The Circle of Fire

She twirled and twisted

wrenching in the urge

to find her way

through this wilderness

the sweat and blood

not did once dissolve

the fire…

the fire kept simmering

until, until it burned

every tissue, every skin

of her layered self

until, until it flamed

every dream of hers

in her eyes, vividly..

she thought to herself

as she woke up from one

(the dream)

yes this is it…

this is my beloved

desire ..

until, until it flamed

a realisation

to her ,

that her purpose

is to burn

and be the light

of life

till eternity….

– Nithi C J

The Enso

Daisies- The heart of a Soldier

“They symbolise innocence, purity , and positivity.” – Web

The world outside his or her olive greens is overwhelming for the soldier whether he or she walks into the world either as a mortal or simply as a bodiless soul. The world looks so new, like a new leaf.

When I stepped out of the boots , I felt I was in some time machine. Everyone was so in their hustle , and me scuttling to catch up with them in vain. CoVID came as a rescue (yes seriously!).

When I was making attempts to hold the sand in my hand, the world had to come to a standstill. This might sound so selfish but it was not just my wish but heart of heart of every soul on this planet. Everything was fast, and that made it senseless, just like a fast driven car repelling all the breeze that could have been felt by you, but the speed fades away your senses… or May be like a bottle of spirit that distances you from yours…You forget to feel.

The numbness of ourselves was the most dangerous thing that had happened to the mankind because of the gadgets. We preferred touching screens then souls..

But lockdown came as a blessing in disguise (though the most horrific one, almost a lesson learnt in the hardest possible way). We realised (at-least few of us) that the gadgets can’t appease you for long. You need people !! Real people! And this was something we Soldiers are good at handling ,people vis-a-vis Facebook pages.

When you speak it’s not just words , it’s your eyes that talk.. and when that’s not happening, the conversation is just another boring chat. The satiation comes only when the soulful self of two people connect and this depends on the depth of your eyes and your thoughts. Just like the purity of the daisies.

Our uniform takes through numerous moments of life and death few mortal and few mental. And in these moments we learn to touch people with utmost purity , innocence and optimism so that all that the other person receives is humaneness in its purest state. Soldiers connect not to be forgotten but at some point of life be remembered as a beautiful flower that brought smiles!

The Language that killed an Emperor

The duals fought in historical courts between poets is a tradition still revered as one of the most intellectual and literary traditions. Not just poets, musicians, educators, all strived to make a mark on the mind donned by the royal throne.

The commonality between the above historical artists is the language. Language has been the showcase for religions, regions , mindsets and different realms. Today let’s look into one such realm.

In the book titled,” Adrishya” on the greatest spies of Indian history, the mention of Bardai opens up uniquely different dimension of spy craft. Most unassuming individuals hidden with most unassuming skills often make it to this strata of warfare. And when you read about Bardai, this is more evident.

The chapter speaks of the extraordinary skills of Bardai in spy craft, but most historically significant was the use of Brij Bhasha as a secure means of communication. As we commemorate Hindi Diwas today it’s imperative to know little more about this language.

As per Britannica ,” Braj Bhasha language, also spelled Braj Bhasa, Braj Bhakha, or Brij Bhasa, language descended from Shauraseni Prakrit and commonly viewed as a western dialect of Hindi. It is spoken by some 575,000 people, primarily in India. Its purest forms are spoken in the cities of Mathura, Agra, Etah, and Aligarh.”

Who knew this dialect would carve a great part of India’s Historic Journey? So back to Bardai. Bardai had the poetic skills which made his communications with Prithviraj Chauhan more worthy to etched into a book. And none other than Chand Bardai himself wrote the epic ,” Prithviraj Raso” in Brij Bhasa.

“In the world of intelligence-gathering, jargon acts as a much needed veil of secrecy. “-Web

Brij was that veil to the association of Bardai and Prithviraj especially while executing tactical activities. When Prithviraj was imprisoned by Mohammad Ghori , Chand Bardai strategised a plan to help Prithviraj kill his enemy as escape wasn’t possible. Bardai spread this rumour that Prithviraj can aim by hearing and the sold this to Ghori , who blindly believed Bardai as by then Bardai had established his influence on Ghori. An Archery competition was organised where Bardai played this ace of spades about Prithviraj’s skill. Ghori’s curiosity about his enemy coerced him to witness this skill. And that’s when Bardai recited,

“चार बांस चौबीस गज अंगुल अष्ट प्रमाण ता ऊपर सुल्तान है मत चूके चौहान !”

