Amusement at the Amusement Park

A memory from a few years back popped up when I and the twins were talking about understanding dog “language”! And they were trying to fit words to different barks, grunts, groans, growls, and whines… it was fun and I had tears running down my face as we rolled with laughter. I recalled having posted in WP something about a dog and its owner at an amusement park we had visited about three or four years back. Sharing it here as the memory brings a smile and a chuckle back again.

“We’re going to an Amusement Park this Saturday,” piped the twins.

“Where?

“On an island.”

“An island?”

“Yes. It’s not too far. We’ll be taking a ferry ride.”

“Okaay… How do you have an island with no sea around?”

“It’s a river island.”

Clicked this from the ferry as we approached the Amusement park at Centre Island.

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Satisfied with this info, I wondered what I’d do at the amusement park. To see me on a normal day, of which, thankfully, I have many in the continuum of ‘good’, ‘not-so-good’, ‘better’ days, you’d wonder why I was skeptical about the amount I’d have to walk and the possibility that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the outing.

Well, my condition is quite unpredictable. I could be walking, bending, and doing things normally… and then, just like that, I’d be laid down with a lumbar disc issue which would leave me unable to walk, sit up or even turn myself on my side in bed; not to mention, the excruciating pain. And then, not to be left behind, are a cervical disc and knees that like to surprise me now and then. So every action, even though I am careful, can trigger terrible consequences. Although I am careful, things can go wrong with the most simple turn or bend I make.

So, I decided I’d be the official photographer and resort to people watching to keep occupied and humored. I wasn’t disappointed. One encounter with a young couple and a grandma with her little grandson makes me laugh even now.

I was sitting on a bench and eating nachos while the rest were doing the rounds of a few rides that they had still to go on. A young, Indian couple with a cute little dog, a 5-month-old pup, sat on the bench behind me. I picked up a conversation about the pup. Soon, a granny, whose grandson was crying sought the pup as a good diversion for the little boy; it worked. He stopped crying and she swapped stories with the couple about their respective pets. I returned to my nachos.

Just as I lost interest in their conversation, the grandma turned to leave, her purpose in speaking to them being achieved. The pup began yapping at her as she walked away and she turned and waved to it. It wagged its tail. Then she turned to leave again and it yapped. This drew my attention back to them and I eavesdropped on the conversation that followed. I admit I’m glad I did… I was getting bored!

The young man apologized for his pup’s incessant barking and thought he should explain it like this:

“He doesn’t want you to go. He wants to talk to you.”

“Yes, yes, I know,” she said, graciously but eager to move on. However, the young man was not done yet. So she lingered a while longer as he continued.

“But he can’t talk, you see,” he explained, as if he were imparting some unknown fact, “that is why he is barking.”

‘She knows that silly!’ my mind said. I was enjoying this little scene that was playing out before me.

“It seems he likes you and doesn’t want you to go. So sorry,” the young man continued. And tried to pacify the pup that was getting shriller and more agitated.

I wondered, ‘why are you going on and on playing interpreter? It’s a dog. It’s barking. Period!’

“Yes,” chipped in his companion, grinning broadly, “he can’t talk our language, no? So he’s talking in his language.” I thought she was done, but she wasn’t.

“We can understand his language,” she said with a broad grin, nodding her head from side to side, “but everyone can’t understand, you see. So don’t mind that he’s barking at you. He’s actually liking you.”

The smile on the lady’s face was no longer amiable and a glazed look replaced the warm one. I could see that she wasn’t sure how to respond to that. Were they daft or did they presume she was daft? She opted to say nothing.

She nodded her head briskly and walked away with a quicker step dreading, I suppose, that he’d drag the inane conversation further.

I was indeed at the Amusement Park and I’d had a quiet laughter ride with no risk of injury!

Zach-in-the-box – very short stories

pexels-cottonbro-4720370 Jack

 

“Please Mama, don’t send me to school,” pleaded Zachariah.

“Zach, honey, I understand how you feel, but Grandma’s school is only up to Grade three. You’ve passed Grade three, remember?” said his mother patiently. This wasn’t the first time they were having this conversation.

It had been difficult for Zacharia to settle into the new school, and the repercussions were felt at home too. Zach was dyslexic and found it hard to keep up with the rest of the class. The impatience of teachers and sniggers of classmates didn’t help either. But a few months later, Zach stopped complaining much to the relief of his parents and ‘Gramma’.

“Oh no, Mrs. Sethi’s class,” sighed Zach as he took out his English Reader. Mrs. Sethi didn’t seem to understand Zach’s problem and would constantly intone, ‘Concentrate Zach, concentrate. You’re never going to learn if you don’t c-o-n-c-e-n-t-r-a-t-e!’

“No problem, I have my box” he whispered to calm his nerves. “I didn’t have to lug my box to Gramma’s school, though. How I loved going to that school.”

