Shrinivas Sharangpani's Work
Shrinivas Sharangpani

 

Poem 1:

CHARMING LITTLE PRINCESS.

That charming little princess,
Is honey worth thousand ounces,
Lovely, smiling , brave and true,
As fresh as morning dew.

When I met her not long ago
She looked like a slender candle aglow,
Calm, suave and yet inviting,
Absolutely unassuming.

That she set my heart afire,
Is the thing that I admire,
But she returned my feelings warm
And put off firmly my mind's alarm.

All I seek from the almighty,
Is owning her passion and quiet beauty,
The union of bodies and our souls
As endless spool of time unrolls.
====
Poem 2:

When I….

When I see you resplendent with beauty
My heart races like a wild horse.
Dunbfounded, I do not utter a word
Later I feel sorry with remorse.

When I hear your sonorous voice
I feel jingle of bells come alive.
Lost for words, I do not talk
And I look like a man stupid and naive.

When I smell the perfume you wear
I feel the closeness and quiet warmth.
I long to meet you and be with you
While I keep gasping for my breath.

When I see tears well in your eyes
My heart wants to be with you and cry.
The joy of success I share with you,
On failure I want you to try and try...
=========
Poem 3

On The Path of Life….

On the path of life
Sometimes (I) came across green trees
In the dark shadows of which
I took rest awhile

The path of life
Took many small and big turns
The straight path of life
In my fate was just not there

On the path of life
(Are) So many ditches and mounds
Seeing my (woes) even a stone
Would not secrete water

To the path of life
Joined another path
A little distance later
It just bifurcated in another direction

On the path of life
There will be an abrupt precipice
Falling from which life's
Long chapter will come to an end....
==========
Short Story:
The Solution
by
Shrinivas Sharangpani
(A short story written by me originally in Marathi and first published in a popular Marathi magazine 'Menaka' - July 1990)

When the huge Jumbo 747 Boeing jet touched the runway and started moving towards the terminal the Prime Minister's limousine began pushing near the tarmac at one end of the red carpet. The plane came to a complete standstill. A mobile ladder inched forward and its top end touched the door of the craft. A mob of security officers and soldiers surrounded the plane. Local and foreign correspondents kept their cameras ready and stared at the door of the craft.

The Prime Minister (PM) came out of his car. He was uneasy and walked a couple of steps with his hands in his pocket. Still he managed a smile in the general direction of the crowd. He too was anxious about the eagerly awaited visit of the neighbouring country's Prime Minister (NCPM). The visit was starting from that day - nay, from that moment. The more the PM thought about it the more he became nervous. In his mind he saw a series of events leading to the visit at hand.

His tenure appeared to be cursed from the day he was sworn in. Within just a fortnight his most trusted lieutenant had revolted. This useless fellow had started dreaming about occupying the PM's chair. Since he had supported the PM for a very long time - much before he became the PM - the PM had offered him a position in his cabinet. And suddenly the rascal had become a turncoat. What the PM suspected was that he was put forward by some members of PM's own party who had perhaps made a secret agreement with some opposition leaders. Whatever the reason the PM had tough time in resolving the issue. He had to appease the scoundrel by offering him an important portfolio like Finance. The bastard had enough nerve to extract a promise from the PM to consider him for a number two position - that of the Deputy Prime Minister - at an 'appropriate' time in future! With that move the PM had postponed the inevitable no-confidence motion in the house. He had just deferred the political demise.

His ill fortune was just not leaving him alone. There were riots and pogroms in many parts of the country. As was the custom the opposition parties were holding the PM, his cabinet and his ruling party for all unrest in the country. Though he was quite used to these things he was a little weary nowadays. His own spokesman wasn't doing anything different, he was offering cliché-ridden explanations. The root cause of all the unrest was, according to him, foreign hand in the affairs of the country. The PM's spokesman too never tired giving these sterotyped statements. The PM was aware of this conventional hypocrisy and therefore he was weary.

A new political storm was brewing. A newspaper belonging to one of the opposition parties had 'unearthed' a scam. It said in its report that the PM's brother-in-law had amassed wealth from dubious sources and was trying to launder it by investing in some foreign firms. It had demanded a judicial inquiry into the scam and other newspapers and public forums had joined the 'cause'. There were smaller things erupting everyday and the aim of all these was just one - the PM, his cabinet and his party!

