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Saturday, December 25, 2010


Bina Gupta encouraged her friends to write
   An answer to a letter mailed by a child to Santa Claus.
Not to cross limit of 300 words.

My dear Malia Ann, 

I am so delighted to receive a request from the most powerful address in the world.

It was heart warming that you wished for small statue of a person who has been described by Albert Einstein: "Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one ever, in flesh and blood, walked upon this earth."  

However, such a one would have been amused that you have asked for his statue. He, with a mischievous smile, would have told you, that he is somewhat responsible for you being there at your present address. He would have recited, with a twinkle in his eye, “Thanks to Rosa Parks who sat, Martin King could walk. Martin King walked, so that Barrack Obama could run. And, Barrack Obama ran and ran and ran and reached the White House,” followed by his trademark loud guffaw.  

Dear Malia, Gandhiji was the inspiration to all the three of them as he is to all of us. Non-violent resistance to tyranny is what he taught the world. He also had the courage of his conviction to practice what he preached and even laid down his life for it. Unfortunately, the world leaders, including your father, have failed him. Jawaharlal Nehru rightly said, on Gandhiji's death, that the light has gone out. Now it is up to young people like you to bring the light back. 

Therefore, greater than keeping his statue would be to read about his philosophy and to spread his message. Hence, along with statue, I am also dropping his autobiography, “My Experiments With Truth,” as surprise bonus gift for you.  

And, in keeping with spirit of the season, there is also a complimentary ticket for my dear friend to jingle all the way to India during the next Diwali holiday season.  

300 words.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


There is a complexity to human affairs before which science and analysis simply stands mute.

                                                                                                  David Brooks

 In the New York Times of May 11, 2009, David Brooks, in his article, “They Had It Made,” wrote, “In the late 1930s, a group of 268 promising young men, including John F. Kennedy and Ben Bradlee, entered Harvard College. By any normal measure, they had it made.” The group became the subject of a cohort longitudinal study initiated by Arlie Bock at the Harvard University in the 1930s. It came to be known as the Grant Study.

The purpose of the study was to observe and co-relate, over a long period, the life events of each individual in the group standing, at that point of time, at an almost identical threshold in their lives. The result was surprising for, “Their lives played out in ways that would defy any imagination …...” The conclusion of this fascinating study was that predicting a life course is difficult even of those who, at some stage, seem to have it made. But, perhaps, there could be an alternative explanation – theological determinism.

Maybe, these life stories, like the life stories of the rest of us, were preordained to play out the way they did. This theory of theological determinism is also called predestinarianism. The doctrine propounds that from all eternity, God has foreordained everything that happens. However, it has to be conceded that the definitive paradigm of theological determinism can only be identified in retrospect, for rarely does it give a preview of its flowchart in advance. Still, one wonders if there could be a preset program, assigned to each of us at the time of birth, which mortals do not know of.

A retrospective study of the unbelievable ascendancy of Sonia Gandhi to the pinnacle of political power in India appears to have been made possible by the occurrence of what Pieter Geyl would have described as, ”concatenation of events ……… caused …… by impersonal forces ………independently from the wishes or efforts of individuals.”

Sixty-four years ago, how would one have figured out the possibilities of a just born girl child, to a middle class family in an obscure village of Italy, to attain the highest political office of India? The question, if posed, would have been ridiculed. The girl was an Italian national and was thousands of miles away from India. The primary issue then would have been as to how would she ever reach a country almost unknown to her family? 

Antonia Maino, as she was then, was born on December 9, 1946. In 1965 providence took the first step in propelling Sonia Gandhi, as she is now, towards her destiny. She decided then to leave Italy to go to England to work as an au pair and to learn the English language. Rajiv Gandhi, who also happened to be in England at the same time, saw her in a restaurant there and it was he who sought an introduction to her. 

Rajiv Gandhi was the son of Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi and the grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru, who was the first Prime Minister of India. Still it took Rajiv three years to convince her to marry him. They were finally married in February 1968 at Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s residence in New Delhi. Sonia Gandhi without her knowing had moved a step closer to the realization of her destiny. She had landed in the country of her future.