Then he got into his box just as Mrs. Sethi entered the class. Zach felt secure inside his box. He found it a a bit dark but that didn’t bother him much. It was better than trying to concentrate all the time.

‘I become stupid when I concentrate,’ he mused. ‘Why can’t people understand that? Mrs. Sethi thinks I’ll become clever if I improve my concentration. But I won’t! I don’t understand a word I read when I get all strained and tensed up. Concentrating makes the words jump up and down. It makes me stupid.’

“Zachariah!” Mrs. Sethi’s voice pierced his reverie. Zach jumped out of his box, startling the teacher and the students.

“Yes, ma’am,” he almost shouted.

“Did you find the Learning Tips we discussed helpful?”

“Yes, ma’am, very helpful. I’ll follow your advice,” Zach said nodding his head vigorously . “I’ll try not to disappoint you,” he added, wondering what she had discussed.

“Good!” she smiled, leaving Zach to go back into his box.

How many minutes to go? he wondered. He began to count… one…two… three…four…

Zach was eagerly waiting for the next two classes Art and PT (Physical Training). He enjoyed co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. He liked theatre workshops and Yoga… five… six… seven… eight…

Mrs. Singh never tells me to concentrate when I draw. She’s nicer than Mrs. Sethi, and prettier too! Mr. Basil is cool. He really helps me with my cricket and tennis. Ms. Dolly’s class is fun… nine… ten…eleven… twelve… The bell rang!

“Whoopee!” shouted Zach as he sprang out of his box, startling Mrs. Sethi once again.

“Zachariah! Don’t you dare do that again,” she warned him.

The teachers who understood Zach went on to become his mentors and helped him to develop his confidence. That meant, he couldn’t jump into his box whenever he wanted to. To say it was very difficult for Zach to not get into his box would be an understatement. But with their support, patience, and encouragement, he began to stay out of the box for longer periods.

They taught him that if he wanted to control his life, he would have to control his fears, and his thinking. He’d have to learn to be confident about himself. They guided him and helped him. He followed their advice to think, speak, and act as he wished to be, and then, he would be that which he wished to be. He learned to compete with himself; learning from his mistakes rather than running from them. He built himself into a concentrated dynamo of energy. He began to explore and discover new truths and their value to him. His creative imagination soared and his thoughts and emotions found expression on canvas.

The fear of failure often arose but he never allowed it to settle in. It remained a fleeting thought that didn’t take hold. It couldn’t dominate his competitive spirit. He was moving on and ahead in his life. Confident. Stronger. Doing things that he loved doing. Out of his box!

Zachariah became a movie star. A star who was recognized and acclaimed for his intense performances. So when he had had his fill of being under the spotlight as a brilliant actor, he decided to foray into the sphere of production and direction. Needless to say, his fans and friends and colleagues in the industry had great expectations. His first film, produced and directed by him was released following big hype by the media.

Zach was on tenterhooks when he arrived for the premier of his first directorial venture. He needn’t have worried. No one was disappointed. The audiences loved it. The critics praised it, and Zach himself was more than satisfied with it.

Stars On Earth, his film, was the story of a nine-year-old boy’s trials and his indomitable spirit as he dealt with dyslexia. The movie swept the box-office and garnered all the major awards that year.

Zach had sprung yet another surprise!

PS: This is pure fiction. The only facts are: that I wrote this based on my experiences of having a dyslexic student in one of my classes. Things he shared with me in the private chats I had with him to understand his problems in class. And also with input from one of my nieces who is borderline dyslexic. Both have done well for themselves in life.

This story was first published many years back on whisperingleaves.blogspot.com where I used to blog.

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I Saw Farley At Tim’s – Part 1

This was first published on Capturedjoyaimandshoot.wordpress.com, my photoblog.

In over a year of visiting Tim Hortons, almost every day, this was the first time I saw garbage strewn outside. I had just entered and having bought my tea I sat at a seat near the window. I was shocked to see garbage lying on the sidewalk by the parking area right outside the window.

I knew there was a garbage bin outside but there’d never been garbage on the walk. I was wondering who could be so irresponsible and crass as to not put their trash into the bin carefully. That’s when I saw the culprit – a gull! I immediately christened him Farley, the gull who’s always in search of a snack! He walked out from where he was hidden by the wall. I watched him go about opening closed plastic containers and gobbling the food. I noticed Farley ate what was inside a burger and not the bun which it tossed.

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Farley loved the mayo! Wherever the mayo fell when he tossed, turned and shook what it was he was eating, he went to each white spot and, literally, scraped as much as he could off the ground!

The people at Tim’s and Wendy’s were informed but before they could attend to the mess, he had his time.

There was a plastic bag that was filled with stuff but the bag was tied tight at the top and the plastic was too strong for him to tear. He tried. And tried. Again. 

He dragged the bag off the sidewalk; pulling it with his beak and making stops to peck at it furiously. It was of no use. The bag didn’t give.

