Alka Jha


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Smile on Streets

Smile on Street

Last week I met Raman, sitting alone on a heap of sand, lost in his thoughts. I interrupted as I came near and asked his name.  “Raman” he said with a sheepish smile. With perplexed looks he asked what big thing I was carrying in my hand. I told him that it is a toy, which captures anything I want to.

I asked him to come close if he wants to see how it works. He jumped in excitement, almost snatching it from my hand. After examining the outer body he returned it asking to show how it works. I asked him to smile and captured his face.

Mentioning his infinite dreams, he added “I want to buy a red car”. Baffled by his demand of a red car, I asked “Why red?”. He replied with a big smile “because I have a red shirt”.

He ran away saying that next time when u see a red car, capture it for me. And I am sitting alone, watching him competing with winds.


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Travelling on wheels

Travelling on Wheels

The sudden jerk awakened me from my sleep. Bus had stopped, stirring the passengers in its own cruel way. Fragrance of butter soaked Aloo Parantha* rushed towards my drowsy nostrils and blocked my air pipe without giving any prior information.

With continuously increasing noise of hawkers, running feet, murmuring and constant babble; I started losing my comfort.

Parantha’s smell kept increasing with the darkness of the dusk. Tired sun might have waited till I opened my eyes and then disappeared,leaving ink dipped imprints behind on the huge canvas.

The dim light coming from the shops informed that the bus had stopped on a midway dhaba.**

On my third attempt of opening my eyes, I noticed the knock on my window. A dark outline had blocked the light. I found a pair of wide eyes peeping directly from my window; deep limpid eyes, thick eyebrows, short hooked nose as if designed hurriedly, face covered with dense lines as if all he got on his each birthday was nothing but lines, those uncountable lines on his face as a birthday present.

A man in his mid-70s was standing out, holding few packed water bottles.

Madam Water!

Buy a bottle of water!

He shifted to the next window without waiting for my answer. His eyes moved from one face to another in a hope that someone will buy a bottle for sure. He shifted to my window again and said

Madam Water!

This is the last stop. There isn’t any stop after this.

Do you want to buy a bottle of water?

The request in his eyes seemed irresistible. Without thinking for a moment, my hands reached for my wallet and I passed a 20 rupee note through the window. As he returned the change, he said -” My younger daughter is of the same age of yours, you must be a college student.”

In reply, I could only manage to smile.

His wide eyes brightened and it seemed more limpid in the yellow light coming straight away from the shops.

Bus had already given the horn.  I Took two sip of water from the bottle while the bus headed towards slowly. Murmurs and whispers dispersed with the flow of the wind.  I opened the window a bit. It was now difficult to recognize the smell of parantha dissolved in the air.

To capture the momentary smile of those watery eyes, before they get vanished with the wind, I closed my eyes slowly.

* a flat bread stuffed with boiled potatoes that originated in the Indian Subcontinent

** Dhaba – a roadside food stall


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I can see, hear and speak

I can see, hear and speak

I always kept counting the things that I didn’t own and I cried over all the things that I had lost. The list got bigger and bigger and I cried even more everyday.

I can see, hear and speak

While I was busy in making that list bigger, don’t remember exactly where, I bumped against few people and I noticed that their bodies shared the same skin tone, texture and looks as mine.

But surprisingly some of them didn’t even notice that I was standing right in front of them. They didn’t even know what I was talking about. They never got chance to see the things mentioned in my list. Their stitched eyes never gave them chance to see them.

Some of them were surrounded with millions of words but their stitched tongue never allowed them to blurt those out.

And some of them had never experienced the texture of paper and wetness of ink as they never got hands to write.

After that collision, I  saw my never ending list vanishing behind and soon it was hard to see the things mentioned on my list.

Dawn replaced the dusk and chirping of birds broke the silence.


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Grandpa’s unstiched memories

Grandpa

While taking its last dive, the sun brightens his face; a face which hasn’t changed for me since past all these years.

But those lines on your face have been getting deeper since past all these years. Are they lying or just forcing me to believe that you are growing old?

I opened my tiny eyes and found you beside. I started crawling and you followed behind. I started mumbling and you smiled. When I learnt to walk, I had your footprints to follow around. You rooted my feet in ground and allowed me to fly in all directions. I drew lines and you talked about the forms, I was a listener and you let me dive in your ocean full of tales.

The forms became letters and letter became words. You brought the confidence in my sentences. You introduced me to every new thing and I got to know the world around, while you were happy for all that you had found.
There were times when others got disappointed but you never turned your side. When world turned cold I had your warm arms. I dreamt of birds and you let me fly. Allowing me to raise questions, you answered each of them with patience.

While I was busy in heading forward, you waited and watched from distance. You were not allowed to be at my side every time. Back then what I learnt helped me standing in middle of the crowd.

Your voice melted my anger, took away my fear, matured my learning and helped me in getting out when I was drowning in guilt. Sometimes I just wonder what if you haven’t haven’t told me all those tales, I wouldn’t have been craving for the stories around.

And today when I think of those uncountable moments, all these unstitched memories leap in front of me.

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