The Intermission

When we all joined B school around June, last year, none of us had thought that the 1st year would end like this, in an “Intermission”. I would not call it an end, but an intermission because let’s hope, “Picture Abhi baaki hai mere dost.”

It was 2 am, when I got an emergency meeting text from the Class Rep, I immediately knew things are about to change now. The national emergency has become an international one. The unconfirmed covid19 patient in the city was just a few hours from getting confirmed. We all knew we have a decision to make now. I immediately put the movie on pause, took my phone, drank some water and went out of the hostel. The view was not something that I have witnessed from the past 9 months. There was a mass gathering instead of few groups at corners, there was serious panic on the faces instead of last-minute project submission stress, and there were several clueless eyes instead of confident smiles. We all joined to think of a possible decision, an alternative to the decision and alternatives to the alternative but we finally made an unanimous choice.

2 am became 9 am. The morning came but our wait wasn’t over yet. The news of the confirmed patient was all around the state. Amidst all these, we were selecting the perfect option to click for the marketing quiz questions. Slowly and steadily, the decisions starting coming. The start was with the students not being allowed to the campus if they have gone for any vacations. But, only if we could see the virus and if there was any cure, we would have embraced them with open arms. But sadly, that’s not so. The next decision was the college shut down till further notice. We were asked to leave campus and go back to our homes within 48 hours. It was the “unanimous choice” that we have made, but when it came, it came with such a shock. People were relieved to know that they are finally going home after months. Some were ecstatic with the final exams getting postponed. With these small joys, everyone was aware that the next 48 hours are going to be crucial until they reach their destined place.

I, on the other hand, was completely indifferent to the situation. How can my life be complete without some serious drama? How can the 1st year will end on a silent note? No, never. There has to be some drama in my life, whether life or death, whether any emergency, whether any accidents and here it is. Now, it feels normal. I gave a nice smirk to myself and started packing for home. Let’s not make it way too dramatic to die. By the time it was evening, flight tickets were rescheduled, documents were signed, bills were cleared all around the campus, packing was done, masks and sanitizers were arranged. All thanks to technology.  People were ready for the mass exodus.

B school is a place where there are cut-throat competitions in the name of group dynamics. But this emergency has extracted the hidden humanity and unity in all of us. Helping hands for any minuscule of matters were applauded. The economic slowdown had already put many of us in a somber situation and now with this corona outbreak, it felt like the backbone is breaking. But, I could see many fighting spirits around me, many wonderful souls finding positivity out of this situation. The meme makers were all on making jokes out of this situation and recreating smiles. When many are cursing them, I feel they should be celebrated. One positive thought, one hope, one happy moment matters at this point. When the status of covid19 confirmed cases in India is rising with each passing day, it does feel like a plot in the “Contagion” movie (a 2011 Hollywood movie based on the spread of an unknown virus).  The entire world is fighting with something which doesn’t have a cure yet. When pleasantries were exchanged before we all left for home, we all hoped in one corner of our hearts, hope to see you soon, buddy.

When we all joined B school around June last year, none of us had thought that the 1st year would end like this, in an “Intermission”. I would not call it an end, but an intermission because let’s hope, “Picture Abhi baaki hai mere dost.” Let’s pray that this intermission ends in a good note and the ending of the movie will be a happy one. Now that we all are in our homes, let’s give some time in self retrospection, let’s spend some valuable time with our families and let’s focus on our hobbies. Well, if traveling is your only hobby, then May God bless you, try finding a new one!

It is a waste of your time!

When someone says “Waqt ki kadar karna seekho!”, then we can only reply, “Waqt ya to acha hota hai ya bura, kadar uski apne aap ho jaati hai. Ache waqt pe log aapki kadar karte hain, aur bure waqt ki kadar karna duniya sikha deti hai.”

When Sourav would go out on a short bike ride just a day before his final exams, the entire college would ask him, aren’t you wasting your time, you should study. On the other side, when Neha would gather all her energy and courage to propose Rahul, he would shut her down by saying, “Do not waste your time.” At the same time, Manav would get suggestions from his entire family including the extended ones, not to waste more time on UPSC preparations. After a good academic career and few years of top managerial job, when Abhinav would quit the job and tries to figure out life and his passion, he gets nothing from the world but rants of “you are simply wasting your time.” These and many more, stories of “wasting our time” shape our personality days after days.

