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Charu Vashishtha Gulati



Charu Vashishtha Gulati


Life Goes In A Circle

Life Goes In A Circle

19 mins 20.2K 19 mins 20.2K

Mahesh was born into a lower middle-class Brahmin family at Mujhera gaon, Muzzapharnagar district of Independent India. It was small but old village where majority of folks belonged to Muslim religion. The tombs of descendants of Sayyed Mahmud Khan (general in Akbar’s army who helped during the war with King Hemu) along side a Bawli, the structures which dated back to late 17th century as well as a few other Mughal Structures adorned the vicinity.

Mahesh was one of 6 children of Daya Chand Kapil, a clerk at Muzzapharnagar District Office. Daya Chand attached great importance to education of his children. It was the only way he thought they could free themselves from their meagre existence and step on the world of elite. Daya, himself was some kind of a scholar and was proficient in Urdu, English, Hindu and Sanskrit literature. Urdu, the official language in use, was also his favourite language. He enjoyed Urdu poetry. He was so much into writing in Urdu (though mostly official documentation) that he had to tell himself to take care while writing in English and Hindi, lest he started writing from right to left like Urdu. Like other kids of the time (1950s) he had sent Mahesh and his other sons to local madrasa for preliminary education and got them admitted to government school thereafter.

Mahesh was different from the rest of his siblings. He was blessed with an exceptional grasping power. He was able to comprehend the discussions on Hindu philosophies which were a part of the household discussions at a tender age of 3. He was a "thinking" being and spent hours contemplating. He thought a great deal of life, death, moksha (liberation) and reincarnation. He knew he was here for a purpose and the purpose was not limited to eating, drinking and ablutions, the mundane chores of daily life. There had to be a "higher" purpose.

Mahesh was once lost in local village fair. Finding himself in middle of nowhere, the 4 year old Mahesh did not take to crying. It was an opportunity for him to explore the world on his own. He walked confidently towards the village podium. A passerby took notice of the unaccompanied young boy and asked him his name. "Mahesh Chand Vidhata, The Great Kapil" was what Mahesh had replied. The passerby laughed at boy’s answer and then took a look at his face which was beaming with pride. The lad’s self determination was high. "The Great" was a title conferred upon the likes of Ashoka and Akhbar. The mighty rulers, who had served a great purpose and had effected millions. "Vidhata" meant the maker of destiny. Further inquiries about boy’s family and father led to his being deported safely back to his home. Apart from Mahesh being paid a warning not to break away from his siblings during future outings, no one paid much attention to the incident.

Mahesh was not content with the Hindu philosophies and mythological stories he had heard. He read and read anything he could lay his hands on including Novels, short-stories, regional literature. He delved into Greek Mythology, read the old and new testaments. Stories from the foreign lands specially attracted him. He studied in a Hindi medium government school but this did not deter him in reading advance English. With a dictionary in hand, he struggled hard to read the Shakespearean plays. But the charm of reading and discovering kept him going. The school library could not satiate his appetite and Mahesh knew had he could not afford to buy new books. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention and Mahesh devised his own ways to get reading material. Mahesh’s mother would often give him money buy groceries from a local store. He would however walk miles on foot to the Mandi (wholesale market) only to buy goods and vegetables at a wholesale rate and kept the money he saved. He used the money to get loaned books from a book keeper and returned the books the same day after devouring them. Mahesh also helped the neighbouring kids with homework in lieu of books from their collection. With too many books and too little time, he devised his own ingenious ways of speed reading. Mahesh had an analytical mind and coupled with a good comprehension ability he emerged as a bright student. He was good with Mathematics and Science and easily solved the problems his elder brothers who were his seniors at school were not able to solve. He had developed a good ear for music and movies intrigued him. When he would run short of money to watch a movie, he would stand outside the Talkies and "inquire" from the folks coming out during the "interval" if they wanted to give away their ticket for half the price to him so that he could watch the second half.

While Mahesh was busy discovering the beauty of literature, music and movies, his siblings where indulging in the outer world of pragmatism. They were busy interacting with common folks and carrying out daily business. Mahesh was however often lost in the word of plays, drama, emotions. His world was not limited to Mujahera and Muzzafarnagar. Mahesh usually kept to himself however since he was good in studies, which was the only thing important to Daya Chand and his wife, his parents did not trouble him much. They often cited Mahesh’s example to their other children. The respect Mahesh got from his parents and peers made him want to study harder. As he finished high school and entered intermediate the subjects had become more difficult. There was chemistry organic and inorganic, statics and dynamics in physics, calculus in mathematics. It was much easier for the fellow students who could afford tutors. But Mahesh was on his own, let alone thinking about hiring a tutor, Mahesh shared his monthly "wajifa" (scholarship) he obtained for topping the high school with his family to keep them going.

