Free for download only on 4th and 5th March 2020

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Free Bird Part 8

Read the previous part here
That night Sneha tossed and turned in the bed. Rupa's innocent question had quivered her mind. Was she really happy in life? She asked herself. She had a comfortable house to stay, a loving father and a job that paid decent salary. She wasn't unhappy for sure. But did that mean that she was happy. The answer seemed to be elusive.

What would make her happy? A job of probationary officer in a nationalized bank. Umm, Sneha was quite unsure about it as well. She wanted to scale the snow clad mountains and ride motorbike on the world's highest motorable road in Ladakh. She wanted to undertake Narmada parikrama and circumambulate around the river on foot which would take at least four months. She wanted to fly to Bhutan and meditate in one of those pristine monasteries seated on the edge of the cliff. She wanted to go to Paris and visit Louvre museum. Desires, never ending desires. Neither did Sneha have time nor the resources to fulfill all her dreams. But did that mean that she had no right to dream at all?

Unable to sleep, Sneha pulled her duvet aside and was startled to see her father standing in front of her.
'What happened? Did I scare you? I got a gut feeling that something is wrong with you. So had come to check upon you.'
'Everything is fine Papa. Just wanted some water.'
'Are you sure?'
'Yes, absolutely.' Sneha replied.

Sneha got out of the bed and went to the kitchen. She poured some water into the glass and sat on the chair across the dining table. She had a few sips. Then on a impulse she went to the terrace. There was a platform at the centre of the terrace. It was covered with a tastefully done canopy. There were two cane chairs and a table under the canopy.

Sneha saw her father sitting there. She went and occupied the other chair. Sneha had numerous memories weaved around this terrace. She had spent many nights on this terrace with her father and Sandeep gazing the stars. But now the stars were gone. Dark, black clouds swarmed the sky.
'The stars have faded.' Sneha said.
'Stars temporarily hide behind the sky. They don't fade.' Her father said gently pressing her hand.

'Papa, as a child I had so many dreams. I will become a doctor. I will become an actor. I will do this. I will do that. I will be rich and famous. I grew up, became mature, in the words of the world. I simply didn't realize when my dreams, my desires, my aspirations one by one slipped from mind. I accepted this mundane life as true. I am feeling disappointed Papa. I am a failure. I didn't even pass the bank exam.' Sneha released her hand, covered her face and cried.

'Sneha, there is no harm in trying. Still, you have time. The age is on your side. Nothing is lost.'
'I have been trying Papa for two years.'
'But you are expecting immediate results. Just keep doing what you want to do.'
'The truth is I don't know what I want.'
'Then ponder over it. Take a pen and a paper, and write your thoughts. Again, don't expect immediate results. Keep pouring your mind on the paper and you will surely get the answers. And one more thing don't think it is bad to feel low at times. Everyone feels the same way at some point of time. Take rest, listen to your favourite music, let this phase pass and then make any decisions. No point in taking any decisions in this mental state.'
'Thanks Papa.' Sneha said and hugged her father. 
Read the next part here 

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Free Bird - Part 7

Read the previous part here
'So you had a gala time.' Sneha's father asked on her return.
'Yes, the play was hilarious.' Sneha replied as she placed the keys of the bike into the holder.
'And the jokes were naughty, weren't they?' He asked.

Sneha swirled around and asked with amazement, 'How do you? Were you there?'
'Yes, I was there in the last row, seated next to the elderly gentleman and his wife.'
'How didn't I see you?'
'When you looked at the last row, I ducked behind the chair. I didn't wish to embarrass you. After all it was an adult play, full of adult jokes'
'Come on Papa, tell me that you are just kidding.' Sneha said standing akimbo.
'No, I am not. I was really present.'
'You are telling a lie. It cannot happen.'
'No, I am not. And why can't I come to the theatre? Don't I have a right to get entertained, watch a play? Am I not a human being?'

'Ok. Ok. I concede.' Sneha said. At this point, her father couldn't control his laughter any longer and he guffawed.
'Alright, let me tell you the truth. I was not there at the theatre.'
'See, I always knew that. I know you inside out.'
'Dr. Sharma my morning walk partner told me that he was going to watch that play with his wife. He boasted as to how the last row was exclusively reserved for the VIPs of Khandwa. Equipped with that piece of information I decided to pull your leg.'
'Very funny Papa.' Sneha said and went inside.
It was the month of the June. The parched earth smiled when the showers of rain kissed its forehead. People of Khandwa received relief from the scorching heat. Sneha was at her work. The drains were clogged and the rains had transformed roads into temporary rivers and mini swimming pools. As a result except for the employees there was no one in the electricity board office.

