Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A stroke of bad luck

I lost my way in the secluded forest and was trying to get out. After an hour of tiring and fruitless walk in the dark wood, I stumbled upon a sage. He was sitting in trance with his eyes closed under a tree in padmasan. I knew well the story of Parikshit Maharaja who got impatient when the sage whom he addressed did not respond. In anger he put a dead serpent on his neck only to be cursed by sage’s sons that he would die in a week by snake bite. Though scared by the threatening surroundings, I waited patiently for the sage to open his eyes which he did luckily after sometime. He smiled at me gently. I was assured he was not of Durvasa genre quick to curse.
A thought occurred to me then. Why miss the golden opportunity that has come by me by divine grace? I forgot to ask him how to go out of the wood. Instead I prostrated the full length before him and sought his blessings to lift me from the poverty that I was in. I also told him that if only I had endless supply of money, I would feed the poor. He was mighty pleased at my concern for the hapless poor like me and granted a boon that I would find a five hundred rupee note every time I opened my purse. I did an instant check and found one. I asked him whether I can open any number of times. He smiled in agreement blessing me as I took leave of him.
I did not share this stroke of luck with my neighbours lest they go in search of the sage. They were all wondering at my sudden affluence and the stream of poor at my door daily collecting food packets. I was mighty happy at this fortuitous turn of events in my life till one day the Reserve Bank of India withdrew the five hundred rupee notes and introduced a new water mark in all five hundred rupee notes to be issued. The notes that I get from the purse have not been upgraded and are no more valid.
I keep searching for the sage daily in the forest and have not found him till date. The old five hundred rupee note keeps propping up in my purse whenever I open it.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Left and right

After several unsuccessful ventures Balan set up this bakery opposite the school. The business picked up fast with the children making a beeline to the shop. Balan soon put up a cone ice cream dispenser, and made tea, samosas, bhel puri, noodles etc. His income grew steadily but he still lived in a single room on the roof of the bakery. A Keralite he could speak Tamil fluently with a nasal twang. He had lost his leg while he was in the army. His world was shattered when his leg was amputated. It was only when his new leg was fixed, he knew that all was not lost. A bachelor nearing forty with receding hairline, he was living alone after his aged mother passed away
A young boy in tattered shirt came daily to the shop to buy a small bun. His eyes never strayed towards the assorted cakes or cookies in jars. Balan took a liking for this handsome Malayalee boy.
Taking pity he asked him one day” Chottu, for whom are you taking this bun daily? Don’t you have parents?”
“I have mom who goes to work in nearby houses. This bun is for my sister who stays at home” he replied
“Oh, does she not work? I have never seen her coming with you. Is she your younger sister?” Balan asked
“No Sir, She is much elder to me but not yet married. But she doesn’t come out. Let me go. It is getting late” he hurried his way
Balan was sure that his sister must be a beautiful woman. When he was making the dough for the cakes, he started thinking that it was time he got married. The boy’s family is poor. They should readily jump at his offer to marry Chottu’s sister. He decided to talk to his mom. He bought new T shirts to look smart. He spent more time before the mirror in adjusting his hair.
The next morning he packed besides the bun a couple of pastries and vegetable puffs.”Chottu, Tell your mom to come here. I have some important matter to discuss.”
He replied” Sir, let me ask my mom. Why do you give all these? I have no money and my sister will scold me if I accept them free.”
“Never mind, these are all surplus left over and will get spoilt.”
The next two days the boy did not turn up. Balan became worried whether the sister had taken umbrage at the pastries thrust on them. He strolled after dusk towards Chottu’s place and found him playing on the roadside. The small room was dimly lit with a single bulb. He was delighted to see beside the old woman a very charming young woman in late twenties. His heart fluttered and he prayed to all his gods. Luckily the mother also hailed from an adjacent village. With the ice thus broken, he explained the object of his visit.
“Sir, we are indeed fortunate that you like her. But Paru is not meant for you. You can find a better girl. You are a thriving businessman and will get many rich and attractive girls” she said.
“Why not your daughter? She is beautiful and I wish to marry her only”Balan said.
“Do not make hasty promises, Sir. Paru, show him your misfortune and he will run away as many did earlier”
Paru pulled up her sari to reveal a stump for her right leg. It appeared she lost it in an accident and being poor did nothing about it.
Balan said “It matters little to me. See my left leg I lost in the war and got replaced. I will get a new leg for you too. With one right and one left leg in wood, we would make a perfect pair. If you agree to marry me, I will make arrangements soon.Chottu can assist me in the bakery. Mom, you can stop working and be with us."
That night Paru's sweet smile was the last thing Balan remembered before he fell asleep....

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Unkept promise

It was in class VII that Anand was my mate sitting next to me. I have a vague memory of his puny structure, hazel green eyes (cat’s eyes as I used to call), and his friendly nature. We were together most of the school hours enjoying each others company. He was I think staying with his grandfather.
One Friday when the classes broke for a recess of 15 minutes he told me in conspiratorial tones to follow him quietly. He moved fast to the main gate of the school. Luckily the durwan was missing.. He took out his Sanskrit book hidden from inside the shirt and gave it to the peanut vendor who sits there.Anand said “quick, keep the book and give us large quantity of peanuts.’
The poor fellow with a bewildered look said “No, I will not accept it. It is meant for reading”
Anand said”. This is an extra bought by mistake. Take it and quickly give. The bell is ringing” Whereupon the vendor gave a packet full of peanuts more than what we expected. Generous as he was Anand gave me half of the peanuts that we stuffed in our knickers pockets. He warned me not to utter a word to others and extended his hands for me to promise.
It was next Tuesday when our Sanskrit master entered the class. A frail man with hawkish eyes he relied on his ferrule and the dictum “spare the rod and spoil the child”. No sooner he entered, he asked us to copy four Subhashitani slokas from the book saying that he wouldl explain the meaning after that.
I placed the book in the centre of the bench and Anand craned his neck frequently to copy the slokas.Very soon the teacher was by our side thundering “Where is your book?” Anand meekly replied “I lost it. I brought it last Friday and could not find the book when I reached home”
The teacher looking suspiciously at me and snatched my book that had lost its front cover with all pages dog eared with smudges of ink and pencil writings. He threw the book at my face telling “is this the way to keep the book, you fool”
Staring at Anand he said “I do not have a good opinion of you. I do not believe you. I am not going to let this rest without further probing. Where is your house? Go and bring your father or mother immediately”
In less than fifteen minutes his grandfather came along with crying Anand. The old man started telling loudly “My grandson says he lost the book here. I know he never utters lies. It must have been taken by some one in the class. I wish you check that before getting upset with Anand.’
The teacher said “I have already done that. The adjacent boy Partha is very good and has his torn book. I do not think it has been stolen”
The grandfather in taunting tone said “Does the book have wings to fly. I do not like the shifty eyes of that boy” He came near me and said” I accuse you of having stolen that book. Give it back.. Otherwise I will take it up to the Headmaster and have you sent out of the school” Anand just kept quiet
The teacher said “Enough of this unfair accusation. Sir, please stand aside. I will talk to him”
He said in kind tone”Partha, if you know something about the book, tell me to save your honour” I started crying and feeling embarrassed with all boys looking at me. I told him” Sir, he sold the book to peanut vendor at the gate”
No sooner the old man heard this he rushed t to the gate and found the book with half the pages missing having been used to make paper cones. The vendor said” Sir, I refused initially and took it only when the boy said it was spare book.Please forgive me. I am a poor man”
The old man came to the class and hugged me profusely expressing his apologies to the teacher for wrongly suspecting me. He snatched the ferrule from the master’s hand and started hitting Anand like a mad man till the teacher stopped him. He dragged him out of the class saying loudly”This fellow is a disgrace to my family and I will pack him off to his parents”
Anand turned at me at the door and I could see in his eyes a deep hatred for me. We never met thereafter. It was only in my later years that I realized that no promises are to be made for covering up misdeeds.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A clever trick