The big question still remained, how could it be possible for a foreigner, a woman at that, to assume the top political leadership of such a large country especially as she would have to democratically battle it out with local aspirants? How could she ever triumph over them? Would she not also be handicapped in communicating with the people of that country as she would not know any of its several languages? 

How would she prevail over the cultural and religious difference, for, was not India a Hindu majority country with a deeply embedded culture of its own? The negatives would be endless and, therefore, the whole possibility of her reaching the highest political office of India would have been dismissed as an exercise in fantasy. But unfathomable are the ways of the higher power that makes the impossible, possible.

Although Sonia had married the son of the Prime Minister of India, she and her husband Rajiv Gandhi were not at all interested in politics. He actually became a pilot in the Indian Airlines and continued to be one till 1980. She became a home-maker in the Gandhi household. However, the years between 1968 and 1980 were politically tumultuous for Sonia’s mother in law, Indira Gandhi. Sonia, who was staying with her throughout this time, must have observed it all from very close quarters. It was like a first-hand tutorial on Indian politics for her. The unseen power, it seems, was readying Sonia for her ordained future. 

In 1980 Sanjay Gandhi, the younger brother of Rajiv, who was attracted to politics and perceived as the natural heir and successor to Indira Gandhi, died in an air crash. Rajiv had to resign from Indian Airlines to help his mother in her political work. Sonia understood the situation and concurred to his taking up active politics. She was totally unaware, at that time, that with the death of Sanjay Gandhi she had actually moved a niche closer to the call of her own destiny.

The tragic assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984 must have created in Sonia an abhorrence of Indian politics. It is well documented that she fiercely opposed Rajiv Gandhi becoming the Prime Minister of India on the death of his mother Indira Gandhi. Rajiv, however, did become the Prime Minister but Sonia, unknown to herself, had also inched closer to her final call in her own right.

Seven years later Rajiv Gandhi was brutally assassinated by a suicide bomber in Sriperumbudur in south India and Sonia Gandhi and her two children were shattered. Sonia’s strongest bond with the country had been snapped. One does not know what inner strength she drew upon at that excruciating time to remain in India and not move back to Italy. However, she withdrew from Indian public life and dedicated the next seven years to bringing up her children. She made just a few public appearances and displayed no personal political ambitions during that period. However, the design of the destiny could not be denied.

In 1998 the Congress party of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi seemed to have become rudderless and was in danger of extinction. In this grave hour of crisis, the party turned towards Sonia and implored her to assume its leadership. After great persuasion, she agreed, perhaps, against her own inclinations. However, within 6 years, she single-handedly achieved the almost impossible feat of dislocating the then ruling coalition, headed by ultra Hindu nationalists – the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) - from its perch of power by narrowly defeating it in the Lok Sabha general elections of 2004 – the then largest democratic elections of the world.

Thereafter, the President invited her to become the Prime Minister of India. The girl child, born in Italy, had finally reached the zenith position in Indian politics – a summit that had been conquered by only 13 persons before her. She, however, graciously declined it by citing it as a call from her ‘inner voice.’ Five years later, she once again reconfirmed her supremacy in the General Election of 2009 by defeating the same BJP but by a larger margin. 

It may be, thus, open to conjecture that an ordained outcome, premeditated by a supreme power, could only have engineered her rise to the high noon of Indian politics. However, it has to be conceded that the law of cosmic design of determinism, in its entirety, will always remain beyond the comprehension of mere mortals.

Monday, November 22, 2010


A winner of Blogadda's "What Men Want !" Contest

The contest was judged on December 3, 2010 by Jamshed Rajan
and he wrote,
"Hanif Murad tells a story of one of his many loves".

Since the time of Adam, all men want the same thing. They think about it every seven seconds and 5000 times a year.

In the pursuit of this goal, men have expended plenty of time, money and energy; resorted to camouflage, deceit, and lies and, some have even gone to war for it. However, only a small percentage of men have succeeded in getting what they desire and the rest have just fallen by the wayside and surrendered. However, hope burns eternal in their hearts that perhaps someday, sometime they may strike gold. Gene Raskin captures the plight of these losers in the song, “Those Were The Days,”

Oh my friend we're older but no wiser
For in our hearts the dreams are still the same

I must confess that I am in the majority and live with the same hope.

