The Village Haat

The shopping bag that I am carrying is filled to its brim with vegetables. In fact a cauliflower is peeking out as there is not enough space for it within.

Yet I see lot more fresh fruits and vegetables that I am tempted to purchase but cannot, as I have no further means to carry any more of them.

For the record, I am in the Sunday Haat of Bamnipal village (which technically is in Keonjhar), but attracts lots of visitors from neighbouring Jajpur as well, as it straddles the border of both the districts of Odisha.

The bag in my hand is heavy to hold, yet I feel light headed with joy as the experience of shopping in a typical village haat has given me an unique perspective of life in rural India.

The sellers are all spread out in an open space with a large banyan tree in the middle providing ample shade. A small stream runs behind at the eastern end of the field. Small hills which are part of the Chota Nagpur terrain can be seen in the distance. They look green and verdant after the recent monsoon season.

The haat is alive and there is a buzz around the place right from the time it starts at about 10 am. I am amongst the first ones to arrive there. There is noise, there is cacophony but they are pleasing to the ear. Buyers and sellers are haggling over the prices, domesticated animals on sale, pitch in their own chatter and people catching up with their friends and relatives – all add up to the festival like atmosphere.

I am wonderstruck at the diverse assortment of wares on display. From guavas and papayas, to wicker baskets and earthen pots, from toothbrushes made from Sal tree to sweetmeat made from jaggery – everything and more is being sold.

A trader sits in a corner and is willing to take back old and soiled notes. He will get them exchanged for you at the local post office and keep 40% of the currency value. I am surprised to see the number of torn and damaged Rs. 10 notes he already has in his kitty. So if you have given him one, you can come back the following Sunday and collect Rs. 6!

At the entrance there is a tribal youth selling an exotic delicacy – red ants with their eggs! Yes you read that right. He displays them on Sal leaves and each leaf costs you Rs. 10. (By the way most food items are priced at Rs.10/-. This figure psychologically could be easy / convenient to transact, I guess).

Once each leaf with the ants is sold, he inserts his hands into an earthen pot kept nearby and scoops out more of them! And his hands are totally bare when he does this ‘transfer’.

After being amazed at this sight I move a little further ahead towards the livestock section. Goats, ducks and chicken make up this section lively and interesting to watch. They are not sold by kilos as in our cities nor are they butchered. The price is pre-determined by the owner and after the bargaining is complete the villager takes the live animal home.

I notice how healthy and handsome the country chickens are! They stand tall and are rust coloured. This is in sharp contrast to the drooping and sick looking broiler chicken we consume in towns/cities.

The other thing which comes to attention are the number of women traders on view. They are selling multiple produce from their kitchen gardens and seem to be at ease doing commerce alongside the men. Their sarees with bright prints add a dash of colour to the atmosphere!

In fact, the local handia market (a beer made from fermented rice) is completely dominated by women. They sit at various points in the haat with aluminium pitchers containing the highly sought after drink. One can have a glass (yes you guessed it) for Rs. 10 and in the afternoon heat of the market it cools down the person consuming it and needless to add also makes him/her feel giddy headed and intoxicated 🙂

In case a shopper feels tired after jaunting around the market place then a single makeshift dhaba* (restaurant) serves hot steamed rice, dalma and tomato khatta on banana leaves and one can sit under the shade to relish it.

Just as I thought I had seen everything, I run into an old man sitting on the side of a mud path with charcoal burnt Sal leaf packets in front of him. This sight piques my curiosity and I stop to ask him what he is selling. Pat comes the reply “Bhuna Kukuda” (roasted chicken). I am flabbergasted when he carefully opens the Sal leaf and neatly lays down the contents for me to see – 4 very small pieces of chicken marinated with turmeric, chilli powder and spices, wrapped in the leaf and thrust into the fire.

The chicken looks mouth watering and without further encouragement I buy it and soon I am licking my fingers at its simple yet amazing taste. No oil, no other ingredients – just some rock salt to go with it. It is yum!

It is now time for me to leave the place. Before walking towards the exit I cast one more glance and realise the Haat is not just a market place for the villagers. It is a weekly meeting point of friends, relatives and even for the traders amongst themselves.

So in essence, a trip to the Haat is not just to procure goods for the kitchen. It also serves a social hangout too. For the rural folks this is their Phoenix Mall, their Lulu or Esplanade.

I cross the Banyan tree again and I cannot help but stop and request the vegetable vendor sitting under it for a photograph. With a quizzical expression he looks at my camera and is wondering why I would need to click him. Before I can explain, a fellow vendor sitting behind me comes to my help and cries out, ” for Facebook!”

Our man immediately smiled and waved at the camera!

A sincere thanks to Mr. Abdul Hakim in whose company I could savour this unique experience. He is involved in community development work since many years and he is Jajpur based. Travelling with him, through some of the tribal hamlets and interacting with the people was a learning in itself. 