My dad, a strong willed man, had strange notions of man’s superiority over woman. He always ordered my mom about even where requests would have been appropriate. My mom willingly subjected herself to his taunts and abuse. My dad and I were eating our dinner together. I asked “Dad, I have a question. “
He said “Shoot your question,” sipping his coffee.
“Do you believe men are entitled to treat their wives as chattel? Can they order them about as if they are paid slaves? Can they assume that wives have no say in all household matters and only husbands have the right to decide?”
Tell me what is at the back of your mind. What prompted you to ask this question?” he asked.
“Nothing in particular. It is just to know your views.”
He slowly said in a measured tone “I strongly believe that women will have to be kept under tight leash. Give them an inch they will take a mile. As an earning member who keeps the hearth burning, the husband has the right to see things are done as per his wishes. He may have to occasionally crack the whip if necessary to maintain discipline and compliance with his wishes. Men give them food, clothing, shelter and children for the work they do. What else do they need?”
Aghast though, I was not surprised at his boorish attitude knowing well how he had been treating my mom all these years. I hated him for a while for his rude response and brashness. I kept quiet not knowing how to react.
He asked “I am not convinced that you asked this question casually. Tell me what impelled you to ask?”I could not control my tears when I thought of my poor mom and started sobbing.
“Sita, pray tell me without crying what is troubling you.”
You married me to Hari telling me he came from a cultured family of decent people. Life has been a hell for me from day one of marriage. Not a day passes without his insulting and beating me often in the presence of his parents and siblings. Even when I am sick none comes to help me in the kitchen. None asks me whether I am alright.He neither trusts me nor gives me money even for buying vegetables. I am not allowed to express any opinion even on matters concerning my children. I do not want to live there any more. I am willing to work and take care of my kids. I do not want to stay in a place where I am not respected or treated equally with dignity.”
He lost his arrogant demeanour and his eyes became misty.” Why didn’t you tell me all these years? I would have taught that brat a lesson or two.”
“How could I when you are yourself no better than Hari? What kind of a support I could expect to get from you? I said.
My dad broke down. “I have been a fool all along. I will change myself from today. This is a promise, Sita.Let us go now to Hari’s place and talk to him before deciding our next step. I cannot forgive a man for treating his wife so miserably.”
The door bell rang just then. Dad rushed to open. There was the beaming Hari and the children in all smiles with a complaint “Nana, mom refused to come with us to Disney land telling us she had to be with you. She missed a lot of fun today.” With a foolish grin, my dad looked askance at me.
“Extremely sorry, my dad, for making up this story.Hari is a doting husband and like the genii in Aladdin’s lamp is ever ready to carry out my smallest wishes.”

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ramon's mom

Williamsons were a happy couple till their adopted son seven years old Ramon (he was Raman in the records of the adoption centre) from India asked the inevitable question. They knew this would be coming one day or the other. They tried to shield him from the past as much as possible bringing him up like a typical American. They provided him with all facilities like any well to do American family would do to their own children. He was given fancy toys like video games, remote controlled cars, innumerable board games, cycle, manual scooter that occupied a major portion of his room. He was put into Karate classes, swimming lessons and soccer. He was trained to play clarinet. Except for his colour and facial features, he was a full fledged American boy mingling with his friends without any inhibition.
Ramon wanted to know who his biological parents were and why he was given to the adoption centre. It was just curiosity to know his background. He had no intention of going back. He loved his adopted parents very much and made them proud by excelling in his studies, games and general behaviour.They were very pleased with their choice and would do anything to make the boy happy. Normally the adopted parents do not encourage any relationship with birth families for fear of stumbling upon unpalatable facts. But Williamsons decided to explore the background.
The adoption centre would not part with the details of biological parents as a policy. Their endeavour failed to elicit any information except the year and the name of the small town where they accepted the boy for adoption centre. Most do not push for information. But Williamsons would not accept defeat easily. They sought the assistance of a company which specialized in tracking and searching the families of adopted children for a hefty fee. These companies have a knack of ferreting out the information from the employees of adoption centres, police records, orphanage homes and visiting door to door in the neighbourhood.It would take time and enormous patience. But they succeeded in a few cases.
Williamson got a favourable reply after almost a year. The couple along with Ramon traveled to India for a face to face visit initially by them and subsequently along with the boy. They did not reveal their plan or of their effort to track his parents. The visit was ostensibly on a holiday to the country of Ramon’s birth place. The representative of the search company met them at the dining hall of the hotel where they were lodged. Ramon was not present. He was swimming in the pool. The information given was disconcerting.
They could track the mother with much difficulty. Ramon was an illegitimate child. The woman does not remember the father of the child as she sold her body for food. She remembered leaving the child at the adoption centre but suffered no remorse for the act. It was a good riddance for her as it was the wages of her sin. She is found begging at the entrance of the local temple. Not a pleasant sight with her long and haggard face, unkempt and matted hair that had not seen a wash, she was dressed in a torn and dirty red colour sari that was scanty to cover her body in full.
Williamsons made sure that the information given was authentic as the tracking company had a reputation. They just wished to see her from a distance before they left and had no intention to establish any contact. They felt it was best to hide the facts from Ramon as it would do no good to him.
When they visited the local temple in the evening along with boy taking pictures of the temple, the gopurams, the chariot car and the elephant, they clicked on the line of beggars at the entrance. She was unmistakably there with a well chiseled face that was ravaged by hunger and abuse. They dropped ten rupee notes into the bowls of the beggars who were sitting in a line. When they came opposite to her they lingered for a few moments longer and dropped quietly a five hundred rupee note into her bowl. Ramon was elsewhere busy watching with awe the elephant eating coconuts and taking coins from the passers by.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Lost in thoughts

