Life After Death

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Ali was in his late teens, when he lost his father, in a cross-border terrorist combat. His father held an important position in the border security force. He was a brave soldier and had an epitaph in a small cemetery in his hometown, which was a very small village. Every day someone or the other from the families of the martyrs would visit the cemetery to remember their beloved ones. An even did Ali.

Many years passed by but Ali never forgot to pay homage to his father. Every day he would visit the martyr’s grave and present his father with a rose, from his flower nursery. It was that day which was not like any other day for him. There was a notice in the cemetery about re-development of the land into a commercial space by a mega builder from nearby city. This notice was issued by the district collector. This surprised and shocked all the people in the small village but no one came forward to question this step.

The cemetery belonged to an isolated mosque in the outskirts of the village. No one knew the authorities because it had been there for a long time. The only known fact about the place was that most of the residents of the cemetery were the martyrs from the border security forces. Moreover, there was nothing in the village to boast about except this cemetery. It was the pride of the village which showed the patriotism of the villagers towards the nation. People were very annoyed but very reluctant to fight the notice but he stood up to investigate the notice of the district collector.

He discussed the matter with the village head, who encouraged him to meet the district collector. Ali found the address of the office of the collector and booked an appointment for the weekend. Simultaneously he jotted down the address of the builder to collect information about the notice. He had immense support from his community in the village. Next day, early morning, he visited his father’s grave to take his blessings.

Father, I will not let this holy land of martyrs become concrete jungle. Bless me father.

He kept the rose on his father’s chest and started off his journey to the unknown world of endless possibilities. He reached the district collector’s office well before time and after waiting for long hours, he did not get to meet him. The office boy suggested to him to come again next day. It was almost late evening, so he decided to come the next day. While returning home, he recollected all the happenings in the day. He saw so many people coming to see the collector. Some had complaints, some had proposals, and some wanted to abuse him, so many people, so many problems and only one man to address the problems.

There are so many problems around, my problem is so small in front of them. Poor people don’t have enough to eat or live and I am fighting for the dead? But, no they are not dead people, they’re the pride of nation. They fought for us when they were alive, now it’s my time to fight for them, for their souls to rest in peace.

The next day, Ali was in the collector’s office on time, but yet again he could not meet him because he was now out of town for an important meeting. He was extremely frustrated. He decided to share his feelings with the peon.

I had an appointment with the collector, but he fails to show up. Is this the way of his office?

It’s very difficult to meet a collector, mister.

Ali felt very dejected, but this did not stop him. he decided to meet the builder directly. He immediately took a bus to reach the builder’s office, which was on the outskirts of the village. He was very nervous and spent his entire journey in preparing a dialog with the builder. He had so many things to tell them. He really thought that they will understand his feelings and help him. He finally reached the office in evening. The receptionist immediately arranged a meeting with the builder.

The builder was a powerful and cunning businessman who was only interested in making money. Ali told him everything about their village and how the cemetery was the only pride of the village but all in vain. He was blasted by the builder. He warned him about using his power if anybody comes in the way of his business.

Ali was quite broke by these series of happenings. He really wanted to meet the district collector to report the matter, but he was unaware of the worst which was still to happen. After few days of struggle, he finally was able to meet the collector. He explained everything. He cried for how he was treated by the builder and pleaded him to show the path of justice. However, the collector explained the fact that none of the villagers had the legal papers of the land, on which the cemetery was built and how big business tycoons can buy everything to reach their dreams.

The collector suggested that Ali file a case against the builder and was ready to provide any help needed. He was a poor village man, aloof from all these legal matters. He immediately hired a lawyer, who took huge amount of money as his fees. Ali was unaware of the quicksand into which he was pushed. It was the racket of the builder along with the collector and village head to finish all the resources of Ali, so that he has nothing left to fight with; very silently. The lobby of these powers was a big one and Ali was a small pin in-between the swords.

Days and months passed by, but Ali still kept fighting like a soldier. But now as planned, all his resources were finished. He slowly could understand the game. His heart was broken but his hope was still searching a light. He had nothing left but only his father’s teaching—A SOLDIER NEVER QUITS TILL HE IS DEAD—and hope also came searching for him, with a twist in the story.

Ali’s fight was becoming quite a popular event in nearby villages. Soon a very famous news channel came to know about this saga and they immediately approached him. In a few days, he was getting quite popular and at the same time, a nuisance for the builder. The builder, very irritated by his popularity, decided to end the Ali-chapter forever. He burnt his own office, murdered an employee and got Ali arrested for the crime. He had bought each and every man in the chain who could help him finish Ali. After a few days, he planned an escape for Ali from the jail.

