(Yet another unselected entry for TOI story contest!)
'Are you sure, Rhea?' asks my mother.
'Of course I'm. Survival of the fittest, mother. I'm not going against Darwin. Also I don't want unnecessary scars on my body.'
It's a known fact that we are all born to die. And frankly, I don't understand why it has to be made into such a big deal. If it were not for my mother I would have said that to the bunch of people outside my house, some of them with young kids, shouting slogans, waving placards, literally wanting me to cut one of my beating hearts out. "Save A Life. Donate!" they shout.
For someone who is one in billions, 7.125 billion to be exact, I expect to be treated better. Scientists are still befuddled regarding my condition that gave me two hearts in my mother's womb. But years of research and sticking needles into me have led them nowhere, and they have labelled me as a freak mutation. It's so rare - literally one in all humankind - that they didn't even name the anomaly (as they call it, I will call it awesomeness). I wanted to name the condition myself, something on the lines of Rhea's Heartsawesome but the doctors aren't thrilled with the suggestion. Instead they want to cut one of them out and save a life. Huh?
An IQ of 180, increased concentration, exceptional athleticism and a phenomenal metabolism rate - are just the few boring benefits of an increased blood circulation. Why would I ever give that up?
I am resolute in my decision and I have declared it in no uncertain terms. There ends the topic. I refuse to allow it to spoil my delightful enjoyment of the scrambled eggs in my plate.
From across the breakfast table my father beams an assuring, approving smile. 'I fully agree with you, my little girl! Ignore the clamouring crowd outside our house. I shall send them away discreetly.'
That is my dear father. He has always been my best friend and supporter. I cannot help wishing my mother came out of her old-fashioned concepts and customs.
Mother's ideas of womanhood are pathetically unrealistic and outdated in our modern world. She has very crazy notions about a woman's duties as a wife, mother and all other roles.
I have heard her consoling our servant maid who suffers hell in the hands of a drunkard husband. Mother advises her to be patient and submissive and to hope for his reformation. The wretch, the maid's husband, does not support his family. Actually the rogue beats her up to snatch her hard-earned money to buy liquor. The irresponsible beast deserves to be put behind the bars. The stupid woman lacks the guts to avail her rights for getting legal help and protection from such endless domestic violence.
I simply can't understand why women, whatever their social status is, refuse to become aware of their legal rights and moral powers. Well, it is virtuous to have a sacrificing nature, I agree. But do the persons for whom the sacrifices are made deserve them? It is odious to see women who are devoid of self-respect. How can they prefer to live in squalor enduring all kinds of injustice and brutality and not seek emancipation? But it is heartening to see slow changes in this sordid scenario.
As I finish my hearty breakfast I can plainly see mother is disappointed with my decision. 'What these people are demanding is atrocious!' I reassert.
'They are only appealing to your softness towards suffering humanity, Rhea!' mother gently argued.
'I am tender-hearted, I do want to alleviate the sufferings of underprivileged people. I am charitable enough to donate food, clothes and money which fortunately we have in abundance. But giving away an organ, even if it is extra, is completely a different matter, is it not? Money can be easily earned but not the God's gift of an extra heart! I am going to jealously guard it as my precious treasure! There is no rethinking to be done on it!' I stand my position.
Hearing Sushma honking her scooty's horn for me I start running to the gate after a hasty goodbye to my parents. With me in the pillion seat Sushma carefully weaves through the small crowd gathered in front of our house. We both love our daily morning routine of going to the swimming pool. On the way we usually stop at the book store, visit a friend or do some other errand.
After a few minutes of vigorous swimming we take a break to have a little chat. I know Sushma is curious to know about the commotion in front of our house. She lives in the same street and has been with me in the same school and college. We are thick friends and there are no secrets between us, not even the love affair between me and her brother Suraj who after finishing his higher studies in the United States has come back to help his father in the management of their family's business empire.