I am quite happy with the sylvan surroundings. The benches under the big trees and the cool shade they afforded make my afternoons pleasant. I like solitude. I keep thinking to myself of many things and events in my life. However if you ask me to share them with you, I am unable to articulate them. There are many amusing thoughts that occur in my mind and I cannot but laugh. The people around me look at me funnily. As I told you I cannot express my thoughts clearly. Further even when I try to convey sometimes, people do not pay attention and go away smiling to themselves. The world has become queer these days. But I am at peace here by and large and do not miss anything.
However I dislike the men in white uniform who do not give me the due respect. They order me about and when I defy them, they use physical force to take me to my room. As you know I am a writer but they provide me with no books or magazines or even news papers. The fellows have the temerity to tell me that I was found reading the book upside down and that when I get upset with them I tear the books and magazines. I have become a back number and have only stale news to tell you. I see many men and women around me talking to themselves and laughing like lunatics. Luckily they do not come near me leaving me alone with my constant thoughts. I wish to pen them down and have been asking the men in uniform to give me the writing instruments. They keep promising for long but have not given even a scrap of paper or a pencil so far. They have the cheek to tell me that I would hurt myself with pencil or pen as if I am a small child.
One young lady comes here every week I think to see me. She sits quietly before me and offers some sweet delicacies to eat. Sometimes I accept but mostly I decline as it is below my dignity to accept everything given to me by strangers. I could see she becomes sad and stealthily wipes her tears. I like her very much for she is also like me a quiet person. I have a vague familiarity with her face though I do not remember where and when I met her. I like her coming though I cannot say why. When she is around, my mind stops thinking and I find that a still mind is more enjoyable. One thing that is bothering me is that she is always sad and her smile is strained. May be she has some big worry that she is unable to resolve herself. Poor thing, what can I do sitting here. She tells me that she would take me to her home if the white dressed men allow. I think they are not permitting me to go to a stranger’s place.
I tell her one day ’Take me to your home forcibly. Seek the help of police if needed. I do not like this place and the people here. Will you?”
She looks at me intently with searching eyes and nods her head. I see tears swelling up again in her eyes.I tell her “Do not cry. When I come to your place, I will be a great support to you.“
I wanted to talk to her much but this wretched mind of mine was again crowded with thoughts. I became silent. When I did not speak for long she walked away with tears in her eyes upset with me perhaps. I could see and hear one of the men in white uniform approaching her as she was leaving and asking her how her dad was today. He is presumably her family friend and knew her dad.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The doodle does the trick

Ravichandran was about fifteen studying in class ix at Mannargudi.There was a girl Visalakshi in the same class. She was exceptionally beautiful, extremely fair and hazel eyed. She had a smiling face and whenever she laughed he could see the neatly aligned white teeth gleaming inside. She was friendly with Ravichandran and sought only from him the note books whenever she absented herself from school. She never talked much with him except for exchanging notes. She must have been around thirteen. He found some excuse to make small conversation with her daily though she would be mingling only with the girls. Though cannot be called love, thoughts of her tormented the adolescent boy very much.
One day when she asked for his Chemistry note book, he scribbled in a paper his name in bold letters and kept it inside. Being timid, he considered keeping a mere slip with the name an audacious epistle of love. He spent two restless days thinking whether she would take him amiss. When she returned the book, he opened eagerly the notebook to see the slip. He found to his great joy and surprise she had written neatly her name Visalakshi by the side of his name .He also noticed that she had over written on his name making it bold with her pen. No word was spoken nor was any hint of the name-writing given by her.
Ravichandran wanted to make sure whether there was intent behind the adding of her name to his. He wrote his name thrice in a paper when he gave his physics note book. When she returned the book next day he felt her cheeks turned crimson and there was a certain shyness. He found her name written next to his name thrice with a curve joining the names. The young minds knew they were fond of each other and at that age they dared not express more about their feelings for each other.
When the school reopened the next year, he found her missing in the class. She had left the school evidently. He had stored the two slips of paper carefully hidden from others eyes. Her image never left him. Often he recalled her smiling face and the slips of paper. But as years passed by, her memory gradually faded away. Meanwhile Ravichandran did his B.Tech and MS and had taken up a job in US with a shortened name R.Chander.
He had come on a week’s leave to Chennai for his marriage with a girl finalised by his parents. The girl Vaishali looked very charming and he noticed she had a pair of hazel eyes. She had done her M.C.A and was a software analyst. The company agreed to transfer her to the same city where Chander was working. Within two days after marriage they had to leave for US.
Tears trickled down her face at the airport. The parents and relatives were all there. Last minute advices from her parents, reminders to chat daily and caution to drive only after she had practised adequately and such like made her feel bad at leaving them behind. When finally the couple were together in the plane side by side, she had mixed feelings of joy, hopes of a new life and unknown fears. It was past three am and she was tired when she fell asleep. Chander could not sleep. He watched some film amidst sideward glances at her beautiful wife. He doodled his name in the airline magazine.
When she woke up at 6am at the aroma of coffee, she found her husband wide awake. When asked why he did not catch a wink or two, he smiled that he could not sleep with such a beautiful woman by his side. She saw the airline magazine with his names scribbled. She snatched the pen from him and wrote her name Vaishali neatly by the side of his names and linked them with a curve.Chander was amazed and the thoughts of the school days at Mannargudi rushed.
He asked her whether she had studied her class ix there. When she nodded her head in affirmative, he asked her “Aren’t you Visalakshi? Do you remember Ravichandran of your class.?”When her eyes opened wide in exclamation and surprise, he pulled her towards him and started kissing her passionately unmindful of the amused stares alround.What a sweet culmination to the budding love story of childhood days.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A tryst with Tampa uncle