But how much time wasted would actually define “The wasting of time”, what is the measure? Isn’t the mere utilization and wastage of time is nothing but the game of perceptions? I feel the time is like energy, neither wasted nor utilized, it’s just the flow. Nobody knows just a few hours of bike ride would give Sourav, the joy and peace which can relax him. And Rahul failed to see Neha’s innocence and courage. How can admiring someone be a waste of time, and even if it is, what is the alternative to it?  For Manav and Abhinav, their identity lies with their passion, their understanding of life. These are just the simple emotions and feelings that exist around us and we all fail to acknowledge them. We tag them as “wastage of time.” Arent we harboring within us the “demons of judgmental thinking” which ultimately kills the softcore of human emotions? Yes we are, we all are. How can we know and conclude that the other person is just wasting his/her time without being empathetic?

We live by the theory of ROI (Return of Investment). Each moment, we have to contribute such in order to gain something better and bigger. But how much contribution defines an ample amount? An extra hour of sleep doesn’t mean extra rest to the body anymore but an opportunity lost in time utilization. If nothing works out in life, absolutely nothing, we keep on doing random things instead of waiting because time has to be utilized. Nobody understands, doing nothing and just mere waiting is also “time utilization.” I feel every time waste and every moment utilized slowly contribute to our future success. The success where we feel the real happiness, the self-actualization stage. Till that time, we can start putting some effort in valuing the emotions of the people around us, understanding their actions, celebrating their passions, respecting their courage and stop shutting them down by saying,” You are wasting your time!”

When someone says “Waqt ki kadar karna seekho!”, then we can only reply, “Waqt ya to acha hota hai ya bura, kadar uski apne aap ho jaati hai. Ache waqt pe log aapki kadar karte hain, aur bure waqt ki kadar karna duniya sikha deti hai.”

NOTE- It’s my own original thoughts and perceptions. I hope i am not wasting my time in writing this.

THE UNFINISHED TRIP

What was suppose to be a peaceful religious trip for them, resulted in a tragedy stricken evening and it is not going to stop there.

17th of June 2018, Father’s day. It was a casual Sunday afternoon. She was busy flipping through old childhood photographs. “Mom, what’s wrong with me, why did you tie my hair like this in this photo?”, she complained to her mother. Her mother replied while folding the sun-dried clothes, “Why, what’s wrong? You look good!”. As the discussions started to take some pace, her father entered the room and announced, “C’mon, get ready, let’s go to Puri”. It’s been a year since the family had gone for any outing, for any family trip, that is since her father’s heart surgery. Hence, that day the excitement was natural. Keeping the photographs aside, they all got ready in no time and started the journey.

Puri, the land of Lord Jagannath , is one of the sacred places on Earth. Being 61 kms from Bhubaneswar, it was just a 90 minute journey for them. The place is filled with a powerful divine aura, beautiful artistic temples, serene beaches, and not to forget, delicious food. Seated in the back of the car, she was busy chattering with her parents and taking selfies with them. It was a perfect scene of a happy family enjoying their Sunday outing. After an hour of their journey, they were about to reach a crossroad. She saw their car approaching the crossroad  and she even saw a big truck trying to cross the road in full speed. The car driver pressed the brakes. It took her a fraction of second to realize, the accident is inevitable. Defense mechanism set its foot in and she quickly managed to squeeze her head between her legs with the hands, covering the neck. She could not predict the intensity of the accident, but all she could do was to save herself from any mishap, given the reaction time was so less. Everything after that was only sounds, plethora of sounds. Sounds of crashing vehicles, noises of her mom screaming and tires screeching. Her entire body was joggled vigorously inside the car. There was darkness in her mind, numbness in her soul, a feeling she would never wish anyone to experience ever in life. It was death standing in-front and saying hello to them, spreading it’s wings.