Mahesh studied hard, at times mugging the formula derivations and then working it out a several times before he understood the logic all by himself. It was like cracking a tough piece of riddle and enjoyed it. He did well and in due course of time completed his MSC in Applied Physics from Meerut University. He easily landed a teaching job at the University of Gurukul Kangdi, a few kilometres away from Roorkee. He lived as a Paying Guest at old orthodox widow’s place who would rent her place only to a Brahmin. She was fastidious and insisted on Mahesh taking off his chappals before he entered the premises. She served Mahesh well though, she cooked and cleaned for him. It was all unusually quite and peaceful. However, Mahesh was not at peace, he was afraid of his very comfortable life. Getting up in the morning, leaving for lectures, coming back in the evenings tired and hungry. The every day routine stifled his spirit. He yearned for challenges which would make him come alive. He yearned to find a cause to start his struggle all over again. During these days Mahesh attended a seminar at the University of Roorkee. Mahesh was very impressed with the facilities and Infrastructure at the Roorkee University. It seemed like another world to him. The physicists here were taking things to the next level. Computers were the next breakthrough. It was the world of coding and decoding. Mahesh came back and resigned from his job the very same day. With encouragement from his father he applied to Doctorate program Roorkee University and was soon living at sprawling Roorkee campus on a gracious scholarship.

The time at Roorkee was the golden period for Mahesh. He indulged in what he loved: Reading and Research. And he had no dearth of opportunities and had access to world class infrastructure and Library. We wrote research papers on Computing, dabbled with operating systems and networking and COBOL-74. It was new and bright world for him. He was getting paid to study, he was secure money wise. His brothers had started earning and were contributing to the family expenses, thus easing down the pressure on him. Albeit a few intellectual conflicts he had with his Phd guide, it was all fine. But then there was so much more to do. The Americans were making revisions to COBOL-74. Surely the computers would need networking. He completed this thesis but wanted to continue research work. But he could not carry it out all alone. He needed a group of knowledgeable folks. He needed more exposure. He started applied to foreign universities.

He started off with international journals and wrote to the authors of papers published in relevant genre. Some of them didn’t respond. A few did. A few replied back stating that they were still students. One response came up from the Queen's University Belfast, United Kingdom. His guide had written a glaring recommendation for him and they were eager to have him there. Another fellow student Dinesh from Roorkee University was already doing his Post-Doctoral studies there. He provided other references to him.

Mahesh was exited about moving to U.K. This is what he had dreamed about all his life, to explore the world on the other side. As exited as Mahesh was, he browsed through a lot of literature on England and Northern Ireland. Those were the times of reign of the two Iron Ladies, one at home (Indira Gandhi) and one at his destination (Margaret Thatcher). Times were as tumultuous at Belfast as they were back home during the emergency. The once peaceful capital of Northern Ireland was now a hot spot for tussle between the two sects of Christianity: Catholics and the Protestants. Bombing at public places were not uncommon. However, nothing could deter Mahesh's spirit. He was going to live his dreams and walk the un-trodden path. With excitement also came the fear of unknown. After all, he was only poor boy with modest upbringing. He did not know what clothes were fashionable at England, or whether people would make fun of his Indian accent English. Would a pure vegetarian like him survive in West? Nevertheless, Mahesh brushed these thoughts aside and geared for his journey.

He had saved enough for this one-way journey to England and well as to keep him going for a month. He had packed warm clothes, tailored shirts and pants. He packed basic groceries like rice, dal, atta (wheat flour), tea, enough to keep him going for a week, lest he was unable to find an Indian grocery store at Belfast. He had even got a hair cut for he had heard that barbers were expensive out there in west.

Folks back home were more than excited for Mahesh's foreign assignment. He was the very first of family to go abroad and it was a big deal. A mini van was hired and family, friends and relatives boarded it and made it to the Airport at Delhi to send Mahesh off.

At the Airport Mahesh got the shock of his life when he was told at the currency conversion counter that there was cap on the currency conversion and despite his bundle of Rupees, only 10-pound worth could be converted. Mahesh pocketed his 10 pound and tried to digest that he was flying aboard with only 10 pound in hand. Praying to have no more surprises, Mahesh got seated in the Indian Airway economy flight. The flight was all he had expected, until it made an emergency landing due to bad weather and landed him at Amsterdam. The passengers were granted a transit visa and were asked to look out for a place to spend the night. The next flight to London would start the next day. With 10 pound in hand Mahesh did not have much luck. He considered spending the night at the Airport but he was hungry and his stomach was churning. "Shouldn't the airline authorities help?

