“I’ll call this the Master of Five Senses,” Ira declared while narrowing her eyes at the sculpture, as if looking for something hidden. In a flash, she turns around to grin at my expense, doing a victory jig at the same time. Even after all this time, she still has that infectious childlike energy about her. “I beat you again!”
I sigh in mock defeat, “Well, I’m always happy to lose to you”. She is absolutely brilliant; I am no competition for her. Also, she is right. Intimidating yet supreme pillars usher you to a haven, hidden amidst sooty grey buildings. It seems to be inside a bubble, for the scenes and sounds from outside fail to overpower the lingering aura. The stoned pathway ends at an engraved spiral before the sculpture, focusing your senses before your sight sets on the majestic form of a saintly face with a contagiously peaceful look. It is surrounded by numerous faces protruding beside it, each sporting one of the five sensory organs.
True to her name, which means earth, Ira loves gardens and everything about them. No wonder most of her children’s stories are set in one. Her face radiates pure joy and happiness when she is surrounded by nature. Her stories mirror the same. Because of what it means to her, gardens and parks have become my happy-place.
I feel calmness permeate by body as I walk around the serene garden, roving my eyes over every nook and cranny. The western area displays a mural washed in sepia tones. Ira is already there before me. Before she can start off with her version, I spring up with mine. “The peacock is telling all the animals a scary story, and the langur is the most scared of them all!”
She scrunches her nose in disagreement, “Alright, but listen to mine.” My version wasn’t good enough, obviously. “Perched upon a tree overlooking the panoramic landscape of Delhi, the peacock reminisces about his adventures in the times gone by while the parrots and the pigeons listen with rapt attention. The restless langur has departed, set on an adventure of his own.” She smiles ever so lightly before running her hand lazily over the mural. None of us speak for a while.
Warm April sunshine bounds off the red stones cocooning the garden. Voices of people lounging around mingle with chitter chatter of squirrels and chirping of birds, banishing the distant incessant honking of vehicles and the faint humming of air conditioners to the background. I hear my stomach grumble; it’s the fault of all the delicious smells wafting from open tiffin boxes nearby. I think Ira heard it as well; she just averted her sly eyes away from me.
After a while, we wind up sitting and observing in silence. I had just glanced at an open lunch box and I was already salivating with the taste of aloo poori in my mouth. Ira is lost in thought and I contain my urge to poke her.
“Naanu!” I snap out of it in a jiffy as I hear my granddaughter Sanya approaching me enthusiastically. It takes me a moment to register my surroundings and gather myself. I am in the same place but Ira isn’t with me. I am past the point where I miss my wife in sadness; I live with her memories. I guess love does that to you.
Sanya is now sitting beside me, looking around. I am certain she inherited her love for gardens from Ira. “So what did you do all this while?” She asks eagerly.
“While you were in class, I was spending some quality time with your Naani.”
To embark upon my journey of travel writing, I was wondering which place to choose. I haven’t travelled a lot, but one place that I am absolutely in love with is my city, Delhi. I don’t think I can ever get enough of going to places I have already been a gazillion times here. And one of those places that never fails to enchant me is Connaught Place. Each time I have been there, I am unable to put my finger on what exactly makes this place so special. Is it the countless memories or the aura? What do you think?
Let’s leave the question for another day. For now, I hope you like reading about the place through my eyes. 🙂
Coming out of gate number seven of the Rajiv Chowk Metro Station is like stepping into a world of paradoxes. I am instantly hit by the glowering sun overhead, forcing me to squint my eyes to take in the rush of activity. Popularly known as Connaught Place, it is the colonial heart of the national capital – a sprawling circular market that was built to assuage British homesickness.
I take the well-practiced route to my destination, but like always, I am unable to hold myself back from a rush of excitement I feel every single time that I am here. The intimidating yet supreme pillars stand together to usher you to the vivacious mélange. I can almost feel the numerous restaurants and shops calling out to me to pay them a visit; it is difficult averting away your eyes from those dazzling clothes. The delicious food will have to wait.
