Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Birthday Gift

“She was looking beautiful in that dress.”

“Who? Which dress?”

“Nothing. What were we talking about?”

“Nope. There is something. Suddenly this dress…”

“Arre… That day we went to the market. You too were there. You know what I’m talking about.”

“But she didn’t buy that one. She bought something else.”

“Yeah. I know.”


“All I’m saying is that she was looking good in that…”

The dress in question is a white top with some self design. We had gone to the market some 2-3 days back for some shopping. She had tried that top and liked it a lot. I don’t know why but she didn’t buy that one. Instead she bought something else. Sometimes you get a feeling that something is made for someone. It was a thing of that kind. But girls are girls.

“Shall we get back to work now?”

“It’s her birthday next week.”

“Yes. Now let’s start working. We are already late..”

“I want to gift it to her.”

“Now what’s all this?”


“We all are giving her a gift. You know that. And you are a part of that. In fact you only gave that idea.”


“Then what is this for?”

“Just like that.”

“Just like that??? Come on? It can’t be just like that.”

“It is …”

“Tell me. Do you like her?”

“What nonsense is this. Can’t I give something to a friend as birthday gift?”

“You have not answered my question.”

“Well if you insist, the answer is no.”

“That’s what you say every time.”

“Because that’s the truth.”

“And why are you telling all this to me.”

“I’ll need your help and I know I can trust you.”

“Hmmmm. Now shall we start the work?”

“Nope. Now we shall go to the market.”

“What for?”

“To buy that top. Otherwise somebody else will buy it.”

“What if it is already sold?”

“I asked him to keep it for 2-3 days. I told him that I’ll come n buy it.”

“So everything is planned.”

“Hmmm. Almost.”

“And how will you give it to her? You will get it delivered to her room?”

“Nope. It will be kept in her room on that day.”

“How? We can’t go to girls hostel.”

“I know that.”

“Oh. I got it. You will give it to her and tell her to keep it in her room and then look at it after some time and get surprised to find a gift in her room. Is that what you plan?”

“That’s not funny.”


“She is not the only one who can enter into that building…”


“…and you are not the only one I trust.”

“So you have decided that you are going to do this. I know you will have it your way. Such is your determination. But this is crazy. If not crazy, at least it’s uncalled for. Whatever it is, you are the only one who can do such a thing.”

By now we had reached the market and were entering that shop. The person at the counter recognized me. But he became a little nervous when he saw me. It seems the game is over. And that is the case. He told me that that dress has been sold. And that was the last one of its sort. He was very sorry and very apologetic and trying very hard to find some place to hide his face. But my plan was spoiled.

“Useless fellow. Couldn’t he wait for a day or two?”

“It happens yaar. It’s not his fault. He is there to sell his stuff. Why will he say no to a customer?”

“But I had asked him to….”

“Stop this crap now. Why are you getting so restless?”

“I wanted to give...”

“And just look at it in another way. She might not have liked all this. It might have hurt her. What would you have done then?....... Oh yes. You would have remained anonymous then. Right?”

“Nope. In fact I had planned quite the opposite.”

“What? You are saying you would have remained anonymous had she liked it.”

“And I would have confessed had she not.”

“I don’t understand. What would you have achieved?”

“Nothing. I just wanted her to be happy. I was not expecting anything.”

“You are going mad.”

I don’t know what was happening but I was feeling very sad. But there was no time to be sad. And after all it was a very small matter. So we came back and restarted the job that we had left unfinished. The whole week passed in other such important assignments. And finally came the day, her birthday. At 12 midnight, the cake was cut and we had a rocking celebration. We all presented her the gift.

We had planned for a birthday party that same evening and we all were going out for dinner. We all were ready and waiting for the birthday queen and there she comes. Even the Gods would take a moment to wonder what marvel they have created. She was looking so pretty. Her untied hair, her ear-rings dangling like chandeliers from a palace top, her necklace sparkling like her laughter, the white top, the bangles, the black skirt... But wait a minute.. the white top.. this is that same top. But….

She came closer and said

“Guess what guys. Somebody gave me this top as a gift. I found it in my room. An anonymous gift. It’s looking nice na?”

… how is it possible? Who could that be? This was my plan.

“Did you…”

“No way. I was with you all the time...”

