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Thursday, 28 December 2017

Exam Fever - Part 2

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Read Exam Fever - Part 1 - Burning the midnight oil

I Promise 

3.00 a.m.
The rains seem to be abating a little I notice with alarm. ‘How can you, ye Gods? This is the first time I am asking something of you. I have faith in you; maybe it’s still raining heavily in Sector-9. Please let it keep raining. I’ll study day and night henceforth. 10 hours a day, nay, 20 hours a day shall I study and walk all the way to Siddhi Vinayak wearing only one chappal,’ I vow.
With this fervent appeal, I attack with renewed vigor the dreaded mounds of knowledge. I pick out a slim stapled bunch and look at the theorem in front of me. They expect me to comprehend and reproduce this gargantuan piece? How come I don’t have the faintest recollection of having come across this stuff? I peer more intensely at the notes. The handwriting is not that of any of my usual notes-sources. I am smart that way! At the bottom right hand corner of the last page, I spy the name of the notes-creator. Hmm, the name doesn’t ring a bell…yes something is wrong. I finally deduce that these must belong to my brother, two years my senior. Cursing him under my breath for messing up my notes, I segregate the treacherous set of notes; mentally marveling that my brother has bigger horrors to deal with.
Ahh, the next bunch seemed promising, I know everything! My hands flick one page after another with amazing speed; my deflated ego, bolsters a mite at having studied something so well. A doubt niggles. I look at the date on the notes, they are dated a year ago. Who on earth mixed trashed, last year’s notes with my carefully sorted current study bundles? My mind wanders to last evening’s fight with my brother. But even by his standards, this kind of sabotage is too devious! Arghhh…just my kind of luck!
3.34 a.m.
A trip to the balcony informs me that the rain Gods haven’t heeded my prayers. The sky that had been pregnant with possibilities has aborted the mission and crushed my hopes.
I return to my study table. Anxiety and despair at rebuttal from the rain Gods, fuel me with a new kind of energy, one determined to even out the odds against me! I decide on a new course of action. In fact I wonder why I hadn’t thought of this earlier.
The Question Bank! I will simply go through this treasure trove which carries question papers and their solutions from the last five years. Why pore over countless pages of useless information, simply concentrate on the questions that are regurgitated year after year! Brainwave, this!!
I breeze through one set. It is rather easy to answer questions when they are accompanied by the solutions. My effortless run makes me itch for a challenge. I decide to attempt the next question set without looking at the answers. This attempt reminds me of a scene from my favorite Bollywood movie, ‘Lagey Raho Munnabhai’. I seem to have been afflicted by some kind of a ‘chemical locha’ wherein my brain responds to questions only when the answers are known or accessible. Without access to the answers, I know nada! I am well and truly in a soup!
4.15 a.m.
I need some cheering, like desperately. Food usually comforts me but tucking into another bowlful of curd isn’t appealing. I contemplate between waking mom for a cup of tea and making one myself. A bit of diversion will no doubt refresh me and of course the tea will keep me awake. So I potter around the kitchen and in a jiffy produce a brew much more fragrant than anything my mother concocts. I must tell her to make this…ermm…yes, Chamomile tea, it really is exotic! I take the cup upto my room and make myself comfortable on the bed. It doesn’t taste as good as it smells but still nothing beats the feeling of a warm cuppa on a lonely, rainy night. My eyes are red and itchy after poring over the mountains of notes. The rains have started pelting once again and their steady beat soothes my jangled, tensed nerves, slowly and steadily as formulas, diagrams, equations fly past me at a dizzying rate.
8.01 a.m.
The sudden, jarring grate of the mixer from the kitchen has me waking with a jerk and a palpitating heart! I snatch up the blasted bedside clock, knocking over the tea cup and staring at the time in horror! The day outside looks bright and sunny. So much for my prayers, no dawa nor dua can save me now! 
‘God, help me through this one,’ I chant desperately, jumping out of bed, hurrying through my toilette and grabbing my exam paraphernalia.
Mom is in the kitchen as usual, busy with breakfast, while dad and big bro are arguing over the newspapers. I can’t believe that these people are having a routine day oblivious to the trials I’ve been through the previous night or the disaster looming ahead of me.
I ignore the tantalizing smells of Aloo paratha wafting from the breakfast table and avoid meeting mom’s eyes that are following me. With the courage of a soldier off on a “Mission Impossible”, I hurriedly mutter a goodbye and make my way to the door, muting out mom’s plaintive calls asking me to sit down for breakfast. Such civilian niceties were not for me; I am off on a battle I can’t hope to win.
As I am about to slam the door shut, I hear dad asking mom, ‘Isn’t it a holiday for everyone today?’
‘No one tells me anything these days,’ Mom starts off. ‘Who’s been having my Dream Sleep tea and leaving the box open?’
I stop dead on my tracks. HOLIDAY?? I snatch up my bag and pull out the exam time table.
Who makes these absurd, NO, thoughtful exam timetables?
All I understood is I can die another day! Today Aloo Paratha beckons.
‘I promise, I promise, I promise God, I'll be better prepared, next time around!’

