Archive for July, 2012

It was the commotion made by a few women talking agitatedly among themselves near our house that first attracted my attention to the event. Otherwise in the placid morning atmosphere of an Indian village it would have gone easily unnoticed. Television was then unheard of and the whole village consisting of nearly two hundred people had just one or two radio sets and just one copy of a vernacular newspaper. So effectually, people had just one source of entertainment or information, namely talking among themselves. It didn’t matter how insignificant or useless that information was that got passed on or one learnt from one’s conversations. What mattered was that each shared with the other whatever one knew at the moment. I think man’s nature hasn’t changed much even now. Whatelse we are doing now even though surrounded by all kinds of gadgets like TVs, mobile phones, computers and internet except sharing things with others?

So in that morning stirred by the commotion among some women I asked the one who seemed the most agited,”What was the matter, auntie?”
In the village none called his senior in age by name. If it was a man, he was to be called an uncle, if woman an auntie.
I was twenty three then, recently appointed as a lecturer in a newly established nearby college and the auntie I asked to had a son who was of my age and had read with me upto high school when he quit study for doing a job.

Auntie said,”A goat of mine has been going through labour pain for the last two days and we feel concerned. This is her first pregnancy.”

It was about nine in the morning. I was preparing myself for the college. I had to take my bath and my lunch too. I had to ride the distance of about 5 kilometers by my bicycle. So I excused my self and after me the assemblage also dispersed.

Half an hour later as I was ready to set out for the college I rode on the bicycle. But as soon as I reached that auntie’s house on the way I thought to quickly pay her a visit and inspect the goat. So I got down at her house and walked up to the place where the goat stood tied to a post and auntie was standing beside her with some other men and women. Auntie smiled at me and showed me the goat. She said the goat had been taking nothing since the last two days. I saw that once in a while the goat was holding up one or the other of her front legs against her chest, obviously in pain. Strangely unlike us, the human beings, she was making no noises of crying or bleating. I felt sad for such a dumb creature and suggested Auntie to call for Ananta, the old man of a nearby village who had the reputation of having to his credit successful deliveries of hundres of goats, ewes, cows etc. who for some reasons had difficulty in labor. Auntie replied that the old man was greedy and would demand a hefty fee for his service.

I told her to think it over again and left for the college.

When I returned home slightly before the sunset the first thing that I did after taking a few bites of parched rice, an Indian food, was to go straight to the auntie’s house to see the goat. This time the goat was tethered to a post inside the house as the night was approaching. I saw again the assemblage of human beings around the goat and obviously the goat hadn’t delivered. I asked auntie whether she had called for Ananta, the countryside delivery specialist, and she denied by just shaking her head. I thought it strange! So many people incessantly talking and chatting around the goat and there was none to do the thing that could really save the goat and her kid ! I told auntie,” I am going to the nearby village to call for Ananta.”
The whole assemblage looked at me but I continued my focus of attention on the auntie herself who seemed as if she had lost some blood at my announcement. I knew the hefty fee of Ananta to be levied on her was a real cause of concern and it was weighing on her mind. But I became determined to stop this farce of showing one’s sympathy and solidarity by just incessantly talking and chatting around someone. Above all I sincerely wanted to end the suffering of a dumb animal and if possible give a happy ending to the whole episode. So I was preparing myself to foot the bill if she really became unable to pay. I knew whatever fees the old man charged for his service would be at least one third of the fees a govt veterinary doctor charged only for his visit. The cost for delivering was extra.

So I set out for the old man’s house in a nearby village. It had already become night and I had to cross a river in between which, at that time of the year, was fortunately carrying a stream of water which was only knee deep. This was the very river, the very place and the very time of the night where and when once a decade or so before I had met a holyman, almost like the Buddha himself who had a deep impact on my life. As I have already written about that beautiful experience in my story ” An unforgettable, holy encounter,” suffice it to say here that whenever I reached or crossed that spot I was instantly reminded of that incidence, that regal personage. But that was a full moon night and this time on my mission to the old man’s house it was early part of a dark night.

I reached the old man’s house. His wife was at the door. I asked for him. The old woman went in and a little later the old man, Ananta, came out. I introduced myself and told him the whole story and requested him to accompany me for helping the animal to deliver. Surprisingly he turned me down and became adamant that he would never do anything for that family to which the goat belonged. When I pressed him to know the reason of his refusal he alleged that he had been cheated time and again by the members of that family. They had availed of his services and never paid his fees in full. I promised him that this time I stood guarantee. He needn’t even ask them for his fees, he would get them from me. Then he relented. I asked what was his fees. He said fifteen rupees. That was exactly equivalent to three days pay that I got from the newly established college. But I agreed. The deal was struck. He went into his house, I thought, to bring his box of instruments with him to help him at the delivery and possibly to change his loin cloth and to drape something over his torso which was bare at the time. But when he returned a minute later he had changed nothing, added nothing. He was only holding a meter length of a thin rope of dried sawai grass. I was barely able to control myself from bursting out in a loud laughter at the contrast of what I had imagined a country doctor to look like and what I really found before me. I could also not connect the metre- length rope with the process of delivery at any stage.

However I liked the man though I met him for the first time. On the way to my village while talking with the old man I found he had many fond memories of both my paternal grandfather and maternal grand father. That explained why he trusted me. Even though scantlly clad and ill-equipped and not upto the mark in my imagination of what a man in his profession should look like, yet I trusted him because he was a legend in the area he lived. So he couldn’t fail this time.

When we reached the auntie’s house the place had become even more crowded. Every one that had heard my announcement had spread the word throughout the village. All were waiting for us. Ananta saw the goat and immediately put himself to work. Then I saw the uses of the thin rope. He put one end of the rope in between his right hand index and middle finger and inserted the fingers slowly through the vulva into the vagina of the goat. I imagined through that path he went into the mouth of the uterus and searched for the neck of the kid. After ten minutes or so he slowly pulled out his hand. But the rope had been fixed around the neck of the kid.How he pulled off that feat by just inserting two fingers with a thin rope in between was a mystery to me. Then he began to pull the rope hard outward without any jerk with both of his hands. He never asked for any assistance. It was a one man show all through. With that forceful pull of the tight rope one end of which was around the neck of the kid I thought we were going to see the emergence of a severed head. But surprising me and all the sixty odd spectators around, a perfectly unharmed,living black kid emerged and took his breaths for the first time. Then I knew Ananta hadn’t been ill-equipped; he was exactly equipped for the occasion. Throughout the painful process the mother goat never bleated once nor she was made to lie down. She gave birth while standing. Now as the kid began to bleat with his first breath I heard the mothergoat’s bleats for the first time.She became lively and was all concern for her kid. She began to lick the kid and a few moments later the kid unerringly reached for her tits at the rear end. It was a joy to watch the mother out of his pains and with her new bundle of joy.

