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ashokbhatia

happiness

We are like grains of sand

On a beach sunlit by brilliant rays of hope;

Repeatedly we get swept back by strong relentless waves

Of our own wishes and desires,

Leaving us in torment at times, unable to cope.

They keep coming one after the other

Keeping us tied to our senses;

Distracting us from the true purpose of life,

Always wanting more and more,

Vulnerable, never able to mend our fences.

Fulfilment of one does not always mean

Growing out of it;

Instead, the intensity could get multiplied,

Leaving us with a poor self-perception

And an inner state lacking happiness, dark and poorly lit.

Often we wonder if there is a way

To become like a hard rock;

Having an inner resilience

Bouncing back the waves which keep splashing against us,

Receiving cravings and desires which we can simply mock.

Let them break on our external crust

And return…

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It is fashionable these days to speak of our beloved city metamorphosing into what is euphemistically referred to as a Smart City. Here is a contrary view which may find resonance with some of its residents.

These nameless denizens may instead like to lead a leisurely life in a city where:

  1. The need to jump out-of-the-way of a speeding vehicle gets minimized – in other words, hapless pedestrians and bicycle riders have the right of way; the use of horns and loudspeakers attract a hefty fine, leaving the offender crying all the way to his bank.
  2. Warehouses and hotels are not permitted within the boulevard limits, leaving the narrow streets peaceful and resident-friendly. Elderly and ailing residents need no longer complain of being startled at times – either by the incessant growling of commercial vehicles during days or by the sound pollution generated by tourist vehicles during nights.
  3. More parks, where citizens could stretch their limbs and try to fight off such lifestyle diseases as diabetes and hypertension, thereby warding off cardiac blues. Likewise, a denser coverage of main streets by trees with thick foliage, with water dispensing kiosks, toilets and garbage bins dotting the landscape liberally. What Pondicherry needs are more Ashe Marsons (of ‘Something Fresh’ fame) who are fond of brisk walks and Larsen Exercises in open spaces.
  4. All crossings within the boulevard area have convex mirrors at corners, thereby avoiding speeding-bike-enthusiasts routinely crashing into other vehicles, thereby putting life and limb to grave risks.
  5. All crossings across the canal are made obstruction free, avoiding blind spots and congestion on Gingee Salai and Ambour Salai. (As of now, the Vysial Street crossing is the only good example of a blind-spot free crossing across the canal.) Mandatory mini parks could be planned at all these corners. Shops peddling terracotta articles near the Ashram can be relocated to other suitable places, so the road on that stretch becomes clearer for traffic.
  6. The dependence on tourism alone to prop up the local economy is given a lower priority; where the powers that are exercise their grey cells better, hold consultations with business leaders so innovative ways to augment the territory’s revenues get planned and implemented. A concerted drive towards industrialization by using SEZ-earmarked and other parcels of land available could help. So could a hefty increase in registration charges for petroleum-driven vehicles, with substantial rebates for those who go in for greener vehicles.
  7. A multi-modal public transport system gets implemented in a mission mode, with battery operated vehicles alone being permitted within the boulevard area.
  8. Water channels and aquifers get revitalized, with the single aim of making Pondicherry a model in reversing the trend of increasing ground water salinity. A long-term plan to ward off the ill effects of rising sea levels and to tackle incessant rains also needs to be put in place.
  9. Strict ban on plastic bags of all kinds; a scientifically designed garbage collection and disposal system, duly backed by latest technology.
  10. Cooperation and collaboration at the top, leading to a visionary development of Pondicherry.

Call it a ‘smart’ one or a ‘dumb’ one, but the above features, if worked upon by those in charge of making things happen, would surely make the denizens of Pondicherry a healthier and a happier lot in the long term.

These would retain the essential character of the territory. What the planners would do well to avoid would be adopting a soulless materialistic ‘smart’ plan which would leave the residents gasping for clean air, yearning for sparkling water and ardently wishing for a sound of silence which would enable a person standing on Ambour Salai to hear the unmistakable melody of ocean waves on the main beach road.

