Kurukshetra

IMG-20180303-WA0073

3152 BCE – Hastinapur (Kaurav) Rajsabha

Duhsashan, the second son of Dhritarashtra, holding the flowing hair of Draupadi, dragged her to the Kaurav Rajsabha where a game of dice has just concluded with Duryadhan-Shakuni combine having won her as wager. The Kauravs laughed out madly at the hapless woman, reverberating throughout the kingdom. The blind king Dhritarashtra was covertly happy at the winning of his eldest son but overtly showed his concern at the commotion in his Rajsabha. Duryadhan ordered Duhsashan to disrobe Draupadi as she has now become his slave. The lecherous eyes of Duhsashan never blinked as he moved towards her menacingly. The daughter of King Drupad ran from pillar to the post of the Rajsabha to save her honor.

Seeds_of_war_b9b1901f-97e2-40c6-82dc-8bc2883b9d19

Draupadi pleaded to mighty Debabrata or the Pitamah Bhishma who was mightier than the Gods. Then she went to Guru Dronacharya who was capable of eliminating any army all by himself. She went to Kripacharya, the Rajguru followed by the most learned and wise Vidur, the Prime Minister of the Kauravs. She cried out loud for justice but none responded. It seemed that all these great souls had turned deaf to the wailing of a hapless woman. Duhsashan, reached for her saree and pulled it to disrobe her….

3138 BCE – Kurukshetra

After many years and failed peace initiative, the war happened at the vast expanse of Kurukshtra, the holy land. On the seventeenth day, all most all the warriors of Kauravs have been vanquished by the arrows of Arjun and his brothers. The great Pitamah Bhishma was lying on a bed of arrows. Shri Krishna Vasudev has come to visit him and pay respect. After initial pleasantries, Bhishma spoke….

Bhisma-final-desire-blessing

Bhishma: What did you do Vasudev? Why did you allow this bloody war?

Shri Krishna: Me? What did I do Gangaputra Bhishma? I did not even pick any weapon!

Bhishma: You could have avoided this unnecessary blood loss. You could have stopped the destruction of humanity. Couldn’t you, Vasudev?

Shri Krishna: You could have stopped this war too, Pitamah.

Bhishma: Me?

Shri Krishna: Yes, you Bhishma. You are responsible for all this destruction and deaths of the million souls.

Bhishma: This is not true.

Shri Krishna: No Pitamah, it is the truth. Recall the Kaurav Rajsabha, where some beasts tore apart the honor of Draupadi and by inference of whole womanhood, but you kept quite. Why?

Bhishma: But that was Duryadhan and Duhsashan. I was, by oath attached to the throne of Hastinapur and as such bound to obey the King’s command. And the fact is Duryadhan never listened to my advice. He was very powerful.

Shri Krishna: Ha ha ha… what are you saying Pitamah? Durayadhan was powerful? He was solely dependent on the combined strength of you, Guru Dronacharya, Kripacharya and Karna. Without your tacit support he would not have dared to do such misdeeds. Pitamah Bhishma, I am not responsible for all this bloodshed and destructions but you all, who became deaf, dumb and blind at the Kaurav Rajsabha, all those years ago, are responsible for this mayhem.

The mighty Debabrat, the Pitamah of Kaurav and Pandavas just sighed, resigned to the fate of humanity.

2002 CE – Gujarat

On 27th February 2002, the Sabarmati Express was torched at Godhra station, Gujarat. The culprit identified was an organization by the name of Harkat-ul-Jihaad, a Muslim outfit. The target of the arson was pilgrims returning from Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. The goons did not differentiate between men, women and children and attacked everyone with utmost venom. Those who tried to save themselves from the inferno were dragged back into it by the goons of Haji Bilal. The intelligentsia became deaf, dumb and blind to this ghastly act. Some quarters did raise a feeble voice but was promptly gagged by the so-called secularists. However, the patience of a section of Hindu’s ran out and the revenge was sought throughout the state of Gujarat. Aftermath of this few Leftists were heard asking why such a high price for mere 57 Hindus killed in Godhra. Perhaps, they were not accustomed to pay back or do not know the value of human lives.

banner

Anyways, years on Gujarat 2002 had remained the hot topic among the left-oriented intelligentsia and they leave no stone unturned shouting “Gujarat Riots” every now and then. However, none of them have the guts to introspect why it happened! Just like Pitamah Bhishma, they have conveniently forgotten the Godhra massacre…

2016 CE – Iraq

39 Indians, mainly Sikhs had gone to Iraq to earn money, hard earned money for their family back home. The ISIS – an organization of the most peaceful religion abducted them and later on killed every one of them. Their only fault was their names were not Rahim Ali or Mansur Khan but Harjeet Singh and Malkiyat Singh!

However, the Indian media and secular intelligentsia that were so perturbed and agitated for the Syrian refugees and had taken out candle light march, refused to even utter a single sentence of condolences for these hapless victims. It is baffling to understand which death is saddest for the Indian media and intelligentsia. Who and what decides the agitation and candle light vigil for what and which massacre?

In Mahabharata, the trio of Bhishma, Dronacharya and Karna had provided the much needed valor and power to Duryadhan and Duhsashan for all their misdeeds. Ironically, today, the so-called secularists (and always left leaning), intelligentsia and political parties are giving tacit support to the Islamic and other terror outfits by either keeping mum or extending support in the garb of humanity. They are building the Frankenstein that will destroy them only. It is time to rise and shake up the lethargy, raise your voice against the pacifiers.

Jai Hind. Vande Mataram.   

 

Puri Jatra

The Main Photo

 

The day was 16th November, birthday of my buddy Soni. I wanted to wish him, hear his voice, listen to his crackling jokes but he has been absconding, on a self imposed exile from me and other friends. I have tried to locate him on my two visits to Kolkata, cajoled, threatened and begged his bro to reveal his whereabouts but the answer had always been a stoic “He doesn’t want to meet you”. I have tried to figure out the reasons for him not wanting to keep any relations to me with whom he had grown up since class sixth right through our working life, but couldn’t figure out.

I was contemplating between calling up a friend whose family is quite influential in Kolkata and my cousin with similar influences to fix up a possible meeting with the police commissioner or some senior officials to trace him out when my phone rang. The number was unknown but I picked up the call and said “Hello”. The voice on the other side said, “Kire kemon achhish? (Hey how are you)” The person need not introduce himself for I could recognize the voice of Soni even after almost 14 years.

After a bout of pleasantries (read abuses) for not keeping in touch for so many years, we started talking as if there have no gap in between. Soni informed that he has set up a hotel business in Puri, Odisha. There is nothing fancy about the hotel, but clean comfortable and affordable place, primarily catering to the middle class tourists from Bengal and other parts of the country. I asked him if I could add him to our WhatsApp group of school friends and he agreed.

A few days into the group, Soni invited us to join him at his hotel for a reunion which was cheered by all and most promised to look at the possibility. I told him over our phone conversation that only a handful will finally make it happen as I knew my friends inside out! Anyways, as the proposed day of 8th February 2018 neared, many walked out of the plan sighting various reasons which I will not delve into but the ones that bought their tickets were the lucky ones to experience real buddy bonding.  I had a concern area about Rolf, my 8.5 year old baby Chowchow, as to his twice a day walking. Having moved to Hyderabad just a month back I had no back up support but as luck would have it, a chance discussion at a community (NCC Urban) meet, a lady said she knew someone who could help me out. Thereafter, a series of messaging and phone conversation with the girl named Priyanka solved my dilemma and I was ready for the reunion.

Gora bought the flight tickets for himself and Ronju from Delhi while Jallu booked himself a train ticket to Kolkata from Malda to join Soni for onward journey to Puri together. For whatever reasons, the ticket bought by Gora was via Hyderabad and I decided to join them in the same flight so that we reach together. However, due to some confusion, my flight was scheduled one before theirs and we met at the airport lounge briefly. Soni had confirmed that he will pick us up from Bhubaneshwar Airport and was aware of the two different pick up time and made arrangements accordingly.

8th February 2018

To my great relief Priyanka came in the morning to walk Rolf and I followed them at distance but Rolf was at his best behavior throughout the 30-40 minute walk. While cleaning him up, I told him that I will be away for 3 days and that he should be a good boy. I don’t know if he understood but became very sad and sat at corner keeping an eye on my movements.

IMG_0031

Around 10 am Ronju posted their arrival at Hyderabad but the message was confusing. It said the plane had landed and is now on its way to Kochi. I called him up and he picked up the phone from the airport to clarify that the connecting flight to Bhubaneshwar is different and is scheduled at 2 pm. I told him to meet me at the lounge hoping to grab a beer with the buddies before boarding my flight. I left for the airport immediately and reached around 10:45 am and proceeded for the security check.

I was carrying only a cabin bag wherein I had packed Biriyani & mutton curry from Shah Ghouse, the famous eatery of Hyderabad, frozen rock solid. As I came out after the security check to retrieve my bag, I saw it was kept on the side. When I asked the reason, the lady at the counter said there is canister and food items which needs checking. I explained, opening the bag that the canister is my shaving gel and food item is the biriyani and mutton curry. She was adamant and demanded that I open the packs which I refused point blank and told her that she can keep the stuff herself but I cannot open them and spoil it in the process. I told her to call up her supervisor which she did reluctantly. The officer was more understanding and after recording my boarding card details allowed the package to carry forward.

It took some time to trace Ronju & Gora and went to the lounge but to our misfortune, the bar did not have chilled beer. We just sat there and chatted for some time then I proceeded to board my flight. The journey was uneventful, I put on my earphones as soon as I sat down listening to my favorite singer, Shreya Guhathakurata singing soulful Rabindrasangeet.

I messaged Soni as soon as the plane landed and he came along with Jallu as I came out of the terminal building. We proceeded to grab some grub before coming back in an hour time to pick up Gora and Ronju. We finished our lunch and were paying the bill when Ronju called up to inform that they have landed. We returned to the airport to pick them up at 4:45pm and straight away proceeded to Puri.

We picked up our stock of “Elixir of Life” before checking in at Dreamboat Hotel. After freshening up and changing into more comfortable clothes, we sat down for the first evening of reunion. There were lots to talk with Soni.

All of us have been through ups and downs in life but have managed to stand up tall once again. Soni narrated his side of the story briefly and my only regret is that he did not confide in me earlier about his hardship, I may have been able to help him in some way. We clicked our reunion pictures and immediately posted in the group to let the others know what they have missed out in life. The Biriyani was liked by all and we retired to bed well past the midnight. The following day was for sightseeing the Konarak Sun Temple.

9th February 2018

Ronju & Jallu had decided to go for a walk in the morning. Gora & I had politely declined as we wanted to sleep and relax as much as we can. However, my body clock woke me up at around 5:30 am and I could hear them sneaking out which tempted me to join but I suppressed the desire and turned on my tummy and slept blissfully for next one hour.

The breakfast was traditional Bong cuisine – Luchi and Aloo Kalojire Chocchori (Potato Bhaji with Onion Seed). Additionally there were boiled eggs for the likes of me whose breakfast is incomplete without eggs. I tasted this potato preparation after ages and relished it very much. It would have been great to have a traditional Sandesh with Luchi but Soni informed that sweets are not too good in Puri. The only sweets that people buy here are Gaja (a kind of sweet matthi) and Chhana Pora (fried paneer soaked in sugar syrup). We tried both later in the evening.

We had called the cab around 10:30 which as per eastern India norms landed only around 11 and we left for Konarak about 35km (one hour) from Puri. As is customary when you want to live the bachelor days once more, we picked up chilled beer and soon realized we do not have a bottle opener!! Soni had some work at the court so we stopped by and Jallu took the opportunity to hunt and buy the bottle opener from a roadside stall. We were all set for the road, I realized I have not lost the touch as I finished the beer much before Jallu and Gora had consumed half their bottles!!

Once we left the city limits, roads became quite decent in terms of traffic and surface smoothness. We passed through the wildlife sanctuary driving on the Puri-Konarak Marine Drive and reached Balukhand which we decided to check out while returning.