Last week was relatively eventless. He was just about thanking his luck and this new affair had now started looming large on the horizon. One minister in his cabinet had clandestinely taken his beautiful secretary to a hotel in a hill station and had lot of fun with her. One newspaper had printed photographs of the two in a compromising position on the front page and had threatened to make public a videotape in its possession showing the smutty incident.

This had snowballed into a major scandal. There were demands of resignation of the minister. Some even demanded the resignation of the entire cabinet including the PM. This had finally culminated into the resignation of the minister. Actually the PM had telephoned him one night and threatened to sack him from the cabinet as well as the party if he did not resign on his own. This scoundrel then had sent in the resignation while the PM had expected him to observe the customary etiquette and hand over the resignation letter personally.

This sonofabitch was certainly hatching plots against him, the PM was sure. Though the opposition parties were also wisely keeping distance from the lecherous fool they were not opposed to the idea of getting material from him which would prove troublesome for the PM and his party. And this fellow must be disregarding the official secrets act while spilling the beans, the PM was certain.

On yet another front the PM was uncomfortable. The President was now sending him an official letter every week and advising him to run the government properly and to create trust in the minds of the people towards the government. This really was the last straw on the back of the camel. It was the PM himself who was instrumental in getting the President elected unopposed. Actually the President was a non-entity - political deadwood - before he occupied the highest office. Now that he had become the President he was merrily offering advice to the PM. And there was little that the PM could do about this. It was well within his constitutional rights to advise the PM and seek explanations.

The only ray of hope was the public! So far the public had a good image of the PM in their minds. But it would not remain if the situation continued, brooded the PM. Recent Gallup polls showed the PM as still the most popular person in the country. What the PM needed to do was consolidate his position in the minds of the people. The million-dollar question was 'how?' It seemed as though his political future hinged on improving his image in the public. And the PM was quite in dark as to how to accomplish this.

His advisors were constantly telling him to do something about image building. Actually some of the cliches went well with the public. When he told people that the neighbouring country's government was responsible for border skirmishes and many subversive activities taking place in the country it went quite well with them. In his every speech, message and statement he was holding the neighbouring country responsible for all that was bad happening in the country. So far so good! But he was afraid this situation may not last long.

While driving towards the airport today he had noticed demonstrators holding placards and chanting slogans against the NCPM. He had read some of them - 'Go back!', 'Enemy of Our Country - Go Back!', 'Enemy No. 1'. The PM had felt better. For the first time in many days he was seeing something which was not directed towards him.

As soon as the NCPM stood on the top of the ladder the crowd clapped. Press photographers became busy in snapping his pictures. The PM suddenly returned to the present. He took out his hands from his pockets and walked towards the ladder to receive the NCPM. His coterie also moved ahead following him closely.

As the NCPM climbed down the last step the PM shook hands with him and inquired 'How do you do?'
He then formally welcomed him saying, ' Welcome to this country as our special guest of honour!'
The NCPM replied formally and accompanied the PM while he introduced his colleagues as well as ambassadors from various countries to the NCPM. A couple of charming kids presented the NCPM with bouquets and NCPM too obliged by lifting the kids and kissing them. The correspondents didn't miss the moment and took photographs for the next day's papers.

The crowd let out slogans like 'Let the two countries prosper!' and 'Long live friendship between the two countries'. The PM, his wife accompanied by the NCPM and his wife came towards the state limousines over the thick red carpet.

Just behind the pilot cars was the first limousine in which the PM and the NCPM sat. As they came out of the airport the NCPM watched the demonstrations and the fight between the demonstrators and the police nonchalantly. The PM carefully watched the NCPM and pondered if the NCPM had similar problems back home like what he was facing here.

During the subsequent ceremonies the PM was hardly attentive. The playing of the two national anthems, the 21-gun salute, the guard of honour - the PM was just going through the rituals mechanically. A couple of times his principal secretary and cabinet secretary had to whisper in his ears about observing the protocol. Still the PM was not embarrassed. He was a well-known leader in the world and could not afford to show embarrassment in public in spite of the lapses. He kept on recalling the information about the NCPM which only a couple of days back was furnished to him by the Intelligence Bureau.

