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How times change! Four years down the road, the delicately nurtured amongst us have been spared the trauma of being exhorted to bear as many children as they possibly can!!

ashokbhatia

The Indian Republic is awash with fresh winds of change these days. New policies and programs are getting rolled out. Animal spirits of the economy are attempting to come out of a period of relative hibernation. Start-ups of all sizes and shapes are mushrooming by leaps and bounds. World leaders appear to be courting India in the hope that their own countries become an integral part of the growth story of India.happy-republic-day

Our science historians are busy digging up the glory of our ancient knowledge. Flying contraptions, genetic feats and precision surgical achievements of yore dominate the public discourse. Educationists are busy twiddling their thumbs trying to figure out ways of revamping the entire education system.

Some of our religious and political leaders are busy exhorting young women to reproduce at a higher rate, so the future of the country is brighter. Reversing the inverted triangle in red which denoted…

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Diwali, the Indian Festival of Lights, occupies a very prominent place in the minds of its citizens. Given the propensity of Bollywood producers and directors to cash in on events which touch the audience’s lives, one would presume that the festival would have had a major role to play in many of the flicks churned out by our dream merchants.

In quite a few story lines, Diwali does form the background of some events of major importance in the lives of the principal characters. The villain and his henchmen decide to massacre an entire family just when the latter happen to be celebrating the festival together. However, they willy-nilly leave behind a survivor who grows up with the single aim of identifying the villain and liquidating him even as the law enforcing authorities take their own sweet time to troop in.

But when one starts looking around for songs which are inspired by this magnificent festival, one is likely to be disappointed. These are few and far in between.

Here is a small collection which was recently brought to my attention by an elderly cousin who has a personal collection of movies and songs which could beat any museum professing to represent the best that Bollywood has to offer.

Aayi Diwali Deep Jala Ja: Pagdi (1948)

 

Deep Jale Ghar Ghar Mein: Lata: 1955

 

Deep Jalenge Deep Diwali Aayi: Paisa (1957)

Kaise Diwali Manayen Lala: Paigham (1959)

 

Mele Hein Chiragon Ke: Nazrana (1961)

 

And here is a famous song from the movie Guide (1965) where an entire stanza is devoted to Diwali.

 

Happy Diwali: Home Delivery (2005)

Perhaps, there are several reasons for Diwali songs being very few.

One could be that the joint family system has given way to unit families. Main protagonists in Bollywood movies have become more self-centred, pushing the broader family into the shadows. Over time, the importance attached to a family-focused festival like Diwali has gone down. We still get to see it, but merely as a backdrop to the small part of a song where the hero and the heroine are shaking their legs and limbs with much gusto.

Another could be the fact that Diwali was earlier considered a private family affair, with sweets getting distributed amongst neighbours after the traditional puja had been performed. But the current trend is that of a socializing event where those who could assist us in fulfilling our ambitions receive gifts much prior to the festival. In other words, if it was a single transaction between a family and the Goddess of Wealth in the past, it has now taken the shape of a multi-dimensional event of a transactional nature where one’s circle of influence plays a far more important role.

It is remarkable that Holi, the Festival of Colours, has found better attention from our film makers. Bollywood specializes in glorifying eve-teasing and this is one festival which provides ample scope for amorous advances to be showcased on the silver screen.

Here is wishing all of you a great Diwali!

(Note: Yours truly is grateful to the senior cousin who facilitated this post.)

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While dishing out the unique fare that P G Wodehouse specialized in, never would he have imagined the kind of spell it would cast upon the unsuspecting youth in a country like India which remained a colony of the British Empire for quite some time. The kind of whodunits which he unleashed on the gullible youth occasionally launched an array of goofy schemes and practical jokes. And if the setting for rolling out such schemes happened to be an educational institution, one can merely bemoan the fate of its Reverend Aubrey Upjohns and other illustrious lion-tamers who had no other option but to be at the receiving end.

Imagine an educational institution which is teeming with a bevy of intellectually inclined youth. It is not difficult to surmise just how busy the institute’s Wodehouse Society office bearers would be, whipping up one goofy scheme or the other at regular intervals.

Late night raids on cookie jars and smoking cigarettes in the shrubbery were surely considered passé by them. Instead, they specialized in organizing some practical jokes which would have an undercurrent of the kind of subtle humour Plum stoutly believed in. Apparently, this was one of the annual features of the activities of the P G Wodehouse Society located on the campus.

Here are some which were narrated to yours truly by a dignified senior Mr Mulliner, who happened to be a distinguished alumnus of the institution concerned. It was a chance meeting which came about while we were undertaking an otherwise listless bus ride in Chicago recently.

A musical charade

The names of two famous singers from neighbouring Pakistan, ostensibly on a visit to India, were touted to attract a large audience to the auditorium. Faculty members from even the nearby colleges showed up, accompanied by spouses ornately dressed for the great occasion.

