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To Jyotiba, from Savitribai Phule: These aren’t love letters, but tell you what love is all about,,In memory of this remarkable WOMAN… 🙌

To Jyotiba, from Savitribai Phule: These aren’t love letters, but tell you what love is all about,,In memory of this remarkable woman,

here are letters that Savitribai Phule wrote to her life partner, Jyotiba – her comrade-in-arms in the struggle for the emancipation of India’s disenfranchised people.Below are translations from the original Marathi,The first letter, written in 1856, speaks about the core issue: education and its transformative possibilities in a society where learning had for centuries been the monopoly of the Brahmins, who, in turn, used this exclusive privilege to enclave, demoralise and oppress. Away at her parental home to recuperate from an illness, Savitri describes in the letter a conversation with her brother, who is uncomfortable with the couple’s radicalism.October 1856The Embodiment of Truth, My Lord Jyotiba,Savitri salutes you!After so many vicissitudes, now it seems my health has been fully restored. My brother worked so hard and nursed me so well through my sickness. His service and devotion shows how loving he really is! I will come to Pune as soon as I get perfectly well. Please do not worry about me. I know my absence causes Fatima so much trouble but I am sure she will understand and won’t grumble.As we were talking one day, my brother said, “You and your husband have rightly been excommunicated because both of you serve the untouchables (Mahars and Mangs). The untouchables are fallen people and by helping them you are bringing a bad name to our family. That is why, I tell you to behave according to the customs of our caste and obey the dictates of the Brahmans.” Mother was so disturbed by this brash talk of my brother.Though my brother is a good soul he is extremely narrow-minded and so he did not hesitate to bitterly criticize and reproach us. My mother did not reprimand him but tried instead to bring him to his senses, “God has given you a beautiful tongue but it is no good to misuse it so!” I defended our social work and tried to dispel his misgivings. I told him, “Brother, your mind is narrow, and the Brahmans’ teaching has made it worse. Animals like goats and cows are not untouchable for you, you lovingly touch them. You catch poisonous snakes on the day of the snake-festival and feed them milk. But you consider Mahars and Mangs, who are as human as you and I, untouchables. Can you give me any reason for this? When the Brahmans perform their religious duties in their holy clothes, they consider you also impure and untouchable, they are afraid that your touch will pollute them. They don’t treat you differently than the Mahars.”When my brother heard this, he turned red in the face, but then he asked me, “Why do you teach those Mahars and Mangs? People abuse you because you teach the untouchables. I cannot bear it when people abuse and create trouble for you for doing that. I cannot tolerate such insults.” I told him what the (teaching of) English had been doing for the people. I said, “The lack of learning is nothing but gross bestiality. It is through the acquisition of knowledge that (he) loses his lower status and achieves the higher one. My husband is a god-like man. He is beyond comparison in this world, nobody can equal him. He thinks the Untouchables must learn and attain freedom. He confronts the Brahmans and fights with them to ensure Teaching and Learning for the Untouchables because he believes that they are human beings like other and they should live as dignified humans. For this they must be educated. I also teach them for the same reason. What is wrong with that? Yes, we both teach girls, women, Mangs and Mahars. The Brahmans are upset because they believe this will create problems for them. That is why they oppose us and chant the mantra that it is against our religion. They revile and castigate us and poison the minds of even good people like you.”“You surely remember that the British Government had organised a function to honour my husband for his great work. His felicitation caused these vile people much heartburn. Let me tell you that my husband does not merely invoke God’s name and participate in pilgrimages like you. He is actually doing God’s own work. And I assist him in that. I enjoy doing this work. I get immeasurable joy by doing such service. Moreover, it also shows the heights and horizons to which a human being can reach out.”Mother and brother were listening to me intently. My brother finally came around, repented for what he had said and asked for forgiveness. Mother said, “Savitri, your tongue must be speaking God’s own words. We are blessed by your words of wisdom.” Such appreciation from my mother and brother gladdened my heart. From this you can imagine that there are many idiots here, as in Pune, who poison people’s minds and spread canards against us. But why should we fear them and leave this noble cause that we have undertaken? It would be better to engage with the work instead. We shall overcome and success will be ours in the future. The future belongs to us.What more could I write?With humble regards,Yours,Savitri1868The second letter is about a great social taboo – a love affair between a Brahman boy and an Untouchable girl; the cruel behaviour of the “enraged” villagers and how Savitribai stepped in. This intervention saves the lives of the lovers and she sends them away to the safety and caring support of her husband, Jyotiba. With the malevolent reality of honour killings in the India of today and the hate-driven propaganda around “love jihad”, this letter is ever so relevant today.29 August 1868Naigaon, Peta KhandalaSataraThe Embodiment of Truth, My Lord Jotiba,Savitri salutes you!I received your letter. We are fine here. I will come by the fifth of next month. Do not worry on this count. Meanwhile, a strange thing happened here. The story goes like this. One Ganesh, a Brahman, would go around villages, performing religious rites and telling people their fortunes. This was his bread and butter. Ganesh and a teenage girl named Sharja who is from the Mahar (untouchable) community fell in love. She was six months pregnant when people came to know about this affair. The enraged people caught them, and paraded them through the village, threatening to bump them off.I came to know about their murderous plan. I rushed to the spot and scared them away, pointing out the grave consequences of killing the lovers under the British law. They changed their mind after listening to me.Sadubhau angrily said that the wily Brahman boy and the untouchable girl should leave the village. Both the victims agreed to this. My intervention saved the couple who gratefully fell at my feet and started crying. Somehow I consoled and pacified them. Now I am sending both of them to you. What else to write?YoursSavitri1877The last letter, written in 1877, is a heart-rending account of a famine that devastated western Maharashtra. People and animals were dying. Savitri and other Satyashodhak volunteers were doing their best to help. The letter brings out an intrepid Savitri leading a team of dedicated Satyashodhaks striving to overcome a further exacerbation of the tragedy as moneylenders’ trying to benefit. She meets the local district administration. The letter ends on a poignant note where Savitribai reiterates her total commitment to her humanitarian work pioneered by the Phules.20 April, 1877Otur, JunnerThe Embodiment of Truth, My Lord Jyotiba,Savitri salutes you!The year 1876 has gone, but the famine has not – it stays in most horrendous forms here. The people are dying. The animals are dying, falling on the ground. There is severe scarcity of food. No fodder for animals. The people are forced to leave their villages. Some are selling their children, their young girls, and leaving the villages. Rivers, brooks and tanks have completely dried up – no water to drink. Trees are dying – no leaves on trees. Barren land is cracked everywhere. The sun is scorching – blistering. The people crying for food and water are falling on the ground to die. Some are eating poisonous fruits, and drinking their own urine to quench their thirst. They cry for food and drink, and then they die.Our Satyashodhak volunteers have formed committees to provide food and other life-saving material to the people in need. They have formed relief squads.Brother Kondaj and his wife Umabai are taking good care of me. Otur’s Shastri, Ganapati Sakharan, Dumbare Patil, and others are planning to visit you. It would be better if you come from Satara to Otur and then go to Ahmednagar.You may remember RB Krishnaji Pant and Laxman Shastri. They travelled with me to the affected area and gave some monetary help to the victims.The moneylenders are viciously exploiting the situation. Bad things are taking place as a result of this famine. Riots are breaking out. The Collector heard of this and came to ease the situation. He deployed the white police officers, and tried to bring the situation under control. Fifty Satyasholdhaks were rounded up. The Collector invited me for a talk. I asked the Collector why the good volunteers had been framed with false charges and arrested without any rhyme or reason. I asked him to release them immediately. The Collector was quite decent and unbiased. He shouted at the white soldiers, “Do the Patil farmers rob? Set them free.” The Collector was moved by the people’s plights. He immediately sent four bullock cartloads of (jowar) food.You have started the benevolent and welfare work for the poor and the needy. I also want to carry my share of the responsibility. I assure you I will always help you. I wish the godly work will be helped by more people.I do not want to write more.