Sea Gull

Finally, he gave up and flew off. He’d had his fill.

The mess was cleared soon after and no one would have even known what Farley had done! 

On second thought, I wondered why gulls had to come into a city and eat fast food. It was food for thought and I came back and Googled it. There were a whole lot of articles about it and quite a few not in favor of the seagulls and their forays into the city. There were reasons that seemed valid. I had a lot on my mind when I went to bed. Well, nothing as grand as a plan to save the world or gulls or… but quite a bit!

Domestic Goddess! She’s all that and more – Very Short Stories

“Hurry up darling, give me a fresh towel, please.”

“In a minute Raj. Here you are honey,” she smiles and turns to go back to the kitchen and anxious raised eyebrows replace the smile. She hastens to check on an omelette getting cooked in the pan.

“Did I lower the heat?” she mumbles to herself. “I better run!” She quickens her pace and as she enters the kitchen, she hears her son calling out to her. She’s needed again! A quick check. The omelette is fine.

“Mom! Are you listening? I can’t find my socks. I told you not to tidy my room.”

She opens her mouth to retort – ‘Take a deep breath before you answer,’ says her heart just in time.

“Okay, Kirit, I’ll remember if you remember to tidy it yourself. Your socks are in the second drawer on the left-hand side,” she said on the go and was just in time to take the omelette out of the fry-pan, before it burned, and place it on a plate. The filling, the filling.. quick!.

‘Now for the filling that “gets folded in after and not cooked”, she is amused, and flicker of a smile plays on her lips. She stretches her hand to pick up the grated cheese…Raj didn’t like the cheese as a filling cooked inside. He liked it folded in a hot-off-the-pan omelette; three-fourths-melted; a filling “not cooked”. She grabs the cheese…

“Sweetheart, Where’s the blue tie? The one with the diagonal stripes.”

The cheese can wait. Run baby. Run.

“It’s right here Raj with all the ties,” she says holding back her exasperation. She makes a dash for the door.

“While you’re at it, please keep a fresh handkerchief out too,” grinned her husband.

“Sure Hon.” She takes out a hanky and makes good her escape.

Back in the kitchen, she moves like a whirlwind getting packed lunch and breakfast ready for the family. Omelette and hot buttered toasts for Raj. Banana pancakes and milk for Kirit. Lunch packets for both. Green tea and a cheese-marmalade sandwich for herself.

“Darling, I’m running late today, could you hurry up and give me my breakfast,” said Raj as he sat down at the table and opened the newspaper.

“Hi Mom, can I skip cornflakes, today?”

“No! What’s the big deal? You’re a growing boy and you need proper nourishment.”

“That’s the big deal. Can I have an omelette too?”

“NO!

“But why not?”

“Just in case you have forgotten, you have a working mom. That’s why!”

“So…?”

“So I don’t have the time to whip up an egg and…”

“Chill Mom,” Kirit interrupted, grinning. “I don’t want an egg. I’ve had my cornflakes anyway,” he laughs impishly. She gives him a whack with her napkin, which he dodges and runs off to the bus stop.

“Darling, just listen to this.”

“I can’t sweetheart, I need to hurry too.”

“Babes, you’re going to end up getting sick if you stress this way. Relax.”

“Yeah. I’ll do that Hon.” She zips off to change into her office clothes.

“Hey, you didn’t even kiss me,” she hears him calling out.

“If you can wait fifteen minutes, you’ll get it,” she calls back.

She hears the door close and the car starts up. She’s dressed and dashes off to the stop where the office cab picks her up every day. After a few minutes, she realizes the cab isn’t coming. A quick call to the office confirms her worst fear. She looks at her watch, she’s five minutes late and has missed her cab. The time had changed for pickup. How did she forget!

‘Got to get a cab,’ she thinks and begins to walk. The cab stand is a good ten minutes walk.

“You’re late Neera,” said her senior colleague, in surprise.

“I’m sorry! I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again,” she smiles, managing to be apologetic and charming!

“Hurry Neera, we have to be in the Conference Hall in ten minutes.

“I’ll be right there, you get going.”

She brushes her hair. Checks her lipstick. Picks up her laptop and a few notes she had scribbled on the way. As she walks to the conference hall she feels a nervous tension building up. She has to make a presentation for a very important client. It was a big deal and clinching the deal meant a lot for the company.

Her mobile phone rings.

“Hi Sweets, forgot to tell you, we’ll be having guests over for dinner. Think of some nice Mughlai dishes and let me know what you need to cook up your famous dishes. I’ll get it for you on my way back.”

“Raj,” she says trying hard to keep a cool head. “That’s breaking news! You should have told me earlier. Sorry baby, you know how tied up I am with work. You’re great, you’ll manage very well on your own. Talk to you later, bye!”

She’s at the door of the Conference Room.

