Team: Alphabet Soup
||Kāṁ sosmitāṁ hiraṇyaprākārāmārdrāṁ jvalantīṁ tṛaptāṁ tarpayantīm,
padme sthitāṁ padmavarṇāṁ tāmihopahvaye śriyam||
The air was thick with the heat of the crowd, their chants and the chendas that played those feet tapping rhythms. The spectators’ hair stood on end as the priests chanted the Vedas. The procession was led by little girls holding plates, containing oil lamps & flowers. They were followed by the Chenda melam – men playing the drums. The three elephants, beautifully decorated with Gold plated Caparisons, bells and necklaces, followed the procession. Atop the first elephant, sat the 7 year old Anamika wearing her silk skirt & blouse and holding the auspicious deity. Her joy knew no bounds as she held her Goddess in her tiny palms.
The deity was a feast to the eyes. Made of pure Gold, the Goddess shimmered in the sun, blinding everyone’s eyes. The devotees squinted as the sun rays blinded them. They stood on their toes, trying to catch a glimpse of the deity’s diamond eyes & her diamond studded nose-ring. It was believed that the Goddess installed herself in the temple & her eyes turned into diamonds. Since then, the nose-ring has never been removed from the idol . The Royal family to whom the temple belonged, never questioned the belief & followed the rituals throughout the generations. Not many knew the story behind those diamonds. The Natives believed that questioning would upset the Goddess and the inquisitive young ones didn’t have anyone to turn to, for answers.
They considered the Goddess as their mother & they waited for every 7th year when they could catch a glimpse of their mother in all her gaiety.
Shekhar looked up from his half written story. His spectacles perched upon his nose, had slid down due to sweat. He adjusted them.
He smiled, ‘Yes beta.’
‘What beta? Oh-ho! You are too immersed in your novel that you forget your surroundings. I’m Tara.’
It was Roohi Dutta – his 9 year old daughter. A shawl was hastily draped around her frill frock like a saree. The supposed- to-be-pallu barely reached her shoulders. He noticed her unfruitful efforts to tie her hair up into a bun. But half of it fell back onto her shoulders & forehead.
She held a tray with a glass of milk & some biscuits. In a tone that was similar to her mother’s she rebuked, ‘How long will you work like this? Here, have some biscuits & milk. Your mother has spoilt you by bringing food to you all the time.’ She began tidying the table, arranging the books & pens. At that moment Roohi looked like a mirror image of her mother Tara.
Shekhar burst out laughing. Roohi was very naughty. He liked how she responded to situations and the way she came up with new ideas. The best part was, even Tara – his wife – was spell bound sometimes, when Roohi spoke. He never believed that anyone could render Tara speechless. But this little imp managed that too.
He had to admit the fact that Roohi was her mother’s replica. She was always focused, always knew what she wanted & work towards it day & night. Even now, as Roohi mimicked her mother, she was a little Tara except for the childish voice. He was sure his daughter would grow up to be an impressive woman like her mother. He was proud of their little family. They were his most priced possessions.
‘My Tara baby, Shekhar doesn’t like people touching his desk.’ he said mockingly.
He pulled Roohi and made her sit on his lap, ‘This Saree suits you Tara, why don’t you make this your permanent attire?’
‘I’ll consider that Shekhar. But when I go to office, I wouldn’t be able to manage, you know!? And tell me, should I cover the news or manage my pallu?’
Again, she was trying to feign her mother’s voice.
Tara Dutta was head of the news department in N9 media, Mumbai. The media always focused on making a difference & so they picked up particularly dangerous and difficult tasks to work with. The media had unveiled many a bitter truth during their past years & had made their fair share of enemies over time. Tara planned all the projects for the media. She had to be on the spot of coverage and formulate a plausible plot without getting caught.
Some days she never came home. On other days, even after she was home, she got continuous calls and couldn’t spend much time with her family. But during the weekends, it was her rule to stay home. Being one of the head of the news department, and being the best in the field, the company let her have her way. And invariably, every weekend Tara, Shekhar & Roohi spent their time together.
Shekhar Dutta once an IT professional, got fed up of the rat race and resigned his job. He followed his heart and now works as a freelance writer. A liberal minded man, who believed a parent had to give his/her 100% on kid’s upbringing, he decided to stay at home and take care of Roohi. He empathized with Tara’s workload & was fully satisfied being a stay home dad. Recently, while he was doing some research, he had come across an old bit of news that was interesting. It triggered an idea for a novel & he began working on it.
Shekhar was eating his biscuits while Roohi was meddling with her Saree.
‘Papa? I thought I was Shekhar & you were Tara!?’ he said playfully.
‘Game over Papa.’ Roohi said a bit exasperatedly.
‘Ok beta tell me’
She hesitated, ‘Nothing.’
She got down from his lap & tottered away with the half fallen saree around her legs.