-Prithiviraj Raso by Chand Bardai

The same verse and the event has been narrated in this excerpt from the Book ‘Adrishya’.

Excerpt of the Chapter on Chand Bardai from the book ‘Adrishya’

This excerpt clearly brings out that how Brij was used as a secret language akin to signal codes of the modern era. The explanation of the enemy’s location in Brij gave Prithviraj the exact clarity which he needed to aim at Ghori. This brings out the need to have a very in depth understanding of the language.

This historical account of Chand Bardai and Prithviraj Chauhan is only one drop as a witness to the advancement and vision already seen by the ancient India in terms of how evolution of language can exceed beyond the spheres of mundane human communication to significant military craftsmanship!

Fifteen minutes of Patriotism

Patriotism holds different meanings to each one of us.. even at different times within each of us…. And over these years independent India has definitely seen the changing hues…some bright and some dark… but has it lost the spark???

When anyone packs bags for their visit to Amritsar, Harpreet was the first one to get a ping on her mobile. “Hi, We are coming!” This phrase meant more than what it sounds like. The meaning often varied depending on how close they were. Friends? Relatives? Or acquaintances? Because the visit could transform from anything between fun to formality.

Harpreet Kaur was a soldier in the Border Security Force which was responsible for the famous Parade at the Wagah Border in Amritsar, Punjab. And her present posting at the same place , was the reason her phone mostly rang. Except one, that of Biji (referring to Mother in Punjabi language). Biji’s call involved queries related to having proper meals, safety, situation between the two countries vis a vis the requests by people to visit Golden Temple ( famous temple of Sikhs) , or witness the Wagah Parade. Calls for passes to see the parade might shadow that of well wishers in number but cannot weaken their blessings.

Wagah and Attari are the bordering villages between Indian and Pakistan, wherein Wagah is part of Pakistan and Attari is in India. The two nations are geographically connected here through railways as well as bus services, all taking place under the vigilant eyes of both nations. The parade conducted at Wagah between the border forces of the two nations, Border Security Force (BSF) of India and Pakistan Rangers is a melodramatic spectacle most sought after by the general public. ‘The Retreat‘ as it is referred to is a formal ceremony conducted by the parading contingent for lowering their National flags for the day. The main parade is an approximately 15 mins event , but the public conglomerates much before time for witnessing the cultural activities and also participating in the same. The parade epitomises many things, the historical relations between the two countries, the competition, the hatred , the love, inquisitiveness and the Patriotic demeanour.

It was time for the retreat. Harpreet was in the marching contingent again. As she got ready in the ceremonial uniform, she could hear the cheers of “Hindustan Zindabad” (Long live India) and “Vande Mataram” (Hail Motherland) , filling the air. She peeped out to see people gathered in thousands with the tricolour Indian flag fluttering in their hands. She gently smiled thinking of the fates of these flags in an hour from now. She looked at the gleaming faces of innocent youth painted with saffron, white and green. Each pair of eyes on both sides , filled with pride and anticipation that their country’s parade will be the best. Her thoughts dissolved when a colleague called,”It’s time!”

The master of the ceremonies dressed in white, made the announcement and signalled the public to welcome the contingent with cheers and war cries. The drums rolled and the parade commander gave them command. With one smart jerk the contingent marched towards the Border gate and took positions. Next followed Harpreet and her partner marching towards their positions near the gate. Cheers for the Women soldiers filled the air. Stamping the last step Harpreet faced her Pakistani counter part with show of anger and pride which was also part of the drill , and what actually gave the viewers the adrenaline rush.

Lastly, the parade commander marched smartly to his position near the gate. There were gates on both the sides painted in their respective national colours. As contingents of both sides smartly stood for further orders to retreat the flags from the hoist, the decibels of the patriotic cheers increased with the setting of the Sun.

Just when the Sun reached the point between the flags, the parade commander gave the command for lowering the flag. The contingent held on to the ropes strongly and brought down the flag slowly and gently , as it still proudly fluttered. The public had already stood in respect as is customary. As the flag further swirled down, the contingent formed itself in a manner to hold the flag and prevent it from touching the ground. In a military order they folded the flag. One of the soldiers marched back with the folded flag, which received salutes and standing ovations.

Rest of the contingent reeled back into a pre-rehearsed formation and marched back to the place of origin of the parade. Applause, appreciation and amazed expressions accompanied the contingent as they marched.

“It was again a good show,” Harpreet thought to herself but soon returned to the usual composure. This was all not new to her she told herself as she gazed at the fading public. Few clicked pictures with the soldiers on guard, few with the contingent. A dreamy Harpreet was also pulled for a picture by few where she grinned with plasticity. And as dusk fell, silence and darkness cladded the place. The waved flags now lay on the dust like any other plastic trash lying there.

