Reena- A Life, A Promise Unfulfilled, And A Tragedy

 

“Did you hear the news? Really sad.” A message on my college whatsapp group.

“Yes, about Reena….It’s true.” Comes the reply from someone. “She is no more. Committed suicide. Hanging.”

I am stunned. Reena? I have a cold feeling in the pit of my stomach. It is past eleven P.M. in the night, when I read these messages.

IBy Chris Sharp, 2

I am in a movie theatre. The unbearable cold of the movie hall, the stinky smell of the corner seat, the terrible movie that I am watching, all recede into the back ground….It feels like I am in a dark tunnel… I pull myself back.

Not possible…is my first response…. Impossible, in fact.

I know this girl.

Usually a few rows behind me in class. Feisty, energetic, she ties her back in a ponytail, wears kurti and jeans, trim and of average height. Carries a backpack like most other students. At times, proudly wearing a sports jacket with “INDIA” emblazoned on the back; something only National Level Athletes have the honour of donning. A defiant look in her eye, and confident stride, she always appears to be ready to take on the entire world.

That Reena? No. They have it wrong. I dismiss it as a rumour. A common enough name and surname.

“It is on television”, says a fresh message on the group.

I am in denial. So, I push it out of my conscious mind.

Past midnight, when the movie ends, I reach home. Reluctant to face facts, hesitant to confirm it and just afraid to know the truth, I sit quietly for a few minutes.

Thinking. Ruminating.

My “back to school” journey, twenty-five years after my last university exam, was a ‘learning’ experience for me in many ways. Joining a law school and attending classes was a big step. If sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with children half my age felt odd, then matching wits with them and pitting myself against these kids was vastly challenging….and different from what I had imagined!

Not only were they smart, they were also dreamers, strugglers, fighters and thinkers with a zest for life. Opinionated, with strong political leanings even at this age, with no compunction about airing their thoughts on issues. Holding down jobs and rising at the ungodly hour of four a.m. to commute to college and attend class, these class-mates of mine had opened my eyes.

How not having everything on a platter can push you to aspire for bigger things. How life and its struggles can hone you for life, make you sharper, and hungry for success. How to not have doubts about your ability to do great things.

None more so than Reena.

I was first introduced to her when there was fiery discussion about women and their problems. Waiting for a lecturer to arrive and with nothing to do, one of the girls asked me about myself. When I answered that I was doctor and a practising anaesthesiologist, she asked,“Are you married, ma’am?”

Yes, was my answer.

She looked at me, and noticed my lack of the usual signs of a married Hindu woman, namely bindi, bangles, mangalsutra.

“My in-laws are very strict about what I wear and I do. They feel that I am wasting my time here.”She said with a sigh.

The girl sitting next to her said in Hindi, “Ma’am, I am twenty three years old. Hamaare gaon mein, this is considered too old. I should be married by now, my uncles say.”

“Where is your Gaon (native place) ?” I ask.

“I am from Rajasthan. When I go there for my holidays, I have to wear Indian outfits, no western clothes allowed. Ghungat (veil) is still mandatory for married women!” she says resignedly.

“Oh!”, I say sympathetically.

Another girl asks her,“So what do you do?”

She smiles, “Not go there unless absolutely necessary!!! My father is supportive. He wants us to study.”

So, this was my first meeting with Reena, the girl from Rajasthan.

Occasionally, I would bump into her in the corridor, sometimes proudly clutching medals that she had won in the National Level karate championships. Or at times, rushing from college to the karate classes that she taught. This was the Reena that I knew. Pragmatic, determined, hard-working, cheerful.

IAmNee

The second term of Law School required us all to complete a Journal. Some theoretical stuff that had to be written down. A sample will, affidavit for name change, how to be a good lawyer, etc. Simple enough, if you have time and a reasonable command of English. With a couple of days to spare before the Viva, I completed my Journal. And let it be known that it was available if anyone needed “Help” with theirs.

Outside the college canteen, I heard someone call out. It was Reena.

“Ma’am, I haven’t been able to complete my journal. Can I take pictures of yours?”

“Sure”, I said.

We knelt on the lawn and she took pictures of the notes in my journal.

