Memories of the Clouds

I have very few memories from when I was very young. Still some moments are strongly etched in my mind.

When I was couple of years old, my grandfather, whom I remember wearing only white garb, used to carry me on his shoulders, walk couple of miles and to take me to a local potter who made toys out of clay. These toys were molded by hand and painted in the shapes of animals – parrots, dogs, lions, cats, or rabbits. All the toys were painted in bright colors, like reds, blues, yellow, orange, green or black. They would capture my imagination at that age.

Bapu ji, as I fondly called my grandfather, would get me a new toy, and then we would walk back home. The toy, being made from clay, would invariably break within couple of days and he would take me back to get a new one. So this small journey would happen every week.

Time would fly while riding his shoulders, listening to him humming a hymn, the periodic rhythm of his gait, and desire of getting a new toy. We would reach the potter, and I used to choose one of the toy animals. As much as the journey to the potter would be filled with excitement of getting a new toy, the journey walking back home used to be filled with happiness of holding it in my hand.

My eyes would look up in the skies, and I would try to find a cloud, shaped like the toy I just got. As soon as I would find some decipherable shape, I would point to the cloud and shout “Bapu ji, look there is a cat”. He would stop, shade his eyes using his wrinkled hand, and look up. He always agreed with me on the shape of the cloud. He would then tickle my feet, break my gaze from the sky and start to walk again, as I would giggle with tickles.

As I got older and heavier, he would hold my hand, so I could walk along. The moment I would step out of the house, I used to tell him that I would get tired. He would implore me to walk a little further, till the end of the street, where he would promise to pick me up. As we would reach there, he would ask me to go a little further. Humming hymns, pointing to new shapes of the clouds, he would keep me distracted from not feeling tired. Before I knew it, I would have a new toy in my hand, and I would pull on his hand making him go faster. Hopping, skipping, pulling on his hand, he never let go of my hand. We would keep looking for new shapes in the skies.

Summers were hot, so we would sleep on the terraces. The sun would wind down, bringing in a cooler dusk. The sky would get shades of orange, red and purple. I would lie down on the terrace with my parents, or grandparents, or uncles, or aunts, or cousins, and watch those clouds as they float by. Constant changing clouds would result in innocent arguments about their shapes. I would call some shape a horse; my cousin would say that it is a dog. The wind would melt away the white elephant before my aunt would make out its trunk or tail. And sometimes the rain clouds would appear and start pouring as everyone would rush downstairs.

While lying under the skies, I would slip into the dreams of floating with the clouds. I would never know when my father carried me to my bed on the terrace, or when my mother would tuck me in. The bird calls at the break of dawn and my mom’s calling would wake me up. The slanting rays of the sun would hit the eyes. Through peeking eyelids, the white and grey clouds would be floating against yellow or red sky.

Maybe these memories are the reason that every camera that I have ever owned, seem to turn itself up to the heavens. I am still looking for those shapes in the clouds that I used to as a kid. The blue skies seem so far away, yet it seems like so close. It carries all the memories from my childhood in its vastness – of people who were, people who are; for the people who will be.

All I have to do is just reach out.

Jatinder PS Nagi
May 25, 2012

Does the Universe talk back to you?

A good man once told me stories of two people and how they handle life’s problems, and decisions.

One of them prays and there is a method to his praying. While standing on a crossroads of a difficult decision in life, this person would turn his attention to God. He lights a candle, writes his problem on a small piece of paper, prays to get an answer, and then burns the piece of paper in the flame of that candle. In doing so, this person feels he is connecting to God and the rising smoke from burning this candle is taking his problem up to someone who will show him the way. As the smoke rises, he clears his mind of the problem, and waits for an answer or sign from Him. And every time, he has been given the answer or gets a sign from God, and feels that He has never been let down.

The second person the good man met, uses similar technique in resolving and facing his life’s problems. This person, sits down and quiets his mind – a sort of meditative state, if you may. While in this state, he thinks about the decision or the problem he is facing in life, and imagines himself standing on a beach. Then he makes a snowball of the problem, (or wraps his problem inside a snowball). With the full force, he then throws the snowball of his problem in the ocean, and watches it melt away as it is floating away from him. After a while, he starts to see the solution to his problem present itself. Our second person too feels that he has never been let down.

