Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Blood Mobiles: The Story of Coltan and Congo

Reading is a bad habit, especially when you began to understand the meaning of written words. Even if a paper is laid over a heap of shit, still without actually picking it up, we will force our eyes to read it, no matter what other people might be thinking about it.

As I junked the previous week’s edition of Times of India- Crest, as similar, if not identical, thing happened. My eyes caught the same photograph which had forced me to buy that edition. Unable to hold myself, I de-junked the paper and began to read that specific article (Blood on your handset? By Fatima Najm). It was about a rare mineral called Coltan.

Blood diamond, the term may catch your attention, but Blood Coltan will not, because no Leonardo Dicaprio or Kayne West has made a movie or sang a song about it. But Coltan, a colloquial African name of Columbite-tantalite, is that rare metal without which wireless world will grind to a halt.

Coltan is a superb conductor of electricity and finds its way into almost every mobile, laptop and DVD player. It is essential to manufacture of electrical components known as pinhead capacitors. These capacitors regulate voltage and store energy. Its strength, high density and chemical properties make it valuable in High-tech industry. Even US Department of Defense classifies it as a strategic metal and hoards large amount of the same.

Although this metal is found is various parts of the world, like China, Australia, Venezuela etc, but the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire, a country that you might have remember to have read in your fifth class geography book) claimed to have more than 80% of this metal’s global reserve. But the Congo has its history, a history written in blood. And its writers are Belgium, USA, and innumerable local militias and mercenaries of its neighboring countries.

Congo, or Heart of Darkness as mentioned by Joseph Conrad, is a country in the middle of the African Continent. This country’s actual exploitation began when it was first colonized by King Leopold II of Belgium. He treated this territory not as a part of Belgium but as his private property a company, as Congo Free State. In the name of building roads and hospitals, first the company looted the ivory and then with the invention of bicycle the rubber for the tires. The severity of the rule was such that if a slave is unable to attain his daily quota of latex his limbs were chopped off. It was the first genocide of Congo, wherein it lost half of its population. With protests from people like Joseph Conrad, Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle and others, in 1908 the Belgian parliament with initial reluctance, took over the Congo Free State as a Belgian colony. Close to 10 million people died in Congo Free State due to exploitation. It was the first genocide.

The problems didn’t ended here either, after its independence in 1960 it plunged into political crisis. Fueled by Belgium and USA for the quest of copper and diamond mines, the country plunged into dictatorship. The Dictator, Joseph Desire Mobutu, was supported by US because he was averse to communism. But in fact it support of US was there because it was rich mineral base with low labor standards, a source of cheap minerals. Mobutu embezzled billions of dollars meant for Zaire (it was Zaire then) virtually bankrupting the country. The infrastructure was quarter of what it was in 1960. After the end of Cold War, US support weaned away. Then Congo entered another crisis.

It was problem of its neighbors which spilled onto it. The ethnic violence in Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi spiraled into Congo and the respective countries invaded each other. The end result was first Congo war. It resulted in overthrowing of the Mobutu and renaming the country as Democratic Republic of Congo. The new government was under the powered by the militaries of Rwanda and Uganda, who wanted to control its large and resource rich neighbor. When the new President Laurent Kabila asked the foreign troops to leave, they in turn, fueled other militias to overthrow the government. Each country tried to outmaneuver each other in the battlefield which was Congo; each wanted the shares of mineral rich provinces. This led to the second Congo war, also known as African World War, involving seven countries, countless militias and private armies. A conflict, which official has ended on paper in 2003, but repercussions are felt every day.

This Second Congo War, till today has claimed more than 5.4 million lives and being rightly termed as Second Congo Genocide. Each party wants to control the mineral rich provinces. Everyone wants to have a pound of it. Politicians want to keep it going because it is what keeps them in power. There is no big international examination of it because it is one of the most convoluted trades in the world, the mineral changes a dozen hands before being handled by the manufacturer. After the year 2000 the prices spiked which led to massive mining of the metal but as the price eased down it left thousands involved in its mining, either voluntarily or under pressure of militia who use illegal mining to fund their wars.

Congo is a resource rich country, and its powerful river system has the potential to power all of the Africa’s electricity needs. Stability of Congo will translate into peace and progress for all Africa, but at least five neighboring countries have proxy militias in addition to local rebels battling each other in Congo for control of Coltan. Demand for the ore has spiraled internationally with massive demand for mobile handsets and electronics in India and China.