Yours,

Savitri

Top 5 books to read

There are times when you need an escape from your life and your time frame. Books are the best escape, the best time travel and the best indulgence. The world right now is going through a lot, and it wouldn’t be wrong to say that it is the toughest time for the humanity. From being on the verge of several wars, burning forests and an almost wrecking virus, there are times when you need to get away. 

Here’s a list of top 5 books you should read—

  1. The Bell Jar

One of the most beautifully written novels, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath emerges as an absolute get-lost-into novel. The stories about confinement and trauma are shocking, the narrative of this book is so indulging that you fall for it being real and forget what’s outside.

2. Looking for Alaska

A young adult fiction, John Green’s books never disappoint you. The descriptive nature of the book portrays a real film in your mind. The book is hard to leave and harder to get over with. You just keep falling in love with it every day.

3. Mrs. Dalloway

Considered as one of the best works of Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway is a book about a woman in the post-war days in Britain. It covers the day-long schedule in the life of a woman. The realisation of time and society that the book leaves you with is incredible. 

4. War and Peace

Another classic novel by Leo Tolstoy, covers the Russia’s days with Napoleon. It is amazing to read how ordinary people deal with the extraordinary conditions they encounter in their daily lives due to the war. It is worth reading as it teaches how people dealt during a wartime, when the the society was rapidly changing. The book is a thick-read but it is worth the time.

5. The Kite-Runner

The kite-runner by Khaled is a story about a young boy Amir and his friend Hassan. 

The story is based in Afghanistan, a war-torn and landlocked country in Asia. The kite-fight tournaments, the friendship and the betrayal will have all of your heart.

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Labourers and lockdown

Stained by hunger,

The splash of virus dried out to an insignificant dot on their white khadi

They can’t have more, their stomach is full— full of hunger

Their bodies are not driven by food,

Their legs tread hearing stomach’s rumble

The people crossed gutters, jumped over broken roads

The pits in the broken road are now cemented, 

Cemented by starvation,

Cemented by hopes,

Cemented by slippers that have lost the feet on which they were worn.

They who went out in the search of bread have lost their breaths

Their breathless bodies demand an answer,

An answer for their hunger

An answer for their treads,

And answer for which they had lost their breaths.

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Box of rosEs

She is a box of roses

Wrapped in coffee stained newspapers

That you press under cups

Every time they sail with the wind

To hide the stories of abuse they print.

Every word your mouth exhales is capsuled in hate.

That fill her pockets so heavily

That she drowned into nothingness.

