In The Auto

In the final year of my schooling, I decided to join a ‘coaching’. The only decent coaching I, along with my friends, could find was about 8km away from where we lived. So we decided to commute to the coaching by the cheapest means of transport we could find – auto. It’s basically an Indian transportation trademark for people and has the capacity to carry 4 people excluding the driver as per specs. But coming to the ground level where things happen for real, the autos that carry less than 11 people excluding the driver are termed as ‘vacant’. Anyway, my discussing it here won’t change the fact nor will it greatly change your perception of the ‘Indian-jugaad’ system, so I will continue with my story.

When you travel a mile, your mind travels a hundred. It was during this travel to the Coaching to study my most dreaded subject – Chemistry that I let my mind wander far from the incomprehensible reactions in the Chemistry book.

There are some little moments in your life which you can’t ever forget –

What’s on the Indian roads? Cars, pedestrians, bikes, trucks, buses, autos, cycles, traffic lights, policemen, holes and cows. Now, of these all, the only one entity you can’t regulate are the cows. And there are a lot of them.Our auto sped towards the Civil Lines, Allahabad.

The weather was pleasant, just the way I loved it. I watched the grey clouds coming together as a cool wind blew at my face to my immense delight while I half-hung from the back of the auto. Suddenly, I was thrown inside and managed to crash with all my might into my friend sitting beside me.

The auto had come to a screeching halt. Fearing an accident the passengers craned their necks to see what lay ahead. The sedan before us blocked the view and the panic increased. The auto driver got out and went ahead while my friends and I speculated about what could have happened. The auto driver returned in a few seconds, laughing. We inquired but he only started up the auto as the sedan before us had moved towards left and sped off. Our auto followed and then we finally saw what had caused a break in the traffic of the city.
A new-born calf, probably not more than a few days old, stood paralyzed with fear in the middle of the road staring at the vehicles around it and emptying its bowels.

If you’ve ever been on the road you simply can’t not hate traffic lights. Now, let’s not being a debate here. I know they are the great saviors of humankind who could otherwise have wiped off a half of themselves merely by road accidents and all the other good they do which I do not care about as long as they do not stop annoying people who are in a hurry. But they won’t, you know it, and thus, no debate.
No we were not getting late to Coaching. But it’s a pre-installed feature in the Indian folk that they want to reach their destination fast and we were not grown enough to have removed that feature from us. So, we cursed our luck when suddenly as we approached the crossing, the light went red. Now for 90 seconds we would be without the constant wind which came when the auto would run. A curse in the 40 degrees plus summer afternoon of Allahabad, it can easily blow the lid off any decent man’s kettle.

But we couldn’t do anything about it since the authorities had not found it debatable while putting on the traffic lights. So, we waited.It was only when I got bored with staring at the long stream of vehicles behind our auto, who were trying to overtake as many vehicles as possible before the light went green, when I felt that it was time we moved. I turned and looked at the timer, a few seconds to go, and it was an instant relief. The light turned green.

No vehicle moved till the old couple had crossed the road.

Sitting at the back of the auto is a most delightful experience if you can ignore the bumpy ride. You get to watch people and vehicles falling behind and the road that keeps extending from underneath the auto tires like a carpet which refuses to cease. And then, you can also look into the eye of the people driving behind you till they creep out. And the icing on the cake is when you can hang at the back of the auto and enjoy the winds and scenery rushing by. Much fun!

Well, I’ve always been a back-bencher and it feels rewarding to read something like, ‘the classroom is dumb till the back-benchers join in’ on the social sites.We were at Alopibagh, famous for the temple of goddess Alopi. Once upon a time it was on the bank of river Ganga but now is the major auto and bus stop after crossing the Ganga. The autos will stop here even if you don’t ask them to. And people will get down even if none had asked the driver to stop the auto.

