The Dhaba

child labour

“One extra-spicy Schezwan fried rice” someone shouted from behind me. I had heard it perfectly yet my over-specific manager ran up to me and shouted the order again. It had been three days since I’d started working at this roadside restaurant, six days since my father had passed away and a month since I had been dismissed from school for not being able to pay my fees. My mother had been bed-ridden for as long as my memory extends and I have no siblings. But believe me, there are still more unfortunate people than myself. I atleast had a job.

“What are you looking at? Start cooking… can’t you see the customer waiting” my manager said, throwing a smile at the customer and a killer stare at me. I started preparing that all-so-important fried rice. Believe me, I hadn’t cooked before but learnt how to within the first day I started working here. I would probably attribute it to the push that if I didn’t learn, I would starve another day. Also, I needed money to pay for my mother’s medication.

I came out of the thatched roof under which I was cooking to serve the customer his dish. He started staring at me, then my manager and then back at me. I walked up to his table and kept the plate on his table. Just when I was about to turn, he caught hold of my wrist. “How old are you?” he asked. I didn’t know why he was asking my age. I turned to look at my manager who came running towards the table asking “Is anything wrong?” and turned to give me that killer stare again. My insides started churning with fear. “It’s nothing but tell me… how old is the boy?”

“What is your age?” he turned and asked me seeing that my manager wouldn’t answer. “I asked you a question!” he shouted and I squirmed. “Twelve years. I am twelve years old” I replied. “How dare you make such a young kid work in your kitchen!” he stood up and my manager sure looked intimidated. “Sir…”. “Don’t you know it is a crime? Would you make a child work just for your restaurant’s profit?” he asked. He pulled me and showed my hands to my manager. “Look. He has so many bruises and burns because of working here” He shouted and everyone had started to notice. My manager looked at me and said “Get inside” and I obeyed silently. I couched behind a mud wall and saw my manager trying to pacify the enraged customer. It soon seemed to me that the customer had calmed down.

After all the customers left, my manager called me out. “You needn’t come tomorrow. I had to endure all this just because you are working here. I will find someone else from tomorrow.” He gave me Thirty rupees. “Sir. Please sir. I am ready to even work over-time” tears started rolling down my face. I wanted the job badly. I had tried hard for three days to get this job and I wasn’t sure how long it would to find another. The house rent would be due another week, mom’s consultation in ten days. These thirty rupees weren’t enough. I cried, fell on his feet but he wouldn’t listen. He forced the money into my hand and walked away.

I came outside the restaurant and was sitting on the corner of the road, weeping at how I would go home and face my mother. “Hey you. Why are you crying?” a middle aged man walked towards me and sat next to me. He kept patting my back as I told him my entire story. “Hmm. That’s sad. How about I give you a job. Are you interested?” he asked. I glowed with happiness and replied “I will do anything”. “Come with me”. He took me to a house and we sat behind the stone wall around it. “My legs are hurt. Can you jump over this wall?” he asked. “Yes I can” and before I could realise it, I was on the other side of the wall. “Get inside the house. The second room to your left. I will give you the key to the locker I that room. All you have to do is to empty the jewellery and money from that locker into this bag.” he threw a bag which landed on my head and I found the key inside it. I didn’t want to steal. I sat there waiting.

“What are you thinking about? I will pay you one thousand rupees. Just be quick with it” He said. Money drove me and I came back with all the jewellery and money that I could find. He handed me a thousand rupee note from within the bag and asked if I wanted to do it again. I had never seen a thousand rupee note before. I wondered how much I could do with this money and a sudden “yes” escaped my mouth. He asked me for my address and left. There I stood, transformed into a thief.

Thousand rupees. That thousand rupees note has landed me here. I looked around at the freshly whitewashed walls that made my cell. The wet air around with the smell of self-hatred that I was emanating made me feel nauseated. I lost my mother, lost my livelihood… lost everything. Who was truly responsible? Was it the twelve year old me? Was it the man with the hurt leg? Or was it really the customer who wanted to HELP me by making me jobless and desperate for money? I stared at the white ceiling above me being sure that these questions would haunt me forever.

