Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The visitor of the dark !!!

There are few incidences from our childhood, which have a lasting effect on us throughout our lives. Unbearable may have been such incidences when we were kids, but they do make us smile with satisfaction when we remember them as adults.
“The visitor of the dark” -one such incidence for me.
Imagine the cold, silent winter nights when you used to sleep next to your mom, under the warmth of a thick, soft blanket. You are fast asleep and there is no sound except the familiar “krr krr” of the ceiling fan. Suddenly you hear a shrill and loud whistle shaking each and every nerve in your body. It makes you wake up with a start and hold your mom even more tightly. You are soaked in a cold sweat due to fear and shock. After a few tense moments you realize that the “gurkha”, the night guard of your locality, blew the unnerving whistle.
This was a regular incident that spoiled numerous nights in my childhood and even in my teens. After I woke up to the call of Gurkha I always felt as the luckiest person on earth to be sleeping under mom’s protective arm. But often I remember to have got cold feet before going to sleep only out of the fear to wake up in the middle of the night all alone.
Gurkha- one who protects us from the thieves at night. Really!!!
Well I could have afforded a thief better than this crazy creature called “Gurkha”. Why does the Gurkha have to be such a dreadful and scary animal when he is there to protect us? I would always ask my mom. And to that my mom would give an equally convincing answer, “ Beta, what’s the use if you don’t fear the Gurkha? After all he is meant to scare and expel off all the thieves with his strength.
Well! That sounded great; but I was unable to imagine the appearance and behavior this mighty unseen warrior who would single handedly scare off all the thieves and antisocial creatures. Often I would keep guessing about how did he look, what did he wear, did he have a sword or a pistol to fight the thieves or could he just chant some magic spell to turn them into mice or pigeons. Phew! Dark, secret, mysterious and dangerous. I would often leave my thoughts at these four words after giving lots of strain to my tiny mind.
And know what…… one day all of my doubts about this mysterious fighter got cleared in an instant. It was some day after Diwali. When after hearing a knock I opened a door, I saw a middle aged man with a wheatish complexion standing casually in the doorway. He was wearing a khaki half shirt and a pair of clean, black trousers. He had a pleasing smile and was humming some famous Hindi film song. When I asked him who he was, he replied with the same pleasing smile and humble voice “ I am the Gurkha of your society. Please tell your papa that I have come for the Diwali bakshish.”
Gurkha!! At my home! I couldn’t believe my ears. My legs were completely stuck to the ground. I kept staring transfixed at this visitor confused whether to believe he is really the one who has haunted so many of my childhood nights. Just then my father came; and looking at the surprise on my face, tapped my shoulder and said with a smile “he is our Visitor of the Dark- the Gurkha” and both of them started laughing.
God! What an emotional shock!! But I was not dreaming after all. Jolly and expressive, the Gurkha started talking in his broken Hindi. He told us everything about his work, how did he land in such a place, how his family (wow! He had a family too) had migrated to Maharashtra from Sikkim 20 years ago and how the job came as an inheritance to him.
He explained us that even if in the beginning he scared the job, he never gave up. After some initial doubts and fear he started enjoying his job and the nighttime strolls through the silent streets. He even had a couple of successful attempts at catching the thieves, which led him to get a prize collectively from the residents of the colony.
I wanted to know what did he feel at night alone, totally cut out from the world. He accepted that sometimes it did get too much on his mind. But his job required courage, responsibility and patience. Just knowing the fact that all the homes and their residents relied on him made him feel proud of his job.
I asked him what did he feel about people’s attitude about him. Did he feel isolated? “ Not at all”. He replied with a smile. “Initially I did feel hurt but somewhere u have to accept that with your job comes certain other things that you can’t change.” He recounted some of his experiences with children like me, who; after knowing his identity would ran away out of fear. He told that times have changed a lot since last few years and now they had a better standard of living than his father’s times.
So this was him. One of us but yet so different in his own world. I was overjoyed to know and understand that this visitor of the dark, whom I feared so much, was very much human after all. But what made me happier is that discharging his duties for this unusual job, he was never complaining. He was happy and content.
After he went away, I kept thinking about this man for days to come. Now I no longer feared him. Instead I felt a newfound respect and praise for him. I longed to meet him once again but never got a chance though.
And the most important thing I realized after this incident was that it was the ignorance about him as a person that made me fear him. But once I faced him all the fear was gone. This is one funda I still follow, if you fear something, face it and the good will follow.
I still wake up with a shock at night occasionally when I hear that shrill whistle. But then I smile to myself and go back to sleep thinking “ The visitor of the dark on his visit…!”