Our auto stopped. And the back seat gave a perfect view of the approaching vehicles, the people moving around, the auto drivers beckoning potential passengers to their auto and cows moving about between the stationary autos.It was then that an Ambulance came to a brief halt behind our auto which was blocking its way.

It didn’t honk, maybe because it wasn’t in a hurry. Our auto driver lazily moved the auto to a side while I observed the ambulance. Beside the driver sat a tired looking man, possibly a doctor by the looks, slumped in the seat with his shirt wet with sweat. The ambulance was one of the government emergency service ambulances which one could avail at a short notice.

Clearly, this one was returning after a job done.

I stared at the man beside the driver. He stared at me, too tired for an expression. Our auto started speeding and realizing the essence of time, I put a thumb up with a big smile to the man. He grinned happily and waved me a goodbye.

A Simple Story of Life

It’s rather boring in the morning when the first thing you have to do is to wash the dishes. Kushal did it every day. He had no choice if he wished to have his breakfast. Thus, the day began with washing dishes.

It used to be lot more interesting post the dishes though – he would deliver the milk in the nearby town after breakfast during which there was a lot of beauty-spotting, fantasizing and a lot of specialized flirting that only the milk-boy can do. Calling them ‘didi’ or ‘bhabhi’ was a necessary annoyance though. The best time to deliver the milk was early in the morning, not because the customers liked it – even the newspaper is delivered early as of that fact – but because the men of the house would be busy dressing up for offices and the (beautiful) ladies would come out to receive it. And this was why he secretly loved his present job with Gurudas. Gurudas – the dairy owner for whom Kushal worked.

Kushal had come a long way to finally settle here in Allahabad. It had been some 9-10 years now. His father would get drunk – beat the kids, beat his mother – the same old common story destroying most of the rural households of India and forcing free-willed-unruly-kids like Kushal to run away from home. It was easy to escape the liquor-induced-hell for the kids while their mother tended the vomiting father under the pretense of ‘running away to get some breath from this bullshit’. So on fine night, when the scene occurred again, Kushal simply put on his best pair of clothes, took the little bundle of money he had secretly stacked up since the last drama in the house, took a last fleeting look at his mother wiping the floor with one hand and clutching an end of her saree to her face sobbing in silence, he stepped out.

The life ahead was not going to be easy – having a father had its own benefits, having a mother completed it. But not having either instead of a dying father killing the mother was a lot better. The second step was firmer, third even more and then there was no looking back. The clenching in the throat ebbed away noticeably with the whiffs of fresh air as the train speeded, leaving behind the Meja Road platform.

Mahesh was happy. It had been a good sale today. It always was during the reaping days. The farmers were happy because the crop had brought in money and the babus were happy because it was their ego to be happier when everyone else was happy. And the best partner of rural happiness was Mahesh’s lifeline – the wine.

There had been a clash between three of the biggest players today – Awdhesh, Kamal and Suraj. They were the lads of the self-proclaimed richest families in the town and when they decided to prove their metal by making more men drunk – Mahesh’s heart danced like the peacock in the monsoons. It had rained today, in cash.

And cash in a happy father’s hand has always meant gifts for the family. His daughter jumped with her new cell phone. She had been craving for one of the likes they saw on the TV. She had her previous Nokia was too old-fashioned for a college girl and that with a smartphone, she would be able to video call her elder sister who was now in Delhi, married happily. It was the latter reason which really fell on his ears and after much thought, he decided he too wanted to be able to see his dear daughter once in a while and got the phone off Ram bhai’s shelf.

Khushi had jumped away to her room after planting an affectionate crocodile-tear analogous kiss on his cheek, he reclined on the armchair. Mahesh himself wouldn’t drink. He was too wise to burn his own house with the very fuel he sold. He felt sorry about it sometimes. There was Kushal, son of some farmer who would get drunk and wreck violence at his home, who had threatened Mahesh more than once to not sell his stuff to his father and probably, many others who suffered similarly but hadn’t come to complain on their fathers. He heard that a few days back Kushal had run away from home. Not surprising, he noted indifferently. Yes he felt a bit of sympathy for the boy but then, none of his other businesses brought in more profit than this. There was a season for buying clothes, there was a season for buying grains but there was no season for glum and happiness – it happened all the time in here.

