Manifest Your Desires

 

Magic in Mcleod Ganj
Magic in Mcleod Ganj

 

As the curtains close to Arusha’s 18th birthday at McLeod Ganj, I reflect upon the day with a longing desire, a desire to capture it in a magic bottle. A magic memory bottle of sorts that I could re-visit and reclaim as only mine.

It’s been a whirlwind few months – changes, severed ties, revelations, mostly bitter moments; peppered with some really sweet ones, which made it easier to bear the debacles. Days of feeling helpless, but pulling through it with a tenacious spirit. And on the lop side being one with the change and embracing it with unsure but courageous thoughts. These moments would not have been possible without the support of some very dear, messiah like people who just stepped in and enveloped me with their motivating words and warm hugs.

Do you believe in magic? Do you believe in miracles? Do you believe in the power of your thoughts? Do you believe what you put out there, the universe manifests into your reality?

If not then read on and if yes, you could still go right ahead and read my little story.

A trip to Dharamshala one might assume is a short one especially when taking a flight. But believe it or not, we were caught in a massive traffic jam on our way to Mcleod Ganj and that too between Dharamshala and the latter, which in normal circumstances would take half an hour. It seemed as though the entire Punjab had descended upon this serene Tibetan settlement, also because it was the weekend.
And we thought we had left the chaotic city life and traffic jams to savour some mountain quietness.
Well, we weren’t entirely wrong!

I have long wanted to visit this Buddhist belt of India especially after I took to the Soka Gakkai practise of Buddhism. So it was a dream come true. And Arusha was also eager to be in a similar place for her eighteenth birthday, away from the maddening party scene; and we wanted to make it meaningful for her.
But little did we know that we were to be stranded in a 4 hour traffic jam. After being stuck for little more than 2 hours and whiling time watching the garrulous Punjabi uncles and youth sporting t-shirt vests and blare bhangra rap, fat aunties dawdling their way through the narrow road in a bid to walk the 5 km stretch; it struck me that chanting would probably help.
In the past Aarshia and I have chanted our way through traffic jams, seamlessly. I have chanted through massive traffic jams to reach my meetings on time in the past too. The pessimist in me began with little hope, as we could see the cars dotted back to back on the meandering hills. 15 minutes and nothing was moving still. I almost gave up when I put a goal of 4 pm for us to reach our destination.
I chanted with utter faith and determination as I didn’t want my baby girl (she would say, “not anymore!”) to spend her birthday like this. Though honestly I was enjoying this adventure. I never get impatient around jams, and I have realised acceptance is the key to staying calm at that moment. In fact jams give me time to reflect and enjoy my music!

It was over 3:30 pm and I put a goal of 4:30 pm, to reach our destination and suddenly the traffic started moving. I chanted vigorously and could feel the strong presence of Ikeda Sensie guiding me through this as he raised his fan to the “I will Sensie” song. I could hear the chorus in my head and see Sensie’s motivating smile and twinkling eyes. I have tried to establish that connect with my mentor, and its taking me longer than usual as I have had mentors like Ramkrishna Paramhans, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev who have been my beacon of light in the past.
But I believe it is fine to have many mentors, some at various points of time in your life and one who you will connect to always. I hope it will be Sensie!
At 4:05 pm the traffic came to a jolting halt again and we could see this 1-1/2 km stretch might take us hours to get through. Aarshia suggested we walk, so all of us clamoured out of the car and started walking. It was a nice, fun walk despite the one way traffic. I continued to chant and I felt Sensie encourage me through this. The peanut and corn vendors had set up shop and were selling their stuff like hot cakes. People were even playing board games in their cars.
Our hotel, Serkong House a Buddhist abode was right at the central market. By 4:30 we were sitting in the restaurant sipping on watermelon juice and satiating our growling stomachs with some piping hot Thukpas and momos.

Such is the power of this practise of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism and your faith. If you believe, you will always be lead to the desired outcome. The day you stop believing and challenging every obstacle, you will run out of that will to live life. Hope is what keeps us going, even when it’s just a traffic jam. When we get stuck in life’s emotional jam, all we need to do is believe in magic and hold on to it. And lo behold! Everyday will become a magic!

25th June 2016, Mcleod Ganj

~~My Will ‘O Wisp Spring~~

Oh! Spring, spring,
What shall you bring?

Wispy clouds with silver linings
Balmy breeze that seem to be dancing

A cuckoo bird flapping its wings
Melancholic hearts that sing

Riot of colours suddenly bursting
Frolicking souls giving in

A star spangled night whispering
Many a hearts entwining

Little daisies simply smiling
Yet another new beginning

 
22:40 hours
16 February 2005

Burn Baby Burn

“This is my Year! It’s going to be All Mine! This is My Year!!”
Proclaimed Lucy Van Pelt, of the Peanuts Comic strip.
And so did I!!