She looks at the stars and wishes them to consume her

She looks at her reflection and is surrounded by

Filters to filter out 

what they reject to call beauty.

Those crystals of herself, strained and censored

Dangle like yellow autumn leaves separating from a tree

That descend to the ground, 

dusted with self doubt. 

But when the night shines

and the piercing city lights are dim,

I will show you the brightness you carry within.

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The “RATS” Feast😂

story by -Rabindranath Tagore-

It is very unfair, we will not study under a new teacher,” the boys said.

The new teacher, who is arriving, has the name Kalikumar Tarkalankar. Even though the boys had not seen him yet, they had nicknamed the teacher as “Black Pumpkin Fresh Chilli”, a ridiculous translation of the teacher’s name.

The vacations had ended and the boys were returning back to school from their homes in a train. Among them was a jolly fellow who had composed a poem entitled “The Black Pumpkin’s sacrifice” and the boys were reciting the poem at the top of their voice. Just then, when the train stopped at the Adkhola station, an old man entered their coach. With him was his sleeping bag all folded up, few pots that were closed at their mouths by pieces of cloth, a tin trunk and few bundles. One bully-type boy, who was called Bichkun by the others, roared, “There is no place here, old man. Get into another coach.”

The old man said, “There is a huge rush and there is no place elsewhere. I will adjust myself in this corner and will not cause you any trouble.” So saying, the old man vacated the seat among the boys and sat down after spreading his sleeping bag on the floor in a corner.

He asked the boys, “Where are all of you going, and why?”

Bichkun promptly replied that they were going for a “shraddha (a religious rite performed after the death of a person)”.

“Whose shraddha?” the old man wanted to know.

Black Pumpkin Fresh Chilli’s, he heard in reply.

The boys once again chanted at the top of their voice, “Black Pumpkin Fresh Chilli, we will show you your place.”

The train halted at Asansol and the old man alighted to bathe at the station. When he returned after taking a bath, Bichkun cautioned him, “Do not remain in this coach, mister.”

“Do tell me why,” the old man requested to know.

“There are a lot of rats here,” was the answer.

“Rats! What is all this talk of rats?”

“Just see what the rats have done after removing the covers of your pots.”

The gentleman saw that the pots that had contained sweets and other eatables, were absolutely empty.

“The rats even scurried away carrying away one of your bundles,” Bichkun said. The bundle had contained five or six luscious mangoes from the old man’s own garden.

The gentlemen laughed and remarked that the rats must indeed have been very hungry.

Bichkun said rats are like that; they eat even if they are not hungry.

The other boys joined in the fun and laughed out aloud. “Yes mister, had there been more eatables, they would have finished that too,” they said.

The gentleman said he had made a mistake. “Had I known there would be so many rats traveling together in the train, I would have brought more good things to eat,” he said.

The boys were disappointed that the old man was not angry at their prank. It would have been fun if he had lost his temper.

The train came to halt at the Bardhaman station. It will stop for an hour and the passengers have to board another train for their onward journey.

The gentleman said, “Boys, I will not trouble you any more. I will find a seat for myself in a separate coach.”

“No, no,” the boys cried out in unison, “you must complete the rest of the journey with us. If you have anything left in the pots, we will guard them and nothing will go missing this time”.

“Alright boys, you get into the train. I will join you in a moment,” the gentleman said.

The boys jumped into the connecting train. After some time, a confectioner approached their coach pushing his cart and halted by the window. Along came the gentleman too. He handed over a packet of sweets to each of the boys and said, “This time, the rats will not face any impediments in their feast.” The boys jumped in joy. Shortly, a mango seller also came by and delicious mangoes were passed around.

“Where are you going and for what purpose?” the boys demanded to know.

He said, “I am going in search of employment. I will get down wherever I find work.”

“What sort of work do you do?” the boys demanded to know again.

“I am a teacher. I teach Sanskrit,” the gentleman replied.

The boys clapped their hands in delight and said, “Then, you must come to our school.”

“Why will your school employ me?” he asked.

“The school will have to employ you; we will not allow Black Pumpkin Fresh Chilli to enter the school premises under any circumstance,” the boys cried out in unison.

“You have put me in a dilemma. What if the school secretary takes a dislike for me?” the old man wanted to know.

He has to like you – else, all of us will leave school and go away, they said.

“Okay boys, then take me to your school.”

The train came to a halt at their destination. The school secretary was himself present at the station. On seeing the old man, he said, “Come, come, come Tarkalankar Sir. Your room has been readied and spruced up.” The secretary then bowed and touched the old man’s feet in reverence.