The good man met these people at different places and in different times of their lives. What makes this most interesting is the fact that the first person is a devout Christian, and the second is an Atheist. However, in both cases, you can see that there is a similarity in the way they approach a problem or decision in their lives. They both take their problems, and separate themselves from the problem. In the first case, writing the problem on a piece of paper is a way to take the problem out of your system. In the second case, the person imagines, in a quieted state, that he is taking his problem out of his mind and wrapping it in a snowball. Then they both send their problem to someone that they feel will provide help with an answer – towards God, or towards the world or universe, and wait for the solution to present itself.

Our good man heard these stories years apart of each other. He felt overwhelmed (and a bit freaked out) when he heard a totally different second person talk couple of weeks after the first one.

When I heard these stories, they seemed interesting to me. After listening to the two stories, I felt that our second person is not a religious person, but he sure is spiritual. He feels or believes in the existence of a higher being or the universe. I feel that in both cases the answers are inside a person. However, a lot of times we are emotionally compromised, or we are emotionally invested in a problem that we do not see the answer. In these stories, I heard that both people would separate themselves from the problem or a decision, and they can objectively make a better, informed decisions, and thus never been let down.

The key to making a better decision then seems to be looking at the problem objectively. And the universe will talk back to you.

Jatinder PS Nagi
May 6, 2012

Happiness Quotient

We have all met folks that are just amazingly happy, and others that are downright unhappy regarding who and where they are. Almost 7 months back, I was talking to a person, and he was ecstatic with where he was in his life. The positive vibes that danced in his eyes were infectious. Something clicked in my mind, and I started to take note of people I meet and myself to how happy they are. I decided to find that “Happiness Quotient” for (most of) us.

I have many ideas that are directly borrowed from my life – both personal and professional. Now that I feel is a very one sided story (mine), so I am reaching out to all of you.

I have put together a set of questions for you that will take 5-10 minutes of your time.  I will not ask you name, gender, your address, or even your email. What I do ask is if you are happy or unhappy. What makes you happy or unhappy. I have some optional introspective questions to see how well you know yourself – share why does a thing or a person makes you feel – do you flutter your eyes or do those red horns come out.

At the end of the survey, there is an option to provide me your email. If you do not provide your email, your response may be used anonymously. (Yes, I will make no attempts to find out who you are). If you want your responses to be used with your first name in the final article, then you can provide your email. I may have to contact you to get more details, and I will confirm that you are allowing us to use your name if we find your answers are fit.

So click away people.

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BYGHQ37

PS. A lot of folks have mentioned that the questions are very vague. I have made them vague.
You can answer quickly or you can think a bit more.

Enjoy Fuzziness …

Audible Frontiers did a shared universe stories called METAtropolis with John as one of the authors and the editor of the anthology. That was my first encounter with John’s writing and I enjoyed it. So when Powells Books announced John’s visit to their bookstore, I was there.

He was amazing, as I have already mentioned in this piece here.

John was on the tour of promoting his new book Fuzzy Nation, which is rebooting of H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy. I finally got to the book last night (I have a long reading list).

The story is retelling of the 1962 tale, so overall the story has classic Sci-Fi written all over it. Jack Holloway, a debarred lawyer, is a loner. He works as a contractor for an “evil” mining corporation that generally mine on planets across the galaxy, till the planet has nothing to offer. The mining company, by law, can only mine on the planets which do not have sentient life forms. Jack is on the verge of becoming very rich since he helped discover the largest mine of the rare gemstones on any planet. He has also discovered a new sort of “animals” on the planet (which Jack names Fuzzy). This poses a threat to the company who will not be allowed to mine, if proven that these beings are “people” (natives). Jack undergoes an ethical crisis.

The story take a legal turn and the battle between three parties – Jack who wants to get rich, the Biologist community who are excited about this new discovery (who are employed by the company) and want to study these new species, and the future CEO of the company, who wants to stall the legal battle and get the minerals out before anyone can sneeze & to prove to everyone that he is ready to take over the company.

