Saturday, September 19, 2009

Ruksana Part IV - The Beauty of the Unseen.

The sun cast its effect though the glass panes at the passenger lounge, Trivandrum airport leaving me scurrying for some shade and quiet. A wave of sadness cringed into my mind as I was about to finish the 15 days holiday that had been a much awaited fun filled jamboree and carefree life at my hometown.

Another eventful year awaits me at work in New Delhi with new horizons to explore and career hurdles to cross.

Holidays meant
- Meeting up family, showing elders that I care, seeing the cousins grow, getting accustomed to new nephews and nieces.
- Soaking the sun at the beaches
- Those rides through the countryside in the Royal Enfield ‘beautiful’ Bullet
- Swimming in the river
- Boat rides into the sea
- Going to the paddy fields and trying to catch crabs and do fishing
- Playing the church organ at the family church
- Watching the sun rise at the Kanyakumari
- Watching the sun set from atop the Marunthuval malai
- Playing blaring music in the Amby and driving through the estates at 5 AM in the morning.
- Bathing in the water falls
- Eating piping hot milagai bhajji (chilly bhajji) after the shower in the water falls.
- Riding through the chilly wind on the highway
- Visiting my teachers of junior school
- Sleeping very little

I did all that. This hometown holiday is my favourite stress management tool. It transcends me across epochs of my destructive personal growth and fading innocence. It makes me feel young, harmless, innocent and good. It also reminds me of my roots to reiterate my identity.

My silent lamenting at the lounge was disrupted when a child that was running about had a fall on the floor. This child had captivated some passengers including me with its histrionics. I admired her energy and cuteness for a while. I also noticed the mother who kept the child entertained by playing child like games. I appreciated the beauty of that mother-offspring relationship.

The mother was using a toy bell to create a beat to which the child responded by thumping her foot that had an anklet.

After enjoying this beautiful scene, I returned to my fatigue driven soliloquy to be rudely awakened by a squeal from the child. She had fallen to the ground and was sobbing uncontrollably. The parents were doing many things to appease the child.

I noticed the mother clad in a black burqa was showering the child with kisses to calm her. This irritated me as I don’t endorse this kind of parenting where the child is tended to with God like religiousness. I believed children should learn from their own mistakes.

My mind knew that something was amiss and that intruded my sanity. I wriggled my mind and exercised my eyelids to clarify my surroundings.

Isn’t this lady known to me? I thought.

Who is she? Is she someone I know? No. I don’t have burqa clad contacts, no friends, Then? Is she a television actress? Or a social activist?

I tried hard to not teach myself that it was her. She was Ruksana, after 20 years since I last saw her.

I was startled. I went near her and smiled. She smiled back and said ‘Jay’.

I was sheepish. It felt funny. I have never felt so humbled but it felt good. I had momentarily changed into a 9 year old boy again. How the hell did she know my name? I asked her that and she said she remembered my very well.

She introduced me to her husband, Sajjid. He was a bearded man who smelt like a Gulf malayalee Muslim. He seemed happy to meet his wife’s friend. I couldn’t imagine that Ruksana ever had a friend. I gathered my composure.

She said she remembered my bicycle, my car and my gate-keeping habits. She also remembered my parents. Achanum ammaiyum sugam thane? (Are your parents well?). I said they are fine. I was shaking my head in disbelief.

I was startled by this confident and affectionate lady. She asked me if I was married and wanted to know why I wasn’t. She then said that she imagined that you would have been married by now.

I wondered why she had to think about me. I often remembered her.

She asked me about my brother. She wanted to know what I do to earn my daily bread.

She was happy to see me and she made sure that I knew it. I believed that she was happy.

Throughout this rendezvous, I noticed a pair of tiny, beautiful eyes looking at me from near Ruksana. I bent down to say hello to this now calm child. I was greeted with glee and was pecked on my cheek.

Those young eyes that I saw exuded power, power enough to pierce my existence and levitate me. I fought hard and asked her name.


She had those eyes, the eyes that I so liked to see from varying angles when I was a child. Those lost pair of rubies that failed to understand my offer and yearning for friendship and company, the eyes that defined pleasure when I was young and innocent.

‘No’ I thought. These eyes are different. Farnaza’s eyes were happy and willing to give love.

Ruksana used to have the same eyes, strong, healthy but without happiness and uninterested to give love.

Farzana is a sweet child.

I then quizzed Ruksana about her life. She said she was adopted by Sajjid’s uncle from mallapuram who then educated her to class X. It was then that Sajjid fell in love with her and his uncle decided to get them married. Sajjid owns two restaurants in Dubai.

I loved the glint in her eyes when she explained to me her fairy tale life.