When She Said her Passion is Dead

Source: alansvejk.com
Source: alansvejk.com

“What’s your passion? What do you want to achieve?” I asked her. “My passion is dead. It’s buried” she replied with eyes full of tears. “I’m a girl from a conservative family. I’ve been trying to pursue my passion right from standard 8. I love literature, poetry, and design. The education institutions I studied in ruined my passions. Relatives and parents were discouraging me. Now after ceaseless disappointments and pains, I’m working as a computer programmer. If you ask me what’s my passion, I don’t have an answer. During my childhood I was into dancing, professional dancers asked me to pursue dancing as I had a great future in it. My grandma opposed it strictly and I left dancing. I used to write English poems but when my relatives and parents read it, they asked me “for whom are you writing these? Are you in love?” There ended my tryst with poetry writing. I rarely write nowadays. I played badminton in my high school. My staff said that if I’m trained in the right way, I may excel in it. Then my parents said, “You need to build your body and stay fit for it. You can’t do it”. I locked my badminton dreams in the locker of the gym. My team started hating me for what I’d done. I studied well, scored good marks and got into a decent college. I wanted to become a fashion designer. But, this passion too failed.” She continued speaking.

“I felt lost. I felt terrible. I felt stupid. You may ask, why can’t I pursue my passion without my parent’s knowledge? I can’t, because I’m a girl. I’m a stupid girl! Now I’m earning 50,000 per month. Do you think I’m happy about it? I’m a lifeless person. Nowadays all I think is, I want to get married and settle with a good husband. That’s the only good thing I am fit to do in this society. Do you think I can simply go and ask my parents to get me married? I’m living in a world of hatred, disappointment and humiliation. Just because I wear branded apparels and good-looking shoes, it does not mean that I’m happy. I can easily wear a fake smile. Do you think I can resign my job? I need to give a peaceful retirement to my parents. For that, I need this 50,000 per month. This is the hard truth brother. You may come across many women in your day-to-day lives. I can vouch for sure that this is the condition of almost all girls born into middle-class, narrow-minded, conservative families. I’m not blaming my parents. I blame my ancestors. I blame this biased society. I blame this education system and finally, I blame myself for wasting my life. My passion is dead, but I earn 6 LPA with some programming skill I learned in my college. Wish I was born as a boy, like you brother” saying this, she wiped her tears away, finished her coffee, and checked her face in the front camera of her iPhone. “Do I look fine?” she asked me. I nodded. She smiled and it looked fresh. “My parents will start searching for a groom soon”, she said with tired eyes.

It replayed again and again in my head when I saw her photo in the obituary column of the newspaper 2 years after this incident. There was a “Mrs” before her name.

Nothing Will Change, I Promise

Coffee

Another Sunday!

Sleep, eat, roam about lazily, repeat. This, is how my Sundays go, I’m sorry, used to go. Being 25 and unmarried just ruined everything. Sundays became the time for me to converse with strangers for like, half an hour and decide whether to marry them or not. Four such horrible Sundays passed by in three months. This, is the fifth.

“Varshu! Aren’t you ready yet?” That’s Amma’s voice. A worried voice to be exact. Not only her, everybody at home were so worried. Especially, when Amma’s sister’s cousin’s daughter Reshma got married at 23, Appa’s colleague’s daughter Sanjana quit her job to go to the US with her husband and ended up successfully giving birth to a baby boy at 22 and here I am, unmarried with a successful career. Now that, should hurt a lot!

Arranged marriages are complex, already. Horoscopes and the mathematical calculations that decide whether a boy and girl can have a successful and good married life make it even more complicated. Despite the horoscope matches with the four guys I previously met, nothing worked out even in the half hour talk, forget about the rest of life. Arranged marriages don’t give you soulmates, I know that. Just to find a person who is like, tailored for me and not only my horoscope, I am doing this.

“Varshini, listen. Please tell me what you are going to talk to the boy?” When Amma calls me that, it means she is pretty serious. And yes, that question is the outcome of all the fear she has about the way I talk.

