Monday, December 29, 2008

A rare case of honesty

by KParthasarathi 29 Dec 2008
I was standing at the roadside waiting for a three-wheeler to take me to Adyar. Most autos whizzed past with passengers in them as it was morning time, peak hour. After about fifteen minutes, an empty auto did stop to take me at an unreasonably exorbitant amount and I refused. I was willing to pay about twenty rupees more than the usual fare. The greedy driver, mouthing some unpalatable remarks, sped away looking for other quarries. I met the same experience with two more autos and became mentally prepared to pay whatever would be demanded by the next man as I was in a hurry to keep an appointment. It was then a spotlessly clean auto stopped by my side. The driver, in his late thirties, politely asked me to get in. He never enquired where I was going. I hesitated and asked him how much he expected for taking me to Adyar. He replied that I could pay him as per the meter. Knowing well that the meters in most autos were tampered to show double, or even more than, the normal rate, I asked him to quote a fixed amount. He replied, “Amma, my meter is fool proof and genuine. Since you do not trust me, you can pay me eighty rupees or the amount indicated in the meter, whichever is lesser.” Eighty rupees was much lesser than the amounts asked for by others. I jumped into the auto happily.

As he was driving along, I asked him, “You seem different from your class of people. What is your name and which stand do you belong to?”

He replied “Amma, I am Chandran. Although I belong to the stand close to where you boarded, I do not wait in the stand, but a little away. The other drivers do not like me. I stay away.”

“I understand. Does this rickshaw belong to you? If you say your meter is not tampered and is willing to carry the passengers at metered rates, why do you do it? It is strange, particularly when I see almost everyone wants 50% more than the authorised rates. Some are even worse. They are also rude if you refuse. Don’t you have a family?” I asked.

“Yes, I have a family of my wife, two young children and an aged mother. I do not ask for more as I consider it begging. I am a worker with self-respect and not a beggar. I do not want doles. I take what is due to me happily. This auto is a rented one. I tailor my household expenses to my income. If need be, I will work for longer hours but I will not deceive others. I have a very good and understanding wife. I may not be very comfortable, but I am a contented man.” Chandran said.

Meanwhile the auto had come to my destination. I looked at the meter hoping to see an amount much higher than Rs. 80 agreed upon. It showed Rs. 67.When I gave him Rs. 80 and started to move, he said, “Just one moment, Madam. You have not taken the balance.” He offered Rs.13 which I refused telling him that I am pleased to give him the extra amount.

He insisted saying, “No, I will not take more than what was agreed upon. Metered rate or Rs.80, whichever is less. I told you I am neither a beggar nor live on doles. Please accept the balance.”

It was a pleasant experience to find a man with such lofty principles. I remembered the discussion I had with my superiors in the bank I worked in as to why I should supersede others for my promotion and why I would not wait for my turn. I knew how colleagues take money for things they should normally do. How the entire country was corrupt with nothing moving without greasing somebody’s palms. I could not believe that such an honest person could live in our midst.

I had given him my address asking him to meet me the coming Sunday. In the meanwhile, I made discreet enquiries at the auto stand that only corroborated what I heard from Chandran.They mocked at him and said, “He is a mental case and thinks himself as another Dharmaputra and spoils our business. We have driven him away from the stand. He is leading a dog’s life in want and driving rented auto for the last twelve years. Most of us have two autos of our own. He is a useless chap. Why do you want to know about him, Amma? Did he cheat you?”

When he came the next Sunday, I asked him how much of margin money he could afford to pay for a loan for an auto. When he mentioned the amount, I assured him that I would give the balance as an advance and arrange a loan for him from my bank where I worked. He fell at my feet crying “Amma, you are like Goddess Mahalakshmi to me. I am indebted to you for life. I would repay the advance to you and promise upon the Goddess’ name that I will continue to be honest till my end.”

"Honesty makes for a life of integrity because the inner and outer selves are a mirror image. Slander cannot destroy an honest man-when the flood recedes the rock is there"

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Lalitha's baby

The door of the labour room opened and a nurse clad in white with gloves on hand called “Anyone for Lalitha?”Even as I stood up to enter, Lalitha’s mom rushed in. I too followed her but stood at a distance. The nurse said “Mami, you have a grandson. Lalita is fine but a little drowsy. Come in and see the baby.”