Ali thought that it was one of his friends who helped him, but he didn’t know that it was a trap. Later, the builder pressed the police to convict him as a frustrated notorious killer and issue a shoot at sight order.

He had understood the game very well by now, but his courage was at its highest flight. He knew that the cops were after him like mad dogs. He also knew that by now he had the support of many villagers for his fight. With all this in his mind, he went to his father’s grave. He cried a lot and asked upon the heavens to help. Just in time the police officer found him and shot him on his head as he was praying to the lord.

In the morning, Ali was finished but his fight had taken a big turn, unknown to the builder. The media was aroused by the common public and forced a law and order probe into the matter. Very soon the power of the public demolished the powerful lobby of the merchants of the society. The builder, the collector, the village head, the police inspector, the judge; everybody was found guilty and punished.

A new sun was born the other day on the land of the martyr. A new grave was the pride of the holy land. Ali was the chosen one to save their land. The soldiers sacrificed their life to keep away death from the alive and he sacrificed himself to give them life after death.

Truth always wins but as nothing lasts for ever, the builder was out of the jail very soon.

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Language No Bar

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Bhoomarlal Bhammarlal Johri was the bohemian of the village. He attended school, up to nobody knows what grade, but he was very interested in geography. He wasn’t employed anywhere as such but earned some money by doing odd jobs. He was a very talkative person and very popular in his village, but he wasn’t famous for anything more than his hilarious name. No one in the village had such a funny name.

This name is a native Indian name; usually from Rajasthan. It was considered a royal name in the past but now-a-days it sounds funny. Upset with this our bohemian friend changed his name to BJO. This sounded very contemporary to him and everyone else. He often used to travel to the city for his routine work and irritate his neighbor, whether he enjoyed his conversations or not. Whatever said and done, he was an interesting and helpful personality.

One day, when he was standing in the queue for the bus to the city, he noticed a foreigner sitting alone in the rear seat. He was very excited and wanted to meet this man and talk to him to know more about his country and culture. He pushed his way through the line, like a rat, and somehow got into the bus. He saw someone trying to sit next to this foreigner and out of anger he shouted and ordered the man to get away from the seat as he wanted to sit there. BJO always acted authoritative wherever he went.

He sat next to the foreigner; fixed his colorful turban and stated a conversation in his local language.

The foreigner couldn’t understand a word of what he was saying and moreover was not even sure whether BJO was talking to him or someone else. He did not pay attention to what BJO was saying. This embarrassed BJO but he tried again. There was no answer this time either. BJO did not know a word of English and the foreigner did not understand the local language.

The utmost question now in BJO’s mind was how do I communicate with this foreigner? He decided to first start trying to help the man. He helped him get change to pay the bus fare. In the villages, usually the bus fares are very less and one needs to have good amount of change on them. So, BJO took advantage of this situation and arranged for some change for the foreigner.

The foreigner was happy, he smiled at BJO. But this was not what BJO was looking for. He was looking for a full-fledged conversation. He was constantly looking out for events where he could help the foreigner. He got his next chance when the bus halted at a village bus stand, the foreigner wanted to go to the toilet, but was worried about his luggage. BJO somehow managed to communicate to the foreigner not to worry about the luggage, he would take care of it and he really did sit like a snake on a treasure, guarding the luggage.

The foreigner came back and repeated the same smile. BJO was very uncomfortable because there was no one there to talk to, so he pointed out to the book of India he had in his hand and by using sign language asked him where he was from. the foreigner showed him a book on Europe and pointed to England. So much for BJO, but he was still unsatisfied.

He thought of an idea. He wanted to find a person who knew his local language as well the foreigner’s language. To his misfortune, he did not find anyone, but didn’t fail to carry on with his conversation using all kinds of gestures. It had been an hour and the bus halted for lunch. They had lunch together and as the bus was to leave, he saw his friend, the school teacher entering the bus.

BJO was thrilled, finally someone who can be a translator he thought. He requested his friend to ask the foreigner what his name was, where he was going, what did he see in Rajasthan and all sorts of curious questions? The friend did exactly as BJO said.

He threw the questions on the foreigner all at once. The foreigner was confused. He looked at the school teacher for a while, pulled out a card from his pocket and gave it to him. The card said JOHN J WHITE: Mute by birth.

It was actually a handicap certificate. The school teacher explained the man’s situation to BJO, who was shameful and lost for a while but still contended deep down because he realized that they had communicated so much using gestures that language was no bar for them.

 

Hoodwinked

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It’s said that there is no better judge than our own conscience, but some people in this world still try to cheat others. At the end of it, they do not know whether they cheated the other person or cheated themselves. The silence of a person is often taken as his cowardice, but the conscience is the best judge. Young Zara found herself in a similar situation today.

