July 25, 2012

Flamingo City

The Virar local left at 8:02 AM as usual. The ride was usual but today, the end was going to be fascinating.

Twenty five-year-old Kalpana Patel had made it to her dream job in the Indian Forest Services. Her long cherished dream of being an IFS officer was about to come true. Kalpana was on her way to Churchgate station to collect the certificates from the UPSC center.

‘Congratulations beta I am proud of you’ texted Jatinbhai Patel her businessman father.
Jamnaben Patel, called immediately after –‘Baka now you need to think about getting married, bahu thayi giyo. At your age I was already carrying your sister – do you realise how time is running out?’

Kalpana didn’t respond, her life was not going to be relegated to a Virar-Churchgate fast local, cutting vegetables and assisting her father’s business in South Mumbai. Yet here she was in a Mumbai local train unsure how her future would unfold.

 As the train moved in slow rhythmic oscillations, Kalpana put on the headphones and drifted away in to the past. She recalled all those nights of research, burning the midnight “coffee”, and writing pages after pages of research and preparing hard for the examinations ahead.

Ever since her first visit to the local zoo, she was not only fascinated by the animals but also with the surrounding environment, the rocks, the forest,the trees, the birds –in short the entire habitat.Her dream assignment was to explore the Desert Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat. Kutch district in Gujarat had a true saline desert where thousands of flamingos flocked together every year. The Flamingos looked strikingly beautiful.

The rich blue colors of the sky and the crystal white saline field added a perfect contrast for the colors to get even more highlighted. By the time winter set in October or early November, the royal blue skies, a pristine white saline field and orange and red Flamingos made for a heady cocktail of colors. It was a sight for sore eyes.

She remembered there was a particular photograph, which showed seven Flamingos in a circle formation. Each had a streak of crimson and scarlet red, a long sensual neck and eyes seemed to suggest, they knew, that they were the most beautiful in the world. Kalpana was fixated with this particular angle where it seemed one of the Flamingos was actually looking at her and trying to say something.

As days passed she had become increasingly restless and tried to decipher what could be the hidden message in the photograph? She had a flurry of questions flooding her mind -where was this taken, who took it, why this formation, so and so forth. She was desperate for an answer.

It was only after a chance surfing on the net, that she found the name Dholavira. Buried near the flamingo flocks lay an ancient old city, long forgotten yet a key piece of the Harrapan civilization. Dholavira contained the ruins of the Harrapan civilization. The city dated back to 2650 BCE.

She knew there had to be some connection with the Flamingos and Dholavira but could not get the missing link. As she intensified her research of the lost city increasingly she found an uncanny connection to her present.

The city had three sections, like a pre designed blue print which comprised of a Citadel, middle town and a lower town. It had roughly about sixteen reservoirs and most habitat was based around that. It seemed all the houses were constructed around a citadel. The Harrapans spoke an ancient language which had not yet been deciphered, other than some bits and pieces of artifacts which had some pictures inscribed.
Kalpana’s relentless research led her to one such sign board from that era. It had four large images on a  big gypsum board. These glyphs had a secret message which no one had figured out until now. She went over the photograph again and again – the symbols were of a wheel, a rectangle shape, a spiral shaped object, and a hollow circle. This image had become a permanent fixture in her head, a puzzle, a riddle she had to solve.

As she visualized the image in her head over and over again, it suddenly became clear. For a second Kalpana was in denial – but it was making sense, so much sense that her heart started palpitating,she clenched her fingers as realization dawned upon her.

The wheel signified change, or movement, the rectangle shape suggested a box or a container, the spiral shaped object meant there was a path leading somewhere deep, and the hollow circle meant trapped inside.

‘Why would the Dholavira people have this message inscribed?What was the purpose? Were they trying to say something about us or to us?’ she wondered.

The sudden jerk of the train snapped her out of stupor and as she opened her eyes she saw that she was the only one in the compartment.

