Nice Hair, Deepika ! My Choice…Your Choice…

(This piece was published in Star of Mysore on April 7, 2015)

27, 80, 00,000 web views, 7,715,075 YouTube hits in just a few hours and still counting. For sure, producer Homi Adjania is a happy man. Irrespective of whether you are a social media addict or not, in all probability, you have watched the video or at least heard about this 2.34 minute Deepika Padukone’s My Choice Documentary video supposedly on women empowerment. No issues, if you haven’t yet watched it, it should be ‘Your Choice’ to watch it or not to watch it.

Though well intentioned, this Vogue video has backfired. Let us look at it from three aspects. If the objective is to empower, it has failed miserably. The video is a misdirected attempt to empower women. Instead of portraying a strong woman, it portrays an arrogant one who cares a damn about anyone or anything. It fails to connect. Picturized on 99 women from different walks of life, it is a video by the elite class but it is not meant even for the elite. Does feminism mean exposing a bra strap or declaring from roof top that it is okay to have sex outside marriage? Does that empower women in any way? We know it very well, Feminism is not about superiority rather it is about equality of genders.

No one is denying that it should be a woman’s personal choice to live life in the manner that she wants to. The same way, it is a man’s choice to live life at his own terms. Visualize this video picturized on any of the Khans or Bollywood heartthrobs and it is bound to look comic. And the reaction of any forward thinking woman or a true feminist would be ‘Man, Get lost! If you think, it’s only your choice!’

I can still recall the video on India ‘Mile Sur Mera Tumhara’ first telecasted in 1988. The concept for Mile Sur was developed by Lok Seva Sanchar Parishad and promoted by Doordarshan (then India’s sole TV broadcaster) and India‘s Ministry of Information. The song was composed by Ashok Patki and arranged by Louis Banks, with lyrics by Piyush Pandey (then an Account Manager of Ogilvy and Mather, India). It was recorded by people from all walks of life, including a group of Indian celebrities—musicians, sports persons, movie stars, etc. The national integration video was intended to instill a sense of pride and promote unity amongst Indians, highlighting India’s different linguistic communities and societies. That is one documentary film which has stayed in people’s mind. The lyrics are still hummed by many.  Even now when I watch it, it gives me goosebumps.

Coming back to the video, the second aspect is visuals. The video fails to impress even visually. Leave the objective aside, the video could have been made more appealing both visually and emotionally. For sure, the script writer and lyricist could have found more powerful words to empower women. If this is a part of PR strategy to promote Deepika’s upcoming film Piku, then this video was unnecessary. Her confession about her depression won her respect from contemporaries; she genuinely won many hearts. As far as her popularity is concerned, this video is regressive.

I do wonder about the entire process of working on this documentary film. Before working on a project like this, didn’t the team have a brain storming session on what works and what doesn’t and didn’t the producer have a dry run to know the response?

If this was indeed a part of promotion strategy of Deepika’s new film Piku then this video gets full marks. It served its purpose. If you haven’t watched the video until now, you would surely want to watch it after reading this piece. So producer earns another penny. As someone rightly said, there is no better publicity than negative publicity.

The third aspect is the response from the society or its absence. Deepika needn’t bother about public outrage or the little damage that it has done to her sweet girl image. Public’s memory is very short. It was just yesterday when India’s Daughter video went viral. Everyone seemed to have an opinion on it. Another news comes, the previous one is forgotten. Move on, it is time to make place for the next one. Is anyone really bother about the cause or the purpose it serves or fails to serve or the larger impact on society?

My Choice video doesn’t move you at all in any way. It falls flat just like Deepika’s monotone voice. In the end, the only image that stays in your mind is of Deepika’s lovely tresses blown by wind machine. Nice Hair, Deepika!

Judge a book by its Cover

The Other End of The Corridor

The Other End of The Corridor

Do not judge a book by its cover but the debut book of an author is judged by its cover, at least the first impression of the book. The simple Punjabi jutti of Leela, the resilience in her walk as if she is on a mission – and she is. I know this was what I was looking for. My graphic designer could exactly capture the concept I had in mind but it wasn’t as smooth as it appears now. He created many designs but none matched my requirement.

