Atishi

History is theirs whose language is the sun!’ said Stephen Spender in his evocative poem about an elementary school classroom in a slum, while urging the teachers and the system to be aware and alter the glaring gaps and marginalization of our societies.

The more I read about Atishi, the more I am convinced that she has embodied the spirit of this poem, which is freeing the lesser fortunate from their catacombs and giving them a level playing field.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, or aren’t a resident of NCT, you would’ve definitely heard of #Atishi, a role model, and been completely bowled over by her conviction and capabilities.

Atishi emphasizes on dignity or self-worth that is the right of every child. The sheer apathy and disdain of the system sit heavily on the backs of progeny of the poorest, who grow up believing that they are children of lesser gods. Their drooping body language reflects their lack of self-belief.

It is tending to this dignity that has led to a systemic change in the way education is curated, assimilated, and imparted in Delhi’s Government schools.

Atishi, often called ‘the architect of educational reforms in Delhi Government Schools’ was born on 8 June 1981, to Vijay Singh and Tripta Wahi, two Delhi University professors. After majoring in history at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi in 2001, Atishi joined Oxford University, completing her master’s degree in History on a Chevening scholarship in 2003. Atishi, a Rhodes scholar, after graduating from Magdalen College, Oxford in 2005, came back to India to share her knowledge with the motherland.

Apart from teaching at Rishi Valley School in Andhra Pradesh, Atishi spent seven years in a village in Madhya Pradesh, in organic farming and formulating progressive educational policies. As she worked with various NGOs, she got involved with the AAP movement. She has been a key member of AAP’s think tank, policy drafting, and as Mr. Manish Sisodia’s advisor, worked on the twin verticals of health and education. She currently represents Kalkaji in the Delhi Assembly.

In schools, what has worked is Atishi’s three pronged approach!

She insisted on cleanliness, inculcating a sense of belonging, and ownership amongst the students. The reimagining and overhauling of curriculum through introduction of ‘happiness hour’, mindfulness, and entrepreneurship has transformed the diffident children into confident and cheerful beings who believe they matter.

Involving parents in decision making via democratically elected School Management Committees has made the indifferent administration more accountable.

In addition to infrastructural reforms, champion and committed teachers are identified, celebrated, awarded yearly and sent for further training across the world.

The amazing numbers speak for themselves. In about 4 years, apart from a holistic re-hauling of the system, 21 new school buildings with modern facilities were constructed and 8,000 equivalent new classrooms were added.

Many children who have benefited from this revamping will grow up to be fruitful citizens and gainful additions to the country. As they say, educating a child is to turn those closing walls into open doors because an empowered child will change the world.

Atishi has worked closely with Mohalla clinics of Delhi, as her second area of focus is health of a girl child.

With her conviction, belief-system and implementation skills, Atishi continues to be a ray of sunshine in Indian politics.

AAP’s official page describes Atishi thus – ‘Her passion for mass politics and expertise in policy makes for a potent combination and a breath of fresh air in Indian politics.’

Politics is the only means to achieve large scale and long term change,” says Atishi. We at Incredible Women of India, couldn’t agree more.

I came on board at IWI in September 2020, since then have worked hard at bringing out stories that mattered, narratives that needed to be heard by you, me and us.
I’ve always wanted to chat with this Incredible Woman of India. I had a sliver of a chance and pursued it eagerly.
Thanks to my lucky stars @AtishiAAP said yes to be our guest of honour on our next IWI Talk.

We at IWI are celebrating ‘Women in Public Service’ the whole of December. It is our proud privilege to host Atishi, an activist, politician, educator, and MLA from Delhi, on our IWI Talk slated for 11th December at 6 pm.

#IWI#incrediblewomenofindia#WomeninPublicService#Atishi#womeninpolitics#womenempoweringotherwomen#womenpower

Do join us to celebrate this incredible woman from India! See You!

Music, my love!

One, two, three…I started counting the seconds as soon as the cries of the newborn baby rent the stuffy oppressive air!

How musical the cries sounded to my parched ears!

The midwife took her own sweet time in coming out to announce the good news that I had been waiting for ages. “It’s a girl!” She announced gravely, stretching her palm for the promised goodies. Instead, I hugged her and danced away.

