Monday, 24 March 2014

Straight from the heart ......10......Male Dowry???

Just as we begin to think that we are  about to put an end to a social evil called “Dowry” given by a girl’s parents to the bridegroom and his family, a reverse which I have exclusively termed “male dowry” seems to be slowly  putting its head up....

A couple of days ago I was with a group of my girlfriends,  all  with  married or marriageable sons and daughters now.....Marriage and how, was the hot topic of the day....some of these girls already have sons/daughters-in-law.

The discussion was going good, each sharing their experiences as mothers-in-law or as mothers seeking brides/bridegrooms for their respective wards.

Surprisingly, the mothers of daughters seemed to want a lot, apart from a well educated bridegroom from a good family. Not only did they want this but they wanted the boy to be ‘well-settled’....and this  one thing made me ask what that ‘well-settled’ aspect meant,  because  in our times the criteria of good education and a good family were parents topmost choice.

And what came out seemed like they expected a ‘male-dowry” ie they wanted the boy to have a flat/apartment house of his own,  at least a  latest two-wheeler if not four-wheeler, a good bank balance et all...and all this at a very young age of 28 -30 years(as if their highly educated daughters already had all this because of their high education and at this age of 28-30...:)...).... Our daughters are highly educated and they must have husbands  who should be earning at least an annual  salary of seven figures they said (as if , by educating themselves their daughters seemd to have done the universe a favou..:)...)had  turned to be the. Also, in the same tone they mentioned that they would not give any dowry (we are educated people you know and against dowry, they said)  and the marriage expenses too were to be shared fifty fifty.

I was utterly shocked at their expectation and all this  got me thinking. They were educated enough to get the bridegrooms family to divide expenses of the marriage ceremony, and not GIVE any dowry......But were they not expecting RECEIVING the dowry, termed as a ‘settled’ boy.  They wanted the boy to have all that which one earns after years of a ‘working life’. So indirectly, the boy better have this if only from his parents? and then it struck me , it was a well-hidden "male-dowry" that they wanted!

 In my own case, my husband was just 25 years old and me 23 when we got married. Forget   ‘settled’   but he barely earned a salary which was just enough for the family (a joint one) to survive for a month. Both of us were too proud to ask our parents for anything. I started work too and helped put in my bit to help in the household finances...Slowly and steadily we worked together to make a life and made more than we expected to have done when we started. Yes, we had our share of insecurities, lots of struggle to reach where we did, but always remained hardworking and self-motivated. Never did I think that ‘making a life’ was just the responsibility of my husband. We did what we could, how we could, by supporting each other in all ways. And looking back, there are no regrets, only a very  deep feeling of satisfaction!

I wonder why don’t the ‘educated parents’ of ‘these highly educated’ girls don’t feel the same way today especially since the educated parents  of boys seem to be understanding enough to come out of the age-old traditions of  dowry and spendings!  Why do they not inculcate a feeling of ‘working together’ and   making a life? Why do they insist on everything to be readymade from the boy’s side?. Are they now trading their girl’s education for the ‘male dowry’ ie they educated her so that she could help get the dowry for herself? If their girls are really educated , are they not capable of supporting their husbands in all ways to make a life instead of expecting a readymade one? Is not making a life together more fun and satisfying?

Another aspect that horrified me was they did not want the elders to be staying with the newly-weds, as if they expected their daughters  to be only young and newly-wed  all their  life! In today’s day and time, even the elders wish that the young ones have their privacy and try their best to give them that but does that mean that the elders of the house are to be done away with?? What about the old and ailing ones?

It is also common to hear these days that these girls do not know to cook. It seems very “hep” to say, but you know what I don’t know to cook (wonder then, why they want to marry and upset their present rocking lives, at all??just because their ‘educated parents’ think it is the right thing to do??...:)....:)...)  Funny that, since I tell my son that in today’s day he must be qualified not only technically but also in the kitchen. There are days when we cook together so that he is capable of  leading  a life to support his partner in every way. It is the least he can do to help her. (Not to mention, there is so much else!)