However, there were days when I was young and fanciful. One of my fantasies was that I was irresistible to women – like God’s great gift to womankind. My daydreams, in those days, were made of these flights of fancies.

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.

Of course, those were also the days when I dreamed of all the great things I would do. I mused that someday in the future I would be a leader of the nation. In the pursuit of this goal, I wrote an article entitled “The Need for an Alternate Party to the Congress.” It was a blueprint for starting a new political party and how it could be corruption free. It also talked about a strategy to defeat the Congress at the polls.

Thus, it came about that I was invited, by a well-known organization for leadership development, to speak on the subject at a seminar. I was all of 25. This organization was funded by a large corporate house and the 3-day seminar was to be held in their management institute at Pune. Five star accommodations were provided on the campus. On that fateful day, a cold wintry December morning, there I was in a smartly tailored steel grey suit backed by coordinated accessories. Power dressing, if you please. I considered myself “Observed of all observers.”

There was a good omen and a bad omen when I arrived at the hall just a few minutes before the start of the seminar. The good omen was that the hall was nearly full and the bad omen was that the crowd was almost all male with just a sprinkling of middle-aged women suffering from “seminaritis.”  A situation I was not particularly happy with. Then it happened.

With only a couple of minutes to go, she arrived. Even as she stood at the distant doorway, hesitating just for a moment to check if she was at the right venue, she exuded a presence. I was already seated at the table and I unabashedly stared at her as she walked in with great poise and sat in the front row just opposite to me.

She was fair, tall and slim. She was in a crisp cotton sari and had a bright red s-shaped fine vertical tikka on her forehead. Her hair was dark with natural blonde streaks. As she sat down and very daintily crossed her legs, I noticed she was wearing gold zari braided kolhapuri slippers on perfectly designed feet and toes. However, what dazzled me were her lovely light gray eyes behind her rimless glasses. She was Archana, a Chitpavan Brahmin, who, as I later found out, happened to be just three days younger than I was. I felt a certain kind of glow within me in her presence. She smiled at the administrator of the seminar sitting next to me. He proudly told me that she was his daughter.           

The seminar was then inaugurated. I was introduced to the audience and, thereafter, stood up to give the speech. I had done a course in public speaking that taught us that whilst delivering a speech, to make an eye contact with the audience. Hence, when my eyes came to dwell on her, I saw her staring intensely at me and was all attention to what I saying. However, she also had a small smile playing on her lips. The speech was well accepted by the audience, although, ultimately, nothing came of it – exactly as Archana predicted at that time. After all, she had done her MA in political science.

As we were about to break for lunch, Archana came over to our table to speak to her father. She spoke to him in Marathi and there was such wistfulness in her tone whilst speaking to him that I fell in love with her at that moment. I have never ever heard anyone speak Marathi as beautifully as she does.

That evening at dinner, Archana, in a beautiful salwar and full sleeved kameez, looked absolutely radiant. She and I got talking. Surprisingly, we came to  share a  chemistry very quickly and our tête-à-tête that evening proceeded from the dinning hall to the footsteps of the administrator’s bungalow. We sat on the either end of one of the steps – a distance of about 4 feet separating us. We talked of politics, plays, music and our dreams. The great thing I discovered was that I could make Archana laugh fairly easily with my take on the topics we were discussing. However, if I tried to make any pass at her, she would laugh it off and use a favourite Marathi phrase of hers, “Gup bas,” to put me off. It was a Laxman rekha that I was not supposed to cross.

Time winged away that bitterly cold night and at 2 am in the morning, I decided that I wanted to marry her. I gave my proposal a political color. I told her half-jokingly that if both of us get married, I, with a beautiful Hindu Maharashtrian wife, would be a surefire winner at the polls and, some day, she could, perhaps, become the first lady of the country. 

She laughed, got up, on tiptoes climbed up the steps, and prancingly weaved her way to the house. I vended my way back to my guest apartment and lay awake, with the glow burning more fiercely than ever, till 5 am.