As people started their retreat, Harpreet viewed the changed souls, not struck by instilled patriotism but by their usual selves! Unruliness won over patriotic discipline as people refused to move in a line when requested by the BSF soldiers. Few even got into heated arguments.

Honking of vehicles replaced patriotic cheers. At a distance, two groups of youths got into a tussle over some parking issue. The laughter of few girls echoed who discussed about what movie they should go and watch now. Few mothers spanked their kids demanding them to walk faster as they had domestic chores waiting at home. Vendors greeted the dispersing public to earn their living through the patriotic mileage.

But the fence gazed quietly at the schemozzle. The civil volunteers started their job of cleaning up the place to prepare it for the next day and Harpreet and others prepared for their turns of night duty on the fence. Whatever may be the situation, the vigil at the fence was uncompromising.

Some important activities were to be finished. Representatives of both countries completed the formalities of few people who were being repatriated to both sides. Few had families to receive them and few had solitude.

And so all human souls got back to their routines, few by keeping the parade as a good travel memory and few falling back to their true duties. As for patriotism…well that continued having its 15 minutes fame.

Episode Two: Good Pen Bad Pen? With Dr Harpreet Kochar, Renowned Fountain Pen critic

Whenever someone shows the desire to explore the fountain pen world, people pose me with this question. Can you suggest me a good pen ? And my answer is yes and no. Yes, because there are certain pens which have kind of worked for all but still it’s a very personal bond you create with.

I often refer to these lines by Mr. Zaim Kamal, the creative director of Mont Blanc (Luxury Pen Company), in one of his interviews on the writing instrument, where he states that the uniqueness doesn’t come from the Pen, It comes from the user, so each writing instrument is different, as each person uses it in a different way. He also adds that each writing instrument becomes more unique as the bond between the user and the instrument becomes closer each day until one day when your Pen uniquely defines you!

Listen to this candid and fun filled conversation where Dr Fountain Pen deciphers questions like What makes a Fountain pen good or bad ? How to combat being a penaddict or becoming penvious? Tips for those who want to explore fountain pen collection as a hobby and much more!!!

Join me in this interesting conversation with Dr Kochar, a surgeon by profession and a Fountain pen critic by passion.

Episode One: Why Hate Fountain Pens with Vishal Singhi, Founder The India Pen Show

January at Majorly talks is all about interesting conversations on everything about fountain pens. A fountain pen enthusiast myself it is intriguing to see how people have used this simple writing tool to spread messages on sustainability. How in this simple writing instrument the found their life’s purpose…

Episode 1:Why I hate Fountain Pens with Vishal Singhi, Founder , The India Pen Show

Let’s be honest , fountain pens have gathered as much hatred as much they’re loved. Ink leaks, stains, high maintenance, not for the commons , are few allegations on Fountain Pens. Are these true ? How much ? And how can they all be resolved?

Listen to this candid conversation with Vishal who busts popular myths about fountain pens and gives excellent insight into this world of nibs and inks!!!

Links for the podcast are given below

Thank You 2020 !!

This is a vote of thanks, yes , a thank you note to the most bizarre year of the decade. This decade was a decade of the most momentous changes in my life like any mid 30 woman of today.

The fulfilment of long sought dreams , the excitement of new opportunities, the gifts of efforts reaped into what one wanted from life.

The uniformed life, I lived (and not just spent) is something I never anticipated even one year before the decade began. And lo behold! Three months into the new decade I was an Army officer and four years in to the decade I was military spouse.

Fifth year into the decade I got an award and sixth year into the decade , transformed to a matured officer. Seventh year into the decade we fulfilled our many couple goals , eighth year into the decade we thought we may have new roles!

Ninth year into the decade came a decision point … choose or decide.. were both the options at this joint. And Tenth year into the decade, I shed my old skin , only to find a new me. And soon was hit by the viral calamity!!

Locked up wondered how would life be .. for us … for all… and for me? Well , then you told me 2020 me is not an option at all!! But my adamant version battled to see once for all !! I set on my exploration without any intention.

And 2020 said,” oh it’s, time for my intervention!”. The Virus, yes the Virus sneaked in to my home to steal my most precious jewel, my mom.

I battled and battled with wounds not to care for. I pulled happiness wherever I could from. Mom healed, healed bravely, thanks 2020. I got to break another taboo but had sent in plenty.

