A Beautiful House

The story below was published in the 2022 edition of Luitor Pora Mississippi ( From Luit to Mississippi), Annual Magazine of Assam Sahitya Sabha North Anerica.

A Beautiful House

The last nail was hammered in, the taut wire was strung across the nails and the huge, framed photo hung with utmost care on the wall. It was a photo of a large sunlit house on a hill fronted by a garden and a river flowing languidly below. The sad eyes of Dr. Talukdar glanced once over the hung photo and then closed again. No one in the room could tell if it was a glance of approval or acceptance of the fact that the deed was done

It had been a long journey for Prabal from the muddy fields of his ancestral village to the metropolitan capital city of the state. All throughout the monsoon season the village would be under water. Houses built on stilts to avoid being under water existed precariously, never ever sure if they would survive the next storm. Major mode of transportation during the recurring annual floods was country boats. The local village school situated on higher grounds would survive the calamity but on more occasions then one would be a shelter for domestic animals than students. Prabal knew from his earliest childhood that his ticket from that wretched existence was education. So rare were the days when he would miss classes even on stormy days. Early on he became an expert swimmer to navigate the waters around his house. His parents were worried that someday he would be swept away by flood waters but such was his dedication that if his father or older brothers refused to row the boat to take him to school he would swim to school. Sometimes he would arrive in school only to find that he was the only one present, even teachers did not dare to come to school on those days. People used to call him crazy and call him names behind his back. But young Prabal was not to be deterred. His single minded pursuit paid dividends and Prabal passed his primary school finals with flowing colors securing a scholarship for obtaining the first position in the district.


From that time there was no holding back Prabal. There were no schools for higher education in the village. So his parents were forced to send him to the house of a distant relative in a nearby town. The life in the town was not all rosy for young Prabal. He was forced to do many household chores in the morning before going to his school and after coming back from his school he had to help the lady of the house, who was his maternal aunt in relation, in preparing evening tea and meals. However, whatever little time Prabal could manage he would spend on his studies. It was difficult for him to study late at night as his aunt would scold him for spending precious kerosene by keeping the hurricane lamp on so late at night. So Prabal would get up early in the morning before anyone else and much before his aunt would shout from bed, “Prabal, please make tea for me and uncle.” There were days when Prabal would miss his home, especially during the summer breaks when the school would close for more than a month but he could not study as his aunt would utilize his services for house work full time. If she caught him studying during the breaks sometimes she would taunt him by saying unsavory words: “ look at the genius here, he is going to save the world by inventing this or that”. She was jealous that even though her son and daughter used to go to a better school and were taught by tutors at home, it was Prabal who always used to produce better results. The day when the results were out would always be worse for Prabal because he would be destined for special punishment on those days. Prabal looked forward to the winter breaks when he could go home for a month and would come back to his uncle’s home only after Bhogali Bihu. That month he was a free bird and he would fall in love with his village for a brief period of time but his sight was set higher. The day his high school finals results were out Prabal was finally out of the misery of staying with his aunt. Securing a rank among the first ten in the state, his ticket to the premier institute of the state was punched and he never looked back


Fast forward thirty five years and Dr. Prabal Talukdar and his nursing home were the talk of the town. Married to his medical college sweetheart, Pratibha, herself an eminent physician, the Talukdars were a power couple in town. Their two children, a girl and a boy, both went to out-of-state medical colleges and then for higher studies abroad. Prabal had built a magnificent house in one of the posh localities of the town. Unfortunately as the town started to grow and soon became a metropolitan city, their area started to become waterlogged frequently due to unplanned growth. Prabal used to joke with Pratibha that he left the village but the village did not leave him. Many times during rainy days the ground floor of his grand home would be under knee deep dirty water. Prabal would be angry and often suggest to Pratibha that they should move to a different place in the city. However the nursing home was near their house and Pratibha did not want to move because of the convenience. Sometimes she had to stay in the nursing home late at night after work for emergencies and she could come back home in five minutes after work. So she would demur.


