Digital art – storiesbyshivangi, Art Prints – Google #digital #sketch #Indianbeauty #RajaRaviVarma
One day, an old turbaned man arrived at a colorful, bustling bazaar in India. He set up a signboard at a corner – I Sell Happiness for Two Paise.
Many dismissed him as a con man, but a lot came out of curiosity. A man selling happiness was rare! “Hmmm, happiness for two paise? Can you show me happiness?” One mustached man said sarcastically.
“Sure, come sit by me”, said the happiness seller. By now, a small crowd had gathered to see the “tamasha”.
The customer threw two paise at him. The seller took out a carved mirror from his “potli” and put it in front of the man. The customer’s face contorted at first, and then he burst out laughing.
“Bravo! It’s strange, but he does sell happiness!” The customer announced.
Another customer came, and he went away laughing too. Some customers smiled, some laughed and, many rolled on the ground with laughter. Everyone thought the happiness seller was a magician.
One little orphan boy watched the seller from far, and thought – “The mirror seems magical, but what does it show?”
By evening, the crowd around the seller lessened, and he noticed the boy.
“Son, do you want to buy happiness, too?” he called out. The boy nodded but explained, he had no money.
“Well, I can always barter,” the seller said.
“Seller, I have just hardship and sadness to offer!” said the boy.
“Well, no harm in offering that to the magical mirror. Let’s see how it conjures happiness for you,” the seller said, kindly.
The boy sat and offered his hardship and sadness to the mirror…
What ensued was laughter… unrestrained laughter… from the child! His infectious laughter came from his pure heart, and soon, it spread all over the village. No one knew why everyone else was laughing.
The happiness seller had no idea the mirror could give THAT kind of happiness. After the boy stopped laughing, he asked – “Son, I am amazed. I am 100 years old now but I never saw anyone experiencing such BLISS! What happened, tell me?”
The boy smiled and said, “Dear seller, thank you for this great opportunity. Let me explain the reason.
The first man’s happiness came from jealousy. The mirror showed his enemy falling into the ditch. So, he laughed. The second man’s happiness came from ambition. He saw himself traveling to a new land and earning wealth. So, he laughed.
Everyone’s happiness came from something they wanted – their desire! They got happiness in the same proportion.
My happiness was based on the act of surrender – of my hardships and sadness. I let go of my burden, stress…and what stayed in me was …nothing…just peace. This inadvertently filled me with ecstatic laughter. The mirror showed me so free and joyful, and I laughed. And it spread everywhere.”
The turbaned man folded his hand and said – “My child, a divine being told me I will meet my successor here. And I found you! All my life, I sold happiness, became rich but never understood it. Today I saw it. So, will you be my companion in spreading real happiness…?”
The boy smiled and nodded.
The next morning, people from far and wide rushed to the bazaar to buy a fresh dose of happiness. Who doesn’t want happiness for two paise? What they didn’t understand was the priceless truth – real happiness does not come from what we GET but what we LET GO of…
Villagers desperately searched for the happiness seller. But he had already left with his successor.
Story & Images – @storiesbyshivangi
Here is a very imaginative bedtime folk story to spark your kids’ imagination!
Once upon a time, the Sky was very close to the Earth. You see, they were married! They were so close that humans could actually touch the clouds in the Sky.
Since there was little space between the Earth and the Sky, humans were smaller in size. They were so little, that they used rats to plow the field instead of oxen. And they kept ants as pets.
Sometimes life would become inconvenient for men and women. If they jumped, their heads bumped into the clouds, causing rain. They could not even lift their hands while dancing. The trees could not grow big because there was no room to grow. And the Sun was too close, causing extreme hot weather.
Although, some kids loved having the Sky so close at night. You see, they could check out the stars closely! But on moonlit nights, it was difficult to sleep since the Moon glowed so much that all of them had to cover their eyes.
One day, a very old, grumpy granny was sweeping her courtyard with a broom. Accidentally her hand hit against the Sky. This made her lose her temper. Angrily, she gave the Sky a very hard push.
The Sky was already scared of the granny’s temper. And it went up like a rocket, and reached where it is today to be safe.
The Earth began to weep since her husband had gone far from her. But the Sky said they could always meet when the rain would fall! They would also be together, somewhere in the horizon. He was not ready to come down because of the angry granny.
So, the Sky stayed up and the Earth down. Also, this was convenient, since there was more room for everyone to grow taller. The grumpy granny lived longer than two hundred years and came to be known as – The angry granny who pushed away the sky.