Things looked fine now… and we built our nest. But dear 2020 you said,” oh my lovely , how could you rest?” You brought an ordeal after another to make me learn swim. Minds , hearts all pained to its fullest but 2020 you didn’t rest. It’s just few hours more… to bid you adieu. I hope you play the miracle song …. Don’t leave things in a mess , take your dirt along…

A Sunday Date

Tezpur is an old sleepy town like any town in Assam. And this calmness and composure makes it more loveable by especially wanderers. It’s a typical humid July Sunday afternoon, cloudy but not the usual morose wet monsoon day. As I sip through my caffeine dose, the electricity ditches, leaving me with only sweat. But something told my guts that today I am to be surprised. And in the absolute silence , I felt the sudden gush of a cool breeze. Cool breezes are rare as diamonds in monsoons of Assam when the rains take a break.

I could hear the trees sway as if they have rejoiced the sight of a celebration. The leaves ruffled with joy , as if they are laughing on being tickled. The blue sky chose to play today. The constant hide and seek with the clouds and Sun was a treat to watch and confuse any mortal soul. A branch of the old mango tree in the backyard crackled but the creak was soon mellowed down by the chirps of the unseen visitors on its branches.

The afternoon was warmer than usual. And all one needed to come out of this agony, for a stroll to the riverside. Often people in India preferred to keep themselves behind the doors in the afternoons. But on a Sunday as this one, the Brahmaputra natives , preferred a picnic or just the company of the riverbank. It won’t have been the same if it had rained heavily; humidity too can teach you to bring solace. The wind was cooler on the banks. Small islands in the mighty river were all submerged by now due to the floods, the rice fields seemed to have never existed. The merely inundated big islands were the only exception.

Dusk brought newer surprises with the twilight. The resonating sounds of crickets filled the air. Greener pastures near my home which turned darker with the Sunset were now lit up by the fireflies. Once in a while the unusual cacophony of the native lizards also break the silence. But they are shy, more shy than the usual home lizards; the natural members of any Indian household. One thing admirable about Assamese lizards are they never stare you back rudely, in fact you hardly see them.

The branches all fell to silence in the early hours of darkness. The birds weren’t chirping anymore, evident that they have retired to their safe havens. But a hoot might surprise you from the old peepul tree at the street corner. Folks often feared to wander into this part of the locality where I sheltered. But often also envied the strong presence of nature in my neighbourhood.

A nice dreamy Sunday ended in wilderness with a profound sense of contentment that in this gizmo world , you can have such dates with the nature; getting pampered by its unconditional love. A love so perennial and omnipresent that you have to just close your eyes and hear to nature’s wonderful talks. But a love, who’s voice which gets muffled in our rushing busy lives.

The Purple Umbrella

It was not long before that Binodini was known a happy go lucky girl amongst her peers. A young girl with big dreams , she was as bright and full of life like any Assamese girl. Jovial yet rooted to the Ahomiya culture. It soon would be season of festivities which Binodini loved. But little did she know then, how life will swirl her into the Binodini she is now…..

Bebejiya was a small village in a town called Tezpur , in Assam , a Northeastern state of India. Typical to an Assamese neighbourhood, Bebejia too had the typical aluminium roofed houses , beautiful verandas staring on the by lanes. And like a typical Assamese household, Binodini also started her day by helping her mother in sweeping the verandah.

Laid back yet full of vibrance is peculiar of the Assamese people and so was Binodini and her family of four ; which included herself , her parents and her kid brother Babu.

It was Rongali Bihu. Binodini’s favourite festival , as it marks the beginning of the festive season in Assam. Fun and frolic painted the sleepy village with moments of festivity. Binodini was all geared up with her basket of colours to spread her joy in the streets which painted her colourful childhood.

Binodini in Assamese literally means Joy. And so was the essence this young village girl. Joy to her , also included trips to the riverside of the mighty Brahmaputra. Evenings, Binodini and Babu ( her kid brother) went along the banks of Brahmaputra with their most perpetual companion, their father fondly addressed by them as Baba. A walk on the riverside also meant sweetmeats for each of them and a plate of the spicy Puchkas ( an Indian snack. Sabitri , their mother, could seldom join because of her work commitments.

Sabitri worked as a help in a shop at Tiniali. Tiniali which literally means a Y junction in Assamese, was close to their home. But she would be back only by dinner, as shops opened late and closed early, as is the conventional Assamese routine. Thus, an in between break meant monetary cut which Sabitri couldn’t afford, especially her dreams to resume her children’s education , couldn’t.

