Monday, September 03, 2012

Ten years of togetherness....

Sitting on her cute plastic chair, Arabhi was watching “Ek Tha Jungle” on Disney channel, when my wife Ashwini was putting every effort in persuading her to eat Chocos. Her every day chores typically begins in the same way getting her up early in the morning, convincing her to brush teeth, eat cereals, drink milk, dress her up to take her to the bus stop before she herself could leave for college almost at the same time. Just the previous night, the 6 year old’s continuous cough at regular intervals made her awake throughout, diligently taking care of the little one. Every time my daughter coughed, she made sure she warms the medicated water in the microwave, swinging her on her lap to change the angle of her supine position to reduce the intensity of cough. To add to this strain, she also prepares herself taking up the responsibility voluntarily to train her for the forthcoming competitions.

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It was around 10 years back, when she used to get up at her own time table taking the Express bus at Akashavani bus stop, Brahmavar, just a few miles away from Udupi that took her to Suratkal on National Highway 17. She had grown up all her life in the world of innocence in that small village, Handadi walking everyday to the school in a small town, from their ancestral house. She and her younger sister grew up in a family along with their parents, when her traditional and strict grand parents were the head of the family with a major stake in decision making. All her childhood, she grew up watching her naive mother punctually doing her non-stop daily routinesin that small village. Disciplined girl was going to the Veena and vocal classes in Mukunda krupa, Udupi when her sister was learning Mridangam to accompany her in all respects. The dynamic duo who lived next to my grandparent’s house, never realized that they were quite popular in their town. 

After completing the Electrical Engineering in MIT in the year 2000, not keen to move out of her comfortable parent’s house at Brahmavar, 12 kms from Udupi, she had joined in as a Lecturer in the Regional Engg. College, Suratkal a few miles from her house. Along with her classes for the first semester of Electrical and Electronics branch, she continued her Vidwath practice for Veena enjoying the homely delicious food – Patrode, Kadabu, Goli baje, and those tender coconuts grown in their house, on the banks of river Sita. Though a few guys from her bus continuously followed her footsteps and maintained a constant update about her daily routine, the fair young girl never noticed or even realized that she was in those guy’s sharp radars. Her father, Lecturer by profession, who also practiced Homoeopathy in the neighboring town, Barkur had a wide range of collection of horoscopes and photos of many bachelors for his daughter as soon as she completed her degree; 

One was an Asst. Professor at NITTE engg. College who commuted in the same bus that Ashwini did; Couple of her distant Software engineer relatives from the US and UK had visited her place during their India trip for Uppit Kesaribath sessions; Among them, one was a Master in Science at Florida State University who wanted to take up his MBA degree. Her lab assistants in the college once had remarked, “Madam, you look like actress Prema or may be Priyanka Gandhi. I know of a handsome Doctor, also from your Shivalli community and I can provide the contacts to your father”. One of her father’s close friends during their casual visit to their house was extremely delighted to find her playing “Sudha mahi Sudha Nidhi” on Veena had called them if they were interested in an alliance. Another couple had shown interest in her, but as guy from the US didn’t get the vacation right time, things didn’t corroborate further. She happily continued to take classes for the first Semester students, check internet for e-mail communication with her college friends during break to have fruit juice at the 4th floor Samudra Darshan canteen at Suratkal.  

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It was probably the same time I was busy in Memphis with the implementation of Fifth Third Bank’s credit card Settlement process. In the chill cold winter of Nov 2001, our team of 5 had gone out for lunch for my birthday. Three members of our team, Doris, me and Jennifer celebrated on consecutive days of 3rd week of November. On our way back from the Huey’s restaurant, Debra asked me if I had a girl friend. Confused I looked at her as I didn’t expect that question. Not realizing that, somebody is treated as a waste body for not having a girl friend in that part of the world, I sincerely replied, “No Debra, I don’t have..” I didn’t know that not having a partner at the Prom party was a testimony to one’s failure in teen life. My request to my parents to look for a musician girl rather wasn’t too easy for them “Where should we find an educated and musician girl in our community?” Some told my parents, girl is very much interested in music, thought she’s not a musician. Come on mother, how will you prove that? I questioned her.. I knew that the only way she could tolerate me was thru music. 

It was Jan 1st 2002, when my grandfather with whom I was very close passed away. Along with my roommates, Chandru, Shashi and Raja, I had gone to Beale Street to witness 2002 New Year in the coldest day of the winter wearing sandals, looking at the strangers kissing each other welcoming the new year, when I received the information of my grand dad. Ashwini being the neighbor of my grand parents in Brahmavar, attended the ceremony, when my sisters noticed the simple traditional girl in her. It was my uncle who then told my parents that she was working as Lecturer in an Engg. College and also plays the instrument Veena. What??? Did you say “Veena”???? My sisters soon expanded their ears and in next couple of days, my photo and horoscope added to Ashwini’s database. Soon after my Florida visit during Martin Luther King’s day in mid-Jan 2002, I was preparing for a concert in Chicago and Republic day, when my parents informed about her in my weekly scheduled calls. Soon my brother in law scanned and sent her picture, and asked me to call and talk to them. Well, this is how it started,, probably the simplest way anyone can think of. When I spoke to the Lecturer I found her to be extremely sweet, simple and silent girl (though later it proved to be wrong ;)) and we got engaged the same month though we were physically present in different continents. Amidst the fear Ashwini or her family members had about me, the ceremony took place at their residence without my presence. 

Having bought a TASCAM multi track recorder from ‘MARS audio’, I had started having fun recording of Ghama Ghama and Vaishnava Janatho by downloading Fruity loops software. I sent many of my pictures, songs in a cassette and card thru USPS which she has carefully preserved even today. The simple girl from a small town, who hardly has gone out of Udupi district, also sent some of hers to my Adams apt on Jefferson Road in Memphis. During this time, I had just applied for my visa extension as it was about to get expired and the story began from here. Just after a few days, in April my professional life took to a new twist when the contract with our client didn’t renew the way it traditionally did, which could have resulted in some of us returning back to the Offsite office at Koramangala, Bangalore. For a long time I was looking forward to return back to join my missing parents and musician friends, till I got engaged. Now I wanted to stay for more time, get married and return back with her to the States and spend time with her…Bingo….guess what? My client offered some of us to join them. Wow..… What more I can expect… I then started dreaming for the day of visiting India to meet her. 

My wedding date got finalized as Aug 26th after the successful horoscope matching procedures and all those astrological computations. But without obtaining the Visa extension, I could have only visited India, but not return back to states. So, I started waiting for the extension, by checking the status in the Immigration website and the Houston center just to listen to the same automated message without any development. Ashwini as well as her parents started really getting worried about my dilly dally status, though I wasn’t in a position to project the severity of my uncertainty. Well, I requested the HR of my client not to delay applying for the visa and explained my marriage complications etc. But they couldn’t have done anything as they had tons of pending formalities right from showing the equivalent US degree, Labor laws, company policies, new attorneys etc. I started frequently visiting submitting my queries to finally understand that I was eligible to apply for the premium processing paying $1500 extra. In spite of that, my tension didn’t reduce as it needed to go thru the attorneys of my company and the overall process delayed in every corner. My friend, Mike Walker was always quick to react in our regular 2 pm breaks, “I seriously warned you man, look, thinking of getting married it self has created problems for you…imagine what after you get married”. Well, I felt it was a joke that time... :) Everyday, my follow up’s with the HR, Charlotte and attorneys became part of my daily menu card along with my regular production support issues related to Banking ACH process and on call mid night support calls for all those financially critical batch jobs. I needed to get the approval before the mid of Aug, as I had already booked the tickets to India without visa extension. The visa uncertainty also limited the airlines options available as it required special Shanghain visa permit to pass thru some of the European countries. From late July, I started getting real tensed about my status and requested the HR for initiating premium processing in order as an exception as that was the only option I had and  I finally moved to a new apartment complex in Cordova. I exactly had 15 business days between the date of application and my date of travel and started counting days, hours and minutes.. Just a day before my travel on Aug 15th, attorneys informed me of receiving the approval notice and the joy I experienced was unmatchable to anything after all that 5 months struggle and drama. I left Memphis International airport on that rainy day of 16th August after seeking blessings from Prabhakar uncle and aunty. 

