Thank You: A Letter to You

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Dear,

Cheers! This is to you who is reading the post. Just the fact that you are reading this, makes me feel, so immensely and profoundly grateful to you. There is a feeling of abundance in me and I am very happy for being read and appreciated. Hope you receive my feeling of gratitude in the same proportion that I experience it.

I started blogging at the end of January 2015 and the journey so far has been exhilarating, incredible and uplifting entirely because of you.

This post is to say thank you to all my readers who read me, liked me, commented on my posts, corrected me, advised me, motivated me, encouraged me and even criticised me. The immediate cause of this write up to acknowledge the awards extended to me by fellow blogger friends, who appreciated my efforts in the form of award nominations.

I am indebted to:

Vagabond Velda for Liebster Award ( https://vagabonvelda.wordpress.com)
Nimi Naren for Liebster Award (https://simplemomentsoflife.wordpress.com)
Millie Thom for Liebster Award x 2 (https://milliethom.wordpress.com)
Nimi Naren for The Premio Dardos Award ((https://simplemomentsoflife.wordpress.com)
Ritu for The Creative Blogger Award (https://butismileanyway.wordpress.com)

I am sorry, commitments at hand do not allow me to have the time require to follow the rules but coming from these avid blogger friends, the awards mean so much to me. The wonderful posts of the inimitable Vagabond Velda, the heart warming prose of Nimi Naren, the informative works of Millie Thom and the endearing blogs of Ritu are worth reading and following.

I must also take this opportunity to say a big thank you to my husband, family and friends (especially Vijay, Bhuvana and Deepak), who initiated me into the world of personal blogging. And then there are my talented blogging friends ( Barbara Beacham, Priceless Joy, Johnyeo, Olden Gray, Drailman, Yarnspinerr, Surindranath ji, Davendrak, Miniscrypt and many others) plus my social media friends, who keep me going.

Last but not the least, I am whole heartedly thankful to you – Dear reader. It is because of you that I write!

Anne Bell – The Spirited Prankster

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The only residents remaining in the small town of Miners Hill are spirits. Humans don’t go to that side of the town for the fear that something ill may befall them. There have been cases.

Last month, Industrialist George Mehra ventured into the ghost town with an exorcist. The town was the perfect place to set up his industries. But he had no inkling as to what was in store for them!

They stealthily entered the town to begin their ritual to exorcise spirits. But Anne Bell, the spirited prankster, saw them. It was time for some harmless fun!

Unseen, she set George’s beard on fire while he was lighting the holy fire. And simultaneously, she slapped the exorcist. They looked alarmed. Next, she started tickling the exorcist’s armpits. He laughed and rolled around while George gulped saliva. Anne Bell then exorcised the intruders out by her final move – offering them her head on a plate!

Since then, no one has dared to go over to the Miners Hill.

This story is a part of a Mondays Finish The Story Challenge by Barbara Beacham. She provides us with a photo prompt, the first sentence, and approximately 150 words with which we are to use to write our story. To take up the challenge click hereMondays Finish the Challenge

Yesterday Once More

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Yesterday, my older one ran to me and asked to inhale the perfume his father had put on him. I smiled and told him he smelt great. He does this every time but yesterday it made me think. Would he come running to me like this always? Would he reach out for my hand whenever we go out? I think not, naturally. But then how will the transformation take place? I want to remember the day and time when he will let go of me and my opinions? Would this happen on a particular day or gradually? It is entirely expected that soon he will find it silly and outgrow it and move on. But I want to watch it consciously and make a note of it. Just like that!

I am sure I will stay on and wait for his every little acknowledgement just like my parents stayed and I moved on. I still wonder how the transformation took place in me and how much I left behind and simply forgot about it.

We just outgrow and let go of so many little things. We don’t remember the last time, date, moment when that particular ritual ceased to exist. We just abandon it, find a replacement, move on or just forget about it.

There are so many beautiful and mundane happenings from my wonder years that I want to relive one last time…but those days have gone, new routine has taken it’s place. In the years to come, I will miss my present too. We have a habit of taking our present for granted. I took it for granted while growing up. I have learnt from experience that we should not let go of our present without living it to the fullest.

I may not be able to go back and grab those moments once again but at least I can recount it, talk about it and list it…just to experience it indirectly, while I write. And to smile fondly, sincerely and simply. Here are some cherished moments straight from the innocent days when the world was a little more brighter, clearer and beautiful.

