Little Ghost

Little Ghost

My family stayed in a small Coal India Colony. Rows and rows of residential quarters stood proudly on either side of black, shining tarred roads. There were many vacant large tracks of land interspersed between them. Cows and goats lazily grazed all day there, till the Sun dipped down in the far horizon. I never missed these final moments of rendezvous with the setting sun. The sky turned yellow, deep orange, pink, greyish blue and then dark. The fresh new painting of the Creator every day, left me enthralled. I loved to be alone at such times. It was that time of the day, when I seemed to become one with the earth, sky and the sun. The exquisite feeling of absolute stillness and peace has stayed on with me, ever since.

Then as the darkness would creep in, I would become aware of the Mango tree which stood about ten metres away from me, against that backdrop. It had seemed perfectly harmless until then. Suddenly, it seemed to come up alive. The hundreds of birds in it would fall silent and a hundred eyes seemed to open and stare at me from there. I would know then, that it was time for me to go back home.

On my way back, the gory tales I had heard of Ghosts, hanging out on that tree would flood my brain. Did GHOSTS really exist? I would find out, once I grew up. The only information that I had gathered, by eavesdropping on softly whispered tales of elders was that, they loved white for they always donned that colour, besides of course, swaying.

Each house had a big courtyard shaped like a capital ‘C’. Probably, each house was caught in the claws of a crab, would describe them better. Many of them had gardens and huge trees of Guava and Mango. We also had them in our garden. I loved the Guava tree. It was my friend, for I remained hidden up in one of its branches, reading books, singing happy songs and sharing my
adventures of the day. The tree heard them all patiently, and nodded and smiled by rustling its leaves or swaying its branches.
The Mango tree disappointed me hugely.
It grew straight, towering up towards the sky without so much as lending a branch for me to climb on. I understood that it held children with a quiet disregard.To top it all, its fruits were a total disgrace!
What kind of tree gave forth fruits whose seeds were as big as the fruit itself? Monkeys on that tree, would throw those stony mangoes on us, hitting us hard, in return for the stones we pelted on them for teasing us.

My friends would make fun of our mangoes, infuriating me further.
” You do not even know how to make a mango, you silly tree! Have you never heard of anything called ‘pulp’? Do you think a mango has only a seed and skin? Next year , do better than this. Do you understand? ” I would tell it loudly.

The best Mango tree in our locality grew in the last house of our row. They were huge and sweet. The owner loved our children’s troop and allowed us to raid the tree at will. But there was a problem; his watchman Sunaram. Short and dark, he absolutely refused to let us have even one mango from that tree. We waited in the late afternoons, for him to fall asleep. Those were the days when all elders took a small nap during that time.

That day, I had just managed to climb the tree after climbing up the boundary wall while the others waited down on the other side. As I shook the Mango laden branch vigorously, the ‘thap thap’ sound of falling mangoes awakened him. He came rushing with a stick twice my size, towards me. In absolute panic, I jumped right off the tree to the other side and escaped as fast as I could. Back at home, I was sure the mangoes would be weeping in his tummy.

Though only six years of age, I had quite the mean streak in me and would not take this, lying down. Soon, opportunity presented itself.

My father would wake us up at 4 a.m. every day and take us for a walk with neem toothbrushes in our mouths. By the time we came back; the Sky would start clearing slightly. At such an early twilight moment one day, I saw Sunaram meandering at a little distance, in the street opposite my house. A bright idea struck me instantly, at his sight.

I rushed in and wrapped myself in a white bed sheet, and just as he came a little near, I started swaying slowly, as if dancing to a slow, distant, English tune. The effect was dramatic.

He stared in horror, and his large eyes grew bigger and bigger.
“Ore Baba! Ore Baba! Chotto bhooth..!” He said, gasping,as his hands covered his mouth.
Then he lifted his lungi up to the knees, and ran away as fast as he could, yelling, ” Bhoot! Bhoot!”
I dropped to the floor, helpless with laughter. The laughing cost me dear for in the process, I got so entangled in the huge bed sheet, that extricating myself from the mess, was quite an ordeal.