The situation came to a head suddenly. Prabal’s son Mridul, after finishing his MD, decided to stay back and work abroad. It was a setback for Prabal. He always thought that he would pass on the nursing home to his kids once they pass away. His daughter, Nandita was the eldest, came back from abroad after her studies but stayed in New Delhi married to her college sweetheart. They were well settled in Delhi and did not want to come back home to take care of their parents’ nursing home. Mridul had shown some interest but when he finally found his soulmate his plans changed. Prabal still harbored some hope that Mridul might reconsider. He arranged the wedding ceremony of Mridul with his sweetheart in a grand scale in town, even flying in his would-be daughter-in-law’s parents and relatives to town, arranging for them to stay in nice hotels. But as fate would have it, it started raining incessantly from the night before the wedding and by morning the street in front of Talukdar home was like Venice. The wedding became a mess and Mridul was just inconsolable. Then and there Mridul decided not to come back to take charge of the nursing home.


It was the last straw for Prabal. He was heartbroken. He decided to build a house on a hill top so that he would not have to deal with flood waters again in his life. And what a house he built. It was a grand home, situated on a hill, surrounded by gardens all around and the river flowing gently below. It took a few years to build and it took a toll on Prabal’s health. Taking care of the nursing home and construction of the grand home at the same time was not easy at his age. The house was some twenty five kilometers from the nursing home and it was not easy for Pratibha to leave the nursing home and look after the construction. The house warming party of the Talukdar home was the talk of the town. Anyone who was anybody in town was invited to the party. Mridul and Nandita with their families flew in for the house warming. Mridul’s wife was enchanted by the house and the surroundings and for a brief moment Prabal thought that things might work out for the better.


And then the disaster struck. Maybe it was overwork, maybe it was the strain of arranging the grand party or maybe overindulgence of food and drink, Prabal suddenly collapsed to the floor of the large drawing room in front of all the guests. There was utter chaos. Pratibha tried her level best to give her beloved Prabal the urgent medical care that was needed but to no avail. By the time Prabal was brought to the nursing home, he was dead.
Pratibha never went back to the house again. The house was left under the care of an old servant to tend to the gardens and keep the house clean. Whenever Nandita and Mridul would come to town, that was few and far between, they would stay in the house like staying in a resort. Pratibha would visit but would not stay, going back to the old home and her nursing home. She absorbed herself in her work more and more. Her health started to fail and she became chronically ill and became a permanent resident of her own nursing home requiring twenty four seven medical care. Bills started rising and Nandita and Mridul were feeling the financial pinch. It was also not possible for them to leave their professional careers and be a full time caregiver to their mother.


Sitting at the office of the nursing home administrator Kalpana Barua, Mridul told her that the entire fund from the proceeds of selling the home to industrialist, Mr. Agarwala, was deposited in a bank account from where the daily bills for the treatment and upkeep of Dr. Pratibha Talukdar would be transferred to the nursing home account on a regular basis. As a favor he asked Ms. Barua if he could hang a framed photograph of the home built by his father.
“ Ma, look at the photograph on the wall”, Mridul told Pratibha, “ it was our home”. Pratibha just glanced at the photograph and closed her eyes.
“What’s wrong Ma? It’s a photo of the house my father built.”
“ Yes, but he is not there”.
“ Look at the garden Ma. So beautiful.”
“Yes, bereft of children. Now you go and let me sleep.” Dr. Pratibha Talukdar closed her eyes. Her mind was reciting Leo Tolstoy’s “ How much land does a man need” and Tagore’s “Death, you are my beloved lord” as she was slowly passing into a deep sleep from where no one returns.


Mridul had just reached his parents’ old house when his phone rang.
“ Yes Ms. Barua, what happened?”
“ I am sorry to inform you sir that your mother just passed away in her sleep. Even in her death she thought of you. The fund you deposited won’t be needed for her care any more. May I request you for something sir?”
“Yes, what is it?” Mridul was dumbstruck.
“Can we keep the framed photograph of the house. It’s a beautiful house.”
“Yes, a beautiful house bereft of children”, murmured Mridul.


Pranabendra Sarma, January 3, 2021
San Jose, California

This is the last boarding call for the flight number…..

This is the last boarding call for the flight number…..

The voice had trailed off and faded long ago. Amongst the milieu of strangers she could only hear her wailing, holding his limp hand, ‘ don’t leave me Aru, don’t leave me alone.

The brightly lit corridor was stark and bereft of any life, quite antiseptic. The faces mouthing routine apologies had long receded inside the closed doors leaving her alone to her miseries. Her tears had dried and left streaking marks on her face, a face aged but still beautiful, any blemishes carefully covered up by well applied makeups, now horribly gone wrong by all her tears. She took out the cell phone from her bag. Who should she call first? Does it matter now?

