Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Little Manu's promise

“Ei Ramamurthyyyyyy!”

There she goes again! Not a day of my study holidays has passed without me hearing a shriek from that girl. That’s Manu for you, the little brat next door. Hardly six years old, she would easily give you the impression that it was she who was born before you.

Back to what I was talking about, this person who is being yelled at, is her poor grandfather. Given that even her grandfather, Mr.Ramamurthy, who retired from the railways, is acknowledged only by his first name, how can I, a mere 20 year old neighbour doing her graduation, even dream of being spared? Manu calls me Sundari, right royally, as if she had given me the name.

Let’s return to the story of our little princess. The shrieks are not uncommon on a weekday morning. The battle is for the remote control. While Ramamurthy Sir would want to watch the news bulletin at 8, Manu would want to watch Scooby Doo in Cartoon Network. “What thatha, today Scooby will drive that ghost away and you don’t want me to watch it?”

Obviously, thatha understands nothing of the world of cartoons and would beg, “Five minutes, Manu, I will just look at the headlines.”

Manu, however would have none of it. “Thatha, you don’t know anything. Do you know what detectives do? You don’t understand anything,” Of course it goes without saying that our daring princess wins the ensuing battle. The ‘Ei Ramamurthy,” comes at an instant when she would grab the remote.

And mind you, she doesn’t stop with that. The intelligent girl would thrust the daily newspaper in her grandfather’s hands and settle down before the idiot box with her plate of tiffin.

Ramamurthy Sir is an epitome of patience. He is the ideal picture of a retired man, living his life in peaceful resignation. Always dressed in a white shirt and dhoti, his freshness is only enhanced by the fragrant sacred ash that runs generously across his forehead. He would never fail to wish a brisk good morning to my dad, his neighbour, while both of them are busy picking flowers for the morning puja in their respective homes. Once in a while, he would dutifully enquire about how my studies were progressing and would mumble a sincere blessing when we parted.

“Someday, even Manu would grow up to be like you,” he would smile and continue, “for all you know, she would grow so quiet then. I really don’t know whether I can bear to see her quiet.”

At about quarter to four in the afternoon, he would finish his coffee and walk up to Manu’s school which is ten minutes distance from where we stay. Manu would come rushing out of the gate towards thatha, tell him stories of all that happened in school that day, in one excited breath that would calm down only when they reached the gate of their house, with thatha paying rapt attention, all the way. It’s such a pleasure to watch the old man walking slowly along side a small kid, two people at two extreme ends of life’s spectrum, bound together by a tender understanding called love. The calm and maturity of the aged and the excitement and frivolity of a kid, to me would seem, as one of the rarest pairs of opposites that glows with an exquisitely subtle beauty.


Today’s morning has been unusually quiet. I saw Manu leaving with her Dad for school. No fuss, no noise. Something ought to be wrong. While am wondering, Dad informs me that Ramamurthy Sir has been down with high fever since last evening.

In the evening, I tell Manu’s mother that I would go and pick her up from school. “Don’t bother Sundari, I will manage,” she says. “No, no aunty, absolutely no problem. You take care of Ramamurthy Sir. I am anyway bored, I will get her back from school,” I convince her.

Manu comes running, in an expectant mood but I can read the disappointment in her face when she sees it isn’t thatha but I, who has come to pick her up.

I take the lunch bag from her and we begin walking.
“Sundari, Why hasn’t thatha come? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing Manu, thatha needs some rest, that is all. Tomorrow he will be fit as a fiddle,” I tell her. She isn’t convinced. We walk back home quietly.

Back at home, she dumps her bag, washes her feet and runs towards her grandfather’s room. She stands close to him, as he lies on his bed, his hands resting on his stomach. “Thatha,” she calls out softly and pauses, unsure whether she was disturbing him. “Thatha,” she calls out once again, a little louder this time.