The next morning she told me that her parents wanted to meet me over tea in the evening. I raised my eyebrows and told her with a smile, “So soon? Oh, they must be thinking that I am a suitable boy for you. But, I hope your parents will not force me into marrying you.”

She laughingly retorted, “Ha, ha, Yeh munh aur masoor ki daal. Keep on dreaming.”

I left the next evening for Mumbai but Archana and I kept in touch on phone. One evening her mother called me and said that Archana was getting married to a Maharashtrian doctor in America and it would not be appropriate for me to speak for such long hours to Archana anymore. She, however, invited me to the wedding in Pune. 

Archana looked gorgeous in her bridal wear on that day. When our eyes met, she gave a shy smile and looked down.

               "Then the busy years went rushing by us
                We lost our starry notions on the way"

After many years, Archana, now a mother of two, called me but I felt as if it was only yesterday that we had talked to each other. The intermediate years melted away, we were young once again and, now that she was married, my jokes were a little naughtier and the ad libbing contained many double entendres. She enjoyed them and, indeed, confessed that she had not laughed that hard in a long, long time. I immediately paid a compliment to her husband for not wasting his time in trying to amuse his wife. Out came her favourite Marathi phrase, “Gup bas.” She added that her husband was a very good person but admitted that he was bit of a bore. I then told her that I was always there to bring some spark to her married life. She laughed and said, “Keep dreaming.”  

And dream, I did. I dreamt that,

‘I was invited by the king of good times to an inaugural flight of his new airlines to Switzerland. There were to be only four of us, besides the crew, on that flight. He, his girl friend, Archana and I. The programme was that all four of us would spend the previous night at the Hotel Centaur near the Mumbai International airport before taking the inaugural flight early morning the next day. He had booked the best two suites at the hotel. After a sumptuous and a laughter-filled dinner, we were ready to go to our rooms.

As Archana and I reached the suite, I grandly swiped the card, opened the door, bowed and invited her to go in first. She gave me her million-dollar smile and her lovely gray eyes twinkled as she walked in. I followed her with rising expectations. However, Archana seemed more interested in the décor, the carpet and the paintings in the suite. After inspecting the entire suite and drooling over the luxurious beds, she pointed to a long sofa in the anteroom and told me that I was to sleep there whilst she would sleep on the bed.        

I protested, saying, “Archana, after so many years of yearning, finally we are together and you want to waste this golden opportunity by sleeping separately.”

She replied with her favorite Marathi phrase, “Gup bas.” Then smilingly added, “Jo garajtey hai, woh barastey nahi.” The coup-de-grace came in her soothing Marathi, “Atha gup chup zopun ja, sakaali laukar uthun jayacha aahey. Good night.”’

I got up with a fright and was immediately thankful that it was only a dream. Later, I called Archana in USA and narrated my dream to her. She burst out laughing when I came to, Jo garajtey hai, woh barastey nahi.and just could not stop. She said she had not heard anything funnier than that.  

 However, not all was lost. After a few days she called me and said that the previous night she had gone to a party with her husband and he had worn such a baggy suit that she remembered how smartly dressed I was in the black suit on the morning I gave that speech in Pune. “I wished you were there instead of him.”

Uh, hunh, did I not say that I was irresistible to women …………………even if they are on the verge of grandmothers to be?  I still dream that I may someday conquer a woman – as Adam and billions after him have dreamt in vain.


Sunday, October 17, 2010


(Submitted for the Blogadda "Sporting memories" contest)

I was born with a manufacturing defect. Unfortunately, I did not come with a warranty that the product could be returned, if found deficient. Thus, the deficiency in the product only came to light around the age of seven. The problem was that the right foot instep was slightly inward looking.  

Hence, whilst running, whenever I would try to pick up speed, the right leg would go across the left leg and……..boom………I would be sprawled on the floor. It could be called a built-in self tripping mechanism. However, this inward looking shy instep was not a problem when walking or even jogging at a slow pace; only, it played up, when trying to run at a speed.