I named my princess Vagdevi, after Goddess Saraswati. I dreamt day in day out, about the jam-packed concerts where she would enthrall and mesmerize the attendees with her enchanting vocal cords, the sheer range of her notes, while a proud me ran helter-skelter organizing the sold-out event.

My wife Sangeeta – quite a misnomer actually, not one musical note there – thought I was going berserk. Because our baby was merely months old! But I knew I was heading in the right direction. One had to plan in advance and prepare accordingly if greatness was sought.

As Vagdevi grew up, I understood why humans coined the adage, ‘Man proposes and God Disposes!’ How I hated it too! Vagdevi had a deep guttural tone, which made normal polite interactions feel like a full-throated battle afoot.

Even though all my senses suggested to the contrary, I still went ahead and engaged a music tutor, paying him full fee upfront. You should have seen his expression as Vagdevi attempted the seven notes. He not only reimbursed his fee, threw in a few hundred extra but also sent some well-meaning advice my way. “Stones can sing but not your daughter!” If only looks could kill! That fellow would have been blown to smithereens.

I didn’t give up hope. I searched far and wide, promised the teachers exorbitant amounts, and brought them home. Five minutes with Vagdevi, they all were ready to cry blue murder! I cannot fathom what about music that irked her, but so far a sweet docile Vagdevi immediately embraced her inner demons and sang lustily, enough to scare the living daylights off a grown man. I tried hard but Vagdevi was very trying.

Years passed. Vagdevi was now ten years old and I was on my hundredth tutor, when the pandemic hit us. With the lockdown extending, online classes became the new normalcy. I finally realized I had hit the jackpot. All I had to do was engage the services of an online teacher. I soon found a willing, gullible musician.

On an auspicious day, Vagdevi’s musical lessons began. We were staring at a record. The tutor was willing to continue after the first class! I was ecstatic while a very vexed Sangeeta was taking it out on the vessels, house-help, and more.

Soon we were on the 5th class.

It was unbelievable! I had to see the magic with my own eyes. As I tiptoed to Vagdevi’s closed door, I could hear a sonorous rendition of the seven notes. I was in the seventh heaven. I opened the door and peeped in.What I saw was enough to shake the ground beneath me.

Vagdevi was playing her video games, and her tutor was streaming another girl’s session on my computer. Bloody co-conspirators!

As I raved and ranted later, Vagdevi had just one thing to say. ‘If you love music so much, why don’t you learn?’

I don’t know what hurt me the most! Her belligerence or Sangeeta’s tittering. But it did have an iota of truth.Why didn’t I do so for so long? Anyways, why delay further on wasteful deliberations? I quickly became the humble seeker of the magic of music, working day and night on those tough notes, crests, and troughs.

Finally, I was ready with a few stanzas of “Virah!” That song from ‘Bandish Bandits’.

On my wedding anniversary, I serenaded my wife with an elegant rendition of that evocative song. Her relatives fell silent and an utterly offended Sangeeta stared at me teary-eyed. My mother-in-law pungently added, “You could have simply gifted her a gold necklace!

And I?

I’m singing to the cows in my backyard.Understanding they periodically reciprocate with a moo!

Freedom

She watched listlessly the evening sun making morbid patterns on the walls opposite. She also watched her husband’s chest heave up and down, barely though.

It had been a harrowing week for her.

For him too.

His fever wasn’t coming down even after five days, the headaches weren’t going and his breathlessness was getting worse by the hour. A slow panic was setting in both.

The children settled in the US, the attending doctor, all advised testing which took another two days to materialise.  There were just too many waiting for medical help.

The reports had come the previous evening and as feared, he had tested positive. He went to pieces and then clammed up, almost immediately embracing his impending fate without a whimper or putting up even the tiniest of fights.

It was so unlike him to throw in the towel so quickly and look towards her for guidance, having meticulously decided every single minute of her day without her say so and vote, through the thirty-five years of their marriage. She was expected to be the implementor of his diktats. A mere mute follower. Not following his diktats meant days of silent treatment with intermittent verbal outbursts from him. He ruled over her ruthlessly.

 The massive weight of her wedding band sat heavily on her hand because with time, dominance became normalized, in this aged marriage.  

The children, quick to sense the power dynamics of their household, did their best to play the honest referee, but then gave up when they understood what they were up against. Their father was not a very amenable man. He hated being corrected. So they studied hard and flew the nest as fast as they could, mouthing a silent prayer for their frail mother left behind, whenever they could.

