Guldasta

A bouquet of flowers picked along the way ….

Hello Stranger October 12, 2013

Filed under: conversations,Inspiration,Travel — gurdas @ :

A couple weeks ago we had our second couchsurfing experience and just like the first one, it left behind positive vibes. However, unlike the first one, this time we were the hosts. For the uninitiated, couchsurfing is a social network where you get a couch and give a couch. A couch implying a place to park your belongings and sleep. So, basically, you’d either end up sleeping in a stranger’s house or have a stranger sleep in yours.

Couchsurfing_logowithphrase-small

Are you CRAZY !!??

The idea sounds a bit crazy given the *mad about security* times that we live in. On a closer look, it isn’t as mad as it sounds. Couch surfers have profiles, they get recommendations, and give recommendations. And thus, there is a system of trust built around your history as a couchsurfer. Other obvious rules apply, such as, it is better to have a well written profile with reassuring descriptions and pictures.

The first time we couchsurfed was during our visit to Washington, DC in 2011. Recall, I am a PhD student with a family. That is just a sophisticated way of saying I cannot afford a vacation without collateral damage to other monthly necessities. In comes couchsurfing, where I’ve been a member for years but never really participated. Within no time we found a “couch” which was actually a small apartment all to ourselves. Our host, George, gave us the keys to his apartment and went to live in his mother’s home a couple blocks away. His mother was on vacation in Europe. Unbelievable. We’ve only known George during our search for a couch. So, here’s a guy who is ready to trust not just his space, but his complete house to strangers. The risk is not always monetary, but it is there. A more real challenge is having to cope with the idea that you have to share your space with strangers. What if they are untidy but you are a clean freak. How about loud versus quiet? George underlined my believe that humans have a lot to celebrate for. And it is okay to trust.

Which we did when we hosted The Wilhelm Brothers, a two member folk rock band based out of Ashvelle, NC. It was a short one night stay and we wish they could have stayed for another day. I hardly got half as many stories out of them as I wanted to 🙂 But they were on tour for their new album, Lay Your burden Down. Both Cristoff and Chris were easy going, polite, and clean. We hope they had a comfortable stay and will visit us again.

The benefits greatly outweigh the risks. The stories you hear and the experiences you collect can be transformational, create lasting memories, or at least make good coffee table cpnversations. If you enjoy human connections, seek strangers. I am inclined to say we’ve tasted both sides of the couchsurfing cake and “We’r Lovin’ It”.

Half, Better Half, Chris, and Cristoff

Half, Better Half, Chris, and Cristoff

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1984 – The Sikh Massacre in Delhi August 29, 2009

Filed under: conversations,Ethics and Values,India,Religion — gurdas @ :

Reproduced below is a recent Facebook dialogue between me and friends about the 1984 Sikh massacre in Delhi, India. The dialogue is presented verbatim with correction of typos.

1984

About 3000 Sikhs were killed in 2 days in Delhi, Nov. 1984

Gurdas – 1984, Delhi, India. 3000 Sikhs massacred in less than 48 hours. That is one Sikh every minute. Not shot in a riot or street wars, but burnt alive in front of their families. Not in some distant corner, but in the capital of the nation. 25 years, and 10 enquiries later not one high profile conviction. We will NOT forget. http://www.sikhchic.com/1984

Deepanjan  – And we are a civilized and tolerant people!

Pawandeep  – Sometimes, it’s not the people. It is the State!

Gurdas  – Deeps: Well said. I gave up the notion of Indians being tolerant a very long time ago. We are amongst the world’s most racist, violent, and intolerant race. Pawan: I am not sure I understand your comment. Are you saying the State is accountable and not the people who participated in this pogrom? But isn’t the State a collection of individuals. I have no anger towards the government (as a body) or the population of Delhi (again as a body). The moment you say State, Government, etc it makes accountability very difficult. My anger is directed and pin pointed at every individual (starting from Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to Congress man Jagdish Tytler to the Poilceman who watched silently to every person who burnt, raped, and looted). And in that sense, I will say it is not the State, it is individuals. Try these individuals, hold them accountable, and justice will be delivered.