In conclusion, I would say that whatever age or era, the real criteria must continue to remain ‘good education’ and by this I mean REAL EDUCATION not a  male/female dowry-seeking FANCY DEGREE! (and this after you have found the boy/girl you chose with responsibility to say “I do!”) It is important to inculcate in your boy/girl child that if one wants to live a happily married life , it is about working at everything together as a team of two grown-up, mature individuals and not somebody who wants to live off dowries, male or female. Do your best and be assured, the Almighty will take care of the rest!

However, if this new trend of the ‘male dowry’ continues, guess, very soon, we will have NGOs coming up to mainly fight another cause of social evil which I have neologized and termed “male-dowry”

PS : My friends , this is only applicable to those thinking in terms of “male-dowry” and not everyone. This is not ‘generalized’ for all you rocking parents of girls up there...:)

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Just Beyond Reach....Short Story 4

He died on his birthday—the twenty-ninth of July.

That evening Rajesh Chauhan had enjoyed his usual double-peg of Bunnahabhain accompanied by a few puffs of a Havana. He had then dropped in for a late night tryst with the latest in a long line of mistresses. Parked near the entrance foyer, his gleaming Bentley attracted the attention of passersby while his chauffeur patiently waited for his master to emerge from the apartment on the seventeenth floor.

Rajesh Chauhan was a Leo. Like all lions, he was handsome, full of himself and expected to be served. Virility, stamina and lack of fidelity were the other qualities of his species.

Rajesh’s rags-to-riches story was almost the stuff of fairytales. Born to a humble blacksmith in Ludhiana, he had run away from home at age ten. Working as a paperboy, tea vendor, car washer and shoe polisher on Dalal Street, Mumbai’s stock-broking district, he had managed to survive the rough and tumble of Maximum City. At night he would spread a few newspapers on the pavement near the tea stall and fall asleep, utterly exhausted. He did not know that his life was about to dramatically change.

One morning he had been polishing a customer’s shoes when he overhead him discussing a particular company with his stockbroker. The information turned out to be nothing less than gold. There had been no looking back for Rajesh Chauhan.

HonorĂ© de Balzac had always maintained that behind every great fortune lay a great crime. Rajesh’s life story would have been the perfect example of Balzac’s view.

Chairman of one of India’s largest investment banks and private equity firms, Rajesh could make stock indices jump by simply snapping his fingers. Successive prime ministers routinely depended on him to fill party coffers while pompous businessmen and arrogant bureaucrats turned embarrassingly servile in his presence. There was almost nothing in the world that Rajesh could not possess. Except for Renuka.His mind wandered to happier and simpler times as he felt the soft Egyptian cotton sheets absorb the sweat off his body. He remembered the feeling of Renuka’s head on his shoulders, the excitement of waiting for her to show up at the movies, the tenderness of holding hands, the thrill of sharing a cup of coffee and the intensity of their kisses. Why had he messed it up?

Rajesh sighed as he lay in bed next to the sleeping woman. One of India’s finest fashion models, she was stunning—both in and out of clothes. For the chauvinistic Rajesh, she was simply the bedroom equivalent of his Bentley, Porsche or Lamborghini. The  sharper the curves, the greater the excitement and sense of danger. The problem with Rajesh was that he tired rather easily and was about to ditch the Bentley. Looking at the pretty lady’s face, he realized that it was time to ditch her too.

He mulled over the idea as he fell into an anxious slumber, far less restful than the pavement snooze. The room was dark, the lights having been thoughtfully dimmed by the woman. Her eyes were shut but she was not asleep.

She waited a few minutes for his gentle snoring to fall into a rhythm before opening her eyes. She carefully ran a hand under her pillow to find what she was looking for. She felt the cold metal in her hands as she contemplated her next move....even as she thought of life, or something like it! The small town girl in pigtails, the voluptuous beauty she had grown to be, the burning desire to conquer the   fashion World and  the absconding  from home to make it big in the glam  World! Heartbroken   parents! The  severing of  ties with all those near and dear ones...And then the torture that was Mumbai. Mumbai,  where ethics and values meant nothing, nothing to dreamy, strugglers such as herself. Then the hard learning of having   to pay a price for   everything! Painfully, she recollected those dire moments, when she studied  sordid   walls in dingy bedrooms with obstreperous  hoodlums. All of that only  for buying some more time in this ugly city with the money  they threw at her!!  Ugh! Those moments....A shudder ran through her, even today, when she thought of it!