Phew!! Nina sure has some wacky experiences and memories tucked away in her diaries! 


Read other stories from Nina's World:  Click on tag/label #NinasWorld

Disclaimer: All the characters in the Nina's World series are fictional, any resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental and unintentional.

­­Copyright © 2017 KALA RAVI

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Exam Fever - Part 1

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers
Nina was on her decluttering mission when she spied her old diary at the back of a shelf. Yes, she'd kept one with random entries. This was one entry she definitely wanted to keep away from Neel and Varun. Ahh, exam times, how traumatic they had been! But atleast those were the times when life had fewer distractions. No full day television or even worse the internet and mobile phones. But still she'd had challenges of her own during those nightmarish exams! She'd recorded one such experience in some detail, hoping to scare herself into working harder in future before things got too out of hand.....

Burning the mid-night oil

12.45 a.m.
I have finally sorted out the study material (basically Xeroxed notes of studious class-mates) into four different bundles based on my familiarity with them. This big task accomplished, now all I have to do is, memorize the stuff. I dispassionately observe that there isn’t a scrap of my handwriting anywhere. Didn't I make any notes myself?
Bundle 1 (the largest) - Never laid eyes before today
Bundle 2 - Looks familiar
Bundle 3 - Definitely attempted but still not confident
Bundle 4 - Done and dusted, to the best of my understanding
I note with distaste that Bundle 4 is the slimmest one and I need to improve its prospects.
I need a plan. Much like the Indian cricket team's required run rate based on Target score Vs. No. of overs / balls remaining, I calculate my required study rate based on the Total no. of pages Vs. Available time. This complex calculation takes some time since I can't find my calculator.
1.40 a.m.
At least now I know how deep the waters are that I am to wade through. I am astounded to see that the required study page rate is 5 pages/minute! Holy cow! Is that even possible? I mean just reading through a page takes me more than a minute, leave alone deciphering and memorizing its complexities!
Sagely, I decide to re-evaluate the bundles. Bundle 1 is relegated to the deepest recesses of my study cupboard. The required page rate still shows 3 pages/minute. Hmm, this is not good. More sacrifice is called for. With trepidation, I stuff Bundle 2 inside the cupboard. I decide to stick with only Bundle 3 and 4, the known devils. The stats have improved! I am down to 1 page/minute! That is the best I can do, isn't it?
2.10 a.m.
The house is so quiet, it feels almost eerie. I wander from my room on the first floor to the adjoining balcony overlooking the courtyard. From the corner of my eye, I notice a light pop in the house adjacent ours. Ahh…Shyam’s awake, finally! I have been inadvertently looking out for that light to come on. Good I will have some company in my misery. But the light goes off in a minute, most likely someone answering nature’s call. Morosely, I go back to my room. Didn’t he have to study too? During the long chat we’d had yesterday comparing study statuses, he had moaned and groaned about the pending study much more than me…humph!! That liar! He’d deceived and lulled me in to believing that he was worse off than me. What is this world coming to, when people lie about something like this! I browse through a few pages; there is still loads to study and most of it beyond my comprehension.
A wave of self-pity engulfs me. Poor me, awake, all alone and wretched at this unearthly hour while the rest of the world is sleeping in peace.
2.32 a.m.
It has started raining again, a gentle pitter-patter that progresses to a steady downpour. I pray to the rain Gods, ‘Hey Indra, Lord of the skies, pray continue with this downpour, if possible increase its intensity. Let it not lessen, please, please, please let it rain non-stop till at least 9.00 a.m. tomorrow.’ I have never prayed with so much fervor. I hasten to add, ‘You can send in extra heavy rains, enough to flood the exam center, located in Modern School, Sector-9.’ I don’t want my plea to be lost in tracking the right address for delivery or the Gods to waste their resources upon irrelevant areas.
I pick up the notes and plough through them steadily for the next 15 minutes. The stomach rumbles in protest. How can I be expected to maintain my concentration on an empty stomach? It is ages since dinner. Slipping on my noisy flip-flops I plod to the kitchen downstairs. I rifle through the contents of the large orange plastic container in which mom usually keeps snacks and biscuits for the unexpected guest. Guess she’s decided to discontinue that practice since the box now contains only empty wrappers. No one cares if I starve, studying my way all through the night. The fridge doesn’t seem very promising either. Finally I help myself to a large bowl of curd, add five scoops of sugar, throw in some chopped bananas and nuts and settle down to appease the rumbling demon in my stomach. 