**

Years ago, in a different time and a different world, these same words had been music to her ears opening the doors to her dream world. Aru was holding her hand as they slowly proceeded to the opening leading her to a new world.

‘Aru, you will never leave my hands, will you?’ She was apprehensive as she was about to leave all she had known in her life till that time and was about to step into a world that she had only read about and heard from Aru during the last few days.

‘I shall never leave you’, said Aru.

‘ Aru, you promise? Promise Aru.’

‘ I promise my darling. I, Arun Dutta, hereby solemnly promise that I shall never leave the hands of Mrs. Anuradha Dutta as long as I live. Now let’s go, otherwise the flight will leave us behind.’ Arun said with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.

‘Oh, if I only had known to read your eyes then as well as I know now, I would have known you left yourself a wiggle room. You always did’, Mrs. Anuradha Dutta dabbed the corners of her eyes with some kleenex as tears started rolling down her cheeks again. What is she going to tell the kids?

***

Anuradha Miri, better known as Anu to one and all who knew her, grew up in a bucolic village by the side of the river Subanshiri in the foothills of the eastern Himalayas. A brilliant student, she didn’t have much option of schooling at her village and against her father’s wishes she was taken by her maternal uncle to the nearby town, where he lived and worked, with a promise to continue her studies. She hated the town. Not that her uncle didn’t enroll her in school, he did, but with household chores helping her aunt and taking care of her young cousins, she didn’t have much time in her hands for studies. Her teachers loved the sincere student and because of their constant inspiration and her own hard work she shined in her matriculation examination. All her teachers urged her to go to Guwahati, to Cotton College in particular, the premier educational institution of the state. Her father was extremely reluctant, her mother didn’t have much say but due to the push of her teachers and well wishers her father ultimately relented. She was accepted to Cotton and as she was awarded a scholarship, the financial burden on her parents was not that high. However, moving from her village and the small town where she studied to Guwahati was a shock for Anu. She felt lonely and mainly confined herself to her studies. Due to her friendly nature, she was loved by her hostel mates but they more or less left her alone. Her loathing for big cities grew and she often became homesick, crying herself to sleep many nights. After four years, she graduated from college with high honors but this time her father was adamant. No more higher studies. It is time to get Anu married to a suitable groom. Anu was getting mentally ready to a life of teaching in the newly established school in her village. She was happy to be back home.

And then the miracle happened.

****

Arun Dutta was a brilliant student all throughout his studies and after finishing his masters from Delhi University in Mathematics, he was pursuing his doctoral studies in a prestigious university in the USA. He had already finished his coursework and was well into his research when his family wanted to solemnize his wedding. Being from a middle class family, they were looking for a suitable mate for their son. A simple but educated girl with good looks would fit the bill. Arun’s sister Mitali had exactly the most suitable girl for her brother in mind. Anu was her classmate in college and she always had a soft corner for her studious but sincere classmate.

It was mainly due to Mitali’s push and recommendations that Mr. and Mrs. Arun Dutta had flown to USA that day long time ago, hand in hand, to start a new life.

*****

Much water had flown down the Mississippi from the time Arun and Anu had landed in the small university town. Arun had to curb his ambition to go and work for a big name university that he was well capable of doing because of his educational career. Being deeply in love with his newly wedded wife, he was disturbed to see her slowly going into a cocoon of her own world. He initially didn’t realize that big cities frightened Anu. He was busy in his research and Anu kept herself confined to their small one bedroom apartment in the big city. The glow had vanished from her face. Most of the time she would keep to herself, rarely talking to Arun, answering only when Arun asked her some questions.

And then Anu was pregnant with their first child. Arun was happy beyond belief but Anu became more gloomy. One day when Arun came back home from the university, Anu was lying on the bed unconscious with blood trickling down her wrist. She had cut the vein on her wrist.

******

The psychiatrist had talked to both Arun and Anu separately and together many times. Arun, who promised never to leave Anu’s hands till death, had by that time decided to move to the small university town rather than risk another episode of depressive bouts.

Anu was happy again with the wide open spaces of the small town, the house with a big front and backyard and the small rural community. She gave herself completely into bringing up her son and the daughter that they were blessed with after their move to the town. She was a good mother. Many times when Arun felt a tinge of regret thinking of what could have been, it would evaporate the moment he would hear the laughter of his wife and children and contently he would go back to his studies.

