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I AM IN THE SPOTLIGHT – Aastha

When the task came-up, I was not really into it. I thought our Charlie (Chiradeep) would choose whose questions I would be answering and vice versa. No, he brought his mark into the activity, by asking us to choose a number not knowing to whom that number belongs to and accordingly I get the questionnaire. When he asked me to choose a number, I was heartfully wishing to get Rajnandini’s questionnaire to answer. Woah!! I got hers.

Firstly, thank you Rajnandini. I loved your questions. They are quite thoughtful. Now, I think it’s time for me to start penning down my answers.

Rajnandini’s Questionnaire:

  • Apart from brushing your teeth, what is that one other thing which is a ‘must-do-without-fail’ for you every day?

OMG, is brushing must?? Oh-no, am I missing something important that I should be doing every day? Just kidding. Well, this was an easy question to answer. The entire world can flip upside down but I would never stay without talking to my father. Only network connectivity can come in between our communication. It could be only a few seconds in a day, but that gives me ultimate satisfaction.

  • What is the most valuable treasure in your life?

I believe that the most valuable treasures are within us (human beings). No one can steal them or destroy them. Memories, those are what I treasure the most. Memories make me feel hopeful and alive. It is those memories that really help me feel good about my life today and every day…

  • What is the purpose of your life? Ever given it a thought?

I don’t know if there is some enlightenment that happens to some people so that they know what that purpose is. I have no idea what mine might be …

  • How do you respond to criticism and ridicule?

Honestly, it depends on the critic :-). If the critic is knowledgeable enough then I consider it quite seriously, otherwise I take it on the lighter side. It infuriates me when idiots criticize. I usually think over what might have made them say/feel so, those might be my weak points. Hence, I work on getting better.

  • How do you unwind/de-stress yourself?

Work-related stress isn’t a problem at all, but if there is stress on the personal front, I feel very unsettling. I go on a walk to the nearest park, listen to good music or watch some sci-fi movies… If it takes more than these to feel better, I cry. It does help me get over it.

  • Given an opportunity to meet a great personality of your choice, whom would you like to meet? And, what would you tell him/her?

I would love to meet Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, our very own Mother Teresa. I may actually be speechless after I see her. I would love to spend a day with her only to observe and learn… I know she is no more, can I time travel ??

  • Relationships world over are getting brittle by the day. What in your opinion could be the problem at large (apart from specifics)?

The answer is something we all know. We only concentrate on whom we love ignoring those who are showering us with love. Virtual connections and texting are only making it worse. Physical presence, caring touch, a delightful hug has become a rarity. There are very small things in life we stopped appreciating.

  • There are different belief systems and different philosophies as to what happens after death. What do you want to happen to you after you die?

Death is the ultimate truth. It could come through the door one day to knock us out of our life without prior notice. My thought stops at death, beyond death whatever happens or can happen is of no value to me.

  • Science teaches us the theory of evolution. I’m sure you would have studied it in school and maybe even in college. However, evolution and creation are complete contrasts. Leaving academics aside, what do you personally believe in – evolution or creation and why?

I believe in nature and so evolution… I don’t think human beings can match the universe’s creativity no matter how hard we try. We do not even know about it completely.

  • What is the one thing you desire to do during your lifetime?

There is a strong craving in me to be loved and be understood at a deeper level. It would take another person who really wants to look into me, which is not in my hands. So, meanwhile what is that I can do??? One day, I aspire to be a torchbearer for a change, a positive change that would make this world a better place. I am working on it.

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I AM IN THE SPOTLIGHT – Chiradeep

1. Rajnandini: In the little more than four decades of your life, do you have any regrets? If so, what are they? If not, why?

Ans: Rajnandini, I know you hit the button which literally got me stuck and still at a point where I have to think well about what to and how to answer this question. 

Regrets are many, truly, but sharing them all might be fatal because we rarely know the end result of everything. Being human our decisions and responses are always premature ones so I won’t call them regrets though sometimes I regret about a few things. 

Now to answer your question I can say, I hate the time that I wasted away for unproductive and addictive actions and works undertaken by me to satiate my earthly needs. I have deep regrets for all those times that I had lost and will never get back ever again. However, regretting those actions are not fatal. 

2. Aditi Ranade: What is the toughest lesson life has taught you?

Ans: Tough lessons are many but one that I struggled with the most was allowing too many distractions and interruptions in my most vital relationships. I learnt instead of giving attention to many relationships/friendships it is better to groom the fewer ones. Thanks a lot for this question dost, Aditi.

3. Deepa Kartik: Do you like to be in the spotlight?

Ans: Yo yo Deepa, Bingo. Yeah, I love being in the Spotlight, love attention and being the centre of attraction. But truly speaking, it never drives me or controls me or motivates me to stay tuned or be focussed to what I love to do always – ‘listen & talk to people’.

4. Prerna Aditi: What does ‘a day spent well’ means to you?

Ans: I loved this question. I would say it is a very intelligent and interesting question, Prerna. 

A day spent well for me will be when I get to listen and talk to people those who need it desperately. Knowing and understanding a heart, a mind is my greatest hobby and passion. And I simply love and enjoy doing it. So when I get to do that and feel that someone is benefitted from and in my presence I feel very satisfied.

5. Prabhjot: How long do you think you can survive without your smart
phone and laptop???

Ans: Hahaha! If you can survive, then I can… forever. But if people around me have those extra chunks in their mouths then can I be with an empty mouth?

Now, ‘refraining from my smart things‘, if that’s what you are asking then I would say, I can survive only two days maximum. 

6. Geetmalini: When was the last time you tried something new?

Ans: Decades ago, Geet. I have become extremely dull and boring. Yeah, finding new writers and bringing them to us almost every month, but something new has not happened in my life for a long time. 

It is a very thought-provoking question and it makes me ponder about trying out something fresh. 

7. Saakshi: What three desires would you fulfil if you have infinite wealth at your disposal?

Ans: “Infinite wealth” is a flawed thought. Wealth itself is earthly and thus finite. 

Anyway, let me answer your question…

First, I would have bought the best house in the world for me and my loved ones. 

Secondly, I would have travelled all over the world.

Thirdly, I would have set up the best counselling centre of the world where the people in need would have come, enjoyed the stay, played, prayed together, interacted, got counselled by the best of counsellors and would have gone home healed and comforted. 

8. Kalpana: What do you do for recreation, for relaxing, for calming down yourself, apart from praying that I know well?

Ans: I knew you might ask that, Kalpana. For recreation and relaxing I watch T.V. or surf interesting websites for ideas. And for calming myself down I prefer to Talk to my favourite people, Divert my focus from ME to OTHERS and sleep.

9. Preeta: What’s the best thing you cherished from your childhood?

Ans: A cosy family, adorable siblings and cousins and a host of angelic friends at every stage of my life. 

Yeah, Crowd . . . People are what I cherished and cherishing from my childhood till now, Preeta.

10. Aastha: What is your definition of happiness?

Ans: Why does my sister always ask me difficult questions??? I can only try what I know and feel.

Amid all kinds of pain, suffering, problems and sorrows it is very difficult to say that I am happy or I am capable of defining happiness… As it is not just an English word but a condition of a human.

Yet, I would say I still managed to be happy most of the time despite my ailments, my problems and my sorrows… Because I stay content with what I have, I love and believe in the act of giving than receiving, I don’t compare myself with others and most importantly I depend on and trust in God for everything. 

So answering the question I would define happiness as “a state of being contented without comparing or living with self-pity but leading a generous life, trusting in the God Almighty in every situation“.   

Hope, I have answered all the questions satisfactorily. I would love to hear from all of my examiners and know how much I scored in the exam. 😛

Thanks to all of you who asked me these beautiful questions. I thoroughly enjoyed answering them.

Stay blessed!

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THE PRESSURE OF MEETING THE DEADLINE

All of us might have experienced deadlines in some way or the other. The deadline can be sometimes quite short but no matter whether the deadline is short or not, it always gives us pressure. And this pressure keeps us stretched and straight towards meeting the deadline. So, today I am going to tell you about the pressure we face when we have a deadline. As we know, Pressure is a situation wherein we feel the urgency to complete a task in a very little time and maybe, with a very little resource. It compels us to complete the work on time and also, in a way that is effective and fruitful. The pressure always monitors our mind, so that we can give our best in a very limited time period. Sometimes it may result adversely. As all of us know working in a peaceful and relaxed environment is better.

I have experienced the pressure of finishing the work in a given deadline. And whenever I had this, I was completely into the work. Whenever I got a deadline, it seemed very important to complete the work as soon as possible. And for this, I would do whatever felt necessary and time-saving. Yes, you got it right. Whenever there is pressure, we want the work to be completed as soon as possible. Also, we take care of the effectiveness of the work. Maybe we succeed at it but somewhere something gets wrong. Do you know what is it? It is mental peace. Whenever we are under the pressure of completing any work on time or managing more than one thing at a time, we become a bit anxious. Whenever I am in such situations, I become restless. This restlessness, however, results in completing tasks on time but for this, I tend to skip my meals and would stay awake. Unless until I finish the work, it stays on my mind and even if I sleep, I am unable to have a sound sleep. Further, it results in my frustrated and furious behaviour. Sometimes it affects my health but one thing is sure that whenever I am in such a situation, I get annoyed easily on small things.

It was the year 2017 when I had to manage a function as a part of my academics. So many responsibilities were on my shoulders and so were the expectations. Undoubtedly, these two things came with working pressure. At first, I was calm. Maybe because I decided to carry things in a relaxed way or perhaps I thought it will be very easy, but eventually my calmness turned out to be stormy. I was experiencing pressure because the time was very limited and we had so much to do. I was handling several responsibilities. All of them were of equal importance. Those, whom I was supervising, didn’t get the scolding because it was me, who was assigned the work.

At that time I had an insight – pressure arises when the time is limited and we are in a very relaxed state. Gradually the deadline seems to be near and the work seems to be never-ending. Maybe at the beginning, we think, I’ll complete the work before the deadline and we get involved in other things or we might become lazy. And hence the pending work scares us. We become agitated. We get furious over little things, everything and everyone seems disorganized. Though we end up getting praises for being on time and carrying out things in a good way but our mental state seems to be in turbulence.

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SUNBEAMS AT SUNSET – XIV

Scene – I

Major Saraansh reporting Sir!” he said in a crisp voice. “Ah! There you are. Congratulations Major” replied Brigadier Varun with a radiant face. “You did it, my boy,” he patted Major Saraansh. “Thank you, sir. Credit goes to the boys, they fought very bravely,” replied Major Saraansh delightfully. “Well Major, why don’t you take a few days off?” asked Brigadier. There was an abrupt silence from Major Saraansh. He didn’t want to answer it. But he suddenly remembered his father’s phone call. “Sir you haven’t taken any leave over the years. Would you mind joining me? I’m sure my parents will be glad to see you.” Major Saraansh said in a casual tone. Brigadier Varun gave a pensive look, but he agreed eventually.

