Saturday, 14 September 2013

Chai Story (childhood)

My Maiden Sip of Tea-

The title may seem a little out of place to the readers as Maiden has more to do with games/sports, speech performance, etc. So, what has that humble and servile tea to do with 'Maiden'? Well...reading this first person account will surely make the readers empathize me.

The tea, served in that bone china cup and saucer in the tray to the guests, held one of the greatest mysteries to me in my childhood. Not only me but both of my brothers were puzzled also. The most fascinating thing with tea was the sound of its 'Chushki', that 'surrrrrr...' sound followed by that expression of relaxation of every muscle on the face. On the contrary, we were always made to drink milk with Protinex or an egg mixed in it in large tumblers which gave a nausea to me and I always sought for an opportunity to throw it into the drain or flush it off.

So, tea for us, was the forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden. "Children must drink helps them grow tall...makes bones and teeth strong etc."...toppled up with the cherry of Krishna Kanhaiya's and Yashoda's story of hair growing thick and long by drinking milk. Well...the adults left us with no choice except to see them with vying eyes and wait eagerly at each birthday to find ourselves in their much coveted category.

We then, tried to please the cook by helping him in his work and letting us have a few sips of that ambrosia. But, the cook had more stories of the harms done by tea in his store to tell us "Tea is not good for little makes your teeth also makes your skin dark...only elders can have tea, etc. etc."

Finally, we reconciled with our destiny to wait for that opportune time to arrive. Days passed by swiftly but those hours of the arrival of the guests with tea being served to them seemed unusually long and impatient.
However, we kept on nurturing the hope in our little hearts and one day, luck smiled on me.

One fine Sunday, the servant, Shivlal being out on some important errand, my mother asked me to carry the tea-tray back to kitchen, to which I humbly obliged. I put the tray near the sink and found that a little tea was left in each cup. That golden brown content, I swear, seemed more tempting to me than a potion of opium to an opium addict. I wanted to taste that forbidden fruit but my conscience pricked my soul. I kept oscillating between the temptation and my conscience. Just then I heard the footsteps of someone approaching the kitchen and in a fraction of second the decision was made. I picked up one cup from the tray and tilted it to my lips "How sweet and savoury the flavour is!" I gulped the last drop of tea one by one from each of the four cups and wiped my lips with the back of my palm but was a little late in wiping off the evidence from the scene of crime. My younger brother had seen me wiping my face "You were drinking the left over tea...nah! I am going to tell mom."

The saddest part of this story of my maiden sip of tea is that I had to bribe my brother for keeping his mouth shut and thus had to part with my favourite scented eraser. And, with it vanished that sweet savoury flavour too.

Sometimes, I wonder about tea as the deciding factor for treating a growing child as grown-up adult and that urges me to add one more stanza in the poem "Am I a Child or an Adult" by Margaret Lawrence-

"Am I a child or an adult?
I am tall, I understand tea talk
But, Oh..!.
No, not a child now- it's not a glass of milk I love.
Its cherished position is taken.
Just because the protinex-eggs have lost their charm,
Does that mean that I am an adult?

मजबूत इरादे भी कभी कभी सिले बिस्किट की भांति नर्म पड़ जाते हैं.

तुमने जो दम भी लिया
तो वो कराह बन गयी
और जब कराहा तो 
वो चीख बन गयी।

इधर मेरी चीख बेचारी
को तो तुम्हारी चीख ने
कभी निगल लिया,
कभी तुम्हारी कराह ने
चाहा तो कुचल दिया।

मेरी चीख ने भी
चोट खाए सर्प
की तरह फन काढ
ली एक फुफकार तो
तुम्हारी चीख की भी
निकल गयी चीख। 

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Chai story

Chai at Simaria Ghat

                [Rajendra Bridge on Ganga (Bihar), in the holy month of Kartik]

She raised her eyes towards the sky. The storm had started gathering in with dark clouds and rising winds. The sun had already taken refugee behind the clouds. When they had arrived, the slanting rays of sun could be seen dancing on the small gentle waves of Ganga. But now the sky, overcast with dark clouds, seemed to be threatening their stay on the Ganga Ghat.

She tugged at his sleeve," Let's start before the storm sets in." and they rushed with heavy steps on the sand, in the direction of their car but it was too late. The high wind like the Sand Man, blocked their sight. They dropped the idea of driving back and took shelter in a make shift hut.

 The rain started falling in big drops which brought a slight chill into the air that late afternoon . A sweeping glance round the close confines of the hut brought relief to him. It was a make shift cloth shop/hut for the fair visitors in the pious month of Kartik. He took a look at her. She had wrapped the pallu of her saree round her frame. He bought a handloom gamchi from the shopkeeper and draped it round her shoulders. She felt the warmth of his love woven in the fabric of that gamchi. She closed her eyes in gratitude and then, opened to pay obeisance to Ganga, remembering the line oft quoted by her relatives" गंगा नहैले रहू कि  ऐसन दूल्हा पैलू ।"

The rain after a short heavy spell, had become a soft drizzle. So, they came out of the shelter and walked towards the samosa-jalebi and tea shop on the opposite side where the tempting smell of jalebies and samosas hung in the air.