Just a week left for my wedding and I still hadn’t met her, dying to have her first darshan. The same day with so much of excitement that I have been waiting for the day for months left for Udupi to my grand father’s place. I still remember the first time I entered their house along with my uncle who accompanied me. After so many hours of phone calls, so many yahoo messenger chats and e-mails, and looking at the pics she sent, finally we met each other for the first time getting ready to live together for life. Oh my god… Is this real??? The next 2 and half weeks just went like minutes. Wedding on Aug 26th, followed by a few round trips between Bangalore and Udupi, get marriage certificate, visit TTSservice to apply for our visa stamping and again for Visa to arrive in next 10 days to be able to fly by scheduled Northwest airlines on Sept 11, 2002. Ganesha Festival, Labor day holiday made the chances of getting visa on time even slimmer and it was time for yet another Lord Ganesha prayers. Believe it or not,, It was yet another victory clinching on the last ball when we received the stamped visa on the scheduled morning of travel. After a day long journey crossing oceans, it was finally my friend Dinesh and Prabhakar Uncle who were waiting in the airport for our arrival.

When she reached Memphis, the village girl hadn’t realized what was waiting for her next and how tough her next journey was with my friends, contacts and activities in Memphis. Within a few days, she had no choice but to adjust to my lifestyle and temperature, as well as enhance her cooking skills in the new WAL-MART grocery shopping world. Her long time companion and instrument Veena who had accompanied along with us from Bangalore-Mumbai-Amsterdam-Memphis was the one with whom to share her happiness by playing ragas of various moods apart from calling her parents once a week. 

The next four years were series of another set of dreams – buying  $1400 Yamaha PSR-2100 keyboard, support in setting up the recording studio, her in-laws and parents visit, visits to Las Vegas and Florida, Taranga Kannada Sangha involvement, association with India Association of Memphis, release of music CD’s, Arabhi’s arrival and the final good bye.. We finally left Memphis to join my parents in India after making friends leaving behind many memories, when my other Indian based colleagues and friends had already deep-rooted to the comfort American living.

It’s been more than five years now…Feels like a good long dream after coming back to the real world… While we prepare and struggle ourselves to get opportunities for our musical endeavors, we also need to make sure our 6 year old gets enough of our time. No doubt, it is always a wife’s significant contribution in the success of a child or husband making many compromises in her life. Her lifestyle changes so much adjusting to her husband, her child, her husband’s parents, her parents, siblings, work and career etc..Amidst her PhD preparations, she is readily available to support me playing with the band when there is a requirement and compete with my other band members to cope up the speed. At the same time she needs to prepare her daughter for the competitions and take her anywhere for her regular dance practice sessions as she is our future. She also has time to allow me to get involved in tons of activities. What a commitment in her life for her surrounding near and dear ones. She once had a unique husky voice that added to the melody of my daily musical journey. 

Now the same voice is completely at stake with a result of vocal abuse and continuous stress undergoing surgeries and therapies. She wanted me to record Vishnu Sahasra nama so her daughter could learn them by playing the same every night before going for sleep. Well, I hardly recorded 20 Shlokas; thanks to my other priority assignments and projects, and was never able to complete it. However her determination took her beyond anything by recording the entire 100 shlokas with her broken strained voice keeping it ready for her daughter before I could continue. What an amazing creature “mother” is? Hats off dear!!! 

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The same girl who wanted her mother to wake her up in the morning to take the Kundapur- Mangalore express bus smoothly transformed into a supporting wife keeping aside her interests and now playing the role of world’s best creature “mother” ignoring her own health. Friends whom we think are forever, come and go as per the role they have to play at that point of time. Parents, who make us what we are, also will stay closer till a stage as their role is also designed in such a way. But it is spouse who is always next to you, when you are happy or sad however you are as their role is longer than anyone else in our journeys. Every one of us will have the similar experience I’m sure and that’s how even after years of stay together with any differences we would have, we will still love each other and look forward for many more years of togetherness.   

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tale of a Nightingale - 2

(contd. from
......Shivering Sumathi wasn’t able to speak anything. Her heart almost stopped beating when Maitri's heart opened up her expressions. Maitri was also silent, for a different reason. It was tough, but she was well prepared for having raged a war. Sumathi didn’t want to utter a word until her husband returned from work that day. When he returned, he soon was able to make out that something wasn’t right with that war of silence. Sumathi still was half unconscious when he dragged both of them into conversation. Maitri was always confident that her father would be on her side, and that her mother who loves her so much wouldn’t be able to live without her. Once he understood the situation, he was dumb for a moment and then for the next 2-3 hours, everyone continuously kept talking, shouting, screaming and crying.”Did you ever think how your parents will take this?” … “Appa, what is the problem of loving him? He is a very nice guy and the best of all I have seen. He loves and cares for me so much and can live or die for me and what else you need?”  “Where are they from?” He asked taking a deep breath. “From Punjab,…” She replied. Sumathi joined, “Didn’t you get any one other than these terrorists, girl???…We wouldn’t have forced you to marry anyone!!!” “Come on maa,, they are not terrorists.. In fact they served our nation in wars against Pakistan…The real patriots.. tell me one good reason why shouldn’t I marry him? He has been recruited into a very good company just like me, loves me deeply and takes care of me whatever the consequence it may be”..

“.. Do you know they eat cows, goats and pigs..” Sumathi’s eyes continued to be wet for hours.
“I never asked what all they eat,, ma… you know what? Trust me, if I don’t like, he will never bring any meat inside our house or ask me to cook…and above that, they speak Hindi too, and not just Punjabi.. and he’s promised that he would completely learn Kannada soon and won’t object on anything in future on my interests, literature, culture or music..” “Our house???!!!! What do you mean, ‘our house’?? You are already talking about your house? Oh my god!!!!” Sumathi had another shock treatment! Closed her eyes and fell on the sofa, one more time. 

Dad was silent most of the time, he knew they would become her “past” very soon, and she is going to get some one else as her future.. “but how could I allow her to choose anyone just like that?? I need to care for her 'present' at least.. After all, we took the best care of her till date and wouldn’t it make us in anyway to request her making the right decision??” My dear,, we gave you everything you wanted; Gave you much needed education, culture, music, bought you what all you just thought of having…Kinetic Honda, Keyboard, Tanpura,….You always asked us whenever you wanted something.. Why didn’t you ask us in this case, my dear??” “Come on dad,, this is not something we get in the market, we don’t go out and buy friends, I didn’t buy him…I loved him…” Sumathi joined the conversation, “There are hundreds of guys that we can get.. Many of our distant relatives who have well qualified sons settled in the US match your horoscope as well and eagerly looking forward to …” “I beg you ma….I don’t need hundreds of your guys. I just need one Guri..I don’t need anyone in the US..’ she started desperately pleading, ‘I knew it was difficult, but didn’t think you would be so harsh to me, ma…”  Maitri now started crying…

