Friday, July 3, 2015

The lost file

****The lost file****

It was a cold winter evening in the small city of Nayakpur, Raghav sat near a brook & unremittingly scrubbed the bark of a maple tree. The shards of the bark would fall listlessly on the pavement before being swept away by the easterly wind. Meera sat next to Raghav. They had been married for almost 4 years now; however, he just behaved differently today.
‘There are a few days which are impressed in your mind for a lifetime. One such day for me was the day when my UPSC results were announced. Life just changed overnight,’ Raghav said gazing at the river water.
He continued with a grim face, ‘Sometimes when I would wake up in the morning, I had to pinch myself to realize that it was real. The hangover lasted for many months. An average middle class commerce graduate had become an IAS.’ 
The birds had started scurrying their way back home as the sun was about to set. Meera supped tea from an earthenware cup. She looked a little puzzled as she had never seen Raghav reminiscing the past before.
‘I did not know how to handle it initially. I still remember the chair on which I sat in my first office was slightly broken. It would make that strange creaking sound when you turn it. When I asked the office clerk to replace it, he told me that it would take a few months as the protocol mandates a formal bidding procedure for ordering any office furniture. Alternatively, he could just inform any vendor & they would come & replace it within a few minutes. I told him to start the bidding procedure. That day when I met a few college friends, they treated me like a demigod. I also put on a fa├žade of an NRI who fakes his life in the other country. You know I sat on that broken chair for almost 3 months after that,’ Raghav laughed as Meera looked at him in amazement.
Raghav had come across as an extremely intelligent person to Meera when they first met some seven years back in the college canteen. He had a strange flair to identify the right thing and stand by it against all odds. When Meera contested for the post of college president, Raghav individually steered the entire election campaign which finally resulted in her victory. They were a perfect team.
Raghav looked at the radiant sun setting in the river as he continued, ‘In the initial few years I did not have any role clarity. My parents were on virtual cloud nine by distributing vegetables & ghee produced in my bungalow to their relatives. My peers & colleagues had transformed into a bunch of sycophants who would spend all their time flattering the senior officers. Nobody around me was discussing ideas & innovation. It was at that juncture that I met Dr Shastri & my life underwent a huge transformation.’
There was a spark in his eyes as he started again, ‘It was some 2 years back that Dr Shastri & I started working on the project to centralize the operations of all primary schools in the state. You know there are more than 300 primary schools in the state and now we can track the pedagogy in all these schools through a uniform cloud-based learning mechanism. So sitting here I can see what is being taught in a primary school 300 miles away. The teachers will be more punctual now & we can actually see what the children are learning. It is a project which has become my dream now. Tomorrow when we officially launch this project, my dream will come true. I can now connect the dots Meera, my life- my education- my goal are interconnecting now.’
There was a mysterious tranquillity on Raghav’s face as they both walked back towards their home. 
Next day was quite hectic as Raghav geared up for the launch ceremony & press conference which had to happen in the next few hours. 
As Raghav was driving towards the press conference venue, he received a call from his office.
‘Raghav here’
‘Hello Raghav Ji, this is Shyam from office’
‘Yes Shayam, anything important?’
‘Raghav Ji, I want to tell you that the inquiry report for the lost land tax files has just come. The report mentions your name as well & there is a court notice which directs you to be present in the court next week.’
Raghav felt a little light-headed as he was completely startled by the report. He was not even posted in that department when the first report of missing files was filed. His mind was occupied with umpteen questions. Is this a conspiracy or just some sloppy work by the inquiry committee?
As he reached the press conference venue, he met a senior official who asked him to take it easy as there might be some slip-up in processing the report. 
Raghav decided to focus on the press conference. He walked up to the lectern to address the media. The entire launch was an exhilarating experience with magnificent reviews pouring in from the audience. The media described it as a quantum leap in the history of Indian education system. Raghav & his entire team looked extremely upbeat & confident.