READ NEXT >> Exam Fever - Part 2 - I Promise

Read other stories from Nina's World:  
Click on tag/label #NinasWorld

Disclaimer: All the characters in the Nina's World series are fictional, any resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental and unintentional.

Copyright © 2017 KALA RAVI

Monday, 25 December 2017

#UnwrapChristmas My way!

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

Hey there folks, I am celebrating the spirit of Christmas with the #UnwrapChristmas blogpost chain.
I am thankful to the lovely Manisha Garg for passing on the baton of spreading Christmas joy and spirit to me.

Of the many things I've been upto through all these years of celebrating Christmas is, learning the longer version of Jingle Bells, yes, I really did learn it! And what d'you know? I even directed a Christmas play starring kids from 5-10 years old! Here you go,

Now about Christmas this year.
My maid (the new one, probably the 25th one - if you haven't read my Bai Saga series, you should!) walks through the living room into the kitchen with a puzzled look. She goes back to the living room to check if Hanumanji is still on the console table and next looks at the decked up Christmas tree alongside. I am chuckling away quietly, working on my laptop and surreptitiously observing her confusion. Finally she cannot hold back her curiosity. "Didi, aap Christmas manate ho (you celebrate Christmas)?" 

Nodding my head, I look up from the laptop, "Haan, mai Christmas manati hoon aur har saal Ganpati bappa mere ghar bhi aate hain (Yes, I celebrate Christmas and every year Lord Ganesha visits my home too)!"
Some people find it puzzling and unthinkable that those of one faith celebrate the festival of another faith. 
Having studied in a convent school, Christmas celebrations are probably ingrained in me. Christmas at my home is more of a festive, year-end, feel good celebration, with playing Santa being the major draw for me when the kids were younger. 

So here I am, chopping and mixing in the dryfruits and nuts for the Christmas cake, swapping the traditional recipe for an eggless version, and beside it simmers a pan of 'Vatha kozhambu' (a ubiquitously south-Indian recipe). Yeah, a confusing clash of aromas and tastes you will agree! What to do, we are like that wonly!

As I look back at the year that went by, I am glad that I didn't totally mess it up! I am thankful to the blogging world through which I have made some really lovely friends and this Christmas it feels all the more special, thanks to the lovely gifts from my Secret Santas!
Gifts from my lovely Secret Santas!

A sad realization dawns on me that Christmas may not hold the same attraction for me in the coming year as one of my chicks leaves the nest for studies abroad. 
All the same, I am glad that we are here together today, unwrapping gifts, rejoicing over the surprises, beaming proudly at the DIY Christmas tree with its handmade ornaments, the lovely table setting that we did together, while munching on a nearly perfect Christmas cake!  

