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Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Loneliness of the Aged P (Parent)

Last night my oldest daughter Garima left for Geneva, where she lives, after a three week long stay. As her visit drew to a close, the usual sympathetic comments from friends and relatives fell on my ears like acid rain:'It's going to be lonesome when she leaves...Oh well...she'll only come back after a year...Lucky you, your youngest lives in Delhi, some consolation, etc. etc...'
I made the appropriate noises and inwardly gnashed my teeth. Right, it's a truth universally acknowledged that Aged Ps are condemned to the unrelenting gloom of a solitary existence when the little birdies spread their wings and fly off to distant places. Particularly mothers. My own mother was consumed by loneliness, living by herself in a deserted neck of the woods and I was consumed by guilt that I couldn't do enough to relieve it.
Over the years I have encountered so many discussions on the miseries of an old age sans the comfort of your children's loving presence that I sometimes wonder how people retain their sanity at all. Just a few days ago I read a rather chilling short story, "Toga Party" by John Barth, about an aging couple who enter into a suicide pact because they cannot bear the thought of living on without the other. Their children live far away and don't care enough.
All this makes me almost feel guilty that I can be quite comfortable in my solitude. Of course, I miss my daughters and my two grand kids. But I can enjoy my own company too, thank you! How else would I manage to write a word? Or read? Or simply daydream?
Solitude sets you free to be yourself, without the pressure of living up to roles that you have acquired in the course of your existence or been compelled to. It gives you space to breathe as deep as you wish. That's the way I feel.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Bizzy-Buddy mysteries


“Arre? What’s the matter? You two up already?” Dad looked surprised. Have you forgotten it’s Saturday?”
“Hasn’t Ma told you, Dad? Gautam bhaiya is taking us to meet Lassi,” Buddy said.
“Who’s Lassi? What kind of a name is that? Is it a dog?”
“Dad please, don’t you know Lassi?…Hey, you’re pretending!” Bizzy cried as she saw a smile slowly spread over Dad’s face.
The sound of a car horn being blown insistently alerted them that Gautam had arrived. They rushed outside right away.

The lift zoomed up to the sixth floor of the hotel. Bizzy and Buddy exchanged excited glances. Gautam bhaiya smiled.
“He’s quite a nice guy, you know,” he said. “Very friendly. Ah, here we are.”
The doors of the lift slid open and they stepped out. Bizzy’s heart was thudding as they walked down the narrow, maroon carpeted passage that led to Lassi’s room. Then Gautam bhaiya suddenly stopped short.
“Hey—where are the security guys?” he exclaimed. “What’s going on?” He rushed forward.
The door to Lassi’s room was slightly ajar. Their skins prickling with sudden apprehension, the twins followed him.
“Tinkooji, Rajesh, what’s the matter…Where’s Lassiji?”
The two men in front of them looked very, very anxious and--afraid. The older one, plump with a smooth, bald head, who was on the phone, paused in the act of dialing. His face was grave as he said, “We don’t know—he seems to have vanished!”
“Vanished! Where? How? Where are the security guards?”
“We-we’ve sent them to check out the whole hotel thoroughly. Bobby his personal bodyguard has gone with them too.”
“But--how did this happen and who’re you calling?”
“I…I was calling his secretary in Bombay—asking his advice. Maybe we ought to call the police…”
“No!” Gautam’s hand clamped on to the receiver of the phone. He banged it down. “We can’t tell anyone right now. We’ve got to try and find him ourselves first. Otherwise there’ll be a big hangama. Tell me how it all happened!”
“You know Lassiji. He wakes up at six thirty and after a glass of lassi he goes for his workout. He had gone down to the hotel gym. The security people were with him. After his workout he went to the toilet there. The guards waited outside, Bobby too. When he didn’t come out for a long time, they went inside to check. But there was no one there—the toilets were all empty. He-he seemed to have vanished into thin air!”

“Vanished into thin air? B-But how?” Buddy cried.
“That’s we’re wondering,” Tinkoo said gloomily. “It seems Chota Samson has got him.”
“Chota Samson?” Bizzy asked.
“The gangster,” Rajesh clarified. “But…it doesn’t seem like his style. More likely he’d shoot him down openly.”
Gautam frowned. “Let’s go there and check up,” he said, getting up. They all walked rapidly down the plush carpeted corridors and took the lift to the gym, which was on another floor. The security guards were still there, looking around.
“He just went in,” said Bobby, a muscular looking guy, pointing to the toilet, “and we sat here waiting…and he never came out.”
“It doesn’t seem possible!” Gautam shook his head. “Where could he have gone?”

Where has Lassi gone? Will Bizzy and Buddy find out? Wait to find out...

The Bizzy-Buddy Mysteries

The Bizzy-Buddy Mysteries appeared in serial form almost ten years ago in Chatterbox, a wonderful magazine for kids which had to close down, sadly.

Readers enjoyed them a lot. But what does a writer do with magazine stories after they've appeared? Sometimes they can be published as a book. But often it takes some time to find a publisher. I thought it might be a good idea to share these stories with readers via my blog. Hope you enjoy them!


“See this?” Fattu waved something in front of Bizzy’s face. There was a triumphant grin on his broad, self-satisfied face.

“How can I, when you’re waving it at supersonic speed?” Bizzy snapped. She couldn’t stand Fattu. The class pest, he was always bragging and showing off. That’s why he’d been nicknamed Fattu.

“Show me!” Her twin Buddy reached out and grabbed Fattu’s hand.

“Careful!” Fattu shrieked. “You might tear it!”

“What is it, for God’s sake?” Bizzy said. “A million dollar note?”