Presently, she suggested to him albeit weakly, to follow the doctor’s orders and shift into a hospital to have a fighting chance. He refused point-blank saying a visit to the ICU meant certain death. He would rather spend his last few days in his home, which he had lovingly built with his sweat and blood.

She smiled softly at ‘his’.

She then religiously updated his situation over FaceTime to the children. The children after a virtual huddle left the decision on her. They couldn’t anyways come to help. Plus the intensive care came at a very steep price. They certainly weren’t flush with funds and they had families to take care of. Things were already dirt-messy back home. The parents had to fend for themselves.

She sighed.

The children couldn’t be blamed. They had their share of responsibilities and problems. Money always brought out the unwanted uglier side of one into full glare and also made one coldly practical.

But then her mind began to float unfettered.

Sure, they would save a lot, if home treatment continued, and eventually, when the inevitable happened, she would be left with the house and a tidy sum in the bank.

The children anyway wouldn’t bother about this small change, in their eyes that is. They weren’t coming back also!

She would be free to go wherever she fancied, do whatever she wanted, without any recriminations or the attendant violence, verbal or otherwise. She would be the master of her day, her thoughts, her actions without any fear or recriminations.

The whole wide world waited to be explored.

Oh to be truly free with an added bonus of money to spend! Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

But for that to happen, he had to…

She then crumpled and bawled away uncontrollably, cursing herself!

She the wife! 

Because she took the vow until death did they part.

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A couple weeks later, the vernacular press ran a curious story of an older man getting miraculously cured, entirely by home quarantining, when he was given up for dead.

His hale and hearty wife who had been attending to him developed severe complications, suffered a massive heart attack, and passed away within two days of his recovery.

When Sourabh talks about penning relatable Crime Fiction novels

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Festival 2019, Session 2 with Sourabh Mukherjee, author of The Colours of Passion and In the Shadows of Death.   on ‘There’s a Killer Inside Everyone’

What drives an individual to crime?

Because Murder is the last resort of the weak‘ (From Colours of Passion)

Sourabh Mukherjee who writes stories about human relationships and the way the emotions unfold, says the biggest challenge to a crime fiction writer is to create characters that are relatable because readers of today are extremely evolved, as they are reading content across the world. The readers are also exposed to diverse storytelling platforms.

He further adds, given the shorter attention span of today’s global reader, it has become imperative to craft stories that are relevant and topical.

Sourabh also touches upon the various developments that have taken place in this particular genre.

  1. The Protagonists or the crime-solvers aren’t larger than life characters. They are as human as you and me with inherent weaknesses, battling their own failures and short-comings.
  2. It is perfectly okay to have the reader figure out the ‘whodunnit‘ right in the middle rather than reveal it in the very last para
  3. More than the Who, and How, the Why is more important

Crime fiction in India is very mature and nuanced, unlike the traditional western crime fiction writing which dealt with thefts of valuables and more.

His advice to the budding crime fiction writers –

  • It is important to maintain the taut pace throughout the novel by revisiting the written chapters.
  • Hooks are paramount. So is setting up the atmospherics for an immersive experience for the reader.
  • Short chapters help to keep the readers’ engagement with the novel constant and sustain their interest.
  • Play out the crime. Delve deeper into the psyche of the killer. The moment leading up to the crime is very important. Do relevant research for a solid retrospective crime solving.
  • Relatable and realistic narrative maintaining the flow

To understand more about Crime Fiction Writing, do check the link embedded.

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Amma & Beta

IMG_2050I took the bite. And I took the plunge finally, after dawdling over the decision for months.  Thus I have come to the profound conclusion (of course subject to market risks) that Binge Watching might be good for the brain but is terrible for the body!

Now that we have dispensed with the conclusion at the very beginning, let us proceed further.

Though my son and most have been raving about ‘Sacred Games‘ I was skeptical about taking the plunge. Why you may ask. ‘She is a prude‘, you may conclude. Well, you will understand my predicament better, once you understand my watching patterns.

Once the family has been fed to my satisfaction and Hmm-Husband vacillating between IPL and sleep while Darling-Dotty wonders looking at her mountainous pile of books, ‘what is the aim of all this grind?’, I finally settle with my plate of piping hot food for some serious streaming on my laptop, content with the knowledge that I have seen this day through.

