Wednesday 24 April 2024

Urmila's Honeymoon

Preamble: For the  Blogchatter's A2Z challenge during the month of April 2024, I am writing mini stories on various subjects and characters on each day of the month except on Sundays. The name of the protagonist shall begin with the alphabet assigned for the day. 

As they had planned since a long time, Urmila and Vivek took the flight for their honeymoon to the "Paradise on Earth". This nick name was earned by the Kashmir valley on account of her stunning natural beauty characterized by lush greenery, snow capped mountains, serene lakes. houseboats and vibrant culture.

 Urmila and Vivek had fallen in love while in college. Unlike an earlier generation for whom "Love was blind", being representatives of the intelligent "New Gen", they went in for a 'planned' love affair. Both of them made sure that the other was from equally strong financial background, from the same caste and educated equally as they were pursuing engineering in a reputed college in Kochi, Kerala. This way, there could not be any objection from the parents to their union. 

As expected, they got the green signal for the wedding without any hitch. Being from business families, there was not even a delay on account of the need to secure a job. Vivek was slated to take over his father's business. Therefore  the wedding was fixed shortly after they became qualified engineers. Urmila and Vivek were excited to go to the Kashmir valley for their honeymoon. It was a dream they had discussed many times during the courting period.

As the day of the wedding neared, Urmila was in a state of day dreaming, wild imagination, full of excitement and wonder. Oh the seven heavenly nights prior to the wedding! Nights engaged in dreaming with hardly any sleep! And the pictures in  the dreams were the same; fun and frolic with her beloved Vivek- throwing snow balls at each other, skating together, drinking warm ginger tea from the same glass. 

Finally,  the wedding ceremonies were over; the guests had left and it was just the two of them on the flight to the valley of their dreams. On the first three days they had so much fun. It was to put it mildly a 'heavenly experience' exactly as Urmila had imagined. They explored the capital city of Srinagar visiting the lovely Mughal gardens of Shalimar Bhag, Nishat Bhag and the architectural wonders such as Jama Masjid and Shankaracharya temple. The lovebirds took a ride while in Gulmarg on one of the highest cable cars in the world with a panoramic view of the snowcapped mountain peaks. More fun and adventure were planned for the remaining seven days of the honeymoon. 

On the fourth day, they had joined a group of tourists to explore the scenic landscapes of the Pahalgam town and also experience pony rides and nature walks. The guide advised the group to stick together.  "The bus will leave sharply at 4 PM. It gets dark after that and it is not safe for tourists to be here", he said. Urmila and Vivek were so immersed in themselves as they walked hand in hand that they were oblivious of the time. Before they knew it, it was already 6 PM and the bus had left.   

Then it happened. A group of masked men approached them. Vivek, the coward that he was, simply ran away leaving his newly wed wife to fend for herself. The next day, the brutal gang rape was reported in all the major newspapers. Vivek, now wanted divorce. But then, Urmila had already made up her mind. "Who would want to live with such a man even if he had wanted to continue the facade of a marital relationship?". For Urmila, a joyously planned event had turned out to be a nightmare. Its tremors would remain whole through the rest of her life. 

NB: This post is a part of  challenge #BlogchatterA2Z    

Tuesday 23 April 2024

Thejus 's Musical Journey

Preamble: During Blogchatter's A2Z challenge during the month of April 2024, I am writing mini stories on various subjects and characters on each day of the month except on Sundays. The name of the protagonist shall begin with the alphabet assigned for the day.  

Thejus knew from a very young age that his destiny was tied to music. He was born into a family of musicians. His grandfather, father and elder brother were all known names in Hindustani music. However, by a stroke of luck ,more fame and recognition came the way of Thejus. In India the interest in the ghazal genre of music increased triple fold during the late seventies, just when he entered the music scene as a young man. Thejus found that he was a natural when it came to this form of music. While earlier, film music was perhaps the only way for popular recognition, ghazal also became an important avenue for instant fame & success. The market for ghazal singers opened up in a big way in the country in the form of albums .

