Monday, December 14, 2009

A Mis(s)fit

In this world, everyone is going through an identity crisis of some kind or the other.In my town the crisis is that one is easily and always identifiable.The likes of CIA and Mossad would blush at their incompetence if they knew that every citizen of this town carries a detailed dossier of everyone else in their head.If you were to have a temporary lapse of memory and dont remember my name or address , just say single and school, you will find yourself at my doorstep!!
When i started my school, i was always questioned about my personal life.I was offended, indignant and would curtly steer the conversation away to the child seeking admission.Soon i realized that these people were not being rude just provincial.I became more tolerant and forthcoming .The first time i defined my marital status the lady blushed a beetroot red, was thoroughly embarrased and uncomfortable.I felt sorry for her.One parent in a similar state of hyperventilation managed a feeble sorry. Told her, she neednt be as i was definately not!!
Soon it was rumoured that i was a NRI.I was working, spoke english, was divorced, even wore western outfits..I could only have been residing in an alien country!In the past few years , no direct personal queries are made,its not that the residents have been given a crash course in social etiquette, but most likely by now all the inhabitants are aware of my marital status and probably many other details which i myself may not be aware of!
Now , that i am a very respectable and accepted member of the society , i am invited for every possible event in this town.From births, weddings, deaths, inaugurations, exhibitions, school sports days, annual day, debates ...the list is endless. Inviting me is inviting confusion for listed below are the ways the invites are addressed to me..
Mrs.Shubhra S
Mrs.Shubhra G
Mrs Shubhra
Mrs.Shubhra S G
Mrs Shubhra G S
Mrs Shubhra ji
Mrs Madam Director (huh!!)
I often wonder when the town is going to accept me as a Miss..Perhaps never,so i guess i will just give it a miss..:-)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My 'Spirited' Co-Passenger

Every year, during the fortnight which is observed as 'Shraadh' by the Hindus, my town is deluged by over a lakh of pilgrims who come to perform 'Pind-Daan'.It is believed that by performing this ritual we set the souls of our ancestors free forever.

The incident i narrate, pertains to a journey i undertook during this time of the year..

I boarded the Rajdhani from Delhi and settled down in the lower berth of a AC2Tier coach.I am a frequent traveller on this route and thus tend to be a little skeptical about my co-passengers.The train left Delhi on time and i was pleasantly surprised to see rest of the three berths unoccupied.During 'Shraadh', this is very unusual as the Gaya quota is full on all the trains.

Anticipating a comfortable journey, i put my feet up on the vacant lower berth and settled down with a book.Ten minutes later, a handsome young man of about 30 came up to me and told me that the lower berth was reserved by him for his father,he and his wife were in another coach and if i would be kind enough to inform the TT.I was informed that he was going to 'Gaya' to perform the'Pind-daan' for his father!!For a few years now i have had this nagging doubt that i have become hard of hearing, so i did not pay much heed to the discrepancy in the statement.

About 15 minutes later this articulate,seemingly well educated and obviously affluent man came up again and proceeded to place a bright yellow silk stole with a green and gold border on one end of the berth in front of me.That was his father whose final rites he was going to perform!

Needless to say, i was completely spooked.First i retrieved my feet back to my own bunk as a mark of respect for my fellow traveller.Next i took the bedding i had dumped and placed it back on my berth.I could not concentrate on my book as inadvertently i found myself gazing at the silk remains of the 'die hard spirit'facing me. After finishing my tea, i decided to give my overactive imagination some rest and dozed off..

When i woke up , i saw that the front seat was now occupied by an attractive, solitaire laden, plump lady.The son and daughter- in law had managed to get their seats changed so they could all travel together as a family ! 'Father',had been unceremoniously moved to the berth above mine.I was relieved, as i was no longer the sole guardian of the father, as he may have got pilfered enroute.

At night ,the son called for the attendant and asked him to get a bedding for the 'father'.The attendant asked where the father was and he was told that he would not be able to see him but he was there.I wish i had recorded the expressions of the attendant ,he was ready to jump off the fast moving train.Wanting to get him out of his misery and dilemma, i told the confused man that these people were going to perform'pind-daan' and this was also a part of the ritual.He was not convinced but did oblige.

All night long i wondered what was it that made even the educated, partake such extreme acts of absurdity.My thoughts and the uncanny presence of a'Spirit' ensured that i had a rather fitful night.

Early morning , before the train reached Gaya, the attendant came to wake us up and collect the bedding.Very reverently he whispered in my ear' Bauji uth gaye kya, bistar le loon'?(has the father woken up, can i collect his bedding).This was the clincher! I sat their and guffawed..