Ultimately, when I couldn’t find an image that I was looking for, it was recommended to conduct a photo shoot but who will be my model? When I couldn’t find a suitable model, I decided to be the model myself. But that again wasn’t as simple as it looks now. Appropriate attire, Patiala salwar with right number of folds, jutti which is not flashy, pedicure feet- amidst the last minute proof reading, there was no time for all this. When I was having sleepless nights over if I am the suitable model for my cover, my designer surprised me by sending two equally attractive designs. Now I had the problem of plenty. Yes, when it rains, it pours.
I circulated the cover design to a few friends and acquaintances whose opinion I could trust. But the confusion didn’t end here. There were more votes for my second choice cover. Even my husband liked the ‘could be cover’. I lost my sleep again. After all, first book, first edition – the cover matters.
Though design B looked more attractive than design A but ultimately I decided to listen to my inner voice. I knew I had taken the right decision when a friend told me that she liked the cover so much that she would’ve still picked my book even if she didn’t know me.

You need to be mad to be a musician, says Benny Dayal

Published in Star of Mysore: Jan 23, 2015

Should you have a backup plan for your dreams? I wonder as I manoeuvre my way towards the make shift interview room, through the fans who have gathered in huge numbers to click selfies with Benny Dayal, one of Bollywood’s singing sensations. The versatile musician was in Mysore recently to perform at SPI’s 20th anniversary celebrations. “There was no question of a backup plan as failure was never an option. I had wanted to be a singer since I was a thirteen years old child. I had decided that I would want to sing until I die,” says Benny Dayal candidly, when I meet him after his rocking performance. He still has ample energy to answer volley of questions.


Benny Dayal IMG_1608SOM: I just watched your show. You have unbounded energy on stage. What drives you?

BD: I am mad when I am on stage, but I am a very different and quiet person off stage. I become another human being when I am on stage. Just the feel to be on stage and singing in front of the audience gives me energy. Mad people are the most energetic; one needs to be mad to be a musician. Music or for any art for that matter is a gift from God. Does God gift the entire world to be a musician? No. Therefore, if you are the chosen one, you need to make use of this gift to your optimum potential.


SOM: What challenges did you face to reach where you are today?

BD: It was the most difficult to get a break, as no one was willing to take a risk with a new artist. No one wanted to launch me but God has a plan for everyone and I am here today. And then I met Mr A.R. Rahman whom I had no intention of meeting or even expected to meet. Today I owe my success to Mr Rahman. He broke all barriers. He is renowned for giving opportunities to new and unheard voices. Today, the youngsters want to become musicians only because of him.



SOM: Once a music director told you that you can’t become a singer; how did that affect you? Did you want to prove him wrong?

BD: Music is not about proving a point. I didn’t want to prove anyone wrong but this triggered the worst possible emotion in me. It never crushed me. Unknowingly I took the positives out of it; I wanted to bring out the best in me. Everything has equal and opposite reaction. I thank everyone who has ever said anything positive or negative about me; it helped me to go a step further in my journey. Every single line has affected me positively.

SOM: Which is your favourite song?

BD: I have no favourites. I love to sing all songs. They all are stepping-stones, how can I skip one and go to the next one?

SOM: Which is your favourite language as far as singing is concerned?

BD: I have a flair for languages; I can sing in any language – Malayalam, Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu.

SOM: Do you have any role models or inspiration?

BD: Mr Rahman is my role model and inspiration. He is not only one of world’s most accomplished musicians but also an amazing human being. He has launched the music career of so many like me. May his tribe grow!

SOM: You have performed at various countries; which is your most memorable performance?

BD: Yes, one performance was like a dream come true. In 1998, I went to watch Mr Rahman’s concert in Dubai UAE. Ten years later, in 2008, in Dubai again, I was with him back stage and performing with him. It was an amazing feeling. It was like seeing a dream come true.

