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Friday, September 22, 2017

Sheer Coincidence or divine intervention?

Say you decide to take the Shatabdi Express from New Delhi station to Chandigarh, something that you've done at least a hundred times earlier.But this time, there's a real difference. For just after you've boarded the train and reach out for your wallet to pay the Coolie, you realise that you've been pick pocketed.

Far more important than the money you've lost are your ID cards, particularly those related to Health and Insurance, which might take upto six months be re-made.

But then you console yourself.and finally shrugging your shoulders, you tell yourself that it could have been far worse.And then you carry on with your way of life and living.Exactly two days later, your front door bell rings and standing there, are three young schoolboys. After having introduced themselves, they hand over your wallet...which is now much lighter, but still has ALL YOUR 6 ID cards.

Looking at your open mouthed surprise, they decide to enlighten you. They were on a school trip to Delhi Zoo and saw this wallet thrown in a bin just ahead of the monkey's cages.

So they did simply what they thought they must..And brought it back to you.

Image courtesy- Flipkart

Now this would be a story that I would find hard to believe, but i did. For it was told to us by my own father in law, some time back, who is delighted with this sheer coincidence.

Or I'm left wondering...Should I re-phrase it as 'Divine intervention'?

PS- I'm repeating this Blog post, but thought it needed to be done...

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Air Marshal Arjan Singh and memories of how my father inspired my love of storytelling, reading and writing

 Arjan Singh, Marshal of the Indian Air Force

( IAF) and India's oldest, five-star ranked air force officer, died at 7.47pm on Saturday after suffering a heart attack. He was 98.

After hearing this news, a flood of memories welled up and this is a particularly relevant piece that  I would like to share with all of you again.

Ever since people began to communicate with each other, "Tell me a story" has been a request of both children and adults. For there is something absolutely fascinating about sitting around and listening to words which come out of someone else’s mouth and trying to put picture associations to those same words. Then finding oneself transported into a the fantasy land which might comprise anything as far removed as fairies, trolls and goblins to the more real adventures of Arabia, World War Two exploits or then the cold war and the numerous real and imaginary spy stories that it generated over the years. 

Miles and miles of flowers and memories

While listening to stories from almost anyone is good enough for a child whose mind is probably the most curious and absorbent thing in the whole wide world, there is a special charm in asking one’s own parents to tell a story. Like I always did, with my father and do so, right till today, when the two of us get a chance to spend some quality time together.

As children, almost every night for many, many years, whenever we could manage, my brother and myself would wait for him to tell us one of his enthralling tales. I don't know how he did it, but all his stories, whether based on real life incidents or a creation of his imagination, were very exciting, taking us into a whole new world, where we could actually almost see and experience all that he used to talk about. Which is exactly where I started from, that very great pleasure that a child gets when ‘visualising’ what is being told. It is also a matter of great credit to the storyteller for being able to generate such a response in a young and impressionable mind and this is something for which I’m able to give credit to my father only in retrospect.

Particularly memorable were his stories about Air Marshal Arjan Singh (who was obviously one of my dad's heroes)and some of his daredevil missions in the skies, Naval stories, particularly those set in the INS Vikrant and all the exciting and adventurous things that things people did on board. Then there were the stories which taught us all about our history, culture, tradition, valour along with great things that people had done and achieved in this world. These were the stories about people like Guru Gobind Singh, Shivaji Maratha, Rani Laxmibai and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and Helen Keller.

Then of course, there were the funny stories, which consisted of make believe characters and an extended storyline where the four of us as a family would get involved in their lives and adventures. The real beauty of these tales were that these were a never ending saga and could go on and on endlessly, taking right up from where it had been left off the last time around as there was no defined beginning or an end to these.

Keeping both of us enthralled for hours and hours on end, then after one got over, repeatedly begging him, "Pop, one more, just one more" which he would always, always, always oblige.

Time passed and I became a mother. Of a very bright child with an equally hungry mind. One who demanded “Tell me a story” whenever she wanted to hear one. So that I learnt to delve into the inner recesses of my mind and pull out some of those I remembered my father telling me and when I ran out of those I learnt to improvise, just as I remembered him doing. Creating some characters with whom the family travelled together, went on adventurous trips with and did a whole lot of fun stuff. One of the characters who became an all time favourite with my daughter was a little monkey who I called ‘Pikoo’ and one who went wherever my mind decided to take him. Alternately, wherever my daughter wanted him to go and so began the next generation saga along with a new series of never ending tales.

Today, as I'm reminded of those days, I'd like to take this opportunity to say “Thank You Pop, for that's where I really learnt my love of storytelling and now that of writing stories. I loved your stories then and love them even more now.”

I close with a beautiful line by Melody Beattie, “Live from your heart, and share from your heart. And your story will touch and heal"

Note-This is a piece originally written for my column 'My Take' in the Muscat Daily two years ago.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The best day of your life? Today

How many times have you found yourself thinking, "Oh, its all right, I'll do it tomorrow."

And I'm positive that its many, many, many  times in one day.

But here's the thought that  popped into my head and one that refuses to go away.

'Today' is the best day of the rest of your life, so if you can do that one thing thing today, make sure you do it.

And do it well!

As Sant Kabeer said, many, many years ago, "Kaal kare so aaj kar,aaj kare so ab."

Wise words indeed and one that I intend to make into my 'mantra', as far as I can help.