September 15, 2013

Different shades of grey

Aditya had blue eyes, the innocence of his tender age reflecting in them as he spoke.
It was arts class, the period he loved most, especially because of Miss Ashweta, his arts teacher and also his favorite.
He looked around. His best friend Vivek was painting a scenery. He decided to paint one too. He now rehearsed what he had practiced saying aloud at home.
"The sun is yellow,
The sky is blue,
The trees green,
The mountains brown..."
 He picked up a crayon. Staring hard at it, he wondered why there were so many crayons of the same color...different shades, he thought. He passed a glance at Vijay who was sitting with his box of just seven colors. Everyone knew Vijay could not afford a complete crayon set. However, Aditya always liked his box better and always felt his own box contained too many crayons. Vijay's box was simple and a lot more lucid to paint with, as compared to his mega crayon box of 75 assorted crayons, that everyone in his class envied.

On the teachers table at the far end of the room, there was a vase with a dozen roses. It was the teacher's birthday. How happy she would be if he painted the exact same bunch of flowers on his drawing book. Aditya imagined the blush on her face. Roses, it was.  Easy to paint.
Fifteen minutes later, when everyone handed in their drawing books, Mrs Verma was taken aback. No matter how much she knew, Aditya's paintings would always get her flustered.
There, on Aditya's drawing page was a vase of perfectly sketched roses, the only flaw being they were all painted black. Below in neat calligraphic font, was written 'Happy Birthday Ashweta Miss' within a small black heart.

Aditya saw the world in black and white. Sometimes he would see the world in shades...of gray. Born with total color blindness, he could not differentiate one hue from another. His first painting in Arts class had blue trees, a yellow sky and red mountains. All the students had laughed their heads off. Mrs Ashweta Varma was the only one who had realised that this was not an over imaginative mind at work but an evil destiny at play. She had spoken with Aditya's parents and had her doubt confirmed. Brushing a tear off her cheek, she had preserved that first painting in her locker---the first carefree attempt of the world through Aditya's eyes. She knew that with time, society would make him feel ashamed for a vision he was not even responsible for. But that was how the world was, it had no insight into a persons humiliation.

Today, as Mrs Varma saw the roses Aditya had painted, she felt a twinge of sadness. She looked at Aditya, into his deep blue eyes, at his innocent anticipating face and smiled.
"Thankyou Aditya, this is the best birthday gift anyone could ever have given me," she said wistfully, as she hugged the little boy in a tight embrace.
Then carefully dodging the paper from the strained attempts of all the other students to see it, she folded the piece of paper and placed it in her hand bag, to add to her repository of cherished memories.

"The sun is yellow,
the sky is blue,
the trees green,
the mountains brown,
roses red, " Aditya mumbled as he went back to his desk.

The seventy five different hues in his color box would change shades every now and then.
However, what would always remain was a little bit of longing in those deep blue eyes...a longing to see the world in more than just those different shades of grey.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

This post has been picked by BlogAdda as a WOW post for the weekend.

September 09, 2013

To Paris With Love

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast"
.-Ernest Hemingway 
I, for one, had always considered Paris to be a very pompous and highly over rated holiday destination. It had always been a long distance affair I had with the place, a kind of puppy love inspired by travelogues and movies like 'Casablanca' and 'The Phantom of the Opera' or fashion news from magazines like 'Cosmopolitan' and 'Vogue'....until a few years back when I had the opportunity to visit this wonderful city and bask in its glorious beauty. That was when I knew that everything I had heard and read about Paris was absolutely true, to its minutest detail. That was when the long distance puppy love I had felt for the place blossomed into a full fledged relationship as I fell head over heels in love with this spectacular city.
Just like old lovers, I can say for sure that Paris and I can never have enough of each other. So when I read about the 'Creating happy travellers' contest at IndiBlogger wherein we are supposed to write about that place in the world where we would want to take our loved ones, I found myself filled with the same mix of happiness and excitement a girl experiences when its time to introduce her family to the one she loves.

 Making a rough itinerary always helps. So what if the plan is still in 'arm chair travel' mode, organised thoughts never killed anyone.
Known to be the ultimate city of romance, Paris is equally famous for its alluring architecture, sumptuous food, and equally indulgent night life. A holiday to this dream destination would combine culture, history and style and I am quite sure my family would enjoy this enchanting paradise as much as I.

Tentative duration of the vacation: approx 5-6 days although no holiday can be too long when you are in this magical city.

Best time for a Paris holiday: The weather is stable and usually at its best in September to November. However, December is a lovely time to go visiting too, when the city is all lit up with Christmas lights and the festive spirit is in the air.