SOM: What advice would you like to give to wannabe singers or to anyone who want to follow their passion?

BD: Do what makes you happy, you will surely excel. Never stop learning – never think that you know enough. Learn as you earn. Never stop earning and never stop learning. That is the only way to go forward. Have an open mind and passion for anything that you do. Most importantly, observe others. You may not like one particular song but if many people like it so there must be something in that. Don’t have a closed mind. Everyone has a path; you will also find yours sooner or later.

Then he reads out aloud the back page blurb from ‘The Other End of the Corridor’, my debut novel that I presented to him after the interview – ‘when your dreams are tainted with lies and deceit, you have no other choice but to walk to the other end of the corridor….’

He speaks after a long pause, “Everyone has a path. Literally, my life was like a dark corridor, there was only darkness; I was crazy and continued to walk on. I didn’t care even if I tripped but I wanted to just go on, and then a door opened and God said, now you walk on this path.”

The singing star signs off.

One Scoop Of Chocolate Mousse

What you love can hold you captive, but it can also free you. Here’s a story about being free to love yourself, warts and all.
One of the top 5 entries for September’s Muse of the Month writing theme, with the cue “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me” taken from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.

April-2014I glance again at my watch, as if looking at it repeatedly would calm my exasperated nerves. My eyes behind the safety of my dark shades scrutinize the people entering the restaurant. I look around. The stylish wrought iron furniture and stained glass windows create a perfect ambience for a romantic lunch.

I check my phone again as I adjust the scarf over my head. There are no missed calls or text messages from Arun. I phone him again but it doesn’t get through. I want to call the airport and check if the flight from Delhi has landed but I don’t know the airline he is coming by. He had gone to Delhi on official work. We had planned to meet at our favourite restaurant before he went home. Negative thoughts crowd my mind. I log into CNBC on my phone to know the latest news. Thankfully, all flights are safe.

May be he has lost his mobile and does not have my number; I ignore the fact that he could have called my office to get connected to me. I think of all possible reasons that could have prevented Arun from reaching me. May be he is stuck in the traffic like last time when he reached the movie theatre post interval…this Mumbai traffic!

My lower back is aching due to sitting erect on the hard iron chair of the café. It is past lunchtime and my stomach is growling. A waiter is coming in my direction bearing a tray with a banana split. It must be for the next table. I go back to playing angry birds on my phone as I swallow my saliva.

“Madam, your order please?” The waiter stops by my table after serving the banana split.

“I will wait for some more time, I am expecting someone,” I repeat for the third time. I pretend to read the menu card intently.

“Madam, we don’t take orders after 3,” the waiter persists.

“Okay, one black coffee and a plate of green salad,” I say, returning the menu card. “No dressing please.”

The waiter pauses for a few seconds before nodding, perhaps at the weirdness of the salad and coffee combination.

I go back to playing angry birds. I kill pigs with renewed fervour.

By now, the waiter has brought my order. I look at the coal-black coffee with a forlorn expression. I bite into a slice of cucumber and fix my eyes on the entrance again. The cucumber is bland and tastes insipid; I chew it anyway.

Besides Arun, my weight loss is my other obsession. I have been sweating it out in the gym for the past four months but the needle on the weighing machine hasn’t moved a centimetre.

“Reena madam, cut down on sweets,” the gym instructor said after the work out.

“I think, I suffer from a sweet disorder,” I told the gym instructor. “My life is bitter without sweets. Just the aroma of chocolates seems enough to add on a few Kilos.”

Arun has not yet told his wife about me. He says he will tell her when the right time comes. Until then he wants me to stay in the wraps. Therefore, we always meet in less crowded restaurants, occupy corner tables, dark shades over my eyes, my head always covered in a scarf. I have never understood the reasoning behind dark glasses, scarf and everything clandestine, but does love ever follow any logic?