2015 will be my year. That’s what I kept reiterating as 2014 came to a meandering end. I heaved a sigh of relief as I bade it a hurried good bye.

Was greeted by a very wondrous beginning to the New Year with a vacation tucked in at “love you to bits, Mumbai” and “play if you must Pune” with the DH and girls. We spent glorious moments with a bunch of crazy pals who give our life that extra zing. On the 5th January morning we returned to our cosy nest. Gurgaon, the Millennium city was in the grips of the treacherous claws of a harsh winter. But we were relaxed knowing that this was time to make merry before the kids winter vacations got over. After all they usually translated into more late nights, endless soaps on TV, a movie thrown in here and a movie thrown in there, mindless banter with friends over a glass of cheer, or sitting with the family huddled in the quilt and talking endlessly as Joan Baez crooned Diamonds & Rust.
After a rather lovely date night with the better half on Friday, the next morning looked more than promising with a long-due visit planned to the in-laws in Noida. I woke up early and enjoyed the comfort of my cuppa. I was very inclined to chant but ended up calling my folks and had a long chat with them- more gratification to the soul. It was almost time to chant and connect with the mysticism of Nam Myo Ho Rengey Kyo so I went to wake the little one and Alok. My help had put the tray next to where Aarshia was lying on the bed and in a bid to save the little one I lifted the tray and lost my balance. In a fraction of second the hot tea and milk were upon me, scalding my skin as I let out a war cry. My loudest!

My leg was scalded beyond recognition, and the skin had been torn off as I pulled off my tracks. I was not only burning from the outside but also from the inside. The only thought that came to me then was how do people immolate themselves. How! How! How! It could qualify as the highest form of torture.
Arusha my 16 year old and Alok were by my side; comforting me and helping put my legs in an ice bucket. Arusha kept soothing my spirit by giving examples of the Buddha and his ignorance to pain when he meditated in the storm, in the rain and in the cold. I just felt the excruciating pain, but also blessed at that point of time. How many 16 year olds would dispense out such pearls of wisdom?

After a while we rushed to the ER at Artemis, wherein the wounds were attended to. I clung to Arusha as she comforted me, and the doctor and nurses, cleaned and bandaged my legs.

It’s been 7 days since my plans for this month changed their course. From being a month of new beginnings, new workplans and so on so forth, it’s turned out to be a month of healing and staying positive depsite the odds. The intention is not to brag, but to pat myself on the back and say, I did it and I’m going to do it. The scalded skin is healing slowly but well. I need to visit the hospital every alternate day for the dressing of my left leg, which is bandaged in such a way that it comes acrossas a cast. The leg’s not broken, neither is the soul!
I can barely walk, mostly with assistance or mostly on my own; grabbing the walls, the tables or whatever comes my way. I walk less. Period. Today is the seventh day of this debacle and I am beginning to hobble around a bit. It’s nice to get burnt in the winters. So I believe. The healing is faster, and one can sit under the quilt and sip coffee and eat, chat and listen to music, and write, and order family around for all the help.
But wait, somebody just told me that it pains a lot more in winters. So I grin and bear the pain. Though I have been gettinga bit edgy the last two days. And my family has been wonderfully patient with me. I have been able to send out the second draft of the UN, World Food Programme project. I’m glad I work from home as a writer.
Today I started worrying about the scars, on my leg. When summers come, how will I wear cropped pants and short dresses and chappals? But who knows, liberal application of coconut oil will my dull the scars in time. And the other lop side to the story is the burn just missed my Carpe diem tattoo by a whisker. Guess I should draw courage from that tattoo and remember to seize the moment and not worry about what the future will hold. The humming bird on my Carpe Diem tattoo is saying, “Cross the bridges when you come to them”. Also, so said the doctor attending to me. For now I’m counting my blessing for the abundant love and TLC that I have from friends and family. And a good set of doctors attending to my wounds.

Time to forge ahead with hope and gratitude in my heart. Amen to that!

17 January, 2015

 

my-year

Strong & Silent: Cotton Story

Silence is golden and who knows it better than our four legged furry friends. It is fleetingly that they communicate their joy or displeasure by barking, growling or whining.
This applies more so to my just turned 8, furry girl Cotton who is more often than not, very calm and reticent. The only time she gets frazzled is when a storm blow or it rains, or she hears noisy fire crackers being burst. And she vies for our attention when she is starved for snacks. All this without any noisy display of barking. Frantic shivering when the former happens and incessant pawing when hunger strikes.

