The longing gaze

He admired it from a distance,
A pauper of the streets gazing longingly at the splendour far from his reach.

It was bedecked in strings of pearls and jewels seen only in his vision,
Rubies, emeralds, sapphiers of different kinds and myriad versions.

Today is an important day, had declared the lords of this ivory tower,
Celebrate we will by lighting up all the pantheons of power.

Enthralled by this marvellous show, sank the pauper back to his station,
Why go back to that unlit home when stars themselves have graced this occasion…

Who’s the beggar?

Day 1:
She unpacked the wrapped packet and checked the contents inside. Two Indian breads, a bowl worth of lentil soup, a preparation of cottage cheese in tomato gravy and papadam. She settled on the hard floor of the cobbled streets, contemplating which portion to devour first. Even as her stomach groaned, she was immediately aware of a pair of eyes eyeing the food with acute interest. She was annoyed, that a hard earned meal would have to be fought over. She picked up a rough stone and threw it in the direction of those eyes. The stone hit its mark, and the being scampered away.

Day 2:
Today was flattened rice breads, sour soup and indian pickle. She had just lifted the first morsel to her lips, when those damned eyes showed up around the corner. This time she was prepared and hurled the stone even as the eyes made their silent approach. The result satisfied her as the being again backed off. But in her hurry she had toppled her meal. This night the stomach sang it’s woeful tune for a long time.

Day 3:
She felt as if the 33 million gods were conspiring against her peace of mind. Not only was today’s meal a meagre one of plain rice and bland lentil soup, those eyes had crept much closer. She could smell the sour odour of sweat and hear the incessant panting.
Out of exasperation, she placed a portion of her food on ground for partaking. The being hobbled forward, eyeing her suspiciously even as it gobbled up the food in a hurry.

Day 25:
The two most unlikely beings on this earth had formed a weird routine. She would set aside some of her meal, the being would finish it in a flash and slink away a short distance eyeing her as she would finish her own food.
She wondered silently what had made her to share the precious food. Somewhere she had accepted that the way she got her food through all the hard labour of the day, the being too was going through hardships of its own. She reasoned to herself that in her own small way she was alleviating it’s sorrows.

Day 45:
Winters in Delhi were cruel, and staying warm was a bigger priority. The food was obviously crucial, but so was getting a blanket. Even as she was wondering where she could spend the night without dying of cold, the being slowly came up to her with a tattered blanket.
She wondered where it had stolen it from, but more than that she believed she saw gratitude and loyalty in those staring eyes. Maybe her incessant shivering yesterday night had given it a cue as to what ailed her. She marvelled at the intelligence of the being. She gave a tiny smile and tossed a piece of bread to it, which was dinner for the night and sat down on the side walk.

Day 55:
Today was exceptionally cold. The blanket was hardly any protection. Even as she thought so, she felt the being’s body settle down next to her. She hugged it tightly even as both of them shared the body heat to survive on the dark, cold wintry night.

Day 66:
She was very happy today. She had laboriously managed to gather a large meal for both of them. It was a feast. The nights too were becoming more bearable as they both shared the blankets under a shamiana of a million stars.
She was experiencing a sense of calmness after a long long time, not since her own children had thrown her out into the streets 5 years ago. The pleasure of having something to share with someone and feel wanted.
She turned into her usual street. Happily she began to cross the lane towards the corner that she had begun to call home. A Landrover rammed into her and tossed her away like a ragged doll. The hotel food that she had scavenged was scattered all around her, mixing with her blood and viscera. The land rover sped away.

Day 80:
The being paced up and down the corner. The human had never failed to appear at night since the day it had approached it. Now it had been 14 days since she had left him. It could not fathom why. Humans were different it said to itself. It had stolen a new quilt for her knowing that her teeth still chattered on some very cold nights.
Maybe it should tell her that he was waiting for her, and that she should hurry. It arched it’s back and howled into the night, so that she could hear him loud and clear. It settled silently next to her spot awaiting her return. Dogs across streets heard it’s fervent plea, and too howled into the night as if to pass on its message to the lost companion.
However amidst the cacophony of human noise, only the shining stars in the night heard it.

Obituary:
On the night of 31st December, 2018 an old woman was overrun by a black landrover. The deceased was identified as Lakshmi Devi the widow of late Mr. Harkishandas Khattar, the gold baron. Disputes over the patriarch’s will had left Lakshmi Devi destitute. The sons allege that their mother had left the home of her own will. Her whereabouts for last couple of years were not known. The sons have begun funeral preparations, & have vowed to build in her name a shelter for abandoned people & animals. The case continues.

The circus called life

The circus was the most popular event in the land. The star attraction, were not the tigers, lions or even the acrobats. It was the glamorous knife thrower called Czarina, balancing her target’s life in her hands, even as the knives sang through the air, rushing inexorably towards the fragile limbs, and sparing the precious lives at the last moment.

While the audience was enthralled by her, so were they glued to their seats when the popular clown of the troupe emerged out of thin air. He was the side act, the friendly buffoon who kept the crowds entertained while the main actors prepped for their parts.

But when the Czarina was on stage, even the clown was drawn to her beautiful skill. So one fine day, against his better judgement he gathered his scattered courage and called out to her offering his companionship, heart and the smile that made everyone else laugh. Alas the Czarina, looked at him with sadness and pity.

“I have enough suitors and followers who flatter me, and need no more. I do not have time for you or your companionship. You would be better served by looking somewhere else for someone who can reciprocate your emotions” she said and turned her back. The clown winced internally at those words, which were as sharp as her knives. Nay, sharper as the knives never really hurt anyone, but the words cut deep.

But he too was the clown. Like the Czarina he too was a master of his own subtle art. A master of disguise and an expert at masking his emotions. He bowed to the Czarina, wishing her the best in life and beat a gallant retreat.

In the end, the Czarina continued to enthrall the audiences with her knives even as she spared lives of her targets but numbed down her own, and the clown returned to make his audience laugh in raptures, even as he silently hummed the evergreen classic to himself

“chalo ek baar fir se ajnabee ban jaye hum dono”.

The audience laughed and enjoyed the show.