Few minutes went by like this, before the car stopped with a sudden jolt. Silence overshadowed the noises. Slowly, she removed her hands from the neck. She could move. She was shaking like a leaf and yet her eyes started searching for her parents. Right beside her, her mother was suffocated out of fear. She saw her mother is alright except some soft tissue injuries. Relieved, she started looking for her father, but where is he?  She started screaming out of sheer panic,”Dad,,dad,,,Oh my God,,where is he!”. He was pushed right behind them at the back of the seat, drenched with blood and unconscious. Coldness started to creep inside her making her almost paralyzed. Her brains refused to do any logical thinking and her heart started beating at an abnormal pace. Within no time, a crowd gathered near them. The rescue operation was initiated. Still paralyzed, she saw people carrying her motionless father out of the car. Strangely, something inside her woke her up from this semi-coma state by commanding, “NO!, get him back,,,get him back,,”.

And a spurt of adrenaline filled her vessels, she jumped out of the car and ran towards her father. Holding him in her arms, all she could see was blood, blood and blood. His head, his eyes, his face and even his clothes, everything covered with blood. She wiped the blood with her mother’s duppatta and looked for any signs of bleeding from ears and nose. There weren’t any. The bleeding was from a 3 inch long laceration on the forehead which had injured a vein. Without wasting any more time, she started screaming at the top of her voice while slapping her dad’s face, “Dad,dad, c’mon get up,,open your eyes, get up,,OPEN YOUR EYES,,,”. And he heard her, he heard her loud and clear, and opened his eyes. A wave of relief enveloped her. She held her mother tightly who just could not stop howling out of fear and horror. “Ambulance, someone please call the ambulance. I can’t find my phone”, she requested to the audience there. Well, not everyone was a part of the audience there, some did came forward to share their pain. How can she ever repay them? She will be forever thankful to those strangers who restored humanity in this unscrupulous world. The ambulance reached accompanied with a loud siren. They all went inside and the door was closed. She turned back to see the broken car, the 1st car their family had bought few years back. It was the last time she was seeing it. It never came back.

One cotton pack down, two cotton packs down, still the bleeding was not ceasing. When in one hand she was trying to stop the bleeding, the other hand was busy making emergency calls. During that time, her father had gained his overall consciousness and was comforted to see everyone is alive. She persuaded him to keep talking anything and to keep the eyes open till they reach the hospital. Aid rushed in the moment the ambulance entered the hospital premises. Preliminary examination done, x-rays done, scanning done, suturing done and the results were not pleasing. Dislodged left shoulder with compound fracture, multiple fractures on face and legs and several soft tissue injuries. Avoiding a surgery is out of question. She had got a faint idea about how the subsequent days are going to be. What was suppose to be a peaceful religious trip for them, resulted in a tragedy stricken evening and it is not going to stop there. Inside the emergency room, she went towards her mother who was getting first aid by a nurse. The lady was tired from all crying and wailing, still streams of tears were flowing down in a silent manner. Hugging each other tightly, they both lamented. Their clothes were soaked with her father’s blood. The fear of possible unfortunate outcomes of the incident had gripped them. “Don’t worry my baby, nothing will happen to any of us, nothing will happen to Dad”, her mother gave her the desired strength, the positivity required at that moment.

The subsequent days witnessed a successful surgery, many post surgical complications and several sleepless nights. Waiting inside the ICU lounge, limping around the hospital to do the paper work and taking care of her Dad was part of her day’s work. Taking care of her mother was her night’s work. Many well-wishers came but few stayed. Few friends reminded her to eat and take medicines. Everytime she sat alone, her mind played around the accident scenes. These were the demons haunting her, making her feel restless. Traveling became a nightmare for her. Like a hawk, she stood with her father and observed him. She waited, waited until he was out of danger, till everything became normal.

Days passed by, days followed by months. She wasn’t behaving like a hawk anymore. It was a Sunday morning, her birthday. She was wearing a new white kurta and casually flipping through old childhood photographs. This time she was not complaining of hairstyles to her mother. She had got no plans for her birthday.

“C’mon, get ready, let’s go to Puri to celebrate your birthday”, her father announced.

Deja-vu struck her hard. All photographs fell from her hands out of shock. “What,, AGAIN,, no Dad, I don’t think I can do this”, she refused.

“If we do not go today, then we may not be able to go anywhere thereafter. Today is the day to face our demons, to face our fear”, he explained. She observed the man. The suturing line on the forehead had started fading, left shoulder had started functioning, eyes are full of confidence, face is full of new dreams and aspirations. “Now, that is where all my strength comes from, that is what I am made of”, she realized. All agreed. The journey started . But this time there was no chattering, no taking selfies. Silence prevailed when they traveled across the crossroad, the landmark of their misery. After a certain point, wheb she saw the “Neelachakra” atop the Jagannath temple, she knew the fate of “THE UNFINISHED TRIP” is coming to an end. 