Dad kept on thinking… May be, we never allowed her to face any difficulties in life. We provided her all that she wanted.. So, must have chosen to find something which was hard to get. That’s how probably the life is. Need to have both happiness and sorrow/challenges/difficulties in equal proportions. That’s where thrill comes into picture. 6 balls 10 runs to win, 2 wkts in hand, is what we expect to see in life. An easy victory is just too boring. We shouldn’t get everything we desire. She mustn’t be having time to think of all this love, probably if she had seen the real difficult situations??? If you have everything in life, it is probably the secret meet or the stiff opposition that it self gives life a thrill and kick? Is it too late now to act anything? OR do I still have time to repair the damage? Will she listen to my moral bedtime stories or has she crossed that stage?” 
The night of fight went on till the chirping of birds could be heard early in the morning … and every one went to sleep without a conclusion… Sumathi was the first one to get up when the milkman arrived. She could only think of Kanaka dasa’s composition referring to Lord Krishna, “Ene manvithe lalithangi, Asamaana govala kulavilladavanolu…”. As a father, he had his own set of thoughts running around his mind - what to do as a father. Should I try explaining her that, these kind of attraction shouldn’t be taken to the alliance level OR should I ask her to get him to their place and explain both of them in a sensible way how unpractical this could get to, OR just as a modern dad allow whatever she wants to do and attend her wedding as a guest OR just wait and watch...Sumathi never imagined that her daughter will overstep her trust..Ever since Maitri was born, Sumathi had raised her as a friend...At her 7 years, she was prepared to accompany her mom as vocal support in concerts. The mother-daughter duo performance travelled through out Karnataka and some parts of Maharashtra for various music festivals. She wasn’t just a daughter, but a student, a close and dear friend too. The words ‘You are so stubborn ma. NEVER CHANGE!!!!” kept on lingering in Sumathi’s ears… “Was that my fault? Am I so stubborn?? If I’m stubborn, then what about my daughter?? Isn’t she stubborn??? Did she pick it from me??? It was my sheer perseverance and commitment, with hardly anyone’s help that I had made it to the Akashvani doors when I was of her age. I have had so of struggle to get a single opportunity. Why doesn’t she put in the same perseverance in those things instead of this? And she’s now calling me stubborn. Oh God… please please come to my rescue… How can I allow those turban guys taking away my daughter? Whenever I think of this, I just collapse, how could she even do this to me??” Both of her parents were not in a position or mood to comfortably talk to her for days together after receiving that shock treatment. 

All these days, Sumathi had never bothered much when he used to call their landline as she was unable to listen to any of their telephonic conversations due to the bass sound of Tabla or the high frequencies of her female students. She had also failed to capture Maitri’s naughty blushing faces during those calls. In fact they had enjoyed the soothing background score of Rageshri or Desh during their romantic telephonic late evening chat. But things weren’t the same anymore once Sumathi opened her wide eyelids. Every call went for scrutiny; every move was monitored; every step was followed though the smarter Maitri gradually found her own ways of tricking people around her. Some times, her close friend Ayesha starts off the call during Sumathi’s scanner and later paved the way for Guri to continue. It created storm every time he sent her gift on special occasions when he was not in Bangalore. She had to produce the ‘on the fly’ reasons on their birthdays or Valentine’s Day to successfully fulfill her accomplishment of meeting him amidst much of opposition, fight and disturbance. The perfume that he brought from his Atlanta trip exclusively for her only created bad aroma at her house. Initially she had to hide and slowly release the gifts he sent - Swiss watch, attractive gold chain and pendant, expensive diamond ring, organizer, Minolta camera etc. to reduce the sudden damage. Her everyday call with him was the only tonic of hope beating all of her daily fights and mental torture she went thru as part of her daily menu card. Everyday she positively starts off with yet another hopeful application attempt to her mother for approval ending up in yet again a dejected situation. When she hardly stole any personal time to devote herself for him, she had to appear offline while chatting with him and find reasons for not meeting or responding to her other childhood friends, classmates and relatives who equally demanded her time. Along with her existing ongoing problems, she also had to pacify and keep them as well happy. 

Sustainability of any relationship many a times depends on the common problems the couple possess. As both of them carried the common problem, there was absolutely no issue in sustaining the healthy relationship between the two amidst the incompatibilities existed.  In most of the everyday or alternate day meets, the point of discussion would be their common problems and the ways of convincing their parents to take the relationship to the next level or the next steps to be taken making the relationship fresh, active and thrill. The level of bondage was always directly proportional to the amount of hard resistance one faced. I remember a song from an Mahesh Bhatt’s old movie, Sadak, “Jo pyar karne walonko jab jab duniya tadpaayegi.. mohabath badtee jaayegi..” That’s true I guess. The common problems convincingly kept aside all other practical issues keeping their relationship intact and stronger. In the western countries, relationship of a couple often won’t sustain may be because things are quite smooth and there is hardly any resistance like what we have here. Hence, when everything is perfect, we ourselves will create issues to have that balanced thrilled life we seek. Well, just my analysis. ;-)

In spite of revamping himself to meet her likes and demands, Guri yet secretly felt unsecured that being a traditional girl with multiple complexities, Maitri may turn back anytime owing to her family bondage and parental emotional Athyachar. Hence, he had to constantly make his presence felt around her, prove his love and support and bring her back to his side every time she leaned on the other side. Even during his brief US visits on project work, he had to make quite sure she waited for him every single minute and didn’t fall for her mother's emotional tears or ragas.
He had kept aside 10% of his dollar earnings on calling cards during his multiple entry visits to the US post Y2K implementation, to maintain their relationship active and interesting. His main strength of charm and vocabulary skills never allowed her to get out of his main orbit even though he was revolving 16,000 kms away from her during his frequent US visits. His supportive and confident words during messenger chat sessions continuously boosted her trust and helped stay focused to her commitment. Though Maitri never suspected of Guri’s fallback options, her concern was more towards the acceptance from her own folks and hence kept her dilemma doors always opened. What happens if her parents never give blessings was the constant fear she carried at every step of her day to day life. “I definitely don’t want to elope and get married. But if I don’t have any other option, what to do?.. ” As her story slowly became a well known tale among all of her friends and relatives, the shy girl didn’t have to hide anymore. The same girl, who once was so scared of somebody noticing her with Guri, now expresses her relationship in public without a fear or a concern of her tainted image. Everyday, she tried in vain convincing her reluctant parents. All this time, the go-getter girl had never failed in getting anything or anyone. Now it’s her turn to cry inside, the moment she realize what was happening around her. She can’t just betray and run away, can’t accept this defeat, can’t convince them, can’t live a hopeless life like this and can’t afford to loose him when she had completely offered herself to him. Oh..what about music? After all, she hasn’t touched her Tanpura specially imported from Banaras, for ages now. The only thing she could do was cry hard and deep inside whenever she heard her mother’s pet student singing Rag Jaunpuri upstairs and then optimistically look for another dawn and night. Naturally, people who stood by her way supporting her relationship with him, became her closest friends while she gently avoided those who tried suggesting to listen to her parents and not to fall for any of these love traps. When we need ‘heads’ in a coin, we try to choose a coin of both ‘heads’ before tossing so we legally get what we want. 
When her story reached my ears, it only substantiated my theory of “Beautiful girls hardly remain single :)”. The best in the market is always sold first even if it is priced high, which is another rule of nature. Yes, guys normally can’t tolerate looking at an attractive girl being single. So, a girl has to continuously reject a guy’s proposal; be it her neighbor, or her classmate or friend or a relative or even a total stranger. Well, some guys keep on trying even after the rejection, thanks to the inspiration from our movies that make them think they will succeed one day, while others only make an attempt if someone fails and stops if rejected. Probability of falling for this trap is even more when your striking movements are more casual and attractive. Sapnil, her extremely talented team mate always thought she was only close to him when she appeared very casual and shared few things only with him. As Sapnil was probably the only one who could match her skill level, he had started dreaming till all his Sapne’s were shattered one day when she disclosed reality. Suvendu, probably younger than her also fell for her moves when he realized she had maintained a special account with him. Every time, guys thought she considered them as special and legally made the bold move before she could cut them off. In reality, she wasn’t close to anyone except Guri. At times, I thought she must be extremely intelligent when I found her with the ways of keeping guys away from her and not giving any opportunity to meet in private. At the same time thought, was she that ignorant not to notice guys falling for her? Anyways, the best option for a girl is probably to accept someone dear to her and whom she could trust and can also act as shield and prevent from others approaching her. I don’t know of the case here, but I raised my collar as my theory at least didn’t go wrong. Well, I know love is blind; but I wondered those days, how could a girl from this traditional background whose family probably considered meat eating as the greatest crime of human life, could ever decide to lead her life after falling for a totally opposite pole Sardar, never heard of any of Pt. Bhimsen Joshi’s Khyals or Bandish’s and don’t even speak her mother tongue. I had always assumed, her first crush would probably be some one like Ustad Zakir Hussein or the 'Saregama' host of those days, Sonu Nigam…Well..he must be really lucky I thought, not because of getting a super girl or a talent hub, but someone who’s ready to leave behind her entire world for him; including her dear parents who consider their only daughter as their only hope, her music and art she inherited from her very first breath, her relatives and friends who stood by her even when she did wrong to them, her city that she was born and brought up, her mother tongue that she was always proud of, her career... well the list goes on.. She was ready to sacrifice everything for a person.. Hmm, like I said, that's what love is. 