The last leaf🍁

IN A LITTLE district west of Washington Square the streets have run crazy and broken themselves into small strips called “places.” These “places” make strange angles and curves. One street crosses itself a time or two. An artist once discovered a valuable possibility in this street. Suppose a collector with a bill for paints, paper and canvas should, in traversing this route, suddenly meet himself coming back, without a cent having been paid on account!So, to quaint old Greenwich Village the art people soon came prowling, hunting for north windows and eighteenth-century gables and Dutch attics and low rents. Then they imported some pewter mugs and a chafing dish or two from Sixth avenue, and became a “colony.”At the top of a squatty, three-story brick Sue and Johnsy had their studio. “Johnsy” was familiar for Joanna. One was from Maine; the other from California. They had met at the table d’hote of an Eighth street “Delmonico’s,” and found their tastes in art, chicory salad and bishop sleeves so congenial that the joint studio resulted.That was in May. In November a cold, unseen stranger, whom the doctors called Pneumonia, stalked about the colony, touching one here and there with his icy fingers. Over on the east side this ravager strode boldly, smiting his victims by scores, but his feet trod slowly through the maze of the narrow and moss-grown “places.”Mr. Pneumonia was not what you would call a chivalric old gentleman. A mite of a little woman with blood thinned by California zephyrs was hardly fair game for the red-fisted, short-breathed old duffer. But Johnsy he smote; and she lay, scarcely moving, on her painted iron bedstead, looking through the small Dutch window-panes at the blank side of the next brick house.One morning the busy doctor invited Sue into the hallway with a shaggy, gray eyebrow.“She has one chance in—let us say, ten,” he said, as he shook down the mercury in his clinical thermometer. “And that chance is for her to want to live. This way people have of lining-up on the side of the undertaker makes the entire pharmacopeia look silly. Your little lady has made up her mind that she’s not going to get well. Has she anything on her mind?”“She—she wanted to paint the Bay of Naples some day,” said Sue.“Paint?—bosh! Has she anything on her mind worth thinking about twice—a man, for instance?”“A man?” said Sue, with a jew’s-harp twang in her voice. “Is a man worth—but, no, doctor; there is nothing of the kind.”“Well, it is the weakness, then,” said the doctor. “I will do all that science, so far as it may filter through my efforts, can accomplish. But whenever my patient begins to count the carriages in her funeral procession I subtract 50 per cent. from the curative power of medicines. If you will get her to ask one question about the new winter styles in cloak sleeves I will promise you a one-in-five chance for her, instead of one in ten.”After the doctor had gone Sue went into the workroom and cried a Japanese napkin to a pulp. Then she swaggered into Johnsy’s room with her drawing board, whistling ragtime.Johnsy lay, scarcely making a ripple under the bedclothes, with her face toward the window. Sue stopped whistling, thinking she was asleep.She arranged her board and began a pen-and-ink drawing to illustrate a magazine story. Young artists must pave their way to Art by drawing pictures for magazine stories that young authors write to pave their way to Literature.As Sue was sketching a pair of elegant horseshow riding trousers and a monocle on the figure of the hero, an Idaho cowboy, she heard a low sound, several times repeated. She went quickly to the bedside.Johnsy’s eyes were open wide. She was looking out the window and counting—counting backward.“Twelve,” she said, and a little later “eleven”; and then “ten,” and “nine”; and then “eight” and “seven,” almost together.Sue looked solicitously out the window. What was there to count? There was only a bare, dreary yard to be seen, and the blank side of the brick house twenty feet away. An old, old ivy vine, gnarled and decayed at the roots, climbed half way up the brick wall. The cold breath of autumn had stricken its leaves from the vine until its skeleton branches clung, almost bare, to the crumbling bricks.“What is it, dear?” asked Sue.“Six,” said Johnsy, in almost a whisper. “They’re falling faster now. Three days ago there were almost a hundred. It made my head ache to count them. But now it’s easy. There goes another one. There are only five left now.”“Five what, dear? Tell your Sudie.”“Leaves. On the ivy vine. When the last one falls I must go, too. I’ve known that for three days. Didn’t the doctor tell you?”“Oh, I never heard of such nonsense,” complained Sue, with magnificent scorn. “What have old ivy leaves to do with your getting well? And you used to love that vine so, you naughty girl. Don’t be a goosey. Why, the doctor told me this morning that your chances for getting well real soon were—let’s see exactly what he said—he said the chances were ten to one! Why, that’s almost as good a chance as we have in New York when we ride on the street cars or walk past a new building. Try to take some broth now, and let Sudie go back to her drawing, so she can sell the editor man with it, and buy port wine for her sick child, and pork chops for her greedy self.”“You needn’t get any more wine,” said Johnsy, keeping her eyes fixed out the window. “There goes another. No, I don’t want any broth. That leaves just four. I want to see the last one fall before it gets dark. Then I’ll go, too.”“Johnsy, dear,” said Sue, bending over her, “will you promise me to keep your eyes closed, and not look out the window until I am done working? I must hand those drawings in by tomorrow. I need the light, or I would draw the shade down.”“Couldn’t you draw in the other room?” asked Johnsy, coldly.“I’d rather be here by you,” said Sue. “Besides, I don’t want you to keep looking at those silly ivy leaves.”“Tell me as soon as you have finished,” said Johnsy, closing her eyes, and lying white and still as a fallen statue, “because I want to see the last one fall. I’m tired of waiting. I’m tired of thinking. I want to turn loose my hold on everything, and go sailing down, down, just like one of those poor, tired leaves.”