Sabitri was a hardworking lady and her modesty and compassion was evidently inherited by Binodini. As festivities also meant employers giving bonuses to hardworking employees, Sabitri’s employer wanted to reward her , for all the hardwork she had been doing. He asked her as to what would she prefer as a reward. The mother in Sabitri replied that she would ask her children and let him know.

Sabitri came home and told this to the family , who were overjoyed. Babu wanted toys and Baba suggested to take money instead. And as Sabitri eagerly looked at Binodini for a reply she found Binodini suddenly quiet and dreamy. Sabitri asked her, ” Binodini.. what is the matter , child? Don’t you want anything as a reward?”

Binodini replied,” Ma( Mother)! Ask for an umbrella..” and continued after a pause , “ these stubborn rains can stun us anytime, and you will still need to go to the shop. An umbrella will protect you from the vagaries of the weather. For how long will you get drenched for us ?”

Sabitri was speechless. The untold deep love between the daughter and mother seldom got expressed but when it did, it was unique and special for Sabitri. As if Sabitri’s guilt of discontinuing Binodini’s studies was not enough that Binodini would further add to Sabitri’s agony with profound and unconditional love. But one thing Sabitri was very certain , she will not let Binodini work as a labour, instead she would encourage her to learn a skill so that she can start her own business.

A day later Sabitri went to the shop only to find the shop owner awaiting her reply. She said,” Sahab(Sir), I need an umbrella.” The shop owner was surprised to hear this request from a mother of two children, instead of toys.

Nevertheless, Sabitri was rewarded with an umbrella. It was a big beautiful purple umbrella with a wooden handle. It was sturdy enough to face the strongest rains. Sabitri walked back home with her award in hand and pride in eyes waiting to see her daughter smile.

Binodini and Babu rushed to the verandah to see who one the bet? Sabitri had fulfilled who’s request? Binodini was overwhelmed to see the big purple umbrella and exclaimed,” Ma, it is so beautiful na? How beautiful will you look , when you will carry it wearing the violet mekhela ( Assamese traditional dress for women)!!

Sabitri chuckled seeing her young girl’s innocence and said,” Binodini, even you will look pretty my child carrying this umbrella.. this is as much yours as mine !”

And thought to herself thanking god in her heart,

‘Richest may be those who wore diamonds,

But luckiest are souls who had daughters.”

Rains arrived late this year.

Brahmaputra’s thirst quenched only in July. But rains grew heavier day by day. Thankfully, Sabitri still could walk to work because of the purple umbrella.

One evening, the clouds were unusually dark and swollen, when Binodini peeped out. In rains Baba avoided taking them to Brahmaputra.

Binodini made a concerning mention to Baba that the clouds looked peculiar. As she finished saying this rains started as if hell broke open.

It was past twilight now. Binodini went to light the oil lamp but the darkness of worry loomed as Sabitri was not yet back from the shop. The worry soon shadowed Baba too. Baba decided to go to the shop and get Sabitri.

Minutes turned hours as Binodini waited. Her anxiety only increased. But the rain had now calmed down.

Suddenly , Binodini heard some noise coming towards the veranda.

Darkness made her squint and she saw the purple umbrella flashing . Happiness ran in each nerve turning a still pose into a sprint to the gate.

But Binodini’s happiness soon coupled with tiny floods of tears from her eyes and by the time they trickled to her cheeks the sorrow had casted its shadows on the innocent face.

Sabitri lay bloodied in Baba’s hand and the purple clinging his collar. Binodini could not believe that her ever hustling mother today, lay motionless in her father’s arms.

The house which resonated with Binodini’s laughter soon was shattered with her wailing cries. Her Ma, her beloved Ma was not with her. All she was left with was, the Purple Umbrella.

Binodini , now 22 years old, has started working at Bijoy uncle’s tailor shop. She is his most trusted tailor for creativity as well as sincerity. And also her expertise in making umbrellas. But Bijoy uncle could not decipher, why Binodini always made purple umbrellas. He didn’t dare to ask , now a much quieter and stern Binodini. Not only Bijoy but other villagers used to also talk that Binodini is an exact replica of her Mother, especially when Binodini carried the purple umbrella. But there was a difference a real big difference. Sabitri used return after work to a chirpy home , but all Binodini returns to , is solitude. Few months after Sabitri’s demise, Baba had also passed away and Babu succumbed to an illness which couldn’t be treated due to lack of facilities and money.

Once Binodini returns from work she takes a bath and gets ready for her evening prayers. The beautiful lamp lit on the altar, now reflects not any deity but the purple umbrella kept on it.

The purple umbrella is the only idol now which Binodini worships. And Sabitri, her only deity…

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