And in this tussle, is suspended the fate of the Fuzzies, that no one has yet decided if they are “animals” or “people”.

A gripping story of legal drama, action, emotions, in an all updated Sci-Fi classic.
Fuzzy Nation is one of those books which I finished in a single sitting in a long time. I generally take my time, and finish the book in couple of days.
Fuzzy Nation was something that gripped me right from chapter 1 and 3.5 hours later, I was done. I could not put it down. The flow of the story maintains the pace, and subtle twists and turns keep the reader guessing.

Audible.com released the audio for the book read by Wil Wheaton, who does an amazing job. After finishing the book, I realized, there is no one else who could have read it better.
Audible book also includes the original H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy.

I never read H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy. And after reading Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi, which is a sort of rebooting the series, I think I should have (maybe I will listen to it on the audiobook).

A great book, I highly recommend this to anyone – Sci-Fi lover or not.

Check out John Scalzi’s Blog – Whatever.

JPS Nagi
July 2011

Humne to Nisaar Kar Diya Dil (Here I offer my heart)

Hum ne to nisaar kar diya dil,
Ab jane woh shokh, yaa na jaane.

Here I offer my heart to her,
To accept or say no is upto my sweet.
[Hasrat Mohani]

This was the ibteda (beginning) of my love. A new phase of my life, back then; I felt that it would decide my fate. If my heart is accepted, then aafreen, otherwise my name will join the list of aashiqs whose love story ended before it ever began.

I have lost the count of days since I first saw her. It must have been years and years, I believe. I still remember when I saw that beauteous face for the first time. And all I could say was,

Aap ko dekh kar dekhta rah gaya,
Kya kahoon aur kahne ko kya rah gaya.

I saw you and couldn’t take my eyes off,
What other words can describe your beauty.
[Aziz Qaisi]

I have no words to tell you how beautiful she is. Her glowing face, her long raven tresses, her honey dripping voice, her graceful gait like a gazelle, and her hazel eyes.

Yeh jafaaen gham ka chara, woh nijaat-e-dil ka aalam,
Tera husn dast-e-isah, teri yaad rooh-e-mariam.
Teri deed se siwa hai tere shauq mein bahaaran,
Woh zamin jahaan giri thi tere gaissuon ki shabnam.
Yeh ajab qayaamaten hain teri rahguzr mein guzraan,
Na hua ke mar miten hum, na hua ke ji uthe hum.

This cures oppressive griefs, that delivers the heart,
Your beauty is the hand of Christ, your memory Merriam’s face.
More beauteous than you is the love awakened earth,
Fertilized by dew of your fragrant lochs.
Strange are the calamities in the path of love,
Nor we have will to live, nor the strength to die.
[Faiz Ahmed Faiz]

And not to forget those ruby red lips,

Gharq-e-shaqar hue hain kaam-o-zabaan,
Jab liya hun main nam tuj lab ka.

My palate and tongue get honey drenched,
Whensoever I mention your lips.
[Wali Mohd. Wali]

And in this way my infatuation began. A strange feeling was all over me,

Dil-e-nadaan tujhe hua kya hai?
Aakhir is dard ki dawa kya hai?
Mai bhi munh mein zabaan rakhta hun,
Kaash puchho ke mudda kya hai?

What ails thee, my silly heart?
What balm for your ache, at last?
I too have a tongue, I too can speak,
Would that you ask, what I crave?
[Asadullah Khan Ghalib]

I was surrounded by her. She was in my dreams. She still is. I was restless. I started looking forward to seeing her each day; Wali has rightly said,

Dekhna har subah tujh rukhsaar ka,
Hai mutaala matlai-anwaar ka.
Subah tera daras paya tha sanam,
Shauq-e-dil muhtaaj hai taqraar ka.

To see your face every morn,
Is to see the glorious flush of dawn.
I saw you just this morning, Love,
Lo, my heart yearns again.
[Wali Mohd. Wali]

One is highly intoxicated when in love. Radiance of light of love spreads its aura all around you. Iqbal farmaate hain,

Anokhi waza hai saare zamaane se niraale hain,
Yeh aashiq kaunsi basti ke yaarab rahne waale hain.