Therefore, as may be guessed, most sports were out. But it was in cricket that I found my true calling. I was a natural batsman endowed with quicksilver reflexes. It was almost impossible to get me out even by boys double my age. I could play pace and spin bowling with equal ease. However, my batting skills were of no asset to the team as I could not run fast enough to score runs. 

However, I vividly remember a cricket match I played when I was about 12 years old. It was played on a ground attached to a small neighborhood school. The playing field must have been 100 feet in length and about 50 feet in breadth. The pitch was in the centre of the playground.   

The match began at 4.15 p.m. The opposing side batted first and were all out for 49 runs. It was strongly believed that the scorer, who was from their side, added a few runs on the sly. All the same, our team started strongly and in no time we were 25 for no loss. And then 9 wickets fell for the addition of only 20 runs. 

With 5 runs still needed to win the match, I was the last batsman to walk in and a discernible groan went up in our camp. The captain of our team gave me strict instruction to play a shot and just scamper across. He said that the other batsman will try and hit a boundary after that. The situation was terribly nerve-racking.

Needless to mention, the captain’s instruction was weighing on my mind as I walked to the middle. I took a middle-stump guard and prepared myself to face the first ball. The bowler came charging in and bowled a pretty fast ball but it was way outside the off stump. I had half a mind to run and take a bye and go over to the opposite side but stopped myself just in time as I saw their wicket keeper collect the ball cleanly. There was a lot of buzz around the field as their lanky bowler started walking back to his bowling mark. I could feel the pressure around me.

Once again, I saw the bowler charging down and this time he bowled a huge bumper that could not be played. I then saw our captain running down towards me. Breathlessly he told me that the next ball was the last one of the over and under no circumstance should I take a run now.

Once more, I bent over my bat as I saw the bowler running up to bowl the last ball of the over to me and this time the ball was on the stumps. I saw it quite early and I hit it hard past the bowler. I stood my ground as instructed by the captain but the rest of the team from the sidelines started shouting “Run, run.” I was confused and started running towards the other end and had almost reached it when I saw a fielder throw in the ball. I tripped as the ball crashed into the stumps. But even as I fell forward, luckily, my bat went just beyond the crease. It was very difficult to decide whether the stumps were broken first or I had reached the crease before that. However, the umpire, who was from our team, ruled me not out. There was a huge sigh of relief. It pays to have an umpire on your side.

Now four runs were needed for victory but, alas, I had crossed over to the other side. There was palpable anxiety in our team as I would be facing a full over.

I took a fresh guard and prepared to face the new bowler who also had a long run-up. The school building was now on my right and the road on the left side with the school wall in between. Besides that, there was only deathly silence all around.  

I took my stance. The bowler started running in slowly, then picked up speed, came up to the stumps and bowled. The ball was a half volley. As I saw the ball land short of length, all instructions and admonitions were forgotten. By sheer reflex action, I put my left foot forward and across and then went down on my right knee and swung my bat at the ball towards the area of what would have been between the square leg and the midwicket. It was almost a copybook shot as the ball hit the sweet-spot on the bat.

There was a loud gasp as the ball started rising in a majestic arc, sailing way above the compound wall and traversing regally across the road. All eyes were on the ball as everyone seemed to be collectively holding their breath. The journey of the shot came to an end as it entered, unannounced, into a music shop on the other side of the road. And ……… was followed by a loud shriek.

Immediately, a girl slightly older than us came out of the shop and excitedly shouted across the road, “You have broken a record.” I was amazed at her understanding and appreciation of the game of cricket. So, shyly, I raised my bat in acknowledgment. However, I could not grasp her next words when she said, “Who is going to pay for the broken record.”

I looked around for some enlightenment and found that both the teams, the umpires and the spectators had vanished. It finally dawned on me that my shot had broken an antique 78 rpm vinyl record. The owner of the music salon turned out to be a tough negotiator and finally, my poor father had to pay for that record breaking shot.

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Friday, July 23, 2010


This Was A Contribution For Creative Collaboration for
Bina Gupta on Sulekha.

Rules: 225 words. City is the speaker in the post.