‘That’s odd a Monday morning, and no crowd in the train’ she spoke out loud.

As Kalpana became more conscious, she realized her clothes were soaking wet, she was sweating profusely, and breathing heavily. The world was spinning around her, the train was slowing down but the stations zoomed past her, a cold breeze blew across the solitary compartment and from a seemingly hot environment, she was suddenly feeling cold.

The train entered its final destination –Churchgate Station and stopped. There wasn’t a single soul, as if they never existed, silence reigned supreme.

Kalpana was perplexed and in a state of panic. This was so inexplicable. So bizarre. She just couldn’t comprehend. Her nervous energy made her step out of the train compartment and on to the platform. She began running, then running harder, faster , faster, till she was practically breathless, sightless she ran till the exit of the platform and collapsed just outside the station.

As she looked up to the heavens for an answer, she spotted the citadel – it was the Churchgate station,and there was the middle town and the lower town from where she came.This was turning out to be a hidden blueprint of the Dholavira site.

Kalpana was trying to make sense of it all, but her brain was too shocked to let sanity prevail. As a last attempt at making sense of it all, she located her mobile phone and hastily dialed her father.

‘Hello Papa – something is wrong with Churchgate station, there is no one around – would you believe that – in fact I -  I am the only one – what’s happening Papa, what’s the matter – why don’t you speak. Papa’ she screamed into the receiver.

‘…Mumbai City has disappeared' she ended with a whisper.

Seven flamingos perched in a circle watched from a distance remembering how their city had disappeared once….

Gyanban Thoughts -this story has multiple layers, mixing history with the present.There is an element of mysticism,suspense,twist and surreal action incorporated into the narration.The challenge here was having just one character to play,and build the tension.A reference from the past was the connection,and the unreality of Mumbai city disappearing  fascinated me. Imagine the shock if you were to witness the absence of the epitome of hustle and bustle.?The title Flamingo City therefore seemed very apt because they serve as the connect with the past - and also act as an omen to the future.

Dholavira is a real site discovered only in the late 60's by Mr.J.P.Doshi and is the fifth largest Harrapan site in the Indian subcontinent.It is located in the Rann of Kutch and is visited by flocks of Flamingos every year whose origin is unknown.

The source of information :Archeology.

image courtesy : Here.

July 20, 2012

Inhale Insight

'From about 110,000 kinds of smells in nature, humans perceive just about 100-200'

''Yes you ve told that to me before.' Mrs.Sarayu Joglekar whispered into his ears.

Mr.and Mrs.Joglekar sat next to each other holding hands on seat 34A and 34B. Mr.Joglekar was next to the window.He touched the window with the back of his fingers.It was cold.

'How much longer?' Mr.Joglekar inquired.

'Its about 15 hours from Bangalore we are only into the sixth hour my dear.'

'I cant wait to see Lake Como'.

'Be patient darling it still will be about two hours from the Milan airport.'

This was the first international holiday for the couple,and they had waited twenty five years to fulfill this long cherished dream.Mrs.Joglekar was a professor in the prestigious Wellington College and she worked hard to keep their life moving through the everyday challenges.

It was her idea to go for this vacation.The choice of destination was Italy. Simply because the place was loaded with history,and they loved the mysticism surrounding the country for its art,culture and tradition perhaps the only match with the Indian civilization for its evolution and brilliance.

First stop was Milan,then to Bellagio, moving to Verona,Venice and then to Rome,Florence,and back to Milan completing the circle.

They arrived in Milan at one thirty in the afternoon local time.

'Where do we go now, have you got the baggage's?'Mr.Joglekar inquired.

'Relax, I have everything, besides most instructions are in English, so its not a problem finding the way out of the airport'

A fresh cool breeze greeted them exiting the automatic glass door.A distant fragrance of pine trees,mixed with some remnant petrol hung around in the air,as they waited for the pre-paid cab arrived.