-Inspired by a folk story of Muria Tribe from Madhya Pradesh, India
Graphics – @storiesbyshivangi
Offering a funny folktale for kids – THE MONKEY BRIDE! This hilarious bedtime story for kids is based on a tale from Jharkhand, India. Do read this free funny story online on my blog and share it if you like. Enjoy
In March, last year, I wrote about the unavailability of hand sanitizers in Minneapolis, U.S., on this blog site. At that time, we were beginning to know a little about a disease called Coronavirus in China that was spreading everywhere. We did not take it very seriously. I had no idea then that we would face a mammoth problem that would change the world forever. I did not suspect then, that the issue would stay as a challenge for more than a year.
I am sure your experiences are similar to mine and you have many stories to tell – stories of loss, resilience, experience or growth. But the biggest challenge I faced during Covid-19 was related to parenting. It is in 2020 that I truly appreciated the roles of schools and teachers for the well-being of our children.
Before the pandemic struck, I had received my EAD and had begun to work as a substitute teacher. But that stopped abruptly due to rising coronavirus cases. The pandemic made me dive into self-publishing and it was very fruitful. But my kids were absolutely distraught while dealing with so many obstacles.
The children were initially excited about getting iPads from school for online learning but the novelty of it faded soon. Zoom lessons and activities became dull and uninteresting by the middle of the school year. They wanted to meet their peers and interact face to face. There were no parties, no outings and no friends – all they had were parents giving directions to wash hands and finish school work.
Second challenge for them was staying silent while their father worked. He often had back to back and face to face meetings where the house had to stay quiet. Staying silent for long hours often made them morose but they did all they could to support their parents.
I tried using creative ideas to keep them feisty and occupied. I also enrolled them in online hobby classes to keep up their spirits but the disinterest followed soon. I knew it was unnatural to stay like that. The festive season in November and December kept them occupied in a positive way but matters became worst in cold January. Apart from Covid-19, the savage cold in Minnesota forces people to stay indoors. During this time, the basement turned out to be the most pleasant place. Every evening, I encouraged them to get some exercise.
Third challenge I faced was monitoring the digital time. I am sure every parent in the whole entire world faced this. They had almost three to five hours of school work on iPad everyday. And then they had their TV time. If I denied giving them TV time, how would they spend their time? They had to be quiet and silent as their father would be working. And As I said, there were no outings and social distancing in place. Yes, they read books but how many books can you ask a first grader and fourth grader to read? Interacting with Google became a way to pass time, yet that was not enough. I knew all that digital time would affect their eyes and brain. But how else could I resolve the issue? I felt I was facing a wall. And then, this famous line would come to my mind, ‘what can’t be cured must be endured’!
And with time, things have started falling in place… My kids will stay in digital learning till June this year but we are planning to send them in person in the next school year starting September.
With the arrival of Spring and loosening of Covid-19 restrictions, I am glad to see smiles back on their faces. Hope has returned in the form of Covid-19 vaccine! Last week, we went to Marshall’s and it was a delightful experience for them after a year in lockdown. As the weather has become good, we are going out often for walks and for bringing their favorite meals from food outlets. Some normalcy is returning as I see kids in schools and in the park with masks in place.
So, one year of parenting during Covid-19 has been tough but I want to applaud every parent for trying their best during the crisis. And kudos to our kids for bearing with every obstacle and moving on… Great things are just around the corner for the little ones. Hang on!
‘My Comeback Trail‘, the second book of the author and Air Force veteran pilot Manish Kumar, promises to be a stirring and inspiring read just like his first bestseller, ‘Be Your Own Pilot‘. I found the book candid and motivational.
About The Book – Inspired by true events in the life of Manish Kumar, the book deals with the theme of the triumph of the indefatigable human spirit against all odds. Life throws one challenge after another as he juggles to keep his sanity when his entire support system threatens to crumble around him.
The story begins with the author being in a respectable profession and having a happy married life, but everything changes soon. There is a crisis in his professional as well as personal life and he ends up in a psychiatry ward, dangerously close to losing everything.
In his own words, “You can fight for your country, your loved ones but what do you do when you start doubting your thoughts, your sanity and your entity? Nothing can be more vicious than doubting yourself.”
He gets betrayed, abandoned and duped by people he loves and trusts most, while his most precious gift gets taken away from him….. he feels there is no light at the end of the tunnel. It is then that the comeback trail begins…!