I am a seat of power. I have been constant witness to the folly and foible of ambitious men and women who desperately seek to win me. I am the centre of major and minor conflicts. I have been such for centuries. Therefore, my moments of ecstasy are rare. Sorrow is more my providence.

Hence, a joyous moment that happened on my terrain on the midnight of August 14/15 remains strongly embedded in my memory. At that point of time, the yoke of subjugation of 400 years was lifted off my neck and my own sons and daughters took on the responsibility of looking after me. One of the noblest sons of mine in ringing tones proclaimed, “Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny ….. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.” It was a moment of joy. It was a moment of inspiration.

However, it was short-lived. Alas, within less than six months the same son was saying, “Friends and Comrades, the light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere.” It was a moment of depravation.

The apostle of non-violence had been felled. As the great messenger of peace sank into my bosom, I received him - the ultimate destination of the powerful and the helpless.

Monday, July 5, 2010


Their marriage was only six months old but already showing signs of foundering. Thus, the drive from Mumbai to Khandala was an agonizing experience with Paayal moaning all the way that it was going to be an unexciting get-away. After checking into the luxurious holiday resort, it was still the same story.

“It is so dull and boring here in Khandala. I am dying for some action. Rinku, think of something exciting.” whined Paayal.

“Let’s go to the Bushy dam” said he, trying to placate her.

“No way. The crowd there is full of eve teasers and you are no Samson to be able to keep them away” snapped Paayal getting back on to her cell phone.

“But all the same we will have some action” replied Rinku with sarcasm dripping from the corner of his lips. But it was lost on Payaal as she seemed involved in a cell phone conversation.

After she finished her over animated chat, she excitedly said, “BTW, Rinku, my office friend Jason is also in Khandala. I’ve invited him over. He is so witty and charming and such a delightful company. Not a recluse like you. You really are going to hate him” she added with a mean laugh.

Jason arrived. He was indeed a tall and good looking guy with an air of easy charm about him. Paayal went ballistic on seeing him. She hugged and air-kissed him. Rinku looked on resignedly.

Suddenly, Jason’s wife Rehana, who was at the back, shrieked and called out, “Hey, aren’t you, Rinku.”

“Rehaaaana” replied an equally delighted Rinku.

In no time they were transposed back to their college days, laughing and exchanging high-fives. Rinku bloomed and was in his element making Rehana burst into giggles all the time. Stories and escapades of days gone by were remembered, related and relished with great glee and amusement. At that moment of time, they were lost to the world. It was only as if just the two of them were there. The spark of the former days looked like igniting once more.

Jason, the lady-killer, had never seen this side of Rehana ever and was literally dumbfounded at the chemistry between the two.

Rinku and Rehana simultaneously remembered their college picnic to Bushy dam and how they had cavorted under the waterfall.

“And Rinku do you recollect how you carried me when my foot slipped?” said Rehana bursting into peals of laughter.

Jason now had enough of it. However, with a polished tone, he said “Rinku, can I have my Rehana back before you seduce her any further?”

There was laughter all around and to which Paayal added, “And Rehana, may I have my hunk back? I want him to take me to the Bushy Dam.”


Sunday, June 27, 2010


Women, of all ages, are romantic at heart. It is one of the world’s most well kept secrets.

Women are, thus, a soft touch for starry-eyed stories. This is the golden pathway to a woman’s heart. This is what women really want – a good warm story. Only Yash Chopra and I are on to it.

Accidentally, I just happen to be an incorrigible storyteller. In my stories, I love mingling facts, fiction and fantasies. I have become such a veteran of this art, that after having woven the story, even I cannot separate the ingredients. Neither can Yash Chopra.

The biggest victim of these endless flights of my imagination was my wife in the early days of our marriage. Like any insecure person, I would tell her stories, more likely, fables, wherein I would make myself the hero. I could put Walter Mitty to shame any day.

Just after marriage, this story had my wife spellbound. I feel it is best to hear that narrative as I had told to my wife then. It made her believe that she was extremely lucky to be married to a very enviable lady-killer like me. Of course, she is wiser now. But unfortunately for her, it is a little too late! The stick-on has set.