In the meanwhile Ananta, my hero of the hour, had washed his hands and was asking me for his fees. I went to the auntie and took her aside and asked for fifteen rupees towards Ananta’s fees. she said she hadn’t any. I told her to forget it and never to worry about it at all. I went to my home, brought fifteen rupees and paid Ananta. I profusely thanked Ananta for having obliged me and pulling a dumb creature out of her pain.

As night had much advanced by then I volunteered to walk with Ananta till he safely reached his home. I hadn’t forgotten that I had almost forcibly taken out an old man in the night from an old woman with inducement of money and I thought it was my duty to hand over her husband safely back to her. But Ananta would listen none of that. He said he knew the area as well as he knew the palms of his hands. After we both crossed the river at the outskirt of the village he sent me back home.

While I was returning home I thought I had met a most remarkable man in Ananta who helped me doing something I would most likely remember to the last.

To surprise me, one day a week later, the auntie came to me and handed me the fifteen Rupees I had told her to forget about. I wondered was it the same woman whose family members had cheated Ananta and bothered him so much? What made her change?

Suppressing my surprise I asked her,” Auntie, how is the kid?”

As she replied I found that I had never seen her so happy before. She said,” Paresh, you should see how the kid is running around? How beautiful he is? What a joy it is to watch him play?”

Then I knew. That was not just the birth of a kid. It was the birth of a mother too, a human mother that too.


Once in my childhood when I was reading in class 6 I had been so infatuated with a male singer and dancer who was reading four classes higher in the high school in that same compound that for days I wandered dazed by his performances on the stage during a school annual function. During those  heady days Gandhiji and Buddha, my permanent evergreen heroes, too seemed to lose their high pedestal. That boy occupied the centre stage of my admiration and hero-worship for a full month. I incessantly talked about him and his performances only to one and all around me.

One day at about noon when I was all alone in the hostel kitchen to guard over the cooked food from the depredation of stray dogs and cats for a while in keeping with the request of the cook who had gone to fetch two bucketful of water from a tube well inside the nearby village, to my surprised and disbelieving eyes the very boy, my hero, came to the kitchen and finding none else asked me for a glass of water. I can’t express with what happiness, pride and joy I fetched him that glass of water. I was simultaneously mentally taking notes of his slightest actions, movements, expressions and articulations to spread them to one and all in the school the next day with a view to earn their appreciation and encomium, to see their raised unbelieving eyes and to confirm my claim that I had not only actually met my hero but also fetched him a glass of water with my own hands. I saw that he was wearing dark goggles and from such close range for the first time I discovered that he had puckered cheeks. As he was drinking the glass of water just a foot away from my disbelieving, praising eyes I was overwhelmed with so much love and admiration for him that I felt it was impossible to hold so much feeling without expressing any of that in any manner to him. On an impulse I gave him the gentlest slap on one of his cheeks as I had seen my elders and friends did out of affection and admiration for someone and said, “How superbly you danced and sang that duet that night!” Actually I had wanted to say so many words of praises to him but words failed to come. With others praising him was so natural and effortless. But surprisingly face to face I could manage only these words.  So few and meager and yet I wished those to carry the mountainous praise, appreciation and love in my heart from me to him. He said nothing, finished the glass of water he held with his left hand and with the right hand gave me such a resounding slap on my left cheek with all his might that I recoiled a few feet at its impact till I steadied myself by a wall behind me. Then he glared and grimaced at me and thumped the glass down on my dazed, lifeless hands and left on a huff.

The impact of that slap was very hard on my face and I saw instantly many glowworms flying around my eyes. Yet compared to the impact on my feelings and emotions even that pain was nothing. The sorrow was too deep for tears. For the first time in my life I realized in vivid detail and in such an unforgettable manner that a good singer or a dancer or a writer with the gift of words or an actor or speaker with the gift of the gab may not be a good man also. Ultimately, it became clear to me, that being a good man was the greatest art of all. And also it needed a good man to understand another good man because even good men also sometimes committed mistakes. Forgiving the mistake of the other was also an essential nature of good man. So while steering oneself through the right path, doing no harm to anyone, yet always prepared to make allowance for the other’s mistakes and poor judgments and forgiving him that harmed him; such is the lot of a good man. Therefore, a good man is hard to find in all societies. Therefore instantly Buddha regained his place in my heart which was so recently usurped by just an ordinary man.

Well, anyone of you my readers who has gone through a similar disillusionment he/ she is most welcome to share that experience here. I would love to read it.

It was only a few days after I opened an account in Facebook that I found Saritha right in its very pages. Though it is now a little over three years since I found her, I can clearly recollect that I invited her friendship. She readily accepted without asking any questions. But our friendship seemed to be permanently grounded. It showed no signs of take- off except that I had not taken into account the mysterious ways of nature that consisted sometimes of having to pass through miles of rocky, sandy and barren lands before one came across surprisingly lavish patches of unexpected verdant pastures, gardens of beautiful flowers and mellow fruit orchards. Life sometimes included an overdose of surprises and twists in the tails after too many and too long boring and dry spells.

