Of Moments And Wishes

Across the river, far away from here, there stands a shop. A sweet little cottage, one that reminds of Red Riding Hood’s Granny’s. Its windows are made of dull-yet-lovely pink hued rippled glass, and its door is inscribed with intricate carvings of delicate designs. Fairy lights adorn the sweet place, adding to the radiance it innately holds. It stands proudly amidst little shrubs and herbs, while trees guard the beautiful tenderness it holds. Netted sunlight falls on it through shallow and vague yet curiously pretty stencils made by the leaves, and wind always blows across the sight, whispering silent melodies to the cottage. Little birds and butterflies fly across the field of view, while their humming and chirping always adds tune to the scene. The panorama is completed by hills and valleys and colourful woods elegantly perching on the horizon in the background, while thin clouds hover above the cottage.

Here, moments are made. Wishes are sold. No, not dreams, wishes; your dreams of growing up into a pilot, steering your plane over cotton-soft snow-white clouds. Or those of marrying your loved one in the setting of your choice.

All these dreams, are too expensive for the shop to sell, too expensive for you to buy.
It sells wishes.

Wishes of a few moments you seek, moments you wish to treasure and cherish all your life, moments that become a part of you.

Wishes like – dancing in the rain with your best friend, while your umbrellas rest in your bags.

Or a moment of frolic around the backyard with your golden retriever, before you drop tired on the grass, basking in the evening sun.

Or, a rare trip to the outdoor food court with your family, gossiping over the hot food, your chirps enveloping the atmosphere along with theirs, giving way to laughs that stay hung in the air long after you leave.

In return, it demands a price, a small one: a piece of you. In all the moments it grants you, you leave behind a piece of yourself. As you stand still at a point in your life and look behind on your journey, you find these pieces scattered all along the trail like breadcrumbs, leading you back to memories, to yourself.
True, memories are a ‘piece of yourself’.

Here, moments are made and wishes are sold.


Kurta Pajama

Ammi jaan, darwaza kholiye! Open the door! Ammi jaan!”

“Oh sweetie relax, I’m coming!”

Sahiba rushes to open the gate. A very excited Salim darts into the house like a bullet. Hurling his shoes straight onto the sofa, tossing his bag right beside the fireplace, the little boy nestled tightly into his mom’s chest.


Ammi jaan, tomorrow is my birthday, right?”

“Mm hmm… and I’ll be preparing your favourite dishes,” Sahiba leaned in closer, “sewaiyaan too!”

The expression on the boy’s guileless face was priceless as it lit up to the thought of savouring the vermicelli pudding!


Salim was a handsome young boy, just about to turn seven. He had messy hazel-hued hair that fell over his forehead, curtaining his wide, milky white brow. Further down than this were deep muddy brown eyes that reminded of a whirlpool, yet gleamed with innocence.


Following the two hour long chit-chat between the mother and the son about their day so far, was the time for Namaaz. The duo sat to read their evening prayer, facing the Ka’ba, or the west side, where in Mecca stands the House of Allah. After seven minutes of offering their devotions to the Allah, Sahiba and Salim were back to their talks and gossips.


“So Salim, what do you want for your birthday?” asked Sahiba.

“The green kurta-pajama we saw in the bazaar the other day!” blurted out Salim, without even giving it a thought for a second. Obviously, he’d been planning the answer since long!

“Oh beta! That’s just another pair of a robe and pants!”

“But that’s what I want!”

“No Salim, forget about it!”

“If you don’t get it for me, I’ll complain about you to abbu jaan!”

“Well, then why don’t you ask abbu jaan for it? He’ll get it when he returns from Lucknow after a whole month!”

“If you- if you- don’t get, I will- um- leave you and run away!”

Mahshallah, look at his cheeks, blackmailing his mother!”


The sweet little bickering in the courtyard of the house- oh how gratifying!


Soon, dusk settled in. The sun gracefully snuggled into the clouds, like a blushing bride would burrow into her veil. Darkness embraced the night sky. The moon elegantly rose up and beamed at the earth below. Mist enveloped the cold January night, while tens of thousands of people curled up in their blankets in the simple yet beautiful town of Akbarpur.


Here, a weeping Salim hit the sacks, a disappointed (to-be) birthday boy; there, a smiling Sahiba tucked herself in the bed, a proud and excited mother.