I look forward to more such visits!     

The Battle

The devil in my mind gives a hiss,
It says just give this battle a miss.

I turn to God and ask, "why choose me?"
HE replies, "The strongest warrior fights, hence I chose thee!"

For each time there are 2 battles which we fight;
One in our minds, and the other which tests our might.

So, yes it is these battles which helps one grow,
They teach us how to handle whatever life will throw!

So instead of questioning, let's accept them with grace,
Look within yourself - you have the strength to conquer and find solace.

Whenever we are faced with a difficult situation in life, we have to wrap our heads around its degree of severity first. And then our physical self gets into action. In essence it is a battle within a battle. 

This is a dedication to my sister Hena who valiantly fought her battles and exited gracefully. You will always be missed 😦

Illustration by Kishor Mistry. Thank you

Jhumka Jhumur -Episode 3

Episode Background

Hello Everyone!

Jhumka Jhumur is back in Episode 3 in a new avatar. It is titled ‘Time Travel’.

Have we not sometimes wondered that maybe we could go back in time? To our childhood, to our youth and maybe do something different!

What if we get an opportunity to do so but just to give advice (borne out of our experiences) to our own younger self? If yes then what would that be…

That is the topic for this episode. Along with her son Ishaan, Jhumka has undergone a make over giving them both a more fluid, contemporary look.

Hope you all like it!

So, read on to find out what light-hearted fun banter takes place between the lovable mother-son duo this time 🙂

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Come on everyone, do share your thoughts! Taking the cue from Ishaan what would your 3 words be?

Look forward as always to hearing from you 😊

This episode comes to life through the Illustrations by Vartika Bhonsle, with whom this is my maiden collaboration. She is a student of Fashion Communication and a graduate from NIFT, Bhubaneswar. 

She loves illustrating people and cute puppies and you can visit her Instagram page @yellowlittlelamp to follow some awesome art! 

Copyright © 2021 Wasim Jawaid

This work of fiction, written by Wasim Jawaid is the author’s sole intellectual property. All rights are reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including printing, photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author. For permission requests, send an email to the author wasim.jawaid@gmail.com

Trading Vs. Test Cricket

It is 29th July 2021, about 10.30 pm IST. I am glued to my laptop screen.

On it, I am watching the chart of a particular stock being traded on Nasdaq. It is at a multi session high and showing momentum like a blaze of runs being scored in the Powerplay of a T20 match.

The stock is Fiverr International.

I have purchased some quantity of the stock only 10 days ago. (19th July 2021 to be precise)

My pulse races just like a batsman at the cricket crease, upon sighting a low juicy full toss bowled at him by the opposition.

Without further thought I position myself quickly by getting underneath it and hoisting it straight over the bowler’s head and out of the stadium for a six!

All the stock that I hold is sold giving me a neat 19 % return in about 9 trading days.

Welcome to the world of T20 Cricket. Welcome to the world of Trading!

In today’s era when within 5 minutes of posting on social media, you receive zero likes (and that seems like an eternity) then the thought of holding onto a stock for 5 years seems incomprehensible to many people.

It is all about Strike Rate now (Runs scored per 100 balls faced) 100% is passé. 125% and higher is more like it. In fact, each of the top 10 batsmen in T20 Cricket have a strike rate in excess of 140!

Similar is the case in Trading. If X % is the yield on a 1-year FD currently and can be considered as a base of 100, then in what multiple of X can be your returns? Can that strike rate be like a top T20 player?

Today there is technology, greater greed, and a plethora of information all around us to make this possible. The world is shrinking, and our access is deepening. From Wall St. to Nikkei and from the Euronext to Sensex – all of them literally are now in the palm of our hands.

It is no longer limited to investing in your local stock exchange only.

Just like in T20 cricket an IPL team has players of different nationalities, stock portfolios today have an international flavour to them. Netflix and Coal India can co-exist and so can LatAm retail giant Mercado Libre with Europe’s Volkswagen.

This is not just exclusive to HNWI’s but holds true for a retail investor too. The range of shot selection is widening.

But just like in T20 not every ball can be hit for a boundary, similar is the case in trading. Not every stock can be bought and sold over a shorter duration. Timing and shot selection become paramount. One must not only pick and choose which ball to hit and when, but also after doing that when to exit!

You simply cannot linger around the crease wasting time.

So of course, such a strategy is fraught with risks. You may perish while trying to play an extravagant shot or you may simply run out of patience and mistime a pull shot.

For ex. I sold Amazon at $ 3490 levels towards April-end only to find it hitting $ 3700 a couple of months later.

I know all of this goes radically against some well-established dictums on investing, including one from the great man Warren Buffet himself who had the following to say on traders –

“Calling someone who trades actively in the market an investor is like calling someone who repeatedly engages in one-night stands a romantic.”