 Must-visit's in Paris:
  •  Le  Louvre---It is the world's largest museum located on the right bank of the Seine. It exhibits  works of renowned artists and sculptures which includes the Renaissance collection particularly known for Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa and several others. The museum takes you through a tour into the history of France.
  • Eiffel Tower---Sipping on a glass of wine amidst your loved ones, at the roof top restaurant of the Eiffel tower, 300 m high would be indeed divine. I can already imagine myself humming 'On top of the world'  by The Carpenters.
  • Place du Trocadero---It is located across the Seine from the iconic Eiffel Tower, and is the best spot for shutterbugs to capture spectacular views.
  • Notre Dame Cathedral---It is the masterpiece of gothic architecture. A long spiral stairway leads to the Cathedrals most scary gargoyles, the thirteen tonne 'Emmanuel' bell and a breath taking view of Paris.
  • Haunted catacombs of Paris---I am really curious about this. Having read about the scary history, I would not dare to visit these alone. Having one's family to hold on tightly to always helps, in such frightening situations, and...err..I can always let my sister lead the way. *evil grin*
  • Palace of Versailles
  • Disneyland (perfect for a day trip, if time permits)
  • Sacre Coeur
  • The Place De La Concorde---a beautiful representation of the culture of Paris.
  • The Champs-Elysee---most renowned and beautiful promenade in the world which further leads to Arc de Triomphe. At its western end, there are cinemas, movie halls and cafes. It is this promenade that is used for all major celebrations in Paris---ceremonial parades, sports victories and national soirees.
  • River Seine--by cruise or a simple stroll, to enjoy a spectacular view of the entire city.
  • Moulin Rouge--for a lovely evening of music and dance.
  • Place Du Tertre---A village square located at the heart of Montmartre. Here you will find painters, experts as well as aspiring students of art, surrounded by easels, canvases and paints and the other paraphernalia, willing to sketch portraits of you in a medium of your preference. My family has always been a great lover of art, and I am sure they would love to experience the magic of these talented artists who are able to etch nearly perfect images within minutes. I have even decided to try and coax them into sketching a family picture. Though I know that this might prove a little tedious, I would gladly shell out the cited price for the talent and effort  put in to preserve that happy moment from the eyes of the proficient portrait painter, and watch as he/she sketches away the delicate details that are sometimes far less obvious with the lens, and yet go easily unnoticed by us.
  • Chestnut crepes drenched in chocolate sauce
  • Freshly roasted chestnuts
  • Normandy pancakes
  • Crepe Suzette
  • Macaroons, gateaux, black truffles, baguette
  •  Perigord foie gras
  • French wines/Champaignes--- Bordeaux, Burgundy.
  • Wine and cheese (esp Camembert, chèvre and Roquefort.)
Paris has a lot to offer and planning an itinerary would also mean keeping a mental check on making the experience a relaxed and enjoyable one. Everyone in my family loves to read---be it a holiday or a working day, there has not been a single time when a book has not been able to bring a twinkle to our eye. Shakespeare and Company bookshop promises to do just that. Featured in Ernest Hemingway's memoir, 'A Moveable Feast', this age old book store had been once the haunt of luminaries like Voltaire, Rousseau and Verlaine, and has its walls adorned with author-signed title pages. I am sure we would not want to give this experience a miss.
They say Paris in the night is a dazzling beauty. The Eiffel Tower stands tall in all its glittering glory while the rest of the city swells with pride at its glamour and panache. Paris's Montmartre neighborhood has its intricate backstreets adorned with local brasseries and cafes adorning the place. The only glitch is that the so called snooty Parisians live up to our prejudiced impression, however knowing their language or carrying a pocket dictionary can help a great deal in tackling with their stiff upper lip.
There is no better shopping experience than while in Paris. From clothes to shoes to perfumes and colognes to handbags and shoes, this city is a mile ahead of all, in the fashion department. I am not that much of a shopaholic but I can be pretty picky, and with my entire family fussing around me, I am sure I'm going to love every bit of the experience. Also, I would take them shopping in the Marais, which is Paris's famous shopping precinct.

So much to much to cherish...and so much to take home...

Having said that, I think it is worth mentioning that no 'one' trip' can be the happiest one ever. Each vacation spent together is special in its own way. The best part of any holiday are the memories we create. Just the thought of spending quality time with my loved ones makes me happy. No wonder believes in creating happy travellers. Seems like they know that when you are with the people you love, every minute is want to leave all the planning details and nitty gritties of travel with someone you can trust, while you revel in the satisfaction of a comfortable holiday.
For this very reason we have, providing us with the best and most economical deals in flight bookings, hotel bookings and holiday packages.
For everything else, in the words of the famous Rick Blaine,  "We'll always have Paris..."

Cheers to happy times...
Cheers to the travel bug!

 This post has been written for Creatiing Happy Travellers Contest in association with and Indiblogger.
 If you are an Indivine user and you like what you read, you can vote for me here.