Scene – II

What are you looking at my dear?” asked Mohan lovingly. “You look so Wizened and shrunken like a fading rose,” Sudha replied in a muffled voice. “I’m fit as a fiddle my love,” Mohan said in a funny tone. Sudha didn’t reply but she quietly kept the photo aside. They had clicked it last summer. “Will they come? I still doubt it! What do you think?” Sudha asked in a peculiar tone. Mohan didn’t reply. He got up to leave. Sudha held back his hand. “Mohan! I have never seen you this reserved! Mohan please talk to me. I can’t handle this silence. Whom do I talk to? There is no one except for you.” Sudha broke down to loud sobs. Mohan sat down holding her hand. “What can I say? Now I don’t have to think of new stories for innocent curious souls. Now I don’t have run after chirpy little begins. Now I don’t have to cuddle a crying toddler. Now I don’t have to save awfully mischievous brats from your wrath! Now I,…I… have absolutely no work! I feel doomed. All that I can offer now is silence! What can I say Sudha?” His breath stuttered as he tried to take a deep breath.

Scene – III

Hello, can I speak to Mr. Prateek?

I’m sorry he is busy at the moment,” said the voice at the other end.

Hello,.. hello… please, it’s urgent I need to talk to him. It’s about his mother.


Okay let me try,” said a reluctant voice.


Excuse me, sir, “there is a call for you.

Not now!” Prateek replied rudely.

Sir he has some information about your mother.” Prateek snatched the receiver immediately. “Hello who is it?” he asked in a crisp voice.

Your mother just survived a heart attack. All your siblings are coming, you…”

Who are you and how come you know my mother? Why should I trust you?” Prateek thundered over the phone. “Well, all your siblings are coming. It’s her last wish to meet all her children. Instead of inquiring over phone come and see for yourself.” Raman hung up smiling to himself. He knew he has belled the cat. It was his endeavour and gift for the beloved old couple.

Prateek was resting in his vanity after the shoot was over. He was waiting for his car. “What if it is true? Heart-attack! My goodness! Should I go?” He sat there lost in thoughts.

Happy Birthday to you. Happyyyy Biirrtthhhddaayy ttoooo yooooouuuuu.

Yeeeee!! Cheers!

Thank you so much, guys!

Hey mom, thank you so much, I’ll talk to you later.

Hi bhaiya, thannkkk you, where is my gift?”

Heeyyyy, thank you, my little sis! Mmuuaahhh!!” The sweet birthday melody coming from somewhere outside his vanity was distinctly audible to Prateek. It was his co-actor Khushboo’s birthday. The mellifluous celebration quietly tiptoed into Prateek’s ears. “Lucky people!” He sighed. His eyes drip with tears. Salty drops fell from his chin, drenching his shirt. It was Prateek’s Birthday as well! He was startled by the sudden honking of his car and got up to leave. But he straight away headed towards the airport.

Scene – IV

Honey! You must be hungry let’s have lunch,” Mohan said in a casual tone.

Without us!” said a bubbly voice. They turned leisurely and standing before them was a beautiful young girl. She wore a peach coloured dress with a white belt. Her hair was long and wavy. They could easily make out it was Dhara! She ran towards the old couple and hugged them tightly. Mohan and Sudha hugged her back. But Dhara could make out Mohan’s eyes were frantically searching for someone else. “Yes Pallu didi is here,” said Dhara delightfully.

As Palak stepped in, Mohan hid behind a wall. “Pallluuuu…” Sudha called out loud. Palak handed the baby to Dhara and hugged her mother. She was shaken seeing her maa weak and fragile. “Where is Alex? I,… I want to see my grandchild,” Sudha said in a single breath. Palak handed over the baby to Sudha. “Maa she is Pari,” Palak said softly. “She looks like an angel, Pallu…” She paused and looked intently at Palak and enquired, “Is everything alright between you and Alex?” Sudha asked inquiringly. “Maa, everything is fine between us… It’s just that we have shifted to India recently and he is settling his business in the new set up so he could not… He is very excited to meet you both and will be joining us soon!” Palak replied in an assuring tone. “That’s alright beta…” Sudha was relieved. Mohan too gave a similar reaction at the other end but he looked away when Palak looked at him. “Papa… Are you still angry with me?” Palak walked towards him and hugged him from behind and wept. And it was not so easy for Mohan to be hard anymore. His heart for his favourite child melted. He turned back to look at her. “Paa I am extremely sorry…” Palak said again and rested her head on his shoulder and hugged him as they both wept bringing smiles to both Sudha and Dhara’s faces.

Paa and Maa, you know…” Palak said smiling… “There’s a story behind Pari... One evening while returning from office I found her in a garbage bin near my apartment. I couldn’t help myself and picked her up. And Alex also was happy and agreed. because I have problems with my pregnancy… we were in utter sadness thinking God has closed my womb for hurting you both… But He didn’t… Pari is a blessing in our lives… since then she is a part of our life” Palak replied and they all had a very pleasant feeling about all.

Scene – V 

Two days have gone by in the presence of the little Pari. On the third day morning, there was a sharp loud knock at the door. Palak opened the door and before her stood an army officer. She came closer and clearly saw “Major Saraansh Lal” written on the badge to his left. “Maaa, Paaaa…” Palak shrieked. Mohan rushed towards the main gate. He saw a confident soldier in his uniform and a handsome young lad in his arms. “Paaaa, he is Saraansh,” said Palak with trembling lips. Mohan and Saraansh greeted each other with teary eyes. “Who is he?” asked Palak curiously. “May I come in, please?” Saraansh asked in a sharp tone. “Yes please,” Palak made way for them.

Mohan helped Saraansh as they laid the young man on the sofa. “Who is he?” Mohan questioned. Saraansh handed him a paper. It was an airport gateway pass with the name “Prateek Lal” written in it. “Prateek bhaiya!” Dhara gasped. It was a jaw-dropping moment for all except Saraansh.

Who is it, Mohan?” Sudha inquired. Everyone stared at Saraansh and he went inside to meet Sudha. “Maa it’s me,” said Saraansh softly. Sudha instantly recognized from the tone that it was her Saraansh, although he was almost unrecognizable in army uniform. They both hugged each other and broke down to loud sobs. “Maa, Prateek has also come,” Saraansh managed to speak in a choking voice. Saraansh helped Sudha to the adjacent room. Sudha sat beside him and caressed him with trembling hands. “How did you meet him? What has happened to him?” Sudha asked in one breath. “Maa, Prateek dashed with me unmindfully and was hit by a car as he turned to leave. Nothing serious no severe injury he will come back to senses soon,” Saraansh reassured.

After an hour, Prateek regained his senses. As he opened his eyes, he was greeted by this whole family. Prateek gathered himself, he didn’t know what to say. He couldn’t make eye contact with anyone. “How are you feeling, my beta?” Sudha asked Prateek in a soft tone. He just nodded.

Mohan got up from his seat and walked towards Sudha. “Well now that you have seen all of them. We shouldn’t disturb them. They are very busy people. I think they will leave in some time, let’s go inside,” Mohan said in a sarcastic tone.

Mohan please, it’s not their fault, the situation was complicated, we were also at fault, I mean it was a mess, but now we ca,…

Fault!!” Mohan abruptly stopped Sudha. “Yes, Sudha! we are at fault for spending every single penny on them to fulfil their demands! We are at fault for spending sleepless nights when they were sick! We are at fault for holding their feeble tiny hands. We are at fault for giving them the best of all that we ever had! We are at fault for loving them more than anything else! And because of this, we were sentenced with tears and loneliness. True! we are only at fault. They think they are brave and capable enough to run away from home whenever they like. How dare they? Who gave them this right? If we can nurture for babies when either they could move or express themselves, we can very well take care of ourselves. Moreover, I’m blessed with a wonderful wife who never left my side. I don’t need anything else. I’ve had enough.

All the four children were speechless. They had never seen this side of Mohan. They were struggling with their tears. Mohan turned to leave. “Paa,..” All four children called out to him at the same time. “We are sorry!” “Please Mohan!,” Sudha urged him. “What please Sudha? They are forgetting today we are old; tomorrow they will also be old. The question that we are asking they will also ask one day. Maybe then they might understand what it feels to be deserted! What it feels to be greeted by old cold walls of the house every moment,” Mohan poured his heart out.

We should have been more conscious Mohan. They have also felt dejected by our words and actions sometimes. They were young and immature Mohan. Let bygones be bygones. We have got a second chance as a family. Why should we waste it? Please forgive them, Mohan, release that burden. In the autumn of our lives, we are once again surrounded by our children. Let’s not shy away from this fortunate moment Mohan,” before Sudha could finish, all the four children hugged her and wept bitterly. Each one was apologizing in his/her own way. Sudha kissed each one of them; she held them in one hand and stretched the other towards Mohan. Mohan didn’t deny, he too came and hugged all his children tight, they hugged him back.

Scene – VI

Young man,” a sharp tone startled Raman. He turned to see it was Brigadier Varun and his wife; his parents. “Dad, I,…I was jus,…” Raman fumbled.

We’ve missed you son. I have heard everything from Saraansh. Whatever had happened was not your mistake. Let’s go home!” Raman hugged his parents tight. They kissed him back.

Concluding Scene 

Later that day, Sudha and Mohan were having tea in their balcony. “Thank you for the loving family Mohan,” Sudha said resting her head on his shoulders. “Ah! There you are. That is what I call ‘sunbeams at sunset,’ my love.” They smiled at each other. Seeing them smile, all the four children smiled at each other as the old couple happily sipped their coffee.


THE BEGINNING

Moral of the Story:
The whole dramatisation of this story is absolutely fictional and quite filmy. But behind it, we, “The Candles Online Family” have a message to convey to the whole world and that is – as children we should never bring dark shadow in the lives of our old parents instead we should always be the Sunbeams at their Sunset periods.    

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SUNBEAMS AT SUNSET – XIII

He was always a tough act to follow. Everyone knew me as younger bro of the superhero. He could move mountains and fly in the air. I had no special qualities. I had no value of my own. People wanted to make me their friend only get close to him. No one loved me… Even Ma and Pa… He was the apple of their eye. I was there only as the audience to applaud when he scored. The sidekick, the extra man. I just hated him… I really HATED him” shouted Prateek, he crumbled down on to his knees and cried piteously. There was pin drop silence all around everyone was stunned. Suddenly the director came to his senses and cried “Cut”. Everyone applauded. The shot was taken but Prateek was still crying. Khushboo patted on his back. And Prateek realized where he was. He got up and moved to his vanity van. 

What a shot Sirji. It was so real. Even the director forgot to call out Cut. This movie is going to be a super duper hit” the assistant director was going gaga over his acting. Khushboo was also sitting in there looking intently at Prateek’s face there was a riot of emotions on his face which he was trying to suppress. She could gauge that the scene had hit a raw nerve within. And made a mental note of talking to him later about it. 

