Neha
Hmm...Today's is just like any other Friday evening....taking so long to end! I peep at the watch in the far righ-bootom of my monitor every half hour (or longer it seems to me), only to realize that it's been only five mins since I last looked at the time.

And then the irony is that two whole days- Saturday and Sunday take no time to fly by (I'm sure all my corporate friends will agree with me here)!

The weekend is the only thing I look forward to right from Sunday evening. For me, Monday comes with all colors like Black and grey apart from the traditional blue! It's just 3.50 on my system's watch just now (God...why isn't it not even shrugging???) Around me, everyonw is immersed in their work. Ohhkay, I too had mine, which I have sort of completed for the week :)

okies, so it's finally 6 and time to pack off....am I happy...of course I am.....after all, I deserve a good weekend after slogging for 5 days!
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Neha
“Mr. Sharma?”
“Yes, that’s me…oh, a courier…where do I need to sign?”

Mr. Sharma signed on a crumpled sheet of paper and latched the door. The envelope read - State bank of India. As he held the envelope in his trembling hands, he felt a shiver within him. On the corner table beside him, was his wife’s photograph in a wooden frame.

Although inter-caste, his marriage was well accepted by everyone. Initially though, his mother was apprehensive of marrying her only son to a south Indian girl. “She comes from a different background. Her culture, traditions, everything is so different from ours. How will she adjust? How will we adjust? Think practically, Vinod!”

His family was a respectable family- rich, well educated, and liberal. His grandfather was a landlord, while his father started a textile business after independence. He had two elder sisters, Bharati and Vandita, who were married after completing their studies. Vinod was sent to Calcutta to pursue a degree in textile management. It was there he met Lata- the simple, naïve daughter of his professor, who was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English. The regular formal greetings developed into long conversations and acquaintance grew into friendship and then blossomed into love. Professor Sundaram, Lata’s father, was against the match. However, after much persuasion by Vinod and Lata, he agreed. The marriage was performed according to both north and south Indian rituals and customs. Both the families were happy, and to Vinod’s surprise, his mother forgot all her frets and worries and welcomed her son’s bride with open arms.

The sound of the doorbell brought Vinod to the present. He peeped through the door eye and saw Nikhil, his teenaged son standing, his clothes wet with perspiration and his face glowing after a game of basketball. He opened the door and his son stormed in excitedly. His team had won the tournament’s final match, a feat after a dry span of many years. Nikhil hugged his father, handed him a cup and a certificate and went on excitedly describing the events. “Oh, Papa, you really missed it. We were losing by a point, and then I gave it a shot; and you know what, it was a three-pointer! And just then, the referee blew the whistle.” Nikhil embraced his father and seated him on his favourite rocking chair. As he went on relating the events of the victorious morning, Vinod’s eyes fell on the envelope.

It had to wait. Vinod could not afford to react to it before Nikhil. The letter was the answer to his son’s dreams. Nikhil had always excelled in his studies, sports and games and co-curricular activities. He represented the state for national tournaments. After completing school, he wanted to pursue basketball as his career. He even won a 50% scholarship and an invite from a basketball league in the USA. And Vinod had also been making all efforts to see his son fulfil his dreams.

After completing his studies, Vinod joined his father’s business, which was natural as he was the only son. He vividly remembers that fateful day. His father had finally gained possession of the land where their factory was located. A puja was scheduled, followed by a dinner for friends and relatives to celebrate the occasion. Their house was a hustle of activities that day. The servants were running around here and there, acting on the instructions of their masters. The décor, flowers, puja samagri, sweets, lemonade, and other eatables, everything was in place. Nikhil, then twelve years old, was running around excitedly with his cousins. While Lata was organizing the Hawan kund, the cook informed her that they had run out of LPG cylinder. She told Vinod, who called the local distributor. However, the distributor said that it would take an hour or two to deliver a cylinder. Just then, Vinita, Lata’s friend, told them that she had a spare one at her place. It was arranged that Vinod’s father will drive Lata and Vinita to the latter’s place to collect it and they left. Vinod was instructing the florist when he was told that there was a call for him. He answered the call, while selecting the flowers. The words spoken at the other end were catastrophic. The entire gathering rushed to the City Hospital. The car had had an accident, and only Vinita survived. An auspicious day had turned into a disastrous one. The next few days were spent performing the last rites of Vinod’s father and Lata.