Strange are their looks, out-of-this world they seem!
Wherefrom, O Lord, do these lovers spring?
[Sir Mohd. Iqbal]

I then thought of expressing myself. And thanks to the “Benevolent Lord of the Three Worlds” who arranged that also,

Baam par aane lage woh, samna hone laga,
Ab to izhaar-e-mohabbat barmila hone laga.

She now comes on roof top, face to face we stand,
Love is now proclaimed without least reserve.
[Hasrat Mohani]

But these encounters were unable to put my restless heart to rest. I then pumped all my blood into my heart and approached her, one day. I stopped her. She stopped. Smiled. I opened my mouth and ark! nothing came out of it. Them I stammered & stuttered. Her beautiful radiant face and equally beautiful smile had left me speechless. And before she left, all I could think was,

Mere dil ko kiya be-khud teri ankhion ne aakhir kon,
Ke jion be-hosh karti hai sharaab, ahista, ahista.

Your eyes,at last, have entranced my heart,
As wine benumbs our wits, step by step.
[Wali Mohd. Wali]

And all I could see was a drop of sweat, from her tresses trickled on her cheek and lo, how wondrous to see sun splashed over with dew. She again smiled and ran away. I stood there. Standing there. Still. And I told myself,

Ibtadaae ishq hai, rota hai kya,
Aage aage dekhiye hota hai kya.

It’s only the beginning, why dost thou groan?
O, wait and see what happens as you onwards move.
[Mir Taqi Mir]

I was captured by the long and deadly roots of love. More I tried to free myself, more I got entangled in them,

Yaad karna har ghari us yaar ka,
Hai wazifaa mujh dil-e-bimaar ka,
Aakbat kya howega maalum nahin,
Dil hua mubtla dildaar ka.

Remembering my Love all the time,
Is all the prayer my sick heart knows,
I know not how its going to end,
I’ve lost my heart to my sweet heart.
[Wali Mohd. Wali]

I was then avoided, tracks, streets, bazaars, changed on seeing me. I was sad,

Muddat hui sajan ne dikhaya nahin jamaal,
Dikhla apas ke kad kon kiya nahin nihaal.

For long hasn’t my Love shown her beauteous face,
Nor with her stately presence uplifted my state.
[Wali Mohd. Wali]

And I wailed,

Husn-e-be parwah ko khud bin-o-khud aara kar diya,
Kya kiya maine ke izhaare tamanna kar diya.

Beauty self-oblivious has turned self- aware,
O, why at all did I express my heart’s desire?
[Hasrat Mohani]

The days were tiring; the nights long,

Tum aae ho na shab-e-intzaar guzri hai,
Talaash mein sahar baar baar guzri hai.
Woh baat saare fasaane mein jiska zikar na tha,
Woh baat unko bahut nagawaar guzri hai.
Na gul khile hain, na unse mile hain, na mai pi hai,
Ajib rang mein ab ke bahaar guzri hai.

You haven’t come, nor has the night of waiting gone,
Looking for you the morn has called again & again.
What did not even figure in the tale entire,
To that he has taken very grave offence.
No flames, no wine, no sight of my friend,
In what queer way we’ve spent this spring.
[Faiz Ahmed Faiz]

Nobody heard my cry, but nothingness. All words were lost there. Days passed. Months passed. And even did the years. Nothing was exchanged between us. There was vast, immense, dark and dead silence. My heart was crushed, that was the first time I realized it.

Tujhiko jo yaan jalwa farma na dekha,
Baraabar hai duniya ko dekha na dekha.
Mera Guncha-e-dil hai woh dil grifta,
Ke jis ko kaso ne kabhi wa na dekha.
Aziat, musibat,malaamat, balaaen,
Tere ishq mein hum ne kya kya na dekha?
Kiya mujh ko daaghon ne sarv-e-chiraaghan,
Kabhi tune aakar tamaasha na dekha.

If here we see thee not immanent in thy grace,
What use then, our earthly pilgrimage?
My heart is such a crumpled bud,
None has ever seen it bloom.
Trouble, torture, reproach, disaster,
What all haven’t I suffered in love?
The scars within have set me ablaze,
Alas, you haven’t seen this sight.
[Khwaja Mir Dard]

I had initiated. She had taken a step back. So I coiled all my feelings around myself. Meetings became scanty. On those rare occasions when we used to see each other, I would often think,

Roya karenge aap bhi pahron isi tarah,
Atka kahin jo aapka dil bhi meri tarah.