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My maternal instinct came to the fore as I asked ( as I had asked my own kid at least a hundred times !), “The exam is tomorrow! Why have you not started on it? ”

“Ma’am, I am so busy. All day, I am either in class here, or teaching Karate to others. I will have time only after ten P.M. tonight.”She said, recounting a schedule that would put most of us to shame.

I was instantly ashamed of my judgemental rebuke. Here was a girl, who was doing things which she enjoyed and was clearly working hard.

“So, what do you plan after Law school?” I continued.

“Pata nahin. I might appear for the entrance to the police academy. Lekin one needs to know good English for that.” She said.

I was impressed. Was I ever this motivated? Did I aspire to break the mould? Was I ever this brave? I wondered.

“That is a great option for you to think of. If you need help with English, I can help you.” I said aloud.

She smiled, “Ok.”

This was my last conversation with her. Sportsperson, budding lawyer, aspiring policewoman. So impressed was I by her, that I repeatedly mentioned her in my conversation to acquaintances and family as someone (among others), in my Law School, who had the potential to go places.

And now this depressing news.

It is past one A.M., when I finally muster the courage to do an internet search.

I wince as the clip appears on You-tube. A news anchor, droning on in a monotone, confirming what I have been dreading. A lively, smart, girl with a dream and places to go is now just a statistic and a photo on the screen.

I have a lump in my throat. I wish she had given herself more time for her hard work to bear fruit. And that she had thought of her dreams for herself. And had reconsidered before taking this final, drastic step.

She had so much to live for.

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Images-Free Digital Photos

Aajkal Ke Bachhe- Truth Or Fiction?

I crouched down in the corner of the park, watching the trio. Two boys playing on the seesaw; holding the handle with one hand, and rapidly melting icecreams in the other. The third was a little girl, wearing a pretty dress, which probably cost what I made in a month. I should know; I worked in a sweat shop which made such dresses.

The girl stood a little apart, slowly unwrapping a large lollipop. One that was surely too large for her to finish by herself. When the wrapping was undone, she pushed the paper into her pocket for disposal later. Perfect, I thought. To dispose of the wrapper, she would surely approach the garbage bin close to me, very soon. My kind of girl.

I just needed to wait.

It was summer time, and the leaves of the bush that was my concealment, were rather sparse; so I needed to be careful. If spotted by a parent or the watchman, I could be thrashed or worse, handed over to a cop. My clothes and general appearance made me an unlikely candidate for an innocent visit to the park.

My choice of position was brilliant. To my left, a scant foot away, was the garbage bin, giving me instant access if anyone came to discard something. To my right was a wooden garden bench with broken slats, which meant that I could insert my fingers through, if needed.

Simon Howden

This park was not really my first choice or even my second. I generally preferred school grounds, with its larger number of children and easy pickings. A couple of schools which had lax supervision and fool-proof hiding spots, were my favourite. Luckily, my job required running errands for my boss and took me past these schools. I was always careful to keep a safe interval between the school visits. Even on the days that I was unsuccessful, I never lingered, lest I come to the attention of some alert watchman or concerned parent.

But summer vacation had rendered the school grounds empty and many days had passed since my last success. I was feeling the familiar yearning within me. Hence, this visit to the public park. Today was my monthly day off. My co-workers were watching the television outside the window of the electronics showroom. Some were catching up on their sleep, of course. A fourteen hour work day at a noisy factory which manufactures clothes, can make sleep very important.

Not for me, though.

I surreptitiously changed my position, at regular intervals, because cramped feet meant that I would not be able to run, if needed. My agility had saved me every single time, a fact that I took great pride in.

One of the boys had finished his ice-cream, while the other tossed down his half-eaten one. He would not be approaching the garbagebin, I thought, disappointed. With his fancy schooling, he should have known that the bin close to me was meant for tossing garbage! Swachch Bharat indeed!

All my hopes were pinned on the little girl. She watched the children at the swing set, lazily licking that huge lollipop with her pink tongue darting out delicately. She seemed to have no nanny or parent close to her. I was starting to feel lucky. Would she walk away or tire of the lollipop and walk to the bin to discard it?

I waited anxiously, perspiration trickling down my neck.

