On Cloud Nine

This image was taken one evening on the way to the Royal Festival Hall where my younger daughter, Steffi, was performing.

I don’t want to write too much about it, except that I loved the scene as I looked up. I had my camera, and knew exactly what I wanted. It makes me very happy to have achieved that.

A sweet poem by Ruby Archer fits the scene..

A little cloud stood lonely
Amid the evening sky;
Doubting and fearful waiting there,—
No other cloudlet nigh.

Sapna Dhandh-Sharma

A Strange Connection

Ramdeen Singh Tanwar

2012 – Delhi-Jaipur Highway.

We girls waited in the car while the men went to fetch tea for us. A man with long curled-at-corners moustache and a protective kaffiyeh-style cloth tucked under his cap approached us, dutifully asking us to park the car in a certain way. He worked as a watchman for the highway café. I was instantly taken by his kind and impressive face. Briefly ignoring his request I brought the camera to my eye, gesturingly enquiring if I can take his photograph. He forgot all about the car and stood posing. With that face, I knew nothing can go wrong. One photo. That was it.

I admired the photo. It was superb. He looked very dignified. He was very dignified. I didn’t know when I would meet him again. I kept thinking I should have taken his address. I at least had his name from his uniform badge. But that was it. Years passed. Then…

2017 – Delhi-Jaipur Highway

Bubbles and myself stop at the same café to have some coffee. I look around searchingly. No sign of him. There were several new shops in that block by this time. I ask shopkeepers, pan seller, shoe mender. They have not seen him, but they knew him. So, myself and Bubbles go into the café to have our snacks and coffee.

Suddenly, outside the glass window, I see him trotting towards us.

There he was…. Ramdeen Singh Tanwar. Same dignified face, gentle and welcoming smile. Same moustache, this time grey. He had aged fast. Life was hard for him, and it was apparent. But he stood a proud man. He even remembered me.

I took more photographs of him. This time against the backdrop of Aravalli that ran parallel to the highway, his home since birth. The only home he had known. He was extremely pleased by my gesture. Kept thanking me. This time I asked for his address so I can post his photos to him. I also told him about the photo from 2012.

He could not read or write, he said. He did not even have a mobile phone. So, he would have to go home to get his son to write the address and son’s mobile number for me on a piece of paper. He disappeared. It was getting later and later. The sun had set by now, and it was getting darker. We could not wait any longer as we still had to drive to Jaipur. I was very disheartened. After all these years, I had found him, but again lost him.

As we sit in the car to drive off, he comes running. Hands me his son’s number and their home address. Seeing his enthusiasm, I almost cried. Perhaps, he cried too seeing mine.

And after all this effort, I misplace the paper after arriving in England. But, I was certain I have not thrown it. I wouldn’t. I’m careful that way.

A year after meeting him the last time, I diligently hunt the paper down. I call his son to tell him that I will be sending his dad’s photographs shortly.

My instincts told me I should not waste any more time. That it was time I posted the photos to him. That if I didn’t send them to him now, he probably will never get to see them. Not sure what it was I was feeling, but without further ado, I sent him his photos with a handwritten letter, apologising for the delay in sending.

A week later, his son called to say that the photos were received and that his father was elated at the sight of them. That he was showing off to all his friends and relatives and telling them about meeting me and my family many years apart.

A few months later, his son, without adding any words, sent me a photo of his father with a flower garland around it.

I immediately called Tanwar Jr. to pay my heartfelt condolences. I was extremely sad too. That’s when I knew I did the right thing by paying heed to my instincts. I had a premonition.

The special connection I had with Ramdeenji was hard to explain. Out of nowhere, he made a brief appearance in my life, and also in my family’s life. I spoke about him to all the sincere people in my life. Those who will understand me, and not mock at my story. This encounter mattered to me, and I’m blessed to have special people in my life who appreciate things that matter to me.

2018 – Delhi-Jaipur Highway

A couple of months after his news, I stop at the same café. Ramdeenji’s son was not in town, so I couldn’t meet him. The café lacked lustre this time. The watchman’s vacancy had now been filled, but the void created by the absence of Ramdeen Singh Tanwar can, and will, never be filled.

…… Sapna Dhandh Sharma

Life Is Short, But Can Still Be Worthwhile

This morning I had stopped outside a shop when I saw a hearse carrying a coffin. It read “brother” on the funeral wreath. I felt sad seeing someone’s brother being taken for funeral that early in the morning. I paused to pay my respects (out of childhood habit) like my father taught me, “Say my hello to God.”

As I drove home a couple of minutes later, I saw a gathering of people outside a house. The hearse parked in their drive. I knew the people in the house. The lady’s children attended the same school as my girls. At first I thought her father-in-law must have passed away. We all have to go one day, I thought. I paid my respects again and continued driving.

But why “brother”?! I’ve usually not seen a really old sister requesting that when there are several family members in the man’s own family – wife, son, daughter-in-law, one grandson and two granddaughters.

Oh my!!! Is it possible that it was her husband? Absolutely possible, as I don’t even remember seeing her father-in-law ever. Maybe he’d gone long ago. Not sure. But her husband was not that old. He looked stressed though. Affluent guy, but stressed. He never smiled when our paths crossed. His stress probably killed him. I won’t know until I meet the lady again. There is only one kid of hers in school, and the kid is not a friend of my daughter. Kids usually don’t approach other kids to enquire such things. Never. Her other two kids are slightly older, and at university.

Oh my God, it later struck me!! Could it be the young boy? The “brother” of the sisters? Why not, some said! Anything is possible.

Of course, anything is possible.

Life is indeed very short. It gives no chance for goodbyes and yet there are people who would hold grudges, agendas, hang-ups, excuses. Many value monetary success over a successful relationship. I’m sure such people are built differently. They must surely find contentment in their actions, or they won’t take them. Until their chase for the kind of success they valued more consumes them. Like it did in this man’s case, if it’s him who died. Chances are, it is him. He took nothing he worked for with him in the end. None of us will. After some time, people tend to forget them too. That’s how the world is designed or one cannot move on in life. If we can forget people when they are alive, then so much easier when they are gone.

This is why I’m glad to be the way I am. My madness is for the people I love, not for what I can gain from them. In return, those who can appreciate my passion own me. I don’t want to die miserably like that man. I want people to say upon my death – “Sapna had plenty of time for us and she never made false promises.” This will make my life, and also my death, worthwhile.

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