“Sorry ma! I’ve told you everything that I feel and everything that has happened to me in life. But this, no. I don’t want to get advises on what to talk to the guy and what not to. So why don’t you just trust your daughter and let her be herself?”

“All these days, I’ve let you be yourself, and the result? You’re still not married while all the girls of your age are with two kids and settled down in life. I don’t even know if you care about us when you talk something to the guy. I’m talking to you! Varshini? Look at her, she is not even responding?” she told my father.

“Till you have this stubbornness, you’re not going to get married at all!”

“Chitra, please let her be! Varshu, I believe in you. Just talk whatever you feel like talking okay? Now go, get the bike key” Appa. Someone who trusts me to the fullest and believes whatever I do will be right.

“Thank you for all the trust that you have in me, pa. Just wait for two minutes, I’ll be right back” I had to actually fight my tears on the way back to my room.

Amma didn’t mean any of those harsh words, I know that, but I had tears filled in my eyes and a sudden rush of negativity.

How can I spend the rest of my life with a person who doesn’t like me the way I am? Am I that terrible a person that nobody will ever like me? I was lost in these thoughts! I had so many questions. I know someone who would have answers to all those questions too. I logged into Skype and waited for Shravan Kumar to come online.

Shravan is my best friend since the time when hormonal changes made us adults, so basically, we know both the child and adult part of each other. Gender has never been a bar for our friendship. He knows me in and out and we share literally everything that happens to each other. We’ve discussed about arranged marriages right when we were teens. He used to ask me “How do you decide whether a person is your life partner in just ten minutes?” I mean, how right he was?!

He came online. “How long should I wait for you?” I shouted.

“Hello! I was ju… Hey wait? Were you crying? What’s the matter, Varsh?”

“Shravan, this is the fifth guy that I’m about to meet. The guys whom I met with before apparently ‘didn’t like me’. Am I that bad a person? Mom says I won’t get married till I change, I don’t know… I am just too low. I’m kind of in a complex that nobody will ever like me. It’s all bleh! Shravu, can you… can you actually come here?”

“Why do you think so much at a time? Varshini, get this straight into your head. You’re the most confident and strong woman I’ve ever met in my life! And YOU are failing to be yourself because of some stranger guys?”

“I don’t know, Shravu! I just hate this phase of my life. It’s ruining me!” tears that I controlled earlier fell mercilessly from my eyes.

“Stop crying now. This is not something that I want to witness over a Skype call sitting several thousand miles away. You shouldn’t let any situation ruin you Varsh. I have seen you face worse crises and you’ve handled them boldly. Just throw everything out of your mind and go meet him as Varshini Raghuram. For now, you are not her.”

“Okay if I be myself, you think this guy will like me?” I asked him like a kid.

“That, we can’t tell. But… ”

“Varshu it’s 5 minutes to raahu kaalam! Can we start now?” I just realised that I kept Appa waiting.

“Okay Shravu, that’s Appa. I will leave now. Can I have a hug?”

“Yea you can. Hugging and supporting you with all my might. Now stay calm and be yourself, don’t forget that!”

“Alright! You go to bed now, don’t stay up too late.”

“Yea, I won’t. You take care and ping me when you’re back! Love you dumbfuck!” and he kissed me good bye. “Love you too! Bye!” Talking to him was like a therapy, I felt so relieved and positive. This asshole should’ve been here with me, I thought as I started yet another journey to find my better half. Whoever invented this word to describe a spouse is such a legend. Appa’s bike stopped.

Okay, I’m in front of Adyar Ananda Bhavan, a restaurant which is usually suggested by my parents (I guess even that was years ago, they in fact come up with suggestions like BBQ Nation and Cream Centre these days) and Harish Rajagopalan has asked me to come here, of all places.

“Varshu, he’ll be waiting for you. Once you finish talking, come back safely in an auto or give me a call”, Appa told. I just wanted to go back home with him right away.