Then those casting couches where men, fit  enough to be her fathers  copulated with her,  just for some stupid small advertisement jobs they awarded her with.........She had redeemed her soul to the devil and how!

By hook or crook, she had made a fairly big name for herself! A name big enough for the big bad boys of this World to notice her! Her first big chance had come when she had played mistress to a big name in the Government. She had been used and thrown by a couple more after that. But so what...there was always another sucker waiting to pick her up. And after all, such alliance gave her the unquestioned power   to throw her weight around. Pelf was her slave too...She lacked nothing now, nothing, except a strong feeling which was growing rapidly within, a feeling for an everlasting love.

She looked  at the snoring Rajesh. She had been show stopper, for Tanaya  Dinshaw's  fashion show. He had watched her in that lustful way, through evening.  Knowing how powerful he was,   she too had made a play for his advances. They had driven back together and their alliance had continued since. She had fallen for him madly. He was so much older and unlike,  but she had felt an  adulation   for his  charming self from the moment she had set his eyes on him. He was so much more than she had heard of! Life had now had a new meaning for her. He was knowledgeable, well-travelled and so much fun to be with. The only thing she abhorred was his treatment of her, treating her like one of his many material possessions. Love has no reason, they say and so it was, with her! She started dreaming of the unthinkable...She now wanted him, wanted him to be hers and forever.

On the last few occasions they met, she had dropped hints of a permanent alliance. She was not ignorant of his reputation for ‘use and throw’. However, he had averted the topic  everytime and she had cringed. Her mind reprimanded her the very first time, but her heart did not allow  her to  give up!

Rajesh acted a bit distant of late and she had started fearing the worst to come and soon. It was his birthday today. She had planned to once again discard her woman ego, please him hard, and make a go at it. If   he said no, there was no point in continuing her futile existence as life meant nothing without him, not anymore... She was tired of it all . She loved him too much to let go of him now!

But what power did she possess to hold him? And when he left, could she bear him sharing it with another? God, what must she do to stop him? To  be hers forever? And  if not hers, not anybody’s either, she thought furiously. And then an even more wild   thought had struck her. With that thought in mind, she had found the sharpest blade, one from the set of the large   kitchen knives he had brought her from Germany and kept it below her pillow.

The evening slipped away. What she feared most  happened . She had been utterly disappointed! The topic had drawn a close! Something in the way he had looked at her, afterwards, hinted that it was the end of the road for him, here. In that disappointed and depressed frame of mind, she had slaved his excessively demanding self, for the last time!!!

Scoundrel, she thought, as she heard him snoring...If only, you had loved me as much as I do! She was still feeling sad, depressed and self-piteous when she acted!

She was now staring at the blade  and breathing heavily...And then it was quickly over, within the next few moments.....The blade now firmly gripped in her hand, turning Rajesh towards her with a sudden forceful movement, bringing down  the blade with a strong powerful  movement into his body, just below his heart, the sudden spurt of blood, his look of astonishment as he lifted and fell......Then the sharp slash in her own wrist resulting in a sudden and wild gushing of blood, the feeble lifting and falling of her hand as she closed her eyes, forever...

Rajesh was slowly sinking too....Shock of the woman’s sudden attack had subsided. Too much blood was lost....his insides were slowly turning numb....Struggling to keep his eyes open, in those last few moments he saw glimpses of the life lived. He felt no regrets, none, except that he had could never possess Renuka.  Someday, he’d thought   time and again, someday when I am tired of these trysts, I will get her back, forever, for keeps. Make up to her, love her and life will be like the old times again.

His life in him, for only a   couple of more seconds now, he feebly outstretched  his hands as if to reach out for her, the only one that had meant something to him,  his   Renuka! I want to hug her hard, kiss her deeply,  love her more passionately than ever before,  he thought, even as that cold numbness  slowly spread all over, bringing his life to a standstill! In that last breath he took, he had saw her,   right infront of his eyes, smiling warmly, as she always did, his beautiful and charming Renuka.....except, except for the fact that she was faraway, far and just beyond reach..........