I saw Sajjid and my face was gleaming with respect and adoration for this man. Subconsciously I offered a handshake to this gentleman who brought happiness into Ruksana’s life.

I knew Ruksana was happy.

I was happy to see her.

I never prayed seriously as a child. I never prayed for Ruksana but I often questioned her existence with God, who I believed was her creator. I asked him the reasons for her miserability.

The 9 year old with whom I wanted to play with was away in a world that I didn’t understand and despised.

The 9 year old evoking affection with the aura of a beautiful soul but could not give it out to the people who wanted to share it.

She may have prayed hard asking God to relieve her of her misery or perhaps God just relented to answer my many questions.

When the final call for my flight to Delhi was made, I bade my good byes. Sajjid hugged me and called me Jay bhai. I took a picture of the family in my camera. I was happy.

I sat at 40, 000 feet looking out and trying to come to terms with the beauty of the unseen.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ruksana Part III - The Shattered Dreams

"This is the continuation of the extract from the memoirs of a 9 year old boy called Jay. This story is about childhood innocence, child labour, God, miracles,and affection/love. This part is about how the 9 year old boy discovers the difference between his dream world and the real one. It can be best enjoyed if the many parts are read in proper sequence"

I like and dislike the rain. They bring good smell and sometimes schools got closed due to rain, so we can enjoy at home. I hate rains in the night as there is a power cut immediately and the thunder shakes the glass windows. I cannot sleep when it rains because of the sound. Amma told that lightning killed somebody who was outside their house when it rained because lightning is like electric shock. As it rained outside I lay awake and tried hard to sleep. I then went hugged my amma and went to bed again. I then thought of Ruksana. I wondered whom she would hug if she did not fall asleep. I wondered if she was scared of thunders. I felt sad about her.

In our house, we have ventilators for air to come in. They are near the ceiling and big enough for my hand to pass through. Sometimes in the night when I cannot sleep. I lay awake in my bed listening to sounds and thinking something. I can hear my family members snoring and my paaty (Granny) coughing. I sometimes hear the mosquitoes singing during rainy season, otherwise there are more than hundred other insects that make sound outside in the night. I think one of these sounds could be of a snake.

I guess that thieves will be dressed like the clowns that come with the Santa Claus during Christmas season. I think thieves will also be roaming around the house in the night and one day they will come and poke their face in the ventilator and scare me. They may also bring long bamboo sticks, poke it through the ventilator and touch me. My cousin from Delhi is a liar and she says that there are no ventilators in her house.

To avoid seeing the ventilator I close my eyes and turn my face to the other side of the bedroom. I then think about good things in life which I think is called dreaming.

I dream about good things. I dream of many situations that made Ruksana happy. When Ruksana was happy, I was happy.

I wish she could come and play with me. I wish she could come to school with me. I wish she could come and play with my brother. I wish she could do her homework with me. I wished my amma would give payasam (Kheer) to her. I wish we can go shopping together, cross roads and go shopping in the main market. I wish I can buy her lots of lacto kings. I wish I can dance with her like Rajni and Khushboo. I wish I can fight against rowdies who mess with Ruksana, just like Rajni.

Last Friday, appa came home in the evening with burotta and erachi(chicken) from Three star my favourite restaurant. As we were eating it I was sweating from the head as the erachi was hot and tasty. Appa told us that we are shifting to another house, bigger, better and closer to his office. I jumped at excitement at the thought of going in a truck as dad said we will move our things in a truck. I have never travelled in a truck before and I want to do that. That news made the erachi taste much better.

After some time I remembered Ruksana. I felt sad. I realised that I will not be able to see her anymore. My head was aching and I wanted to run away into the toilet where no one can see me. I wanted to cry and so I cried. I felt very very sad.

I assumed that I am in love with Ruksana. I now understood many love stories that I read earlier without understanding them.

My love with Ruksana will end. I will not be able to see her again. I will not be able to be her friend. I will not be able to give her chocolates. I will not be able to see her again. I will not be able to show her my winning races in bike, car, van and bus. I will not be able to see her again. I will not be able to gift her new clothes. I will not be able to see her again.

Later in the night I vomited. Amma said it was indigestion. I was crying. Amma gave me gelusil and I went to sleep.

To be continued

Monday, September 7, 2009

Ruksana Part-II

The open mind.

"This is the continuation of the extract from the memoirs of a 9 year old boy called Jay. This story is about childhood innocence, child labour, God, miracles,and affection/love. It can be best enjoyed if the many parts are read in proper sequence ."

"I get bored easily when I am not doing anything so I want to do something all the time. I stand outside the house and see the road. But it is very sunny in the afternoon and amma allows me to go out of the house only after 5:30 in the evening. So, inside the house sometimes I just sit and play with toy cars and start my own new games.