Gagandeep  – Given the way the trials are now going, I will not be surprised if anybody does not get any sentence…Notwithstanding other reasons, this is the most likely outcome also because

1. This is in a way similar to what happened in Gujarat Riots.. hard to pick up individuals except the Chief Minister and his aides directly… as the people who did it is a mob, which does not has any face..

2. Evidence against Tytler is minimal, and CBI has already given a clean chit to it.. then PM is no more..

These are also the reasons I tend to agree with Manmohan s’ take on it… Can’t keep this issue alive always in our hearts.. Move on.. and let the law take its course..And. I think the more one carries hatred and anger in one’s heart about this, the more bad for him individually and the more the possibility of him getting exploited politically..

Gurdas  – Gagan: Totally disagree with you. And here is why:

1. Delhi is different from Gujarat, where the violence was widespread and sometimes in remote areas. With 1984, the massacre is dead center Delhi. The mob has many faces and some are seen in the few pictures available. But not every face needs to be seen. How about the police stations under whose jurisdiction the areas of violence lies? They can be held accountable to begin with. And the CM and everybody else in the line of control. When you hold them responsible, the truth will come out. The policeman will be forced to tell he had orders to not act, and so on.

2. I am a big fan of accountability. And here is why 1984 is important. If justice had been done then, Gujarat might never have happened. We cannot walk away from this injustice and forget it. Not only because of the victims of 1984, but the future victims we will create by giving the message that mobs in India are free to kill.

3. There is incriminating evidence against Tytler. At least enough to not let him go scott free. I strongly recommend reading “When a tree shook Delhi” by Mitta and Phoolka. I quote this particular book because it is written by a journalist and a lawyer, both of whom are considered experts on 1984.

4. About the issue of forgetting it – I agree with forgiving and moving on. But, who do I forgive? Nobody has asked for it yet! Remember, 1984 is like an open wound. If the Sikhs have to forget it, somebody has to heal that wound. And that healing will come from justice. If Jagdish Tytler (just to name a person) stands up and says “I am sorry. I will repent by serving the community for next 10 years” I will go hug him and forgive him. You cannot forget a wound which is still bleeding, right? For those whose families were murdered, 1984 is ongoing….

5. The law is not taking its course. That is the whole point. I refuse to believe that the government is unable to find evidence. In fact the government is shoving evidence under the carpet. There are pictures where faces are clearly visible, there are recorded statements about Tytler, the list is endless … again, I point you towards the book by Mitta and Phoolka (which I am currently reading). I must repeat that my anger is very directed. I have no anger towards Rahul Gandhi for example. And I am also a firm believer that public pressure can do wonders. Even get justice. It took just one shoe thrown at Chidambaram for justice to creep out and show its face. I am against violence as a course of action. My ethics teach me to stand by the weak, to fight injustice. If I stop doing THAT, THEN I will have NO peace. I am not interested in the pseudo peace that comes from shirking away from my responsibility.

Gagandeep  – Gurdas, I agree with you conceptually that the justice should be done.. but what makes you believe that after 25 years there is a possibility of any justice..?? Accountability in the communal violences is much more difficult to come… the sooner you realize this.. at more peace you will be… Else, frustrations of injustice will never end in the SIKHs mind.. and GOD only knows when those bottled frustrations will give rise to another ugly act of violence….

Amit  – Gurdas, I totally agree with you that justice needs to be served. No doubt. But the problem, I think, is there is no unified attempt to demand justice from the govt or judiciary. No concentrated effort. It’s usually once a year news on TV channels on the anniversary of the sad event. Most victims and their families have moved on and are waiting for some kind of outcome of this case. The longer you wait for a trial, the weaker it becomes. Like Gagan said, when a mob is on riot, everyone is equally guilty. To expect that a ruling govt will try their own leaders in court is highly unexpected in India. Justice delayed is justice denied. While I am hopeful that the culprits will be brought to justice some day, it might just be too little too late.