The NCPM was a very clever student of Oxford University. He was a graduate of that university and in this respect was superior to the PM. The PM's educational background was not very impressive. He was a graduate in arts and law from a local university. The NCPM, however, did not have a political base. In this respect the PM scored over The NCPM. The PM knew local, regional and national politics like the back of his palm. He had come the hard way - through the ranks - to this top position. He had not only survived the vicious turbulence of political storms; he had mastered it and risen to the top as indispensable and indisputable leader. For survival and becoming a ringmaster in the political arena, degrees from Oxford and Cambridge were of little use. What was important was street smartness.
What else was there in the report? The PM strained his memory. Oh yeah! The NCPM loved to chew roasted and salted corn. The report also gave a few details of his passionate love affair with an English girl during his college years. After the unsuccessful affair the NCPM had become a really straight man - loyal to his wife. He loved his family - his wife, two sons and a daughter. All his children were well educated and well placed. His daughter was recently betrothed to a smart naval officer.

But more important than anything else was his political life. He was accidentally catapulted into politics. He was elected to the premier's position by default - just because there was no one else on the horizon for the top slot. His party was also young in the political arena. There was no history to the party. His party also did not have organisation worth the name. The NCPM lacked vision and foresight. He had created a number of difficulties for himself!

The extent of corruption in giving licenses had no parallel anywhere in the world. It was joked that the NCPM's own car would be sold in black market in front of his own eyes! His wife was notorious for her rude behaviour and lavish lifestyle. The people of that land had not liked the way she had talked insultingly to the army chief.

It was rumoured that several top officers from the armed services were waiting for an opportunity to overthrow his government. In fact it was advised in the confidential report that if the PM discreetly helped the rebel officers it would solve many problems the country faced with its neighbour. The PM had not liked the idea. He felt the design was nefarious and could well boomerang on him. In any case the PM had ample proof of political inexperience of the NCPM.

The NCPM, however, had brought a number of advisers with him on this tour. His image and poise was impressive in the diplomatic circles. He dressed well too. All in all the PM had to be careful while dealing with the NCPM. It would not be easy to score over the NCPM. It was more than likely that the spotlight would be on the NCPM during the common press conference.

The PM that way was not much scared about the press conference. He was an experienced soldier having crossed sword with the press many times in the past. The PM reckoned his success hinged on his own experience and the relative inexperience of the NCPM. Whatever free time the PM got that day he would spend in discussing with his cabinet colleagues about how to trap the NCPM in verbal labyrinth during negotiations and extract an accord which would seem useful for the country. This alone could save the PM's image.

The PM looked at his wristwatch. He expected the guard of honour to be over in a few minutes. The NCPM then would see the President in the Presidential Palace. The NCPM would stay there as the President's special guest. The NCPM was having his lunch with the President. The PM was throwing a banquet in the honour of the NCPM that night. This all meant that the PM would get a clear four hours to discuss the accord with his cabinet colleagues that was to be signed between the two countries the next day.

Not that the topic was not discussed earlier. But the discussions on that day were particularly important. The PM had to think of some trick, make it agreeable to his colleagues and then make it acceptable to the NCPM. The task was quite tough but if he succeeded his future political life would be easier.

o o o

When the PM got down from his car at the office complex near Parliament House he saw the NCPM's car approaching. Both the cars stopped near each other. The PM and the NCPM got down. They shook hands and smiled at each other. The aides on both the sides also greeted each other. The PM took the NCPM and his advisors towards a conference room. The Conference Room was tastefully decorated.
There were flowers, potted plants, even small tabletop fountains. It was a very pleasant atmosphere. Indeed it was quite a paradox that some very serious discussions were to take place there.

The PM's mood wasn't particularly good. The meeting the day before had proved absolutely fruitless. His cabinet ministers probably did not share his feeling of uncertain future. They wanted a written assurance from the NCPM that the border violations would be stopped immediately. The PM was advised to sign an accord of co-operation only after getting the written assurance. The PM knew the NCPM would never offer any written guarantee desired by his colleagues. That would be an indirect acceptance from the NCPM that his country was involved in border violations.

All this meant one thing - the PM's political future was darkening!

The line taken by the NCPM and his advisors was a little more aggressive than expected. They took a stand that the aggression was not from their side but from the PM's country and they would certainly reply an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth if such actions continued. In fact what the PM was asking from the NCPM the same thing the NCPM was asking from the PM. Both parties were stubborn and the result was obvious - the negotiations did not move an inch forward. Two hours of discussions saw umpteen draft agreements thrown into the wastebasket.

