Long ago, I dreamt of writing a book about living in China and walking on the Great Wall. And it happened.

I chose not to chase my dream instead I spent majority of my time chasing my sons.

My children came to me in my thirties. By then, they were more than welcome. My longing to be a mother overrode my other dreams. I reveled in my sons and brought them up to what I considered the best of my ability. I read Dr Spock when they were babies and talked to my friends about their babies’ developmental processes. I remember, I was worried about my son’s teething. Our friends’ daughter had many teeth by the time she was one and she loved eating watermelons. My son had few teeth and objected to fruit. He only drank mamma’s milk and half boiled eggs! He hated orange juice and clenched his gums/ few teeth when we tried to feed him solid food. He even spat out the food we tricked him into ‘eating’. My friend argued that all humans had teeth. Hence, so would my son, even if the process happened a little later. And she was right! Every child is unique and develops at an individual pace.

As parents, we can only watch, wait and pray. We do our best but the ultimate call is made by the child and the force that drives all life. As a parent, I discovered that I really enjoyed my children’s childhood and I miss it now that they have become older and have learnt to fend for themselves largely.

The funny thing that happened to me as a parent was that I forgot that I had my own dreams and goals from long before… from my teens and earlier. Perhaps, my dreams underwent a change. The feeling I am left with is these years of my life have been well spent. What could be more important than helping mold the future of mankind? Children are our future and to prioritise them over and above our own needs seemed the most natural thing to do.

I always remember the lines by William Wordsworth about the rainbow, poetic wonder and the child…

My heart leaps up when I behold

A rainbow in the sky:

So was it when my life began;

So is it now I am a man;

So be it when I shall grow old,

Or let me die!

The Child is father of the Man;

And I could wish my days to be

Bound each to each by natural piety.

The wonder that a child feels in discovering not just rainbows but even his father’s oversized shirt or shoes often becomes a source of infinite delight and wonder to the parent too because as an adult we get in touch again with the novelty of things when we watch our child fascinated with what we had started to consider mundane. That is a joy that keeps every parent young at heart. And, thus the child forever continues the ‘ father’ of man. And perhaps that is what happened to me. I lost myself in the wonder of rediscovering life with my children. And on a daily basis, I want to thank God for giving me these bundles of joy and my husband for letting me revel in their childhood, while he slogged to bring home the bacon and help realize our dreams.

Encouraging children to have dreams, goals and ideals from a young age goes a long way. No age is too early and no dream too small or big! It can be a dream of being a princess, dressing up, flying to outer space in a rocket, driving a lorry or a dustbin dump truck, inventing something new, cooking a dream dish, writing a book or drawing a picture.

I know of a mother who helped materialize her son’s dreams by helping him publish a book in elementary school. The child at the age of three told her that he wanted to write a book and have it on a bookshelf in a bookshop. By the time he was eight he had the book. It started with doodles and ended with stories. His mother helped him materialize his dream of being an author. And she used his dreams to help him learn to read, write and develop a love for books!

For my children, the dreams were different but no less important. My elder son was so fascinated by trucks that his first poem in his kindergarten was a list of names of these juggernauts. That gave way to dreams of making robots. I was happy to hear out his dream because he said it was better to have robots clean high rise windows rather than humans as people could fall and get hurt. From then on, his journey started in the quest of making robots to lighten mankind’s burdens and it continues more than a decade and a half down the line. My younger son dreams of animations with music, math and science… I wait eagerly to see how it will concretize to make a rainbow.

Sometimes, we need to work to make our children’s dreams come true. For example, when my younger son wanted a sunshine cake for his fifth birthday, I made it! And the biggest reward I had was when my little one when he said, “Mamma that is exactly what I imagined!”

Children need to sense that dreams can come true without compromises. Let them fly… and you can fly with them. They can help you fly and materialize your own dreams while you watch them grow and soar.

