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Saraswati Aradhana

“Why are you such a big bookworm!! Raj, you were born with a silver spoon, you don’t actually need to study so much. Let’s go hit the pub.”
Raising my head from the book, I glanced at my friend Mayur. I was flabbergasted to hear all this coming from him.
“Mayur, if I don’t study, how will I fulfill my dreams?”
“What dreams? Your dad has a huge clothes showroom, you simply have to go and sit on a readymade business.”

My laughter erupted in sarcasm.
“No thank you. I want to make a name for myself. I wish to become a software engineer. Dad made money by working hard, but I want to earn it smartly. Mayur, what are you planning to do?”
He shrugged his shoulders and replied casually,
“My plans aren’t anything specific. I’ll do some small-time job, like my dad.”

I was surprised to see Mayur so careless about his career.
“Mayur, you should be more serious in studies than me.”
“Forget it man! Reading these fat books is not my cup of tea.”
I went and sat next to him.
“Alright, answer a question of mine. What do you find more appealing? Earning 500₹, after doing a day’s donkey work, or sitting in a revolving chair in front of a computer in an air-conditioned office and earning 3000/- per day?”
“Obviously, sitting in an air-conditioned office and earning 3000/- daily, is any time more tempting.”

I slapped his back and remarked,
“Mister, then this luxury cannot be obtained without doing Saraswati Aradhana!”
“What Aradhana?”
“Oh dumbo!! Not what Aradhana, Saraswati Aradhana. Only when you respect Maa Saraswati, will she bless you with knowledge and wisdom, which will eventually lead you to name and fame. Capeesh?”
He got confused and I explained further,
“Because our parents sacrificed, we got a good life and education. Now it’s our turn. In today’s world of inflation, hard work alone is not sufficient. If there is education, then we will be able to live the life of our dreams. Besides, we will be capable enough of giving a better life to the next generation as well.”

Dragging in a deep sigh, he said,
“Raj, you are hundred percent right. But man, looking at these fat books makes my head spin.”
I bantered,
“If you envision yourself in an air-conditioned office, earning Rs 3,000 per day, then studying would automatically become more fun.”
With that we both cracked laughing.

🖊️Shamim Merchant

A Beautiful Turn

“The first turn to the right from McDonald’s is her office. Please Preeti, give her this parcel and bring the payment she gives. Please, will you do this work for me?”
My older sister Pooja, notified me hurriedly, whilst she packed her laptop.
I was sitting on the bed, checking my messages on the mobile. I raised my head and bantered with her.
“Yeah, yeah! Now I’m a free bird, so I guess, I’ll have to pass my time by doing all these menial tasks.”

Pooja stopped going out and eyed me regretfully,
“Preeti, it’s not like that. I’m late coming from the office, and by then it’s closed, otherwise I wouldn’t have requested you.”
I laughed,
“Hey …! There’s no need to give so many explanations, I’m just kidding. Don’t worry, I’ll do your work.”
“Thanks.”

It’s been two years since I graduated, and since then, I’ve done a few odd jobs. But none of them pleased my heart or gave me any kind of satisfaction.

When I got ready and was about to leave the house to do the Pooja’s work, dad questioned me from behind.
“Preeti, what happened to your job?”
I replied patiently,
“I have applied to two to three companies, now I’m waiting for an interview call.”
Mom came out of the kitchen, handed me some money and said,
“On your way back, get a few of Pooja’s choice of vegetables from the market.”
I got irritated.
“Mom! Why don’t you ask her only to bring them? Please don’t bother me with all this.”
“Darling, where does Pooja have time for all this? Moreover, what work do you have, you’re free only. Now be a good girl and bring the vegetables.”
With a deep sigh I walked out of the house.

The address shown by Pooja was a large building and I had to go to the fifth floor. Coming out of the elevator I saw that there were many offices, and interior decoration work was going on in one of them. Dirt and sawdust was flying in the air throughout the corridor. The loud noise of the drill machine was ripping through the eardrums.

A woman came out of the cabin I was supposed to enter and glanced at me. Addressing her, I said,
“Hello. I am Pooja Parekh’s younger sister Preeti. She has sent me to give a parcel to Miss Sapna.”
“Oh! I’m Sapna. Please come in. Sorry for the mess, our new office work is going on.”

As we went inside and sat down, Sapna spoke very highly of Pooja’s work. While we continued to talk, she asked me,
“Preeti, what are you doing?”
For a minute I thought of bragging wrongly, but then it struck me, might as well speak the truth.
“I have graduated in mass media, and now I’m looking for a good job.”

Sapna sat forward and became curious,
“Really! Tell me something regarding your abilities.
It took me a minute to tell her all about my skills and talents. She smiled and surprised me.
“Preeti, I am opening an advertising company. It’s a startup. Outside what you just saw is the work going on for my new office. We will begin next month. Your skills and talents are perfect for me. Would you like to work with me?”

I was stunned and before I could say anything, Sapna spoke further.
“Initially your salary will be twenty thousand, ten percent increment every year and a bonus on Diwali.”

Was I dreaming? Was my luck so good? Such a fantastic job came and sat in my lap. Just like that. Wow !! The joy of my heart was clearly overflowing in the smile on my face.