“Papa, you are crying? Is everything alright?” Nikhil’s voice spurred Vinod, who realized that memories had brought tears in his eyes. “Nothing dear, go, take a wash, and then we will have lunch together. Amma has prepared kadhi for you. You like it, don’t you?” During lunch, Nikhil continued describing the day and the victory. “Saab, I found this on the floor,” the servant handed Vinod the letter from the bank. Nikhil went to his room soon after finishing his lunch. Alone by himself, Vinod tore opened the envelope.

His mother wasn’t able to cope with the loss of her husband, and lost her health over the years. Vinod consulted many specialists, but to no avail. His business ran into loss due to the neglect. Eventually, during spring, the previous year, she succumbed to her illness. And today, his son needed the money to go abroad, study, and achieve his dreams.

‘Dear Sir, we regret to inform you we cannot accept your loan application on account of lack of sufficient security. We thank you for showing interest in our services.’

Vinod’s world fell apart! What will he do now? How will he fund Nikhil’s studies abroad? Vinod applied for a loan, hopeful that he will get it. But now, to his bad fortune, everything seemed to be over. What will he tell his son? Is he not capable enough to fulfil his only child’s most coveted dreams?

He went to Nikhil’s room. The peace and bliss shone on his sleeping son’s face. His innocence and charm made the loan rejection unbearable. Nikhil was very young, when Lata died in the accident. Yet, he showed great maturity during the crisis. Initially, Vinod felt that his son was not able to cope with his mother’s loss, and hence the silence. He began spending time with him so that he would talk and share his suppressed feelings. However, he realized that Nikhil had taken things in his stride and silence was his way of dealing with his grief. Over the years, Nikhil grew into a responsible and sensible boy.

Vinod didn’t know how to make ends meet. Business was paying enough to bring bread and butter home and meet other necessities of life. He wrote to the state and national boards of basketball and the reply had been long awaited. He even wrote to Nikhil’s school asking for their help and they too expressed their regrets.

Vinod’s dilemma grew with each passing day. Nikhil’s final examinations were round the corner, which meant that there were fewer days to make the arrangements. Having to take the final resort, Vinod went to a property dealer. After Nikhil would leave, all he would require was a small apartment. His house had been the object of greed for most dealers, owing to its posh location and huge area. He had taken the decision. He will sell his house.

“40 lakhs, that’s all I can offer,” Suri, the property dealer, stated in between chewing betel leaves and tobacco.

“But, but… you offered a higher value when u came to me!” mumbled Vinod.

“You see, sir, the prices have fallen down! When we spoke last, things were different. This is real estate!” exclaimed Suri.

“Give me a few days to think over it,” said Vinod as he stammered out of the office.

The next day, Nikhil had his first examination. “Papa, I am confident that I will do well. After all, I have you with me.” The beam of pride in his eyes shook Vinod, ‘I have to do something, and soon!’ He began consulting lawyers and other agents. He called his sisters.

“I am sorry, but I see no other way. You will receive your share, I assure you.”

“Vinod, is that all you regard and trust me? Isn’t Nikhil anyone to me? I don’t need any money. The house is yours. Pitaaji and you made it. Let me know if there’s anything I can do.” Bharati’s, his elder sister, words gave him some relief.

The amount had to be sent within the next three weeks and Nikhil was to leave after a month of finishing his exams. With the help of his friend, Vinod managed to find a suitable apartment, which was not far from where he lived. It was arranged that he would get the money in instalments; the first one will pay for Nikhil’s fees. All the stamp paper work was under process. Multi-storeyed apartments were to be built on that site.