Actually, that is how my book happened too. One day my younger son came back from his school in China and said, “Mamma, you have never been to university.” I contradicted him and said that I had been to two. And then he said, “But my Chinese teacher said that mammas who stayed at home had not been to university!”

I was alarmed. I spoke to the school, which was a well-known international one. Many of the expat wives in China had chosen to be full time mothers, which is something that the world did not comprehend. I had chosen to be a full time mother even when my elder son was in my womb because the doctor had recommended bed rest and I stayed home from then on.

I thought calmly, did it really matter to me? It was not my job to educate a confused ‘educator’ who looked down on child rearing as the task of an uneducated person but it was my need to be respected and seen as a role model by my son. I wanted to show my child that one can dream big and materialize them under any circumstances, even while indulging in the most daunting and time consuming adventure of bringing up children. So, I wrote a book, one and a half books actually within a couple of years. The half was a compilation of recipes from thirty countries by well-respected professionals, including chefs, writers, school teachers, principals done in collaboration with a German friend, who is an engineer and dreamt of writing a cookbook while in China as a homemaker; and the other, was my own book, a humorous retelling of living, travelling and bringing up non-Chinese children in China in a society where borders no longer were a truth. That was my individual solution.

But, it made me think… why would a mother with university degrees not want to bring up her child? Is bringing up children really a job to be relegated to a substitute with values and education at variance with your own? Do you want your child to feel closest to you or to the person who has substituted for you as a full time caregiver?

These are choices you need to make when you think of child rearing. You have to decide who to prioritise, yourself or your child?






Flights of Fancy

Through the land of mists I glide
With thought beings by my side.
White, misty clouds shroud
Strange creatures that mouth
Hushed whispers, murmurs that grow loud
And emerge from the mists as beings thought out.
Robed in white,
With an inner light,
These creatures ride
Side by side
Through the woods.
Strangers flitting in hoods.
Silver girdles on their waist,
Ambrosia and honey they taste.
Sip off the little brooks that run,
Through the the patches of mists and sun.
When they emerge in light
They become beautiful and bright.
An emanation of the mind,
A figment of a fanciful flight.

The Creators




In the misty forest, hushed whispers seemed to emanate from the very trees. Mysterious beings rode on strange horses among the trees. Everything seemed to have a fleeting sense of reality. A soft moist breeze twirled its fingers on the white robed, silver girdled riders. A sense of unreal surrounded Jasmine, Jacaranda and Gorge as they walked through the woods from the beach. None of these figures harmed them. They seemed intent on their own tasks.

A soft Zephyrus song seemed to pervade through the mists of the whispery creatures. Suddenly, the mists began to clear and the three reached a meadow by the woods. The meadow was grassy and had a little pond in the middle. There were flowers of different colors in the grass. The sun was peeping out from the mists. The music seemed to be coming from the mysterious white robed creatures that stood by the pond. There was a tall girl with beautiful tawny eyes and hazel hair wearing a tiara made of daisies. From the tiara hung a veil of diaphanous silver. It glittered in the sunrays. The clear voice rose from the girl drowning the earlier notes with its clarity and intensity. It sounded like the sunray had pierced the mists and was ringing out in clear notes.

At a distance, there were some enormous white steeds gamboling around. The sky had a vibrant rainbow on it. The steeds, on closer examination, had wings on them. A group of grey flying horses landed near the white ones and started grazing on the soft green grass. A blue bird chirped and flew out from a tree by the pond. Jasmine, Gorge and Jacaranda looked a little surprised because though they could all hear the song, the singer’s lips did not seem to move. Everything seemed to be in harmony.

As the song rang out, they could see the flowers in the grass bloom and a bright yellow bird flew out from a tree, followed by a red bird. The surroundings seemed to spring to life with the mysterious music. Again the whispers rose in a crescendo and the clear notes dissolved in it. The song slowly seemed to fade into the swiftness of a breeze. The tall, white robed beings now turned their focus on the three intruders.