One of the most important lessons I have learnt from life is that one has only to endure those barren, boring, sometimes seemingly endless periods of desolations and despairs, those dry, uncreative and merely repetitive spells to be blessed with that light at the end of the tunnel, which invariably comes only if you have the patience to wait. When the blessing at the end comes to you, you should be at your place, ready for it. I don’t know If it was because by then my “dry, barren and bad spell” had continued for enough time to have run its full course or because I was ready for the miracle, the light at the end of “the dark night of the soul”, because one is never able to know when that state is reached, but with the very first conversation with Saritha I felt that unknowingly I had come in contact with a live wire that instantly made all my motors running and compelled me to shake all my lethargy, my moribund creativity, my dullness and despair at life. I am going to share here, in the following lines, my experiences with Saritha, one of the three great women of India who have exerted tremendous influences over me. The other two being Nisha, the only woman with whom I had enjoyed some sexual escapades too before I got finally married to someone else and about whom I have already devoted three articles in this blog, and the other is Jewel, one of my office colleagues about whom I have a wish to write an article some day.

One of the aspects of creative writing, like writing a novel or a short story, is to illustrate your point by enough details, by creating situations and individuals who are to bear the burden of the story, by giving them names and places, in other words putting everything and everybody in contexts so that the reader is given “a slice of life itself” as it were to make his understanding easy and complete. If the story teller’s idea and its execution are good enough then the reader may exclaim, “Yes, life is like this not otherwise”. That becomes the writer’s reward. A writer enriches his otherwise outwardly deficient and unglamorous social life by giving some happy, joyful moments to his readers by his creativity. Otherwise most writers of the world were of poor origin and thus automatically were deprived of many things that money could buy. As great a man as Dr. Samuel Johnson once said, “Nobody but a blockhead ever wrote anything not for money.” To this immortal statement and its immortal writer I may humbly make a rejoinder that yes, though everyone writes with some monetary considerations in his mind but money is not the sole consideration. Writing also is an exercise of one’s creativity and any act of creativity is a joy in itself. Otherwise I would have ceased to write long before as I have not earned even a shilling so far out my writing.

The world is not what it seems to be. Seemingly I should not be getting any joy out of writing as it doesn’t fetch me any money but it really gives me lot of joy. Similarly my small Job in a Govt. office should give me all the joys because my livelihood and the wellbeing of my family depend solely on the earning, however meager, from it, but it doesn’t. My job helps me to make a living but sadly I have not been able to make a life out it. I say ‘sadly’ because ten hours of my life daily for the last thirty three years have been largely wastage because the nature of the work was so ordinary that any other man with an average education and ability could have also done it. But the stories I write here could not have been written by just anyone. I consider it as a quirk of nature or as in illness of the society at large that a person who should be encouraged and paid for his creativity is actually wasted in book keeping or accountancy in the process of earning his livelihood. Osho once very correctly had observed that no one was happy in the society because no one was doing what he was created for, what he enjoyed. The one who should have been a dancer was keeping account of a rich man or corporation. So when life came knocking at his door, he was not there. He was at somewhere else, behind some other door waiting for life to knock there for his joy, for his salvation which would never be. Anyway, one can’t change the go of the world; one can’t change the social system even though it is littered with numerous victims of its own people. One can only endeavor to remain creative in spite of it and in the midst of all these. I consider it as a great act of creativity in itself wherever and whomever I have seen it with. The only other equally great act of human creativity is to think of oneself as a spiritual being despite so many evidences, like murders, crimes and corruptions in public life etc., to the contrary.

One early morning as I was engrossed in reading some posts in Facebook, reading all kinds of posts in Facebook was one of my passions those days because I had not been seriously into creative writing by then, all of a sudden my chat window popped open and I was abruptly sucked into the eye of this tornado named Saritha. I cannot call her by any other name because that won’t fit. Her arrival in my life and departure from it was as tumultuous, unexpected and upsetting as a tornado. Well, it happened like this. Her ‘Hi, old man’ was flashing in the chat box window waiting for my reply. As I wrote ‘Hi’ I was wondering who this woman really was and why was she offering me this privilege of holding a person to person private chat which up to that time no woman had given me in Facebook from her side unasked. It was difficult to correctly identify or place her as I was inviting friendship from at least ten men and women each day. However, a few lines later she would clarify that too.
At the outset I asked her to tell me something about herself; especially why she thought of chatting with me.
She replied, “Aren’t you from Bhubaneswar?’’
I said, “Yes, I am. But what has this place got to do with you?”
Completely surprising me by her informal, easy and intimate manner she said, “Once I was almost engaged to a man from your city.”
I asked, “Who is he? Let me see if I know him.”
She replied, “No, that was a long time ago and marriage with that man never materialized. However, now I am happily married with my wonderful husband and have been living in U.S A for the last sixteen years. My husband is an engineer with an MNC. He holds a top post. I have a son and a daughter too.”
I wrote on my chat window with all my wickedness, simplicity, vulnerability and candor unfurled, “Why do all others get the most wonderful spouses except me?”
Without batting an eyelid, as it were, she wrote,” Are you whining?”
I said, “Yes. Why am I stuck with someone who only abuses me, criticizes me and loses no opportunity to put me down? Why has she filled my life with so many problems which were absent before she had come into my life? Why can’t I say like all others that I have got the most wonderful spouse?”
She said, “Don’t whine, don’t grumble and don’t complain. Accept life as it is. What you call as problems are in fact opportunities in disguises. After all, you have chosen her. It is your choice also to continue to live with her. In all cases and at all times you have choices. I don’t believe that anybody is a victim. Come out of this victim mindset and see that you are always free and you have always choices. I don’t like blaming others for one’s miseries. If your wife accuses you of any of your acts of commissions or omissions then know that she is your true friend, even more she is your teacher. Pay heed to her advises and do accordingly. You will be fine. By the way, I can see from your date of birth that you are fifty five; actually for how many years have you been married?”
I said “We are married for a little over 25 years by now. We have two children like you, a daughter and a son. But there the similarity ends. I hold no top jobs. I am a mere accountant in a vast govt. organization where three thousand people like me worked. ”
She said, “You are in Govt.? Then a lot of mullah must be coming your way as kickbacks, bribes or under the table change of money to grease your palms?”

I laughed and said I have never taken any bribe ever. Till today I ride my bicycle to duty. I don’t own a car. I don’t own a house. I don’t have much bank balances either.

She said, ” O.K., O.K. I was speaking in jest. Seriously, a marriage to have lasted that long as yours must have some solid foundations. Find out what are those in your case and nurture them. Most marriages here in America don’t last half as much. Here individual freedom is more and family bonds are a lot less feeble also. Count your blessings”.
I blurted out cutting her short,” I want that kind of individual freedom, I am dying to be free of such family bonds that extinguishes one’s life out of oneself just as a python’s coil does to its victim. Damn with all such hollow Indian pride that we have the lowest divorce rate in the world, just 2 per cent. No one counts how many are killed or get killed by their spouses.”