Finally the PM's foreign affairs secretary proposed a draft which recommended formation of a committee with members from both countries. The committee would exchange ideas to reduce tension. The committee's recommendations would be considered by both prime ministers after a year. Since the agreement didn't have any punch in it and both sides were adamant, it was readily accepted by everyone.
Immediately the secretaries hurried into an antechamber worked on their word processors and got the draft printed. The legal advisors on both sides studied and suggested changes. After a couple of revisions the agreement was approved. The final draft was printed in the correct format and the secretaries countersigned. Thereafter both prime ministers signed the agreement amidst loud clapping. They exchanged documents and shook hands. Just before the PM and the NCPM signed the agreement press correspondents were allowed to enter the hall. They photographed both prime ministers signing, exchanging copies and shaking hands. They all were provided with the salient features of the agreement which, to tell the truth were none.

It was time for tea now. The PM was absolutely unhappy. He was sure the newspapers would shred this agreement to smithereens. Again the papers belonging to the opposition would seize this opportunity to assail his leadership and government. It would not be long before his popularity would start travelling downwards. He could not drink his tea further. He left his cup half on the table and stole a glance at the NCPM. He too appeared pensive. Then suddenly the NCPM too looked at him for a moment. The PM was certain he knew what was boiling in his mind. In fact both knew what was happening in each other's minds.

Suddenly, like a flash of lightening the PM got an idea. He got up and looked at his chief secretary. With a glance he beckoned him. The chief secretary came close. The PM whispered something in his ear. The chief secretary nodded.

The chief secretary went to a corner of the hall and in a moderate voice addressed the gathering, 'Our Honourable Prime Minister has decided to set aside protocol expressed a desire to talk to our honourable guest privately. May I, therefore, request your good selves to accompany me to the adjacent room?'

The chief secretary returned after a while and walked to the PM and the NCPM. The NCPM wore a look of mild astonishment. The chief secretary spoke to the PM, 'Sir, would you like to go to another room - '

'No. That is not necessary. We would like to stroll in the grass behind the office block. Open air would be really good.'

The PM was afraid there might be a bug in the room. He did not want anyone to eavesdrop on what they wanted to discuss. He felt a little proud as he eliminated the possibility of leak and his mood started improving.

The PM turned to the NCPM and said, 'And now if you don't mind - '

The NCPM smiled and replied, 'Of course!'

o o o

After strolling on the lawn for a while a liveried servant approached and held in front of them a round tray covered with embroidered silk cloth. He removed the cloth ever so slowly. Two salted and roasted corn ears emitted a mouth-watering aroma. The NCPM's eyes shone with happiness. The PM pointed to the tray and said, 'Please!'

The NCPM took one warm ear into his hand, smelt and said a bit loudly, 'Wonderful!'

The servant went away.

By now both had formally inquired about each other's health, family and had had general talk.
The NCPM took a bite and ruminated for a few seconds on the grains. His face exuded a childlike satisfaction. The PM was looking anxiously at him and after registering the NCPM's satisfaction his anxiety dissolved.

'How is your and your party's position now? I was worried when there were reports - ' the PM inched forward in his silent aggression.

The NCPM looked sharply at the PM. The PM, however, succeeded in keeping his face expressionless and made his statement look quite casual. The NCPM's sullenness melted and he looked at the distant armed guards. Then slowly turning towards the PM he said softly, 'You now how it is - isn't it?'

'Yeah. I wanted to speak about our future and that is why I decided to speak to you alone - here!'
No one spoke for a moment, which appeared too long to both.

The PM then looked directly into the eyes of the NCPM and whispered, 'As far as my position goes it's pretty bad. My party is getting a beating every day. The media and the opposition seem to be working hand in hand and their only agenda appears to be throwing me out. Unless some drastic step is taken I don't think this situation can be reversed. My political future is quite uncertain. And the worst part is that even if I step down the situation will worsen and there will be total anarchy!'

The NCPM stared at the PM. He was convinced about his sincerity. He became embarrassed and spoke somewhat apologetically, 'To tell you the truth my position is not any different in my country and I too am as helpless as you are. Something solid has to happen to resolve the situation. I only hope the change is not at the cost of my life.'

The PM immediately realised the NCPM was referring to the opportunist and power hungry armed forces in his country. He took one last bite and threw the bare ear into a nearby bin.

Turning towards the NCPM and wiping his mouth with his handkerchief the PM spoke in soft but firm voice, 'There is a solution to this problem.'