Rupa and Sneha were sitting next to the window which opened into a big ground. An old banyan tree stood stoically right in the middle while the branches of neem and jamun swayed with the gushing wind.

'Sneha what is the use of mere animal existence, one has to be successful in life.' Rupa said staring out of the window. Sneha was too immersed in watching the nature at its play. Suddenly the rain changed its direction and sprinkled a few droplets of the heavenly nectar on the two friends. Sneha was thrilled. Small, priceless things bring so much of joy. She deeply inhaled the pristine smell of the earth that the cool breeze carried.

'Sneha, where are you lost? I said something. Did you even hear that?'
'Yes, you were saying something about success.'
'We have to be successful in our lives, otherwise what is the point in slogging in this electricity department office for peanuts.' Rupa rolled her eyes.

'So success for you means money?' Sneha asked.
'Why doesn't it make any difference to you? What's your idea of success?'
'Well to be honest money matters. One should have at least reasonable amount of money. It makes life comfortable if not easy. At the same time, one should love his work as well. What is the point if you have crores of rupees stashed into your almirah but you are not happy with your work.'
'Sometimes I feel you should become a teacher. You start lecturing all the time. I asked you a simple question and you became all philosophical. Okay let me tell you what success means to me. For me it is social respect coupled with economic independence and good food.'
'Food?' Sneha laughed. Rupa had a strange philosophy of life.
'Yes food. Everyone works to get two square meals. Food cannot be ignored. So that definitely features in my list.'
'You have all of that. So you should call yourself successful.'
'Yes, I do Sneha, but I want a little more money and...'
'And what, Rupa.'
'In our society a woman doesn't get respect unless she is married, and I have surpassed my marriageable age long ago. Now the chances of me getting married are slim.'

Sneha wanted to speak. But she controlled herself. The co-relation of marriage with social respect was too hard for her to digest. If she had voiced her opinion, Rupa would have accused her of imparting gyan again. But she resolved that she would broach this topic at appropriate time. That is when Rupa said something and Sneha was taken aback. She was in a quandary. 'You spoke of loving your work. Do you really love sitting in this dingy office and hearing complaints about frequent power cuts and high bills from irate consumers. Tell me Sneha, where are you lost?' Rupa asked.
Read the next part here

Friday, 28 June 2019

Free Bird Part 6

Read the previous part here
'I hope it doesn't turn out to be a bad decision.' Rupa said, seeing the men teeming at the theatre. They were young and old, bald-pated and hirsute, white collared and blue collared, but there were men, men and only men. There was not a single woman to be seen anywhere.

Sneha, who was carefully manoeuvering her berry coloured activa through the alley that connected the theater to the main road, asked her to chill. Sneha honked not once, multiple times, that is when the group of young men gave her side. They stared at the girls. While Sneha made her eyes big and looked at them point blank, albeit only for a few seconds, to convey that their glances were not welcome, Rupa deliberately looked in the opposite direction.

Sneha parked the vehicle in the parking lot. She removed her ochre coloured helmet and adjusted her hair looking into the mirror of the bike. Rupa on the other hand was highly uncomfortable in this charged atmosphere. She covered her face with her dupatta and only her jet black eyes were visible now.
'Why are you covering your face? Are we doing anything wrong? We have come to watch a play and not to...'
Before Sneha could complete Rupa gestured her hand to stop her and said, 'Don't lecture me. I have told you earlier if I lack something, it is courage. Everybody cannot be like you Sneha.'
'But we have to change...'
'Yes, I know it is wrong. I mean my disconcert is wrong, and I should get over it. That's the reason I am here. Breaking my comfort zones. This is my tiny step towards empowerment. May be one day I will be as bold and as confident as you.'

Both the girls walked towards the lobby. Rupa's hands were clammy and she lumbered behind Sneha. Sensing her plight, Rupa firmly gripped her hand and escorted her inside the theatre.