Sumathi felt, where did all that culture/Samskara that she tried to teach her go?? She remembered all those happy memories of Maitri right from the day she was born, the day she started toddling, her first step when Sumathi held her right hand assisting her first move, her sleepless sick nights during her cold and cough days, her first Bilawal raag, her first performance, her first day at the elementary school, her first Kitturu chennamma drama, her competitions, carrying her sturdy tanpura on their Bajaj Vespa for the music scholarship exams, taking her to the circus, cinema, holding umbrella for her when themselves were getting drenched, how they enrolled her to the English medium school..well,, the list never ends for a parent.. I have always been so proud of her and this is what she has given us back? Is this the same Maitri that I’m going to loose?? Who can anyone understand how hard it is for a parent when their loved ones cry for their loved ones? The same saga continued for a couple of years deadlocked from everywhere without an inch of improvement in any co-ordinates. Someone had to release the deadlock, but who the best person could be other than Guri? Poor Maitri having cried for years, neither had tears nor any of the options left in her. It’s not that, Guri wasn’t bothered, but in spite of their stiff opposition he still dared several attempts visiting her house and assuring them of his love, care and financial security for their daughter etc after convincing his parents. But, Sumathi locked herself in the room and didn’t even come out to see him. When her dad only explained him to stay away from her during their 2 hour discussion, Guri had to return to his room completely broken. Maitri cried the whole night shouting at them. Everyone was stubborn in their own ways. With the increased problems, love only increased and Maitri in turn became even more powerful and her perseverance became stronger. Sumathi’s only brother, supportive of Maitri continuously tried explaining the consequence to them they might have to face in the end for this deadlocked situation. Hence Sumathi slowly felt loosing the grounds, became weaker and realized that her options didn’t carry enough weight; she has to loose her only daughter for ever and win her tradition and that she didn’t want to win the game by loosing her only loving daughter. A child can leave a mother when she is not in need anymore, but can mother ever leave a child that she has given birth? So, once she decided to accept her defeat, the least thing she could do was try convincing some of their relatives that Gurinder was indeed a Punjabi Brahmin and for others where she couldn’t control herself, she could only shed all her pain filled tears. She politely told my mother, that she was always proud of her daughter, but not anymore; my mother in turn could only lend her shoulder to Sumathi so she could cry as much as possible.

One day, I was at Onsite, when my mother informed me of her marriage in a simple way without a celebration. But later, I guess they decided to have it in a grand way where most of the rituals went on for 2 days - One in the typical Punjabi style of Gaana and Naachna, and the other in a simplified Madhwa style. After a many round of negotiations and requests, Gurinder’s family agreed for not serving non vegetarian food in their delicious lungar. Sumathi just closed her tear filled eyes at Gurudwar when Sardarjis were chanting “Waahe Guru….“Oh lord Krishna, I have surrendered my whole life to you and this is what I deserve finally… take me away please..” Yet, most of the traditional seniors from Maitri’s family provided reasons for not making it to the event and Sumathi as a normal mother, continuously shed her tears at the wedding, but for a different reason. Maitri had clearly warned her, “Ma,, promise me you wont create any drama in the wedding.. Don’t cry for me please…Guri is not what you have thought. He’s extremely nice guy”. Even after the wedding, Sumathi kept on crying while her husband only tried to pacify her, though he was sobbing even harder inside. As, I was in Memphis that time creating and fixing bugs in those Accounts Payable applications that I was working, I didn’t have a chance to attend that eventful wedding. 

After my return from the US a couple of years ago, I happened to see her in a house warming ceremony along with her twin kids, Amandeep and Karanjit. Though she appeared to have lost her original charm that she possessed, her dress sense was still as great as before. She had worn a simple blue Saree that attracted the entire crew in the floor. I smiled at her.. She seemed to be leading a successful married life, juggling between her interests, culture and that of Guri’s… Guri couldn’t make it to the function as he was on his US trip as a Principal Technical Architect, but I understood he was leading a successful carrier and trying to keep her happy to his best, though at times he’s irked when she starts off with an hour long alaap in Vilambit Ek Taal or have a lengthy music related chat with her Tablist friend. Guri’s mother never listened or admired any of her songs even once. Aman and Karan are fine, eating meat along with their paternal grandparents, and Maitri is only concerned when her parents were around. I asked about her musical journey. She looked at her naughty kids and gave me that naughty smile, “Well, I recorded couple of solo’s for an album…” ..her sentence stopped. Normally she doesn’t talk if she is not interested and hence I decided to change the subject. I knew for sure, she was much more capable than that. She also knew I had established myself in music during my long stint in the US and facing issues starting back in India due to my troubled allergies. “All the best, Vishu…” she bid bye without even looking at me and turned at her kids, “Chalo bachho..hogona”, took off before I could start the new topic. 

Well, unfortunately in this form of game, “Draw” is quite uncommon… Somebody needs to win and somebody loose. One’s gain is another’s loss. Her parents though enjoy the company of their grand kids regret for their failure to pass on that enormous cultural heritage to their super talented daughter or her sons. Sumathi almost stopped giving concerts and performing on TV Channels, but continue to teach her old students considering that as divine. Her husband took voluntary retirement and kept himself busy in taking care of their household stuff. Guri’s parents clearly discriminate her against their own daughter and other members and never accepted her as one of their folks. His mother always complained that she doesn’t care for them the way she does for her lone suffering parents. She could never tolerate her son talking to Maitri in Kannada. That’s probably because even Maitri could never accept them just as she accepted Guri, though she tried to act and prove she cared for them. There was always a cold rift between her and his parents for various reasons. From her point of view, she left her entire life and future for him fighting with her dear parents for years and yet doesn’t get acceptance in his family. The upset Maitri, fought and cried when her kids were named against her wishes without much of a support. Guri always tried bridging the gaps between her and his mother, but it didn’t work the way it miraculously worked before marriage. The couple had special motivational cause those days to please their respective future in-laws which is not needed anymore. She knows, it’s not his fault and now she doesn’t even have time to think if she did the right thing or not. Anyways, there is no UNDO in life. You just have to move on and can only correct the present tense. Some gets an easy nod and acceptance, while some struggle a bit while some fail or end in a tragedy...but life goes on.. Whatever the case is, I’m sure every case carried some story. 