Gurdas  – Amit: Two notable points:

1) There is a unified effort in the form of justice committees formed between lawyers and victims. Just that the government is dragging its feet and trying every possible trick of subterfuge.

2) Delhi had enough army stationed in and around the city to wage a war, let alone stop a MOB. I highlight mob because this was not a mob! A mob in an impromptu congregation of violent individuals. What happened in Delhi was an organized rampage in complicity with city leaders. There is a reason why people like Jagdish Tytler are being protected. I have a suspicion that if he did get charged so many skeletons will come out, that many of Congress’s top brass will be behind bars. Like you said, I do not see that happening.

Amit  – Gurdas, When I said unified effort, I meant by the general public – victims or concerned citizens. And they too will need a strong and influential leader to get it heard anywhere. I would rather  not depend on committees formed by lawyers. But again, who has the time? And for how long? As for Army not responding to the riots, when the riots take place at the behest of the ruling govt. neither army nor police will move a muscle. Whatever happened was evil and unfortunate. I am not sure what’s the best way to put a closure on this case. The political, judicial and police system are too corrupt and colluding to get justice. If you were looking for a high- profile name to be tried and sentenced, it’s unlikely now that Tytler has been acquitted by CBI and congress rules at the center.

What’s your take on getting justice?

Gagandeep  – Talking about the efforts, there are efforts underway like the other day when I was in NJ Gurudwara, California-based Jasbir  (one of the witness against Tytler who heard his orders of SIKH Killings in Delhi) had come there to gather support both morally and financially. He gave statements to Nanavati commission in 2002 but CBI said they couldn’t trace him .. and wanted his statements taken again.. in 2004.. He swore he would go any day if called by CBI.. and claims he was not contacted.. even though he admitted there were open threats to him and his family.. He is already in his 70s… There are few witnesses left.. many have already been killed long back.. Those left will not live forever to testify again and again and again.. and Congress knows this very well and is making process delays as their weapon too..

Gurdas  – Amit: To win the game, we need to play it. Or at least cheer those who are playing it. Writing on facebook, sending an occasional email, or other similar efforts are my way of keeping the memory and consciousness alive. And then we wait for the wheels of time to turn. But forgetting it is not an option. Because there are 3000 corpses lying in the middle of Delhi and their stench fills me with disgust. No, I cannot forget until those bodies are given a fitting burial. But one must write responsibly, and not quote stories and rumours. So, I am doing my due diligence of reading what little is out there about 1984 (on Sikh extremism, the subsequent attack on Golden Temple, and Sikh killings in the aftermath of Gandhi’s assassination).

Gurdas  – Gagan: Good input.

Amit and Gagan: May I use this dialogue as an article on my blog?

Amit  – It’s sickening, but not surprising, to learn that the agency entrusted with the responsibility to investigate the incident is lying about the testifying witnesses. Everything is influenced by politicians. If Mr. Jasbir ‘s testimony in 2002 has been brushed under the carpet, and his whereabouts declared unknown, I bet no matter how many times he gives statement, they would all be buried. CBI investigates the case, CBI comes under PMO, PM appoints CBI chief, PM belongs to congress, the alleged convicts belong to congress, good luck with getting justice. As much as it breaks my heart, even if a Sikh PM, who knows all the facts, did not move a brick in the last 5 years in power, who do you think you can rely on for getting justice? Can you think of even one politician ever tried successfully and sentenced? People can donate money and sign statements of support, but what purpose do they solve other than highlighting the case locally, for some time.

Amit – Sure, Gurdas.

Gagandeep – Sure do Gurdas! who knows… One thread less makes the wire snap!

 

Tea off at par friendships May 15, 2009

Filed under: conversations,friends,Me,photography — gurdas @ :

I am an avid tea drinker. Not that I drink gallons of it, just that I cherish each sip. A well brewed cup of tea (and that rules out any tea made by a machine) can do wonders to my mood. I can get almost intoxicated.

And tea has led to many a memorable conversation with family, friends, and strangers. Once in a while, it plays a larger role and a whole friendship is built around it. That is what happened between me and The Patels who live on the floor above. Keta and Baiju Patel had moved to Raleigh a few weeks before I did and they immediately welcomed me into their lives. Baiju is an avid tea person. And Keta is almost a no tea person and yet her tea is worth every moment spent with the cup. 