But the fact is that these romantics are lining up on the streets outside the stock exchanges. Be it on Wall Street or Dalal Street. And they are ready to tango with anyone who promises to do a waltz with them on the trading floor.

On the opposite end are of course the Test match players. Investors who are willing to grind for 5 days (read that as 5 years) by holding onto their position patiently, adding to those positions on any opportunity, ignoring the noise around them from the close in fielders who may try and distract them to induce a false shot. They stand firm and will not sell as long as their focus is clear.

As the cricket coaching manual says,’ The longer you stay at the crease, the more the number of runs will accrue to you automatically.”

Buffet’s Boys not only show patience but also immaculate discipline in their approach. Which delivery to play and which one to leave (however tempting it may be) is built into their DNA. Time and not timing is of utmost importance. Take time to settle down, build your portfolio like you would your innings and target the return you want to achieve.

After all, in Test Cricket (unlike in T20’s) the Strike Rate is secondary. Your batting average is more important – in other words how much returns you achieved per annum per stock compounded over your holding period.

However, one thing is similar in both – Stocks are chosen with extreme due diligence, in-depth analysis of a host of financial parameters, trends in that sector/market, dividend history and company management.

One can do all this individually or take the help of professionals in the financial sector.

It is akin to going into a match doing the opposition team’s detailed analysis through watching innumerable videos, noting their strong and weak points, how they play spin/pace etc. Not only this, external factors like pitch conditions, weather forecast on match days and audience support are also taken into account.

So that when the captain goes out for the toss, he/she knows exactly what decision is to be taken. So that when the market opens, we know what specific action is to be taken on the stock selected.

From then on, the approach changes. The Robinhood guys come all out with guns blazing and look to maximise returns in shortest possible time. At the end of their target holding period (it could be a month, a week or even a day!) they must pocket some returns by booking the trade.

On the other hand, Bufett’s Boys are more sober and avoid taking any risks especially early on in their innings. The focus is more on their defence and how they can build a portfolio by mitigating the risks as much as possible. Attacking style would come later on.

They keep accumulating and growing their wealth through the market highs and lows, through dividends/ stock splits and the occasional M&A if any.

Also, If you are a bowler, then the challenge gets even tougher! Bowl down the leg side in Test cricket and you may get away with no runs scored off you. Try doing that in T20 and either you will be penalized by the batsman who will flick it away for runs or the umpire who will promptly call it a wide.

Hence in trading you must be far more accurate. A moment’s hesitation while buying or selling and you could be penalized by the market. TESLA for about 8 trading days (12th May -21st May, 2021) was below $ 600. If anyone thought it may go down further and did not buy then an opportunity was lost to make 11% returns up to the point when it declared results on Monday 26th July, 2021. (It has gone up a further 6% until July 30th.)

A 17% return in 2 months is great when USD 10-year Treasury yields less than 1.50%.

A similar opportunity presented itself back home in India in a related space (EV) with Greaves Cotton. A trader picking it up in the 2nd half of May in the Rs. 130-135 range for a short term would have made a cool 25% as it rose to Rs.170 levels a month later in 2nd half of June 2021.

However, in trading selling at the right time is as important as buying.  So, in the above example if one did not exit Greaves Cotton at that time, then today one would still be holding the position languishing well below those levels.

Such is the nature of trading. One opportunity capitalised or not capitalised upon, may impact the entire portfolio. Just like in T20 one moment in the game – a wicket, a run out or a boundary, may change the entire match as it is of very short duration.

So, all it takes is one delivery to change the course.

This is what makes trading so exciting, just like a T20 game. You never know what surprise awaits you in the next ball, on the next market day.

Your adrenaline is pumped up when you see your call go right and alternatively you are filled with regret and remorse when the opposite happens. You log into your account frequently to check if any of your positions is ‘ripe’ enough to be plucked!

On the other hand, a long-term Investor who had a look at his portfolio in March 2020 and went to sleep unperturbed by the crash, to wake up a year later to find that nothing much had changed in their portfolio and maybe he/she had even returned a small profit.

However, a trader in between that period would have ‘Zoom’ed in and out several times and even ‘Netflix’ed a few shots to the ropes to augment his income while sitting at home during the pandemic!

Just like rotating a strike in T20 is of paramount importance so is that case in trading. You have to keep scouting for opportunities and enter/exit whenever the target is met.

This may rattle our thinking but the fact is the mind set is definitely changing. To highlight this, there are a couple of stats on both sides. One of them is that the total runs scored in one innings of some T20 matches today is almost on par with an ODI score (a 50 over innings), which was simply unthinkable a few years ago.

Secondly the time taken to finish Test matches is gradually shortening. Not only that, the result is shifting from more drawn tests to decisive results. For ex. from 1877- 1999 there were results in 60% of the Test matches played.