Completed for Ashwin Sanghi by Archana Mujumdar Tambe

Storytimes: FIRST LOVE - Short Story 1

Storytimes: FIRST LOVE - Short Story 1: He held her hand as she cut the cake. The cake he had specially baked for her, himself, this morning!  It was just a little after midnight...

REMORSE .....Short story 3

Link of my Short Story REMORSE pasted here...Do read n enjoy..:)

FIRST LOVE - Short Story 1

He held her hand as she cut the cake. The cake he had specially baked for her, himself, this morning!  It was just a little after midnight.  She never stayed up this late after she had   been diagnosed for severe acid reflux. The “Happy birthday to you...” vocal, played on the old tape recorder in the background. A kingsize bouquet of what seemed like a hundred red roses lay on one side. A small box wrapped in soft pink gelatine and tied in satin ribbons, lay beside it. He was now singing with the tape in a soft trembling voice. Vijay Kumar Bakshi, aged seventy, a retired Defence Services Colonel, her dear old neighbour for as long as she had also her friend, philosopher and guide!

This morning she had rung his doorbell, as usual, twice. “I am busy today, sorry, but you must go” his voice had boomed through the unopened door. Why had he so behaved so strangely, knowing she was the only one that rang his doorbell! What is he so occupied with?’ she thought to herself. Upset and hurt, she quietly retreated.

The cake-cutting ceremony brought tears of joy to her eyes. She, Mrs Naina Virani would be sixty -five today! In the twentynine years of marriage to Mr. Virani, she did not recollect a single celebration of special moments, never for her and certainly not like this! Mr. Virani was a highly educated, sophisticated gentleman, coming from a higher class of the Society. He had retired as the Executive MD of the Chemical Company he worked for. Theirs had been an arranged marriage. Right on the day of her graduation results, her father had disclosed that a fine marriage proposal was awaiting her. “It is almost finalised. A small formality of ring exchange is all that is remaining” he announced. Nobody, including her mother, from her family of seven asked her if she even wished to get married. She was the eldest of her five siblings and a do-away responsibility of her parents! So when her father pronounced, she quietly abided.  Married, she had come to reside in this apartment, which was the only companion from her old times, now, spare Col. Bakshi. He and his wife too, had moved in, as neighbour, a couple of years, after them, and had settled there since.

Young Naina had been a hopeless romantic by nature. She always wanted to love first and marry later.  Her friends teased her saying, “Where are you going to find your dream hero girl? Wish that happens and soon.” Naina was so obsessed with her dream that her voracious reading was directed only to romantic novels. She used to search for the protagonist in those books in every man she met! Friendly by nature, she also had men friends and a couple of them had also shown interest in her beautiful self...however, none of them identified with the ‘hero’ of her dreams. Graduation, now on the threshold, her heart started feeling a strange hopelessness... God, she thought, it seems there is never going to be a ‘first love’...never for me!
And then it was all over fast.  The want of a first love, her way! Her fate and destiny decided.D-day came. She went with the flow. Married now, much against her unspoken will, she walked ‘home’ with ‘him’, Mr. Aman Virani, her husband!

Mr. Virani, her husband, was a strict disciplinarian, a typical no-nonsense guy. He was a great husband and an even greater dad to their daughters, but very unlike Naina. For him, romance existed only in books and movies. Soon life and its ways took toll and the want of a first love and romance took a backseat.
Their daughters grew up fast. Before she even realised they had flown the nest with their partners. Mr. Virani and she were now alone. Life had become very mechanical. Their interests throughout had been so different that even when they sat in the same room, it was hours of silence. He was always into TV or news on current world affairs, while she, her romantic novels.

Maybe because she had so much respite now, she realised,  the small hidden flame of that long lost want, of ‘falling in love’, the romantic way, flickered, yet!!! Though, living that past dream and aspirations only through reading books was all that was left of it now!