Zara was just 16, when she had developed a flair for chatting on the internet. She was from an unprivileged family. Her parents had separated and she was living in the college hostel. The age was tender, the knowledge was half, desires were like a soaring kite and the world was full of colors. She was the only child, who like every single child longed for a blood relation, especially a brother. She would envy her friends who had brothers who stood like castles in front of them. She was quite religious and always complained to god for not giving her a brother.

Rakhsha Bandhan is an important festival in India, especially for sisters. On that day, the sisters tie a colored thread on the wrist of their brothers. This thread symbolizes the duty of the brother to protect his sisters forever. In return, the brothers take an oath to protect their sisters till the end of time. Zara had never celebrated Raksha Bandhan. Every year she would curse her life for not having a brother.

It was a beautiful evening and she logged into her chat messenger. She came across a very interesting person. His user name really impressed her. She contacted that person. He was a simple man staying very far away from her world. He was an artist and his conversations were very different. There was not a hint of any selfish motive. This really intrigued her. She asked for his telephone number and decided to call him up once.

A few days later the artist received a telephone call of Zara. They talked for a while on general things. He definitely won her heart. Many days passed and they decided to meet once. He was on a vacation and planned to visit her city. Things happened as they were planned. They met. The artist was quite older than her. He talked to her as his own sister. Maybe it was a co-incidence that he too longed for a sister all his life. He accepted her as his younger sister.

Zara’s life suddenly took a different turn. She was happy that day. She distributed sweets to the entire hostel. Days were happier now. The artist celebrated her birthday very lavishly. He invited her along with her friends to a famous restaurant in the city. The owner of that place was a good friend of his, so he decorated the entire place with red roses, as she loved red roses. That was the best birthday ever for her. She was filled with happiness.

Brother, thanks for making me so special. I love you.

Dear sister, I take an oath on your love and will never betray you.

The artist was now a demigod to Zara. He was indeed a good motivator. Whenever she was depressed, he brought her out and made her feel on top of the world. On her 18th birthday, he presented her with one of his finest poems. He narrated the poem to her.

In the song of flowers and stars, lives the divine love of ours. Here is a birthday song for you from the brother of Mars.

He threw a lavish party for her in the most expensive hotel in the city. There was music, dance and dinner. He wanted the world to know that it was his loving sister’s birthday. The party was great and all the guests really enjoyed themselves. The artist was a rich man and by now, Zara knew this very well.

The winter vacations approached when the artist came to meet her in the college. She was all alone as there was nowhere to go. She was neither willing to go home nor did she have money to travel anywhere else.

Dear sister, please tell me about your dream place. I will take you there.

I want to walk in the clouds, brother. Can you take me in the clouds?

Yes, I can. I will take you to the country of clouds.

Where is the country of clouds? Brother.

It’s far away from this city. Way up in the north, near the highest mountain range in the country, the Himalayas. Yes, there is the country of clouds. I know the king. He is my good friend. His kingdom is very huge and the countrymen are so loving. Let’s go there; today itself.

She readily packed her bags and they started their journey through the rough weather, for a temple up above the highest peak in the mountain range. The artist visited that temple every year and this time he took along his sister to share the heavenly experience. The weather was very cold and the clouds covered the roads of hills.

Zara’s dream of walking in the clouds was fulfilled by her brother. She was the happiest person on earth that day. Days passed by and the winds of change did embrace her, as she grew up.

One day suddenly she called her brother up and asked for a monetary favor. She said that she had met with a bad accident. The artist was very worried but unfortunately could not visit her. He sent the amount readily. It was of great help to her. She said that she was not able to attend an exam due to a fractured hand. He attended her very lovingly, but this favor made her a very dependable person, the worst part was that she became overconfident about her brother and started asking for more frequent monetary favors. The brother was generous and did not know her intentions. Even if he knew, he would not mind as for him the most important concern was to keep her happy.

As time flew, there was a considerable decrease in communication between the two. Zara had finished her college and found a job in a distant city. She found a new lover too. She remained busy with him. She now hardly communicated with her brother who was very concerned about this new behavior. He called her up many times but she tried to avoid him. So, the brother decided to go meet her one day. They met finally and she introduced him to her lover. He was a nice young man. They had a nice time together.

A year passed like this. There was very less communication between them. Time had changed young Zara from a loving sister into a cunning woman. She had different plans. She had decided to exploit her brother in all possible ways and run away to make her career because she knew very well that he was a simple person and never asked any explanations.

He had anticipated some problems in the relation but knew it would be tough to solve, due to distance. He was planning to visit her soon, when one fine day; he received a letter from Zara.

