Opening it  hurriedly , he sat on the bed  to read it .

“ Papa , I thought not to disturb you. You were sleeping . I have to join a new project at Mysore today   . We have our  client interaction at  10 a.m.  I am leaving at 6.30 a.m.  Rohit will drop me at the  bus stand and then go to his office . I shall  return to Bangaluru by 7.30 p.m.  today .Shall speak  to  you as well . The maid is coming today at 10.00 a.m. .She will do all. Spoke to her in detail. Regards  .. Sweety 

Heaving  a sigh of relief , he proceeded to the wash room  to have a bath .At 7.30 a.m.  sharp , Sweety rang up her father .

“ Good morning Papa  . You should finish your breakfast   at 11a.m.  The maid shall give you a packed tiffin and a cab shall come to the flat at 11.30 a.m.  The cab driver is  well known to us and he will take you to some places  in Bangaluru . I mean places like  Lalbagh garden, ISKCON  Temple , Tipu Sultan’s  Summer Palace ,Vidhan Soudha , Government Museum etc. We have already told the driver to wait for us at 7.30 p.m.  outside Forum Mall. See you  there in the evening .  Enjoy yourself. You need not pay the driver  . He has been paid . “

Ramesh Kumar felt relieved and happy at this development .At least , they shall be together in the evening . He wanted to buy a branded  shirt for Rohit  and a  Titan wrist watch for Sweety.

  “No better occasion than this. Sweety’s earning  do not debar me to spend on her . For me , she remains the same  little child. ”,  he said to himself.

 The maid prepared his breakfast and also kept some dry vegetable and Chapatis for his lunch in the tiffin box. At 11.30 a.m. ,  the taxi arrived to pick him up.  He visited  all the places that sweety had wanted him to see.  Though he felt lonely , yet the proposed evening get together made him  happy .  From 6 p.m. onwards , he kept looking at his wrist watch .The driver brought him to the Forum Mall  at sharp 7.30 p.m.  Rohit and Sweety were already waiting  for him.

   Dinner we shall see how they desire to have it. Should they eat out , it is my duty to pay .  We can also cook at our residence . Just ten minutes for rice cooking and reheating of the chicken and Rajmash in the  microwave oven  . So convenient . “  He felt happy at this thought .

Together they went inside the spacious shopping mall. Rohit went to Arrow’s ”s  show room and  Sweety selected a shirt for him together with a matching tie. Ramesh Kumar pulled out  his purse and requested  that he be allowed to pay not knowing that Rohit had already presented his credit card at the counter. Thereafter Rohit went  to a shop and bought a new  Woodland shoe.

“ O God ! six thousand for a shoe. Can’t he buy it from a Bata shop. What is the problem with Bata , I don’t  understand. Then what is the shape of this shoe for which he is paying so much  hard earned money . And this Sweety  is possibly happy on this overspending . Are they  crazy about a  brand ? He could have easily bought a good shoe for 1500 rupees from the Bata or Liberty  show room. They need to save money . This flat has also created a loan liability   on their young shoulders . Rohit must have also raised a car Loan .  Tomorrow they need money for the their child . I don’t  know what or if at all they save something  . Who shall explain to  them about the need to have a child as early as possible ? The earlier one is free from the responsibility of children the better it is .   Who shall guide them if they don’t share and tell their plans .   

Thereafter  they went to a restaurant . Sweety  ordered assortment of Mexican foods comprising  of  hot corn soup, spicy black beans ,  yellow rice , Nachos and lemon  soda etc.   She also advised the waiter to bring  some ice cream  after they were over with the main menu . Addressing her father , She said:-

“ Papa taste some Mexican food. This is  vegetarian. Some what close to Indian food 

“ I will pay for all this . Then I will have . You don’t allow me to pay . Swear by me that you will allow me to pay for this .”,   said Ramesh Kumar  .

“ Why do you worry so much for the payment. I have my debit card points . We are  spending them   else they shall go waste .  

Ramesh Kumar could not comprehend what she meant by the  points and he thought it better to keep silent .

“ I shall get some opportunity to pay . Let me wait for some time .“ ,he said to himself .

When Ramesh Kumar got  up from his seat , his mobile phone slipped from his hand and fell to the ground . For the first time Sweety saw that her father had the basic model of a Nokia phone that would normally cost 1700 or  1800 rupees   . She led Rohit and her  father   to a Samsung store and bought  a new Samsung  Android set costing  rupees fifteen thousand .

“ Now Papa keep it . You can use  WhatsApp, Viber , Skype and Internet  so easily . That was an outdated and useless  set   . Let me change the Sim and you should use WhatsAPP and internet  . I believe  you have a mail account . Use it. I shall be sending you mails frequently. “

Ramesh Kumar had mixed feelings . He was happy to see his daughter spending with confidence but he also  felt a need to counsel her on saving money .