The NCPM looked at him in disbelief.

'Please don't misunderstand but there seems to be only one ray of hope.'

'What is it? What is it?' The eagerness in the NCPM's voice betrayed his political naivete and the PM once again felt a little proud about his handling of this delicate issue.

'War! Only war can save us both from our certain political demise!' The PM declared majestically.

'War? With whom?' The NCPM appeared shell-shocked.

'War - war between our two countries!' The PM drove his dagger further deep inside.

'War? Between our two countries?'

'Yeah. That's the only solution!'

'But what about the loss of life, the loss of wealth and - ' The NCPM had still not recovered from his initial shock.

'Well, we will have to take care that it remains minimal and whatever takes place is obviously - '

'Inevitable, isn't it?' The NCPM completed the sentence and it was the PM's turn to be surprised now.

'That's it. Both sides would, as usual, claim that the loss of life on their side is quite less and that on the other side is heavy. This, of course, is needless to say.'

'Yeah. That's all fine but what about the moral responsibility and the framework of reasoning behind this?'

The NCPM appeared to be still worried about the morality of the action. And that was not surprising given his puerile thinking - mused the PM.

'Look here. Almost all the wars that were fought in the history were for personal gains - isn't it? I think you had history major at Oxford. Besides this war is not only going to be boon for us. It is going to provide stability to our countries and annihilate the near certain possibility of anarchy that is round the corner.

Considering that the sacrifice of a few lives is really not much.'

'Hmmm,' the NCPM thought deeper while contemplating the grass beneath their feet. The PM in the meanwhile kept himself busy in self-esteem. The way he had handled the situation was absolutely marvellous, he thought. The more NCPM dwelt on the thought the more pleased was the PM. He was sure the NCPM was finding the idea acceptable after considering all the consequences.

The NCPM looked up. His face appeared somewhat clouded. But the PM was not bothered. He was confident of offering satisfactory replies to any and every doubt of the NCPM.

At long last the NCPM spoke. 'I am afraid - if the forces in my country do not agree to stop war at the appropriate time then -'

'Don't worry on that count. The big powers will force a ceasefire on us in a couple of week's time. In any case, the economics prevailing in our countries would not allow war to prolong,' the PM assured the NCPM.

The NCPM became more and more hooked to the idea. He was eager to improve his image in the country and at the earliest.


'And - and what happens afterwards?' the NCPM asked and the PM felt pity on the NCPM. This question was so childish he felt it did not require him to answer. But the situation warranted that he satisfied the NCPM on this count too.

'Eh, that is no problem. After concluding the war both sides would naturally claim victory. I don't think you would find it difficult in your country.' The PM looked at the NCPM. He nodded in agreement.

The PM proceeded, 'No army likes to admit defeat and therefore, you would find your task easier. I may like to add that actually in today's warfare you would hardly find any victor. You can critically examine any modern war. The seemingly victorious party actually has to pay such a heavy price - economic or otherwise - that it struggles to come to terms in post-war period.'

The NCPM's face brightened. The PM realised the prey had grabbed the bait.

The NCPM finally turned to the PM and said gravely, 'Yes, I agree to your proposal.'

'I don't think we need to enter into any secret pact,' the PM said smilingly.

'No, no you have my word of honour - '

'- that you would attack our borders almost at the same time when we attack yours?' the PM completed the NCPM's sentence and they both laughed heartily - for the first time on this visit.
'I think on this visit my word of honour is more important than your guard of honour,' the NCPM said and once again both laughed aloud.

They talked for a little while more and finalised future actions.

When they walked into the corridor the PM's cabinet secretary was surprised to see the PM's brightened face.

The PM requested the NCPM to sit on the sofa and he walked towards the cabinet secretary. The cabinet secretary was again pleasantly surprised.

The PM whispered into his ear, 'The other day you were telling a quote to someone just outside my office when I came out. What was that?'

The secretary looked embarrassed but he thought for a while and said, 'Ah, yes. "One man's medicine can be another man's poison"!'

'Yes, yes. That's it!' exclaimed the PM. The cabinet secretary looked utterly confused. But the PM didn't even notice.

'Well, a poison for two entire countries could become medicine for two individuals,' he thought.

o o o

      

 

 

Copyright © 2002 Shrinivas Sharangpani
Published on the World Wide Web by "www.storymania.com"