Guldasta

A bouquet of flowers picked along the way ….

Kick it On! February 29, 2008

The year was 1985 and I was in the middle of my first crush. On a certain Ms. Rashmi, my 3rd grade Science teacher.

Sometime during those wonder years, we got our first television set. The brand, Televista, now dead for more than a decade, was a household name then. With a 20inch screen, Black&White capabilities, a blue tinted add-on screen to give some colour, and only one channel (state run Doordarshan), this marvel of technology made my home the evening watering hole for the neighbourhood.

8pm on Wednesdays were specially packed. That was when the great Indian song show “Chitrahar” was on air. Supriya, Sujata, Bantu, Pupoon, Guddi, Jhumri and just about everyone between 4 and 14 years and within 50meters of my house would assemble into a small 11feet by 11feet room. Limbs got crushed, clothes lost their shape and nobody cared who sat next to them. On days when Mom was feeling particularly happy, she would pass around those crispy crackers that slipped over a finger like a pipe. Each kid got exactly four, so that all fingers on an arm (except the thumb) got dressed in blue, green, yellow and red.

And there was one person in the room whose job was to kick hard. That person was me.

Now this TV of ours, Televista, developed a syndrome of blanking out without warning. Pop!, completely blank it went every once in a while. After it happened a few times, we discovered that kicking the legs of the table (which it sat upon) would invariably bring it back to life. The longer the duration since the last blank, the more kicks it needed. A thumb rule of 1 kick for every 10 minutes. So, if it blanked after 30 minutes of OK performance, all you needed to do was kick it hard 3 times in quick succession.

What a donkey it made of me. Standing there beside it, ready to kick whenever the screen blanked.

But as with all things children, the routine became a game. In the darkness one could hear shouts of “2 kicks!”,  “no only 1”. This put me under tremendous pressure. To salvage my honour I had to ensure I got the TV alive within the guestimated number of kicks. Over the first few weeks, the room developed a palpable tension from waiting for the next blankout. The TV grabbed as much mindspace as the programmes it displayed.

The game grew. Some of my friends started demanding for the “right to kick”. I acquiesced, reluctantly. I am sure that TV of ours gave back more than its value. It provided exercise, healthy competition, better footballers and real fun.

In all the fun, nobody gave a thought to the table. I am informed that the table stood the acid test of being kicked for about 2 years. After which we replaced the Televista.

Where is that table? I must say “thank you” to it.

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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

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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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