Standing in front of the “Living god”, “Lord of the universe”, they prayed. “As if one heart surgery was not enough, You wanted me to see You after 2 surgeries, fair enough, if that’s what You wish for”, her father presented his gratitude. She looked into the lord’s round eyes and questioned him,”WHY?” And the only thing she got in reply was beautiful divine smile, a smile that will help her in erasing the past. She replied with a smile,”I know,,THANK YOU”. That is how moving on felt like to her.

This incident taught her many lessons, made her more strong, made her calm and empathetic and made her one step closer to her family. The fear of losing a loved one has made her realize the importance of love and togetherness. Seeing death in-front made her realize the importance of life. Her priorities changed, her goals shifted. But her scars are still healing. It has been 6 months and every time she would sit in a car, she says, “Bhaiya, gaadi dheere chalana. Please.”

TO LIFE,,,

To life and to all those numerous souls who have seen a tougher face of life and still holding on to it.

oh life, where are you?
like a coin, you have faces two.

the faces like subsequent phases,
that everyone goes through.

one face so tough and dark,
melting and burning me like mellow.
sleepless nights and wondering days,
the heart was full of nothing but hollow.
when struggle was joined by loneliness,
you taught me to be patient.
the game of wait never saw the sunshine,
when the soul was heavingly vacant.


when the world threw criticisms at me
condemning and disapproving my every effort,
you bestowed me the energy to persevere
like a thirsty traveler in a long desert.
when the entire universe started presenting me
with varied pitiful motivations,
you furnished me as an unusual womb of
much needed positive inspirations.



Time flew by, folks went by,
but your tougher face never seem to fade.
let this recess start to cease,
and show me your other shade.
I wish to witness you in all of your glory,
a face that everyone celebrates.
a hint of success, a touch of attention,
the happiness that everyone advocates.



oh life, where are you?
like a coin, you have faces two.
are you going to come out of the blue?
but please come before the light starts to disappear,
before the long sleep comes very near.
I will cherish you like a lost treasure,
the way i had worshiped your arduous venture.

oh life, where are you?
like a coin, you have faces two.























THE WAIT and THE HOPE.

a short story about an extraordinary woman who learned to hope in life by waiting.

It was 2:00pm, a busy winter afternoon. The active hustle bustle at the railway station was soaring up the energy of the place. The arrival and departure of the trains were happening at “not so scheduled” timings. Every known and unknown face was restless. But amidst all the chaos, there was silence at the rusted metallic bench at the left corner of platform no 6. It was occupied by a woman of mid 50’s. Her tanned face was showing signs of old age but her features were still sharp. She had neatly wrapped a green cotton saree over her olive skin body. The grey and black mixed hair was cleanly knotted into a bun. Her palms were filled with innumerable lines which depicted varied sweet sour experiences and maturity. But her eyes, her eyes were desperately staring towards the end of the rail line for the arrival of puri-allahabad express. They were filled with tears but the tears were too careful to cross the waterline. Instead they moved towards the distally placed wrinkles.

May i have your attention please, train no,57245, puri allahabad express which was scheduled to arrive at 2:15pm is running half an hour late. Any inconvinience caused is highly regretted”, the custom made railway station’s voice announced, in a very usual tone. She gave a disapproving look to the speakers above.

ye lo(take this) sumitra didi, your usual hot cup of cardamom and ginger tea”, the adjacent tea vendor, sahoo bhaiya said. “Thank you dada, you are a saviour, “, sumitra devi replied offering him the money. “No no didi, you always know, i can,t accept money from you”,sahoo bhaiya said. “But as always, i insist, please” she requested. Accepting the money with some hesitation, he got busy with other customers.

Sumitra devi started relishing the hot creamy cup of tea. The faint aroma of cardamom, a very nostalgic smell, is soul nourishing for her. It reminded her of the time when she last had this tea with her husband Ram, at the same railway station, 22 years back. After that he boarded the same train to allahabad for some official work and never returned. Sumitra devi had not seen his face since then. Yes, it’s been 22 years, her husband went missing and for 22 years, each day she would come to this very railway station and wait for the arrival of the same train in a hope to see him return.

