The Cascade Effect


Gargi checks the whatsapp message again: “Your silken curls, cascading like a river, are giving me sleepless nights! When do I get to bury my face in that garden of fragrance?”
She rubs her eyes and looks again at her greying old phone. The beep had woken her up from a rather deep sleep.
The message reads the same.
She checks the sender information.
There is no display picture. No pompous one liner or any other detail. Just an unknown number sending her this romantic stuff at one in the night.
‘Well, well,” she mutters to herself, “if it is any of my old admirers, I would like to shake him up for not sending this to me fifty years before! Could have given the Urdu poetry quoting Colonel a run for his money!”
She does not reply.
But when she goes to bed again, she cannot help smiling to herself. There is a song in her heart.
“Keshav should get that river side plot. He is struggling in his business now… This plot might help.” She thinks fondly of her younger son. He reminded her most of her late husband, the Colonel.
She caresses her long, thick, white curls, as she drifts off to a happy sleep.

Lakshmy giggles as she reads the message. Trust Krishnan to send her this syrupy sweet nothing at one in the night. Did he get drunk by any chance after doing all that Maths?
How did he get her number?
She caresses her silken black hair, cascading like a river, and imagines him hiding his face in that garden of fragrance.
Trust him to look all serious, the quintessential Maths teacher, and trying poetry to charm her at night! And except for looking deeply into her eyes in the staff room, he has till now never dared to express any emotion.
Was this his number? Ever since he had joined their school last month, she had been desperately trying to get it. Sheena , her friend, had mercilessly teased her about her crush!
Well, she will not respond now! But tomorrow, during the tea break, she will ask him whether he liked rivers and gardens!
She dreamily stares at the moon outside and is filled with inexplicable joy.
If only tomorrow arrived now!
Dr. Alice reads the message and wipes away the sudden tears.
When was the last time her husband sent something so nice?
And especially after a big fight? When she has almost decided to call it quits.
But this was not his normal number.
When he stomped out at ten in the night, she had thought it had ended.
Memories came flooding back: their college romance, their youthful days when George tried to create his business, the birth of their daughter…the recent fights over his drinking bouts, the extravagance…
‘ We will pull through… will go for a vacation together…a place somewhere far away, with rivers and gardens…He still praises my long hair! Lord, how I remember his courtship in college, quoting his favourite poets!’
Alice dials her husband’s number.
He picks up. A disappointed, frustrated man.
‘ Honey, come home. You know I love you,’ she says. Her sincerity makes her voice wobble.
There is a gasp from the other end. As if someone could not believe his ears.
‘ Alice, is that you for real? What..I mean…I love you too darling… I am reaching in ten minutes time!’
The man, nursing his drink and contemplating various ways of ending it all, feels as if the Lord has given him a wake up call.
He shakes his head and laughs at none in particular.
‘ You forwarded it to three numbers unknowingly? What do you mean, you idiot? The first thing you do in my brand new phone is to whatsapp lines of my new song to our grandmother, the family doctor and my English teacher? Arrghhhhhh….’

‘Shut up children! It is night one o’ clock. Get into bed!’ An extremely irritated mother calls from her bedroom.
A fifteen year old’s attempt to create a song for impressing his girl friend, fades off slowly, to the tunes of a screaming younger brother who is getting his ears mercilessly boxed.
Of course, the mysterious cascading effect of his creativity was slowly rippling through the neighbourhood even then.






‘ People do not have enough time to read or watch anything long. So , can you write something interesting, which is er, let us put it this way, amenable to quick enjoyment?Especially now that all are writing love stories, can you try one?’ My friend sipped her coffee.

‘ Can I write a murder mystery instead: very short?’ I wheedled. Wry cynicism is more my nature than  a naive trust in happily-ever-after. Give me  short films like ‘Chutney’ any day with Saki’s stories as accompaniment!

‘ Later…we will try that later. You have half an hour,’ she said.

She is like a sister to me; and sisters have the right to demand anything.