(Notes:

  1. A version of this article can also be found at https://www.pondylive.com/2018/08/smart-city-pondicherry-why-some-of-us-prefer-a-dumb-city;
  2. Pondicherry montage courtesy www;
  3. Pondicherry street scene illustration by Emanuel Scanziani for Le Club, Pondicherry)

 

(Related posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/reinventing-pondicherry

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/the-soul-of-mairie-speaks

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/puducherry-2025-a-traveller%E2%80%99s-memoirs)

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ashokbhatia

rainbow

O Divine,
I often dream of you,
I wrap these dreams in a soft illumined air,
Which lies in between the violet and the red colours.

Help me to make a colourful highway,
Connecting the Earth and the Heavens above,
Help me to plant seeds of the Infinite,
On this finite lump of dancing mass we call the Earth.

Over time these seeds would grow into powerful creepers,
Gently opening the new life’s doors of bright white hue,
Giving us a peek into a magnificent palace,
Of an ornamental roof and gleaming floors.

These dreams of a new race I do believe in,
With Your grace, these would surely manifest on Earth,
Eventually, these would become the living truth,
Making humanity experience unalloyed joy and infinite bliss.

(Contributed by Usha)

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ashokbhatia

04

The dark blue color of your skin matches the deep hue of the late evening sky,
You are the light in the cosmos, you are the force which makes heavenly bodies fly;

You are the atom, you the nucleus, you the particle which goes around,
You are the invisible force which keeps the entire universe bound;

You reside in the sweet fragrance of the flowers, in the sap of plants,
You flow in the rapids, leap up in flames, you are in insects and in ants;

You hide in the melody of music, in the ether, in the tiny grains of sand,
You are behind all joys and sorrows of nature, in the rainbow, in the fertile land;

O supreme Bliss, who and where are you, we wish to know,
Words can’t describe you, thoughts can’t fathom your flute and bow;

We bow down to you but are fed up…

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(Here is the final part of a story whipped up by Shalini, an eight year old who has an abundance of creative juices sloshing about within her. Yours truly was merely assigned the task of putting it to pen and paper, so to say.)

A chance meeting in Switzerland

Suraj was part of the school orchestra. The school orchestra had become popular. It was invited to play at the Lucerne Music Festival.

Rakesh and Kala were worried about the high expense involved. The school music teacher explained to them the importance of taking part in an international festival. Seeing the enthusiasm Suraj had for playing as part of the school orchestra, they decided to send him to Lucerne.

At the Mumbai international airport, whole family came to see off Suraj. Kala had packed some of Suraj’s favourite sweets. She had tears in her eyes but was happy that her son had got this opportunity.

At Lucerne, the orchestra team was taken on a sight- seeing tour of the city. Suraj looked wide eyed at the lake, by the side of which was the Culture and Convention Centre where the team was to perform in a few days.

On the other hand, Leo was practicing hard on the piano. He was one of the students chosen by his school to take part in the orchestra which was coming from India. He had heard about India from his parents. He looked forward to making friends with some Indian students.

Three days before the performance, a practice session was held. When he entered the venue, a teacher stopped Leo from going inside.

‘You had already gone inside’, she said. ‘Where are you again coming from?’, she asked.

‘Maam, but I just came in. My mother just dropped me outside,’ said a surprised Leo.

‘OK, show me your school card.’

Leo showed her his school card. She took him inside and then identified Suraj. She called him over and checked his identity card also.

‘I am sorry. I must have made a mistake. But both of you look so much like each other’, she said and withdrew.

Suraj and Leo shook hands. Both were surprised to see each other. They looked like mirror images of each other.

The practice session began and went off well. When it was over, Leo ran into the arms of his mother who was waiting outside. He told her excitedly what had happened. Leila could not believe her ears. She went into the building, with Leo following her. She first met the teacher who had stopped Leo at the auditorium door. She was directed to where Suraj was standing with his school mates.

One look at Suraj, and Leila was happy and sad at the same time. Happy, because she thought she had met one of her missing children. Sad, because she did not know how to check if Suraj could indeed be her own lost child. She went ahead and shook hands with Suraj.

‘So, you come from India?’, she asked politely. She felt like hugging him.

‘Yes, maam,’ said Suraj respectfully. He somehow felt drawn towards Leila.

‘Where are your parents? Who are they?’

‘Maam, my father’s name is Rakesh. My mother’s name is Kala. We live in Mumbai.’