The Konarak Sun Temple is under restoration and one could get the glimpse of the magnificent structure through the scaffolding. One of the revelations was that people only point out Khajuraho Temple for its explicit sculpting but such carvings can be found in other temples of that period. Even here we saw some very explicit carvings on the temple wall all around. Ronju informed that since this is a Sun temple, it denotes energy and therefore such sculptures have been carved on the temple walls. There are no deities inside the temple; in fact, the entrance to the temple has been blocked years ago.  A brief note on the Konarak Sun Temple gathered from the internet is given at the end for those who are interested in it.

We had noticed the roadside stalls that lined up the lane leading to the Konarak temple and decided to check them out for souvenirs for back home. While going to the temple we had seen a few shop selling cashews and had decided to pick up some stock for our evening snacking as well as for home. However, on our return path, all the cashew shops had downed their shutter for afternoon siesta. We found a shop selling pickles and decided to check it out. It had over 25 different kinds of pickle ranging from sweet to sour to hot chili. Jallu, Gora & I packed few of them for back home before leaving for Balukhand on way to Dreamboat, Puri.

We spent some time at the beach called Balukhand and enjoyed the sea breeze. A small fish had soared up at the beach and was gasping; I picked it up and threw back to the sea hoping it would live for another day.

The menu for the lunch was simple Bengali cuisine of fried bitter gourd with kasundi, dal-chawal with fried fish and fish curry. It was a satisfying meal especially with the remaining beer, chilled and refreshing. After the late lunch, we were chatting about old times in school trying to figure out where our friends have ended up now when the Panda of Puri Jagannath Temple showed up at the behest of Soni. He agreed to come in the morning the following day to take us to the temple for the darshan of the deities – Jagannath, Balarama and Subhadra. I am not religious at all but was inquisitive of the place, so had decided to join the other three.

In the evening, we decided to go for a walk in the Swargadar area and try some street food. I am a foodie and wherever I go, I try to taste the local street foods which are generally much tastier than what you get in a restaurant. Jallu & I were keen to try the fried crab but a closer look at the stuff was not too inviting at the first stall that we checked. We tried the fried prawns instead which was just okay nothing great. Soni had declined to even touch it citing hygiene issues and Ronju reluctantly had one piece so it was up to Jallu, Gora and I to polish off the rest. We moved on to another stall that was selling different kinds of pakodas – chili, potato and urad dal besides samosa. We picked up few pieces of each variety for chakhna with drinks later in the evening.

I have heard that Swargadar is a Hindu crematorium and it is believed that getting cremated here guarantees Moksha for the soul. I had imagined it to be if not grand but at least a memorable place in terms of some good architecture but it turned out to be a normal cremation ground. Soni informed that attempts to convert the place to eco-friendly electric crematoria have failed for last so many years in the face of blind superstitions that block all modernization. Soni jokingly said that the opposition to turning electric is that they fear the dead body might be jolted to life because of electric shock!!

Before returning to the hotel we tried the famed Gaja & picked up Chhanapora for post-dinner dessert. Jallu’s room was the biggest and we used it for our evening Adda as well as storing the liquor and other dry snacks. By some unwritten instructions, Mukherjee, the cook-cum-man Friday would serve boiled eggs to go with our drinks along with other chatpata snacks. Since I have stopped eating dinner, this was most welcome for me. We decided to keep the Adda short as we have get up early for the Shri Jagannath darshan but still ended up well past the midnight.

Jallu, loves to take photographs including videos and many a times it is unknown to the subject and often results in candid moment. He took a video of Soni explaining some issues at the dining table and posted it on our whatsapp forum. When Soni saw it, he was infuriated beyond control and it took some time to calm him down. Thanks to the poor audio quality, it had gone practically unnoticed and there were no comments on it.

IMG_20180208_151331

10th February 2018

Ronju is a (very) early riser, he usually gets up around 4:30 am (midnight for most of us) and he took it upon himself to wake us up all by 6 am to be ready for Jagannath Ji Darshan. The Panda had confirmed that he will come and take us around 7:30 am. I normally get up between 5:30 – 6 am so, when Ronju rang the room bell at 6 am sharp, I was already up and shaving. We were ready and sipping on our morning tea when the Panda showed up and we left with him. He was riding a bike so we hired an autorikshaw and followed him to the temple.

All leather items, camera and phone are prohibited inside the temple. We knew it and therefore did not carry any of these with us. After depositing our sandals at the designated spot, we entered the temple. The premises gets washed everyday in the early morning so the surface was still wet and some of the stones were a bit slippery as well. Being city dweller we were not accustomed to bare feet walking so the initially it hurt the feet but we got adjusted. As is the norm with most Hindu Temples, there are many smaller temples dedicated to different deities which has to be seen (you’re supposed to donate as well) before one can go to the main temple. We first went to the admin office to ‘buy prasad’ or pay for the puja. There were different price groups for the puja right from Rs.111/- to Rs.25 Lacs. We settled for Rs.211/- as this was dry Prasad, easy to carry back home. There was a Rs.10/- admin charge over this amount!!

The Panda did his best to wriggle out donations at various smaller temples but we are seasoned traveler and know how to get out of the situation. He finally took us inside the main temple which was crowded with people but he managed to find the way through and took us straight to the front. The temple is under renovation and therefore the viewing spot has been moved back resulting in a glimpse of the deities for a few seconds only before the crowd pushes you out. It reminded me of the similar situation at Vaishno Devi temple!

We came out and explored the temple premises for its architectural beauty. Not getting into the details of the history of the temple but providing the link to Wikipedia for those who are interested – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jagannath_Temple,_Puri.

However, Ronju shared a very interesting story that the idol of the trio – Jagannath, Balarama & Subhadra are made from the Neem wood every 9/ 12/ 15/ 18/ 21/ 25 years depending on the command from the Lord himself through dream to the Head Priest of the temple. The Head Priest is told of the specific region within the state to get the Neem-wood for each idol and they are from different part of the state. The wood is sourced from the tree on which no bird has ever sat let alone made its nest. The idols are made in exactly 14 days. The navel of the Lord Jagannath is taken from the old idol and inserted in the new one called Pranpratistha. The Priest who does that invariably dies on the 30th day after the act and is believed to achieve Moksha.

There are some interesting stories – the flag atop the temple flies in the opposite direction of the wind; the Bhog-Prasad is cooked using earthen pots which are placed on top of another right up to the ceiling but the food gets cooked first on the pot that is at the top. The ingredients used to make this bhog are indigenous that is items that are naturally grown in the region and not imported from other countries (potato, tomato, chili etc. are not used as these came from foreign land). No bird flies over the temple (but I saw a tom cat roaming inside the temple premises fearlessly).

Before we left, the Panda said that he bring in the Prasad to the hotel in the evening.

We had decided to take the rest of the day easy and just relax, so after breakfast Ronju and Gora decided to take a power nap while Jallu & I along with Soni went for shopping. I picked up a Saree for Deepika while Jallu picked up Salwar-Suit for Roopa. We also picked up chilled bottles of beer for the afternoon and whiskey for the evening.

The lunch consisted of dal-aloo bhaja and mutton curry with rice. The mutton curry was delicious and I ended up over eating. The only thing on my mind was to take a nap and be ready for the evening as this was the last evening together after so many years.

We were all set for the evening session to begin but Jallu had vanished with his room key. He had suddenly realized that he had forgotten to buy the Chhanapora for back home. His train to Kolkata was early in the morning around 5:45 am so he had to pick it up today only.

Our session started quite late after Jallu came in having lost his way from Swargadar area. Initially he was reluctant to join in as he would have to get up very early but Ronju convinced him that he will wake him up at 4 am and then there was no holding back the 18 year olds in their mid-fifties.

Soni left Delhi in March 2004 and my last conversation with him over phone was sometime in late May of same year. His daughter was born on 15th November 2003 but I had not seen her till today save few photographs he shared recently of a beautiful smart young teenager. Soni narrated his untold story of past 14 years and we all became quite emotional at his struggle and eventual success. And I felt proud for my buddy.

11th February 2018

The morning started really early, Ronju, as promised, woke up Jallu around 4 am and us around 4:30 am. Jallu left for the station in the pre-booked autorikshaw around 4:50 am. He was going to Kolkata first before taking another overnight train ride later for Malda where he works with a bank.

I had booked a taxi for Bhubneshwar Airport drop at 9 am which showed up 15 minutes late. I was supposed to go alone but Soni decided that he along with Gora and Ronju will come along as they have nothing else to do and a long drive is always welcome.

At the airport, we hugged and promised to meet up again for a re-reunion perhaps with a larger group at a more suitable time later this year. I took off exactly at 12:07 pm carrying with me loads of memories of a fantastic weekend.


 

THE KONARAK SUN TEMPLE

The Konark Sun Temple was built from stone in the form of a giant ornamented chariot dedicated to the Sun god, Surya. In Hindu Vedic iconography Surya is represented as rising in the east and traveling rapidly across the sky in a chariot drawn by seven horses. He is described typically as a resplendent standing person holding a lotus flower in both his hands, riding the chariot marshaled by the charioteer Aruna. The seven horses are named after the seven meters of Sanskrit prosody: Gayatri, Brihati, Ushnih, Jagati, Trishtubha, Anushtubha, and Pankti. Typically seen flanking Surya are two females who represent the dawn goddesses, Usha and Pratyusha. The goddesses are shown to be shooting arrows, a symbol of their initiative in challenging darkness. The architecture is also symbolic, with the chariot’s twelve pairs of wheels corresponding to the 12 months of the Hindu calendar, each month paired into two cycles (Shukla and Krishna).

The Konark temple presents this iconography on a grand scale. It has 24 elaborately carved stone wheels which are nearly 12 feet (3.7 m) in diameter and are pulled by a set of seven horses. When viewed from inland during the dawn and sunrise, the chariot-shaped temple appears to emerge from the depths of the blue sea carrying the sun.

The temple plan includes all the traditional elements of a Hindu temple set on a square plan. According to Kapila Vatsyayan, the ground plan, as well the layout of sculptures and reliefs, follow the square and circle geometry, forms found in Odisha temple design texts such as the Silpasarini. This mandala structure informs the plans of other Hindu temples in Odisha and elsewhere.

The main temple at Konark, locally called the deul, no longer exists. It was surrounded by subsidiary shrines containing niches depicting Hindu deities, particularly Surya in many of his aspects. The deulwas built on a high terrace. The temple was originally a complex consisting of the main sanctuary, called the rekha deul, or bada deul (lit. big sanctum). In front of it was the bhadra deul (lit. small sanctum), or jagamohana (lit. assembly hall of the people) (called a mandapa in other parts of India. The attached platform was called the pida deul, which consisted of a square mandapa with a pyramidal roof. All of these structures were square at their core, and each was overlain with the pancharatha plan containing a variegated exterior. The central projection, called the raha, is more pronounced than the side projections, called kanika-paga, a style that aims for an interplay of sunlight and shade and adds to the visual appeal of the structure throughout the day. The design manual for this style is found in the Silpa Sastra of ancient Odisha.

Twice as wide as they were high, the walls of the jagamohana are 100 feet (30 m) tall. The surviving structure has three tiers of six pidas each. These diminish incrementally and repeat the lower patterns. The pidas are divided into terraces. On each of these terraces stand statues of musician figures. The main temple and the jagamohana porch consist of four main zones: the platform, the wall, the trunk, and the crowning head called a mastaka. The first three are square while the mastaka is circular. The main temple and the jagamohana differed in size, decorative themes, and design. It was the main temple’s trunk, called the gandhi in medieval Hindu architecture texts, that was ruined long ago. The sanctum of the main temple is now without a roof and most of the original parts.