A number of music albums sung by Tejus became hits and he became a highly sought after artiste for giving live performances in the country and abroad. During this period, Tejus started collaborating extensively with  established and promising new poets. The collaborations contributed immensely to Thejus's  success. 

Amidst huge popularity came a lot of awards and recognition including the prestigious national civil honour, the Padmasri. Another thing that happened during this phase of life was an increase in the number of sycophants who followed Thejus around. The main activity of these people was to praise him to the skies  and ensure that they remained part of the celebrity's inner circle. 

With more and more demands on his time by the professional commitments and by the sycophants who hung around late into the night, Thejus found he was having less and less time for his wife and family. Ramesh, his bosom pal since college was a co-traveler in the journey and had taken on the mantle of his manager. Ramesh also objected to Thejus's  changed lifestyle  wherein he was not setting aside enough time for 'Riaz' or practice of music. A lot of time was being wasted on the 'Hangers-on' who were not adding value but serving as stumbling blocks to the main goals of the singer. 

Seema who was single handedly managing all affairs of the house demanded that he spend more time with the children at least two days in a week. Fed up with the lack of responsibility and empathy on the part of Thejus, Seema filed for divorce and shifted base to Nagpur where her parents lived. The children were admitted to the school in that city. Even at this stage Thejus was oblivious to the fact that his life was slowly and surely slipping away. 

The singer had lately taken to drinking more and more in the company of the sycophants. In their eagerness to flatter and lavish praise on their idol, they began to suggest that all his success was solely on account of  the singer's silky voice. The people with whom he had successfully collaborated over the years didn't matter. Why pay them more and share credit with them when he could do equally well collaborating with just any new comer is what they put in to Thejus's head.

Ramesh found that his counsel to reduce the drinking fell on deaf ears. He was also admonished on one occasion by Thejus telling him that he was overstepping  his position, that of an employee. Deeply hurt,  Ramesh also decided to leave. He had been getting offers to work with bright promising talent. An alcoholic Thejus was equivalent to a 'perished' artist, as good as dead. 

Thejus was upset by the double blow of his wife and long time friend & manager leaving one after the other. "I don't care! Get lost! I will win alone. I am "the one and only Thejus!" he screamed at Ramesh when he came to say a final good bye. 

Five years went by since the departure of Seema and Ramesh from the life of Tejus. He began to realize that his life had been beautiful and thriving because of their presence in it. He also began to miss his children for whom  previously he had no time. At one time,  they were at arms length craving for his love and attention. 

The career of Tejus had also begun to nose dive. Three new albums released by him bombed. People stopped calling him for shows after it became public that he had become an alcoholic. The sycophants also began to disappear one by one and Tejus ended up alone and lonely. In the last two years, he took stock of his life and had stopped drinking all together. But it appeared that no one believed him. Tejus did not get any invitation to concerts in spite of writing to his old contacts and associates of his changed, disciplined lifestyle.

Finally, in the year 2010, Tejus received an invitation from the Sangeet  Natak Academy to perform at a small venue in Nagpur. Tejus had butterflies in his stomach. Although he had been pursuing for an opportunity for a comeback, when it actually came, he was feeling weak in the knees and lacking in confidence. After all it was a long time since he had faced a live audience on stage. 

The D day and time arrived and Tejus was on stage. He commenced the first song of the evening with apprehension. But on receiving a cheering response from the audience Tejus felt reassured  like a fish in familiar waters.

As the evening progressed Tejus was on fire and the audience in raptures. At the end of the last song of the evening, they gave him a standing ovation. Tears of joy flowed down the cheeks of Tejus. It was then that he noticed the face of  Ramesh in the third row. He was clapping and cheering away.  Tejus was overjoyed and his only desire was to hug his old friend who had come to witness his moment of redemption. Weaving through the mad frenzy of fans, Ramesh finally managed to reach Tejus.

 When they were in a tight hug lock, Ramesh smiled and said " I am not alone. My Bhabi (sister in law) , your wife is sitting in the last row waiting for you. It was she who insisted that I witness your comeback performance. "You were like Ram- Lakshman. It is high time that the gap is bridged between brothers" she had said. I told her I would go if she also came along . Tejus just did not know how to respond. He thanked God for the best day in his life, a day that he would cherish forever! 

