Ganesha – A short story

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Anand stands before me. His palms joined together in reverence. His eyes closed. Lips moving in prayer.

“Please, please, please…” he murmurs. “Please God, let me do well in my Chemistry exam tomorrow,” he prays ardently.

 “Don’t you think it’ll help things if you go home now and spend sometime with your books? “ I ask him.

He does not hear me. His mind is full of voices.

 His father’s. His mother’s. His teachers’. His friends’. His own.

Admonitions. Fears. Warnings. Dreams. Aspirations.

The din drowns my voice completely.

After one last look at me he leaves hurriedly.

He has tickets for the latest movie in his pocket.

I should know. I am after all, omniscient.

Assured that I’ll cook up some miracle tomorrow to save his day, he leaves while his mind is already with his friends waiting for him at the cinema.

******** 

A coconut smashes on the street.

It’s Kamala.

Soon she is  standing in front of me.

Her lips are moving in fervent prayer. But her mind asks me, “God! Why isn’t he speaking to me? What have I done wrong this time? Why don’t you do something?”

After each fight with her husband, she comes here with many questions, to implore me to help her.

“Why don’t you ask your husband?” I ask gently. “Talking it over with him will give you more answers than all your prayers here.”

As before, my voice goes unheard in the clamour of the thoughts in her head.

But relieved that I’ll solve her problems, she leaves, more light hearted.

*******

Sometimes I wonder if that’s what I am here for.

To solve problems.

Agreed, I am the remover of obstacles and all that. But most of the time, all people have to do is to bend down, pick up the obstacle and throw it away.

But instead, they just stand there, mortified, close their eyes and try to wish their problems away.

*******

Here comes Preethi.

She’s a delight to me. She lives next door. Comes to see me everyday.

I wait eagerly for her visits.

She comes in. After exchanging pleasantries, starts telling me the highlights of her day.

Her childish logic never ceases to amaze me. She makes so much more sense than the adults.

Today, she’s upset with her mother.

“All I did was ask her if my snack was ready,” she says mournfully.

“For that, she yelled and said, I bother her all the time!”

“Don’t worry about that, sweet heart,” I assure her.

“Your mother was not really mad at you.”

“Really?” she asks.

“Yes.” I smile.

“Go home now, your mother’s waiting for you with cheese crackers!”

“Wow!” she says and skips out.

************

She almost knocks over an annoyed Kannan, who’s coming towards me.

Of late, he’s here everyday, praying for his son, who’s appearing for his school finals this year.

“Please God,” he prays, “Make Arun get high marks and manage an engineering seat.”

“You fool!” I admonish him. “Your son has no interest in engineering. You forced him to take math, a subject he hates. Have you seen his paintings? They’re brilliant. Why don’t you encourage him to take up a career in art?”

Stubbornly refusing to listen, he drones on his prayers to shut out my voice.

Fine. I’ll do my best.

These are problems of another kind. The ones some create for themselves. Oh, how they love to do that! Arun is a brilliant painter who happens to hate math. Then why force him to learn it and then come to me and ask for a miracle?

Anyway, like I said, I’ll do my best.

*********

A few days later, Preethi walks in. Do I see tears in her eyes?

“Child! What happened?” I ask.

“God! I have to leave you,” she wails. “My father’s transferred to Madurai.”

“Oh! Is that so?” I feign bewilderment. “Don’t worry, girl. You’ll find a new friend” I try to console her.

“But I’ll miss you,” she says.

She stays for a long time. I cheer her up with things she can look forward to.

New house. New school. New friends.

It works. Still sad, but visibly cheered, she says her goodbyes.

I promise never to forget her and help her in all her future troubles.

She leaves.

 

I chuckle to myself.

She doesn’t know.

In Madurai, I sit in a small shrine, right opposite her house. She can see me from her bedroom window.

 

I am omnipresent, remember?