On the east side of the main temple is the Nata mandira (lit. dance temple). It stands on a high, intricately carved platform. The relief on the platform is similar in style to that found on the surviving walls of the temple. According to historical texts, there was an Aruna stambha (lit. Aruna’s pillar) between the main temple and the Nata mandira, but it is no longer there because it was moved to the Jagannatha at Puri sometime during the troubled history of this temple. According to Harle, the texts suggest that originally the complex was enclosed within a wall 865 feet (264 m) by 540 feet (160 m), with gateways on three sides.

The stone temple was made from three types of stone. Chlorite was used for the door lintel and frames as well as some sculptures. Laterite was used for the core of the platform and staircases near the foundation. Khondalite was used for other parts of the temple. The Khondalite stone weathers faster over time and this may have contributed to erosion and accelerated the damage when parts of the temples were destroyed. None of these stones occur naturally nearby, and the architects and artisans must have procured and moved the stones from distant sources, probably using the rivers and water channels near the site. The masons then created ashlar, wherein the stones were polished and finished so as to make joints hardly visible.

The original temple had a main sanctum sanctorum (vimana), which is estimated to have been 229 feet (70 m) tall. The main vimana fell in 1837. The main mandapa audience hall (jagamohana), which is about 128 feet (39 m) tall, still stands and is the principal structure in the surviving ruins. Among the structures that have survived to the current day are the dance hall (Nata mandira) and the dining hall (Bhoga mandapa).

The Relocation

Two weeks before the Durga Puja (2017), on a Friday evening, Deepika announced that her company is closing down the training vertical, that she has been managing as senior leader. She has to choose a different role within the organization or look outside. We decided to take it in stride and take a call based on options within the organization. On the following Monday she called up from office and said that there exist two options, one is in Jaipur and the other in Hyderabad in Business Operations vertical. It was paradigm shift for her from training to operation and a difficult call. The Hyderabad option was more suited to her profile, so she took up the offer without any delay.

Once decided, we started the process of getting mentally ready for the move. It was not easy being born, brought up and work life spent in Delhi. The next step was to hunt for a place in Hyderabad. I had never been to the city and had absolutely no idea about the demography/ geography except some names like Banjara Hills, Jubillee Hills etc. So, I started my research on the internet and came up with names like Kondapur, Madhapur and Gachibowli. Having theoretically acquainted myself with Hyderabad landscape, we decided to go to the ground zero and look for a house. Deepika being there already, I booked myself on a Vistara flight for 28th morning for two day house hunting mission.

I landed around 9:35 am and after collecting my bag reached the Lemontree Hotel at Nanakramguda, Financial District within 45 minutes, courtesy the beautiful ORR (Nehru Outer Ring Road). After breakfast, accompanied by Mr. Jain, the property consultant, we went for the hunt. We started with an apartment block in Madhapur; it was right on the main road but very quiet and peaceful once you are inside the complex. This was followed by few houses in the neighborhood of Banjara Hills. After having seen a dozen places in the surroundings of Hitex, we moved towards Gachibowli. The Ramkey Towers – apartment block, right next to the Deloitte building. The apartment was on the 6th floor overlooking the swimming pool and clubhouse. The security arrangements and the sincerity of the staff were impressionable. We liked the apartment which was kind of semi-furnished ensuring we have to move very minimal household items from Delhi. The owners were Punjabis staying in another apartment in the same complex and were keen to lease it out to us.

In the evening, we met my friends Swathi & Sanjay Reddy at their house in Financial District, just a kilometer away from the Lemontree Hotel. It was a beautiful abode for the beautiful couple. We had couple of drinks before coming back to our hotel.

Next day again after breakfast, we started our house hunt, this time with another property agent that a friend had recommended. He showed us some really decent and nice apartments but all unfurnished and needed either shifting complete household things from Delhi or purchasing new at Hyderabad.

In the morning, Deepika had messaged three of her local colleagues about the Ramkey apartment. All of them warned us of water shortages in the peak summer months which can double our maintenance charges. One of her colleague suggested that we look at NCC Urban where he too is located, just behind Ramkey, a few blocks away. We asked the property agent as well as Mr. Jain (of the previous day), if they have any property in NCC Urban listed with them. Both said they will look in their data base and revert. Meanwhile, Deepika got a call from a lady from NCC who was interested in leasing out her apartment. This call was courtesy Deepika’s colleague who had posted a query for availability of apartments for leasing in the NCC Urban Society App called ADDA, and we fixed up an appointment with lady for that evening.

The first look of the apartment was so pleasing that we almost unanimously decided to take it up immediately. The lady, Ms. Jayasree Gujja had got transferred to Philadelphia, USA and was leaving in a fortnight’s time. She offered us the fully furnished house where we needed just to get our clothes from Delhi. The rental cost was slightly above our limit but since it was a ready to move in place, we decided it was worth it. The following day I came back to Delhi having accomplished the mission. Deepika signed up the Lease Agreement the following Thursday before leaving for Delhi.

The final relocation date was dependent on my sister’s impending visit to Delhi (India) after almost 10 years. So, once she confirmed her schedule, we too finalized the dates – Deepika along with our housekeeper, Savita will leave on 28th Dec and I will start my road journey on 29th Dec with my 4-legged son, Rolf and Guddu, the trusted driver.

Deepika carried 7 suitcases and 3 handbags on the flight (paying for extra baggage) and left a lot more for me to carry in Toyota Altis. Our driver, Guddu was itching for this long drive of almost 1600km. Google Maps showed the fastest route through Taj Expressway but my friend Robin insisted that we take the Mathura Road even if it means an extra hour. I am glad that I heeded to his advice as it was practically fog-free at a time when there was news everyday of mishaps due to fog on Taj Expressway.

Guddu & I loaded up the car in the evening itself and realized, there were too many stuff to take along, but these were all essential items that has to go. Rolf, used to having the entire back seat to him whenever he travelled in the car got really squeezed to less than half the space. We planned for 4am departure to avoid traffic as much as possible. My niece and her fiancé dropped in for a drink and to bid me goodbye and by the time they left, it was almost 11pm. It was time to shut down all systems and lock-up all entry points barring the main exit and cover up the sofas and other stuff that would remain in Delhi. All these activities took up considerable time and I could finally hit the bed around 1 am after confirmation of Deepika’s safe landing in Hyderabad. I got up with the alarm at 3 am and got ready within the hour but there was no sign of Guddu till 4:30 am!! When I called him, the usual reply came that he is reaching in 10 minutes which actually worked out to 30 minutes. We finally started around 5:15 am for our 1600 km journey to Hyderabad after getting the petrol filled to full tank capacity.

The route was NH2/ NH19 (Mathura Road) – NH33(Agra By-pass) – NH43/44, pretty straight forward and simple route which Google said would take 26 hours non-stop, crossing 7 states – Delhi-Haryana-Uttar Pradesh-Rajasthan-Uttar Pradesh(again)-Madhya Pradesh- Maharashtra-Telengana State. We decided to take the night halt at a resort in Pench which was right on the highway and begin fresh the next day for rest of the journey.

del-hyd route

The Mathura Road is currently being upgraded and there were sections which were closed and diversions marked, so the smooth cruising kept interrupting periodically. In a way it was good as I realized, Guddu Kumar was getting over enthusiastic about driving and in the process was applying some real hard breaking which was neither good the vehicle nor for Rolf, sitting at the back. By the time we hit the Agra By-pass (NH33), dawn started breaking on the horizon. It was good two hours of driving and Rolf as well as we needed to stretch our legs. I walked Rolf for 500 meters up the highway hoping he would do his job but the chap is so selective that he refused to do anything other than leaking his tank.

We started again moving towards Dholpur (Rajasthan) and then to Morena – Gwalior (MP) and then getting into UP again at Jhansi. We were actually bypassing all these cities as the highway was mostly away or on the outskirts of these cities. This also meant that unlike the other NH that pass through the city this was always skirting away from the city and therefore very few eating options existed on the entire stretch. There were no mid-way food courts like in NH8 or NH24/NH9, only few Dhabas where the trucks would lay by during the afternoon. We stopped at one such Highway Dhaba for breakfast. It was 100% vegetarian outlet and served different kinds of stuffed Paranthas. We ordered for Aloo-Parantha and tea. The food quality was nothing to talk about except it being very hot & spicy.

IMG_20171230_122407

As you approach each city, there were signs to take the bypass or go to the city. We diligently took the bypasses but just before Jhansi, we stopped at Petrol Pump to tank-up again. After filling up and getting Rolf to stretch his legs a little, we started again but missed out the Jhansi by-pass and entered the city. Luckily for us it was still early winter morning so the town was yet to come alive fully. We hastened our departure from the city using the Google Map and soon rejoined the NH44. Guddu has been driving since morning and I felt he needed some rest, so I took over the steering from him and asked him to take a nap. The road ahead was absolutely straight and very little traffic, I let the speedometer touch 140kmph and we soon crossed over to Madhya Pradesh once again. Guddu had taken a 15 minute nap and had been very restless. I asked him if would like to stop for toilet or tea but his response was “Sir, let me drive, I am feeling sleepy sitting on the passenger side”.  The effect of air-conditioning inside the car and the sunny warmth from outside was making me sleepy too, so once more I let Guddu take the wheel but told him to stop at the Pathway Retreat for lunch. Google showed it was some 2 hours away from our location.

I had dozed off for good an hour and half as we sped through the NH44. I enquired of Guddu if we had crossed Sagar and the Pathway Retreat and he said “Yes, about 30 minutes back.” I said, “Why didn’t you stop there?” He replied, “Sir, you were sleeping and so was Rolf, so didn’t want to disturb either of you. And moreover after the morning Aloo Parantha, I am not hungry at all, will stop for tea after some time.” I agreed with him and moreover, we were at least 3 hours ahead of Google’s predictions and stood a good chance of reaching our night halt station at Pench well before 9pm. We drove for next 2 hours without any incident except that there were huge line-up of trucks and tractor-trailers with sugarcane, practically closing one side of the highway. We negotiated the default single carriageway for about 3-5km and then moved back to the main carriageway. We stopped at Mowgli Street Food, just before Seoni for tea and let out Rolf for much needed break. He drank almost one litre of water but refused to eat anything. After a 15 minute stoppage, we rolled on towards our first destination – Go Flamingo Resort, Pench National Park. As we started, Google showed the destination to be 4:30 hour’s away meaning we will reach around 9:30pm. I had been to Pench National Park around 4 years back and knew the roads to be bad and narrow, typical forest roads. As we moved closer to our destination, the Google started re-estimating our arrival and confirmed that we will reach by 8:30pm, saving a clear one hour. The sun was setting over the horizon when we were still on the 4-lane highway and as the dusk gave way to darkness we encountered our first bad road, courtesy the frenzied expansion and construction of highways happening, which continued for about 6-8 km but seemed much more, eventually opening up to 2-lane jungle road. This was the hilly track or Ghat section that takes you to Pench. After a grueling one hour drive through the under-construction highway, which seemed like more than 2 hours, we finally made it to Go Flamingo Resort, Pench National Park.

IMG_20171229_174012IMG_20171229_174045IMG_20171229_174857IMG_20171230_174041IMG_20171230_174100

Go Flamingo Resort is the regular kind of Jungle Retreat, nothing fancy or luxury around this place. The rooms were extremely spacious and well-lit; the hotel staff extremely courteous and efficient. The room allocated to us had one double-bed, large enough for two people to sleep comfortably but Guddu refused to share it so I requested the hotel guys to provide an extra bed for him. I ordered food for us and laid out Rolf’s (dog) food and water. He ate half of it and the full bowl of water. I had forgotten that I was carrying boiled eggs from Delhi; there were 4 of them, so I gave 2 to Rolf and rest shared with Guddu along with the Elixir of Life which Guddu simply gulped down. The dinner was simple – dal, egg curry, salad and chapatti, which we devoured in double quick time, we were starving!! After dinner, Guddu went out, probably to have a cigarette because when he came in, I could smell the tobacco. We, including Rolf had a sound sleep and I woke up around 5:30 am (my body clock has got tuned to this hour of wake-up). After the morning rituals, I took Rolf for a walk and to my relief and his satisfaction Rolf pooped on the jungle path of Pench Tiger Reserve and marked his territory at various spots!!