Vinod knew that only cherished memories would remain with him now. Each corner of their home had a story to tell. Each part of it reminded him of unforgettable moments. Their house was built on the ancient structure. After Vinod joined his father in his business, they got the house renovated without changing the structure. Few things were kept unchanged like the old money-vault and the aangan. These were reminisces of the name and power of their fathers and grandfathers.

And how will he bid a goodbye to his son, his sole companion? The thought of staying away from him gnawed him every moment. Life was so different and today, all seemed hollow and lost. At nights, all by himself, he would lie awake thinking of all possible words he would say while seeing off his son, all the advices he will give, all the learnings of his own experiences that he will share. However, he knew that his tongue would fail him that day. He was aware that his eyes would betray him and pour all his feelings in front of Nikhil. The mere thought scared him and he knew that the sight would break him completely. Yet, he needed to be strong. After all, Nikhil was going to live and achieve his dreams.

Finally, the day arrived. All the paperwork was complete and just needed to be submitted to Suri. He had promised to give the first instalment immediately. The redness of the first ray of dawn that morning appeared to hint at the decisive events destined for the day. Nikhil woke up early, had his breakfast and was sitting in the balcony solving the crossword puzzle in the daily paper. Vinod looked over at his son. Nostalgia came over him. Soon, Nikhil would go. Vinod tried to collect his thoughts. “Nikhil, I am going out for an important work. I might get late. Take your lunch on time,” Vinod stumbled on the doorstep, dropping all the papers.

“Papa, how long will you take? And what are those papers?” Nikhil asked while helping his father collect them.

“Son, these are some important papers. I will try to return soon.”

“I will wait for you,” Nikhil returned to his crosswords.

Vinod checked the time and hurried with the papers and documents. Closing the gate, he looked towards his house. It needed whitewashing, yet it looked as beautiful and cosy as ever. Soon, it will no longer be his. There was a yearning look in his eyes, his lips quivered. He turned towards his car quickly. He couldn’t let his emotions fail him before his son. He had to accept the fact, sooner or later.

“Welcome, Sharma ji, welcome,” Suri exclaimed looking up from his mobile phone. “Saxena Sahab will also be here soon. He is looking forward to buying your property. A well-known businessman that he is, he owns a chain of restaurants across the state. A nice man to deal with.”

“Oh, so he is ready to buy the property? Is he willing to raise the price a little more?” Vinod asked expectantly.

“What are you saying, Sharma ji? The price I quoted is the best in the market. Trust me.”

Vinod knew that all he could do at this time was agree to Suri’s terms. After all, since when did beggars become choosers? Destiny dictates and you follow. That’s what they call life, isn’t it?

“Here comes Saxena sahab! Welcome Sir ji, welcome. I was just telling Sharma ji about you!”
“Hello, Mr Sharma. How are you doing?” There was something in Mr. Saxena’s eyes that unnerved Vinod. The look in his eyes was not that of a prospective buyer. Mr Saxena fell silent and the wait filled Vinod with agony. He wanted it to get over as soon as possible.

“Saxena sahab, I have prepared all the papers. All you need to do is sign them,” Suri broke the piercing silence.

“Mr Sharma, I need to speak to you. I consulted my lawyers, and I am afraid, I cannot buy your property. It’s an ancestral property! There are too many legal hassles involved, you see.”

Vinod stared on, aghast, shattered, stunned. Was he expecting this?

Suri looked on, quiet with the loss of a big business opportunity.

“Sir, how can you say this? There are absolutely no legal issues there. I assure you. I will take care of everything. I need the money, Sir; I need it for my son! Please, Sir!” Vinod felt ashamed at his own voice. He was begging!

“Mr Sharma, I understand. However, you need to understand my point as well. It’s a completely lost deal for me.” Mr Saxena put forward his point, his tone dry and cold.

“How can I explain, Mr Saxena, how much I need the money? This is my last resort! Please don’t snatch it from me. It’s for my son, for his dreams, for his life!” Vinod broke down.

