Saturday, August 30, 2014

Chasing the Rainbow! - Chapter Two

Chapter One: Pete

Chapter Two: Anagha

Anagha began her day with going from one New York office to another, meeting up with her classmates and friends raising funds for her new venture back in India - 'Vaatsalya' meaning mother's unconditioned love for her kids. Vaatsalya was a shelter for the under privileged, the old and anyone who does not have a home. Vaatsalya also focused on urban science and informatics which included identifying and assessing urban problems in domains of transit, utilities and health. Vaatsalya was managed by Anagha and her mother Sheetal. Anagha was in charge of the urban science and informatics division while her mother looked after the shelter.

Anagha was a part of a typical Indian nuclear family staying with her parents and a younger brother. Her Father Mohan owned a small factory which manufactured industrial pumps. Mohan was a man allways ahead of his times and he gave Sheetal all the freedom even during those times when women were supposed to be in the kitchen according to the societal norms. Sheetal was a social worker all her life and had travelled extensively during her youth days working at grass root level helping in building schools and advocating girls' education and health. She had seen too much poverty and worst conditions around which kept her humble and rooted even though she belonged to an affluent family. Anagha's brother Saahil was currently pursuing his graduation in Architecture from one of the renowned colleges of India - Sir J. J. College of Architecture, Mumbai. Their family was a closely knit one with a lot of liberal minds and ideas at the dinner table.

After completing her graduation in India, Anagha had headed to the States for her post graduation. She spent 3 years in the States which included her one year Masters of Science course in Applied Urban Science and Informatics at the New York University and two years working at Lutron Inc. These 3 years had helped her create a network in New York on which she was banking currently for the aid of Vaatsalya's growth. After touring India and getting help from all known sources, she thought NRIs and her American friends are the next best bet to raise funds for her venture. And so she was in New York for a week, wearing off her shoe soles moving from one office to another and convincing folks to donate for Vaatsalya.

It was Thursday already and she was headed to India the coming Sunday. Last leg of visits were remaining when she thought of him. She wondered whether she should meet him just once before leaving for India. But then she brushed off the thought. 

She was staying in a cheap hostel in Manhattan. She woke up to her alarm and started getting ready for the day. Today she was going to head to Times Square and target all the plush offices down there. She took the bus from Manhattan to NYC, opened her diary and checked out the names to visit today. Scribbled in small font was a name.....and she went back to those times....

He was a charmer not in just looks but the way he carried himself. She used to feel at home with him. There used to be a time when they used to sit for hours in a room independently reading something - she 'The Fountainhead' and he 'The Crisis Caravan'. And yet she felt engaged with him. He would stroke her fringes and move it behind her ear lobe and in just the next moment put his fingers in her hair and mess it all up. He loved her cooked food especially the dosa and the spicy coconut chutney, he would call them love pancakes with a spicy twist. They would spend hours at Central Park, holding hands and walking and talking like the world will cease to exist tomorrow.  

Just then the passenger sitting next to her wanted to get down and requested Anagha to hold her purse while held her baby tightly. Anagha was awakened from her thoughts then. She pushed back all the thoughts in the 'do not open box' of her mind and read through the next names. While Anagha was getting down at her stop, the dashboard in the bus informed all the passengers of the heavy rains expected that evening. Anagha was distraught with the thought of having to wind up her expedition earlier today and heading back to her hostel, precious time lost. 

She finished her errands fast and caught the bus back to Manhattan. On her way to Manhattan, it started pouring and she saw the rainbow. 

Whenever he saw a rainbow he used to say to her, 'I want to chase that rainbow. I want to see what is there at the other side of it, at the extreme end of its horizon'.

Her hands unconsciously reached her cell and she dialed his number.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Chasing the Rainbow!

Chapter One: Pete

Pete was hurrying up at the Times Square like any other New Yorker on a weekday, barking and hustling through the crowd during the rush morning hours to reach his workplace. It was a nice bright Thursday Spring morning. On the way, he dashed against a passer by and was drenched in the hot coffee spilled all over his shirt by the dashing opponent. And Pete said to himself, 'God, please tell me that this is the only incidence for today where Murphy has played his role.'