Wishing all my dear friends a very happy festive season. 
Peace, joy and good health be with you and yours!

I now invite the good doctor Roshan Radhakrishnan to carry forth the Christmas cheer.

You can read posts by my blogger friends on the#UnwrapChristmas blogchain here:

An InLinkz Link-up

­­Copyright © 2017 KALA RAVI

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Holiday at Shiny Valley - Chapter 3

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Chapter 3: Things get exciting

The four decided to keep up the sinister appointment, wondering wildly who they would be meeting. They rushed through lunch, whispering all the while. Grandma thought it was curious that none of them asked for second helpings of anything. The children could hardly wait to go out!

At 3.30 they went to Grandpa to ask him for permission to go on a hike. Grandpa was half asleep and waved them away. They went to Grandma next and she was relieved that they would be out of the house. She packed them a little basket with sandwiches and cold lemonade, idly musing, ‘I wonder what they are plotting? Ahh, kids!’ “Don’t be too late children and be careful, will you? It looks like it might rain. Neel you are the eldest, so take care of everyone, alright?” 
Grandma wasn’t too worried; they lived in such a quiet and peaceful place. Shiny Valley had no scope for adventure or any kind of danger.

Soon the children were off on their mysterious rendezvous. They excitedly discussed all possible theories on who could have written the postcard. Hiking up the hillock, they reached their destination. It looked a bit different from the picture, but the girls insisted that this was the place. 
They waited with bathed breath a little way from the cave entrance peering through the tangled thorn bushes. They could see through the dark tunnel-like cave, the semi-circular archway of light at the other end. It was 4.10 and they were getting restless. Suddenly they saw a hazy figure at the arch; the figure waved. It felt weird but they waved back too. Goosebumps all over, they crept out and stood erect, waiting cautiously for the stranger to appear fully in front of them. 

The stranger disappeared into the dark cave and eventually reappeared with a wide smile and surprise on his face. 

It was Uncle Ray! He was puzzled to see the children here, and suddenly Mili and Reya burst out laughing! They were doubled up and clutching their tummies! Their father and the boys thought they had gone crazy. Finally Mili managed to control her laughter and explained that they had successfully pulled a prank on the uppity boys!

They had found the blank postcard on their last visit to the grandparents. The image had been painted by Grandma long ago and reminded them of this place where their father, botanist Dr Ray, came every day just about this time to collect samples of rare plants at the other end of the cave. They had successfully forged the shaky old handwriting on the card and placed it in between the comics, where the boys were bound to find it! Served the boys right for acting so snobbish with them all the time!

The boys were still rather stunned! But they soon came around, sheepishly apologizing to the girls for their behaviour. Everyone had a good laugh, the girls especially, and they all turned to go back to go home. 

Suddenly someone called out, "I am here." 
The boys turned to see who was calling. There was someone at the end of the cave waving to them.
"Girls! Who is it now?" Neel and Varun chorused. The girls and their father who were walking ahead looked puzzled, they hadn't heard anything, nor could they see anything when the boys pointed frantically to the cave!

“Come on boys, stop fooling around. It has started to drizzle and we’ll be drenched if we don’t hurry,” called out Uncle Ray.
The drizzle was becoming stronger, blurring their view and the sudden chill in the air, made the boys shiver. Frozen in horror, they watched as the figure continued to come nearer, waving all the while. Neel and Varun couldn’t believe that no one else could see it!

It was exactly 4.30 p.m.!!


Chapter 1: Cozy Nest >> Chapter 2: The Den >> Chapter 3: Things get exciting

Read other stories from Nina's World: Click on tag/label #NinasWorld 

Disclaimer: All the characters in the Nina's World series are fictional, any resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental and unintentional.