“After waiting for a month i get a pension of rupees  21000 approximately and here these people are spending  25000 just in one hour . And  most of the expenditure is    unwanted and avoidable   . They don’t know the value of money .” , he said to himself .

Thereafter Rohit brought the car from the Mall parking area . it was 10.30 p.m. and they decided to go home. While Sweety sat on the front seat , Ramesh Kumar  relaxed    on the back seat .

“ What happened to your  Hyderabad training Rohit ? “ , Sweety wanted to enquire from Rohit .

  Don’t you understand from this shopping ? I have been asked to report to Hyderabad day after tomorrow .  I may fly by morning flight day after . Shetty has been asked to arrange tickets for me and Raman . In fact  it is  a 10 days training in toto . A Finnish   trainer is coming to train us . And after this training ,   they  shall put me on the company’s   prestigious  new project  for their Finland client ”

“ Then you must go . Ten days is nothing . I shall manage. I know a group of girls in Mysore who live together  in a rented  flat . I shall stay with them till you come back.  I can’t stay  in  Bangaluru and cope up  with this daily up and down journey after our  projects actually starts  ?”

“ That is a right approach . Tomorrow  , I am coming at 5 p.m. for my packing and all that .  You should wait for me at the bus stand . I shall pick you up at 7.30 p. m. . and from day after you better stay at Mysore “

Listening   to this communication, Ramesh Kumar felt  abundantly  disturbed.

“ I am a retired person but not a useless creature .I know nothing about their programmes and planning .  Here this girl does not discuss any issue with me . She does not   allow me to spend as if this retirement  has snatched my right to expend  . And there  in Jammu , her mother  is after me  to spend even the last penny from my pension thinking as if I am still getting my full salary and other  perks that I used to get .  Forget spending  and forget this retirement  issue ,  I have come here to spend some useful time with them and they have their own engagements and plans . They didn’t  inform me about all these plans . What was the need to come to this place all the way if they had to move out ? And all that I bought with me is just waste . No one has appreciated and taken due notice of our efforts in collecting all this stuff, packing it,  carrying it by paying so much to airline company  . For me it means that  either I  remain stuck up alone  in this  Bangaluru flat for 10 days more or I  pack back . “

Ramesh kumar was engrossed in his world of thoughts that kept him disturbed all along the journey back home.

“So sweety , neither you nor Rohit ji shall be in Bangaluru day after tomorrow. “, he intervened

“ Obviously . But that won’t affect you . You can stay    over here  and then go to  Nalini Bua’s house  for a change . She shall be more than happy. I shall fix up with the maid . She shall cook for you  and I shall fix with our Taxi driver , he shall drop you at Nalini Bua ‘s flat and bring you back as it  suits  you   . Her husband has also retired from HAL recently  . In fact they telephoned us six times for a dinner . Nalini Bua’s husband  even came to our flat once to take us to their home   . We had gone for a picnic  to Ooty  with my office colleagues  . We came to know from the security guard later . And then one day I saw Nalini Bua and her husband in a restaurant  where we had gone .  They  paid our dinner bill and again requested us to visit their place for  dinner or lunch  . I didn’t  tell all this to  Mummy. It becomes some issue .  I know , Mummy would have said  that we  should have refused their paying for our dinner  . I have no time for all those things . But surely they are good people .We telephoned them later but I feel  they were not satisfied  .  And then I may not be free from  the office before 7 p.m. from  day after tomorrow when the project work actually starts . That means normally I can be in Banguluru flat not before  10.30 p.m. . So tiring and impossible to leave again at 6.30 a.m.  next day . Till Rohit comes back , I shall stay with a group of girls who have rented a three bed room flat in Mysore . And Papa our office programmes are sudden and without any advance notice . We hardly get any time to plan. I came to know about Rohit’s training just this very moment .” , said   Sweety

Next day Rohit and Sweety left for the office at 9.15 a.m.  When the  maid left , Ramesh Kumar  packed  all that he had brought from Jammu in a bag.  He applied some mustard oil to the brinjals to keep  them fresh . He had finally  decided to go to his cousin Nalini’s house and thereafter leave for Jammu .  He opened the door of the refrigerator and found that  the leafy  Haak and the  kohalrabi ( Kadam ) looked fresh and green . He decided to  pack it next day else it could turn yellow.

  Barfi ! let it be here . They can consume it . This saffron is of no use to them . I shall carry it back to Jammu. Let the other items go to Nalini .  It was destined for her only , I was a simple carrier .“

He thought of visiting Mr Rangachari but then changed his mind . He changed the Sim from his New Mobile to the old set .

“ So difficult to handle these complicated sets . I think Rinku shall use it at Jammu . Not my cup of tea. I need  SMS and voice communication. I  had enough of their communication over here  and what more is needed through  this Skype or Viber whatever they call it. “  , he said to himself and kept the new mobile set in his suit case .He then  dialed Nalini’s mobile  number and spoke ..