Since there was a shortage of volunteers to dress up as Pakistani ‘ghazal’ singers, only three could manage the feat, though. Thus, a troupe comprising a single singer, what with a tabla player and a harmonium player in tow, got formed. Some strings got pulled and a decent car with a diplomatic number plate was organized. The trio arrived at the venue in true style and was cheered lustily by the crowd, agog at the prospect of listening to some soulful melodies.

Once the trio had been greeted with customary garlands, bouquets and shawls et al, the person believed to be the singer stood up and started an elaborate ‘alaap’. When he continued with his off-tune rendering for quite a length of time, the audience started getting a bit jittery. Some thought it was perhaps a Pakistani custom to belt out some random notes, just to kick-start the proceedings. Pretty soon, it transpired that both the instrumentalists were merely twiddling their thumbs and playing some notes furtively, somewhat out of sync with the singer.

The jamboree ended with the singer finally announcing that the performance was merely a charade. Wisdom dawned upon the audience that a practical joke had been perpetrated on the unsuspecting hoi polloi.

Cora Bollinger, had she been present, could have possibly saved the day by belting out a version of ‘Sonny Boy’. However, that was not to be.

The case of the missing dead body

At the stroke of midnight, a rumour was heard that a student had committed suicide by hanging himself from the roof of the college gymnasium. Negative news spreads virtually at the speed of light. In no time, a crowd gathered outside the gymnasium building. True enough; a dead body appeared to be swaying gently from the roof. The gymnasium door was bolted from inside. A soulful suicide note was also apparently found outside.

The warden got called in. He lost no time in waking up the Principal who trooped in after some time, much like the US marines arriving at the site of a natural disaster. But lo and behold, the body had done the vanishing trick by then, possibly taking a leaf out of one of the whodunits of Agatha Christie.

As the pseudo-suicide unleashed by the society members dawned upon those assembled, the warden obviously got an earful from the irate principal, who did not like the prospect of losing his beauty sleep on such frivolous, or even non-existent, grounds.

The nocturnal presence of a female

In the hostel rooms of what was then an exclusive territory of the so-called sterner sex, the presence of a member of the tribe of the delicately nurtured beyond certain hours was not permissible.

However, on one apparently innocent night, word went around that a soft and shiny leg perched on a table was clearly visible from the window of a particular room in the hostel, reminiscent of the 1960s Hollywood flick ‘The Graduate’. Tongues started wagging. Imagination had a free run.

When notified, the warden decided to investigate the matter without any delay. But his repeated knockings on the door of the room concerned produced rather discouraging responses from within. Entreaties to open the door were met with stony silences. Threats uttered while his clenched fists pounded on the door were met with stout refusals to oblige.

Enraged, the warden went across the back lawns, so as to be able to peek inside the concerned room through a back window. Unfortunately, status quo prevailed and satisfactory results were not produced. Some kindly souls amongst the office bearers then took charge of the situation, calling upon the occupant to open the doors.

This brought home the bacon, so to say. The neatly shaved leg came off the table. The door flung open and out came the only occupant of the room, merrily parading his legs to all those who had assembled outside. Once it was established beyond doubt that one of his legs alone had been adequately prepared and presented to the unsuspecting public and that no female was in sight, a sigh of relief emanated from the warden. However, the decibel level of the merriment which ensued and the giggles that emanated from the crowd of students was far higher in the otherwise silent night.

The perils of being an educationist

Roberta Wickham and Stiffy Byng would have surely approved of these fruity schemes.

But had Reverend Aubrey Upjohn been present, he would have been frustrated at not having had the liberty of retaliating with some juicy canes in the soft spots of the office bearers.

Alas, such are the perils of the kind of rules and regulations which bind our hapless educationists these days. Only stiff-upper-lips and sterner gazes appear to have survived in their disciplinary arsenals.

Some of you may agree that the likes of Aubrey Upjohn, Miss Tomlinson and Miss Mapleton lived in far happier times.

(Notes:

Illustrations courtesy the world wide web.

The incidents described here took place sometime during the relatively innocent times of 1970s. The youth of today, armed with Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Social Media et al, could surely come up with far more juicier schemes. The mind boggles at the limitless possibilities.

One is truly grateful to the senior Mr Mulliner who narrated these incidents in juicy details to a perfect stranger like yours truly.

Here is hoping he, an eminent educationist in his own right, would soon chronicle his Plummy memoirs in exhaustive detail, possibly inspiring the youth of today to come up with even fruitier schemes, thereby hastening the spread of the epidemic of Wodehousitis all over the world.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/07/30/the-epidemic-of-wodehousitis

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/10/01/the-class-of-1976-how-it-managed-to-get-suspended-for-a-week

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/01/01/spreading-wodehousitis-some-plummy-awards)

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Here is a country where the mind is without fear

And the head is held high

Where knowledge to children and youth is virtually free

And those distressed by the world are welcomed with open arms;

 

Where the definition of nationalism implies inclusivity

Fine arts of all countries and cultures are welcome

If narrow domestic walls exist, these are only to protect national interests

Where respect for the law of the land reigns supreme;

 

Where gender equity and diversity is not a mere slogan

The care offered to the elderly is exemplary

Some wish the taxes to be lower but realize the money is well spent

In many ways does it serve and comfort the citizens; 

 

Where human endeavour aims to attain perfection

Words come out from an inner conviction

Gentle, helpful, physically active and resilient

Following a work culture which deserves to be aped;

 

Where one can encounter the true gifts of nature

Clean air, pristine water, lakes and streams

One amongst which is the clear stream of reason 

Leading to ever-widening thought and action;

 

Into this heaven of freedom, I wish this country to remain.