That evening, a solemn looking Sunaram came to warn my mother of a ‘little bhoot’ in our house.
My mother refused to listen to him. It was followed by the Owner’s wife.
She tried to make my mother see sense, so exaggerated the description. I was sitting with my book right there, and tried my best not to burst into laughter. Hiding my face behind my book, I fervently hoped my mother would not smell a rat. She did’nt, with God’s grace.

Sunaram turned over a new leaf and respectfully handed over to me whatever number of mangoes I demanded. I do not know why he never looked directly at me. Did my size bother him? This I will never know, but the memory of that escapade still brings a smile on my face, even after so many years.

BROAD BEANS WITH MUSTARD

Have you seen the broad shiny beans in tbe market, shining as new? It seems they have been just plucked off their mother creepers.

They grow abundantly in this season and house holds which grow them, have to distribute it to their neighbours.

Well tbe gift can be received with great pleasure if delicacies can be made out of it. Here’s presenting one of them.

Ingredients

Broad Beans with Mustard

Ingredients

Broad beans 500 gms

Medium sized tomatoes 2

Green chillies 5 to 6

Mustard oil 3tsp

Panchphoron 1tsp

Mustard seeds grinded into paste 3tsp

Method

Cut half kg broad beans broadly( make 3 pieces of each)after washing them properly and letting them dry.

Beans with mustard

Grind mustard to a fine paste with 2 chillies. Ideally done in sheel _pata.
If not, then buy sunrise mustard powder and soak 3 tsp of it in water for half an hour.

Make a mixture of mustard seeds, nigella seeds, Fenugreek seeds, jeera and fennel seeds with a slightly more proportion of fennel as compared to others and keep in a jar. Radhuni in Bengali, is another ingredient which also added in it but not available easily. Panch phoron is the name of this mixtire
Many dishes can be made with this.

Heat 3 tsp mustard oil in a pan properly. Add 1 tsp panchphoron with 3 to 4 green chillies. Once you get a fine aroma, add broad beans, turmeric, salt and a pinch of sugar. Fry for 2 minutes in a high flame and then reduce and cover the vessel. Let the beans take up the aroma as they become soft slowly. Make a paste of 2 red medium sized tomatoes and add to after ten minutes. Let it simmer for another ten minutes. Niw add the mustard paste. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes and put off the flame.

It goes well with steaming rice.

Cladestine War

Hectic preparations are on right from last one and a half month. The proverbial sword of Democles seemed to be hanging over our heads even when we slept.


It seemed to me the beginning of the third world war. A war for subjugating tbe rest of the world. Intention are the same but methods are cladestinely different. There is no gun fire and bombing. Nevertheless, thousands and thousands of people die and countries go bankrupt, leaving them at the mercy of the benevolent benefactor. The benefactor who is adept in changing colours like the chamelion. The benefactor who has no mercy for his own people and yet the world leaders in their illusionary existence rally around him.


Does it ring a bell for Indians? Does it remind us of the East India Company?
Do we need to revisit our History? It all started with buying their products. Do we need to remind ourselves of the untold sacrifices that our freedom fighters had to make? Will their sacrifices and the suffering of the masses go in vain?

I feel guilty holding this Chinese made mobile phone, as I type away comfortably. I need to mend my ways. My country products might not be at par with some of the others in the market, but I am not perfect too.

Long time back, I had read about sour oranges of Japan. They continued relishing their home grown oranges even when their markets were flooded with sweet foreign ones. Eventually the foreign ones were removed from their market.

We are the oldest civilization of this planet. We have flourished despite odds. We just need to rekindle and hold on to time tested traditional values and customs. Hold on to those times when all human beings were equal, irrespective of profession, colour or sex. Those were the times when both physical and mental strength was built through years of arduous tenor. Love for one another reigned supreme.

Fast forward it all to today. Times have changed. But, in the changing times too, the moral values and magnanimity of yester years can be carried and applied brilliantly. Japan and it’s people are shining example of that. Hiroshima and Nagasaki could not really break them. It only worked to raise their collective consciousness and made them emerge stronger and resilient. Decades later, they continue to hold on to the lessons learnt.

Lets revert to good old times again. This is the time to REBOOT ourselves.