‘Do you have any brothers and sisters?’

‘Yes. We are four – two brothers and two sisters.’

Leila could not control her tears of joy. She gave Suraj and tight embrace and kissed him on his forehead.

‘My dear…..what is your name?’

‘Suraj, maam.’

‘Are you parents here with you?’

‘Only my father has accompanied. He is waiting outside.’

‘Let us go and meet him, then!’, said an excited Leila.

Outside the hall, Leila and Rakesh met. Rakesh was surprised to see Leo, who looked just like Suraj. After a brief introduction, Leila took Rakesh and Suraj to her home. There, Rakesh met Joseph, Livio, Sara and Anisa.

Joseph explained to Rakesh what happened when they went to India more than ten years back. Rakesh could not believe this could be happening. Late night, after dinner, Joseph dropped Rakesh and Suraj at the hotel where they were staying.

A family reunion 

The concert got over well. The Ambassador from India was the chief guest. Rakesh and Joseph met him together and explained what had happened. The ambassador suggested Joseph and the family visit India soon. A meeting between Leila and Kala would help, he thought.

Rakesh and Suraj returned to India. The day came when Joseph, Leila, Leo, Livio, Sara and Anisa came to Mumbai and met Rakesh, Kala, Madesh, Suraj, Sita and Yashoda. Leila was very happy to meet Kala and her other children.

Rakesh and Joseph went to the orphanage and met an elderly Sister Alicia. They told her about discovering each other by chance. They wondered if the orphanage had any record of how Madesh, Suraj, Sita and Yashoda had reached there. After searching old records, Sister Alicia gave them John’s address in Goa.

All of them travelled together from Mumbai to Goa. They sang songs together and were very happy. Leila was happy that all her lost children had been brought up so very well, with good family values. Several times, she expressed her gratitude to Kala for having taken so very good care of the children.

Upon reaching Goa, they located John, who confirmed that he had rescued four children when the boat accident took place. He was happy that the family had got reunited.

All is well that ends well

After some time, they all decided to be together at Lucerne in Switzerland. Jospeh helped Rakesh and Kala to start a catering service for Indian dishes. They stayed on two floors in the same apartment complex. They shared meals, ideas and things between themselves.

Madesh is now training for lawn tennis. Suraj has joined a violin academy and become part of a local music group. Sita has started studying to become a doctor. Yashoda has taken up a course in hotel management. She also helps her parents in their business.

Leo continues his practice on the piano. Livio has become a ski instructor. Sara is studying engineering. Anisa has started offering ballet classes. Often, she can be seen performing on stage in various parts of Europe and Asia.

Lake of Lucerne and Bristenstock

Leila and Joseph are happy that all of them are finally together. All the children are honest, truthful and good at heart. They have a strong character. They are talented. They speak politely and respect their elders.

The whole family has faith in a super power which keeps all the people in this world happy, joyful and satisfied.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/07/05/an-eight-year-old-whips-up-a-story-part-1-of-2)

 

 

 

 

 

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(Here is a story whipped up by Shalini, an eight year old who has an abundance of creative juices sloshing about within her. Yours truly was merely assigned the task of putting it to pen and paper, so to say.

The story is dedicated to the loving memory of Shri Murali Manohar Goel. It is the story of Leila, Joseph, Kala and Rakesh; of how the four pairs of twins born to Leila got separated; of how they came together again.)

The story of a family coming together again

Leila faces a storm

Leila was standing on the upper deck of a boat, watching the blue waves in the Indian Ocean. As the sun started setting, its rays created beautiful patterns. Some seagulls were diving down and catching fish for their supper. The skyline of Mumbai was just becoming visible.

Leila used to live in far off Lucerne, a big city in the heart of Switzerland. She and her husband, Joseph, had saved some money over past few years and planned this trip to India. They had landed in Delhi. They had seen the Taj Mahal in Agra. They had travelled through the Thar desert. Mumbai was their last stop, from where they they had taken a ferry to visit Elephanta Caves nearby. After two days, they were to catch a flight back to Switzerland.

Leila was tall and beautiful. She had hazel blue eyes and long dark hair. She was happy that their dream trip to India had gone well so far. As she gently patted her swollen abdomen, she thought how happy her eight babies, waiting to come into this world, would be.