 

(Inspired by the famous poem ‘Where the mind is without fear…’ by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore)

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P G Wodehouse and the little town of Pondicherry in India could both boast of a French connection.

The former began his stint in France in 1934 at Le Touquet, but was detained and interned by the advancing German army in 1940. When he was released in 1941, he went on to live in Paris from where he left for USA in 1947.

As to Pondicherry, it was in 1674 that the French East India Company set up a trading centre there. This outpost eventually became the chief French settlement in India. With some intermittent breaks, Pondicherry remained one of France’s colonies in India till 1954.

 

Policemen surely play an important role in many of Plum’s narratives. A majority of them happen to be in the service of the Queen. Some are also of French origin. Thus, to a lesser mortal like yours truly who happens to be a fan of his and is normally found polluting the Pondicherry landscape, a museum showcasing the history of our gallant policemen there does hold some attraction. Add to this the allure of looking up policemen’s helmets of various kinds at closer quarters, and the gig becomes a must-do.

The challenges

The police force in Pondicherry comprises not only the higher rungs of officers in Central or State government services but also the humble constabulary which ensures that the laws in force are rigorously implemented without a flaw on their personal reputation and character.

 

While tracking down criminals, they spare no effort. It is their upright and proper conduct which upholds the might of the Law. Their career pursuits may not be of much interest to either the Scotland Yard or the DGSE, but they happen to be meticulous in their approach. The force believes in gender parity and has exclusive outposts (wo)manned by the delicately nurtured.

Much like their counterparts elsewhere in the world, often they face the challenge of walking the thin line between performing the duties assigned to them and kowtowing to the wishes of their political masters, much like a cop in Plum’s narratives who has no recourse but to yield to the wishes of his Justice of Peace.

Yet another serious challenge the constabulary in Pondicherry has always faced is that of keeping a strict eye on its multi-ethnic society. In order to be able to understand the psychology of the denizens under their watch, its members need to be fluent in several languages. In a write-up dating back to 1943, Monsieur Le Chef d’escadron Petignot, the then Commandant les Forces Publiques de I’Inde Francaise, speaks of the Indigenous police constabulary being entrusted with ensuring administrative police and judicial police in most parts of the territory where all the castes and almost all races exist, having to make enquiries in as many as eight different languages – French, English, Tamil, Hindustani, Malayalam, Telugu, Bengali and Oriya – indicating the extraordinary situation which this police force was required to function in.

Of French policemen and weapons

Fans of P G Wodehouse fondly recall the pursuits of Pierre Alexandre Boissonade, Commissaire of Police, in French Leave, as also those of Monsieur Punez, one of his underlings. They would be disappointed to learn that the former never made it to the coveted post of a Directeur de la Police at Pondicherry. Had he done so, he would have found himself on familiar ground, what with the place being akin to the fictitious French resort of Roville, duly infested with troubled lovers, impoverished aristocrats, millionaires and servants. To his surprise, he would have also found expatriates of all hues, sizes and shapes, spiritual aspirants, retired French army personnel, the annual July shoppers which descended on the town with sackfuls of the green stuff, the weekend youth who popped up merely to soak in the spirited ambience of the place, heritage enthusiasts, environmental activists, busy physicians, egoistic academicians, robbers, swindlers and argumentative fishermen.

The deftness with which Psmith handles a situation which involves the use of a revolver in Leave it to Psmith does make one wonder as to the kind of weapons which the police force in Pondicherry used to rely upon to keep the ambitions of its criminals under check.

The enticing proposal of a pinching technique

A saunter down the Police Museum at Pondicherry does clarify some such doubts, as the photographs accompanying this write-up amply demonstrate.

Of particular interest to yours truly was the display of various kinds of ‘kepis’ in use by the police force in Pondicherry. One could not pinch any, of course. But a soft glow of inner satisfaction was surely experienced at being allowed to fondle one for a few minutes.

A close examination revealed what could perhaps be a better technique of pinching one of this kind, if ever one’s Guardian Angels offered an opportunity to do so – the backward shove, followed by a vertical anti-gravity push, while using one’s non-twiddling thumbs to hold the desired object from the front side.

Bertie Wooster would surely approve.

 

(Note: For a history of the Pondicherry police force, please refer to http://police.puducherry.gov.in)

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/07/22/of-a-mom-bassett-and-the-allure-of-policemens-helmets)

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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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