McDonald’s turn brought a fruitful and a beautiful turn in my life as well.

🖊️Shamim Merchant

My India….My Pride

“Jasmina, are you ready sweetheart?”
“Mom! Call me Jazz!!”
I holler back and burst out laughing, as I pack my laptop and go to meet her. I know she’s standing in the small gurudwara of our house, in front of Palki Saheb, to pray for me and wish me luck. Although we are residing in proper London, I’m all decked up in a rich typical salwar kameez with all the ethenic Indian jewelry, including dupatta, bindi and paranda in my plat. Obviously, today I’m gonna proudly represent my country India, and I must look like a reflection of it.

Just as I bow in front of Vaheguru, mom asks me,
“All set? Are you ready or are you nervous?”
I close my eyes and take a deep breath.
My hands are still folded, when I say,
“I’m a dash skittish, but mostly prepared.”
She feeds me a spoon of dahi shakkar and smiles.
“Great! All the best. Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki Fateh!”
“Hmm…. Let’s go before I become more jittery.”
We lock the house, sit in the car and take off.

I’m Jasmina Kaur, and have come to England to do my cross-cultural programme. From next week onwards, it’s gonna be different. But for now we are representing our own country and are expected to speak about it and present it in front of a crowd of 200 people. I’ve done a lot of research, worked hard on it, prepared my powerpoint presentation and my speech is in place. Each student will be given seven minutes to talk about the culture of their country. Butterflies are doing somersaults in my stomach and my heart is in my mouth.

We enter the auditorium. Mom kisses my forehead and wishes me again. She proceeds to her designated seat, while I go backstage. I’m the first speaker on the list. The curtains rise and the program begins with a huge round of applause. For a good fifteen minutes the deen of our college takes great pride in talking about this programme. He is a good orator and has the ability to keep the throng engaged with smiles and laughter.

Eventually my name is announced and I gingerly step on the stage walking till the podium. My speech is in my head, so there are no papers. I’ll only look at my ppt and talk. After setting up my presentation on the projector, taking a deep, deep, sigh, I begin.
“Hello everyone. Respected principal, professors and my dear friends. I’m Jasmina Kaur, and I’m immensely grateful to be a part of this wonderful cross cultural programme. I’m here to talk about the culture of my country India. I’d like to begin with a shloka in Sanskrit. Shloka means a verse.
“Uttaram yat samudrasya himaadraishchaiva dakshinam
varsham tad Bhaaratam naama Bhaaratee yatra santatihi”
It means: “The land that lies to the north of the great ocean and to the south of the mighty Himalayas shall be called Bhaarata and its people Bhaarateeyas.”

Yes India, a land of many many surprises, beyond our imagination. During my research, I learnt so many new things about my own country, which I otherwise didn’t know. I’d like to share those proud details with you. We have everything in abundance, like wholesale. An extremely rich cultural heritage of love, respect and diversity. First let’s look at some pleasantly alarming numbers. More than 19,500 languages or dialects are spoken in India as mother tongues. Wow! I didn’t even know so many languages existed.

India has a rich history of mythologies which are not only stories of Gods and Goddesses, but they have teachings for all times. Our sacred holy books are invaluable.

Because of the prevalence of diverse religions and groups, 36 popular festivals are celebrated in our country, and as we are a land of agriculture, out of these 36, 18 are harvest festivals. Our calendar is happily filled with holidays all through the year. We always have an excuse to draw rangoli, wear new clothes, exchange sweets and sing and dance.

Indian cuisines are yummy to the hilt. The mouthwatering spices are to die for. The diverse style of cooking brings you more than 2000 varieties of Indian dishes.

Indian classical dance and music is world famous and we have eight different dance forms, wherein dancers narrate an entire story, almost entirely and exclusively through gestures. Bharatnatyam is my favourite.

We are a big bunch of crazy people. We literally breathe and can’t live without the film industry and cricket. They are our biggest sources of entertainment. And of course astrology. Our internet traffic is mainly about these three topics.

But India is much more and above these aspects. We believe in the tradition of joint families and it has proven to keep a person stress free. He has many to hold his hand if faced with a crisis. Respect and reverence for elders is a cornerstone of our Indian culture. Like touching their feet to seek blessings, not sitting in front of them, if they are standing, avoiding the use of abusive language in their presence, these are just to name a few. It is these values that we pass on from one generation to the other.

The most common daily greeting in India is “namaste.” In Sanskrit “namaste” means “the divine in me bows to the divine in you,” and it serves as both a “welcome” and a “farewell.”

Ladies and gentlemen, Thus our Culture is unique and irreplaceable. Today I understand it’s importance as I unfurl and reveal it in front of you. I now understand that it places a huge responsibility of preservation on the young shoulders of the current generation. A Nation’s culture resides in the hearts and souls of its people. I have great respect for all the cultures in the world. But my India is in my eyes and in my pride. Thank you so much.”

The flutter in my heart is replaced by profound satisfaction, as I take in the resonating appreciation across the hall. My eyes fall on mom. She is giving me a standing ovation, clapping and crying at the same time.

🖊️Shamim Merchant