Resources Curse is what is called when a resource rich country is underdeveloped. Congo’s Red Earth is rich in minerals, but it is one of the most corrupt and underdeveloped countries of the world, with each party to the conflict wanting a piece of minerals. Its resources which could be its boon is and was being its being, first exploited by Belgians, then by various others. The country is virtually gang raped for its resources. Now the question is how much blood can we afford on our keypads. How many lives we press upon when we send an SMS. Do we really get the hungry screams of thousands who were massacred for this metal?

But alas there can’t be any notoriety about it. Blood Diamond is glamorous, Blood Coltan isn’t. In the candid words of a Congolese mining official, “There is a cold and calculated cruelty about the massacre of people and the clearing of forests for Coltan, but blood diamond sounds glamorous, blood coltan doesn’t mean anything. I cannot imagine Leonardo Dicaprio making that movie, maybe George Clooney? Maybe not.”

It might be surprising to know that uranium for the bombs that devastated Japan came from the mines of the Congo. American came there mined the mineral closed the mine and went away. Leaving the mines prey to illegal miners and global nuclear proliferation regime. That is uranium, which has invited ire of US on countries like Iran, North Korea, Iraq and Syria. This is coltan mainstay for the industry based across the western hemisphere, China, South Korea and Japan. Even though Australia produces 80% of the mineral, Congo has 80% of its available resources.

© Tarun Mitra


1. “Blood on your handset?” by Fatima Najm, Times of India Crest Edition, November 7, 2009

2. http://www.friendsofthecongo.org/new/coltan.php

3. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/1468772.stm

4. http://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/198/40150.html

5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DR_Congo

6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kivu_Conflict

7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Congo_War

8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Congo_War

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Which Flower is this?

The picture was taken at our hotel at Lansdowne. As usual I don't know the name.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Separated River: A love Story Part III

Part III

Parallel Lives

The spit stained lime washed walls have given way to clean and lean glass and marble dividers. Old monolithic and dull rectangular towers were replaced by new swankier, jazzier glass and steel structures. The potholed and flooded roads were absent and in their place were modern concrete-polymer roads. The never-ending chaotic traffic had no place in this organized public and private transport system. In fact, the entire city has undergone such a change that anyone who is visiting the city after a gap of more than 20 years would scarcely be able to recognize the city itself. Though people adapted themselves to the change, but no one, especially old-timers, fails to notice the difference between now and then. Things are more liberal now; dating no longer invokes parental punishment. But still many of the people who were born in the city miss the warmth and adventure the city once used to provide.

Sitting at 37th floor porch of a new concept restaurant, Pranav’s mind crossed many such thoughts. He left the city within a week after learning about Sanjana’s marriage and never looked back. He now heads one of the largest professional services firms of the world and has become a legend in the field of corporate laws, aggressive, brutal and perfect. He was also come to known as a shark who would leave his opponent gasping for breath. Though he always has the business in the city and he came here few times, but it was short and precise, hotel, court, tribunal, ministers, bureaucrats and then back to his new abode. He never stayed for more than two days. But this visit was different, one of the companies his firm promoted was going public, and he has to invite investors, especially one with strength and reputation. His Public Relation person suggested him to stay in the city for few days to meet new people and build rapport, this included going to parties and functions. He was in one such function, the inauguration of this restaurant, ironically built upon the same plot of the old District Shopping Centre which once housed the Self Service Café. His earlier visit had hardly gave him time to contemplate his life, but this time he just could resist the temptation of comparison of his present and past state. The things he lost and things he won.

It was a pleasant February night. The sky was clear and stars were visible so was the moon and its crescent. He asked the owner to seat him outside in the porch, even though his PR asked for a table in the centre. But he couldn’t ignore the overwhelming effect of the place on him, even if it had changed beyond recognition. He ordered some starters and a neat peg of single malt. He was looked outside and wondered ‘how much the city has changed.’

City has changed so has he, he thought. He never drank liquor in his college days but after 20 years from that fateful day he has one of the largest collections of wines and single malts in the country. He abhorred smoking, but now everywhere he searches for a space where ‘No Smoking’ is not written. After Sanjana he thought he could never love, but he was wrong, today he has two 8 year old kids, Piyush and Priya, whom he adopted 8 years ago, apparently their mother, was his fellow lawyer in his firm. He thought Sanjana ditched him for money, but he was again mistaken, when he learned that she is caring for her husband’s abnormal child of her age and his three illegitimate children. But he still cannot fathom why Sanjana didn’t tell him the truth on that very day.