NB: This post is a part of  challenge #BlogchatterA2Z   

Monday 22 April 2024

Sunita the Fearless

Preamble: During Blogchatter's A2Z challenge during the month of April 2024, I am writing mini stories on various subjects and characters on each day of the month except on Sundays. The name of the protagonist shall begin with the alphabet assigned for the day.  

Everyone was scared of Sunita's husband Sheru. His real name was Raja. But the people of the basti (crowded colony) in which they live in Dharavi, Mumbai gave him that name. Sheru was known to be ruthless with enemies. He started as a gang member very early in life engaged in unlawful activities. After he proved his street smartness and dexterity with weapons, he started his own gang and was now a terror in his 'territory' of operation. Sunita's friends jokingly ask her "How do you live with this man? Are you not scared of him?". 

Although she had known only poverty in life right from childhood, Sunita was determined to make her life better. She fought with her father to go to school and then plus two. Initially, her father mocked her. "what will you do after study in school ? Just get married and start a family, so I can play with my grandchildren".  Later, seeing her dedication and persistence he gave in and let Sunita study. But after plus two, Sunita's father put his foot down and insisted that she marry. 

Sunita turned down her father's proposal to marry Sheru whom he believed was an enterprising young guy who was making 'good money'. Sunita outrightly refused to marry an uneducated muscle brain. He may be the local hero for those who valued physical show of strength but Sunita was not impressed. Even after the refusal, Sheru continued silently to adore her in his mind and kept a watch over her from a distance like a  guardian angel. His opportunity came one day when Sunita was returning home  after purchasing grocery from the neighbourhood store, at around 8 PM.

Two guys approached her, asked her something and tried to grab her. Sheru appeared as if from no where and beat them to pulp. Sunita started to take notice of him after the incident although Sheru maintained a safe distance from her. The feelers came again for marriage two years later and this time, Sunita accepted. Given the circumstances under which the two got together, there was no reason for Sunita to be scared of her husband.

 He was in a way in awe of her as some of the few in the colony who had studied and could read books in English as well. Sheru always spoke to her politely and treated her well. Then it happened .One day Sheru came home drunk. Sunita said he could not share her bed and that he could sleep in the verandah.  Hard words were followed by a hard slap on Sunita's face. 

The next morning she disappeared. When he came to his senses, Sheru rushed to Sunita's parent's house only to find that she hadn't gone there. When she did not return  even after a week , Sheru began to get desperate and went about searching for her frantically. Sunita was finally traced to her aunt's house in the village. After many apologies and assurances Sunita returned but made it clear such behaviour was not acceptable to her no matter how big a 'Rowdy image' he had.   

Sheru hit her for one more time. This time she disappeared for six months and by the time Sunita returned to Dharavi, Sheru had become a total wreck. It was made clear to Sheru that there will not be a third time. Thus, Sunita was given the title of the "fearless" by her colony residents. If anything, it was Sheru who was fearful of her. He had to carefully monitor his behaviour whenever she was around...

NB: This post is a part of  challenge #BlogchatterA2Z   

Sunday 21 April 2024

Rajesh had it Coming!

Preamble: During Blogchatter's A2Z challenge during the month of April 2024, I am writing mini stories on various subjects and characters on each day of the month except on Sundays. The name of the protagonist shall begin with the alphabet assigned for the day.  

Rajesh Kumar was known for his sense of humour right from childhood. After all, his birth place was Tenali, in Guntur district Andhra Pradesh .Tenali is famous for the legendary figure of  Tenali Ramakrishna , a poet and advisor in the court of Emperor Krishna Devaraya of the Vijayanagara empire. The town's reputation for humour is tied to the tales of cleverness and quick wit of Tenali Ramakrishna. 

Rajesh studied at the Hindu college Tenali, traditionally known to encourage its students in various forms of art and culture apart from the mandatory curricular activities. Rajesh had a gang of friends who met regularly to crack jokes and get appreciation from the other members. If no one laughed at a joke, the particular member was debarred  from presentation for two weeks to enable him to sharpen his skills.  It was this association that helped Rajesh to make a mark on the film sets when he moved into the cine industry to try his luck as an actor. 