That evening when Meera & Raghav tuned in the television, they were quite surprised as there was virtually no coverage on any channel.
However, the channels were abuzz with news on Raghav’s name appearing in the inquiry commission report.
Next day when Raghav left for work, a few journalists flocked him on his way to office.
‘What is your take on the inquiry report Mr. Raghav?’
‘I have no take on this. I was not even posted in that department when the incident happened.’
‘So you mean to say that the inquiry commission report is wrong.’
‘I do not want to say anything.’
‘You are not ready to take responsibility for the misdeed which happened in your department Mr. Raghav. Do you accept that that our country is suffering because of bureaucracy and red-tapism? ’ 
Raghav hurriedly entered his office as the guards barricaded the journalists.
Next few weeks were quite turbulent for Raghav as there were non-stop protests against him in different parts of the city.
One day Raghav’s boss called him for a meeting.
‘Hi Raghav! I am quite upset with this entire uproar. The entire matter is now lying with the judicial magistrate and I am confident that it should resolve soon. What do you think?’
‘Yes Sir! I am hopeful. My name has been dragged in this report without any evident rhyme or reason.’
‘I know Raghav, however I am extremely sad to tell you that I have received your suspension order from the CM office. There is no grudge against you but this what the protocol demands.’
A lot of things started appearing meaningless that day to Raghav. He had introduced a cutting-edge technology tool in primary schools; however, there was no provision to scan government files in his own office. He was full of remorse & anger. Even if he filed a case against the inquiry commission, he would receive an apology letter and some inconsequential compensation from them. 
A few weeks later Raghav received a call from Dr Shastri. Dr Shastri was a renowned social scientist who had worked with various bodies all across the globe. He was instrumental in devising the primary education integration project along with Raghav.
‘Hi Raghav, How are you?’
‘I am fine Sir’
‘I am deeply grieved by these unfortunate events. However, I am confident that it will resolve very soon.’
‘I hope so.’
‘Raghav I have called you today to discuss about a wonderful opportunity in the UN. I have already mailed you the details about this opportunity. I would be very happy if you can join us. Please go through my mail & call me.’
‘Sure Sir.’
A few days later, the court announced its verdict & directed the inquiry commission to drop all allegations against Raghav. All the accusations against Raghav were found baseless.
Finally Raghav & Meera heaved a sigh of relief. However, Raghav was still not sure if he actually wanted to go back to his old office. His belief & trust in the entire organization was shaken. After days of contemplation he decided to join Dr Shastri in the UN.
Meera was initially sceptical of Raghav’s decision; however, she was wary of the traumatic experience that he went through in the last few months. Therefore she decided to support him in his new endeavour.
Meera & Raghav were heading towards the airport as they had to board a late night flight to Geneva. The weather was quite pleasant and Gulmohar trees stood in full bloom on both sides of the road. After a long journey they finally reached the airport. They were escorted by the taxi driver Hariprasad until the departure gate. Hariprasad bid them farewell & handed a folded white envelope to Raghav.
‘What is this Hariprasad?’
‘Sirji, my daughter had given me this letter. She asked me to give it to you.’
Raghav kept the letter in his jacket pocket & hurriedly walked inside the airport.
After clearing the emigration, Raghav sat on a chair near his departure gate.
There were long queues of passengers in front of each departure gate. Some of them were emigrating permanently to settle abroad. It was difficult to comprehend if they were happy or sad. It was difficult to know if it was their wish or a mere compulsion. Raghav was lost in these thoughts when unexpectedly he saw the letter in his pocket. He hurriedly opened it started reading.
Dear Raghav Sir,
My name is Namita & I study in class 5 in Vijaynagar Primary school.
Recently I participated in a quiz competition in the nearby city where more than 40 schools participated. There were students from various public & convent schools also in that competition.
I am very happy to tell you that I came first in that competition.
I want to thank you for introducing the new learning platform in our school.
Now Teachers do not skip their classes & more students come to school.
Until last year there were only 8 students in my class but this year my class strength has increased to 35.
I want to tell you that my ambition is to become an IAS officer like you.
You are my role model.
Regards,
Namita
Tears rolled down Raghav’s eyes.
He held Meera’s hands and said, ‘We have to go back.’