Suddenly, she noticed some big waves rising in the ocean. A strong wind started blowing, rocking the boat. She turned and saw her husband Joseph had also joined her on the deck. Just then, a siren blew. A seaman came rushing, telling them to return to their cabin. A storm was coming, and the captain wanted all the boat’s passengers safe.

Even as Leila and Joseph were climbing down a staircase to reach their cabin, a very big wave hit the boat. It turned over dangerously. Leila looked at Joseph with alarm. Joseph pressed her hand by way of an assurance.

All of a sudden, Leila started feeling labour pains. Even before they could reach their cabin, the boat rolled over. She felt as if she was about to enter a watery grave. She was worried about the safety of her yet-to-be-born babies. Leila’s head hit a staircase rail and she lost consciousness.

When Leila awoke, she found herself in a white bed. She was connected to some tubes and an equipment at her back was making a rhythmic bleeping sound. A concerned Joseph, with his head in bandages, was sitting by her side. He patted her hand affectionately.

‘Where are we? What happened?’, she asked feebly.

Joseph smiled weakly.

‘We are in a hospital in Mumbai. Due to the storm, our boat had started sinking. The captain and the staff took good care. They brought us safely ashore and got us admitted here.’

Instinctively, Leila felt her abdomen. It felt empty.

‘What about the children?’, she asked with sudden alarm.

‘Well, you delivered all eight of them while on the boat itself. Congratulations, dear!’, said Joseph.

‘Hope they are fine? Where are they?’ Leila asked.

‘Hmm..as luck would have it, in the confusion, when the boat sank, we somehow lost four of them. But the other four are fine and safe, don’t worry.’

‘Can I see them? Where are the others?’

‘Yes, I shall tell the nurse to bring them in. Lovely kids. Two girls and two boys.’

‘But what happened to the others?’

‘We are trying to find out but have lost track. Police have asked people on the sea coast but we still have no news.’

‘That is so very sad’, said Leila, suppressing tears rolling down from her eyes. ‘How do the four remaining with us look?’, she asked after some time.

Just then, two nurses came in, carrying the four babies in their arms.

Leila was overjoyed to see the babies, who were all sleeping.

‘My little angels’, she said, kissing them all one by one. ‘I hope God is taking good care of the other four also!’

John survives the storm

John was an auto mechanic. He used to live in Goa and was unmarried. He had a nice helpful nature. He was on the same boat on which Leila and Joseph were.

After the boat sank, he found himself floating in the open sea. He was on some planks of wood. With him were four newly delivered babies – two boys and two girls. In the darkness, they were simply lying there, with a torn bed sheet from the boat covering them from the chilly air. Their eyes were closed. They were unaware of the storm around them. Two of them were even smiling, as they slept soundly.

John cuddled all four of them, two on each of his sides. He did not want any harm to come to them. He was praying and hoping that the winds would gently propel them towards a safe spot on the Mumbai sea shore.

Once ashore, John was wondering what to do with the four babies. He was poor and could not bring them up. He thought he could leave them at an orphanage which might take better care of them.

And this is what he did a few hours later when the raft hit the shallow shore. He went to a church nearby and met the pastor there. The pastor was caring and nice. He gave him some bread and warm soup. He also gave him some clothes to change.

Both of them dried up the four babies. They wrapped them up in fresh dry clothes. The pastor then accompanied him to a nearby parish which also had an orphanage. Sister Alicia, the in charge there, was happy to receive the kids. She had some nurses under her, who started taking good care of all the four.

After two days, when John had had some rest at a friend’s place in Mumbai, he came back to the orphanage. He felt that the kids were in good hands. He left his address with Sister Alicia and returned to Goa.

It never occurred to John to inform the local police about the four kids he had found in the sea waters after the boat had sunk.

Kala and Rakesh get a gift

In a two bedroom flat in Mumbai lived a couple, Kala and Rakesh. They were married for six years but were still childless. The doctors had advised them to adopt a child instead. Both used to love children. Often, they would pray to have a couple of children.

Kala was of medium height. She had beautiful eyes. She was very loving. She cared even for her neighbourhood kids, helping them in many ways.