He gulped down his peg at one go. It still bothered him why she, who loved him the most, hid those things from him. But he simply couldn’t go and question her, because it was Sanjana from the very first itself, any next move has to be made by her. Her husband had died 8 years after their marriage, but she never remarried, if it was simply money she would have married again. But there was something else, something other than saving her family. Saving her family, that is why he ditched him, but she could have told him so, but she didn’t. There were a lot of unanswered questions in his mind as he ordered another peg.

She sat there with an elegance which can only befit a queen. Though she was not from the royalty but she surely was an elite. She sat at the window overlooking the porch; she wanted both view and comfort. She was not alone as she was accompanied by her children, step-children as a matter of fact, but still her eyes were transfixed at a man who was seated at the porch. Gazing outside the window she felt the same way as he did, as only they two can understand the significance of the this place. But for a change she was seeing a difference or a dream she once had had. A dream where she would be dressed in white gown and pearl necklace, as she is dressed now, and she is accompanied by the same person in the same three piece suit he is wearing now, both of them nearing autumn of their lives contented of what they had achieved; but alas that was just a dream.

She wanted to but cannot go ahead and talk to him. It was her who threw him out but her reasons, she knew, were no more secrets. She came to know a lot about him, about is success, about his ruthlessness and about his generosity, after all she is one of the reputed investors. Like her, he was also doing a role of a single parent. But unlike her, he never married. She gathered her strength and excused her children to meet the old friend of her.

His thoughts were not tied to a particular string, but as the whiskey settled in, more his thoughts focused only on one aspect ‘Sanjana’. He wished who could turn back the time and go to that very particular moment and ask her the reason. He would bend down in his knees and beg her love. He shouldn’t have let her walk over her. But what else could he do now, at that time he lost his power to think and moved on, instead he should have stayed. He cursed himself of not being persistent. He gulped down the remaining contents of his second glass. He ordered his third peg.

“Hello Pranav” said a quaint little voice which he immediately recognized. The same sweet voice that once used to greet him every day 20 years back. He turned back and remarked “Sanjana!”

A freckle smile appeared on his face. The person who is standing in front of him is the same one whom he loved 20 years ago; the same person now of whom he once had had dreamt about 20 years ago. For a moment he was speechless, his was in different dimension altogether, he was in the library where she first approached him, the feeling was same. He gestured her to take the seat.

“Hello Sanjana” he said, still recovering the shock of seeing her again.

“Hello Pranav. How are you?”

“How am I supposed to be?”

“For the Pranav I knew, he must be doing great”

“What if the Pranav you knew doesn’t exist anymore, only his body this there”

“I will still stick with what I had said; even that body must be doing great”

“Then I am doing great, what about you?”

“I am fine”

Silence again descended between them, they both had something to say but they don’t know what. Pranav started again.

“You came here alone”

“No, I’ve my children for the company” she pointed towards her table.

He glanced towards the direction she mentioned. There were three teenagers, two boys and one girl, and a guy of his age, he might be the abnormal one, he thought.

“They’re grown up!”

“Three of them are in their teenage, a difficult age though, and one is tad younger than me but his mind is of a six year old kid”

“I’ve two 8 years old, Piyush and Priya, cute and naughty” happiness glowed in his eyes as he uttered their names. “I don’t know whether I should put up this question, whether it would be more appropriate, but..”

“I know what you want to ask Pranav, that those three are illegitimate. They were illegitimate, mistakes of my deceased husband. But today they are mine, they call me their mother. They look at me as their parent.”

“You must be a very brave woman and you loved your husband”

“Don’t be presumptuous Pranav, I did the only thing which I thought was right.”

“Because you loved your husband” Pranav tried to push a point, he cannot phrase the question he always wanted to ask.

“I have only loved one person in my life. And my husband, no matter how much morally corrupt he might be, at his deathbed apologized for his mistakes that he made throughout his life. Every act of debauchery, every act of sodomy, doping, and every sin he made, he confessed, he confessed them all at his death bed. He requested me, as a dying man, to fulfill his wishes of compensating the people who were affected by his acts. He might have done injustice with me, but he apologized and somewhere, as wife, I owe a duty towards him, to mitigate his mistakes; I did what I thought right. I was the only one who could do it.”