My Take – This real-life story of a soldier, shows unexpected twists and turns in the author’s life and his dramatic comeback. The book is highly recommended for those who are dealing with extremely challenging, anxious situations. It will inspire them to hang in there, while life turns for the better.
Manish Kumar has a strong narrative voice and the female characters are very well portrayed.
The book is dotted with motivational quotes from great books and authors. The quotes not only support the author as he tries to find sense in the sudden chaos that surrounds him but also engages the reader. The book is set to release soon and available for preorder.
Do grab your copy here , encourage a good author and rejoice in the victory of the human spirit.
Note – This story is reaching you with a message today. Hope the message rubs on you. When the story alighted in my mind, I laughed. And may you laugh too and spread it far and wide.
More than one thousand years ago in India, there lived a laughing Saint. Some called him a genius, others thought he was wise and some believed he was a fool.
So, a famous traveler from a faraway kingdom visited him one day. He wanted to evaluate and judge the man. The Saint was making an ordinary garland from grey flowers that had a very strong smell. On seeing the traveler, he pointed towards a bamboo mat.
The traveler kept sitting for a long time, watching the Saint, who would chuckle while putting fresh flowers in the thread. Soon, he got bored and thought the Saint was quite mad.
So, he started a conversation to get further proof of the Saint’s madness. “Ahem, hello Swamiji, for whom are you making the garland?”
“No one in particular, ” the saint laughed.
“Then why are you wasting your time on the garland?” the traveler asked.
The Saint looked at him and laughed again. The traveler got annoyed and thought this man was not only mad he was a fool too. There was nothing wise or intelligent about the man. Why was this idiot so famous?.
He got up to leave.
“Sit down, dear friend. I am sorry I offended you, ” said the Saint. “I will ask you a few questions that will make you understand why I laughed. Tell me about yourself?”
“I am a famous astronomer, scientist, and mathematician from a King’s court in the South. I own many palatial homes, immense wealth and I am highly respected in society. I have a lovely family and I live a grand life...”
“That’s very good. So, what brings you here my friend?”
“I wanted to know the secret of your laughter. But I think I have got my answer now, ” the traveler said, looking at him from top to bottom.
“You have everything in life. It must make you happy, so why did you come here looking for silly secrets?” the Saint asked, wrapping the garland in a wet cloth.
The traveler cleared his throat. “The problem is I should be happy but I am not always happy like you.”
“Ok, so what will make you happy like me?”
“Hmmm, I feel happy when I think about my wealth and power. And soon I am planning to go on a sea voyage, I guess, that will make me happy like you, ” said the traveler.
The Saint laughed again. “Well, thinking about your wealth is a memory of happiness! And planning a sea voyage is about future happiness. Tell me what will make you happy, right now? Because real and pure happiness can only exist right now!”
The traveler looked closely at the laughing Saint. Something clicked in him but he was still confused so he continued the conversation.
“I can be truly happy right now if I get something which I am hoping for.”
“Umm… like a better position at the King’s court.”
“So, you can be truly happy only – when you get what you love. But what if you – Accepted and loved what you got every moment the same way, ” the Saint laughed again.
“That is so simple and yet so difficult. But yes, that would make me happy right now! But I would still need to make plans for my future happiness…”
“If you stay alive in the Now, the future and your plans will be taken care of automatically. A fresh path gets carved out of every moment of conscious presence. Trust the universe to make everything work in your favor. Now, do you want to know why I laughed while making the garland?“
The traveler nodded.
“Well, this morning, I got some flowers as a present from the little girl next door. You would hardly ever see me making a garland at this time. But today, I decided to make it for no reason at all. The process of making the garland was exhilarating. The freshness, color, shapes of each flower was delightful. But a thought arose in me – Why was I making the garland? I didn’t pay attention to it and continued being in the moment. And then you came along.“
The traveler nodded again, listening with bated breath.
“You asked the same question – For whom are you making the garland? And I laughed appreciating the glory and grace of the Universe. Of course, for you, my friend! The little girl unknowingly picked up the flowers for you and I blissfully made the herbal garland for you. And the universe sent you here to get what you were really looking for. I know you have a rare disease in your left leg, I can smell it. So, here take the garland, the smell of the flowers will cure it.“
The traveler was bewildered and accepted the garland gratefully. He really had a rare disease that he had kept hidden from the world. “Yes, this was what I was looking for around the country. I am so joyful I got it. I am so indebted to you. But this cure was not what I was hoping to get from you. I really wanted to know why you laughed so much.“
“And you know now. Don’t you? I am blissful because I choose to accept and ‘just be’ in every moment. Whenever you want to be blissful, just come back to the moment from your past or present and flow with what is… May you always be as accepting and grateful as you are right now after getting the cure. And the universe will give you more opportunities for bliss and gratitude,” the Saint blessed him.