The 2 mile Shastri Bridge spanning across the holy river Ganga at Allahabad is solemnly studded with lights which glow only when a minister of importance happens to be passing over it. It was in this darkness that Khushi found a refuge from her recently shattered bright world.

The events of the past days kept flashing in her mind. The party that came to ‘see the bride’ at her father’s place, to her father’s great and her none delight, the desperacy in Varun’s voice as he asked her to not marry someone else while he tried to persuade his parents to accept her, her leaving Meja and coming to Allahabad and finally – Varun had disappeared. Network was tragic on the outers of the Allahabad railway station. So, it was with a huge, stupid grin that she had texted him informing of her arrival here…she had added a small kiss at the end – which unlike the ones she gave to her father were actually meant.

New place, new hopes and a new life and to think it would be with Varun was the icing on the cake. The first thing she had done on reaching here was to call up Varun. He hadn’t picked up. She wasn’t much worried, though irritated somewhat. Firstly, that he wasn’t here to pick up her and secondly, at least he should have taken the call. But when the sun had sunk where the tracks met the sky and he still hadn’t picked up, instead, the network response was constantly of ‘User busy’, it dawned on Khushi that she might have made a mistake.

Standing on the Shastri bridge in the dark of the night, Khushi was thankful that none would be able to see her tears if she cried. No, she was determined not to cry for the fact that all of this had been her doing. She was the one who had run away from her parents and came here uninformed. It was not Varun’s fault if he wasn’t in a condition to accept her. There was none to blame but herself and so, none would suffer but her. It requires a strong heart to suffer – she never had one.

“This is the last leg of the journey,” she told herself and jumped off.

At this point of time, my wife, who unknown to me had rolled to my side of the bed while I wrote the above sections, gives my ear a playful bite and asks, “How much longer do you plan to stay in Meja? Come back, I’ve got something very interesting for you here in Allahabad!”

What happened after her words is a different story of entirely different genre. But now (3 hours and a long shower later), I hear the doorbell ring. Our maid responds to it – while I type this and Aditi (yep, she was the one who bit me!) dresses up behind me. She is always the one to leave the bed first only to pull me out and get me ready for office. ‘She treats me like an LKG school kid!’, I had often complained to both our respective mothers but the concerned authorities only found it giggle-able.

The maid brought in the coffee. Morning was always better with coffee and Aditi. But today there was this extra element –Kushal.

“What does he want?” I asked.

“He wants to talk to you,” Khushi replies with an evident blush.

I smiled and then wider when I realized the situation. Khushi had been living with us since the last 3 years. She had been saved from drowning after she had jumped off the Shastri bridge. She had come to Allahabad on the calling of some Varun who she had befriended at some cousin’s marriage. She ran away from home in fear of her parents marrying her to someone else and once she reached here, Varun had. With no money and strength to turn back, she had decided to end her life. Kushal, our milk boy brought her to us – our home being the nearest from where he rescued her.

We had asked her to return to her parent’s home. But she had refused. She was afraid of her father. “He will kill me,” she would say. So, we didn’t force her and let her stay with us as a maid on her and Kushal’s combined insistence. But then, she was like a daughter to us and today, Kushal had come to ask for her hand from us, and my smile reflected on Aditi’s face, even wider.

Mahesh had bought another smartphone to be able to see his daughter once in a while who lived in Delhi. He didn’t have a second daughter now – she had died for him the day her room was found empty upon breaking the door with a bullshit note on it. He didn’t want to remember its contents anymore.

The wine shop had shut down after a series of his frequent fights with the customers who were insensitive enough to ask repeatedly about his eloped daughter. Some cursed fool had decided to set up another wine shop by the support of the babus. And then people stopped coming to his shop altogether. Happiness was less in his life now that his income depended on the cloth shop and granary. But he was content with a little less of ‘Khushi’ if god willed it that way.