She said,” I say again that I don’t accept that anyone is a victim. You always have choices. You are always free. You are free to divorce her also.”

I said,” I am not free, I don’t have choices and I can’t divorce her because she won’t give me one. For the last 25 years I have only begged her for a divorce in return of anything she might ask, but she won’t give it. She says she can’t live in the society as a divorcee. It would be a great shame on her and her family. It would be much better, easier and much preferred way for her to kill me or get me killed instead. That way she would not only get whatever I own as my legal heir, she would be entitled for a Govt. job on compassionate ground and family pension also. She needed only to be a little bit careful for not getting caught in the act. This is not her opinion only, it is widely shared. Instead, she advises me to continue living the rest of my life with her, in her grip, as we have till now. I am not killed only because where from she would get the money which I place in her hand on the last day of every month as my pay. So in such a society where your spouse would rather kill you than give you divorce, where is my freedom, where are my choices? Indian court will not give me divorce without her consent. In my situation, won’t you feel as a victim?”

But she stuck to her position that I was always free, I had choices and she considered nobody as a victim. To conclude the chat she said,” I am to quit you now to take my car to a garage”. I requested her to wait a minute longer and let me know in which place of US of A she resided.
She replied,” Which place? Why do you need that unimportant, worthless piece of information? Even what I had in breakfast yesterday is more important information. Don’t ever ask such a silly question again. Bye and take care.”

So much had happened in a first meeting with a woman who had been almost a total stranger till a short while ago. The words and phrases she employed like “ you are always free’’, “you always have choices”, “ nobody is a victim”, “problems are actually opportunities”, “count your blessings”, “your wife is your teacher” were so novel to me that when she had abruptly ended the chat I wondered if by any chance I had met the wisest and the wittiest woman alive. I longed to have more such chats with her. I was in fact dazzled by her wit, her spontaneity and her ready mind. She had typed very fast and words were coming from her like torrents. I had a distinct feeling that while I was typing my long sentences in my slow, novice way she must be getting impatient and so must be reading some other posts till I finished. I was left wondering where she had learned all those exquisite gems from. Was she a genius or a realized soul? Considering her being an Indian her command over English was even more admirable. I began to hold her in very high esteem. One thing just rankled in my mind. What was wrong in my asking her the name of the place in America she lived in? Why should the place one lived in be far less in importance than even what one ate in breakfast yesterday? I thought maybe that was because America was a lot more mobile nation than I had imagined and people there gave the slightest importance to the place they lived. Perhaps none took any pride with any place nor identified oneself with any place. But whenever I asked any American themselves about the places they lived in they invariably gave me that information which of course I always forgot. So her not giving the information stood her out. The information in itself didn’t mean much, but her holding it back was curious. I was all admiration for her and simultaneously a bit puzzled too by her last reply.

A few days later again in an early morning here in India she invited me for another chat and I readily joined.
She straightforwardly asked, “Hi, old man, are you still whining?”
I said, “Yes I am. How can anybody be happy if constantly nagged, harassed and tortured by one’s partner? Worst of all she has succeeded in setting my two children too against me. She also abused my parents, brothers and sisters and their spouses and made me cut off all relationship with them. Sometimes finding me non retaliating and non violent she also beats me. One day for just promising my youngest brother that I will give him my mobile number, she beat me for half an hour with her shoes, a rolling pin, a broomstick, a spoon with a large handle besides kicking and slapping me with her hands and legs for innumerable times while all the time swearing and calling me all sorts of names. She didn’t want anyone of my brothers, sisters or parents should be in contact with me. That day like many other such days my belief in nonviolence and in the words of Buddha and Gandhiji , my all time heroes, were put to severe test and I didn’t fail neither in their eyes nor in my eyes even once. I want separation from her but not with the help of any kind of violence on her. I sincerely wish her well. But I am thoroughly disgusted and fed up with her violent, cowardly behaviors. I tell her, “Can you behave in the way you behave with me with anyone else in the whole world? You know that you can’t. You are a coward that beats a nonviolent man.” As usual I get some more harsh words only. Sometimes I feel with the removal of her uterus and ovaries a decade back all vestiges of humanity have also been removed out of her. Tell me what choices do I have in a country where divorce is almost non- existent and she won’t listen to any talk of divorce?”
She stuck to her earlier lines. Nobody was a victim. All that I suffered was due to the choices I had made. Really, I was free all the while. She even wrote that life manifested in vivid detail only those things which were present in my thoughts in atomic or very subtle forms much earlier even before her appearance in my life. In that sense I should be thankful to my wife for precipitating the process and events which were going on silently in my unconscious for a long time. In her opinion there were really no quarrels between the husbands and wives; there were only quarrels within oneself. The contradictions in our own thoughts and behaviors were the cause of most of our quarrels which married people projected on each other. She said I should stop considering myself forthwith as the victim and my wife as my tormentor. Actually I was tormenting myself. In real we get only what we deserve, not more not less. She said she would never project anything on any one. She took the responsibility for all her happiness and sorrows on herself. To emphasize her point she said nobody could give her pain or unhappiness. She won’t allow anyone to have that power over her. You only get treated by the way you ask for. Nobody would dare to treat her the way I was being treated. None could ride on a straight back. People needed a supine back to ride rough shod over. Instead of feeling that I was a victim I should show some spine. And lastly don’t make a fetish out of nonviolence. It is just a technique; if it didn’t work discard it. It can’t be a religion or a goal in itself.