'Ciao' Luciano greeted them.Dressed in a nice grey suit,shoes polished and shining speck-less.

'Hmm that's a nice perfume'

Luciano looked a bit surprised, commenting on perfumes was perhaps invading his personal space.But Italians are known to be friendly and warm people,and he certainly didn't want that perception to change.

'Grazzie - that's Salvatore Ferragamo'

'Oh is that the best?'

'Well certainly one of the best, there's of course Versace, very close and very expensive.'

Happy with the information Mr.Joglekar and Mrs.Joglekar made themselves comfortable in the Mercedes and set off for Bellagio.The distance between Milan Malpensa airport to Bellagio is roughly two hours depending on the traffic.As the road rushed by, Mr.Joglekar's eyes had a tear threatening to burst out,but Mrs. Joglekar held his hand with a tight reassurance.

'Open the windows please I want to inhale the moment'

Luciano looked from the rear-view mirror and saw Mr.Joglekar's moist eyes.He slowed the car and moved into the extreme right lane meant for slow moving vehicles and opened the windows.

'Are we close to Lake  Como?'

'Yes how did you know' Luciano asked Mr.Joglekar.

'Well the water smells fresh and wind in the air has become cooler so I noticed the change - tell me what else do you see?' Mr.Joglekar asked Luciano.

'Err the usual some trees, some houses and the lake of course'

'Well I see the trees are multiple shades of green - like tropical green,moss green, bottle green,pale green, and they re are interspersed with a splash of orange,some red and some lilac thrown in.'

'Ah so you are a poet?'

'No a retired professor - my wife still teaches.'

The roads were narrowing as the car sped up the hill, a quiet serene and calm ambiance prevailed.People almost looked like moving in a slow motion,relaxed and happy.Small boats stood still watching the water flow by in a steady stream,the fishermen prepared for their evening catch and birds flew by with their lazy elegance.A distant church bell rang adding the only missing piece in this picturesque surroundings.

'This has got to be heaven' Mrs.Joglekar smiled as she set foot on Bellagio.It has long been famous for its setting at the intersection of the three branches of the Y-shaped lake, which is also known as Lario. Just at the tip of the peninsula separating the lake's two southern arms, with the glorious Alps visible across the lake.The view is like a valley and a serene river flowing through it.Just like a pearl in the ocean Bellagio is one beautiful spot on the Lake Como.

'I am hungry can we eat something here?'Mr.Joglekar interrupted.

'Well you could try the 'Splendid cafe - the pasta's are delicious and the buffalo cheese salad is something to pay the extra Euro for.'

'Can you explain there fragrance?'
Luciano was a little perplexed  but he wracked his brains and came up with a simple description 

'Well the pasta is on white sauce,which has a salty and cheesy taste,since some of the sauce is heated,baked at a particular temperature it gets a different flavor like a little smoky perhaps and it is very soft,it melts  and then glides down gently and smoothly.The buffalo cheese is a specialty for its quality -its served in huge chunks and tastes like fresh cream and cheese mixed together.It is usually served chilled so it adds to the flavor.And to complete the meal you should have the Chianti wine.'

Mrs.Joglekar's smacked her lips in delight.

'But how do I know it's a good wine - what if I don't like the taste?'

'Ah good question -you see to be eligible for a wine to be called Chianti - it has to go through say 20 rules, if any of the rules of wine making for that region are not followed it cannot be called a good wine, likewise, if all the rules of wine making are followed strictly,since its all about perfection,then it is called a good wine - whether you like the taste or not is immaterial.Taste is something which you culture,mature and develop over the years of wine tasting.You acquire the taste slowly and then you will understand the difference between the quality of grapes, the color of the wine,the fragrance of the cask,and other finer aspects.

Mr.Joglekar was pleasantly surprised and satisfied with the answer.

'If I may ask - why are you so emotional about coming here?You seem to notice every little detail about the place and want to know so much about everything from taste to smell' -Luciano politely asked.