When the very first scene is all blood and gore, naturally you can’t chew on it. Neither food nor the scene. But yesterday was different.  I was in a benevolent mood towards self, as I managed to finish penning a chapter. I was willing to traverse the whole nine yards. ‘Sacred Games‘ was my reward. Like a true blue binge watcher, gave up on beauty sleep and finished the entire series in less than 24 hours. ( Let me gloat Ya, a record for me 😀 )

All through Ashwathama…Sarama…Yayati, I plodded on, pushed myself,  ‘ab aayega twist, ab aageya twist.‘ Only to have the end credits roll. Concerned that I might have missed a vital point somewhere, I called my son to reconfirm the plot. Apart from the marriage of convenience between Bollywood, Mantralaya, Police, and Ganglands, with religious violence thrown as a seasoning, what else was in the offing? ( of course, this is a very simplistic and uni-directional summarisation of the two-threaded plot)

Wasn’t all this already dealt with in Satya or in Black-Friday?

My son answered, ‘Maybe so. I will Google about Satya. Some Manoj had an awesome role na?”

I counted till three and said, ‘Bhiku Mhatre! Manoj Bajpai!’  Sonny said, ‘Mom, my generation has loved the clarity, the sheer honesty with which this ganging up together has been shown in Sacred Games. It is very raw.’

I: ‘You mean this marriage of convenience between powers-to-be and unsavory fringe elements of the society?’

Sonny: ‘ Yup mom. You will take time to get this!’

At that moment it hit me of how paleolithic I was.

But I wasn’t giving it up so easily. ‘At least you wouldn’t categorize me as pusillanimous. Would you? I am open to watching a farrago of content’

I thought I had the last word.

Sonny: ‘Looks like someone is getting ‘Tharoorised

Uff! Me thinks, I won’t go bananas. I gotta ‘scale‘ it down and watch the boy’s head weight.

Who knows what will crash and when?

We are headstrong alright! Mommieee!

Hyderabad Literary Festival 2019

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Time flies so quickly. 

I cannot believe that a week has already passed by. It seems only yesterday I was at Hyderabad. Last Sunday, I was attending the Hyderabad Literary Festival, as a delegate, for the panel discussion about ‘Women on Top’. The feisty Ms. Sudha Menon was my co-panelist with Ms. Kinnera Murthy, Director, HLF, moderating us two.

Now on a cold afternoon, I’m reminiscing fondly about that wondrous day.

It all began somewhere in October 2018, when our nominations got the nod from the HLF’s scrutinizing team comprising of Ms. Kinnera, Dr. T Vijay Kumar, Director, HLF, Professor of English, Osmania University. 

I was going back to the city where I grew up to talk about my book, my work, with my parents in attendance. The stuff dreams are made of! My happiness knew no bounds as I read the confirmation mail.

The festival was to begin on Friday, 25th January 2019 and end on Sunday, 27th January. Once the entire schedule went online, travel arrangements were made, family and friends were forewarned to keep their Sunday free for my event.

The D-Day finally arrived.

On the opening day, I landed at the sprawling Hyderabad Public School, the venue of the festival, with my mother giving me company. We were in for a humungous surprise. Right in the middle of the center court, a huge banner showcasing some of the authors slated to speak at the festival had my mug shot too.

hoarding picIt was a moment for me to cherish forever as my mom sported a 1000 Watt smile. What a colorful spectacle awaited us! The venues for the enthralling sessions in store were meticulously planned and organized. The bookshop was strategically located right in the middle. There was a huge art installation which attracted all the selfie lovers. The traditional Telangana dancers grooving to the foot-tapping music set the tempo. The venue was buzzing with book lovers, artists, artworks while simultaneous activities happened at Karvy Kanopy, Telangana Pavillion, Shaheen Hall, Tree of Life. The attendees had ‘satisfaction’ written all across their faces. The volunteers oozed warmth and energy of the festival was infectious. Big names flitted around.

I was bursting with pride just to belong.

On Saturday night the skies opened and it poured. Yet by Sunday morning on schedule, all the events rolled out. The eager volunteers made sure there were no hiccups, though the looming rain threatened to play spoilsport. Such was the enthusiasm and die-hard spirit of all involved.

Many blogger and facebook friends of mine took time out and came to support me. Their loving presence became the wind beneath my wings. Our session went well. The erudite Kinnera Ma’am asked very pertinent and thought-provoking questions and made sure the interaction was very lively.