“Hmmmmmm. You couldn’t…”

“and bhai it was sold much before you told me your plan. Could it be your other trusted friend?”

“Nope. She never knew the plan.”

“In that case, I can only say one thing – You are not the only one who … wanted to give her a gift.”

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

“But what’s my fault???”

“So do you like her?”


“You know whom I’m talking about.”

“No Ravi, I don’t know what you are talking about. Be clear.”

“Come on yaar. You need not be so defensive. You can tell me. After all...”

“Ok. Ok. Don’t start this now. Yes I like her.”

“And she...”

“Yes, she also likes me. We like each other and we also want to marry each other.”

“Hmmm. And what..”

“Between, why are you asking all this?”

“I just wanted to know. Leave that. Thant’s not important. What I was saying was that have you talked to your parents?”


“And what do they say?”

“Nothing. They said it’s not possible.”

“Why? Caste?”

“Yes. And they want me to marry some other girl of our caste.”

“But bhai try to convince them.”

“It’s of no use. They won’t understand.”

Never in my life had I seen this person crying. But this day was different. Things were looking very strange on this day. The CCD was looking very gloomy and suffocating. The coffee that I loved so much did not taste the same. I was not able to gulp it down. I don’t know why but I was feeling choked. It’s not sympathy but I’m feeling sad for this person. I couldn’t believe it’s him only.

“Ravi I just can’t think of marrying another girl. I know I won’t be able to give her what she deserves and that would be very unfair to her. Why don’t our parents understand this?”

So this person has also fallen for the temptation. All through our lives, we had this understanding that we live in such conservative families that we won’t be able to do anything even if we want to. But he has broken that pact and now I am all alone.

“But didn’t we know it all along? Then how can you do this. We always knew that our parents will never agree.”

I knew that I was sounding very stupid to him. He would have listened to all these arguments many times before. So I didn’t want to repeat them in front of him. And I knew that they won’t have any impact.

We don’t live our lives as individuals. We are entangled in the mesh of all the relationships and commitments and expectations of all those who surround us. We can’t move on our own without affecting this mesh in ways we can’t even think about. A small aberration can have such far reaching consequences that moving alone is just unthinkable. You are bound to create a lot of flutter even if you just think of doing that.

Does that mean that you are not courageous enough to stand against the set beliefs and rituals, that you have been bitten down by the curse of orthodoxy, that you are timid enough that you just want to maintain the status quo and don’t want to move ahead.

The answer is no. What it simply means is that you are respecting the view of your elders. They have grown up with these ideals and beliefs and you have no right to challenge them or ask for an exception for yourself. If you think that your elders are very conservative then they have all the right to be like that. Its you who doesn’t have the right to be liberal because you always knew the viewpoint of your elders and you actually cheat them when you go against them or even think of going against them.

“But what’s my fault???”

“It’s nobody’s...”

“Even I knew all this. But it just happened. You don’t have control over your feelings.”

Very true, that you don’t have control over your feelings. But you do have control over your actions. Your heart might start revolting but you won’t fall until your mind yields. You may start feeling for a girl or start liking a girl. That’s not in your control. But once you realize this, what you do is completely up to you. You may move ahead knowing very well what the consequences will be but deliberately disregarding them. Or you may halt, make an assessment of what’s happening and then move wisely. Saying “it just happened” is not an excuse because it’s you only who did everything. How can you disown your own decisions and actions by saying that it just happened.

“So what have you thought? What are you going to do now?”

“I don’t know.”

I was caught in a very dicey situation. I had no other option but to help him in whatever he decides to do. And whatever that whatever may be, by all probability it will be something that will be completely against my own beliefs.

“From this point, there are not many options left.”

“I know. There are precisely two.”

“What? Two options??? What are these two options?”

“I marry a girl of my parents’ choice or I elope with the girl I love.”

“And you plan to exercise one of the two?”


“I know it will be very difficult for you to make a choice.”

“Earlier I had left it on time. I had expected that things will change. But now the time has come to act.”

I don’t know if I am right, but I found this statement very revolting. Though his face was blank but I felt that something was cooking up in his mind.

“It seems that you have made a decision.”


  “And that is???”

He was silent.

“What is it?”

He remained silent. And that is all I got as the reply to my question.