*******

The kids had grown up and flown the nest long ago, the boy to the west coast working for a multinational company and the girl to the east coast working for an investment banking farm. Both were married, though Arun and Anu had no way of knowing whether they were happy or not. Though they tried to come home during Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays, it was either one or the other as their spouses had to visit their side of the family too. The grandkids would come sometime during summer but as they were growing up those trips soon dried up. Too many other commitments, rural towns were boring, nothing much to do etc. etc.

Through all these Anu was happy. She was a village girl at heart. Though her heart yearned for her kids and the grandkids, the thought of moving either to the east or the west coast filled her heart with great fear. She had visited both her son and daughter many times with Arun. The clogged roads, the skyscrapers filled her heart with anxiety. She just wanted to come back home to her little corner of the world.

********

‘ Anu, I booked the tickets. Brian will take care of Ruff, Rose and Billy as usual when we are not here’, Arun had said. Ruff was their cocker spaniel, getting there on age. Rose and Billy were her cats. They were family. They were flying to Los Angeles to attend the high school graduation of Mit, their grandson. Mit was Ajit’s, their son’s eldest. Diti, their daughter along with her kids were flying in from New York. After a long time the whole family would meet. It would be a joyous occasion.

On the cell phone keyboard, Anu pressed the numbers one by one. She called Ajit first. She didn’t know what she was going to say? Where is Arun when she needed him most.

*********

She waited till Ruff died. Ruff was Arun’s baby. He wouldn’t have liked giving up Ruff for adoption. Who would anyway adopt an old dog though Ajit and Diti were insisting on it and make the move at the earliest. Brian had taken in Rose and Billy. Brian was sad to see her move but he understood. Everyone may have to go through something similar one day or another.

Anu went through the list meticulously. The house was given on the market some six months back. Properties move slow in small towns. She had made a trust and the sale proceeds would be deposited there. The trust and the will were explicit so nothing would go into a long probate process.

She went to the backyard, picked some flowers and placed them on Ruff’s grave and bid goodbye.

She locked the front door and opened the realtor’s lock and put the key inside and locked it. She would drop the envelope with the spare car key and instructions addressed to the charity where to pick up the car on her way to her destination. Then she called the realtor. The house no longer belonged to her.

**********

As Anu walked down the long stretch of sand, she realized that she had finally overcome the fear that had dogged her all her life. It didn’t matter now. The doctor’s report had come in after she had decided to move. She never wanted to be a burden on anyone. Why did Arun go back on his promise? Did he think she would be a burden on him in his old age?

The pressure on her ears was unbearable. Her eardrums were about to burst. She thought she was hearing someone announcing ‘This is the last boarding call for flight number ….’. She was not bothered at all. This is the first time she had chosen her flight and it was not going to leave without her.

A small bubble rose from the bottom of the lake and spread out in concentric circles. And then there was silence, dead silence.

***********

At the same time Fiona, Ajit’s wife, was frantically trying to call Ajit that Anu didn’t arrive by the flight as was supposed to be, a park ranger, some thousand miles away from LA, shone his torch light through the windows of a car by a lake shore. Finding no one inside the car, he looked around. A set of footsteps on the sand led him to the lakeshores where the footsteps had vanished. Frantically he called the headquarters for backup help.

The American Ritual Dance

Dear God,
With heavy hearts
We gather here
To say goodbye
To those who were taken away
At the prime of their lives;
(By our inaction but that’s another matter)
And send our condolences
To the grieving families,
May time heal their hurts,
(Sure time heals everything you know)
And make them whole again.

Phew, with that out of our hearts
It’s now time,
Let the barbeques begin,
And the donations roll in;
You know it’s not easy folks
To stand up for your rights
To bear arms
With empty pockets
Every two, four or six years;
Let the good times begin.

And while we are at it,
Don’t forget to remember those
Who gave up their lives
To protect your rights
To turn this land of
The free and the braves
Into killing fields,
With AR15s for one and all;
Don’t you fret,
We have judges who know
Which side to butter the bread;
Well, obviously they obfuscate
During the nomination process,
Lest they don’t get elevated.
(They are not politicians you know)

God willing we shall make this land
A prison soon,
With guns for one and all;
(Isn’t that what 2nd Amendment all about)
Let’s decree guns for the newborns,
Afterall we are the ones
Who stand up for their right to be born,
So that we have enough
For our target practices;
Remember, it’s not guns that kill,
People do,
So go and make merry as you like,
What did you say?
A knife?
It doesn’t kill that many,
AR15s that’s what you must have
To kill a deer unarmed;
We are a country of laws,
And we shall fight
With all our might
To preserve your right
To snuff out the light,
From young and old alike
With futures bright.