“Welcome, O creations of Janice and friend,” said a strange voice in their heads. It felt as if all the surroundings spoke in unison. Jasmine, Jacaranda and Gorge looked at them with stunned surprise on their faces.

“We come for help,” said Jasmine.

“We can hear your thoughts,” said the voices. “But we will use voices if you so desire.”

Gorge could sense the speech too. He was absolutely quiet and a bit scared. He had never seen anything so weird.

“Some of you are scared. There is no reason to be scared. We will help and not harm. Trust us,” said the voice.

Three of the white robed creatures, including the girl with the diaphanous veil, came over to where the three of them stood.

Their walk was more like a glide. They were much taller than Gorge, had pale but tawny skins that seemed to glow like moonlight.

“Let us lead you to our halls before we start to talk,” said a tall grey-haired man.

“Summon the steed.” Now, they could see he was moving his lips and talking just like them.

Three of the white horses that had been grazing at the far end of the meadow gamboled over. The three beings got up on the horses each one taking one of the three outsiders with them. Then the steeds took off to the skies. They soared over woods, meandering rivers and meadows till they reached what seemed to be a silver cliff-like structure. The steed descended just outside the cliffs

The riders and their guests descended and they went in through an enormous opening. Jasmine, Jacaranda and Gorge stared in amazement at the hall made of some translucent, crystalline material. The walls seemed to diffuse a natural yellowish white light of their own. There were more of these creatures in the hall.  Most of them were seated in small groups on plush sofas of red and gold against the walls. The floor was covered with downy carpets of mustard color. The shelter seemed to be a kind of cafe as most were sipping drinks in tall glasses. There were some who were behind a counter handing out drinks from different taps. Hushed whispers emanated from the different groups. Sounded like a pleasant chatter. The group sat down on an empty sofa.

The girl in the diaphanous veil broke the silence. “Come partake of some refreshments with us and let us talk over your issues,” she said. “I am Janice.”

“I am Halon ,” said the grey haired man.

“I am Anouk,” said the third man.

“We are from a distant planet called Lemuria,” continued Janice. “ We came here long, long ago. Earlier, we lived with mankind in the same dimension. Then the conflicts between different groups of mankind started. To keep out of these conflicts, we receded to this dimension.”

“I have read that,” pleaded Jasmine. “But we really need your help…”

“I know,” said Janice. “But this will be for the queen and her council to decide. I would like to help as you were an emanation of our ideals. We poured the emanations into your multiple selves as they were being formed. Your parents at some point were visited by dreams from us, which they would have forgotten. The dreams would translate to a physical reality…enough of this. You must be tired. Come, let us have some drinks.”

Janice and Anouk walked to the counter and carried back two trays. There were six tall glasses of a delicious drink. The drink was amber and filled Jasmine, Jacaranda and Gorge with a sense of peace. Their hunger disappeared and they felt rested.

“ Wow!” said Gorge. “What is this?”

“It is delicious,” said Jacaranda.

“This is Ambrosia, our main nourishment,” said Anouk.

“I feel really energized drinking this,” said Jasmine.

“So do we,” said Halon. “ It is our main diet. I would suggest that we adjourn to the queen and her council this evening. This is the time for our refreshment and then, we go back to work.”

“Perhaps, you would like to come with us to another meadow…” said Anouk.


Book of the Week



Title: 41 Stories by O. Henry
Author: O. Henry

O. Henry is the pen name of William Sydney Porter(1862-1910). His first collection of short stories appeared in 1904. He continues to be one of the greatest short story writers of the world in my opinion. He could find the extraordinary in the ordinariness of everyday life and bring out the excellence of common men from different cultures who had come to seek a new life in America.