When he returned home, the King of Southern Kingdom asked about the laughing Saint. The traveler said – “At first, he may look like a mad man, then an idiot and a fool, and finally one of the wisest men on Earth. But one thing is sure – his child-like laughter and positivity will stay with you like the fragrance of a rare garland.”
My book, Happy’s Hairy Tale – The corona Cut, has been accepted as a part of Indie Minnesota Anthology – a digital collection of books by Minnesota authors. This means my book will be available in the patron libraries across Minnesota. And it is all due to God’s blessings and entirely your good wishes, dear reader.
I am really grateful to everyone – those who helped in creating, editing, and promoting this book, those who bought the hardcover simply to encourage me, those who read the eBook and sent positive messages, and each one of you who has ever liked, commented and enjoyed my works.
It is because of you that I stay motivated to tell a story despite numerous roadblocks Indie author perennially encounters.
This blessed morning, I received this email –
Congratulations, you have successfully moved into the library space!
Your book, Happy’s Hairy Tale – The Corona cut, is now available in Indie Minnesota, a collection of books from local indie authors available exclusively on the BiblioBoard Library mobile and web platform. This collection is available to patrons of participating libraries all across your state/region. That’s right, your book is now available with just one click of a button to thousands of new readers in your state/region!
Here is the link, you can read the book here –
Writing is a solitary and laborious process and recognitions like this uplifts a writer. And you, dear reader, have been an important part of my writing process. What Would I Do Without You!
Hope this New Year brings much happy news and recognition for you and your family as well. Do keep visiting this blog site, as you may come across many free bedtime tales, new book releases, breathtaking pictures of Minnesota, motivational messages and other valuable stuff. Sending best wishes your way…big thanks! And once again, have a blissful New Year.
Under a leafless apple tree, sat a little girl named Shrivi. She wore loose, worn-out clothes and torn footwear that barely had soles on them. Her small bare hands looked frost-bitten and she tucked them often under her armpits. Her face looked red and her eyes had a vacant stare as she took in her snow-filled surrounding.
Her stomach growled and she realized she had not eaten since the past two days except a half leftover chapati. For the thousandth time, she wished her father returned from the town where he had gone to sell carpets. He had promised to return within a month with money, food, and clothes. But he didn’t, and they were starving. Her mother was sick, they had no food and perhaps, her father was in trouble.
A tear trickled down her cheek as she remembered her resolve to pick twigs and buy food early that morning. They needed food and oil in their lamp as it was frightening to stay in the dark every night. But unfortunately, it was afternoon and she hadn’t found twigs because of a sudden snowstorm.
The world looked dark and hopeless.
A gentle tap on the shoulders aroused her from reverie. A tall middle-aged man in a flowing brown beard stood there holding the reins of a handsome brown stallion. What did he want?
“Hello,” he said gently. “Will you please help me?” he asked. Shrivi looked at him with strange eyes. How could she help someone when she herself needed help?
“My horse needs water and rest. Where is your home? Can I stay there for a while? I have a long journey to go and I will leave as soon as the biggest and brightest star in the sky will be visible,” he said politely.
Shrivi reluctantly got up and asked him to follow her. While walking, Shrivi felt bad. She didn’t want the guest to see her poverty and her poor, sick mother but it would be rude to deny help. She was also ashamed that she had no food to offer to the stranger according to the village tradition. In there village, any traveler looking for help, was welcomed as God himself.
“Tell me, little girl, what are you grateful for?” asked the stranger, all of a sudden, while walking towards her hut.
“How can I be grateful; when I have nothing?” said the girl.
“Well, it’s a game I play with children – The Gratitude Game. Come on, make an effort, just find any reason… even a bad reason to be grateful would be wonderful,” he said.
Shrivi thought for a moment and said, “Well, I am grateful for my legs as I can walk…”
“That’s great, isn’t it?” he said.
The stranger coaxed her on and little by little, she found many other reasons to be grateful for on her way back home – her eyes, arms, her mother, the tree by her hut, her pet hare, mother Earth, the sky…
Lo and behold… she didn’t know how, but by the time she reached her hut, it felt like Summertime. Everything looked magical. The tree and the ground by her house were filled with berries while the sun shone brightly.