We had a quick breakfast – Rolf: 2 boiled eggs & plain lassi, Guddu: 2 aloo parantha & tea and I had bread-omelet & coffee. I settled the hotel outstanding and started for the last leg of approx. 550km to Hyderabad. We got the car tank refilled at a petrol pump on the highway about 20km from the resort. I opened the Google Map and fed the destination and kept waiting for it to respond but what can GM do if it can’t get the fodder (network) from Vodafone!! Meanwhile, Guddu Kumar had stepped on the accelerator to reach Hyderabad on time for lunch. There were road signage’s directing us to our destination so I was not worried about the map. We crossed Gurmeet Dhaba but it was too early for tea-break and came to a fork where the right side road looked more lucrative and before I could respond, Guddu had taken the elevated newly constructed road and I could fleetingly see a signage on the left abandoned road saying “Towards Hyderabad”. This wrong turn not only cost us almost 170km but we lost crucial 3/3.5 hours.

fiasco-at-nagpur

Anyways, the lucrative good road lasted only about 10-12km and soon became completely potholed pathetic road. We were doing 100-120kmph earlier but the road ensured we keep it down to less than 30kmph. In the absence of the map navigation, we were completely unaware where we were heading towards. We kept going and reached a T-junction where it said Amravati on the left and Kolkata on the right. The obvious choice was Amravati but I was having a nagging doubt, in my numerous checks about the route map, I have never come across Amravati anywhere near my route. I rebooted my phone in the hope for getting the connectivity but it wasn’t to be and the most frustrating was that all other apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, etc were working with regularity. Using MyVodafone App, I upgraded my plan to the latest one but still no luck. Then I realized Guddu was carrying a smartphone, I asked him if it was Airtel connection but it was Vodaphone too. Guddu unlocked the phone and tried the Google Map and Wallah Habibi, it was working. The Google Map commanded us to take the U-turn in next 2.5km and proceed straight for next 67km before turning right. We have lost the early morning advantage as the road became crowded with vehicular traffic. It took us almost 2 hours to cover the estimated 70km and we turned right as directed by the map. As we kept moving, we realized we are going back to the point from where we took the wrong road and frankly did not want to go through that terrible patch of almost 20-25km again. We reached a crossing where few trucks were parked and I decided to check with their drivers for alternate road to reach NH44. One of the drivers speaking Maharashtrian Hindi directed us to a road and said we should take the right turn under the flyover at Buti-Bori. The road wasn’t showing up in the Google Map and it kept commanding us to take its suggested road which we finally took and reached the Nagpur Outer Ring Road and travelled another 34km before we could meet NH44. We had lost over 3 precious hours. I called up Deepika and told her that we are terribly behind schedule and would now reach only around 8/8:30pm as per Google Map.

The NH44 that lies in Maharashtra needs urgent relaying, most of the surface having gone from bad to worse. Our average speed came down to a mere 40-45kmph as every 5km of good double carriageway was complimented with 10km of potholed single carriageway. This continued till we crossed over to Telengana around 3pm. The car had consumed lot of gas and we were again down to 25% limit. We haven’t come across any gas station in the last 50 odd km which was really odd.

As agreed, once we hit the Telengana State, Guddu handed over the steering to me and we cruised on at a sedate speed, keeping an eye for a gas station. It would have been a nightmare to get stranded on the highway without petrol. We were cruising around 90-100kmph when Guddu shouted that a Gas Station is just ahead of us in less than 250mtr. I immediately slowed down and the car behind us narrowly missed hitting us, this was my first and only blemish in the entire journey. We tanked up at Sri Ambica Filling Station (HP) between Dollara (behind us) and Sekapur (ahead of us) and clock said 3:45pm, the Google Map still estimating 8:30 as ETA Hyderabad. I had decided to hand over steering to Guddu once it gets dark as he is more tuned to negotiating the traffic through the dark as seen the previous evening. But before that I wanted to enjoy the drive through the beautiful highway and reach my new home as early as possible not only for us but Rolf too as he was getting restless in the cramped rear seat.

We zoomed past Adilabad on our left and Nirmal on the right and the signage said Kamareddy some 92km ahead. I gunned the engine and the speedometer touched 140kmph and stayed there till we crossed the exit to Kamareddy and headed towards Ramyapet, 27km ahead.  The sun was setting in the distant horizon, I decided to look for a dhaba or tea stall and found one about 5km before Ramyapet exit. The tea was nothing but sugar and milk syrup but it provided much needed energy. Rolf also was able to stretch his legs, peed and drank a liter of water.

Guddu took over from me for the last stretch of our journey as I recalibrated the destination to NCC Urban, Gachibowli, Hyderabad.  The clock said 5:35pm and Google estimated ETA at 8:09pm. Being a Saturday, the traffic was low on the highway and soon we were cruising at 120kmph and reached the outskirts of Hyderabad around 6:15pm. There were some traffic as we approached Nehru Outer Ring Road (ORR) but once we were on it, the traffic became smooth and Guddu stepped on to take the needle to touch 140kmph and I had to restrain him and slowed down to 100-110kmph. Guided by the Google Map we finally reached NCC, Urban precisely at 7:13pm, beating Google ETA by almost one hour.

Deepika was at the gate to receive us and guide us to the underground parking bay. I let out Rolf to relieving himself before getting into our new home for some years to come.

Guru Dakshina

When the announcer called his name, Dr. Ashesh Sanyal got up with a smile on his face to give his acceptance speech, carefully placing the flower bouquet, the plaque and the award cheque on the table in front of him and walked up to the podium slowly.

In his career as a talented and accomplished professor of mathematics, he has delivered many a speech with élan. The spotlight, the podium, the vast audience in the semi-darkness of the auditorium doesn’t make him nervous at all now. He has said ‘thank you’ so many times that it flows like water, the moment he takes to the podium. But today was different, Dr. Ashesh Sanyal stood at the podium contemplating what to say, perhaps overwhelmed at the honor and the award cheque, both were large enough to make him speechless. It seemed that he was looking for words to express himself. The audience meanwhile started to get restless and the cacophony of noise from the auditorium broke his reverie and started to speak with a shy smile…

You must have realized that today standing in the midst of you all and receiving such honor, I was lost in thoughts for a few moments. Some of you may even felt that I was overwhelmed in receiving such appreciation and perhaps I would say that I do not deserve such accolades, as is customary in many such speeches.

I would say, you have guessed it right, I was overwhelmed and an emotional storm started brewing inside me. Yes again, I truly do not deserve all this accolade and awards and this is not any hollow acceptance speech but I am speaking from the depth of my heart.

I am going to tell you something that I have not shared with anyone till date. You may find it difficult to digest after the reading of my citation by the chairman of the organizers here but the truth is I was very weak in mathematics in my childhood. And not just weak but really scared of the subject. I used feel feverish just thinking about it, the subject class used feel like a concentration camp. I remember, till the sixth standard, I have failed in the subject in many term exams. Once I got just 5 marks out of 100! Yes, you heard it right 5 out of 100.

To make me capable if not strong, my parents appointed a private tutor to teach me mathematics. This particular tutor had the fame of making the weakest pupil score good marks in the exams. His appearance was very intimidating to his students with a thick mustache and joint eyebrows and the eyes that were always red in anger; moreover he carried bamboo cane for disciplining his errant students. And his booming voice was enough to make my heart jump out of my mouth!! He used come twice a week for two hours a day and would grind me in an invisible machine called mathematics. I used consider him only next to Satan and hated him from the bottom of my heart.

His teaching style was really scary. He would himself solve problems after problems in a notebook reading out the steps to solve them without bothering to check if I have understood or not. Thereafter, he would ask me to solve the same set of questions in my notebook and if I missed one step or the answer was wrong, his cane came handy too easily. So, I tried rote learning of the answers but the problem with rote learning is if you forget one step then that’s the end of it, the question will never get the right answer. I think the amount of caning that I received at that time was proportional to the reducing marks in my mathematics paper.

When the half-yearly exams result were declared, I received Zero out of Hundred.

My uncle (father’s elder brother) finally got rid of the monster of a tutor and told my father “There is a guy who knows mathematics: he is quite poor, let us try him out and see if he can make the boy understand mathematics.”

I was nervous again, a new tutor! It was like jumping into fire from the frying pan. I kept praying that at least the new tutor should have a pleasant personality and temper unlike the previous monster. Somehow, I felt all mathematics teachers were like the previous tutor, always angry and ready to punish the hapless students like me.

Anyways, the new tutor came with my uncle and all my premonitions evaporated instantly. Instead of being scared of my new tutor, I was amused to the hilt. There was this lean man carrying a bunch of notebooks and papers that overflowed from his bag. He was anything but scary and I rather felt pity for him. I had gotten over my fear in him, so I smartly guided him to my study room.

The new tutor in a timid way patted my back and asked “Are you weak in mathematics? Are you scared of the subject?” then in a conspiratorial voice said “I am scared too about mathematics but please do not tell your uncle or father otherwise I will lose this job, my only earnings.”

I was taken aback. He came closer to me and said again “I don’t know much about mathematics but if I didn’t take up this tuition, I would have starved to death. Now, you are my savior, if we both try, perhaps we can help each other.”

“H-h-how ca-a-n I help you” I started stammering. Sir just caught hold of my hand and said, “I might get stuck at some point while solving, you must help me in solving the sums. You are young with fresh brain; you will surely be able to solve it. And please don’t tell anyone that you are helping me, I will get into huge trouble.”

I was dumbstruck looking at my new tutor. He was most apologetic in his demeanor and almost pleading with me in a tearful manner. Something snapped inside me, suddenly I felt empowered and decided that I cannot fail this person, I must put my whole energy in saving my new tutor. You know, when you see a person drowning, you too jump into the water to save him even if you are not a swimmer. That was the moment from where mathematics became my obsession. I decided to do the sums on my own, use logic to solve them and more importantly, do well in the exams. If I could show improvement in my results, then only my new Sir can save his job. It was for him that I transformed myself.

I don’t know if you all will believe it or not but the very next day onwards, the fear of mathematics simply vanished, evaporated from my consciousness. I started spending hours on mathematics trying to solve the problems and if I got stuck, I would put all my energy till it would get solved. Slowly I realized that problems that I once thought unsolvable are really very easy. The logical steps that used elude me earlier were now very clear. I started enjoying mathematics and would feel elated after solving a difficult question.

My new tutor also tried very hard but would often get stuck at some point and would request me to help him. Soon our role reversed, we would try to solve the same question separately and I would always come up with solution before him. He would say, “Oh, you have solved it already, I got stuck at this point, can you please explain the process to me?” I would then explain him the process as if I am his tutor. He would say “Okay, it’s that easy!” thereafter just to hide his own embarrassment he would give a tough question and say “I am sure, even you can’t solve this.” I would get even more determined and find the right process to solve it. Sir would smile innocently and say “You are really very brainy. Will you be able to solve the questions during the exams? Please ensure that my job remains otherwise you know I will starve to death.” By this time I had developed immense self confidence and would assure him “Sir, you just wait n watch, I will get full marks.”

Sometimes he would get some very difficult ones and tell me “Just see these questions if you can solve, I can’t make a head or tail of these. I think even you can’t solve them.” I would get very annoyed and leave everything till I could solve them. He would sit by me and give some tips as if asking me if they were the right ways. As I would solve them I would shout “Eureka” and explain him the process like a teacher. He would gratefully say “Thank God, you’re there to solve these tricky ones.”

Meanwhile, even in school, my teachers could see the transformation within me and would often exclaim “Your brain has opened up magically, it is unbelievable!”

I would instantly remind them “You won’t believe it when you mark my paper in the exams.”

My tutor would reprimand me saying “You shouldn’t boast like that, if you make silly mistakes or forget the steps during the exams, you will not get the desired result.”