As I advance towards Janpath, I feel like I am entering a new world altogether – a sharp contrast to the commercial order I left behind. I don’t miss it much as there are only a few things that can match the fun of street shopping and I am sure every Dilliwala can relate to this – no matter how much we shop at the most expensive showrooms and malls, nothing can replace the joy of haggling with the vendors at places like this. It takes me considerable time to square in on the artefacts I want to buy, but there are no regrets. It was time and money spent well.
Not in a mood to splurge on food, I decide to eat at Hotel Saravana Bhawan, a South Indian veg eatery which is my go-to place. I eat their onion masala dosa and wash it down with a cup of filter coffee. Satiated, I head back out.
Just as I approach the nearest metro station gate, the stark reality rears its ugly face. Chiming little kids surround you in a jiffy – some desperate to sell that packet of five pens and some straight away plead for money. Not much farther, a handicapped old man is sitting at the entrance to the station, driven to the sidelines with this clutches in his ragged and worn out clothes, still with a hope in his eyes that some benevolent stranger would help him stay alive. Next to him, a young man is standing upright with a donation box in his hand, looking into the distance. I wonder how long he has been standing like that. Even though there is a sea of people who rush past him, no one really sees him; it’s like he is invisible.
The very next instant, I feel someone tug at me gently. A girl of no more than six years pleads with me to buy a cup of chai. And amidst all this, the tricolor sways mightily in the background, proud of what I cannot fathom.
Have you ever been in a situation where it felt like you had been thrown into a flowing current and you had no idea which direction you’re going? When you wanted to do everything in your power to escape that situation but you were forced to step out of your comfort zone? Read the story of Akira who is forced to confront her fears.
Akira was in the middle of questioning her decision when she had been almost pushed onto the stage to compere the function. The glaring spotlights were doing nothing to help her situation, except maybe blinding out the faces of hundreds of people whose eyes were fixated upon her. She walked on to the stage, tentatively at first, but tried to feign confidence with each step. Every moment that she had spent at this school flashed in front of her eyes in that instant, just as she was seconds away from addressing the audience.
Scarface, the Ugly Duckling and Scarecrow were just some of the words that had been thrown at her ever since she could remember. She had been teased, mocked at and isolated by the people she studied with, but there was nothing she could do about it. There was a long scar on the left side of her face that stretched from the corner of her eye to the edge of her jaw. It was the residue of a nasty accident, post which she had gotten to experience hell. She had scraped through the years with the help of a few people she had befriended who helped her get past the malice. But it was in moments like these, moments when she had to go in front of people that she almost shook in her boots. The fear of being shunned away and being laughed at refused to leave her in peace and she would find herself avoiding such situations altogether. She had tried several times to face it head on, but she had failed. In every other aspect she had made sure it did not come in her way, but where her confidence was concerned, it had wreaked havoc. She was dressed immaculately in her school uniform, a perfect façade for the simmering unease underneath. She could feel the scar burn, raising her anxiety levels up a notch.
“You can do it,” she thought to herself, clenching her fists to muster the least amount of courage to sail through. “You know the drill, you just have to go up there and vomit the very lines you wrote for someone else.” Avni, the emcee for the show hadn’t shown up. And now the onus lay on her to make sure the function she worked very hard to organize proceeded without a glitch.
She was momentarily blinded for a second before she tried to refocus. Her head was hammering due to panic. But there was a faint yet powering voice that was telling her that this was her chance to emerge victorious. She thought of her parents, sitting in the crowd, who would be extremely proud of her if she somehow did this. Plastering a smile on her face, she started speaking.
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen…,” she started, the words flowing hesitantly at first, but gaining strength subsequently, “we have gathered here today for the silver jubilee celebrations of Shri Ram School…”
When she was going on the stage to introduce the slapstick comedy act, she stumbled and fell face flat on the stage. In that moment, she was only privy to a wave of gasp that washed the audience and her own rapidly thumping heart. She didn’t know how much time it took to stand back up. She heard the voice of one of her classmates who appeared out of nowhere just as she gathered herself.