“Try to sleep,” said Sue. “I must call Behrman up to be my model for the old hermit miner. I’ll not be gone a minute. Don’t try to move ’till I come back.”Old Behrman was a painter who lived on the ground floor beneath them. He was past sixty and had a Michael Angelo’s Moses beard curling down from the head of a satyr along the body of an imp. Behrman was a failure in art. Forty years he had wielded the brush without getting near enough to touch the hem of his Mistress’s robe. He had been always about to paint a masterpiece, but had never yet begun it. For several years he had painted nothing except now and then a daub in the line of commerce or advertising. He earned a little by serving as a model to those young artists in the colony who could not pay the price of a professional. He drank gin to excess, and still talked of his coming masterpiece. For the rest he was a fierce little old man, who scoffed terribly at softness in any one, and who regarded himself as especial mastiff-in-waiting to protect the two young artists in the studio above.Sue found Behrman smelling strongly of juniper berries in his dimly lighted den below. In one corner was a blank canvas on an easel that had been waiting there for twenty-five years to receive the first line of the masterpiece. She told him of Johnsy’s fancy, and how she feared she would, indeed, light and fragile as a leaf herself, float away when her slight hold upon the world grew weaker.Old Behrman, with his red eyes plainly streaming, shouted his contempt and derision for such idiotic imaginings.“Vass!” he cried. “Is dere people in de world mit der foolishness to die because leafs dey drop off from a confounded vine? I haf not heard of such a thing. No, I will not bose as a model for your fool hermit-dunderhead. Vy do you allow dot silly pusiness to come in der prain of her? Ach, dot poor leetle Miss Yohnsy.”“She is very ill and weak,” said Sue, “and the fever has left her mind morbid and full of strange fancies. Very well, Mr. Behrman, if you do not care to pose for me, you needn’t. But I think you are a horrid old—old flibbertigibbet.”“You are just like a woman!” yelled Behrman. “Who said I will not bose? Go on. I come mit you. For half an hour I haf peen trying to say dot I am ready to bose. Gott! dis is not any blace in which one so goot as Miss Yohnsy shall lie sick. Some day I vill baint a masterpiece, and ve shall all go away. Gott! yes.”Johnsy was sleeping when they went upstairs. Sue pulled the shade down to the window-sill, and motioned Behrman into the other room. In there they peered out the window fearfully at the ivy vine. Then they looked at each other for a moment without speaking. A persistent, cold rain was falling, mingled with snow. Behrman, in his old blue shirt, took his seat as the hermit miner on an upturned kettle for a rock.When Sue awoke from an hour’s sleep the next morning she found Johnsy with dull, wide-open eyes staring at the drawn green shade.“Pull it up; I want to see,” she ordered, in a whisper.Wearily Sue obeyed.But, lo! after the beating rain and fierce gusts of wind that had endured through the livelong night, there yet stood out against the brick wall one ivy leaf. It was the last on the vine. Still dark green near its stem, but with its serrated edges tinted with the yellow of dissolution and decay, it hung bravely from a branch some twenty feet above the ground.“It is the last one,” said Johnsy. “I thought it would surely fall during the night. I heard the wind. It will fall to-day, and I shall die at the same time.”“Dear, dear!” said Sue, leaning her worn face down to the pillow, “think of me, if you won’t think of yourself. What would I do?”But Johnsy did not answer. The lonesomest thing in all the world is a soul when it is making ready to go on its mysterious, far journey. The fancy seemed to possess her more strongly as one by one the ties that bound her to friendship and to earth were loosed.The day wore away, and even through the twilight they could see the lone ivy leaf clinging to its stem against the wall. And then, with the coming of the night the north wind was again loosed, while the rain still beat against the windows and pattered down from the low Dutch eaves.When it was light enough Johnsy, the merciless, commanded that the shade be raised.The ivy leaf was still there.Johnsy lay for a long time looking at it. And then she called to Sue, who was stirring her chicken broth over the gas stove.“I’ve been a bad girl, Sudie,” said Johnsy. “Something has made that last leaf stay there to show me how wicked I was. It is a sin to want to die. You may bring me a little broth now, and some milk with a little port in it, and—no; bring me a hand-mirror first, and then pack some pillows about me, and I will sit up and watch you cook.”An hour later she said:“Sudie, some day I hope to paint the Bay of Naples.”The doctor came in the afternoon, and Sue had an excuse to go into the hallway as he left.“Even chances,” said the doctor, taking Sue’s thin, shaking hand in his. “With good nursing you’ll win. And now I must see another case I have downstairs. Behrman, his name is—some kind of an artist, I believe. Pneumonia, too. He is an old, weak man, and the attack is acute. There is no hope for him; but he goes to the hospital to-day to be made more comfortable.”The next day the doctor said to Sue: “She’s out of danger. You’ve won. Nutrition and care now—that’s all.”And that afternoon Sue came to the bed where Johnsy lay, contentedly knitting a very blue and very useless woolen shoulder scarf, and put one arm around her, pillows and all.“I have something to tell you, white mouse,” she said. “Mr. Behrman died of pneumonia to-day in the hospital. He was ill only two days. The janitor found him on the morning of the first day in his room downstairs helpless with pain. His shoes and clothing were wet through and icy cold. They couldn’t imagine where he had been on such a dreadful night. And then they found a lantern, still lighted, and a ladder that had been dragged from its place, and some scattered brushes, and a palette with green and yellow colors mixed on it, and—look out the window, dear, at the last ivy leaf on the wall. Didn’t you wonder why it never fluttered or moved when the wind blew? Ah, darling, it’s Behrman’s masterpiece—he painted it there the night that the last leaf fell.”Story by–O Henry.