Pranav looked at her as if he was trying to sink the words in. The cool breeze was hitting their faces, as if it was making a cocktail with their spoken words.

“Pranav, I have left my past behind and I would be better for you to do the same.”

“Was I, by any chance, a part of your past?”

“Yes, you were, and you still are, as a friend, as my love, but I cannot give a place to you in my present life, I just cannot”

“Sanjana, for many years I waited for this moment, but still I feel some where you are evading me. I will put it in this way: Why on that day you said those things to me? Why didn’t you tell me what was happening with you and your family? And now why didn’t you come back when everything got settled? I need direct answers now Sanjana, I’ve never questioned you even that day, but this is essential now”

Sanjana went quite. She looked outside, the dimming lights of building and streets provided no comfort, all of them seem to point toward her, ask her why. All throughout the years she tried to avoid this question. But today it was facing her, like a bullet waiting to pierce through her. She wished it to pierce her.

“I.. Just don’t know, May be I was being pure selfish, maybe I loved you so much that I can see myself ditching you, I wished you ditched me instead, which won’t happen, so I tried to frame a story around you, a story just to delude myself from the truth. But I don’t know, I would have opted for the simpler option, of telling the truth, but somewhere I felt myself too weak to digest it. I was helpless then and therefore I hoped….”

“That I should leave you. How can you even think of that, should could have at least told me”

“I said I just don’t know what got over me. Maybe I tried to create a cloak around me, a cloak of lies, so that this thing which I was imposing on me appears to comfort me. But I was wrong, I was wrong.”

“Then, Why..”

“I know Pranav what you want to ask me. I have told you thing earlier. It was right thing to do, what those kids have done, why should they bear the word ‘bastard’ throughout their lives. I was wrong with you but I cannot carry another burden. I cannot undo what I did to you but I can make their future better. Tell me, why didn’t you married”

“I didn’t have time”

“That is not an answer”

“You tell me, why you didn’t remarry” he tried to duck her question.

“I had responsibilities Pranav, I have my husband’s children to look after”

“The even if they aren’t yours”

“No, they are mine, may be my husband had dispossessed them, but I can’t”

Pranav went silent. Sanjana talked back.

“I don’t know, I just don’t know, maybe I was selfish, I can’t tolerate the fact that I was married to a guy whom I never loved, I may never wanted it but things were different then, he was sorry, sorry for everything he did, even to me”

“That means you loved him”

“No, but in the last moments of his life, I came to respect him, respect him for mending his ways, respect him for keeping his promise to my father and somewhere I found he respected me for looking after his own abnormal child” She took a deep breath and continued, “Why didn’t you married?”

Pranav looked at her eyes, and then at her face. He couldn’t think anything worthwhile to speak. After some due thoughts he replied, “I didn’t have you”

Sanjana looked at Pranav, for her time and space seemed cease to exist. She was alone there, alone with Pranav. She was in different dimension, a dimension in which she hadn’t broken up with Pranav, and traveling in this dimension that she is here today, with him, as a his love. She wished this could be the everyday of their life. A distant voice broke her startled her, waking her up to the reality of today.

“You were lost, don’t you?”

“Yes, I was, those things, those things just weren’t real”

“What things, you seemed to be lost all of sudden”

“Me, you together, just wasn’t real”

“Could have being”

“Yes, it could, but it is not”

“Can it be now” Pranav asked expectantly.

“Can it be, its difficult, things are complicated now, there are much more responsibilities, much more duties, and do you think will it possible to appraise kids about our relationship, will they accept that, mine are in teenage, things would be militating for them and for the other one he can’t see me shared by anyone else. Pranav it is just not possible now.”

Pranav tried to grasp the meaning of the words spoken by her. Indeed, it is complicated to assure your teenage step-children that you are getting married, but it would be rather more difficult to appraise them with the fact that they knew each other. Any time they could easily point out that she married their father for money. They would stand no reason. Things would become more difficult then. And for her it would heartbreaking to see again her work going in down drain. And for him it would imply a greater change, his kids would get a mother, but can she share her motherhood under these circumstances. Frictions were bound to appear.

“Sanjana, Maybe, I could have been more persistent, I could have approached you “

“You could have asked but you were broken then”

“Pranav, whatever happened has happened, there is no point in clinging onto the past, we must move ahead now. We only have one life and we just cannot afford to make too many mistakes. I must go now; my children are waiting for me. I love you, but..” Sanjana looked at her children inside, they were in some talk, but occasionally anyone of them was looking at her. She waved her hand. “I must go now, good bye Pranav”

Pranav watched her going away, the same girl which went away twenty years ago. It was same place, but today there was difference. Things are clear now, the veil has being lifted. He took his drink towards his lips, and sipped.