Brother, I am off to Singapore for my further studies. Will study and work there. Thank you very much.

Lightning struck the brothers heart. He was stunned by the letter. His heart was shattered into pieces. He never expected this to happen. He had apprehended some negative responses from Zara, but this act completely bowled him out. All the good days came as a flashback to him and pierced him like thorns. He tried to contact her, but all in vain.

The artist however managed to be calm and not react. Nothing could be done now. After a year on the thread festival, he received a letter from Zara.

I am sorry, but I have hoodwinked you. I exploited you for my cunning needs. Do you remember the first time I asked you a monetary favor? It was not an accident; I needed money to throw a party to my friends, in your friend’s lavish restaurant. I really apologize for all favors I asked of you in these years. Thank you for everything. Please forgive and forget me.

A beautiful relation between them was ended. He was very sad about it, but who can fight destiny? He just sent a small reply back. Zara received the letter. She had no feeling of regret as she had done what she wanted. She opened the letter with a smile on her face. There was a small note in that.

Dear sister, I will never be able to forget you for you are the one I love most. If the teeth bite the tongue, no one breaks the teeth. My relationship with you transcends all monetary matters. Even if you have asked me for it, I would not have said no. you will always be in my heart. Tell me why? Are we so blind to see, that the ones we hurt are you and me?

There was a photograph. It was the photograph of the party she arranged for her friends some days after she lied to her brother about the accident.

The photograph was clicked by the restaurant owner, who was a good friend of the artist brother. He sent this photo by email to his entire friends group, in which the artist’s address was also added. She turned the photograph. On the back, the brother wrote—HOODWINKED?

 

Homeless Again

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I am crying. I have been since morning. All night I witnessed my house being demolished and I just stood there, a helpless feeble creature. So feeble, my existence did not seem to matter to the destroyers of this world. I could not even save my house.

How am I supposed to save the nature?
How many more days I will walk like this direction-less?
How do I stop this greedy mouth of urbanization?

When I was a child, I spent half my life in my home made of straws and cow-dung. It was a small house but his heart was big enough to accommodate my whole family. My home was the biggest home in the village. A fence ran around it to safeguard our hens. The hens had many chickens who were my constant companions. They looked so cute like cotton balls. The upper part of the house was like a castle. I had made a flag and unfurled it on a pole on the terrace. This announced the highest point of the village.

There was a blue river which embraced my home like a garland. There was a rose garden inside the compound. I loved my roses. They were my best friends. During spring, they formed a rainbow around my home. They defined the colors I knew in life. The birds would announce the arrival of the sun every morning and my friends stood up to salute him every day. Once dawn broke the birds made our roof their meeting point. I used to feed the birds wheat grains. That’s why one would find wheat grains scattered around my house always.

I had made beautiful tribal drawings on the walls. They depicted dances performed during various festivals. Every day, I used to sweep the compound twice and my anklets sang the song of my happiness. My home to me was a living creature. It had two windows and a door. They symbolized two eyes to keep a watch on us and a mouth, to let us in and out. The fencing was its hand through which it held me tight in its arms. The compound was its heart, full of love. The flag atop was its crown. The plants around were its pride and there was a temple at the back, the masthead of my home.

In the evening when the world turned golden, my home also seemed to be made of gold. The birds would fly away from the roof to their homes. As the sun would set, my home turned larger and larger. As night set in my home would put on its favorite blue dress with the silver garland. On the full moon night, it almost blocked the moon rays and formed a beautiful silhouette when seen from a distance.My home was a life, which gave life to me. It took care of me since the day I was born. It was the perfect face that I can never forget.

Once urbanization set foot in my village, I lost my home. It was converted into a dead structure which became more a house than a home. The river was made to take a diversion and converted into a road but what remained was my favorite maple tree across the road, which was now a highway. That huge tree was not under the urban development scheme, so it stood there like the last action hero of that land.

The maple tree was the biggest tree in the village and a home to hundreds of birds. The birds collected straw by straw and built their nests on the branches of the tree. There was a colony of nests on it. There were so many varieties of birds that stayed together. The cuckoos, sparrows, pigeons, parrots, doves were some of the birds I know who resided in the tree colony. The sunrise hour was like an orchestra, when all the birds sang the morning song with unity. The sweet voice of the cuckoo was my morning alarm and the melodious song of the nigh tangle was my lullaby. The huge canopy provided a home to so many birds. The passing travelers would rest in the shade for a while or wait for the bus to arrive.