However, from 2000-2017 there was almost a 25% jump and 76% of the Tests played in this period had a result in them. Additionally the average duration of a Test during this above period is only 321 overs — that is under 4 days of play.

(A typical day in a Test has 90 overs bowled)

A similar change has undergone in the investors of today. More is needed and in quick time. Why wait until tomorrow when you can pocket some gains today? As the popular David Guetta song goes,” Live life given now, Tomorrow can wait..”

Finally, I would like to conclude by saying this trading mind set is changing the game dynamics. Today a Rishabh Pant can have the ‘audacity’ to play a reverse sweep in Test match cricket against a world’s top 3 ranked fast bowler like James Anderson. ( 4th Test, India Vs England; May 2021)

That too when on 89* and facing a new ball!

Howzatt?!!

Test Cricket Vs. Trading Illustration by Kishor and you can follow his Instagram account kishormistry_ for more wonderful art.

La La Land – Chapter 2

Hello Everyone,

Today on the blessed occasions of Suna Besha Darshan of Lord Jagannath and Eid Ul Adha, I present Chapter 2 on this double auspicious day.

Happy Reading!

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She was the elder of the 2 daughters of Sizzler Shikari. As far as Mafia Mona could remember, her father was the one person she was the closest to.

The reasons for this were many. Shikari had been more of a friend to her than a parent, more of a confidant and companion than a disciplinarian.

She was her papa’s daughter unlike her younger sister who was more inclined towards their mother.

However, what excited her more was that Shikari would invariably bring a gift for her from his jungle expeditions.

They could vary from the simple like wildflowers and mushrooms to the exotic like berries or a slab of wild honey from the beehive.

While paddling back in memory, she also recalled the way she got her moniker Mafia Mona.

As she was growing up, she realized she had many qualities of her father including his guts and fearlessness. Words like thieves, jail and Mafia were commonplace in her discussions with Shikari.

This created a fantasy world for her and she would roam around the village with an air of audacity around her.

*ମୋଁ ନା in English translates to ‘my name’

Somehow over the years those words condensed, and her name stuck, but in reverse order – Mafia Mona!

Though she was short in height, she more than made up for it by being high on confidence. She felt that she could beat the blues out of errant poachers and rogue tribesmen!

To prove her point she even rolled up her frock sleeves and with her teeth clenched, she punched both her arms in the air mocking a fight and repeating her name “Mafia Mona, Mafia Mona!”

Now, as she sat with her son hoping to catch fish for dinner, she knew her father was somewhere in the vicinity hunting and trying to arrange food for the village.

Just then she felt a tug at the bait on her fishing rod and also heard a gunshot in the far silent distance!

Did the alphabet carry a meaning? Were the birds trying to communicate something…Instinctively she knew both father and daughter had simultaneously ‘caught’ their prey.

While returning and unseen by her, Mafia’s 3-year-old son quickly dropped the still struggling fish back into the river.

Dear Reader,

It is good to have you back to read Chapter 2 of La La Land 😊

Hope you liked the character Mafia Mona! All Illustrations have been done by Kishor and you can follow his Instagram account kishormistry_ for more wonderful art.

I have also penned a few traits of Mafia's personality in a short verse below.

Do leave your thoughts and comments and as always I look forward to replying to them.
Impulsive and talkative, with a bit of ego in my core,
Nature and its beauty brings my best to the fore!

Not mere words, I believe in action..
Will speak my mind, regardless of your reaction!

Willing to take risks, I follow my gut feel,
Life's adversities bolsters my nerves of steel!

Undaunted, even by the mighty Corona..
I am feisty and my name is Mafia Mona!

Copyright © 2021 Wasim Jawaid

This work of fiction, written by Wasim Jawaid is the author’s sole intellectual property. All rights are reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including printing, photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author. For permission requests, send an email to the author wasim.jawaid@gmail.com

किस्सा sadak का

Hello Everyone!

As you know, I am that omnipresent entity that runs across your city, your village and highways.

Though you see me and use me everyday, yet you may never have had the time to pause and listen to my story.

Today there is an opportunity. And ironically these thoughts which I now share with you, are of those times when none of you were on the roads.

As I was alone and unfettered by my duties to carry the weight of your feet and motor tyres, it gave me time to reflect on few aspects of life.

But first, let me say something about myself in the below prose –

Made from asphalt, concrete and covered with melting tar, 

I stretch like a ribbon so wide and far!

Black and beautiful, I am your journey's lifeline,

Always there for you, come rain or shine!
 

So, without further ado let me show you some of my pictures and you can also read my thoughts as you go along 🙂

Frame 1

It is a bright sunny day today!

White fluffy clouds dot the vista. My mind as clear as the blue sky above, stretches its horizons in limitless directions.

I feel ecstatic.