Love In a Train


Sound of rain…and a train whistling…The story unfolds in a train compartment

Young man: Damn! The train has stopped again! Someone must have pulled a chain..The phone has no range in these parts…where are we, in the middle of jungles? Who lives in such places?

Old Man: ( Coughs) I guess, people like you and me.
Young man: I did not mean to be rude.But see, there is no internet or mobile range.
Old man: Girl friend? Urgent call?
Young man:( laughs) Oh, no! No time for all that…Besides, I am yet to find someone that special.Just my mother…wanted to tell her that the train is running late.
Old man: Since we are alone in this compartment, may be you will like to listen to a story?
Young man: Oh, yes…there is nothing else to do, anyway! I mean…please tell me…
Old man: It is a love story…
Young man: ( curious) Really?

Old man… It began in a train compartment like this …some fifty years ago
Young man( Old man’s younger version) voice: Oh, blast this rain…and this train is moving through jungles! Who lives in such places, I wonder…Ah, not again…another station?

Sound of a luggage being dragged
Young man( whisper) My lucky day! What a beautiful young woman! That must be her mother…or aunt?
Middle aged lady: Beta, can you help with the luggage? We are drenched…

Young man: Oh sure…here we go..Where are you going?

Middle aged lady: Oh this girl works too hard and has fallen sick! I am taking her home for a vacation…
Young woman: ( laughs) You exaggerate greatly auntie..

Young man: You work here…in the jungles? It must be terrible…What are you doing…I mean ..Are you teaching? You should try for a job in the city..There must be options…
Young woman: These are tribal areas…and people are much nicer than in the cities…I am a doctor.
Middle aged woman: She is a good medallist. Did her higher studies in England but insisted that she would work for poor tribals….Works with a missionary hospital here…
Young man : ( Utterly flabbergasted) Really! My God! I feel so stupid…I am sorry…I mean…
Young woman: It is alright….I hear that a lot. It is my choice and I am fine…What do you do?
Young man: I have my own business…

Cut to modern train scene…train chugs..whistles..

Old man: I told her that I was running my family business in the big city. I had just opened a new factory in a nearby town…I was trying to impress her…You see, I had fallen in love.

Young man: Whistles! ( It strikes him for the first time that old men were once young too!)

Old man: We got married eventually.My wife started her own hospital in the tribal region.Later we started a school too…
Young man: Wonderful! Where is ma’am now?
Old man: Sighs…Love is such a gift…but sometimes it is snatched away fast…The memories remain.She passed away five years before…
Young man: I am so sorry
Old man: Don’t be…We had a beautiful life together.Today, our only grand daughter took over as the new head of the hospital…she has just returned from England with a gold medal…like her grand ma…I went to bless her.She wanted someone to accompany me back.I refused.There is strength in my old bones still.Besides, I wanted to travel in a train back…for memories’ sake…

Young man: I am speechless.
Old man: My phone is buzzing….the range must have come back…Hello…hello dear…I am fine…I have a travel mate…a young man in the compartment…we are having a good time chatting….Yes, I shall take my medicines…don’t worry…What…ok, will give the phone to him…One second..
Young man: Hello, yes…Ensure he takes medicines before he sleeps? Oh sure, I will remind him..May I know, your good name? Ah..lovely name…sorry, I mean…yes, sure…Shall look after him…

Old man: ( Laughs) She is as stubborn as her grand ma…By the way, what do you do beta?
Young man ( respectfully ) I have my own tea plantations, sir.
Old man: Ah…a businessman…I like that…








Letting Go


So my daughter coloured her hair blue. I stared through the phone: trying to tell myself it was my imagination. It was not. It was a riot of blue.

Seeing me wince, she said, ‘Amma, I have been wanting to do it for a long time. And do not worry. It will wash away with every shampoo.’

I suggested dryly that she immediately take one. Her original thick black hair was so beautiful! She laughed.

Then I paused. It was her hair and her choice.

Art of letting go. Very tough for this particular mother, but it had to be done.

We talked about the philosophy lessons in the new quarter.

I decided to wait for the raven to return when it wished.