After all it was not his fault that his flight had taken an emergency landing. He was most definitely not prepared for it." Mahesh mused. He decided to talk the air plane staff and explained his scenario to them. He repeatedly stressed that he had all but 10 pound. With enough discussion, he was booked a roomed at one of the luxury hotels. The hotel was nothing like Mahesh had ever seen. The grand reception, chandeliers and generous buffet. Mahesh could make out that latter had all the delicacies set out, but all he could eat were potatoes. Boiled potatoes, mashed potatoes, baked potatoes and sauteed potatoes. After his meal Mahesh receded to his room. His room has a large king size bed, fine draperies and modern amenities. It seemed like a dream. He was in a foreign land, in luxurious surroundings, with all but 10 pound in his pocket.

Mahesh received a wake up call from reception at 4 am which enough him enough time to get ready and reached airport via a cab sponsored by the airline. Mahesh reached his destination Heathrow airport London. He was overwhelmed by the sudden feeling of epiphany. He had arrived and he would conquer. Yes he would start a breakthrough in the newly fledgling world of computing and computers.

At the Airport, Mahesh fared a taxi to reach his friend Dinesh's place who had recently moved to London from Belfast. Mahesh had already telegrammed Dinesh from Amsterdam and the latter was expecting Mahesh's arrival. Mahesh passed on the handwritten chit with Dinesh's address to the driver who asked for 9 pound as fare. "9 POUND ???? or is it 9 PENCE ??, for all I have is 10 POUND with me !" an exasperated Mahesh had exclaimed. The driver griamced and asked for 2 pound instead. Mahesh was dropped at the curb near Dinesh's home. Dinesh was standing nearby, waiting for Mahesh's arrival. Mahesh was relieved. He had reached his destination after starting with 10 pound in hand and still hand 8 pound intact. Dinesh's neighbourhood was a sight. The building complex stood tall and magnificent. It was in red brick and all the houses looked identical.

Dinesh already had a hot meal set up for Mahesh. Steam hot rice, dal, chappati and raita. A home cooked meal. It was divine. It was all Mahesh could ask for after the long journey. Dinesh was a happy chap. He had bagged a job in London after finishing his Phd. from University of Belfast. He was now setting up a base at London. He chalked out the weekend itinerary for Mahesh and took him to visit the nearby places: The Buckingham palace, the stonehenge, the Camber Sands Beach and mostly importantly: the district of South Hall. At the end of two days Dinesh graciously lent Mahesh a few pounds and Mahesh embarked upon the journey to Belfast.

Mahesh reached Liverpool via a bus and then took the journey through a small but delightful ferry. The lush winds kissed his face. It was divine. Once at Belfast, Mahesh reported straight to the Queen's Universities academic section. Queen's University reminded him a great deal about the UOR (University of Roorkee) campus. It was similar setup with pristine glory, a set up where building had characters.

Mahesh was increasing getting comfortable in his new surroundings. He figured out his Indian accent was not much of a deterrent provided he was able to explain himself. Accents were anyways different all-around England, the Scottish accent was different from how people sounded at Sussex, Americans sounded different so did the Irish.

He was okay living on bread, milk and cereals. On weekends he cooked himself a more elaborate meal. His fortnightly trips to south hall ensured that his pantry had Indian spices and groceries. He made a quite a few acquaintances but then he didn't have many friends. He bonded with Indian Community at Belfast and never missed any community dinners, festival celebrations or cultural programs.

Mahesh was shy with the girls. He had not known any except his sisters and sisters in law. Rita , a grad student lived next door and smiled at Mahesh often. At first Mahesh was perplexed at the sudden attention he received from the opposite sex but with time he realised that there was no anomaly. Everybody smiled at anybody at England. It was a smiling place. People where not shy to smile. It did not pass the wrong message. It did not mean you are desperate to please someone. It simply meant nothing. With time Mahesh returned those smiles to a few of the folks around including Rita. The smile exchange became casual hellos and chit chatting. Rita was the closest Mahesh had to a friend. He grew more comfortable in her presence. She would often inquire about India and expressed interest to go there sometime to which Mahesh would show childlike enthusiasm and she would laugh. Mahesh considered his friendship with Rita platonic, though from a different time and place, Rita matched his intellectual level and was her intellectual counterpart. However, the folks from Indian community had contradictory things to say about Rita. Some applauded her on her achievements (academic) , her friendliness while the others talked about her rather promiscuous lifestyle. She was a serial dater and hardly got into any lasting relationships. She was a heart-breaker. Mahesh rubbished their talk. For him Rita was Rita, the girl with the most genuine smile, the girl who knew computers and the girl with whom he could be himself.

However, it changed one night. That night a drunken Rita banged on Mahesh's door. Mahesh was opened the door to find a sloshed Rita. "What Happened Rita?"

"Oh nothing. Just let me in."

He let her in with a little reluctance.

"Maa-hesh, I have these."

The “these” were condoms of different brand.

Mahesh mustered some courage and said " You are drunk Rita. Let me drop you back."