Those days the whole of south Indian cinema was based out of Madras and many struggling actors and  technicians became friends cutting across the language differences. Although Rajesh worked in the Telugu film industry, he had many friends in all possible groups and was a hit during the get togethers. Everyone appreciated his sense of humour and ability to tell stories. The camaraderie continued  even after the Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam film industries shifted production base to their home states. 

The stories of Rajesh were only half true ; he tweaked them to create humour and at times made up far fetched tales such as a romance between co- artists. Most people who knew Rajesh well, took his tales in a lighter vein and laughed it off when they came to know the actual truth of the matter months later.

 Once Rajesh told a lady artist working with him " Anjali, I hear you are doing a double role in a Tamil movie." 

"Yes brother. I am so happy to get this opportunity." 

"You are getting double payment for your double efforts isn't it?"

"No" The poor girl answered. "Do you normally get paid double ?" 

"Yes of course! After all you are putting in double the work." 

Anjali enquired about this with a couple of friends during lunch time and she became the laughing stock and source of mirth for everyone on the sets for the entire fortnight 's schedule of the film's shoot! 

Rajesh continued to be the centre of attraction of meetings when there was no work or when they were travelling abroad for a shoot. It was during one of these travels that Rajesh told a funny story of  Captain Naidu a relatively new member to the film industry . Captain Naidu entered the industry donning the role of a villain after taking premature retirement from the army. 

Rajesh's story goes like this: They were all staying at a star hotel for the shoot of a film. As there was early pack up on one day due to bad sunlight, the actors and crew returned to the hotel at 4 PM. At around 5 PM when people were having fun at the hotel's swimming pool, Captain Naidu ogled at a pretty woman in the pool. When this continued for about 15 minutes a man said to be her husband and a Superintendent of Police, appeared with a gun and shot at Captain who rushed to his room on the ground floor and bolted it from inside.  

Everyone was imagining the funny scenes of a fleeing Captain and had a hearty laugh. Usually, whatever Rajesh said between friends was enjoyed for the moment and they forget about it as they moved on to the next assignment. On this occasion though, a waiter who happened to overhear the conversation passed it on to a film magazine. Then all hell broke lose. Captain threatened to kill the offender. He said his remarks had created marital discord and a wedge between him and his wife. 

Two years later. Rajesh checked in to the Ritz, the best hotel in the city . At round 12 noon, he was relaxing at the lounge near the reception . His shooting would start only the next day. Some local friends had invited him for drinks & dinner.  He was looking forward to an enjoyable evening.

It was then that he saw the captain! The burly man took one look at him and started moving menacingly towards him. Rajesh got up and immediately ran for life, followed in hot pursuit by the panting captain. Rajesh first had no idea where to run. Finally  he ran up two flight of stairs to the safety of his room. He could hear fierce thumping on the door by the captain and his angry words rending the air. Finally, after what seemed like eternity, the staff came and took the captain away. 

The hotel staff passed on the information to whom they called "friends of both the actors". A team landed up in an hour's time and a meeting was arranged at the King suite , the best accommodation in the hotel. .During the discussions and after mediation, Rajesh apologized to the Captain and said he had not intended to cause any harm and that whatever he said was in jest, for the fun of the moment. However, Rajesh hastened to add that in future, he would never ever tell a story about captain. The two actors shook hands and the matter was treated as closed. 

Truce had been achieved with the intervention of some noble souls. The actor had managed to save himself by the skin of his teeth. Yet , given his basic nature, perhaps ten, fifteen or twenty years later, Rajesh may relate this very incident on a public platform to regale the audience! Who knows? 

NB: This post is a part of  challenge #BlogchatterA2Z   

Friday 19 April 2024

Queen's Life Trajectory

Preamble: During Blogchatter's A2Z challenge during the month of April 2024, I am writing mini stories on various subjects and characters on each day of the month except on Sundays. The name of the protagonist shall begin with the alphabet assigned for the day.  