September 08, 2013

The long kept secret

Atharva Vyas entered the dirty bylanes of the city he once called home.
"Namaste, does Zakira Siddiqui still live here?" he inquired.

"She passed away a year ago, Saheb. That's her son."

A boy of merely ten, sat there polishing shoes, tattered clothes barely covering his emaciated body.
Atharva winced as he recalled his cowardice betrayal, almost a decade ago. He had left silently without an explanation after that night, knowing that he was not yet responsible enough for a commitment like marriage. Soon he had left for the US and built himself a life there.
It had been only after a decade of no communication with the ghosts of his past, that he had felt a pang of guilt for his spineless act, and returned to India. Of course, he had expected she must be married. He had even known there would be a child in the picture. He just thought he owed her an apology,  that was all. He did not expect anything more from her than to forgive him----but she, she had decided to beat him at his own game. A silent departure in exchange for a silent departure. She had left....left this world without his apology...without allowing him a chance to explain.

"Salaam Saab, boot polish?" 

 It was the boy now who broke this reverie of thoughts. There was something familiar about him, Atharva thought. Maybe it was his smile...or was it his cheek bones that rendered him an air of intimacy, even though they were meeting for the first time...or was it the soft crinkly eyes? Zakira, he thought to himself...was there need of any other reason for him to feel so at-home with this child?
But along with the compassion came a rush of anger for the man who allowed this boy to sit on the footpath, staring at the feet of a hundred passer-by's, imploring them to shine their shoes. Who in dreadful hell was the drunk who forced these innocent hands into gleaming these stranger's shoes soiled with muck and mud, to earn a few rupees, while he himself whiled his time, perhaps in the nearby local bar? Atharva wondered how such a man must have treated his delicate Zakira while she was his wife. As he did this, another pang of helplessness and guilt washed over him.
He now tried to console himself with the fact that she must have been happy. After all, the boy's age told him that she had soon married after he left for the United States. In a way, it was a good thing she hadn't waited. Life and maturity had coaxed him to move on...and her hanging on to his coming back, would have only added to his guilt.

The boy was now tugging at his leg, asking him to place his booted foot on the wooden box.
" Beta," Atharva patted him wistfully, "what is your name?" 

Smiling brightly, the boy answered, "Aadil...Aadil Atharva Siddiqui..."

A shell shocked  stared open mouthed at the boy. She had waited...
He was tempted to ask more. But didn't he have enough responsibilities to handle?
His heart cursed him for being so selfish. Then he remembered his wife and children, back in the US. He looked at the boy again. How oblivious he was, his spirit bright and happy. The way he declared his name suggested that Zakira had told their son about Atharva in a way, that would make any father swell with pride.
Disclosing this long kept secret would steal him of the sacrosanct impression he held for his father. Also, what would his family say about this, he shuddered. Sushma would not think twice about filing a divorce and the children would be heartbroken.
"That would be ten rupees, Saab" the cheerful smile again.

Atharva contemplated for a moment before professing a fifty rupee note. Heavy hearted, he turned to leave when the boy called out.

"Saabji, here is your change."

"Keep it, beta"

"No Saab. My mother has taught me never to take more than what is due." the boy returned the remaining money to Atharva and continued his shoe-shine ritual with the next customer.
 Atharva felt a heavy load on his chest. That was Zakira's teachings---the boy had taken after his mother.
"God bless you, son..." he said to the smiling boy and went away, with the heart wrenching sadness  that he could never become the man his son was.

 While in the taxi, he cried silently.
 "One rupee for every year that I missed. That is all this wretched father could give his son," he weeped.

He never visited India again...

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

 This post has been picked by BlogAdda as a WOW post for the weekend 6th to 8th September 2013

September 01, 2013

When 'Smartphone' gets smarter...

"Yes you, I am talking to you. You can stop staring and focus on what I am about to say, please."

It takes time for Rohit to realise that he is still foolishly staring at his cell phone on the table, with his mouth agape in surprise, wondering if someone is playing a mean trick at him. His sister is learning ventriloquism these days. But it is late in the night, and he knows she is too lazy to stay awake just for a practical joke.
As if reading his mind, the phone on the table bounces up straight, and the voice is heard again.
"This is no joke, Sir..We have to talk and its important." The voice has acquired a serious baritone, and Rohit rubs his eyes once more, only to be convinced he isn't dreaming. It is indeed his phone doing the talking.

"B..but how"

"That's not important" squeaks the device, "Lets not waste time in useless banter and come straight to the point."

"..and the point being?" He has got a grip on himself by now, and his teenage brain has come to terms with the fact that his phone is perhaps designed with some mysterious vocal quality.
He is making a mental note of the list of problems the phone is causing these days. If anyone has a right to sound angry, it is him. But letting the opponent lay out his cards first has always been his winning strategy. That way, he always got to have the last word.
His thought is disturbed by a whimper. For a moment, Rohit could swear he heard someone blow their nose---the aftermath of a typical girly wail.

