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Chandini and the magical flowers

 

By Kanwaljeet Kaur

 

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Chandini.  She was so beautiful that whoever saw her was soon lost in her beauty.

 

Chandini wanted to do something in her life but was confused. At night she would look at the sky and count stars, she would play with her friends, go to town with her family and loved to watch the puppet dances she saw on the way and then it would be night again. The days she didn’t go out she would sleep all the time and only wake up at night.

 

One evening she was coming back from the town and stopped again to see the puppet dance. She lost track of time and before she knew it, it was dark. That night was a cloudy one-there were no stars to light up her way back home-nor did the moon come out to light her path.

All her friends had already gone back, and she was afraid because she had to cross a long bridge that swayed above a deep ravine.

 

Still, she lit her lamp and holding it in one hand and some beautiful yellow flowers that she had bought to decorate her room in the other hand, she started walking towards the road that would lead directly to the long bridge.

Suddenly the wind began to blow-it was making strange and scary noises and soon Chandini began to feel scared.  Lost in her thoughts, she didn’t see the branch of a tree that lay broken on the ground.  Suddenly her foot caught in the branch and she stumbled and fell.

 

The lamp broke and the flowers were blown away with air. She ran after flowers, helter skelter trying to grab them. She ran and ran until she finally caught all the flowers-but then she realized she had lost her way. Chandini began to cry. She was holding on to the flowers, her tears coursing down her face falling like dew drops on the flowers. Chandini began to slowly walk back. Her hands were clutching the flowers so tightly that she was crushing the stems and did not even realize that. She thought she heard some strange and scary sounds again

 

She started running again: after running some distance, she saw the same flowers in a tree. She heard a voice say “throw these flowers and get fresh ones”. Another voice whispered”these are the flowers because of whom you lost your way”.

 

Chandni looked at the flowers in her hands. Then she looked at the flowers on the tree. She could feel their fragrance, and visualize how beautiful they would look in her room. She decided to pluck more flowers to add to the ones she had in her hand. But then she remembered her mother’s warning. Flowers should never be plucked after sunset. The trees get angry and punish those who go against that warning.

 

Suddenly she heard birds chirping and just then the moon came out from behind the clouds. She saw her broken lamp lying near by. She knew she was on the right path. In her joy she went over to pluck the flowers forgetting her mother’s warning.-when suddenly something sharp and bright made her close her eyes.. Scared she started crying thinking the tree was punishing her. A tear drop fell from her eye on the earth seeping into the roots of the tree.

 

She closed her eyes and she thought of her mom waiting at other side of bridge. She thought of talking to the tree, begging forgiveness and asking it to let her go-and she did. Gathering all her courage she opened her eyes-only to see the sun shining brightly in her face. She realized that as she had started coming back the night had passed and the first rays of the rising sun had been the light that fell on her eyes. It was as id the flowers and the tree heard her prayers.

 

 She kissed the flowers, collected her broken lamp and ran towards the bridge that didn’t look long or scary in daylight. She reached home and saw everyone was praying. She joined them in prayers after putting the lamp away and the flowers in her room.

Normally Chandni didn’t join her family in prayer so they were very happy to see her amongst them. She told everyone what had happened. Her mother gave hr a hug and called her a brave girl,

But Chandni knew that something had happened that night, the flowers had created joy and magic in her life. Now she sleeps at night and works during the day selling those beautiful flowers and telling people-take them, they may create some magic in your lie as they created in mine,’

 

Kanwaljeet Kaur is 21 years old, and lives in Patiala in Punjab India. She loves dancing, keeping a journal and writing stories.

 


Driving around the bend…

 

By Venkatraman Sheshashayee 

 

Part 1 – Runaway bride

 

Last night, I dreamt that I was in 1993 again.

 

“Mummy sad, mummy sad, mummy sad”, sang out my son, racing around our house, disseminating this news bulletin to whosoever cared to hear. He was four then, and was just about putting words together to form complete sentences. Today, after twelve years of expensive private education, his monosyllabic speech patterns make one believe that he is still learning to form them.

 

Being a caring husband, and one who had learnt diligently about the direct relationship between my wife’s mood and the satiation of my appetites reasonably early on in my marriage, I cast aside the book I was immersed in and sought her company. I found her in the ante room (This is on the other side of the house as the post room). She was sitting on the diwan, facing the window, looking woebegone. Was that the sparkle of tears that I saw in her eyes?

 

I sat beside her, gingerly. This is another of the lessons I learnt through bitter experience. When a woman is sad, tiptoe. You never know the part you played in bringing this about. There are sins of commission and sins of omission, and it will be a long day in hell before the average man is able to distinguish between the two.

 

“What happened, dear?” I asked, in dulcet tones. When dealing with my wife, dulcet is the default tone. Other options include ingratiating, bright, pleading and soothing.