Life has not been much kind to Sumitra devi after Ram went missing. She had kept no stone unturned to find her husband. Months passed, but her daily inquiry at the police stations never stopped. Gold jewelries became a very small thing for her when it came to arranging funds for “the missing person” ads. Those were the times when she had transformed into a mad woman with question marks. When others suggested a death ritual, she demanded a dead body. When some tried to tarnish her virtue, she confronted them like a warrior. An inexperienced, partially literate, naive woman started to learn the subjects of survival in the world.

The only thing that kept her looking forward in life in this dreadful period was her 3 kids. They became her blessing. She became the bread-earner of her family. Starting from working as a cook in the locality to sweeping office floors in the morning, she did every possible honorable job as per her capability. Until one day, destiny did smiled upon her. A young female gynecologist Dr Mishra requested the honest and responsible Sumitra to be a caretaker in return for a very handsome salary. After that, she never had to worry about money or food. She made herself and her kids strong enough to tackle any mishaps of the world. She made them independent and free but protected them from the evil. Sumitra devi became a very extraordinary mother to her kids but she also managed to be a routinely father.

Maa Maa,,,,” A familiar voice stunned Sumitra devi. She returned from the memory lane and looked back to see her 2nd son running towards her from the nearby platform. She noted some discomfort on his face. “Maa, Bhabi’s (sister in law) water broke,she has been taken to the hospital it’s time. lets go” her son narrated at one go. “What???,here, hold my bag. lets go” she jumped and started walking at a fast pace. Just as she walked past the next platform, the train arrived and she did not bothered to notice it.

Few years later,

Dr Mishra hurriedly came out of her building. Her new care taker was running behind her holding a briefcase and a pile of files. Suddenly she stopped at a sight on the other side of the road. Sumitra along with her grand kids were returning from the nearby school. “I think the kids are keeping their grand mom busy these days” Dr Mishra chuckled. “Namaste madam, yes they indeed are, 2 have started going to school as well.” Sumitra replied. “Such sweet devils they are. It’s 2 pm, won,t you go to railway station today?” Dr Mishra asked looking at her wrist watch. “No madam, nowadays i wait for my children to come back to me after school. My definition of “wait” has changed. Now i feel i should cherish my blessings rather than running behind some mirage.” Sumitra said confidently. Dr Mishra smiled and said “We all are so proud of you Sumitra. You have seen enough bad days but now it’s time to smile a bit.” After a brief exchange of words, Sumitra bid goodbye to her. Dr Mishra stood there for few seconds and noticed the vibrant vermillion on Sumitra’s head. She understood though her world has changed, her direction of waiting has changed, but there is still hope. And the hope is going to stay forever. Sometimes mere waiting can create hope in life and can do wonders when the time is right.

A CONVERSATION WITH “BAY OF BENGAL”

a fictional short story about nandini and her relationship with the sea. She is on her solo long drive to her favourite place to seek some answers and erase some inhibitions

Lush green forests on one side and the vast “Bay of Bengal” on the other , the sun had just risen and the entire sky was painted with faint shades of yellow. The pleasing early morning weather, along with it’s freshness was just perfect for a long ride. The roads were barely full. Nandini slowly increased the volume of the car speakers when her favourite song started playing, “Between the minds” by “Jack Savoretti.” Her favourite song, mesmerizing scenic beauty and a lovely weather, she had got all the necessary ingredients for a solo long drive on Puri- Konark marine drive.

Besides enjoying a blissful long ride, her actual plan was to visit her best- loved place in the whole wide world, just to clear her mind. This place has always attracted her and reawakened her in many unfavourable situations. Whether it was failing in maths in 4th standard or losing her grandfather, or getting frustrated over a relationship, this place had always proven to be a therapy to her. Coming here and spending time with the sea , the winds, has always softened her dilemma and answered all her queries. She tries to unravel the complexities of life in here. It has got some extraordinary mystic power that had always hypnotized her thoughts, her feelings and her soul. She gets instantly captivated by the gigantic sea before she could even realize it. She has been to many beaches on the western and eastern coast of india but nothing could give her the peace and tranquility that of the “Chandrabhaga beach”. Yes, “Chandrabhaga beach”, that was Nandini’s best loved place.

