Let me assume a women’s day out. This day need not be the 8th of March, but any other day in the year. It would be a day like any other day in the life of a woman, a day when she walks out of her assumed safe domain to face the vagaries of a male dominated world.

Does a woman feel safe in her day out? Can she walk around without any sense of apprehension and anxiety, as any man could do. Does she feel absolutely safe? Can she stand up with absolute conviction and courage?

I would aspire she could. But regrettably, the reality is that she can’t. As long as she can’t, pronouncing one day of the year as dedicated to women makes no sense at all.

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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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My Interview with God
I dreamed, I had an interview with God.
So, you would like to interview me, God asked.
If you have the time, I said.
If you have the time, God replied.
Hello everyone,
Today I am honoured to have a dialogue with the most controversial character ever in human history. A person in whose name, has the most number of divisions happened, in whose name the most wars fought, in whose assumed honour has this world witnessed several killings.
Let’s welcome, the omnipresent, the omnipotent, the God. And with the permission of his Honour, may I start my question-answer session with Him.
Question to God: Where do we seek you?
God’s Answer: Why do you want to go seeking me? Don’t you see me in the dog wagging its tail in happiness when you enter your house, your little kid who comes running to hug you and clings to you when you reach home after a tiring day, your wife who takes care of your every needs without a sigh, your husband who struggles hard to give a better life to you and the family, your parents who supported and encouraged you in whatever you did, your friends who care for you and stand by you against all odds. Do you still need to go seeking me elsewhere?
Question to God: Are you really the invincible, the strongest?
God’s Answer: How can I be only the strongest? When I am there in each one of you, am I not there in the weaklings too. I am there in the helpless old man on the streets who doesn’t know where his next meal will come from, in the destitute woman who is desperately looking out for a little space to hide her modesty, in the little urchin on the road who wishes someone can adopt him and make his future. When I am there in these helpless creatures, how can I be invincible? The truth is that I need you as much as you need me.
Question to God: Why are so many wars fought in your name? Why do people kill each other in your honour?
God’s Answer: You fight with each other because you have cut me, divided me in many pieces, each one of you trying to take your share of the pie. Have you ever realised, how much it would have pained me when I was being cut into pieces, when you were mercilessly tearing me apart. When you cut me, each one of you got their share that you could lay your hands on. Now you feel that the other perhaps has a better share than you, and so you fight with each other for the better share.
Question to God: Why do you have so many names?
God’s Answer: I have never given you any names to call me. It was you who started naming me as you wished. When a child is born, he/she doesn’t tell you what name he/she should be called. You decide and start calling him/her by that name, then the family, the friends start giving him/her further pet names and before the child realises, all these names get stuck to him/her. As the child grows up to be an adult, wouldn’t he/she feel embarrassed being called by so many names; So do me. I would rather prefer just one name, short and simple, easy to remember, “God”.
Question to God: What is your religion?
God’s Answer: I have no clue what you are talking about. What do you mean by religion? It’s nothing that I have ever propagated. You starting cutting me to pieces; dividing me; it was you who have given names to those pieces, and starting calling them religions. I am a single ONE, how can I have all these different me, these different religions?
Question to God: Do you really reside in the churches, the temples and the mosques?
God’s Answer: I think that you people never have taken me seriously. You haven’t ever understood fully what I have always wanted to tell you. Hadn’t I say in the reply to one of your earlier questions that I am in each one of you. Then how can I reside in these artificial structures. It is you who go seeking me at places that you have created as my abode rather than searching for me inside you.
Question to God: Do you feel happy when we come to meet you at these places of worship we created?
God’s Answer: I feel happy when you meet me anywhere, be it on the streets, in your home, inside you as well. When you wake up every morning without having committed any sin the last day, and look at yourself in the mirror, you are really looking at me. These structures that you created is just one of those places. I feel happy when you meet me, irrespective of where it is.
Question to God: Do you really want us to pray?
God’s Answer: May I ask you, what is the meaning of prayer? Is it not asking for favours? Can you not do it yourself, help yourself and others and make a prayer. When you help others, their prayers are answered and in turn when someone helps you, your prayers are answered. I work through you; you are my hands and legs, my limbs, my body, my soul. Honestly, I would be happier seeing you praying with your hands than with your lips.
Question to God: Do you want us to be God-fearing?
God’s Answer:  What is the benefit if you desist from doing something out of fear? I shall give you an example of you driving a car. You are tempted to jump a traffic signal but you don’t do it because you fear that there would be a traffic cop round the corner. I am not really happy you having done that. Now imagine that you never thought about the cop, but never jumped the signal because you felt that you may hit someone coming from the other direction who is following the traffic rules. I would be happy if you had done that. You don’t have to fear, you have to love. If you really love me,  and understand that I live in another person as much as I live in you, you will never harm that person. I would want you to be God-loving and not God-fearing.
Question to God: Do we need to follow rituals?
God’s Answer: Oh! There are so many of these, even I have lost count of it. All these rituals were created ages ago by someone either to suit his requirement or to suit the circumstances that prevailed at that time, whether for good or for bad. Situations and circumstances have changed drastically since then, but we are still clinging on to the rituals, the traditions. I would ask you to follow the right principles that I  have taught and you believe in and not the rituals.
Question to God: Why are there so many variations of your scriptures?
God’s Answer: My scriptures? I had never written any autobiography. The scriptures that you are talking about are just personal interpretations of my life, assumed by the people who have written them. Each one of them has unfortunately assumed it in their own way and so there are so many variations. Isn’t it a simple logic to understand, that when it that it is one life, one personality, how could there be so many true variations.
Question to God: Why are your scriptures so difficult to understand?
God’s Answer: You are again misinterpreting what I say. I had clarified that these are not my scriptures. So it not being mine, I have no control over its contents. The words, the verses used are the personal words of the authors who probably wanted to keep it complicated so that the common masses do not understand it fully ever and keep flocking to them for their interpretations.
Question to God: Do you really want us to understand you and speak to you through these interpreters?
God’s Answer: Why should I ever make it difficult for you to understand me, to speak to me? I understand your language; I speak the language that you speak. How can I want you to speak to me only through these interpreters when I am one of you? I have not appointed anyone to convey my thoughts and words to you when I know that I can talk to you directly. Those who say that are their own self-appointed agents.
Question to God: Why do you change your attire, your looks for the people?
God’s Answer:  I have never ever changed my attire. It’s your perception of how you look at me. You see me in the attire that you want to see me, because it depends upon the spectacles that you are wearing. You may see me sometimes as crucified on a cross, you see me sometimes holding the weapon to destroy the evil, you see me lying in the tomb, and it’s how you want to see me. I have never changed and I never will.

Hey God! I thought you were here with me all throughout this interview session. I could see you right there but now I can’t see you. Where have you disappeared?

I hear God whispering in my ears, “My Child, look inside you, look at the people next to you, look at nature, the animals, the destitute, the aged, the orphans, the poor and the needy. And if you still don’t see me, stop believing me.

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