2 Lalkaa Paag (ललका पाग): A recreation in English for Software Professional

A Short Story

From where I should start, I don’t know. I am not sure whether I should pen it down. I am also not sure whether I will be able to translate all my internal conflicts into proper words which have been tearing me apart. There is chaos of thoughts in my mind overwhelming me every moment. I am tired, exhausted and completely drained out, now. I know no one would understand me.

This is a story about me and this beautiful lady Ritu. Most of the people of her neighborhood have forgotten that real name of Ritu is actually Rituparna Pandey. It has been three years now but she is still a subject of gossips in the neighborhood. She has been cornered, ignored and isolated.

Yes, it started from our respective childhood. However, I have a very weak memory about Ritu’s childhood. All I know is my father and her father was best friends. They studied together. They were lucky to get government job in Indian Railways in this dusty and crowded city of Gorakhpur where every third person of the town work for India Railways. Unlike their colleagues they bought houses during their early days and decided to settle together in the same neighborhood. They married together and had their children around the same time. Elder brother of Ritu is of my age.

After my schooling I seldom stayed in this city. I have a vague memory of Ritu. When I was in highschool she was in standard six. I remember when we were playing cricket in our street; she used to beg us to allow her to play in one of the team. Her own brother who was my classmate did not want her to join any team. However, many a time I considered her pleading and inducted into my team. I used to put her as a third man. She was happy doing job of third man. She had only two conditions that when ball would go to the dirty water, she would not take it out and people would do a one bounce balling to her, always. Many a time, I could not accommodate her. When she would not get chance to play cricket, she would go to the nearest golgappa shop on her new bicycle and eat six golgappa from the pocket money that she would have accumulated. When in financial crisis, she would manage with just three golgappa. I remember many a time she would get scolding from her mother for playing cricket in her school uniform. My friends including her own brother would always oppose her playing cricket with us. Because when her best friend Neha would come to see her, she would ditch us to go ahead and play Ludo with her in her living room.

I don’t know anything about Ritu beyond this. Immediately after intermediate I was selected in NIT and went on to study Engineering from Thrichy. Ritu’s elder brother also got selected in Engineering and he got admission in Durgapur. Email was not so popular in those days; neither was any social networking prevailing at that time. We were returning home twice a year during semester break and then we were updating about ourselves. Ritu was never a part of our discussion. Yes, when her father expired in an accident, I wrote a consolation letter to her brother. At that time I think she would have been in class ninth.

Barring above mentioned facts Ritu was never part of my life. I finished my engineering and then I went to US for higher studies. Brother of Ritu also followed me. Although we were studying in different universities however we were meeting occasionally. When either of us would come home we would carry gifts of other. Ritu was never part of that also. 

Since my father was the best friend of Ritu’s father, he had additional responsibility of Ritu’s family. Immediately after my higher studies I got a very good job in Bangalore. There were lots of opportunities in India also. Bangalore was flourishing with startups. I decided to settle in Bangalore. However Ritu’s brother did not return to India. He got a very good job in California. He had only one responsibility “Ritu”.

Ritu’s mother had a high opinion about me and she thought she would not get a better groom for her. She told this idea to my father, who readily accepted it. Finally she insisted Ritu’s brother to approach me. During his last visit to India, Ritu’s brother came to Bangalore. He requested me to consider her. In last 7 years, my opinion about Ritu did not change. Whenever I thought about her, a school girl playing gully cricket as a thirdman or going to nearest golgappa shop on her bicycle and ditching all my friends for Ludo was coming into my mind. I did not saw her since long. This marriage proposal was appearing very funny to me. I sent her brother home without giving my verdict. When I came to Gorakhpur in holiday, my parents insisted me to see her. My father was performing duty from both the sides, he was taking responsibility of his deceased friend and of course as my father.

After so much of earnest request from her brother and my parents especially my father, I decided to meet her. I strictly told my father that after seeing her my verdict would be final and I insisted him to also take opinion of Ritu.

When I went, she was well prepared appearing in a peacock green saari. She was appearing stunningly beautiful, meticulously designed dense hair, with her wide forehead and with her big and deep eyes. It was not a zero size, rather she was appearing realization of deity of khajuraho with hints of grace present everywhere. It was a mesmerizing moment for me. I was wondering how a young girl who played thirdman in her school uniform, who was going to golgappa shop on her bicycle and who once preferred Ludo over cricket would turn into such a beautiful maiden. From a lower middleclass I evolved into a highly paid MNCs employees with an degree from top American universities. Professional success of a young man is incomplete without a beautiful wife. Ritu would be most precious feather in my cap. She was appearing to me a trophy to be won and to be displayed to the world.