To a man who had been already feeling himself as a heap of dirt by constant abuses and tortures for twenty five years her words of wisdom only made him doubly sure that what he got was only what he truly deserved. Not only that I asked for the type of treatment I was getting! I was awe-struck by her assertiveness, her surefootedness, her wisdom and understanding of the ways of the world. Such was her power of wit and words that I put aside all such questions to a corner of my mind that were coming to me at the time as whether people like Gandhiji, Jesus or Socrates also really asked to be put to death because that was how they had been treated. Were they too spineless? But before her torrent of hitherto unfamiliar new age words I was awestruck. As the chat came to an end I began to profusely admire her and admitted without any qualification that she might be true in her observations about me and my problems. I sincerely wished I had such clarity of mind on all matters related to me. Afterwards for many days in my conversations with others I avoided using the word ”problem’’ as if it was a four letter word. Instead like her I substituted it with words such as “opportunities” or “challenges”. In short she exerted tremendous influence over me the like of which very few women had ever exercised. I visited her page in Facebook a number of times daily and under each of her photograph, there were a lot of them, I wrote a long paragraph in appreciation which were, to say the least, extremely eulogistic. At various times in those comments I compared her with a powerhouse, the Sun, the goddess Durga, Mother Kali, St. Jones and with some other great women of the east and west. Of course, as soon as she had seen and read them she deleted them all. When I asked her why she had deleted those nicest of words about her she replied that I didn’t know the “shitty society” we lived in which could cause her a lot of embarrassment and explaining for my eulogistic comments. Moreover, she said she was still not ready for deification or canonization. She said she was only 36 and she hoped she had a number of more years to live and kick around. She added that I had not seen her in anger, in her foul moods yet and therefore I should suspend all my judgments on her till then otherwise I might go through many thorough revisions subsequently and repent my earlier generosity. To sum it all up she said I was a good man but I was a poor judge of women including herself and my wife. One I admired uncritically and without any reservations and the other I vilified in similar fashion.

Slowly and gradually without any conscious willing or effort on my part my admiration for her developed into love. I easily fell in love with anyone that showed some excellence in any area of art and life. Once in my childhood when I was reading in class 6 I had been so infatuated with a male singer and dancer who was reading four classes higher in the high school in that same compound that for days I wandered dazed by his performances on the stage during a school annual function. In similar fashion I fell in love with Saritha. There was an age gap of twenty years between us but when did the heart take note of such outward differences? In age I was her senior, but in all else she was the senior and I was the junior partner. I knew she was young, witty and beautiful and she had a way with the words which few could match. Therefore I expected her to be in great demand in social networking sites such as Facebook. So although I wished to talk with her daily, I dared not invite her for chat too often. I always abided for my turn patiently. Why disturb someone so fiery, so idealistic with my mundane, “challenging” existence? But surprisingly at least thrice in a week she invited me for chat. Whenever I received such invitations I was overjoyed. In all such chats my only duty was as if to praise her because that was what I did in abundance. All her words, all her sentences were music to my ears. At the turn of a beautiful phrase from her I would go gaga on her. One day she asked me, “What do you think of my educational qualification?”
I replied a bit sycophantically,” You must be a college Professor” because I knew she couldn’t have been one considering her age, her marriage of more than 16 years etc.
She replied, “A college professor? Do you know I have never set foot in a college?”
The pressure to praise her was so hard that I didn’t budge an inch from my position even after this information. Yes, like the bladder pressure, the bowel pressure there was another strong pressure I felt at times. It was the pressure to praise someone. Under the throe of this pressure I have written so many articles at various times of my life. Buddha, Mahavir, Gandhiji, Kabir, Osho, Raman Maharshi, Tagore, Vivekananda, Orwell, Emerson, Thoreau, Bertrand Russel, Wayne Dyer, Eckhert Tolle and many more great men and women both of the East and West have been the receptacle of such praises. I have not been able to preserve all such articles. Only one article in praise of SriRamakrishna and Mother Sarada, namely “I have had her” has survived because it was included in this blog. Not that always the pressure to praise was released through writing articles only. In most cases it was done through spoken words too. Observing my generous praise of her in the pages of Facebook a western lady once remarked that I was essentially a “Bhakta”. By that word she brought to my conscious attention an aspect of my character I had never known till then. But I loved her description, nonetheless.

So when Saritha said that she had not even set her feet in any colleges for study I replied without flinching,” You may not have. But you surely could put many professors to shame by the words you use and at your command. Certainly none of the colleges and universities I had gone to had one Professor like you.”
She said, ”You may be right, in a way, for reading in a college and knowing things and life are two separate things. Bye the way, I was an ordinary homemaker till just four years ago. Then I heard Marianne Williamson and life changed for me. Then I read many new age spiritual gurus and went to listen to them when any of them visited my city. Thus I have listened to many such brilliant men and women of America. Have you heard of Marianne Williamson?”
I said,”No, but certainly I will listen to some of her audios and videos in YouTube. But I think you must have surpassed her by now because the words at your command are awesome. By the way, do you do any kind of job outside your home? Otherwise so much of talent must go in waste.”

She replied,” Paresh, you are too generous. I don’t have any talents. However, for the last few years finding so much time at my hand I have been teaching in a school for spastic children. I get enormous joy by interacting with such innocent children. I also get paid for my work, though compared to my husband’s salary it is just a pittance. Yet I am happy doing it. The director of the school and the parents also appreciate my work”.
I said,”I had hoped so. One day you will go very far in your newly started career. You deserve all this and lot more.”

Another day as she invited me for a chat I happily joined. But after one or two sentences of by now customary praise and appreciation of her she said something which surprised me.
She said,” Paresh, please don’t love me; please don’t say you love me.”
I replied,” Saritha, I am shocked and surprised at your allegation. Please tell me the words I have used which made you think so. You know that I am in awe of your intelligence, learning and wit and everything. I am all praise and appreciation for you. But to want to be romantically linked to you is something completely out of my mind. I know my limitations, I don’t deserve you. It would be like the desire of the moth for the star. So I have never thought of you in that sense.”
If ever I have told any lie to anyone then this was that. Truthfully speaking, not only I was all praise and appreciation for her but also I was in deep love for her. But aware as I was of my serious limitations, even though I consciously refrained from using all such romantic words of love, her intuitive knowledge as a woman very correctly and accurately found me out. It is true my spirited defense of myself saved the day for me but I took heed of the message. She was off limit for the like of me. Though I have become old now, the same game of seduction and conquest that I have been playing since I was a boy of, say, 15 and which up till now has never been able to bring any woman to me or my bed continued in spite of no conscious effort from me. I am astounded by the power of samskaras or the past impressions. In other words I am astounded by my unconsciousness.