Prateek had always been a difficult person to talk to. He had a dark brooding air about him. Even though he was only a few films old in this industry he was considered a very promising actor. Especially for the serious kind of roles. Khushboo wondered if anyone knew anything about his personal life.

Oblivious to all the hullabaloo around him Prateek got up to leave. His thoughts went back to the fateful day when their happy family turned upside down. Saransh was just one and a half years elder to him. All his life Prateek had tried to come out of the shadow of the perfect elder bro Saransh. Where ever he went Saaransh had been there before. They went to the same school. All his teachers remembered him as the younger brother of Saransh and unknowingly kept comparing him to his elder brother. Saransh was better at studies, he played tennis better. He was more popular with friends. Heck, he even danced better than Prateek. “I was good at nothing and he was good at everything.” This feeling of unworthiness was brewing inside Prateek and made him extra competitive with Saransh.

On that fateful day, Saransh was so happy. Looking at him smiling and so eager to get the pat on the back from mom and dad. A fierce anger began to rise inside Prateek. He wanted to wipe off that smug look from his face. He wanted to hurt him. And he did.

Rest as they say is history. After Saransh disappeared his parents were so distraught and spent all their waking hours searching for him, worrying about him. Palak took over the complete responsibility of the household. Dhara was still a child and Prateek was ignored by everyone. He knew that everyone blamed him for what had happened even though they didn’t say much. After a year of staying in this oppressive atmosphere, he took the first available opportunity out and came to Mumbai with a friend.

Yes, he was full of anger then. The guilt came later. After living on his own he realised the value of his family. He missed there love and concern. After his fair share of struggle, he got little recognition as an actor. For the first time he felt that he was good at something, he too had talent… And when he won a small award for his role in a short film he wanted to share his happiness with someone. Show his small trophy. Oh, how he yearned for a pat on his back by Ma. It was then he realised what Saransh wanted that day. Just a smile and a pat on his back. He was just wanting to share his happiness with his family. Prateek realised then how he had single-handedly destroyed his happy family.

Prateek wanted to say sorry to Saransh and make things better again but he could never muster the courage to face his parents or Saransh again. “What will I Say? How will I apologise for the huge blunder I have committed. My words won’t be enough to heal the hurt I have caused. It’s better that I stay away from them. Hope they just forget about me.

Next day morning when Raman came to Dr Lal’s home, he was pleasantly surprised. Dr Lal had a smile on his face. And Mrs Lal was talking excitedly. There was a festive air in the home that morning. As soon as he entered Sudha told him everything. Raman was happy and relieved. Palak and Dhara were coming home. Finally…

There was no news from Major Saransh’s unit. He called almost every day. “God! Please keep him safe. This family has found happiness after a very long time.” Raman’s thought wandered to his own parents. “Will they ever be so happy to see me?

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SUNBEAMS AT SUNSET – XII

I know that you hate Prateek for what he did and felt towards Saaransh. I have been angry with him too. But Mohan, please realize that it was us who were wrong. All throughout his childhood, poor Prateek lived in an insecurity that we loved Saaransh much more than any of them. He always thought that we favoured Saaransh. Imagine living in a hell like that. It is not easy for a child to deal with this level of sibling rivalry. It is not healthy. It must be gnawing him from inside every moment of each day. He was always trying so hard to impress us but always fell short of trophies when compared to Saaransh. Mohan, we as parents should have seen that and we should have helped him deal with this insecurity. I know you think that he failed us as a son, but I truly believe that we failed him as parents!” said Sudha crying bitterly now.

Stop blaming yourself, Sudha. It wasn’t our fault. Kids fight when they are young. It is normal. How could we ever know that there is this level of hatred growing inside his heart for his own brother?” Mohan was clutching Sudha’s hand tightly now.

Can’t we again search for Prateek and where he is? I am craving for Prateek. I know Saaransh will not come. I know, he was always a stubborn child. If he decided to leave us so that we could be happy with the rest of our children – he will not come back. He is a man of his words. I wish he knew how this family broke down after he left us.” Sudha was talking more to herself now.

Can’t we look for my boy, Mohan!” shouted Sudha.

Calm down dear… Calm down… We will… we will search for him again…” Mohan had no option but to just agree with her at that moment to calm her down. He was thinking when would be the right time to tell her that he just spoke to Saaransh three hours ago. How would he tell her that her son is at the border fighting the enemies? Would it make her feel proud? Or maybe she would get all the more anxious now thinking that he is a war-like situation at the border.

Can’t we talk to Palak? Where she can be? Can’t you forgive her and accept her back? Maybe Dhara, our youngest one can find out where her Didi is now…” She said in a pleading tone. 

Mohan’s heart broke looking at her desperation to talk to one of them. To be near them. ‘What sort of a life is this where at this age we have to beg our children to come and see us? How can these kids be so cruel? What Sudha said about us being more responsible towards Prateek – is that true? Could I do something differently to shape Prateek as a better person? I really don’t know. But… Palak…?‘ Mohan came back to his senses and called out her name, Sudha!” as he gently caressed her hairs off her face. He has another mystery hidden in his chest which he thinks to reveal for her happiness.

Sudha shook him with her both hands impatiently, “What? Where did you get lost?”

Dhara called a few minutes ago…” He replied.

What’s the big deal about it? She always calls every week when she gets time from her studies? Is she doing fine? Did you tell her about my heart attack? She had her exams. I had told you not to tell her anything, Mohan!” Sudha looked intently at her husband.

Dhara already knew about it much before I could tell her… She had called in my number which was with Raman… Now, leave that part… She is fine… What I want to tell you is, she told me that she was in constant touch with Palak and Alex for quite some time… And she revealed it to me today… She gave Palak’s number as well… When Dhara went for her higher studies to Pune, she met Palak and Alex there once in a mall… They are settled in Mumbai now… Moreover, Dhara is with them today actually in Mumbai…” Mohan could not hold that piece of information back anymore but spilt it all.

Sudha’s face glowed and she smiled in joy listening to that. “Palak…? Can I talk to my Pallu?” She gripped tightly at Mohan’s hands with excitement.

Mohan nodded and dialled the number with a smile in his face as well and when it started to ring he handed the phone to Sudha.

It was a heart-wrenching moment when Palak decided to marry a boy she loved against their wishes. Alex is from a different country and different culture. She eloped with him and left her parents with just a letter. Palak tried calling later and tried to get back to her parents, but Mohan was so heartbroken by her decision that he decided to never talk to her again.

Mohan was deep in his thoughts as he went back to the hurtful pages of their past but he came back to their present when Sudha’s voice interrupted him.

Hello, hello – Can I talk to Palak?” said Sudha excitedly as some male voice had answered the phone. Must be her husband Alex. 

Palak is busy preparing for the ceremony. May I know who is speaking, Ma’am?” said the male voice again politely.

It is me Sudha – her mother!” said Sudha already thinking over the word “ceremony” Oh ok, let me just pass the word to Palak. Just hold on.” It was Alex but he could not let her know about his identity as he was aware of the whole thing. He left the receiver. There was quite a lot of music and background noise which Sudha could able to hear from this end. What was happening? Was this man the one Palak left them for? Did she just speak to her husband? Sudha kept thinking as she heard someone speaking…

Mom – is that you?” It was Palak.

Yes, it is me.” Sudha choked and heard Palak sobbing bitterly.

There was a pause for some time as both the mother and daughter were weeping vehemently. Mohan was apprehensive about Sudha’s health. He pressed her hands in his and rested her head on his chest to comfort her.

Palak gathered herself thinking about her mother’s health as well and spoke again. “Mom, how are you mom? How I wished to get a call from you all these years? Are you still angry with, mom? I heard you had an attack…” said Palak in a single breath.

No beta. I am not angry anymore. I just want to meet you. I want to hold my Pallu once again tight to my bosom. I want to hear her wise words once more… Can you come back with Alex and see me, please?” said Sudha as she continued to weep bitterly.

Mom, Mom… Please don’t cry… You are not well… Dhara told me everything… And we will be coming soon at once…” Palak tried to calm her mother down.

Yes, I am fine. Please come and meet me. I do not know how long I will be alive. I just want to meet all of you once before that.” Said Sudha.

Mom, stop it… Nothing will happen… I will come straight away. If I take the early morning flight – I will be there by tomorrow early afternoon. Mom, I am coming.” Palak assured her Mom.

In the background, she could hear a baby’s crying voice. “Pallu, who’s crying in the background?” Sudha asked curiously to which Palak revealed that it was her baby. Sudha was ecstatic and looking at Mohan she said, “Mohan, our Pallu got a baby… she is a mother now…” Mohan was joyous too.

Pallu, don’t you want to talk to your Papa…?” Sudha asked her and she agreed but before Sudha could hand over the receiver to Mohan he went away from that room saying he can’t just now…

“Pallu, you can talk to him when you come here… He is on his cell phone…talking to his patient now…” Sudha had to lie to her daughter which Palak could easily make out. But both of them were overjoyed to talk to each other after many years.

Sudha disconnected the call as her face now was so bright with joy. She could not control her smile and her tears at the same time. She felt like dancing. Her Pallu is coming home with her family tomorrow. She now wanted to decorate the whole house, cook all their favourite dishes and do everything possible to make it up for the lost time.

Will this family re-unite again? Thought Sudha. “Oh God, please fulfil my last one request – let this family have at least one dinner together in this house. Then I can die peacefully. There is nothing else that I would ever ask for” said Sudha in her prayers silently.

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SUNBEAMS AT SUNSET – XI

Dr Lal hung up the receiver after making a series of calls. He had finally located his Saransh. He only needed that one clue. All these years he kept wondering, where his son might be, lying to people that he is in the US to avoid pesky questions. If only Palak had shown them the letter, he left. But how could she? He had asked her not to. His family was never the same after Saransh left.

He sighed as he sat in an upholstered chair and thought maybe it was gods plan. Or why would he decide to look for old albums a fortnight ago and hunt for them in Palak’s old room? He had found Saransh’s last letter to his sister in her cupboard, stuffed between the pages of a worn out album. That was the first time he came to know that Saransh had left for NDA. He had Googled NDA’s number and noted it on the last page of a diary but never called it. Why should he call? Why should he call first when the boy wanted nothing to do with them? He left them bereft and in pain. He never once looked back. But today, Sudha’s pining for her children made his resolve crumble, and he called one after another number till he got the number to the base where Saransh was. He was in Kashmir. He looked at the number scribbled on his palm in urgency and with shaking hands, he dialled.

Major Saransh Lal was supposed to lead a battalion of 30 army officers to PoK across the line of control. He was ready and prepped his men. The helicopter that was to fly them was waiting. He was sure this surgical strike would be a success, there was no chance of going wrong. He wore his gear and was heading out when a lieutenant came running to him.

“Major, there’s a call for you.” He said.

