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.

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

A small price to pay

A tongue in cheek look at the fear spread by COVID-19. No intention of hurting anyone’s sensitivity.,🙏

My nose twist and tinge

But I am afraid

To sneeze

What will people say

I squirm

Shift my weight

From one leg to the other

A dead silence

All around me

The circle of

Social distance enlarge

See few people with

Phones to their ears

Somewhere in the distance

Wails an ambulance siren

The thought of being

Quarantined

Races through my

Distressed mind

I try to shout

Guys, I am all right

But fear dries my throat

I feel a cough

Coming up my esophagus

Esophagus, is that right

But who cares

As I fight valiantly

To suppress my cough

My body reacts

A bodily function

So innocuous

Comes to my rescue

With a sound thunderous

An act performed in public

That would have mortified

Even the bravest soul

Brought a sigh of relief

To everyone all around

And I moved on

Thankful to the

Fabulous Air Recirculating Technique

That my body performed

Banishing the fear

Of imminent infection

Of Corona virus

From one and all

Relieved, everyone on

His or her way

The malodorous smell

A small price to pay

PhD

I never did a PhD. I did start taking classes once towards that lofty goal. Classes were in the morning before work. After a semester or so, with full time work, young kid and family, it became really hard to keep going. So PhD for me remained a Pretty Hard Decision, to pursue or to give up I was not sure then and not now also.

Yesterday I was on the phone with my friend, a university tenured professor and PhD to the boot. During our conversation he briefly mentioned that one of his friend got PhD after retirement. Somewhere in a corner of my heart, I felt a little bit of envy, may be a little jealousy too. I must have seen a ray of hope also and wanted to know more.

My fried explained that after retirement his friend got (Blood) Pressure, Heart attack and Diabetes, in short PHD.

Now it is not a pretty hard decision for me to stay away from that phd.

Duct tape saved the day

Many of us may have a story about duct tape coming to the rescue in a sticky situation.  To that I am adding my recent one.

On Monday, May 20, we boarded the plane ready to return home after a week long vacation.  The day started early. As the shuttle from the hotel to the airport that we were supposed to take were full, we were forced to take an earlier shuttle.  That meant that we had to get up real early and had a long wait at the airport.  We boarded on time and settled down for a four hour flight.  I dozed off and on but soon realized that the plane was still stuck on the runway and departure time had already come and gone.  Curious to know what was the cause of the delay, I started to look around for an answer.  Soon I saw the pilot walking near where I was sitting and open an over head bin diagonally across where my seat was.  It was a small bin with a small black suitcase.  my mind raced through several theories.  I overheard the pilot saying to one of the crew member that he can’t take a risk.  Soon a ground crew with a yellow vest arrived on the scene and opened the bin.  He took out a screw driver and tried to fix something.  He gave up after some try, went to the back of the plane ( my seat was on the last row before the toilets) and started talking on the phone.  Obviously there was some argument and I heard him saying that he can’t fix it as someone had replaced a screw with a non-standard screw.  Sabotage?  Soon another crew member took the black carry on out of the bin and moved to the front of the plane and out the door.  Another ground crew  member arrived soon and things started falling in place.  The door of the overhead bin had come loose and the pilot did not want to fly as he was apprehensive that the bin door may open during flight and be a safety hazard.  The first ground crew could not fix the door as someone before had replaced the original screw with a larger screw and now the standard screw won’t fit. The second ground crew had a roll of duct tape ( red color for good measure) that both of them applied liberally to ensure that the overhead bin door stay shut during the flight.

You can see the end result on the featured image.  No harm done.  A small screw delayed our departure by forty five minutes but the flight itself after that was uneventful.    I shudder to think of the delay that could have been if we were forced to change plane.  Duct tape did save the day.

Friday Freebies: It’s a Birthday

Well the birthday is not actually today but it is being celebrated today at the university where the university library is named in his honor.  His birthday is tomorrow, March 2.  But hey, it’s Friday, party time and I am sure he would not mind.  He most probably would have loved it today, being surrounded by young folks, many of whom must have Continue reading “Friday Freebies: It’s a Birthday”

Friday Freebies: Necessity is Mother of Invention

Friday morning started cold and rainy. The thought of going down to the cold garage to make some breakfast leaving a warm bed, certainly was not inviting. Now you may be thinking why I make breakfast in the garage. We started renovation work on our kitchen and so temporarily the kitchen was set up in the garage. As the garage was not originally designed to be used as a kitchen, we have our stove in one corner and the microwave in another corner, the space in between filled with knick knacks and furniture from the living room that also being worked on at the same time. Unfortunately there is no drainage in the garage and no water connection, so the sink and the dish washer could not be hooked up. This old body is getting quite a lot of exercise going up and down the stairs to get water and do some small washing and cleaning. We had to be inventive to reduce use of water as much as possible. Unfortunately it results in unwanted wastes of paper plates, paper towels and plastic cutleries that none of us like. But I digress. As I said, we try to be resourceful to manage with the existing situation. We moved the coffee machine and the toaster to our bedroom so I could have some breakfast on my bed. The eggs can wait.