  • My father’s fictional stories of adventures in Africa on cold winter nights while eating ground nuts.
  • My mother’s laughter and mock fights with father and our intervention to settle the quarrel.
  • My grandmother’s ringing laughter that continued for minutes.
  • My late maternal grandmother’s amazing delicacies which included a variety of pickles and jams.
  • The laughter and jokes cracked by uncles and aunts in every family get together.
  • Attending marriages and vying with other kids to be the first one to peep at the veiled bride’s crimson face.
  • The sound of the bangles of our old bangles seller.
  • The comforting presence of our staff.
  • Our old two in one tape recorder and shutter TV.
  • Guava trees – my refuge from unpleasant situations.
  • Berry tree – the place where we kids learnt to weave dreams.
  • Our games – I spy, Fire in the Mountain, I want, basket ball, flying disc or just chasing games.
  • Wearing stitched dresses by the local tailor and feeling like a queen.
  • Teasing siblings until they cried.
  • Dreaming of Mickey Mouse.
  • Imagining seeing something supernatural and making up stories.
  • Screaming and overreacting at the mention of ghosts, murkatwa (the beheading killer) and witches.
  • The little old stores and their store owners in our small town.
  • The unveiling of the statue of Goddess Durga during Durga puja.
  • Lighting of earthen lamps throughout our house in Deepawali and the impatience to burn crackers.
  • Playing Holi with ink from our fountain pens.
  • Banging and shouting on the last day of every school session and before holidays.
  • Admiring the beauty queens from magazines.
  • Visits to our village where age old traditions still exist.
  • Praying for restoring of current after power cuts while watching Sunday movies on national television.
  • Staging dramas and dances for the family.
  • Little fights and outbursts but clean hearts.
  • Confiding in older sister about everything.
  • Nodding and sleeping in the school bus.
  • Jumping up and down in mud during and after rainfall.
  • Toppling down from stack of hay every harvest season.
  • Cleaning VCR head in between movies.
  • The sound of the bell of the ground nut seller, ice candy and cotton candy man.
  • The fragrance of mango flowers in the house.
  • The laid back existence without any urgency to complete a task.
  • The yearly fair in our compound and the rustic crowd.
  • The myriad colours of Chath festival.
  • Picnics at Betla National Forest and near Kechki River.
  • These are just a few of those memories. (The picture is of Betla National Forest). I would love to know about yours too, please do not forget to share. Come on, let’s live yesterday once more…

When I Was Dreaded and Worshipped!

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(The writer, Vikram Bhawani Singh is my brother and a guest contributor. The above caricature is my work, of course, without his permission!)

I am an atheist and my mother is a complete believer. All her life, she has tried, encouraged, compelled, forced and even tortured me to follow the extensive daily rituals practiced in our house to please the deities but I have remained stoic. My views on God and religion makes her mad but she has never given up on me and she never will! Recently, she went a step further…

I took a two-week leave from office to visit my parents and sister at Ranchi. Unfortunately, the day I reached Ranchi I got to know that my sister had caught chicken pox. It is a highly contagious disease normally associated with children. But even adults and older people are at risk if they do not have any history of this infection.

I checked with my mother whether I have had chicken pox earlier. To my disbelief, I had never been infected before. I tried to explain to her that during childhood, small rashes did appear on my skin with high fever and extreme weakness. I was told that it was Measles.

So, I was on a mission now. I had to avoid the dreaded infection at any cost. I saw my sister’s pain and discomfort and it scared me all the more. I read about the disease extensively. Chicken pox is caused by the herpes varicella-zoster virus. It is spread by droplets from a sneeze or cough, or by contact with the clothing, bed linens or oozing blisters of an infected person. The onset of symptoms is 10 to 21 days after exposure. It is contagious a day or two before the rash appears and until the rash is completely dry and scabbed over.

My sister was kept isolated in a room and I made a point to not enter it. Small branches of Neem leaves were put at various places at our apartment. Neem leaves have immense medicinal properties and their presence are considered to have soothing effect on itching and irritation caused by blisters. We were following all these measures.

However, as was destined, religion intervened to add salt to our injury! My mother instructed me that the pious Neem leaves should not fall on floor and by any chance it should not be touched by feet.

I argued, “What will happen if the leaves fall on the floor? And when it gets dry it is definitely going to fall down. I am not going to follow such instructions”. My mother replied furiously, “Mata (Goddess) has come…..Dare you displease her.”
I was taken aback. “Who was ‘Mata’?”. She enlightened me on the popular belief that chicken pox was a Goddess. I laughed at the ridiculous idea and looked for support towards my father, sister, relatives…but surprisingly, everyone was looking the other away. I was the odd man out!

Chicken pox is no less than a form of Goddess for people in whole of the eastern belt of India. It is revered and dreaded so much that people talk in whispers and perform elaborate rituals to appease the Goddess. Anger and melancholy had overpowered and I left it to my mother to do as she wished.