Having stubbornly rejected the idea of a  small, steaming chocolate cake for dessert, my daughter looked expectantly at me. Now let Amma bite the bait. I could see  in my imagination those sleeves  being rolled up for a fight. ( ‘Whatever Amma says has to be negated’! Yippee!)

Then I paused. It was her tummy and her choice.

Art of letting go. Very tough for this particular mother, but it had to be done.

I ordered  the chocolate cake for myself. Little girl ordered a milk shake. Five minutes into the eating, she scooped up the cake with her spoon. The shake was ruthlessly pushed towards me.

‘I changed my mind,’ she explained.

I tried to maintain as neutral a face as possible.

Ahhhh, there was something to this art of letting go!

As I sipped her milk shake, I reflected that I had always loved the colour blue.




Crow(n)ing Glory!

‘You need a hair cut,’ I say, narrowing my eyes at what looks to me like a crow’s nest. ‘A group of crows can easily make nests on your hair.’

‘Amma, for your information,  a group of crows is referred to as a murder of crows!’ She laughs at me.

‘I change the reference to Rookery,’ I snipe, ‘if you remember your David Copperfield.’

‘ Ha, ha! My friends think it is real cool!’She grins compassionately, ‘and I do remember the formidable Betsy Trotwood! Reminds me of someone.’

I give up the argument but not the case.

‘ When will you get it cut child?’

‘Amma, I am referred as a scientist in the discussion groups.No children allowed there.’


‘ When I wish.’


‘ Okay.’

‘ And you are still my child, scientist!’


Then of course, the discussion veers on to the other child who is anything but a child- who can give  Aunt Betsy Trotwood a run for her money- and who would have looked coldly back at Mr Murdstone for two minutes flat any day.

‘How is that brat?’

‘You answered your own question.’

‘What is the latest adventure?’

‘That I miss my obedient child. The other is making me turn grey prematurely.’

At that juncture, the protagonist appears by my side and declares emphatically , ‘What is my role in it ? You are old already, are you not?’

I sigh poignantly. My  sweet scientist laughs uproariously from across the oceans, her crow nest hair waving about happily. My child flicks a dust speck off her perfectly done hair.

‘You need a hair cut,’ the child says, frowning at her sister.

‘Amma, NOW I know, it is time for a hair cut- she is abrasive but bluntly truthful ,’ says her sister.

‘Where does that leave me, eh?’ I ask, outraged, ‘Et tu Brute?’

‘You will pass,’ they console  me lovingly and  having dismissed me offhand, start boxing with each other happily.





Of Krishna, Cowherds and Peacocks

“At least I am not a peacock,” says my little daughter cryptically, while eating her lunch.

I am astounded by that singular observation.


“Well, considering that it was my second dance, I could have been given a more important role- this is of a cowherd, coming in and out thrice- showering flowers. The two peacocks get to move their necks!”

I conclude the following : she was in a couple of performances and she did not like the rather insignificant role of a background dancer, and was taking consolation that she was at least not relegated as a peacock- which, apparently were roles done by two unfortunate youngsters, who got to  just move their necks.

“Even being a peacock is fine. You get to stand on the stage, right?”

She looks at me as if I had lost my marbles.

“Amma! You would not have recognised me if I were a peacock- I would have had a beak and stuff! What is the point of being on stage when no one can see it is you?”

Indeed. She had a point there. Poor parents of peacocks! They will have to be content with the beaks.

“And I refused to have a moustache,” she adds casually.

“Oh, that would be rather nice!” I say.

This time she looks at me as if  I never had any marbles to begin with.

” I asked the teacher whether Krishna had a barber?”

I almost fall off my chair.

“What?” Coming from me, that is speechlessness.

“Well, Krishna gets to be without a nasty black moustache. When she said all cowherds must have this huge moustache, I asked why Krishna alone had a barber.”

“Did he? I mean, did he have a barber?”

She drinks her water. While getting up, she says consolingly, ‘Amma, teacher said, I need not paint a moustache on my face.’

I empathise with the hapless teacher . It would have been tough work  googling for barbers in the Dwapara Yuga.