The nurse gave in her hands the small baby wrapped in white sheet. It was too delicate and thin with the eyes shut. The tiny fingers were closed. I could get a glimpse of the baby. My mother-in- law hugged the baby close to her chest even as she wiped the tears from her eyes. The nurse asked her “How is the baby? It has a very good complexion and plenty of hair on its tiny head. Whom has he taken after? I don’t think the baby resembles his mother.”The old lady said “The baby looks just like his father.” I was immensely happy as I could not see the baby at close quarters. There were other nurses cleaning up and attending on Lalitha. The nurse took back the baby and said that she would call her after an hour. My mother-in-law went out of the room.

I lingered there for some more time. The nurses didn’t take notice of me and were busy with their duties. I saw Lalitha asleep with a trace of smile in her face. I didn’t want to disturb her. I went near her and held her hand softly. We had been waiting for this happy moment for a long time. She longed for a baby boy and I wanted a girl. She was lucky to get what she had wanted and must be very pleased. We loved each other very much with each one trying to please the other. She wanted her son to become like me, tall and handsome as she always said. There was no sign of Lalitha opening her eyes and was probably under the influence of sedative. I had a close look at the baby who will be the apple of our eyes. We had discussed even before we knew that a boy would be born about his future endlessly. As the nurses were getting tense with the chief doctor coming in, I quietly slipped out of the room and sat a few rows behind my mother-in-law.

The nurse came out after a few minutes with a form in hand and approached the old lady. She asked “What is the name of the father? Has he not come? Where does he work? We must fill in all the details?” My mother-in-law took her sari end to her eyes to wipe even as she was sobbing. I said loudly, “Hey,Nurse, I am the father. I am here.” She did not seem to hear. The old lady said to the nurse even as all the visitors in the lounge heard her ‘The baby’s father was killed in the last week’s Mumbai massacre. He was in the police. Lalitha does not know yet. We have not broken the news to her as yet.” There was a stunned silence and disbelief even as I was screaming “I am here. Why is it no one taking note of me.”

I get scared now and am worried for my dear Lalitha.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

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Wishing all a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Monday, December 22, 2008


- by KParthasarathi 22 Dec 2008.
The phone rang. It was Rangan who said “Do you know Raju Mama has been admitted in Apollo hospital last night? I hear his condition is critical. The doctors are planning for an open heart surgery which may be tomorrow itself. I thought I should tell you since you are very close to him.”

I asked him “Who told you? Was there any call from his house?”My thoughts went to Raju Mama, my mom’s youngest brother. An extremely pleasant and jovial person, he had a special liking for me amongst his many nephews. Possibly it could be for the reason that I resembled him or play cricket, a sport he loved very much, in first division level. We used to attend cricket matches together whenever they took place in Chennai. We used to differ violently on many matters relating to the game and players. He had strong likes and dislikes which coloured his judgment. Be that as it may, this common interest brought us together.

It was with shock that I received the news. He was in his fifties but enjoyed good health with no complaints of blood pressure, sugar or cholesterol that he had ever mentioned. Nevertheless, heart attacks are silent killers giving no advance warning and come when most unexpected. He had young children, some still school-going and one daughter to be married. I did not think he had saved much or had any paternal property to fall back upon.

When I rang up his house, there was no response. This gave me worry. I rang up another cousin. He also mentioned that he had heard it from his niece and that in all probability the surgery could take place the next day. He added for good measure that he had news the surgery was a major one with fifty percent success rate. He also added that Mama was in intensive care unit.

It was 3 pm and I decided to rush to the hospital immediately. I started praying that Mama should come out of this ordeal unscathed as he had huge responsibilities towards his family. As I went inside the sprawling and jam-packed lounge of the hospital, I saw Vignesh talking to a relative with a cup of coffee in his hand. He was laughing and showed no sign of anxiety. I rushed to him asking “How is Raju Mama? What is the latest news?” He asked me in bewildering tone “What happened to Raju Mama? Is he here? Any problem? I came here to meet a colleague and happened to see our relative here.”