One of my favourites, The Last Leaf, is the story of how an old, unknown artist,  Behrman, painted a leaf on a tree to perfection to give hope to his young tenant, Johnsy.  Behrman rented rooms to Sue and Johnsy. Sue and Johnsy were poor artists too. All of them, including the old man, looked foward to painting a masterpiece at some point. In winter, Johnsy developed pneumonia. She felt hopeless and thought she would die when the last leaf fell from the ivy that clung to the wall outside her window. When old  Behrman heard this story from Sue, he stayed out all night to paint a leaf on the wall that would not fall. It was a wet, cold night.  Behrman caught pneumonia and died while Johnsy, seeing the painted last leaf survive regained hope and recovered. And as Sue tells Johnsy of Behrman’s demise, she says

 …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 on the night that last leaf fell.

The story is poignant and beautiful. It reminds me of St Valentine’s life. When he was imprisoned to be executed for being a christian, he healed his jailer’s  blind daughter. He did for others out of kindness as did Behrman, who on the surface, pretended to be gruff and harsh.

In O.Henry’s best known story, Gift of the Magi, Jim and Della sell each other’s most precious possessions to buy a gift for each other on christmas! Jim sells his ancestral gold watch and Della her beautiful tresses. Jim buys tortoise shell combs for Della’s hair and Della buys a platinum chain for the watch. It is again a very touching story. And just as you feel your heart fill with warmth towards Jim and Della, O.Henry writes,

Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they( Jim and Della) are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

And, in one sense, they are because they value love and giving over their own possessions, a rare gift in today’s world.

Some of O. Henry’s stories are really witty and funny like The Princess and the Puma and Hostages to Momus. The Princess and the Puma is a story about early American settlers in Texas. The princess, a wealthy girl of mixed origins, and tough, is not taken in by a quick witted ranger’s glib tongue but plays along with him. Hostages to Momus is a story about two conmen who feed and feast theIr hostage only to discover he cannot afford the ransom.

Each one of the forty  stories has a surprise ending and is really endearing. The stories explore and unify the diversity of cultures that existed in one land with their irony, humor and empathy towards human nature.

They bring out the best in human nature as does the celebration of diverse festivals (Chinese New Year, Valentine’s day, Family day, Basant Panchami and Saraswati Puja) all over the globe this weekend. 41 Stories by O. Henry reiterates the spirit of giving, kindness, humaneness and multi-cultural coexistence in our one world as do these festivals with their celebration of happiness, spring, wisdom, prosperity and goodness.

Book of the week




Title: Man and Superman and Three Other Plays
Playwright: George Bernard Shaw(1856- 1950)


My way of joking is to tell the truth. It’s the funniest joke in the world,” stated George Bernard Shaw. That is exactly what he does in all his writing…tell the truth as he perceives it. And most of it is really funny.

In Man and Superman, you have a writer of The Revolutionists Handbook and probably Shaw’s mouthpiece, John Tanner; a woman full of vitality who is in pursuit of a husband, Ann, and a bunch of English ladies and gentlemen with a couple of Americans, French and Spanish thrown in. Tanner has been appointed a guardian of Ann and her sister by her father, who has just passed on. He tries to rebel and run away from Ann. She is bent on marrying him.

Tanner, a believer in Life Force, sets out on his motor with his driver and ends up getting kidnapped by a brigand, Mendoza, who talks of working in office hours, socialism and his love with a passion. Mendoza, an ex-savoy waiter, has become a socialist kidnapper after being disappointed in love. He and his gang have Robin Hood-like pretensions. They rob rich motorists (as only the rich could afford cars at the turn of the nineteenth century when this play was written) and give to the poor, they say… They do not use guns or knives but throw nails on the roads and puncture the tyres. Then they capture the motorists and demand a ransom.

Ann follows literally in another car and they are rescued by soldiers. Tanner rescues Mendoza from the law by claiming that the troop of brigands are his companions, which in a sense thet are as they are all socialists at heart. Ann finally wheedles Tanner to marry her.

The most interesting part of this play in my opinion is the time Tanner spends with Mendoza as his captive. The dialogues and situation are witty and hilarious. Mendoza is a philosopher of sorts as are his crew,which includes anarchists and social democrats. Mendoza is also a poet who bores the party to sleep with his love poetry, literally. They all have a strange, allegorical dream of afterlife in hell. The Devil resembles Mendoza and is a lover of fine life. He has walked out of heaven voluntarily. The other characters in the dream are Don Juan, who resembles Tanner, The Statue, who resembles Ann’s father and Ana, who resembles Ann.