Frame 2

Uh-oh, looks like I spoke too soon! Ashen coloured clouds suddenly appear on the skyline.

Isn’t this like life itself? Bright and clear in one moment; dark and cloudy in the next.

Frame 3

But that is how the changing seasons are a part of life and make it worth living!

Thunder rumbles and the rain drops make tiny splashes on my surface.

It cools me and refreshes my soul.

Frame 4

I look like a river of orange! I think I am in love with the setting sun.

It reflects its glow on me and embraces me in its warmth 🙂

Frame 5

You have put up a barricade at my entrance. Otherwise I know nothing of boundaries. I stretch freely from The Golden Temple in the North to Cheramaan Juma Mosque in the South and from Sri Jagannath Temple in the East to Basilica of Bom Jesus in the West.

I lead you to all of them and do not differentiate on the basis of your religion or sect.

Frame 6

Sometimes life does turn upside down.

It could be in the darkness of the night or in the light of the day. Someone we love might pass away!

Yet we must re-set and move on the road of life.

Frame 7

Time brings down the curtains to the day.

Everything now falls silent, as the night engulfs us all and puts us to sleep. Only to awaken another day and face life with renewed vigour and optimism.

Goodbye for now!

Copyright © 2021 Wasim Jawaid

This work of fiction written, photographed and conceptualized by Wasim Jawaid is the author’s sole intellectual property. All rights are reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including printing, photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author. For permission requests, send an email to the author wasim.jawaid@gmail.com

“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.”

T.S. Eliot
Dear Reader,

Sometimes a road is used as a metaphor for life and there are many thoughts around it. It is said that the journey is more important than the destination. 

A road encapsulates all our travels and sometimes it helps us introspect on where we are going and where we would like to go.

Do share your thoughts below on this thoughtful/thinking road! 

Jhumka Jhumur – Episode 2

The Covid Cook

Hello Everyone!

Jhumka Jhumur is back in this second episode with yet another interaction with her son Ishaan, who seems to be at his witty best as ever.

Episode Background

The pandemic has brought in disruption in umpteen ways, which we didn’t think possible. For example, at home it became even more challenging with the entire family in WFH mode and domestic help becoming scarce due to various reasons.

This situation of course did not spare Jhumka Jhumur either!

So, like millions of homemakers across the world, she too had to learn to manage the additional work that came in when the cook, the maid or the part time help simply could not turn up in their regular routine as earlier.

Episode 2 makes an attempt to highlight this, albeit in a light hearted manner. Read on to find out what the mother-son duo have in store for us this time!

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All Illustrations created in collaboration with Ritwicka Banerjee. Your effort and creativity always impresses! Thank you so much 😊

You can visit her Instagram page phantasmicart for more amazing art.

Dear Reader,

Have you had any such experience as above? Have any of your domestic help, who provide us comfort with their presence in our homes, been unable to re-join work due to the pandemic?

Do share below your thoughts and also what you think of this particular episode.

Look forward as always to hearing from you!

Copyright © 2021 Wasim Jawaid

This work of fiction, written by Wasim Jawaid is the author’s sole intellectual property. All rights are reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including printing, photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author. For permission requests, send an email to the author wasim.jawaid@gmail.com

La La Land – Chapter 1

It was close to 5 pm on a hot summer evening in La La Land. The sun was on its way down after having worked tirelessly through the day, scorching everything in its wake.

Now the rugged landscape seemed to be breathing a little easy as the sun’s setting rays cast a soft orange hued glow across it.

It was here that deer, wild boar and sometimes the occasional bear came to quench their thirst, before they set out into the deeper jungles to graze.

The air today was hot and completely still.

..thought Sizzler Shikari.

For while hunting there is always a possibility of your scent being carried across the jungle. Any good hunter would tell you that this could spoil your hunt.

And Shikari was too much of an expert to expose his position to the wild.

For this, he had his own 3S mantra which he followed when hunting!

He had to stay invisible, silent and still.

The hair bristled on the nape of his neck. Sizzler Shikari lowered his head and without any perceptible show of movement, slowly turned his head right to look behind.

What he saw made him catch his breath!

Both man and animal froze, stunned by their unexpected meeting. With his senses in overdrive mode, Shikari realized he could still fire a shot at the prey even with his back to it.

In his mind he had already made a rough calculation of the distance between them. It would be no more than a 22 yard cricket pitch.

At that range he could get a shot!

Continuing to sit in his position, Shikari slowly turned the rifle towards his prey. From the corner of his eye he could register the spot between the stag’s neck and upper torso which he would target.

The shot rang through the still air shattering the silence of the jungle.

To be continued..