My eyes quickly scanned the entire restaurant to find a face at least little similar to the one they saw in SS matrimony (One can never rely on the photos in matrimony sites, they are always the best possible photographs of the person). I couldn’t see anybody like him so I called Appa and asked him to call Harish and find where he was (Tambrahm has it that the guy and girl shouldn’t exchange numbers before finalising the wedding). Looks like he has been waiting for me in the first floor.

I entered the hall and there I could see him, pretty recognizable. Harish Rajagopalan, height 6 feet 1 inch, weight 75 kilos, Senior Software Developer at Zoho Corporation, Chennai. Above all this, something that is of maximum priority, he is Bharadwaja gothram, Kadaga raasi, Poosa nakshathram.

“Hi! I’m Varshini. Harish?”

“Hey! Hi Varshini! Vaa ukkaaru (Come, have a seat)” That isn’t the way you address a stranger, I thought as he went on. Not judging, though.

“So, how does it feel with all the marriage alliance – seeking and the horoscopes and stuff? Boring isn’t it?” So that’s how you start a conversation? Not judging, again.

“Haha yea” Faked it.

“So Varshini, if I’m right, I’m the fifth guy that you’re seeing for marriage?”

“Uhm, yea?!” I stopped with that, though the voice inside me screamed ‘You have a problem with that?’

“Do you know why the four guys you saw previously rejected you?” That was it. I couldn’t stand more crap of a conversation. I mean, who does he think he is to use the word ‘reject’?

“Well, I don’t know Harish! I don’t want to, but let me guess, those guys might be as narrow-minded and drunk with arrogance as you. I am not jobless to come all the way to a place like this and get ridiculed by a stranger! You know what?! Before you say a word, I’ll just leave! Good bye!”

I entered home intoxicated with anger. “Varshu, why are you home so soon? Did you like him? What happened?” I just brushed all these questions away and stormed into my bedroom.

When I woke up it was 8 in the night! Shravan’s call woke me up! “All the best da” I blabbered in a sleepy voice. “My exam got over an hour back. So what happened in the meeting? Was the guy cool?”

“He’s the most disgusting guy I’ve ever met Shravan. Rude, arrogant, ill-mannered…” I narrated him the entire story.

I was so pissed and there was Shravan trying to ‘draw positivity’ out of this incident. “You know what, I’m really proud of you for being this bold. Before you went, you were all down and after meeting him you’re at least not low, in fact you shed all that complex shit though you are pretty angry. I should thank the guy for that.”

“Yea, right! That’s how you thank someone who insulted your best friend!”

“No. That’s how I thank a guy who made my best friend speak her heart out.” Actually, I didn’t realize that until Shravan told, I did open up, yea.

Appa came in “Varshu, you woke up? Harish called just after you reached home. He apologised to you, seems like he had a really important work and so he had to leave. Only then did I and Amma understand why you came early. Thank god, he called and informed. That’s why I didn’t wake you up!” Okay, I didn’t have the slightest clue of what was happening! Why did he have to lie to my father?

“Sorry pa! I can’t see him again. I’m done with him.”

“But… why kanna? He just apologised for leaving early, no? Are you angry for that? ”

“It’s not that pa…”

“Okay, we will discuss about this once you are done talking in the phone, alright?” He went outside the room saying this.

“There’s nothing to discuss pa!” I shouted at the void behind the open door and continued my phone call “Varsh, what was Appa saying? I heard something like the guy wanted to see you again?”

“Yea, I don’t know why he lied to my dad that he was the one who left. Anyways, I don’t want to see him.”

“Varshini, you should watch out for this guy! I think he is cool and I also feel that you never let him talk. Probably that’s why he wants to see you again. So you know what, you have to meet him again!”

“No way, Shravan! I won’t meet him again.”

“No listen… ”

“You listen! The guys whom I met before, told my parents some stupid reasons after meeting me to avoid the alliance, alright? This guy, isn’t even that courteous. He was so rude, blunt and spoke to me in such an arrogant way.”

“Varsh, hang on. Just recall what you told right now. The fact that this guy is different from all the others came out of your mouth. And you know what, he never said he didn’t like you. Even if he said so, he told it to you at your face directly right? So, isn’t he your type?”

“Don’t try to change my mind-set Shravan. I just don’t want to see him again.”