The Statue, who has been designated to heaven has taken a transfer to hell as he finds heaven tedious. Don Juan, bored by the pursuit of fine life in Earth and hell, is thinking of a transfer to heaven, which is filled with uninteresting philosophical people. Don Juan thinks the pleasures are a mirage. He is more interested in pursuing the contemplation of Life Force, the passion which drives men. Most people who are contemplative prefer heaven. Ana, who has just died and been sent to Hell wants to go to heaven as she feels it is virtuous to do so and ultimately in quest for the right father for the Superman. The concept of Life Force and Superman as opposed to an erring, fallible man are discussed in the dream sequence. Tanner also observes;

“That(art, culture etc) is the family secret of the governing caste; and if we who are of that caste aimed at more Life for the world instead of more power and luxury for our miserable selves, that secret would make us great.”

Written more than a century ago, I think this observation is valid in the present day context too.

The other three plays, Mrs Warren’s Profession, Candida and Devil’s Disciple are shorter, very Shavian in their perceptions and humour. Each one has a protagonist who perceives the world a little differently from others, who looks beyond money, culture and art to something more vital. Each of these characters are unconventional in their thought process and bring out the decadence of certain social norms.

Mrs Warren’s Profession is to do with prostitution, Candida with middle class morality and romance, Devil’s disciple, set during the American War of Independence, is to do with a man’s sudden discovery of goodness and leadership in himself…if I may, I would like to say getting in touch with the Superman in himself.

My favourite out of these four is Man and Superman. I find the banter between Tanner and the other characters really amusing and interesting.

Shaw is perhaps best known for his play Pygmalion, which was made into My Fair Lady, a hollywood classic with Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews. He had been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1925 and the academy award for best screenplay( for My Fair Lady) in 1938.

Perhaps, a revival of his values and thought process might make this world a happier place to live in… His plays are like sunshine, witty, bright, cheerful, warm, honest and happy…a wonderful read for all and sundry.

The Creators



Jacinth sat with a cup of coffee in her garden looked at the sky and started to write:

Lost in the crowd, in oblivion Jasmine walked. She was lost, lost in the turgid grey lights of the day. It was a grey day with grey people and grey skies. Life was growing into a set of lies that she had accepted to survive. In the city, people scuttled like tailless rats, forever running a race for meaningless things, wealth, money, success. None of it meant much to our race. We had been through these stages of civilisation. And had emerged in a time beyond these needs. What mattered to us was the need for a time and space continuum where we could meditate and think. When we thought deeply enough, things came to be.

Jasmine was a student. She had been pinged to a city in the earlier continuum to understand the need for thinking. And now, suddenly, we found we were losing track of her. She was blending into the city too well. Her thought waves were getting lost with the multitude of minds and noise that cluttered the city.

Occasionally, we did lose track of students from our zone. But, the mind police had always managed to find them. They were either moved to correctional facilities or their thoughts were wiped and they were left in the city to survive as best as they could. But, the police was unable to track Jasmine.

Jasmine had plans, plans to make changes. For that, she needed to switch dimensions and gather the best from each continuum and then think of a new world to create it. It was her dream project. She was strangely advanced for her twenty years of age. She could do flips with her ideas, that is move from idea to idea and see them from different angles and then put them together to create a totally different reality. This is what councillors did after half a century of thinking. The other thing that even after half a century of meditation most councillors could not attain and she was able to do easily was to block off others from entering her mind and observing her ideas.

In our dimension most of us had transcended bodily needs. We pinged babies from the other continuums when we found that they had minds that could harmonise and meditate to project our thoughts and create. Most people who lost their babies thought they had been kidnapped. But most of the time we pinged them.There were not many of us…only about one hundred and fifty. Our world had survived centuries and Jasmine could create havoc in our centuries old world. We live to be at least six to seven hundred years old. Our best creations come forth when we hit the age of about three hundred.