I made a swing on the branches of the tree and played hide and seek every day with my friends. During the cold winters, we used some wood for making a bonfire. We would sing and dance under this maple home. I used to watch the tree from my new home every day and relish my old days. I enjoyed watching the father sparrow collect each straw to build their home and the mother sparrow feeding her children watching the sunset, after the day’s long labor. I enjoyed watching the flight of new birds. The tree was almost like an aerodrome for these young pilots.

I loved how the leaves metamorphosed tiny worms into lovely colored butterflies like time turns a baby girl into a charming young lady. They were thousands in count. They were like a flying army of colors. There was a family of love birds. It was like my own family. I had even kept names of so many of them. I remember the lovers walking hand in hands on the streets, filled with red maple leaves during autumn. I remember everything; everything how the maple tree used to bear the brunt of the scorching sun but gave us shade and oxygen loaded breeze.

But last night, the workers of the municipal corporation chopped off the last action hero. A new housing colony plan had given birth to deforestation in my village. This act has surrounded me with thousands of questions and instilled a fear in my heart.

What will happen to the family of the love birds?
Where will the young pilots learn to fly?
Where will the passing by traveler take rest?
What will happen to the youth of the butterfly?
Where will the orchestra play now?
Whose sweet voice will wake me up and make me sleep?
Where will the lovers find a quiet romantic place?
Where will the children play hide and seek?
What will I see and cherish in the years to come?

I am terrified by all these thoughts. I am just starring at the broken empire all my life I have lived like a parasite on them; I lost my village home some years ago and now suddenly everything. Although, everybody is homeless; it’s not them who have lost their home, it’s me. I am homeless again.

 

HIV Positive

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College days bring back a lot of memories for one and all. Some make you laugh, some hurt and some are just like treading an emotional line. Irrespective of what they might bring out in you, they’re beautiful. So, when I received the invite for my college alumni meet, I could barely contain my excitement. I had to make it.

The long-awaited day finally arrived and I attended meet. It was a wonderful evening, as batch mates came together again. The feeling was like finding my precious old ornaments that were lost in time for so long. The evening was eventful, filled with felicitations, the principal’s speech, and performances by famous artists, followed by a lavish cocktail party. For me, all the colors of the rainbow were present in the party plus a very special old friend of mine. We studied in the same college for 5 years during graduation. He was fondly known as Professor.

Diganto alias Professor was like a father figure to me from the first day we met in the college canteen. No, he was not of the scholarly first-bench types; on the contrary, he was very mischievous but very funny and inspirational. Every single word of his was a teaching. On the first day, he introduced himself to me.

Hello, I am Diganto. What’s your name, dude?

Cool name brother, but what does it mean?

Diganto means horizon, a new world, where the sky and earth meet.

All my life I had been taught that sky and earth never meet and when I heard this young man creating a whole new concept, I was impressed and interested. He surely had a light in him.

Soon, we became the best of the friends. Professor always helped me look beyond what I actually saw.

He once told me about a very funny incident from his school days. His class teacher gave the students an assignment to do. They were supposed to write a sample love letter and present it before the class the next day. Like everyone else, Professor also wrote a letter, but a very erotic one. The letter described the fantasies of a lover and towards the end; it described the lovers making love with each other. The teacher was furious on reading what he had written.

She pulled him up in front of the whole class and asked him whether he felt there was something wrong about the whole letter. Our Professor was always a man of parallel thoughts, so after a long pause he agreed that there definitely was something terribly wrong in the letter. The teacher thought he realized his guilt and was expecting him to confess in front of the class.

Teacher, I apologize but I completely forgot about the contraceptives.

The entire class, including the teacher, burst out laughing. Such an innocent and unique confession completely overshadowed her anger and she was extremely pleased with such a different approach from her student. Such was our Professor; a very different human altogether.

I was not a very bright student and kept failing several times in Economics, but Professor always stood by me with his army of words. I can never forget a thing he said to me when I was extremely frustrated by my continuous failure in Economics. He held both my hands and said something unforgettable.

Failure is not a person but an event. You really fail when you don’t try to get up again and fight. Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, I will try again tomorrow what the caterpillar calls the end, and the rest of the world calls a butterfly.

His words always motivated me to keep striving forward. He was a man of strong attitude and will. He made me realize the true motto of our college—I will, I can. he taught me that even the word impossible says that I M POSSIBLE. It’s a matter of perception. This inspired me to such an extent that I changed my name to Agastya that means the doer of impossible.

Life was much easier thereafter.

I remember another incident soon after graduation. All of us decided to meet one day for lunch. We were taking a stroll along the beach, when crow droppings hit Professor’s eyes. I was expecting him to react but I should have known him better after all those years. Our dear Professor simply looked up in the sky, smiled.

Thank God, cows don’t fly.