Ah, what you say,
Tears coming down our cheeks..?
(Must be the smoke from the barbeque)
Hey, don’t you blame the crocodiles,
They don’t come after their kids with guns,
You need a special breed for that,
We are Americans!
And you know for those who need
We have mental health,
(That we ourselves surely need)
But no, can’t deprive them also
Of their rights,
It’s a free country all right,
Except for the rights victims of rape and incest
To abort;
We are a great country,
Unique in the world
Remember that well on the Tuesday of November.
The list grows longer they say,
Well you know the more the merrier,
Gives us more opportunities
To come out and assure our constituents,
We stand with them dancing
The American ritual dance.

Just dormant

Not dead yet, just dormant. Visiting my birthplace, making new friends. Keeping busy. But all good things, actually all things must come to an end. Now it’s time to return in two days.

What is life if not a flowing river rushing to meet the ocean and merge. New banks, new course. Bone dry in summer heat, replenished and rejuvenated by the monsoon rains. What is carried in its bossom is for others to decipher. It just flows oblivious to the joy and pain it spreads. Not indifferent, it does not even know the meaning. Never returning to its source, it just explores.

photo of river Brahmaputra in Guwahati by author

Ubered in the City of Joy

Uber Experience in Kolkata: April 13, 2022

I am in Kolkata for the last few days as part of my travel to India during March – April of 2022 staying with my friend in New Town, a planned satellite town being developed for last so many years with wise streets, modern amenities, highrises and the town being near the airport makes it a desirable place to live. Infact residents of New Town do not have to go to old town Kolkata unless visiting friends and relatives. And that’s where the issue arise. I was here about four years back when the metro connection was being built. That metro is still not completed. So to visit family or friends in other parts of old Kolkata one has to depend on app based taxi services unless someone is brave enough to take the public bass services. I was not that brave to face an overcrowded bus in the oppressive humidity for which Kolkata is well known.

So come evening yesterday I and my friend found ourselves just outside the gates of the housing society waiting for the UBER driver who was supposed to be there in a few minutes. Well, after few cancelled reservations by UBER drivers and multiple calls going unanswered we were finally graced by the visit of an UBER driver. With a sigh of relief we sat down expecting the comfort of air conditioning to dry off the drenching sweat that had bathed us by that time. Well, we expected too much. Our merciful lord, the UBER driver, gave us all the excuses under an invisible moon hidden by the smog or cloud that had been hiding the sun for last few days in Kolkata why he would not allow us the privilege of an air conditioned ride to the City of Joy except agreeing that he was contractually obligated to turn on the air conditioning. To make a long story short, we had the pleasure of listening to his running commentary of how UBER was responsible for the devious ploy of depriving us of the pleasure of having what we have paid for and how and his fellow cohorts are going to ensure that we get our dues in some not too distant future because they were hard (or was it hardly) at work to serve their customers to the best of their abilities.

So one part of the ordeal was over. We had a good time with our friend and now it was time to come back. And then the fun started. If during coming it was couple of cancelled bookings now it was one cancellation after another. For every booking there would be about ten or fifteen minutes waith time. On your cell phone phone app you see the car moving a few blocks and then a permanent stall with calls being answered by a voice message saying that the caller was not reachable. We must have waited about an hour before an UBER driver picked up the phone and the app showed a constantly moving car.

Hallelujah! So we were finally on an UBER car about to be driven back home. But oh, wait! More surprises were waiting us. As we sat down on our seats the driver shut off the engine and asked my friend for the fare agreed upon by UBER. We were surprised. My friend asked whythe driver needs the fare. It’s between him and UBER. However the driver refused to budge and ultimately my friend gave in. We were simply too tired. More surprises waiting for us. Now my lord the driver wanted to see the cellphone of my friend and he really insisted. My friend asked the driver if he didn’t believe what my friend said but the driver just was insistent. Finally my friend gave his cell phone to the driver who took one look and gave the phone back to my friend. The driver said that he cancelled the booking and we could give him the agreed fare once we reach our destination. We were shocked but what to do. Get down and start the whole process again? What guarantee was there that we would get another one and if we get one how much time we may have to wait. We agreed and finally the car started moving. What a relief! We asked the driver to put the a/c on and lo and behold! another surprise. That would be an extra fifty rupees. This time my friend lost his patience and gave the driver a most profound sarcastic tongue lashing in perfectly chaste Hindi with due emphasis on the appropriate words to drive his point home. The result was that the sullen lord graced us with some cool air from the car a/c. The rest of the journey was made in dead silence.