Our world was started by Lemurians who had descended to Earth about two hundred thousand years ago. They brought their advanced thought technology into the earth. Their own planet Lemuria was under the threat of destruction by nuclear radiation from their dying sun and damaged biosphere.The planet Earth met up to their physical needs. They started living openly on Earth. They thought up different species of life, including man. They discovered that the intelligent species couldnot always live peacefully with each other. They had wars. Some of the species had very advanced nuclear weapons and could destroy the whole earth.That is why they created different dimensions for each creature. This way all creatures could live in harmony, oblivious of each-other’s existence. In our world, we have creatures from all dimensions. The Lemurians live in a separate dimension but we have occasional visits from them.

Jasmine wants to create a world where all the species live together like in our dimension. She is very immature as she does not realise that those capable of intermingling from different species live in our dimension. The others are not ready and therefore continue in different dimensions.

Jacinth looked up as she paused from her writing. A bumble bee buzzed on a nearby flower. She looked up and smiled. Jacinth was a hobbyist. She wrote for fun and published occasionally. She was trying her hand at science fiction. She had been getting lines in her head automatically. She also had dreamt strange dreams. In one of them, she saw women streaming away as if from a natural disaster. Another time she found herself jumping from cloud to cloud holding a stranger’s hand till she saw a strange pirate ship and land as if from another world. Jacinth believed in many things including inter-dimensional worlds which existed in parallel universes or multiverses. She believed in God, multiverses, black holes, aliens, a world in harmony… Jacinth was wondering what would she do with Jasmine next? Should she describe her? Would Jasmine look like an everyday woman, bird, fairy or a dinosaur? Should she be green or purple? Should she come from a dimension where the clouds were made of candyfloss?

Jacinth took another sip of tea and looked up. The parakeet went into the hole in the tree where it was nesting and peered out giving a loud squawk. A koel called from a distant tree. Jacinth looked at the distant towering mountains which formed a picturesque backdrop to her garden.

And then she saw her, a frail girl walking up to her gate. On her shoulder was a strange creature which was part pink and part blue. It looked like golliwog with round button eyes and was wagging it’s head and singing in a strange language. The girl had brown gold hair. She wore a faded jeans and a multicoloured striped tee shirt and carried a knapsack on her back. She walked up to the gate and said: “Hi! I am Jasmine. Can I come in?”


Beyond Chaos

Whenever I look at the vast expanse of the sky,
I know, I really need to fly,
To stretch out my wide wings in the breeze
And swish with the lush green trees.
I soar
Undisciplined, wild, crazy,
Forever willing to try
But knowing no bonds
To limit the mind,
Forever willing to pry
Beyond the frontiers
Of time.
Untied, untamed, wild…
This is how I like to fly.
An unbeaten stallion,
Pure, white
High beyond the rainbow,
Floats with translucent wings,
Unrestrained by matter or space,
Or the mad urge to race.
It gallops and flies,
Unfettered by ties
That hold us back.
It soars the wordless infinity
Where light
Becomes night
And everything unites
To a pulsating rhythm
Of an energy
Beyond time.
I ride on the stallion.
I gallop
Till I merge,
Become part
Of the throb,
Annihilated by the pulsating rhythm.
I no longer exist
Except in

Short story


Smita liked to walk to the lake and watch the water run in undulating heaps towards the shore in the wind and rain. She loved the sleety grey of the rain clouds and the water. Smita felt wild and free. She loved the way the rain slashed her bare face, hands and hair peeping out of the raincoat cap.The wind tore at her raincoat. It made her feel she could be swept off her feet at any point. And that is something she definitely would have welcomed…to be swept off her feet to a magical land where a genie out of a bottle would help right her problems.