“I will never forget the steps; mathematics is now securely embedded inside my brain. And if not for any other reasons, I have to secure good marks just for you. I can’t fail you Sir.” I would assure him sincerely.

That was the first time I saw sparks in his eyes but couldn’t make out if it was out of excitement or something else.

Doctor Sanyal took a sip of water from the glass kept on the podium and took a deep breath before starting again.

I won’t take much of your time, you have been very patient with me but my story is nearing its end now.

When the result was declared in the school, my teachers were literally taken aback. They kept saying, it is a miracle that the boy who rarely got double figure marks all these times has secured 100% marks in mathematics. My mathematics teacher had checked my paper thrice but could not deduct even half a mark, it was 100/100.

I rushed home in a euphoric state with my result and urged my father, “Please take me to my tuition Sir, and I want to share my result with him just now.” I could feel that I won’t be able to rest till I tell him that “We have succeeded”.

My father’s face was quite grave not showing any joy at my brilliant result. He said at length “Yes, I have been waiting to take you to your Sir. Let’s go.” And then as an afterthought said “Even he wants to meet you urgently.”

I was surprised to see our car getting inside the hospital instead of a house. I asked my father “Why are you taking me to the hospital?”

“Your tutor is very ill. Two days back he fell down in an unconscious state and when we got to know, we admitted him here. An hour ago he regained his senses and has been asking for you since then.” My father said solemnly.

My mouth became dry and I anxiously walked with my father through the long corridors of the hospital. My tutor was lying in a ward bed at the corner of a large room. He was thin but now it seemed that he has lost few more kilos in the last two days, dark circles have formed under his eyes. He was visibly in pain but when I showed him my mark sheet, his face lighted up for an instant. He took my hands in his and kept smiling as tears rolled out of his eyes.

The nurse urged us to leave as his condition started to deteriorate. With great difficulty, Sir spoke to my father “Please see to it… what I told you.”

“Yes, you be rest assured, I will do what I have to do.” My father assured him.

Dr Ashesh Sanyal stopped for a while covering the microphone mouthpiece with his hand, took a few sips of water and then composing himself started again.

That was the last time I saw him. He passed away that very night. My father and uncle cremated his body without telling me. Next evening my father called me and said “Your Sir had left this for you.”

There was an old file folder roughly tied with blue ribbon. Inside were three notebooks and some loose sheets of paper. All covered with blue ink depicting strange mathematical figures.

I had absolutely no clue about the texts but the handwriting including the crisscross was very familiar.

“All of it are higher mathematics, research oriented. He was such a brilliant brain, we could hardly figure out.” My father sighed and then continued “He couldn’t finish his research. These are beyond the comprehension of most people but he was confident that you will be able to take this research to a logical conclusion when you grow up. He has given his blessings for your success.”

Dr Ashesh Sanyal took off his specs and started cleaning the glasses with his handkerchief. He kept on rubbing the glasses, his eyes filling up with tears. There was pin drop silence in the whole auditorium. He was trying desperately to control his pent up emotions. Then he said …

You would have realized that I am trying to control my emotions. Yes, I wanted to stop my tears but they are not listening to me anymore and there’s a tsunami building up inside me. I have nothing more to say but I am sure you have guessed it rightly that I owe everything that I have today to my Sir. He acted as if he didn’t know mathematics and ignited the passion inside me to succeed. He let go of his ego just to ensure his pupil would be successful. Yes, he changed my life, my destiny. In fact, he has given me this life. He made me what I am today. This award, the citation and the prize money, all are rightfully his only.

This research breakthrough of Prime Number for which I have received this huge award, has been possible only because my poor, unknown Sir had written down the basic approach for the research work. I have followed his path diligently and that is my only contribution.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have decided to set up a Trust Fund with the money that I have received today for the benefit of the exceptionally talented but economically weak students of mathematics; they will receive monthly stipend from the Trust – Shibnath Sarkar Memorial Scholarship.

Yes, Shri Shibnath Sarkar was my mathematics tutor. He made me what I am today. This Trust Fund is my Guru Dakshina to him.

 

Note: The original story is in Bengali called WRIN by Sourav Mukhopadhyay. It created a huge impact on me and I couldn’t resist re-writing it in English with minimal changes. I offer my sincere apologies to Mr. Sourav Mukhopadhyay, if I have erred in bringing out the true emotions and nuances of his original craft.

Generation Gap

Rajul, after a rather hectic and stressful day in office and having spent an hour on the waterlogged road through snail paced traffic was in foul mood when he reached home. His temper went through the roof seeing his teenage son, Sidhu, short for Shidhartha, playing games on his laptop. How can Sidhu, a class 12 student with final board exams in few months time while away his time like that?  Rajul threw his office bag on the sofa and stood in front of Sidhu expecting some reactions from him but Sidhu just looked up once and concentrated on his game. What arrogance! Rajul thought.

“What are you doing, Sidhu?” Rajul asked without hiding his irritation.

“Playing game, Dad” Sidhu replied calmly.

“Is it time to play games?” Rajul continued in the same tone.

“I can’t keep studying the whole day, Dad.” Sidhu too replied calmly.

“Oh, yeah, I forgot you are a bookworm and study 18 hours a day.” Rajul said sarcastically and the continued “Then why doesn’t your result reflect your intellect?”

“Is there any rule that all exam results should be good?” Sidhu folded his laptop and got up from the sofa. He then asked in a plain voice, “Did you score good marks in all your life exams?”

Rajul was getting angrier by the demeanor of Sidhu, this new generation has no respect for the elders, he thought to himself.

“Sidhu, you argue too much. You have no sense of respect for the elders.” He said sharply.

Without waiting for a reply, Rajul started walking towards the bedroom and realized Ishita, his wife hasn’t come home as yet.

“You didn’t answer my question Dad.” Sidhu said in even tone.

Rajul turned back and came face to face with Sidhu. Putting his hand on son’s shoulder he said, “No, I couldn’t and that is the reason I dream for you to achieve all that I missed out.”

“Don’t you think that you are putting me under some unrealistic, perhaps impossible to carry out load on me?” Sidhu asked.

“Load, what are you saying?”

“Yes Dad. You want me to achieve what you couldn’t, is that fair? Can two individuals have the same goals in life?” Sidhu persisted with his line of argument.

“No, Sidhu, it is not like that, we want you to be a good human being.” Ishita is back from office and probably had heard part of the Son-Dad conversation and could not help interjecting.

“Good point, Mom, what or who is a good human? I simply do not understand this concept of good human being!” Sidhu now directed his query to his mother.

Ishita stopped by the dining table to have water and then lowered the temperature of the air conditioner and said, “Good human being means, a person who has humanity in the core of his/ her heart.”

“Are you guys’ good human?” Sidhu asked with a half smile on his face.

“What do you mean?” Ishita asked irritatingly.

“Now, please don’t take it otherwise, some time back, Dad had sold off the land in our village and given the money Debashish uncle who was economically a poor relations of ours. At that time, if you would recall Mom, you had created a ruckus. I was in class 9 at that time and I remember how many times you have since made sarcastic remarks about Dad being a fool.” Sidhu said a little agitated.

Rajul looked at Ishita who had gone pale at Sidhu’s outburst.

“Sidhu!” Ishita shouted at her son, “Don’t speak nonsense. Why are you bringing them in the conversation? Did Debashish or his wife Priyanka called up today? Why do they want to create rift in my family?”

“Relax Mom, I just remembered the incidence when you said about being good human. No one called today or any other day. I also remember, few days after that, you had taken me to some function of a charitable organization where you had donated a large some. At the function, you were photographed with a leading film actress as well.” Sidhu was all guns blazing.

“Yes, I did get clicked with the actress and the money that I donated was mine, why should anyone have any problem with that?” Ishita was unrelenting too.

A few years back Ishita had donated a large sum of money to a charitable trust hoping to get into limelight without informing Rajul and when he confronted her, she had given somewhat similar reply to Rajul who had kept quiet to maintain family peace.

“No, Mom, no one can object to your donating your own money to anyone but I was little surprised that day. I thought how come you could donate such large amount for the benefit of some unknown people but have so much resistance when it comes to your own relations?” Sidhu said calmly.

“Don’t talk rubbish, Sidhu. Your Debashish uncle is not a poor guy and you don’t understand family politics. They made a fool of your Dad and usurped the money. But, I see you have a very good memory, you will do well if you use this memory in studies.” Ishita replied, last words being sarcastic.

“Is it necessary to do well in studies to be a good human being?” Sidhu was hell bent in having an upper hand over his parents. He thought for while and continued “There is politics and competition involved too in getting a good result. You have been telling me since my childhood days how to get things done at the cost of others. There was this First Boy Tuhin in my class (5) whom I never liked as a person because of his strong ego. I liked Sujoy, an average boy with average result. You used tell me to shun the average boys and be friends with the toppers of the class. You became friends with Tuhin’s Mom just to get to know the secret formula of his success. On my birthdays, you would invite the toppers of my class and ignore the likes of Sujoys’. Only once you allowed Sujoy to come over to our home and that was when I moved from the earlier school to this elite English Medium Public School.” Sidhu stopped having spoken his mind.

“I think, changing your school was the biggest mistake. I thought, you will learn manners and will respect the elders but you have become a rebel and undisciplined. At your age, we couldn’t even think of speaking like this with our parents.” Ishita retorted.

“You are unnecessarily getting angry Mom. This is nothing but generation gap. We, youngsters speak our mind; we talk straight without any complexity. Your generation can’t.” Sidhu laughed and continued “You know Mom, we are very straight forward generation. You guys are a confused lot, neither you could leave the old theories and concepts nor could embrace the newer concepts wholeheartedly. You have been carrying on the load of mix-n-match based on your likings.”

Ishita was really boiling now and shouted “Who filled your brain with such rubbish?”

“This is not rubbish Mom, but hard reality. And for your information, Arush Agarwal of my class said this very rightly.” Sidhu was calm in his response.

“These Baniya good-for-nothing kids are vitiating the school atmosphere. They know, irrespective of their result, a readymade business awaits them at the end of graduation. They have no culture other than business and corruption” Ishita said with full of guile.

Sidhu laughed out loudly. “Why are you laughing?” Ishita retorted.

“A while ago you were talking about respecting others, look at yourself Mom! Without knowing about Arush’s background, you commented not just on his family but the whole lot of them. His father is a chartered accountant and mother is a doctor. And aren’t Bongs corrupt? Please think it over, Mom.” Sidhu replied.

“Oh, then it is settled. Both the parents are making money handsomely!!” Ishita was again sarcastic. She then continued “Listen Sidhu, his parents have enough money to put him through any university but your Dad & I are not so rich, so concentrate in your studies if you want good grades.”

“My Dad and you too earn pretty decent amount, we live in a plush apartment in an upscale locality, we have two cars and we have made 2-3 foreign trips as well. If we were not rich, how could we afford all these? Whatever you may say Mom, I know very well that you will definitely enroll me in some good university after my schooling.” Sidhu started laughing and walking towards his room.

Ishita shouted at Sidhu’s back “So, you already are assuming so much? Please be aware, we are not going to spend every penny that we have saved on your education and furthering your career. You have to work hard and be on your own. The ways you are talking now, don’t know how you will behave once you become an Engineer or an MBA? We can’t really depend on you.”

Sidhu came out of his room and spoke very calmly, “Why can’t you speak the truth, Mom? Actually, you have too many shattered dream yourself and that is why, you are afraid to trust me, my generation. A while ago you were talking of becoming a good human being, forget it Mom, I don’t know, if I will remain even a human being! All because, we are a robot generation and you have made us robots.”

Without waiting for any answer, Sidhu went back to his room and shut the door firmly. Rajul kept looking at the now closed door of Sidhu and thought, how time flies, the little one has grown up to be a mature and self-assured youth. But soon his thoughts were broken by Ishita’s voice, “It is all because of your pampering that the boy could lecture me in front you. You just stood there like a wooden statue, I can’t believe this!”

