APPA – 60 was written boldly on a blank paper and kept on a bundle of papers in such a way that it would catch my attention easily. Just below that, were two blank sheets and below that was a list of stories selected from my stock. From the list it was clear that in all those stories, the role of father was highlighted and glorified as friend philosopher or guide or at best a role-model. I smiled unto myself, “Oh! What a nice gesture!” Anybody would have claimed them to be great children, but I did not. All forming part of celebration of my birthday. They wanted to publish my stories and have a book-launch on my birthday falling shortly. The very idea that birthday had to be celebrated was not going well with me. Was it necessary to have one every year?
Mostly that could be the reason for their secret action. But I did not interrupt in their efforts. After all they wanted to show off their love and interest in me.
I knew very well that I had not composed sixty stories glorifying the role of father. There were many stories in different genres, like a husband’s ode to his wife, a bold girl’s take on a silly man’s matrimonial ad in newspaper, a brave woman’s proclamation that bravery was not confined to men alone, a faithful dog’s unrelenting attempts to save a little girl, a foreigner’s visit to Madurai in search of his ancestors and so on. The count of sixty as in the caption of the book could be misleading and meaningless if there were not sixty entries. So, I decided to replace the stories by some of my articles essayed on different occasions on different topics in which case, the count of sixty would just refer to my age, the number of times I came around the Sun, sitting on this planet Earth.
When I picked up the sheet containing the list of entries selected by my sons, I noticed that the two blank papers were not actually blank papers. There was some invisible written matter on it. I held it under light and found that it was a ‘Forward’ Message to appear on the book to be published. Out of curiosity and with difficulty, I went through the invisible matter --- I was sure that it was written with soap solution. As expected, the write-up was a submission of gratitude and appreciation. Nothing to do with the stories selected by them for publication. So, I could easily change the list to include my choice of essays.
I sorted out my essays written on different topics and on different occasions, mostly on eco-friendly topics that too, on special days declared as dedicated like ‘Earth Day’, ‘World Environment Day’, ‘Save Water Day’ and so on. I had already chosen the title for my book. ‘Appa — 60’ could come inside and in Forward. The title I earmarked for my book was ‘Ten Weird Ideas To Change The World Of Tomorrow’. It was directed towards and would be dedicated to the innovative young men of future, who would find out some easy methods to implement them. I could only put forth my concept. Basically, I was neither a technical man nor an engineer to devise novel methods to implement my ideas and convert them into realities. That was why I mentioned them as ten weird ideas. The ‘Generation Next’ would handle it better.
I had suggested that my ideas were weird. To cite one, for example, I wished that there should be an easy way out to draw electricity direct from thunderbolt and lightnings. I jokingly called it ‘Bijli se Bijli’. If anybody could find out, a method to draw in a systematic manner without harming anybody or anything, then there would be no dearth of power at all anywhere in the world. All the Elecrticity Boards in all States in India were already in red and were running into heavy losses due to various factors like, high cost of generating power, import duty on coal, harmful impacts of nuclear energy. That apart, the wide-spread misuse by vested interested people, offering free or subsidised units of power to farmers and industrialists, abundant corrupt practices in collection of cesses, etcetera. On the other hand, if it was possible to draw power directly from Lightning, it would be easy to give unlimited units of power to all alike. In order to drive home my idea of drawing power from lightning, I had highlighted the hurdles in the existing systems, be it Hydro-Electrical method, Coal based method, thermal units or Nuclear Atomic energy. This type of power generation was just one idea. Today it might appear as one weird or absurd idea. But tomorrow it could be a reality. Let a young bright genius head apply its wits and convert my dream into reality.
Many more ideas were there in my collection, some easy and simple and some complicated or fanciful. A few, were really fascinating. Drawing rain water from the very clouds was one. I had seen in my childhood that some men used a simple device called Taqli, which was like a hooked rod having a disc to spin at the bottom. People would attach a handful of cotton bunch to the hook and spin the rod. Then the cotton would automatically turn into a thin thread and get wound on the rod itself. Thus, a heap of cotton easily got transformed into a long stretch of thread. I derived my weird idea from this technique only and wanted a similar technique be developed by talented guys to bring the rain bearing clouds from the sky to slide down in thin shreds into some storage arrangements made on the ground below.
One more idea was much simpler than the one listed above. Pollution level in Delhi and some major cities were causing untold miseries to all concerned. It was stated officially that major cause of pollution was outright burning of post harvested stubs of grains, simultaneously in all the nearby states of Punjab Haryana etcetera. My question was what about the nonstop plying of the innumerable vehicles on Delhi roads, added to this was the endless convoys of mighty political bigwigs. Reason for pollution could be any nonsense. But the sufferers, the ultimate victims were undoubtedly the poor and the very poor people, particularly the children who never rode any vehicle nor did they set fire to the fields. As a simple measure of remedy, I dreamt of an idea. Mere terrace gardening and roof gardening would not be sufficient. All apartments and superstructures, if not all, at least as many as possible, should have to put externally on their walls, vertical gardens of cactus and such other plants generating oxygen all round the day… day and night. How they could be erected and who would water those plants were yet to be explored. But my idea according to me stood as super idea to combat air pollution.