And yet her heart didnot feel heavy. The elements soothed her though her issues were enormous. She had just lost her job and her hostel had served her notice. Her hostel fee was overdue. And she was desperately trying to figure out where to live and how to meet her expenses. Walking with the elements slashing at her always soothed her. Smita had her last salary in her bank. It was not much but still something. She could feel a crisp note in her pocket. Here was money willing to be spent. Smita walked into a cheap cafe that sold fast foods by the lake to think things over while getting a bite to eat. She ordered a burger and a can of diet coke. She asked them to leave the coke can at the table as she preferred opening it herself and having the coke fizzy.

As Smita bit into the burger and looked out at the rain beating the lake, she recalled the harsh words of her ex-boss,” If you cannot meet up to the needs of the paper, we cannot keep you. We told you, you need more punch in your stories. We are a tabloid and people read us for entertainment. How many times have I told you that if you cannot deliver stories that blast, you have to leave. And look at this…what have you got…a story about a man finding a wallet. You have the crime beat…I want stories about murders, violence….all the gory details. That is what people want… Not a wishy washy story about honesty!  You are not needed from tomorrow. You have no nose for news. You are fired as of now. Finito!”

She had walked out with her laptop. Her salary had been a pittance. She really wanted to be a writer.

Smita had run away from home when her middle class father tried to arrange a marriage for her with a rich, monied accountant. She felt unclean when they demanded a dowry. The boy was a wimp. When she said she was not willing to marry the accountant and she didnot want a dowry, her father was very angry. He said she was flouting authority and tradition and was not allowed to decide what she needed. She had to marry the boy he had chosen for her. She was banned from going out if she didnot agree to marry the suitor she thought of as the wimp. Effectively, her father had put her under house arrest.

One day, when everyone was out, Smita quietly left the house and boarded a train. She left a note telling her parents she was leaving as she wanted to be a great writer. She had enough money saved from her pocket money to buy a second class train ticket to a faraway place. Smita travelled a day and a night and started her new life as a journalist in a tabloid. She had some gold jewellery, an expensive watch all of which she sold to finance herself. She lived in a working women’s hostel, sharing a dormitory with half a dozen more women. Her salary was really a inadequate. The oily burger and diet coke were her dinner for the night but food didnot matter. What mattered was living out her dream.

Smita finished her burger and opened the coke can. There was a loud fizz and the coke spewed out and there was a lot of smoke which seemed to rise higher and higher till it took the form of a handsome young man in a white shirt and blue jeans. He wore a huge, gold, round ring in one ear and was very muscular. Smita was zapped. There was no one else in the shop. The man manning the counter seemed to have disappeared. Smita looked into the can…there still was some amount of coke left. She swallowed and asked the swaggering swain,” Who are you?”

” Oh! I am the genie of the diet coke can. I have come to help you. I believe you were wishing for a genie. You can have three wishes before I disappear with a fizz.”

Smita could not believe her eyes.

The genie continued,” I can fulfill three of your heart’s desires. You just need to verbalise.”

” Can you help me achieve my dream?” Smita asked.

” Just ask. Tell me what is it you most desire, o beautiful babe, and it will be done.”

” Never call me babe again. I want to be a famous writer. Can you help?”

The genie crossed his hands and said,” I will never call you babe again. Three times I will nod and it will be done. You have already asked for two…never to be called babe and that you want to be a famous writer. ”

He nodded three times and then said,” You are a famous writer step out and see. Now I wait for the third wish you have for me.”

” I want a lot of money so that I can live in comfort.”

He nodded three times again.” Check your bank balance and see. Now, it’s time for me to disappear. I will only return if you ardently pray for it. Come back here and have another diet coke and say ‘genie appear’ and I will be there.” Saying that, the strange apparition fizzed into thin air.