As I stand in a corner, I turn a passive observer. I see Manu’s little fingers holding as much as she can of thatha’s fingers. Slowly, she places her head on his chest and I see tears running down her cheeks. “Thatha,” she says amidst sobs, “You watch whatever news you want on TV, I won’t ask for the remote,” and she gently strokes his chest as she gets up. Thatha holds her hand and then ruffles her hair, “Manu Kanna, I will be alright soon,”

“Really?” she questions sobbing, “When?”
“Tomorrow,” he replies. She hugs him and runs out of the room, while the overwhelmed grandfather lets out a small laugh. I stand here, stupefied, struck by the purest form of love and innocence - a small face with large eyes, an almost unnoticeable nose, a soft, round mouth, and two small pony tails behind those tiny ears, the sweet innocence called Manu that jumped and ran out of the room now.

It’s been a week since I witnessed that touching moment. Within two days from then, I saw grandfather and granddaughter back in action and Manu does seem to be keeping up her promise. No more s-h-r-i-e

“Ei Ramamurthyyyyyy!”

Now, wait, what’s that? Did I say no more shrieks? I am afraid not, for it seems, the battle has begun yet again!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

In conversation..

She caressed the delicate, bright coloured petals of the flower in her hand. Soaked in the gentleness, the flower smiled lightly, blessed the kind hearted soul for her affection.

”What bothers you, young child?” asked the flower, taking her by surprise. “Your affectionate touch does carry a strain of sadness that you are trying so hard to shield from me.”

To which she replied,”You, my fresh blossom, never lack in kindness. Tell me, do you understand this strange feeling of mine, which is even more puzzling because of its inexplicability?”

“My friend,” said the flower gently, “If speaking your heart out could relieve you of the burden that pains you so greatly, I am delighted at the very thought of being a sincere listener.”

The flower saw her face grow pale, drained of blood.
”Why do I feel so helpless when it comes to certain things?” she questioned, her eyes lowered and lost in the shadows of her long eyelashes.

Thus replied the flower swaying lightly:

“My dear child, your words flow like softest ripples down the brook. I shall refrain from making flawed assumptions. I know your difficulty in putting forth your trouble, yet, I urge you to try and speak up.”

“Kind flower,” she whispered and stayed quiet, like she was searching her soul for the right words. “I feel incomplete because I am unable to face truth. I am unable to relieve myself from the pain that torments me.”

At this the flower fell silent, lost in thought.

She drew comfort from that silence. “Flower, it’s a void, a shallowness that I experience.”

“Suffering, my child, is it!” was the flower’s erudite response.

“Yes, yes,” she whispered softly. “Why do I have to,” she sighed deeply, “suffer?”

The flower watched and listened, as her voice choked. “I cry and brood over fate. Why should I long for what’s not in my hands, despite having realised the futility of it?”

“My dear, I would call that a self imposed suffering,” said the flower.

“But, kind flower, what am I to do? Is it wrong to desire for something?”

The flower appeared calm and still, went ahead in a voice so crystal clear. “Lady, you are so child like,” It threw a radiant gaze and continued, “Realise that when a want arises, suffering finds its way.”

Her face appeared flushed. “But why on earth?” she questioned.

“Simply because achieving what you desire is influenced not just by you, but by a million factors that lie beyond your control. If all works fine, you get what you want, if they don’t, you suffer.” came the flower’s thought provoking response.

“Flower, do you mean that suffering is the direct consequence of desire? “

“Yes and No,” it said. “Yes, for the aforesaid reason and no, because suffering as a consequence, can still be averted. In simpler terms, as much as your control plays a part in achieving your desire, it plays a much bigger role in averting suffering.”

“You confuse me, my knowledgeable blossom,” she sighed.

The flower chuckled. “It simply means that most of the pain is self imposed. It means that the consequence is a matter of your choice.”

“Is that what you called self-imposed suffering?” she questioned in a tormented voice.

“Yes. Now that you give me an impression of having gained some understanding, I shall explain a little further,” said the flower and paused to throw a sideward glance to gather signs of approval.

She nodded.

“Very well,” it said, “The choice that I spoke about is what you intend to do at two levels. One is to avoid the root of all problems. You could choose to not desire for anything and lead a life of what the world calls a saint. The second is when you desire to possess something, but you prepare yourself to face the best and worst of it. Do you understand?”