­­Copyright © 2017 KALA RAVI

Holiday at Shiny Valley - Chapter 2

Chapter 2: The Den

The next morning they woke up to the loud chirrup of birds and the cow mooing from the shed. After a quick shower, pleasurably shivering in the early morning cold, they eagerly waited for breakfast. It was their all time favorite, piping hot pooris with alu sabzi and fresh jalebis! Neel and Varun made sure they gobbled up all the hot jalebis Bani had made, leaving behind only tiny scraps for the girls. Grandpa tut-tutted at the greedy boys and instructed Bani to make a fresh batch for the girls.

Breakfast done, the children were packed off to help Charan and Bani. Charan made the boys weed the garden and align the bricks in a perfect line on either side of the central cobbled path. The girls helped Bani collect fresh okra and legumes from the kitchen garden. She asked them to pluck some of the beautiful flowers from the front garden and arrange them around the house in attractive bunches. Chores done, they were free to do whatever they fancied until lunch.

They bounded up the wooden staircase to the den and fought over who would sit in the easy-chairs. Soon each of them found a book from the bookshelf and settled down. The girls got busy with old fairy-tale books having whimsical pictures while the boys found a lot of action hero comics that had the most amazing caricatures, way better than the Japanese mangas they were so crazy about back home. 

After a while, they decided to explore the contents of the large wooden trunk next to the bookshelf. It was a treasure trove filled with the most incredible knick-knacks! 
Old black and white albums, a large collection of foreign coins, a box of exquisite seashells and another box full of pebbles, a wooden doll house, a box full of screws, nails and other odds and ends. Then there was an array of forgotten board games to choose from. They decided to play them all. The boys beat the girls at all the games and laughed scornfully at them when the girls played with the doll house. The girls looked blankly at them when they mentioned they should have brought their PSP’s and that set the boys jeering at them again.

By now, the den was a mess with stuff lying scattered all over the place. Mili knew Grandma would be in a tizzy if she saw the mess. She said, “Listen guys, why don’t you two go down and get some snacks for all of us? Reya and I’ll put everything back in the trunk.” The boys masked their looks of relief at having escaped the clean-up chore and dashed off to ply Bani for snacks. Soon they were back with a tray loaded with homemade sweet and savory treats.

Neel happily sank into an easy-chair, a large bowl of treats right beside him and a thick stack of action comics he’d found in the trunk, on his lap. As he flipped through the stack, a card fell down from it. It was an old painting, a handmade postcard. 

It had a lot of greenery and a large cave like opening with a silhouette of a man at the center. He was just about to put it back inside the book when he saw something on the reverse of the painting that made him freeze. He couldn't believe what he was seeing!
The back of the card read:

How could this be? How were their names on the postcard? Who was this “I”? Where is “here”? And today was 21st July 2017! This was so freaky! Neel excitedly called his brother and soon both were whispering in a corner. The girls tried to edge in and peek at the card but the boys wouldn't let them. After a while, they realized they would have to let the girls in on the secret, they still didn't know where “here” was!

The girls in turn shrieked and exclaimed when they saw the front and then the reverse of the card. They knew the place! The girls informed them that the place was on a hillock a little way away, about 2 km from Shiny Valley. It was a large natural cave, centuries old. Its opening was nearly obscured by dense untamed foliage and creepers and people rarely went there.

Chapter 1: Cozy Nest >> Chapter 2: The Den >> Chapter 3: Things get exciting

Read other stories from Nina's World:  Click on tag/label #NinasWorld

Disclaimer: All the characters in the Nina's World series are fictional, any resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental and unintentional.

­­Copyright © 2017 KALA RAVI

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Holiday at Shiny Valley - Chapter 1

Neel and Varun are not too happy about spending their holidays in the remote and peaceful Shiny Valley at their grandparents' home with two pesky cousins for company. An afternoon spent turning over things in an old trunk, changes the quiet holiday into something else.

Do read this three chapter series, Holiday at Shiny Valley

Chapter 1: Cozy Nest

Nina was ecstatic! She had won a week long, all expenses paid trip for two to Bali! But what about the kids? It was their vacation time. Hmm, sending them to her parents’ place was the only option, this was too good an opportunity to let go. Bali…a dream come true! 