Back to those times at last, when the divine in all was recognised and bowed down to by all.
NAMASKAR🙏🏻🙏🏻

THE BRIGHT SIDE

The Bright Side

Optimism runs in our blood. Faith reigns in our hearts. We believe that ALL IS WELL.
God is watching over us. Come on, we pray to him every day. Its his duty. Isn”t it? So we continue our merry ways. Stroll around the city in the free hours, talk over pan, betel nut, tea or burgers and declare with a laugh that we are not afraid.
We have donned the DAGGER of some flimsy colourful cotton masks for PROTECTION and move around like a MARATHA WARRIOR.
Oh! The pleasure of SPITTING. If atleast ten such sprays do not beautify the places we visit everyday, peace eludes us. We love to leave our mark in the fabric of our Country. Who knows whether we will live to do so tomorrow?

What is this CORONA? Why are the netizens going ballistic about it? It cannot happen to us. How can it happen to us?

And so we all continue as usual.Till the DARK TRUTH hits us with a BANG.

Health facilities infinitely better than us in affected countries are collapsing. Thousands of people are succumbing to the disease. It is striking with a vengeance hither to unknown. Humans have no immunity to this disease. The body has been caught completely unawares. It is fighting a losing battle in many. Earlier we callously watched other countries getting affected. Now that it has spread its tentacles in many states and is raging, we have all sat up.
Now there is panic everywhere.
They say that God helps those who help themselves. LETS HELP OTHERS AS WELL AS OURSELVES.


LET US GO BACK TO OUR ROOTS.

  1. Follow the age old principles of hygiene and cleanliness.
  2. Maintain cleanliness everywhere.
  3. Wash our hands repeatedly and practice social distancing.
    4 Not touch our faces and surfaces.
  4. Stretch our feet, relax at home and bond with the kids.
  5. Take care of those who are dependent on us. Its the lesser fortunate among us who make our life worth living.
  6. Not crowd the hospitals for minor illnesses.
  7. Rise to the occasion and show our true worth.

Afterall if others live and remain disease free, we will be able to survive too.

Like bubbles have we risen,
You, me and us all,
Then grew egos swollen,
Dividing us all.

The day the bubble burst,
It will someday for us all,
The truth will then be thurst,
Uniting forever us all.

Heres wishing everyone a safe existence in this time of crisis.

SILENT CONNECT

The fragrance slowly wafted, reassuring and calming me. I moved my chair nearer to it. The dainty flowers were a light purple. They were placed among fresh green leaves. Surrounding it were tall Rajnigandha stems with bunches of white flowers. They had bloomed the earlier evening , but, they still looked dewy fresh. I felt a silent connect with them.

Pure Connect


Something emanated from them for I seemed to have become a part of their bliss.
I turned calmer and quieter. I stared at my friend absent minded; when she called me to leave the site. How could I leave this enchanting world? I seemed to be in a trance.

Flowers Galore

Large bouquets of flowers were placed every two feet away. Flowers of every colour one could imagine were there. Light purple to orange, light green to pink and violet to crimson… Placed in between green ornamental foliage, they were breath takingly beautiful. They even hung from the ceiling forming a canopy.

AIOS Conference

Even the conference name was written with flowers.
I reluctantly left the exquisite beautiful surroundings to enter one of the lecture halls. A part of me remained in the dining hall of the All India Ophthalmic Society Annual Conference centre in Gurugram. The connect was making its presence felt!

Connect

Have you ever felt a distinct connect with plants and flowers? Did you ever feel that they were talking to you as you nurtured them? Probably you dismissed it as a figment of your imagination.

Silent Connect

Intuitive Connect

It was not imagination. Science has proved it. Various studies indicate that plants can communicate with us. They have emotions; which are not far removed from that of human beings. Do they have other emotions and other ways of communication distinct from that of humans? Present day instruments fall short of evaluating them fully. Where physical instruments fail, intuition comes in. Some of us are intuitively perceptive. We can perceive things which probably Science will conclude after a long time.

Perceive Connect

We as a race, place too much emphasis on the physical. Our ancient sages did just the opposite. Look at what they could achieve and perceive thousands of years back. Till today, science continues to grapple with it.

MADAM BICHITRA

“Do take a chair.” I told the lady patient.
“I am your mother in law’s friend.’ She introduced herself.
This seemed more important than her name. I would have to be at my best behaviour.
‘Your name please.” I asked.
“I am a retired teacher. Have taught hundreds of students like you. We were in the same school.” She said.
“Please tell me your name then…” I repeated.
“See how forgetful I have become! One day you too will become like me. Here you keep asking my name and I don’t tell you. Instead I am telling you trivial things. You are not interested in it. I am really Bichitra!” She exclaimed.