Next morning, the alarm in Salim’s room went off at 6 of the clock, as it did every day. The piercing sound brought Salim back from his post-sleep-early-morning dwam. He fluttered his eyelids open and rolled out of his bed onto the carpeted floor that tickled his little toes. Rubbing sleep out of his eyes, he walked towards the kitchen, cross with this mom, yet his eyes twinkling with anticipation.


Just as he pushed open the door of his room, he saw a green coloured kurta pajama lying on the threshold- just what he had wanted!


Salim rushed across the courtyard that was blanketed under thick winter morning fog, into the arms of Sahiba.

Ammi jaan, bohot shukriya! Thank you so much! Now I will never leave you!”

“Oh beta! Happy birthday! Come on, now go, get ready for school. And wear your best clothes today; let everyone also know it’s your birthday today!”

“Yes ammi jaan!”


Salim hurriedly ran to the bathroom, brushed his perfectly arranged rows of milk teeth, none of which had fallen by then, and had a short bath following which he ate his breakfast. Afterwards, he bade his mother a sweet goodbye- a kiss on the cheek- and left for school. “Hallelujah!” murmured Sahiba looking at Salim in his new kurta-pajama.


Skipping all the way on the streets, he made such a delightful sight for the entire neighborhood (save those unfortunate people who missed him), while his mom prayed to nullify any evil eye on him. In school, people just couldn’t stop admiring how cutely handsome Salim looked in his clothes! And the pride and enthusiasm on his face- just so precious and enthralling!


Back there at home, Sahiba turned on the radio as she put milk on the stove to boil. Humming to the tunes of Kishore Kumar, she imagined what Salim might say when he would eat his favourite sewaiyaan.


Ammi jaan, this is better than ever today!” he would exclaim.

“Hmm? Do you really mean what you say, or is it just buttering?” she would joke.

“No, ammi jaan, really!”

And then she would gather him up in a warm huddle.


At that very moment, the radio shifted from songs to news.


“And there goes another wicket! Yet another loss for the team!

And here we have a recent update. Terrorist attacks at a school in east Akbarpur.”

Sahiba rotated the volume wheel towards the right.

“Bombing attacks at IFR Public School in Akbarpur left 47 casualties, of which 38 were students, and over 60 injured, including more than 50 students. All the injured and the dead have been rushed to LACM hospital.”


The ladle slipped from Sahiba’s shaky hands as she leaned over the wall for support. She fell to the ground with her back rubbing against the wall. Tears were inevitable. Hurricanes arose in her mind, destroying all her thoughts. She could feel her happiness fade into hopes, hopes for her son’s life to be saved. The hurricanes grew louder, washing away her delight and leaving behind trails of worry instead.


Suddenly she heard a knock. She wiped off her dewy eyes and wet cheeks with her dupatta and tried to stand up on her trembling feet. Stumbling, limping, she somehow managed to reach the main gate. With baited breath she opened the gate hoping to see Salim. Instead, a tall man in the uniform of a school guard stood there with a school bag and a pile of neatly folded clothes.


Sahiba immediately took the clothes and unfolded them. It was the pair of green kurta pajama- she very well recognized- Salim had worn.


She covered her mouth with her hands. She tried to hold back her tears that now rolled down her cheeks in voluminous streams, while choking on her gasps. Sahiba could take it no more. She collapsed to the ground and ran her shaking fingers over the clothes.


In between her sobs, she could hear her little sunshine talking to her. His radiant face was still vivid in her brain, and so was his silvery voice in his dulcet tones.


“Now I will never leave you!”

A Sigh Of Relief

5.45 am. Too early to wake up. But what else do I do? Sigh, I wake up. Had it been any other day, I would have still been snoring; afternoon is the default morning for me. But today, there was a strange uneasiness in me. I was so filled with nervousness and anxiety that I felt like running away to a sweet escape.

So, I got out of my bed, and started roaming about in my room and I was just trying to wish myself the best of luck.

All of sudden, a sound struck my ears. It was the birds chirping. Beautiful. I peeped out of the window, but could see nothing. So I went tip-toeing from my room, through the lobby, across the living room and into the balcony. As I stepped out of the door, the only few words I could utter were ‘whoa what place is this?’

I could see the night slowly fading away and the sun bit by bit piercing through the darkness, carrying with it the torch of the new day. The gentle breeze blew across my face just like the whispering winds sway the trees. The sky right from the zenith down to the horizon was covered with bright warm morning hues of orange. All the shades in the red family starting from crimson to lime yellow were spread across the sky in a contrasting gradient. Blotches of blue were also scattered across the canvas. I let myself forget the hurricane of thoughts that was rising in my mind till two minutes ago and let completely loose of myself. After about ten minutes, the sun shone and casted its warm golden light all across the field of view. The entire neighborhood was glowing under its morning warmth.