Monday, March 9, 2009

ईश्वर की देन

ईश्वर की देन

मैने भगवान से मांगी शक्ति,

उसने दीं कठिनाइयां हिम्मत बढ़ाने के लिए|

मैने भगवान से मांगी बुद्धि,

उसने दीं उलझनें सुलझाने के लिए|

मैने भगवान से मांगा प्यार,

उसने दिए दुखी लोग सेवा करने के लिए|

मैने भगवान से मांगा वरदान,

उसने दिए अवसर उन्हे प्राप्त करने के लिए|

मैने भगवान से मांगी हिम्मत,

उसने दीं परेशानियां ऊपर उठने के लिए|


वो मुझे नहीँ मिला जो मैने मांगा,

मुझे वो मिल गया जो मुझे चाहिए था|

Friday, March 6, 2009

Let’s Wait...

“Ravi, you have to go the hospital tonight.”

“But what will I do. I don’t know what to do, how to handle such things.”

“Arre he has been shifted to HDU. The nursing staff takes care of everything. You just have to be present there as an attendant just in case if something goes wrong.”

That is precisely the point. What am I supposed to do if something goes wrong? And what is this HDU? Anyways, the task has already been delegated to me and the schedule has been set. So not many changes can be made there.

So at 10 o’clock sharp, I was standing outside the HDU. There I realised that HDU stands for High Dependency Unit. It is an arrangement similar to the ICU for the patients who are not in very critical condition or for the patients whose case is critical but condition is stable. But for all practical purposes, it was an extension of ICU only with the only difference being that one attendant per patient is allowed to stay with him.

“How is he now?”

“Still unconscious. The doctor came for the visit at around 4. He changed the prescription. Let’s see if the condition improves. He said that the damage is irreversible but still they are trying. I think we are fighting a lost battle.”

“But there must be a way. What about the surgery?”

“He is not in a condition to be operated upon.”


“I should go and take some rest now. Give me a call in case there is any problem. I’ll come in the morning at around 9.”


So I was all alone (with 10 or so patients and their 10 or so attendants) in that room for the night. He was unconscious so I had nothing else to do but to check that the medicines are being administered as per the doctor’s prescription and to keep a tab on those monitors to see whether everything is fine or not. The lights were dimmed at around 10:30. It made the room very gloomy with a persistent hymm of the air conditioning.

I looked at the patient right across me. She was a middle aged lady and the person accompanying him seemed to be her husband.

“She is your wife?”


“What happened? What is the illness?”

“Liver transplant. Her liver is damaged and we are not able to find a donor. This...”

He kept quiet for a while. I thought he didn’t want to continue the conversation. But then I realised that he was crying. The lights were dim so I couldn’t see properly but he was definitely crying.

“This has been going on for last 3 years now. We have to come here every 3-4 months for her treatment. This will go on till the transplant is done.”

“But you couldn’t find a donor in these 3 years?”

“It’s not that easy. There are so many things to be matched for a transplant. Even the doctor is looking for a donor for our case but nothing has happened so for.”

I felt a little guilty. He was preparing to take a nap when I started this conversation. And now he was sitting with me and crying. And I could not say anything to console him. He must have been some 20 years older than me.

“This time the doctor is saying that this won’t go on for long. The chances for survival are less if we can’t find a donor quickly. Her condition is very serious this time. And I am down to the last penny I had. What will I ...”

Our conversation was broken by the nurse who had come to change the glucose bottle.

Poor lady. She is in this condition for the last 3 years. It’s really tough. And just think about her husband. And their children. What turns life takes. And he said he has run out of money. How will he manage from now on? At least money is not a problem with us. But what if...? No in that case we could not have afforded this treatment. But what would have happened then? It’s scary.

With all these thoughts criss-crossing each other, I drooped on my chair itself. Suddenly I woke up to some rumblings. There was some sense of emergency. The nursing staff was actively running around and there were two or three doctors standing there.

“We will have to operate immediately. There’s no other way.”

“Shift her to the ICU and prepare the OT for the surgery.”

There was a lot of noise in the room because of the increased activity. The lights were on and everybody was looking. As it appeared, one of the monitors had shown some problem with her condition. It seemed to be serious. The whole episode took some half an hour in which she was shifted to the HDU was brought to its normal condition. The lights were again dimmed.

“What’s happening”, I could hear the patient next to me asking his attendant.