“I completely sympathise with you, Mr Sharma. But tell me, why do you want to sell your house? What makes you do this? What does your son do?” This time, his voice seemed more human. Vinod saw a ray of hope.

“My only son, Nikhil, will pass his school this term. He is a basketball player and he wants to join a basketball league in the US. To fund him, the only resort I have is to sell my house. Please, Mr Saxena, don’t back out at this hour! You are my….”

“Are you Nikhil Sharma’s father?” Mr Saxena cut him short.

Vinod nodded, being too miserable to realize the familiarity in Mr Saxena’s voice.

“Mr Sharma, you need not worry at all now! Here, look at this!” He handed out a neatly folded paper to Vinod, who held it in his rickety hands. It was some list, handwritten, but Vinod’s eyes were too moist to make sense of the alphabets put together. He wiped his eyes, put on his glasses, and read the list. Somewhere in the middle, he read his son’s name, or may be it was somebody else’s.

“These are the players of the national basketball team. I have to attend a press conference, where these will be announced. Your son has been selected as the Vice Captain of the team. We have sent a confirmation by post.”

Vinod was speechless. Was it true or was he dreaming? He rubbed his eyes in disbelief and gaped at the paper in his hand. A hand touched his shoulder, “Yes, Mr Sharma, it is true!” Mr Saxena seemed to have read his thoughts.

His world had changed. Suddenly, it seemed easier to breathe! His faith in the Supreme was restored. Now, he will live his life with his son!
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Neha
Well, yes...am talking about Sawaria- the much-hyped and talked about movie this festive season! How was it...well you have to watch it to believe me when I say- what made Sanjal L Bhansali make this movie at all and more so, what made Ranbir and Sonam consider this as their launchpad....anyways, let me tell you about 'THE MOVIE" now!

hmmm....let's begin with the sets...well, they are straight from the title song of Arabian Nights...even the colors! ranbir looks good and promising...but then his breaking into a song with every dialog! Each time, he begins humming and you are like- please..not again! Sonam...hmmm...her smile is sweet, but her giggles! Even an actress like Rani seems to have been wasted and Salman..how I wish he wasn't a part of this movie! Zohra Sehgal and Begum Para are worth watching, but then with a handful of scenes, they really cant do anything. Though Zohra Sehgal was a treat in Cheeni Kum also!

And now for the story...was there one??? And also, could someone, who has seen the movie, tell me why did Sakina go on a boating trip every night, when there was that fairytale like bridge to cross the stream..err...river...err...I really don't know what!

As the movie started, I was waiting for the Interval (to heave a sigh of relief that half the torture is over!) and after the interval, I was waiting for it to end- after all, movie tickets in Delhi are not cheap! After coming out of the Audi, I felt as if my eyes were curtained with blacks and blues...much thanks to the varied colors of the sets - only black & blue, which when mixed turn Grey!

Why...why was this movie made?? Could anyone tell me...
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Neha
As soon as she entered her two-bedroom apartment in Thane, a suburb near Mumbai, Shivani went to her daughter’s room. After toiling the whole day in office and coming back to find her daughter’s room in a complete mess annoyed her. Mechanically, she began removing the washed and the unwashed clothes thrown around, the untouched milk glass and the forgotten apple on the table, and the various tit-bits. She asked herself the same question that she asked everyday, ‘When will Naina grow up?’ Amidst the piles of books and stationary lying around carelessly, the sight of the little old bear always brought a smile on Shivani’s face.

Five years had passed and yet, it seemed like yesterday to her. She had left water to boil in the kettle, while she was looking in the refrigerator for fresh vegetables. Everything was as monotonous as usual. The dirty utensils in the kitchen sink indicated that either the maid had taken another unplanned holiday, or she found the house locked when she came. Usually, Naina returned from school by 2 p.m in the afternoon. Shivani went to her daughter’s room and knew that she had not returned yet. Assuming that Naina must have gone to her friend’s place to study, she returned to the kitchen. While she was washing the spinach and the potatoes, the telephone rang.