Smita looked around surprised. Time seemed to have fast forwarded by a few years. The calendar behind the counter of the cafe showed the same date but five years later. She was in a long skirt and wore a pearl bracelet and her hair seemed to have grown shorter. It was a different cut. The man behind the counter was by her table and bowing. He was saying,” It is an honour to have you here Ms Singh. Please treat the meal as complimentary. ” Smita smiled and walked out. It was bright and sunny but she felt a bit like an usurper! When she reached the reception of the hostel where she roomed, the woman at the reception smiled and said,” O! Ms Singh, it is such an honor to have you drop in.” Smita was zapped. So, where did she stay. The receptionist continued,” I will call your chauffeur for you. He is in the parking lot.” She ran off.

Smita walked to the door. Her heart beat in anticipation of a bright future. A pink Mercedes drove up. A uniformed driver got out, smiled and opened the door for her. Smita walked in. ” Take me home,” she said. The car went into Pamposh, the most posh colony in town. It stopped inside a very high-end apartment complex. When Smita walked in, the liftman bowed to her and took her to the pent house on the top floor. He opened the lift door smiled and bowed her out. From the window of her apartment on the 75 th floor, Smita could see the city stretch out before her. She turned around and saw bookshelves from top to bottom. On an ornate book shelf in the middle of the room were books by Smita Singh…her own books. What were they about? She read some of one…didnot like it much… It was like the fiction she didnot enjoy…lot of fowl language, just a silly romance…She walked into her bedroom. It looked as if she shared it with a man! To her horror she discovered she was married. She just noticed the huge solitaire wedding ring on her finger.

Who was her husband?

And then she saw a picture on her bedside, the wimpy accountant…. Oh no! She had run away to arrive in a circuitous route back to her nightmare!

The doorbell rang. She opened the door.” Hello, honey,” said the wimp. She gave a faint smile and walked back. He came in and tried to kiss her. He was stinking of alcohol and very tipsy.

Smita wanted to throw up. She walked away saying,” I am not in the mood.”

” What mood?” said the wimp.” Always remember, it is my money that bought you your dream. No one wanted your writing. I had your books rewritten and published. I bought you your fame, name… everything …You owe me big time!” He slouched onto the sofa and fell into a drunken stupor saying,” Take off my shoes!”

As soon as Smita found he was fast asleep, she stepped out and called for her pink Mercedes. She asked the driver to take her back to the lakeside. She got off the car, walked rapidly to the cafe and asked for another diet coke. She shut her eyes tight and wished for the genie again and said, “Genie appear”. As she opened the coke can, the fizz and smoke again appeared and the genie asked her,” Why did you call within a few hours? I have given you three wishes and can do no more. At the most, I can only revoke your wishes.”

” I didnot want to marry this guy. I never asked for him.”

” He is a part of the package. You didnot specify leaving him out,” said the genie.

” I ran away from home not to marry this guy. He cannot be a part of my dream.”said Smita.

” You wanted me not to call you babe, be a famous writer and rich. I granted you all three desires. I am supposed to grant you wishes, not materialise your dreams. Dreams are different from desires,” said the genie. ” If you are really unhappy with the outcome of my actions, you need to ask me to revoke your wishes. If you do not want the husband in this reality, you can have your old future back. To get a brand new future, you need a fresh genie. I do not know when or where that will be. The choice is yours.”

Smita didnot hesitate for a minute.” Revoke my three wishes!”

The genie squared his arm, nodded his head three times and said,” All undone! Bye babe!” Then he disappeared with a fizz.

Smita was back in her old clothes, down at heel shoes and again had long hair which had become damp in the rain.The wet raincoat was by her side. It was still raining outside. The calendar showed time had receded back five years when her genie had appeared the first time and she was again a jobless, homeless dreamer. Her coke can was full and just opened. Smita felt more at peace.

Was it all for real or wasn’t it…

A stranger, who looked a bit like the genie but was less muscular and wore no earrings, ran into the cafe for shelter. He looked at her and smiled. Smita smiled back. She found him incredibly attractive and the smile made her heart lurch. He ordered a coffee at the counter, walked back towards Smita holding his steaming mug and said,”Quite a downpour, eh!?”