Copyright © 2021 Wasim Jawaid

This work of fiction, written by Wasim Jawaid is the author’s sole intellectual property. All rights are reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including printing, photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author. For permission requests, send an email to the author wasim.jawaid@gmail.com

Dear Reader,

Just as the famed duo of comic book artist -Albert Udorzo and editor/writer- René Goscinny bought us the awesome Asterix and Obelix comics, this is a humble attempt from Yours Truly and Kishor Mistry to bring you a fun, wholesome entertainer named La La Land.

All illustrations have been done by Kishor. He is a budding artist from NIFT, Bhubaneswar. He is based in his hometown in West Bengal and creates wonderful art under his Instagram account kishormistry_ 

Look forward to your comments below on Shikari's hunting expedition!

Jannat

It is about 5.30 in the evening. I sit in the balcony of our house which overlooks the main road, reading a work of fiction by my favourite author.

The sun by now is mellow enough and I bask in its soft illumination as it starts setting in the horizon on my far left. The light is perfect; neither too harsh and neither too dark and hence I know I can continue reading for at least another half an hour to 45 minutes in this light.

In between the reading, I cast my glance at the traffic on the road in front and below me. 2 -wheelers are rushing by, some of them honking un-necessarily even if the road ahead of them is clear. A delivery guy in his ubiquitous orange t-shirt worn over a dark full sleeve shirt, zigzags past a couple of cars aware that a hungry customer waiting for the order might just get impatient and call him anytime.

SUV’s of varying sizes, in all their masculine grandeur and shiny metallic hues roar past the smaller vehicles, as if courtesy their bigger size they have the right to own a greater share of the road!

One of them as large and menacing as a shark, glides through the traffic threatening to devour anything which comes in its way. It is a millionaire’s toy and the setting sun’s golden rays hits its gleaming white exterior, reflecting off in admiration.

Every time a vehicle zooms past the median which divides the road equally into 2 halves, like a ridge slicing an apple fruit at its middle, the bougainvillea plants growing within the median rustle and move in the blast of the air which hits them.

Away from this mad rush on the black tarred road, a masked, middle-aged man in knee length shorts walks on the red coloured, weather-coated pavement meant for cyclists. With him is his fierce looking Alsatian dog whom he has taken out for a stroll.

Though the master seems intent on completing his walk on time, the dog is more relaxed. It is wagging its tail and even stops for a brief moment to bark at a street dog, who in its rough, dirt brown coat and lean frame, looks like a poor cousin of the well-groomed and well-fed Alsatian!

Overtaking both man and beast easily is a lady out on her evening run. She checks the smart watch on her wrist to make sure all parameters of her exercise schedule are on track. Clad in a loose, dark blue sweatshirt and a black figure-hugging track suit, her stylish sneakers pound the red gravel as she is completely focussed on her run.

Maybe she is not aware that watching from a short distance away, seated in a privileged balcony chair is me. From my vantage position I soak in all these sights and sounds as I realise, that from the fast-moving vehicles to the jogging lady and to the evening walker, each of us are in our own mode of motion.

I am like a mute spectator, stationary but moving in my thoughts. How perfect is this set-up, I think to myself! My book of fiction transports me to a different world altogether but right here is the real world which is alive, vibrant and ticking over like the clock.

People are going about completing their tasks, running errands and meeting deadlines. But for me this hour brings in lot of peace and relaxation. As if to prove my point further, I lift my left leg and fold it comfortably on the wicker armchair. This relaxes me even further.

I lift my teacup and take a sip of the hot green beverage embellished with ginger and tulsi leaves. The feeling of utopia is complete.

Surely heaven will be like this! Just the thought of being so much at peace with myself and my surroundings is pure bliss. My heart beats softly, in even rhythmic beats and I take in a deep breath.

A sense of calmness pervades my entire being.

Over time, I have understood that every day brings me such moments which makes me realize that on Earth itself, I am in Jannat*. One other such moment is when I wake up in the morning but continue to lie down on the bed for few additional minutes, well aware that the moment I get up, the day will start and keep me busy with its myriad activities.

Jannat – An Urdu word meaning ‘paradise’ or ‘heaven’.

Yet those 10 minutes in bed, lying with eyes closed but fully conscious that I am not expected to do anything at all, is simply heavenly!

After all, as the popular saying goes -What if we die and meet God and HE asks, “So, how was heaven?”

Copyright © 2021 Wasim Jawaid

This work of fiction, written by Wasim Jawaid is the author’s sole intellectual property. All rights are reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including printing, photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author. For permission requests, send an email to the author wasim.jawaid@gmail.com 

Dear Reader,

Do you have any such moment(s) during the day when you feel lot of peace and bliss? A feeling that perhaps comes closest to being described heavenly?

If yes, please do share your thoughts below!

Strange Happening in the Café

Chapter 1

The call couldn’t have come at a worse time. It was my colleague Ranjan asking for the keys to the office door. How stupid of me to have carried them with me when I left office, I thought to myself.

Exasperated, I smacked my forehead letting out an expletive, alarming my wife who was sitting right across me. “What happened?!”