The picturesque journey of the marine drive ended near the single coconut shop at the beach. Nandini folded her blue jeans up to her knees and got down the car. The roar of the sea enthralled her. It was one of the soulful music ever created by god. She turned around and walked through the parking area noticing few visitors. She set her bare feet on to the “still yet sinking” sand and kept walking forward. She paused at a certain point on the beach, where she was satisfied with the view of the sea. Intimidated by the horizon, which was far, far away, Nandini tried to measure the immeasurable mammoth sea. Her heart swelled up with lots and lots of emotions. Emotions of pain and sorrows, emotions of complaints and whines, emotions of fear of uncertainty, and some emotions which were beyond any kind of descriptions. The chilly wind ruffled her hair making it messy, but she did not bothered to straighten them. She was so engrossed with the beauty of the sea that she could barely notice her tears that had already started with their course. Her session with the bay of bengal had already begun.

Nothing could beat the site of the waves crashing on the sea shore. The charm and charisma of the waves seduced Nandini. With each active wave , she felt the call of the sea. She took further steps towards it and each step was marked with one or the other question. Her bare legs touched the sea water. It was cold, very cold. She moved even forward till the point when the water reached her knees. She stopped there and her heart asked “why”. A sudden foamy wave crashed on her making her little wet, but it came with an answer “why not”. Balancing herself, her heart again questioned, “But he is a stranger?”. Another wave came in after some seconds, ” Even you are, to him”. Nandini was shocked by the unusual answers that were coming to her instinctively, after each wave. She again balanced herself and asked, “What if the probability gets wrong for my life? Do i really need it?”. She waited and waited,, and waited. Few minutes went by. A strong wave came and pushed her hard, throwing her at the shore, “The entire world thrives by the sense of probability. The process of birth of a child is nothing but based on a probability and later a success. The existence of life is all about giving and taking chances. And deep down, u want to be complete.” She was shaken by the answer. Lied on the shore, she kept looking towards the passively returning waves.

Nandini was completely drenched with the salty sea water but surprisingly, she was not feeling cold. She stood up with a clear mind and a less troubled heart. Her worries have been washed away by the salty sea water. She could vividly associate her containment with that of Samba’s, son of lord Krishna, who got cured of leprosy at this very beach. She could very well perceive the religious aura of this place. With folded hands and a grateful heart, she bowed down to the sun, to the sea, to the wind, to the beach and it’s spirit.

Few hours went by, before Nandini decided to go back home. She bid goodbye to the sea and started walking towards the parking area. The coconut shop is now open and busy with a bunch of customers. The parking area is now full with vehicles and visitors. She sat inside the car and searched for her phone. There were several miscalls from family and friends. She chose to call back her mother, ” Hi Mom, I think,,,,,I m ready to meet Aditya,,, and i am coming back soon.” And with that conversation, she drove away with the tunes of “come alive” by costi.

THE “JUMBO” TROUBLE

a fictional short story of Shruti and her rendezvous with a new guest in town. The story ends with a strong message, a message to think about

It was the summer of 96. The heat was gradually rising, the plant life slowly losing it’s shine and the rivers had already started to deplete at an inch meal. The blue sky had started to throw traces of vermilion. The television commercials were filled with ads of “Rasna” and “Roohafza”. The tea stalls have been replaced with “Aam panna” and “ice cream” stands. The entire Sundergarh town was gearing up to welcome summer, at it’s best.

Sitting on the fourth bench of the middle column of class 2″D”, Shruti was repeatedly looking at her wrist watch and desperately waiting for the classes to end. She had already read the message scribbled on the blackboard by her class teacher, Mrs Agarwal.                                                     “Summer vacation-25th April to 28th June. happy holidays”.                          Not only Shruti, the entire class was becoming restless to get out of the classroom and get started with the holidays. Few have planned a family trip to Shimla, some have thought of visiting their grandparents at the country side and some rare great souls have already scheduled to complete the entire academic syllabus, not once, not twice but thrice. But Shruti had plans of her own.                                                                                                                          The bags have been packed, the water bottle have been hanged by the neck and the paper chits with “happy holidays” written on it have been made. The roar of excitement was stuck at everybody’s Adam’s apple waiting to set it’s foot outside. Hundreds of eyes were tirelessly looking towards the direction of the school bell and waiting for it’s ring. To everyone’s relief, the bell finally rang and it ranged 2 mins before the scheduled time. The “Vidya Bharati” school which was earlier dead silent, is now awakened with loud happy noises. The entire building is filled with cheerful shrills and thankful cries. A wave of young boys and girls passed through the main gate, the moment it opened. 2 months of fun, 2 months of recreation and enjoyment. It was the ultimate smell of freedom for them. The “happy holidays” chits were unanimously distributed. Such was the innocence that the young generation carried during those times. Amidst all the celebrations and jollifications, Shruti came running by, passing through the huge ocean of merry-making lads. She stopped near the white ambassador car and handed over the bag and water bottle to Ramesh kaka, a 56 year old driver.