“Ahem, yes, I guess so,” she said.

“I quite don’t like that trace of doubt in your voice,” the flower replied. “Let me take your case,” it said, trying to explain further, ”You said you cry and brood over something that you desired but could never achieve. Didn’t you?”

“Yes,” she mumbled.

The flower continued breathlessly, “Now dear, think about it. Didn’t life present you a big choice there? Wasn’t it you who chose to cry and brood over it?”


“Sweet friend, my sincere advice to you would be to not to lose the present, pining for what’s not going to land in your lap. May be you did deserve it, yet it didn’t happen, but should you let that come in the way of the present and the future? Ponder, child, ponder.”

She remained silent.

“There are two choices. You could burn yourself down to ashes or you could rise from them like a phoenix. The choice is absolutely yours.”

“But, flower, isn’t it easier said than done?”

“True, it isn’t easy to let go but, it isn’t impossible. Time and experience perfects an individual. You will learn.”

“You are indeed kind,” she smiled, “you made me feel much better.”

“Delighted,” said the flower, “Just a word more,” it said. “I have a lesson for you from my life. I laughed and thrilled myself when the sun’s golden rays touched down on me. I bloomed and smiled my widest when he was around. Today I lie in your hands, but I don’t regret the present, nor do I desire for what went by. Tomorrow, I will be a withered flower and day after, I would be gone. But, I am glad I made the present useful, by helping you,” said the flower and smiled.

Her eyes sparkled and she took the flower close to her lips and whispered, “I will try my best, I will, I promise.”

The flower kissed her gently on her cheek.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Do you really care for your money??

Well, do you? If you still are thinking of an answer, you better read ahead! I thought I would have a slightly different post (something non literary and kinda journalistic!) this time and I decided on Money Management.

How many of us are fully aware of what Money Management is? As much as we slog lengthy hours at office to earn the big buck that many of us make, we fail to recognise the magic that well planned investments can do for us. I personally have known, quite a few people who leave their money idling in Savings accounts without streamlining these into investment avenues that could earn much better returns. There are a gamut of options today - Mutual Funds (through Systematic Investment Plans), PPF, debt instruments, real estate and what not! Certainly, our ignorance can't come in the way of the magic that good money management can do for us!

Financial Planning isn't rocket science.. And wouldn't it be even better if you had a blogger specifically telling you how to go about managing your money in an interesting way? Do check out Money Plants!!

Friday, January 13, 2006

And I wished..

The atmosphere was electric. Colourful silk saris, the fragrance of jasmine and sandalwood paste in the air; men clad in silk dhotis hurrying about their business; a hair-raising kalyani rendered through the nadhaswaram, listeners nodding their heads intently; Laughter widespread, overjoyed expressions..

Through those rows, sitting much behind, among those pattu paavadais that appeared and disappeared in a flash, I saw her..glowing calmly like the tender flame of a candle; A docile girl carrying a beautiful smile, her eyes flickering with intelligence and the spark of her age..

Then she turned around, right in time, to catch me staring at her and a mischievous smile passed over her face. She walked down, put her hand on my shoulder and asked..
"Oh thatha, what are you looking at?"
"Nothing kanna," I said, "I was thinking you should get married soon."

"Ayyo thatha.." she smiled shyly and in a flash, disappeared.

Friday, January 06, 2006


Ms. Sarah Parker. Yes, that is me. It’s been a day since I have moved into our lovely cottage in Yorkshire and right now, am sitting by the window watching the light drizzle outside. Dad is fabulous. When I tell you that I find my residence so amazingly beautiful, I owe it to him. The smell of fresh paint still hangs in the air. Mr. Parker knows his daughter’s tastes too well and I must admit he has made sure that I have had all of it around me. Dad has made sure he would give it all, when he has the chance, may be his last one.

Martha is busy pulling out a fresh bed sheet and spreading it over my bed. She is busy dashing in and out of the room. This time, she is carrying one of my paintings, struggling rather. Meet Ms. Martha Harper, the tall English girl with beautiful curls and dark, piercing eyes and yes, my childhood friend, and my maid’s daughter.