Yet another time the children near his apartment scratched his car with stones. He noticed many lines and shapes on the car. He knew who did it. In the evening, he went to see the boy’s parents. They really thought that he was there to instigate a fight, but the conversation was something very different.

Your son is growing and has shown interest in drawings. I think it’s a good time to get him some canvas and colors. Art on metal is not as interesting as compared to canvas. I see a potential artist in him.

He did not even utter a word about the damages. This surprised the parents and completely changed the naughty boy’s life.

Professor has changed the lives of so many people around him, especially mine. He still has a deep impact in my heart and I always stay in touch with him. Although, he is not a professional teacher but his words are like pearls of wisdom. I really wish all the people in the world become like him.

Our attitudes control our lives. Attitudes are a secret power working twenty-four hours a day, for good or bad. I always invite him to all parties and introduce him to all my other friends and guests. I always say that he is my close friend Professor and he-is-very-positive.

Green Revolution

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It was a fresh misty morning. I woke up and was going through my post. There was a letter from the Environment Ministry informing me about my promotion and transfer. I had been promoted as the Chief Conservator of Forests and transferred to Manas National Park in the north-eastern province of India.

My happiness on hearing this would have known no bounds if I had been in my senses. However, the night before I was so tense that the effects of it had lasted well beyond the night. I got the answer to the biggest question in my life last night. It had been with me ever since the question was conjured but I never knew of it. The world as we know is like a magic toy. It’s dust to us when we have it and like gold when we lose it. Maybe, that is the moral which a jungle-boy like me could not understand before.

Ever since my early childhood I was very interested in forest life. The reason being the environment I was born and brought up in. Although, I am not a very strong believer in destiny I am sometimes forced to feel its overpowering presence.

I was born in a small town in northern India, in the lap of the Himalayas. The village was surrounded by dense-green forests and enchanting valleys filled with flowers. At dawn, the sky spread its red carpet, to welcome the guiding star. The whole kingdom paid a standing ovation to the expected king. Slowly, the king arrived with his golden army. The king’s army engulfed the land and forest in a beautiful array of bright lights. It seemed that God has painted his canvas with vibrant colors. Cuckoos sang the welcome opera, the elephant played the trumpet, the bees played the percussion and the lovely flowers opened their arms to embrace their lover. The flowers stood on high heels and tried to touch the bright blue sky like the tough and tall mountains stood high wearing caps made of snow.

It’s here that I got my first definition of heaven. I was a normal boy except for the fact that destiny had deprived me the love of a family, I was an orphan. I lived in the town orphanage and my initial education was also taken care there. Being an orphan never concerned me much, but what I never understood was why all the boys had the same surname.

I used to spend long hours in the forests. The forests had already become my constant companions. School life passed very smoothly, in bliss and I never knew when the time came for me to enter college. I joined the College of Wildlife and Nature Conservation in a nearby city. I was really excited about me venturing out of my small town to pursue my dreams and what the future had in store for me.

The time came for the college to shut down for winter vacations. Unlike most other children who went home to their parents, my friends and I planned to go on an excursion to Kaziranga National Park in north-eastern province of India. Maybe that was my way of escaping from my solitude. I never knew that this would be the turn key trip in my life. Maybe, I was too young to apprehend.

The next day opened the gates of paradise for me. We decided to study the flora in the jungle and the rhinos. Our professor introduced me to a person who was the Zonal In-charge. He in turn, got me in touch with the man who was to become the most influential figure in my life. Whether this was the efforts of the Zonal In-charge or destiny’s game plan, I am still unsure.

His name was N!xau. Yes, believe me, that was his name. He was a dark and short man with an athletic body, in his mid-50s. He was fluent in English and Bengali and knew a bit Hindi as well. Although his speech was not clear, he had a magic in his eyes which would convey his message. He was our guide for forest rendezvous. We started talking and he started sharing his extreme knowledge about rhinos. I was quite inquisitive and inquired about him the whole day. Surely, he had cast his spell on me.

N!xau’s ancestors belonged to a tribal clan from South Africa. They were forced to migrate to Calcutta as slaves during the days of the East India Company. In the early 20th century Africans were forced to migrate to Indonesia and India to serve British colonies. They worked appalling conditions in various industries including forests. He was born in Calcutta many years after the dissolution of the Company. He spent his entire life in the jungles with his parents collecting timber, herbs, animal skin etc.

To me he was the Lord of the Jungle. He narrated many tales of animals I had never seen in real life or sometime never even heard of.

I had found my guiding star and saw my dream of becoming a Forest Officer gradually coming to life. I also had hope of being at least an environmentalist, if I did not pass the Indian Forest Service examination, the wilderness had brought a revolution in my life.