They say that each being that comes in touch with us, teaches us new lessons. Cotton has had a long history of imparting nuances of nuggets my way.
One being this Friday, when I went to see off Alok at the elevator outside our door. A ritual I follow everyday as he leaves for work. And guess who else joins me in the “adieu ritual”. Well, none other than Cotton ofcourse. This was one of those days when I had lots on my mind and many chores and work related things to accomplish. So much so that I walked in and shut the door, not realizing I has locked poor Cotton out. On most days I bring her in calling our to her but on this day my absent mindedness got the better of me. I hurriedly got back to the table and engrossed myself deep in work.
An hour had passed, when Shantana, my help suddenly quipped, ” Who’s that outside the door? I can see 4 legs from under the door.” Distracted I looked away from the computer screen and asked her to go check.
As Shantana opened the door, poor Cotton sheepishly walked inside and came and plonked herself next to me.cotton
I sympathetically looked at her at went back to work as I had a deadline to meet. It is later during the course of the day when I had some time for reflection that I began to think about how we as humans would have reacted in a situation like this. We would have knocked/ banged at the door or called out. But patient little being that Cotton is, she chose to keep silent and wait for us to open the door.
This is such a big lesson for me to stay calm in the face of adversity. The challenging situation you are in may not get sorted at once by banging the door, but if all fails what really helps is staying calm and strong.

29 October 2013

OBKEK

img_2182

December 2, 2005
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Abhishek is the kid brother I never had.

As I rewind back to the muggy monsoon of 2004, memories of Abhishek and I sharing a raucous laugh on the dilemmas of life; ring true.
It was one of those days when Abhishek had come home from his break. He was doing his MBA at Hyderabad and simultaneously also working with a call centre. We were catching up on old and new times, alike.
He excitedly told me, “Didi I bagged the best employee award”
I was so proud of O.B.K.E.K (pronounced OB-Cake); that’s what I call him.

He was born when I was a little over 7 years old. Still remember the first time when Leena Aunty put him on my lap. There I was flaunting this brand new dress in celebration of his birth and to my horror that-wet-something trickled all over me, making it a day surely to remember.

Abhishek and I grew up together. Literally!
We spent many an evenings watching Sharukh Khan’s first serial “Fauji” and I’d clap in glee when he would emulate the title track with much style. The heart warming smile that flashed thereafter would make me want to spoil him silly. Yet we also had our share of quarrels on who had wacked who’s DC Comic, Target or Tin Tin.
I remember the first time I shifted to Delhi, he pillion drove me across the city, and we went about scrutinizing a decent place for me to stay. I was happy to see he was a steady driver. Well he had his head screwed firmly on his shoulders and that’s what made all of us so proud of him.

That July evening as we both sat catching up on the “latest”, he told me with a rather sweet blush that he had fallen in love. And he somehow knew that this was it! But life has a way of throwing up unique ironies. The girl in question was getting engaged in the next few days to a techie in the USA. He looked at me with those intense eyes which suddenly seem to grow sad but in a haste lit up. He quickly flashed that warm smile and said, “That’s ok Didi, I have shared the best moments in life with her, and I guess I am not up there like her would-be-husband. I am still studying. I guess she’ll be happy with what her family has planned for her.”

I held his hand and reassured him, “Listen Bro, if destiny wants the two of you to be together, so you shall be. For all you know, next year this time you’ll be telling me she’s yours!”

He smiled back again; that confident and in reassuring smile and said,
“Que Sera Sera…I am very happy with life, no regrets, no complaints.”
And yes he looked genuinely happy as he gorged on his favourite chicken curry my Ma had prepared for him with piping hot parathas. He completely loved the vanilla ice-cream topped with the mango chunks and told my Dad, “Wow, Jethu! I’ve never tried this dessert combo. It’s lip- smacking!!”

The next day, Abhishek left for Pantnagar, near Nainital; to go spend time with his mother. He was driving and was accompanied with his father. Their car was hit by a truck; and the ebullient life ebbed out of him in a jiffy. His father survived the crash, but Abhishek was gone…leaving behind a void in our lives, forever.

The next few days were the most traumatic; I have ever known. It was the first time I had seen someone so close to me falling prey to the cruel hands of death. A young, energetic, vivacious and caring life; would touch us no more.
Three days later we stood at the doors of the small Kaali temple, ready to leave; after Abhishek’s prayer service and it began to drizzle.
I quickly escorted Leena Aunty and Kaku (Abhishek’s Ma & Dad) and my parents into the car; strapped the safety belt as Kaku fumbled softly, “Drive carefully beta”. The light pitter patter continued as I revved up the car engine.
My soul was crying; “Was Abhishek crying too?” I quizzically thought to myself.

Barely had we crossed a few blocks there were no signs of the rain. On the contrary the sun was shining brightly. Was it Abhishek bidding us adieu and telling us he was fine.
And that he would forever smile and shine upon us?

 

 

Let’s Ubuntu


September was serendipitous. I was taking my Buddhism Level 2 exam, which turned out to be a great leveller, actually. I learnt something innately profound and meaningful. It’s called “Boddhisatva Never Disparaging” which essentially means treating the entire humankind with respect irrespective of our difference.