Merchant of Venice – a tragedy or a comedy

One of the Shakespeare’s most powerful, strange, uncomfortable plays. A play about a piece of paper with a promise, a dangerous promise, and yet its a comedy. Sometimes showcasing the relation between Jews and Christians, sometimes, comedy and tragedy, and sometimes between those who are at center and the margins. Yet, it is a play that engages with toxic materials, with the major themes of self interest, the divine quality of mercy, hatred as a cyclical phenomenon.

Though, the play begins with a comic, but not entirely lighthearted way with a group of friends – male friends. But as the play proceeds, through act two, the story turns to unfold, and it is out of the history of hatred and suspicion that the play withstands in a new way. And turns into a tragic event. In act three is a famous moment, where the speech of Shylock (one of the tragic figures of the play) is a declaration of shared humanity. This speech makes the extremely strong claim of the opposite, that we share the same being. But it is also worth remembering that the speech ends with a declaration of determination to revenge.

This is a play that says if you treat me this way, I will want to get my revenge. And I have learned that also from you, because when you are treated badly you want revenge.

This play stages rage on the part of the persecuted minority. The determination on the part of Shylock to kill his enemy.

Going all the way through the act four, we,as an audience,experience that it might turn out to be one of the tragic plays, as is clear from the trial scene, ending up with Antonio’s death. But, lastly ends up with a happily -ever- after mood. In act five, everyone marrying their loved ones, changing of lives.

Genre –

There are two ways that people tend to think about comedy, a more romantic idea and a more satiric idea. And the romance is what throws the emphasis on the reconciliation.

When the play begins, fulfilling the audience’s expectations of what a comedy might look like, we have young men bantering with each other, teasing Antonio about the fact that he is sad. We also have the introduction of marriage plot, we learn that Bassanio wants to woo Portia. Also, Portia wants to find an acceptable husband. The play also goes towards a romantic play, a myths, fairy tales, romance stories that audiences might be familiar with, like involving the casket test. Audience might have reacted with some surprise when we hear this tragic news that Antonio has defaulted, that his life is in danger.

Thus, this is a play that leaves the audiences awestruck with its continuously changing moods, starting rightly from a comic pace, to going through some tragic moments, and finally ending up with a rom-com arena. Which is why most of the playwrights often misconceptualise it and try to mould it in a way which suits their audiences the most.

CHITRA, WHY DID YOU PAY MY HOTEL BILL? 🥰

The ticket collector came in and started checking people’s tickets. Suddenly, he looked in my direction and asked, ‘What about your ticket?”Not you, madam, the girl hiding below your berth. Hey, come out, where is your ticket?’ Someone was sitting below my berth. When the collector yelled at her, the girl came out of hiding.She was thin, dark, scared and looked like she had been crying profusely. She must have been about 13 or 14 years old. She had uncombed hair and was dressed in a torn skirt and blouse. She was trembling and folded both her hands. The collector started forcibly pulling her out from the compartment. Suddenly, I had a strange feeling. I stood up and called out to the collector. ‘Sir, I will pay for her ticket,’ I said.Then he looked at me and said, ‘Madam, if you give her ten rupees, she will be much happier with that than with the ticket.’I did not listen to him. I told the collector to give me a ticket to the last destination, Bangalore, so that the girl could get down wherever she wanted.Slowly, she started talking. She told me that her name was Chitra. She lived in a village near Bidar. Her father was a coolie and she had lost her mother at birth. Her father had remarried and had two sons with her stepmother. But a few months ago, her father died. Her stepmother started beating her often and did not give her food. She did not have anybody to support her so she left home in search of something better.By this time, the train had reached Bangalore. I said goodbye to Chitra and got down from the train. My driver came and picked up my bags. I felt someone watching me. When I turned back, Chitra was standing there and looking at me with sad eyes. But there was nothing more that I could do. I had paid her ticket out of compassion but I had never thought that she was going to be my responsibility!I told her to get into my car. My driver looked at the girl curiously. I told him to take us to my friend Ram’s place. Ram ran separate shelter homes for boys and girls. We at the Infosys Foundation supported him financially. I thought Chitra could stay there for some time and then we could talk about her future.Ram suggested that Chitra could go to a high school nearby. I said that I would sponsor her expenses. I left the shelter knowing that Chitra had found a home and a new direction in her life.I always enquired about Chitra’s well-being over the phone. She was studying well and her progress was good.. I offered to sponsor her college studies if she wanted to continue studying. But she said, ‘No, Akka. I have talked to my friends and made up my mind. I would do my diploma in computer science so that I can immediately get a job after 3 years.’ She wanted to become economically independent as soon as possible. Chitra obtained her diploma & got a job in a software company as an assistant testing engineer. When she got her first salary, she came to my office with a sari and a box of sweets.One day, I got a call from Chitra. She was very happy. ‘Akka, my company is sending me to USA! I wanted to meet you and take your blessings but you are not here in Bangalore.’Years passed. Occasionally, I received an e-mail from Chitra. She was doing very well in her career. She was posted across several cities in USA and was enjoying life. I silently prayed that she should always be happy wherever she was.Years later, I was invited to deliver a lecture in San Francisco for Kannada Koota, an organization where families who speak Kannada meet and organize events. The lecture was in a convention hall of a hotel and I decided to stay at the same hotel. After the lecture, I was planning to leave for the airport. When I checked out of the hotel room and went to the reception counter to pay the bill, the receptionist said, ‘Ma’am, you don’t need to pay us anything. The lady over there has already settled your bill. She must know you pretty well.’ I turned around and found Chitra there.She was standing with a young white man and wore a beautiful sari. She was looking very pretty with short hair. Her dark eyes were beaming with happiness and pride. As soon as she saw me, she gave me a brilliant smile, hugged me and touched my feet. I was overwhelmed with joy and did not know what to say. I was very happy to see the way things had turned out for Chitra. But I came back to my original question. ‘Chitra, why did you pay my hotel bill? That is not right.’ Suddenly sobbing, she hugged me and said, ‘Because you paid for my ticket from Bombay to Bangalore!'(Excerpted from Mrs. Sudha Murty’s ‘The Day I Stopped Drinking Milk’ )