“One life, only one, Sanjana, our love is a like a river separated at point never to reunite again. And in its course, it must water numerous fields before it ends up in the ocean. I am waiting for the ocean to come. I am waiting.” He gulped down the entire contents of his glass.

© Tarun Mitra

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Separated River: A love Story Part II

Part II

View from the other side

It was one of the longest wait she was had ever undertaken. Though she was prone to waiting for him, but today every minute was passing like a generation. Every seconds passed hurled at her thousands of thorns reminding what she is about to do. But she had already decided it, lock stock and barrel, and she will have to do it.

The place was brimming with activity. Heavy rains had lashed the place and weather was romantic, but she cannot allow herself to be moved by the weather. It was not just possible. Her head was heavy with the words she was going to use. Words she never used before him. Words, which she never thought even in her nightmares, that she would use. She had had them rehearsed a thousand time at her home, even after putting a heavy burden over her heart, she used them in his absence. But she knew it she won’t be able to speak them in front of him, no matter how many rehearsals she’d had done. These words just weren’t true.

She met Pranav at her college, but it wasn’t the case where the cupid had stuck at the first glance. But she noticed, as days passed, Pranav was different from other guys. He only wore few pair of dress and there no jeans in them. Unlike other guys, he never combed his hair in different styles; there was only one standard style, his hair pushed towards right. He only had one HMT watch. And unlike other, he kept thing mostly up to himself and whenever he talked, he only talked to the professors or few other guys sitting with him. But the more surprising thing about that she noticed that after college hour he never headed home, he goes to work. One could only find him after college hours at the library or at his work. She first crashed on him at the library, almost 3 months after she first noticed him. As she began to strike up a conversation, this shy guy first tried to avoid her invasive questions. But as days passed, he began to respond to her glances and hellos, and sooner she became his friend.

She knew that she has to do a hard work with him. He was talented but somehow muted. Sooner she discovered the cause when he told her about his family background, about the sacrifices he has to make, about the love he always craved. It took her some time, but she was able to convince him to come along with her and meet other people, to make friends to talk. Even though she knew that they both belong to different social strata, she promised herself that she will never make him ever realize this. The love, the attention she showered on him worked wonders on him. He got the dose the self-confidence which he desperately needed to have. When the college was over, the friendless Pranav had made more friends than his entire life, however he reserved a special place in heart for Sanjana, even if he knew he had to travel miles to become eligible for her.

After her college, her love for law wane away as she came to know she it wasn’t her piece of cake. Business ran to her bloodlines, and ultimately she has to join business. She told this to Pranav and he was dumbstruck, she can’t imagine facing another college without her. But she was able to convince him to continue, she gave him the confidence that he could face the world alone now, that he could now interrogate people. She convinced him that he could do it even while he is holding up his part time job. She assured him that she will meet him regularly, at the same place she was sitting now. Years passed and the meetings continued, and when the affection became love, nobody knew.

She checked her watch; she wished the time to stop. She wished the turmoil in which she was living in for last few days would sweep away her life. It is the time, she said to herself. But she just couldn’t bring herself to the fact about the words she is going to utter, and utter them convincingly, with a real devastating effect. She was feeling like an artist who has being asked to destroy his works. And then she saw him coming, coming with flower. A faint smile appeared in her face, weather was romantic, but her words weren’t. The smile disappeared in a whisker.

She was mechanical in delivering what she’d thought, the amount of rehearsal she did was still unable to make it dramatic. She was straight, direct and brutal. Within matters of minutes she was able to break down a relation that they spent years in making. She couldn’t stand the look in his eyes and she rushed out of the café. She knew that she would break down a single moment she stayed there or looked back, if it were some other guy he would have caught her folly, but Pranav was different, he was far too honest in relationships. She hid herself from his eyes; she wanted to capture the last glimpses of Pranav.

She saw a broken man; a man she knew once existed 8 years ago. The boy, rather than man, present in her college; a person who chose aloofness and alienation. It took a lot of hard work and patience to melt that that hesitant and re-mould him into a man. But now she can’t stand the sight of her what she’d done to her own work. She saw him looking at window display, it was a Music shop, and she knew what was displayed there. He was crying and so was she. She left for her car contemplating what make her life come to this point.