“Who is it, lieutenant? Don’t you know this is a matter of covert operation and we can’t be late?” Saransh replied a bit irritated.

The lieutenant looked down shamefully at being rebuffed and said in a loud and clear voice, “Major, the man on the call claims to be your father.” He went quiet.

Saransh could not believe his ears. He gave the lieutenant a sceptical look as if to make sure he wasn’t kidding and sprinted towards the office. He has walked headlong into situations of mortal peril and never did his resolve shake, but today he was hyperventilating as he held the receiver to his ear and whispered a soft “Hello”.

There was a long silence from the other end, he waited with bated breath, and once again he spoke “Hello Dad, is it you?” His voice was much louder.

“Saransh….you sound so different.” Came the reply. He could tell his father was crying; the broken voice was trembling.

He closed his eyes shut to keep himself from crying too; he was a soldier, he wasn’t allowed this luxury. “Dad, it’s you, after so many years, it’s you.” He said with a choked voice.

“Saransh, I need to talk to you, son”, he said with desperation.

Saransh wished he could have spoken for hours on end, but his helicopter was waiting. He looked at the officers inside and whispered, “Dad, I need to talk too, I am so glad you called. There are ten years between us, and they won’t sum up in ten minutes. Right now duty is calling me.” Saransh said, and Dr Lal couldn’t help but smile through tears.

“Son, no calls, come back home after you win your mission.” Saransh couldn’t tell his father on what mission he was going; it was classified information. He took a deep breath, “Dad I promised never to come back alive.”

Dr Lal could no more talk discreetly and poured his heart out. “It’s not for me Saransh, not even for your siblings. It’s for your mother. She suffered a mild heart attack and is missing you badly. She won’t say it openly, but we all know she loved you the best. She needs you. Please come to see her once and give her some happiness to carry on. I agree with you son, first motherland, but then mother.” He said almost pleading.

Saransh felt his heart stop for a minute. His mother, his lovely, beautiful mother. She needs him; he will not let any promise withhold him from seeing her. Overcome with emotions he asked, “What took you so much time? It would have been better if you told me sooner that Ma is unwell!” He paused as he was again summoned to leave by the same lieutenant. He nodded in his direction and covered one ear as the chopper started, deafening him.

He shouted over the top of his voice, “Tell Ma that I am coming. Tell her that I am coming real soon. Bye, Dad. Wish us luck!!!” He bellowed, and without waiting for a reply, he ran towards the waiting chopper and sat in the front, next to the pilot and belted himself in. In no time the helicopter was airborne, and Saransh was lost in memories.

After leaving home, he went to NDA, Khadakwasla and was trained there to be a soldier for three years and then it was IMA, Dehradun for another one year. After that, he became a lieutenant and was commissioned in Kashmir. Three years later he was made a Captain, and just two weeks ago he became a Major. In between were many instances he faced death, saw it up close, gazed into its eyes and every time the only regret with the life he had was never talking to his parents again. He wanted to be a good son, a dutiful son. But the whole time he consoled himself by thinking, that Prateek is there, he must be taking good care of Ma and Dad. He told himself it was better this way.

There were a million letters he wrote and tore away without sending. But when he became a Major, he mustered the courage to call in a favour. He had once saved a man right from under the nose of a ruthless terrorist. He was a Captain that time and was hunting down militants with his men when he came to know about a man who was abducted by the terrorists. Saransh risked his life to get into the bunker and free the man who was held hostage there. The militants opened fire, and he returned it bravely.

In the process, he took a bullet in the arm, a shot that was aimed for the hostage and ended up riddling the militant with his rifle. The man he saved was Raman Murthy, and he worked for Geriatric care. Raman was forever indebted to Saransh for saving his life, and they became thick friends.

When Saransh was promoted to the rank of Major, he came to know that Raman was permanently leaving for Delhi, to start over there anew. Saransh couldn’t help but ask him to meet his parents on some pretext and inform him about their welfare. Raman left for Delhi, kept an eye on the old couple for almost ten days. It was then that Saransh came to know through Raman that his parents were living alone, none of his siblings was with them. He requested Raman Murthy to take up residence near his home in Delhi and be the son for them he could not be. Raman didn’t need much pressing as he already was in some guilt of his own and wanted some vindication.

It was only for last three days that Raman personally met the Lals and was starting to get close to them, and every night he called up Saransh and updated him about his parents. Saransh was jerked to the present from his thoughts as it was time to airdrop in the enemy zone. He wiped his mind clear, looked down, closed his eyes and prayed for success, saw his parents face in his mind’s eye and jumped.

The last words that rang in his ears were TELL MOM I AM COMING!!!

 

(Featured Picture Credit: https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/yes-us-military-loves-shotguns-27897)

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SUNBEAMS AT SUNSET – X

Hey guys, look what I got!” Palak, Prateek and Dhara were strolling in their backyard, and Sudha and Mohan were out of station. Dhara ran towards Saransh in excitement. “Saransh bhaiya what-is it? Show! Show!”, Squealed Dhara encircling Saransh. By that time, Palak had already noticed a big frown on Prateek’s face. Saransh rushed towards Palak. “Pallu Didi sees, I won the Student of the Year Award.” Prateek’s frown widened on hearing this. Palak tried to pacify things and said, “That’s great congratulations bro. Okay now, come-on in and freshen up.” “No! No! Where is Maa?? I want to show-her,” hooted Saransh. “Saransh, Maa and Paa are not at home”, said Palak casually.

Ohh nooo!!! Such a special day for me and Maa and Paa are not there,” Saransh said in a dejected tone.

Idea! Let’s capture this moment and preserve it for Maa and Paa, what say?,” chirped in Dhara. “Ohh that’s a fabulous idea!,” Saransh’s face lit up.

Before Palak could stop him, Saransh rushed towards Prateek. “Hey bro come-on let’s take a pic,” said Saransh in a casual tone. Prateek didn’t Respond. Neither did he turn towards Saransh. “Hey bro,” Saransh patted on Prateek’s shoulder.

How dare you touch me?,” Prateek thundered on top of his voice. His eyes were red in a fury. The other three were left shell-shocked. “Stop your drama and don’t try to come near me,” yelled Prateek. “Prateek stop it!” Palak said with a sense of urgency in her tone. “No, you stop it!! All of you!!” Prateek howled. “Prateek relax, what’s the matter? I just…” “I told you to stay away from me, you don’t understand.” Prateek gave a sudden push to Saransh, and his Trophy fell down. “Prateek! What’s wrong?,” Saransh shrieked.

You are wrong! What do you think of yourself? Who do you think you are?? You fool Maa and get extra love and attention. You are not a genius, you are trained for everything! If I am trained, I can win trophies too. What’s the big deal? What is this show-off for?,” roared Prateek his voice cold and crisp. “Prateek stop it, please. He is elder to you. Don’t create a mess,” Palak was on the verge of crying.  “Really didi, I create a mess? We already have a readymade mess standing before us!”Prateeeeek! Mind your tongue,” Saransh had raised his hand towards Prateek. “Yes beat me, kill me rather! It’s better to die than living this suffocating life,” shrieked Prateek. “Are you out of your mind Prateek? I was jus…” Saransh tried to talk.

Yes yes go runnn, start your Drama of falling sick and all will gather around you,” Prateek mimicked satirically. “Prateek I am warning you, stop it,” said Palak firmly. “No! Why will I keep shut? Why…” Palak slapped Prateek hard. “I said stop it.” She got hold of Dhara who was already crying and signalled Saransh to get inside. Palak gave Prateek a stern look and turned to leave. “Yes! You also, you also go didi.” Prateek wept badly. Saransh stopped and turned. See I got slapped for you, go celebrate”, said Prateek in a choking tone. “You are not my brother. Don’t come near me. I wish I had no brother, I wish you were,… ” Before he could complete, Palak dragged Saransh and Dhara inside. Prateek’s words were ringing in Saransh’s ears. He was not at peace. Except for Dhara, no one ate that night.

Next morning when Palak woke up, she saw Prateek was fast asleep on the old backyard bench. She looked for Saransh, but he was nowhere. Terror gripped Palak. She searched the entire house frantically.  But all in vain. There was no sight of Saransh. Palak was Extremely tensed. As she reached out for a glass of water, she saw a white paper folded and kept underneath. Palak impulsively opened the letter.

Hi Pallu Didi. I know only you will find this letter. I never knew I was the stumbling block. I am extremely sorry. You all are not trash as Prateek said. When he calms down do tell him that I love him. He is the best brother. I love you and Dhara too.

I am going to apply for NDA. I will join the Army. I will never come in any of your ways, rather will fight for your security until my last breath. I won’t come back on my feet. But I will definitely come back wrapped in the tricolour flag.

Bye. Love you all.

PS: Please do not tell Ma and Dad about my whereabouts. I don’t want them to look for me and bring me back.”

Yes, I won’t come back. I will never come back. I will nev,…”  Major saab! Major saab! Wake up! Subedar Manoj frantically Shook up Saransh. Saransh opened his eyes and saw a terrified face. “Major saab are you alright?” Manoj asked Saransh. Saransh gathered himself and nodded. “Major saab, here, have some water. Please don’t say you won’t come back. You are a brave soldier. Victory will be ours. We will definitely succeed in the surgical strike.” Saransh just patted him and nodded. He asked Manoj to leave.

Saransh got up and freshened. The dream was still afresh. Every time-he had to go on a tough mission, he had that same dream.

That incident danced before his eyes. He sat with his face buried in his hands. He got up and reached for the landline. “I don’t know whether I will see them ever again. How much I miss them!! He could feel he was on the verge of breaking down. He held his nerves and picked up the receiver, but he could see his fingers trembling. “I wish you were not my brother!,”  Prateek’s Words rang in his ears. He kept the receiver.

“I shouldn’t disturb them.  Moreover, they must have forgotten me. Or do they remember me? Do they,..

Suddenly the door opened, and Brigadier Varun walked in. “Major, you have to report at 16:00 hrs. Get the troops ready,” there was a sense of urgency in his tone. Without a second thought, Major Saransh marched towards his troops.

Mohan dialled the Number finally. “Hel . . . Hello, can I speak to Saransh Lal?” “There is no one named Saransh here,” said the voice on the other end. “Bu.. but he had joined NDA,” butted in Mohan. “Ohh! Then he must be an ex-cadet. By now he must have been posted in some regiment,” said the person at the other end and hung up. Disappointment loomed over Mohan.

I still wonder why Saransh joined the Army when he had always dreamt of becoming a bureaucrat!,” Mohan murmured to himself.

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SUNBEAMS AT SUNSET – IX

My dear, how are you feeling?” Dr. Lal asked gently as he caressed his wife’s hair off her face.

I am feeling much better but there’s something that making me anxious after we met Raman?” She responded feebly.

“What is it, honey? What makes you anxious about that gentleman, Raman?” Dr. Lal asked.