My patience seems to be bursting at its seams. I have been waiting for five hours… and three years… my inner voice adds. I am very angry… angry with Arun for keep me waiting, and angry with myself for continuing to wait for him, today and always. I want to go back to work. I am tired of waiting, and the knot of the scarf is itching the delicate skin of my neck. I try to loosen the knot but its noose becomes tighter; its ends have gotten entangled just like my emotions. I pull it with a force. A small tear appears on my silk scarf. I don’t mind, unlike my life, it can be mended easily.

I unzip my handbag to keep my shades in it. The ambience of the restaurant appears brighter without the darkness of the shades. While I am rising from my chair, I observe the image of a flying bird on the stain glass window, its feet wrapped under its wings, but I am no bird; and no net ensnares me.

I take small, slow steps towards the exit. I am gradually finding my dormant energy back.

Suddenly, I feel famished as if I have not eaten since ages.

“One scoop of Chocolate mousse please.” I stop at the Takeaway counter.

Pic credit: 28691409@N05 (Used under a CC license)

Walking that Extra Mile… Pratham shows the way

(Published in Star of Mysore, June 24, 2014) 

By Sujata Rajpal
If there is one thing which sets the children of Private schools apart from those in Government schools, it is the exposure to advanced teaching methodologies and quality education. Government school children are also at the receiving end due to unavailability of qualified teachers, and poor student teacher ratio which aggravate the despicable scenario and further widen the class divide.  Shouldn’t the race be considered null and void, if there is no common starting line for all? Bring everyone at par and then watch the fun. 
Pratham Mysore continues to do its bit to bridge this gap as far as the exposure to quality education is concerned. Its most recent initiative is aimed at bringing the children from government schools to the forefront of competitive excellence. The objective is to prepare the high school children to take up NMMS (National Means cum Merit Scholarship) examination conducted by the Department of State Educational Research and Training (DSERT) in collaboration with State and Central Government Education departments. It awards scholarships to meritorious students of economically weaker section and thereby helps in reducing the dropout rate of children at Class VIII.

Dr T. Padmini, Founding Trustee of Pratham along with Dr Yoganandan, Professor of Physics at Vidya Vardhaka Junior college, worked on the methodology to execute the same.
As a pilot project, 39 children from three Government Schools (Government High School, Vontikoppal, Adarsha Vidyalaya, Vinayakanagar and Government High School Medar Block) were selected through an aptitude test for the intensive coaching programme.
Fourteen children coached by Pratham have successfully cleared NMMS examination. They will get a scholarship of Rs 24,000/ for four years. At the State level, 56 children have passed the examination from Mysore North Block with only 14 children from the Government Schools. It is a matter of pride that all the 14 children were attendees of Pratham coaching programme for NMMS. 
The students went through rigorous coaching on Aptitude, Science, Social Science, Math and Languages. The classes were conducted for six months after school hours by Pratham’s enthusiastic team of volunteers. When it comes to coaching children from families with hand- to- mouth existence, the challenge is not just training them to learn the curriculum. Besides coaching, there were logistics issues like arranging light snacks for children as they would come straight from their respective schools, transporting them to a common centre, keeping their motivational levels high and such other issues which most of us cannot comprehend. But as they say, if there is will, there is always a way. All issues become non issues when there is a bigger purpose to achieve.
NMMS Examination comprises two tests – General Mental Ability Test (GMAT) and Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). GMAT consists of 90 multiple choice questions on verbal and non – verbal metacognitive abilities like reasoning and critical thinking. SAT also consists of 90 multiple choice questions covering subjects namely Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics, History, Civics, Geography as taught in classes VII and VIII.
The customized programme followed a structured approach to teaching including  three mock tests , and used abundant visual aids. 
“A picture is equal to one thousand words. Visual representation helps in better retention and understanding. I used PPTs and other forms of pictorial representation to teach Math and Social Studies. Even the Great Wall of China should be explained through visuals,” tells Serena Lobo, a volunteer with Pratham. Serena is now an employee of Pratham.
“Apart from teaching aids and a structured approach, what actually works is the positive attitude towards students.  Shun the negative labels and see what wonders they are capable of doing. The objective of this programme is not just to coach them to get the scholarship but instil confidence in them to face life,” tells Dr Padmini.
Nayana M , a 9thgrader from Vontikoppal Government School was thrilled when I spoke to her over the phone.  She is one of the 14 recipients of NMMS scholarship this year.  “I am going to buy only books with the scholarship money, and I want to study Commerce after SSLC,” said Nayana. Her mother Leela who works as a house help called me back as soon as I ended the call.  “Madam, I forgot to tell you, I am very happy not only because my daughter is getting a scholarship of Rs 500 per month but because this programme has improved her confidence level. Look, how confidently she spoke to you over the phone just now,” said the proud mother.
Rightly said, if you are confident, you can conquer any mountain.