We sometimes get judgemental of people. And we let our judgement drive our behaviour or attitude towards them. We judge people on how they behave, or the way they choose to be, dress, talk or respond to situations. These could be completely different from our perceptions and so called realities about life. We don’t know what other’s stories are, where they are coming from. So let’s stop short when we get judgemental. Its good to have an opinion but one can leave it at that. When we do that we learn the art of letting go, and start abiding by the “live and let live” philosophy. We free ourselves of the biases, and I personally feel we become more at peace with ourselves. We’ve let the thoughts not bother us anymore. And we are one with the moment and the person.

I write this not because of the fact that I’m a practising Buddhist, but also because I felt this was one flaw that I needed to change about myself. I have struggled time and again, despite my Buddhist practise by falling into this trap of judging people and situations.
But as I study this philosophy more and more, which tells us that each human being, including the person who doesn’t practise Buddhism, has an inherent Buddha nature within (we all know that right- even the most dangerous criminals); my belief in it gets reaffirmed.

Ubuntu philosophy is one such practise that has fascinated me immensely.
There’s a tribe in Africa called Ubuntu that follows the beautiful “ubuntu” (Prounounced oo-boon-too) philosophy. Ubuntu is a Zulu or Xhosa word and a traditional African concept that means, “ I am because we are.” It translates to humans, caring, sharing and being in harmony with all of creation.

Archibishop Desmon Tutu summed up the philosophy by saying, “Africans have a thing called ubuntu. It’s about the essence of being human. It embraces hospitality, caring about others, being willing to go the extra mile for the sake of another. We believe that a person is a person through other persons, that my humanity is caught up, bound up, inextricably, with yours. When I dehumanise you, I inexorably dehumanise myself. The solitary human being is a contradiction in terms. Therefore you seek to work for the common good because your humanity comes into its own in community, in belonging.”

Another incredible example is of the Solomon islands. When people want to clear a forest for planting or development they just gather around the big tree, stand around it holding hands and hurl abuses at the tree. Eventually the tree withers and dies on its own in just 30 days.

Respect
Respect

These days some schools are trying to scrape detention and replace it with meditation. Another step forward in calming the mind and healing the being without loathing or punishing.

We are all intrinsically connected to each other. If we carry forward the philosophy of acceptance towards people around us, we can work as a team, as one large unit of happy people who share amicable relationships with each other. And wouldn’t that lead to a better world? On the contrary if we curse and abuse or think of others with contempt, we will only harbour negative feelings and in return be more often than not, retaliated with negative energies.

So who all are joining me in celebrating Ubuntu or Bodhisatva never Disparaging? It’s a beautiful life, lets all live in harmony.

September 2016

The Black Letter Day

 

Sixteenth Day of December 2014 was supposed to be one of those pre-Christmas day weeks when most of us brace up for the arrival of Santa and his ilk. I spent the morning spring-cleaning. Tidied up my 6 year olds cupboard, and while fixing one of the lofts found two huge teddy bears tucked away in a cloth bag. A big, big teddy bear that was the 6 year olds wish list from Santa. My worries of getting her a big teddy bear and lack of space to keep it were brushed off now. She hadn’t seen these teddies. So they would double up as Santa’s gift. Aarshia was ecstatic to find two huge teddies propped on her bed when she arrived from school. Squealing in delight she scooped them in her arms and named them Daisy and Poppy. “Mumma, how did Santa arrive earlier at our home?” she quipped. “You’ve been a good girl, sweetheart, that’s why.” I responded with smile of amusement.

The evening was spent at Vivaan, Aarshia’s good friend’s birthday party, bowling and having fun, in the cold, misty Gurgaon weather. Little did we know that we would return home, post a joyous day to be thrown off by the most horrifying news ever! Taliban militants had massacred 134 school children in Pakistan along with 11 other school staff. All the festive cheer came tumbling down like a pack of cards. I felt as though someone had slashed a knife into my heart. This gory murder of innocent children, just one day after the Sydney siege, where a gunman had taken people hostage in a café and killed two. What was the world coming to?
Suddenly 16th December 2014 had transformed into a dark, gloomy apparition of a black letter day in the history of mankind.
This night I hugged my girls tighter than I ever have, I guess.

I woke up next morning and proceeded to go about the day. After I had packed the girls to school, I was engulfed with a searing sense of sadness. Just as the thick blanket of morning fog hovered over our township, I felt a blanket of gloom cloaking my being. I am unable to come to terms with that fact that how could human’s slaughter innocent young children? Well, those aren’t humans I guess; they are monsters in the garb of humans. I can’t even begin to fathom what the parents and families of these children(mostly 12-16 years of age) must be going through. Young lives lopped off in the bud, just when they were beginning to take flight and chart their dreams.  And I happened to see a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon on social media. Hobbes the tiger is telling Calvin, “You know there are times when it’s a source of personal pride, to not be human.” So rightly articulated. An animal would never resort to such dastardly act of terrorism, as did these Talibans at Peshawar yesterday.