'Ah - that's because I want to inhale the view ...I want to live every moment, feel every drop of water on my fingers, taste every little bit of cheese and savor the flavor for a lifetime,know every color the trees change and the smell of every blossoming flower....since I really I cant see any of it now.I have lost my eyesight in an accident a few years back.My wife is my only guide and she has a fantastic vocabulary,she explains every little detail and I don't miss seeing them.'

Luciano dropped them in a small motel and gave Mr.Joglekar a warm embrace. Luciano left the couple with a lump in his throat.

Gyanban Thoughts - a short story dedicated to the wonderful town of Bellagio,Italy "seen"  through the eyes of a blind person.Sometimes we need to stop and think how lucky some of us are to witness natures most beautiful creations while not appreciating it,while some who would love to see it are faced with challenges.lets learn to appreciate the beauty around us.

July 6, 2012


There was a stretch of road that screamed of the vast emptiness on either side. A distant horizon was the only guiding light. Winters in the deserts of Rajasthan were particularly unforgiving. No civilization in sight, no habitation, just sand and plenty of time on their hands and some more elements that completed the perfect picture, aptly titled ‘Stranded’.

Just as the sun-set, Mohita and Mallika’s cross country journey sputtered and spattered to a screeching halt.Nothing to look forward and nothing to go back.

‘What do we do now?’Mohita the quieter one spoke out of nervousness.
‘Stop being such a sissy – when I am there, you don’t have to worry about anything’ – the bolder one retorted sharply.

Mallika got out of the car and stretched her arms as if nothing had happened, yawned and looked around with lazy elegance.Mohita followed suit , gingerly alighting the car inhaling the cooling breeze blowing across.

‘Looks like the breeze is picking up speed’ Mohita opined.
‘Now what?’

Mallika offered silence as an answer.

The sun seemed to be in a hurry to rise elsewhere, and the moon was conspicuous by his absence but the stars made their presence felt, in full glory.In the dying light of the day a distant ray of hope showed itself in the form of two headlights.

‘Ah – see there is civilization – we re not alone’ Mallika announced triumphantly.

‘B-but what if-’

‘Hush’ Mallika gestured wide-eyed.

A white Ambassador with dark tints stopped right beside them. As the window rolled down slowly, Mohita’s heart skipped a beat. There was an uneasy calm in the atmosphere that evening. Mohita looked at her watch  - it was precisely six hours since it had all begun.

A man looked out of the window, frowned his thick bushy  eyebrows and asked ‘What are you girls doing here?’
‘Can you help?’ Mallika asserted fearlessly, ignoring his question.

There was silence. 

Mohita’s heart was racing and her throat parched.

‘What help do you need?’

‘We need a ride to Bikaner’

‘Ah – that is not the direction I am headed to – I can give you a ride till the nearest railway station Deshnok Junction  - you are on your own from there’.

The girls looked at each other and then looked back at the man.

‘Open the boot – we have luggage.’ Mallika announced.

Mohita whispered – ‘ask him if he wants money?’

‘We will give him what we have – there’s not much else we can do, can we Mohita?’

Mohita nodded.

‘Give me the keys to the boot’ Mallika asked. The man switched off the car engine and gave her the key.

‘This is heavy I need help’ Mallika shouted from behind the car.She could not lift the suitcase alone.He watched her struggle,but did not get 
down, instead egged them to hurry up.

 ‘Mo – I need some help with the suitcase here’

‘Yes coming –just wait’ .Mohita opened the rear door and stuffed her belongings in the seat and helped Mallika dump the suitcase in the trunk of the car.

‘Such a jerk that man – didn’t even offer to help.’

‘Men – will always be men’ lets get going fast.

Mallika slammed the boot and went and sat beside the driver's  seat while Mohita slipped into the rear seat.

The night was rich black now, and the crystal twinkles in the sky were even more lucid as if they were trying to tell a story – just that they had no words to express. The old Ambassador started after a few hiccups. 