By the way, why did I remember Maitri’s tale now? May be after seeing this equally talented, beautiful and transformed Sri Vidya? “Beautiful girls hardly remain single?:)”…Well, I restricted myself for not making any conclusion about this glam girl and just stepped towards my house from their place, while I noticed the Hero Honda guy was still combing his hair outside. After reaching my house, I was dumb for a moment after hearing from my 4 year old little one explaining the dance sequence with her boy friend Dhruva, for their annual day celebrations. Without having prepared myself what to even react, I silently smiled at myself and started planning towards my Sunday routine after witnessing my daughter’s dancing steps.... :-) 

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Tale of a Nightingale - 1

Recently when I had a chance visiting my sister’s friend, a music teacher in our colony, I couldn’t resist looking at their cute daughter, Srividya. She is now in her first year Engineering came out with Basic Electronics book to handover to the guy on Hero Honda desperately waiting outside, for her Sunday morning darshan. I could soon notice that, the guy didn’t seem to be the one waiting just for her book. Well, that’s anyway rule of nature and probably everyone at one stage would have gone thru that ;). Srividya, an exceptionally talented and beautiful girl, was 10th grader a couple of years ago who had won many prizes in the singing, debate and badminton in our colony competitions. Within two years of span, I could notice a drastic change in her physical appearance, style and bodily movements. Her hairstyle now is no less than any of our film stars appearing in shampoo ad’s; her tight fitting attractive dresses wouldn’t have missed attracting any passer by, including the outside “Hero” Honda guy.

Maitri was also a young and beautiful girl just finishing her 12th grade around a few years ago. She had probably started learning Swar and Alankar right from the time she was in her mother’s womb. Sumathi, her mother, also my aunt was an accomplished Hindustani vocalist having featured in various newspapers and Doordarshan. Since we didn’t live in Bangalore those days, it was only during our summer vacation/family functions when we used to meet and play/fight and hence my interactions were always quite limited. I still remember getting hard time from my mother whenever Sumathi aunt was proud to exhibit her daughter’s 10th and 12th marks or CET ranking. My mother didn’t loose an opportunity humiliating me, in comparing her skills to mine though I was senior to her, “Look at Maitri, in spite of receiving music scholarships and the overall championship for the excellence in singing, mono-acting and literature, she still manages to obtain a better ranking.” “Let her be proud ma, why I should get the blame though?” was my argument, even though I have to admit that I was simply blown away by her power house of talent, be it in academic excellence or music knowledge or dramatics or literary skills. Whenever she accompanied her mother in singing, I could hardly make out, who was better of the two? The variation, feel and the amazing range!!!! Simply wow!!!! Well, I consoled myself, girls are girls..always reading and hard working and I never wanted to take it as a competition.

However, Maitri always felt she wanted to explore the realistic world beyond the four walls of her mother’s “Vishnu sahasra nama” and “Lakshmi Shobane” chanting or, Ekadashi fasting. Engineering college just happened to prove to become the gateway for all her imaginative dream world. Senior guy and gal pairs roaming around in the campus, groups having loads of fun around in the canteen was something she only had visualized in the movies. She started enjoying her college, not just because of the Computer science labs, but for the exposure to her much desired outer real world. Like we always had one in our class, Gurinder of her class was the first one to get every girl’s attention. Used to talk with confidence, crack jokes with no hesitation, make every one laugh during the breaks with his great sense of humor, help others with interest, a ‘care free’ and a naughty attitude enough to become an electrifying magnet to all the girls of her class. Handsome and talkative he was; Some girls wearing glasses in the front benches totally ignored his sarcasm, while majority of the class saw Shah Rukh’s Rahul kind of character in him. Our Maitri was of no exception. Silent observer she was, but watched him careful enough to imagine Shah Rukh’s DDLJ or Dil To Pagal hein character. Everyday, when she was returning home from the college, she started believing that movies aren’t fake and Rahul kind of characters truly exist. As usual, mother was punctually busy with her concerts and vocal classes, waiting for her daughter to join in and never bothered to notice the growing curiosity and sentiments of her teen daughter. 

Just because Maitri appeared to be a silent lamb, guys didn’t fail respecting her beauty. She was least aware of the fact that, at least 10 of her class mates were keeping a close track of her schedules - what dress she wore everyday, where she stays, her talents, her celebrity mom, her birthday, her timetable, her canteen menu, her weekend routine etc… Guys loved her traditional wear of Jhumki along with the occasionally worn jeans. Though Gurinder was one among them who carried her bio, he also carried the timetable of many other attractive fellow girl mates – Sunaina, Shalini and Jane. For almost a semester, the shy girl Maitri never had an opportunity to closely interact with any of the guys. Her first semester results gave her a shell shock, when Gurinder was found to be the second topper of the class, beating her as well as many lousy glass wearing gals who studied 24*7. Oh my god!!!! He must be a genius then… and not just a stupidly looking DDLJ’s Shahrukh, she thought…  
The undisputed star of the class, Guri was always in news for one or the other reason. One classic incident happened, when he had to ask the vehicle keys of her class’s beauty queen Sheila.. Sharmila who stood between them shouted at Sheila that Guri was asking for her keeeys…. Within moments, it was a talk of the college that Guri was asking for Sheila’s kiss… and all the envied girls sighed at the same time,, ohhhhhhoooo…. Though Sheila was subjected to an embarrassment, she blushed and enjoyed the every moment fantasizing the situation when her friends repeatedly teased her. When this reached Guri’s attention, he gave his usual smile, which all girls were just longing for. Hero was already born in him, but what about the heroin?  

In the second year of her engineering, she found herself to be much more matured than she was in her first year in every aspect. She soon became the permanent customer of Lakme’s beauty products and a regular visitor of her neighboring beauty parlor. Her dress cabinet got expanded and dress collection saw a tremendous makeover while her lips appeared more attractive than ever before. Her fan followers in the class increased from 10 to 20-25 in number and probably 50-100 in the entire college and now she was able to observe that her footsteps were being closely followed by hundreds of eyes in the campus. Her neighbor, Uday who never saw how the sun looked at 7 am was quite prompt to make sure he never missed either sunrays or her college timings. Putting on the loud ace of base music OR MLTR’s “paint my love”, and doing weight lifting exercises was when she waited for the morning bus. Her presence made even her bus stop attractive and there were several volunteers longing to give her a ride if she missed the bus anytime. Though she never trusted or talked to any of them, she secretly felt proud of her appearance and the due recognition received. Her friends now started visiting her house for various valid reasons - note books, treats, combined study, tours, rehearsals etc…Her mother was initially annoyed, but later convinced herself of her confidence in daughter. Her friends now expanded to Bihar, Rajasthan and Delhi from the initial Kannada speaking folks. Though she possessed all that natural feminine assets, was still taught by her newly formed friends circle how to keep guys on their tows and get things done by them when needed, and slowly the numbers even increased after her company coaching. You easily extract things from the company you are in; the hangout places you visit, the food you eat etc. Many a times, your friends and neighbor hood are the ones that mould your nature, behavior and style. 

