The prince who never smiled

The prince who never smiled Orissa Post

Read story here

A short story that I wrote which was recently published in an English daily. Ah! the joy of writing for children 🙂

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The mystery of the pots

Orissa Post Bhubaneswar 8 Nov2014 -Page14

 

A short story for children which I wrote was recently published in the Orissa Post, an English daily predominant in the Eastern part of India. See link here. I was obviously thrilled to see my name in print but I will be more thrilled if many more children and their parents read this. So sharing it here on my blog 🙂

The flute player- last part

Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

I was in a huge garden. At first I was surprised to see that I was alone in the vast expanse but strangely as soon as I felt this, I realized that I was meant to be alone.  There were huge magnificent trees pulsating with vitality. I found them inspiring and went near them. They seemed to fill me with a sense of fullness and peace. I felt rooted and intensely aware and alive. I wanted to stay there longer when something urged me to move further in the garden. I went further and then I saw something very strange. Again the feeling of strangeness registered in my awareness very quickly. In front of me stood tiny plants who looked barren and lifeless. I felt that there were tiny not because they were young, but because they had not grown. I stood there wondering and felt an insatiable curiosity arising within me. I desperately wanted to know about the paradox that I was witnessing at the garden.

Just then I saw a young man approaching me. The garden, the trees, plants, everything was so queer that I found myself not questioning the man’s appearance, though later on when I reflected about this, he was as unusual as were the surroundings. As he came nearer I noticed his features. What stood out first were his deep black eyes. They were so beautiful and held an expression of softness. His complexion was very dark, like the pitch darkness of a moonless night. He was well built and extremely handsome. I immediately felt like I knew him but could not exactly place my finger where I had met him. He looked at me and smiled.

‘You want to know the secret of these plants?’ I nodded my head to say yes.  He then held out a few seeds in his hand and said, ‘These are the seeds which I planted in the soil long back. Everything that is growing here is the product of these seeds.’

I took the seeds in my hand and examined them. Even more intrigued, I asked the handsome stranger, ‘All these trees and plants, they all have come from the same seed? How is that possible?’ They appear so different, how can they come from the same seed?’

The man smiled and replied, ‘Yes. They are millions of years old. I planted them at the same time. The seeds were the same type but each seed had a different nature. All the seeds had the same potential but a different desire. Some grew up and became magnificent trees and some just did not want to grow. But I am patient and keep playing my flute, waiting for them when they are ready.’

I was stunned to hear this answer. How could this be? These giant trees and these young tender plantlings, they were contemporaries? I wanted to know more. ‘You need to give them water and manure and protect them from harm, only then will they grow.’

‘Yes I do that without fail for all the plants entrusted in my care. I protect them and nurture them. But still they don’t grow’

I looked at him puzzled. The man continued, ‘You know why they don’t grow?’

‘Why?’

‘Because they don’t want to be themselves. They don’t want to be what their seed set out to be. So all the water, manure and protection becomes only a way to sustain them but they are not alive. They have a lifeless life. Just leaves, roots and a stem. See those trees over there. They have become what they had set out to be. The reason why they were born in the first place.’

‘The reason why I felt so fulfilled in their presence, because they had fulfilled themselves,’ I said with a deep knowing, as if I had begun to understand why I was here in this mystical garden.I become silent and began to contemplate. The gardener seemed to know this and just kept smiling at me patiently. I felt like those tender saplings. Not being what I set out to be.

I wanted to know why he played the flute? He answered, ‘By hearing the harmony in my flute, they remember their inner harmony and their true nature.’

At that moment I wished deeply that a flute player be present in my life too. Catching my thought instantaneously, the mysterious stranger said, ‘I will play the flute for you today. You need to hear it more loudly.’

The stranger picked up his wooden flute and put it to his lips. What I heard was the sweetest sound that I had ever heard. It did not feel just a melody coming from an instrument. It felt alive and powerful, somewhat like a person whose body was just sound. The sound seemed to pour out infinite love and tenderness on me. I remember thinking that maybe I was in heaven. I let go and entered a deep state of relaxation. Every cell in my body was relaxing, as if each and every cell was telling me that it was alive and a part of me. I felt calm and joyous and wondered if I will be able to hear this celestial song again.  I heard the flute player’s voice in my head in response, ‘I always play the flute for all my children. At all times. 

I woke up with these words ringing in my head. For a moment I felt sad that the dream had ended. To me the dream seemed part of something to which I once belonged. I wondered whether it was even a dream? Or the life that I was leading here was a dream? I wanted to keep on hearing the flute player’s divine song. But I knew the powerful message that the dream had given me. I got up from my bed energized and I knew exactly what I had to do next.

I called up my gynecologist and asked her for the first available appointment. Luckily she gave me an early morning time. She added, ‘But you seem so happy. Any good news?’

I laughed and said, ‘Ya doctor there is good news but not of the kind you are thinking. See you at 10.’