"I've had enough. Its not working between us anymore." the phone splutters.

"Whaaaaat??!!!" Rohit exclaims, his voice a mixture of shock and confusion, "What's not working betw..."

"WE...We can't be together any more," the phone chokes up with emotion.

"Oh, for God's sake, you are just a stupid smartphone. How can you decide?"  Rohit is almost laughing now.

Acquiring an indignant brashness in response to Rohit's impudence, the voice continues talking.
"Firstly, I cannot be a 'stupid smart' phone. That, my friend, is an oxymoron. So since I'm an authorised smart phone (and I've got my manufacturing company vouching for it), its not me who is stupid." 
 The comment stings Rohit like a slap on his cheek. He stands there speechless while the phone continues lecturing, "...and secondly, I am surprised you still challenge my capabilities when I have already caused so much mayhem in your life?"

An evil chuckle is followed by the enumeration of incidents over the past few months...
"Remember when you and Shilpa had that major big fight," the mechanical voice continues, though it has now acquired a steely grim quality, "the one in which she blamed you for not answering her grand total of twenty one calls? How you'd thought it was the network at fault, that the calls had never reached you. and that text that Subodh sent informing you of the Chemistry viva..How you blamed him after scoring a still think I can decide nothing?" it sniggered, mentally hoping its fib wouldn't be caught.

"How did you manage to do all that?" Rohit's naive mind does not challenge the threat. After all, a  talking phone can do anything. He believes.

"Ahh, I have my contacts. A battery of mates who work for me, you know. How else do you explain the waxing and waning of charged up energy that peaks and ebbs in no particular order, even though you religiously fix me up on that stupid date with Mr Charger. every night? You don't really believe its just the few careful downloads that consume so much, do you?"

"What do you want from me?"  A flummoxed Rohit is now totally convinced aware that the situation is deadlier than it seems. It is all a conspiracy headed by his stupid smart phone.

"A break..." it points out blatently, "I need a break. I need some time to myself. Some me-time. I am tired of being man handled by you all the time. Be it a movie hall, a restaurant, amidst family, friends, relatives, you constantly have your hands on me. How would you like to be watched over every move examined...your every action scrutinised? Dude, I feel claustrophobic....smothered...locked up under your gaze...pressured under your touch.I need space."
 it rattles off.
"Drama queen," Rohit muttered under his breath, "So you created all this nuisance for space? You should consider yourself lucky you get so much attention."

"At what cost, buddy? You are missing out on important memories in the process..Mmemories that are being created with you around and yet without you in them. Why? Because you were too busy staring at some stupid app on your cell screen or you were too caught up group texting someone miles away or because you are too engrossed watching some video that is doing the rounds these days or too caught up clicking bizarre pictures of your animated face to send to your latest crush. Do you realise how many times your parents and friends have wished you never had me in your life? Dude, this is not good for my image," the phone is on the verge of throwing yet another fit.

"Ok ok. I know you are trying to drive home a point and I get it," Rohit frowns.

"Wow!!! Praise the lord..." taunts the phone.

"You might be smart, but I am not stupid." he chuckles at his own joke.

The phone cringes at Rohit's sense of humor. It is midnight. The clock strikes twelve interrupting the silence in the apparently sleeping household.
"Happy Birthday, Dude! It is time for me to get back into my mechanical mode. I will now meet you for your next birthday. Until then, think about what I've told you."
"But why on my next birthday? Why can't I speak to you more often?" argues Rohit, a little wistfully.
" Because that will defeat the whole purpose of the lecture, you dunce. Now go enjoy your birthday. You have missed three calls already." There is a kind of sardonicism in its voice.

Just then Rohit's parents and sister enter his room with a huge cake. His mom lights up sixteen small candles on it, a reminder of the wonderous age he is about to enter. Rohit's sister begins to sing the birthday song and his dad joins in the chorus. Rohit puffs his cheeks and is all set to extinguish the candles on the cake, when the phone rings.
Rohit is distracted. He looks at the phone, then at his family. A look of disappointment crosses the faces that were glowing with excitement just a minute ago.
Rohit remembers what the smart phone had told him. This moment with his loved ones---the memory of his 16th birthday, was more important than the phone call.
He smiles at his parents and blows out the candles on the cake. The call goes ignored. He would call back later.
Rohit spends the entire day with his family and friends, smothered with hugs, love, blessings....and loads of memories. All thanks to the conversation with his cell, he has learned how to live every moment and cherish every memory.

The smart phone lies neglected,  yet happy...
This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda. 

This post makes it to the WOW list at BlogAdda for the weekend August 30th to September 1st . *takes a bow*