Nina and Nik broke the news to the kids. They’d be spending their holidays at Grandpa and Grandma's place in Shiny Valley tucked away in a remote corner of Coonoor. Thirteen year old Neel and ten year old Varun loved it when the grandparents came visiting them in Mumbai, but they were not particularly happy about staying at Shiny valley that was so different from what they were used to. Nina assured them that their cousins, eleven year old Mili and nine year old Reya who lived nearby would be great company for them. All the same she felt guilty that they would be away holidaying in Bali while the kids fussed in the old place, driving the grandparents nuts!

Neel and Varun were super excited to see Aunt Leela, mom’s sister and her husband, Uncle Ray at Coimbatore airport. They were dying to tell them of their first ever, parent-free air-travel. Neel poked Varun when he was about to tell them about how they nearly drove the air-hostess crazy by repeatedly asking for soft drinks. Aunt Leela smiled and informed them that their cousins were waiting eagerly to meet them.

After a three hour long drive, they reached the remote Shiny valley and finally arrived at the quaint one storied bungalow, “Cozy Nest”. The boys got out of the car and inhaled the cool air laden with the fragrance of Eucalyptus trees. They were welcomed with hugs and smiles by the grandparents and the old caretaker couple, Charan and Bani who lived in the tiny outhouse helping with the gardening, cooking and other odd jobs. Mili and Reya came down rushing from the first floor and hugged the boys who awkwardly pushed them away. The girls had cajoled their parents to let them stay with the cousins. What a pandemonium it was with everyone talking all at once! Aunt Leela and Uncle Ray soon left for their home a few kilometers away.

It was long time since Neel and Varun had been to Cozy Nest and they wanted to explore the entire house immediately. The faithful cousins, playing host followed them everywhere. The bungalow had a small shaded portico with rough stone sit outs, perfect for spending leisurely hours chatting or simply reading. The ground floor housed the pretty living room with lots of artworks painted by Grandma and heavy old wooden furniture. To the right of the living room was the cheerful dining area cum open kitchen. On the left side, a corridor from the living room led to the grandparents' bedroom. A central, sturdy wooden staircase padded with soft carpeting led up to the first floor into a large open space – The Den. The den opened into a large terrace through large French windows and had a grand view of the front garden and the winding road leading up to Cozy Nest. On either side of the den were bedrooms, one for the boys and one for the girls. The den had comfy easy-chairs, an electric heater and a large bookshelf with Grandpa’s collection and also all the books Nina and Leela had collected in their childhood. 

The garden was Grandpa’s pride where he grew beautiful flowers and a tiny kitchen garden for Grandma with Charan’s help. The girls were eager to show the boys the cowshed with its new addition - A fortnight old calf. The boys were thrilled to see the little brown calf that was tottering around its mother. “What’s his name?” asked Varun. Reya giggled, “It's a she, her name is Devi. She loves to play with us, come on,” as she tugged at Neel’s arm. But the boys were too timid to go near the animals and simply wrinkled their nose at the smell. “Eww, it’s so smelly out here! Let’s go in, we have to show you the gifts mom has sent for you two,” said Neel importantly.

Back indoors, Varun went to Grandpa and asked, "Grandpa, what is the wi-fi password? I have to show you my web album with pictures of my car collections back home!" "Sorry sonny! We have no wi-fi or computer here. We do have TV but most of the local channels we receive here might be a bit boring for you," said Grandpa.

Neel and Varun's faces fell; they couldn't believe it! No wi-fi for a whole week? Mom never warned them about this! Evil Momma, how could she just abandon them in this old place with no entertainment?! And drat those two wimpy girls, who always wanted to play Scrabble or Dumb Charades!

Grandma saw the wan faces and cheered them up saying, "Now who wants to taste these crispy, hot pakoras? They are fresh off the stove. I bet they'll taste delicious with the tangy tamarind chutney." Sorrows forgotten the kids dashed into the kitchen to grab the delicious treats, gobbling them up ravenously.

Chapter 1: Cozy Nest >> Chapter 2: The Den >> Chapter 3: Things get exciting

Read other stories from Nina's World: Click on tag/label #NinasWorld 

Disclaimer: All the characters in the Nina's World series are fictional, any resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental and unintentional.