Every girl in the college was envious of her. She came from a comfortable economic background with a senior bureaucrat for father. She was also good in studies and was very pretty in appearance. There was always a spring in her walk  and her dazzling smile was a passport to most hearts. Although her real name was Preeti, the boys called her the 'Queen'. 

In spite of all the attention she got from the students and teachers, Queen did not allow all this to go to her head. This was during the sixties in India. A time when the most the boys could do to express their admiration was to give the girl a flower or two. It was a given that when the time came to acquire a life partner, Queen would wed someone chosen by her parents in an arranged marriage. 

The parents of Queen were also keen to get the best possible match for their darling daughter. They finally zeroed in on an engineer, son of a Superintendent of Police and employed in a prestigious public sector undertaking. The boy, Vishwas was handsome, well qualified with bright chances to visit Germany for training. Most of the machines were purchased from Demag, a company based out of that country. 

The wedding was a grand show with the presence of many bigwigs in society. The young couple settled down to a happy marital life. Initially , Queen did not notice the tell tale signs of her husband being an alcoholic. By the time she was sure of it. they already had two children, a girl and a boy. It was not long before Queen realized that most of her husband's earning was being spent on liquor. Initially she covered up for him and did not reveal the sad state of affairs to her parents. Eventually, there was no other alternative but to tell them. She had  to save her children from starvation and also meet the basic needs of the house. 

As Vishwas had a dashing personality , with the gift of the gab to project himself in good light, he continued to get promotions and reached the position of a senior manager. But socially and in his personal life he had reached the lowest ebb. After starting out as one drinking high class liquor, he had come down to the level of patronizing cheap bars. Many of his alcoholic friends were workmen working in his own company. Preeti had ceased feeling like a queen since ages. With marriage, her whole life had taken an unexpected slide for the worst. She was diffident and embarrassed about meeting old college mates to whom she was still the 'Queen'. Preeti made conscious efforts to avoid meeting any of her old friends. 

When her daughter was old enough to be married, all the wedding expenses were borne by Queen's parents. Vishwas was completely sidelined during the event. He just about made a brief appearance and disappeared. Three years later, the inevitable happened. Vishwas who was grappling with cirrhosis of the liver succumbed to the disease. No one seemed to have missed him, not even his bosom 'drinking pals'.  Preeti and her daughter who had suffered the most on account of an "alcoholic head of family" was in a way relieved. Drunken men would no longer be coming and knocking on their door in the dead of night. 

Strange are the ways and the twist and turns of life. Who, from those dazzling college days could have ever predicted that the 'Queen', envied by one and all, had such a sad future in store for her...? 

NB: This post is a part of  challenge #BlogchatterA2Z  

Thursday 18 April 2024

Prakash's Journey

 Preamble: During Blogchatter's A2Z challenge during the month of April 2024, I am writing mini stories on various subjects and characters on each day of the month except on Sundays. The name of the protagonist shall begin with the alphabet assigned for the day.  

A small start up automotive company in Chitoor, Andhra Pradesh decided to start a canteen for its employees. Although the company was not required to run a canteen as per statute in view of the number of employees being less than 250, the management wanted to introduce it as a welfare measure. The lowest quotation was won by a party from a far away district of Rajahmundry. The contractor however, was confident of providing efficient service and also making profits for himself. Prakash aged about 52 years came as the supervisor of the canteen contractor. 

Although genial most of the time, if and when a wrong button was pressed, Prakash could take offence and be really angry. On such occasions, you find him switching language from Telugu to English and revealing a little about his past. " You know I was a senior level officer with a loving family and a comfortable lifestyle. It is life's leela ( play) that I gave it all up when a call came to me to retire to the caves in the Himalayas. It is another matter that I could not continue that path as I became seriously sick while atop the mountains forcing me to return". The story goes that although Prakash returned from the mountains, he found it awkward and delicate to  return to his family and old way of life. After all he had bid them 'Good bye' and had openly relinquished his worldly life. 

