Archive for September, 2006

A durga puja story

Our gang was a large one, 4 girls, 7 boys, the eldest just finishing school, while the youngest had just stepped into class one. I was in the fifth standard then, and so were most of us, around 10-11 years old. Being kids, obviously, we did not think that boys and girls are much different apart from the fact that girls can wear shirts and pants but boys cannot keep long hair or wear a skirt. From cricket to lock and key, from football to hide and seek, from kho-kho to WWF simulation fights, we did all together as a group. And perhaps, the most valuable time spent together was around half an hour every evening on a yellow bench, sitting and chatting about all the things important to a 10 year old.

Things, however, were drastically different from our parents viewpoints. Call it generation gap, conditioning of the mind, upholdment of Indian values, whatever, boys and girls were as different as chalk and cheese for them. Yes, they thought the ‘modern thought’; did the ‘correct things’; but still they could not fathom friendship between ‘grown-up’ girls and ‘grown-up’ boys.

Most girls ‘grow-up’ more quickly than most boys, and our group was not the ‘exception’ that proves the rule. However, from the ‘predujiced’ lenses of our parents, it was blasphemy. Quite words with the daughters (who given the changes they were growing through, unquestioningly followed their mothers), a stiff warning to the boys, broke the spine of the gang. The elder boys understood the deal and gave us half cooked stories to our queries like -‘You know, she thinks we are all stupid fools since she came first in her class’, ‘blah-blah’. But then, none of us were convinced.


So it was, leading to the Durga puja of 1996. The joint games played by the gang had turned into a more ‘rough’ boys only games, while the girls played whatever it was that they played with dolls and mini kitchen sets.

It was the second Durga puja being celebrated in the apartments, and each of us had our pockets full of excitement, eager to be present everywhere all the time, eager to show off new clothes, roam the neighborhood. Also, for the first time we were given more ‘responsibilities’ during the pooja. Decorate the pandal, the stage, make announcements, serve the prasad etc. All in all, we were geared up for an exciting 4 days of Durga puja.

Also, by then, if not sworn enimity , there was some spite between the ‘boys-group’ and the ‘girls-group’, for the then foggy reasons, whatever that was, to us.

The girls had decided that they will come down to participate in the festivities at 9AM, but we boys, lazy as ever, decided 11 AM, just before the ‘pushpanjali’, was an earthly time to go down. However, amma, unaware of the separate plans, made us both (my sister and me), go down by 9:30AM. So, there I was, in a awkward position, so to say, but I had been friends, not long ago with these girls, and so thinking quite objectively (and unemotionally), and it being Durga puja, I pulled up a chair and joined the ‘girls-circle’, and started chatting with them.

Over the years, as we grow up, we develop ‘layers’ of ‘shell’ around us, impermeable to certain feelings. Though, they are not unbreakable, they are good defence mechanisms to protect our feelings, emotions etc…
However, to a small 10 year old kid, her greatest strength and her biggest weaknes is her innocence, the shell is yet to be made.

By the evening, I had become quite comfortable with the ‘girls-group’ again. Probably, realizing that they have not turned into blood-sucking devils, and more so, given everything, we had been good friends just 6 months back, I spent more time seated on ‘my’ chair in the ‘girls-circle’, rather than on ‘my’ chair on the ‘boys-circle’. Early into the evening, I refused a trip, gallivanting into the bylanes of the neighborhood, ‘pandal’ hopping, with the ‘boys-group’, deciding to spend that time with the girls-group.

All boys gangs make serious rules, especially about prioritizing ‘girls’ before group events. My punishment, was that ‘my’ chair from the boys-cirlce will be removed.

New friends or not, I was eager to return to my flock (Also, I was getting a ‘trifle’ bored with the antakshari). As soon as the boys returnded, I took ‘my’ chair to join the ‘boys-circle’, but I was refuese my place. Confused, I stood there for a minute extra, trying to understand the ‘joke’, when one of the boys quipped -‘Hey, you cannot sit here anymore- you are a girl’.

Thus began a particular half hour in my life, forever fresh in my memories.

Shocked, shattered, desperately trying to hold my tears in public, I tugged amma’s sari, demanding to go home. As soon as I entered, I started crying uncontrollably. When I finished unfolding the story of my day to amma, she stormed down to confront the ‘boys-group’, to make them apologise to me.

As the boys came up, my sister also came up, followed by the girls. It was a short time before the mothers of all the kids were also in our drawing room.

I was sitting on the sofa crying. As the boy, who actually made the remark, came up to me to apologise, he also burst into tears, explaining how I had angered everyone else, by spending the whole day with the girls, who had not as much as bothered to tell the boys a ‘hi’ during the past six months. Girls are never the ones to be left out, especially when it comes to a contest of tears. My sister, always cries whenever I cry, but her tears, bought along tears of the other girls, unknowingly sorry for the past six months. The other boys, being boysm did not cry, but were uncharacteristically quiet,

Among all the innocent tears, all the mothers also realized the folly of essentially separating a bunch of innocent friends. Moist eyed, they knew that they had been prejudiced, parochial, narrow minded, ambigious to the problem, not forthright with their answers.

All’s well that ends well. A new set of rules (avoid contact sports), formulated then and there, withour as much as a word being spoken, restored the ‘gang’ again.

We happily trotted out of the house, myself redeemed again as a member of the male gender, the girls and the boys mingling with eachother again. Yet, we were still unaware of the actual reasons for the drama that unfolded. Ensconsed in our innocence, we returned back to the pandal. But back in the house, elders learnt a lesson from innocent children.