Friday, February 13, 2015

Humsafar

Ek humsafar ki baat thi
Katne lage the raaste
Kehne ko to the khush bahut
Jo baat karne ko baat thi.

Parr waqt ke aagosh mein
Jo baat meethi na rahi
To baat ho phir kam se kam
Kya humnawa..kya humkadam!

Ye baat zahir ho gayi…
…Ki ye baat kitni jhooth thi,
Jo kisi ke acche waqt ko udhaar leke aaye the
Wo samajh rahe the baith ke ki ye mohabbaton ke saaye the!

Being human

I prayed to God to grant all my prayers
So that I can live a life without any struggle and care,
And I could become everything I ever wanted to be
So that I could elucidate to the world about success, you see.

As I look back I admire in glee
For having found that magical key,
I delight in bliss for becoming whatever I wanted to be
& suddenly I see my little grandson sitting next to me.

I asked, “Son! Why do you look so sad?”
He replied, “Oh grandpa! You will not be able to understand.”
I stood frozen on that warm sunny day,
I was so dumbstruck that there was nothing to say.

To stumble, to fall and sometimes to lose it all,
You might not like it but this is what makes you human afterall !

On Independence Day


Kal kal karti nadiya ko aksar meine samjhaya hain
Rimjhim girti baarish ko kai baar batlaya hain
Chahe jahan paa sakta hoon khud ke liye sukoon
Mein azad hoon,
Mein azad hoon.

Jo chaha hain wo paya hain, iss bheed mein apna maqam banaya hain
Iss gol ghumti duniya ko meine ye dikhlaya hain
Jo thaan loon kisi kaam ko, to karr ke hi dam loon
Mein azad hoon,
Mein azad hoon.

Parr basti mein meri kuch gunde kal, ek ladki ko sata rahe the
Kabhi baal pakadte, kabhi haath wo..mujhe gusse se uksa rahe the
Mere paas pada pathar bola, ‘chal utha mujhe aur maar de tu..
Mein jaanta hoon ki azad hain tu,
Mein jaanta hoon ki azad huan tu.’

Mein stapdh waha bass achraj se ye soch raha khada khada
Iss pathar ko uthane se na hoga koi kaam bada
Parr aasoon bhari aankhon se jo jaana ab jaan le tu,
Mein kahan azad hoon,
Mein nahin azad hoon.

A new beginning

‘You cannot even fathom how beautiful the world looks on that large screen. I had to pinch myself several times to remind that I was in Girjapur & not in Switzerland,'  Raju said flaunting his movie ticket.

The other village kids looked at him in admiration. He was the only kid in the class who had watched a movie in a multiplex in a nearby city.

‘Is it even better than Television?’ asked Gauri leaning towards the village lamppost.

‘Oh! You cannot even compare the two. You know during a song the music starts coming from everywhere. Frankly I cannot even explain how magnificent it is,’ replied Raju.

‘I will also ask my father to show me a movie in that multiplex on my birthday. You know my birthday is just two months away,’ Manohar said in delight.

‘Manohar, will you also take me along? I will do all your homework for the next two months,' Gauri requested with a gleam of hope in her eyes.

‘Why should I take you Gauri? Mohan has already agreed to do my homework, I will take him,' Manohar snapped.

‘You know my father was telling me that a movie theatre is getting constructed in the nearby village. It will be operational in the next six months. I will go there every month and watch a movie,'  Pushpa said.

‘How will you watch a movie alone?’ asked Gauri

‘Are you crazy? I will go there with my brothers and cousins. My uncle also lives in that village,'  replied Pushpa.

As the school bell rang, the kids hurried back to their classrooms.

Gauri kept thinking about the movie theatre the entire day. She was determined to watch a movie like her fellow mates in the next few months. As she walked back home, she was thinking about how her father would react after listening to her proposal.

‘Are you out of your mind? I will stop sending you to school if you propose such immodest things to me. Only men & boys can go to movie theatre. Women & girls do not go there,' Gauri’s father reprimanded her as she put butter on his chapatti.

‘But Pushpa is going there with her brothers and cousins,' Gauri wailed.

‘I do not care about Ramcharan & his daughter. All I know is that villagers respect me & I am not going to spoil it,’ Gauri’s father said with a stoical expression on his face.

In the next few months the movie theatre in the nearby village started working. Gauri would stand on the door of her house & observe the beaming faces of men, women & kids as they walked towards the theatre.

She would quietly see the animated discussions that people would have when they returned from the theatre. Some of them would sing songs. Some of them would imitate the hero. Some of them would recite dialogues. They all looked so happy!

Pushpa would often meet Gauri & show her images of the theatre on her mobile phone. She would sometimes record a small movie clip which Gauri would watch with utter delight.

A few years passed by & Gauri’s father decided to marry her off. He had found a suitable groom for her from the same village.

After a few months of marital life, Gauri asked her husband if he had been to the nearby theatre.

‘Oh yes! I am a big movie buff,' said her husband Vinod.

‘Vow! Can we also go and watch a movie together?’ Gauri asked

‘No, it is not possible. I only go there with my friends. If I go there with you, my friends will make fun of me. They will say that I have changed after marriage.’ replied Vinod.

Gauri stood there wondering about her husband’s & father's strange set of beliefs.

‘They never feel ashamed of themselves when I accompany them to paddocks for work. However, they feel chagrined at the very thought of going to the movie theatre with me.’

A few months later a political rally was organized in a nearby city where all the villagers were invited.

Most of the people from the village including Vinod & his brothers decided to attend it.