After two rounds of tea, in the presence of my parents and her mother, I could not stop myself. I said, “If Ritu agrees, I would like to marry her”. In response to my words, I have seen her fleeing to other room. Her mother followed her. I overheard her mother asking, “do you also like him, do you have any problem marrying him”. I further overheard her mother asking Ritu, “why are you crying”. After this Ritu did not return back to the living room. A lower middle class Indian girl of marriageable age, can cry for anything. They can obviously cry when they are sad, but they would also cry when they become very happy, they can cry when they don’t have any answer and they will also cry when they are feeling shy. Her mother returned back with big smile and thanked my father. She was crying because she was happy and shy both at a time. Ritu’s mother requested my father that wedding should happen as early as possible.

Our neighbourhood


3 The Height of a Love...

What could be the height of a love? What could be the extremes of longing, craving and yearning desire? This particular post throw some light. However, I am not sure whether my emotions are getting translated into words.


 It was first Saturday of the month, again. It was a half day, today so a nine years old boy had already returned from his school. Steam engine of the train had blown its whistle to synchronize the mental clock of the boy from a distance of two kilometres. Whistle of the train also triggered a sequence of events. Yes, the steam engine was giving indication that it would reach “Saraigarh” the nearest railway station in another ten minutes. The boy started counting another 90 minutes from his mental clock. (Wall clock was still a luxury before economic liberalization). This much time was required for walking and taking a boat ride for reaching home from this railway station. The boy was actually waiting for someone.

The mental clock of the boy indicated him that it was just half an hour now. The boy positioned a wooden chair at his "dalaan" and started looking endlessly towards pagdandi (a grass laden elevated pathway through middle of the agricultural field, on which only one person can walk at a time). 

While he would be sitting in isolation, many people would enquire with him that why he was sitting alone. The boy would either ignore or would divert the question. With every passing second his restlessness would increase to next level. It would not take more than 90 minutes to pass. There would be two possible outcomes, now:

Firstly, there would be no outcome and his restlessness would not bring any result, not even a disappointment. Rather he would start waiting for next train which would come probably two hours later. While he would be involved in his daily chores, his radar would be meticulously switched on to receive signal from the whistle of steam engine of next train. Again, the same restless waiting for 90 minutes. Probably, it would bring the same results and nothing would happen. 

Or secondly, during the last phase of any of those 90 minutes, the boy would see a man in his mid thirties walking through the "pagdandi" towards his "dalaan" with a suitcase in his one hand and a big duffle in his another hand. 

The boy would be elated and would run towards him at his maximum speed. In a moment the boy would meet this man. The man would also be elated to see him. He would keep his luggage aside and uncounted numbers of hugs and kisses would be exchanged. Both of them would then walk towards the home. The boy would walk fast and then would stop occasionally to sync with the pace of the man. Upon reaching home, the mother of the boy would ask him the same question again, “I know why you have been waiting at "dalaan”. The boy would gracefully lie that he was actually longing for the arrival of his father. He would pose as if it was merely an incidental meet, co-incident indeed

Yes, the man in this story was my father and I was the “the boy”. The first Saturday of the month, whistle of the train, restlessness of the waiting, elation of meeting and finally uncounted numbers of hugs and kisses packaged together were probably the best memory of my father that was happening every month (in late 80's) when he was coming to our native place from Gorakhpur.


1 An Inspirational Story: The story of my father (Part-3, Last and Final)

Dear Reader, This story has been written as a coherent narrative of three episodes. Unless you read first two parts the context would be lost. Therefore please read part-1 and part-2 before reading it.

This is not my story. There is no point of giving my details merely on emotional account. However, there is one incident I would like to mention which is unique. There was a time when my father was disappointed with my academic performance. He was upset that I could not qualify for IIT/engineering. He was even more disappointed for my interest in literature. I am still struggling with my English. At that time, literature means “Hindi” only. Hence, he thought my interest in literature would not be able to give me even a lower middle-class life. I was adamant. Engineering was seemingly appearing not my cup of tea. I was annoyed, how come my father impose his ambition on me. I thought I have a good mathematics I could qualify bank PO job so let me pursue BSc and subsequently I will pursue my interest in literature. My father stopped giving me any further explanation. He was settled his thought with the fact this his hard work of last ten years had gone waste. Initially he stopped talking to me. However, after a while he resumed his talking to me, occasionally. However, I could not see any enthusiasm in him. My brothers were in school. He started devoting more time on them. Everyone in the family accepted my failure, gracefully. His life was back on its course, in its different form and started moving slowly.