Smiling and shaking his head, Shekhar went back to writing his novel.
‘Shekhar, dinner is ready.’
Tara was home early today. And so, she decided to cook something special for them. She loved cooking varieties. But her job hardly gave her any time to practice her culinary skills.Most of the days she was dependent on meals cooked by maid or by Shekar if he decided to venture out in kitchen.
‘Hmm… I was waiting for you to call. The smell was clogging my brains.’ Saying so, Shekhar kissed her.
‘How are things at work?’
‘Don’t even ask. We are working on a new project. Very interesting. It is about what happens behind the temple doors.’
‘Interesting sure it is. I just hope this doesn’t trigger any inter-communal wars. Roohi slept?’
‘She had dinner early. I’m not sure if she is asleep.’
‘I don’t feel your absence when she is around. The way she talks, it is like your small version. Tara V.02!’
Tara smiled, ‘Shekhar, I know I’m too bu-‘
He cut her off midway.
‘Don’t worry Tara, I am absolutely fine with your job. Just – ‘ he hesitated.
‘Just promise that you would be safe. Ok?’ he put a hand on her cheek.
‘Ok’, She smiled and held his hand.
He looked at the woman before him. She was indeed one in a million.
He knew her passion for her job. Yet she never faltered in her duties as a wife and a mother. They have had their differences. But they could never stay away from each other for long. They took turns to solve their differences, kill their ego & get back together. It was Tara’s idea;
2 years after they had fallen in love, the two had a huge fight. They didn’t contact each other for about two weeks. Finally, with the help of a couple of friends, they decided to talk it out. Shekhar was unsure of what he was going to say. But Tara was well prepared.
‘Can I suggest something?’
‘Next time we fight, you have to compromise.’
He blinked, ‘What? Why me?’
‘Yes, this time, though it was your fault, I called for a compromise, right?’
‘It wasn’t my – ‘
‘So next time, you’ll call for a compromise.’
He was bewildered ‘It was your faul-‘
‘It will be my fault next time. I’ll compromise on that too.’ She said with a naughty smile & a wink.
‘From now on, when we fight, we will take turns to solve it. It doesn’t matter who makes the mistake. We compromise alternatively. Got it?’
‘Got it!’ He smiled. She had just reminded him why he loved her in the first place. She made him at ease.
Eleven years after their marriage, they still follow the pattern. Once or twice, the pattern broke, but somehow, they worked that out.
He watched the night news and went to the bedroom. Tara was on the bed, working on her laptop. He placed his spectacles on the side table, crawled under the covers & lay there, staring at the ceiling.
She looked at him, ‘What are you thinking?’
‘About the first time we met.’
She kept her laptop aside and leaned on him ‘What about it?’
‘Nothing’ He said with his famous mischievous grin.
That grin made her go crazy. Whenever he smiled that way, she knew he had something insane in mind. ‘What is it?’
‘I was wondering…’
‘What if someone else had written that article?’
Tara was pursuing her journalism course in Mumbai. She was tall, fair, well dressed & one of the most attractive girls in the college. There were many men eyeing her but she wasn’t an easy catch. She was well focused on building a good career. That was when she came across a newspaper article relating to drug trafficking. It was a very strong article & it named some of the most powerful, rich farts of those days. The author was imprisoned & was involved in a lot of controversies. Tara wanted to meet this new blood & went in search of him.
She was informed that it was written by a student from Mumbai University. She went to the university with her friends in search of Shekhar to congratulate him.
She approached a thin man of average height & average build. He looked timid & tiny. Unsure if he belonged there, she asked, ‘Excuse me! I’d like to meet Shekhar Dutta’
‘Yes, tell me.’
This guy didn’t seem that bright. She began acting out whatever she said,
‘Not you. Shekhar Dutta. The man of controversy.’
Suppressing a smile & imitating her actions, he said, ‘I am Shekhar Dutta. The man of controversy.’
She blinked, faltered for a moment and congratulated him on his article. Evidently, she was looking for a well built, strong & tough looking guy. But Shekhar was everything she didn’t think of. He was good looking, certainly. But didn’t look like a tough material.
In the following days, they got to know more of each other and slowly but surely, fell in love.
Ever since, Shekhar asked her the question, ‘What if someone else had written that article?’
And each time, her reply differed.
This time it was, ‘I would have probably ended up with your best friend Rahul’
Saying so, she hugged him & the two laughed.
Read the next part of the story by Knitha Here 🙂
Meaning of the Veda: I hereby invoke that Shri (Lakshmi) who is an embodiment of Absolute Bliss; who is of pleasant smile on her face; whose lustre is like that of burnished gold; who is wet, as it were, (just from the milky ocean), who is blazing with splendour, and is the embodiment of the fulfilment of all wishes; who satisfies the desires of her votaries; who is seated on the lotus and is beautiful like the lotus.