My question is what can we do to change these heinous crimes plaguing the length and breadth of earth. We are progressing in leaps and bounds, whether be it science and technology and what-have-yous. But are we progressing as a race of compassionate human beings? No, we aren’t! We are only regressing. We are at a space that we have never ever been in the past. Such gruesome murder of innocent lives was unheard of. I guess its time to focus on the progress of the inner self and work on the compassion quotient of human beings in general. Kids in school need to be not just taught science, social studies and math, but lessons in humanity, caring and compassion. Wonder why they did away with Moral Science, a subject we grew up learning as kids.
It is time to rein terrorism and exterminate it from the face of earth. That can happen now if all the global forces come together to exterminate these barbarians and in the long run if we inculcate amongst our kids, little lessons in humanity.

 

Lost in Paradise

It was a crisp, sunny October morning in the fragrantly nippy, majestic Himalayan land of Binsar. The snow clad Nanda Devi peaks were sparkling like silver jewels, in all their glory as the morning sun washed down upon them. We were waking up to a languorous Diwali morning with some fragrant masala chai in the Eagle’s Nest cottage. The girls were rubbing their eyes and gleefully lapping the beauty of the snow clad peaks, from their bunk bed. Laila was still lying curled up against my foot when Aarshia climbed down the steps of the bunk bed and cupped her up in her arms.

It was our third morning in Binsar and a morning ritual on this holiday was to go downstairs and sit outside the patio steps and sip into copious cups of masala chai, while Laila ran around, sniffing the dew covered foliage and the girls gobbled up some chocolate biscuits. Aarshia would finish her hot chocolate after much p10389286_10152552415889143_802872075572795813_nrodding and thereafter we would all proceed for breakfast to the restaurant. Once again this particular morning we sat at the restaurant balcony, overlooking the serene Himalayas, sunbathing and savouring its beauty while digging into some piping hot puris and alu and some locally made preserves. There were some blueberry and chocolate muffins that we washed down with our coffee. Holidays were meant to feast and forego thoughts of becoming fat and have fun, after all.

It was after breakfast that we would walk down to the forested area within Venetian Heights (the resort we were staying at) and yet again bask in the sun, collect pine cones, listen to the rustling pine trees and savour the Himalayan breeze and submerge in the sound of silence, far from the maddening metropolis life.
On this Diwali morning, on some weird whim we decided to take Laila with us, but minus a leash. We’d been meaning to take her for the last two days, but hadn’t. As I bent down to leash her, Alok told me to let her be. Aarshia, our 6 year old kept insisting, “Papa, please tie her. Else she will chase the goats.” But Alok dismissed it off saying, “She’ll be fine, don’t worry.” Even I didn’t insist on her being leashed thinking, “Let the fur ball enjoy her rare chance with freedom.”
As we traipsed into the forest, Laila scampered ahead of us, sniffing around excitedly and enjoying her new found freedom. Aarshia time and again kept waving at Laila’s leash, asking her to be leashed. And we dismissed her request each time. It came to a point where she almost burst into tears and Alok had to rebuke her for being so stuck up. Arusha was to join us later, as she wanted to savour some alone time at the Meditation point writing and contemplating.

As we reached the forest, we could see the flock of goats grazing at a distance. We walked up to them along with Laila, but the moment Laila saw the goats she stopped short on her tracks. She looked at them suspiciously, as if they were some weird creatures from another planet, and suddenly without any provocation jumped towards them, and ran chasing them across the other side of the hill. We were stunned, and as we called out to her, hoping she would retreat; we realised she had just disappeared along with the goats. Alok ran after her as Aarshia burst into a river of tears. “I told you,” is all she kept saying. I reassured her that Laila would come back and that she would be some where around with the goats. Alok and the goat herder had gone looking for Laila and the goats, and Aarshia wouldn’t stop sobbing. I called Arusha who also by now had joined us in the forested hill. We saw Alok coming back, but without Laila. He said neither the goats nor Laila were anywhere to be seen. By now I was also beginning to panic, but holding ground as I realised there was no other way to be, what with Aarshia so uncontrollably inconsolable. My worry were the leopards and other wild animals in the jungle that could instantly prey upon our little Laila. But this was not a time to worry, but to act upon. I called the resort and informed them.