Thank you MSEB

“Where the hell were you? Don’t you remember we have to complete the cleaning before 8’o clock”.
This was how Vivek’s wife Sadhna greeted him when he returned home. It was a cool January evening and it had just started getting dark. There was a typical cool and silent winter feel in the surrounding. Wednesday meant that the load shedding was due from 8 to 11.15. Sadhna had planned to clean the complete house for the upcoming Makar Sankranti and hence had asked Vivek to return home early so that they could finish up before the power supply went off.
Vivek had one hell of a day in the office. It was MSEB’s new load shedding timetable that was causing havoc in the office. Six hours of no electricity meant pending work, large backlogs, restless colleagues and ever-furious boss. After experiencing such a stressful day, Vivek was really frustrated to bear the same at home too. But there was no way out.
He changed quickly and got into the act of cleaning like a man possessed. Sadhna had also made Shashank and Rahul, their two sons to clean their rooms. It was nearly 6 p.m. and they had just two hours until when they would be left with nothing to do. With lots of nagging, shouts and suggestions from Sadhna they finally completed the cleaning before time. Vivek was right inside the bathroom when lights went off and everything went black. Vivek cursed MSEB for the timing. He somehow managed in the darkness and got out fast without feeling really fresh.
Sadhna and the kids were lucky enough to be fresh before him. The three of them were sitting on the verandah when Vivek came out. It was really cold outside. There was no moon and the streetlights too were off, leaving the surrounding completely dark. The only light sources were the flickering candles and the oil lamps from the neighboring windowpanes.
With a tired body and nothing left to do, the four of them just started chatting. Shashank started it off with the funny incidences that often happened in his college due to the load shedding. He explained how friends often found out excuses for the practicals saying “There was no power mam, my PC was off!” and how teachers postponed their tests because they had to consult the load shedding time table for each and every work, from setting the paper to printing it. Vivek found it fascinating that how Shashank, a hard core TV addict had coped up so easily with the load shedding. When Vivek asked him, he just shrugged it off saying “I have found out lots of new things to do like reading, gardening, playing cards and many more”.
Sadhna had her own point of view over this matter. Although she hated it when she had to cook in heat and dark, she immensely enjoyed it when in the noon; all the housewives from the neighborhood would come together to have a chat. She enjoyed the change very much rather than the boring saas-bahu serials. She also admitted that to avoid the heat of the kitchen, she completed her chores early and thus could spare a lot of time for herself.
Vivek wondered how strange sometimes women could be. But in fact he admired his wife for her thoughtfulness. Sometimes he himself felt surprised to realize the time he had spent on himself and his pleasures since the load shedding had started. He tremendously enjoyed it to stroll through the dark and silent lanes of his colony after dinner, thinking about people and life. It had been at those times, when some of the best thoughts had come to his mind and later he had penned them down. He also loved to play with Rahul and hear his innocent views about stars, moon and the world when, at night, all of them sat on the terrace. He loved it when they enjoyed the hot coffee up there when icy winds would flow and unseen leaves would make pleasant rustling sounds.
Vivek’s train of thoughts was broken by Rahul’s tap at his shoulder. It was nearly 10 o’clock. Vivek felt the mercury must have fallen well below 10 degree Celsius. Shashank suggested that they burn a little campfire on the cement flooring. It seemed a fairly good idea since there was still one hour to go for the power to come back. So, he brought the sticks and other stuff and burned the fire on the flooring. Rahul was so excited that he held a long stick in his hand, put some leaves in his hair and enacted an “adivasi” dancing around the fire. All of them had a hearty laugh over that. Vivek’s neighbor Mr. Joshi and his family also walked down and joined in the fun. Then there were some songs, poems some jokes followed by and lot of laughter. It felt just like a dream…the happiest dream! Everything was so pure, wonderful and lovely. Vivek loved it.
At last it was 11.15. In just a few seconds the surrounding was washed with white light from the streets and the neighbor’s houses. As the power came back, Vivek felt a sickening sensation in his stomach, just like he was cruelly being awakened from the happiest dream of his life.
Vivek bid Mr. Joshi and his family, a good night and returned inside the home. Children were already asleep. As Vivek prepared to sleep, he went over the entire series of events of the day. He thought about the frustration from the office, about the cleaning, about his tiredness and then about the time he had so much fun, about how now he felt happy and content that he had spent some quality time with his family. This day would definitely remain in his memory for years to come. Only three hours ago he was cursing MSEB for its ruthlessness and now he somehow couldn’t help but bless it, for if not anything else, it has helped people to think a bit about there lives and made them come closer.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Music !!!

I was getting the typical Monday blues when i reached office first thing in the morning. The office was sparsely filled though i was 10 mins late. The few employees who had come were looking like it was already 6 pm . . all bored and droopy. I reached my desk without a shred of enthusiasm. After starting my routine i realised that this is gonna be just one of those long and extended Mondays which i dreaded so much. No fun, no excitement and nothing interesting to look forward to except mundane work. I put on my headphones and started my favorite songs in full volume.In such a condition, music was the only link to peace for me. It was after around half n hour that i received a mail and my breath was nearly caught into my chest.