Pete entered his work building. Macy at the reception greeted him as everyday. Pete smiled at her and rushed into his office. He opened his cabinet and took out a new shirt (this was not the first time he had coffee all over him and had learnt his lesson) and replaced the wet one on his body. He then sat and took a deep breath! Just then the phone rang. It was from the New York University where he was supposed to engage in a guest lecture on disaster management. They wanted him to come in earlier than expected as heavy rains were predicted for later that day. Pete agreed and started off for the University.

Pete worked at the United Nations and was currently stationed at their Headquarters as a Humanitarian Affairs Officer. His main area of work included providing humanitarian assistance/disaster relief in emergency situations. He virtually collaborated with the numerous folks on the field, helping them in planning and ensuring the necessary support by providing policy advice grounded in international humanitarian law and humanitarian principles. He did all this via sitting in New York - Be it be preparing a briefing for the Humanitarian Council on the situation of the mudslides in Badakhshan, Afghanistan; or working with a dedicated team as far lorn as Argo city in Afghanistan to help put together operational emergency response strategies; or be it helping in raising funding appeals for the floods in South Africa; or giving guest lectures in New York University in disaster management.....everything was done being in New York.  

This was partly because he loved New York and did not want to go anywhere else. He did have small stints in Somalia and Kenya but those were for two months. At the end of one month itself he used to start getting unsettled and yearned to back to New York, to his den reading in the dim light while trying to sleep on his bed. He did not mind the difficult conditions on the field but being home was what he always looked for ward to. He adored New York city. The 24*7 energy and constant motion gave him a boost each day when he stepped out of his den. And so he took up this role at UN Headquarters.

Pete was the only child of his parents - Bill and Linda Becket. They lived in Philadelphia, a less than 5 hour drive from New York. Pete visited them every weekend, or most weekends when he did not have to work. Bill was a Real Estate Agent and he never truly understood Pete's overwhelming interest in volunteering work that he took it as a career. Linda was more grounded and adored her son like any other mother would. Her relationship with Pete was much profound and they had this unwavering bond which tightly encompassed them. Linda was an archaeologist and currently was on sabbatical to be at home and relax. 

He hailed a taxi for New York University. Just then his mom called. 

Linda interrogated, "Did you receive the invitation card for Bethany's marriage?" 

Pete had received the card. Bethany was Pete's schoolmate and neighbour back in Philly. Pete lied saying, 
"No, I have not! Who is the unlucky chap anyways." 

Linda said, "Stop lying, you have received the card."

Pete with wrinkles on his forehead replied, "Ya ok, I have received the card but I am not coming. I have work to do  Mom, people may be stranded on some broken bridge at that time and they would need me."

Linda wickedly replied, "Stop acting like Batman and showcasing your pursuit to save Gotham.....pack your bags and come over this weekend for the marriage. Or else Batman's mother has enough tricks up her sleeves to drag her son wherever she wants him to be"

Pete giving up sighed, "Ok I will come...just do not do something to embarrass me"

Linda gave a nice hearty laugh and said, "Love you son, see you over the weekend in a black tie" and hung up.

Pete hung up and saw out of the window to realize he was still at the same spot as he was 20 minutes ago. It had already started pouring and the traffic was not moving forward at all. He cursed Murphy again under his breath and looked through the window. There was a kid with his mother who refused to be under the umbrella and preferred to get wet in the rain. A guy was trying to cover the bunch of roses in his hand protecting it from getting wet. Pete wondered if those roses were for a proposal tonight or for a hospital visit. There was teenager on a call talking animatedly and Pete pondered bet she is gossiping with her girl friend. 

40 minutes passed and the traffic did not move. By now it had started raining heavily and Pete gave up the idea of going to the University. He got out of the cab and ran into the nearest Dunkin Donuts. He called up the University to apologize and rescheduled the lecture. He then bought a coffee and sat at a corner table waiting for the rain to calm down not knowing what Murphy exactly had in mind for him.

Looking out of the glass door, he spotted a full bloomed rainbow. And then his cell rang. It was an unknown number. Contemplating on whether to answer or not to answer that call and looking intently at the seven colours, he thought I want to chase that rainbow!