Mothers Day poetry

I walked into my garden

The soil appeared to be scraps of papers sewn together disproportionately,

Rain came in like delayed parcels

I noticed the rose, dripping water off it’s petals

drop by drop and then it all— like your love

The sky descended down to me,

Solid as a glass, blue as a sea

I wiped off the clouds,

and looked at heaven,

And oh, it looked like you.

-ekanika shah

Reach out to me on instagram @ekanika_shah

The invisible men🕴

The stranger came early in February, one wintry day, through a biting wind and a driving snow, the last snowfall of the year, over the down, walking as it seemed from Bramblehurst railway station, and carrying a little black portmanteau in his thickly gloved hand. He was wrapped up from head to foot, and the brim of his soft felt hat hid every inch of his face but the shiny tip of his nose; the snow had piled itself against his shoulders and chest, and added a white crest to the burden he carried. He staggered into the Coarch and Horses, more dead than alive as it seemed, and flung his portmanteau down. “A fire,” he cried, “in the name of human charity! A room and a fire!” He stamped and shook the snow from off himself in the bar, and followed Mrs. Hall into her guest parlour to strike his bargain. And with that much introduction, that and a ready acquiescence to terms and a couple of sovereigns flung upon the table, he took up his quarters in the inn.Mrs. Hall lit the fire and left him there while she went to prepare him a meal with her own hands. A guest to stop at Iping in the wintertime was an unheard-of piece of luck, let alone a guest who was no “haggler,” and she was resolved to show herself worthy of her good fortune. As soon as the bacon was well under way, and Millie, her lymphatic aid, had been been brisked up a bit by a few deftly chosen expressions of contempt, she carried the cloth, plates, and glasses into the parlour and began to lay them with the utmost éclat. Although the fire was burning up briskly, she was surprised to see that her visitor still wore his hat and coat, standing with his back to her and staring out of the window at the falling snow in the yard. His gloved hands were clasped behind him, and he seemed to be lost in thought. She noticed that the melted snow that still sprinkled his shoulders dripped upon her carpet. “Can I take your hat and coat, sir,” she said, “and give them a good dry in the kitchen?””No,” he said without turning.She was not sure she had heard him, and was about to repeat her question.He turned his head and looked at her over his shoulder. “I prefer to keep them on,” he said with emphasis, and she noticed that he wore big blue spectacles with side-lights, and had a bushy side-whisker over his coatcollar that completely hid his cheeks and face.”Very well, sir,” she said. “As you like. In a bit the room will be warmer.”He made no answer, and had turned his face away from her again, and Mrs. Hall, feeling that her conversational advances were ill-timed, laid the rest of the table things in a quick staccato and whisked out of the room. When she returned he was still standing there, like a man of stone, his back hunched, his collar turned up, his dripping hat-brim turned down, hiding his face and ears completely. She put down the eggs and bacon with considerable emphasis, and called rather than said to him, “Your lunch is served, sir.””Thank you.” he said at the same time, and did not stir until she was closing the door. Then he swung round and approached the table with a certain eager quickness.As she went behind the bar to the kitchen she heard a sound repeated at regular intervals. Chirk, chirk, chirk, it went, the sound of a spoon being rapidly whisked round a basin. “That girl!” she said. “There! I clean forgot it. It’s her being so long!” And while she herself finished mixing the mustard, she gave Millie a few verbal stabs for her excessive slowness. She had cooked the ham and eggs, laid the table, and done everything, while Millie (help indeed!) had only succeeded in delaying the mustard. And him a new guest and wanting to stay! Then she filled the mustard pot, and, putting it with a certain stateliness upon a gold and black tea-tray, carried it into the parlour.She rapped and entered promptly. As she did so her visitor moved quickly, so that she got but a glimpse of a white object disappearing behind the table. It would seem he was picking something from the floor. She rapped down the mustard pot on the table, and then she noticed the overcoat and hat had been taken off and put over a chair in front of the fire, and a pair of wet boots threatened rust to her steel fender. She went to these things resolutely. “I suppose I may have them to dry now,” she said in a voice that brooked no denial.”Leave the hat,” said her visitor, in a muffled voice, and turning she saw he had raised his head and was sitting and looking at her.For a moment she stook gaping at him, too surprised to speak.He held a white cloth—it was a serviette he had brought with him—over the lower part of his face, so that his mouth and jaws were completely hidden, and that was the reason for his muffled voice. But it was not that which startled Mrs. Hall, It was the fact that all his forehead above his blue glasses was covered by a white bandage, and that another covered his ears, leaving not a scrap of his face exposed excepting only his pink, peaked nose. It was bright, pink, and shiny just as it had been at first. He wore a dark-brown velvet jacket with a high, black, linen-lined collar turned up about his neck. The thick black hair, escaping as it could below and between the cross bandages, projected in curious tails and horns, giving him