“Martha, need some help?” I ask her, while she tries to hang on the wall, a landscape painting that I had done about four years back.
“Nope dear, I can manage. Give yourself all your time to watch that,” she smiles and points at the glass shutter of the window by my side.

Drip, drip, drag, drop.
Drip, drip, drag, drop.
Drop, drop..Drop where?

What are these drops teaching me? That nothing could stay on forever? That someday you have to descend and drop down into chasms unknown? That someday you dissolve into oblivion?

Dated 23rd September 1968

My dear diary,

I realize my last entry has been about three months back where I have complained of a bad, bad headache. It seems like ages between that day and today, and there is a lot that happened in these days. Lots. That these ninety days seemed longer than the twenty four years that I have lived on this planet.

Within a week following that headache, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor in its advanced stage. My hands refuse to move, dear Diary. Tears are already welling up in my eyes and I feel a lump in my throat. A chill runs down my spine. Why am I falling into this mode of self pity?

I am proud to tell you that I have come to terms with it after the initial shock. It was almost like the entire world has closed in on me, when Dad told me this three months back. Dad has handled it equally well too. We just know we have to go ahead. But, tell me, am I not human too? Sometimes I can’t escape the gravity of self pity. It sucks me in, especially when you know your best times are yet to come and you may not be around to see and live it. Diary, it is even worse when you realize that you are in love..

Good night,

It’s around seven in the morning. I decide to take a stroll in the garden for I am not able to sleep anymore. Dad left for London last night, to collect my latest test reports. There is a great possibility that Edward might drop in along with Dad, when Dad returns this weekend.

“Good morning,” Martha’s brisk voice greets me. “Isn’t the place so beautiful now?” she questions. For a moment, she is lost in her own thoughts, though she quickly realizes that and turns to me, “I will be right back with a glass of milk for you.”

I smile and turn around. Yes, like Martha mentions, the place is utopian. Lush green everywhere and the rain’s freshness sits atop that I earnestly wish I could soak myself in it.

After lunch, I insist that Martha read some poetry out to me. Frost and Longfellow today, I tell her. It is such a strain to read for ten minutes together these days. I am glad Dad agreed to my request to get Martha to be with me. It’s through her that I am living my life now, doing what I would have loved to do all by myself.

Dated 25th September 1968

Hi Diary,

I hadn’t intended to come back this early to you. I get so easily exhausted writing these days, that I take breaks and write. I can’t get Martha to write this for me. These are deepest feelings that I can convey through no one else but myself.

Just now I got to listen to some poetry. It’s so relaxing and brings me back memories of graduation days at London. Literature is awesome. No one would know that better than you, for that’s when I had gotten into this habit of writing to you.


Sorry, I had to stop that in the afternoon. I am excited, for tomorrow, Edward is here. Dad sent word that Edward is joining in. Now, aren’t you wondering who this is? Well, to give you the briefest introduction, he is Dr. Edward Johnson, the one who has been treating me, about 18 years elder to me and the man I am in love with..

Shall write more tomorrow.


Edward is already at the table by the time I am dressed and out. Dad throws a warm smile and waves his hand. I wave back and look at Edward, who is deeply engrossed in the newspaper.

“Morning, Edward..”
“Oh,” his head pops out of the newspaper. “Sarah..”
I pour out tea for both of them.
“Martha, could you fetch that pack of cookies? I shall get the milk ready for the two of us. ”
“In a minute sweetheart.” And Martha disappears behind the curtains.

Edward is dressed in a light blue casual shirt and a pair of deep blue jeans. I take a moment to look into his eyes. What do I see? Love or am I imagining it?

I tell Edward we could take a walk round the garden.
“Sure,” he smiles and reassures Dad who fears that I am straining myself.

“How do you feel?” he asks me.
“Never better,” I smile. I can see it in Edward’s eyes – that he has read the sorrow behind the smile.

I tell him I really wished I could get back to picking up Spanish and reading some more on Latin American cultures.
Edward promises to send along books. “Or why don’t you pick them up from me, when you come for your treatment in ten days?” he suggests. “I shall collect them from the library for you.”