She pauses. Takes a deep breath and says, “Here I am Lord! What I am, and what I’m not. Take my natural self and add your ‘SUPER’ to it. I need it today.”

She enters the room with a small smile on her face, exuding utter confidence and calmness, like one who is sure of victory.

——————————————————————————————————————

In this ‘challenge’ topic, ‘SUPER’, on FaithWriters.com, I combined the experiences of working wives and mothers who were my colleagues or friends, as shared with me, and a bit of my own too, through the mid-’70s to the early ’90s. Things have changed a lot (for the better) since then on the home front and for the working wife and mom.

This story was first published on FaithWriters.com (2006-2009)

Chasing Happiness – Tiny Conversations

A puppy was playing with a ball on a grassy field. It would flick it with its nose and run after to retrieve it. An older dog sat by and lazily watched the pup at play. The little one, tired of playing with the ball looked around for something interesting. As it turned around this way and that, it caught sight of its tail and decided it would play tag with it. No matter what it did, it couldn’t catch its tail.

It went and flopped down beside the older dog.

“You couldn’t catch it, could you?!” said the older one laughing.

“Nah!”

“And yet you will keep trying! It’s what we all do, all the time,” said the wise old one.

“Why, yes! It’s so much fun. It’s happiness! So happiness is my tail. That’s my philosophy!” And then he jumped up as an idea struck him.

“I’ve become a philosopher.”

“And what have you learned from that, ‘wise’ little one?”

“That my tail is happiness and if I keep chasing it, I will catch it. And when I catch it, happiness will be mine!”

The old one chuckled.

“What?!” said the pup wrinkling its brow. It had expected praise.

“Well, I also would love to get a hold of happiness whenever I want. Every dog would love that. And I also believe there’s happiness in my tail. But, it’s strange that when I chase it, it runs away. The harder I try the faster it runs.”

“So what do you do then? Have you thought of a way to catch it?” asked the pup hopefully.

“Yes and No!”

“What does that mean?”

“That I don’t need to ‘catch’ it!”

“But”, said the pup, “I read this today”:

“The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.” – Benjamin Franklin

“Hmmm… and I read this,” answered the old dog:

“Everyone chases after happiness, not noticing that happiness is right at their heels.” -Bertolt Brecht

“I noticed that, when I go about my work, doing what I have to do… getting along with my business, it follows me! I carry my happiness with me! I don’t need to chase it!”

“You mean, you can be happy where you are?”

“Yes! I choose to be happy! If you believe happiness is in your tail, then why are you running after it and trying to grasp it? You carry your happiness with you.”

Tele-Sympathy – Very Short Stories

From the archives: The answering machine, in this story, popped up in my mind when some of my calls were answered with fed-in messages on a couple of answering machines. It popped up as an ideal instrument and provided the answer to the protagonist’s dilemma!

Rrrrrrring Rrrrrrring. Susan waited for the ringing to stop.  She was thoroughly fed-up with the anonymous calls.

The bell rang insistently. She picked up the receiver and waited to hear the mocking and taunting remarks. Susan had retired from her teaching job and settled in this little hill-town, where she intended to start a Bible-School Holiday Resort, for school children. A place where they could come during their summer vacation, for a two-week program.

The concept was to approach the teaching of Christian values and principles with less legalism and preachy methods. She wanted Christian children to learn the practical way of applying God’s word to their lives so that they could enjoy being Christians while they continued to be in right-standing with God. Her friends had volunteered to contribute their cultural, artistic, and musical expertise to enhance the program. However, she wasn’t granted permission to open the resort as the locals opposed the proposition. They thought the resort was a cover to brainwash young minds.

Susan was disappointed. Then the anonymous calls began. Most of them were filled with taunts, jibes, and resentment. Susan was at the end of her tether. She had to do something about this. 

“Use their instrument but to provoke unto love and to good works,” whispered her inner voice.

Susan couldn’t understand how God wanted her to use the telephone. She decided to shift her mind away from this unpleasant situation. She called up a friend. No luck just the answering machine. She tried another and then another. Three answering machines later, she decided to go for a walk. 

Oh, God! Help me, she thought, and added as an afterthought,  at least YOU don’t put me on an answering machine! and she laughed. Then abruptly she stopped laughing. 

The answering machine, the answering machine! she whispered.

Without wasting a minute more, she hurried back to the town. A few inquiries, a few calls, and Susan returned home bursting with hope and great expectations. Finally, the answer to her prayers arrived securely packed in a cardboard box. With the help of a linesman working with the Telephone Department, the answering machine was connected and Susan waited.

All the calls were now greeted with a cheery message that said,  “Hi, I’m praying for you. If you have any problems, let me know, I’ll pray for that too. Thanks for calling.”

After a few days, the calls stopped. Was it the calm before the storm or “the peace that passeth all understanding,”  Susan wondered?