Her joining of business was not purely a choice resting upon her businesswoman veins. It was rather a necessity accentuated by the failure of her elder siblings, two sisters and a brother, at her father’s business. She could have easily afforded 3 years at law school but her father was in disarray. His elder children were not only spendthrift but also lack basic business acumen. Lastly, he’d to turn to her younger daughter to help him through. She was first placed in an outsourcing company where her father was a promoter; she rose in ranks and continued her MBA. And even with these entire preoccupations she was able to spare some time for Pranav who equally playing the jugglers act. But even with her salvation of her father’s company, dangers still lurked over his business. Her siblings, even after getting married and producing children, were useless and they were writing cheques, takings decision without even bothering of the implications of their actions; for which she paid a heavy price. She pulled her car in front of her bungalow.

Her family was waiting for her; everyone wore a look that was different from others. Her father was distraught, her brother tensed, her sister detached and her in-laws worried. She told them what happened and shut herself out in her room. But the voices that she heard from her closed doors she can make out what others felt. Her father went dumb, her brother was relieved, her sisters were jealous and whined and her in-laws were saddened. Her decision she knew would conceived multitude of emotions in her family. She hid her face in her hands.

She’d agreed to marry one of the creditors of her father’s business. The person was twice her age and has a son about her age. He was from the north of the city, and was one who is not called nouveau riche. The old money ensured that he always avoided publicity, even if he is an unrepentant Casanova. He promised her father that in case of him marrying her, he won’t bring forward the suit of foreclosure and insolvency against his companies, a decision which could wreck her family homeless. Her brother was undoubtedly relieved as he could still have the same standard of living, her sisters were jealous because the guy was very rich, for her in-laws it was the worse this little girl could more endure and for her father it was the hardest bargain he’ ever done. Within a week she married him in the local registrar.

The reception of her marriage was both opulent and sinful. As the night began to set in, sin began to accompany opulence, before anyone could know they became the sides of same coin. Men lasciviously threw money at semi-clad women. Women did the same with the young men available there for their entertainment. There were boys with boys and girls with girls. There were also few kids tucked away in the dark corners of the bungalow. She was in a world that she knew existed but she’d never been. But now it was choking her. She went to sleep, but she hoped it was only a bad dream.

© Tarun Mitra


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Separated River: A love Story Part I

Part I

The Betrayal

Betrayal was the last thing in his mind. But when she broke her decision to him, peppered with some trumped up accusations, he was torn apart. He’d never in his wildest thoughts had imagined that girl he loved so dearly would do this thing to him. He used to be shy and reticent guy, especially when it came to the matters involving either sex, and it was her who opened him up freeing him from the shackles of his wariness. But it was now herself only, who could plunge him back into his reticence.

It was a day in the month of August. The city has being almost inundated by heavy downpour; scent of wet soil and rattling of frogs were giving a great compliment to the seemingly cooler atmosphere. The sky was grey and was slowly setting into the evening. The city lights along with their reflections in small pounds created on the potholes and water droplets suspended on the window panes filled the void of created by absence of stars. Though the rain had thrown the traffic into a chaos; the cool breeze and twinkling lights only made the atmosphere more romantic. The haze, which engulfs the city most of the time, was conspicuous by its absence. The weather was clear and visible. It was in this serene setting when Sanjana asked Pranav to meet her at their usual place; a Self Service Cafe tucked in the middle of the District Shopping Centre, surrounded by the office complexes, in the western district of the city.

Questioning Sanjana was out of question for this 25 year old lawyer, after all she was the one who made him a man enough to ask questions, to grill a person black. He knew Sanjana for 8 years now. They first met at the college, they were in same course and both aspire to pursue law. He was just another below average person then, shy, reticent, and somewhat spineless. But somewhere inside of him there was a fire, a fire which was fueled by Sanjana. The fire which made him what he is today, a swashbuckling lawyer working in one of the best firm of the country. The fire, if not fueled, would have remained dormant making him just another lawyer in the street. Sanjana gave him what he craved for most love, attention and self-confidence. These were the things which were denied to him in his tender age. Things which his step-mother refused to give him. A void, which Sanjana filled after 10 years of his mother’s death. Their professional way parted when Sanjana opted to work for an outsourcing company; which her father, rich businessmen, advised. Nevertheless, she encouraged him to go in for the law; along with the part time job he was doing from his college days to fund his education. Though they never confessed their love for each other, they also never denied it. And whenever, he wanted to meet or she wanted to meet him, they started from the same place, the usual, the place first introduced to him by Sanjana. Earlier, he couldn’t afford anything there, it was Sanjana all the way, but now times have changed and so does he; he never let her bother for anything. He ordered flowers to be delivered to his office. He wanted to fill the wet day with the fragrance of flower, for his love. He can never question her, he can only love her.