After his parents’ death N!xau was declared as a property and asset of the jungle owing to his in-depth knowledge of flora-fauna and extreme understanding of the rhinos. N!xau always recited a poem called TYA to me that was a song of their tribe. He would look down; close his eyes and say Ek is lief ver jou, Tya twice. I asked him the meaning of TYA, but he said he’ll explain it in detail sometime later.

Son, The wrinkles on my forehead tell my traveling stories.

It was a myth in his tribe that more the wrinkles on the forehead, the more a man has traveled.

N!xau had a very special baby rhino who he had named Sonar Gonda meaning golden rhino in Bengali. Sonar Gonda’s mother was killed by poachers when he was one month old. He had taken his care like a parent since then. The baby rhino was two years old when I first met him.

His love for the rhino child seemed extraordinary for me. I never thought that a man could love an animal so much. I was moved by his fatherhood towards the rhino. N!xau believed that all creations of God should be equally loved and respected. While he used to feed the baby rhino with his own hands, I used to stand nearby with tears in my eyes.

The last day our camp neared and soon the camp got over. We had to leave for the college. I wanted to thank N!xau for everything but I could not reach him. I went to his office and wrote WILL BE BACK SOON on a bookmark and kept it in the book he was reading.

Thereafter, I visited N!xau very often. Ten years had passed and he was a retired man now. We had developed a father-son kind of relationship by now. Sonar Gonda was 10 years old. He was the most handsome rhino in the forest. He had a big long horn which seemed like a medal on him. Life was beautiful.

One fine day there was a notice to transfer Sonar Gonda to another reserve forest in the country to find a suitable mate. This made N!xau very unhappy. He could not revoke the order because he was not in the commission anymore. The separation with his rhino son had a big impact on his health. He fell ill. His illness aggravated during the fag end of his life.

In our last meeting he presented me a book of stories which had a beautiful bookmark in it. One thing I had forgotten was to ask him the meaning of TYA. I thought I would ask him the next time we meet.

After my Master’s, I passed the UPSC examination to serve in the Indian Forest Service. I was very near to fulfilling my dream of serving mother nature, the only mother I had known. I finished my training and was designated as Assistant Conservator of Forests and posted in a tiger reserve in a western state of the country. I served the commission wholeheartedly and soon was to be promoted to a high rank in the service.

I looked up in the sky that day and told him that I have won a big challenge. N!xau always told me that a man is not big, big are the challenges. I wished he was alive to see me in all my glory. I was to get married soon and wanted to go to Kaziranga National Park and invite him. But the day before I was supposed to leave, I received a telegram which said N!XAU IS NO MORE. Time just stopped for me that moment.

I did not know how to react. I felt like a bastard again. For the first time in life I cried for the entire day. The next day I left for Kaziranga National Park immediately. His funeral rituals were over by the time I reached there. I had lost my father once again. Life played her sinister trick again.

I got married after some months but, the fire of separation and longing for the father was burning in me. I prayed from that day onward that the lord should make me the rhino-child in the next birth and make N!xau my father. I didn’t want to be a human in my next birth because the only love story I knew was of N!xau and the rhino child. It had left a deep mark in my heart. The trip to Kaziranga National Park changed my life, thoughts, dreams and prayers.

It was raining heavily that night and I was pacing all over the house restlessly. I regretted on not asking N!xau the meaning of TYA again. But what was the meaning of the poem he recited. This had become the biggest question of my life. I knew that I would never know the meaning of his poem. I was really upset by this thought when suddenly I remembered the book he gifted me.

I immediately rushed towards the bookshelf and took the book in my hand. My eyes were filled with tears while I was staring at the bookmark which suddenly looked familiar. I realized that it was the same bookmark on which I wrote WILL BE BACK SOON, when parting from him for the first time. I pulled it out and flipped it.

A loud thunder struck as I read on the bookmark—TYA means mother nature.

Graveyard Flower

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Josh was counting his last moments lying on the bed. He was bleeding and had no one around to help him. He lay there with a piece of paper in his fist, some last words scribbled on it with trembling hands. Although it was a not easily readable, it had something about his current state.

Suddenly, somebody was banging the door and shouting Josh, Josh, open the door and as Josh kept watching the door, he drifted into nostalgia.

Josh’s roommate was screaming and banging the door loudly. He opened up after a while. The room as filled with smoke and a weird odor. His friend was fuming.

How many times I have told you not to do drugs. Josh, what has gone has gone. It won’t change but if you don’t forget it, it will ruin your life. She was not the only girl in this world. You are a charming young man. Get out of it Josh, don’t waste your time on her. She isn’t returning to you. Rini is on the line for you, talk to her.