I commenced the story to her thus:

“In my class at the college, there used to be an extremely beautiful girl by the name of Simran Bedi. She was really a pocket edition Venus. However, overpowering her total beauty, were her eyes. She had such lovely translucent eyes – light gray- green in colour.

Naturally, all the boys wanted to be friends with her but, somehow, it seemed that she was allured only by me. In spite of this, she and I would only exchange shy glances, for both of us were too timorous and hesitant to approach each other. Sadly, that was also the state of the entire new entrants to the college – all were finding it difficult to interact across the small groups that they had formed.

Therefore, the college organized an evening social for the first year students as an ice-breaking event. The social was to be from 5.30 pm to 7.30 pm as girls in those days were not allowed to be out of home after 8 pm. No hi-jinks or dancing was even contemplated for this get-together; only tame party games were to be played so that students would get to know one another. That was about all. The compere for the evening was a senior, Murli Mirchandani – popularly nicknamed Mirchi. He could well have been nicknamed, motor mouth.

The social was in a big hall in the basement. Mirchi, the master of ceremonies, went ho-hum in his opening remarks that evoked few nervous titters. The audience was too tense to enjoy his witticisms. After a few opening games, the ever popular ‘passing the parcel’ was announced.

The music started for the game and the parcel started going around at a fast pace. The music would then stop suddenly and the person holding the parcel, at that point of time, had to peel off the top paper layer of the packet and pay the penalty as written thereon. After many enjoyable punishments, the atmosphere seemed to be warming up.

As the game was nearing the end and the packet was being handed over frantically from one to another like a hot potato, the music stopped and the parcel was in Simran’s hand. She took off the top layer and the forfeit read, ‘You have to be kissed by a person of the opposite sex.’ There was an audible murmur of shock and disbelief in the audience.”

I paused here for an edge-of-the seat effect on the wife. She was wide-eyed and very excitedly asked, “Then what happened?”

I grandly asked for a glass of water. I drank the water at a leisurely pace to deliberately give her some extra anxious long moments. Thereafter, I continued,

“Simran was feeling extremely embarrassed and wanted another simpler fine but Mirchi would not hear of it. Finally, she agreed and looked around for a suitable boy. Frankly, Mirchi was hoping, she would select him. However, Simran, after looking around for a while, chose me.

As I started walking towards her at the centre of the hall, I could see that she was feeling extremely nervous at the prospect. I do not know what got into me at that moment for I boldly took the opportunity, bent down and ………………..gave her a very light peck - barely touching her cheek. She was relieved. Quietly, she said, ‘Thank you,’ but her eyes said much more.

The ice between the most beautiful girl in the college and me had been broken as I graciously said, ‘My pleasure.’ And, with a twinkle in my eye added, ‘You are welcome again, anytime.’”

As I ended my story, there were stars in my wife’s eyes. Spontaneously she said, “What a chivalrous person you were.” With that, she rushed towards me saying, “I love you soooooooo much.”

Quickly, I said under my breath, “Thank you, Walter Mitty.”

This post is an entry for the contest What Women Want and

Saturday, June 12, 2010



One of the winners of Blogadda's "My first Crush !" Contest declared June 18, 2010.

The contest was judged by Preeti Shenoy author of '34 Bubblegums and Candies’. 

      She wrote: "A moment of weakness by Hanif Murad:

"Reading the above piece made me go‘aaaaaaaaw’. It is very well written too. Read it and you will see    why."

As Bombay started receding from the rear view mirror, we could feel the change in the weather. The chilliness in the air was bracing, as the car slowly started climbing the ghats towards its destination. The holiday resort we had booked was perched right on the top of the hill and was supposed to have a breathtaking view of the valley. It promised to be a great holiday. I had, then, just been promoted to Standard X of my school. I had also attained, for the first time in my school career, the top rank in the class. However, I was bespectacled and gawky in my looks.

The owner of the resort and his wife were a friendly and an affable couple. However, their 15-year-old daughter, although living in a small hill station, had a mega attitude about her. She preferred to stay aloof from everyone. It was by sheer chance that my parents casually mentioned about my recent scholastic accomplishments to the owner’s wife. She, thereupon, requested me to coach her daughter some mathematics as she had failed in that subject.