The grimness on her face didn’t surprise him. She was under extreme work pressure for last few days. Although they met few times during last month, but it was their first meeting in two weeks. He gave her the flowers he ordered for her. He was dressed in his black trousers along with white shirt and black tie; he felt he is rather inappropriately dressed for the date. She was in her usual dress, a white top with jeans, she kept her beautiful long hair open and free. Though her face was grim and her sockets were showing signs of wrinkles, an imprint of extreme hard work, nevertheless her beauty can hardly be hidden from these small bumps. She didn’t apply any make-up, she never liked them anyway. The flower did produce a hint of smile in her face. He went to fetch their coffees.

The sky was dark outside, the wet pavement, cool breeze and lights of the complex were adding to the magic of the already beautiful atmosphere. The aroma of the freshly brewed coffee, the scent of the flowers and humming activity of the place were effectively eclipsing the effects of hot monotonous summer that had passed. There was more hot coffees than the cold one, there were more admiration of sky, more demand for window sitting than any other day. They sat in their usual window seat, overlooking the empty space in the middle, around which the building housed shops. There were iron benches and few barrows in the empty space, selling sugar candies, momos and other such knick-knacks to the students, lovers and office goers. Her face still had the grimness, he decided to talk.

“Hey! What is the matter? It seems the work is taking toll on you. Your eyes are receding into your sockets.”

“Nothing serious, just something here and there. You say, how are you doing?” She said, while stirring the sugar in her coffee.

“Hmm…Your face is grim today, and yesterday your voice had a tinge of sadness. Today, also there was some seriousness in your voice. Is everything fine?”

“Yes, everything is fine…Why are you repeating the same thing again and again.” She snapped back.

“Alright Alright!” He spoke trying to calm down the things.

They both looked outside the window, to the people outside gravitating to the magnetic force of mannequins and atmosphere. After few sips of coffee, she started.

“What were you doing with that lady yesterday at the café?” she said the word which almost appeared to be whispered.


“What were you doing with that lady yesterday at the café? After your office hours”

“Oh! Ms. Singh, she is a legal Director of one of our client, we were discussing her company’s case. The forex one I told you earlier which is keeping me busy these days. Quite a complicated one.”

“So meeting was necessary after the office, especially after the office”

“It was necessary, some filing to do, regulatory compliances you know. Could be done from the office. However, we were only two left in office and she insisted for some bites, so there we were. You were there, you should have joined us.”

“You were with her alone in the office”

“No, we left, as soon we were alone, why didn’t you join us then?”

“That is not the point here”

“Point! You need a point to poke me” he smiled.

“A day before yesterday you were dining with the same lady at the at the restaurant”

“Official function, I told you that day”

“But with the same girl. Whom are you fooling Pranav?”

“C’mon, stop pulling my leg. She is just a client, nothing more than that”

“You were going out with her regularly. Isn’t it something fishy between you two”

“Fishy! Are you fine, there is nothing; why should I hide anything from you? I tell you everything”

“Not your DATE”

“DATE…that was no date, just meeting and discussing business, that lady is engaged for god’s sake” Pranav still was unable to grasp the situation.

“Business meeting doesn’t involve fancy restaurant after office hours. It is only something must be going between you people. And you know that the old man she is engaged too”

“She is engaged to an old man?” he remarked trying to calm down the situation. This might be a very good prank, he thought.

“Look! Stop fooling me and double timing me. I know you people are in a relationship. I have seen you people myself in the café and restaurant.”

“Yes! On official meeting”

“Stop lying on my face Pranav, I also have proofs that you people are more than involved.”

“What? Are you accusing me of infidelity? C’mon girl. Look there is only one girl in my life and that one is you. Rest, are just friends or colleagues”

“So! There are rests? How many are there Pranav?”

“C’mon, you know our common friends and few are my colleagues and client. What is it with you today?”