Keta and Baiju, Fall 2008

Keta and Baiju, Fall 2008

 We would meet often for tea and talk. Recently, Keta went on an India trip for a marriage and during that six odd weeks, Baiju and I met almost every day for tea. Every day at 10 pm. It was something I would look forward to with enthusiasm. Our meeting would be short and yet packed with useful conversation. Baiju was here for a MS in Advanced Analytics and I was taking introductory courses in Statistics; so there was quite a lot of common ground for techie stuff to be discussed. Like today, Baiju educated me on “basket analysis”, something stores like Wal-mart and Family Dollar conduct to find the chain of products a particular shopper would buy. In very simple terms, which buyer will have what products (typically) in his/her shopping basket. And I led Baiju to some outdoor educational videos at REI. So, in that short 15-20 minutes, we had tea and came out better informed about something useful. And at the end of the meeting I would be refreshed and eager to get back to work. Tea plus conversation has that effect on me.

But, this is now coming to an end. The Patels are moving to Charlotte, where Baiju landed a job. I will miss the tea meetings terribly. And by the end of this summer, I will lose almost half of my closest friend circle at NC State. This makes me kind of sad. I take this opportunity to thank The Patels for opening the doors to their house and their hearts. I am wealthier having known you’ll. Bon voyage!

 

The WC and the guard December 3, 2007

I had purchased an apartment last year and, as the building nears completion, some families have moved in. I decided to move in only when the building is fully done. But I am involved in issues of common maintenance and upkeep.

Which brings me to the subject of this blog: the common water closet (WC), its usage, and maintenance.

The ground floor is dedicated to parking and there is provision for a guard room which has an attached WC. Who would have thought the WC would reveal as much as it did how people think and if I am say so, what ails the Indian’s mindset.

My neighbours in the building (some 5 other families) have a major grudge that people other than the guard use this common WC. I on the other hand thought that was exactly its function – that anyone who attends or visits our building and does not have access to the apartments should gladly use our common WC. And since it is in our building, we should be keeping it as clean as we would the bathrooms inside our apartments.

But was I wrong!

Everyone else was of the view that allowing anyone other than the guard to use the WC was unacceptable. Here’s more or less the conversation that took place yesterday during a flat owners review meeting:

Mr. X: And there is the issue of the common WC

Mr. Y: Yes, yes! We should lay down strict norms and ensure the guard does not allow anyone other than himself to use the WC.

Me: I think we need to use a softer approach and one which is both practical and human. I am uncomfortable that someone visiting our building who has the urge to answer nature’s call be refused to use the WC. It is almost inhuman.

Mr. X: You do not understand. The servants and labourers misuse the WC and dirty it. If we enforce upon the guard what is expected then the WC will remain clean.

Me: The best way to keep the WC spic and span is to lock it and not let anyone use it. Not even the guard. (Continuing) On a more practical note I think we need to accept that the WC will get dirty and will demand frequent cleaning. I suggest we simply do three things (1) Ensure we supply adequate cleaning material for the common WC (2) Tell the cleaning person to give the common WC a little more effort (3) Tell the guard he must make all possible efforts to keep it clean and convey the message to whosoever wishes to use the WC

Mr. X: That way we will soon have people from adjoining buildings also using our WC!

Me (I wanted to say “so what?” but toned down to say): We can ask the guard to not allow that. However, we cannot create a fight over it.

Mr. Y: Why should we be concerned? What were these people doing before our WC?

Me: We must accept that going to the toilet is not an act of fun. One needs to do it when one needs to do it. So, either we make our WC available by choice or someone will use it by ‘stealing’ or worse, not use it and take the call in public view (which is a common sight in India).

Mr. Z: The guard will still allow people because it involves his relationship with some of the people working in our building. However, if he knows we discourage this, he will limit the use to minimum.