“Varshini Raghuram, if you don’t have a valid argument against my view, just shut up and listen to what I say at least.”

“No it’s not that… ”

“You’re time is up. You’ve not got a point against Shravan! Accept your defeat and agree to meet that guy. Go and tell Appa, NOW!”

“Fine. Bye”

“What does that mean?”

“It means I’ll go talk to Appa and agree to meet him, alright? Bye” He laughed and I kept the phone down.

I agreed to meet Harish again on Monday after office. This time he asked me to come to KFC, a total contrast of a place!

“Would you like to have something? To eat, to drink?”

“Krushers will do. Thanks”

“Okay I’ll order Hot Wings for me!” Hot Wings… is supposed to be chicken right? Oh my god, apparently the white cross isn’t pure white. He continued talking “I’m sorry, are you still angry?”

“Why do you even bother about all that? Please tell me why you lied to my dad and why you wanted to meet me again.” I was about to utter few more words, but he spoke like a rapid-fire, “Because I like you and I wanted to spend more time with you” Shravan was so right in telling that this guy is outspoken, I thought.

“Wh… What?!” I gasped.

“Yea! Just let me complete what I was about to tell you yesterday, will you?” our order came. “Chicken saapduviya?” (Do you eat chicken?)

“No!”

“Yea so, the question I asked you was to give a good start to the conversation, but I just didn’t use the right words… ”

“Okay, you asked me if I knew why those guys ‘rejected’ me. This, you believed, would’ve given a good start?”

“Yea, I know. I apologise for the word. I just meant if you ever thought why those guys would’ve responded in negative.”

“No I didn’t. In fact, I don’t want to think about all that.”

“Well, even if you don’t want to think about it, I want you to know, so please let me talk…” he continued. “Uhm, my family kind of did some ‘research’ about how you are as a person and all that. So… they were told you are a bold personality, outspoken, talented and everything, but they were also told that you are not a ‘cultured person’, you are quite ‘modern’, and you always hang around with the guys, you know, such stuff.”

“Oh okay, so you say that those guys would have ‘rejected’ me hearing all these? You know what, I really don’t care… I…” I… was interrupted.

“Relax Varshini! Just calm down. Will you please listen to me fully?”

“Why should I listen to what people bitched about me? Huh?”

“Because I want to let you know that I don’t give a fuck to those opinions of people.” I got bowled over by this reply, to be frank.

“What are you saying?”

“I seriously didn’t want to judge you with all these talks. I just wanted to let you know what is going on around you, considering that you might be clueless about what really went wrong with these guys that met you. And that just didn’t go the way I wanted, I’m sorry for that. In fact, I feel if there’s mixed opinion about a woman and there are people who bitch about her like this, she must be someone who follows her heart without giving a damn to what people think about her. Above all this, if you hang around with so many guys as they say, all of them can’t be your boyfriends, right?” he winked. That sentence angered me.

“Oh, so? If I had a boyfriend and I broke up with him, you’d have judged me like the rest of the people?”

“Absolutely no! I’d think that the guy whom you broke up with couldn’t just hold on to a woman like you.”

“A woman like me? How well do you know me to make that statement?”

“Well, I don’t know you much, but I would like to know more about you! Because, I personally feel that you’re an awesome woman already!” I was afraid that I would decide in haste if I stayed a little longer. So I told him some lame reason and rushed home. When Appa and Amma asked, I told I need time to think.

I called Shravan and told every word of the conversation I had with Harish. “See?! I told you he’s not a bad choice. This is why you’ve to listen to me…” he just ranted on. However, I couldn’t come to a conclusion with that meeting. Shravan suggested that I meet him again. But how, this meeting itself is ‘illegal’ according to my relatives and the elders in my family. I can’t ask my parents to meet him once again, so I chose not to tell them.

For the third consecutive day, I met him. He suggested that we walked the talk.

“Look here, Harish… to be frank, I loved the way you spoke yesterday. But, will it be practically possible to implement your views in life? I am even doubtful if they are really your views.”