The Loss

(This short story is published  in March 2014 )
“(c)” Sujata Rajpal 
“Skating rink,” Samar instructed the auto rickshaw driver as he hopped into the first vacant auto spotted on the road. His heart was pounding. He hadn’t stepped foot into the place for eight years. That day, something was pulling him towards it.

Samar had turned eighteen last month. Coincidentally, his admission to the University of Pennsylvania was confirmed the same day. This could have been the best birthday gift for any student but nothing excited him in life – neither getting an opportunity to study in one of the top colleges in the US nor birthdays.

 “Wow! That’s wonderful news, I am so proud of you,” Anup had exclaimed, stretching his arms to embrace his son when he overheard Samar talking to a friend on the phone.  As always, Samar reciprocated his father’s hug with a shrug. 
It was the first time Samar would be going so far from home; he didn’t know if he was running away from his father or himself. 
His room resembled an ocean of clothes, eatables and books which had to find a place in the new suitcase that his father had kept it in the room last night. 
 “Should I help you pack?” Anup asked when he saw Samar sitting beleaguered amongst the heap of woollens on the bed. 
“No thanks, I can manage,” Samar replied as coldly as he could, his head still buried in the suitcase. 
The auto stopped right in front of the huge iron gate. The deafening noise of skates rubbing against the concrete rink could be heard from outside.  There was a time when that noise had pumped adrenalin into him.
It was evening. He walked in with hesitant steps. The place was full of children, the instructors blowing whistles, mothers impatiently waiting for their children to finish, like it always had been when his life revolved around school, the skating rink and his loving parents.
Samar lowered himself on a stone bench and watched the children skating on the track.
“Samar, run fast!” his mother’s voice echoed in his ears.
The vacant look in his eyes deepened on seeing a woman holding out a water bottle for her young son at the edge of the rink as she waited for him to complete his circuit on the rink.  The boy paused to take a sip of water from the bottle before resuming the race. The scene reminded him of his mother who would hold a water bottle for him in a similar manner, her one foot inside the track.
“Mamma! Stay outside, you will get hurt,” he would tell her.
His mother picked him up from school every day on her scooter and brought him to the skating rink. After gulping down a glass of milk and a few biscuits which she carried with her, he would start his daily practice of fifty rounds. Homework, followed by dinner, reading and a bed time story telling session by his mother, that had been his routine for as long as he could remember.
 “Samar, you have the potential to become an international champion, you must practice daily,” his mother encouraged him when he sometimes complained of boredom. All of ten, he was already a state level junior champion. 
 “Grow up, you are ten years old and still a mamma’s boy,” Anup would reprimand his son affectionately when he would see Sarita pushing bites of chappties  dipped in dal into Samar’s mouth while the boy worked on his school assignments . Samar was very attached to his mother. He hugged her a lot and often told her that he loved her. He had a room of his own but would insist on sleeping in his parents’ bedroom at night saying there were robbers in his room.   All he needed was a hug and a kiss by Sarita to chase him to his room at night.
Samar had only fond memories of his parents from his childhood. Like all married couples that he knew or had watched on TV, his parents too had their share of disagreements and squabbles but their quarrels would last only a few minutes. Invariably at the end of every fight, the entire family would go out to Baskin Robins for ice cream.
 That day it didn’t end with going to the ice cream parlour. Anup and Sarita were sitting on the couch and watching TV after dinner, something they did every day. In between surfing channels, Anup shared highlights of his day at work with Sarita while she flipped through the latest issue of a woman’s journal. Samar who was around ten at that time sat on the rocking chair close by  with his new Tintin in hand which Sarita had bought for him while returning from skating that evening.  He was too engrossed in the comic to pay attention to his parents’ conversation. Inline skates were the only words he could catch.