To my spirited defense of my innocence she had to yield. She said something to save her face but really she entangled herself more. I too was surprised again.

She said,” Paresh, actually I didn’t mean you. I know you are a nice chap. There are some others who have been speaking “I love you” and I am bothered by them. I had meant to say you that please don’t be one more in the crowd. Please excuse me if I have hurt you. Can I confide in you something?”

I said just go ahead without any fear or apprehension.
She said,” I myself am in love with someone.”
I asked, ”Who is that extremely fortunate man?”
She said, “It is a secret for now. So don’t ask me for any details.”
I said,” I am sure he must be a white American. At least confirm this much.”
She said,” Please don’t ask me for any details. It is a secret.”
I said, “As you wish. I knew there would be a crowd pining for you.”
She said,” Paresh, you are so nice. Thank you. Bye.”

One day thereafter as I opened my page in Facebook I was surprised to find a friend request from Saritha herself. It was enough of a shock and puzzle for me. However, I immediately accepted her request and wrote on her wall,” Saritha, I thought we were friends already. Then, why is this defriending and requesting again for friendship? Please don’t be so mysterious.”

The next day the first thing that I did after I woke up in the morning was I went straight to Saritha’s page in Facebook to see what she had written as reply to my question. By chance she was present in the Facebook at that time. Instead of writing on her wall she instantly came online and invited me for a chat. She explained that her husband had deleted the names of all her male friends from her list of friends. He thought she was spending too much time on the net chatting with them. He also suspected her of having an affair with somebody. She said she was again painstakingly requesting all to reconnect with her. She begged excuse for the trouble and went off.

I thought what a strange coincidence! Just the other day I was wondering how correctly and accurately Saritha could catch my true feelings for her using her intuitive wisdom as a woman though I had laboriously guarded and camouflaged it by using the smokescreen of words of praises and appreciation. I had thought only women were capable of such intuitive wisdom. Lo! See here a man too, Saritha’s husband, could equally correctly and accurately caught her, I hope not with her pants down, with her romantic or amorous leanings towards someone else although she too must have tried her best to camouflage her feelings by employing as much smokescreens of words as I had employed. Now I knew that the physical and mental differences between men and women were just superficial. All those talks of womanly wisdom or jealousy were just bullshit. All life is one, Buddha said. That is only what I needed to remember.

The next day as I switched on the computer and went straight to my Facebook page I found as if Saritha had been waiting there for me. She instantly came on the chat and said,” Paresh, something serious has happened. I have had a violent quarrel with my husband. He wanted to control me; he would have me curtail my time on the net to the minimum. I would tolerate no such dictates. So he called me all sorts of abusive names. He put a question mark on my character. He has again deleted so many friends from my list. He ordered me to keep away from Facebook altogether. He has threatened me with dire consequences if I disobey. What should I do?”

Her anger was so palpable that it seemed to me as if I could feel her agitated, irregular, excited , hot breathings all over me. It seemed as if she was spewing fire. It seemed as if a Royal Bengal tigress has been attacked by a man with bare hands and she was about to bit him to pieces. Interrupting my thoughts, she asked,” Paresh, are you there? What are you thinking of? What should I do?”

For the first time advices were sought from the very man who always needed them most. And advising a fiery, witty, wise woman like Saritha was something I was most unwilling, hesitant and incapable of. Yet as she went on pressing me for a reply, I asked her first about the thing that I had been receiving regularly in similar or even much lighter situations,” Saritha, did he beat you?”
She said,” He won’t dare to beat me. Because if he did I would holler till the whole of America listened to me.”
I said,” Then what do you fear? I am sure in verbal duels he couldn’t be a match for you. Before your torrent of words how long can any man stand? But did you, by any chance, take things lying down?”

She said, ” Never. I am not the one to take things lying down. As he shouted I also shouted and he fled. But before he fled I had given him a piece of my mind. I abused him more than he had possibly bargained for. I could be nasty and vicious too when occasion arises. You should have seen me in that state. Then you won’t be writing such nice angelic stuff about me. But that is not the thing worrying me. I worry because I have very little money with me. What should I do now?”

I asked,” Do you fear that he might ask for a divorce?”
She said,” Suppose he does? Then what should I do?”
I said, “Then he is a goner. First give him ten slaps and as many kicks. If he still insists on a divorce then tear four of his beloved books to pieces and break or burn whichever things he likes most. If he still continues to be adamant then threaten him to kill or get killed so that you could inherit all that he owns and then marry the one you love. Alternately, if he directly goes to court, the court wouldn’t give him divorce without your consent. Demand as much money as he would never be able to earn in his life. The divorce proceeding will go on for two decades. In the mean while you go on living in his house with his money like a queen and treat him like dirt. Each month on the day he gets his pay you insist that he draws his whole pay from the bank and puts that in your hand. If he ever disobeys you complain to the police that he tortures you to bring him more dowries. That would put him behind bars for a year, with his parents and siblings if at all they stay with him, because that is a non- bail -able offence. You needn’t prove anything, mere bringing in the allegation is enough. It’s so simple. God save him”.
She said,” Paresh, be serious. This is not India, this is America. Divorce is not so difficult to get here. He has all the money with him. I don’t have much. For God’s sake be serious and tell me what I should do.”
For the first time it occurred to me that I should treat her with her own medicines.
I said,” Then also you have your choices. The choices include the choice for agreeing for a divorce. But you have also the choice of considering him as your teacher and accepting his advises and taking heed to his warnings. As he is holding a top job he must be bringing in lots of dollars to home and a considerable part of it must be going to you and your children’s upkeep and wellbeing. So you have the choice for making a compromise with him in order that you keep on enjoying things that you have been enjoying for the last sixteen years. Alternately you have the choice to be recalcitrant and rebel and walk out of the home and face the consequences. You have always choices, you are always free, and never consider yourself as the victim and your husband as your tormentor. See this not as a problem but as an opportunity.”

I would have gone on for some more time till I had emptied out the full medicine chest on her. But intelligent as she was she quickly understood my design. She cut me short and interjected,” I had sought an advice from you but I didn’t ask you to lecture me. Sometimes I have a feeling that you are working for my husband. It seems by endearing yourself to me you have been knowing my secrets and passing them on to my husband. Otherwise how does he know all my moves? Are you in his pay roll?”