As I was sipping my coffee in bed, some thoughts came to my mind that I jotted down quickly and sharing below.

Necessity is the mother of invention.
She married poverty and produced frustration.
Dejected, she separated and married wealthy and gave birth to consumption.
Not satisfied, she had a live-in relationship with greedy and fostered corruption.
Now all of us live in confusion and waiting for destruction.

I posted it in a few Whatsapp groups and pat came a response back from my nephew in India : necessity is the mother of invention and obesity is the father of starvation.

Not sure if he was referring to my growing mid-riff. Now I am scratching my head, to starve or not to starve is the question.

I can see the sun through the blinds. Time to get out of the bed. Friday is beckoning to fry some eggs.

Thursday Tidbits: Most Surprising Thing

Not the post I had in mind to write when I got up today morning.  However news that I received through social media first thing in the morning last week, not once but twice, and one of them today morning, made me change my mind

Whenever I have faced emotional issues, I have found myself going back to reading the Indian epic Mahabharata.  Its stories had helped to calm my mind, providing solace and answers to many questions I have in my mind. It’s amazing that an epic that was written thousands of years back are replete with stories addressing issues that are contemporary.

Today morning as I woke up and looked at my Whatsapp messages, I was greeted with a message from on of my friend back home in India regarding the death of one of my ex-colleague.  He was in the ICU for an week prior to his death.  Another ex-colleague who was admitted to the same hospital around that time had passed away couple of days. Continue reading “Thursday Tidbits: Most Surprising Thing”

Thursday Tidbits: Two Countries, Similar Issues

Two countries, one is the oldest functioning democracy and the other the largest democracy. One , where I am a naturalized citizen now and the other, my country of birth.  At this time of my life I have lived nearly half of my life in each country.  Both of them are currently embroiled in the question of immigration.

When I left my country of birth, my home state was undergoing nearly six years of protests and agitations to expel the illegal immigrants from a neighboring country that was threatening to change the demography of the state.  Couple of weeks after I left, an accord was signed between the Prime Minister of the country and the agitating student leaders with an agreement to identify and expel immigrants after a certain date.  This date automatically legitimized people who were illegally coming into the country for more than twenty years after the first National Register of Citizens was prepared. When I arrived in the country that would ultimately be my home, I found that the same issue of illegal immigration was being debated here also.  After nearly a year of my being here, the President of the country signed a sweeping immigration reform bill granting amnesty to nearly three million immigrants who were in the country without proper immigration papers.

Both the accord and the amnesty were supposed to take care of “illegal” immigration for all time to come.  Little that we knew at that time that after nearly three decades the same issue would be disturbing the places that I called home.  We never factored in the politicians and their lack of will to solve burning issues or their willingness to push issues to the next generation for political benefits in the short term.

Now in my country of birth, current Prime Minister and the ruling party is pushing a citizenship amendment bill (CAB) to make all people of certain religious communities coming into the country from three specific countries citizens immediately.  This is being done with an eye to the elections to be held soon this year though the government is trying its best to hide its purpose behind the veil of religious persecution of minorities in those three countries. Unfortunately the government had not raised the issue of religious persecution of a certain community in one of the neighboring country at all in last five years in the UN.  My home state of birth is in turmoil now after three decades of the accord being signed for fear that the indigenous people will be reduced to minority if the CAB is passed and made the law of the land.  This is after more than eight hundred and fifty people had laid down their lives for the cause at the hands of their own country’s police and armed forces. On the other hand, President of the country I call home now has vowed to build a wall to keep immigrants out ( and as per his words to make the country safe) and shutdown the government partially to get his wall built.  Though there is no proof that a wall is a viable solution to keep people away who are desperate to make their lives better or a wall will keep people in the country safe (all the 9/11 perpetrators entered the country legally and were from a friendly country), playing to the emotion and fear of his political base the President has made a mess of the whole immigration issue.

Will the Citizenship Amendment Bill in my country of birth or the wall in the country I call home now solve the issue of immigration for all time to come.  Hardly.  If without addressing the root cause of immigration (which may be a topic of future discussion), political expediency is allowed to shape decisions, we will see a repetition of the issue soon.

Unfortunately in a democracy people get the government they deserve.

trumpmodi

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