I sat up a bit. My features always betray me. Why can’t I appear interested in ‘ inconsequential things’? I still did not know her name.

I thought of writing MIL friend in the name slot. All thought that I had a nice handwriting. Changing it should do the trick. I planned to scribble the name in such a way, that no one could make head or tail of it. She interrupted me as I started writing.
” Bichitra Sangma Doc. It starts with B…not M..”
I tried to hide a smile. Teaching over the years had given her a different perspective.

Happy Days

I remembered my surgeon teacher of Aravind Eye Institute.
“Hold that Dialer right. Your angle is wrong.’ He had said from the other end of the long Operation theatre.
I had wondered no end.

Vision Chart

” So you want me to read that.” She said.

“Yes. Please read what you see.” I said.

“If the Doctor wants me to read, I will have to do so.” She said.

Yes, please do.” I said and waited and kept on waiting.
“You cannot read…..” I was about to blurt out. I bit my tongue.
It is my conditioned reflex..you see.
They are conditioned to make you land into a hot soup.

READING

“Read..huh.” She mumbled.
I was losing my patience slowly. As it is, I did not have much of it.
“I read a Dark Lady.” She started.
“You read a what?” I asked surprised.
“Yes. I read a Dark Lady. She..” She started saying.
I sprang up from my chair. I wanted to see the chart myself. When did a Ghost enter inside my box? That too a dark one and even replaced the alphabets🤔🤔.
The Chart looked perfectly well. All the alphabets stuck religiously to their own seats.


The lady was humouring me when I was in no mood of humour.
“Come on..read.” I reiterated.
She made a woebegone face.
A few alphabets were making her peevish while she had been teaching hundreds of students all her life.
No one had perhaps advised her in her prime. Do what you love and you won’t have to work a single day in your life.
She started hesitantly,” I read a dark lady with a darker shawl covering her head.”
I gawked in surprise.

She then clapped her hands in jubilation,” Oh..its me. That’s me!”
She was reading her REFLECTION!
I almost fell off my chair laughing. She too joined in.
The noise made some patients peep in curiously.

I immediately turned solemn and went about the rest. I handed the prescription to her.

“Doc, I cannot afford to buy both. I can buy the spectacles or I can pay for your consultation. Which one should I prefer?”
“The former.” I said quietly.
“Thank you. Give regards to your Mother in law. Which shop should I go to?” She asked.
“Whichever shop you want. You are staying near the hospital. Do come there from next time. Its’ free.” I said.
“Please examine me in the same way!” She said.
I nodded trying to make it seem the final Nod.

“I am preety ugly looking, isnt it Doctor? She turned towards me.
“Saw a mirror today after many years.” She said and went away.
I know not why it hurt.

REVISITS

She used to come to visit me every couple of months. Talking about her students, who were doing very well in life, was her favourite topic. Her two sons, had left the home and hearth after marraige; thanks to her matrilineal society. She did not have a daughter. She had lost her husband over a decade ago.
” Do come and visit my house someday. I have pigs and chickens which I rear myself. See I did not become bent little old lady like your MIL. We eat two chicken pieces everyday in sharp contrast to your vegetarian MIL.” She said laughing.
I agreed with her wholeheartedly. I had never seen old and bent tribal women.

OLD AND BENT


Slowly she started becoming bent too. I did not have the heart to ask her the reason of it. I could make out from her countenance.
She understood that I knew.
“I no longer needed the house. So I sold it. I made a small hut by the roadside with these hands. A strong one. No wind can blow it off.”She said, laughing.
My heart went out to her.


I gave her the calcium tablets, vitamins and some eye drops I had collected from medical representatives for her. I offered some money to her. She refused.

CRUELTY


Her hut was far off from the hospital. Coming again would not be easy.vHer sons had forgotten about her existence. Looking after her did not fall under their duties anyway. What if she had spent her life’s earnings on them?


If only her job too had a pension facility…
” You know Sapna….I bought a small mirror.” She said; on reaching the door.