Literature and Engineering went hand in hand, finally: In the beginning, the silence of my father was appearing a logical win for me. However, very soon the same silence started bothering me. It was most obvious that I lost a friend in him. Then there came a time, when I started realizing that I did not put my 100%. Failure for once can never be a failure for always. As a son, I committed biggest mistake. I should have live for his dream. I could have pursued my interest separately on different occasion of life. With time, I started justifying my decision wrong. However, I had already completed my first year of BSc, by then. I started going to college regularly. I started feeling that I need emotional support of my father, very badly. His silence became unbearable to me. His silence was making me lonely. Deep inside my mind, I was feeling guilty. I promised to myself that I will try another attempt, honestly. With few months of hard work on chemistry I started having confidence on it. I wrote two types of exams in May 1996. I wrote B.Sc 2nd year and entrance examination of MNREC and IIT. Somehow, I qualified all three exams. My rank in IIT was 3228. They were calling it as an extended merit list. The certificate of extended merit list did not give me any tangible outcome. BSc turned out to be a waste. Finally, I got admission in Engineering. However, the extended merit list certificate which my father got it in person from IIT Kanpur remained his prized possession till end. I discovered it, while I was in Gorakhpur in last month for his funeral. My mother told me he was still displaying it to his relatives, friends and colleagues.

After my admission in Engineering, my father realized that I was doing something which was not of my interest. He realized that I was doing it for him. He wanted to compensate me. After a while I was settled in B.Tech course, and when I came for vacation first time, my father gifted me most precious gift of my life. He gifted me membership of Gorakhpur Central Library (of Railways) that allowed me to borrow four books at a time. This library is very rich in literary books. It has a good collection of Maithili books also. It was the first time when I read Maithili books first. Interestingly I read “Khattar Kaka’k Tarang” there itself. Every time I came on vacation, I used to carry four books with me to my college. I read Premchand, Chatursen, Renu, Yatri, Hajari Prasad Dwedy, translation of Sharat Chandra etc. My room partner was induced with my passion. Initially most often when he was occupied with his mechanical engineering I was occupied with Sharat Chandra. Soon we were sharing the same literary books.

I could not fulfil his wish: This membership of library changed me like anything. My intellectual appetite for literature was fulfilled aptly. Though, I could not fulfill his dream but he ensured my dream is fulfilled. Membership of library is still vouching it loudly. So far, I have published two books (fiction). I am in mid of my third book (novel). I was staying in UP. Had he not given me this membership of library, I would not have come across the world of Maithili literature and my reaction (as my own creation) would not have come this far. A couple of months back during our morning telephonic discussion, I told him that how passionate I am for the book that I am writing currently. He asked me several times about what I was writing on. I kept telling him, “papa you will be the first to review this book”. He was so much curious to know the subject, but except for the fact that I was writing novel, I could not reveal anything else to him. Now I am feeling it was an emotional blunder, the loss that I would never be able to recover.

This blunder was not alone. I have missed so many other opportunities. I had planned so many things for him. They remained unfulfilled. I was never ever able to imagine that he would leave me so early with all my ambition unfulfilled. It was in September 2010, someone hosted me on a cup of coffee in Le Meridian, Delhi where one cup of coffee was Rs 1100/. I always used to share with him most exciting things of my life. I also shared with him the news of coffee amounting to Rs 1100. He was not ready to believe, but then he said, “There must be expensive saffron in coffee. Otherwise why it should be so expensive”.
 I said, “This is how things are in five star.”
He told me, “Once I would like to experience it”.
Today, when I am writing this memoire, I am feeling that I am most unfortunate guy under the sun, because I kept planning that I will sponsor a 5 start vacation for my parents but I could not do it.

There is another incident worth sharing where I failed to fulfill his wish. Since 1982 till 2012 (till his retirement) he kept reading “The Hindu”. He was specially waiting for every Thursday when he would read columns of “Mr. Premshankar Jha” who has been one of the pioneers in his field and widely respected around the globe. My father used to admire him so much that he wanted to meet him in person. During my last visit to Delhi, I expressed his wish to my close friend Mr. Atul who is himself a columnist (use to write for Pioneer, Hindu etc himself). Atul said, “it is not a big deal. It can be arranged easily”. When I returned back, I told the news to my father. He was so much excited that he would meet his role model. Alas, I could not fulfil. I am feeling so helpless, now. God, if at all it exists, had a different plan.

