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The late December chill in Delhi brought out all my winter clothes from the cabinet. I was excited about the next day’s getaway to Haridwar and Rishikesh. Finally, there was something to fill my idle time in the school vacation.
It was four months ago that my mind started drifting towards Haridwar. There were holidays off and on, but Murali’s job kept him busy, and even on Sundays, his boss preferred him to be in the city for the odd emergency. I would have loved a Sunday drive to Haridwar but Murali was reluctant to disappoint his boss. Agreed that work is worship, but is survival the sole meaning of life?
I got bored of asking him and booked a tour with a travel operator as a solo passenger. Frankly, I did not want any company other than Murali. I was no stranger to travelling alone on such short trips.
He reiterated his displeasure when he returned home that night.
“Nimmy, do you HAVE to go alone to Haridwar all of a sudden?”, he interrupted my roti-making in the kitchen with his serious question. I wondered why he disliked my trip.
“Couldn’t you wait for me to get free from my work pressure, rather than rushing with your solo tour? How will you enjoy your journey with all those strangers?”, he pressed on with a growing impatience.
“What strangers? One hello, and we will be friends!”
“Who is not your friend? But sadly, are any of your so-called friends accompanying you? No!”
“Everyone is busy. For that matter, you are my longest companion, but you also seem like a stranger.”
“Oh, yeah. It is you who chose a strange life. You shun my office parties; even threw your job away. You only care about that Shakti Foundation school for girls and their studies. Aren’t you too young to chase handloom sarees, spiritual bliss, and pilgrimages? “
He exposed his total ignorance about my ideas and actions once again. Simple pleasures like a nature tour or mingling with children and teaching them were beyond his grasp. With a sigh, I watched him arrange the table for dinner. He began eating while watching the television news.
The dinner concluded with another bout of advice from him: “Nimmy, we can enjoy this carefree life for probably ten or twelve years longer. After that we will have no agenda; no pressures or deadlines to keep; nothing to stop us from living our dream. But for now, I have to focus on my job. I am enjoying this life and its challenges. Every step which I climb on the ladder of success gives me a new thrill and new confidence. Please open your eyes to my world and share my dreams. Later I will surely try and join you in your quest.”
“Murali, after such a long time we will have no energy left for starting any new life. I feel that the only meaningful challenge for us is in sharing our joys and dreams. “
He looked unconvinced. In spite of my lofty declaration, I realized that I was stuck in my perspective equally badly. My thoughts and memories kept me from falling asleep that night.
Honda uncle was the first to speak to me about spirituality. That was during our first stint in Delhi, and we stayed with a friend in Janakpuri for two months until we moved into our flat. “You have a philosophical side!”, this eighty-year-old man remarked to me when I passed him in Dabri Mor while I was returning from work one evening. After working in Honda Motors he lost his real name Kewal Singh and was popularly known as Honda uncle in the area.
He often met me on my way home from work, even waited for me I thought. He shared his life story: his migration to India from Pakistan as a child, his life as an RSS activist, his self-esteem built up by his job, his adoption of a son, being ignored by his family, the distance with his wife… everything was discussed as he walked me home and shared a green tea with me. By the time I realized it, he became a close friend. I usually spotted him talking with somebody or other in the neighbourhood. One day he told me about his wife’s ill health and mounting medical expenses. Though he was spending from his savings, his son felt that this was an unnecessary expenditure.
“She never told me about the discontent in her mind”, he said with a sigh. His unending search about some unknown thing in his world caused a visible hostility in her. He could never make it go away. I admired him for saying that her hostility never stopped his love for her. In spite of his objective outlook, he was sad that her presence may be distracting him away from his quest.
Glossary:  Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a right-wing Hindu social service outfit
Translated by C.S.Viswanatham
(Published Telugu version in ‘’Eemata’’ web magazine in Feb, 2019)
It’s an interesting story which is packed with emotions, interests, busy life and littles wishes of people. I loved this conversation too. A good start indeed, Anuradha!Padma, Hyderabad, Jul 21, 2021
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Please adhere to the principles and criteria given in Your Space.Editor, Your Space, Muse India, Jul 21, 2021
Very interesting narrative written in lucid and free flowing prose. Waiting for the next eagerly… Pushpa Subramanian, Kolkata , Jul 22, 2021
An interesting narrative. Enjoyed the read, Anuradha.Prem Nizar Hameed, Kochi, Kerala, Jul 22, 2021
It’s really good story and good start Anuradha garu.Your stories always inspire me with strong message.Thank you!!!KASHYAP KOMPELLA, Hyderabad, Jul 22, 2021
Most of men are “MURALIs”.
It is women whom God has bestowed with those special qualities, which not only differentiates them, but also places them at higher platforms.
Only a sensitive soul like you could bring this out through such stories.
Wish, i knew Telugu to understand the story in original version (The translation is, of course, excellent).VEDULA MOHAN RAO, Jamshedpur, Jul 23, 2021
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