Another one was ‘Harvest Hyacinth’. In this essay, I had discussed in detail the benefits of hyacinth as fodder, biofuel, vermicompost, fertiliser, raw material for utility and artistic products and so on. Saving the waterbody would be just incidental. I had also mentioned about California going for black plastic balls and toy ducks to float on water bodies as a measure to stop evaporation. I wanted to suggest that in stead of covering the lake, you better cover the open area surrounding the lake such that all raindrops simply drip into the lake itself.
Discussing all my ideas one by one here would render my book useless and unassuming. What thrill would be there for my sons to go through the pages, if they got published in book form? It would be worthwhile to move on to next point. I called my sons to know about their idea of what they had conceived as cover for the book. They were quite happy to be involved. They both were very clear that my photo must be there on the cover.
My elder son, Dhruv said, “Appa, you pose like Swamy Vivekananda by standing tall and still, with folded hands duly locked in.” My second one, Dilip did not agree. “Without saffron turban, nobody can be made to look like Swamy Vivekananda. I suggest, you simply pose like a writer sitting at a writing table with a quiver pen in hand.” I did not refuse. Instead, I showed them a sketch and asked them “How about this? You sons are taking the initiative. So, you both should be there on the cover also.” The sketch I gave was a line-drawing of a young man, in his late thirties, of course, myself, holding two small boys, Dhruv and Dilip, both holding a balloon each, marked with words, ‘DUTY’ and ‘DISCILINE’. They were quite impressed. “Go and look for matching photos from our family album. Don’t worry about balloons and bold letters. Other things the publisher will take care of. In these digital days many things are made easy. The very publication is a matter of few days only. No or near-nil proof reading, no or near-nil editing, inserting photos, images, all aspects of printing a book are made simpler.”
At last, the order was placed. The same publisher who had done it earlier for me. He assured that the job would be completed much before time. He also agreed to take care of necessary arrangements for book launching. A special brochure and banner with details of venue date time, special guests and the like. Both Dhruv and Dilip gave the inputs then and then and were waiting for the final call from the publisher. Neither phone call nor delivery came. A sudden silence and lull kept us anxious and worried. Both Dhruv and Dilip were otherwise also busy with other preoccupations. I was the one left to worry about. The days were drawing nearer and nearer and there was no sign of any improvement.
I thought it better to go in person and find out, as I was getting evasive replies on phone. Concrete commitments were missing. At the office of the Publishing House, only a young man was available, not the owner. Upon enquiry, I learnt he was the son of the publisher. As his father was not keeping well, he was attending to the orders and was fully aware of father’s commitment and would by all means honour it. But what he told me further was something that blew me off. He said, “Uncle, I went through your manuscript and was awestruck by your weird ideas. Nowhere you mentioned that your work is fictional. No certificate that it does not represent anyone living or dead. Your ideas should not be proved wrong. Otherwise I may have to insert a certificate that the publisher is in no way responsible to the contents of the book. As I always wanted to be true to my work, I thought of trying to implement one or two of your ideas. Why wait for ‘next generation’? I also belong to the next young generation. I tried one. Your idea of rainwater harvesting is put on experiment. You will be surprised to note that it was really working.”
He continued, “As suggested by you, I had laid covering on all open spaces above my house and directly took it to my well, attached a mesh filter at the end and allowed it to drain the rain water directly into it. With yesterday’s heavy downpour, I found a sizeable increase in my well. All in my family including my father were tremendously happy to see such a high rise in the level of water. I am convinced that with a single shower, there is plentiful water inflow. Now I need to link the well to my borewell pipe line. Once that is done, I will have incessant water supply in my house. No more water tanker, no more dry days. As a test check, I tried this idea and was successful. I am sure your other ideas also will come true and become a reality.”
He went on telling me further as to how he would be fulfilling his commitment in a few days’ time. But all those empty words fell on my deaf ears. I was overwhelmed with joy. One of my so-called weird ideas was put to test and found to be working well. What more did I want? I was virtually on cloud nine. I was more ecstatic than a scientist who found his new found invention in the lab, had proved good and came out to be a tremendous success. His last words were still ringing in my ears, “Your other ideas will also come true.” This assurance was more than enough for me. All my nine other ideas were dancing in front of me and appeared in a line before me, as though asking me, “Who is next?”
Who cares whether my book is getting published in time or not! My sons will take care of it and it will be published. I am happy now and my mission a success. That is all it mattered now.