You too shall weep for hours on end, if your
Heart, like mine, somewhere gets entwined.
[Momin Khan Momin]

Then the sky fell down on my head. She was in love with someone else. The sky had fallen over my head. The world must have reached qayaamat (end of the world). But, I could spare a smile for her,

Donon jahaan teri mohabbat mein haar ke,
Woh jaa raha hai koi shab-e-gham guzaar ke.
Bhule se muskra to diye hum aaj Faiz,
Mat puchh walwale dil-e-naakarda kaar ke.

Having lost both worlds in the game of love,
There goes lonesome man, ending his night in grief.
Today, Faiz, unawares you chanced to give a smile,
O what a swell and surge within my powerless heart.
[Faiz Ahmed Faiz]

Once, when I met her, I told her,

Mera ji hai jab tak, teri justju hai,
Zabaan jab talak hai, yehi guftgu hai,
Tamanna hai teri, agar hai tamanna,
Teri aarzoo hai, agar aarzoo hai.

Your quest is my objective, as long as I live,
Of you alone I talk, while I have a tongue,
For you alone I yearn, if yearn at all,
You are my desire, if I harbour one.
[Khwaja Mir Dard]

And I was reminded of Ghalib’s great ghazal,

Hazaaron khwaaeshen aisi ke har khwahish pe dam nikle,
Bahut nikle mere armaan, lekin phir bhi kam nikle.
Nikalna khuld se adam ka sunte aaye the lekin,
Bahut be-aabroo ho kar tere kuche se hum nikle.

Thousand of desires tantalizing one and all,
Many a wish have I realized; yet I yearn for more.
Oft have we heard about Adam’s exile from Eden,
Humiliating much more was my exit from your door.
[Asadullah Khan Ghalib]

And, with what else can I end but,

Hum parwarsh-e-loh-o-qalam karte rahenge,
Jo dil pe guzarti hai raqam karte rahenge.
Ek tarz-e-taghaaful hai so woh unko mubarak,
Ek tarz-e-tamanna hai so hum karte rahenge.

We’ll keep on plying the pen on the page,
Record shall we the tale of our heart.
A style of indifference will be her way,
A style of submission will be our creed.
[Faiz Ahmed Faiz]

April 1995/ (revisited) May 1997

Copyright JPS Nagi.

The English translation of the Urdu poetry is taken from the book “Masterpieces of Urdu Ghazals” by K.C. Kanda, Sterling Press, India. This was the first piece of writing I put together. I was under many spells, one of them being the Urdu poetry.

Richard Bach & Me (and her)

What if space shifted and time bent and we could meet ourselves as we’ll be twenty years from now? What if we could talk face-to-face with the people we were in the past, with the people we are in the parallel lifetimes, in alternate worlds? What would we tell them, and what would we ask? How would we change if we knew what waits beyond space and time?


Heavy? Don’t worry, I’ll lighten everything up. The last time I wrote was when I fell in love … … with ‘a book’ … … and that too of philosophy of Plato. And my friend Mols, he wrote recently to me, saying so. My falling in and out of love is a story that stretches far back in time. I fell in love couple of times and (luckily) fallen out of it till I found Gitanjali.

Anyway, flashback. I recall one incident on the time-line during which my heart would skip a beat on seeing her. She was (and is) somewhat of a whizz-kid.

The settings this time are shifted to the beautiful and serene Chandigarh. And that’s here that I fell in love for the second time (yes, it was my second crush). The city is beautiful, the climate – just right and she was absolutely stunning. What else is required? … … Richard Bach? … …

Did I hear someone mention a name that sounded like some classical music composer of olden times whom my friend Misha would very often impress upon me to listen? And what the hell was this Richard Bach doing in my private and personal love story? Well, he was there. No way out of it and no denying of it. Richard Bach. The lines in the beginning of this piece are by him.