A smooth blend of traditional Indian girl package with a contemporary outlook probably attracted most of our gentlemen. Her “Yara sili sili” rendition from the movie Lekin created a mild stroke in every guy’s heart. This was the time when Guri didn’t want to miss the opportunity of asking her if she was interested in taking part in the college annual competition, him being the class representative. Their interaction thru the cultural meet gradually grew which extended to her occasional e-mail communication on Sundays. It was very causal e-mails that stared though, by forwarding jokes etc later got dragged into the personal details and interests. Though both of them acted as if they hardly knew each other to the outside world, they altogether had an intimate communication thru Sunday e-mails. She started feeling the unexplainable pleasure whenever she thought about him. Why do I feel so secured and confident when I think about him was the question she repeatedly asked herself? Why do I desperately wait for his e-mails? She had a long and desperate wait for the 4th semester to begin when he had left for Ludhiana. Everyday they exchanged mails and started scheduled chatting. She wasn’t vividly sure whether she wanted to continue or end the relationship without going to the next level. But the pleasure she received from his company couldn’t be matched to anything that she had experienced till then. While for Gurinder, it wouldn’t be a tough ride. He was concerned if it was right to get interested in the girl whose family has gracefully adapted the Madhwa principles and all that Madi and mailige they followed. He knew, his father who wore turban, probably never had his hair cut, while she came from the family where her grand father, being a priest in Sode Mutt had just a small pony tail (juttu) chanting shlokas. So what? he thought and never turned back.
Maitri and Guri started interacting more often when they clandestinely enjoyed each other’s company, either in person or thru mails. Once their meetings extended outside the lab hours, Maitri started getting shivers. When she first lied to her mother that they had extra class when she reached an hour late, it was an adventure as if she climbed the peak of Mt. Everest. She initially managed to avoid his face to face interaction, but didn’t want to avoid later once she was comfortable. “When it gives me pleasure, why should I avoid? What might happen next? Is that going to happen which I don’t want to happen? Is he interested in me or he is like that with everyone?” She started getting chills the moment she imagined that she was the one of the victims of love, but at the same time, she was proud of herself that she didn’t waste her precious time simply preparing for the exams and finally ending up knotting somebody in a typical orthodox Uppitu- Kesaribath fashion that her cousins followed before migrating to US.  

They didn’t have too many things in common, like most of the “Ej dujhe ke liye” love stories. Her all time favorites and music maestros, Kishori Amonkar and Veena ShasraBuddhe had no place in his dictionary. She was at her best in Kuvempu’s poetry or her favorite Poorna chandra Tejaswi’s short stories, while the only word Guri knew in Kannada was “Gothilla”. Meeting for a juice in the canteen initially itself was quite a big deal for her considering her traditional family background. Though she herself went thru a major transformation, she knew her family still lived in their own era. Her father was still stubborn to use computer when it was introduced in Syndicate Banks. She couldn’t give the same special classes as the reason every time. Music practice for the show was one excuse she used a couple of times. During these transformational days, I would have met her just a few times as I missed many of the family functions due to my semester exams or college festival or attendance shortage. However I or my other relatives didn’t fail to notice this extreme makeover in her. I never imagined she could have had such a lovely silky hair and skin, looking at these changes. When we had musical get-together on the eve of my cousin’s wedding, I remember singing Raag Malkauns with full of emotions. When I had just finished with a decent performance, her rendition of Raag Marwa started that surpassed all other performances, totally eclipsing mine. Oh my God!!! Absolute no change in her majestic rendition whatsoever was happening internally! 

They were in their 6th semester when things really happened, when Guri finally expressed his love for her. He also said, he would want her to be his life partner and make sure he always take the best care of her for rest of her life, in music or literature or dramatics and sincerely allowed her to think and get back. She knew for sure, this was going to happen one day and she had to put on her thinking meter, what to reply to this, Is he the Rahul of my life? Will my dad utter the same dialogue what the stubborn Amaresh Puri had at the end of DDLJ? “Duniya mein Is ladke se alava koi tujhe itna pyar nahi kar saktha, beti, bhaag jaaa..” .. My folks can’t be that cruel to me.  After all, it’s my life.. Is that my problem if I fall in love? My parents can’t fall in love on my behalf? It’s my life… Still it wasn’t that an easy decision for her to make. Closing her eyes, sitting in her room, started thinking what was happening to her. Her mom’s morning batch students were heard emotionally singing “Piya nahi aaye” of Raag Patdeep. Her dad was seen sincerely changing his thread on that rainy Upakarma day chanting some shlokas when she was still thinking what should be her response to his proposal. She wanted to forget everything for a moment without deciding anything and switched on the TV. Madhuri was dancing to the tune “Hasta hein yeah dil… rulata hein …..Dil to pagal hein.. dil diwana hein” on Sony TV’s Jhalak. Oh god……Which one is real?

Guri on the other hand knew, he had a long queue of girls waiting for his very smile and a naughty look. Yet he felt, his position in getting Maitri’s love was a little insecure considering his out of state, out of caste, non vegetarian status and the music free background; also there were hardly any common factor between their families. He was not too casual in the next day’s class after proposing her. Quite serious he was, throwing his eyes at her every second trying to grab her expression. Curious he was, he didn’t want to approach again for the result, but wanted to get her attention. Maitri was quite firm that she wanted to lead her life with him as she could completely trust through out her life. The poor guy may have least musical background, but she knew he would support her in any case considering his liability. She purposely avoided him a few times just to see his desperate face. During lunch break, after the class, when she got separated from her friends, didn’t even have to look out for him as she guessed the right place where he might be waiting for her. He hadn’t guessed that he will have to be tensed one day waiting for her response after proposing a dream nightingale from an orthodox family, when he has no other interests in any of the art forms or sports other than cricket and event management. He was much relieved when he noticed Maitri coming towards him. He thought she wouldn’t have come thus far if her response was ‘No’ OR what if she wanted to explain the practicality of this kind of relationship which doesn’t have a smooth pavement. However, Maitri was in no position to accept any of the practical hurdles. After giving her consent, they didn’t step backwards anytime. Fourth or the final year of their college life was the gayest moments of their lives when both of them were riding on the fourth gear of his motorbike, flying on cloud 9. She started decorating back seat of his bike most of the times speeding at 80-100 Kmph on Mysore road very frequently, covering her face with duppatta deeply smeared with her fragrance, hugging him tight, to beat the traffic time so she could reach home before it gets dark. Hug got harder on every hump and pothole of Mysore road giving fullest pleasure to the couple on the bike. Though they hid most things from their friends and college mates exclusively on Maitri’s request, common friends from their circle were smart enough to trace love stories in the air.