One of the attendants, Tikaram from the resort came by and went into the jungle searching for Laila. Alok had again left to look for her in the opposite hill, across the fare way, but there was absolutely no sign, or trace of Laila. We were bewildered and heartbroken to say the least, when we got word from the resort that one of the masons working on a construction building of the resort had seen her running on the main road below the hill. He thereafter saw that she had been picked by a bunch of kids travelling in a garland decorated, Maruti and whisked her away. Pranay Bose, the manager of the resort who had also become a good friend, advised we should go beyond the Binsar township and the Binsar sanctuary and look for her. If the occupants of the Maruti were tourists, they would have gone to the Binsar Wildlife sanctuary. We could also check the nearby settlements and shops. Pranay himself had already left to go looking for Laila along with his men. We followed suit. We scoured the nearby hamlets, looking for a white Maruti 800 with garlands, but with no luck. By then we had eached the gates of the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary where Alok dropped off Aarshia and I and went off with Arusha towards the Mahendra resort too looking for Laila. We asked theawa
guard if he had seen a Maruti with kids, to which he said one such car with kids had indeed gone inside, but he had no clue if there was a dog with them. It was not allowed to take pets inside, he informed us. Hope seemed to go down upon us. Pranay had sent one of his workers in a scooter inside the sanctuary to check, so we waited outside the gates, hoping he would return with good news and Laila.

But we were in for no such luck. Pranay also arrived, in his Gypsy and spoke to the person who had gone searching for Laila at the sanctuary and he was told Laila wasn’t there either. Meanwhile Alok and Arusha also returned from hunting Laila, disappointed. It had been almost 5 hours since we had lost Laila and we returned back to the resort heartbroken, full of remorse and regret. While all this was happening, I had texted my prayer and Reiki group Connect Ticket on Whatsapp about Laila’s disappearance and everyone in the group had come together to send fervent prayers and positive energies for Laila. The group members, more my extended family, were constantly in touch with me and were consoling me that she would return. But hope seemed bleak now, as we hadn’t found her in the vicinity of Binsar. We were assuming she was taken y in the Maruti 800, beyond Binsar.
The boys at the resort were waiting for us with lunch. I could barely eat a morsel and there was a stunned silence between four of us as we sat at the lunch table. I finally broke down. All this while I was holding ground but now, the inevitable seem to have come true.
Pranay asked me to send him pictures of Laila so that he could put up posters across the various towns in Almora district and also send it to the local newspapers. That seemed to be our only hope now.
We returned to our empty cottage, minus Laila’s warm, excited leaps of greetings. Her uneaten bowl of food lay on the floor and we seemed to be living our worst nightmare this Diwali day of 2014. A shroud of gloom descended upon the otherwise exciting and serene vacation.
My prayer group Connect Ticket members kept boosting my moral and sending me texts on not to give up hope and to keep the faith whatsoever. Around five in the evening, as we ordered our masala chai and morosely sat sipping it, we saw Pranay at the door of the cottage with Tikaram, the resort attendant. Pranay grinning hopefully and excitedly informed us,“We might have made some kind of a breakthrough. Laila might be around here, in the vicinity of the resort.” We all jumped off the sofa and the girls squealed with joy. We raced behind him as he escorted us to the resort patio, telling us that their old security guard had informed him that Bipin Thapliyal, owner of the opulent resort opposite Venetian Heights had Laila. Our eyes were twinkling with a new found joy of hope and our excitement knew no bounds. We were relieved that she had not been taken away to any place unreachable and untraceable from Binsar. Hopes of getting her back had been revived. Pranay said, “Please excuse me but I won’t be able to accompany you to Bipin Thapliyal, as we aren’t on good terms. So I’m sending Tikaram with you.” That was fine with us after all Pranay had tirelessly helped with Laila’s search all this while.
Tikaram took us to the market next door, where he called the security guard’s son, who had actually found Laila, in the Maruti 800 that had picked her up below the hill. The car with kids was taking Laila away, and this guy on a whim told them, “That’s my dog, you can’t take her away.” To which they had reluctantly parted with Laila. The security guard’s son had the bought Laila home and fed her biscuits and milk. His kids were excited to find a furry little dog amidst them and they had all pampered her; till they received a call from Bipin Thapliyal claiming it was his dog and asked her to be returned. Nobody in the locales of Binsar liked to engage with Thapliyal in any conflicting manner. He was a well-connected man, a mafia of sorts and capable of giving one a very hard time if he so deemed fit.