‘She will come late. I hope Mr. Bhatia drops her home,’ Shivani thought as she walked over to the telephone table. “Hello. Am I speaking to Naina’s mother?” a familiar voice asked from the other end. “Yes, Mr. Bhatia. This is Shivani. What happened?” What was communicated thereafter left Shivani’s face white and pale with fear and confusion.

As soon as the call was disconnected, she ran to the kitchen, put off the burner, clutched her handbag and rushed out of the house. ‘Naupada,’ she told the auto driver as she hurriedly boarded the auto. On other days, Shivani kept asking the auto-drivers to drive carefully and slowly. That day, however, Shivani wanted it to fly. The 10-minutes ride to Anshika’s, Naina’s friend, home seemed endless.

Naina’s face flashed before her eyes. What had happened to her suddenly? She looked fine when she left for school. Shivani cursed herself for shouting at Naina that morning. Naina refused to eat the poha that Shivani had prepared for breakfast. “Why don’t you tell me what you want to eat before-hand? Every morning, the same tantrum! Even I have to go to office. You are too old to behave like that. You are in class nine now! When will you learn to be more mature and responsible?” Shivani went on while she served Naina with hot milk and chocolate cornflakes.

The halting screech of the auto broke her thoughts. She pressed a fifty rupees note in the driver’s hand and ran as fast as her feet could take her. All kinds of negative thoughts clambered her mind. She pushed them away. ‘Everything is fine,’ she assured herself. Furiously, she rang the doorbell several times. Mr. Bhatia, Anshika’s father, opened the door. Without losing a moment, Shivani rushed inside. A gentleman was bending over the couch in the drawing room. Another step and she saw Naina lying unconscious on the couch, her face colorless. “What’s the matter? What happened? Naina, wake up!” Shivani called hysterically.

Mrs. Bhatia consoled her and said that Naina needs to be taken to the hospital, and they have called an ambulance. Meanwhile, the doctor told her that anything could be confirmed only after performing the required tests. Prior to that, he cannot say anything. The ambulance arrived within the next fifteen minutes. Naina was still unconscious.

The next few hours in the hospital were most chaotic. Shivani frantically paced from one lab to another, in between consulting doctors. The doctors seemed non-confirmative. After each test, another was advised, leaving Shivani mentally and physically exhausted. Naina had regained her consciousness and was equally confused. She kept telling her mother, reassuringly, “Mumma, it was nothing, but weakness, I’ll be less fussy about food now.” Shivani too wanted to believe her, but the look on the doctors’ faces told a different story.

‘Dual Progressive Leukemia’ was the doctors’ verdict. An extremely rare disease found in one of thousands cases. Shivani felt her world coming to an end.

When she first declared that she wanted to remain single throughout her life, hell broke loose in the family. Who had ever imagined such a thing in a small and conservative town like Kalyanpur! Her mother fretted over her; while her father tried to convince her for marriage. However, Shivani had made her decision. She had been staying and working in Mumbai for seven years now. Broken family back home and trodden relationships had taught her much, and developed a kind of a fear in her. She dreaded relationships. It was then she decided that she will make her life secured and comfortable in every way, and be an independent single woman. She worked hard and shuffled between a full-time job and free-lancing. In a few years, she bought a small apartment in Thane. She felt more secure financially. Yet, there was a void somewhere. It was then that Anita, a close friend, suggested her to adopt a child. When Shivani filed her application in a missionary, the look on the nuns’ faces was not agreeable. They cross-questioned her incessantly on her decision to remain single and adopt a child. However, her financial condition was assuring.

Exactly, four months after filing her papers, she received a call from the missionary. They had a two and a half month old baby girl for adoption. Shivani went to the centre, butterflies fluttering in her stomach. The moment she saw the child, she knew it was hers. The child’s bright eyes smiled at her, and as if prompted from within, she called her ‘Naina.’ The child responded with a smile. Shivani held the baby close to her heart, and felt so complete. This was her child, and she will never let any evil or suffering come onto her.