IMG_0069The warmth we were showered upon throughout the festival made it very special. All sessions had a lot of takeaways. As the festival ended, we were left with a yearning and a longing for the sands of time that slipped by. 

With renewed energy and a stronger will to pursue our passions, we all came back with truckloads of memories to be revisited on a blue day. 

Hoping, HLF beckons soon

Fingers crossed.

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The Awakening

selective focus of cow photo

I sit next to Gauri, the new calf, half mumbling, as she swats the flies off her back with her tail. “They are marrying me off Gauri! Already!” I whisper. “To a man who is as old as Amma.” Gauri nods. She understands everything I tell her. She also doesn’t think I am stupid like the rest of my family.

Amma says, I should be happy. At least I got an alliance. That too without much dowry. They wanted just a calf, to take me! Will you come with me Gauri?” 

Gauri nods again, this time softly. I think she is searching for her mother worried about the impending separation.

*********************************************************

I and Gauri set foot into an alien home, both alone and scared. We become each other’s confidantes. My new husband, though a man, turns out to be an animal in disguise. While Gauri, an animal by birth, is as humane as possible. As I often sit crying next to her, tending to my sores, I see tears in her eyes too.

Why is he so horrible to me Gauri? Doesn’t he see how young and frail I am? Why did Amma marry me off to this monster without any cross-checking? She used to call me her doll. Was I her burden just to be offloaded on any? He doesn’t even let me talk to Amma. I miss her terribly.

Gauri only moos in solidarity.

**********************************************************

Years crawl by. I’m an Amma now. Though I had to abandon my new-born girls, for that flag-bearer of a son. I was still sedated when the husband took the girls away. I shudder when I wonder what was done to them. I never had the courage to ask the husband. I didn’t want to face the ugly truth. Living in ignorance is safer. In hindsight, maybe they had it easier – rather than living in hell.

My routine is spectacularly simple. Rise in the morning, make food, feed the animals and the husband, send the son Shyam to school, work in the farm, wait for the night to fall, wash, cook, eat, wait for the husband to finish his carnal business and roll off while I grit my teeth and stare at the stars twinkling through the holes in the thatched roof, wash myself and fall off to a dreamless sleep.

This routine is so rammed into my barely registering system, that comforting tears have dried up.

Gauri has also become a mother. But in her case, the female progeny are welcomed with festivities.

I still talk to Gauri and she still moos, occasionally nods. But she has become busier and frailer tending to her growing flock.

Days roll by. Uneventfully. Heavily.

*******************************************************

One evening, the husband comes in agitatedly.

We have to safeguard our cows. Nothing is safe around here. We men, are teaming up and will be doing rounds of the village once the night falls. Give me my roti quickly.

As he takes a morsel, he throws the plate and beats the hell out of me.

Bloody woman, been married for so long, yet cannot rustle up a decent meal. Gauri is the only plus point of marrying you.

Taking his lathi he storms off. He doesn’t see that the lathi is blood tinged and that my forehead is bleeding.

After a while, I get up, wash my wounds, apply some turmeric on them and check on Gauri as instructed.

Gauri licks my hand. She knows. She understands.

Husband comes back after hours with his friends. They are all laughing and talking about teaching some wretched infidel, who was caught carting cattle, a bloody lesson. An example has been set and surely there wouldn’t be a repeat. Even if there is, this time there will be mayhem awaiting the scoundrels.

I shudder involuntarily.

The rowdy gang celebrates with Toddy. The friends leave soon. Husband demands freshly cooked food and sex.

I feed him broth and lie down. He hungrily attacks the food and me. This time I feel utterly violated and debased. I have slept with a murderer. That is a new low, if possible, in my utterly nondescript life.

As he snores, I pick up Shyam, my little satchel and run for my life.

Because the broth had a generous quantity of rat poison.

Before that, I cuddle Gauri saying “I have to leave you Gauri for I am just a wife. He will look after you well because you are the cow. This tyranny has to end now…I have tried to stop this monster from hurting more people. In doing so, if I end up dying, so be it. Just breathing, bearing, living is not enough…I have to do more. If I hope to live for some time I have to make a run for it. Destiny willing, we will surely meet someday.

She doesn’t moo. But she agrees.

What happens tomorrow?

That will depend on my catching the early morning train before anyone spots me.

I am Janki and this is my story…So far!