“There’s no point blaming him or his generation” Rajul spoke up “We have failed to instill values in our children. I remember my childhood; we were living in a joint family – my grandfather and his brother staying together with respective family under the same roof. My mother rebelled saying she cannot live in a joint family with so much interference from so many people. My Dad moved to Kolkata along with grandpa-grandma ensuring I get to grow up playing with them and listening stories from them. Then, one day I too got married, by which time grandpa & grandma have passed away, you came in to my life and surprisingly you too repeated the same and said you cannot stay in such claustrophobic place, there’s no unanimity of thoughts. Wasn’t that a generation gap, Ishita? Two years down the line Sidhu was born and we shifted to this plush south Kolkata apartment leaving my parents at the old house. But did we achieve peace? On the contrary, instead of a cohesive family, you and I became rivals in an invisible game of one-upmanship. Our egos are more pronounced than ever before. Sidhu have grown up in this scenario, how can you even expect that he would have the values of a bygone era. We have provided him with the best of all amenities except a value system. Today, the concept of being good human is a clichéd middle class mentality.” Rajul sat down on the sofa having spoken at length.

“So, what it is going to be, an unfulfilled, frustrated life to live?” Ishita cried.

Rajul had no answer for Ishita but he knew there are many like them – frustrated parents of a frustrated generation looking at the ticking clock for a miracle to happen.

Gopal Bhand: 12 Stories

Who was Gopal Bhand, any way?

Gopal Bhand was not just another name for a person but was very much part of the everyday life of a by-gone era. Whenever, one looks at the history of Bengal with special reference to the rule of Maharaja Krishna Chandra, they will come across the character of Gopal Bhand, the jester at his majesty’s court.

Gopal was born in the village of Ghurni, north of Krishna Nagar. He lost his father at a very young age and because of economic reasons could not continue with his education. Still, whatever he had learnt in the early days along with his in-born intelligence, he became an intellectual.

Gopal belonged to the clan of barbers, famous for their quick wit. There is a saying that crows among the bird and barbers among the humans are the cleverest species in the whole world. Gopal lived up to this saying; from the very beginning he showed signs of cleverness and cunning. He grew up entertaining people all around him and soon people started calling him Gopal Bhand or Gopal the Jester.

His reputation slowly but steadily spread across the country and soon reached the Maharaja Krishna Chandra. The Maharaja called him and tested his talents with inquisitive and difficult questions, but Gopal was at ease with all kinds queries and answered fluently. At last, satisfied, Maharaja Krishna Chandra appointed him as Court Jester.

Soon, his reputation as court jester spread across the length and breadth of the country like wild fire and Gopal Bhand was being compared with the antics of Birbal, one of the jewels in the court of Emperor Akbar.

It has been over three centuries from the times of Gopal Bhand, but his stories and innocent jibes still tickle us and lighten our otherwise stressful life.

The stories of Gopal Bhand are quite similar to the ones of Birbal in the north and Tenali Rama in down south which makes one wonder if really these characters actually existed or the stories are just figment of imagination of some unknown author!!!

I have read these stories in the original language – Bengali and decided to translate them for my son when he was a kid. Now posting them here for all the kids and the ones who are young at heart, still, just like me…

ONECEREMONIAL BULL

Gopal, the Jester a.k.a. GOPAL BHAND, was a great entertainer at the courts of Maharaja Krishna Chandra, the ruler of Krishna Nagar in Bengal. His famous stories and escapades were not only discussed within the town of Krishna Nagar but reached across the length and breadth of the sub-continent of India.

Once long ago, Mirzaffar, the Nawab of Bengal on his way back home from a campaign stopped near the town of Krishna Nagar and camped on the outskirts of the town along with his sizable army.

Incidentally around this time, the Maharaja Krishna Chandra was performing the last rites of his father and offered a healthy bull to the God as appeasement so that his father can achieve eternal peace in heaven. After the ceremony, the bull was set free to roam around.

The bull roamed the streets of Krishna Nagar and passing by the camp of Nawab Mirzaffar when the Nawab caught the sight of the bull. The Nawab felt that the healthy bull will make a nice and elaborate meal for the whole group. He ordered his men to catch the bull immediately. He told his chef, ”This is a healthy bull, tomorrow make a curry and kebabs with its meat for all of us.”

Meanwhile the news of capture of the bull reached the Maharaja and he became worried for the fact that if the ceremonial bull is killed then his father will not enjoy the eternal bliss. He realized that he is no match to the mighty army of the Nawab. Also any request to set free the ceremonial bull will fall in deaf ears as the Nawab has already decided to kill the bull for sumptuous banquet. A pall of gloom set on the courts of the Maharaja. The ministers at the court were all at loss for any plausible advice. Everybody hoped for a miracle to happen that will set free the ceremonial bull.

Gopal the Jester, who was away on some work, reached the court to find everyone including the Maharaja very serious and worried. He asked “Oh Maharaja, what happened? You look so worried.”

The Maharaja narrated the whole incident to him and said in despair “Gopal, I really don’t know what to do. My father will now not go to the heaven if the bull is killed.”

“Oh Maharaja, this is not so serious a matter. Don’t you worry, I will go to the Nawab and get the bull for you just now.” Gopal said enthusiastically.

“It is not so simple Gopal” said the Prime Minister. “The Nawab has set his eyes on the bull and he is not going to let it go free so easily” said another courtier.

“If the Nawab is smart, then I am smarter than him” said Gopal and set off for the camp of Nawab Mirzaffar.

“If you bring back the bull, there will be a handsome award of gold coins for you” announced the Maharaja. “So be it Maharaja, keep it ready for me” replied Gopal.

Gopal reached the encampment of the Nawab and met the minister who took him to the Nawab and said “Jahanpanah, this is Gopal Bhand, the great entertainer at the courts of Maharaja Krishna Chandra.” Everybody present there including the Nawab was well aware of Gopal’s reputation, so he was warmly welcomed by the Nawab “What brings you here, noble man?” inquired the Nawab.

Gopal bowed before the Nawab and said ”Sir, I passing by and could not let go the chance of meeting you. You lordship has done wonderful things for his subjects and everyone is pleased with your firm but judicious governance.”

The Nawab felt very pleased with Gopal’s kind words as he liked to hear good things about himself. Gopal kept the flattery on to boost the ego of the Nawab. Suddenly looking out, he said, “What is this bull doing here?”

“Do you know this bull?” inquired the Nawab. “Oh yes, very much and that’s why I am little astonished” replied Gopal.

“Oh, this is a very healthy bull, tomorrow we are all going to feast on its meat. You too can join us” said the Nawab greedily.

“What, you will be eating this dirty bull? Sir, this is no ordinary bull, it does not eat grass or foliage like other normal bulls but scavenges through the dirt of the city” said Gopal disgustingly.

The Nawab, hearing this felt nauseating and immediately ordered his men to release the bull. “Gopal, you are great, you have saved me from eating meat of such a dirty bull” the Nawab thanked Gopal profusely and gave him three gold coins as reward.

Gopal bowed again and with a large grin on his face reached the courts of Maharaja. Meanwhile the Maharaja had heard about the release of the ceremonial bull and was very pleased with Gopal Bhand.

Gopal narrated his escapades with the Nawab and everybody at the court had a hearty laugh and cheered him. The Maharaja gave him the five gold coins as promised.

TWO: STRANGER AT THE COURT

Once a stranger came to the court of the Maharaja Krishna Chandra and announced that he is a leaned intellectual and knows various languages. The Maharaja had a soft place for intellectuals and immediately appointed him as a minister.

As the days went by, it was amply clear that the stranger actually is very intelligent and a linguist. He could fluently speak English, French, Spanish and German and it was difficult to judge his nationality by the way he dressed or spoke. In all his mannerism was quite cosmopolitan.

Everybody at the court was intrigued and tried their best to guess the region where the stranger belonged. One day while they were discussing this issue, the Maharaja said jokingly, “Gopal, if you could find out the whereabouts of the stranger, I will reward you with two gold coins.”

“As you say Maharaja” replied Gopal. “In two days I will tell you the native of the stranger” Gopal said confidently.

Gopal set out to find the whereabouts of the stranger. He got to know that the stranger was to make an appearance at the court next day. Gopal reached the gates of the kings palace and hid behind a pillar. Soon the stranger came to the gates and was about enter the palace when Gopal came out of his hiding rushed towards the stranger, colliding and fell him to the ground. The stranger badly hurt himself in the fall and abused Gopal, “Are you blind, can’t you see where you are going?”

Gopal smiled at the stranger and said, “I only wanted to know your native and do so now. You are Oriya. A person will definitely speak his mother tongue at trying time.” He went inside the palace and announced, “Maharaja, the stranger is from the kingdom of Orissa.” Then he narrated how he came to know about the truth.

The Maharaja was very proud of Gopal’s quick wit and rewarded him with the promised gold coins.

THREE: WHAT DO YOU EAT FIRST?

Gopal was the most favored courtier of Maharaja Krishna Chandra and he knew that Gopal liked good food. Therefore he would invite Gopal for a meal with him time and again without waiting for any occasion.

One day after the court was adjourned in the afternoon, the Maharaja asked Gopal to join him for the lunch. “I am at your command Maharaja. I can lay down my life for you any time. You are only asking me to join you for a meal and that I cannot refuse” said Gopal jovially.

There were variety of food at the lunch menu and they sat down to eat, the Maharaja jokingly asked, “So Gopal, what shall we eat first?”

“Maharaja, you should eat the fried eggplant first. After that everything will taste wonderful and tasty.” Gopal replied laughing at his own joke. The Maharaja also joined in the joke and they enjoyed the well cooked food.

FOUR: MAHARAJA’S AUNT

Maharaja Krishna Chandra had a aunt who was very rich and without encumbrances. She also happened to be the greatest miser in whole of Krishna Nagar. It was considered to be great achievement if one could even manage a nickel from her. She was against all kinds of wasteful expenses and shunned extravagance. She ate only vegetarian foods and wore simple cotton clothes. The only exception was the maid who looked after her. Even there she only offered her the two square meals in a day; Maharaja paid the salary without informing his aunt.

One day, Maharaja in a relaxed mood said, “Gopal with all your cleverness and quick wits you won’t be able to wriggle out a penny out my aunt.” Gopal not to be out done replied “I can, with your blessings Maharaja. You want to bet?”

Maharaja agreed to a bet of five gold coins if Gopal could even manage a meal out his aunt.

Gopal went home to think about a plan to win the bet. Next day he went to the aunt’s house visibly shaken and tears in his eyes. The aunt knew Gopal and was quite fond of him actually. Looking at the state of Gopal, she inquired “Gopal what happened? You look so disheveled.” Gopal with tears in his eyes replied, “You know Janak Pandit, the fortune teller?” “Oh yes very much. His predictions always come true” replied aunt.

“Well he had a look at my stars yesterday and predicted that I have only six months to live” Gopal cried aloud. He continued, “Now all I want is to have Prasad from you, before I die. I am sure that you will not refuse a dying man his last wishes.”

Aunt was visibly shaken but composed herself and said “That’s okay, but you know I only have very simple vegetarian food and you may not like that.” “Aunt, I just want the Prasad of yours whether it is simple vegetarian does not matter” replied Gopal. “Okay then you come back tomorrow afternoon the meal” aunt said little reluctantly.

Next day Gopal got ready to go to aunt’s house and hid a few shrimps in his pocket. He reached the house of aunt and announced himself. The aunt welcomed him and offered him food but Gopal refused and said “I want your Prasad aunt. You must eat first and leave a small portion of everything in the plate and I will have that only.” The aunt did not like the idea but agreed knowing that it was Gopal’s last wish. She started eating a little of everything and left the rest for Gopal to eat. Then she offered the food to Gopal. Meanwhile Gopal had taken out the shrimps from his pocket and when aunt was looking, mixed the shrimps in the yogurt. Then he started eating the food with great relish. After sometime, the aunt asked, “Gopal, how do you like the simple food? You are quite habitual to the rich food of the palace.”