“You can spend any amount of money on yourself but not twenty thousand to buy inline skates for your son,” Sarita fumed when Anup questioned about her indulgence on inline skates.
“If you were earning money, you would’ve known its value. You just want to enjoy at home and waste my hard earned money?” he snarled.  It seemed he was distressed over something; the demand to buy inline skates by his wife infuriated him further.
 “Your hard earned money? Is this not my money, too? To hell with you and your money!” She flung the magazine that she had in her hand on him. His spectacles fell down with the blow.
 “How dare you hit me?”Aunp stood up. 
Picking up his glasses from the floor, in retaliation he gave her a slight push. Sarita lost her balance and tripped. She banged her head against the chest kept nearby.  Before Anup could react, he saw her lying unconscious on the floor, her silky black hair strewn across her face.
 “Sarita!”Anup panicked when he saw blood oozing out from her head. The sharp edge of the wooden chest had hit the delicate portion of her head.
“Sarita…Sarita get up…,” he cried reaching for the water bottle kept on the table. He turned the bottle upside down on her face and slapped her cheeks lightly to bring her to consciousness but he couldn’t revive her. He felt her pulse and took his mouth closer to hers to check if she was still breathing. 
She was breathing. Samar could see her chest heaving.
“Your mamma has been hurt on the head.  I will take her to the hospital. We will come back soon.  Don’t open the door to anyone,” Samar heard his father say.  “It’s nothing serious, she only requires a few stitches; she will be fine,” Anup added, seeing a dazed expression on his son’s face.
Samar was too traumatized to utter a word.
At home, Samar waited for his parents to return.  That day, he wanted Sarita to read the new Tintin. Though he could read it himself, while snuggled in bed with her, the characters would come alive with his mother’s magical voice. Samar neatly arranged the comic on the side table and waited for his mother to return.
After four hours, Anup returned alone.
Samar couldn’t believe that his mother would never come back to kiss him, read stories to him and sleep by his side.  In an instant, his blissful world was shattered into miniscule pieces.
Why did he kill mamma? Why he had to shout at her? Why he had to push her so hard?  Many unanswered questions hovered in Samar’s mind. 
Samar wished they could roll back in time and his parents start their conversation again, discuss amicably, the way they always did. Who would imagine even in their wildest dreams that a slight push could be fatal. He still believed it to be a dream where everything would be alright when Anup would wake up and Sarita would be standing at his bed side with a cup of tea in her hand and a smile on her lips, her long plait pulled in front.
The memories of that night were impossible to ward off. Their lives changed upside down. Anup stopped going to work; he would stay in his room the entire day. He was unable to come to terms with the loss. He was too shattered himself to comfort his son. They shifted to another house.  Samar was not sure, if the move could fill the vacuum that had been created in his life.
Every night, after Samar went to sleep, Anup would go to his son’s room and sit by his side.
“Samar, please forgive me! It was just an accident,” he would say, running his fingers through his son’s hair while the boy pretended to sleep.
Samar stopped talking to his father. He only spoke to him when he had to, and it was always in monosyllables.  They lived like two strangers under one roof. Samar had lost his mother but Anup had lost both his wife and son.
Sometimes, when there would a power cut in their apartment complex, both father and son would sit across each other quietly in the balcony while they waited for the power supply to resume; in the dark, Samar would hear the soft sobs of his father.  Samar had a strange sense of satisfaction on seeing his father crying.  He abhorred his father. He considered himself an orphan now. Though the court had acquitted Anup, Samar held his father responsible for his mother’s death.
