A nice, old and sleepy centre stood among the hills, almost hidden by the tall green trees. It had taken almost three hours to reach here. Approximately, half of the journey was along roads; which were being broadened. Thick trunks of trees lay along the road on either side, cut and left there to dry. It pained me no end. They must have stood for fifty years or more perhaps, providing shade and oxygen. Will we able to grow such trees again? All were being sacrificed at the altar of mindless development.

In one place, a JCB was being used to cut a tall Euclyptus tree. It had raised its claws almost vertically and was cutting onto the higher part of the tree. The cuts looked greenish and sap was running out of it. I felt as if it was bleeding with these superficial cuts. Few cuts with the axe and it would not be so painful perhaps. They too deserve some respect in their last moments. To top it all, people had crowded around the JCB and were laughing. I missed out completely on the mirth. I had become one with the tree.

The centre was crowded with patients. But there was no dearth of sitting places. Thick roundrels of tree trunks of different colours, about one foot high each, were placed everywhere, neatly arranged along the walls.
” I just told my staff to go and collect a few tree trunks from those lying on the road and got them cut. They look nice, isn’t it?” The Incharge of that Centre asked me.
“Yes, they do. It’s a pity so many trees are being cut like this.” I told him.
” The roads have to be made broad. How long will we travel on these narrow roads?” He said.
” Hmmm. We did not meet many vehicles on the way.” I told him.
” Have you seen the road which is made already? A four lane road for us to zoom away.” He said, happily.
“Ya, a four lane modern road leading to a village like small town.” I said quietly.
He stared at me, shrugged his shoulders and moved off.

We rapped up our work in another five hours or so. My staff had become very deft in their work. Such was the dedication that, one of them held a urine sample of a patient in his left hand while grabbing cookies with another during tea break.
I ticked him off.
” Do not come near me with that kind of a spectacle in your hands next time.” I told him.
“I will have to test this for sugar.” He answerwd, smiling broadly.

In the midst of all work, ten minutes time can be solely dedicated to nourishing this temple of a body, isn’t it?

When we started back, the sky was still bright. Along the way, the sky turned a dark orange and then started fading. Lots of JCB’s remained suspended in the hills, hanging precariously, clawing at the brown soil repeatedly. I thought they looked like the extinct Dinosaurs of yester years; ferocious and monstrous. I craned my neck outside the window to have a better look at them. They seemed to defy gravity, hanging miles above us like that…
A particular red coloured huge one, loomed above us at a distance, atop a hill. The moment our vehicle reached near it, it suddenly made a one hundred and eighty degree turn and lurched downwards towards us at a great speed! We all yelled in fright together. The huge claws had almost picked us up along with the vehicle by then.
It then suddenly came to a stop. After releasing us gently, it turned upwards, back to work.
” Sorry….it was the Handyman driving.” Someone yelled from the hills.
It was turning dark. We were more than relieved and happy to be on the road again. Even though we reached home safely in another two hours; my heart kept jumping wildly within. What a day it was!
The next day; I was narrating that incident most solemnly to my colleagues in the Doctor’s room, near the operation theatre. General, Orthopaedic surgeons and Ophthalmic ones came for a tea break in between operations.
These guys laughed their hearts out.
” Really you provide us the much needed break. You go for an eye camp and on the way back, the JCB comes down and scoops you all up and puts you on a hilltop. Can you imagine how ridiculous that is?” One of them laughed helplessly as he said this.
” I did not go and sit on a hilltop inside a car. Do not exaggerate.”I retorted.
“News paper headlines. Dr Sapna left atop a tree on a hill. Coutsey: JCB.” Said another.
The scene came alive and vibrant in front of my mind’s eye this time, and all of us broke into a collective laighter. Finally with that, my heart beat became normal again and remained so for a long time.