“All the dishes are excellent, especially the yogurt with shrimps is wonderful” replied Gopal nonchalantly. Aunt was horrified. She said “What shrimp? I am a strict vegetarian and you know I don’t eat any fish, meat etc.”

“Yes I know and that’s why I was little surprised to find the shrimps in the yogurt. But it is really very tasty” replied Gopal.

The aunt was aghast now and scared that Gopal being a trumpeter will announce this to the whole world and bring shame to her. She stammered, “Go-go-Gopal, you are a nice person and I am sure you will not tell this to anyone and bring shame to this old aunt of yours!”

“In ordinary times I would not but now that I am going to die soon, I will not lie and be sinner. If the Maharaja asks me what I had for lunch, I will have to tell him about the shrimps in yogurt” Gopal said innocently. Then he added, “But of course, you can buy my words with money. If you pay me five gold coins, I will keep mum about this dish.”

Now the aunt was in a fix, five gold coins is a large amount but at the same time, if she did not pay and Gopal speaks out, it would be a big face loss. But all the same she bargained with Gopal, “Five gold coins is too much, I can give you three and you keep your mouth shut.”

Gopal realized that even three gold coins is a good value to extract from the miserly lady and agreed, albeit showing a little resistance “Oh aunt, you want me to sin for you in my last days and still bargaining for mere two gold coins. What will my family do after I am gone? I am sure you will take care of my family in my absence.”

Then he took the three gold coins left for the palace of Maharaja Krishna Chandra to show him the gold coins and tell the whole story.

Maharaja was aware of what transpired at his aunts’ house as he had kept a vigil there to know first hand how Gopal was faring in his mission. As soon as Gopal reached the court, Maharaja congratulated Gopal and offered him the five gold coins. Gopal was very happy as in a single day he had managed to earn eight gold coins and he decided to distribute a part of this to the poor of the town.

FIVE: THE UNLUCKY FACE

Once the Maharaja was celebrating the birth of his grandson and the party went well into the night. As a result, Gopal could not go back home and had to spent the night at the guest house of the palace.

In the morning, the Maharaja went for a walk through the garden and reached the guest house where most people were still sleeping after a late night. Gopal who was also there, got up first and saw the Maharaja. “Good Morning sir” he said. The Maharaja acknowledging the same asked him if he had a good sleep and thereafter went on his way.

A little later, the royal barber came to give Maharaja his daily shave. While shaving, the barber accidentally nicked the cheek of the Maharaja and the blood came out from the cut. The barber got scared that the Maharaja will now punish him severely. But generally the barbers are a clever clan and this one was no exception.

Composing himself the barber said “Maharaja, I have been shaving you for years and never before had caused any injury to your highness. I feel you must have seen some unlucky face this morning which is responsible for this mishap.”

The Maharaja felt what the barber said made sense and he thought whom he had seen early in the morning. He realized it was Gopal Bhand and he called him at once.

“Gopal, you are the unlucky one and I sentence you to death” announced the Maharaja. Gopal remained calm and answered “Your highness that is it. When you saw my face first in the morning you got a nick in your cheek but I also saw your face first thing this morning and I got the death sentence! Tell me whose face is more unlucky?”

The Maharaja realized his folly and immediately withdrew the order and rewarded Gopal for his wits.

SIX: THE FLEA

Once Gopal was going to a distant town and passing through a village when he felt hungry and thirsty. He thought of buying some food from the food stall and then realized that he was not carrying any money on him. He did not know anyone in the village so getting a loan from somebody was not possible. Dejected he kept walking. Then he came across a food stall where a kid was manning the stall and there was freshly made sweets on display. Looking at them, Gopal’s hunger increased many fold and he asked the kid “Where is your father?”

“He is inside having his food” replied the kid.

“My name is flea. Tell him that the flea had come and eating the sweets” said Gopal picking up the tray full of sweets. As he started to eat, the kid shouted “Father the flea has come and eating away the sweets.” The father without bother said from inside the house, “Let it be, he comes everyday.”

Gopal satisfied left the stall went on his way. After sometime, the father came out and was horrified to find the empty tray of sweets. He cried “Who has eaten away all my sweets?” The kid said “I told you the flea, really a man was eating the sweets and you said its okay as he is your regular customer.”

The father realized somebody has made a fool of him and thought who it could be.

The following day Gopal was again passing through the same area and stopped by the food. He told the kid “Tell your father that same flea that came yesterday had come again today.” The kid went inside to tell his father who this time rushed out to catch the thief.

“Who are you and why did you rob a poor man like me?” asked the father. “Well, my name is Gopal Bhand and yesterday when I was passing this way, I was very hungry and not carrying any money. So I had to use the ploy to fool you. I am sorry to have caused inconvenience to you. Here, please keep this money for the sweets.” Gopal offered him the money.

“Sir, I have heard so much about you and I am pleased that you have come to my stall. It is an honor to serve you. I cannot take the money from you” replied the shop owner.

Gopal with much persuasion made the shop owner accept the money as did not like to have free food at the expense of poor villagers.

SEVEN: THE OTHER JESTER

Maharaja Krishna Chandra liked to honor the talented people and many such persons were given a place of honor in his court. Once another Jester by the name Hasiram came to his court and displayed his talents. The Maharaja was pleased by his talent and immediately appointed him his court jester. Now there was another jester besides Gopal.

Hasiram, from the very beginning started entertaining the courtiers with his quick wit and soon became very popular with everybody around. It seemed that he was always one-upping on Gopal and people thought Gopal would be jealous of this new person. However, Gopal was nonchalant about the whole issue and often said “One will get what is due to him.”

One day Maharaja called Gopal aside and said “I find that your quick wits are fading. You seemed to have given up. Hasiram is always one-upping on you. I think you should pull-up your socks and show everybody that you are more talented in matter of wits.”

“I will definitely show you, who the boss is, Maharaja” replied Gopal. Then he thought of the means to achieve the task.

Now, Hasiram’s home was some ten miles away from Krishna Nagar where his old mother used to stay alone. Gopal found out that Hasiram was planning to visit his mother the next day. He had ordered sweets from the sweetmeat shop and two big fish from the fishmonger to take back home.

Next day before anyone could know, Gopal started off and reached the home of Hasiram. His mother knew Gopal and liked him as her son. She said “Oh Gopal, what brings you here, this early morning?”

“I was passing by and heard that you are not keeping well, therefore came to visit you” replied Gopal innocently.

“Its true, I was not well, but in old age such problems keep recurring. I know my time is getting over and soon I may die. But since you have come have lunch with me today” the old woman said.

“No mother, some other day perhaps. I have some urgent work and need to rush to Krishna Nagar and reach there before noon” replied Gopal with urgency in his voice.

The old woman would have none of it and forced Gopal to have some snacks before he left for Krishna Nagar.

Half way on the way back, he met Hasiram quite happy and contended carrying a big container full of sweets and two big fishes. Hasiram said “Brother, where have you been?”

Sounding sad, Gopal replied, “I’ve gone to meet a relation of mine but en route went to your home as well.” Then showing some urgency said “Brother I suggest you rush to your home immediately”

“Why, what happened at my home” asked Hasiram worriedly. “Nothing much, but still you should go fast” replied Gopal. “No-no, you must tell me what the matter is” Hasiram insisted.

Gopal, almost at the brink of crying said “One has to go at some point of time in life, but you know very well that mother is the biggest support to us all. Even if she is old, she still is our mother.”

“What, my mother is no more. She has left for the heaven!” Hasiram cried out loudly. Gopal said something as if to console him but Hasiram was inconsolable. He handed over the sweets and the two big fishes to Gopal and said “I have no use for these now, you take them home and enjoy with your family.” Then he rushed to his home, crying all the way.

On reaching home, he found his mother quite healthy and immediately realized that Gopal had made a fool of him. In fact, Gopal never said his mother passed away but he only imagined things in his anxiety and he saluted Gopal for his wits.

Meanwhile, Maharaja had a hearty laugh when he got to know what happened with Hasiram. He realized that Hasiram was no match to Gopal in matter of wits.

EIGHT: THE ROYAL DOCTOR

There was a vacancy for the position of Royal Doctor at the court of Maharaja Krishna Chandra. The announcement to this regard was made across the kingdom and also at the neighboring states.

Soon, large number of applicants reached the palace and spoke of their experience and expertise in the field of medicine. It became quite impossible to shortlist the candidates, let alone choose one among them. The Maharaja called Gopal and said “I think only you can choose the right person among all these candidates. I am entrusting you the task of choosing the Royal Doctor.”

“Its easy Maharaja, you will soon get your man” replied Gopal confidently.

Then he turned towards the candidates and said “You all have given the accounts of your achievements which all of us here at the court have heard and understood. But the position of Royal Doctor is quite different and important too. It can only go to the person who is responsible for the death of at least one thousand patients that he had attended to in his professional life so far.”

One of the candidate said “Out of ten thousand patients that I have treated, two thousand have died and I am responsible for that.”

The second candidate said “Of the thirty odd thousand patient that came to me for treatment, four thousand have lost their life.”

“Half of my two thousand patients are no longer in this world” said another candidate.

So, one after another, everyone started saying how many persons they have killed in their professional life.

There was, however, one exception. One candidate, who was sitting quietly all this while got up and started leave the court. Gopal caught the site and said “Doctor, you are leaving without telling us your achievements. Don’t you aspire to be the Royal Doctor?”

“I would very much like to be the Royal Doctor otherwise I would not have come this far from home, but the conditions are too steep. I have seen about forty thousand patients so far in my life but only five have died. I do not think I can achieve the figure of one thousand even if I tried the rest of my life. That is why I am leaving now” said the man dejectedly.

Gopal turned towards the Maharaja and said “Highness this man is fit to become the Royal Doctor.” Maharaja happily agreed to the suggestion and appointed him.

NINE: SWEET TOOTH

One day Gopal Bhand along with his uncle Nilesh was going to the town of Vishnupur on the opposite banks of Ganges. They were traveling in a typical boat of Bengal where in the middle of the boat is a canopy where the boatman used to keep their belongings. In the boat, besides Gopal his uncle and the boatman, there were two other persons traveling to another town further to Vishnupur.

One of the gentlemen was carrying a large container of sweets and told his companion “The prices of sweets at the market have sky-rocketed but I couldn’t resist the temptation of picking up these sweets from Felu the sweet maker. He is quite famous around here for the variety as well as the quality of his sweets.”

“True” said his companion and added “Our destination quite far, how long you will hold this container? Why don’t you keep it inside the canopy? We will take it when we disembark.”

The man liked the idea and kept the container safely inside the canopy. Gopal and his uncle had heard the gentlemen but did not say anything. They seemed to enjoy the cool breeze of the Ganges. After sometime, Gopal suddenly started shivering and told his uncle “I think I have fever and feeling cold.” Nilesh touching his forehead said “Oh yes you have quite high temperature. Don’t stay out. I suggest you go and rest inside the canopy. I will call you when we reach Vishnupur.”

The other two gentlemen on the boat too suggested that he go inside the canopy to rest and said “We have to go further than Vishnupur, we will let you know when the boat reaches there.”

Reluctantly, Gopal went inside the canopy to rest. After an hour or so the boat reached the shores of Vishnupur and uncle Nilesh called out Gopal. Together they disembarked and the boat went its way to the next destination.

Getting down, Gopal said “I am already feeling fine. The fever is gone and I no longer feel the shivering.”

“Why not, after all the sweets of Felu are supposed to do wonders!” replied Nilesh. “Yes uncle, I could not resist myself when I heard the gentleman” said Gopal sheepishly. “I hope you have saved some for me too” said Nilesh greedily.

Gopal took out some of the sweets from his pocket and offered them to his uncle. Together they enjoyed the sweets of Felu but felt sorry for the poor man on the boat who had paid for the sweets.