“You thought I spoke all that to impress you? Well, honestly I was very careful with the tone or the words I chose, I did try to impress you as the first encounter flopped, but what I spoke, the content, it’s something that I truly believe in, yea”

“Harish, all these years, my dad has trusted me and given me the freedom to do whatever I like. I’ve seen girls of my age who had to face a lot of restrictions. My dad was different and yes, I’ve never spoiled his trust. He has been the ideal dad! All I wish for is one thing. I need a truly ‘better’ half! A person who can give me the same freedom my dad gave me and trust me like him. I don’t want anything to change after marriage. I say “Love you” to my best friend Shravan and kiss him good bye whenever I talk to him. I don’t want that to change. My job, the way I be with my parents, friends, I don’t want any of it to change because of a marriage. Varshini Raghuram should live life no different from Varshini R Xyz. Yes, I won’t remove my dad’s initials after marriage, neither will I refuse to add my husband’s name. I want everybody, I need people…“ I kind of spoke everything that I had in mind.

“What are you staring at Harish? I’m done talking!” I said.

“I’m going to tell my parents that I like you. You just think about it and let me know. ”

“What? Harish, you never told me anything about yourself?”

“What do you want to know about me?”

“What sort of a question is this? Tell me what kind of a person you are and what kind of a girl you’re looking for and all that, I don’t know?”

“The girl that I’m looking for is in front of me.” and before he continued, I got a mini heart attack!

“And what do I tell about myself? I love doing what I like and I admire and have huge respect for the people who do what they like. You’d have noticed yesterday, I eat non-vegetarian food despite being a Brahmin. I’ve not hidden this from Appa, Amma but yea, when I go for a meal with them, I don’t eat non-veg as they won’t like it. I’m quite broad-minded… uhm… not a people person, but yea it is not difficult for me to be with people either.” He thought a moment. “What else, I smoke when I’m tensed… that’s actually a rarity and I drink occasionally. I’ve not been in any ‘relationship’ but almost got into one. And yea, I’m a virgin.” He ended, laughing.

Okay, someone please call the ambulance. Varshini has fell!

“Hello? Varshini? You’ve got a problem with anything that I said?”

“Huh? What did you ask?”

“I asked if I told something wrong.”

“No! Not at all… uhm…”

“What are you thinking? I understand, you need time to decide, right? You can’t choose in 25 minutes the person with whom you are supposed to spend more than 25 years of your life. You take your time, Varshini. I can wait. I’ll just tell my mom and dad that I like you. So, if at all this marriage alliance is dropped, I’d be the ‘rejected’ one! Wouldn’t it be cool to reject someone?” He winked at me and bid good bye. It would definitely not be cool or right on my part if I ‘rejected’ such a guy.

Something in me said this shouldn’t be the last time I’m meeting Harish. I gave it a lot of thought and even asked Shravan. He was very happy and excited hearing the way Harish spoke. “Go for it Varsh” he had said. And finally yes, I decided to actually go for it.

There were six whole months between the day his entire family came to see me ‘officially’ and the marriage. Unforgettable days, they were. Roaming around the city, little meet-ups over a cup of roadside tea or paani poori, endless midnight conversations, fights that seemed cooked up just to experience the bliss of reconciliations that followed, and what not. He taught me how to live life, with a child’s innocence and an adult’s maturity.

Thinking of all this, here I am, sitting on Appa’s lap waiting for the holy thread to adorn my neck and he, was standing opposite to me chanting all the mantras. Everybody started gearing up all of a sudden while I just closed my eyes and prayed “Dear God, the smiles, the beauty, the wealth, the kin and kith, all these might not be with the both of us throughout our lives, but let the love stay forever. Not only Harish, his family and friends are all mine too now and I should never disappoint them in anyway. Let us both spread love, more love, again and forever.” With so much optimism, I opened my eyes, they were filled. Harish tied the thaali once around my neck, his sister Shalini tied two more knots and yes, I was married. I told Harish “I love you.” He smiled. He just smiled? “Won’t you say it back?” I asked. “Why should I? Don’t you know it, for you are mine now.” he said. I don’t remember a time I’ve been happier. I looked at Shravu, he was crazily waving at me and giving flying kisses to both of us. And I can’t describe in words how happy our parents were.