He must be like one of our children… he has so much care for us being a stranger and our children…” She paused as Dr Lal kept caressing her forehead with his fingers gently. He didn’t stop her to speak but express herself slowly.

Don’t they even remember us?” She asked looking into her husband’s eyes.

My dear Sudha, we have brought them up independent. And even if they remember us if they are busy with their own life how can they come here spending so much money? And about Raman, I understand he is a good man but he is doing all these as part of his profession. Right, my dear?” Dr Lal tried to calm her mind down with such an unsatisfactory response. He shrugged himself yet didn’t let her understand his state of mind at all.

He brought her a cup of steaming ginger tea, she accepted it after some reluctance. Dr Lal smiled to himself and jibed “It seems people are right when they say that in old age we go back to being kids.” but it failed to bring a smile to Sudha’s face, rather she sulked at him. 

While sipping her tea she looked up at her husband, “Mohan, you remember how every Sunday Dhara used to say that she wants to eat breakfast made by daddy?” Sudha said reminiscing. Dr Lal let allowed himself the indulgence of bittersweet remembrance for once and nodded with a woeful smile. “Yeahh, I remember that well, and I was such lousy cook back then” He laughed and added, “all I used to do was toss some eggs on her toast and she would be so impressed.” Sudha grinned along.

“And Prateek wanted to be your compounder, he would tag along with you to the clinic and play Pacman at your PC” She chipped in. “Don’t ask, he would have cost me my medical degree, I almost gave wrong injections because he kept disturbing me.” He said still vexed at the memory. 

“And my Palak. She was an out and out Daddy’s Girl.” He teased his wife and she scornfully added “She was more of Daddy’s Nurse. You literally paid her 100 rs for helping you out for one hour in the clinic” Sudha slapped his shoulder saying it and he roared with laughter. 

“Today no one cares if mother suffered a heart attack.” She said dejectedly. 

“They don’t know Sudha.” Dr Lal reasoned.

They would have known if they cared to call sometime” Sudha added bit annoyed. Dr Lal knew no matter how much he tries to placate her, she was a mother and can never stop expecting from her children. Was it really so wrong to expect a call from your own children he wondered? 

A tear rolled down her left eye, “If my Saransh would have been…..” She hiccuped and choked on tears “He would never have left us like this….he loved us the best. I know the other three thought I loved him more, but the truth was he loved me the best.” Sudha said as the empty cup trembled in her hand. 

Dr Lal saw her and his heart bled. He wished he could have given her what she desired most but he was helpless. “Now Now, get a hold of yourself Sudha, you must not take the stress.” He told taking the cup from her hand and wiping her eyes with his handkerchief. He knew that Saransh was her stolen one. He was an unplanned baby, and doctors had advised Sudha not to continue with the pregnancy as she was just recovering from Jaundice but she wouldn’t let her baby go. She decided to go ahead and she gave birth to him at 7 months of gestation. Once again doctors told he would not make it, he was weak and blue. But against all odds he survived and she nurtured him to health with all her might. 

It had been such long long time ago, but the memory is still so fresh. It was ironical how the parents remember the first 6-7 years of a child’s life forever but the kids can never recollect anything from those years when they were taught the most basic surviving skills by their parents. He grinned, he was being the cynical philosopher. It took him 30 minutes to pacify his wife and put her to much-needed sleep. 

He slowly walked out of her room, closing the door on his back and went to his study table. Opening a drawer he retrieved a diary and opened the last page. A number was scribbled there in the corner. He looked at it for a lifetime before reaching a decision. 

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SUNBEAMS AT SUNSET – VIII

Sudha was struggling to get back to sleep. She glanced at Dr. Lal, he was asleep. There was a kind of nervousness which she had never experienced before. The memories of her kids are coming back again and again. She always wondered if she would ever see them again before leaving this world, at the same time if something happens to her, what about Dr. Lal, who would take care of him?

Two blocks down the lane, Raman was also lost in similar thoughts. Would his parents ever accept him back? He is their only son, there is no one else who could take care of his parents. All his attempts to get back in touch with them have failed. “What if they never allow me to express what I feel? This guilt isn’t letting me live peacefully. What did I do with my life?“, he slowly walked into the garden. It was almost 4’O clock in the morning. 

Suddenly Sudha felt too sick, her body was completely sweating. She shook Dr.Lal to wake him up as she pointed at the water jug on the table. Dr. Lal served her water. Sudha was breathing heavily unable to keep her eyes open. “Sudha, Sudha, please look at me. What happened? Should I call for an ambulance? Please talk to me, please“, Dr.Lal was scared as hell. He grabbed his phone to call Raman. Raman’s phone was ringing but he isn’t answering the calls. After two vain attempts, Dr.Lal gave-up on him and called for an ambulance. 

Raman was shaken out of his thoughts when he heard the siren of the ambulance. The ambulance entered Dr. Lal’s house. Involuntarily Raman ran towards their house. The paramedics have checked Sudha and recommended to shift her to the hospital as her heartbeats were abnormal. Dr.Lal accompanied Sudha in the ambulance holding her hand tight. “Raman, please bring Sudha’s medicines which are kept on the bedside table, also the bag kept in the cupboard to hospital. Please come as fast as you can“.

Raman went inside the house, collected the bag and her medicines, locked their house. He went to his house and started searching for the car keys. He took some money, water, glucose and his wallet. He opened the bag he brought from Dr.Lal’s house to keep the items he thought would be useful. Opening the bag gave him a shocker. The bag contained Sudha’s clothes, money, some papers and glucose too. Dr.Lal was very much prepared for the emergency situation, a doctor he is by profession, no wonder thought Raman. 

He grabbed his phone, rushed out of the door towards his car. He started driving and wanted to make a phone call. That is when he noticed missed calls from Dr.Lal. He cursed himself to have been negligent and not keeping his phone along with him. “God, please forgive me for making another mistake. I could not have been available to Dr. Lal in time of need. Please save Sudha mam.” 

Sudha is admitted to the emergency ward, nurses were running around her arranging the oxygen mask and preparing for IV fluids. The duty doctor came in, checked the vitals and injected a couple of medicines into the saline water. Dr. Lal felt helpless standing outside the emergency ward.

Dr.Lal, is this the first time or has she ever had similar problems ?” asked the doctor.

“No Doctor, this is the first time. She has arthritis and is also suffering from depression. I gave her a double dose of anxiety reliever today. Raman must be coming any time, he has the list of medicines Sudha takes” Dr.Lal responded.

OK. Please don’t worry, she would be fine. I suspect it could be a mild attack or just stress. I would get the tests done so that we know what caused it. Be strong Sir” said the doctor. 

A couple of hours later, the doctor returned to Dr.Lal, “Sir, she is very weak. It was a very mild attack. I will give some medicines for a few days which would help her. Keep her happy and away from stress. You could take her home…”

Raman and Dr.Lal looked at each other feeling relieved. All three of them reached home. Dr. Lal helped Sudha lay comfortably on the bed. He sat beside her caressing her hair till she fell asleep. Once she was asleep, Dr. Lal joined Raman who was waiting in the living room. “Ah, you made tea. Thanks a lot, Raman, you have been a lot of help today. Otherwise, how much can this old man do? I thought I am going to lose her. I know such thoughts are stupid, but I couldn’t help” said Dr. Lal.

Raman could sense the pain in his words, “I am extremely sorry Sir. I could not attend your call when I should have. I would have unknowingly done the same mistake I did with my granny. As they say, life repeats itself until we learn the lesson”, he broke into tears, uncontrollably sobering.

Raman, you should not be guilty about your granny. Even today, it wasn’t your mistake. Things just happen. We should take them as they come. See us, have we ever thought our kids would leave us? Today, they don’t have time for us. When Sudha was in an emergency also, I have not thought about them. I don’t know if they would come if I call them, but I am not too sure if I would reach out to them for help. I have got an insurance done for me and Sudha, that should suffice if need be. The documents are in the bag you brought to the hospital today. Are you wondering why am I telling you that? If I forget some other time, please remember to use them in time of need“, Dr.Lal gave a faint smile. 

Raman came back home, he felt too tired. Was it lack of sleep or the burden of missing Dr. Lal’s calls, he wasn’t really sure. On one side are his parents who refuse to forgive him for the mistake he made as a teenager, on the other side, there are Mr. and Mrs. Lal who love their kids so much. Maybe if their kids take a step forward, that family can reunite together to be a happy family, just like the pictures on the walls. He picked up his phone to make an important call he has been waiting to make. 

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SUNBEAMS AT SUNSET – VII

Raman kept tossing and turning in his bed. He had had a wonderful evening with the Lal couple but there was something that disturbed him. A lot of voices were making the loudest sound in his mind.

RAMAN, HOW IRRESPONSIBLE YOU ARE! YOU LEFT GRANNY ALONE? WHY? SHE WOULD HAVE BEEN ALIVE HAD YOU NOT GONE OUT WITH YOUR FRIENDS. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR HER DEATH IN A WAY RAMAN!!!!

This thought never left Raman’s mind ever since his grandmother passed away untimely. While nobody else blamed him for being irresponsible understanding the fact that he was merely a teenager and granny had not shown any signs of uneasiness when he left, Raman could never forgive himself for being a reason to his granny’s death. Ever since then he had decided that he will do his best to save an elderly person in need. There was no better way than specializing in Geriatric Care and Management. Raman had progressed to be the best Geriatric Care Manager in the country. His job involved planning and coordinating care of the elderly and others with physical and/or mental impairments to meet their long-term care needs, improve their quality of life, and maintain their independence for as long as possible. It entails working with persons of old age and their families in managing, rendering and referring various types of health and social care services.  He had drowned himself in his studies and work so much that he didn’t realise when did he drift apart from his parents.

The last time he spoke with his parents was 5 years ago when his dad had called him home to inform that he is disowning Raman. Raman couldn’t believe what he was told and no amount of apologies and pleading changed his dad’s decision. He knew he couldn’t expect any help from his mother because she was a mere puppet of his dad’s hands.

Raman was alone ever since then. There was no one that he could call a family of his own. He had a big professional circle but he always returned to an empty home, same as he did today. He was amazed at how life takes one for a ride. Here he was missing his family, his parents and two blocks down the lane there was Lal family who was missing their children. Such a cute and happy go, lucky family! Or that is what one may opine by just looking at them. But the dinner tonight had exhibited an array of sorrows this elderly couple was fighting – Four estranged children and old man’s Alzheimer! How could life be so cruel?

The shrill ringtone of his mobile phone zapped him out of his thoughts. Raman rubbed his face with his palms and wondered who could be calling at 3 am!

Hello? Oh, sir you! At this hour? I hope everything is all right at your end. Yes, I met them today. They are safe and doing ok, don’t you worry. They just need a little care, a little love and all four children…” He couldn’t hold himself back but just uttered those words… And continued to respond before hanging up the phone… “Fine sir… I will connect with you next week… Thank you sir!