Narmada , a young thing in her early twenties was working in a renowned software company after her engineering degree. A versatile woman she had varied interests. She wrote good poems that were regularly published in magazines, adept in playing violin though she learnt it to please her mother and could sing Hindi film songs like a professional in her sweet voice. She had a blog of her own where she posted her poems and thoughts regularly. An extrovert she was friendly by nature and had many friends. Her mom was pressing her to get married but she was not keen about it. She desired to go to US for a couple of years. But her father had retired from service with a meager pension and she had a younger sister in college. Narmada’s earnings were a great support to the family.
One day she saw a comment from someone under name Bard posted in her blog picking flaws in her poem. Narmada felt the comment was a bit harsh and unfair. She wrote back contesting the comments made and wished the critic were gentle in his words. This started a regular exchange of mails initially that yielded to online chat regularly. While Narmada’s profile was known to him from her blog, she had no inkling about him except that he was also in the computer line based in Tampa, US and perhaps elderly as he wanted her to address him as Tampa uncle. But she found his mails and chats very interesting, jovial and educative too. Being loquacious by nature, she gradually was drawn into discussing her likes and dislikes and even her personal problems in office and home. She had told him that she preferred to listen to Sonu Nigam and Shan than play violin, eat Italian pastas and Mexican food instead of the drab South Indian fare and liked to watch Rani Mukerji and Vidya Balan along with Hritik Roshan and the inimitable SRK. Tampa uncle seemed a perfect gentleman, vibing well with her youthful tastes and giving proper advice when sought for without seeming to be inquisitive. He gently advised her to learn cooking an art she had been neglecting. She grew to like him much for his gentle disposition and had even sent her resume to him. When they advertised for suitable groom and spread word amongst relatives and friends for a prospective match, she could do little to stop them. She wrote about her plight to Tampa uncle complaining how unrelenting her parents were. To her dismay he advised her to go along with her parents as they knew what is good for her.
In a couple of months they found a highly qualified professional from US through some friend. The young man was based in New York and was expected the next month. When Narmada informed Tampa uncle him about the developments, he was happy for her. He told her that he would also be visiting India soon and hoped to be present for the wedding. Narmada was elated at the prospect of meeting her good friend and mentor.
On the appointed day the young man Vasudevan came along with his parents to Narmada’s place for meeting her. He looked tall, handsome and a bit dusky with curly hair. Narmada too was an ideal match for him. Needless to say, it was a case of love at first sight. After the pleasantries, they went to a separate room to talk and know each other better.Vasudevan broke the silence telling her that he had no questions to ask her and that he liked her very much. He asked Narmada to seek the answers for the questions bothering her. She smiled coyly and said she too had nothing to ask him.Vasudevan smiled at her and said he had one stipulation to make before proceeding further bringing jitters to Narmada. Being qualified he wanted her to work in US as additional income would be welcome. He paused for some time before adding that she must remit fifty percent of her earnings to her parents each month. She was flabbergasted for a few minutes rendering her speechless and wondering how he read her mind. She involuntarily folded her hands doing a namaste and bending to touch his feet. He lifted her and said he was fond of a typical Tamilian food though he liked very much pastas and had a weakness for Mexican enchiladas and cheese quesadillas .When a thrilled Narmada asked him about carnatic music, he confessed his partiality towards Hindi songs by Sonu Nigam and Chitras songs in Tamil. A doubt crossed her mind and asked him whether he knew any elderly gentleman in Tampa.Vasudevan could not contain his mischievous smile and asked her “Are you talking of Tampa uncle and his girl friend in Chennai?” She now knew the whole game and started hitting him fondly with both hands on his chest amidst shrieks of joy. The perplexed parents rushed in to see the blushing young couple holding their hands in laughter.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The retribution

CK had come up the hard way in life. He had no advantage of a good lineage, affluent circumstances or good education. His early life was not something that one would like to dwell upon in conversations with others. He had been charged for offences under many sections of Indian Penal Code and even served short terms on a few occasions. He realized that this would not take him far. He knew where the big money was for people with no special skills. He changed his name and shifted to another town with a new identity. He joined a political party and soon found life to be one of comfort and luxury. He was a man of few words and could not become a public speaker. But he had other skills to fall back upon. He did not marry as he thought it fettered free movement and constrained one with many commitments. He was not an ethical person and was friendly in every town with some woman or the other. Life was smooth.

The top leaders needed his help frequently. They knew him as CK and his usefulness on occasions. They took care not to talk to him directly or meet him personally. Grateful as they were in their own way, they rewarded him amply whenever he accomplished the jobs assigned to him with clinical perfection. He called himself a trouble shooter though people who used him knew him differently. That is how he came to be called as CK in close circles. He would only receive instructions through cell phones saying that Mr. X is bothering the leader too much even though the leader went out of the way to pacify that Mr. X with pelf and positions. The leader was disgusted and would like CK to do something about it.
CK is a man of compassion. He always provided chances for the person initially with verbal threats failing which some mild bodily attack in unexpected place and circumstance. He may sometimes retain a child of his target for a couple of days and let the child free later without any harm. Alternatively he may be compelled to take the target’s wife or daughter for a day’s outing, some embarrassing photo sessions and mostly ensure their safe return. If all these things failed to make the person see reason and comply with the wishes of the leader, he would most reluctantly contrive a denouement that media reported as death as due to an accidental fall or a suicide out of depression or a gruesome auto accident. The police, the sniffer dogs and the special investigative teams after a few wrong leads would invariably lose interest in such cases in due course.