I was aghast at her allegation. I, who was her greatest admirer, greatest fan, how could she think of me betraying her to her husband. I have never had any kind of communication with him. I just saw him in her pages among her photographs. However, I thought it was better to play along with her a little more on that line because she might have told all those in jest.
So I replied, suppressing all my bewilderment,” Yes, truly I am on his pay roll. He has employed me for the purpose you have correctly guessed. Poor and underemployed as I am, I thought I could do with a little more money from any source available to supplement my meager income.”
She quipped,” Yes, he will pay you in dollars too.”
I replied,” Yes, I hope a few more dollars won’t harm me much.”

Actually I would never know whether her allegation against me was made in jest or in all seriousness. But there might be a suspicion in her mind that someone might be betraying her trust or passing on her secrets to her husband. A suspicious mind sometimes sees enemy where there is none. It becomes even more serious when you have never seen your friends whom you have got from social networking sites. Whom to believe and who to disbelieve becomes very important when you have really something to hide. Saritha had, I hope by her “choice”, a word she so much loved to use, come to a state where she had something to hide. As she had by chance, in an off guarded moment perhaps, confided in me only what she had had to hide thereafter from everyone else, she thereafter perhaps saw in me a potential enemy. From that suspicious, fearful mind only negative thoughts could emerge. To quote a wit, “Fear is the darkroom where only negatives are developed”. As a result of such negative thoughts one day she defriended me for a flimsy cause.

One day in the course of a conversation, I asked her,” Saritha, do you come to India?”
She replied,” Yes, we go there once in almost every two years.”
I asked, “Do you have your parents?”
She replied, “Yes, both of them are alive.”
I asked,” Where are they? Where were you born, in which state of India?”
She replied,” Which place? Why do you ask for such worthless pieces of information? Even what I had in yesterday’s breakfast is a more important piece of information. Don’t again ask such unimportant questions.”
Her answer reminded me of a similar reply at the start of our friendship when I had asked for the name of the place of USA she lived in. A thought came to my mind that probably she had something to hide which is related to the place she was born and the place she has been presently living in. Was she in love with a man when she got married to someone else and left India? Just like the man she is presently in love with in the place she lived with her husband? Is it a case of broken hearts? Why each woman I loved admired or praised had had a history of broken hearts? Are sorrows, grieves and broken heart the prices one paid for being a good man or woman?
I asked her,” Saritha, please tell me the place you were born because there is nothing to fear from me. The place you were born or the places you live in are not as unimportant as you say. So please tell?”
From her side there came no response. I continued to wait for her reply. About three minutes later a notice appeared on my chat window that you cannot chat with this person because she is not your friend.

Since then more than three years have gone by. But there has never been a day in which I have not thought of her. I have felt her loss very deeply. Each day I have been missing her. Facebook lost much of its charm for me after her loss. The urge to rise up at 4.30 in the morning and coming straight to the computer and Facebook, because that was the time she was mostly available, only to be greeted by her warm, affectionate words ”Hi, old man, are you still whining?” is no more. Now I sleep up to seven or eight. Once during my chat with her, in the midst of my usual profuse praises for her, she had said, “You also write well and I appreciate your English”. That sentence had later on given me much confidence to come out of my cocoon and try my hands at creative writings for which I have been thinking, preparing but postponing for ages. Our friendship had lasted for only four or five months. Apart from chats with her and a few short statuses and some comments here and there I had written nothing till then to show her. I wish she read some of my posts, especially this one which is nothing but my homage to her. She is still in Facebook. She is still with her husband as I can still see her smiling alongside her husband in her profile picture. Of course, I have to see her from another account. So I guess, she weighed all the pros and cons of her situation and finally chose to compromise and stick to her husband. Thereby I knew another truth of life. All such talk of “I have the most wonderful husband/wife” etc. was not true, after all. After a few years even the most wonderful spouse started to gall like mine did. The truth is everyone compromised in life, some a little less and some lot more. Saritha was no exception, though I had thought her to be one. I wish her all happiness, peace and success in life.

Two years ago having seen me write in the pages of facebook  as comments on others’ posts and some of my very short pieces of writings as statuses on my wall  an American woman friend suggested that I should have a blog of my own. To make her proposition more attractive and as if to entice me some more she added that if the blog ran well and by any chance it became somehow popular then she knew how to “monetize” it, the secret of which of course she would tell me in due time. When I expressed my ignorance about the technicalities involved in starting a blog and straightaway confessed my illiteracy with regard to computer, she replied that Facebook’s “Notes” itself was a very good place to start writing for a beginner.  Thanks to her suggestion I started writing in the “Notes” section of my page in Facebook. I sent my stories and other writings to various people who had become my friends by then by tagging them for knowing their responses and comments.  I had by then spent a little more than six months in Facebook . So I thought  it was appropriate to share about the quality of my experience in Facebook  or the quality time I had spent in its pages , in my interactions with other people in it and what a heady, wonderful experience It all  had been. So when my first story “Two Hundred Days in the Wonder World of Facebook and what I have learnt From It” came out the response was mind-blowing for me.  So much praise and appreciation for such a small piece of writing! It was all very pleasant and humbling for me. I discovered that even in this age when the audiovisual media reigned there was still a place for writing, for the expression of the “still, small voice of the humanity”.

Thereafter I went on writing in “Notes’ of Facebook and got some of the best and illuminating comments from various friends from various walks of life.  I say “illuminating” because I have spent as much time on reading those comments as my articles themselves. I recollect once that on reading some very valuable comments on one of my stories named “Insecure Husband and Unfaithful Wife Syndrome Or IHUWS” I went on changing and altering at first some lines, then some paragraphs and then I had to rewrite the whole story itself. By the time It was finished the story had taken a life of its own apart from my original design. All the while as I was modifying the story and the words to describe it so as to incorporate more and more valid points of observations and criticisms from my friends the story was taking its own shape to walk around and kick around on its own. The most surprising part was that the story came out lot better, lot more interesting and lot more beautifully as I finally took my hands off it and called it a day. It was so much fun and learning. I learnt thereby a most important lesson that the process of writing was a collaborative experience. Both the writer and the readers were the equal progenitors of a successful story or writing. A writer didn’t write in a vacuum. People and the situations in the society and the readers who read his works all gave him very valuable inputs which made his writings richer and of lasting value. I am so much grateful to my friends, readers and commentators for bringing such fresh perspectives and insights  to my writings without which I could not have written as much or as good as I have.