I was studying in the local engineering school and she was there too. my junior (I hope everybody has guessed her by now). I fell in love with her, not at the first sight or first bite (as my good friend Mols would put it). But this happened over time, with some encouragement from Mols and other. she was his classmate. Slowly and steadily, the poison of love entered my thought my heart and into my head. “What a girl!”

Lets skip some details of how I got to know her and all the stuff I did to make her notice me which she did, we’ll go directly to one incident of me with her. So flash-forward a little.

I was sitting with her at her place, and we started talking about books (Oh my God! Save me.). I became an avid reader after that encounter, but at that time I would say I was … not a great reader and was likely not very comfortable discussing about them books. But anything for her.

“Do you read?”, she asked. What a question. Of course I read. I did my schooling in a British Convent School, and yes ma’am I do read.

“Yeah.”

“What do you prefer in fiction?”, now wait a minute, what is fiction … … my mind was running its horses; fiction … fiction … yes – stories.

“I prefer pulp.” In my mind I silently thanked Quentin Tarantino for making Pulp Fiction. If many of you have not guessed, I’m a movie-buff too.

“Do you? What all authors have you read?”

“I don’t read much. I prefer music and movies. But sometimes I read. I’ll tell you about the first novel I read (apart from my school). That was Sidney Sheldon’s If Tomorrow Comes. One of our family friends suggested it.”

“So you like Sheldon in pulp?” Hmmm. OK, so Sheldon writes pulp … …

“Yeah.”

“Sonu, I’ve read many authors and many styles. Now I would like to read philosophy and some more meaningful writings. Have you heard of Richard Bach.”

That was the first time in my life I heard about Richard Bach. Who was this Bach. Misha would often come to my hostel and put Johanne Sebastian Bach’s compositions at very high volume … boring the hell out of all of us. But same man cannot be a philosophical or meaningful writer and a great composer at the same time (or could be, you never know). Richard must be someone else.

“Yeah.” I was trying to be ecstatic, “Richard Bach. O my God! You should have told me; rather we should have talked about him earlier. Do you know my father reads a lot and Richard Bach is one of his favorite authors? Do you know that he has all of his famous books? I think 5 or 6 of them. But personally I would have skipped though 1 or 2, but his writing do not impress me much. Actually, I am more practical, so I prefer staying away from all that needs brains.” I was trying everything to win her.

Now that I have made an easy way out of all the discussions that I could have gotten myself into, I’ll tell you about my father. Well he reads a lot … he reads jokes, newspapers and his immense collection of advanced calculus books. If you would ask him, he would say who is Richard Bach. He is all logic and no philosophy. He doesn’t even know if a man with such a name ever existed.

“O really? Do you have all the Bach? Well that’s wonderful. Have you read Jonathon Livingstone Seagull? Oh, I have read it long time back. It’s beautiful!”

Jonathon Livingstone Seagull? Now what is this? Must be some seagull.

“Oh yeah, it’s different. Unlike many stories we read in our day to day lives.” This is the most appropriate answer. For those articulate people who are very good in discussion, I think they would understand that at this point I must give discussion a new turn.

“Yes Sonu, this small book really makes a difference in one’s life. After reading the book, one thing has become pretty clear in my mind, we are not here for mere earning our bread and butter. Life is all about exploring new heights, think about them till you reel under the pressure, dream about them and nurture them.”

God help me.

“I read it long time back. So I never perceived it like that. Would you like to read it? I can get it to you.” Let’s get out of this seagull business, I was thinking myself.
“I can get you the book. I have it in Amritsar.”

“Can you?” there was twinkle in the eye and a beautiful smile on the face. I could have done anything at that time.

“Sure. But its in Amritsar. Rather, I’ll get all his books, next time I’ll go to Amritsar. You can read them all.”

“Oh thank you, Sonu. That’s so nice of you”. Oh yes, I am nice.

And henceforth this man … … what’s his name – Richard Bach came to my life.

Well I stayed for some time and had some pakoras (fried fritters) with her while I was being given this dhobi patkaa about Richard Bach. Before taking leave, I promised her that next time I’ll go to Amritsar, I’ll get all of Bachs.