“Ms Bharati,” someone called. Shivani sprang up gathering her thoughts. It was Dr. Taneja, “Will you please come to my cabin?” Shivani followed him. Dr. Taneja handed her a cup of tea, “You’ll feel better.”

For the next half hour, the doctor explained the disease, its complications and its cure, though scarce. Shivani was dazed. Was he saying that it’s only a miracle that can save my daughter, my only child, my world? Has not science and technology progressed enough to combat the fatal blows of destiny and fate? Why Naina? Whom has she wronged? Her mind was flooded with numerous questions.

“However,” Dr. Taneja was saying, “there’s a lot we can do and there’s much more that you can do for your daughter. It’s not very late even now, and we do have chances, say two in ten. The right medication and more of belief and strength is what is required. I will do all I can, but you are her mother. You have to hold yourself together for your child.”

He was right, Shivani thought. She had to hold herself together for her child. The next two years were tormenting. Naina quit going to school as she fainted too often and was growing weaker. Regular tests and visits to the doctor were making her feeble, mentally and physically. The strong medication was affecting her eyesight, and so she could not read or watch the television. Music became her only solace. She felt lonely. Shivani took a break from her job. She wanted to be with her daughter and fight along with her. At times, Naina groaned in agony and pain. The little smiling bear, which Shivani gifted Naina on her fifth birthday, was always on her side table. “Look, it teaches you to smile and fight all odds; no matter what are the circumstances. If God brings us to them, He also gives us the strength to fight and win over them. Face the most difficult situation with a smile, and you’ll see how easy it becomes to survive them.” Naina held the teddy close to her and held Shivani’s palm tightly, “Little Arti! What makes you smile always?

Brighten your life with a smile,
Keep pace; hold your breath for a while,
God has his own ways
In your path, difficulties He lays
Have faith, dear; you have to go many a mile!

Shivani sat beside her daughter’s bed and sang to her. Though not a great writer, she found a great audience in her daughter. Naina loved listening to her mother reciting her self-composed poems and songs. “Ma, why don’t you begin writing seriously?” Shivani always answered with a smile.

The medicines worked slowly. Naina was getting better. However, her eyesight got weaker. Eye drops and spectacles took care of it. At times, she cried out of pain and fear. She always wanted to become an architect. While preparing for her board exams, she was also short listing various colleges and institutes to pursue her dreams. Her illness broke her and shattered her dreams. On those nights when the pain didn’t allow her sleep, she wept to her mother, “Ma, how will I study now? I have dropped almost two years. What will happen now? I don’t want to be bed-ridden with this pain. Why don’t I die?” Shivani looked at her in horror. Her daughter did not deserve all this! She did not deserve this!

There will come a time
When the sun will shine
With all its radiance and glory
The stars and the moon
Will smile at you
As you begin weaving your life’s story.

Dr. Taneja was a savior for her daughter. His medicines were like a miracle and his words comforting and encouraging, “Faith, perseverance, and medicines, and you will sail through, Ms. Bharati.” Although much frail and weak, Naina was getting cured. Gradually, she began reading and resumed her studies. She joined school again after two years and appeared for her board exams.

And now, after five years of sustained medication and patience, Naina was becoming herself. The same cheerful teenager, full of conviction and life.

“Ma,” Shivani heard Naina call. She looked at the little old bear and returned to the present. “Ma,” Naina called again, “Why are you so late today? There’s something waiting for you, beneath our little Arti.” There was an envelope kept there, which Shivani had barely noticed. She picked it up, least knowing what it was. School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, it read. Shivani felt her daughter’s arms from behind her, “Yes, Ma, I have got admission! Your daughter will soon be an architect, a successful and famous one, I promise you!”

Tears welled in Shivani’s eyes as she hugged her child and felt their dreams coming true at last.
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