Mohita noticed the man looking at her through the rear-view mirror a number of times and all she could see is two blood shot eyes and a thick bushy eyebrow.

Mallika sat beside him with a clenched fist and one hand holding a metal sipper bottle. About  23 minutes into the ride, the man announced – ‘I think you should roll up the windows – there is a sandstorm up ahead.’

This made Mohita really nervous. The windows shades were pitch dark , with almost zero visibility outside. She thought what if this man was a monster, what if he was some sort of a serial killer – lock up strangers inside the car and rape and kill them? What if…

‘Mohita – didn’t you hear the man – just do as he says’Mallika asserted.

As the windows rolled up it was stuffy inside and a strange pungent odour emanated from the floor of the car . A stale smell, perhaps the first signs of rot setting in somewhere. Mohita was nauseous and immediately took out her deodorant and sprayed it around.

‘What’s that smell’ the man asked.

‘I don’t know  - keep driving’ – Mallika replied.

The man looked at her with a frown. He was not used to be treated like that before, not from women certainly. He chose to ignore and drove on. 

His head was starting to hurt,probably his blood pressure was high.The mood was tense inside the car as the sandstorm blew sideways swaying the car.

‘How far from the Deshnok railway station?’ Mallika asked.

‘About  20 minutes, but in this weather it might take a bit longer.’

No sooner had the man said this – Mallika’s hands began to shake vigorously as if she had a fit.

She took the metal sipper bottle and banged it on her forehead. Blood  splattered out immediately. She took aim and hit the same spot one more time – bang and it was a wide gash because this time the metal cap screws scraped the wound. She let out a loud scream. She wiped her bloodied hands on the dashboard, on the seat and then…. on the man’s shirt.

The man shivered at this madness.He was in a state of shock.His hands froze at the wheels and he jammed the brakes.The car came to a halt.In the frenzy of this madness he saw the rear view mirror.The girl in the back seat was tying herself with a rope around her neck.

‘Mallika – here pull the rope quick ’ she hissed. Gone was Mohita’s dainty whispering voice.

Mallika tugged hard at the rope  – it almost choked Mohita’s  throat. It drained the blood from her face and her eyes were bulging out.The man tried to escape – but the door was jammed. He could not open it.He banged in desperation and screamed for help but nothing went out of the car.

Mallika then took out the Swiss knife she hid in her pocket and slit her clothes and herself, ever so carefully so as not to rapture the central vein. 

She leaned over and did the same with the gasping Mohita. The man looked on motionless in horror.

‘Now  - take this knife and hold it still.’ Mallika spoke in a low trembling voice.

‘No-no, you c-cant do this – are you mad what are you doing  please leave me – take whatever you want –the man pleaded.’

Mallika looked at him with a wry smile and said – ‘you will do as I tell you – you will not use your brains lest I scrape it out.’

Mohita lunged from behind and scratched his face with her sharp nails taking out chunks of flesh on the way. The man was ravaged and brutally assaulted.

There was silence in the courtroom.

‘That man…. was me your honor–I shouldn’t be alive’ Baldevsingh Karni recounted the horror he went through in great detail.

‘I am a small town tourist operator from the Nokha village and was on my way to receive a tourist party for the Rajasthan villages tour when I met these ladies mid way you honor’.

The silence in the courtroom  was broken by the  clapping hands of the prosecutor.

‘That was a master work of art Baldev – you should try your hand in writing horror scripts for Ram Gopal Verma movies you know’ the lawyer said sarcastically.

‘It has all the ingredients of a super hit movie right there. But I am afraid you will have to wait till the next life time – your honor, this man is wasting the courts time in such fictitious misdirecting stories after such incredible amount of evidence against him.’

‘A dead body in the boot of the car – brutally chopped to pieces,face beyond recognition, and dumped in a suitcase , just by using a Swiss knife, which have his fingerprints and blood stains. As if this was not enough, he cooks up a story about two women assaulting him in the middle of no where. He also claims the women hurt themselves before inflicting pain on him – how odd is that?’