“Nothing. You go to sleep”, the attendant replied.

It was strange. The room suddenly seemed gloomier. It seemed impossible to stay in that room.  But I have to be there till morning, I’ll have to wait.

What do students wait for? For the exams to get over. For the vacations to start. For “the time with all the masti and no work at all”. If he is a studious one, he will also wait for the results of the exams. “How much did I score? Will someone again be ahead of me?...”

Lovers wait for each other. “Tell me why you are late. I have been waiting here all along. Its 2:35. We were supposed to meet at 2:30. You.... you just don’t care. You have no respect for my feelings. I think you don’t even love me. I won’t talk to you. Get lost.”

When observing a fast, a wife waits for the moon. A kid waits for her mother to sleep. Others wait for the clock to strike 12.

Parents wait for their children to grow up and start their new life. Nothing gives them more happiness than the satisfaction that their children are happy and well placed in life.

Farmers wait for the first rainfall. Nobody looks at the skies with so much hope and expectation than these people.

People wait for the promises made to them to be honoured. “But papa you promised you will play with me today. I waited for the whole day.” “You promised that we will go out for dinner and still you came late from office.”

Ask anyone of them and they will say that their wait is the longest and the toughest and the most stressful and the most testing and... Some people wait to pass their time. Some people wait so that they can show that they waited. And some people wait just for the sake of it.

But sometimes some people have to wait for something they would never want to. Sometimes these people don’t even realise what they are waiting for.

Finally sun rose up and it was time for me to leave.

“Everything was fine or was there any problem?”

Fine, I believe, here meant status quo. “Yeah. He is still unconscious.”

“Where’s that lady gone? Has she been discharged?”

“No. she has been shifted to the ICU. The doctors were supposed to do some surgery.”

“Oh.. poor lady. Ok. You go home now. The car is there in the parking. Here’s the key.”

“The doctor must be coming anytime now.”

"But he too won’t have anything new to say.”

“What will we do now?”

“I don’t know. Let’s wait.... there is nothing else we can do.”

 I took the keys of the car and left that room. The outside world seemed so very different now. One night at that HDU seemed to have changed the whole world outside. I took the lift to come to the ground floor. While coming out of the lift, I saw that man (that lady’s husband) standing at some distance.

I thought I should ask him about the situation. I went closer to him. He looked at me but he didn’t say anything. I looked into his eyes and I knew that I need not ask anything. I just turned around and came out of the building. I went to the parking, looked for the car and set out for home.

While driving, the events came back to my mind again and again. What are we going to do now? He said let’s wait. But wait for what? The doctor says the damage is almost irreparable and there are no chances of revival. Then certainly we are not waiting for him to get well. What then are we waiting for? It became difficult for me to pass one night there. But this has been going on for last 16-17 days. We have waited all along. But waited for what? Are we really waiting for ...

Looking out of the car window, I saw a board saying –

“There is only one reality, death. Rest all is an illusion.”


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Auto Driver

September 2003

“Hurry up mom, walk fast. We’re getting late. It is 3:40 and it takes more than 30 minutes to reach there.”

“That’s when we get the auto as soon as we reach the main road. Otherwise... I don’t know why they refuse to go there.”

“Yes. I hope the doctor gets late today. We can’t reach there by 4:00.”

“And he will be there on time. It happens all the time Ravi. When we are on time, the doctor gets late and we have to wait there. But if we get late, he’s on time and we miss the appointment and have to wait till the whole appointment list is over.”

“It is going to be like this only today mom. There’s no way we can meet the appointment if he’s on time.”


I spotted an auto and shouted to call make it stop. He stopped some distance ahead. I walked up to him.

“Yes Sir?”

“Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.”

“In Karol Bagh?”

“Well it is not in Karol Bagh but very close to it. Will you take us there?”

“Yes Sir. I’m going in that direction only. Please sit.”

“For how much?”

“Whatever is genuine sir. I’m going there only.”

“30 rupees”

“Fine Sir. Please sit.”

We boarded his auto quite happily but it was a little strange. The normal fare for the distance we had to cover is Rs. 35 and the auto drivers charge anything from Rs. 35 to Rs. 80. It is up to your bargaining skills to strike a better deal. But this person agreed to a fare which was lower than the genuine fare that he could have charged.