I once played a game with bikes. Suzuki samurai vs. Hero Honda sleek vs. Ind Suzuki vs. Rajdoot vs. Bullet vs. Kawasaki kb 125. I just sit outside the first floor balcony and count the bikes that go in the road and the bike that crosses the maximum number of times in that 2/3 hours will be winner. My dad has Ind Suzuki so I always support it to win.

When evening comes I will go out and climb on top of the big gate and sit there and watch the road. I wait for Ruksana to come out of her house as she also will come out with aunties and babies and sit in their porch. It is a great feeling to see her for the first time after the previous day.

There will be a lot of buses in the evening in the road and they are full of people. Some buses have nose and some did not. I wonder if that altered the top speed of the buses. These buses are made in Hosur. My aunty works in the factory.

I also like to see the rare TATA Sierra and TATA Estate. I want to buy that car when I grow up.

When Ruksana is outside her house, I want her to see me. She does not see me and smile because we are big children now and boys should not talk to girls. I talk to Jaffer’s sisters but Ruksana is servant so she always keeps quiet.

I want to show Ruksana that I am strong and brave. I also want her to know that I am intelligent and I know many things that she does not know. I want to see her smile and play. I want her to be happy.

Many girls see me when I am doing something in school and they like it. But I didn’t like it. I want only Ruksana to see me. So, I try many ways to make her see me and I see her. I want to be like a Hero to her. So, I do many brave things and try and make Ruksana see me.

For a long time I wanted to try and walk in the other side of the railing of the porch in the 3rd floow terrace like a circus man. One evening my parents went to see my aunt in hospital who had given a cousin for me. I was standing in the terrace and studying geography and suddenly saw Ruksana. She saw me too. Immediately I got down on the other side of the railing in the porch and walked the distance from one end to another. At one end I turned back to see if Ruksana was seeing my fearlessness, but she was not there. I got dejected and climbed back into the terrace. I then noticed my neighbourhood ‘thatha’ (old man) watching me. I was happy that he saw me walk and smiled back at him but he was looking at me seriously with wide eyes. I understood that he was angry and ran away.

I was hoping that this thatha does not tell my parents about what I did but he did. My appa told me in the evening not to do it again. I knew that appa was scared and I am not. I have already showed Ruksana how I can climb down on the sunshades earlier.

I like to go to car workshop and see ‘Annas’ (Big guys) who are coloured black because of oil and grease. I also want to be like them. They also drive very fast, both bike and car. They also go under the car which I find very brave. Sometimes when our car is parked in front of our house and when Ruksana is out in her portico playing with babies, I go under our car and stay there for two minutes. My parents do not know this. I come out and see if Ruksana saw it. She must be thinking that I am strong boy but she never wanted me to know that she saw it.

It is very scary under the car as there are many sounds coming out.

Our first floor also had a balcony which had railings that shook. When Ruksana is standing in her house, I hit the railing with my hands and it shakes. I know I am very strong. I wondered if the ‘annans’ (Big guys) in the neighbourhood could do that. Ruksana always saw that and turned away as usual.

Last weekend I did a poster pointing of my house sitting in front of the house. This is how famous painters do painting. I saw it in Trivandrum beach. Ruksana saw me once but I sat there from 2’O clock to 6 ‘O clock in the sun as my parents went to a marriage. I felt sad that she didn’t see my painting. I fell sick next day and didn’t go to school as I had fever.

Today also I will go and ride my Bicycle if Ruksana is there. I am not allowed to go to the road and can ride only inside the compound. I can draw all numbers with my cycle, ride super fast and ride without holding the handle. I can also stand on the seat and ride. I will ring the bell when I am doing this so that Ruksana will see me but Ruksana does not see always. She sees me and turns away.

I play cricket and bat/ball. My father does not like me playing with other boys in the locality as he thinks they are ‘pattikadu’ (country rogues) and do not wear shirts. I have a cricket bat that my amma made with a ‘matta’ (dry ripe coconut leaf midrib). I also a have an original cricket bat but I don’t like it. I wanted Four Square Bat but appa bought Ajay Jadeja bat from Jabalpur. I think it is duplicate. Jabalpur is far away on the way to Delhi.

I also play bat/ball with two red coloured bats that appa bought from Ranchi. Ranchi is in Bihar state. He said that the bats are used to play table tennis. I and my friends play bat/ball with plastic balls and ARUN ice cream balls. I am the only one in the locality who has had ball ice-cream. I tell my friends that it tasted the best and that they have not eaten anything as tasty as this. I sometimes throw the ball high in the air so Ruksana will come to know that I had ball ice-cream but Ruksana did not want to see it. She will be talking to somebody and was not interested to see me play.