The security guard’s son, Tikaram and Alok, my better half went to Thapliyal’s mansion. We were asked to stay put at the market next to Thapliyal’s mansion and also across Venetian Heights. Apparently the security guard’s son upon seeing Thapliyal just went quiet. Alok did all the talking and asked him if he had seen Laila, our furry Sitzu who had gone missing since morning. Bipin denied knowledge of any such dog. They returned to inform us of Thapliyal’s statement. But we weren’t giving up so easy. Arusha, Aarshia (my daughters) and I decided to go have a word with him. When we approached Bipin Thapliyal he was having his evening tea, in his grand patio. He flashed a charming, yet sinister smile and offered us tea. We declined saying we were looking for our dog. Arusha took out her phone and started showing him Laila’s pictures and videos. Thapliyal completely feigned ignorance and said that if he found her he would let us know. We felt let down, knowing he had Laila somewhere inside his resort mansion, held captive and traumatised.
Returning to our cottage at Venetian Heights disillusioned and dejected yet another time and this time in more ways than one, I called Sridhar, my good friend and Connect Ticket owner. I told him about how we had almost found Laila yet our hopes of getting her back now seemed bleak. Sri told me not to worry and simply pray for Laila’s safe return.He gave me a fitting description of Thapliyal, exactly what he was to look as; stout and someone who slightly shuffled his legs as he walked. Sri is psychic, and he said he would send Reiki energies for better sense to prevail within Thapliyal and for him to return Laila to us, as should be rightfully done. He also told me to meditate and call out to Laila gently and endearingly, as I would when calling her to come to me. Meanwhile, Alok had called his Father in the USA. They were traveling, on a holiday. He had got the details of the Army chief of Almora who could help connect with Thapliyal and assist in Laila’s return. Alok had also called his contact in the media to help. The word had been passed around across the seas. We were doing everything possible to ensure Laila returned safely. Diwali being Kaali puja day, I asked my father and mother to pray for Laila as they sat down to carry out the evening puja. Meanwhile on the prayer group, everyone was saying some uncanny yet reassuring stuff. Shruti said,“Natz, don’t worry. Laila will return back to you before you have your Diwali dinner. “Chithra consoled me saying,“Natz, I can visualise Thapliyal carrying Laila in his arms and returning her back to you.”

With all these positive thoughts and wishes, I proceeded upstairs to thebedroom of the cottage and started meditating for Laila’s r
eturn. I opened Goddess Kaali’s picture on my phone and prayed, asking her to send Laila safely back, into our arms.

As I was visualising all this, at that very moment Lo! Behold!! I heard Arusha from downstairs, in the living room of the cottage, shout, “Lailaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!” I raced down the stairs, to find Bipin Thapliyal holding Laila in his arms, surrounded by two of his honchos. It was like a dream come true. The best Diwali gift ever, ever. He handed over a shabby looking Laila to me. She looked tired and had thorns sticking all over her otherwise smooth furry coat. Her hair band, clips that held her ponytails were gone and she looked scruffily untidy but more than happy to see us. My heart was beating faster than it ever had.
Thapliyal then said, “I couldn’t bear to see the sad faces of your children. So I sent my men looking for your dog in the village. We found her there and paid 3 grand to retrieve her.” Of course he was fibbing, after all how could he come clean that it was he who had kidnapped Laila. But nothing mattered, anymore. Nothing, at all. Laila had returned to the cosy confines of our arms and being, thanks to the innumerable efforts, prayers and Reiki energies that poured in from across the globe. This was no less than a miracle and such a surreal one. Thapliyal wanted us to click a picture of him with Laila and us. We obliged, reluctantly yes; but then that was a meagre price to pay for his change of heart.
Chitra and Shruti’s words had come true! I called Sridhar to tell him Laila had returned to which he said he had sent Reiki t
o Thapliyal and spoken to him to return Laila back. Thapliyal had initially been reluctant but for the sake of the kids happiness he had given in.
Pranay, Tikaram and all the staff at Venetian Heights came to look up Laila. Our hearts were singing and our eyes were sparkling brighter than ever. All the combined efforts to trace Laila had reaped fruits.
So, we indeed brought in Diwali dinner with Laila, outside the resort, by a bonfire, bursting some crackers. Arusha decided to break her vegetarian vow and eat chicken, this one time. After all this was a moment to be cherished and celebrated.

We still continimg_7587ue to celebrate Laila’s presence in our life. And every time she looks at us with those melt-your-heart eyes, shadowed by the mop of ponytails, we give gratitude to the guy-up-there and all the wonderful people who made it possible for Laila to return, back into our lives.

Next morning was spent in meticulously removing a hundred thorns from Laila’s coat. Alok sat her on the bed, and as I sipped my morning cuppa, overlooking the vast expanse of the snow clad Nanda Devi my heart simply welled up in gratitude and more gratitude.
The mountains had been good to us. They had taught us a lesson in love, perseverance and fortitude and to believe in what we wanted in our lives. The mountains were part of the universe that had conspired along with us to bring what we desired, if we so willed it to happen.
I gave Laila a nice herbal shampoo scrub and cleaned her all squeaky clean, tying her trademark pony tails. Laila looked enchanting. After all, she is the enchantress of our hearts and will remain so for times and lifetimes immemorial.

23 October 2014, Binsar, Almora, Uttarakhand

Disclaimer: This is a work of non-fiction, a true story straight from the pages of my life.