 

She looked at me, sorrow writ on her delicate features. “My driving lessons have been cancelled,” she said, in a tremulous voice.

 

While my first instinct was to jump up and run around the house, even the city, sharing my untrammeled joy, I resisted this strongly. With a strong effort of will, I arranged my features to reflect abject sorrow.

 

“Oh my. What happened, sweetheart?” I asked, putting my arm around her, primarily to show solidarity, but also because I quite enjoyed doing so.

 

She leaned into me. “You know that the driving instructor who has been teaching me is a brute! Shouting all the time. Screaming at me. And this was just my third lesson…”, she gulped and continued, “today, you won’t believe it, but he jumped out of the car when we were driving at 60 kilometers per hour!”

 

Wow.

 

“Jumped out of the car?”, I asked,  quite puzzled. “Why? Where were you guys? Were you on the Madras highway?”

 

“No, silly. I was backing out of the Jayanagar Complex.”

 

“Backing out? Backing…”, I sputtered. Backing out at 60 kmph? Rama, that most patient of Gods in the Hindu pantheon, would have jumped out. Jesus Christ would have jumped out. And to be completely secular, Allah would have jumped out. I gathered myself.  “What happened then?” I asked, careful to maintain an even tone.

 

“Well, I stopped, and then drove forward, to ask him what happened. When he saw me driving towards him, he jumped up and ran into the Complex. I haven’t seen him since and neither has the driving school,” she said in aggrieved tones. “I think they are lying, though.”

 

“Oh? Why do you think they are lying?” I asked.

 

“Well, I went there to return their car, and they did not allow me in. They took the keys through the window, and gave me my fees back, and told me that they are shutting the place down and canceling all lessons. The woman there was very abrupt,” she explained earnestly.

 

Mmmmm.

 

We had recently acquired our first car. A Morris Minor. Built in England, forty years old, two door, a wheezing engine, tired seats and bald tires. We were inordinately proud when we bought it. Over the two weeks that we had owned it, we had driven proudly to the doctor (for our son’s booster dose), the petrol pump, and our friend’s house about 3 kilometers away, the petrol pump, our son’s pre-school next door, the petrol pump, and to the mechanic’s.

 

The last trip was to find a way to start the car without having to use physical force. Since this was our first car, in our innocence, we had accepted the seller’s word that these antique cars were built at a time when technology was still young, and that it was de rigueur then that the driver’s family would push the car while the driver pumped the gas pedal furiously and changed gears rapidly. Then, once the engine started, the panting but cheerful family would pile into the car, and be on their merry way. The way the seller explained it to us, it was all a merry lark, and this process would actually bring our family closer together.

 

Sadly, it was not turning out the way we had envisaged. Shortly after we purchased the car, the moment we planned an outing, my mother would disappear into the Pooja room. My wife’s expression would change subtly. Only my son seemed to share my excitement.

 

About a week ago, in the privacy of the bedroom, my wife informed me that she could either bear my children or push the car. These two acts were mutually exclusive, she explained. Even the act leading to the bearing of children, she said darkly, was at risk of extinction.

 

“Why?” I asked in puzzlement. Wasn’t it fun to drive around town, like the much vaunted upper classes?

 

“Good for you to say,” she said. “You just sit in the car, and relax. I am the one who has to push the damn thing.” My wife rarely swore, but when she did, it sounded hot. “And as for high society, I don’t see Mrs. Jaganathan pushing her car and then running after it.”

 

“What am I to do?” I asked. “I am the only one who knows how to drive. I can’t push and drive at the same time.” I was reasonable and persuasive.

 

“Then, I will learn to drive,” she said firmly. “There is a driving school down the road, and Anjana said that you can get a driving license within two weeks.”

 

And thus, we return to the beginning.

 

I was firmly ensconced in the horns of a dilemma. If conjugal bliss were to prevail, my wife would need to learn to drive a car. On the other horn, keeping aside my conviction that the world would be a safer place if she did not learn to drive, driving schools are an incestuous lot, and I would have wagered the car that no driving school in the vicinity would entertain her application to be a student. While I held her warm and soft form, I pondered.  There wasn’t much choice, so I did not have to ponder long.

 

“Sweetheart,” I said, “I shall teach you how to drive.”

 

She smiled. When my wife smiles, the world tilts on its axis. Because of this tilt, the sun comes closer to earth and shines brighter, the birds, thus energized by the increased warmth, warble louder and more melodiously, and colors, previously mundane, take on exotic hues. (It is through my wife’s frequent smiles that I learnt of the existence of colours like lavender, cerise, peach and taupe, but I digress.)