­­Copyright © 2017 KALA RAVI

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The Void

When you start typing cluelessly on the keyboard wondering if you have anything left to tell, any story, any experience that you have not already ranted and raved about. Then you look upto the screen and are surprised to see, the nothingness has evolved into the semblance of a mini rant, so you plod on, filling up the empty space with words from an uninspired mind.

You wonder casually, why would anyone want to read something which never was supposed to see the light of day, something that would have done better to stay unseen in the recesses of a personal diary. You smile evilly, those are the perks of being a blogger! 
Your rants about everything to absolutely nothing have an audience, of like-minded individuals. Each waiting to launch his verbal diarrhea on unsuspecting, mandatory audiences. 
Yes, you guessed right, it is time for revenge! 😈

Here I am at a loss of words, still I decided I would put up a blogpost with virtually no content. At least I am being honest, aren't I?
Hmm, so what does the void mind want to rant about? 


What does the void mind want to say? 
The cleaning spree from today's morn,
The maid mania from everyday,
The bliss of domesticity,
The travails of corporate life,
The sweaty tussles of the local train,
The bustling buzzes from the grocery market,
The hectic toddler chase, 
The blistering argument with the teen,
The reminiscent adventures of childhood,
The recent escapade to the moon and beyond,
The tirade on the better half,
The blush of the last romance,
The wisdom of years,
The folly of words,
Oh what will it be, what will it be?
The mind was void you said?
The void mind that refuses to stay still,
The one that flits and floats,
That refuses to lay anchor,
That fails to acknowledge,
That some things are better left unsaid!

Till later folks, when Relax-N-Rave has something better than THIS up its sleeve!
Sorry for this infliction!

­­Copyright © 2017 KALA RAVI

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Of Prenups and Bhishma Pratigyas

A man's life is not easy. On the job and career front, you have to be incredibly pushy and aggressive to get anywhere. On the domestic front, you need to be that strong shoulder to lean on, while at the same time you've got to be broad-minded, witty, suave, earn handsomely, be a sympathetic listener with a penchant for traveling and cooking, chores and oh, yeah, good at clicking Insta-worthy pictures! Yes, these are prerequisites for good husband material. (Feminists are so going to sue me!)

Cheer up guys! You think these testing demands are all to do with modern changing times? Nah, far from it! The compelling stories from Mahabharata, stand witness to the fact that women hold the sway while men are fooled into thinking they do! From the maze of tale-within-tales and countless characters of this mighty epic, just one tale, of one man is enough to confirm that men have never held the upper hand!

The story and face that comes to mind is of a perpetually distressed actor Rishabh Shukla portraying the role of Maharaj Shantanu in B.R.Chopra's epic serial Mahabharat. 

Fear not if you've not seen this ol' timer's once upon a time Sunday staple serial. The point here is, the man has played his role perfectly, Maharaj Shantanu had every reason to be distressed.

The Tale of King Shantanu

In his previous life, Shantanu had been the powerful king Mahabhisha of the Iskhvaku dynasty who had ascended to the heavens after a successful innings on earth. A blessing, no? Apparently not, for despite reaching heaven, he gets cursed by Lord Brahma for ogling Devi Ganga at a gathering when an errant wind displaces her clothing, revealing her body, while all other Gods bow their heads in bashfulness. And what a curse! To be born as a mortal and be emotionally traumatized by the woman he had cast his lecherous gaze on! 

Thus the cursed Mahabhisha is born as Shantanu to the virtuous Kuru King Pratipa. Since Shantanu's two brothers relinquish their desire to rule Hastinapur, he becomes the default emperor. Good things don't last, do they?

As is fated, Shantanu meets the divine Ganga and is swept away by her beauty. Here, dear friends, comes my first understanding of a prenuptial contract. Devi Ganga agrees to Shantanu's marriage proposal on the condition that he will never, like ever, question her actions. One question and she's out, and the marriage kaput! Pretty strong, huh? Well, the good king agrees and the two get married. Soon, they have a baby. 