I could see none else known to me there. When I approached the help-desk dealing with admissions, they could not locate easily under the name of Rajagopalan in ICU.They said one by the same was in room L418. When I rushed there, I saw Mami standing outside talking to someone.

“Mami, what happened? Why did you not seek my help? Is Mama free from danger? How is he now and when is the surgery?” I asked her. “What are you telling? Mama is fine. He had this problem for a long time and was suffering silently. When it became unbearable, he went to the doctor. He said surgery is the only option and is slated for tomorrow”, she said.

"Who is the cardio vascular surgeon and who is the cardiologist attending on him” I asked anxiously. “What are you blabbering? Why cardio-doctors for piles operation? It is very minor and he will be sent home very soon. Go and see him inside. He is ordering all sorts of dishes from the canteen and enjoying himself”

When I went inside, the TV was blaring. He had a plate with pakoras and heartily welcomed me. “Nanu, don’t be upset with me. I didn’t want this piles business to be known to all. My children have all gone to Coimbatore for a marriage. So I chose this time.Mami stays here with me. Please don’t publicise this,” he said.

“Mama, I was greatly worried when I heard you had a serious heart ailment and was to be operated.” “Which fool told you? I told a few days ago that idiotic nephew, I forget his name readily, that I had heart-burn after eating the molagai bhajji (Hot delicacy with chillies). When he perhaps heard that I am in the hospital, he must have embroidered on that news to tell his cousin, graduating my problem to a heart ailment. May be in two days someone would have told you that I had kicked the bucket.”

News travel fast and often get garbled according to what one wishes to hear. A perfect misunderstanding without any basis, this one was. The moral is: do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. The lesson is to check with the source and not trust second and third hand purveyors of news. Most rumours have no legs to stand upon. So many relationships are broken for believing what all we hear without checking the veracity of the rumours we are given as news

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The only child

- by KParthasarathi 09 Dec 2008
Rajee and Ramjee made an ideal couple. She is an engineer working in a multinational bank. He is also an engineer with an MBA to boot working in an IT company. They had a nice apartment with two cars and were earning very well. While she is charming and attractive having won a Miss college contest, he was a tall, dusky and handsome guy. They loved each other and life was passing smoothly. She did not however like his frequent jaunts overseas on official business.
She was fond of babies and yearned for children. Even while young she used to carry in her arms the babies of her siblings much to their relief and play for a long time with them. Unfortunately they were not blessed with one even though she desired one very much. She was disappointed but never made public of her longing. Ramjee however did not show much enthusiasm for an early child possibly because he wanted their carefree romance to continue without a child to spoil it. Her parents were also not unduly worried as in some cases delays are common. The couple was also very young.
It was therefore a matter of great jubilation when Rajee conceived finally. She was thrilled and very excited with happiness. While Ramjee appeared happy for her, he did not show much enthusiasm. Possibly he felt that they were being burdened with a child so early. That could be the reason he did not share the joy with Rajee fully though he was very considerate and supportive throughout her pregnancy. All the religious functions associated with the birth of child were gone through with gaiety by families on both sides.
She finally delivered a charming baby boy. The parents on both sides were delighted. It was a month after the advent of the new born. One night as he was lying in the bed with her nursing the baby, Ramjee spoke softly. He told her." Rajee,I think it is enough with this one child. You wanted one very much and you have it now. No one will speak about you with derision.”
She asked in surprise "Why do you say all these? I have been watching you. You have not been your usual bubbly self and often morose. If you do not want more children, it is ok by me. Why do you have to put such a long face? I have not seen you playing with the baby too.”
“I have to tell you now, Rajee.I love you immensely but unable to suffer the terrible ache in my heart for a long time. It looks as though it will burst. I cannot share it with anyone else. I have decided to bare it all. Listen carefully. When we didn't get a child and you were anxious about it, I decided to test myself medically. Unluckily I had found that I can have no progeny and that I am physically unfit. The condition it appeared is beyond repair. I had not the heart to tell you then and kept it to myself. I hope you understand the full import of what I am telling you. I do not want to get anymore into this. Take it from me my love for you is not a bit reduced for whatever reason.”
She was shocked and uttered a cry as she fell on him sobbing inconsolably. When she regained composure and started to speak, he said ‘Rajee, No need. Let it remain with you forever. I am not interested. Don’t be afraid in the least. I have no intention to let you down. My lips are sealed. This baby is our son. Only ensure that we don't get any more. Do you understand?”