After listening to my account of the incident of sick people demanding me to donate my extra heart she pats my hand with empathy, 'It is your personal choice, Rhea! Nobody has the right to pressurise you to do anything against your wish. Don't fret over the miseries of other people unnecessarily.'
'I cannot for a moment think of donating my heart to these people, Sushma! Certainly not! Doctors may be obsessed with saving the lives of their patients. That is their profession. Their concern. Not my calling. Not my mission.'
Not wanting to dwell on the subject we plunge again into the pool and enjoy the activity joyfully like two carefree fish. Life is wonderful. It is a gift to be able to live it to the full.
After reaching home I leisurely go through the regular ritual of of pampering my skin and hair with the proper nourishments. My next programme is browsing. On my way to the computer desk I momentarily stop near the new books bought in the morning. They can wait till the night, I decide. I first check my mail and then jump into my favourite strategy games, word games and sudoku all of which never fail to invigorate my brain.
When I am about to log out I hear mother setting the table for lunch. I enter the dining hall with a healthy appetite inhaling the aroma of the hot, spicy dishes mother specialises in. I give her a bear hug wanting to make up for the disappointment I caused her in the morning.
Father walks in calling cheerfully, 'Hello, my pretty girls! I am famished!' Mother waits on us filling our plates with tasty, wholesome food. Mother's culinary skills are extraordinary. Father and I retire into the hall with a large bowl of ice cream in hand.
Mother's favourite magazine lying on top of others on the small table near the sofa catches my eye. 'Surrogacy flourishes in India' flashes the cover story. 'Ouch! That is another sanctifying service of woman - lending her womb to pompous childless couples bent on bringing forth heirs with their genes!' are my words of exasperation.
'My dear child, often it is not the money but a noble sense of service which motivates the surrogate mothers,' comments my father. 'Noble! My foot! Adoption is nobler, is it not, father?' Father nods his head in affirmative clearly indicating his not being in the mood for debating the topic.
'Well, it is time for my beauty sleep. I must get up early and spruce myself before my tennis match with Suraj in the evening,' I announce and after a light peck on father's cheek I run upstairs to my room.
In the evening Suraj greets me with his usual charming smile, 'Hi, cutey pie! you look gorgeous!' I accept the compliment with a gracious smile.
'What was the racket in front of your house in the morning that I heard of, sweetie?'
'Heart patients have an eye on my extra heart!' I reply with a sigh.
'Why don't you give it to them if they want it, my sweetheart?' he asks winking mischievously.
'I might if it were a hairpin I'm wearing on my head is what they wanted!' I shrug my shoulders in disdain.
'Ah! I think you are scared of the operation theatre and the masked surgeons with scalpel in hand! So, you are chicken-hearted and not double-hearted as everybody thinks!' he teases me. I glare at him angrily.
'Oh! Come on, baby! You are clinging to your toy, you mean kid! No sharing! No caring!' he continues his banter.
I turn my back and begin to walk away. He pulls me back, 'Don't leave me, my little piggie! I shall perish without you!'
'Why do you want a heartless girl, may I know?' I gnash my teeth.
'Heartless? Oh! My darling! You have two hearts, my awesome girl!' he exclaims with eyes wide in awe and adoration.
'You decide one heart is enough for me, you male chauvinist pig?' I hiss looking straight into his eyes.
He gently takes me into his arms. 'I decide to be the luckiest man on earth who can proudly show to the world how three hearts beat as one in two bodies!' he whispers softly in my ear.
I melt at his sincere words. I know very well that he is the last man on the planet to assume he can order about his wife or any other woman for that matter according to his whims and fancies. An ecstatic moment it is to know I have found my soul mate in the tall, naughty, young man standing beside me looking into my eyes with ardour.
Being doubly blessed is the overwhelming emotion I find myself reeling under - not because of my awesome gift of double hearts alone but also the realisation that the heart of the most awesome man on earth is ready to throb in unison with my two hearts. As I take the tennis racket in hand I feel a doubly strong joie de vivre rushing through my body and soul.