Me: I again disagree. What you are saying is we force the guard to cheat. We know he must allow some people and at the same time we are telling him not to allow anyone. So, each time the guard allows someone, he knows he has cheated. Which in turn means he will come to dislike the WC. Which in turn means he will disown it. Which in turn means he will give two hoots whether it is clean or not.

Me: I believe we must give the guard the “ownership” of the WC. He is expected to allow anyone. At the same time, he can take the call of not allowing someone who he knows is not taking due usage care. We make the guard the owner and that automatically makes him responsible for cleanliness. Our job is simply to review and supply cleaning material.

They were staring at me as if I was talking Greek.

The gentle argument continued and I was out voted 4:1. It was decided that the guard will be asked not to allow anyone to use the WC.

I came out amused and saddened by this instance of short-sightedness and policy “made to fail”. We were simply creating a liar out of the guard. For no fault of his. We know what is going to happen – many people other than the guard will use the WC.
And what do we do – we do not provide to counteract the truth, we simply make a policy to circumvent the truth. How I wish we had been proactive. What stops us from going so far as to laying an award for the guard if we find the WC as clean as expected? An award of 450 rupees a month would mean just 50 rupees extra contribution for each apartment owner. The benefits are far outreaching than a clean WC. The guard gets more responsible and it will show in his other duties. But most of all, we create a system which functions on its own force.

To me this episode is a mirror to how India functions. From the Parliament, down to nine apartment buildings like mine.

In India, we want to assert our rights on people less empowered than us. We will not provide for what is bound to happen. We will simply create enough laws so that accountability goes for a toss and everyone wins by lying and cheating.

That’s why the country has gone down the flush pipe of a WC.

 

The rebellion of 1994 October 16, 2007

“You cannot start a sentence with ‘but’ or ‘because'”, Mrs. Pandit said in a reprimanding tone as she stared me down.

“Yes, I can”, I said, half expecting to be thrown out of the English Language class. I proved her wrong and she acted hostile for the complete week.

The year was 1994 and my romance with the Queen’s language was at its peak; thanks to the delightful masterpiece “Modern English Usage” by Fowler. I was blind to everything else, including fear of getting into the bad books of the teacher I secretly revered. Mrs. Pandit and I had a strange chemistry. I was never absolutely sure we liked each other and yet at times we were falling short of breath expressing our admiration for the other. She disliked my guts and conspicuous rebellion of some of her language dictums. I disliked her ice-cool demeanour and almost invincible command of the language. I was stubborn, she was stern. Fireworks were guaranteed each time we crossed paths. And the class enjoyed it.

She knew the pride I took in my knowledge of some of the finer nuances of the language. I was embarrassingly bad in certain areas but endearingly elegant in others. My essays never got what, I believe, they deserved. However, once in a while she would write an encouraging remark to keep the rebel within limits. A classic example of carrot and stick approach. But she was good, really good. I hate admitting this, but back then, she was probably better than I.

We also connected outside school. Her elder son was my classmate in previous years so I would visit her house. She used to visit my immediate neighbour and once in while say hello to my parents. God, did I cringe when she did that! And what the hell were my parents doing making small conversation with a sworn enemy?

We parried, cut and medicated each other. Until one day I crossed the line.

I loved the last row of the class. Distant from authoritative teachers, full view of the class crowd and endless gossip on who is going around with whom, the upcoming football match and everything in-between. If there is Heaven on Earth, it had to be the last row of a classroom. That day Mrs. Pandit was spoon-feeding the class with her masterly understanding of Macbeth. While she droned incessantly, trying her best to get some sense into my classmates, I, with my buddies, was lost in ‘personal’ conversation. We did not hear the class going silent, nor did we see them turn and stare at us, some even giggling. Bloody perverts.

“Sunil, Sandeep, Gurdas!”, boomed Mrs. Pandit from beside the blackboard.

“Uh”, said all three of us, coming out of our intense whispered discussion of a certain ‘Miss’.

“It seems you’ll do not need my class”, she said more like a question which should not be answered.

But that was a crazy day and we were heady with spicy stories.

“Yes, we can do without this class”, one of us said. Which one I do not recall.