I dragged Harish and Shravu and told them “I want a group hug!” They both hugged me in a reflex and Harish told the cutest sentence that a husband can ever say, “Nothing will change, I promise.” That moment will be FRAMED in my heart, forever.

The End.

Alpenglow

It was unbelievably cold. The icy breeze hit my spine like sharp needles trying to penetrate my skin. My legs were so sore that it made me question if I could actually feel them. The wariness in every muscle of my body was so evident. My lungs had grown impatient and refused to do their routine expansion and contraction. I could feel my brain begging so deeply, asking me for just a moment’s rest. Yet my soul burst with happiness and love. I could roar… shout in happiness. I was on top of the world. This time quite so literally I was.

The horizon or more so, everywhere that my tired eyes could expand its vision was pure white. The sound of silence from the valley beneath was deafening. The combined breathing of my trekking team, the gush of ice-cold wind and the sound of my heartbeat saved my ears from blowing up. I sat on the earth beneath that was covered with snow as soft as freshly mowed grass. Staring beyond yonder, at the majestic view, I was overwhelmed with a forlorn dream to fly over this ancient land. A driving urge to gaze over this world from a greater height. Driven by ambition or by mere greed I was not sure. I am a man too after all.

I shouldn’t lie… the surreal thought of being above all, even above the world ran through my mind. I soon shrugged when a hand lay on my shoulder. “Have this” she handed me a bowl of soup and a protein bar. All this was her plan. “Where do you want to go for our honeymoon” I had asked and she had replied “Mt. Everest. Kabir I always have…” she started to explain and I lied “I have too!”. I was… well I am in love with her and would go to any extent just to see her smile. I grabbed the bowl of soup just as she sat next to me. She was as tired as I felt but I had never seen her face glow as it did then.

“Kabir” she called out and as I turned towards her, she kissed me. Our first kiss after marriage. Just as we parted, our guide called out from behind “We have to leave right away”. We both stood up dusted the snow from our jackets. I carried my backpack and we turned to leave. Just then, as I turned to have my last glimpse at that divinity, the sun rose from the skyline and turned everything into a godly orange. The snow reflected that bright orange light and I called out “Nikita” as she turned to see that marvel. She ran towards me and I held her close by her waist. After taking a long deep breath, she whispered “I love you”. I turned to look at her gleaming with joy and smiled. “I love you too”.

Why is Marvel more successful than DC?

 

The past decade has been the best time to be a comic book fan. The amount of movies that have been made based on superheroes after the turn of the millennium is 42! Yeah, you read it rightWhat’s more, the coming years are going to be packed to the brim with more superhero movies. The chief contributors to this list have been two colossal giants of the comic book industry, Marvel and DC comics.

DC comics was founded as National Allied Publications by Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson in the year 1934, while Marvel was founded as Timely Publications by Martin Goodman in the year 1939.  To achieve what these two companies have today, they sure have come a long, long way. (that rhymes!) Although the two are neck and neck when it comes to comics, Marvel gives DC a run-for-its-money when it comes to movies. Of the 42 movies mentioned, 34 have been from Marvel against DC’s paltry tally of 8 movies.

The reason for Marvel’s success in movies has been Scarlett Johansson its endearing heroes and plots where the hero always wins. Not to mention the heroes’ awareness of the need to save civilians during war. DC fails when it comes to this, as its heroes are more emotionally dark and devoid of humour. But the biggest mistake according to me is that DC’s heroes are more God-like or aliens. For example, take the Justice League. Batman is the only hero who hasn’t acquired that status just by accident or by being born in another planet. Superman is from an alien planet called Krypton and so is Martian Manhunter who as his name suggests, arrives from Mars. Wonder Woman is a demi-goddess while Aquaman gets his powers from his mermaid mother and we are made to believe that The Flash got his super-human speed as a result of getting hit by a lightning and a particle accelerator explosion. As you can see, most of them are already superheroes.