And then it came; a call; a prayer request made in a breathless, hushed voice. Others followed. Susan could recognize the voices of her five persistent callers, and she believed they were between twelve and seventeen years old. She had even given them names according to their attitude and tone and language so she could identify her anonymous callers.

Now she learned that Saucy Sue was exasperated with her parents’ constant quarreling, Giggly Gertrude wanted to run away from the orphanage because they sent the kids to work as domestic help during holidays. Stuttering Stewart didn’t like being teased, Arrogant Aaron didn’t believe in an invisible God or that one even existed, and Martyr Marty was always feeling the victim. Long conversations with each other led to a special bond of trust and faith between the two sides. This continued for some years. Susan never tried to find out their true identities.

That was fifteen years ago. And now Susan would meet them for the first time. Their visit coincided with the welcome reception her church had organized for the new pastor. Two happy events. She hurried to church eagerly that Sunday. To her surprise, Susan found Reverend Sushil Simon, the new priest, younger than she had expected.

She delivered her welcome speech and as she returned to her seat, a familiar voice said,  “Thank you, Susan, for such a warm welcome. It’s nice to come home again.”

Susan almost fainted. Arrogant Aaron! She was sure she had heard the voice that had argued incessantly with her about a non-existent God, almost to the point of making her give up.

She stood still. She couldn’t believe her ears. And was sure she wasn’t mistaken. 

“It is you!” She whispered. Later, when the formalities were over, Sushil walked up to her and smiled.

“I’d like you to meet some of the others,” he said. 

He introduced her to the others. All had done well for themselves. Susan looked at Arrogant Aaron (she still couldn’t call him anything else!) with a question in her eyes, which he answered softly, “1 John 4: 12, I finally understood it. Thank you.” (12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.) NIV

Susan couldn’t speak, but her tears spoke volumes, as she led her friends home. There was so much to say, so much to hear.

This was first published on FaithWriters.com (2006-2009).

Across The Bridge – very short stories

From the archives! This one is loosely based on a true story told to me by a colleague. I’ve added some and embellished it with my own imagination.

Anna awoke from her sleep with a start. She sat up in bed. She was drenched in perspiration and her breathing was heavy. The dream was recurring more frequently these days. Teresa was by her side in an instant.

“What is it memsahib” she asked. “Is it the dream?”

“Yes, the same bridge with turbulent waters flowing beneath, and I stood looking longingly at the dreamland on the other side, but was too scared to go across. I was trembling all over.

Pic: Ronaldo de Oliveira. Unsplash

“Don’t worry memsahib,” Teresa said, and gave her a glass of water and tucked her in.

The next day, Anna woke up to exceedingly good news. Rhea, her granddaughter, was coming from Singapore. She had met Rhea for the first time the previous year. She was twenty-three, bright and vivacious. Anna’s son had married and settled in Singapore. She had met her daughter-in-law just once, when Deepak brought his newly wedded wife to meet his family. After that Deepak too was an infrequent visitor.

Anna was ecstatic. She flitted around tidying up her little room and even took extra care in choosing her clothes and doing her hair. Teresa was happy to see her memsahib looking so nice. It had been a long time since Anna had taken interest in herself.

Anna was born into an affluent family. She was the only child and her parents doted on her. Every little wish of hers became their command, till she turned seventeen. Anna fell in love with a boy her parents didn’t approve of, but she stubbornly stood her ground, and they relented quite reluctantly. Anna’s hopes of continuing her college education were cut short when she became pregnant a month after the wedding. By eighteen she was a mother; at twenty-one, she lost both her parents in an accident, and on her twenty-fifth birthday, she became a widow.

According to the custom of her in-laws’ community, she was forbidden to wear bright colors or jewelry, and she could not participate in any celebrations. And according to superstition, she was considered unlucky. Her husband dying on her birthday made things worse. There was talk about it being a punishment for this ‘interfaith’ marriage. “Manhoos” (bad luck) was what they branded her. She was shifted to two small rooms in the outhouse attached to the servant’s quarters. However, Deepak, her son, was made to stay in the main house and was brought up by his uncle.

This was when Anna realized her folly in not paying heed to her parents’ objections to her marriage outside their religion and culture. Deepak grew apart from his mother and the chasm widened when he was sent to study abroad. If it hadn’t been for Teresa, Anna would have landed up in an asylum. Teresa had been sent to her by her parents, to look after Deepak. But God had other plans and Teresa became Anna’s caregiver.

Anna couldn’t forgive her in-laws for what they had done. She was angry and thought God had given up on her too. The only person she met or spoke to was Teresa. Sometimes someone from the house would come to meet her, but she wouldn’t talk to them. Soon even these visits stopped. Then Rhea came into her life like a bright ray of sunshine. Whenever she came on business trips, she visited her and she’d spend most of her time with Anna whom she called Dadi (father’s mother). She was pained to see how Anna had been treated by the other relatives and couldn’t understand why her father did not take his mother out of this pathetic living condition. She had left with promises that she would do something if no one else did.