Thursday, August 18, 2016
Sunday, August 14, 2016
Be natural is the new mantra
Parade not like lifeless mummies
Masked in fakes and makeups
No more artificial beauty aided
With synthetic scents and dyes
And a smartly tailored structure
Explore and enjoy the original glory
Of the skin’s own smell and texture
Unharmed by unwanted care and cure
Lo! The inner soul’s light glows bright
Through each and every feature no doubt
Be Nature’s child, not a made-up creature.
Posted by pavalamani pragasam at 6:39 AM
Saturday, July 16, 2016
Posted by pavalamani pragasam at 11:00 PM
Sunday, June 19, 2016
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
The Rail track
(Another unselected story sent for TOI story contest!)
It was still dawn when I stepped out of the cab and walked towards the entry gate of the Delhi airport. The early morning February air was pleasantly cold.
I was travelling to Bengaluru to attend a college friend's wedding. It had been four years since we graduated from the same college. This wedding was also going to be a reunion of our batchmates. But what I didn't know was that the reunion would begin much ahead of time; right in the queue in front of the airline counter.
I was almost sure it was she. Same height! Same long hair! Same complexion! Curiosity had my eyes glued to her. And then about 60-odd seconds later, when she turned, she proved me right. My ex-girlfriend stood two places ahead of me in that queue. We had never met after the college farewell.
She was Leela, the girl whom I had followed crazily for four years in college and whom I had resolutely put into the dark corners of memory for the past four years after leaving college. Leela, the lovely maiden stood out in any crowd like the lofty moon in the night sky amidst a million stars.
She was a typical Tamilian girl from a small town in Tamil Nadu inheriting the characteristic features and beliefs of her native state. Her wheatish complexion which differentiated her from the majority of the fair-skinned girls of our college was in a way advantageous to her. Her face did not change colour, either to redness or paleness betraying the emotion rushing inside her. The skin humbly took the back seat leaving other facial features to take care of the drama. Be it surprise, shock, anger, mockery or hatred it was her eyes, nostrils, lips and eyebrows that moved most appropriately to convey her inner feelings with unfailing accuracy.
Yes, Leela's bright, expressive face was her chief attraction. If face is the index of the mind Leela's face was definitely the index of her intelligent, passionate and brave soul. She had very strong likes and dislikes. She tenaciously held on to her beliefs of what is right and wrong. She was an admirable blend of all that is beautiful in the old and new generations.
She did not, for example, yield to peer competition in any matter-fashion or perspective. She did not like to blindly follow the crowd. Her long and neatly plaited hair made her prominent among the girls who wore their short hair loose. Neither her manner nor her dress was ever sexy or provocative. Her demeanour commanded respect from even the worst roguish boys in the college. Her uncompromising policies and body language kept the excitement-seeking boy friends at bay and they rather preferred to chase and win more susceptible specimens of the female species.
It was no wonder then that I who am an exact male version of her personality was drawn to her. The attraction was mutual. It was Platonic love that prospered as the years passed. We were biding our time to make our intellectual union a physical one weighing all the mundane considerations of money and family consent. We were confident of settling down in decent jobs and getting the consent of our parents who were very reasonable and understanding.
Smooth sailing it was till one Sunday morning in the hectic, emotionally tense last semester of our college life when she called me to come and meet her in her hostel reception hall. An elderly man and a young man were with her. She introduced them to me as her father and cousin, the son of her father's sister who lived in the same town where her family lived. She introduced me to them as her close friend hailing from their neighbouring district in Tamil Nadu.
They were pleased to meet me. We all went to a hotel and had lunch together. When we were seated and the waiter approached us with the menu cards Leela's cousin playfully snatched the menu card from her hand saying, "Don't I know what silly stuff you like to eat and your favourite sweet lassi at the end?" She giggled contentedly.
I felt something stirring inside me. Throughout the course of the meal both of them went on chatting like childhood chums are wont to do and her father looked on indulgently. The beast that had been dormant within me all these years yawned, stretched and opened its claws.