Time passed by. Life had its surprises as always. One day two American women who ran a blog of their own  requested for permission to publish my stories in  their blog. I told them  to go ahead.  One by one all my stories which had first appeared in “Notes”of Facebook got published in their journal. Both the women became good friends of mine. All my writings which had never seen any editing by anyone other than me saw some editing. The long paragraphs were divided into more than one paragraph so as not ‘to let go of the interest of the readers who have very short span of attention in any way and so many other contending things to attend to”. My stories were profusely illustrated by some very captivating pictures. Again, let me admit here that all those were very educative experiences for me too and I was benefitted by those aesthetic and visual modifications.

One day one of the two women suggested me that I should have a blog of my own. To emphasize her point she wrote that “should” was a word she used very rarely and in her opinion mine was a fit enough case for using the word. I replied that of late I had been also thinking in similar lines. When I asked her for a few suggestions with regard to starting of a blog, she advised that I should write the kind of writings that gave some kind of solutions to peoples’ problems. For that I should search in me deeply as to what I knew, in which area of life, which could be of use to others. She had very casually, it seemed to me then, given her suggestion. But later on as I pondered over her advice I found to my shame, disbelief and horror that I held no solutions to peoples’ problems in any area of life whatsoever. In fact I myself was riddled with problems. Though to keep up with the Joneses I used to tell others in conversations or glib talks that there were no problems, there were only opportunities in life. But actually I knew very well that I had real problems, that  a million people took their own lives  each year for not being able to solve their own problems, that another million or two each year killed others  who they thought were responsible for their problems. In desperation I thought it was better to quit the idea of having a blog of one’s own as I thought I was not qualified or fit enough for the job.

Again days went by. One day while surfing the net I chanced upon the site of where I noticed a line that said something like “378875 bloggers with 455623 blogs and you too can have your own blog in a minute”. Instantly it was clear to me that not all of those bloggers were doling out life saving solutions to peoples’ problems. Because if they did then there won’t be any suicides, murders, deaths due to starvations or shelterless people on the earth. And was just one of many blogging or social networking sites! Now it was clear to me that people also blogged for the sheer joy of sharing, for the sheer ecstasy of expression. This discovery enabled me to cross another hurdle. As one of my loveliest friends wrote in her page in facebook,”It is only me Mrs._ sharing my life, my experiences; not the Moses laying down his Laws.” Also I thought let the people first solve their problems by reading of other blogs or on their own; let me be contented with only those few who returned to my blog when their problems were already solved or whenever some ‘saw’ that they had to live with problems throughout their lives, in anyway.

Now I was again ready for the start of the blog. The naming of the blog remained an issue for some time. It was also due to one her suggestions. She had suggested that when I finally decided for a blog I should leave it to her to find a few names out which I could select one. She had said that she knew the technique of keeping my blog’s name at the top of the list when somebody searched for similar words in a search engine. But I let that offer go because it sounded too technical.

All my life I have felt that it is the people who ultimately mattered most. For any kind of work or job, whether good or bad, I needed people to help me. On my own I can’t even exist what to speak of living happily. Sometimes when a new bike or car is introduced it is the vehicle and its look that get noticed for some days. After some days it is invariably the man that rides the bike or the woman that drives the car becomes the focus of my attention. The dazzling bike or the gorgeous car takes the back seat in my attention. As we all are social beings, good or bad communicators; how long could we talk to a car or a bike? We need people to talk to. Of course I have heard it said about American women that most of them secretly or openly say, “Husbands are good but cars are better.”  But I know it is said in jest. At least most of my American women friends know that it is the people in their lives or they are in relationship with who mattered most to them.

So I kept the name of my blog as”Peoplemattermost”. Thereafter I imported all my articles published elsewhere including in Facebook and put them in one place in this blog. Apart from just one article ‘Obama and Osama’ I have refrained from writing on political topics, though political articles get the most readers and also the most responses and comments. I have also refrained from writing for and about greener, cleaner and pollution free environment because millions others are doing a very good job of it. Thereby also I have forfeited many readers or circumscribed myself to a few only. In similar fashion I have avoided writing about sports and films also. I have chosen to write only stories, the kind Tolstoy, Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Maughm, O’Henry, Saki,  D.H.Lawrence, Premchand or Fakirmohan from my own country and of course the two of my all time favorite rascals, Sashthi  Brata and Roald Dahl wrote. It doesn’t only matter how many read me today, it does matter for how many I still remain readable a hundred years from now. For that I should be prepared to forego the only present chance to keep my head above poverty and ignominy  by “monetizing” my blog by writing on popular topics on the lines suggested by my kind American women friends, and I think that I am. I humbly think that my stories like “God lay dead under a wall”, “The first love of my life”, “A sacred, unforgettable encounter”, “Life in the jaws of death”, “A journey by train in which everything that could go wrong actually did” or “so many forms of Love” are the kind of stories Chekhov would have loved to read. And “The woman who danced only to the tune of her heartbeats” is the kind of story my favorite Shasthi Brata and Roald Dahl would have loved to read. That itself is a very uplifting thought in itself. When I am the creator of my thoughts and their associated feelings why should I not think of and about the greatest in my craft ? Blog writing has its rewards and sweet surprises too. One story named”The story of my anus itching” which I was most hesitant and diffident while writing earned me so much appreciation and encomium that I was left bewildered and surprised by the response. Thereby too I learnt a lesson. I should never underestimate the intelligence and perceptiveness of my readers.

I love to end my articles by quoting some lines from the Buddha, my most favorite man ever.

“Everyone should work diligently for his salvation”.

My salvation lies in the kind of writings that come naturally to me. Of course my writings always need more polishing, more finetuning so as to reach that perfection in thought and execution for being the perfect medium for carrying that universal, impersonal message to illustrate the truth that Life is one, Love is one, although so many forms of life and love are seen as Its expressions.