Anna kept looking at the clock on the wall. Time was dragging its feet! She was annoyed. She was excited. She was waiting eagerly for her beloved granddaughter. What if she didn’t show up?

The sound of a car, a honk, followed by the sound of footsteps, perked her up.

“Dadi, I’m back,” announced Rhea hugging Anna tightly. Wasting no time in further chit chat or pleasantries, she turned to Teresa, “Pack up Dadi’s things. Oh, and yours too,” she added.

“Why missy baby?” asked Teresa.

“Because you are coming to live with me too. I’ve joined a firm here and shifted base and I’m taking my darling Dadi with me.”

There was hardly anything to pack so it wasn’t long before they were in the car and speeding along to their new home. Anna closed her eyes and relaxed. And once again she was at the bridge, but this time she was not alone. Boldly she put her hand into her Maker’s hand and crossed the bridge.

“Dadi, wake up. We’ve arrived.”

Anna opened her eyes and smiled, Yes my child we have indeed, she said. What’s that line you quoted the last time you were here?

“If you hug to yourself any resentment against anybody else, you destroy the bridge by which God would come to you,” repeated Rhea.

“Ah, a wise head on such young shoulders,” and she kissed Rhea tenderly.

Joy Clarkson

(This was first published on FaithWriters.com in a series of stories between 2006-2009)

The White Charade – very short stories

Pic by FotoSleuth;cropped and plates blurred by uploader Mr.choppers – Daihatsu Charade CX G11, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=150386

Another one from the archives. The idea for this one came about when I saw a Charade on the road and someone commented on the choice of name; what it meant and why on earth would a car company give it to their car! I clubbed it with news that I had read about some time back. I’ve edited it a bit.

The white car turned the corner at break-neck speed with a screech of tires. The two young men inside guffawed as people walking on the road jumped to the side, in a reflex action of safety. A dog scooted out of the path of that speeding machine saving itself by a hair’s breadth. This remote village seemed to have been shaken out of a stupor, as some people came out and others peeked through barred windows and half-open doors. It took exactly five seconds for the cacophony to erupt.

Abuses, opinions, comments, observations, laughter, dog barks all vying to be heard one above the other. And as suddenly as it started it stopped, and the village returned to its torpid life. Two weeks later, the car drove through the village again, and there was a middle-aged woman beside the young man who was driving. They didn’t seem to be in a hurry as they drove along surveying the houses and the occupants who were curiously and unashamedly staring at them. This time however the vehicle failed to draw much attention and except for a few children who ran alongside grinning at the occupants, there was no stir.

And then they were gone. Sitting inside the car, Bibi looked back at the receding village and said to the young man at the wheel, “Darsheel, it’s perfect for what I have in mind.”

It wasn’t long before Bibi, Darsheel, and the white car became a common sight in the village. So why would two slick, seemingly sophisticated, and obviously rich people come to this god-forsaken village? That was soon revealed when Bibi took a small place on rent and set up an employment agency for domestic help called, Mercy Domestic Solutions ( MDS). She also had a small training center, where she taught the girls and women, who had registered with her, how to speak, behave, and how to handle housework in a city.

The first batch of workers was ready in three months, and they were taken away to a city very far from their homes. But there was no apprehension as Bibi and Darsheel were a constant presence in the village and they had earned the trust of the people. Soon money began to pour into the homes of those who had gone out. The poor sleepy hamlet was fast becoming a busy place as proper stone houses replaced the mud huts and shops and other small businesses mushroomed.

By this time Bibi and Darsheel had left the village after having appointed a local boy named Gulaba, whom they had trained, to carry on the work. Once every month Darsheel would visit to check on the work and deliver the cash to the families.

Bicycles had been replaced with scooters or motorbikes and the village even boasted of two cars! They were progressing very fast in material terms and the simple folk were not as apathetic as they used to be. They had established a link with the outside world through their people and knew a lot more about where the rest of the world was going and they liked what they heard.

The morning was breaking and the silence of slumber was broken by the chirping of birds and sounds of human activity. The village was slowly stirring to life. But today’s awakening was not to be a slow surfacing to consciousness as the roar of jeeps shattered the pastoral quietude. In a moment policemen were crawling all over the place. A loud banging on Gulaba’s door brought a bleary-eyed youngster out.

“Are you the Manager of Mercy Domestic Solutions?” they asked him.

“Yes Sir, I am,” said a flustered Gulaba. In answer, handcuffs were slapped on his wrists.

“What’s wrong? Why are you handcuffing me? What have I done?”

His queries were cut short as a constable dealt him a blow on his calves, with a baton. At the Police Station, based on Gulabas’s statement and those of the families whose children were employed by MDS, inquiries were underway for a white car, a Charade, that fit the description and carried the number plate of the one that was used by Bibi.

“What has happened?” asked an old villager.

“Don’t pretend old one,.” hissed a constable.