For the next seven days all the rituals were followed. Many relatives were consulted for guidelines. The respect and fear of “Mata” was ubiquitous. My mother had a battalion behind her who were more vociferous and committed to the cause. Finally, the theatricals ended and the Neem leaves were packed in a bag and thrown in a Pond. All these days, I kept aloof from the proceedings and told my mother that if I were to catch the infection, I was not going to follow the rituals.

My holidays were about to be over over. I had booked a Tatkaal ticket back to Vadodara. But on the very evening, all hell broke loose! I noticed a single acne like something on my right hand. I knew it, probably, ‘Mata’ had returned to unleash her anger on me since I had dared to laugh at her.

The following day many more blisters appeared. I consulted a doctor and came back with loads of medicines. As you all know, diseases caused by viruses do not have any medicines to cure it. However, the antibiotics and other medicines make the whole process far less painful.

The return of ‘Mata’ provided me the opportunity to enter her realm and into the minds of her followers. Everyone who came to visit me spoke in a low tone. The maids were fully devoted to her cause. I was treated like a king…no sorry…like a queen goddess..lol!

People would enter my room only after opening the shoes/slippers at the doorstep. My orders were to be followed in word and spirit. I was the first one to be provided food. I was shown respect in every way. In short, I was not me, I was she, the dreaded Goddess.

By sheer coincidence, Pundit Ji (Cook cum Priest) also came to Ranchi. My mother was happy as daily bhajans (devotional songs) and puja (rituals) could be performed more effectively by him. I strictly told my mother that I was not going to follow any such rituals. But she told me sweetly that I had to sit still for just 10 minutes. I blatantly refused. She replied, “I will spy on you and will perform the Puja whenever I find you sitting.” She was cleverer than I thought and before I could retort or scream, I was being worshipped wholeheartedly by my mother!

Every morning and evening Bhajans were sung by pundit ji and maids in an extremely annoying and cacophonous voices. And amidst all this was an atheist in whom ‘Goddess’ resided! I guessed at the reason behind such rituals. In olden days, Chicken Pox must have been a dreadful disease. With no antibiotic medicines available this highly infectious disease must have brought untold miseries on people. It ultimately was given Godhood.

It is a well known that most of us fear God rather than love Him. This fear makes us weak. It is said that faith has immense power. I do believe in it. But illogical beliefs have immensely destructive power, I believe in that too. There is a thin line between the two…one has to tread carefully!

The time has come to think rationally. The time has come to question God and Religion. The time has come to question our own beliefs. History is full of instances when men have suffered the brunt from the ideologies of Slavery, Whiteman’s Burden, Superiority of Aryan Race, Jihad etc. These ideologies justified every action of the perpetrator. The perpetrators had immense faith in their actions. But we all know that they all crossed the line and caused destruction. The world needs rationality and tolerance or Samuel Huttington’s “Clash of Civilization”. It’s time to call ‘Mata’ by its actual name loudly without fearing any sort of wrath.

Tomorrow, to my relief, chicken pox will be given farewell or to say in respectful tone, “Mata will choose her new abode”. The Neem leaves will be disposed in a Pond as done earlier. I just hope that the Goddess doesn’t return.

A conversation with my ‘Evil’ sis

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(The writer Vikram Bhawani Singh is my brother and a guest contributor. The picture is his with my older one, Adiraj)

Soon after her marriage, when my sister was visiting us, I had a conversation with her on the topic of vegetarianism. Her name is Lulu and she calls me Baigani (our nicknames for each other). She had turned vegetarian at an early age and went back to non vegetarian foods soon after her marriage (Hubby’s influence, huh). At 10, I left vegetarian food and I am still a vegetarian. I did eat eggs in between as I was not sure whether eggs should be strictly considered vegetarian.

I remember that talk perfectly. I have this special knack of recalling conversations vividly and I just love to debate, correct, counter and irritate someone. I am called Mr Precise by our family because I hate any kind of exaggeration. Little wonder then that I write my age in years, months, days, minutes and seconds (lol…I am kidding!).

Well, on that fateful day, she was my ‘target’ because she had the audacity to rouse me from my deep and sweet sleep. I just wanted to pick up a fight…so here goes the conversation 😉

Lulu: Wake up you sloth!

Me: Go away…I slept very late.:(

Lulu: Then be ready to take a nice cold bath right now on the bed.

Me: Oh wait… What’s the matter? Why are you waking me up so early? You are really irritating. I thought we have got rid of you after marriage…but you came back so soon to drive us nuts.