When we reached home my friend asked me to take a photo of the license plate which I did. The driver was visibly upset and asked why we took a photo of the license plate. My friend responded that there was nothing further to talk and the driver would come to know the consequences soon. The look on the face of the driver as he drove away was enough to sooth some of our pains being ubered in the city of joy. Neither UBER nor it’s drivers care for the customers. They are there in this business to make money and customers conme last.

A Sojurn in Patience

The title may through you off. Please bear with me, have some patience. After all for last few months that’s what I had been assiduously cultivating.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not an impatient person. Born in a country with few thousands years of history and blessed or burdened with the weight of the past and growing up in a big family, patience becomes your second nature without even realizing.

They say patience is a virtue. May be. For practitioners of patience time moves slow. Trust me, practice it and see for yourself.

Ah, but I am digressing. It’s been slightly more than six years that I started my blog in WordPress. When I joined WordPress it had been forty plus years that I had not taken up the pen to write. Not that I was not writing anything. Hundreds of examinations, thousands of job applications, passport application, visa applications, green card application, naturalization applications, all these must count for something. What I was not writing was words that were buried deep inside me. My subdued passion was bubbling to come out. WordPress gave me an outlet.

And that’s when it hit me. I realized that somewhere in that journey called life I had lost my patience. The words were rushing out in torrents but I didn’t have the wherewithal to sit down at one place and write. The exuberance of writing something and posting it on the blog took over my psyche. No editing, no doing once over, just write and post. I am sure all my posts were crying out for editing but I just didn’t have the patience for that.

There was another revelation to me. I am realizing that while poetry comes naturally to me, I struggle when I have to write prose. One of the reason for that simply is my lack of patience to sit at one place and cohesively put my thoughts to paper.

Then about a year and nine months back something happened. Though the world had been opened to me through WordPress, I was not able to connect with readers of my posts written in my mother tongue Axomiya (Assamese). I am sure there must be wonderful bloggers in Axomiya in blogosphere using WordPress or some other platform. It was just that I was unsuccessful in finding out. Enter Facebook and a whole new world opened out to me. Suffice it to say that my writing in my mother tongue just took off and flourished.

For nearly two years I juggled my time between my blog on WordPress and my posts on Facebook. It was a struggle but I was able to balance my time well between the two worlds. Alas, there is only twenty four hours in the day. Then a few months back I started writing a story on Facebook. I intended to complete it withing two or three parts but somehow the story took wings and continued.

Now after forty four episodes, nearly forty six thousand words, the story is still continuing without an end in sight. So what that has got to do with this posts? Well, the balancing act between WordPress and Facebook is in tatters. I am finding that I am not being able to give as much time to my blog as I wish and I am suffering. I love the world of WordPress, friends that I have made, the beautiful words that I read and the learning. Yes, learning. I have learnt so much from my friends here in blogosphere. The thought that I am not being able to be an active participant here any more is killing me.

I am a pro- choice person by choice but in this particular issue of the story that I am currently posting in Facebook, I am pro-life in the sense that I will like to see my baby come to life. They say a full term for a baby is nine months. I am not there yet but not sure if the baby will be born pre-matured or the baby will be delivered overdue. Only thing I am sure about is that till it is delivered my visits to WordPress will be fe and far between. How I wish I can extend the day to forty eight hours or get and extra set of hands.

Well, as all of our wishes never become reality I only ask from you, my friends here in WordPress and my readers, that please bear with me in my sojurn in patience till I complete my story on Facebook and be back here again. Just have some patience.

As usual rest assured no editing had been done and it is straight from my heart to you.

Pranabendra Sarma, March 2, 2022
San Jose, California

Raindrops: Set of Three Haikus(photo by author)

Raindrops on leaves drip,
A transient impermanence,
Expectant earth waits.
**

Raindrops on leaves.


Tomorrow leaves fall,
Moist earth embraces the dead,
Rejuvenation.

Cherish the beauty,
Short life,lifelong memory,
In death, renewal.