Her diversified friends circle further widened the gap between the sentiments of her friends, from her family and culture. She gradually started developing more complexities around her due to the growing discontentment between her orthodox family and her surrounding life style. Love is blind, but teaches many things, makes you strong, gives you comfort, pleasure, sweet pain and selectively ignores many things for that materialistic gain.  In just a few days, she had developed the art of series lying. One lie would often lead to another and you become master soon. As she didn’t have a choice, had to lie her mother on a multiple occasions, especially when she returned late night after attending her friend’s birthday party. There was no alternative other than giving the newly invented reasons. Though it was definitely not her decision, she had to follow her surroundings where they went. As she enjoyed the overall fun and the warmth she felt with her class mates from Delhi and other North Indian cities, she couldn’t completely resist going out with them. Her fun loving attitude attracted more and more guys in queue who didn’t have a clue about her relationship and she was still shy enough to meet any guy other than Guri alone and invented every reason to avoid anyone who thought of making their first move and meeting her in private. As she kept most of her communication asynchronous, guys had hard time to convey their message. Frequency of her outing with the friends or him increased, she had to lie at home, and most of the time she wasn’t even aware what she was doing. Whenever she realized, became even more a complex girl who could only sob inside, but unable to control what was happening outside. Without her knowledge, she started wearing various masks and personalities. She knew she wasn’t the same simple girl, who once had pledged to follow the footsteps of musical greats Smt Kishori Amonkar and Smt. Arati Anklekar. She also knew her musical endeavors and dreams may not take off smoothly if she takes this path. Knowing her interests, he once presented her a cassette, “Ritu Chakra”, a rare collection of Ms. Sahasrabuddhe’s rendition on seasons. “I didn’t love him for his food or religion or his taste. I truly loved his charm, care and support and I know he would be one whom I can trust for life”, she consoled herself every moment she landed up in dilemma after seeing her mother holding a Tanpura and rendering emotional ragas like Gurjari Todi and Bairagi or chanting Vishnu Sahasra nama in front of God. However, it was a tough challenge for Guri to make sure that, she is not in dilemma anytime. 
When she first went out with him to the Barbeque restaurant, she was little uncomfortable. Their usual menu in the college canteen was chats, noodles and juice which were within acceptable limits. But this time, holding her hand he gently said, the mouth watering dish of their family was Bada kebab (beef), a Punjabi delicacy made of her sacred cow, but he is ready to quit for her. Sumathi, a strict vegetarian sincerely believed even eating onions and garlic was against their practice. So he knew if her folks were to accept him, he shouldn’t be eating meat. He swore he can do anything for her; he had already made every attempt speaking broken Kannada and was ready to sacrifice goat or cow or lamb or anyone or anything for her and didn’t want to loose the gem of his life at any cost. Maitri also knew that it wouldn’t be a cakewalk transition from her lifestyle into his pagadi family as she may not get a welcome nod from his members except his only younger sister, Dimpy. Guri’s father an ex-Military service man had joined NCC as Lt. Colonel and had served at various states before settling in a small town near Ludhiana. He was furious when Guri disclosed of his intense relationship with a traditional Brahmin girl from Karnataka. Predicting her challenges ahead, Maitri slowly added Bhangra, Daler Mehndi’s “SajNa wa” songs to her musical library and also improved her Punjabi vocabulary and cooking skills to please and gain her love and his family. Since any of these morphological changes hardly had an impact on her studies, Sumathi or her husband were clueless till Maitri approached her the day after the announcement of her campus interview results. Both were recruited by the leading software companies and it was the time when her family was celebrating the success of her engineering career.

“Ma… I wanted to tell you something..” … “Ok,, you don’t want to practice today as well is it?, it’s ok kane.. go out and enjoy”.. “No ma,, not about music practice,,  “hmm… then….??” Sumathi became little serious and turned at her. “About my marriage. .. with Guri”..A Bomb blast!!!! “What???Who?”
“… Guri ma, My classmate… ..You know him..”
 “What???? What are they? Are you serious???.......Nammavara?” …
“I don’t know ma…”            
“What do you mean, I don’t know???”  “He is from Punjab, ma…Gurinder… Gurinder Singh” …..
 “Oh my good Lord!!!! How could you do this to me”… Her mother collapsed in a second…..

(To be continued....)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Memphis to Bangalore - Part 2

Memphis to Bangalore – Part 2

.….. Aug 2007, my father finally returned home after a prolonged two weeks of stay in the 6th floor of the Hospital. All of us were just thrilled to see the smile back on his face and support back on his spine. Now, it’s his own turn of treating himself with sufficient exercise to justify the metal and cage inserted into his vertebral column, thanks to the advanced medical technology. By the time we bid adieu to the hospital, I had made myself quite familiar to each and every corner of the hospital. I was kind of a Premium customer due to my frequent visits to the various departments - Orthopedic when Ashwini was admitted a few months ago after being hit by our house gate one windy morning during Summer of 07 & of course, my routine trips to the ENT corner.

Around the same time, we celebrated Arabhi’s 2nd year birthday when my improved father was able to ascend 2 floors in the party hall. Even after the surgery with a sigh of relief, he still suffered pain when I continuously coughed. It was my time to consult the well established Pulmonogist in Rajajinagar. It was my testing time not just as a chronic patient, but also as a driver from E-city to the Bashyam circle, honking and coughing all my drive. After a series of tests to my lungs, some Anti histamine capsules were supplemented to my medicine menu card. Curious were my family when I returned home late with a bunch of reports, graphs, medicines and prescription. As usual, a few days later, I started feeling better after the intake of new drugs, but hopes always short lived. Just a day before Karnataka Rajyotsava of 2007, when we completed our first anniversary of "Return to India", nasal dripping re-started. When I sadly looked back at my one year of achievement, I remembered my US Manager’s words that doors would always be open if I decide to join them back.. Before I left Memphis I remembered Srinidhi mentioning, “We’ll see you back sir in Memphis after a year :-)”…… Will running away solve my problem? … Well..It might.. But that wasn’t just my motto and I will rather fail the very purpose of returning back. I knew my father’s case was just a temporary fix and there were many more in pipeline. I definitely couldn’t have quit, hence decided to re-sharpen my cartooning skills and contribute for Infy in some way.

After all, re-starting cartooning after a long break of 7 years wasn't that easier. After enquiring our intranet portal folks I could start "Infytoons", much to my satisfaction for being able to use the rusted creativity. My cold, cough and sore throat mates kept visiting me every few days making quite sure, I don't dare enough to sing. However, in that week's span of “cough-free” break I could barely open my tanpura & tabla bags and close them safely. Meanwhile, a friend of mine also a Tablist Guru, Shankar Kulkarni tried motivating in arranging me concerts.. I was quite reluctant, but having believed in me, he continuously visited my place accompanying me on Tabla despite his busy schedule as a Delivery Manager. However I only kept coughing. When my father was just showing good signs of improvement, one night he was unable to prevent spraining his ankle, leading the problem from Neurology to Orthopedic. For my Jan 2008 New Year wishes e-mail, one of my friends from Memphis, Doris responded, “Hey bro, I understand your commitment to your family, but you got to take care of yourself first”.. She was right.. I badly needed to take care of myself to move forward.

The newly formed TV channel in our company, interviewed me for their very first show ‘Offline’ when I was constantly involved in contributing cartoons to their portal. Well,, I thought finally that would mark an end to my bad days journey, but as they say, “Prathama chumbanam danta bagnam”, had to undergo some technical issue on the very show in the IT company and no one could watch it including myself. Now it’s available on youtube though :-) visit -

Meanwhile, I dared posting a message to the Infy classical music forum in seeking support for a fusion music group. When hardly anyone responded, my interest and confidence even dampened. Anyways, I didn't have to go for a follow up with the musician group as, my “happy break” was soon over and I was back into my fever/cold and coughing business. It was probably the same time I read an album release article from a fellow musician colleague, Manu Shrivastava. I congratulated him and also expressed interest in meeting, but didn’t receive a reply.

Without much of any luck, I continued drawing cartoons on the corporate world. It wasn't that easy to get published because I had to prove and re-establish the contacts all over again. “Times of India” started publishing.. but as it wasn’t on a regular basis, my motivation levels kept fluctuating. also published some.. In all, my enthu meter varied depending upon the publication. I had almost lost the immunity in a year by the intake of drugs with mild steroid and anti histamines content. Perhaps, this resulted in a rare infection, “Herpes Zortes”, making half of my face with pus filled rashes. As I looked real obnoxious, I stayed home for over a week to placate my scary derma caused by this Vericella virus, which in turn also infected Ashwini with its contagious sibling, “Chicken pox”. Arabhi’s vaccinations given in the US somewhat shielded as anti virus from this viral attack. My “Shaapa vimochana” still appeared like a distant dream. For more than a year I continuously sneezed, threw the flem out, wiped my nose, took all the Desi remedies people recommended to pacify - ginger/pepper/turmeric/honey/kashaya/Tulasi/Chawanprash etc. I also developed dark circles around my eyes and ache in the upper back due to the chronic cough. At nights, I used to sleep like a baby and start my day, coughing as an old man. I barely managed to even attend my Guruji Pt. Parameshwar Hegde’s Guru poornima functions. When I explained my problems, even he felt helpless and only wished me for the speedy recovery and I continued to remain as a dead man because I never lived without music. Ayurvedic Amritarista and Balaristha were something that I was advised to take to bring back my immunity.