The phone rang. He hated unknown callers. The stupid town lads prank called him often enough. He picked up.

“Shri Mahesh Srivasatava?” the voice quivered.

“Ha..who’s this?” he grunted in anticipation of a wrong-number.

“Ji, its Kushal”, he responded. “Remember? My father was your regular customer…”

“Kushal Chauhan? Yeah, I do,” Mahesh wondered what he had to do with him. “Say, how are you?”

The world spun around him. His eyes flared up as she got down from the auto holding some man’s hand. The man came and touched Mahesh’s feet. Stood up, joined his hands and said, “Babuji, I am Kushal.” Mahesh could but utter some unintelligible blessing as Khushi’s mother ran up to her and embraced her to never let her go. His eyes flooded as she planted a real kiss on his cheek this time.

A Matter of Time

To the gentle breeze I complained,
With my hair which softly played,
“We were meant to walk together,
Then why these distances?
Why can’t she see me, or me her?”

A baby bird jumped off the ledge,
Fluttered wings in vain, almost fell, nearly dead,
At last it flew, to me the wind said,
“Today he was left hungry, all alone,
To meet his desires, his destiny, his
wings he spread.

Life is like me, its a matter of times,
Through me that bird fell, on me that
bird flies.”

Just a drop of love

Let me look into your eyes,
Let me live in your smiles,
Give me the wings, the winds,
Let me light up your life…

I’ll slide down your temple,
Will melt down to your eye,
Roll down as a tear,
Smear on your lips,
Fly away in your sigh…

There I’ll be again,
Gliding down your chest,
A departee of your neck,
To lose myself at your heart,
And reborn at your waist…

Oh! Don’t just swipe me away!
I’m just a drop, born,
When you lost yourself to him,
When you won him, his soul,
With a kiss, joined, two hearts torn.

A Mourning in my eyes

Infinite as the sea I’ll be,
Indefinite as the rainbow dreams,
Another day I’ll rise, today I fall,
I’ll trickle down your eyes!
Like a dewdrop on the wall…

You’ll find in my spaces,
A world of unborn streams,
Nimble, swaying, a cotton ball,
I’ll live; I’ll die in your eyes,
Like a dewdrop on the wall..

Again in time you’ll search,
My touches, my praising prims,
Mayb you’ll fail, maybe you shall,
Find me, melting into your eyes,
Like a dewdrop on the wall..

The Last Note

He was always like that. Melancholy sort. We knew it, every single student of our school knew it, every single teacher knew it and even the sweepers and the peons knew it that the day you saw the ghost of a smile on Sridhar Sir’s face, there has been some sort of confusion over the sun’s rising from the east. And it can be very well said that if he seldom (or better: almost never) smiled, he never grinned. But then it was well known to (again) everyone that his foremost 2 teeth were missing; something very noticeable in his small face which didn’t have much to place eyes on except his (improportionally) large head and in it his missing 2 teeth. It was very delightful to us 6th standard to fantasize him losing them to some honestly rational and good guy, for almost all of us had at least once in our career in the school thought of being the reason of another 2 missing teeth, thanks to his boring play of music while we tried to sing like Lata Mangeshkar (anyone wants to sing like her, be it a girl or not!).
Continue reading The Last Note

When Stones Collide

My dreams shall wither away with me,
But my songs will always truest be…

Beyond the mountains of your grief,
You may wait, and wait till time endless,
But time won’t cross me that one reef,
Where I stand, seeking the corals of your happiness.

In the swarthing seas of life you’ll swim,
I’ll wake to the deluge of your depart,
Dare sends grave winds The Mighty Whim,
The winds shall break against my heart.

Time will know, through time we’ll ride,
Your smiles..your scowls, your tunes…your howls,
I’ll meet you there then, life’s beautiful bride,
A song we’ll sing, when two stones collide…

The One Thing I Never Dared. Never Did.