“You will recognise me,” she says,” I come in three times and go back immediately in the Holi dance; but I will be the only cowherd without a moustache.”

I hug her and tell her that I would have recognised her in any role- even if she were a  nicely beaked peacock.


A Priori Assumptions

She is so close that I can touch her. Yet, she is so far away.

“Nice sweater,” I say, “Do the shoes match?”

“Of course not, Amma!” both say in unison; one little critic by my side and her sister, continents away. Perfect timing.

I roll my eyes. Yeah, I deserved that for asking  such a dumb question. The elder one thrives on Chaos Theory. The younger one matches her shoelaces with her earrings.

Soon I am immersed in how wonderful Physics is, how much she is loving the colloquiums, the study groups, the kind professors, etc etc..

“Did you wash the pillow cover ?” I ask, not able to bite my tongue in time.

Her bubbling flow is stopped for a moment and then she shakes her head and shrugs.

“Gawwwd! That’s all you could say?”

A small giggle comes from my side. The source, is hugging a plump,stuffed Unicorn.

“Ask her if she has washed that animal for ages?” The Physicist snipes, snarkily laughing at the rainbow coloured hug-toy.

“Amma washes it, when I sneeze,” retorts the little girl.

“As a matter of fact, when I started sneezing two days before, I too washed the pillow cover,” grins my elder one.

“And Amma, you know, this seminar on black holes…”

I rein in my mind which is bursting at its corners with neither gravity or anti-gravity, but with questions on whether her table was neat, shoes were polished, and whether all documents were kept away safe. Whether there were ants inside the bottle of snacks that I had given her. Very high level theoretical questions that needed experimental validation indeed!

“You are thinking about something else!” Internet is very powerful that she can see my thoughts from across the oceans.

“Did you eat those snacks?’ I ask sheepishly.

“Arrghhh! Yeah, I did. I shared them with my room mates too. Amma, you never let go, do you?In certain matters, you are exactly like Ammomma!”

“Only, she is not so pretty as Ammomma,”agrees the younger one.

I take the salvos bravely. I remember my mother packing cucumbers and tapiocas in my hand luggage without telling me. I also recollect my shock when the airport staff asked me to open my bag due to weird looking shapes within. Of course, they had grinned when they saw my mother’s choicest garden pickings. I had locked the check in luggage to dissuade her- my indomitable mother had countered with an easier solution.

And then I ask her why her selfie has her in a tshirt that I thought I had donated a few months before.

Two giggles break out in conspiratorial unison.

My mother’s blood had certainly found a way into the new generation. They achieved what they set out to achieve.

And I am so glad and grateful about that. Truly and deeply.


Refusing To Exclude

The learned author was cribbing about the immigration policy of a particular country. ” They are refusing to exclude students from the total immigration numbers,” he wrote.

I blinked.

‘ Refusing to exclude?’

What does that mean?

‘Insisting on including?’

The country insists on including students in the total immigration sense dawns..that means the other immigrants lose out, students are also restricted..okay. It took me a long time to analyse that one out.

Why on earth do we embrace the double negative?

(Never say never/hatred of the negative/negating the contradiction/paradox of the conundrum…ewwww!)

I refuse to exclude simplicity from thought, expression, and action.


” Can an exclamation replace a question mark?” asks my little one, eyes furrowed.

I am flummoxed. I mutter that it might be a printing error.

” No, it is written by Enid Blyton,” comes the verdict. Mother might be wrong. Blyton cannot be.

For the past one hour, she had been asking about golden retrievers, scones and honey, and peat-moss for hens in that particular order.

I had managed most, except the peat-moss. I could not understand, what on earth, the hens would do with it.

I seek the help of Google Master.

An exclamation can be used to close questions depicting extreme emotions.

Example : ” What on earth are you doing! Stop!”

” You do not know everything, do you?” asks my daughter.

” No, I do not my dear,” I agree humbly.

I am game for using exclamation to express my extreme emotion!

I am refusing to exclude humility from daily life and learning.

Full Stop.