The excited, first-time father gets a shock when he sees his beloved wife calmly carrying the new born to the river and drowning it. This repeats on a loop six more times! All he can do is be a mute spectator, helplessly wring his hands in despair (You do remember the prenup?) His beautiful Ganga heartlessly drowns seven children born to them.
Each time he follows her and is dying to ask her, why is she perpetrating such a heinous act but refrains from speaking out loud for fear of losing her. (No questions asked, takes a whole new meaning here, doesn't it?)

Finally the eighth time around, Shantanu cannot stop himself. As Ganga is about to carry forth the same act, he stops her. A simple, why are you doing this? And poof goes the marriage!

Ganga swiftly carries out her threat, deserting a flabbergasted Shantanu with the explanation for having drowned the seven babies. The seven babies were reincarnations of Vasus who had been cursed by Sage Vashistha to be born in the mortal world. As a favor to these Vasus, Ganga had agreed to give birth and liberate them from the mortal world at the earliest. (Doesn't say much about life on earth even way back then, what with everyone wanting to escape it!)
The eighth Vasu, the eighth baby that Ganga had failed to drown, thanks to Shantanu, had been cursed to a long life on earth. This baby she now carries away with her, promising to deliver him to the king at the right time.

Lonely King Shantanu, free of any family distractions, performs his kingly duties exceptionally well (point to be noted) and is declared Emperor by all. One day, some years later while strolling along the banks of Ganga, he comes across a divine youth arresting the flow of the mighty river with a barricade of skilfully shot arrows. His doubts as to the youth's identity are confirmed when Ganga appears before him, introducing the boy as his long-lost son Devavrata, now proficient in the scriptures and every kind of weaponry and warfare. Devavrata is joyfully welcomed and crowned Yuvraj/heir-apparent by the king. 

The king, now relieved to be handing over reins of the kingdom to capable hands, is enjoying a brief respite on the banks of the river, Yamuna for a change. What is it about the riverside and this man? 
A beautiful fragrance grabs his attention. He traces its origin to be emanating from the beautiful Satyavati, adopted daughter of Dusharaj, the chieftain of fisher-folk. How a lady smelling like fish (she was also called matsyagandha) drove the king into a hopelessly romantic tizzy, we shall never know, but that is what happened!

King Shantanu, now bitten by the love bug approaches Dusharaj with the intent of marrying his daughter. Once bitten, twice shy, didn't seem to have been written way back then. This wily fisherman with the point of ascertaining an advantageous match for his daughter lays forth, you guessed it, a prenuptial condition, the condition that Satyavati's children will inherit the throne. This of course is in all unfairness to his first-born son, Devavrata the crown prince and it is rejected vehemently by King Shantanu. 

The king returns to his palace, pining desolately over his lost love. Perceptive Devavrata notices his father's condition and decides to find out the reason for his moroseness. When he comes to know of the reason, he goes to meet Dusharaj. The adamant chieftain refuses to budge from his stand, wherein the large-hearted Devavrata renounces his throne in favor of the children born to Satyavati. Not satisfied with this, Dusharaj still voices his doubts on Devavrata's future progeny laying claim to the throne. 
And THAT makes the young prince take the unimaginable oath, the oath of never marrying, of lifelong celibacy and to serve the throne of Hastinapur till his last breath. (Yeah, that incredibly memorable scene from BRC's Mahabharat, of Mukesh Khanna a.k.a Bhishma taking this immense vow - aakhand pratigya amidst deafening thunder and lightening!)

Suffice it to say, King Shantanu doesn't know whether to be happy to have gained his love or to be crushed by the fact that he's lost such a capable son/crown prince to the whims of a fisherman and the probability of handing over the throne of Hastinapur to an uncertain future.

What ensues of course is the rest of the lengthy and convoluted epic that is Mahabharata! 

A man, an Emperor with virtually limitless power and sway over his subjects was dictated by the ways of his heart and manipulated by those wielding control over it. 


So dear men, see what a tough time men, nay even Emperors of yore faced? 
Your misery has company from times unknown!

Reference: Wikipedia

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