As Vinod left for the rally, he asked Gauri to go to the post office & collect a consignment which had arrived for him from the city.

The journey to the post office was long & weary. The fields were deserted as very few people were in the village on that day.

As Gauri stood in the queue on that hot & torrid day, she saw some young people scurrying to the nearby building. As she turned to see where they were heading, she saw a huge white building buzzing with motorbikes and swarming with street vendors. The building was decked with large colourful banners; one of the banners pasted on the roof of the building read ‘Anand Movie Theatre’.

Gauri instantly froze at the very sight of the theatre.

‘You cannot even fathom how beautiful the world looks on that large screen. I had to pinch myself several times to remind that I was in Girjapur & not in Switzerland.’

She felt like a little girl on that street, surrounded by nothing but the memories from her distant past.

A new movie show was going to start. The ticket window was about to be closed. Gauri immediately rushed to the window & bought a movie ticket.

The next two and a half hours of her life were like a dream come true. She laughed & cried & sang & danced.

In those two and a half hours she had found the courage to stand up for herself.

It was her new begining!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Randomness

I woke up today morning in a muddled state.

Last night, I dreamt about climbing a maze of stairs and finally walking my way out of a large room.  

These strange dreams annoy me.
I looked at the clock; it was still 6:55 AM. I had set the alarm for 7:40 AM.

I could not recall what time did I sleep yesterday.

I felt irritated for waking up early & went off to sleep again.

This time the alarm rang again at 8:00 AM and rather than putting it on snooze, I quickly got off the bed.

Zulfi was getting ready for work. He generally gets up early and leaves for work almost an hour before me. I waited for him to come and say goodbye.

I could hear the chit-chat of my in-laws in the living room.

The maid had still not arrived, I called her but her phone was switched-off.

I called her sister and told her that if she does not come today, I will fire her.

I hanged the phone & thought to myself that I have been telling her this for the last so many months.

If I were to rate my ‘state of mind’ on a scale of 1 to 10, I would be a pathetic 4 today. I was atleast a 7 or 8 yesterday.

What really changed today? I do not know.

Every so often I am happy or not-so-happy without any rhyme or reason.

I left for work at 9:00 AM.

I strolled for almost a kilometre before catching a rick and travelling to office which is a stone’s throw from home.
As I was travelling to office, I looked at the sky. It looked so pretty with its amazing hues. God is an amazing painter!
I reached office and was welcomed by so many smiling faces.
Office is generally bustling with energy and no matter how you feel inside, you feel great at office.
I sat on the chair and looked at my workstation. This is my canvas, I thought to myself and I am going to create a masterpiece.

My ‘state of mind’ was a 7 again!


Friday, September 12, 2014

The Rose in My Balcony

A few months back, I bought a tiny rose plant from a nearby nursery. The plant looked really nice with blooming white flowers embellishing its exterior. I ordered a large ceramic pot to plant it. My domestic help who is deft in all these jobs planted it with great care. We then waited for it to grow & bloom.

However, as days passed by the plant started to wither. Its leaves started wilting & flowers started drooping. A few friends who I believe have a real flair for gardening said that it will take time but will eventually grow. A few weeks went by & I continued to water it every morning in the hope that a beautiful English rose plant will ornate my balcony one day. However, even after two months there was no sign of life in the plant. Alas! We had to declare it dead.
 
A few months later, I visited the nursery again & chanced upon the idea of buying another rose plant. I had that empty pot in my balcony & had been toying with the idea of growing a rose plant in my house since a long time. I was warned by my domestic help that it might still not grow this time. However, I still bought the plant & planted it with definite scepticism. I was convinced that it required extraordinary care to grow an English rose.
 
Days passed by and I continued watering the plant every day. Every passing day strengthened the confidence in me that this plant might just live. Finally after two weeks we saw new red leaves sprouting on the tender stem. And few days later a tiny bud appeared on the plant. The bud gradually matured into a beautiful pink English rose. A few days later another bud appeared and it also blossomed into a beautiful rose. Thus finally I could realize my wish of growing a beautiful English rose plant in my balcony.
 
The entire incident made me marvel at the amount of randomness in our lives and in this universe. I realized that things every so often happen or do not happen without any underlying reason and there is a large element of fluke in everything we do. Mathematics has defined this randomness through probability and its complicated equations. However, what bothers me is that so many wonderful things in this world would have been forsaken by seeing others fail. For instance, if that second rose plant would not have grown, I would have definitely given up.  

Therefore sometimes in life it is not about changing priorities and giving up, just trying one more time can make all the difference!
 
Keep walkingJ