“I have carried the keys with me when I was supposed to have left them with the security guard at the gate. Now Ranjan is at the office and he has to work the night shift.”

Abhik and Rimi were seated at a swanky Café enjoying a cup of coffee. It was her birthday today and he had just ordered a small cake to celebrate her special day. “Now what?”, she asked with an incredulous expression on her face.

I already knew the answer. I dreaded saying it aloud. I would have to go back all the way to office. There was no other option. For security reasons, few files which could be accessed only while in office, were part of this project and the deadline to submit it was tomorrow.

In fact, Ranjan and me had discussed this already in the morning today. The understanding was since I would be the last to leave work (as was my wont everyday) I would drop the keys with the Security Desk at the entrance to the Office Block. Ranjan after completing his client visit would come, collect it and access work at his convenience.

The office was at least 30-35 minutes away in evening traffic. It would take almost an hour to complete the return trip! With a morose look on my face I started getting up from my chair. I genuinely wanted to spend time with my wife tonight even if it was just the 2 of us celebrating her birthday as an exclusive private affair.

“Wait, I have an idea” interjected Rimi. “Why don’t you call Ranjan and ask him to come half-way? Then at least you could save some time.” Trust women to come up with practical solutions to everyday problems. My mind muddled up due to the long day at work, lit up with this suggestion. “Yes of course. That will indeed help save time!”

I immediately called up Ranjan who picked it up on the 3rd ring. “Dude listen I will drive up to Jaydev Vihar. Can you please come over to the traffic signal there? I can hand over the keys to you.” Jaydev Vihar was only 20 odd minutes from the Café where we were presently sitting. Luckily, Ranjan who was a good sport did not make any fuss about this additional work he would have to undertake. He had his bike handy and agreed to meet me at the designated signal.

2 hours earlier

I was getting late in office. I had promised Rimi that I would be meeting her in The Café to celebrate her birthday with a coffee, cake and dinner before we both head home. It was a newly opened outlet and was located close to her office.

Rimi was always keen to try out new joints which kept popping up in different corners of the city. Be it a fashion store or a dining joint or even a mundane supermarket opening, Rimi had to be there. This exasperated me a few times, but I loved my wife a lot and to please her I would accompany her on most of these ‘LTIO’ (Let’s Try It Out) trips.

On most of these LTIO visits we would rarely purchase anything. Household budgets every month would normally be tight. Yet the fact that she visited a store, explored it and saw what all they had to offer delighted her. It was in this happiness that I found my own.

Rimi’s mood would considerably lighten up and when we reached home the discussions on the various stuff we had seen or purchased could very well carry over onto the next day. We normally had a LTIO trip practically every week.

We had been married 9 years now and next year we would be celebrating a decade of togetherness. How time flies! Like most couples we have had our share of ups and downs but somehow we had stuck together. Our only regret was that we had been unable to start a family.

As a couple we suffered from what the doctor diagnosed as unexplained infertility. Both of us had undergone various tests and declared to be medically fit yet somehow those damned eggs would not get fertilized. We did weigh other options but had not acted on any of those yet, aware that time was running out. It had moved from the middle rungs in our resolution list of previous years, to the top this year.

Children or not, I was genuinely fond of my wife and took extra care to meet her expectations on few of her idiosyncrasies. Celebrating birthdays was also one of them.

Not only was Rimi obsessed with her own birthday but also that of everyone else around her. Even if it was a small get together with a gift or pleasantries exchanged and an evening well spent, it was enough. It need not be a grand affair.

So, when I proposed that just the 2 of us do a LTIO at this new joint and celebrate her birthday, she was more than happy to do it!

Anyways I finally managed to wrap up my work and quickly shut down my system. Rimi had pinged me a couple of times saying she was already seated in the café. I hated to keep anyone waiting. Period.

It gave rise to feelings of anxiety in me. Whether it was a client, my colleague and even more importantly my wife, I simply disliked making another person wait. I valued time and sometimes despite making a best effort I could not stick to my schedule. That really was one of my biggest drawbacks and irritated me no end.

So, it was in this frame of mind that I hurriedly switched off the office AC, lights and closed the door behind me. I took long quick strides, practically cantering to where my bike was and impatiently pulled it out of the parking lot. I almost hit a stationary Scooty parked next to my 2-wheeler and drove off with a sense of urgency gripping my thought process.

Handing over the office key at the Security desk was the last thing on my mind.

Present Moment

Within a couple of hours, I found myself again in a similar position and in a similar state of mind as I raced on my bike towards the meeting point with Ranjan. Traffic had worsened compared to an hour earlier as an unseasonal drizzle had bought chaos on the roads.

Vehicles slowed down considerably and yet everyone seemed to be in a hurry to reach their destinations.