Marvel on the other hand, has heroes whose origin stories are believable (to an extent). Take the Avengers. Captain America is a super-soldier with heightened reflexes, strength, vision and intelligence and as the Cap would call him, Iron man is a “A big guy in a suit of armour.” Oh but he’s also a genius, billionaire, playboy and philanthropist but ultimately a human. Black widow – human, Hawk-Eye – human. Hulk and Thor (Demi-God) are the only indestructible members of the Avengers core team. Even heroes of the extended Marvel universe who have superpowers attribute it to evolution and mutation (X-Men) and not by accident. What I’m trying to say is that most of Marvel’s heroes can be killed (but they aren’t).

Also, DC’s handling of storylines has been panned widely by critics and fans alike. Yes, I’m talking about the god-awful Green Lantern and not to forget Batman vs Superman. Green Lantern was so bad that it was chosen as one of the worst movies of 2011. Marvel took a dig at Green Lantern in the recently released Deadpool movie wherein Wade Wilson, the character played by Ryan Reynolds says “Please don’t make the super suit green, or animated.” referring to his role as Hal Jordan in Green Lantern. BvS had Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and was directed by Zack Snyder. “What could go wrong?” thought DC. How wrong could they be! The movie was filled with plotholes. Although it made a whopping amount of money, fans generally didn’t like it. It was also criticized for making the characters more dark in nature as opposed to fun and comical heroes of Marvel. There isn’t a DC superheroes like Deadpool or Iron Man. The Flash comes a little close to being funny but that’s about it.

All being said, DC is different from Marvel. So let us hope that they come up with better movies in the future as they have 8 movies lined up until 2020.

Writer’s note: Marvel will always fall behind DC because of one aspect, one man- Batman. Why you ask? Because he is BATMAN!

Last Words

Holding hands

My wife’s last words may not be for me. She might be cursing her killer. She might be screaming through her fall, and the last distinguishable words could have been It is 5.30, smiling. An illness, if it decides to take her, and it gets to her head too, the words could be incoherent and meaningless. It could be a shriek, There is a truck. In her sleep she might go as she wishes, and the last words forgotten. If death decides to do it in the hospital with a person holding her hands, she will be talking to her mother.

The mother might not even be in the hospital. I might be the messenger, holding hands.

***

My wife is alive and healthy and loving. I don’t mind she loving her mother more than me.

Last word directed towards me, I don’t consider them trophies. The old man, my neighbour, his were “Oh, you have come too” and he smiled, and he died. I won envying relatives who surrounded the death-bed. To me it was not special. I would have graciously, let the son take my position when the smiling dad of his died. Yes, I liked it, but it was not a life event for me. It made (makes) no difference if people speak to me or not, as they die. I never believe in ghosts.

My father hence had no obligation when I was holding his hands. Not that I have told him, but he knows me well. Father he is, treated like one too. Yet, the healthy built, fragile gentleman tried hard to focus on me. He gave up. He was forced to settle on just looking in my direction.

“Trust god always” his eyes did focus as he finished. Took too much of his breath. All of it.

Last words always do that.

***

It is today. I am in the green kurta that my wife got me. My son is walking slow, backwards, looking up the hole in the thatched roof, through which the pillar shoots up. He wants to see the top of the pillar with copper leaves, that my wife had described to him, moments earlier. He is wearing a green kurta. She got two. She told him that wishes come true when he catches those copper leaves sway in the air, making the copper bells in them toll.

Almost all the temples have these pillars. Pillars with copper leaves and bells. I never knew this significance, I still doubt it. I am not asking her if it was just a distraction to the bored kid. She wants to lean on my shoulder. This is a temple, so she is not leaning. I don’t like the reason. I cannot tolerate my son taking what my wife just said, serious. He is seven. I am not voicing my question, my dislike or my intolerance.

Today is four years after my father’s death.

I like the place, the peace that surrounds me, and the air that I breathe in. The air that I breathe out won’t disrupt peace.

After all she will lean on my shoulder in the cab home. We will change, and our family won’t be in this green uniform once we get home. It is beautiful how my son is walking backwards in little steps.

So I smile.