Doctor Yalini greeted me with a warm smile. I had been consulting with her for the past few years and we shared a great rapport. Before she could ask me what my problem was I explained, ‘Yalini I have a strong feeling that there is some problem with my ovaries. I want to do an ultrasound. Please.’

‘Ok Nandika. As you wish. I respect a woman’s intuition.’

The scans gave her enough reason to increase that respect even more. The doctor was examining my scans with a perplexed face. ‘Nandika you were right. These does seem to be something wrong with your ovaries. There are many cysts in your ovaries’.

‘What does that mean doctor?’

She explained, ‘Cysts form when the egg fails to mature fully and remains in the ovary. Over a period of time such malfunctioning eggs accumulate giving the ovary a polycystic appearance. I will have to send you for more tests to confirm whether it is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).’

She began to write me out a prescription with all the tests. ‘Once it is confirmed, then we can start medication.’

I smiled and said, ‘That won’t be necessary doc. I will be fine very soon.’

‘That’s very good but you should not take it lightly. This can later cause you to have complications.’

I took another appointment for all those scary sounding tests and bid Doctor Yalini goodbye. At home everything finally made sense. The signs on that trip to the doctor, the strange dream, the cysts in my ovary. It all fell in place now. The reason why I was unwell and not improving. All those cysts in my ovaries were like the tiny plants which did not want to grow up. Because I was not being what I had set out to be. I had not listened to my soul. I had not not tuned in with the flute in my heart.

Over the years I had lost touch with my real self. I had become totally disconnected with my own creative energies. I had settled into a comfortable routine with safety and security as my tools for self delusion. My creative pursuits, my deep desire to express myself, to become a writer, how subtly I had fooled myself into believing that I was a happy woman. Afraid to act on the inner yearnings of my heart, I had started to exist but not live, believing that this is what is a happy successful life – to be settled, to have security and comfort, enough money to buy you things, food to eat, clothes to wear and a home to live in, to have a kid and a husband,  my life had become all about this and nothing more. There were no new discoveries to be made about myself for discovering the latest fashion consumed my time. No journeys to explore the world within as I was busy exploring exotic locations outside. No adventure within myself because having adventure just meant thrills which you got in an amusement park. It was all about an external life.

The female reproductive system is a seat of great power, not just physically but spiritually as well. The vast potential of each human being is locked in there. Since I had closed myself to my inner self, my body manifested all these symptoms. My soul was shouting, begging me. The body aches and pains had nothing to do with my spine. The hormonal mess that my body was in, was making all my muscles stiff which gave me the tag of an ‘achy and shaky being.’ I decided to pick up the threads of my life and stop leading this lie of a life. I dusted the cobwebs around my dreams, looked at them closely and cried. I wept at the loss of myself and then I wept how I missed my real self. And then I wept with joy. That I had found a way to end all this pain. I had found a way to heal not just my body but also my soul. That I was always in charge.

I started doing the things which had once meant a great deal to me, but under the cloak of of domesticity I stopped doing them. I picked up my pen and started to write. It had been my dream for a very long time to be a writer. I decided that whether or not anybody liked what I write, I will write for my own joy, for my own self expression. I will write because nobody can write the way I do. I will write because I have something to say, even if nobody wants to read it.

I slowly started to get well. My stamina and energy returned. And I began to feel a real happiness, not the fake kind that comes externally. The kind of happiness that comes when you are yourself. My treatment continued alongside and all those constant companions of pain and frustration left me. Because I was no longer frustrated with myself. I was being what I had set out to be.

When I am just Me

A short poem for all those who are walking the path of creativity and acknowledging their own true self!.

When I am just Me

A talented singer, the voice that unites mankind,

A talented writer, the words that unshackle the mind,

A talented musician, the music that makes one seek,

A talented actor, the silent eyes that speak,

A talented painter, the painting that is surreal,

A talented photographer, the shots that capture life’s appeal.

A talented dancer, the movements that are grace personified,

A talented sculptor, the statue that seems like a gift from paradise.

All these talented people out there,

Their talents are gifts bestowed rare.

I enjoy that voice, that music, that painting, that play,

How fortunate they are I silently say.

Blessed they are with a fate divine,

I dare not realize that somewhere along the line,

They discarded their fear and embraced their true self,

They honed their ability and broke their shell.

If only I too would stop wishing and plunge into activity,

Accepting what I possess and proclaim my creativity,

Pouring out what only I can give,

Then life will make sense and I will truly start to live.

My talent is a unique priceless treasure,

That is meant to be shared in abundant measure.

So I will sing, dance, write and paint with glee,

Basking in the happiness that comes when I am just me.

The flute player- Part 2

Read part 1 here

Dev got Nikki dressed while I collected all my medical reports. Over the years the reports had just kept piling in. The folder looked more like a thesis with scary sounding terms and incomprehensible jargon. Earlier I would scan the Internet in the night trying to fathom my own reports. But it was incredibly boring and sometimes depressing as well, so I decided that some mysteries are best left unraveled.