Later, Anup’s mother came to live with them. She repeatedly told Samar that his father loved his mother immensely; they fought because all married couples fight but there was no animosity between them. It was just a freak accident; he didn’t intend to kill her.
“No, you are lying. Daddy killed Mamma because he didn’t want to buy inline skates for me. I hate him,” he shouted at his grandmother before shutting himself in his room.
The years passed. The entire axis of Samar’s life had shifted, though it appeared to be normal to the outside world. He did well in studies, played sports and made friends. He kept himself busy all the time leaving him with no energy to think of the bygone years but happiness was impossible without his mother. The moment he would enter home, he would go into a dismal mood again. He didn’t like to smile in his father’s presence. He didn’t want his father to feel that he had forgiven him.  
 Samar wished he could fulfil his mother’s wish of becoming an international skating champion but he had vowed never to wear skates again in life.  Skates reminded him of his beloved mother.
 “It’s closing time now; better go!” The security guard at the skating rink brought him out of his reverie.
Samar looked at his watch. It was 7 pm.  He took out his mobile from his breast pocket to find nine missed calls from Anup. Though his mobile was not on silent mode, surprisingly he hadn’t heard his phone ring. He kept the phone back in the pocket. That night, he was leaving India. After finishing his education, he would take up a job and settle down in the US. 
He came out on the road and waived at an auto rickshaw.
 “Kings Mansion building,” he told the address of his old apartment to the driver. He wanted to visit all those places that had memories of his once happy family. When he entered the building, he realized that he didn’t have the apartment keys.  He climbed the stairs anyway and was surprised to find that the door of their apartment was ajar. Samar walked in with unsteady steps. He stood in the foyer and looked around.  Everything was as it was eight years ago –the rocking chair, the TV, the couch where his parents were sitting, the chest, the carpet where his mother collapsed.  It had been years since he left that place but it felt like yesterday. He kneeled down and ran his fingers over the spot on the carpet where he had last seen his mother.  The sob that was stuck in his throat burst open. The tears wet his face before falling over his hand. Today he missed his mother immensely.  He just wanted a glimpse of her, to hear her voice or see some signal that she was watching him, understanding his pain. He wanted to hug her and ask her why she left him. But he was 18 and knew that people who died didn’t come back.  He wished for a miracle which could bring her back.
Big boys don’t cry, his mother always said when he would cry after getting hurt while skating. He got up, wiping his face with the sleeve of his shirt. He gazed at a spot in the kitchen and imagined his mother, her petite frame bent over the stove, she humming a tune from an old Hindi film song. 
He wandered in the house aimlessly. He walked up to his room to find a pair of inline skates on the bed.  His eyes brightened on seeing the skates. It refreshed memories of his skating days.  He picked up a skate and caressed it.
Wrapping his arms around the skate that he was holding, he closed his eyes lightly and imagined his mother’s smiling face.  The tears welled up in his eyes again.
 “Mamma, I miss you so much. Mamma, come back….” he sobbed like a ten year old, skate still in his embracing hold. 
 “Samar, what are you doing here?” he heard a voice from behind.
Samar turned his head to meet his father’s moist eyes.
Samar stopped crying abruptly. He stood there looking at Anup, his face stained with tears. None of them spoke. Anup was holding a framed picture. Samar looked at it intensely; it was the same family picture which they got it clicked when once they had gone to the zoo.  All three of them had posed with trained parrots on their arms.  Anup had laughed looking at his wife’s scared expressions in the photograph.  He had insisted on framing the picture.
The photograph brought memories of happy days. His mother was dead but his father was still with him.
Samar spoke breaking the lull.
 “Daddy, my clothes don’t fit in the suitcase, help me to pack properly,” Samar said between sobs as he reached for his father’s shoulder to hug him.
Then both of them wept.