This was working well for CK and there was not much to do for him for many days. But the latest one that CK executed, particularly well as he thought,, was botched up by a side kick of his and left a big trail towards him as clearly as the slime of a snail. He was not aware of this till the authorities alerted the leader. The media made big noise and police had to demonstrate some action. They were on the look out for him everywhere. It was then there was one call on CK’s cell phone full of filthy abuse and asking him to be present at a particular lonely place for being smuggled out in a police van to some safe haven till the uproar subsided. Till the police van picked him up, he was confident and unafraid as he knew all the past secrets of the leader. Once in the van, the men in stolen vehicle and stolen uniform jabbed a cotton swab on his nose. There was a news item next day in the corner of a page in dailies that the body of an unidentified man aged about thirty five was found in the outskirts of the city. The police were striving to ascertain the identity of the man and the cause of his death. The sniffer dogs put to use ran for some distance and lost track of the culprit(s).Elsewhere the leader breathed a sigh of relief at the new find of another efficient CK.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A wife’s dilemma

Mangala, a very bright and well behaved girl, was the only child of her parents born late in their lives. Given to studious habits she grew up to become a software engineer. She soon found a highly satisfying and lucrative job. The happy parents wanted her to get married. Mangala pleaded that they wait for a year more for her to establish herself. A fair request it was and readily agreed to. Life was going on an even keel till she met Mohan by chance when she went to her boss’s room. Mohan was working in the marketing wing in another city and had come to head office for training for a fortnight. A tall and handsome figure he swept her off her feet with his suave talk and pleasing manners. They met almost daily in canteen or restaurant and soon they knew they were in deep love with each other.Mangla suggested that he meet her parents. He had no parents and one sister was permanently settled in States. Things followed one another in quick succession till they were married.Mangala got a transfer to the city where Mohan worked. They went to office together in his motor cycle, left office together in the evenings, ate out most of the days and would return home after strolling around malls. It was all hunky- dory till one day she got the shock of her life. Her mom, a diabetic and hyper tension patient for a long time, suffered a massive heart attack and passed away even before she could get medical assistance. She persuaded her father whose vision was highly impaired not to stay alone and brought him to her place.
Tragedy struck her again after two years. On a Sunday early morning Mohan had gone to airport to receive some one from head office. As he was taking a turn to enter the airport a speeding water tanker hit him. He was rushed to nearby hospital by the passersby and life was saved by immediate medical aid. But the injury to the head left him in deep coma.Mangala had him examined by the best neurologists. His office too did not spare any effort to get him the best medical assistance. Doctors could not do much. Days, months and years passed with no change in his condition. He was just a vegetable needing attention all the twenty four hours. She employed a boy to take care of him while she was away at office. He was otherwise in perfect health except that his brain was dead. She was only 28 and he was four years older than her.
Doctors felt sorry for her plight but could not hold out any hope of his becoming normal. She read in papers about stray cases where the injured had regained their consciousness and memory even after two years. She kept talking to him daily hoping for some sign of recognition. Seven years had passed by with no ray of hope. She had in vain prayed to all gods, did several pujas and tried various alternative cures.
Friends and relatives who were initially hesitant to talk to her about her future gathered the nerve to suggest that she get married again. They argued that chances of his recovery were nil and that she should not waste her youth and she also needed a support when she grew old. To assuage her hurt feelings, they comforted her with the advice that she can take care of Mohan by admitting him in a nursing home at her expense. That way she was not betraying her duty towards her husband. They goaded her saying people seek divorce these days even on flimsy ground of incompatibility. Her case was genuine and divorce would be granted immediately.
Nursing a hope of a miracle she did not pay heed to such talks though she had moods of acute depression without any shoulder to rest her head on. Her father was old and depended on her completely. He had once mentioned it was her life and that she should handle it in whatever manner she deemed fit. He was not specific. She was torn between two minds whether it was ethical for her to put her husband in a home and remarry some one or continue for some more years hoping for a recovery. She always put herself the question as to what would she expect if the roles were reversed. Confusing thoughts led to frustration and self pity. In fact one of her colleagues, a decent chap, had obliquely expressed his interest in her in the event of her getting a divorce. He was willing to wait. She could only sob as she did not know the answer to give him.
How Mangala would resolve her dilemma time alone can tell. Any clue?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Proof of residence

Tanwar had retired as a teacher almost two decades ago. Age had caught up with him and taken its toll on his body. His hair had gone completely gray .The limbs had become weak and feeble. The back was bent and Arthritis made his life painful. With his children working in distant lands, he and his wife continued to live in their old house on the small pension he received. His sons sent him some money to augment his income to live comfortably. Except for the general weakness, he was keeping fit and life was going on smoothly.
The cooking gas company one day insisted on his production of a valid ration card to accept the booking for a refill.Tanwars had no ration card. They allowed it to lapse as the items given in ration shop were of inferior quality. He checked with neighbors and all of them had ration cards or got one to meet the requirements of the gas company. On reaching the ration office, he found a long serpentine queue of people with touts selling forms and filling them up. It took an hour in the hot sun for him to enter even the portals of the building. He found many returning grumbling that they have to come back with some more proof of their residence. As he neared the counter he found the clerk in irritable and impatient mood turning away many applicants at the slightest pretext. He never lent any ear to their protests. Possibly he was strictly complying with the rules which the applicants were not aware of till they came to this office.
Tanwar became nervous whether he would also be turned out as he had no proof of residence except a notice from his colony association seeking donation for some cause. When his turn came, he was expecting the same fate as had befallen others. When the prickly clerk took his application, he stood up and Tanwar thought he would be leaving for some respite or rest room. But the clerk continued to scrutinize the application and asked him to wait. He went inside his officer’s room and came back in a few minutes to tell smilingly ”Sir, your card would reach your house tomorrow or the latest the day after.”
Tanwar was wonderstruck at such a metamorphosis in his behavior. He thanked him profusely and told him of his apprehensions of possible rejection based on what he had witnessed. He asked the clerk how come he was so nice to him.
He replied ” You are different, Tanwar Sir, I am your old student and still see you living in the same house whenever I pass thro that side .No proof of residence is necessary for you . You might have forgotten me but despite the long years I cannot forget you or your effort to make a man of me ”