Suddenly, there was a tap on my shoulder. As I turned around, I saw dad.

“Anna, I am going for my walk. By the way, what are you doing here, so early?” he inquired.

“Dad, I am quite tensed, you know that, right? So I just came out for a while.”

“Hmm… but Anna, don’t worry sweetheart. I am sure you’ll top your board results. You are a very intelligent child. After all, you’re my child!”

He gave me a warm smile. I forced one, too.

But, as I heard those words, a huge storm aroused in my mind again. I had my Board results for tenth today, and BAM! I was melting down! The girl who never cried could now not keep her eyes from shedding invisible tears! And, especially when everyone around you has so many expectations from you…

As I saw dad downstairs with his friends, I heard Mr. Sharma saying, “Brother, this time, only a box of sweets won’t do the trick!” My brother, now a pass out, topped the school in his tenth boards. What if I won’t be able to do that? Millions and zillions of words were revolving in my mind, with one word leading them all: EXPECTATIONS.

Before long, it was now mother looking for me. She called me and said, “Anna, it’s a great day today. As always, you are going to make us all proud. Come on, now go get a bath, my rock star, and we’ll go to the temple.” I simply nodded.

Anna was a girl never too keen on visiting the mandir. But today, I think the circumstances were such that I felt that the temple is the only place where I could find my ‘refuge’.

I went into the bathroom, brushed my teeth and had a bath. I came out and mother and I went to the temple. On the way we met mom’s friends who unanimously said, “Anna, we’ll be waiting for the sweets!”

Soon we reached the temple, where I found fellow classmates- all of whom were praying for their good results, perhaps. As I waved my hand to them, I was replied with a “you don’t need to be here, topper!” comment.

Why was so much even expected from me!

We went back home, dad was already back. Mom prepared breakfast for everyone, and dad said, “Anna, I am going to my office. I’ll check the results online,” and bhaiya said, “I’ll try to check, too.”

But I didn’t want them to see.

What if the scores are bad?

So it took me not more than five seconds to think of a way out.

“Dad, bhaiya, please don’t check my results. I want to be the first one to see them. But I’ll make sure I give you a call.”

They agreed and then left, dad for office, and bhaiya towards his college. Mom said, “Come, let’s see if the results are out. It is 10 o’clock already,” to which I replied, “No mom, I want to go to the school and check the results there.” Mom okay-ed my plan. I somehow wanted to just delay seeing my results.

So, with mixed feelings of hopes and anxiety, I stepped out of the house. Everything – the houses, the trees, the roads, the streetlights – seemed so cheerful, as if trying to wish me luck.

The school was a little less than two kilometers from my house. So, as I did every day, I took a rickshaw and took off. But the journey seemed just so long and never ending.

Finally, I reached school and the first face I saw was that of Ms. Ahana, my previous year class teacher. As she also saw me, she gave a smile as bright as that of a toddler. Her cheerful smile was enough to tell me that she also had as many expectations from me as my parents. To this bright smile, I gave back a dull one. She came to me, patted my shoulder and said, “Anna, you have always been a very bright child. I am sure you’ll continue making us all proud. Let me know about your results, I am eager to know.” and she gave me a tight hug before leaving me trudging aimlessly.

Suddenly, I heard a yell, “results are out, everybody!” after which, 8-10 students gathered round the display board. I was at the back of the ‘crowd’ of the 8-10 students. Strangely, I heard murmurs, “this is not possible,” “there is something wrong,” or so.

I asked what happened, but nobody would tell me. I tried to push my way forward, but all of a sudden, Ahana ma’am came. “Anna, I heard the results are out? Tell me, did you do the magic again?” she asked me so sweetly and excitedly. A boy from behind me yelled, “Ma’am there is something wrong. Anna got only 64%!”

WHAT? ONLY 64%! But- but, how?

No one could believe that. Ahana ma’am said, “What, that’s not possible, come let’s talk to the Principal about this.” The whole crowd started towards the principal’s room, with Ahana ma’am leading us. As we walked in, the principal sighed and said, “I know, too. I just called the board, but the results are correct.”

I could bear it no more. I just ran away to the washroom. I was in tears. I looked into the mirror and saw the reflection of failure staring back.