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A tryst with a beggar and a failed dream

by KParthasarathi 03 Dec 2008

A tryst with a beggar and a failed dream I was living in Delhi then. I had a dream one night when God said that I would be seeing Him before the end of the week. It was a Wednesday night. I could not recollect the form of god but the message was clear that He would be revealing Himself to me. I was not a very religious or a spiritual type even though I said my prayers daily. It was part of my daily routine to light the lamp after my bath, offer flowers and utter a few slokas.I would remember god only the next morning. I was naturally surprised about the dream and tried to recollect whether I had read some stories of God the previous days. I could remember none. I brushed it aside like any other dream and went about my daily routine. I did not mention about my dream to my wife though I used to tell her all the happenings of the day. Still the dream kept coming to my memory frequently with no incident of such a nature happening

A friend had come from Bangalore who wished to visit Agra, Mathura and Brindavan that Sunday .Both of us went by car. My wife excused herself from making the trip. We finished the Taj and the Krishna temple at Mathura. We were tired when we came to Brindavan.There are innumerable temples in Bridavan.We chose to visit the most popular Banke Bihari temple which is located 100 m down a side street. The approach is very narrow. The curtains before the Deities are not left open like at other temples. Every few minutes the curtain is pulled shut and then opened again. It is said that the brilliant eyes of Banke Bihari will make you unconscious if seen for too long a stretch. It is said that Banke Bihari does not like the sound of bells or conch; therefore they are not sounded in this temple. The temple was jampacked.

After the darshan, we came out. I was wondering whether the god in the dream meant this darshan as his revealing himself. The narrow road was lined with beggars seeking alms. As we walked back towards our car one old man came behind me asking me for money. It was late and I was extremely tired and hungry. I ignored him and kept walking. The man would not let me go and came close behind me incessantly asking for some amount. His persistence made me annoyed. I told him that I would not pay even a paisa if he pestered me like that. He followed me all the 100metres.Just as we were nearing the final stretch of the narrow road, he tugged my shirt and said “You have come all the way to have the darshan of the lord but you would not even turn to look at me , let alone give me a small amount.” I got angry at his audacity in pulling my shirt and shouted at the top of my voice “Go away, I say”. The man stopped following me and after a few yards, I turned to see whether he was still there... No, he could not be seen. I stood there looking for him. He had just vanished in the crowd. I was struck with remorse whether I was unduly rude to an indigent beggar. I was now in a mind to give him even hundred rupees to atone for my boorish and bad-mannered behaviour. But he had melted in the thronging crowd. My appetite was lost and throughout the journey back I was mum and lost in thoughts about the incident. His bent figure with his cringing appeals haunted before my mind.

As I was narrating the incident while lying in bed that night to my wife and the failed dream of mine, she sat up immediately and said “What an unlucky man you are? Could you not realise that it was the lord himself who was pursuing you till the end of the road? Will any beggar chase a person for 100 m and waste his time? He would rather go and ask someone else. God has kept His word. You have failed to see Him in the form of a beggar. Your dream has come true and you had refused to see the dream that had come true. You could not perceive the presence of god immersed as you are with the thought of Him in his traditional form. Did it not strike you at all there is something more in his relentless following you?”