It was 4’o clock in the afternoon when I left her place and it was Thursday. On my way back, I stopped in Sector 17 at Capital Book Depot. My friend Ajay’s dad is the owner of that shop (he became my friend after this Bach). I went to him and asked for Bach … Richard Bach. He looked at me from head to toe (“Don’t I look like one of those Richard Bach guys?”).

He showed me to the shelf and I could see was a rack in front of me with all the Bach. He suggested Kahlil Gibran, if I was about to start with this kind of writings but I told him that I’d buy only Bach. He went away and I counted that six of the titles of this author were lying there. I brought all the six of them on the counter and asked Ajay for the price of all. He said they’d all cost me around Rs 800. And I had none in my pocket. I told him that I have no money with me but I would like to buy all of these tomorrow and he can keep a set aside for me. He said that would be no problem at all and that I can come anytime to buy them.

Now to arrange 800 Rupees. In the evening, my parents called (they used to call me everyday, even today they call me almost everyday) and I told them that I was out of money and needed to pay some hostel dues and I also need to buy few books. My father never questioned me about money. He said that I can collect the money from the driver of a local bus service (Maharaja Travels) that runs between Amritsar and Chandigarh. Wonderful. The very next day around half past 10, I got the money. Two thousand rupees.

Hit Capital Book Depot. Ajay recognized me, I think it was easy for him since I was wearing the same clothes that I was wearing the day before. He was surprised that I have come back for Bach. Many people do not turn out after they have asked the bookseller to keep some books aside for them. I bought the books, made the payments. That’s when Ajay and me came to know each other. I have bought many books after that from him.

Over the weekend, I read Jonathan Livingston Seagull, One, There’s No Such Place As Far Away. So now I knew who is Richard Bach. Then I started with Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah and then later after 3 days I started with Biplane. Well I was through with five of his books. And then the one that remained was The Bridge Across Forever: A Love Story. On Friday Misha came. Misha’s eyes twinkled at the sight of these books. He saw all the books lying scattered in my room. His expression was of a clown who gets struck by a baseball (or cricket) bat and passes out with the smug happy expression on his face.

“Sardarji, theek thaak ho (surdy, are you alright)?” was his instant question. After much dodging around, I ended up telling him the truth. Now it was easy to talk to him. Needless to say, Misha had read almost all the books. We had a nice discussion.

“After reading the book, one thing has become pretty clear in my mind. we are not here for mere earning our bread and butter. Life is all about exploring new heights, think about them till you reel under the pressure, dream about them and nurture them.” I repeated what she had said to me.

Misha had his own ideas, “ It also tells us that to follow freely the promptings of heart, one must not conceal from oneself that life is coarse and ruthless in its own wayward course. The book is a bid to rekindle the sleeping Jonathan Livingston Seagull in all of us. Through the seagull, the author explains this to us and takes us to the finer nuances of life. What does a man need? We always think of common things – bread, butter and a bed to sleep on. After reading the book, you will see that there is more to life than those. You don’t have to simply live for them. How about bringing a pose of roses for your beloved from the stiff cliffs of Alpine, when roses are out of season. This book will teach and prompt you to do that.”

I was impressed. Misha, the great. Now I can talk about this author.

“This book packs into a few short pages a plethora of universal truths. It is a simply written tale of the nature of purpose and of perfection. It’s a story of freedom and thought and immortality that ought to inspire even the most stubborn pessimists and nay-sayers.”, I added as now I understood it better.

Misha made himself comfortable in my room (as he always used to do). Many ideas were exchanged over lunch and over evening tea. Misha wore the same smug expression and was also enjoying every moment of it.

He started another thread of discussion, “There’s No Such Place as Far Away, now that is an amazing piece. When she was about to turn five, a little girl named Rae Hansen invited Richard Bach to her birthday party. Though deserts, storms, mountains, and a thousand miles separated them, Rae was confident that her friend would appear. There’s No Such Place As Far Away chronicles the exhilarating spiritual journey that delivered Rae’s anxiously awaited guest to her side on that special day – and tells of the powerful and enduring gift that would keep him forever close to her heart. Richard Bach’s inspiring, now – classic tale is a profound reminder that miles cannot truly separate us from friends … that those we love are always with us – every moment of the infinite celebration we call life.”

I was getting ideas too. as I said, “This is one of those rare books that has a timeless message and a simple beauty which belie its brevity. You can read this book in ten minutes. And, you can re-read it a hundred times and feel differently about it each time. Consider it the abridged Jonathon Livingston Seagull or Illusions, but don’t think of it as leaving out anything of importance. I particularly like this book because, in a few minutes, it helps me remember some of the simple truths of life – that time and space cannot separate us from the one’s we love. Besides that, it has some fantastic water-color illustrations which I found enjoyable to simply view.”

“Yes, exactly. Very true, very true”, Misha said sipping his tea.

I wanted to explore more. “And Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. In the cloud-washed airspace between the cornfields of Illinois and blue infinity, a man puts his faith in the propeller of his biplane. For disillusioned writer and itinerant barnstormer Richard Bach, belief is as real as a full tank of gas and sparks firing in the cylinders…until he meets Donald Shimoda–former mechanic and self-described messiah who can make wrenches fly and Richard’s imagination soar…. In Illusions, the unforgettable follow-up to his Richard Bach takes to the air to discover the ageless truths that give our souls wings: that people don’t need airplanes to soar…that even the darkest clouds have meaning once we lift ourselves above them… and that messiahs can be found in the unlikeliest places–like hay fields, one-traffic-light midwestern towns, and most of all, deep within ourselves.”

Misha had something to say too. “The best part is the thought-provoking dialogue between a guy named Richard and a real Messiah. This story will change you if it ever get into your head.”

Misha left for home later in the evening. That night, I finished Biplane. It was first time in my life I felt there is more than Sidney Sheldon to life. There is Richard Bach. Oh what a writer. I was doing it all because of her. Did you guys think I forgot her, talking about Misha and Richard Bach? Of course not.
And all these days, I must tell you, I was meeting her everyday and we talked and chatted a bit – but not Richard Bach.

During the next weekend I finished with The Bridge Across Forever: A Love Story. Bach wrote of a man haunted by the ghost of a wise, mystical, lovely lady who lived just around the corner in time. This story tells of his quest to find her. His search for his dreamed-of soulmate, his detour into wealth and success, and his ultimate meeting with the woman with whom he has found love and enchantment. If you’ve ever felt alone in a world of strangers, missing someone you’ve never met, you’ll find a message from your love in this book. Isn’t it amazing how our life is so in our faces yet we are too blind to see? This reconnects to the hummings from my inner self and not the moaning of the outside world. When we are finally at one, awake, and aware who knows maybe we can all have it. We get the answers all the time but we push them away for whatever reason. An inspiration to love beyond this life.

Well, I had read it all and was ready to talk to anyone about this author. All this to get the attention of that someone special. Over the next weekend, I went to Amritsar to meet my parents. Spent some time with them. Met couple of friends. Missed her. Traveled back to Chandigarh.

On Monday, I met her. After daily greetings, I told her that I had brought the books she wanted. She was happy to know that and seeing her happy, I was happy too. That evening I took the books to her place and gave it to her. And even suggested the one’s she should read first and the one’s that are to be savored last.

She read them in about 10-12 days time. I had continued to meet her wherever I could and even discussed the books individully with her (thanks to Misha). She was happy to know that I had read them all. She was impressed by my versions and understanding of these writings (I think). Afterwards, she suggested many more books to me and many more she demanded (the one’s she wanted to read and Ajay happily supplied me with them (of course not free).

And that how I came to know about Richard Bach. As I write this, I see that set of books in front of me. As I look back, sometimes I think I was making a fool of myself, and at other times, I think that she has to be thanked at some point for making me a more ferocious reader. I have read hundreds of books since, needless to say even more heavier than Richard Bach. But these books have a special place in the time line of my life. It was fate, destiny or her, but in the end, she did make a difference in my life, and my reading.

Wherever she is in the world, I hope she is reading some new book, or maybe she is reading the ‘life’ itself.

February 2008
Copyright JPS Nagi

Epilogue (August 2010): Although my original Richard Bach books are scattered everywhere, my new set of Richard Bach still sits on my bookshelf, as seen in one of the images above.