”Thank you Edward, you really are a big help.”
“My pleasure,” he says so sweetly.

Dated 26th September 1968

My dear Diary,

As you might have guessed, I feel elated and relaxed today. I got to spend considerable time with Edward. We spoke of nearly everything – poetry, music and he filled me in with the latest theater fest in the capital. I wish I could be around to watch it.

And guess what Edward shyly confessed today? His wife Rachel is carrying their second child. I really wish they have a pretty, pretty daughter this time, after a son. Little Dave is so cute. Edward had gotten him to the hospital when I was undergoing my first level treatment in London.

I am sure it is obvious to you now that I am in love with a married man, leading a blissfully peaceful life with a beautiful wife and an adorable family. And I am in love with him, without him even having the slightest hint about it.

Have you ever thought how it feels to be this way? I pause because of the paucity of words. It’s like holding all your dreams in a bunch, trying really hard to hold them from drifting away, but in vain; For, they do, they do drift away like weightless wisps into thin air.

Edward leaves early morning tomorrow.

See you soon,

P.S: There is something that I want to share with you. I attach the piece of paper to this page.

Meeting Dr.Johnson

11th August 1968

I met Dr. Edward Johnson under the worst of circumstances, definitely not in the way I would have liked to. Yeah, it was at the Cancer Research Hospital when he disclosed what I know and have slowly got myself to digest, today.

I don’t wish to get into the details but I would like to recall one incident in particular which brought about this ironical turn of events. It was when Edward told me that I suffered from an incurable brain tumor and gently pressed my hand when I sat motionless. When I looked up, I was already in tears and that passing instant, when I looked into his eyes, I fell for the calm in his eyes.

I fell into his arms, that of a complete stranger and sobbed, as my Dad watched. I loved the security of his embrace as he stroked my hair and patted me. I cried I don’t know for how long and I didn’t care for his time and nor did Edward resist. He let things flow freely and didn’t give false promises. He never said that everything would be alright. Had he said that, I would have called him a blatant liar!

I owe it to Edward for transforming the experience of my treatment from being dull and lifeless to a courageous battle that ought to be fought. Every time that I had gone there, Edward made it a refreshing experience for me. He revealed great interest for music (the piano especially), for Keats and performing arts.

I grew to like him for the synchrony he brought to our conversations. I never felt like I was talking to someone different from me and yet he was different. A vibrant personality, I found him to be an extrovert, unlike me. I saw in him all that I had wanted to be myself.

And suddenly one day, I really wished I could swim in the oceanic blues of his eyes and lose myself completely, leaving the present behind. That day I knew I was in love and I felt blood rush up my veins in what seemed to be an otherwise lifeless existence.

So much for Edward Johnson. Should I regret that he walked into my life only now or feel happy that he came in at least now?


While Edward leaves, he promises me my books again. I can read fear in Dad’s eyes and even in Martha’s. I am sure Edward has told them what he told me during our walk.

It’s a dizzy feeling to think of a moment when everything comes to a grinding halt. It’s true that mortality is the inevitable truth but even rock hard determination can’t stop some questions from popping up – what would Dad do after I am gone? Even Mom isn’t around. Isn’t it a worse punishment for him to suppress his feelings just because he wants his daughter to be happy?

I feel like running up to God and asking him another chance. Trust me, Life is so beautiful and many of us don’t realize it till an end to it, is at sight. Once that is near, the fear returns through the dark, when the world sleeps. It’s tough. It really is.

“Sarah..” Edward shakes me up. He pats my cheek and says that he hopes to see me soon. I smile and I feel I could take a plunge into the sea. I take Dad’s hand into mine and lean on his shoulder.
”Dad, I love you..”

Dated 27th September, 1968

Dearest Diary,

I feel like a child today, a child chasing fresh bubbles, each bubble a simple wish – to wake up and watch the gentle morning sun, to chase butterflies, to hug dad, to joke with Martha, to read, to write, to explore, to love Edward forever.

I hope the bubbles don’t burst….. Or.. will they?

Sarah Parker.