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SUNBEAMS AT SUNSET – VI

Mom, mom – Saaransh got hurt. Please rush. Mom come quickly” Palak was screaming, she was out of breath. Her clothes had spots of blood and so did her hands.

Oh my goodness, what happened?” asked Sudha

Mom, just don’t ask anything. Come.” As soon as Palak saw her mother she burst into tears.

Sudha ran into the backyard as fast as her legs could carry her. A million different thoughts coming into her mind in those 3 mins she took to reach the backyard. Each thought making her heart race all the more and her anxiety was touching the ceiling now.

She saw Saaransh sitting down and covering his eyes; his face was covered in blood. Sudha couldn’t make out where he had hurt himself. “Oh my goodness, eyes! Has he lost his eyes?” She quickly kneeled down in front of him and tried to take off his hands so that she could see what really happened.

Saaransh was screaming and crying in pain. Tears, blood and mud all mixed up. Sudha’s heart was racing like anything. “Oh gosh, let this be a small injury!” She kept praying in her heart through her brain told her that it wasn’t.

Dr. Lal came rushing to the spot in no time. Saaransh had got a deep cut just above his right eyebrow. He was taken to the hospital where Dr. Lal worked. In no time the ambulance was arranged and little Saaransh was rushed on a stretcher.

After an hour or so, it was declared that there was no harm to his eyes. But the cut was deep and it would need stitches which would leave a scar for a long time. Sudha sighed in relief. There was no permanent damage. Last 2 hours have been excruciatingly painful for Saaransh and for Sudha as well. How can a mother breath comfortably when she knows that her child is in deep pain?

But what really happened? How did he get so hurt?” She had to go back home and talk to Palak to find out. “I hope it was not Prateek.” And she skipped a beat at that thought. Lately, Prateek and Saaransh were getting too violent towards each other. Every time she brought up this concern with her husband, he dismissed her saying that boys are rough and they will be fine, he always said. But it still worried Sudha. Why can’t these two boys get along with each other?

Saaransh got better the next day. His right eye was patched up and his pain was much lesser. He had to stay in the hospital for a day more because he had lost a lot of blood for a 10-year child that he was then.

What happened, Saaransh? Who did this to you?” It was almost 20th time that Sudha was asking him, but she always got the same reply from him that she wasn’t convinced with.

Mom, I told you naa. We were just playing and the ball hit on the head. That’s all. It happens, mom. Take a chill pill.” He said with the same smile.

Sudha had to find out more. She went home while Saaransh was sleeping. Only Palak would tell her, Prateek and Dhara would repeat the same story as Saaransh or some other silly story to hide their mischiefs.

Palak, tell me clearly all that you know about this accident”. Palak was the wisest of all, she was mature than her age of 14 years. She had always been a peacemaker between her brothers.

When confronted with this question, Palak started looking the other way. “Nothing mom, they were just playing. You know these boys played really hard naa.”

“Tell me the truth, Palak!” said Sudha with an assertiveness that shook Palak.

Mom, please promise me that you will not say anything to Prateek. He is already dying of guilt.” Said Palak

So, it was Prateek!” sighed Sudha with a helpless look on her face.

But it wasn’t his fault alone, mom!” shouted Palak as she saw Sudha’s face red in fury. “Mom, Saaransh provoked him!”

Stop it, Palak! Nothing can justify hitting his own brother so badly. What does this idiot think of himself? He is going to have a good one from me now.” Sudha felt her rage in her eyes. She felt like she just had to take out all of it on Prateek.

Stop mom. You always do this. You always favour Saaransh. I know he is better than all of us in studies, sports and everything. But does that mean that rest of us are not good enough to be your children? You never listen to our side of the story. You have to believe that Saaransh is the naïve one. What the hell, mom? You don’t want to know the truth about Saaransh. He is always doing things to make us look bad in front of you.” Palak was crying miserably now. It was the first time she pours her heart out regarding Saaransh.

No Palak, no. What are you saying?” Sudha was totally taken aback by what she heard.

Sudha, Sudha, Sudha… Wake up.. Sudha, Sudha” and Sudha opened her eyes in her bedroom looking at her husband’s face that really looked worried. She realized that she was covered in sweat and probably was muttering something in her sleep.

Was it the same dream again?” asked Dr. Lal handing her a glass of water.

She sipped water that made her heartbeat slow down a bit. “Yes, again the same old dream. A complete recollection of that day when …”  Sudha’s voice faded off.

Relax and try to sleep. You need to take an extra dose of anti-anxiety now. This is not helping.” Said Dr. Lal getting back in bed again after giving a small yellow coloured pill that was supposed to make her less anxious.

But sleep was far away from Sudha. She kept staring at the ceiling whole night wondering why she didn’t realize that there was a growing conflict between her kids. Had she realized it earlier, her family still might have been a family.

Guilt never left her and she closed her eyes thinking about Raman and his guilt about not being there with his Grand-mom. “How does he cope with it?

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SUNBEAMS AT SUNSET – V

Beautiful family pictures Sir” Raman complimented in an attempt to come back to present from his past which never ceases to instil guilt in him.

Pictures indeed, not sure of family though” sighed softly Dr.Lal looking at the walls. And an immediate gaze at his wife’s face interrupted him from ripping his heart and showing his agony. “Well young man something else is waiting for your compliments, let’s go and have dinner,” said Dr.Lal in a humorous tone drawing a beautiful curve on the faces of the hostess and the guest.

At the dinner table, during the dinner amidst rounds of admiration of sumptuous dinner, Raman asked Mrs.Lal about the beautiful family that adorned the walls.  Unlike Mr.Lal, Mrs.Lal showed enthusiasm in divulging the details, for mother she is always happy to talk about her children.  Pointing at one of the photographs she said: “this is Palak, eldest among all; Saransh, my eldest son; Prateek – youngest son and Dhara, youngest of all“.  One could easily see the twinkle in her eye as she was talking about them “all settled in different cities, doing really well in their careers.  You know Saransh used to work with a prestigious company in the U.S, now it’s been 10 years that he left us.  I must tell you that he was the most mischievous one among all and Palak the peacemaker, Prateek and Dhara always had a hand in glove in every mischief and trouble.  You won’t believe Raman that this house never experienced silence when they were here” and out of nowhere, a gloom hovered over her face.

At this point, Raman wanted to know what does she meant by ‘left us’ but at the very moment Mr.Lal chipped in “Sudha! When you start talking you give a tough competition to even an express train. Come on now finish your dinner, its time for your medicines“.  They all got busy with their dinner and then Mr.Lal took Sudha to her room.  As she was leaving she exchanged pleasantries with Raman and expressed her pleasure to have him at their place and also insisted that he should visit this old couple often to which Raman nodded affirmatively with a bright smile.

As Mr.Lal came back from Sudha’s room he asked Raman to wait for a minute and he went to the kitchen and brought with him two bowls of ice-cream, “hope you enjoyed the dinner and no dinner is complete without a dessert, hope you like this flavour too” and he handed over the bowl to Raman.

As they were scooping out bit by bit, Mr.Lal spoke “I tried to explain her innumerable times the Attachment and Detachment concept but she failed to understand that equal number of times.  We cannot keep the wings of birds clipped to the nest when they want to spread their wings and search new abode. But even birds get back to their homes at the end of their migration periods. But……” he suddenly realised that he is letting his emotions flow in front of just an acquaintance.

I am sorry young man, I told you no one stops by this old couple and when someone does they have to bear the torture of listening to our woes” and he burst into an artificial laughter.

Throughout his conversation with this elderly couple, Raman sensed an array of emotions in their words – pain, comfort, grief, pride, hopelessness, in short, he felt their hearts.  For him, it was a reflection of what his grandmother felt years ago.  He was speechless except for answering too obvious and straightforward questions in Yes or No.

It was 10:30PM, Raman took their leave “It was a pleasure meeting you, knowing you and I must say I never had such a delicious fish curry in about ages”  He stretched his hand and touched Mr.Lal’s feet as a token of respect. “Can I  take the liberty of asking you if we can meet this Sunday and treat would be mine Sir” he was more cheerful in his tone this time.

Yes, of course, Raman, we will be looking forward,” said Mr.Lal in an equally excited tone and patted on his shoulder.

Raman left with his head and heart full of his new neighbours…

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SUNBEAMS AT SUNSET – IV

A shadow crossed Raman’s face. Even now remembering the past brought back the now familiar guilt and pain. He looked at the expectant face of Mrs Lal. She was looking forward to a nice chit-chat. This kind of tete-a-tete had become very uncommon in their life as they didn’t have many visitors these days.

Let’s just say “I was not there for my granny when. She needed me the most.” “What happened Raman?” Mrs Lal asked in a concerned voice. Raman went back into his past. “My parents were both successful lawyers. They were a part of a very big law firm. As they were usually busy with their careers. My childhood was spent mostly with my grandma. She was always there with me when I came back from school, when I won my first athletics trophy, when I was studying hard for my exams. I could share almost everything with her. I told her about my first crush in school. She would listen to all my stories and then gently tease me later on. We were actually friends.” Raman kept on talking oblivious to the look of sadness and understanding on the old couple’s face. It was almost as though he was talking to himself. “She was an excellent baker. Whenever I was feeling low she would make my favourite Chocolate Chip Cookies. That was my favourite smell.

Grandma was not feeling too good that day. Ma and Pa had to go out for an urgent meeting. They had specially told me to stay with Grandma as she was not feeling well.  Just as they left, my best friend called me they were giving a send-off party to one of our group mates. He was leaving for the US in a couple of days. They had planned an impromptu party for him. My teenage mind could not resist the temptation. I told granny I would be back in sometime. She too didn’t stop me. How I regret leaving her alone that day.

My parents and I got back at almost the same time. When we opened the door with my mom’s keys. Granny was lying on the floor. The phone just a few steps away from her. She had a massive fatal heart attack. She must have tried to reach the phone to call me. But I was not there with her. I was out there enjoying myself, while she must have suffered alone.” He could not continue. He looked away and wiped a tear.

Raman felt a little self-conscious. He was never comfortable talking about himself. He never spoke so much about himself. There was something very warm about this old couple and their house which made him open up.

Raman looked around, one of the walls in the living room caught his attention. The wall was covered with smiling family photos. He could recognize the younger versions of Dr. Lal and his wife. They made a very handsome couple. There were a lot of pictures of kids in their different stages of growth. He could count four different kids. One look at the wall. And you got an impression of a loving family with lots of fun, laughter and camaraderie around here. But the rest of the room had a different story to tell.

Dr Lal and Sudha Lal followed his gaze and exchanged a glance.

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SUNBEAMS AT SUNSET – III

“I must say, you haven’t forgotten the recipe for the best tea!” Sudha said.

“And I hope I never forget that!” Dr. Lal said with a laugh as he stood up, clearing the dishes.