“From where has all this wealth come from?” queried another. “Your grandfather didn’t leave it to you!”

“Your children are sex workers in the city,” sneered a constable. “You should not trust outsiders you do not know. Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing!

Just then another picks up the ringing phone and shouts out, “Sir! They’ve found Bibi and Darsheel, and the car. It’s a white Charade.”

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Joy Clarkson. (This story was first published on FaithWriters.com in 2006-2009)

Charade: an empty or deceptive act or pretense

How Green Was My Valley – very short stories

I was surprised and exhilarated to find some short stories and articles I had written over fifteen years back. I had just started experimenting with writing to keep my mind off my severe bone-related problems that kept me from walking beyond a few steps at a time; sitting was painful after a short while; turning on my side in bed required help; cervical and lumbar discs kept me in constant pain… in short, I tried to take my mind off by writing in short spans as and when I was able to sit and type. I avoided painkillers and bore the pain as I didn’t want to get addicted to painkillers. This writing activity kept me going in fits and starts. How grateful I am for this discovery! And the journey I’ve taken with (I admit) many groans and moans towards a better condition. The story is pure fiction based on the current situation we were facing at the time.

Shikhara on Dal Lake, Srinagar, Kashmir. Pic: Amit Jain on Unsplash

‘Terror strikes again in the Valley

‘Car Bomb Explodes Near……in The Valley

‘Terrorists Kidnap Four Foreign Tourists in the Valley

The Valley was making headlines everyday. It had always been written about but never this way.

This beautiful hill station or “Valley,” as it had come to be called, had always inspired poets; writers of nature; naturalists; and had been the backdrop and location of many romantic stories and movies. It was a tourists’ paradise. I used to call it MY valley. But it wasn’t mine anymore. There was a time…

Three decades ago, a young college girl visited the Valley for the first time. She never left. Here she had met a handsome, young officer who had recently been commissioned into the Army. He belonged to the Valley region and his family had been living there for years.

Shikhara on Dal Lake, Srinagar, Kashmir. Pic: Ishani Mathur on Unsplash

The days that followed could well have been out of a Mills & Boons novella. Their love bloomed and one could see this pretty, young thing with her tall, handsome Adonis taking long walks along the lake. Or going on treks into the mountains. Often they would hire a shikhara, a flat-bottomed boat, and sit silently holding hands while they took in the exquisite beauty of the vast expanse of placid water, surrounded by verdant hills. The boatman would row the shikhara to Char Chinar, a little island with a small restaurant, in the middle of the lake. It got its name from the four (char) Chinar trees that grew on the island.

At the Char Chinar, they would alight and drink Kahwa, a delicately flavored tea (without milk) with green cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, saffron, dried rose petals, and slivers of almonds in it.

They used to talk and laugh a lot. Her striking, gentleman officer was not only a good conversationist but also had a great sense of humor. Their return from Char Chinar was always very romantic. The sun would be setting and the water of the lake reflected the hues of the burning sky. They would ask the boatman to sing a love song of the hills. And as the lilting melody wafted across the lake, their boat glided smoothly over the slowly darkening water. She always wanted that moment to stand still…

…I felt a slight nudge. All of a sudden three decades had flown by. I was in the present, surrounded by people – Army officers, dignitaries from the Government, journalists. I mustn’t let my mind wander. I have to concentrate and listen to the announcer. Yes, he is describing the heroic exploits of an officer as he faced a terrorist attack on the Army Base in the Valley.

And then I step forward and walk to the podium to receive from the President, “the highest gallantry award for bravery in peacetime, awarded to… posthumously.” My officer of the Valley was no more.

The tears sting my eyes, threatening to overflow. I mustn’t cry. The President is saying something. There are flashes as Press cameras click away. It’s all a blur. Then I walk forward, lift my hands to take the medal and Citation and walk back. I had been made to practice this, so it came automatically but so did the tears. They never made me practice holding them back.

A young, handsome, Army officer opens his arms and holds me. He looks like his father. I lay my head on his shoulder.

The Valley had given and the Valley had taken.

I lift my head and look into the eyes of my son. How much was the Valley going to take before peace was restored…..I dared not even wonder.

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Info:

  • TITLE: How Green Was My Valley
    By joy Clarkson First published on Faithwriters.com
    08/13/06
  • Jan Ackerson: This is lovely, and a wonderful glimpse into an unfamiliar (to me) culture. If you attempt publication, you may have to change the title, as it is the name of a famous novel. Very nicely written.
  • Valerie Routhieaux: This is very good. Titles aren’t copyright. The title fits this piece.
  • Lynda Schultz: Excellent. You had me glued to the page.

Three’s A Crowd – Cagha with a bell.