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Moment of happiness

Aravind was working in Gurgaon as a software engineer. A tall and handsome young man he was still a single. His parents were living in Bangalore. His parents had asked him to visit Bangalore to finalize some property matters.Aravind deliberately took a train as he wanted a leisurely travel when he could read a couple of novels. He was allotted a lower side berth in AC two tier and was wondering who the passenger could be on the opposite seat It was five minutes only for the train to depart. The passenger had still not come. Just as the train started moving a young lady with a strolley rushed towards him. She must have run as she was panting and perspiring heavily. She put the strolley on the upper berth and asked him to lift the lower berth as she wanted to sit. Annoyed at the brusque tone though, he complied with her request. She surveyed the noisy compartment with a frown on her charming face. The frown Aravind felt only enhanced her beauty. She was tall, slim and looked healthy. There was an air of nonchalance about her. When she turned towards Aravind, he said he had no objection to sleep in the upper berth if she wanted the lower one. She declined the offer without even a word of thanks. She was reading some magazine and showed no interest to converse with him answering him in monosyllables. After about an hour she went up to sleep.Aravind thought this young woman to be haughty and lacking in common courtesies.
It was around 6-15 am in the morning. Aravind was roused from his deep slumber by some one jabbing him on his back. He turned around and opened his sleepy eyes to see the young woman standing with a cup of coffee and telling in admonishing tone that it is past six and that she would like to sit down. Angry within he kept silent and made way for her to sit in her chair. After a hot coffee, he smiled at her choosing to ignore her incivility and asked whether he kept her standing for a long time in the morning. He said that 6am was midnight for him as he sleeps late and gets up late. She giggled on hearing this and became pleasant thereafter. A MBA from one of the B schools, Shanti was working in Delhi working for a foreign bank. Thereafter it was a long uninterrupted chat between the two interspersed with laughter and gaiety.Aravind forgot about his novels and she put aside her magazines. One could see that both of them had taken a liking for each other and Cupid was busy at work. Aravind explained the object of his visit and casually asked her what took her home. He saw that the colour in her face faded and that she became silent. After much prodding she told him that her parents want her to meet a young man whom they found suitable for her. She did not want to marry for another year or two. She said that she is in any case not interested in this chap and is going to Bangalore only in deference to their wishes. She added that she intends to tell the groom on his face that he better be on the look out for someone else.Aravind was inwardly happy on hearing this and wondered whether they could meet each other while in Bangalore. She readily agreed and exchanged their contact numbers.. Some relative of hers had come to receive her at the station.
The property matter was disposed immediately on the next day. Aravind’s mother during dinner time broached the subject of his marriage. They said they are getting old and all the usual stuff that goes with it. His dad butted in and said that his friend has suggested a very nice match and that he had taken the liberty of fixing the next day evening for meeting the girl. Aravind protested vehemently that he cannot be a party to all these arrangements and that he has no plan to marry for another year. His father pleaded that he meet the girl as he had given the word and if he found her not to his liking he would not proceed further.
When Aravind went along with his parents to their sprawling house, they were received by their parents. After the pleasantries in which Aravind did not take much interest, the bride came along with coffee tray. When they looked at each other, they were greatly surprised and were at a loss even for the customary greetings. They went on gazing at each other for what appeared to others as interminable length of time till Aravind’s dad broke the silence with his jovial remark that it seemed a case of love at first sight. Both Aravind and Shanti smiled shyly realizing that their moment of happiness had arrived.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ma’s compassion

It was a leisurely journey from Kolkata to Chennai. I have an aversion for reading long novels as most do. Instead I enjoy chatting with co-passengers drawn from different back grounds. Those days there was no menace of biscuit bandits. The gentleman next to me was a portly man, dark complexioned and clad in white. With eyes closed he did not appear to evince any interest in the conversation around him. When he opened his eyes I smiled at him and asked him” Are you traveling beyond Chennai?”
He replied” Yes up to Madurai”
“Do you live In Madurai or Kolkata?” I asked
“No, I came to Kolkata to visit the Dakshineswar temple and Belur Ashram”
“Oh, you must be spiritually inclined. Where is your family and what do you do for living?”
He let off a sigh.” I have none. I do not work. It is a long story and I would prefer to talk about it later. I am tired. Let me go up and rest for some time.”
My curiosity was roused. I was intrigued by his response but waited for him to open up on his own. It was a few hours later when he came down for a cup of coffee he cleared his throat and talked in low tone almost a whisper.
He said” You asked me many questions. Let me tell you in my own way. It will relieve me of my stress somewhat. I belong to Madurai district and born to a very rich landlord. Being the only son he pampered me a lot. He wanted me to look after the lands and rice mills after my graduation. I had an aversion for agriculture and the village atmosphere and longed to be in Chennai permanently amidst the many friends that I had cultivated. I had a weakness for films. The village had no such facility. His repeated pleas to assume responsibility fell on deaf ears. He was getting old and falling sick frequently. My parents got me married to a good looking girl who had studied only up to class 8.They thought this would bind me home and stop my frequent visits to Chennai. No doubt it did initially. After the demise of my father a year later my mother too died in a few months, I was compelled to take charge of the responsibility. Having neither experience nor interest I could not manage the farm operations. It soon started to be a losing proposition and did not last even for five years when a distant relative offered to buy up the lands. I jumped at the offer, collected a tidy amount and reached Chennai. I had enough money to live comfortably without working. I bought a nice house in Mylapore, car etc and happily settled down. Gradually I fell into bad company and developed all vices: races, wine and women. Meanwhile my wife had conceived to our great joy. This was not to last long as she developed complications at the time of delivery and passed away giving birth to a still born baby. I started drinking heavily to drown the sorrows. It was in that unguarded moment that one of my friends sowed the idea of taking a film feeding me with rosy stories of successful producers and the good life they had with leading lady actors. Being a green horn to the film industry I was surrounded by greedy tricksters and ended up making a film that was a total flop. To make a long story short I lost all my property and was saddled with debts. I became an insolvent and virtually thrown out on the road. The ‘friends’ deserted as was expected. I was also a physical wreck afflicted by a dreaded disease and could not work”
He stopped there and said he will continue after dinner. A dismal story, I thought to myself, that we often hear from the cine field and the man went down in my esteem. Dinner over, he continued his narration without any prompting.
“With no home I loitered around not knowing where to go and what to do. I had no skills to work having wasted away my life. I was restless having foolishly frittered away all the wealth. To get some peace I gravitated towards Sri Ramakrishna Mission ashram. I sat there for long hours dazed with tears trickling down. A kindly swamiji in ochre robes patted me gently and said “Do not grieve whatever be the reason. I often see people coming in such state here. Do not give up hope and be manly” I narrated him my tale. He said “It is sad that you have lost both your wife and money. These are the outcomes of prarabda karma. You could not have prevented it. Though young, you look very sick. Would you like to rebuild your life and start afresh?”
“No, Swamiji, I do not have many years to live and would not like to get into that cesspool again. Can I stay and work in the ashram? To be true, being a sick person with a deadly disease I would not like to pollute the ashram”
Swamiji in a consoling voice said” Ashram admits only sanyasins.It is not easy to become sanyasin as the initiation would be done only in deserving cases with the right temperament after a long wait. Many do not turn up again. In your case as you are ill, it is best to spend your remaining years in the vicinity of a temple praying for your salvation. Temples provide food. Hand over whatever money you have to some charitable institution and they may provide room and food.”
“Yes Swamiji, I think this is the best course open to me”
But I would strongly urge you to visit Dakshineswar once and pray to the merciful Ma to give you peace and comfort. I am sure divine mother will listen to your prayers”
“I am now going back to Madurai to collect some money kept with a distant relative. I intend to move down South and live near a famous temple there. This journey to Kolkata has made me very weak and my condition worse. Sorry sir, I have burdened you with my depressing story.”
I had no words to comfort him and said “It is getting late. Go to sleep. We will see in the morning”
I was woken up in the morning by the aroma of coffee. When I was having mine, I remembered the gentleman on the top berth. I thought he was catching up with the lost sleep after unburdening his weight on me. An hour went by and breakfast had started coming. I stood up and patted him. When there was no response, I did again and this time with a little force. There was no movement. A youngman went up and shook him only to find him inert and lifeless. I was wonder struck at Ma’s immense compassion in answering his prayers with such swiftness.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A starlet's rise