She had always envied the life and togetherness of Col and Mrs. Nisha Bakshi.  Both of them seemed to be eternally in love. They went everywhere together, theatre, movies, shopping, just anywhere. Their children, a son and a daughter, brought up so lovingly by them,  had moved away too. Bakshi  Junior, now commissioned  as an officer in the Indian Army had gone away to pick up his responsibility. Daughter Bakshi had move to the United States after her marriage. Unfortunately,  within a  few years after Col Bakshi’s retirement, Nisha passed away.  Naina had cried more than anybody as she saw the end to a lovely romantic tale.  To her,  this couple epitomized ‘romantic love’

The grief that Col Bakshi  felt for his dearest Nisha on her demise, was something she wondered if Mr. Virani would ever feel for her! Fortunate Nisha, she used to have been loved so intensely. But with her passing away, she had noticed a void in him, though he camouflaged it with the great sense of humour he possessed! Thus rolled on life.

A year after Nisha’s death, Mr. Virani also passed away with a massive cardiac arrest. She had wanted to feel and act the pain she had seen of Col Bakshi but strangely she did not feel as much. This insensitivity for her departed better-half had brought in another realisation, that of a lack of love for the man she shared a lifetime with! so what was it she felt for him? Only empathy, in  all these years? Strangely though, it did create a certain vacuum in her plain and hassle-free life. All alone to fend for her otherwise well-provided life now,  she had reached out to ask help of her daughters. They did for a while, but their own family commitments did not allow them to communicate as frequently. Also they were much too far to come running to her calling. Thus alone, she pushed forward, every single day.

One day, alone at the market, struggling to hold onto the umpteen shopping bags, she had found another hand gently taking the bags from her. “Don’t worry Mrs. Virani. I will carry them. I am going home too.” It was Col Bakshi. She gently resisted, but his charming persuasion allowed her to abide. Gratefully, she had invited him for a coffee back home, and he had merrily accepted.Soon there were many occasions where both of them found themselves reaching for each other’s help. Gradually, they discovered,  they shared many a similar interest too. When the mutual greeting of Mr. Bakshi and Mrs Virani changed to Vijay and Naina, was something that left, even them, wondering! Now, they were seen together everywhere, be it  for walks in the parks, movies and theatre, shopping for  vegetable or groceries or just watching TV over snacks and coffee, at each others, they were always together.

And then, her dream ‘happened’. Naina was in love! Love for the ‘first time’ in her life of sixty-five years! The minute it  struck, another equally  unnerving feeling  too struck her senses... a heady feeling of butterflies in the stomach combined with a disturbing mixed one of fear, anxiety and shame......Gosh, she thought, I have been waiting to feel this all my life and it has come but when, When I am sixty something, a widow, and a mother to two married daughters? don’t I have any shame?’. She got up and went about, thinking through the day. Vijay had noticed her fearful and shy stares and asked after her health and well-being.

Soon, the  stories of their togetherness had  reached all ears, so there was no wonder on what followed. Their children, who never bothered how their single parent lived, travelled all the way home, to rebuke them on their doing. They proved they had ‘education’ but no ‘learning’ as none of them empathised either with their parent’s loneliness or  their  need for companionship. They did not understand that this relation was much above a passing fling, which they termed it now and then! After they left, for a while, both Vijay  and Naina, tried her best to live by their children’s  wish, but soon, and on Col’s insistence, they started moving out  together again. After a while, the children stopped nagging, rather, they now completely disassociated with the two.

A year passed by. Naina, her  ‘falling in love’, fulfilled was still conventional by nature and often wished Vijay gave their relation another dimension, if not for her, for the Society’s sake. The thought was weird even to her, but she now strongly wanted to see the end of her dream. Love, ending in marriage was the ‘completion’ of her romantic dream.  However, she never had Vijay showing any inclination to her beside being his kind and loving self and her woman ego would not let her tell him of her wish....So, with her one-sided feeling of enormous love for this man, life moved on.  She had found her ‘first love’ but had  ‘love’ noticed?
And today, she was sixty-five! Sixty-five and with Vijay by her side....Vijay, the first love of her life! She had never felt this way for anyone before. How she wished from the time she realised it, that he would want it as bad too! But he never went beyond being that best and caring friend, except last evening......Last evening, though, she had found Vijay a little distant while she was sharing her day-story with him and on one or two occasions she had caught him staring at her in a strange but  loving way. Totally enamoured, she secretly hoped for her want to materialise...But that was all!