On the way we picked Shimpu and drove to the doctor’s clinic. I was dressed in a powder blue kurta. I had not worn it since many days. I was wondering to myself that why did I not wear this kurta all these days when Nikki called out.

“Mom. See!”

Our car was moving at a snail’s pace thanks to the Durga Puja celebrations which were in full swing at the moment. I thought that Nikii must have seen a huge Durga idol and was excited because of that, when I glanced to where she was pointing. “Mom! See that! Mom!” Nikki was glued to the car window and pointing to the huge statue in front of us.

Just ahead of us was a procession carrying a huge black stone statue of Krishna. I was startled as well as amazed. It was an intense black color. One hand of the statue was raised in benediction blessing all those who partook the Lord’s darshan and the other hand holding a flute. The features were chiseled so perfectly that it felt like a real human form. The face glistened in the summer sun with a tranquil smile. I kept gazing at it.

Suddenly I felt a wave of peace descend upon me. It seemed like I was literally drinking peace from a vast ocean of peace, like a weary traveler with an unquenched thirst. Our car, the people in front of us, the traffic, everything seemed to slow down and move with a rhythm and harmony. The surroundings looked so vivid and alive.  As if life was saying that it was perfect and everything was how it was supposed to be.

The feeling continued while we reached the doctor’s clinic. I remained silent and absorbed. Strangely Nikki, Dev and Shimpu, nobody noticed my silence.

“There is an appointment for Ms Nandika Juneja.” Dev asked the receptionist.

“Yes kindly wait here. The doctor will call you inside.” A middle-aged lady clad in a blue and orange saree told us.

After waiting for about half an hour the doctor called us in. Dev and me went inside his office while Shimpu took care of Nikki outside. The doctor was a tall and lean fellow. He carefully studied my reports and asked me to stand up so that he could examine me. I stood up very well knowing what would happen next. The doctor would pinch me exactly on those areas which caused me pain and then ask me, ‘Does it pain here? And here? And here? And this?’ He would poke and prod and I would tell him where all it pained, how much and when. Exactly the same thing happened with this doctor too and I found myself answering in monologues. The doctor then moved my neck up, down, side and back to see how much motion did my neck have. Then he asked me to move my arms and shoulders.

I almost knew by heart now the standard examination procedure done for patients like me. Consequently my mind was elsewhere and my eyes were scanning the doctor’s room. And then I froze. I saw an exactly similar statue of Krishna, similar to what I had witnessed a few minutes ago on the roadside procession. The same deep black colour, the same expression and the same pose. Only this time it was much smaller and standing elegantly on a bookshelf. I could not keep my eyes off it. I just stood there gazing at it, my eyes fixed and my mind silent, just absorbing what I felt while the doctor patiently examined my pain wracked body.

I beheld the stone image mesmerized by the same feeling of peace. If somebody were to describe me at that moment, I appeared like an enchanted child who was engrossed in a fantasy world. I was jolted out of my reverie by Dev’s hand on shoulder, “So shall we go now? Or you want to ask the doctor anything?”

“Huh! No it is fine. Let’s go.” I hadn’t realized that the doctor had finished examining me and that our session was over. On the way out I remarked, “That was really short. I am glad!”

“Ya and what was wrong with you? The doctor had to repeat each question three times. What were you thinking? In my opinion he was not too bad a doctor. He spent so much time on you and I felt that he had an open mind. You should not be so hopeless Nads.” Dev was chastising me. From his point of view it was logical but I could not explain to him what I was feeling. I merely laughed at my silly behaviour and said, “Sorry! Next time I will be a well behaved child.”

We kept our promise to Nikki and took her to a park where she played to her heart’s content. By the time we reached home after dinner, it was well past eleven. Nikki had gone to sleep in the car itself. Dev carried her tenderly and put her to bed. My heart swelled with happiness and gratitude on having Dev and Nikki in my life. If only my body would also behave then it would be perfect. I was very soon going to realize that this was in my own hands.

Before going to bed I practiced a small bedtime ritual. I would spend some time alone introspecting about the day and journal my thoughts. If some happy incident had taken place I would sit silently and try to absorb the feeling. This had been my routine for many years now. Although I had never been religious, this was my way of connecting with a higher power.

I sat down for my nightly period of solitude. My mind raced to the amazing and strange experiences of the day. I knew deep down that these were all signs pointing to something. They were urging me to act. To take charge. But what were they telling me? What? What? What? That was all that my mind could think of at the moment. I was clueless. I knew over the years that in such instances the intuition held the answers and not the mind. So I decided to let go and relax. I quickly dozed off to sleep thinking that the answers are all there and I should just let them flow rather than chase them. And that’s what happened in my sleep that night. I saw a dream. A dream that was so real that even till today I question whether that was a dream or this existence is a dream.

Contd…