 

‘House-Wife’ Unplugged

promisesThe humble ‘house-wife’ has to be a pro at so many concepts to make sure her house runs like a well-oiled machine. Don’t believe me?

For example –

Chemistry

She can instinctively rattle off what spices go into which item and unnecessary condiments can ruin a culinary delight.

She easily manages to have a rapport with all the teachers and tutors or with the moms of class WhatsApp group

She can smell the chemistry or the budding romance of her brats.


Physics –

She very adroitly balances so many distinct personalities at home.

See-saws between twenty activities simultaneously.

She is the fulcrum. On the flip side, try applying force on her to get work done! You will just have to accelerate your way out of the tempest that could get unleashed.


Maths –

She knows what sells where at what rate.

Commodities pricing is her playground. Try beating her at this purchasing game.

Just watch her divide the food amongst family. No one remains hungry or unhappy. She also remembers every single mark her brat gets, using it to leverage as and when the situation demands.


Arts (Dramatics/History/Linguistics) –

The stories she can spin at bedtime for the moppets can put a Shakespeare to shame 

Her recounting of all the past misdemeanors to win an argument can put the Gyaani Google, out of business.

Words? Words are all she has, to make the heart melt!


EQ – By god, she knows how to make the maids stick and tick. That itself a herculean task to accomplish.

She knows when to pamper the child and when to bullshit the hell out of her brat. Can see through husband’s tall tales uttered to get out of a sticky situation.

IQ – To manage the above said, her IQ has to be stratospheric ain’t it?

Still any doubts?

So, husbands, you have some very big shoes to fill in.

Time to ramp up your act.

Lady, time to flaunt that killer smile and walk ten feet tall!

/author’s note – it is just a funny write-up, no agenda involved whatsoever – Amen */

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Kahani Ek – Teen Endings

 

Kahani #1

“Neha, I’ve chosen a boy for you”

“But Daddy I love someone deeply”

“Girl, Mine works in a Fortune500 company”

“Daddy, mine says I’m his good fortune, has 500 nice things to say about me”

“Neha, my Raj will take you for a cruise on the Thames, for dinner by the Eiffel Tower”

“Daddy, my Rahul will take me to Tirthan and serenade”

“Neha, think about your FB profile after marriage!”

Neha thought deeply.

After fifteen days NehaRaj updated her FB, Instagram with pictures of her honeymoon in Europe with hashtags like #soulmate #truelove

Love is also being practical!

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Kahani #2

“Neha, I have chosen a boy for you”

“But Daddy I love someone else deeply”

“Neha, My choice works in a Fortune 500 company”

“Daddy, my choice says I’m his good fortune and has 500 nice things to say about me”

“Neha, my choice, Raj, will take you for a cruise on the Thames and for dinner by the Eiffel Tower”

“Daddy, my choice Rahul will take me to Nainital and serenade”

“Okay Neha, how do you like your FB profile to look?”

Neha thought deeply.

After a few days, Neha updated her FB profile, Instagram with pictures of her checking into a Grad-School with hashtags like #LoveCanWaitStudiesCan’t  #LifeGoals

Love is also about loving self! Deeply!!

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Kahani #3

“Neha, I have chosen a boy for you”

“But Daddy I love someone else deeply”

“Neha, My choice works in a Fortune 500 company”

“Daddy, my choice says I’m his good fortune and has 500 nice things to say about me”

“Neha, my choice, Raj, will take you for a cruise on the Thames and for dinner by the Eiffel Tower”

“Daddy, my choice Rahul will take me to Shimla and serenade”

“Okay Neha, how do you like your FB profile to look?”

Neha thought deeply.

After a few days, Neha Rahul updated her FB profile, Instagram with pictures of her checking into an Airbnb with hashtags like #LoveMakesTheWorldBetter #LifeGoals

Because Rahul completes Neha! Neha treasures Rahul

Because True Love is a difficult treasure to find and hold onto!

