As I child while returning back from school kicking pebbles on the road, the cherubic me would daily see an old frail man sitting on the road side with a long beard flowing till his lap hiding his modesty in such a way that passers-by wouldn’t be able to view his bare torso. The frail he looked, but he sported a head gear, the traditional turban which in size would cover ten heads like his, creating a picture of tiny creature slid under the mushroom of a big umbrella.

This man on the road side would have never gone unnoticed, not because of his peculiar features, but because of a tiny little parrot, or was it a parakeet, I would not be stating with conviction, that perched on top of a tiny cage kept on a bed sheet spread before him. Every day, as I used to pass by this creature and his owner on the road, I used to wonder why this little bird never flew away. Wild guesses by my little childish brain could only fathom reasons like the pet being very attached to the owner or that its wings must have been clipped by its merciless owner. All these wild imaginations were not my own creative intuitions but borne out of the various stories we used to read as part of our curriculum in English and Hindi. But one thing which really intrigued me was why this old man ever felt the need to have this cage when his pet would never be inside it.

Oh yeah, before I forget, this peculiar old man had a few more assets to his possession spread over that cloth lay before him. A few small rectangular cardboard cards, they were. All looked alike to me from the distance but I knew that they would be quite distinct from each other, similar to the playing cards, with the cricketers’ statistics that we children used to collect and play with.

These cards, which we used to play, had all vital statistics of the cricketing heroes of our times, mostly from our country, but sometimes, if we were lucky enough, we could lay our hands on some foreign cricketers too. Our net worth used to be decided based on the number of these cards we possess and flaunt and proudly carry in our pockets, and if we had magnanimous friends, someone would barter a card of a more flamboyant cricketer for one of a little less known one, that I had.

As fate would have it, it was invariably without fail that a pebble kicked up in the air by me would land up just near the bed sheet, making up that jot of sound and kick up that iota of dust, just enough to startle that old man and his pet to turn their heads once towards the location from where the sound emanated and then towards me in disgust.

Yeah, the look towards me used to be in disgust, because, quite often than not, apart from these two living creatures occupying the space on the side of the road, there would be another one sitting facing the old man, as if staring in complete disbelief of whatever the conversation going on between them and having a sign of pity on his face which I could read at that time as something which meant to translate into being at a wrong place at the wrong time. I had always assumed that this new face that I would see every other day would be a visitor, perhaps an acquaintance or even perhaps a distant relative of that old man who had casually come inquiring of him.

The visitor would also undoubtedly be started by the sound and dust that my honest action would create and would bring the conversation between them to an abrupt stop. I would always be able to have a quick glance at their faces, noticing the menacing look on the old man’s face and an absolutely contradictory look of thankfulness on the visitor’s face, before I would suddenly increase my pace and brisk walk away from the location towards the safety of my home.

It was that fateful day, when incidents narrated above happened yet again and as I walked away, I felt a strong ironed hand pulling me back holding me by my arm. As I turned back, I was petrified to see the turbaned bearded man, holding me by arm and staring at me through his bespectacled eyes straight into my eyes. I was so scared that I just stood there glued to the ground and before I could react anything, I could see the old man smiling at me and I could notice a few sets of stained yellowish brown betel leaves chewed teeth or whatever was left of it through his open lips.

Without uttering a word, he started taking me towards his seat. His hold on my arms were not that strong enough not to allow me to jerk myself out of his grip and run away but I too was following him as if I was mesmerized by his hold, the way the rats followed the pied piper.

The old man made me sit in front of him, the seat generally I have seen reserved for his acquaintances or distant relatives, whoever they were, and I just quietly sat there in absolute obedience. In close vicinity to the turbaned old man and his pet creature, had I the opportunity to look at the little rectangular cards that lay before him. I realized that they were so much different from our playing cards and had minute scribbling on each one of them, in a language, which perhaps at that time was beyond my comprehension.

As I sat there in perplexed confusion, the old man uttered some words looking at his pet and the creature immediately stepped down from its perch and came skipping up to the cards, lifted one in its beak and dropped it on the old man’s open hands, before going back to its resting place.

The old man’s smile widened even further as he was reading the scribbling on the card and then as if in synchronized movement, kept looking at my face and back to the card and again at my face at least a dozen times before deciding to settle his gaze on me.

No words spoken between us till then, he opened his mouth for the first time and just uttered a few words in Hindi, “Beta, Tum Zindagi mein khoob paison ke saath kheloge!”, loosely translated in English as “Son, you will deal with more than enough money in your life!”. Just these few words, and as if I did not want to hear more what he intended to prognosticate, or he never wanted to say more, but I sprang up, thrust my hands into the pockets of my knickers, brought out the only fifty paise coin in there, thrust it into the old man’s outstretched hands and ran away towards my home.

Needless to say, I sacrificed my candy, which I was supposed to buy with that money that day, which I donated to the cause of hearing those few proverbial words from that old man.