Sally’s Apartment

Your character moves into a new apartment. On the surface, the place seemed ideal, but his/her first night there, your character discovers a terrible problem with the place that he/she didn’t take into account…

Sally’s move to County Hills was now proving to be long overdue. A pile of office work, her mother’s long drawn battle with Cancer, and her overt attachment to the old apartment was impeding her move. It was finally when the landlord at Regent park gave her an ultimatum, saying he needed the apartment back for himself in the next one week that Sally decided to pull up her socks and gear up for the move. Mum’s treatment could be managed from County Hills as well. After all it was just 20 miles further, and an extra ½ an hour drive to the hospital. Office work, she thought would just have to wait now. And relinquishing her attachment to the picturesque Regent Park apartment that overlooked the breezy bay, was the only option left.
County Hills as the name rightly suggests was nestled against the meandering hills of the suburbs. Not many people had moved into it yet, as it was a brand new property by the construction company Keith & Harrison Pvt. Ltd. Sally had found this property through a friend’s friend. The rental was a whopping 70 K but she wasn’t worried about that as long as the company paid for it and the premises were secure with a well-equipped gymnasium, azure pool that opened out to the hills, and basic amenities like grocery store, running track, a park full of blossoms where her mother could spend her evenings without feeling lonely.

The day Sally and her Mum moved in, it was a Friday. And since the weekend was around the corner, Sally thought she would expedite organising the new home. Shifting was a whole lot of work, though the Movers and Packers had taken care of most of it. But there still remained the arduous task of arranging the stuff in the right places. It was almost 9 PM, by the time Sally and her Mum, Ms. Strasburg got a breather. Dinner was take-out from the nearest Pizza Hut. Ms. Starsburg detested the idea of eating out, as she felt it was detrimental to her illness; but at this point of time she had no other choice but to bite into the thick crust Chicken Hawaiian pizza, Sally’s all time favourite since she was a kid. The kitchen would only become functional over the weekend.

Post dinner, Sally poured herself a glass of Kaluha. Plonked herself on the lazy boy and imagined all the worries of the week drift away into the oblivion. Ms. Strasburg had retired to her room. The stillness of the evening was filled with the fresh fragrance of the rustling pine trees that overlooked the living room balcony. Sally could hear an Owl hoot somewhere nearby. She felt a sense of contentment envelop her being. After all, this place had its own charm, and she regretted resisting the move for so long. The silence of the serene night was suddenly shattered by a loud cry, screaming, “Helpppppppppp, Helppppppppppppppppp!”
Sally was jolted out of her reverie and she almost jumped out of her skin, realising it was none other than her mother. She sprinted to her Mother’s room, and was aghast to find Ms. Strasburg’s one leg stuck underneath one of the wooden planks that tiled the room. She was shaking like a leaf and was crying out in pain, as her entire leg lay plunged below the 14th floor bedroom. She let out a guttural cry saying, “I’m getting sucked into the floor below. Jesus Christ!!! Somebody is pulling me down.” Sally grabbed at Ms. Strasburg’s arm and tried to pull her out, but the more she pulled her towards herself, the more she felt someone pull her Mother down. The plank by now had cracked open, and through the meagre opening she could hear a heavy grunting sound, one that sounded like some sort of an animal. Gathering her wits end Sally wondered in horror what kind of creature could that be, to have climbed the floor below. Flashes of horror films where she had witnessed such scenarios, played in her panicked mind. She tugged with all her might at her Mother’s arm, and suddenly with a crashing noise that was rend with pain ridden screams, Ms. Strasburg crashed into the floor beside Sally. The grunting sound of the creature had stopped. Her mother was howling in pain, and Sally noticed there were deep-seated claw marks running across her mother’s shins.

An eerie sense of fear gripped Sally, as tears rolled down her ivory skin, merging with Ms. Starsburg’s cries and tears. Both mother and daughter lay on the floor hugging and curled up in each others arms crying copiously, in the stillness of the night of Friday the Thirteenth.
Disclaimer: This is a complete work of fiction, and an offshoot of my spooky imagination.

November Rain

 

15095030_10154331384609143_3175775341786401807_n

The autumn was slowly but surely hanging it’s boots, the smog was choking us with it’s tippy dance, the nation was reeling in the throes of demonitization. While some were elated, some were doomed.

Trumps appalling victory was blurred by the Indian Prime Minister’s path breaking action. The long queues at banks sans the demarcation of class, creed, status made for an endearing sight, yet at the same time inconvenienced a country of 1 billion people. The masses thought twice before spending even a INR 100 note. The good old days of saving and making each penny count were back.
Amidst all the chaos, confusion life still goes on for the Night Jasmine which surprisingly is still flowering in mid-November. Guess it’s holding on to the good that still exists amidst the gloomy and not so gloomy days. The sun has mellowed it’s rays, while the Super Moon announced its appearance with much fanfare. According to astrologers the effects of a Supermoon are imperceptible, and far smaller than those encountered in other everyday situations. While spiritually speaking the lesson is to love what arises within you, and what is rising up in the world during this powerful time of release and transformation.
So hang in there and seize the moment!

13 November, 2016

 

%d bloggers like this: