Monday, March 2, 2009



Throw it out of your system.
All the impurities, all that is base.
Purge your system of the carbon, of all that pollutes.
That’s it – again, now. Repeat. Once more. Carry on for fifteen minutes.

I’m talking about Bhasrika.
Oo – dat?
No one, sweetie! It’s a breathing technique.
Baba Ramdev has made it popular.
Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale.
Take in the goodness of nature. The pure air, the oxygen.
Huff – breathe in. puff – breathe out. Throw out your breath.
Breathe in the good, exhale the bad.
No, not that way – you gotta throw out the air when you breathe out.
Yes, that’s better.

The old lady sits in the park doing Bhasrika. She rewinds and replays the Baba’s instructions in her mind. Somehow they don’t seem to help. Her breath doesn’t seem to come right. Perhaps she should try a bit harder.
Pouf – breathe out.
Hrr-r-umph-ph – breathe in.
No, not that way, she thinks. Let me try again.
POUF –that sounds better.
HRR-R-UMPH-PH. Even better.
She is satisfied.
Sitting on a bench in a children’s park, she tries to discover hidden energies within herself in the gathering gloom.
She feels the knots unknotting in her brain. The mind loosening up. The body relaxing.

She has her eyes shut but the inner eye is wide open. Her mind is detached in space and time but her ears are attuned to the myriad sounds of the park. The chatter of the birds in the trees, readying for the night. The occasional giggle and murmur of a couple on a bench behind the bush. The snatches of conversation floating with the wind – passersby chatting as they take a walk. A couple of kids in the distance, playing with their dog. The regular turning of bicycle wheels as they as they go past her.

Bikes in the park? She wonders. Some kid perhaps. Oh, yes, she can hear the scratch of supporting wheels on the concrete pathway – it’s probably a kid’s bike.

The sound of the bike comes nearer as she huffs and puffs. It slows down just in front of her, then moves on. Almost reluctantly.


Through her noisy breathing she can hear the bicycle wheels coming to a halt. A pause, then the sound of movement again in a reverse direction. The kid returning, perhaps.


The wheels slow down and grate to a halt in just in front of her bench. She registers it all but continues her noisy breathing.

Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale.
Take in the goodness of nature. The pure air, the oxygen.
Huff – breathe in. puff – breathe out. Throw out your breath.
Breathe in the good, exhale the bad.

A gradual stillness descends on the park.
The birds stop twittering in the trees.
The excited chatter of kids, the playful barking of dogs – all that peters down as a hush takes over. A kind of hush – she remembers the old song – all over the land tonight….

She remembers days of her youth. A brown-haired young man on a mo’bike singing this for her.
She smiles through the Bhasrika.

Whatever happened to Yankee Doodle as he was called? The last she saw him he had a bald pate and a humongous beer-belly. And she had caught him in hilarious situation.

She was returning from the sabzi mandi, when she had heard a commotion behind her. Turning with curiosity she had spotted a huge man trying to shoo off a cow eating spinach out of his shopping basket. He was running, trying to dodge the cow but the cow was adamant, had her head buried in his basket and was making a meal of the fresh green leaves. The man was shouting, trying to run from the animal but the cow, nose-in-basket, was trotting along happily after him. A cheering crowd had gathered on the roadsides.


She is still doing Bhasrika. Her eyes are still shut but her smiles turn into laughter and she starts giggling. Then laughter overpowers her and she begins to laugh.
Slowly at first, then louder. And louder.

She still has her eyes shut.

Let me concentrate on Bhasrika, she thinks.

The park is now enveloped in stillness. It must be late. She is tired, perhaps she should go home.

She opens her eyes slowly, rubs them and looks towards the sky. Yes, it has darkened.
She looks around and finds herself staring straight into eyes rounded with innocent astonishment.

A midget-sized boy on a kid’s cycle is standing right in front of her. Apparently he has been there for a while. He has incredulity writ large on his face. His eyes are the size of saucers, his mouth wide open. What is the old aunty doing? is the unasked, unspoken question.

She returns his unflinching gaze. He shows no response.

She smiles. He still remains frozen. Like a statue. Eyes unblinking, mouth wide open, one foot on the pedal.

“Hello,” she says, leans forward and holds out her hand.

The boy suddenly seems to come to life. He blinks, lets out a scream, turns his bike around and flees.

She wonders what the matter is. Has he seen a ghost? A gargoyle? A phantom?
Tut, tut! She shakes her head disapprovingly, these kids are brought up on too many horror stories these days. His imagination is probably running wild.

She gets up from the bench and begins walking towards the exit gate of the park. It has been a nice peaceful evening and she is satisfied that now she has mastered the art of Bhasrika.

The little boy, meanwhile, has fled at top speed, without looking back even once. He has a story to tell his friend, Bunty, when he gets home. This time it is a real-life story of how he saw the old aunty from the neighborhood in the park.
The old aunty and how she seemed to be sleeping as she sat on the bench.
And while sleeping, how she made noises like the noises their Maruti 800 makes when it refuses to start on a cold wintry day.
And how she could even puff like a railway engine.
And smile and laugh all by herself.
And how she tried to call him – may be she wanted to catch him.
What if she had indeed caught him?
Would she then have taken him home, cut him up into small pies and cooked him for her meal?

Grown-ups are so wierd, Bunty, so frightening. If you promise not to tell anyone I’ll take you with me to the park. May be she will come again. Then we can hide behind the tree and watch her.

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