Infact, this morning when she had gone to ask him to get her plumbing repaired, he had not even opened the door and she had feared the worst! She had been upset and hurt since morning.....She had not seen him the whole day...Twice she had rung his doorbell and twice she had been shooed away. So when her doorbell had rung at 11.45 pm, she had woken up from her bed with a scare.She had switched on the light and had slowly gone to open the door....He stood there, her Vijay with a cake, he said he had baked, especially for her, a  bouqet and a small gift-box.. Oh, so he had  remembered her birthday! She was pleasantly surprised. In the next 10 plus minutes, he had set up everything, from cake and candles to the tape and now she was cutting that cake, tears of joy streaming down her face. He fed her a piece, she bit it then he did! He then hugged her and   handed her the big bouquet.

As she got up and turned to put the flowers in the vase, she heard him gently call her name.....She turned and stared and stared, sweet ripples running through her body! He stood there, the box open with a dazzling solitaire inside.....a ring, a ring for her? She smiled. He walked to her and brought out the ring even as he took her hand, kissed it and asked her “Naina, my dearest, will you be mine forever? We share such a beautiful togetherness, shall we give it a name?

“Oh yes”, answered a radiant sixtyfive year old, beaming Naina, her ‘young’ heart pounding, her dream fulfilled!!

Author :  Archana Mujumdar Tambe

Monday, 6 January 2014


hello ppl,


Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Straight from the heart..........9..........(Telephone Etiquette)

“Etiquette means behaving yourself a little better than is absolutely essential “
(Will Cuppy quote)

You may call it whatever you like etiquette or decorum, but certain things in life need to be executed in a manner, which is becoming of them. There are some ‘Do’s” which must be done exactly as they are expected to be the 'caller' in a phone-call or the sender of a formal/ general sms.

The first must-do is announcing your name at the end of a greeting! ‘Disclosing’ your name, immediately after greeting the person on the other side is something each caller must do! Many a time I have people calling me up after ages and then irritatingly asking “Guess, who?"  or “recognised  me?” as if they are Amitabh Bachchan with that definitely recognisable voice. Then when you say, Sorry, but I have not, they waste another couple of minutes coaxing you to guess....Not only is one  fiddlesticks on the guessing end but most likely offended, or then, extremely irritated! Sometimes the level of irritation is so much that one is just compelled to tell the other side that they have reached a wrong number or just shutting out!

For people who are in the habit of playing this ‘peekaboo’ games, please understand that the person who you called, may be absorbed in some engaging activity or  something requiring his immediated attention and not in a mood for stupid time-consuming games! He/She may be in a pensive frame of mind, seriously occupied, may not have your number saved by name, or may have lost or displaced their earlier cell bearing your number and/or name. Moreover, what does one gain by wasting someone’s time in these guessing games?Because  if the person cannot guess your name, you don’t want to converse? When you are conversant with someone on an everyday basis, they would know by your greeting or number as to who is calling them, but if you are especially calling someone after ages, please disclose your identity first! It is a  ‘MUST’.

The next ‘must do’ I would request all to follow is to please sign your name in a formal message or greeting sent via sms so that the person on the receiving side knows who it comes from. There are so many festivals and special days throughout the year when we send greetings in form of sms to all our friends, relatives and acquaintances. I have found that people forget to sign these messages with their names. Probably they think that the person receiving the message has their number saved with name so it should not be necessary to do so....Wrong!!! For the same reasons such as above, like either having lost or misplaced their earlier cell or long gaps between communication, the person on the receiving end may not have your number. And also, everytime, it may not be  possible to call that number and find out who sent the message as the purpose of even the sender sending it is defeated! The best thing to do, therefore, is to please sign your name below and make it easy for the reader to read and reciprocate! Infact, this is best followed for any kind of sms, if you are not in touch on a regular basis.

Small little things these, but they mean so much! Life is, even otherwise, so stressful....why not make it simpler?