Celebration to remember
The Sun arose in the east as usual today morning but the heart was not the same. It seemed
more alive today with pleasant expectations. Saying a quick prayer, I grabbed the phone. I
could not wait to start reading the birthday wishes. How nice it felt reading and rereading
those wondrous words. I felt like a balloon being inflated deliciously slowly.
Then it just plopped off all of a sudden. This was by the prick of sudden remembrance of the
‘To Do’ list of today morning.
I rushed through the usual chores of making breakfast and lunch, pushing the kids in the
bathrooms for a reluctant bath and then coerced them to come out of it so that the piping
hot breakfast did not become frozen. Meanwhile the clock continued to race. As I gulped
down some breakfast and made my way to the hospital, I prayed that I would not be given
too many serious and dying patients to be dealt with today. Even after being for years in this
medical field; any patient in distress still sends my heart racing. In spite of all our efforts,
some patients will just not survive. We can never conquer death.
My prayers were heard. We got a string of accident victims, medico legal assault cases,
alcoholics and drug addicts but none were really serious. Retracing my steps back home, I
felt spent. I just craved for some rest. My enthusiasm has dwindled over the years.
I came back to an empty nest. Children were away for classes. As I put on the lights, the
whole house seemed to be twinkling. My kids had used whatever material they could lay
their hands on to dress up the house. Long circuit banners made with different coloured
papers of their scrap book, cut painstakingly in triangles, hung stuck to thick cotton strings
of garments from the ceilings. Interspersed were different hued balloons placed
strategically. A small placard hung, held down properly with a set of dividers from the
‘geometry’ box!
‘Let’s Party.’
I had had no wish for it earlier, but I felt differently now. A little later, they bursted in
overflowing with enthusiasm, along with a couple of neighbouring kids.
“We will get a cake for you!” They ejaculated.
I did not have the heart to restrain them. Coming back with loads of bags they restricted
my entry to their room until called upon. I heard the loads of laughter and hushed whispers
emanating and could not help smiling.
Soon I was called in, the lights went on, balloons burst sprinkling tit bits of papers, songs
were sung and I was led to the table to cut the cake.
But the cake looked like a big ‘DHOKLA’!
“It is alright Mamma. The cake shops were closed on account of it being Sunday evening. So
we brought this instead.”
Among the sounds of ‘Happy Birthday’, I cut the Dhokla and while we shared it, I must admit
that I did not miss the cake in any way.
The kids are now dancing. Chips, Momos, Rossogollas and soft drinks are doing the
rounds. My son in his enthusiasm has dipped a potato chip in red spicy momo chutney by
mistake. His elder sister is stuffing sugar in his mouth. The others are roaring with laughter
at this faux pas.
I just let them be. Life is after all a celebration. Celebration in little things. How seldom we
forget it.


Fragrance Lingers

The month long festive period has come to an end. It all started with the run up to Durga Puja. All that saree shopping and matching accessories search, non withstanding the extended buying for kids and relatives ended when Durga Ma came home. A whirlwind week of enthusiasm and gaiety, pushpanjali and pandal hopping followed. Steaming ‘Khichudi’ and Labra with little side dishes left us wanting for more. For once we did not mind waiting in long queues to partake of this.
Nothing can beat the beats of a ‘Dhaak’. It seems the beats enter into our system, and sets each cell reverberating in unision with it. The whole universe seems to be dancing to it. I seem to be going into a ‘trance” then.

Then comes Laxmi Puja, Kali puja and Bhaiphota. Diwali is ‘Kali Puja’ for the Bengalees. Ma Durga’s another appearence in that form before bidding us good bye.
Now she too has left. The beautifully done Pandals are being dismantled. The little roadside shops selling snacks, crackers, flowers etc. have disappeared. The dhakis who play the ‘Dhak’ are no longer seen or heard. The visible joyousness has disappeared. The brothers have gone back after the visit to their sister’s homes with a promise to ‘ protect’ them.
Women were frail before, needing protection of brothers and husbands. Now they wish to
stand up on their own and ‘protect’ instead. Why not? When the essence of Ma Durga and Ma Kali reside in them, who can stand against them?
The celebrations are long since over but the bliss persists like a soft fragnance that lingers….