Filling her mouth with berries and offering some to the stranger, she laughed and asked – “What miracle did you do?”
“I didn’t do anything. You did it!” said the strange stranger.
She picked up berries for her mother too and invited the guest inside the hut.
When they entered the dilapidated hut, Shrivi’s frail sick mother was startled. “Mother, I have brought a special guest. You know he is a miracle man. He and his horse need rest till the evening. He is on his way to meet the holy ‘King of Kings’, being led by the biggest star in the sky.”
Shrivi’s mother hid her anxious emotions and mustered energies to get up and welcome the guest. He looked so grand, dignified, and resplendent while she felt ashamed of her poverty and the humble hut. What would she offer him? She was relieved to see that Shrivi had picked up plenty of berries.
But the guest looked perfectly at home as he rested on the mat which she spread on the floor. Crushing the berries, she made juice for herself and their guest while Shrivi went outside to give water to his horse.
“Thank you for helping me out. In return for your hospitality, I would like to give you something,” said the stranger after a while.
“You are welcome, Sir. But we do not take gifts from our guests. Thank you for the offering.” the lady said politely.
“Well, it’s not riches or money. But just a lesson. Will you accept it?” The lady nodded reluctantly.
“Well, first tell me one thing – What are you grateful for?” he asked.
“There is nothing to be grateful for,” the lady said, shocked almost angry. She felt it was impolite to ask a poor woman to be grateful when she was suffering so much.
“Believe me, any small thing to be grateful about would work to begin your lesson.” the guest insisted.
The lady thought and thought. But only her trouble, sorrow, and poverty came into her mind. What could she be grateful for when everything looked so dark. Everyone in the whole world was better off than them. What had happened to her husband? Why was God so cruel to them? And then the image of a little girl came into her mind and her perception shifted. “I am grateful for Shrivi,” she whispered.
The wise man coaxed on and the lady found several other little things to be grateful about – the hut, her neighbors, the berries… While talking about those little things, she smiled. This caused a ripple effect in the universe – her universe. She realized, she was feeling quite good and her fever was gone. She felt energetic enough to begin work on an old carpet.
“What miracle did you do?” she asked. “I didn’t do anything. You did it,” he smiled.
When the biggest star was visible in the sky that evening, the magical guest took leave to continue his journey towards the ‘holy infant’. “Thank you for helping me. I bless you both with the gift of the highest and noblest of all emotions – the feeling of gratitude. That emotion is the very fountain of fulfillment and joy,” the wise man said before leaving.
There was something about that wise man’s lesson that changed the lives of Shrivi and her mother. Every day, they began to follow that simple method of gratitude and things began to look good. Her mother found work with a decent income, and some sheep, within a few days their living conditions became better.
And on one glorious night, when a luminous baby was born on a different side of the Earth, someone came knocking at their hut.
At last, Shrivi’s father had returned with riches, food, and clothes. It was a joyous reunion for the family. That night, as they shared their respective experiences and adventures, one particular story stood out – Shrivi’s story of the magical guest, who was following the biggest star in the sky.
(I hope you liked this gift. If you will ask me – what makes me grateful? I will say I’m grateful to you, my reader for your presence here. Here is wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. May you get many reasons to be grateful every day of 2021.)
(The Story Till Now – A 27-year-old young man named Bond falls off from his balcony while clicking a stunt selfie with his girlfriend. He refuses to move on after his death and stays stuck in Apartment 328, where he has spent the most beautiful days of his life. His parents and girlfriend leave after his funeral but he is unable to move on due to his extreme grief.
Slowly, he comes to know more about the after-death existence and a funny reality – he has become quite a creepy ghost himself. He is sighted by many of the residents in the apartment complex. It is well-accepted that no one would rent the apartment but Bond is surprised to find that an Indian couple has rented the flat. A rare one-sided friendship develops between the ghost and the Indian lady, who is depressed and friendless in a foreign country. She is a typical case of a dependent, Indian visa wife in the USA. Her relationship with her husband worsens and she runs towards the balcony to jump off. At that moment, the ghost appears in front of her…Read more to know what happens next…)
Like a scared cat, she ran to grab her phone. I almost laughed. Just a moment before, she was ready to give up on her life but, desperate self-preservation prevailed on seeing a ghost. Maybe ghost sightings could do magical wonders in pushing people from one extreme to the other.