She was all ready to bid good bye to this world. She had tied her duppatta in the ceiling fan. She was waiting to put the noose around her neck .Extremely dejected, she quickly ran thro her mind the recent happenings. She had no fear of death as life appeared to her as empty and hollow with nothing to enthuse her any more. She had antagonized her parents when she left the home. She had discontinued her studies as a bright student. Her friends too left her. Now the only one whom she loved wholly and with whom she had tied her life ditched her after using her for more than a year.
As a young and beautiful actress new in the field, Shyama had more than her share of her troubles. When she joined the film world encouraged by her Miss College title and her histrionic abilities in the college dramas she never had inkling that the film world was so dangerous devoid of morals and that one needed some one in particular to help climb the tricky ladder. Having entered the cesspool, she too had to come up the hard way like many others passing through the casting couches. Although not a full fledged heroine, she was in the second rung and appreciated for her acting skills and good looks. Life seemed well set for her with the possibility of leading roles in the not distant future.

It was then Srijit entered her life. An upcoming star, he had even in the first film attracted attention. Handsome and gifted with a strong physique he had all the attributes of a hero. He was flooded with offers but had not forgotten Shyama with whom he had acted in his first film. He liked for her intelligence and friendly nature. The friendship soon blossomed into love. They were seen always inseparable and started living together. He promised to marry her once he got established as a regular star. Shyama trusted him and was true to him waiting for the day to tie the knot.

After the initial success, the many offers Srijit was given had not graduated themselves to the shooting stage. He was frantically waiting for a break when the leading heroine took a liking for him after a chance meeting. Infatuated as she was, she promised to use her influence to get the much needed break and made him live with her. This infuriated the towering director who was on intimate terms with her and who was responsible for her rise. He had strong clout to make or mar actors .He was much respected in the field and none dared to go against him. He determined to finish their careers also avenge them for what he perceived her unfaithful act in another way too.
Just as Shyama was readying to put the noose, her mobile sang its tune. Curious to know who would ring at this unearthly hour, she was surprised to the extreme hearing the voice of the famous director who was a living god to the aspiring actors and who was admired for his ability to mould even ordinary actors to great stars.
He said in a soft voice”Shyama, I know what that upstart Srijit did to you in connivance with that wily heroine. They have hurt me too as they did to you. I have decided to teach them a lesson they will never forget. I will ensure they are nowhere in the film world anymore and I have decided to replace that heroine in the next two films with you. Do not fear and I will not go back on my words. I have only one stipulation.Srijit will desert her as a rat does from a sinking ship. Do not accept him on any count. When he comes to you, spit at him and throw him out as you do with a mad dog. I will announce your name tomorrow in a press meet and I promise to make you a leading heroine. Is it ok with you?”
She had no words except to mumble “Thank you, Sir.I am so indebted to you for saving my life.”

Bewildered he said “No my dear, where is the question of my saving your life? It is I who have to thank you for helping me to teach those dogs a bitter lesson.”

She kicked the stool and started humming her favourite tune.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Belied hopes

One evening I met my friend Raju after several years. He looked old with a sad face. God had been kind to him in several ways. He had a nice flat and was well off. His only and bright son Simhan did engineering and went to US to make his millions. I could see no reason for this depression. It appears he had come with his wife for a function and was to leave for Delhi the next day. He agreed after some hesitation to visit my house that was very close by
After the pleasantries and the coffee, I could sense his relaxing a bit.
“How is Simhan? I heard he is married and well settled in US.
He did not reply and kept silent for a long time. When I prodded him further he replied in a disinterested manner that he is fine. He did not pursue the conversation and excused himself to the toilet. I saw my wife giving a meaningful glance at me.
Thoughts of my conversations with Raju years back gushed into my mind.
“Partha, I want you to find a very charming girl for Simhan. But I have some conditions. Listen carefully. The girl should be five years younger than Simhan. She should be professionally qualified but willing to be a home maker. I do not want my grandchildren to grow in crèches and miss the care and love of mother. She should not be the only child of her parents. I do not want them in their old age dependent on her. Lastly, it is enough if she is reasonably good looking and matching Simhan’s six feet height. I have no other demands. Do you think I am unreasonable?”
I could understand his anxiety as he possibly had plans of settling with him eventually. “No, not at all, let me find out” I replied wondering at his rigid conditions.
Coming back from the toilet, he left hastily pleading some urgent work. His abrupt departure signaled to us that he was avoiding something.
It was a month later when my son spoke from Fremont he could hardly suppress his surprise. ”Appa, you remember Raju mama’s son Simhan who did his engineering with me. I met him at Wal-Mart today after several years. I never knew he was living so close by. He has made it big here and a millionaire.”
“What a coincidence” I said” Raju mama was here a month back. He looked very dejected and hardly spoke.”
“Appa, hold your breath for a startling news. He has married Vanessa a Mexican lady, five years older than him, who is working as his secretary. She was also there with him. Appa, she is short, plump,dusky and plain looking. Really, I do not know how Simhan fell for her. But don’t worry. He looks very cheerful.
“My god, this is not what Raju wanted. He had set so many stipulations.”
“Simhan was feeling sorry for his parents. He was telling he is unable to have them with him. Vanessa’s parents had separated and being the only daughter her mother is living with them. He has no children. His eating habits have also changed. Even if Raju uncle were here, he will not feel comfortable”
Tthought of how much Raju dreamt about his daughter-in-law and what he has got with none of conditions met came to my mind. I could now understand the anguish in his face and his uneasiness while at my house.
It was my wife Vasantha who cheered me up saying “It is all in divine hands. Have you not heard Man proposes but God disposes? What can Simhan do? After all he is such a nice boy.”