They both laughed out loud together. The couple has been doing these laughter sessions quite often. Dr. Lal wanted to make sure that Sudha doesn’t get into depression due to her ill-health and thinking about their children. Sudha also wanted to keep her husband happy because he had lost his life savings- their children.

“Don’t stretch yourself to make a scrumptious dinner. Just make curry-rice.” Sudha said.

“I know you are jealous of my culinary skills.” Dr. Lal winked at her and said,” I know dear, just don’t worry.”

He switched on the TV for her favourite show “Taarak Mehta Ka Oolta Chashmah” and went to the kitchen. Sudha loved watching the serial, even the repeat telecast of the old episodes.

Dr. Lal turned on his favourite songs on Carvaan and sang along. He started preparing for the dinner- Fish Curry and Dum Biryani. The smell of pungent spices filled in the house. He glanced at the wall clock. It was about time for Sudha’s medicines. So, he quickly prepared khichdi for lunch and went inside the room.

“And I thought that you forgot about the lunch because of a feisty supper!” Sudha said.

“Here, have this”, Dr. Lal said, handing over the lunch. “I am almost done with the not so feisty supper. Will just have some rest after this.” He joined Sudha in watching the comedy serial.

“What’s the name of the new neighbour?” Sudha asked.

“Raman. Nice young man.” Dr. Lal replied.

“Is he alone here? Is he married?” Sudha was inquisitive.

“No idea. You ask yourself when you meet him in the evening. Now, have these medicines and rest. I will just tidy up the kitchen and come.” Dr. Lal said and went away.

Sudha had dozed off by the time he came back. He went to draw the curtains together and started locating the remote control to switch off the TV. It was on the dressing table, in front of their family picture. Sudha had displayed all the photos of their children across the house. Every now and then, one could have a glimpse of the family, their children.

“It’s all in the photos only.” He said to himself. He didn’t like the idea of exhibiting the pictures of their children, but due to Sudha’s emotional blackmailing, he had to give in.

Later in the evening, Raman arrived with some packets of flowers and vegetable seeds, wrapped beautifully in a golden tissue fabric with a red satin bow.

“I thought it’s better to gift you this, rather than flowers. I am sure your garden will love them.” Raman greeted Dr. Lal.

“That’s a wonderful thought Raman, I am touched. Thanks! Come in.” Dr. Lal went inside to get Sudha on the wheelchair.

“Dr. Saab told me about you and your Geriatric Care research. I am amazed. In the world full of engineers and scientists, where technology is turned and twisted every now and then, you chose Geriatric Care Study. Why?” Sudha asked surprisingly.

Dr. Lal brought a glass of water for Raman. He took a long sip and replied, “Aunty, I chose this because of my grandma. It’s a long story.” Raman hesitated.

“We are in no hurry. Dr. Saab and I will love to hear.” Sudha said.

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SUNBEAMS AT SUNSET – II

Dr Mohan Lal gave Mr Raman Murthy an invitation to come over at 7 in the evening, as they ate early, and saw the visitor to the door after which he swiftly went in to see to his wife.

Were you talking to someone?“, asked Mrs Sudha Lal who sat propped up against her queen-sized bed’s backrest. She had salt and pepper hair that were tied in a bun at the nape of her neck and bright brown eyes. One look at her told she must have been a vista in her youth. She welcomed her husband with a warm smile, and her whole face lit up, the years sat lightly on her, making her look younger than her 70 yrs.

Dr Lal beamed at her and wished her ‘Good Morning‘ as he sat on his side of the bed.

Yes, we had a visitor. A neighbour. I have invited him over for dinner.” He filled her in knowing full well he was in for a scolding.

She grimaced at him and reasoned, “Why do you pile up more work for yourself when you know I can’t help you?” She sighed and went on, “and that too on a day when both Shambhu and Asha won’t come?“, she questioned bit indignantly.

Dr Lal knew she felt guilty for being almost invalid for the last couple of years owing to her Arthritis that had rendered her bed-ridden. She hated to be confined to her chair while he took care of her.

Oh! Please don’t start na Sudha. Besides, you know Shambhu is a lousy cook and Asha can’t beat my Fish Curry.” He told with a twinkle in his eye.

They are the only ones who keep our things in perfect order. One day a week the couple takes leave, and that very same day you get experimental.” She pressed her point.

He knew she wouldn’t give up easily, being cooped up inside had made her restive and short on patience. “Oh come on now Sudha. You very well know both of them are imbeciles who live in their own nincompoops’ corner. Just this Sunday Shambhu broke your glasses and yesterday Asha burned the rice. Even black rice would have looked fairer.” He quipped in to lighten her mood, and sure enough, she chuckled.

She shook her head giving up and extended her hand towards him. He got up and held it in tacit understanding. He helped her stand up by supporting her at the waist and shoulder and walked her to the washroom.

Leaving her to her business, Mohan Lal made his way to the kitchen. Since the domestic help was not available that day, he decided he will make a simple breakfast of toast, easy eggs and tea for his wife.

He whistled an old tune as he nibbled on a biscuit and the sound carried all the way to the bedroom. Sudha called him and just like that he helped her in her power wheelchair and went back to the kitchen. She was combing her hair while looking in the mirror when she stopped and looked at her reflection closely. It was like gazing back in the eyes of a stranger in the mirror. She picked up the family picture from her dressing table and ran a hand over it. There she was, standing by the waterfall with her family as the gem blue water rolled down in cascades behind them, water spraying them all as the air made a rainbow behind them. She remembered the day so well, just like yesterday. It was after the final exams and before the results that the kids insisted on going for a picnic and Mohan had taken them for a three-day weekend trip to Mahabaleshwar.

There to her left, looking straight at the camera and holding a beach ball was her eldest daughter Palak and pulling on her ponytail was her younger son Prateek who wanted to climb up the waterfall. On her right, holding her hand was Saransh sipping on a coke and behind him, making Devil’s Horns with her hands was Dhara, her youngest one. At her back stood Mohan with his arms spread across all his children as he wore a beach hat and dark glasses.

She ran her thumb over Saransh a bit longer as a tear rolled down her cheek and fell on the picture. Her children, her treasure, each one lost to the sands of time. Weren’t they all supposed to be her retirement plan? Where did they go wrong she wondered. She heard her husband’s approaching footsteps and at once wiped her eyes and placed the picture back, combing her hair once again.

He wheeled her out on the porch where Dr Lal had perfectly laid out her breakfast along with another set of the same laid out for him. She smiled to see the plates and gave an appreciative nod. They both ate in companionable silence, taking their own sweet time.

Dr Lal burped loudly and guffawed at himself. “I feel so full.” He announced as he started clearing away the dishes.

Your appetite has gone down considerably“, she said absentmindedly.

He came back from the kitchen and sat down next to her looking bit worried. “Sudha….you know something. I already had breakfast in the morning and forgot about it“, he told her with a bothered tone.

How do you know that?“, she asked.

I saw the dirty dishes from the morning in the kitchen sink“, he replied making her heart sink.

She looked at him anxiously. She knew what this meant. He was showing early signs of Alzheimer’s. She had seen him forgetting things more and more these past few days, and he was failing to solve his daily crossword and sudoku quiz in the newspaper. She swallowed, he might be the doctor, but she had lived with him long enough to study every nuance of his.

It was her turn to sound chirpy, “Nice excuse to give me company while eating; you shrewd old man“, she piped in looking breezy.

He sighed in relief to read the unperturbed look on her face and laughed once again, “No, actually it was an excuse to have a second breakfast.” He retorted, and she joined him in laughter knowing full well that he read his life in her eyes. She must not let worry show in her eyes.

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SUNBEAMS AT SUNSET – I

“Er . . . excuse me, I’m looking for Dr Mohan Lal. Is he in?”

The short fair man in a pair of beige shorts and a bright green T-shirt continued to mow the lawn. Without looking at the visitor, he quipped, “Well, Dr Lal should be back from his clinic any time now. You could wait inside or come back after a while.”

“In that case, I would prefer to wait,” said the tall, bespectacled man with a sun-tanned face. He was casually dressed in a pair of loose black track pants and a white t-shirt. It seemed he had just stopped by en route his morning jog, i.e., if it could still be called morning!! The sun had slowly crept up the horizon and was at its brightest best. The clock was nearing eleven.

He walked in the direction signalled by the man mowing the lawn.

The house was spotlessly clean and tastefully furnished. There was an old grandma’s clock ticking away relentlessly – being the only noise in the silence.

It had just been ten minutes of wait that the man mowing the lawn entered the house.

“I’ll be just back”, he said and went in.

He was back within a few minutes, having washed and changed from shorts to a pair of pale blue trousers. He extended his hand towards his visitor with a warm smile lighting up his face, “I’m Dr Mohan Lal. How may I help you?”

“Oh . . . Er. . . I’m so sorry, sir, I didn’t know . . . But. . . clinic . . .”, the man fumbled getting up from the sofa.

“Ha . . . Ha. . . Ha. . . I was indeed in my clinic. The garden you saw me in, is my clinic and I attend to my plants every morning. Not all of them are sick . . . They still need the caress of this old man’s hands, you see. Besides, its a treating dose for me as well. My muscles and joints need this activity; else they would become stiff like my wife’s. And, how I hate to be confined to a room all day long . . . Be dependent on someone for even a change of clothes . . . Or a wash . . . Or a drink of water! Oh! Oh! My apologies . . . I haven’t known you yet. I can go on and on this way. Rarely does anyone stop by an old man’s house. And when someone does, he becomes the easy target for endless stories. So yes, may I know your name?”, said Dr Lal showing interest in the man.

The visitor sported a faint smile and introduced himself, “I’m Raman. I’ve just moved into the neighbourhood. I’m working on a research paper titled – ‘Geriatric lifestyle and care.’ The paper is done and submitted. So, I’m not here to collect samples for my study. My immediate neighbours told me about you on hearing of the title of my research. And, I just thought to stop by on my way back from my morning jog.”

“Ah! I see we have a researcher here. Good . . . Good. . . Would you like to have a cup of tea, my boy?”, said, Dr Mohan Lal.

“Sure, why not . . . is there somebody who would prepare it for you?”, asked Raman.

“Well, the researcher needs to be a bit smart, I guess, after completing the whole research on oldies like me”, said Dr Lal with mischievous laughter ringing loud through the house.

Just then, a bell from inside the house chimed.

“Seems my old lady is awake, now. How about skipping the tea for an early dinner tonight? I cook really well . . . Won’t make you throw up – I promise. It’s just that I need to attend to my wife now”, said Dr Lal clumsily getting up from the sofa.

Sure . . . Sure. . . Please carry on, Sir. It was a pleasure meeting you”, said Raman hurrying towards the door.

IMPOSED PRESSURE TO STAY STRONG

We are two sisters and I am the elder one at home. Since my sister was not sound with her health, my parents’ attention and time was required more for her. It came to me as a request that I should not expect much from them, it was rather a directive (maybe). For a kid who doesn’t understand the world much, it was something I just had to obey. Fair enough.