Breathlessly, she dialed her husband’s number but his phone was on airplane mode since he was flying. She dived towards the bedroom to grab the iPad – contacting any living person in the world was her sole motive. Shivering like a leaf, she face-timed her folks back in India and tried to show me – the tall, weird-American ghost, on the face-time. But I had already disappeared by floating away from the selfie spot.
I heard her mother chanting some mantra loudly. And then, they all began to chant Sanskrit shlokas in chorus. Holding the photo of her god, she obsessively chanted to drive me away while I gloomily sat observing her from the balcony. It was a heavy night as my sole companion in a lonely world wanted to get rid of me.
Techie returned the following evening and although he didn’t believe a word of what she said, he brought a funny looking priest to exorcise me. Then followed an elaborate ceremony accompanied by loud chants and bangs. It was quite interesting to watch the ghost-exorcising ceremony. However, she was under a lot of stress so, I moved away from them.
I decided to stay away as much as I could. They had no clue that the living world was far more savage than our ghost world – where tormented and stuck souls lived. But would they believe me? I made the dark ceiling of the store-room as my new haunt.
Meanwhile, Techie turned over a new leaf since that day. Perhaps, he thought his wife was hallucinating and losing her mind. And that made him consciously make efforts to take care of her. He cooked for her, fed her, and cheered her up. He even got her enrolled in English lessons and driving classes. Life brightened a little for them as they began to talk more.
She had also got another companion! Techie gifted her a handsome talking parrot; she loved it. For hours, she would teach the parrot to talk. I hardly went near the parrot, as it would screech and round its eyes on seeing me.
One day, the fire alarm went off in our building. This was mostly an entertaining event for me because I had the pleasure of watching panicked human behavior. The authorities expected that the residents leave the building before the doors got sealed. She was alone and had never experienced these fire-alarm security measures but Mrs. Raju came to her rescue. They ran out of the building with her. The firefighters and the police arrived within minutes and they began to secure the place. I watched it all from the balcony.
But one particular thing caught my eye, Mrs. Raju was chatting with her and pointing fingers towards my apartment. What was she telling her about me?
After the incident, I strongly felt that she had become comfortable with my presence around the house. Maybe she had gathered that I was harmless. Maybe Mrs. Raju had related my sad death story and she was sympathetic… Maybe she had become used to me… or maybe I was reading too much into things!
Things started to look up for everyone in Apartment 328, but my indiscretion one fateful evening changed everything.
That day, Techie was chatting with her on the balcony. For a change, his conversation seemed entertaining to me. It was about his encounter with an Indian ghost in his childhood. I hovered closer to know more about my Indian counterpart. But lo! In a flash, I reached the ‘selfie’ spot, and unwittingly presented myself.
What a sight I might have looked – a tall American ghost hovering over them, trying to listen to a ghost story! My lady remained unperturbed but the effect on him was pretty disastrous. He grimaced, rubbed his eyes, and looked horrified. A scary ghost lived with them – this information was too much for his mind to process. He ran out of the apartment, dragging her with him. She tried to calm him down… but he was not in his senses.
The next day, I learned that he had decided to move out of the ‘haunted’ apartment. I saw them packing things up. She looked calm but Techie was super-stressed, fearful that I was lurking around.
Memories came flooding back of the days we spent together. The lady and I were partners in loneliness and distress. I remembered her spices, her films, Mr. Khan, and her Gods. Somewhere, someone was playing a haunting song again, giving dark background music to my dejection.
I escaped to the storeroom to avoid seeing my sole friend go. By evening, I listened to the sounds of things getting moved out, luggage dragged, and doors getting closed behind them. I was lonely once again.
It was dark when I came out on the balcony. There was silence everywhere; the mild fragrance of Indian spices was still there in the empty, dark rooms. I felt like I died again, and there was no closure.
Suddenly, I heard a screeching sound from the maple tree in front of my apartment. What was ‘Mitthu’ her talking parrot doing there? Did she set it free before leaving? The bird circled me and squawked- “Thank you from Mukta! Mukta means freedom! Be happy and free!.”
Mesmerized and energized, I spoke her name softly – Mukta! Mitthu was delivering her message. That was her ingenious way to communicate with me and express her gratitude for saving her life before leaving. I thought I had unwittingly helped Mukta when she was lonely and depressed, but she had come to me for a reason as well.
I spoke her name again, and something in me clicked. I had never paid attention to her name. ‘Mukta’ was a divine sign. Was it time to let go, to surrender my despair, and move on…be Mukt?