Lulu: I have especially come back to bug you. Seriously, get up. Exercise, eat eggs. I have also brought frozen kebabs, try it in lunch. Then you can have mutton for dinner. I want to see you strong and active Baigani. For that you need to eat non vegetarian food.

Me: Hahaha…are you joking? Even the vegetarian foods have the necessary vitamins, proteins and minerals. I like to eat pure vegetarian meal.:D

Lulu: Why don’t you give up eating leaves and plants, they are not half as wonderful as non veg! I am trying all that now. I want you to try it too. Ok…tell me why did you leave eating non-veg Swamiji?

Me: I hope you remember that incident when we were kids. I had seen chickens being killed for our food. That revolted me. The sight changed me from within. I felt pain for the animals that were killed just to serve our taste buds. And over the time my conviction of not eating these foods has only grown.:/

Lulu: You are sensitive and silly, grow up. You are saying as if no one should eat non-veg for philosophical reasons…

Me: I don’t say that. Poor people in Africa, Asia and in other parts of the world whose livelihood depends on them should and must eat. We cannot force poor fishermen to quit eating fish. Their children need proteins to survive. Half the world’s stunted children are born in India. It is because they do not get nutritious food during their childhood. Also the people who are not educated must not be forced to take up vegetarianism. The decision to become vegetarian should come from within.

But the rich and educated should definitely curb their desire. I cannot just believe how you all can eat after killing animals just for the sake of taste. Don’t you feel for a life? Is this human? Is this the true growth of our civilization? Think on it Lulu. Just pause for 30 seconds. Think of it from your heart and not from your “tongue”.

Lulu: How you love to argue and debate! Ahh…I am just remembering those tasty kebabs now…I want to be evil!

Me: Stop kidding…just think for 30 sec now. I am serious, think from this perspective just for a while.:/

Lulu: Well…I agree with you to some extent.. Baigani. But you have half baked knowledge. Doesn’t a plant have life? You eat them happily without any sorrow. Just because they are immobile…it doesn’t make them lifeless. Do you know curd is full of bacteria? Take a microscope and see it. You take so many lives in your daily routine, Mr. You kill mosquitoes, ants and do not feel guilty. Does their small size and short lifespan make their life less precious?

Me: I knew, you will bring up all these arguments. I really do not have answers to it. I only feel that eating corpses of animals doesn’t seem right to me.

Lulu: Haha…you speak so strongly. The imagery of eating dead corpse is so revolting. Dear brother, become a baba ji and go to a higher philosophical level, then give me a proper reason as to why I should be a vegetarian.

Me: Unfortunately, I am not at that level, Sis! And at my current level of spiritual/philosophical advancement, eating animals for the sake of sensory pleasure is nothing short of a criminal offence. And I do not wish to be a party to such offence. Just because a species called Homo Sapiens have evolved and became intelligent doesn’t give them the authority to kill and rule over others.

Lulu: Aha…Baigani and his arguments. You have your own sense of right and wrong kid. It’s good…keep faith in your own beliefs and I will keep in my own. You must be aware that Swami Vivekanand also enjoyed eating non veg.

Me: Listen, I have to sleep…I hope you will not come again to convert me into a non vegetarian. 😦

Lulu: And I hope you will not call me a criminal and so on…

Me: Sorry, in my opinion, you will remain so 😉

Lulu: I will not speak to you, you are a nut case…philosophical fool. Go to hell!

Me: I will prefer going to heaven. i.e. sleep 🙂

Well, we did not talk to each other for a full day and a half. But I had a favour to ask from Lulu so I was the first to break the ice.

Since then we have not brought up this topic of vegetarianism. She is happily into non veg foods, and I am a blissful vegetarian. I am writing this guest blog to infuriate her a bit and with the hope that she might consider giving up her sins…lol…!

The Bride of Fourteen

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Arriving at the beach, she reflected on her life. It had been an unusually long one. She would be 100 in a couple of years. Although her memory was blurred now, she still remembered the day of her marriage at the age of fourteen.

And the day when her eldest was born. She was sixteen then. And she didn’t know how to hold the little one. But during those days, there were so many people on whom she could rely. Her husband, parents, siblings, friends…but now they were all gone.

It was funny but she never really missed anyone after they left her. She felt she was connected with all of them through ‘Him’. ‘He’ had been her constant companion since childhood. Her conversations with ‘Him’ were entertaining and sustaining. ‘He’ would be there for her even till the end of the world, she knew it.

She laughed like a girl of fourteen again!

This story is a part of Mondays Finish the Story by Barbara Beacham. This is a flash fiction challenge where a new photo and the opening sentence is provided. The challenge is to finish the story using 100-150 words. Click here to take up the challenge: https://mondaysfinishthestory.wordpress.com