I had graduated from Doc to Sapna.
” Now you know that you have a very sweet face.” I said.
She smiled and said, ” I will come again.”
I continued my collecting spree. Days passed into months and months into years. I never saw her again.

I read, that day, that not taking care of parents would become a punishable offence. Her face suddenly; swam before my eyes. Perhaps she had turned in her grave.

P. N. Pictures are sourced from Google and are only representative.

VACATION IN GOA

Sunny Day

The Sun shòne bright above.The clear blue sky of Goa had a few wisps of white floating in a line. Shimmery blue water touched the far horizon. The brown fine sand silently took in the foot prints. Waves crept in washing them away tirelessly. A few crabs gleefully waded in and out with the waves. 🦞🦞
A dog lazed on the sand watching all this.🐶 I am on a vacation in Goa.

HAIR ESCAPADES

My hair fluttered💃🏽 dangerously in the breeze. I have lost confidence in them🙆‍♂️ in the recent years. They are bent on deserting me… my head I mean. 👩🏻‍🦲😳

👷‍♀️I restrained them with a cap and rested my head on the back of a white chair.🪑🪑 The latter stood proudly at equal intervals.
Far away were a few colourful boats, lined up stately, waiting for the adventurous among us.🚣‍♀️
Paragliders hung above suspended from the sky.
A cool breeze almost lulled me to sleep. I got up suddenly.
I did not want to sleep when so much beauty was around.

https://fewdayzoff.com

TIME OFF.

My work schedule had been very hectic in the earlier month. So when a new travel
Agency https:// fewdayzoff.com offered to work out the logistics of the visit at a reasonable cost, a great load fell off my shoulders.

I opted for a train journey from Mumbai. The owners at https://fewdayzoff.com knew about my interests and inclinations well before hand. Unpleasant surprises rattle me no end.

The time is not the most opportune one for sure. Trees are shedding their greens and the earth is thirsty. The pantry car of the train did not disappoint us. Soups and fruit salad, biryani and samosas, dahi wadas and cold drinks did the rounds. We basked in the adulation.


We travelled to the hotel in local cabs. The hotel stood on sandy shores. Sand had already entered our sandals. We dusted them off and entered our rooms. The simple yet, tastefully decorated rooms were clean and spacious.

Balcony view


I ventured into the balcony with my cup of coffee.
The view left me spellbound. The Ocean spread out as far as I could see. Gentle waves crashed against the shore, one after the other. The blue waters sparkled with the Sun. If only this could continue forever…

A long sigh escaped off me. All play and no work makes John and me, not only dull but Paupers too!

My Mother, My Treasure

GREEN PRAWN CURRY


Two minute read

We all have come across a variety of PRAWN DELICACIES, but some are such that, they can never be forgotten. GREEN PRAWN CURRY is one of them.

Sweet Memories

I am transported to a time back to my teenager days. My little brother is helping me in the kitchen while I am trying to cook PAO_BHAJI which I had had at a fast food centre, near my college.

Present Days


How time has flown and my brother has become an accomplished Chef himself. A special Chef who caters only to his family and friends, in his own home!
Now taking a ‘fewdayzoff’, I am with him on a small vacation in Mumbai. What culinary delights I am being treated to! He got even his wife on board !
The treat below is one of many.

Ingredients

Prawns( fresh, cleaned and deveined) 500 gms

Fresh coriander leaves….200 gms

Fresh garlic tender scapes……200 gms

Garlic pods …….6..7

Coconut milk(Home made company’s has a thick consistency)……300ml

Curry leaves…. 20 leaves

Green chillies …5

Heat three teaspoon butter in a flat bottomed pan along with one teaspoon of any refined oil. Finely chop garlic pods and fry till golden brown in colour. Add along with six to seven curry leaves.
In a mixer jar, grind, washed coriander leaves, garlic scapes and seven to eight curry leaves together. Now add this grinded mixture to the pan and let it cook in a medium flame for five minutes. Add coconut milk, salt to taste, three teaspoons sugar and a few chillies cut finely. Let it all simmer for eight to ten minutes.


Then, add the prawns and simmer again for another ten minutes. The more you cook, the harder the prawn becomes. So, adjust the time accordingly to your taste.
Season it with cream for that exotic taste and looks. It is purely optional. Cook it with lots of love and patience. Have you ever noticed the special taste the latter, adds to any dish whatsoever? There is a secret behind it.