I was also the eldest of all my cousins. During holidays, all the family used to get-together to spend quality time together. Imagine this, 8 kids to be managed by my parents and grandfather. They needed someone who can keep an eye on us, naturally their choice was me because apart from being the elder, I was also the most sorted out one. Calm, composed, responsible and for some reason my cousins also were comfortable being managed by me. On a side note, my cousins were very very very naughty.

Eventually this continued for a long time on various situations. I have grown-up with a perception that I always must be strong. I am the problem solver, the rescuer, the trusted ally and one who should take care of others. Together, all of these can be accomplished only if I am strong enough, mentally.

I was strong, or more so I thought. I am not sure about it even today. When life comes up with a challenge I fight against it with all my strength. The recent set of circumstances of my life have broken me down into pieces, as small as possible. In the initial days, it all looked fine, I was brave enough to convince my parents to permit me to live alone. It’s almost 3 years I am living alone, day after day without my knowledge, I have become so weak. Emotionally very weak.

Me and my father met with an accident last month. I was slightly hurt, but my father had an impactful wound on his leg. He refused to see a doctor for 2 days and after a full-on fight, he agreed to see the orthopedic. The wound was so bad that the entire muscle on the inside of the leg had to be removed. When doctor showed me his leg, I was frightened and worried at the same time. There was nothing but bone on the inside for almost a 3/4th feet long. At this age, can his body rebuild the muscle? A couple of days later, my father lost conscious and was admitted to hospital. I flew back to my hometown only to see him amid of medical equipment in an ICU.

The worst was yet to come. I walked up to his bed after he gained conscious and he did not recognize me. He said one word, “who?” and I just could not control myself anymore. My hope was declining though I strongly want him get back to normal. I came out cried a bit, by the time my mom came out, I wiped out my tears and acted normal. After two days he was a little stable, we brought him home. The very next day he lost conscious again. A day more in the hospital with the same fear. The nights I spent at hospital were the worst ones. We brought him home, but I could hardly sleep. Every few minutes I would go and check on him if he was still breathing. He became very weak after the procedure and the medicines.

I felt really stressed, the fear that we may loose him was killing me. I needed to talk to someone so that I can express how I was feeling. Two failed attempts with my friends and I gave up the try. The feeling that no one cares really hit me hard. I came home from the hospital one day and wanted to cry, just cry. I went to my usual spot and broke out into tears before a dog (The poor dog is not mine but became my shoulder to lean on that day). I told her all the stress and my feelings sobbing. 

At my house, I could cry whenever I want to. At my parent’s place, I usually don’t cry. I don’t cry before others as well. Especially those who would get worried about me. “I am ok”, “Doing fine”, “all good” are my statements and by the smile on my face it is hard for anyone to notice what is going on with me. Most of my family and friends would give a reason that I am strong enough and may be think that I do not need any support to cope up with various adversities in life. But, I am the opposite. I need support and someone who can be there for me. Unfortunately, I also know that someone does not exist as of today. 

Sometimes when I am overwhelmed I remember the Japanese quote which translates to: 

A samurai pretends, even when he is starved, by holding a toothpick between his teeth. Meaning, we should not let others see our pain. This is how Samurai’s are trained.

I am not a Samurai. The pressure to stay strong has taken away a lot from me. The basic needs of mine are invisible to others. I am constantly starving to fulfill my emotional needs. I say to myself that it is absolutely okay to break down sometimes and move on. I don’t know why people tend to think that someone who can hold others during tough times can hold themselves too if need be. Every person needs another person, at the least for moral help, many just don’t get it. Some day, may be I would gain enough strength to handle myself by my own. 

I’m trying to stay as calm as possible and focus one day at a time, but when reality sets in, I feel everything: anxiety, excitement, nerves, pressure and joy – Shawn Johnson

THE PRESSURE OF BEING NICE

 

So, this used to be my problem some time back. I was (hopefully) a people pleaser kind of a person who would go to any level of discomfort to make people happy. Who were these people? Family, friends, acquaintances and sometimes even strangers. Why did I do that? Was I seeking some sort of validation about me from these people? Or did doing so make me happy? Not really. I am not sure why this was the case – but the situation turned around for me a few months back. I hit the rock bottom at that time feeling worthless with complete lack of self-respect.

I cried, I threw things in anger, I kicked myself and I did a lot more for being such a jerk. I hated myself for not standing up for my own feelings. And then something happened. Something changed in me. I did something that I never did earlier – I replied back assertively (to my Mother in law). Then came a long period of a cold war which was torturous but I stood my ground. I decided that I will not go back to being who I was – if this relationship is important to her as well, she will have to initiate the talk this time. To my surprise, she did. She did that after a few weeks and things came back to normal. This made me realize that I just had to go through that period without giving in. Sometimes it is important to give an opportunity to others to be nice to you. This has always been difficult for me.

Something similar happened at work. In a meeting I was expected to say a “Yes” like I always do, but I stood my ground and said “No, I do not agree. With all my authority I will stay with my decision.” There was silence in the room for a few minutes and then people just looked at me and said ‘Ok’. And sky did not collapse that day. Work was as usual and this time thankfully nobody had to take a brunt of my decision.

Both these incidents were highly liberating for me. It was like the cap of the pressure cooker was released and my head became lighter and lighter with all steam rushing out of it. I realized that I just had so much time to be creative and think about myself when I do not have the pressure of being nice to all.

Another pressure that disturbs me a lot is the one of looking good. So, you see it is not just important for me to be good to others but also look good to others. Every time somebody would come and tell me that he/she lost a few kgs – the pressure would just double. It would triple itself when FB shows “see your memories” and I get to see the pics of myself from years ago. “Why the hell is it so difficult for me?” After climbing on that weighing machine for almost 5-6 times in a day – I would wonder what I am really doing wrong. And there was no answer ever. After trying out all known diets, workouts, supplements, homeopathy, Ayurveda meds – I was dejected.

Then one day I woke up and asked myself – what would change in my life if I would suddenly weigh about 15 kgs lesser than what I am now? I would be able to wear those jeans and skirts that are hiding inside the bed box. What else? People would come and compliment me. What else? That’s it. Really? That’s it. Just for these minute things I am taking so much pressure.

I am my own enemy when it comes to building pressure. I have done that since my school days. I always took hell lot of pressure of my studies when I could have just taken a chill pill – the world wouldn’t have fallen if I scored a few marks lesser.

Deadlines at work don’t make me feel pressurized. In fact it really excites me. Working without deadlines is rather boring. It is like swimming in an endless ocean of work. I like to swim and swim really fast when that finish line comes closer and closer. Working becomes really exciting when that release is on the horizon. And then the sense of achievement that follows the success. Nothing makes me more motivated at work.

I am learning to be nice to myself and not to take pressure of something that is unnecessary. I am trying not to take pressure and to speak my mind. I have learnt to respect myself before others. It is difficult, really difficult and many times I fall back to my old self.

 

 

 

 

 

 

LET THE LID OFF

 

Long back the Welsh post W.H. Davies opened his famous poem ‘Leisure’ with the lines –

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

These lines stand true even today, in fact, in a more profound way. Technological advancements, considered to be a mark of development were meant to make life easier, simpler and less hectic. But, a peek into our own lives and into the lives of those around us would surely give us a different picture.

Before workplaces were digitized, manual paperwork mounted pressure on both employees and employers, and of course resulted in systemic delays. Today with digitization, we still have overworked employees with employers desperate to continue their visibility in a market of steep competition.

Without home appliances, household work seemed so cumbersome. Now with tools and appliances of all possible types, the pressure still remains.

Pressure is not merely the presence or absence of certain elements (people, situations, conditions) in our lives, but also the perception of it all. Take a school/college examination for example. One student feels pressurized to perform well, whereas another is too cool about it (keeping all other conditions constant). Both write the exam and score approximately the same. What’s the difference? One was too anxious. The other was not.

While many of us are made to feel the pressure and acknowledge the same, some are more prone to picking up the stress from the air just by the sniff of some probable occurrence. While there are no cut-out solutions for all types of pressures, some coping mechanisms that work well in most pressurized circumstances are worth enumerating.

  1. Avoid gossip, suspicion, scandals and rumours of all types in all circumstances. Of the major sources of unwanted tension/ stress/ pressure are these listed above. Do not let these dwell in your heart and mind. Somebody has written the following lines very aptly –

If some bit of gossip come,

File the thing away;

If a scandalous, spicy crumb,

File the thing away;

If suspicion comes to you

That your neighbour is not true,

Let me tell you what to do –

File the thing away.

 

Do this for a little while,

Then go out and burn the file.

                                                                                         – Anonymous

  1. Delegate responsibilities and tasks. You may be the best planner in your house or the most meticulous performer in your team. Still, do not shoulder the tasks of everyone upon yourself. One clever way of people shifting their share of responsibilities on to you is by a word of appreciation. Don’t be deceived. Stick to your work. Of course, you can lend a helping hand to others. But, do not be too naive to fall prey into such tactics.
  2. Do not procrastinate your to-do tasks. Prioritize instead. When there are too many assignments for a given day, we tend to put off certain tasks for another more convenient day. At times when the time constraint is real, such a step is needed. But frequent procrastination when chores can be well done the same day, leads to piling up of tasks and hence, an increase in situation.
  3. Open the lid when required. Imagine a pressure cooker that doesn’t let out the accumulated steam. Such a pressure cooker is a faulty appliance and is a potential threat to one’s safety. In the very same way if you allow too much pressure to pile up within you, you put yourself at risk. So, let the steam out.
  4. Take time off. Take time off from work to be with family. Take time off from family responsibilities once in a while to rejuvenate yourself. Work these out and you’ll be amazed as to how your productivity and efficiency be it at home or work, improves.
  5. Do not keep abuse to yourself. If you are a victim of any form of abuse be at home or work, do not keep the saga to yourself. Don’t endure the pressure by building tall walls around yourself. Share with trusted people and seek help.
  6. Alternate caregiving. If you are taking care of an ailing family member, keep alternate caregivers handy. They may be relatives or friends or hired helps. You need to avoid the burn-out so that you are available during the most crucial times.
  7. Seek suggestions. When in dilemma, especially during phases of decision-making, seek suggestions from experienced people. Don’t lead yourself to splitting headaches thinking about the pros and cons of things you don’t know much about.
  8. Find ways to give vent. Hit the gym. Cry. Sing. Spend time in the lap of nature. Talk with friends. Eat your favourite delicacy. Visit the shopping mall of your choice. 
  9. Share it with God. No matter what be the pressure situation in your life, you can share it with God. Pour out your heart before Him. He may seem to be a silent listener. But, He is a compassionate worker behind the scenes as well.

Apart from these general tips of handling various pressures, situation-specific ways of coping with pressure will be discussed in different articles this week.

Remain stress-free and release the pressure.