I haven’t posted much on my blog for some time now. After a long forty day road trip of 9425 miles across USA, I was most probably getting lethargic. Few weeks back I started to write a long short story in my mother tongue Axomiya (Assamese) on my Facebook wall. Well, to make a long story short, after twenty eight episodes and nearly twenty seven thousand words, I haven’t yet seen the light at the end of the tunnel and falling very far behind. To be precise, still traveling hundred and eighty years in the past. I have still a long time to catch up to the present. I took the photograph of raindrops on rose leaves yesterday morning and as I was looking at the photo today, and it’s a gorgeous sunny day today, thoughts that came to my mind were transcribed by my fingers to a set of haikus. Obviously the rust shows.

Scheherazade Lost

Wrote this poem a few days back in English and then translated to my mother tongue Axomiya(Assamese). Posting both versions below as written.

Scheherazade Lost

I drank from the
goblet of your youth,
and enslaved for eternity
by your passion;
My soul, thirsty,
roams the streets of
Damascus of yore,
Sightless eyes explore
the meandering streets of
a Baghdad lost
to hubris of war;
Ears yarn for
endless stories of the
thousand nights
under a desert moon;
Alas, all I see
dancing on the skull of
a beheaded victim
of an undeclared war,
Silhouette of an
emaciated Scheherazade
lamenting for her freedom
and forgotten nights.

হেৰাই যোৱা শ্বেহেৰজাদী

পান কৰি তোমাৰ
যৌৱনৰ পিয়লাৰ পৰা,
অনন্ত কাললৈ হ’লো মই
তোমাৰ কামনাৰ ক্ৰীতদাস;
তৃষ্ণাতুৰ মোৰ আত্মাই
ফুৰে ঘূৰি
অতীতৰ দামাস্কাছৰ আলিবাটত
তোমাৰ সন্ধানত,
দৃষ্টিহীন চকুদুটিয়ে
যুদ্ধত হেৰাই যোৱা
বাগদাদৰ অলিয়ে গলিয়ে ফুৰে
তোমাকেই বিচাৰি,
কাণ দুখনে শুনিব বিচাৰে
মৰুভূমিৰ জোনাকৰ ছত্ৰছায়াত,
তোমাৰ মুখত
হেজাৰ নিশাৰ কাহিনী;
হায়, দেখো মাথোঁ মই,
অঘোষিত যুদ্ধৰ বলি
কোনো মৃতকৰ
ছিন্ন মস্তকৰ লাওখোলাত
নাচি থকা
শ্বেহেৰজাদীৰ ক্ষীণকায় ছায়াৰ

কৰুণ আৰ্তনাদ,
হেৰোৱা স্বাধীনতা আৰু
হেৰাই যোৱা হেজাৰ নিশাৰ
স্মৃতি সুৱঁৰি।


Featured image from Google

My dog one-upped me

It was a lazy summer day yesterday. After lunch I was sitting languidly on the sofa, dozing off from time to time, trying to decide if I should take a nap on the sofa or do something else like going to bed. In one of those blissfully sub-conscious moment my concentration was broken by the notification sound from my cell phone. Though I had made a promise to myself that I would not keep my phone anywhere near me while sleeping, I didn’t realize that the cell phone would find a loophole on that promise. Afterall  a nap is not sleep, so the phone attached itself to my hand as I was dozing on and off.

That notification was a message in our family WhatsApp group from my daughter who was sitting on another sofa near mine and was doing what girls normally do, scrolling through social media, texting, watching TV and more social media while engaging in her obsession during her stay at home. She takes photos of our dog Skooby constantly and then shares it wherever she can. Yesterday was no exception.

The summer heat must have contributed to my fuzzy logic, otherwise I can’t think of any reason why I succumbed to my temptation. That notification from my cell phone was of a message in Whatsapp with a photo my daughter had taken of our dog Skooby as he slept blissfully next to us. He didn’t have a cellphone to disturb his beauty sleep, a process in which I had enormous contributions from taking him out every morning and evening on his long walk and cooking his delicious dinner every evening. Well, to make a long story short, I uploaded that photo to my Facebook story with an one word comment and then forgot about it. So far so good, no issues. I went back to my dozing and Skooby kept on sleeping.

Come morning and my eyes were wide open. That photo of Skooby overnight garnered 10x more views that any of my Facebook posts ever got in a day. So unfair. I spend hours on writing a post and all Skooby did was just sleep. He didn’t even bother to take his selfie nor post his photo.

What do we call this? A picture worth a thousand words? Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder? Brief attention span of purveyors of the internet? I am having hard time to accept that photo of a sleeping Skooby beat my thoughtful compositions. Unless of course the world has gone to the dogs, a possibility I can’t ignore.