Things changed from the next day, Neither did I ever kicked up the pebbles or the dust when near his location, perhaps out of fear of drawing his attention towards me, nor did he ever bother to even look at me as I passed by, at least on the pretext of having met once.

My rendezvous with the turbaned fortune-teller ended with that little astrological prediction that he did for me that afternoon.

It was one of the many little incidents during my school days which had long been forgotten and never written into the books of my history, which has already been overloaded by so many more important incidents and anecdotes.

Back to the present, the year ending hustle and bustle, settling accounts and advising clients of financial closure suggestions and ideas, I have been extremely busy throughout, being in the profession that I chose for myself to be in.

I wondered that all throughout my professional practice, I have handled so much money for and of all my clients, perhaps running into millions and billions, though myself, I have only been able to struggle and earn just enough to keep my family sufficiently satisfied of their basic needs and perhaps a few of their subdued luxuries.

As I counted the currency notes sent by me client to pay off their taxes, before it gets safely deposited into the government exchequer, to be supposedly used for the improvement of our country’s infrastructure, I wondered and exclaimed in astonishment, as to when would I be able to see all these kind of money belonging to myself.

The prophecy of that old turbaned astrologer suddenly splashed before my eyes. He had prophesied, “Son, you will deal with more than enough money in your life”.

And lo! How right was he!

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Shameful political misogyny

Another year ends and a new year starts on a sad note, with the safety of women and increasing incidents of rape and molestation still being of high concern in our country.

As we boast of leaping towards a developed economy, how developed we would ever be unless the mind-sets of the politicians change on this really sensitive issue. It’s not the country, or its economy, it’s the outlook of these politicians which need to develop.

Shamelessly, our ministers, instead of advocating for stringent laws against it, have been giving bizarre reasons as excuses for this increasing figure of atrocities against the women. These explanations by our elected representatives, which clearly highlight misogyny in politics, as a man I just hang my head down, feel ashamed.

 A politician screams out loud that it has always been consensual sex, and that girls cry rape only when the relationship comes out in the open or fail to extract money from the man. Wow! You have almost classified women as money sharks.

 Another leader has clearly exposed his sexist leanings by attributing the reason for molestation and groping to “skin show” and women staying outdoors after sunset. Not a surprise at all, as this gentleman had remarked a year back that girls wearing short clothes should be banned stating that if one keeps petrol and fire together, it is bound to burn.

 We can’t expect anything else from this leader when the president of his party had remarked some time back that “boys will be boys… they commit mistakes”, condemning the death sentence of the court to some rapists.

 His own son, another politician and the Chief Minister of a State today, when being questioned a couple of years back over the rise of violence against women in his state, had shot back asking, “it’s not as if you faced any danger?”

 Another politician has blamed the youngsters’ “western ways” for the incidents casually brushing it aside with his utterly derogatory remark that “such things do happen”.

 Some Khap leaders have the audacity to say that if the marriageable age is legally reduced, so that girls are married off at an early age, the men can use their own wives to satisfy their sexual urges and wouldn’t need to go elsewhere. How do you explain, my friend, these monsters, most of them already married, satisfying their urges on elderly women too?

 Our ministers have even gone ahead in blaming alcohol for such dastardly behaviour. What these learned men haven’t realized that they could try enacting laws to stop the menace rather than advocating on increasing the age bar on liquor consumption.

 The advertisement industry hasn’t been spared either from this blame game. Some ministers claim that the scantily dressed mannequins in the lingerie ads are responsible for polluting the minds of the men. If a puppet can pollute a man’s mind, would they spare a living woman?

 A “poribortan” driven politician remarks that the rapes are on the rise due to the fact that men and women interact and mingle around freely. If women take a U-turn whenever they see a man, I hope these monsters’ urges remain unscathed.

 A very easy excuse for these well-read leaders is that women are scantily dressed. Wow!, I presume, you mean that it is like showing a red tag to a bull. Banning bikinis, to min-skirts to even suggesting overcoats for girls in schools, these idiots want the women to dress according to the urges of the monsters.

 Our good old minister claims that the pub culture is responsible for the increasing rape cases. Wish he could advise his sons to be in their senses rather than blaming a culture for it.

 Not sparing the movies too, vulgarity in the movies has also been blamed by some of our politicians who have run out of excuses. I am not a bit surprised to see these same ministers grooving to these raunchy numbers in their private parties.

 Ministers have cut across party lines surprisingly to even claim that mobile phones being used to watch porn are a major reason for increasing cases of rapes. They seem to have conveniently forgotten about a couple of their brethren who were caught watching porn inside the parliament.

 And the ultimate was yet to come, when the Khap leaders have blamed spicy food, or non-vegetarian food, which, according to them, lead to hormonal imbalance. I am really surprised that even women eat the same spicy food, why don’t they go around raping men. Perhaps, he feels that women look more like chicken and goat.

Shun this political misogyny and shut up your illogical reasoning, my dear leaders. Rather, try to address on enacting stringent laws to end this menace.

Or just try to keep the testosterone level of the men in control so that they are able to keep it in their pants.



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