“What you carry in your school bag, Shruti beta, stones?” he asked trying to balance the heavy bag.

“Yes kaka, lots of them, now lets go home first”she replied in a hurry. “What’s the rush, don,t you want to meet your friends before the long holidays and wish them” he said looking at a group of her friends. But Shruti was not ready to listen to him. She was in a very different mood today. The celebrations did not interest her, her friends did not interest her today, the only thing that had vividly grasped her mind was, “Mary”, a 2 month old baby elephant, “Mary”.                                                                                “No kaka, not today, i have to go see Mary.” Shruti replied.                                 Without wasting any more time, she quickly opened the back door of the car and sat inside. Ramesh kaka gave a wide smile. He wished her friends instead and started with the return journey to home, to Mary.

It was a couple of nights before when a sudden emergency call made Mr Patnaik, Shruti’s father to go for night patrolling at the middle of the night to Shivpur village. A parade of elephants had entered the village to drink water from the pond. The sudden heat waves had taken a toll on them. Gradually the drinking act turned into fun and frolic game for them. After getting finished with their water play, the elephants started returning to the nearby forest. But a 2 month old female calf failed to get up from the slippery pond. Before the other elephants could help her out, the villagers gathered in large numbers. Out of fear, the entire herd fled to the forest, nowhere to be seen after that. Mr Patnaik, the forest officer of the area, along with some wildlife officials and a veterinary doctor came to Mary’s rescue after some concerned men called him about the unusual incident. After hours of plans and tries, finally she was rescued and brought to the forest campus as per the protocol.

Situated at the outskirts of the town, the Sundergarh forest office campus was spread to a radius of 1 km , both the residential and office quarters combined. Luckily, Shruti’s house was very near to the main head office. The news of a baby elephant had spread like a wildfire at the entire campus. It brought a new sense of life and excitement to the entire area, contrary to what was happening inside Mary’s heart. It was probably her 1st encounter with the human species. She had lost her parents, her own look a likes and now entering into an alien territory. A 2 month old animal brain was processing the entire situation in a very painful manner. She was filled with terror, she was scared and she was angry. Thankfully the wildlife officials were well aware of her thoughts. A small crowd gathered in-front of the white mini truck to witness and welcome the new guest, including Shruti.

“Please maintain some silence, this is not some circus show going on”, few guards said as they came running by to manage the crowd. After proper silence was maintained, the back door of the truck was opened and the entire crowd gasped with a silent “awwww”. A big grey ball like animal has been squeezed to the north-east corner of the vehicle. Mary was unwilling to face the crowd, she had not made up her mind yet. A 92 kg and 3 feet tall calf was shivering with fear. The crowd could sense her agitation and continued with the state of silence.

“Call, Dheeraj Yadav, the mahot” Mr Patnaik ordered after carefully analyzing Mary’s distress.

Dheeraj yadav, a 26 year old elephant tamer jumped to the mini truck with a bunch of well-ripen bananas. And what followed after that was a pure example of how human brain has time and again dominated all other species of the world, how a 50 kg human became the master of a 90 kg animal. This is indeed, a very peculiar thing of being a human.

Few minutes passed by but the conversation between Dheeraj and Mary was still on. Suddenly, at a particular moment, she looked back, back at the crowd, at Mr Patnaik, at the sunlight. Her tiring eyes expressed the pain of losing her loved ones. Dark horizontal lines from the corner of the eyes depicted her emotions. Mary had cried the entire journey. 