“This is just a trailer of what you’re going to see in our final act tonight,” the girl said. Akira couldn’t place her, but sought comfort in the smiling face willing her to go on.
“We guarantee that our next act will leave you in splits,” she started, albeit shakily. She tightened the hold on the mike before continuing, “It’s a heady amalgamation of slapstick comedy’s legacy. We present to you ‘Charlie Chaplin meets Laurel and Hardy’.”
As the show was drawing to a close, there was an effervescence building inside of her as the realization dawned that she had finally done it. Even if it wasn’t perfect, she was content with how it had turned out. It was big leap and she had steered her ship through the storm to reach the shores of a land where she knew she could do anything she wanted, be anyone she wanted. Her scar, which she had always considered her nemesis, was still there. However, in that moment of jubilation, it ceased to exist.
Tobermory is originally a short story written by Saki (pen name of Hector Hugh Munro). You can read it here.
As a part of a writing prompt, I wrote my own little version of what happens when a cat starts revealing scandalous secrets at a house-party, combined with an attempt to write in a way some of favourite authors did (like Oscar Wilde and Jane Austen). Read on to find out!!
Scandalous Revelations by a Bored Cat
It was a late winter’s evening when the landscape was awash with rains. In their beautiful country house, the Blemley’s were hosting a party. Emma Hornswoggle, as she was previously known, was having the time of her life being the center of attention. Lord Charles Blemley and she were chatting with Lady Dwight when I introduced them to Carlyle Appin. Even though he came from a well-to-do family, there had always been an aura of enigma around him and I had discovered this during the days when he had stayed with us in the family house when the Blemley’s had been away in London. And much of this was courtesy my sister’s cat Tobermory without which he would seldom be seen. In fact, when it was time for him to leave, I realized just how fixated he was with the cat. The mystery was almost killing me now.
“And here we have our feline host,” Lord Blemley said as Tobermory snuck behind Mr. Appins who picked her up in his arms and ran his hand lovingly through her fur.
“I must concede that she is the most fantastic cat I have ever seen,” Mr. Appins said appreciatively. “She’s no ordinary cat.”
“Tobermory and Mr. Appins here had a special camaraderie going on. And I am sure-” I say but Mr. Appins interrupts.
“A long time ago, I discovered how to teach animals to talk and Tobermory here is my first successful pupil.” There was silence following the initial bewildered reaction of the host and myself; all of us in our own capacity were trying to weigh in his words. Mr. Appins, however, seemed undaunted.
“You don’t really expect us to believe that Tobermory can talk, do you?” Emma asked aloud in astonishment, attracting the attention of people around, who broke away from mundane conversations to flock together instantly.
“If you can be so lucky as to wed Lord Blemley, then why is it impossible for me to speak?” Tobermory said slyly, his speech not indicative of any discomfort. Emma on the other hand, had turned red with embarrassment, and was just short of thundering. Other guests were as excited as if they had chanced upon gold.
“What do you mean?” she asked in a strained voice.
“Well, if a woman like you, who barely has a mind of her own, can trick Lord Blemley into marrying you, then my extraordinary intelligence can get me to talk your language as well,” Tobermory said dispassionately and then continued. “Besides, it isn’t too hard to master.”
Even in my wildest dreams, I hadn’t imagined a scenario like this. Shock and utter disbelief was palpable in the air. “What do you mean by this?” Lord Blemley bellowed, his anger directed at Emma.
“It means that your wife’s mission of want of connection has been successful! Look at all the attention she’s getting today!”
“This house-party wasn’t organized for this purpose…”
“Of course it wasn’t, My Lord. It is a part of a blueprint to achieve a similar victory for her brother Bradley here. No wonder he pities your intelligence!”
Something had to be done, and quick. “What treachery is this, Mr. Appins?” I ask. I could see the panic spreading now; all those who had ever spoken a word in front of Tobermory were in a sudden hurry to depart.
“The very same you’re trying to pull here Mr. Hornswoggle. No wonder you’re named that!” I couldn’t think of any words to say. Tobermory jumped out of Carlyle’s hold and went to rest against his velvet cushion, leaving impending doom in his wake.
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