 

“Oh, that would be wonderful!” she exclaimed, “I wanted to ask, but you are so busy…”

 

Even though it has been conclusively proven that I am of below average intelligence, I can take a cue as well as the next man. “Busy?” I asked, sounding hurt and surprised, “what busy? What else is as important as you, my love?” The next few minutes passed blissfully as I was rewarded for this master piece of tact. Little did I know, as I gloried in the clasp of a lovely woman, how much this was going to cost…

 

The next day was a Sunday. The morning passed in a blur of baths and breakfasts. By 9 AM, my wife and I, having handed over our son for safe keeping to my mother (in spite of his boisterous appeals not to be torn from the bosom of his primary family), stood beside the car, ready to embark on a new adventure together, feeling much like Dick, Julian, George, Anne and Timothy the dog, only fewer, much older and many shades darker.

 

“Well,” I said, brightly, “here we are.” The car gleamed, its windshield sparkled, its bumpers shone, and the tires looked sumptuously fed. “Let us wheel this out of the gate and face the slope on the road.” We did so. “Now, remember, you need to keep the car in second gear. Keep your left foot on the clutch, and the right on the accelerator. I will push the car, and once it starts moving faster than walking pace, release the clutch and press the accelerator.” She got in, moved the gear lever correctly, and placed her feet on the right pedals. “Ready?” I asked, and she nodded.

 

I got behind the round boot, and began pushing. The Morris is not a large car, and soon, it picked up speed. “Okay!” I cried out, panting slightly, “start the car!” The car continued rolling, and gathering speed, instead of assuming the normal hiccupping lurch that it should have by now. I ran faster, and cried out again, “Go ahead, start the car!” The car and its occupant remained silent to my blandishments, and sped faster. The gap between the car and me started widening. What concerned me more was that we were rapidly approaching an intersection.

 

“Press the brake!” I screamed, slowing to a stop myself, “Stop the car!”

 

The car and my wife bulleted past the intersection. I doubt it had ever gone so fast in its forty years of existence. I closed my eyes and turned my head away, which was my normal reaction to any possible danger. No screeching or thumping sounds reached my ears. I opened my eyes again, and peered into the distance. There, far away, I could see a white speck dwindling.

 

My heart was in my throat. While scampering madly after a runaway car was partially the reason for this anatomical anomaly, it was also that I loved my wife genuinely. It had taken me four years of persistent wooing to convince her that she loved me, and another three to persuade her parents that first impressions are not necessarily the right ones, and just when happily ever after was beginning, I was seeing the reason for my existence race out of my life. Then, there were the more practical considerations - who would cook for us and feed and bathe and change our son? And the car? Our very first car? The car that represented our life’s savings and most of my mother’s? My mind whirled in a tumult of emotions.

 

I looked around frantically. Ah there, a passing auto rickshaw slowed down with the driver looking at me enquiringly. I leapt in. “Quickly,” I said, “follow that car!” Instead of responding like any self respecting driver in a Bond movie by cheerily hitting the gas while exchanging double entendres, the auto driver looked around at me with a jaundiced eye. “Which car?” he asked, truculently. “Why to follow? Anyway, now no follow anything. Shift change time. Going to Basavanagudi.”

 

Some minutes passed, during which much warm discussion took place, touching on our respective ancestries, the frailty of auto drivers as a tribe, and how much money he needed to fund his children’s education. Finally, the auto started and trundled along sedately in the direction of my runaway bride. “Faster,” I begged. “Faster,” I cajoled. “Faster,” I roared.

 

The driver was slowly coming around to my way of thinking. He twisted the accelerator till the engine whined pitifully. He gnashed his gears. He twisted and swerved, only pausing to swear colorfully at sundry passersby. Soon, I could feel the breeze ruffling my damp hair.

 

Half a kilometer passed. I strained my eyes, looking for the car. Nothing. Another half a kilometer elapsed. My heart pummeled against my ribs, and my pulse took on an arrhythmic beat that would have dismayed the average cardiac surgeon. Tense silence reigned within the auto.

 

Suddenly, the driver swore violently. I looked around, seeking the hapless person who aroused these emotions in his breast. No one. “What happened?” I asked. “Bloody traffic jam in front,” was the terse response.

 

I craned out of the auto, and he was right. About a hundred meters ahead was a jam. There were cars and scooters and autos and people, all tightly wadded together. There was no way we were going to pass through. My panic climbed a few notches more, and I was well on the way to having an anxiety attack…

  

TO BE CONTINUED…

Venkatraman Sheshashayee has worked with the Merchant Navy, a financial institution and a manufacturing company before becoming General Manager Business Development and Marketing with the Great Eastern Shipping Company, Mumbai. He is married to Radhika and has two kids 16 year old Abhimanyu and 11 year old Damini.

‘Shesh” as he likes to be called demurred when asked for a picture to go with his Bangalore to Bombay migratory story, but insists that he has a startling resemblance to Brad Pitt or Robert Redford depending on the angle from which you look at him. It is indeed a true Bollywood story in the making.

He can be reached at vshesh@vsnl.com
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the writers and do not necessarily represent those of the editor/publish  


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