I whispered ‘Thank You’ to ‘Mitthu’ as it flew away to its freedom. I chose to follow the bird’s illuminated trail…wherever it took me. I felt I was blissfully accepting things, moving on, leaving all the bad as well as good memories of Apartment 328 behind me… to go wherever I was supposed to go!
(I had great fun writing this story. Hope you liked it. And thank you for being with the Ghost named Bond for the past three weeks.)
On a warm morning in August, the Indian couple moved into my apartment. I receded to the storeroom by the balcony to avoid them. To my dismay, the different aromas of spices, grains, and incense filled my apartment. On the bare walls of the apartment, they hung pictures of Hindu Gods – Ganesha, Krishna and Kali. The lady had also brought a lot of cooking utensils – pots, pans, and wok.
I peeped at the lady. She had a pleasant face but looked lost and spoke very little. Her language was different from Mrs. Raju and she mechanically unpacked their limited luggage. Her tall over-weight husband, who wore thick glasses, did most of the talking. He was working on a laptop – obviously, a techie who owned a Toyota something car, I thought. The lady was about my age while the husband was in his thirties. I really hoped that someone could tell the couple about me, the terrifying ghost, and make them leave my space.
In a few days, I learned more about them. It was the first time, the lady had visited any foreign country. She only spoke Hindi. On the other hand, the techie had a traveling job so he had to frequently leave his wife alone. Once or twice, I tried to scare them off from the apartment, but they just didn’t notice. The lady always looked preoccupied while Techie was either in the office or on the phone.
While he would be on conference calls, the lady would cook and clean obsessively. Her delicious dishes would mostly go to the trash as Techie was hardly home and she rarely ate. To throw those chapattis, curries, kebabs and chicken tikka masala into the bin was a crime. Wasn’t it? If only I were alive…
On a regular day, I was pondering over my plight in the storeroom when her sobs startled me. She was lying prostrate on the carpet – a picture of grief. Her long tresses looked entangled and messy. Techie was traveling and I did not know the cause of her distress.
For the first time, I noticed her sadness. Friendless, helpless, and completely dependent on her constantly traveling husband in a new land, she had all the reasons to be upset. As an American, I never really paid attention to how it felt to be an immigrant and a dependent – the typical case of a visa wife! Added to it, she hardly knew English and had no driving experience to explore and learn on her own. The other Indians in the apartment spoke different languages, so, she couldn’t really chat with them. She couldn’t interact, make friends, or go out.
Silently, she cooked and cleaned the house, and spoke only when on the phone with her folks in India. Her refuge was a creaking rocking chair in front of the TV, where she cried herself to sleep every afternoon. Depressive thoughts, low self-esteem never did a person any good. I felt a sort of bonding with her – we both were stuck and lonely. I had read somewhere – a unique relationship is often a good by-product of trying times.
A sudden knock on the door, one afternoon, startled her and made me float to the ceiling. I was watching a colorful, Hindi musical with her. The lead actor was some Mr. Khan. She always watched Khan’s movies. She opened the door. A scared-looking Mrs. Raju stood there. I remembered her having seen me as a ghost in the past. I playfully blew hot air on her face. I think she sensed it. Anxiously handing over a birthday party invite, Mrs. Raju whispered – Aren’t you afraid to stay here all by yourself? Haven’t you heard the stories of a ghost named Bond? The lady smiled and answered in the negative.
I saw her smiling for the first time. She was happy to be invited. Closing the door, she went to her wardrobe to select a dress.
She looked attractive and the grim lines around her mouth had faded. I felt even more sorry for her. We both were similar in many ways – she was afraid to explore and I was afraid to move on, we were in self-inflicted captivity. But it was worse for her because she was unable to appreciate what she had – LIFE.
That evening, she dressed graciously in a long elegant salwar-suit, parted her lovely hair, applied vermilion, and lined her large eyes with kohl. Techie canceled his calls for the first time and came home early to go to the party. I was happy to see her happy and the party went well.
I became more comfortable in her presence. I would hover near her when she cooked. I could now identify all her spices..turmeric, cumin, coriander, chilies. I learned about her Gods too but a goddess on a huge lion scared me the most.
Meanwhile, Techie’s trips out of town increased and their differences grew. She developed a rude and aggressive attitude towards her husband. In retaliation, Techie would stay aloof and distant. Their marriage was falling apart and I blamed him more than her.