Rita looked blankly at Mahesh and then flashed her smile. "Its okay Mahesh. Not that drunk. I will go by myself. Have a good night."

The next day it was still the over-smiling Rita. She acted if nothing had happened. However their equation had changed.

Mahesh grew cautious around Rita, his comfort level with her had taken a blow. He had started avoiding her but he also started feeling increasingly lonely. He need a friend, a partner to share himself with. He was getting just too preoccupied with himself and it was not good. He needed a little distraction. Mahesh decided it was time he got married.

Mahesh was a mini celebrity back in Mujjarpharnagar. He was the most eligible bachelor in Brahim samitii. Mahesh planned for bulk leaves and returned home with the intention of getting married and taking his better half back in Belfast. His parents arranged for him to meet a girl and her family. She was Reena, the beautiful girl with big eyes and a polite smile. She was pursuing her graduation in Fine Arts and was a district topper. Mahesh was taken with the innocent look and agreed to get married to her provided she was okay travelling abroad with him.

Post marriage, Mahesh experienced a sense of responsibility like he had never experienced before. He was now responsible for Reena's well being as well as his. She trusted him blindly. He felt possessive of her. Back at Queen's University Mahesh was increasing become disillusioned with his work. Was he a physicist? Was he a mathematician? Or was he a computer-man?

His mentor at the University asked him to delve more into the administration of the unix operating systems, look into the finer nuances of LAN (Local Area Network) but he wanted to stick to coding and decoding. On personal front Reena and Mahesh were still trying to understand each other and discover each others relevance in their lives. Things pushed a bit forward, when Reena declared that she was pregnant. The prospect of arrival of a child brought the couple closer. A baby girl was born to Reena and Mahesh and Mahesh named her Iti : "The beginning".

It was indeed a new beginning for him. He evaluated his options and decided to move his base back to India and live with family and chose a work which interested him. He wanted to be close to his family but live in a place which was elite, distinguished and would offer ample opportunities for his girl to grow into a fine woman. He chose Roorkee.

Back in the serene and peaceful town of Roorkee, he channelised his energy on grooming her daughter. She got her admitted to the best school into a town. A convent. He had made up his mind that his girl was not going to have a tough life like he did. She was going to have books of her choice at her disposal. She would learn foreign languages. She would never have to struggle with Maths and Science like he did. She would have the most dedicated couch ever which was Yours Truly, Dr Kapil.

Iti was an obedient little girl but who understood and tried to catch up with Mahesh's expectations. But despite Mahesh's efforts she was not an academic extraordinaire. Mahesh failed to see in her the fire that he had in himself as a young child. She was a rather dreamy creature who would live in a world of fantasy. He failed to understand that it was depravity which had fuelled his fire and that his girl was yet to discover her fire.

Mahesh did not give up but took it to himself to make something out of his little girl. He trained Iti in Calculus and Progressions at an age the other kids start understanding algebra. At 7th standard she could crack questions of standard 11th. She understood Physics and Chemistry concepts which went way beyond her school curriculum. She was a prodigy but she was also flawed. She had a good grasping power and understood things quickly but would forget them soon enough. She was quick but her brain had a low retention period. It was because she found the world of her imagination more enticing then the real world and often lose herself into it. Mahesh devised a scheme to have daily study notes revisions for Iti, in order to increase her memory retention.

On the whole the onus was on Mahesh, Iti never took the lead, she followed what Mahesh said. Mahesh tried ways to motivate Iti. He would look at her plan as a palmist would, and declare that there is a certain line her palm which shows that she is destined for greatness. He would tell her anecdotes about Laxmi Bai, Srinivasa Ramanujan, and Einstein to bring to bring home the point that to succeed you need to work hard.

"All of the people who ever succeeded," declared Mahesh "had a story, a story of hardships. Iti do you have a story?".

But Iti had none. She was brought up in a comfortable environment, bereft of any difficulties. She had not yet found her purpose. She had made his father's purpose, her cause. She was working hard bit it was not for herself but for her father.

Years of hard work Mahesh put in paid and Iti got into Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee, Mahesh's alma mater and one of the premier engineering institutes of India.

At IIT, Iti was on her own. With her new-found independence she picked up pieces of her life and tried to find herself. Iti had a drastic change is personality, Mahesh often mused. True, she still did not have the hunger for knowledge like he had. She was less than him. But she had a philosophical perspective towards life which was all encompass. She would accept whatever came her way without resisting the change like he would have. She was less than him but she was also more than him.

In her final year of graduation Iti declared that she would be pursuing further studies in “Creative Writing”.

“Creative Writing? What does that have to do with an engineer.” mused Mahesh.

But then who could ever crack the conundrum called life. Life is uncertainty. Life is a surprise exam. Yes.

And Mahesh agreed to give her daughter the wings she desired.

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