I want to do something special and make her see me. I will think about some idea and plan to do more things to make her see me.

I want her to smile.

I want her to laugh.

I want her to play.

I want her to be happy."

To be continued

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Ruksana the beauty
Part -I

"This story will appeal to people who feel strongly about child labour, gender equality and pure love. It is an extract from the memoirs of a 9 year old boy who lived in a small town called Marthandam in kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu, India."

My name is Jay and I am 9 years old. I study in the 4th standard at the Good Shepherd Matriculation Higher secondary School in Marthandam. I am a very good boy and a good student and everybody knows it. I do not study very hard, but I hate getting beatings and other punishment at school. I like reading, listening to music, drawing, painting- poster colour, making houses with cardboard, riding my bicycle, Atlas Rambler-It has seat large enough for me and my brother. I also like to play with my old toy cars although I do not tell this to my friends because they laugh at me for being childish.

When I grow up I want to become a driver and drive fast, very fast, super fast. I want to have many cars, bikes, vans and buses. I will have taxi stand also. I will be like appa when I grow up. People call my appa, ‘periya saar’ (Big Boss) and all people in his office are scared of him.

We don’t have TV at home because I am scared of watching it. We had a Solidaire colour TV and I used to get scared when I saw fight scenes and snakes and car accidents. Appa then sold it. Now I am a big boy and am not scared of those things now.

I do not like food other than snacks. I hate breakfast the most. I eat a lot in marriage parties, restaurants and other houses. My amma hates me when I do that. I like banana chips and mixture from Lakshmi Vilas bakery. I also like lacto King toffee. That is my favourite and I like it more than the fivestar. It is thirty paisa and I always go for a shop in the Vetuvenni junction to buy it. My amma always buys four of them for 1 rupee twenty paisa. Amma says not to buy 5 paisa sweets from other local shops as they have no cover and can cause cholera. I always wished I had the whole packet of lacto king, 100 of them for myself. That should be great.

We live in a big house but my friend Jobin has a bigger house. Our house looks beautiful. We have many neighbours and all of them like us. Recently a joint family full of Muslims have come to live in the big tiled house next to ours. There are many children, at least 6 belonging to three uncles and aunties. There are some babies also and the big children study in my school. I know them as Ismail, Jaffer, Thahira, Murshida and Shaheena. They are very fair in complexion as they are Muslims.

There is another girl in the house. Her name is Ruksana. She does not come to school. Jaffer says Ruksana is poor and is his servant. His servant is my most favourite member in his family. I like Ruksana.

Ruksana is strong and brave girl. She goes to a local shop down the road to buy bananas for Jaffer in the morning all alone. She also goes to buy milk. She always wears a pavadai and chattai (Skirt and shirt). She takes care of the babies and carries them around. She does not smile. I have not heard her sound yet. She is always in the family but does not go out in the car with them. She does not go to school. I want to talk and play with her but I cannot because she is poor and is a servant. I cannot talk to her because she is Ruksana. I like Ruksana. I wish she was my friend.

I like to read. I like to read story books, comics, Reader’s Digest, newspaper –Indian Express and Dinamalar and weekly magazines. I also like seeing pictures in Hotelier and Caterer. This magazine shows very costly hotels from foreign countries. I don’t understand everything that I read but I still read. Off late I have started reading newspapers as I have finished all the books in our library at home. I have read from Fairy tales, fables, classics, Tamil poetry and interior decoration. Dad is not buying new books. So, I am reading Tamil and English newspaper and the associated magazines.

I do not understand many articles but I still read as I didn’t have anything to do in the weekend. I noticed the word ‘Kaadhal’ (love) in many articles and asked my amma what it meant. She told me not to ask such questions again but I asked again as this word was found everywhere in the magazines. She told me that Kaadhal means love and that it is a bad thing to do. I said okay and thought to myself not to do love.

I also came across another word ‘sex’ in many articles. I asked my amma what it meant. She went into the kitchen saying that she had work. My appa stopped buying Indian Express next week and he said he does not have money to buy it.

I also like reading comics and ‘Mayawi’ (Phantom) is my favourite. I know Mayawi is strong but I am sure my appa is stronger than him. I will now tell you a secret. I don’t know why but I sometimes like to see Mayawi’s wife Diana. I sometimes keep seeing her picture where she was wearing a swimsuit. It made me feel good.

I kept thinking about love. I wonder why it is wrong to do love. I then think about Ruksana. I did not know if what I did with Ruksana is love. I didn’t want to ask anyone.

To be continued