The exotic taste of GREEN PRAWN CURRY, will linger on for a long time.

REPUBLIC DAY

REPUBLIC DAY

The moment our National Anthem plays, a strange change occurs in me. My heart reverberates with the song and the eyes feel wet. I feel overwhelmed with a sea of emotions as I stand up for it. Republic day, Independence day or a visit to the Cinema hall are such occasions.

 

SILENT PRAYER

Indian National Flag

May I be always true to you, my dear motherland. May I never do anything that will bring any harm, in any form, to this country or its citizens.
May I be so blessed dear God that when I leave; I have the satisfaction of leaving this place a better place to live in.
May I be able to repay the debt of the care and sustenance my motherland has provided me. May I be able to instill love for the country in the hearts of my children too.
God please bless us.

In rest of India, Republic day is an occasion of celebration. We as students,went early morning to the school and then later to the workplace for witnessing the Flag being raised high enough to tower over the city. We sang the National Anthem with full devotion, imbibing every word of it, deep within. We felt so proud of being Indians. This pride ran through the veins of all.

The North East India was a stark contrast. The National Celebration Days were days of Bandh call, called by one disgrunted organization or other. The roads would be deserted and the shops would be closed. Children would play cricket on the roads. They did not have to go to school anyways, for the winter vacation would be on at that time. I don’t why but it pained me no end. Thankfully, things are turning for the better now.

Love For The Country

Some values are such, that can be more forcefully instilled during such occasions. There are only few occasions where all the country men unite to celebrate. To celebrate the FREEDOM that required untold sacrifice and suffering. The sacrifice of lakhs of faceless countrymen, whosecstories we will never know. The maintenance of which too, again necessiates the sacrifice of thousands of our soldiers.

Do the PROTECTED COUNTRYMEN even have an inkling about it?

ELIXIR OF YOUTH

The Elixir

I had seldom heard about people who lived past their age but had hardly seen them. What was the Elixir of their youth? What magic potion kept them preserved?

The man had walked into my evening clinic that day. Only one or two patients probably remained after him. I was in a hurry. Examination of the kids were looming in the horizon.

EXAMINATION


After writing down the name, I invariably went to the next question.
“Tell me your age.” I asked, waiting to note it down.
” That I will not tell you!” He replied, smiling.
I looked up in surprise. He is behaving like a woman; I thought to myself. What was there to be secretive about his age? As if, it is the money in his bank account and if he tells me, I might rob him of some.
“Its better to tell me.” I said.

YOUNG AT ALL TIMES

“This you have to guess, Doctor.” He smiled
I looked at him carefully. A fresh face with few lines on the forehead and a few stately grey hairs near the ears. Jet black hair fell in curls on the forehead. He must have been handsome in his youth.
” You are sixty years of age.” I said, nonchalantly.
” Alas Doctor! You really are way off the mark.” He said.
Now I was at a loss.
I thought probably he was much younger. Nowadays the young have grey air and get some wrinkles too.
” You must be about forty five years then.” I said.
He bit his tongue.
” No, no..higher then your earlier quote.” He said.
” You are about seventy years. You gain nothing by hiding your age.” I said.

” He quipped.
” I suppose you are approximately eighty years of age.” I uttered foolishly.
” Increase some more.” He said, enjoying my discomfiture.
” Are you ninety years?” I asked hesitantly.
” Increase some more.” He said, laughing now
I thought the man has lost his mind and was making every effort to make me lose mine too.

So on it continued till it stopped at hundred and ten years!

UNBELIEVABLE

Still finding it incredulous; I asked him what he did for a living long time back. He was a retired school teacher.

“So you have seen the British!” I quipped.

It pulled the trigger for him to explode into a flood of memories.

I wish I could co author a book with him then.

ELIXIR OF YOUTH

That was the first instance of meeting a centenarian. I met many of them thereafter. They abound in the North Eastern states of India.

These principles are the ‘ELIXIR’.

  1. Live a happy and contented life.
  2. Breath fresh air.
  3. Eat local produce.
  4. Be physically active.
  5. Have people around you to laugh and share.
  6. Have no expectations from life.
  7. Be in tune with nature.

Their life is at one end of the Spectrum, and of the others at the other end. I see glimpses of Saints in some of the former.