It is another matter that he had not only come back to this world but  presently,  also work to keep starvation at bay. Sometimes, he lamented at the financial struggles he was facing and recalling the 'comfortable' life he had led and would have continued to have, had he not left for the Himalayas. When you are neither in this world nor in the other world of the sanyasis , at times thoughts of dejection enters your mind. You also end up feeling a strong sense of loneliness as relationships with people  build over many years  had become unavailable and lost forever. It's like a person becoming incognito losing all sense of identity. Prakash confessed to having suicidal tendencies at times.

Then it happened. One day during the morning shift in the factory there were hushed discussions amongst the employees. It seemed that Prakash, the canteen supervisor had died the previous night. As he had no known relatives , the canteen contractor took the onus of cremating the mortal remains. One of the guys in the group commented " What a strange journey this person Prakash's has been on. Even if we want to renounce and become a sanyasi, it cannot happen just like that. It happens only when you have God's will and blessing on your side."  

As they say "Man proposes; God disposes" quipped another guy.

NB: This post is a part of  challenge #BlogchatterA2Z   

Wednesday 17 April 2024

Octavia's Mood Swings

Preamble: During Blogchatter's A2Z challenge during the month of April 2024, I am writing mini stories on various subjects and characters on each day of the month except on Sundays. The name of the protagonist shall begin with the alphabet assigned for the day.  

Octavia, lady super star of Bollywood cinema admits that she does have mood swings. But then if you were to examine her life trajectory, you would see so many ups and downs,  moments of excitement and disappointments. "It is no wonder that she had become the person she is" is how Octavia justifies her behaviour which some would term as 'Bizarre'. 

Octavia was crowned Little Miss Pune at the age of 6 years in the year 2004. Since then it has been a constant drive to achieve stardom in Hindi movies and if possible at the world level. It was her grandmother Padmaja who was the driving force behind all activities with the ultimate destination of stardom. Padmaja had rechristened the name of her grandchild as Octavia . She believed that such a name would be more acceptable to a world wide audience while pursuing the ultimate destination of Hollywood. 

It was Padmaja's ardent desire to become a film star; but she couldn't pursue or realize it, given the circumstances and times that she lived in. She wanted to achieve all of it through her granddaughter who was very pretty even as a four year old. Poor Octavia had no choice; she was pushed into a regimented journey from a tender age even before she could comprehend what was happening. She was given dancing lessons and exposed to other routines that would contribute to her becoming the heart throb of the masses . 

Octavia debuted as heroine at the age of 15, paired with the reigning matinee idol who was 52 years of age at that time. She went on to do more movies most of which were super duper hits. In the meanwhile , the family coerced her into a breast enhancement procedure that was quite painful and also took a psychological toll on her. But it was felt necessary to get her to look more mature and older than her chronological age, On the one side, there was lot of acclaim and wealth while on the other she was missing out on the little pleasures of girls her age. Her former classmates went to college, some had crushes. heartbreaks and some had secured employment in responsible positions in corporate companies. 

Octavia often felt that she was not living the life that she would have wished. In fact, her aspirations could not be determined as she was pushed so early into a profession that she was liking less and less with each passing day. All the roles seemed so repetitive and boring where she was mainly required to look cute and attractive. She would rather have become a teacher, doctor or social scientist, serving society at large. Further, all decisions concerning her career were being taken by her father. She had no idea how much money was being earned and spent. Hers was to simply perform like a robot, go to the sets or locations and do the bidding of the director. 

As she was the golden goose and the chief provider of the household, the family watched over her like a hawk. They wouldn't let her get friendly with anyone. It was almost as if she was a bird imprisoned in a golden cage. It was the tantrums that gave Octavia some feeling of power - the only time when her accompanying mom was scared of her. She also liked to watch the expression of 'surprise' when she was unexpectedly sweet or kind to people. No wonder they dubbed her a "Moody and unpredictable star". 

"One of these days", Octavia tells herself, "I will cut through this frustration of  not having any future either professionally or personally".  There was this co-star Ajay who seemed to be genuinely drawn to her and has been giving her feelers and messages on the mobile phone. If she could find in him, the enduring love she was seeking for a long time, she would be able to settle down, have children like any other woman. Then hopefully she would be able to say "Bye-bye" for good, to her mood swings! 

NB: This post is a part of  challenge #BlogchatterA2Z