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IIM – Ganjdundwara: Book Review

IIM

indialog.co.in

This book was published in January 2008. I got my hands on a copy only last week. After I finished the book, I was so impressed.

I’m surprised that I’ve never heard of it till now. Was this raved about at the time of release and I missed it totally? Or the publishers chose to maintain a low profile?

Whatever it was, this by no means is an average book. It overtakes any other book in this genre (IIT/IIM guys writing their college/career stories) by its sheer content.

Though it’s a ‘dear diary’ type of novel, all the characters breathe life to the story, however small their role is.

It starts off with two management trainees finding their way to Rangpurgaon, a small village where they’ll spend the next 2 months as part of their training program.

How they adapt themselves to village life, live without a bathroom or internet connection, succeed in generating income to the women’s self help group with their products and finally get a taste of the brutal laws of village, is the story.

The narration is simple. Like I said earlier, it’s more like reading someone’s diary. But that itself makes it a very interesting read. The purpose of the book is not to showcase (or show off!) the author’s command over the English language. But to recreate (it’s semi-autobiographical) life in a remote village in all its glory.

It has humor too.  Simple incidents like the villagers wanting to buy the laptop from the trainees so they can attach it to their tractors to watch movies and songs as they work, the way almost the entire village escorting the two to buy a bicycle in the nearest town are two good examples.

The characters portrayed are so likeable. From the village supremo Martand Tiwari who terrorises everyone but clucks around the two city dwellers like a mother hen, his younger brother Anuj who is tongue-tied in his brother’s presence, but shares his dream of a ‘love marriage’ with the young city men… the star-crossed lovers Lalu and Manju whose idea of a date is to walk a few paces away from each other in the pretext of some chores… the old men who form the panchayat with Martand Tiwari, who grill the two men on their first day and after being shocked they’re still unmarried, offer to find them good matches… and not to mention Shyam who shares this adventure with the author..

All of them are so true to life and you genuinely start liking them after a few pages.

I don’t know if the dramatic end is fictional or not, but I closed the book with tears in my eyes.

Police story

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I was driving back home on a Saturday from a bit of shopping. Impromptu, I decided to stop by at a friend’s shop on my way to pick up something. I called her to check if the shop was open. Knowing its illegal to use a mobile phone while driving, I put her on speaker and gripped the phone and the wheel while speaking to her for a few seconds.

 A little later, a bike rode right next to me and the riders signalled me to pull over. As they parked in front of me, I realised they were cops.

“Oh, joy!”  I thought as I pulled over.

One of them walked up to me.

I rolled down my window.

“Madam, You cannot talk on your mobile while driving…”

” I was not,” I protested. “I was just holding my phone.”

“Even that is not allowed, Madam. You can come with us to the sergent and pay Rs. 1100 as fine.”

“Where is he?”

“He’s standing under the bridge you just came by…” It was almost a kilometre behind me. (It occured to me only later that the sergent must be a seasoned scuba diver to stand under that bridge, which was constructed over the murky waters of Adyar river! Unless he had meant to say ‘the other side of the bridge’!)

I hesitated. “Its almost lunch time and I have a small child waiting at home…” I said pleadingly. 

He seemed good natured enough to smile and suggested, “Then you can give us whatever amount you want happily, madam. We cannot give you a receipt, though…”

“Oh, that’s ok,” I said happily, intending to give him a hundred ruppee note.

But as luck would have it, my wallet had only 3 crisp 500 Rupee notes.

Reluctantly, I peeled off one and handed it over. Do I ask for change, I wondered.

He beamed at me as he asked his fellow cop to come over and take it from me. (Why couldn’t he take it, I wonder…)

“I’m saying this for your own good madam. Please don’t use the phone while driving, its very dangerous”.

He went back to his bike and made a show of directing the vehicles so I could join the meagre traffic… 

In the days of yore, this was called ‘vazhippari kollai‘…

And people doing it were respected dacoits…

My bliss…

 

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Poppadam & Vathal kozhambu…