“Hey you, how could you do this? You know, right, how much your mom and dad have done for you? How they would stay up late to teach you! How bhaiya used to miss his classes to make sure if you’ve understood everything or not! How your teachers made their best efforts to teach you! You know why? Because they love you! And you? You’ve just disappointed them!”

Unexpectedly, I heard a ring from inside my bag. I looked and I found mom’s phone. “She must have kept it along with the tiffin. Whose call would it be, let me check…? OH MY GOD! It’s DAD!’ I didn’t know how I would tell him so I didn’t pick it up. It got disconnected and I was even more disappointed with myself. I was avoiding their calls! What a shame! Soon it was his call again, and I didn’t pick it up this time either. Then bhaiya and mom also called me, but in vain.

Oh no! I had no courage to pick up the phone. So I just ran out of the washroom, out of the school building, to the basketball court, where I would bunk classes and tell my teachers I was practising. Suddenly I fell down; I couldn’t open my eyes. I just lay there on the court, numb to the world around me as if everything had come to a halt. And, then there was a hand on my belly, shaking me and saying,

“Anna, wake up! You’ve your results today! Come on now, don’t make a fuss!” And, my dream, rather nightmare was finally over and I sighed of relief!

Thank you!

I walked into a red bricked building
With quivering hands and a heart pounding fast.
The corners of my lush pink lips drooped,
Streams of tears rolled down my plump cheeks.

I clinged onto mom’s dupatta,
Clasped dad’s office tie tighter.
I was not willing to leave my shell,
Wanted to be tucked in my parents’ laps forever.

Two warm hands reached my quaking shoulders,
Soothing my frightened body.
Her eyes sparkled with life,
And promises of joy and delight.

She took my shivering hands
And clenched them into strong and confident fists;
She wiped tears off my dewy eyes
And placed hopes and dreams in them.

She caressed my anxious heart
And moulded it with love;
She touched my little lips
And gave them a reason to smile.

She made me who I am today,
She helped this little human blossom.
I owe myself to you,
Oh thank you dear teacher!

“The World Has Changed”

“The world has changed,”
they say.
“Nothing is as fine
as ever before.”
“It’s ugly and loathsome
to live in a world
like this.”
“The world has changed.”
Well, no.
It’s not the world
that has changed,
It’s still the same.
The sun used to rise in the east;
it still does.
There used to be twenty-four
hours in a day;
so are now.
Fire used to be scalding,
ice used to be frosty;
such is the case
even today.
But definitely,
something has changed-
Our minds, our hearts.
Corrupt, brutal, stupid,
wicked, inhuman, ruthless.
Our minds have gone crazy
for money.
Our hearts have gone cold
for no good reason.
We kill, we fight,
we steal, we wound,
we lie, we cheat,
we hurt, we fake,
we wreck, we hate.
We do so many wrongs
that make this Earth pathetic.
Our minds have changed,
Our hearts have changed.
But still we say,
“The world has changed.”

The Red Leopard

Amidst pieces of wood,
A Leopard took birth;
Surrounded by rocks
That lay on the earth

In the colour of blood
Small, but bright,
Lay the Leopard
And gave out light

Gradually, but soon,
The wood melted away.
She got bigger and redder
And left behind ashes of grey.

Slowly and steadily,
she grew more and hotter.
No one could stop her
Other than water.

A leopard so big
And fierce and red
And bright and hot
In her wooden bed.

She increased in fury
And size and violence.
Except for her crackling,
There was utter silence.

Very soon she was
Completely grown.
Piercing through the darkness,
Her passionate eyes shone.

Finally she was big enough
To prey upon me,
Larger and bloodier,
Than anything could be!

Elegantly leaping forward,
While dancing in the night,
A fire stood before me,
Fierce, but bright.

Yes, fire it was,
Ablaze right in front of me,
Magnificent and regal
As a leopard would be.

The Light With Wings

As I stood in the dark,
I saw dots of gold,
Dancing in the air,
In the night so cold.

They were just so little,
Like marbles of light;
The light with wings
Surrounded me on every side.

They were like luminous commas,
Hung in the air with invisible strings.
Others may call them fireflies,
But I still call them light with wings.

The Prettiest Princess

It was a beautiful night,
I was walking by the stream.
The beautiful white moon
Winked at me and beamed.

The stars in the dark sky
Twinkled at their best.
The night provided a pleasing vista,
Full of charm and zest.