“Its not that I don’t have the power, it’s that I can’t find myself strong before your eyes”, I looked at the unsent message for a long time. This was the truth my soul craved to scream out. And once more, I felt weak. It was her, the feeling that she was my God left me powerless, I knew I had no power against my God. My friends said I had changed, I, I had known the name of my life. I’d realized it was the name of my God, my life, my soul, my everything – Padma.

And such a great name it was! Padma. Padma. Padma. (I would really go on typing that one, I won’t destroy the magic the name creates by ‘Copy-Paste’-ing it. But I don’t write this story to expose my stupidity to the world, I write this to let the world know how important a person could be for someone) The name itself made me think for hours. It was the type of name that strikes the soul and for once, however less you believed, would make you put your name on sake that God does exist. And then her beauty, it was beyond anything any mortal could have seen anywhere. And the reason why I had no favorite actress, to the great disbelief of those of my friends who would find something to lust for in any girl, was that no actress ever touched her beauty. I always dodged one question, and sadly anyone of any age could ask me that – “What’s your aim in life?” I knew the answer very well and it felt good to feel that I had an aim. But that solitary aim was such that it would never be accepted by the so called Educated- society. And I would have to lie every time to save myself from facing the consequences of saying the truth – my only aim in life was to get my life Padma.

My friends said that every lover can deliver dialogues like- she’s my life, I can’t live without her and so on. This hurt. I said that only when I greatly underestimated my feelings for her. Unfortunately, the only 100% true person in this world is the person himself. She was the one ultimate truth I’d learned. And then, there was no reason to lie. I’d loved her every atom with every atom of mine. And when it came to the chemistry, I was terrible in it. And she, she was like she had everything pre-installed in her. She knew everything. And I, nothing. And that troubled me greatly whenever I had the nightmare of seeing her go away from my life. That was the greatest problem, she was simply perfect and every time I said that, I remembered some fool had said that nothing in this world is perfect), and I was full of errors. The more perfect she was, the more foolish was I.

Once, someone had said to me, “You should be a lawyer!” and I didn’t understand why. Today I did. I understood how much I’d been thinking and how accurate those thoughts of mine were which I feared the most. I never liked to think they would be true. But today I realized how correct it was of me to think I was nowhere good for her, she was not for me. And the thing that contributed to it, I had been thinking like a lawyer.

I knew I would never get her. It was impossible for me. But I knew it was worth trying. I did. But I never did it directly; I went for the indirect way and directed my life to a point where it was absolute dead end. And when I looked back from there, I saw the perfect chain of perfect mistakes I had made one after the other and found my way here. The point where I had two options, one, to leave her and live a life full of malice and wrongs, second, to accept her as the only aim of my life and to live a life of hope, regret, modification, pains, but above all, love. And that one thing pulled me the hardest. I gave up that part of my life which I had found the strongest. I left living for what I’d dreamed of, power. I dreamt new dreams now, new hopes, new
aim and had a new life. And the period of this
metamorphosis snatched away a small thing which I
missed the most after it was completely lost, my smile.
I forgot how to be happy. I felt the pain. And I made it a
part of life. This was a hard life, but it suited my
condition of hopelessness. I had not talked to her for
above a year. I had decided to face her only when I
could smile. I had grown so habituated to the pain that
the faintest smile would make me feel strange. I won’t
be doing that when I’d talk to her again. I won’t make
myself go mad only because I couldn’t smile. No, I
would be happy, as she never wanted me to be sad.
Else, I would be dead.

The day I saw her first, not in the wildest dreams I had
thought that one day, she would be why I continued
living –

In class 1, if someone is not small, it’s a problem.
Thankfully, I was, so was she. I sat quietly in one
corner when she entered the class. I didn’t care. Why would I?…
In class 10, if someone is small, it’s a problem.