Rakesh had a close friend in the restaurant where he worked. His name was Peter. Once, Peter was having dinner at their place. The topic of adopting children came up. Peter said he knew about an orphanage where they could try their luck.

Next Sunday, the three of them went to the orphanage together. Peter introduced them to the in charge there, one Sister Alicia. She walked around with them and introduced them to many children who were happy and playing in the compound.

Some lovely children caught the attention of Kala. They were very cute, with blue eyes and dark hair. Sister Alicia told them that these four kids had survived a boat accident some time back. She wondered if they were from some foreigner couple. She had tried locating their parents, but had failed to do so.

Kala and Rakesh were delighted to meet these four kids. They offered to take care of all of them. Sister Alicia could see they were good people. She agreed.

That is how the remaining four kids of Leila and Joseph found an Indian family. Kala named them Madesh, Suraj, Sita and Yashoda.

Leo, Livio, Sara and Anisa grow up

Back in Lucerne, Leila and Jospeh started bringing up the four kids lovingly. The boys were named Leo and Livio. The girls were named Sara and Anisa. Like their mother, all of them had hazel blue eyes and dark hair. Often, Leila would worry about her missing four children. She would pray to God that they be safe, wherever they may be.

Leo was a simple boy by nature. He was obedient and caring. Livio and Sara were naughty and playful. They liked to play pranks on others. Anisa was a quiet and studious child. They all looked the same. By nature, they were all quite different from each other.

 

They loved playing on swings. They enjoyed their outings on the lake. Leo and Anisa liked to spend time at the Natural History museum, identifying different butterflies and insects displayed there. Livio and Sara liked to visit the Transport Museum. All four of them liked skiing, swimming and ice skating. Trekking in the mountains was a favourite hobby of theirs.

Leo and Anisa gradually developed interest in music. Leo learnt to play the piano. Many times, he represented his school in different concerts. Anisa learnt ballet dancing. She was liked by all those who saw her perform.

All four of them looked like each other. Often, people would mix up between the four children. Livio or Sara would play a prank on another kid at school, but Leo or Anisa would have to take the blame. Leo or Anisa would do some good work, but Livio or Sara would get praised.

At night, all four of them would cuddle around Leila and go to sleep after listening to a story. Often, they heard the story of the boat accident. They believed that they had four other siblings who were their twins. But they did not know if those four were still alive. If so, where were they and what were they doing?

Madesh, Suraj, Sita and Yashoda blossom in India

In India, the other four kids started going to a good school near their home.

Madesh was naughty. He liked to play in the garden outside and would be found fighting with other kids. As he grew, he developed an interest in playing tennis. He thought he could play for India team when he grew up. Roger Federer was his role model.

Suraj was a quiet boy. He was good at studies. All his teachers liked him. He took to learning the violin. He dreamed of learning Western music from a professional academy. He wanted to play as part of an orchestra all over the world.

Sita was a quiet girl. She would play with her dolls all alone.  She was an obedient child. She was good at heart, and would willingly share her toys with other children. Her dream was to become a doctor and serve people.

Yashoda was a mischievous kid. She was intelligent and did well in her studies. At school, she would often make funny drawings in the copy books of other children. She was more like a tom boy and liked playing outside the home with other boys. She wanted to become a restaurant manager, like her father.

All the four of them were fond of listening to tales from Indian epics at night. Their grandmother, Rakesh’s mother, used to tell them stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata at night. On holidays, they would go out for picnics to such places as the Juhu beach. They loved making sand castles and picking up shells at the beach. They learnt good family values. They did not know they also had four siblings in a far off country known as Switzerland.

(Continued in Part 2)

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ashokbhatia

Hapless parents who are always rushing from pillar to post to make the two ends meet carry a lovely responsibility on their tender shoulders – that of bringing up kids.

Families have shrunk. Technology has sneaked into the family space. Most parents themselves have one sibling each, and they also happen to be equally busy chasing their own dreams. The desire to enjoy independence from parents has led to the current trend of singular families. Kids no longer have the luxury of curling up in bed with the family seniors and listening to juicy stories and fables from the distant past.

kids-internet-1

Often, hassled parents, already bearing the guilt of not being able to spend enough quality time with their kids, get into a conflict with kids over such inane matters as the choice of their friends, the dress they wish to wear in their free time, and the shows they insist…

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