On a January night, Techie went out of town again. I saw her crying bitterly in her room. They had a nasty fight before he left and she had not stopped crying since. I felt concerned for the frail woman. Apparently, she was depressed and not sleeping well. Suddenly, she got up and ran towards the balcony on decidedly a rogue, dangerous impulse! I smelt catastrophe. She was almost near my ‘selfie’ spot when I materialized right in front of her…and she stopped. Taking a step back, her face white as snow, she screamed… I knew that was the end of my one-sided-friendship. (To be contd…)
(The Story – Part 1 and Part 2 – A 27-year-old young man named Bond falls off from his balcony while clicking a stunt selfie with his girlfriend. He refuses to move on after his death and stays stuck in Apartment 328, where he has spent the most beautiful days of his life. His parents and girlfriend leave after his funeral but he is unable to move on due to his extreme grief. Slowly, he comes to know more about the after-death existence and a funny reality – he has become quite a creepy ghost himself. He is seen by many of the residents in the apartment complex. It is well-accepted that no one would rent the apartment but Bond is surprised to find that an Indian couple has rented the flat. Read more to know what happens next…)
(The Story Till Now – A 27-year-old young man named Wilbert Bond falls off from his balcony while clicking a stunt selfie with his girlfriend. He refuses to move on after his death and stays stuck in Apartment 326, where he has spent the most beautiful days of his life. His parents and girlfriend leave after his funeral but he is unable to move on due to his extreme grief. Slowly, he comes to know more about the after-death existence and a funny reality – he has become quite a creepy ghost himself. Read more to know what happens next…)
One evening, the Asian Man ( I had nicknamed him Mr. Crocs), was watering plants in his apartment, which was right opposite to mine. I was melancholic and accidentally floated to the same ‘selfie’ spot, from where I had fallen off.
In a flash, my form seemed heavier; I felt I was materializing. I was acquiring a sort of shadowy structure that was close to my former physical body, on the spot that led to my death. Perhaps, I had left some intense energy there before dying. It felt good to have some form, although ghostly; it was quite an achievement for me.
But I couldn’t enjoy the finding for long because Mr. Crocs had spotted me. His reaction was priceless. His shock-stricken eyes almost came out of the sockets. He blinked twice or thrice and then ran inside, screaming in his language. I had never seen him unnerved before; it was hilarious to ruffle him out of his remarkable composure.
He came out again to check once more and ran back screaming. I moved away from the spot in a blink before he could get a heart attack as he was beginning to look very pale. The very next day, I saw a crowd on his balcony, geared with devices to record a ghost-sighting video.
This intrusion infuriated me. After the incident, I tried not to venture into the ‘selfie’ spot in daylight. It was annoying to have prying eyes on me. However, at night, the irrepressible feeling of having a presence, albeit shadowy, in the living world would overpower me.
And I would stand on my balcony after midnight, reminiscing about my girlfriend – hoping that I get a second chance to say good-bye to my love. I would also think of my parents and move around the house in an agitated state. I wondered whether the neighbors heard my horrible noises of agony.
Despite my best intentions, I got sighted by old Mrs. Wiederholt, who was taking in the night air by the pool. She looked startled for a second, and then the dear lady just crossed her heart. She knew Mr. Wiederholt was somewhere in my world. I tried to connect with the ghost of Mr. Wiederholt for companionship. I often played chess with Mr. Wiederholt when we were alive but he was not there in my dimension. He had moved on.
Often, creepy animals floated by me; occasionally, I saw some light beings too. The ghost-world perplexed me; there was so much to learn.
Mrs. Wiederholt had stopped reacting whenever she saw me and would leave me in peace. However, Mrs. Raju almost had a heart attack when she spotted me from the outside parking lot. ‘Aiyayiyoooo,’ she yelled and jumped towards the clueless Mr. Raju, who walked ahead carrying their sleeping boy. They were returning home from a late-night birthday party.
Mr. Raju was annoyed about being pushed but Mrs. Raju pointed towards my balcony and escaped abandoning her glittery sandals. Mr. Raju kept a brave face, walked faster, and faster… and finally, ran like a bullet towards the safety of the building holding the wailing kid.
I was not that scary, was I?
I became one of the most talked-about ‘non-living-being’ in the county. Everyone held me responsible for doing terrible things. I was ‘Mr. Nobody’ who stalked, scared, and harassed people. My ghost stories made kids go to bed on time.
Therefore, I was astonished when an Indian couple rented my apartment. Weren’t they aware that Apartment 326 was haunted by ME – the terrifying, blood-curdling ghost named Bond? (To be contd…)