‘You have got to believe me sir – they did that deliberately to insure their protection in the event anyone else saw them ,the police chowk was just ahead of the Deshnok Railway station -as we were approaching town,– they could present themselves as victims.’ Baldev pleaded to be believed.

‘Why would some stranger suddenly want to hurt you – and that too a man of your size?

‘Where’s the motive? And more importantly where is the evidence?’

‘Your honor this is an open-shut case of a greedy tour operator who killed a man brutally in cold blood and wanted to pass on the blame ,but he got caught in his own story.’

‘That’s not true – why would I do that? What was my motive for killing somebody?’

‘Ah so now you do agree that there might be a chance that you were somewhere in the whole scheme of things and the woman story was all bogus- at least one point is proven here you honor.’

‘The motive was money – the police found a huge amount of cash in the back seat of the car – tightly rolled into bundles of thousand rupee notes -  talk about a healthy tip  eh Baldev?’

Baldev’s jaw dropped – he was helpless he had no defense left.

The court pronounced him guilty as charged and sentenced him to life imprisonment, ten years of which would be rigorous imprisonment with solitary confinement for six months.

A few days later,two women walked into a small restaurant near Bikaner railway station and ordered for some tea and snacks.The waiter brought two tiny cups of tea in a paper cup and snacks in a newspaper. As the last morsel of the snack went into their mouths an interesting article caught their eye.

“Shyam Singh Rathore, 40,divorced, looking for a suitable companion, homely, yet smart, traditional and modern can take care of home and assist in family business. Interested parties please post a picture and send bio data to Bikaner Times,PO Box number 2311 Bikaner - 334001.”

Just then,one of  the girl’s phone rang –a lawyer like voice on the other end of the line spoke - ‘my darlings,we have a new case…”

Gyanban Thoughts - a short twisted thriller  on  organized crime with a touch of madness!

July 3, 2012


Look at the mirror and see your face,
Mind is crowded,it needs some space,
You are persistent and strong,
Put on the mask and sing along.

As the dawn moves to dusk,
As the lights switch on first,
As the birds fly away,
You, begin your day.

Off you go to work and say
Good morning to everybody,everyday.
A bright smile meets the eye,
Hidden beneath is the sacrifical sigh.

You work the nights,
Brave the lights,
Work into the dawn,
Without a yawn.

You miss your momma’s pampering,
And Papa’s kind words,
Something you never valued then,
But now your emotions are stirred.

Or be it your fiance’s lonely look,
Those longing eyes, shift back into the book,
Your wife has cooked lovely food,
You wont eat together, is silently understood.

Your husband shrugs and bids you bye,
Your daughter’s little fingers, tug your tie,
And all you can say is good bye.
And head off with a sigh.

As you drive off in the car,
Those lonely eyes follow you far.

I don’t know who you are,
But you must be, some kind of superstar.

 Gyanban - I ve noticed people who work in the day times, often ridicule or are ignorant about the work that goes on right through the night.Its quite ironical when someone says to me,how can you work in the evenings/nights? Why has that person forgotten hospitals,doctors,flights,pilots,trains,busses,hotels,factories,call centers...and many more. People have always worked in the nights,and the least we could do as a civilised society is to acknowledge their contribution and be sensitive to their predicament.These jobs are not easy, on the mind body or soul. These people brave against all odds and work perhaps to complete the phrase 24/7.One of the things that has made India's name famous around the world. Would we rather not have this tag? 

These few lines are dedicated to all those people who have or are working  in the night ~ and the people around them who make it happen.Families,friends and well wishers all make it possible for these people to go on with their lives smoothly.

Their support is what makes them a superstar.
Salut !

Fade away

and then, just like that, one day we will fade away, aging books on empty shelves, receding memories of ourselves, sail away l...