“ Namaskar Nalini Ji .I am Ramesh Kumar . I am in Bangaluru and staying with Sweety . I hope you are not going to any place tomorrow . I want to come to your place . How is  Baijaan ( Nalini’s husband ) ? I believe Sweety knows your place ? “

 So lovely  to know it . We are here only and even  if we were going , we would have happily  cancelled it. I shall be waiting for you . Sweety  knows were we live only that she didn’t  come to our place . I shall be waiting for all of you . Bring Rohit ji  and Sweety with you.   If you have not done your return tickets , don’t worry for the train bookings  . Our next door neighbour is a very senior officer in the   Railways , you shall get a ticket for  any train in special quota or Tatkaal .  Your brother in law also knows the GO AIR  manager at  the airport . No issue for a direct Jammu flight anytime at reasonable rates through him. We shall plan everything . Worry not. I am cooking your favorite Dum-alu and Alla Yakhani  ( spicy  gourd cooked in curd )  . “

Next Morning , Ramesh Kumar got up early and went to Nalini’s house in a taxi that Sweety had arranged . He carried all the stuff that he had brought from Jammu to Nalini’s house .

It was a grand reunion after Sweety’s marriage . Everybody felt cheerful and  happy.  Nalini cooked Haak , Kadam , Nadru  Yakhani ( lotus roots cooked in curd ) ,  Roganjosh  , vaarimuth ( small black beans )  and many other Kashmiri dishes during his stay . Together  they went  to the places that Ramesh Kumar had visited alone in the taxi that Sweety had arranged . He felt  he had missed so much  during his first visit  to all these places . He also went to see a movie with Nalini and her husband  .  Together they went to Banagaluru Kashmiri Sabha meeting. Ramesh Kumar recognized some college  friends in that get together where  he  had some  Kashmiri  Kahwa  tea and loochi ( quick fried  fine Atta  Poorie ) over there  . Nalini bought a ladies suit for Aasha ji and gave it to Ramesh Kumar.

One evening , Nalini’s husband took him to a relation’s house where he was served  sumptuous Kashmiri non-vegetarian dinner that included Roganjosh , Yakhni   , Mutchh ( minced mutton balls cooked in rich Gravy ) and  Kabargaah ( mutton pieces  laced with curd and rich spices and then deep fried in Ghee  ).  After so many years  , he  drank imported scotch in this get together .

Surprisingly ,  Never  did he feel the necessity to smoke at Nalini’s house  until he returned to Jammu.

Today  when a common  friend told me    that Ramesh kumar had returned to Jammu ,  I rushed to his place for some urgent work .  In fact I had to take him to the Patwari for getting a Farad ( revenue record )  for the plot of land that I had purchased . I intended to mortgage the plot for a housing loan and Farad was the basic documents needed to create simple registered mortgage . The concerned Patwari was well known to Ramesh Kumar  . Ramesh Kumar   was always helpful in getting things done in revenue department . Inside their  house , I found that he  was sleeping in his bed room  while   Aasha ji   was busy washing his clothes  . Inspite of my requests  not to disturb him , Aasha ji cried :-

“ Are you listening ? see who has come to see you . “

Rubbing  his eyes , Ramesh Kumar came out of the room and I said:-

“ How was your Bangaluru trip Ramesh Ji ?  So you were with Sweety and Rohit ji . Are they fine ?”

It appeared  as if he did not pay any heed to what I had  said. May be he was not in a mood as Aasha ji had disturbed him and  woken him up from his sleep. He must have been really  tired with the journey back home.

“ Ramesh ji , I say about Bangaluru . How was your stay ?  “ I continued

 To this he replied

“ What have you to do with Bangaluru ? “

As he said so , there was a knock  at the door . A courier boy had come with A  packet   . Aasha ji went  running from the wash room to receive   the packet . She did not want to open it in my presence  but Ramesh Kumar said .

“ He is not a stranger . He is a member of our family .  Please open it .”

As she opened the packet  , she found a ladies   “ Titan“ wrist watch with a Tag

  “For my lovely mom  “and  a mobile phone with a tag “ Dear Rinku, whynot make it above 95% this time ? 

“ Now this poor lady shall  not complain about communication , care and attention  . She stands adequately   bribed  .  “ I heard Ramesh Kumar saying so to himself in a low tone .

Asha ji’s eyes turned moist as she  kissed the New wrist watch.  And  Ramesh  Kumar went inside his room , pulled a cigarette from the pack lying in his cupboard and  lit it. Looking towards me he said:-

“ Avtar Ji ,Bangaluru  is not a place to live . Let us not talk about that city . Please don’t say Bangaluru again  .”


( Avtar Mota…Jammu ..2015 )

CHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
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