She did not seem to be conscious of my grim silence. When the time came for them to part both seemed to have so much more still left to share. He said fondly to her,"You know, my mother and sister never stop talking about the picnic we had during your last visit." And pat came her eager reply,"Oh! How I enjoyed the festival at our family shrine and all the colourful traditions that were followed elaborately!"
The wild beast inside me now stood up and I could hear it growl with bared teeth. Neither had she elaborated on the good times spent in her town with her kin nor had I showed interest in learning about them in detail.
Next few days passed in busy schedules of project submissions and preparations for final exams. I had no chance of talking with Leela at leisure. Even in the midst of my busy work I could not escape from the ordeal of listening to the persistent growl of the wicked beast inside me.
Her cousin seemed to have come suddenly like a bolt from the blue. How confident was I of my dame's love for me! All of a sudden I found myself torn between pangs of diffidence and insecurity. What primal instinct was this? What male dominance and possessiveness over one's woman was I experiencing?
In this new, strange trauma I found it extremely difficult to concentrate on my studies. I had in hand a lucrative job obtained in the placement interviews conducted by companies visiting our campus. I almost panicked losing it by failing in the final semester's exams. But suppressing all my rational thinking the wild beast reared its head and craved to draw blood.
I rummaged my suitcase and found in its bottom an old photograph of my mom flanked by my younger sister and my cousin who was the daughter of my mom's brother. On a Sunday evening I called Leela and asked her to meet me in the park where we usually met.
I must have looked a sight for as soon as she came near me she exclaimed,"Ram! Why do you look so haggard? Are you overstraining yourself for the coming exams?"
I managed to laugh drily and bluffed,"I am perfectly all right. I wanted to show you something." I pulled out the photograph and stuck it under her nose, "Can you guess who these ladies are?"
She was clueless and said, "You tell me!"
"It is my mom and the one on her left is her daughter and the one on her right is her niece whom she wants to be her daughter-in-law," I declared triumphantly.
Her eyes narrowed and I could sense her body becoming stiff. "Oh! Your mother wants? What about you? Do you want to marry her?" she enquired with sharp shrewdness.
I shrugged my shoulders with calculated indifference and asked, "Why not?"
Her eyes narrowed to a slit and she hissed through clenched teeth, "Are you joking?"
I was immensely pleased. "I am not. Why should I?"
She continued in the same tone, "Were you not serious then when you described your dreams of your future life with me as your wife?"
This gratified me inexplicably. "And all the time you had been dreaming about joining hands with your Prince Charming of a cousin!"
Now she paused. It all seemed to dawn on her. Being the intelligent woman she was she easily saw through my jealous anger. But the revelation seemed to flare up her righteous indignation. She was clearly enraged. She asked with ominous calmness, "What is your final decision, may I know?"
I was a bit shaken by the threatening seriousness in her voice. But her pompous manner and unshaken firmness challenged my male ego. So I replied flippantly, "Our parents know what is best for us, don't they?"
Her nonchalant retort was:"We seemed to have independently taken the responsibility of deciding our destiny ourselves!"
I shot back, "If you decide to change your mind, what prevents me from changing my mind?"
She spat fire, "You, idiot! What puts such nonsensical ideas into your head?"
I was not ready to admit the Othello syndrome that had me in its diabolic clutches. My condescending reply was, "Cool! Cool! And mind your words, my young lady!"
She got up with iron resolution, angrily clapped her hands in a mock farewell gesture and rasped, "Good riddance!" With those words she walked away with her head held high in the air.
The college farewell party took place in a couple of days. We had behaved like complete strangers during the party as if we had never met each other before.
Now when I see her in the queue in front of me about to journey in the same plane to the same destination to attend the same function I cannot understand my own feeling, much less the look in her eyes when they met mine.
I could see from outward signs that she too was still unmarried. The rail track lines run together all the way. But do they meet at any point? Do they, can they, ever touch each other? It is clear disaster if they try to.
Posted by pavalamani pragasam at 6:25 AM