Meanwhile I am trying to explore ways how to train Skooby to write my blog to attract more traffic. Any suggestions?

Got first dose of COVID vaccine today.

End of a long wait? Light at the end of the tunnel finally or just the first hurdle crossed? Not sure how I feel. Not that I was waiting with baited breath to be vaccinated. I don’t have any plan of traveling in the near future and was kind of getting accustomed to the constraints of stay at home. Our HMO was falling woefully behind in vaccinating the different tiers ahead of us. Also the fact that my betterhalf won’t get vaccinated at the same time as me was another factor in my lack of enthusiasm to be vaccinated early with my age group.

However when we got an email from the CEO of our HMO that not even fifty percent of the age group ahead of us had been vaccinated and no dates could be estimated about our age groups and we may check other options to be vaccinated, my betterhalf started pushing me to register with the state and the county. Reluctantly I agreed but definitely did procrastinate as much as I could. The state site did not show any prospect but the county health services site did had an opening ten days after registration. All locations and dates prior to that were full.

Ultimately the date arrived today. The location was about ten miles from our house, a twenty minutes drive. As the place was unknown to me, I decided to be little early. The online registration asked to be there fifteen minutes before appointment time but I was forty five minutes before time. Boy, am I glad I did that. When I arrived at the facility and as I was entering the parking lot, I saw two long lines at ninety degrees to each other. From the car it was difficult to figure out which line was for what. After I parked my car, instinctively I moved towards the shorter line. It was also the line nearest to where I parked my car.

The sign near the end of the short line proclaimed “COVID vaccination by appointment only”. I felt good that I am in the right line. Then the elderly gentleman infront of me asked me when was my appointment. I said 11:45 AM. He said his was at 11:15 AM but he was in line for last fifteen minutes or so. Nothing that I could do. A volunteer came and told us to keep our IDs and appointment information ready for verification. A sign near by said Moderna vaccination only. However the volunteer informed us that the Pfizer vaccine was received the day before at the facility and therefore we would get the Pfizer vaccine. Till today, at that facility everyone had got Moderna vaccine. She also told that no fabric masks would be allowed inside the facility and to replace fabric masks with surgical masks that she provided if needed.

At the end of the line, ID and appointment information was verified and a clipboard and pen along with three pages of forms were provided to be filled up and on completion to go and stand in the long line to be ushered inside the facility. Here was the dilemma. There was no table and chair to sit down and fill the forms. People were sitting wherever they could and trying to fill up the forms. I decided to stand in the line and keep filling the form as the line moved. Thank God for the California sun. Though it was warm but better than be at the mercy of the weather gods like much of the US at present. The second line did maintain social distancing but to be honest, the first line fell woefully short in maintaining any semblance of social distancing. Once the forms were completed, staffs and volunteers checked them in the line itself and put a green sticker on top of the form. To the credit of the staffs and the volunteers, they were helpful and jovial and I must say, under the circumstances, they did and excellent job.

At one time only five people were allowed inside the facility. Once I entered through the main door, I thought the wait was over. Hah, it was not so. I think everyone had learnt well from Disney parks to hide the long lines inside from the people lining outside. One more station where the forms were checked and ascertained if people were there for the first or the second dose, those who were there for the first dose were made to stand in another line for registration. Those that were there for their second dose were sent in for vaccination directly from there.

There were six registration booths where the forms were taken, information entered into computers and a sticker with all necessary information was given to be pasted to the front of the shirt and then sent along to be vaccinated.

From that point onward, things moved fast. Health care professional who administered the vaccine to me was a really nice, young lady who answered all my questions thoroughly and before I knew it, it was over. She handed me a small card with the vaccination information and sent me to the appointment station for the second dose.

Following the well laid out yellow brick path, sorry the yellow arrowed path, I arrived at the appointment station, got my appointment date for the next dose, reminded to bring my card with me and I was done.

From the start of the process, that is standing in the first line till being done it took about fifty five minutes. Could the process be improved? Sure, everything can be improved. But without an iota of doubt, from the first encounter with the staff at the beginning of the line till the last person scheduling the second appointment, everyone did their job sincerely and in a jovial manner. My hats off to the health care professionals in the vaccination facility. Well done.

And thus completed my first dose of COVID vaccination. Five hours and still no signs of any discomfort. Soreness of the arm till now is non-existent. So far so good.

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