I was thrilled by this opportunity for, truth be told, I was smitten by her fresh scrubbed looks. Therefore, I was secretly delighted that she had failed in mathematics for I thought this would bring down her conceited bearing when we would meet the next day for the tuition. However, I was in for a surprise.

The next morning found us sitting together, at one corner of the huge dining table, for the teaching and learning of the Unitary Method. She was arrogance personified and almost made it appear as if she was doing me a favour by being willing to learn the subject from me. I checked her mathematics’ class workbook and found it not only untidy, but also full of angry crosses by her teacher in red ink.

Nevertheless, keeping her outlook in mind and my feelings for her, I asked her in a very conciliatory tone, “Mrinalni, tell me what you don’t understand about these sums?”

Haughtily she replied, “Everything.”

Keeping my cool, I jokingly replied, “That’s good. We can start from the beginning.”

She condescendingly nodded her head to imply that she may just deign to hear me out. It felt that I was the one actually on trial.

I started with the simplest of the equations and told her how to place the fixed and the variable values in the proper slots to arrive at the correct answer. Thereafter, I set her a problem but she just could not get it right. Being as infatuated as I was at that time, I remained extremely patient with her. Repeatedly, in different ways, I tried to explain the formula to her but it was all in vain.

Finally, I could not take it anymore and with great exasperation told her, “You don’t have brains. You have sawdust there.”

She flared up at that, and with her cheeks glistening red with anger, she pulled the books from me, shut them with a loud bang and, after giving me a regal sneer, walked away. She went straight to her mother and banging her fist forcefully on the table told her, “I don’t care if I have to repeat this class for a hundred years but I will not be taught by him. He is an awful teacher. He cannot even explain a simple formula!”

For fifteen days after that, we did not speak to each other. However, a picnic and a game of antakshari came to the rescue. Knowing the cold war between Mrinalni and me, we were put on opposite sides. I launched the game with the soulful number from Madhumati, ending with,

Ruthhe Hain Naa Jaane Kyo, Mehamaan Woh Mere Dil Ke

I must have rendered the song with some feeling for most people thought I was pouring out my heart to Mrinalni. The game, however, proceeded normally until Mrinalni, most unsuspectingly, responded to a later antakshari cue and sang the opening line of another song from Madhumati,

Aaja re,

There is a small interlude after that and as Mrinalni paused, a lot of furtive glances were exchanged amongst the participants but Mrinalni was totally unaware of them. She continued,

Main To Kab Se Khadi Is Paar, Ye Ankhiyaan Thak Gayi.
Panth Nihaar, Aaja Re Pardesi

As she innocently ended the mukhda, there was a burst of spontaneous laughter. Someone, looking towards me, quipped, “Hey, you have got your answer.” That was the first time Mrinalni realized the possible implication of the song. She blushed furiously, hid her face in the palm of her hands and went right at the back where no one could see her. After the game ended, I went up to her and said, “Mrinalni that was a beautiful way of expressing your feelings.”

“Eh, Mister, don’t flatter yourself. Chhera kabhi seeshe mein dekha hai” was her quick retort. It was vintage Mrinalni. But the defrost had begun. After a week, I left for Bombay and Mrinalni found it difficult to put up a brave face at my departure.

Many years have passed since then and Mrinalni is now married and has two cute children. The children love to hear me recount the above anecdote. I begin the narrative thus to them, “Your mother is a very beautiful woman but even at the age of 15, she could not add up 9 + 7.” The children - who are five and seven years old - are greatly amused by this revelation about their mother. Finally, I would end the story by saying, “Ananya, you are as beautiful as your mother but I hope you don’t have sawdust in your head!” At this, both the children would squeal in delight and Ananya would say, “No, no. I am like Papa.”

Mrinalni, at this point, with mock-strictness, would tell the children, “You have heard your Papa’s favorite bedtime story, now off to bed.” Mrinalni fondly remembers that Valentine day, about nine years ago, when, as she blushingly says, in a moment of weakness she had agreed to marry the Pardesi.