Followed by an uncomfortable silence as the weight of that sentence sunk into the room. Mrs. Pandit for a second appeared baffled and we could feel ourselves becoming terrified.

“OK, out you’ll go”, said Mrs. Pandit

We walked out with a smirk. We were shit scared but when you have rows and rows of girls waiting to see what happens, there is no option but to act like a man.

“Damn” we said the moment we were in the corridor and out of earshot.

The class ended in 25 eternal minutes and Mrs. Pandit walked out without even a glance at us. This was going to be nasty we thought. Our weekly timetable had the first period as English on four out of five days. The next day Mrs. Pandit walked in and immediately said “OK, out. And go straight to the Principal’s office. I have informed her of what happened yesterday and she would like to talk about it.”

We walked out, not exactly smiling this time. And went straight to the office of Mrs. Datar.

“So, is it true that you informed Mrs. Pandit of not needing to attend the Literature class”, purred a cool Mrs. Datar, clearly enjoying her morning at our expense.

“uh, hmmm Yes”, we said in unison as if that will allow for individual pardon.

“Fine then. Starting today, you are excused from the English class for literature and language until the end of this year”, said Mrs. Datar.

We looked at each other bewildered. That’s it? What kind of punishment is that? Will we get to appear the yearly exams? What of the board exams right after that?

“Your attendance will be marked and you will be allowed to take all exams as usual”, continued Mrs. Datar. What’s the deal with teachers and mothers? Can they hear us think?

We walked out of the Principal’s office hesitantly, unsure whether this was a victory or a defeat. And went straight to the boy’s toilet to relieve ourselves of the nervous mass collecting inside us. Only then did we speak our first words.

“Do you think they will call our parents?”, I asked, remembering that the enemy had sweet access to my camp.
“Let them call if they want”, said Sandeep. Sure! I thought looking at him with a grimace. He had parents who gave two hoots to authority. Mine looked at school like a temple.
“Boss, my dad will throw me out”, said Sunil, hardly audible. Was he choking on himself?
“You come and stay with me then”, said Sandeep, as if that were a real possibility.
“Ya sure. Out of class, out of house and staying with you. What next? We marry each other?”, replied Sunil, regaining some of his famed acerbic humour.

But nothing of that sort happened. To the contrary we made further enemies with our bold demands. The first period (remember was mostly English) begun at 8:20am. The library opened when it struck 8:40am on Mrs. Basu, the librarian’s, wristwatch. We made a case that we had nothing to do and the library should be made available so that we can utilize our time better. Like we really wanted to. An order was passed and the school library started opening at 8:20am, much to the displeasure of Mrs. Basu.

For the next 3months we did not attend any English class. But did keep up with Mrs. Pandit’s notes with help from our only true sympathizers, other backbenchers. All three of us did well in our exams. I excelled in English and topped my batch. But I never approached Mrs. Pandit with my feat, feeling somewhat shy and guilty. On the last day of school, she called out to me in the corridor and congratulated warmly on doing so well in her subject. I think I did not receive that compliment very graciously. Because I knew, if not for her firm guidance, I would never have come so far. And I knew that she knew this. But we did call peace and wished each other well in life.

As time passed I was left with only sweet memories of Mrs. Pandit and we kept in touch one way or the other. Last year (2006), when visiting my hometown, I called Mrs. Pandit and proposed we catch-up. She sounded eager and we fixed a rendezvous that I come down and pick her up from the school where she was vice-principal. I was there well before time, and we spent memorable hours chatting at her place over a cup of tea. She had aged and become more beautiful and earthly. And she thought I had grown into a peaceful, and loving person. I was flattered by that observation. My English teacher was still teaching me, about the language of life and love.

I never fully fathomed the above episode. Mrs. Datar was not known for her kindness and the ‘punishment’ she doled out that day in 1994 was unusual. What had transpired between Mrs. Pandit and Mrs. Datar for her to give us that strange punishment? I will never know. Maybe I will ask Mrs. Pandit when I next meet her.