the strangest appearance conceivable. This muffled and bandaged head was so unlike what she had anticipated, that for a moment she was rigid.He did not remove the serviette, but remained holding it, as she saw now, with a brown gloved hand, and regarding her with his inscrutable blue glasses. “Leave the hat,” he said, speaking very distinctly through the white cloth.Her nerves began to recover from the shock they had received. She placed the hat on the chair again by the fire. “I didn’t know, sir,” she began, “that—” and she stopped embarrassed.”Thank you,” he said dryily, glancing from her to the door and then at her again.”I’ll have them nicely dried, sir, at once,” she said, and carried his clothes out of the room. She glanced at his white-swathed head and blue goggles again as she was going out the door; but his napkin was still in front of his face. She shivered a little as she closed the door behind her, and her face was eloquent of her surprise and perplexity. “I never,” she whispered. “There!” She went quite softly to the kitchen, and was too preoccupied to ask Millie what she was messing about with now, when she got there.The visitor sat and listened to her retreating feet. He glanced inquiringly at the window before he removed his serviette, and resumed his meal. He took a mouthful, glanced suspiciously at the window, took another mouthful, then rose and, taking the serviette in his hand, walked across the room and pulled the blind down to the top of the white muslin that obscured the lower panes. This left the room in a twilight. This done, he returned with an easier air to the table and his meal.”The poor soul’s had an accident or an operation or something,” said Mrs. Hall. “What a turn them bandages did give me, to be sure!”She put on some more coal, unfolded the clothes-horse, and extended the traveller’s coat upon this. “And they goggles! Why, he looked more like a divin’-helmet than a human man!” She hung his muffler on a corner of the horse. “And holding that handkercher over his mouth all the time. Talkin’ through it! . . . Perhaps his mouth was hurt too—maybe.” She turned round, as one who suddenly remembers. “Bless my soul alive!” she said, going off at a tangent; “ain’t you done them taters yet, Millie?”When Mrs. Hall went to clear away the stranger’s lunch, her idea that his mouth must also have been cut or disfigured in the accident she supposed him to have suffered, was confirmed, for he was smoking a pipe, and all the time that she was in the room he never loosened the silk muffler he had wrapped round the lower part of his face to put the mouthpiece to his lips. Yet it was not forgetfulness, for she saw he glanced at it as it smouldered out. He sat in the corner with his back to the window-blind and spoke now, having eaten and drunk and been comfortably warmed through, with less aggressive brevity than before. The reflection of the fire lent a kind of red animation to his big spectacles they had lacked hitherto.”I have some luggage,” he said, “at Bramblehurst station,” and he asked her how he could have it sent. He bowed his bandaged head quite politely in acknowledgement of her explanation. “To-morrow!” he said. “There is no speedier delivery?” and seemed quite disappointed when she answered, “No.” Was she quite sure? No man with a trap who would go over?Mrs. Hall, nothing loath, answered his questions and developed a conversation. “It’s a steep road by the down, sir,” she said in answer to the question about a trap; and then, snatching at an opening, said, “It was there a carriage was up-settled, a year ago and more, A gentleman killed, besides his coachman. Accidents, sir, happens in a moment, don’t they?”But the visitor was not to be drawn so easily. “They do,” he said through his muffler, eyeing her quietly through his impenetrable glasses.”But they take long enough to get well, sir, Don’t they? . . . There was my sister’s son, Tom, jest cut his arm with a scythe, Tumbled on it in the ‘ayfield, and, bless me! he was three months tied up, sir. you’d hardly believe it. It’s regular given me a dread of a scythe, sir.””I can quite understand that,” said the visitor.”He was afraid, one time, that he’d have to have an op’ration—he was that bad, sir.”The visitor laughed abruptly, a bark of a laugh that he seemed to bite and kill in his mouth. “Was he?” he said.”He was, sir. And no laughing matter to them as had the doing for him, as I had—my sister being took up with her little ones so much. There was bandages to do, sir, and bandages to undo. So that if I may make so bold as to say it, sir—””Will you get me some matches?” said the visitor, quite abruptly. “My pipe is out.”Mrs. Hall was pulled up suddenly. It was certainly rude of him, after telling him all she had done. She gasped at him for a moment, and remembered the two sovereigns. She went for the matches.”Thanks,” he said concisely, as she put them down, and turned his shoulder upon her and stared out of the window again. It was altogether too discouraging. Evidently he was sensitive on the topic of operations and bandages. She did not “make so bold as to say,” however, after all. But his snubbing way had irritated her, and Millie had a hot time of it that afternoon.The visitor remained in the parlour until four o’clock, without giving the ghost of an excuse for an intrusion. For the most part he was quite still during that time; it would seem he sat in the growing darkness smoking in the firelight, perhaps dozing.Once or twice a curious listener might have heard him at the coals, and for the space of five minutes he was audible pacing the room. He seemed to be talking to himself. Then the armchair creaked as he sat down again.Story by—H. G. Wells