After some ten minutes, he asked-

“Sir, does one require an ice box to carry a unit of blood from the blood bank to the hospital?”

“Why? What’s the matter?”

“Sir my son is admitted in the hospital. They have to do a surgery. They have asked for a unit of this blood group.”

He showed me a small prescription slip of a hospital which read-

                Blood Group      : B- (B Negative)

                Qty                         : 1 unit

“Sir I went to the blood bank. They are asking Rs. 250 for the blood. It is a government run blood bank. Sir, do they charge so high for the blood? I had gone to another blood bank but they said that they don’t have it.”

“These are storage and upkeep charges. What about the ice box?”

“Sir I’m a poor man. I’ve already spent so much on my son’s treatment. Now Rs. 250 for the blood and they are asking to bring an ice box to carry it. The ice box costs Rs. 50 sir. I’ve no money left with me sir. But I have to get this blood very fast. Without this blood, they won’t start the surgery. I’m losing so much time sir. The fare that you will give me will help in a lot.”

In the meantime, we had reached Karol Bagh. The Ganga Ram Hospital is on Pusa Road which is next to Karol Bagh. He turned into a side lane in Karol Bagh.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“Sir there is a relative of mine who works here in one of the houses in this colony. I will see if he can give me some money. It won’t take more than 2 minutes sir.”

With this, he parked the auto on one side of the road and disappeared into the crowd on the road. I could see him going into a flat on the other side of the road.

“Poor man, he seems to be in trouble.” my mom said to me.

“We were already late and now we are struck here. I think we will miss it even if the doctor gets late today. It is 4:05.” I responded.

We waited for about 10 minutes after which he came back. He started the auto.

“He didn’t give anything. Nobody helps you when you are in great need. Where will I get this money from?”

His voice became a little heavy as he said this. Then there was a small pause. I was not sure but perhaps I heard him sobbing.

“It is that cricket ball.”

He started crying now.

“That cricket ball sir you know. He was playing with his friends when the ball hit him in the chest. He came back home but didn’t say anything to us. Not even to his mother.”

He was crying and it was getting difficult to comprehend him in the noise of the traffic. He tried to explain the injury. What I could make out of his description was that the ball had broken one of the ribs. The broken rib later damaged his lungs.

“Had he told us earlier about this, it would have been easy. This is what the doctors say.”

“When did it all happen?”

“Three days ago. And we came to know about it today only. My son will die. I’m a very poor man.”

We had reached the hospital.

“Take it in. You can get out from the next gate.”

We drove in. He stopped in front of the OPD Dept. We alighted from his auto. I took out 30 rupees from my wallet and gave them to him. He looked towards me. His eyes were red because of crying but I could read his eyes. There was hope in his eyes. He was expecting more from me. He wanted me to help him. He wanted me to give him some more money. May be Rs. 50. Or Rs. 250. Or Rs. 300. Or may be more than that.

I gave him Rs. 5 more.

“Rs. 35 is the genuine fare. This is what you would have got had you come by the meter. Rs. 30 was a low price quoted by me. I didn’t expect you to agree for that. So I’ll pay you Rs. 35.”

With this I turned towards mom. She had a very sympathetic look in her eyes. She didn’t say even a single word but I know she was asking me to give some more money to that man.

“Let’s move mom. We have got too late. It’s 4:20.”

“Anyways we have to wait till the end now.”

There was something very strange in the way she said this. I felt a little uneasy.

“Who knows.” I said.

Quite against the trend, the doctor was late that day. He came at 4:35 so we didn’t miss the appointment. We sat in the waiting room till then. Though it was just a period of 15 minutes, but somehow it seemed quite long one. There was complete silence. I didn’t say anything to mom. She didn’t say anything to me. After meeting the doctor, we came back home, again in an auto. We didn’t talk to each other even then. There was complete silence (except for the noise of traffic on the road).

I never talked to her about it.

For that auto driver, I don’t know what happened to his son. Going by his description of the situation, his son seemed to be in critical condition. I don’t know whether I should have helped him. I don’t know whether he was able to arrange the money. I don’t know whether giving some 200 or 300 rupees would have saved his son’s life.

I don’t know...

[Later I came to know that B- is the second rarest blood group. It is always a problem to get blood of this group as there are very few donors. Generally it is not available in many of the blood banks. I also came to know that my own blood group is B-.]