Once inside the theatre, they realized that there were a few women in the hall. There was one elderly lady seated in the last row, next to a septuagenarian man, who probably was her husband. Then there was a group of giggling college girls dressed in identical denims and white shirts who seemed to be having the best time of their lives. Rupa found some comfort on seeing women and her nerves soothed. It is strange, but it is true that women do feel comfortable in the presence of other women, particularly in such situations, though they may not be of any help if anything untoward happens.

Sneha and Rupa ensconced in their seats. The groups of boisterous girls was seated a little farther.
'See we are not the only women in the auditorium.' Sneha said.
Gingerly moving her head from right to left Rupa said, 'The majority are men. But yes there are some women too.'
'That's the thing. Before venturing out we feel we are alone. But once outside, we realize we are not alone. There are many like minded individuals.' Sneha said.
'Ghar se to nikle the akele hi, log milte gaye, karwan banta gaya.' Rupa added.

Slowly the lights dimmed and the stage sprinted to life. The play was a slapstick comedy and laughter erupted at every joke, every punch which crackled in every other dialogue. Men hooted and whistled. But the gang of girls, their romp and merriment registered presence of the other sex in the hall too. Sneha looked at Rupa. She had never seen Rupa laugh like that and Sneha couldn't believe her eyes when she saw Rupa whistle a couple of times. All her inhibitions had dropped the moment the lights had turned off and she was thoroughly enjoying the play.

After the play was over and they were on their way back, Rupa said, 'Thanks Sneha. I had the best laughter of my life. Yes, the jokes were double meaning and risque, but they were hilarious. I liked the rat and the hole in particular.' Sneha hushed her and said. 'People are listening.'
Rupa raised her shoulders and said, 'I don't care.'
Read the next part here

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Free Bird Part 5

Read the previous part here

'What a spongy cake. Even if I spend all my life in the kitchen I can't bake a cake as delicious as this.' Rupa said as she shoved a piece of cake into her mouth. As promised Sneha had got cake for her in an oval shaped steel container..
Rupa took another piece and said, 'Looking at you no one can believe that you are such a wonderful cook.'
'Thank you so much. I take it as a compliment. But will you please explain as to why people wont consider me to be a good cook,' asked Sneha.

'I mean you are such a mod woman who wears shirt-pants all the time. You sport a bob cut, adorn a cherry red lipstick and speak your mind. Kitchen and cooking are simply not in sync with your image.'
'Appearances are deceptive Rupa, and why do we label people and throw them into separate compartments which exist only in our heads. Why do we jump to judge people when we know so little about them.'
'I agree,' said Rupa as she helped herself with another piece of cake. 'But I am glad that you made your father's day. He must be extremely proud of you.'

'I wish Sandip..'
Snapping Sneha Rupa said, 'Forget about him. A son is a son until he gets a wife but a daughter is a daughter all her life.'
'But he is not even married.'
'So what? It applies to all men, married or not.'
'Now don't act like you are my teacher and grill me. I have got something to show you.' She pulled out two tickets from her purse.
'Tickets?' Sneha asked.
'Of a play.' Rupa said dangling the tickets in the air.
'Which one?'
'Ek raat, aapke sath.'
'OMG, is there a play by that name?' Quizzed Sneha.

'Yes, the name sounds quiet risque. It's a local group which is staging it. The writer, director, actors all are from Khandwa. One of my friends from college is doing the backstage and she begged me to buy the tickets. Please buy at least two tickets, her shriveled form said.' Rupa folded her hands and offered an exaggerated version of her friend's conduct. 'I couldn't disappoint that woman with the perpetual long face. After she left, I read the name of the play and I chickened out.'

'Why?' Asked Sneha.
'Women don't watch such plays, do they?'
'And men?'
'Well men can practically do anything.' Rupa said with a sigh.
'What a sick mentality. We have to fight against such thinking. Firstly, we don't know what the play is all about. Ours is just a guess work from the title. Secondly, even if it has sexual innuendos why should we shy away from it, only because we are women? We will go and watch this play.' Sneha said as she thumped her fist on the table. The steel container on the table tinkered and shuddered.

'My darling Sneha I always knew that you would say the same, and that is the precise reason why I didn't ask any other person to accompany me. Sometimes I feel I lack the courage which you have. So this Saturday night...'
Sneha completed her sentence, 'Ek raat, aapke sath.'
Read the next part here