The man/halwai beside the Chulha raked the smoldering coal to let the fire burn in full flame. He started taking out the hot, crispy jalebies from the big Kadhai on the chulha and turning them over in the sugar syrup. The sight of those sweet mouth watering jalebies was simply irresistible. The man dipped the tongs in the syrup and took out four golden brown jalebies from the kadhai and placed them in a dona before them. Till now she had hunched her back to combat the chill but the warmth of the chulha was so comforting that she relaxed her tensed body, stretched her back on the wooden chair and spread her legs. The glow of the charcoal shone on her face. She pulled her chair near to him and both of them sat there idly enjoying the hot jalebies and samosas alternatively. Meanwhile the man/halwai had placed the kettle on the chulha for the tea. The aroma of the cardamom and ginger along with the tea leaves boiling in the milk spread in the air. With rain stopped, the crowd started gathering in the shop. The man/halwai poured tea in the two glasses and handed over to them.

She sipped the sugar laced tea, “Ah, another delicacy…how sweet is life with this tea by my partner’s side!” The cool wind played with strands of her hair which she had left open to dry on her back. Outside the evening had set in and the twilight stars were out in the darkening sky to play hide and seek. The pilgrims had lighted the ‘diyas’ near the sacred Tulsi plant and the older women folk were busy in singing the sanjhout (evening prayer) while the younger women remained busy in preparing the supper. The children, after a long day out, building sand-castles or playing Hide and seek and other games on the sandy shore of Ganga, sat now impatiently round the hearth for the supper. For the whole day, their hunger had been on strike and now with full determination had come back to strike their stomach with repeated pangs. A few of them had even started dozing off near the warmth of the hearth. Their mothers, very tactfully, kept them awake by asking them to fetch a pail of water or to get the jars of salt and spices from inside the hut. Here was a life with simple charms and ground comforts.She tried to touch and feel their impalpable, carefree world but a thin invisible wall brought her back from there. She woke up to the soft touch of his hands on her tangled hair.

Quietness had descended on the atmosphere which looked so heart rendering and moving in the thin veil of fog and mist, brought by the rain.

  A few cots were placed outside the huts. She stole a coveted glance towards those stringed cots,” How cozy it would be to spend a night here at Ganga’s side in the open stretch of sandy bank with him at my side near the warmth of the hearth…” A sigh escaped her lips with the yawn. He said to her,” Someday…when our hair turns grey, we’ll come here to spend the whole month of Kartik…” She smiled at him lovingly and squeezed his hands in hers with dreams in her misty eyes like those twinkling stars in the sky.

She didn't know then that the dream would become just an another added page in the album of her life.
Yet the sweetness of the tea/chai, the crisp jalebies and the spicy samosas shared with him, still warms her heart and moistens her eyes.

Some dreams must better be seen with closed eyes to be forgotten at daybreak...

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Bhari Nayan

नयनों में भर-भर
तुम्हे देखा।
नयन हुए
मत से मतवाले।
तुम्हे भर-भर
हुए भारी।
फिर भी डर से
न मूंदु मैं नयन।
कहीं न हो जाओ
तुम ओझल।
खुले नयन
तुम्हे रहे निहार।
फिर भी तो
हो गए ओझल।
नयन और
तुम्हारे बीच
आ जो बसा
पूरा संसार।


The scene in 'Satyagraha'(movie) - A supporter of a minister, congratulating the mourner at the declaration of the payment of Ex-gratia, just ignited a spark to fire the words from my pen-

एक्सग्रेसिया की मिठाई 

क्या एक्सग्रेसिया
की रट है लगा रखी!
कोई लौटरी तो
नहीं है मेंरी खुली ?

क्या असामयिक मौत
का जश्न मुझसे हो मांगते?
एक विषबुझा नश्तर ही
उतार दो मेरे सीने में।
तुम्हारे जलते सीने
को बड़ी ठंडक मिलेगी।

क्या प्रिय से विछोह की
मिठाई मुझसे हो मांगते?
जश्ने दावत सभी दे दूंगी
मिठाइयाँ भर पेट खा लेना।
पेट पर संतोष भरा हाथ फेर,
लम्बी डकारें भी ले लेना।

हाँ, भूलना मत-
बस थोड़ी जगह बचा रखना
खारे पानी के लिए
भोजन सुपाच्य हो जाता है
बदहजमी नहीं होगी।

और,जाते जाते-
शुभकामनाओं के प्रत्यर्पण मुझे
वो  इन्तजार की मीठी शाम
खुशबू भरी चांदनी रातें
दे जाना मत भूलना...

कृपण बन गए न?
हुह्ह... जले पर नमक
ही छिडक सकते हो !
और  कृपणता ही
तो तुम्हारी पूंजी है।