Lately, Mrs. Pandit has become more visible with a blog and profile on Orkut. She writes moving poetry and “Eternity & other poems”, a compilation of her works, was published by Writers Workshop. The hardback volume is a beautiful maroon red cloth cover with gilded lettering and traditional geometric border. It has a special place in my bookshelf.

 

A day in my daughter’s life October 6, 2007

Surrounded by the din of the marketplace, I began my ritual of reading the newspaper. I had on me merely Rs. 10 for purchasing the two newspapers which carried news of the health camp we conducted yesterday. As I was scanning the pages, my daughter asked me for some money. She must have read the questioning look in my eyes for she promptly said that she wanted to give some money to a poor lady. The poor lady in question was a destitute who had occupied a certain corner of the market for so long that one could not imagine the market without her.

My six year old daughter had a special corner of concern for this lady, for even in the past she has asked me to give that lady some money. I fished out two Rs. 2 coins from my pocket, hesitated for a moment, bemoaning the fact that I did not have a Re. 1 coin and gave one of the 2 rupee coins to my daughter. She instantly disappeared with the coin and I burrowed myself in the newspaper. I had hardly moved a paragraph that my daughter appeared, tugged at me and insisted that I come and take a look at the old lady. I knew the haggard state of the old lady so I tried to avoid the encounter. Yet my daughter persisted and I gave in. The old lady was dozing, possibly due to the effect of liquor. It was a little disappointing for Harshal that the old lady had not seen her doing the act of charity and understandably it deprived Harshal of some satisfaction.

We ran a stall for handmade aromatic soaps made of natural extracts, and as we headed back to this, the following conversation took place.

Harshal: Papa why was the old lady lying like that?

Me: I don’t know baby, most probably she was sleeping.

Harshal (giggling to herself): Is this the place to sleep?

Me: But Harshal , she does not have a home.

Harshal (a bit concerned this time): Does she have food to eat?

Me (haltingly): Most probably no.

Harshal: Papa are you not someone who helps the poor?

Me (at this stage a mixture of emotions – pride, guilt, feeling small and yet concerned): Yes Harshal, but there are too many poor in the world, I cannot help all of them.

Harshal (after some silence): You had ten rupees with you didn’t you?

Me: Yes, I did! Harshi

Harshal (almost seizing my words): So why did you not give it to the old lady. At least she could eat something for today.

I did not reply to her after that. We kept walking silently amidst the humdrum. For a while all the noise faded in my mind as it retraced its steps back to see the prostrate figure of the old lady. Where will she spend her night? What does she look forward to for the next day? What could I have done for her? What can I do for all these poor? I am already trying, but is this enough?

 – by Anurag Jain

– – – –

Anurag and I go back a long way. Some 18 odd years. We first met on the playground in his neighbourhood. He was a fierce competitor and the best leg-spin bowler I have faced. After high-school, we moved on with our lives, each pursuing an engineering degree in different universities. Until we got together again last year. He had mellowed and that somehow made his fierce desire to get things done more visible. Both he and Shikha (who he met during his engineering days and later married) left their jobs to take-up the social cause of enabling the urban poor, through the vehicle of NEEV (New Education and Environment Visions).

 Shikha and Anurag Jain (Jamshedpur, India, June-2007)

– – – –

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A dialogue between husband and wife, Part 4 October 5, 2007

This is the 4th and concluding part of the dialogue. For part 1 go here, part 2 go here and part 3 go here.

.

“Ladoo! which world are you in?” asked a bemused Sanjeev, his face like a child who has caught his mother eating cookies on the sly.
“I saw you staring at our wedding picture with a look that was rather funny”, he said in a jovial tone.

“Sorry love, I had drifted away. Thank God!”, said Nandita

“Thank God what?” he said sounding very curious.

“Nothing, just a bad day-dream. Let me hurry and set our breakfast. I am famished”, said Nandita, rising from the sofa.

“Hello? it’s Sunday. Remember, my day of setting the breakfast?? You seem really lost. Are you OK?”, said Sanjeev, now sounding doubtful and a little worried.

Nandita smiled and sank back into the yellow-blue pillow covers on the sofa.