I don’t want to talk to her now, I cannot get out of her; go away brother.

His roommate explained the situation to Rini and asked her to call some other time. He was the only person who knew Josh’s life in depth, from the start.

Josh had an affair with a girl in his late teens. He married her but it was not successful and they got divorced very soon. Another girl took his heart immediately after his divorce. She was a very smart girl who set him up for many years. She used him and flew to America for further studies. This had a deep impact on his mind, after which he remained very quiet and resorted to intoxication. But that wasn’t the only truth.

He fell in love with another woman while he was in with his second girlfriend. His second girl was in a far away city and this distance distracted him which eventually lead him into two simultaneous relationships. He had been double-dating but it was more of an overlapping relation because he had started thinking of ending his relationship with his second girlfriend.

Rini was a beautiful girl and was Josh’s student. He used to teach her arts. He was attracted towards her physical beauty in no time. He thought it would really be nice if he could flirt with her for a while.

Anyways, how will my girlfriend come to know that I am flirting with Rini? And moreover, its going to be a short time relation.

He assured his conscience.

Rini was also very attracted towards Josh due to his craft but she never knew about his existing affair. Days passed, months passed and Josh and Rini kept coming closer and closer. This was also the time when his second girlfriend had started breaking away to migrate to America.

At one point of time Rini asked Josh for a commitment. She wanted to marry him.

But, Rini, I never saw you as my life partner.

This tore her apart and she turned away in sorrow. Soon, a month later, his second girlfriend said the same thing when he asked her for marriage. Time had taken its revenge. As you sow shall you reap and Josh was shattered after they broke off.

After this incident Josh had turned into an alcoholic. He lied and was arrogant. He decided not to trust any woman and decided never to speak the truth with any woman. Everything was a lie thereafter. He turned towards prostitution for a while before suddenly getting in touch with Rini; again.

Rini still loved him a lot and gave him all, still unknown to everything that happened. He kept lying, one to cover the other. He only wanted her body but she loved him wholeheartedly. They often fought and one day Josh left her, again. He migrated to another country where he had an affair with another lady, she too left him and finally he was bankrupt and was deported to his home country.

Josh had lost everything he loved, everybody deserted him but Rini was the only one who was still in love with him. She took good care of Josh till he came back to his senses.

Her love slowly started bringing him back. He understood the meaning of life. He repented everything that happened and how he ditched her every time and how true her love was towards him.

As days passed, Josh really fell in love with Rini for the first time. He starting sharing his feelings with her. He never used to communicate properly with her and now he used to call up several times in a day. She was very happy with this new face of Josh and once again she proposed to him for marriage.

He kept quiet again.

Time had wounded all heals again. It was a miracle or tragedy in Josh’s life. He was contacted by his ex-wife and second girlfriend. Their lives were also miserable and they wanted to return to him because they both knew that he loved them with a true heart.

Josh could not understand this joke of life. All his life he kept loosing, he never got water when he was thirsty and now suddenly a storm was following him. This was the toughest time in his life. He did not know what to do. Although, he was out of depression, a new hammer kept on nailing his conscience. Neither did he tell Rini nor did he tell them about her.

All relations were badly jumbled and looked like a labyrinth.

How long can a relation sustain which is built on the soil of lies, was the question he pondered all the while.

He was scared to tell anyone all that happened in all these years because he thought that something worse could happen if he told Rini the truth. She will be broken and he could not live a life with a false face every day and neither did he want to return to his ex-lovers.

His health slowly began to deteriorate again. He was continuously thinking like a mad man, maybe he really did turn into a mad man. He had fallen in his own eyes. That night Rini called up to get an answer to her proposal.

Josh had already had an overdose of some pills. He didn’t answer her call and fell on the bed, slowly dying. He did not want to live anymore.

He was tired of life.

Rini came running with a friend to his house. They had to break enter into the house. They ran towards the door. They tried to open it but it was locked.

Josh, open up. Please open up the door, Josh.

Josh had already closed her eyes to the world of sorrow and the flashback was over. Rini and the friend somehow managed to break the door. They saw Josh bleeding from the mouth. The other friend ran to arrange for a doctor but she could not feel the breath of her beloved was no more.

She sat next to the cold body. She cried loudly. She had waited so many years, all alone for her love to accept her but she had finally lost.

Rini cried and cried for a while and then after a while she suddenly saw a note in Josh’s hand. She immediately opened the blood-soaked note in which he wrote his final words—I CANNOT TAKE THIS PAIN ANYMORE. I AM NOT THE ONE FOR YOU RINI. I AM LIKE A GRAVEYARD FLOWER, THAT CAN NEVER SEE A BUTTERFLY.