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Dilemma

On a stuffy day, the husband went off on his weekly trip to the districts to oversee and number crunch for his happening business.
The wifey was bored to death because the house was running like a well-oiled machine, thanks to the lovely Bangla machinery who had their own separate entrance to the pristine premises ( by the euphemistically worded ‘service entrance’ )
The bacchus had their day-long school and then in the evening the driver would cart the brats to their various classes (football/swimming/dancing etc)
So the wifey decided a day with her intimate girl-gang was her savior from boredom.
The snazzily named WhatsApp group buzzed like mad and the girls set up a date for the afternoon.
The wifey pitched for the talk of the Gaon, the newly opened coffee shop which served ridiculously priced, fancily named potions which were akin to dishwater. This coffee shop was tucked in a happening book-store. Maybe some titles which promised much gravitas could be procured too. These pathos pages looked good on the coffee table next to the leather sofa. Plus these titles were sure-shot conversation starters where the assembled guests tched-tched in empathy and then moved onto discussing their latest holiday in Tuscany.
The wifey fired up her laptop and Googled ( Funny how a proper noun has become a properly acceptable verb) about the said coffee-shop, clicked on images to check out the interiors. The girls would be Instagramming later about the date. The pics had to be ‘Ohh-La-La’.
And the wifey sat stunned. ‘She was shocked’ would be an understatement. Someone had hit her in the solar-plexus and continue to pummel her in the gut.
The wifey enlarged the image for greater clarity. It was unmistakable. The man in the picture with his hands cupping his cheeks, and a salivating puppy dog expression was her husband alright, listening with rapt attention to a woman in black. She had her back to the camera, so only her long shiny tresses were visible.
More than the woman in the picture, the glint and the looney smile on her husband’s face, burnt the core of the wifey.
When was the last time he had listened to her thus, putting all his paraphernalia down and gazing into her black orbs?
Uff? This was unbearable. True, it was an innocuous snap. God knows who all had seen this and laughed behind her back. What gory stories did this picture hide?
But did she not go out with her male friends? Of course, the husband knew all about it! Did that settle the issue then?
The Whatsapp group buzzed questioningly. She ignored her phone as she tried to make sense of her predicament.
Should she question the husband or not?
And the husband’s call was coming in to announce that he had landed safely.

Should she pick the phone and lash out straight away or wait for him to come back to his lair? The phone went quiet but a loving ping with red hearts arrived. It was the husband confirming that he had landed and was hoping to wind up the work soon as he was missing her already. This was definitely new. Missing her and sending red hearts – What was happening. What obvious signs had she missed?

The wifey then canceled the date using the ‘That time of the month‘ clause, got ready quickly taking care to dress conservatively. She didn’t want any undue attention on her you see. She then set out to the coffee shop in question.

The coffee shop at that hour was barely occupied. Suited her just fine. She disappeared into a wing selling Non-fiction, which gave her a 180-degree view of the coffee shop. The morning shift was changing and the new cashier was taking over.

Wait, there was something vaguely familiar about him. Trim, dressed in black and long tresses with a hint of golden highlights. As he turned back to adjust his counter, the wifey stared at the stark motif on his T-shirt. It was a giant slash across 377 written in bold golden letters on a  rainbow flag. The very same motif that was on the black shirt of the lady whom the husband had been listening to.

The wifey froze.

She couldn’t do this guessing game anymore. She marched straight to the counter and cooed softly, “Hi there, I was going through the images of your coffee shop and couldn’t help noticing your T-shirt. You see this picture on my mobile? This too has the same design. What does this mean?”

The man at the counter stared at her and gravely asked, “Are you from the press?”

“No”

“That sign means down with Article 377! LGBTQ lives matter!”

The wifey didn’t quite know how to proceed now. She decided to take the harakiri plunge anyways. “Oh, I didn’t know that. So you must have many supporters then. Like this one” She said tapping at the picture on her mobile.

“Why that’s me in that pic.” Nodded the man happily. The wifey now gulped.

“And this one?” She was barely audible when she pointed to her husband’s face.

“Ahh! The Man! He is an ardent supporter of our gay cause. He is a dear friend of mine. He often comes here to prep us up.” said the man with a flourish.

“Dear friend huh? Prepping up huh? Really?” A girl who was whipping a cup of cappuccino guffawed loudly, winked at the man and backslapped him while the man blushed to a deep red.

The wifey stared at them blankly. She couldn’t move. She couldn’t sit. She couldn’t comprehend.

So her husband had colorful secrets and she was the perfect dour cover. And now what?

The wifey came home eventually and waited for the husband’s version of the naked truth while she went through their joint accounts, immovable and movable assets.

Both had some cleaning up to do. One had to come clean. The second had to clear.

Because marriage is also about being practical!

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