Let me be vocal:  My father had unique attributes. He never beat me in my life even for an example like other parents do to their preteen or teenager child. Though, very rarely I was able to make him happy. His love for books has been unmatchable. I remember, in year 1994 I was with him in Delhi. My mother gave him a considerable amount from her savings for buying something for her. He could not find those things in Delhi, instead of returning that money he bought books, including “A Suitable Boy”. Upon his retirement in 2012, he did two things (1) He started doing kitchen garden in 4000 sqft of his vacant land that he possessed adjacent to the house and he was making sure a part of the kitchen requirements come from it, and (2) purchased around 25 books from Geeta Press, mostly unusual one (like Vishnu Puran, Chhandogyopanishad etc). Now this is my prized possession, inherited naturally. Last week my wife observed that he had already underlined a part of the book. I asked him last year, what you would do with these books. Since all of these books are big in sizes, I was suspecting whether he will be able to actually read all of them. He told me, “You know all of my ancestors were great Sanskrit Scholar. I have broken the tradition. This is a way I could tender my apology to my ancestor. Instead of sitting idle and counting my days, I will read them”. I asked him, “What is your ambition now”.
He said, “Somewhere in my unconscious mind, I have a plan to host a Sanskrit College, again. This is the only way I could reclaim the glory of my ancestor”.
I asked him, “Are you really sure. Do you know how much money you will require?”.

He replied, “If India can dare to reclaim its glory, by becoming a superpower why cannot I dream like this. Who can stop me dreaming something”.
Yes, it was a dream. But size of the dream demonstrates the size of the ambition of the person. Everyone cannot dream. From the affluent family of a baron to the acute poverty, from the potential owner of a cavalry to the point of melancholy of its extreme, from the family who hosted a Sanskrit College to a poor child queuing up to collect food grains in relief camp to a respectable life having double MA, MBA and LLB everything seems to be a fairytale. As my friend (Vishal Verma) rightly said in the comment of the first part, that he was not reading story of my father, rather it was appearing a story of mansarover to him. Yes, everything appears a fairytale the most unrealistic one, rarely found in middle-class family. In the history of civilization 74 years (1940-2014) is a very small time span. However story of my father encompasses everything in it.

He was proud of his ancestor and kept mentioning their deeds. Till date he was remembering the name of district collector of Bhagalpur who was responsible for the fall of landlord-ship. The name of the peon who brought the final legal notice he remembered and mentioned to all of us. He used to tell me about this peon whose name was "Gadla Mandal". He used to tell me that Gadla was a "maghaiya dhanuk" means he was originated from Magadh! (A traditional maithil would consider Magadh, as an inferior place. There is a history attached we would discuss on some other point). I am feeling sorry that I don't remember the name of the English district collector of Bhagalpur.    

Dream and Fairytale: Everything appears like a dream, now. But they are true. While writing this story, even I did not try taking creative freedom of an author. How could I take this freedom? I was able to see his dead body only after 18 hours of his death. When I arrived in Varanasi, my mother still had her last hope with me. She asked me, you take him to good hospital he will wake up. He cannot leave me like this, after living with me for 42 years. My mother was shaking me vigorously. How difficult it was for me convincing her that he will never returned back now. Even today it is very difficult to believe that I was the one who was carrying his body on my shoulder, I was leading his Shav Yatra and I experience his body converting into in ashes at Mankarnika Ghat. Family Pandit has rightly said, “The death is the only truth of life, everything else could be easily managed.” I need to move on. Yet 61 was NOT the right time. Life looks empty and void. I lost an emotional punching bag on which I was always hitting with my weakness, with my doubts, with my fear and with my problems to get in return the strength, the wisdom, the clarity and the solution of life.

Note: My father died peacefully and happily. Never ever in his life he made a demand from anyone. Rather, he kept giving whatever and whenever he could. I remember in year 1998 he took loan from his office to help one of his relative who was in financial crisis. He had seen all ups and downs of life, yet he defeated the trouble, itself. More trouble life had given to him stronger he emerged, always. Against all possible odds, he instilled the wisdom of life in his children to an extent that an admirer of literature is a successful technologist*, a college dropout is a successful entrepreneur** and a technologist is a real technologist***).

(*You know me! **My youngest brother a college dropout is implementing currently largest surveillance system of the town, single-handedly, where thousands of cameras around the nooks and corners of the town are networked together on Ethernet (how many engineer can do it, I know. He is doing it  for the police headquarter and a part of it had already gone live. **My brother younger to me is a senior architect in Siemens Energy System. All of us are enjoying the fruit of his hard work. In one of such examples, my younger brother purchased a house in Bangalore worth more than Rs. 1.2 crore. Is not it vouching the outcome of the honest hard work of my father?).