“It’s ok, be brave, nobody’s going to hurt you here, come with me”, Dheeraj said while slowly touching her temple. And his words worked like magic. Finally she stood up, ready to face her new life. It might be a success for Dheeraj but for Mary, it was her only option. Not just her only option, but a best one at that moment, the option of survival and survival to the best of her ability.  She started walking out of the truck, fastening her trunk to Dheeraj’s hand.

“Yes, there you go little fella, u did it”, Dheeraj said thankfully. She got down the truck and looked at the crowd with merciful eyes. Her eyes were desperately looking for some reply, for some reactions. Mr Patnaik along with Shruti slowly came near her and touched her head. Shruti’s eyes twinkled. The entire crowd applauded Mary for her courage, for her new life. The cute little tail at the back of her body started wriggling after that. She was relieved, she could let go of her immediate apprehension. 

“so, Shruti beta, have you thought, what will you give Mary to eat today” asked Ramesh kaka while driving back home from school.

Shruti, suddenly returned from her dreamland of Mary to reality. She might have watched the 1977 Bollywood movie “Safed Hathi”, a dozen times on Doordarshan. She had already thought Mary being her safed hathi, her new friend that god had gifted her. It has been only 2 days, but she and Mary have developed quite a decent amount of fondness towards each other. Among the tall people there, Mary would visualize Shruti as the smaller one, just like her, with small hands, small legs and height. They both connected.

“Bananas, kaka, i have already kept a stock of it at home” she replied. 

“Ahh,, i see” with this note, Ramesh kaka entered the car inside the forest campus. Mr Patnaik was standing at the balcony, waiting for his daughter to return home. But Shruti, the moment she got down from the car, she started running towards the direction where Mary was kept.

“wait,, you eat first” Mr Patnaik said, running after her.

The entire town became fond of the baby elephant. The amount of love, care and attention that she received from everyone around there was beyond any measure. But their association continued for only the next 20 days. Mary’s family, the elephant herd, have migrated to the adjacent state and as per the  government protocol, she has to be transfered to Nandankanan zoological park at Bhubaneshwar.

Mary left the town leaving everyone at a very somber state, especially Shruti. Days passed by, months passed by, but she never stopped missing Mary. The only thing that she looked forward to was her annual visit to the Nandankanan zoo, as promised by her father. Such was the beauty of relationship between humans and animals during those times. There was harmony, there was patience and there was acceptance.

More than 20 years have been passed to this incident. Shruti is not that small kid anymore now. She is in her late 20s and a biology teacher by profession. It was a rainy Sunday morning. As per her daily morning ritual, she got up and switched on the television for some NEWS. 

“Breaking news- Electricity department neglect takes 7 elephants lives in Angul district”

Shruti sat with a loud thump. She was shocked for the very fact that  precious lives of 7 elephants gone at one go. Just few days before, she came across a news about elephant killings and missing tusks. These incidents have become unusually frequent in these years. The killings were not only unidirectional, but bidirectional as well. The harmony between man and elephants that had existed earlier, has been lost to a dramatic amount. News of killings of people and destruction of houses & paddy fields by elephants are not uncommon. 

Shruti started analyzing the situation, “We, the humans, have very accurately installed CCTV cameras and high security locks in our houses, have repeatedly acquired lands and buildings to add up to our assets, but we also have become instrumental in depleting the forests, which are the home to thousands of wildlife species. The rapid developmental work, the big industrial projects, the giant manufacturing units which have been installed in these forests, are indeed boon for us, but is undoubtedly serving as a curse for the forest dwellers. And in return, these poor animals have developed a defense mechanism against us.”

Thousands of questions keep coming to her mind, “Is this a development in real, or just a fake sense of progressive approach? How far is this a legitimate work, when thousands of innocent lives are being lost? Why can,t we limit our greed and give a new dimension to our approach? Why can,t conservation of nature be the new developmental project that the world should look forward instead of hovering around being industrially prosperous?”

“Oh again, elephants are dead” sighed Shruti’s mother, sipping her morning cup of coffee. She continued “I think the days are not far when the elephants will soon enter the extinct species list”

This particular statement shocked Shruti. She instantly started imagining a situation in which she is busy teaching her class about the extinct species list. Besides the woolly mammoth, dinosaurs, dodo, stood “an elephant”. Then she realized, the entire animal kingdom is in trouble, the nature is in trouble and the trouble is not tiny, but as big as an elephant, a “Jumbo” trouble.