Thankfully, I wasn’t…. or as I thought. She sat in the
third bench of the third row from the door. She looked
at me and I knew she was thinking. Thinking hard. I did
care for this. Why wouldn’t I? She was the girl I had
made clear my feelings a day before. I shook from my
inside. I had a reason to do so.

The 9 years that had passed had seen me grow
addicted to her. I now found it hard to think that one
day we would pass out from this school and she would
never remember me but just from the class photos. I
thought I loved her. I felt this, I wasn’t sure. It was
more likely I did because I found it hard to live without
seeing her for more than a few hours, my brain lingered
non-stop over her and only her praises, my eyes never
let go of her image, and all the other things that
happened when one was in love (watching too many
romantic movies had confused me). And then to think
that the day I would have to tell my heart I was never
to see her again….was fatal. Don’t love me, just
promise me I will never have to miss you.
And now I was here, seconds away from the going to
be most valuable promise of my life. I’d failed in
winning her love but I had found the key to find the
truth in me. She made me promise I would change. I
dared. I did.

2 years later, I write this story. I write this cause I know
I had never known anything. I have changed. I felt that
every time I stand in front of the mirror, see my photos
of 2 years ago (and before that) and whenever my
family look at me and shake their heads in defeated
disappointment. And all I’m able to do at that was to
lower my eyes and remember that promise, that love of
mine, that path I had chosen.

She had given me a new life, a life which she owned
and which I felt safer in her hands cause I knew she
would never like me unhappy. But I had lost my smile
in the change and I found it hard to face her without it.
I took my time. I tried madly to get back the smile I had
lost in the 2 years. And as I slowly found it, I
remembered we had scarcely one month to pass out
from the school. And once more, I lost whatever bit of
the smile I had got back. This ate me from my inside. I
would look at her from a distance and fight back the
flashbacks of those few happy moments I had with her.
And the one obvious thing was, I was suffering form
this only because I had loved her. Only if I wouldn’t
have made the mistake of proposing her in class 10,
probably today I would be at her side and say good bye
to her with a smile. Yes, this was the day, the day
when I would be seeing her for the last time in
(probably) my life. The excessively formal Farewell
Party organized by the school was half way. I
maintained the greatest distance possible from her. I
couldn’t find myself strong enough to say good bye to
her. I never did. It felt as if we were never to meet
again whenever I said that phrase. This time we really
would be separated forever and this made saying it
even harder.

I stared at her like a fool and never noticed that
everyone else stared at me staring her. And when she
turned towards me and I tried to hide away my eyes, I
realized the staring intensity of the atmosphere. I
looked back into her eyes. They were damn beautiful.
So-very-damn-beautiful. My mind raced. I tried to
smile and ended up in worsening the previously
happier expression of my face. This wasn’t going right.
And when the Principal ended his final speech to us, I
shot out of the room. I fought back the tears. My eyes
blinked fiercely. I was breaking.

I took my bike and hit the roads in the most reckless
way I’d ever done and that felt normal! My cell beeped,
‘plz cum bck – Padma’ and I looked at it for a long
time. I had no intention of doing so. I replied, ‘m bg’. I
got down at the bar and entered. Everything happened
in slow motion. I drank a glass. My throat burnt. It was
my first time.

Another beep – ‘Plz plz plz 🙁 I dnt hav much tym’. I
looked at it even longer. And drank. And drank. And
drank. My tears had stopped and now I felt stronger.
And I drank.

I had once said to her, “I can’t live without you.”
Today, it felt badly true. I drank. I read it over and over,
‘Its not that I don’t have the power, it’s that I can’t find
myself strong before your eyes’. I erased it. And finally,
I replied – ‘I coming…’ And I drank. The drink did its


“Hello Padma?”
“Padma…Padma…” sobs.
“Control yourself…..tell me….”
“Padma…..he…he….d….d…died…” and broke all over
“Died? Who?”


To live without her, I never dared. I never did.