But the prettiest sight
Still awaited me,
A maiden in a red gown
With satins of green.

I walked towards her,
As elegant she was.
Her red and green attire,
Devoid of any flaws.

I went closer to her
To get a perfect glance.
She gave me a little smile,
And stood in a gracious stance.

“Oh pretty lady!
You must be a princess,
Because in your red calico,
You look truly the best!”

Then she laughed a bit,
And shook her lovely head,
“I am not a princess,
But a rose!” she said.

Who Took Me Home?

It was a dark, stormy night,
Not a single body in sight.
Amidst the chilly, foggy air,
I was all alone over there.

All alone, in the middle of the road,
Something was lit up, was it a lamp post?
Or the moon? Or a star?
Or the headlights of a car?

The cold, icy air numbed my feet,
While I stood there and chattered my teeth.
Someone took my arm
And said, “I’ll cause you no harm”.

“Trust me, come along,
I’ll take you to where you belong”.
Along with him, I walked away,
And realised, a blind man had showed me the way…

It’s Time

It’s time, dear humans,
To undo the ill;
There are wounds to clean
And gaps to fill.

It’s time, with earth,
We fairly dealt,
Animals are dying,
Glaciers do melt.

It’s time to care for
The earth that fostered us.
It’s we who destroyed her
And created this fuss.

It’s time to clear the air
Of all its pollution.
Let’s get up and think,
And find a solution.

It’s time to clean up
The garbage we’ve thrown
Let’s get up and work,
Not sit and mourn.

It’s time we restored the trees
That were felled for our greed.
Let’s green the earth
That you and I need.

It’s time to kill wrong thoughts
That make us do bad,
For our will ought not be
To make someone sad.

It’s time to remove masks
And stop being fake,
For stabbing a back,
Is the biggest mistake.

It’s time to end racism
And make everyone equal.
No white or black,
No boy or girl.

It’s time we lived in harmony
And loved everyone,
And apologised for every
Wrong said and done.

It’s time to change
And write a new story.
Let’s the give the world back
Its long lost glory.

An Indian Lady

An Indian lady,
So beautiful she is,
Proudly she walks,
Dressed in herself.

A bindi
Isn’t merely a punctum;
It’s an exemplar of her decency
And the purity of her thoughts.

A dupatta
Isn’t just a lace on her chest;
It’s her pride and self respect
That she carries everywhere.

A sari
Isn’t just a six-yard fabric;
It’s her identity and pride
And her trust in herself.

Her sindoor
Isn’t simply red powder on her head;
It’s her love for her husband
And her faith in her marriage.

Her mehandi
Isn’t barely a brown design on her palm;
It’s the reflection of her promises
And her belief in her culture.

Her chudiyaan
Aren’t solely bands on her wrist;
They are a manifestation of
Her incandescent soul and cheerful life.

The solah shringaar
That she wears
Isn’t merely her jewellery or attire;
It’s a piece of herself.

But She’s Still A Human

Yes, it is a baby girl,
Not an auspicious son.
Though you may be sad,
But she’s still a human.

You say she is unlucky,
And she is not strong.
Well, having huge breasts,
Is it really wrong?

Or giving birth to a baby?
Or bleeding for five days?
Or looking really pretty?
Or working always?

Your daughter’s a girl,
Your mother’s a girl.
She’s also a human,
Then why isn’t she equal?

A man can remarry,
A lady can not.
A boy can study,
A girl can not.

Males can rule,
Females can not.
Why is it so,
Have you ever thought?

“He” is good,
“She” is not.
This is what to us
The society has taught.

Just sit for a moment,
And think for a while,
Why is “she” treated in
Such a “savage” style?

Oh! Dear society,
“She” is an able person.
What if she’s a girl?
But she’s still a human…

In The Dead Of The Night

Silent was the moment,
The moon sent forth light
And the stars gleamed overhead;
The darkness seemed so bright!

The owls hooted at a distance,
The wind whispered to the trees,
‘Oh let me sing you a melody,
While the people sleep with ease.’

Thus she started singing,
And the leaves danced onto her beats,
The stars twinkled to her rhythm
Up above the empty streets.

The road lights flickered,
And the moon shone ever so,
Clapping at the performance,
And beaming at the earth below.

All this was so
winsome, you see;
It filled my heart with
Delight and glee.

Oh who says the night
Is melancholic and glum?
I say its beauty has
surpassed that of sun.

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