I negotiated the traffic with a mix of impatience and hurling the choicest of expletives under my breath, at my fellow commuters. Whenever you are in a hurry to reach somewhere, time seems to stretch interminably. So, after what seemed to be an unending drive (when in fact it was just 20 minutes since I started from the café) I managed to reach the Jaydev Vihar crossing. I quickly scanned the area hoping to see Ranjan parked somewhere.

But he was not to be seen.

For a moment I was tempted to dial him but knew my friend would be driving in this same dense traffic as well. I had no choice but to show restraint and wait. 

After what seemed to be an eternity, I could finally see a rain-soaked figure driving over cautiously to where I stood. The rain had increased in intensity and under the cover of the raincoat and with a helmet on, it took a few seconds for me to recognise him.

“Man, you owe me a drink for making me come out in this rain. I should have been seated snugly now, sipping a hot cup of tea at my desk. You on a special date with Rimi?”.

If that smirk was accompanied with a wink, I would not have been able to see it in the darkness. “Sorry dude. But thanks a million for coming over half-way. I have to rush back as she is waiting at the café.”

“Ok carry on,” saying this Ranjan took the keys and headed back to office.

Chapter 2Conclusion

Now that the key was handed over, I felt a bit relieved. At least the part of my responsibility towards work was over. Now it was the turn of my personal life. I had to go back to where my dear wife was waiting with her birthday cake.

I knew I had to hurry.

A sense of regret had started creeping in my mind, that if only I had remembered to stop briefly and dropped the keys while leaving office, things would not have come to this urgency.

Though Rimi was a good sport and showed patience unlike some other women I knew, I could not test her any further. I drove a bit recklessly realizing I may have to break a couple of rules in order to cut time short.

Just one more traffic junction to go before the Café and I would soon re-join her!

That thought galvanised me and I was now just 50 meters away from the signal. I saw it was already green and maybe it had been so since the past few seconds. I revved up the accelerator and hoped it stayed open for some more time. It was a busy square shaped junction and If I could beat this, I could easily save at least 2-3 minutes until the signal would complete its clockwise round and come back to green again.

Just before I reached the crossing, the signal turned amber and I knew I would have to take a risk and break it. It was red as I crossed it realizing other commuters on my left, where the signal had turned green had already begun to move.

At first, I did not pay attention to the big, dark object driving towards me from my left. Frankly I did not even see it, as I was only focussed on surging ahead. It was only when it was just a couple of feet away, that a feeling of surprise and shock gripped my heart. The vehicle was moving towards me and moving fast.

When I was almost half-way through the junction, I felt the first impact of the collision.

It sent my bike skidding on the wet, slippery road dragging me underneath it. The front tyres of the SUV made a loud, sickening sound as metal crashed against metal. It ran over my upper torso and for a split second I could feel the air being squeezed out of my body as if a giant beast had sat upon me. The rear tyres of the vehicle crushed my legs and I could feel excruciating pain shoot up throughout my body.

As flowing blood met flowing rainwater, all the noises around me went eerily hollow. It was as if I was being carried away to a faraway land. The final image that crossed my mind was that of my beloved wife sitting alone at the café with her birthday cake waiting for me to arrive.

Then blackness enveloped me completely.

………………………………………

The man walked with a slight limp as he made his way into the café, skirting around the tables filled with raucous laughter and the gay evening mood.

Rimi saw him only when he was a few feet away from her table, busy as she was fiddling with her mobile phone.

He seemed to have moved in silently almost invisible to others.

His face looked pale and he seemed to be walking, as if in a trance.

“Oh, so you are back finally! I have been waiting to cut this cake,” said Rimi.

He merely nodded and smiled. He clapped both his hands softly as she blew the single candle and sliced the knife deep into her birthday cake.

She offered him a bite to eat and then had rest of the slice herself. She noticed he was standing quietly, still holding his piece of the cake.

By now, the family seated next to their table, were looking curiously in her direction.

Somehow a strange feeling of unease gripped her heart and she was not sure why.

It was only when she hugged him in a loving embrace, did she realize that she was wrapping herself around thin air.

She swooned once before she crashed onto the floor unconscious.

The End

This story is not complete without the mention of Ritwicka Banerjee, an awesomely, talented artist! Her painting done in acrylic and oil has been created specifically for my story and gives it a visual imagery.

phantasmicart (her Insta Id) -your creativity is amazing! Thank you so much 🙂

Copyright © 2021 Wasim Jawaid

This work of fiction, written by Wasim Jawaid is the author’s sole intellectual property. All rights are reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including printing, photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author. For permission requests, send an email to the author wasim.jawaid@gmail.com 

Dear Reader,

When we are on the roads, we must remember to be careful and drive safe. 

For there is always someone, somewhere waiting for us, looking forward to our return.

Do share your thoughts and comments below on the story. I look forward to hearing from you!