Within no time, in a bigger circle of chairs, another game of antakshari started, only this time, it was boys v/s girls…


‘To kill a mocking bird’ is my favorite novel, because it beautifully captures the magic of innocence and highlights the heavy price of years of prejudice has to pay.
Today, as I sit watching ‘Puja-pandals’ on TV, my mind drifts to the gang. People have changed, enimities have been made, but still from among the 11 of us, 5-6 are still as good friends as ever.


The story is only Half true

Updates: Nothing special happening in my life, nothing to write home about. Have been really busy coordinating the Placement activities in IIT-Bombay. All my interesting stories are from the placement cell, but I do not want to bore myself in the future when I read this blog:-D

There ‘WAS’ a creative writing competition in the insti today. I was really lazy to miss the deadline, but then the competition’s loss is my blog’s gain. The topic was what the blog topic reads.

I tried to dabble at some fiction in trying to write something that fits the topic. Everything that is under the heading ‘A’ is the half truth, things the world views in my hero’s life, and all that is under ‘B’ is the other half, hidden from the world.

If you think the story/situtation/lines are Plaigaraised, then don’t call it so, because I have Internalized

Hope you enjoy it…Criticism invited


“Well Mr.Sen, we have a prodigy. There is no other word with which to describe your son”, said Mr Agarwal, to Rohit’s father. It was the annual Parents-Teachers meeting at DAV school, and as was expected, Rohit had not only topped his class, but exceled in extra curricular activities also, by winning the inter-school singing competition…


“Give me two ‘English reader for 4th standard’ please”, asked Mrs Sen to the shop owner at Peoples book store. This has been the way the Sen’s have been operating for the past few years. While little Rohit goes to school, Mrs Sen reads her copy of the books, and makes notes and question answers to drill it into Rohit’s head when he
comes back from school. The Sen’s are paranoid about Rohit topping the class. TV, Cartoons, Games is controlled as strictly as the Chinese control the media. The only allowance, if it can be said so, is the music lessons he is allowed once a week…


The whole family went to the airport. It was perhaps the biggest moment for the Sen’s. Rohit had been selected from among hundreds of students in India, to attend the young scientist’s meeting in Munich. Grinning always, Mr Sen never forgot to
mention that at 14, Rohit was the youngest in the international conference. Rohit was enjoying every moment. He had worked hard, but science and math came naturally to him. When he submitted his model fuel cell for the competition, he started
learning a little german…


Mrs Sen was hysterical. Mr Sen had a stern look. Rohit knew the lecture coming. “It’s for your own good, son”, “Sometime, in the future, when you are a succesful engineer or doctor, you will appreciate our decision”…
But still, he asked his parents, with the hope that if not this year, the next year, he may be allowed to participate in the musical, organized by the renowed dramatics group’-‘Faces’. Renu, the ‘artistic brain’, director of several award winning plays
had spotted Rohit performing in a school play a year ago, and since then has been trying to convince the Sens to allow Rohit to perform with them…


“Statistics is my forte”, Rohit asserted, as the interviewer nodded appreciatively. He knew, he had the right person, although Rohit had no prior experience. He knew, that Rohit was winner throughout. An academic topper, a leader in college activites, a drive to succeed, young and energetic, Rohit fitted the requirements to the ‘T’…


He had given up trying to convince his parents. The rebel in him was not rebelious enough. He knew, he owed a lot to his parents who have sacrificed a lot to get him to this postion. Anyways, his plays are not good enough. There are better actors, and I love Statistics…


Rohit’s growth in the company surprised many pundits. It took him just 10 years to reach the upper management of the company. He immersed himself in work, lived out of his suitcase, globe trotting half the year.
As he exited of the CST airport, he could see two little kids jumping, trying to catch a glimpse of their father coming out of the terminal, happiness and expectation (of lots of gifts) in their eyes. He waved back, a trifle nonchalantly, to his wife, a budding laywer, who had retired really early from her practise to take care of the kids. He knew, the sacrifice she had made, so that he could devote more time for his overseas appointments…


As much as he hated it, his work was his only escape. Only escape from everything that seemed to go wrong in his life. Sometimes, he wondered, why was he so gifted in mathematics, why could he not be a duffer, who could just act brilliantly.

Guilt ate him. He knew that he had to appreciate Pooja’s efforts at trying to make the marriage work. If only he could love her as much as she loved him. Instead he knew, he was running away from all truth, flying away on overseas assignments, because he could avoid Ashwini, his ‘ex’, his parents, who could not stop admiring him, Pooja, who kept making him feel guilty.

A silent smile automatically came, as he thought, ‘I wanted to act in a play and live life, but now I am acting life and living plays’, watching a play in London…


Pooja was shattered, and wept bitterly. But she acknowledged that probably ‘divorce’ was the best thing. Rohit had agreed to a generous alimony and she had the children. Even though, she waived off the thought, she was happy for Rohit. He was going to
marry Ashwini finally. She knew that the marriage was on the rocks, but was happy for Rohit, happy that he will walk into a happier life after the divorce.
‘Finally, somethings going my way in life’, thought Rohit…

‘The honeymoon is over, now I wish I had never split’ muttered Rohit, after yet another fight with Ashwini. It was hardly three months to their marriage, and they acknowledge the mistake that it was. ‘College was so different, if only I knew that you were such a pain to live with’, shouted Ashwini back.

As he tried to catch some sleep, his only thought was ‘not another divorce’, will pooja accept me back or probably I am doomed’


‘The car inexplicably went out of control’ read the report. The post-mortem report showed no drugs, alcohol in Rohit’s blood. The Sen’s were inconsolable. Pratik and Priya, were shocked, reality had not sunk in. Pooja was repentent, ‘I could have done
things differently…’


A thousand thoughts floated in Rohit’s mind. “My parents, my kids,…, I can still do things differently. Hope is never to be lost”, but even as the thoughts floated, Rohits mind was clear, as he pushed the accelerator, took the hands of the wheel and closed his eyes…