“The question is not with me but with YOU? Why are you double timing me? Just simply say no if you are fulfilled with me”

“What! Fulfilled? Are you alright? Why in the hell I’d say no to you. You’re my everything; why are you digging up such stupid baseless accusations?”

“I am not digging up things, I have proofs” He tried to protest but she continued “and I am not suppose to answer you on these, I am not your wife”

“But you are my life”

“No, I am not, there are many others, and you know it much better than me. Look I didn’t came here to argue with you. I have observed your behavior for last few months and have concluded that you are behaving like an infidel, an unrepentant philanderer”

“Philanderer! What? But..”

“Don’t interrupt me and raise your voice. It is you who is at fault, you have hurt me”

“Just for going out for official lunch with a client!”

“I said don’t interrupt. Now listen carefully, I have came to a decision, it is not possible for me to continue with you anymore, I am breaking off, I think you have got yourself replaced by your own infidelity”

“What..Break off..” he lost his words. He was stunned. He turned ice cold.

“Yes, break off, I cannot continue like this anymore. Now I will be changing my numbers, don’t dare to call me or follow me to my home. I will expose you to the bar. You know and I know I can do it”

He was speechless. For the first time in many years he felt he has a loss for the words. This girl who gave him another life now was stabbing him from all fronts. Thoughts failed to cross his mind; her words kept ringing in his ears.

“I must go now, you are free. Do not dare to call me, I will be getting engaged to another man within few weeks. He might not be young, but he is rich and faithful. Good bye Pranav”

These were her last words. She snatched her purse and darted off the café.

Pranav sat there upright. He still hasn’t recovered from the shock he’d got. His whole life came crashing by before his very eyes. His eyes followed her. But she didn’t look back. Evening has given its way to the night; grey sky had turned blackish red. He gathered himself and walked out towards the empty space.

There were many people walking there, enjoying the best times of their life. Even though he saw his death in front of his eyes, breeze hadn’t died yet. As he walked through the empty space, with his eyes and mouth wide open, it started raining. Almost everyone ran for the cover, except him. His eyes turned towards Music stored, a poster was canvassing for the new DVD series of Charlie Chaplin movies; it read ‘I love to walk in rain as no one can see me crying”. Tears rolled down from his eyes, but the drops were not alone, they were lost with raindrops.

He walked slowly towards the parking. Life must go on, he said to himself.

© Tarun Mitra


PS: This is a three part story. Do leave your comments and expectations.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Khari Baoli- Old Delhi

This picture was taken on March 21, 2009 from the front of No15 Chawal Wala shop in Khari Baoli, Old Delhi. It is one of the few places where you can actually see the human traffic jam. With men, machine, bovines, canines and other nines battle it out for the limited space. It is main wholesale hub of grain and spices in Delhi. At the right side of this road, amongst the numerous shops lies Fatehpuri Masjid and at the left Old Delhi Railway Station. Unlike many other people me and my friend enjoy coming here, after all delicacies of Chandi Chowk are only nearby.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Lansdowne- Morning at Tip N Top

I craved for a picture of a rising sun. And it was satisfied in Lansdowne. I woke up early on a cold day to capture this picture. I must also thank my driver for keeping up with me in the morning.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Deepawali 2009

This picture was taken on the Day of Deepawali, October 18, 2009. It is not a just another skyshot, it is a multi-shot. Camera I used is Kodak Easyshare CX6200.

Maa Durga Yet again

I took this picture, the artist giving last touches to the Maa Durga, on day of Shasti, that was on September 24th, 2009 Thursday. It was on this day that was for the first time during the month I went out during the daytime for something not medical. Although, I was too weak at that time (I came back and crashed in my bed, I slept for at least 6 hours).

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Maa Durga

I know it is too late to post the pictures of Durga Puja but I am helpless. I was feeling lazy for last few days and added to the fact some other things I just couldn't put my ideas into action. Therefore breaking the post-less monotony I am posting the face snap of Maa Durga taken on the day of Navami September 27, 2009 Sunday at the Amra Sabai Bengali Association Puja at Vikaspuri New Delhi. As I was suffering from Jaundice then, I somehow managed to sneak out to the Puja only one time of the day and that too for few minutes. I was not able to stand the heat then. At that time Camera was working, but I was not.

PS: Why is it that Blogger is not linking the image with the picasa. Can anyone tell me how can it be done? I have not downloaded picasa at my PC. And it is really idiotic to upload same image twice to the web.