“Well, almost as precious,” Fattu smirked, laying down the green slip of paper before her on the desk. “It’s a ticket to the Lassi show—you know—Mast Mast Lassi! A thousand rupee one, in case you haven’t noticed.” His eyes glittered with smug delight.

Bizzy bit down her fury. The Lassi show! Her favourite pop star, he was having a show right here in Delhi in a couple of days. And she had no chance of going while this creep...But before she could react, she heard the sound of chairs being scraped back. An instantaneous hush followed telling her that the teacher had arrived. She hurriedly got to her feet along with the rest of the students.

“Oh, what wouldn’t I give to go to the Lassi show!” Bizzy cried.

“How about selling your precious diamond ring!” Buddy teased.

“Creep!” Bizzy threw a pencil at him.

They were back from school, holed up in Buddy’s room, trying to finish off their homework. Though they had separate rooms they always studied together. And invariably in Buddy’s room which always had each and everything in place unlike Bizzy’s horribly messy one.

Even though they were twins, twelve-year-old Bizzy and Buddy were quite different to look at, being fraternal and not identical twins. Bizzy was taller, skinny as a bamboo stick with a mop of curly hair always falling into her eyes. Chunky-built Buddy was exactly twenty-three minutes younger and much he resented it. He had inquisitive black eyes, which shone brightly behind his glasses. A natural snoop, he could never keep his small, sharp nose out of anything.

Their actual names were Vasundhara and Vardeshwar. But an aunt whom they had been visiting when they were just two and a half had exclaimed, “What a pair of busybodies!” as she watched them scramble all over the place, peering into cupboards, pulling stuff out of drawers. “They should be called Busy and Body.” These had somehow turned into Bizzy and Buddy and now hardly anyone knew their real names any more!

“Well, it’s no use moaning and howling,” Buddy said, catching the pencil. “You know we can’t. I’d never dream of asking Dad or Ma to shell out a thousand bucks for a show. Even if it is Lassi himself.”

“Well I wouldn’t either!” Bizzy shot back. “But I do want to go, yaar. Terribly.”

“I told you it’s no use, so will you kindly shut up!” Buddy said. “I want to finish my maths homework.”

Bizzy made a face. Buddy was too down to earth. She stared down at her social studies book but her mind was far away...

Distractedly she listened to her mother talking on the phone in the next room. “Accha,” she heard her say. “So Gautam’s company is doing the Lassi show…”

Something whirred in Bizzy’s mind. “Gautam bhaiya!” she screamed suddenly, making Buddy jump.

“What do you mean, Gautam bhaiya?” He frowned.

“Gautam bhaiya! Did you hear? The company he’s working for--it’s organising the show. He could get us passes…maybe.”

“Passes…hunh!” Buddy frowned again. “Forget it! A hundred million people must have asked him already.”

“Come on, yaar! Don’t be such a bore. By the way…I remember seeing their office address in the paper. It’s at Vasant Place. That’s practically next door! Come on!”

The office of Star Track Pvt. Ltd. was awhirl with frantic activity. Buddy looked sulky. Bizzy had practically dragged him there. But now that he was here, the excitement grabbed him too. The whole place throbbed with it. People scurrying around, phones ringing nonstop, piles of posters lying around. He picked one up. THE ONE AND ONLY MAST MAST LASSI! it said, with a huge photograph of the pop star dressed in his favourite colours, black and silver. Below, in smaller letters was written, ‘Also Dilruba Makki in a special appearance’.

“Gautam?” A young girl said in reply to Bizzy’s question. “He’s in the next room.”

Gautam bhaiya had always been one of their favourite cousins. Lean, lanky, with a smile always splitting his face, he was staring hard at a computer screen.

He started up. “Hey, you two! What’re you doing here?”

“Came to see what was happening with the Lassi show.” Bizzy’s smile was wide.

“Whewooo—big excitement. See, I was just checking the arrangements. He’s flying down from Bombay—“

“Where’s he staying?” Buddy asked.

“We’ve got bookings in three hotels.”

“Three hotels!”

“Yes,” his voice sank to a whisper. “This is top secret. He’s in big danger. It’s a marvel that he agreed to this show. We’ve booked in three hotels so no one can be sure where he’s staying.”

“B-but why?”

“Some underworld don, I can’t tell you his name, is miffed at him. He refused to perform at his son’s wedding. They say he’s given out a supari contract.”

“Oh no!” Bizzy felt goose pimples prickle her skin. “I must say it’s very brave of him to come.”

“Brave! I bet he’s getting big money,” Buddy scoffed.

“You won’t believe what we’re paying him. And we’ve got unbelievable security around, too, besides his own personal bodyguard. But we’re expecting to do pretty well ourselves too. The tickets are all sold out.” He stopped and looked at them. “Say…you kids looking for passes?” He frowned. “I’ll see what I can do. There are big demands from important people. If …I can’t get you any, I promise I’ll at least arrange for you to meet him, get his autograph. I’m the one who’s supposed to be personally taking care of him.”

“Oh, that’ll be too wonderful! When’s he arriving?” Bizzy asked.

“Tonight, by one of the late night flights. The show’s just tomorrow.”

“Right,” Buddy said.

“Tell you what. I have to be there at the hotel tomorrow again at eight. If you can and if you want to come along then, you could. It’ll be the only chance, actually. The rest of the day will be crazy with the press and all coming.”

“Of course we can!” Bizzy bounded up. “Tomorrow’s Saturday. No school.”

”I’ll pick you up at quarter past seven, then, okay? Be ready.”

“Ohhhh! Thanks Gautam bhaiya! Thanks so much!” Bizzy gave him a big hug.

What happens next? Wait till tomorrow to find out!