April 2008 was the time when I had my major achievement giving the finishing touch to my home studio setup after buying low end mixer, speakers and step up transformers! When we were absolute clueless about the Sound engineering stuff way back in 2003, it took us just about 3 months in our Cordova apt going thru Online forums. My setup was complete, but singing was still out of reach. I dared knocking the doors of my vocal cords only when my cough took break for a few days. Usually the symptom returns with vengeance after a few days break. This time, May 2008 became a complete peaceful month, free from all symptoms. However, our Hospital rounds didn’t come to a halt - this time it’s Ashwini’s surgery turn for the removal of cyst.

When Prabhakar Parikh from Memphis visited us during his India trip in this hot summer, we could glimpse the entire Memphis in him. I sang Raag Bageshri during his stay at our place. June wasn't too bad either.. I sang Raag Rageshri, Dhanashri, Madhuvanti, Durga, Poorvi… (beautiful names huh?J) .. Shobha aunty from Hunstville visited the same time. I had started recording and editing some half a dozen half done songs that were initiated in US just before we left. I knew, often, follow up’s work. Hence, I knocked Manu Shrivastava’s mail box again and this time he was prompt replying and after listening to my samples in, he responded “Saastang pranaam Guruji...My pleasure meeting you”. That was one of my greatest compliments I received from an exceptionally talented musician since we returned from US. For the first time in about 2 years, I managed to sing for a concert arranged by my Tablist friend, Kulkarni in Sep 2008..At the end of the concert, I could notice Ashwini's eyes patting my back and my parents watching me from a distance were almost in tears. I couldn't believe for a moment it was me singing. It was not just the voice that I had lost; practice, ability, confidence, rather everything. In the same month, I performed for a Ganesha festival too. I then started thinking where did those terminator symptoms go, that had reminded, “I WILL BE BACK!” before leaving me last summer? Later, when there was a request for a Jugalbandi of Carnatic and Hindustani concert for Infy Karnataka Rajyotsava 2008, I nominated myself as a vocalist.

My first concert in Infy in Nov 08 was soon followed by the formation of a dream group "Xprescions". When Vikram seek my help forming the group, though I was little scared of my condition initially, I finally took up the charge of composing, arranging, connecting with the musician friends. No one in the group would have had a clue of my condition just a few months ago. Most of the group members knew me only from this point of time as a hale and healthy musician. The symphony concert in March 2009 was a phenomenal success.

Formation of this group probably changed my Rekha giving me a second birth. After the concert, quite a few wondered where I was all these days. For all of them, I sincerely replied, “Well,, probably sitting next to you coughing, unnoticed.." :-) .. I developed many friends and could sense myself going back to my college days, feeling ten years younger ;).. Over a decade ago, we had a wonderful musician group of friends - Anil, Yashwaswini, Vardhamana, Kitta and few others. I could now feel all of them in this group, which I badly missed after my return.

We started performing as a group in many public places. As a group we received recognition, respect, support, award and we also learnt many things; it was the practice sessions that we treasured more than the performance. Making time for practicing alongside the ever demanding work and the family time has been quite a challenge for all of us and we had to overcome this if we need to move along. Now Manu, Himesh, Sarang, Shruthi and many other musician friends along with me work as a team composing and performing.

We started getting featured in the newspapers all over again. Recognition from the media, company and various organizations also boost one’s confidence. It certainly gives an immense feeling when one’s hard work is appreciated. Any success story would have often witnessed a number of failures, which are normally unseen. Now, the immunity of my conditioned body has tremendously improved, but I still get attacked from my old pal once in a while. Whenever I could sense that the terminator is on my way, I make sure I take precautionary measures to keep him away and if it all he makes, stays for at least a month or two giving me hard time and hard cough. Now I have a hope that, it wouldn’t last for long. I continue singing so as to stay in the race. When I recently explained my colleague friend, how I used to be home by 5:15 in the evening after work, have light supper at 6 and then go for a peaceful pollution free walk, and back on my music, she compared my life to that of Raghuvir Yadav's "Mungeri Lal ke haseen Sapne".. How true it is!! It might be hard for the people here to believe the way we lived. I now realize that I was probably riding on the top of the wheel then, which wouldn’t remain at the same position. One may not remain in the same coordinates all the time, be it good or bad, top or bottom, it has to change. There is always a success, always a failure, always a surprise, always a hope.

Almost a decade ago, when I was living in a 10*10, drawing room attached kitchen attached bathroom near Raghavendra Swami temple in Hulimavu, did I imagine I would have a US born daughter one day?..
In the same way, I never predicted my Mungeri dreams would take a 360 degree turn one day and then trouble me staying at the bottom of the wheel for years. My father’s surgery wasn’t a permanent one either. Pain aggravated from the Lumbar spine region, demanding another round of surgery which took place just a few days ago without any major issues.

At work front, probably it only worsens when you move up the ladder. However, I can’t help sincerely hoping for a change one day or somewhat adjust to this environment. Traffic problems?? Well – Metro :-) "Bhagavan jaane!!" when it completes; wherever we are, India or abroad, still have the same amount of time in a day, where we spend more than half a day for satisfying the customers in the west and.... ofcourse our bosses (will they ever be satisfied?? ;).. And rest, the commitment and support to the family - spouse, kid(s), parents, and the list goes on.. whoaaaa.. Where do we have time now? ..and there is still a long way to go for reaching the next level. I still manage to spend time for my music to an extent, still draw cartoons on demand, still perform, still compose, and try indulging in social responsibility activities whenever time permits... It’s possible in my case, because I still don't know where the Garuda Mall is in Bangalore, I may have visited "Forum" once or twice,,, "Chak de India" was my only movie in last 5 years before we updated our "Avatar", I hardly do shopping. I’m least knowledgeable on the restaurants we have in Jayanagar or Koramangala or BTM Layout, and when my friends talk about shares and market, I see stars, I rarely take vacation, and I have almost stopped watching my favorite cricket matches :-( but I still enjoy life and my true passion.. :-) I know I have to loose battles to win a war as it’s quite difficult for a person linked to an ever demanding professional competency and yet trying to excel in some other.

Arabhi now 4, very much enjoys following our footsteps, be it in the form of singing or drawing or dancing or acting and this is how our lives have adapted without compromising the true passion.
However at times, when people enquire me about their “Return to India” plans, I try giving an unbiased view and stay neutral with more facts and figures :-). One of my friends who lived in Phoenix, Arizona for over 15 years returned back and now working for the same company, living in a very comfortable Brigade apartments, and their US born kids enjoying their Indian school life. Just to quote another example, a friend of mine hailing from South Canara during his India trip a few years ago, was unable to cope up with the torturing sultry Mangalore heat, jetlag, had to stay away from his own house and move to an Air conditioned hotel when his kids terribly suffered. Situations vary from one individual to another. If something works for one, not necessarily should it work for others, and viceversa. I would consider this as just a new phase; though my transition was quite a long one, but marks a very interesting phase of my life, witnessing the good old Mississippi river side drive to the “Nice” bumpy ride of narrow Gottigere and Begur lakes..

Arabhi now hardly remembers a thing of her US stint, however relates every US city, downtown, snow in the Star movies & HBO channels to ‘Memphis’, and even says sometimes “Papa, Memphis ge hogoNa?..” (shall we go to Memphis?).... Nodding my head, I simply smile at her and react “Yes, Putti..we’ll go some day”… Well, I hope, after a few years she gives me a similar smiley look if at all she happens to read this some day ;)

Success is not the key to happiness
Happiness is the key to success
If you love what you are doing
You will be successful!

- Albert Schweizer

Best wishes - Thanks for reading and the comments given for the previous part :-)