TEN: WHAT LIES BENEATH THE GROUND

Adjacent to Krishna Nagar was the town of Begampur which was under the rule of the Nawab Mirzaffar. The Nawab was eccentric and whimsical. One day, he called his courtiers and said “I wonder what is there under the ground. Is there another kingdom below the earth surface?” The courtiers had no ready answer for this query of the Nawab. After much deliberation they said “Jahanpanah, only experts in astrology can tell us what is there beneath the ground.”

The Nawab liked the idea and announced “If any one can tell me what is there beneath the ground, he will be awarded with hundred gold coins and if he fails then he will spend the rest of his life in the dungeons”

One hundred gold coins were very lucrative reward and many a Pundit went to Begampur to try their luck. Even Maharaja sent a group of royal pundits to try and win the reward. But none of them could satisfy the Nawab with an answer to his query and were thrown in the dungeons.

Maharaja, when he heard the fate of his court pundits and others felt sorry and thought of means and ways to free them. He could not think of any means to end their misery and became very depressed.

Gopal who was visiting his grandmother at Vishnupur returned to Krishna Nagar to find the whole town in a state of mourning. He reached the court and was even more surprised to see similar situation there too. He asked the Maharaja “What is wrong, your highness?” The Maharaja narrated the events that took place while he was away to Vishnupur. “Poor innocent pundits are rotting in the dungeons and unable to do anything for them” the Maharaja said in despair.

“Not to worry Maharaja, I will go to Begampur and not only satisfy the Nawab but will also ensure that all the pundits are set free” said Gopal cheering the Maharaja. “Do you know astrology? How you will be able to tell what is beneath the ground?” enquired Maharaja apprehensively. “Have trust in me, I will not let you down” said Gopal and left the palace to plan for coup.

Gopal went straight to his home and took a piece of wooden block and wrapped it in layer of silk cloth of different shades. Then he himself dressed up in a silk suit and a jazzy head gear with silk shawl to go with it. He now looked like a pundit and started off for Begampur. He also took with him thick books with red cloth covers.

He reached the courts of the Nawab and bowing to him said “Sir, I have heard your announcement and wish to satisfy your highness.”

The Nawab was impressed with Gopal’s attire and appearance and felt confident that this person can actually tell him what is there beneath the ground. He said “Your personality tells me that you are a learned pundit and can give us the right answers to our query. But since you have come from far and tired, please have some food and rest a while” said the Nawab sounding pleased.

When the court resumed after lunch, Gopal sat down at the appointed seat and took out his thick books and the silk wrapped wooden block. He made gestures as if he was calculating some very complicated mathematical problems. After some time he said something in Sanskrit which no body could make any meaning. The Nawab asked “Please explain what does this mean, Pundit Ji?”

Gopal smiled and said “Your highness, my calculations say that no Hindu pundit can tell you what is beneath the ground.”

“Then who can tell me?” asked the Nawab. “Your highness, my calculations do tell me who can satisfy your query” replied Gopal humbly. After some more calculations, Gopal said “Sir, only Muslims and Christians are buried whereas the Hindus are cremated, therefore only a Christian priest or a Muslim clergy can tell you what lies beneath the ground. So please call either of them to get your answer.”

Nawab was satisfied with Gopal’s argument and rewarded him with 50 gold coins, half the prize money and also released all the pundits that were sent to the dungeon. He also sent for the Muslim clergies to tell him what lies beneath the ground.

Upon reaching the Krishna Nagar, Gopal narrated the events that took place at the Nawab’s court to Maharaja amidst the cheering of the courtiers. The Maharaja gave fifty more gold coins to Gopal as a reward asked him “What are you hiding inside that colorful silk cloth?”

“Oh, this is what saved me and the pundits from the clutches of the Nawab” Gopal said laughingly and unwrapped the wooden block. Everybody laughed out and praised the wits of Gopal.

ELEVEN: EXILE FROM KRISHNA NAGAR

Gopal as a jester was at times little irritating as he would say whatever came to his mind without realizing or bothering about the surroundings and situations. This was the complaint of most of the courtiers but they could not say anything as Gopal was the most favored person of the Maharaja.

However, One day Maharaja himself got very annoyed with Gopal for his certain comments. He called his royal guards and said “This fellow has become very arrogant and disrespectful, throw him out of my palace and see to it that he is not allowed inside, ever again.”

“You don’t have to throw me out, I am going away on my own. I will also leave the country too within next three days” said Gopal indignantly.

Gopal left the palace and on his way back home told everyone that he is leaving the country for good. He reached home and told his wife “Pack-up everything; we will be leaving this country for ever.”

“Why on earth will we be leaving this nice and peaceful place?” pleaded his wife. “The world is a big place and surely we can find the patronage of some other kind king. The Maharaja does not seem to care about me anymore” said Gopal. His wife started crying and all the neighbors also gathered around and pleaded with Gopal to reconsider his decision. Gopal was determined and told everyone “Since I have lost the job at the palace, I have no other means to make a living. I have to go to another kingdom to search for job and living.” He urged his wife to start packing immediately.

The news of Gopal leaving the country reached the Maharaja and he felt sorry for him. Actually the Maharaja was very fond of Gopal and that day out irritation had exiled him from the palace. Now, he ordered his men to go and get Gopal immediately.

Upon getting the message of Maharaja, Gopal went to the palace and presented himself to the Maharaja. “Are you seriously leaving the country?” inquired the Maharaja. “Yes Sir” replied Gopal without looking up.

“But I had only exiled you from the palace and not from the country” said the Maharaja perplexed.

“That’s true Maharaja, you never exiled me from the country but only from the palace. However, I earn my living by entertaining you and others at this court and if I am not allowed here, how can I make my ends meet?” replied Gopal.

“Tell me Gopal, what do I do? I cannot let you go neither I can ignore my ministers who are angry with your behavior. Tell me Gopal how do I treat you” said the Maharaja with anguish.

“This is love, Maharaja. You are in love with me and that is the reason of your anguish” said Gopal with a smile.

This comment from Gopal broke the ice and all the courtiers clapped and cheered Gopal. They urged Maharaja to pardon Gopal and reappoint him as the Court Jester once again.

Maharaja said “There is no question of reappointment as he was never thrown out. He had merely left the palace as he does everyday to go home. Gopal is very much part of my court and shall remain so as long as he lives.”

Then Maharaja gave some money to Gopal and said “You are not to leave this country without my permission. Now go home, your wife must be getting worried.”

Gopal pocketed the money and left for home happy and at peace.

TWELVE: MAHARAJA’S DREAM

Once with the idea of embarrassing Gopal, the Maharaja announced in the court ‘Last night I had a very weird dream.”

“Tell us about your dream, Maharaja” Gopal asked eagerly. “Let it be. You may not appreciate, Gopal” replied Maharaja smiling at his own joke.

Gopal was now insistent and urged the Maharaja to narrate his dream. As if with great reluctance, the Maharaja said “Okay since you are insisting, but remember, it is just a dream.”

Maharaja continued “Last night I saw that you and I have reached a far away country. It was very dark there and very creepy; there were two ponds, one was filthy and the other was filled with milk. Then in the darkness, you slipped and fell into the filthy pond. You tried get out but more you tried, you got more entangled in the thick filthy mud. And then I also slipped but fell into the pond filled with milk. After some effort, I got out of the milk pond and was trying to help you out from the filthy pond, when I woke up.”

Everyone present at the court looked at Gopal and started teasing him “So Gopal you ate the filth!”

Gopal did not react to the teasing and kept quite. After sometime, he said “Maharaja, what a coincidence! I also happened to see something similar in my dream last night. But let it be, it’s not very welcoming for you.”

“So you also saw that you are swimming in a filthy pond” Maharaja asked jokingly. “Yes, your highness, there is no point denying the truth. You couldn’t see the end as you woke up but I saw till the end” replied Gopal.

“What did you see Gopal” asked the Maharaja. “It is better, if you don’t hear the end bit. It won’t do well to your reputation” Gopal said quietly.

Now the Maharaja was eager to know what happened at the end and insisted, “You must tell me what happened at the end. It doesn’t matter how I may feel.”

“Okay” Gopal said reluctantly and continued “After sometime, I also came out from the filthy pond. We were wet, I with filthy water and you with butter milk. We both wanted to wash ourselves clean before we reached Krishna Nagar, but there was no sign of any clean water around. We searched for sometime and then you suggested that we clean us by licking each other. Maharaja, it was at your suggestion that I started licking the butter milk from your body and you the filth from my body.”

The courtiers went wild with laughter as soon as Gopal had narrated his dream. But the Maharaja went pale and kept quite. He realized that Gopal had an upper hand using the joke that he had created to embarrass Gopal. He had started it and now he can’t say anything to Gopal. Maharaja vowed never again to embarrass Gopal publicly.

 

 

Tit for Tat

It was a wonderful summer evening and all the animals in the jungle forgot about their differences and were enjoying the lavish annual summer party. There were sumptuous meals to savor and choicest beverages to drink.

All the animals seem to enjoy this once in a year gala party. The bonhomie was apparent as one could see the wolf dancing with the deer forgetting that they are otherwise sworn enemies.

All this while the stork was enamored by the handsome fox that seemed to enjoy his meal and drink merrily from the pitcher. The fox was indeed very smart with his tanned fur which glowed in the clear moonlight. The stork did her best to attract the attention of the fox and finally managed a seat next to the fox.

They got into a conversation and soon were dancing together. They danced as if they were seasoned dancers and had several dances together before the evening nearly ended.

The fox was very pleased and asked the stork, “Why don’t you join me for dinner next week?” The stork was more than eager and said “Sure, I will come next Saturday.”

The following Saturday the stork spent much of the day cleaning her feathers one by one and streaking them with her beak to make them shine and reached the fox’s house at the appointed time.

The fox greeted the stork, “Oh Ms. Stork, you are looking wonderful today and your feathers are shining like the moonlight.” “Thank you”, the stork said blushing at the complement.

The fox played the music and they again had dance for sometime. After a while the fox excused himself to set the dinner table. A very appetizing smell came from the kitchen and the stork felt hungry. Soon the fox came with two large plates filled with soup and placed one in front of the stork and said “Enjoy the soup.”

The stork tried hard to drink the soup from the plate which was shallow but could manage only a few drops. She started to get exasperated but did not show her displeasure out of courtesy and hoped that the handsome fox will notice the problem and help her.

Meanwhile the fox was greedily slurping his soup noisily and was oblivious to the discomfiture of the stork. He looked up only when he had finished the last drop of the soup from his plate. Looking at the almost untouched plate of the stork he said, “Aha, you really have a very small appetite or perhaps the taste did not suit you, Ms. Stork!”

Saying this he pulled the plate of the stork and gulped down her portion of the soup too.

The stork was very upset at this rude behavior of the fox but did not show her anger. She said, “I would very much like to reciprocate this lovely evening that we spent together. Why don’t you come over to my place next week?” The fox readily agreed to the proposal.

On the appointed date the fox got ready and reached the house of the stork well ahead of the time. He sniffed the air and was delighted to smell the delicious aroma that filled the air around. He knocked on the door and was warmly welcomed by the stork who herself was looking very bright.

After chatting for a while, the stork went to kitchen to get the dinner. She came back with two flagons filled with delicious stew and placed them on the table. “Bon appetite” she said and concentrated on her stew. The fox looked at the flagon and thought ways to drink the stew. He thought of asking for a plate but the stork was engrossed in her meal and paid little attention to the fox. Exasperated, the fox tried to drink from the flagon but got his nose stuck inside, instead.

The stork finished her stew and looked up. “What, you don’t like the stew, Mr. Fox? No problem, I will finish it off.” Saying this stork picked up the flagon and started drinking the stew that was given to the fox.

The fox was very angry and said, “Ms. Stork, this was no way to treat your guest. You are not only selfish but rude too. I will never come to your house again.” The stork said, “That be true but you are the one who showed me the way. Remember, when I came to your place, how you had treated me!”

It was tit-for-tat. The fox realized his folly and walked over to stork “Sorry Ms. Stork, it was my mistake. I promise to mend myself and be a good host in future” saying this fox walked away slowly from there.