I think I’m missing the flora and fauna of my surroundings in NB. I miss the crows that would often alight on the trees behind my room and the ones that frequented the big one outside the dining room window. So, I hopped over to my photoblog to view some pics I’d clicked through my window. I liked these ones and the refreshed childhood memory of my pet crow Cagha. A crow that I didn’t call my pet because it was caged. But a crow that flew free and wild but visited me and responded to my call if it were ever in the vicinity. I am sharing this post I’d written much earlier for my Photoblog.

Through my window, I watched a scene played out within seconds between 8.21 am and 8.22 am, on the branches of a tree. At 8.21, I observed a single crow land on a branch. Quick on its tail came the second one. That’s when I decided to click them.

I hurried but by then, I saw the third fly in and perch by them. I clicked furiously and before I knew it the third whizzed off. The other two continued in silent companionship for a while and then made for wherever their heart desired. Somehow I found some humor here and also nostalgia.

Two’s company, three’s a crowd,’ I thought. My mind going back to #Cagha… my ‘Cagha with a ghungroo’! A ghungaroo is a small dancer’s bell. A number of these are either stitched to a panel of cloth or strung on a cord which is then fastened around a dancer’s ankle.

I was looking for some quotes about crows and found quite a few; poems, quotes, sayings. There are so many things written about crows and not all complimentary or kind. Its black color and lack of any aesthetic features, its nature – predatory, all seem to go against it.

Back in my country, crows don’t come under such strong discrimination. At least, I’m not aware of it. In fact, superstition says, if a crow sits on the roof shingles, patio, verandah, garden or branch of a tree in close proximity to the house, faces your property, caws away to glory, it means you’ll be having guests, usually, unexpected ones!

When I was a little child, and we lived in the Southern part of the country, locals believed that eating crow’s meat would cure whooping cough! I cannot vouch for this cure but it remained a popular belief.

To me, crows were sneaky snatchers. I’ve had sandwiches and other eatables plucked out of my hand many a time. But as a child and an adult, my attitude towards them has never been one of hatred or dislike.

In fact, as a little girl, I found them interesting. I associated them with the occult, magic, and other sinister activities and since I loved reading about witches, ghosts, and everything scary, yes, they had my attention; crows were intriguing. This anecdote from my childhood will illustrate this better.

CAGHA my pet crow –

We lived on a Naval base in the South on a manmade island in the backwaters. Flocks or should that be a murder of crows flocked to our big front garden daily because I and my brother would feed them with crumbs or anything we could snitch from the store. I would call out “Aaa, Aaa,” {”come, come”} with an outstretched arm, goodies in my cupped hand {that’s also how, sometimes, my food would get snatched out of my other hand! ;)}.

One day, a young crow landed plonk in the middle of the spacious front verandah where I sat astride the balustrade eating and feeding the crows as usual. My elder brother picked the bird to inspect what was wrong because it was hobbling, and couldn’t fly either. Someone had clipped a few of its wing feathers haphazardly and injured one leg.

We swung into action. It was so exciting. We yelled for Mummy. She always knew what to do when we were stumped! Especially with wounds, cuts, bruises, or illness. She’d come up with some home remedy that would work winders.

Sometime later, Mummy, with the cook’s help smeared turmeric and some kind of oil, coconut or mustard, I’m not sure, on the wound and bandaged it. They put the poor thing in a cage that had once housed a parrot that escaped. I removed a small brass ‘gunghroo’ from my ankle bells {Indian dancers wear them around their ankles} and tied it around the neck loose enough so it wouldn’t choke, and tight enough so the bell wouldn’t fall off.

We nursed Cagha, that’s what I named the crow, back to health. The wing feathers grew back a bit and it would hop and make short flights around the room until one day, Cagha flew out the door and perched itself on the balustrade of the front balcony. There was a sudden shout of joyful cawing from a few fellow crows gathered outside; in the garden and the tree outside the wall.

Cagha cawed, spread his wings and joined the tribe. I was sad, lost and alone.

Many days passed and Cagha never returned. Mummy consoled me saying that the season had changed and the crows would be back after a few months. Still, I would ritually make my calls for Cagha every day from the front verandah. I have always been the ever hopeful, persevering one!

She was wrong. 

Cagha returned after two weeks or so.

He flew down to where I was, bigger and stronger, with the ghunghroo jangling around the neck. Words can’t describe my joy! Our twosome companionship carried on a few months and then, Cagha disappeared.

Later that year, I spotted him, the jangling bell giving him away. He was in the branches of the tree outside. I called to him. No response. I gave up.

Then I heard a flutter of wings, a caw and there was Cagha. He flew in like the wind, perched near me for a split second, and took off. Not alone, but with the other one on the tree. He had forged his own twosome – COMPANY. I made it a CROWD!

“Goodbye Cagha,” I whispered softly.

My seven-year-old heart was broken!

Years later in my teens another pet, the wild and free kind, a chipmunk named ‘Chippy,’ conveyed the same message to me with a tiny nip on my palm! It didn’t break my heart, but it took me by surprise!