Too much time had passed and I was conscious of the chances of detection rising with every second. She suddenly turned her head and with the uncanny perception of very small children, glanced my way. Her gaze collided with mine. I do not know what came over me, maybe it was my desperation, but I did a very bold thing. I held out my hand and beckoned. With the innocence that comes from being a protected child, she walked towards me of her own volition. As she neared me, I held out my hand. She extended hers.

As her hand touched mine, I heard a shout. “Wait till I catch you, you good-for-nothing.” It was the watchman.

My cover was blown. I took to my heels and ran for my life. But, I was smiling triumphantly. This was the best haul yet. A large lollipop, the largest that I had ever seen or held.

Smelling of itself, not the other refuse in the bin or worse, thrown down in the dirt and needing to be gingerly dusted away. It was almost like receiving an early birthday gift for my twelfth birthday, which I knew fell sometime in the month of the first rains.

It was a gift from the Gods, who were surely smiling down on me today.

Behind me, I could hear the paunchy man muttering, out of breath,”Ye, aaj kalke Bachhe!”

Foto76

This blogger contest is supported by Kid Social Shell, a unique digital parenting platform with 11 gaming-learning apps. Use it play 3D nursery rhymes, counting number games, shapes games, fun math worksheets, coloring games and more!”

Image:freedigitalphotos- by Simon Bowden, Foto76

A Play review- Chhapa Kaata- Human Relationships -strong and delicate

Reviewed this play for Mumbai Theatre Guide.

A great play, wonderful performances.

I felt that the story seemed plausible, that of a clingy widowed mother not letting her daughter move out or move on.

http://www.mumbaitheatreguide.com/dramas/reviews/18-marathi-play-review-chapa-kata.asp

Reema Lgoo and Mukta Barve …..

Gulmohar- An Inspiration

“Gulmohur gar tumhara naam hota”( had Gulmohar been your name)  Kishore Kumar is serenading on the radio, as I sit on the balcony, cursor blinking on a blank document.  I am nursing a cup of tea and watching the raindrops drip down after a particularly fierce shower has come and gone. This thirty–year old Lata-Kishore duet, composed by Gulzar, still has the ability to twist my heart with the wistful nostalgia of first love. It is poignant that the ‘flame’ of this tree is often the simile used by poets to describe strong emotion.

happyknappyFreeedigital photos happyknappy

Among the earliest admirers of these blooms was Sarojini Naidu, who composed a poem praising its blooms. The final lines of her composition likens the color of the flowers to

“The flame of hope or the flame of hate,
Quick flame of my heart’s desire?

Or the rapturous light that leaps to heaven
From a true wife’s funeral pyre?” Continue reading

PRICE TO BE PAID FOR THE RISING PRICES /are we all casualties of this “MEHENGAAI”

Freedigitalphotos-ExsodusThe great columnist of the Washington Post, Art Buchwald was perhaps, also a clairvoyant man. A tongue-in-cheek piece by him written nearly thirty years ago, in the wake of rising prices in the U.S.A., describes his own foray into grocery shopping for his household with his wife. He has to pass an armed guard, show his I.D. and get this… wait for fruits to be taken out of a vault for perusal by buyers with a look-but-do-not-touch policy!!! In his signature style, Art gets his imagination, hyperbole and sarcasm to direct our attention towards ballooning  inflation, rising prices and the falling value of the currency. He leaves the market after buying a bunch of bananas, the only fruit that he can afford, the bulging grocery bag having made a deep hole in his wallet

Buchwald was an eerily jovial Nostradamus predicting something that could very well come true. This week, a tragic news story on the crime page tells us just how close we could get to this scenario in India. Continue reading

ASSUME- makes an ass of you and ME(?)

Has your long-awaited promotion or pay-hike gone to a colleague who is less-qualified? Maybe you could check if that person is taller, trimmer or good-looking.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/05/7-ways-your-looks-affect-your-pay_n_2811740.html#slide=2182985

This study in March 2013, found that that tall or good-looking persons, persons who worked out or were slim, women who wore make-up (among other criteria) stood to earn more money. Apparently blondes earn more and very pretty women earn less.ID-100207264Image credit-freedigitalimages.net-Stuart mliier

But are these prejudices limited to pecuniary or monetary considerations?

I recently came across an article by Annabel, on the site for Indian women, Talking Cranes, which speaks about the assumption, that since she is single, she is also unhappy and lonely. Continue reading