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चलो

कहते थे,
साथ चलो

ये गलियाँ तुम नहीं चीन्हती,
हाथ पकड़, पास चलो

हम कहाँ आ पहुँचे,
तुम भी तनि आज चलो

दूर सही तुम दूर रहो,
चाहे हम से दूर चलो

कहीं थम जायेंगे, मिल जायेंगे,
शायद, इसिलीए चलो

जब साथ नहीं तो क्या गम़,
तुम लौह, एकाकी चलो

हम अपनी,
तुम अपनी राह चलो

We

How would we be, if we were we?
Would you be just you, would I be just I,
If you looked at me, as I look at you,
And we knew?

Would the skies be glittering more,
And the breeze be cooler still,
Would a falling star know, my wishes, yours,
And we knew?

A twisted tale of simple kids,
An unknown tale of dream,
For long hidden in my lips,
A truth it yearns to scream.

Not easy, it’s not an easy knot to make,
But eyes, the eyes are yelling, hear,
Be not deaf, make not me mute.

And there will be a time you’ll know it was me,
And me it was all along, you’ll know,
How I sat when the moment asked a stand,
So you could walk, and not collide,
With me.
As we.

Quirrellmort

Quirinus Quirrell thought hard, his wand in his outstretched hand shivering like a withered twig. He knew, from the wisdom passed down by the thousands of great witches and wizards before him, defending another spell was not in the list of his options. Death was, on the very next move of his enemy but the next move would be soon and it pained him to go before he had brought to life all his dreams of glory, reverence and importance.

He stared into the vicious black infinity of the Albanian forest. Lighting a light would mean instant death. He could hear the stillness of the wind and the beating of his own heart. Making the slightest noise would mean instant death.

Quirrell felt like crying out. He wanted to laugh at the moment he thought he could tame the Dark Lord in his weakened state. His venture could not have gone more wrong. Continue reading “Quirrellmort”

Go Away, With Me

If we could, would you go,

To somewhere unknown, unheard of,

Some place the men do not know,

Some place the map knows not.

 

Stumbled upon I yester night,

A lovely island stood alone,

An unfound folly of foamy beaches bright,

A glowing emerald among sapphire tides.

 

There no eyes would see you, but mine,

No other would hear your velvet voice,

You’ll be none’s, but mine,

We’d be one, if you would, go away, with me.

Identity

Ishita stopped. The unruly bush along the sidewalk casting shadows, like the horns of the devil, grey with the winter dust raised an alarm in her mind. Looking far up the road, which gently rose to split into two opposite paths, bordered on the other side by the 7 feet wall of the Corporation, seemed familiar.

Deciding that she had only missed the bushes earlier, maybe preoccupied with regretting her life, cursing each day she had spent at the bar, she trudged on.

‘Like I do everyday’, she told herself.

She wrapped the long jacket around her tighter, the thin fabric of her shirt unable to fend off the chill of the darkening evening. Her skirt flapped with the wind and she cursed the bar uniform, followed by the bar owner who had decided upon it and finally the bar owner’s teenager son who had found it pleasing to his perverse nature that the female waiters not wear any leggings under their skirt even in the winters. And then a ritualistic routine commenced of cursing her life, her existence and the very existence of the entire universe.

Continue reading “Identity”

A Round World

Nayan

She locks the door behind her. He smiles, knowing full well the moments to follow; he takes all the time before making the attack. His prey is behind him. He sets his bag down on the other bed and dives onto the one at his right, turning in the process so as to face her, seeing the distance between them reduce, only too slowly to please him. He holds her by her waist and pulls her close. She stands, resting her arms on his shoulders, smiling gently, while he wraps himself around her waist, resting his head against her belly.

‘Her aroma…it always does things to me…’, Nayan smiles to himself, lifts his head up to see her beam down a smile at him, and kisses her belly over the clothes. Pulling her closer he lays back on the bed, bringing her up on the bed, lying over him, her lips pressing tightly on his. He lets his hands on her back wander inside her top, pulling it up in the process. She lets her hair fall over his face as they continue kissing, deeper with every gasping breath.

An hour later they lie tucked inside the blanket, having shivered on entering the air-conditioned hotel room after having a long shower together. The television before them plays the latest songs of the industry, while Nayan is busy playing some silly game on her mobile, and she cuddling him, watching him play it, giggling.

Suddenly, he rolls her over him, looks deep in her eyes, “You are beautiful!”

She shrugs, blinking her eyes, “Tell me something new!”

He reaches under the mattress, while she’s busy kissing him all over his face, both grinning wildly, brings out a handgun, places the nozzle at the back of her head.

She freezes, “What??” Continue reading “A Round World”

Going Away

I always knew I would let her go away when the time came.

*****

“Vindu!” I hissed through the hole in the wall. Mud walls in the village have holes for two purposes – one, to let the air come in (as per adults) and two, as a secret communication portal (as per the younger generation).

The scorching sun on the back matters not to us kids here. When we’ve decided to play, which happens every day without the need of much thought, we do it with all possible determination and honor. The aftermath of which later in the day results in no dinner is a different thing.

Presently Vindu sneaked out. Her mother, who Vindu shared her bed with, slept on peacefully. And her peaceful sleep for us meant a nice long play. Not that it would matter if she was to wake up some time later. Once we were out of eyesight, play wouldn’t be interrupted.

Vindu dashed towards the little canal and I followed. Beyond the canal were the fields and groves. And beyond that were the railway tracks on the horizon. It was ritualistic for us to race to the mango grove near the tracks. There were two very good reasons for this – one, this was our latest hideout which no one knew about yet and the faster we reached, the least probable would be our parents spotting us and two, mangoes.

She would not win this race. It was half heartedly that I ran and found her struggling to get across the canal, I smiled to myself. The water in the canal had risen overnight and the only ways to cross it were either to jump over it or to walk through. She could not jump over it, nor could I and she was obviously in no mood to wet her new frock which some relative had brought her recently. She stood fumbling there with a wry expression.

I walked up slowly to her, purposely making her feel that I was taking this race quite easy as long as she was stuck there. She looked at me teary eyed, I grinned.

But oh! Childhood friendship! The valor kicks in harder than mockery at this stage in life. Grinning still, I walked to the middle of the canal, turned my back to her and bent low. She leapt, landed on a feet on my back and took another leap to the other side of the canal.

Competition kicks in even harder than gratitude. While I came out of the canal, she ran toward the end line, looking back and giggling wildly at times. I smiled, she was so going to lose. Continue reading “Going Away”

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.