I felt there was a clear message for me from god that I should show compassion to the poor and be gentle to them. It is only in acts of such kindness that God is pleased. What a fool I had been to miss the significance of the dream and my failure to connect it with the beggar. In all my subsequent visits to Brindavan, I looked for the beggar. But he is not there. I am a changed man now.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Lasting love

- by KParthasarathi 01 Dec 2008
I have a friend married for ten years who has fallen in love with a colleague of his. The one nub is both are married and have children. But he claims that his life has turned brighter and the days are more exciting. I could notice that he dressed well these days and his hair groomed at regular intervals. Earlier he paid little attention to personal appearance and had to be virtually driven by his wife to hair dressers when the hairs started curling up. There was now a spring in his walk though his desk suffered from mounting files with him talking on mobile most of the time and leaving the office promptly. “Partha, I know you would not approve of this but I am deeply in love with Sumitha. Not that I dislike my wife Ranjani but I love this girl more and cannot shake her from my mind. My guilty conscience pricks me when I see Ranjani in the nights but I am too far in this relationship to retrace.”
“Does your wife know?” I asked.
He said “No, though she keeps asking me why I work late in office almost daily and also attend on Sundays. Poor thing, she doesn’t know. I am really at my wit’s end how to tell her that I have decided to separate from her. She loves me so much that she cannot see that I have lost interest in her. This is eating me day and night. Can you advise me how I go about it?”
As he burdened me daily with his romantic troubles, I looked at my wife who was sleeping by my side. She had grown a little old and there were strands of grey hair which she did not hide by dyeing. There were black rings below her eyes and new wrinkles that I had not noticed a month back. She appeared nevertheless as beautiful and charming as she was when I went to see her first time at her parents’ place. She lacked the initial enthusiasm but she never disappointed me when I needed her. She didn’t mind my going out for a binge of beer with my friends or playing bridge at the club on Saturday nights. She kept herself busy teaching the kids and looking after the house in ever so many ways. Our love for each other was intact and not a whit reduced. We did have our bouts of fun and tiffs too. On Sundays I would get the breakfast from a nearby restaurant making her stay in the bed for longer. Once in a while I would lend a helping hand in making the lunch. She loved pizza with its varied dressings. I never relished them. Whenever we went out for eating, she would always order things that I relished most like lasagna or Chinese noodles. When I press her to have pizza she would decline telling that she had it the day before at her friends place. But there would be surprises of unannounced pizza deliveries in the afternoons for her. She never complains or goes to another room for sleeping despite my heavy snoring. She puts up with my tantrums when I fail to find my car-keys or socks or mobile.
I was no less considerate to her. Having come from a large family, she never knew to cook just the quantity our small family needed. She did not have the heart to pour the excess down the drain immediately. Instead to salve her conscience she would store the left over in the large fridge for a couple of days before discarding them. I knew my budget on food can be cut to half but I never made a fuss. She had no dress sense or made attempt to acquire fine dresses. She was satisfied with simple material. I had to take the help of my cousin to choose fine party dresses for her. It was a case of each one trying to make the other feel comfortable and we found love in abundance between us despite the passing years.
One day as I was returning from an official tour, I met my friend in the airport. I requested him to accompany in my car, have a cup of tea at my house and get dropped later at his place. When I reached my home, my little daughter of six years came running towards me greeting, “Appa, you are back. I am so happy.” I lifted her bodily and smothered her face with kisses before I let her down. My son of ten years was standing shyly and I went near him and patted him on his back asking him “How are you, youngster? Who took the maximum wickets in today’s ODI?” He snuggled by my side happily. Then it was the turn of my wife. She was standing at a distance as my friend was present. I dragged her towards me and embraced her tightly saying, “Ignore this chap. He doesn’t know how to lead a joyous life”. Even as she was struggling to get out of my cuddle, I planted a couple of kisses on her forehead to her great embarrassment and my friend’s mirth. My friend asked me “How long were you away on tour?” I said just one night. I could see he was stunned by the look on his face and the unbelief that a day’s absence could bring such intense and loving greeting.
Later when we were alone sipping tea I told him” You asked my advice about your problem. I have one to give if you care to follow. Keep away from Sumitha for a month with no contact and spend the time with Ranjani and your children as you saw us here today. Give her all the love and the children your affection. Have fun and take them out. Just for one month. If you still feel at the end of the month, your passion for Sumitha is unabated, you do what pleases you. But you owe Ranjani this much for her trusting and loving you as she does since day one.”
He agreed. As I expected the togetherness and the flush of warmth did the trick. It was a month later that he told me that he had told Sumitha that they break off the relationship as he could not leave his wife and children.
It is necessary to recognize that for love to sustain and grow there must be mutual trust and reciprocity - it is not a one way street.