"It has been observed a large amount of organization infrastructure in the form of disk space is being used for storing multimedia files and features by employees. This is to inform that henceforth listening to music in office is strictly banned and any amount of multimedia storage will be considered as a breeach to the Organizatinal rules. Employees are expected to immediately delete all the personal media contents. An IT check will be conducted anytime starting from tommorow. " . . the mail stated

I had a feeling of falling from a high cliff with each word that i read. Music banned ??? What the hell !!! How can this company be so ridiculously cruel ???
What bad has the music done to the company ?? Cant they grant such a small favour in return to the work they extract from us ??? This was mad, this was stupid this was absolutely outrageous. . .

When my initial prangs of anger and frustration subsided i realised the intensity of a grave situation i was going to be in. No music !!! It was just next to no hands or no ears or no heart. Since i joined office as a professional, the only sound that was left in my life was the constant buzzing of the AC and the ringing of phones. And there were new challenges to be faced, new destinations to be conquered. In such a situation what kept me grounded and away from frustration was simply and solely my music.

I often have had really stressfull days full of meetings, phone calls and code jams. . but in the evenings i had listened to Suresh Wadkar singing "Surmaai Shyaam is tarah aaye " and i had felt all the streched veins relaxing in my mind and small drops of "AMRIT" dripping down my ears. I have had early morning tensions because of object delieveries and presentations scheduled for the day ahead but i had listened to the "yu hi challa chal rahi" from Swades and my heart had been filled with enthusiasm and energy.I had frequently used the headphones as a way of blocking all the noise from the surrounding and the loud sound for concentrating on work. And if i didnt have work then i had used music as a way of avoiding interruptions from colleagues. It had effectively worked most of the times.
Yes !! My life feeds on music. Rather than wasting disk space i felt music cleaned unwanted trash from ones mind leaving it free for creativity, imagination and ideas. I was now badly cursing my company because i felt people up there should understand the peaceful working conditions some of their employees expected and music was not even a small harm to their bigg organizational structure as well as infrastructure. It eventually helps the company itself in getting more quality work from the employees. What does it matter guys, if handfull of your employees couldnt work without music. !!!

But i knew all of my tantrums were of no use now. the mail was official and that meant it was the last word. I had to part with my treasure of two years . . which i had collected from so many different sources. I was thinking of the ways i could smuggle the music files from my system out of the office safe to my pc at home. . but USB was blocked. I was now sweating a bit due to excessive thinking. I started counting the last few days left for me to enjoy my peace and realising it was too short i immediately put on my headphones and clicked the play button. The soft and sensuous voice of Lata didi played in my ears. .

Dil dhundta hai phir vahi
Fursat ke raat din. .
Baithe rahe tasavvure
Jana kiye hue. . . . !!!!!

I felt i was drifting away from the tension and humming happily in sink with the song. Miraculously the music had once again worked its magic on me. Yes this was after all the peace i craved for at that moment . And no matter how many times they ban any physical existence. . music will surely remain to be everywhere working its peace and magic.


It is surprising to realize sometimes what a small dream can do to your conscience and the ultimate change it brings in to your perspective. It happened to me when I was calmly asleep one cold winter morning that I dreamt about my dad . .. my Baba. I dreamt him suffer a severe heart attack and I was completely helpless, I couldn’t get him the doctor or the medicine. When I woke up I was drenched in a cold sweat and it was impossible for me to go back to sleep then. I spent a couple of hours in absolute restlessness and around 8 am I called my mom. I wanted to speak to her first because somehow I couldn’t muster enough courage to talk to Baba directly. But surprisingly it was Baba who picked up the phone and greeted me with his usual jolly and enthusiastic words. What a gush of relief it was !
I had a routine talk with him for some time and later told him about my nightmare. I don’t know what happened then but tears came rolling down my eyes and my voice choked. I cried. And I cried like a baby. I had been living away from Baba and Aai since one and a half years. And it had pained me always that I could not be with them when they needed me the most. I couldn’t share the small moments of their lives which are so valuable for them. Often I used to have guilt prangs for not caring, being selfish and leaving the two of them to manage everything for themselves in the midst of their old age. All those emotions, thoughts and feelings came crashing to my heart and I felt I am letting them out through those tiny drops of water. Baba understood it. Completely. And to my tremendous relief, he said something that I will remember till i remember my name. He said “Don’t worry that you can’t be with us, we always feel your care even from the distance. More than anything, it’s your achievements away from home that make us happy and proud of you. We both love you and we will be happy only if you are happy there”. How lucky I felt to have a man like Baba as my father. I felt happy, I felt relieved and most important I felt all the guilt melt out of my conscience. Aai-Baba were genuinely happy and this simple realization would bring a smile on my face for days to come. It’s not that I don’t get worried for Aai-Baba now but somewhere I know that they are content there taking care of each other and thinking about me.