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Unseen presence

Rajesh and Ragini were made for each other as everyone in their IT office would testify. Be it in intelligence or good looks or the cheer they spread around both of them matched each other. They were in deep love for the last three years and were waiting for a year more for Rajesh’s sister’s wedding to be over for them to tie the knot. This did not however stand in the way of their spending their time together all the waking hours in the office and outside in malls and multiplexes. Their parents also knew of their love and respected their wish to wait for a year to get married.
But destiny had something else in store for them. Many things had happened in the course of three years.Ragini got married to Dinesh an executive in a MNC and she was a mother of a baby boy. She had not joined work and preferred to be a home maker at least for a few years till the boy grew. She no doubt remembered Rajesh frequently initially after marriage but she tried hard to forget him. Dinesh was a loving husband and was very considerate to his wife. They were very happy.
It was then one day Rajesh found Ragini along with her baby in the stroller in super market they used to visit frequently. He was not happy seeing her with a child and was upset that she chose to ignore his love for her by marrying someone else. He did no want to talk to her on his own but managed to stand in the same aisles where she was choosing her things to catch her attention.. He saw her turning towards him many times but did not show any recognition of him. He felt bad that she did not even show the courtesy of smiling at him or greeting him. He went once or twice very close to her hoping that she would talk to him. He was very pained at her total indifference as if he did not exist at all. What happened, he thought, to all the professions of love, the promises made and the many stolen kisses? How she could be so heartless and cruel, he wondered. He could not recollect any single unpleasant incident to mar their relationship. In fact he was handsome and highly qualified and was in senior position. What went wrong that she should ditch him? Before giving up his intention to find the reason for the change of heart, he decided to make one last effort. She had moved away by about ten yards and was nearing the gate. She was evidently in a hurry and called her son who was playing a little away “Rajesh, Come here immediately. I am leaving.” What a treacherous woman to name his son after him after rejecting his love, thought Rajesh. Unmindful of others present he screamed at the top of his voice”Ragini, wait for a moment.Ragini, Ragini, Please wait. Do not go away.” She moved on as if she did not hear him and got into the car and drove away. He was embarrassed and turned around. Everyone in the shop was minding his or her own business with none taking note of him. He wondered why such indifference towards him by all even when he had screamed loudly as if he was not present there at all.
On exit from the favourite supermarket Ragini’s thoughts returned to Rajesh as she was driving back home and the horrible accident three years back. She remembered the night they were returning from a housewarming party thrown by a colleague in Rajesh’s two wheeler. Though Rajesh kept away from alcohol, she clearly recalled how he succumbed to peer pressure that evening and had a few glasses. It was drizzling and dark. The lorry traffic and the Omni buses to the various towns were heavy. There were no traffic lights in that long stretch of road and the vehicles were moving at great speed. She knew that Rajesh was a careful driver and yet in that darkness he failed to see the speeding truck when he changed the lane. Ragini recalled how she lay in the hospital unconscious for months. Luckily and surprisingly to everyone she regained consciousness and started gradually recovering. But she could not easily digest the news of Rajesh’s tragic death on the spot that was divulged only when she was better. The only thing she could do to perpetuate his memory was to name her son after him.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Unresolved question

Rajesh was attending his thirteenth interview. He did not have any professional qualification besides the graduation degree. With no practical experience he drew blank wherever he went. To add worth to his CV he did some short term courses in a computer software institute. He hoped he stood a chance in this organization as it did not stipulate prior experience as a requirement. He wished to be in their office half an hour before time but he was held up in the traffic. He was rushing inside the large lounge of the building when he collided against a gentleman who was also in apparent hurry. He was in late fifties in full suit. His brief case fell with a thud on the floor and his spectacles also fell down. Rajesh immediately stooped down to pick the glasses and the brief case. Luckily there was no damage to the glass. Rajesh apologized repeatedly for rushing. Although the gentleman was initially annoyed, he soon forgave him as he appeared mollified by Rajesh’s good manners.
When Rajesh saw the elevator getting filled with people he ran to get into it. When he saw the gentleman also hurrying behind him, he held the doors of the lift for the gentleman to join. The elevator was already jam-packed and Rajesh squeezed himself to make way for him much to the annoyance of other passengers. Rajesh smiled at him and was sort of relieved when the gentleman returned his smile and thanked him for holding the lift for his sake.
When Rajesh got out in the 14th floor and saw the large number of candidates waiting, his spirit sagged. It was already 10 am. The interview hadn’t started. From the discussions amongst the waiting candidates he learnt that there were only ten vacancies against the nearly hundred young men and women competing. He was not sanguine about his chances and wanted to be done with the process quickly. He used to pray for success earlier but the repeated rejections made him lose faith. Nevertheless he did pray this last time.
Many candidates went in one after the other and when they returned he failed to see a smile in their faces. His turn came after nearly two hours. When he went in he saw to his great dismay the same gentleman whom he had knocked in the lounge sitting in the chair. His heart sank and he was sure that he stood no chance after the unpleasant incident. He made a feeble attempt to smile. Much to his surprise the gentleman recognized him and said “Was all your hurry to attend this interview? It was the same case with me too.”
He then put Rajesh at ease and asked him questions generally about him and his family. There were no testing questions relating to the job. Rajesh felt that the interviewer was being just courteous and this too will be one more unsuccessful encounter. When he rose up to leave, the gentleman said obliquely with a smile on his face that unpleasant incidents sometimes yield pleasing results.
When Rajesh got his appointment letter later, he wondered whether it was the fruit of his last prayer or the disagreeable accident in the lounge.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A small recompense

It was drizzling outside. All the patients had left .As I was winding up my clinic, a young boy of about twelve with a charming face entered. He was in his rain soaked tattered clothes with anxiety and fear writ large on his face. When I asked him what brought him here, he replied that his father had been very sick with diarrhea for three days. As he was not able to get up he could not go to the government hospital that was a little away. He pleaded whether I could come to see him. I asked him where his mother was. He said she had died three years ago. How about other relatives or neighbors I asked. He said since his mother was outside the caste no one is visiting them. I knew that they were very poor but taking pity I did not mind seeing him. The car would not go easily inside the narrow slushy lane and had to walk. On examination I found him dehydrated and that he needed drips immediately. With the help of my driver I lifted him bodily to the car and left him in the government hospital for drips I asked the boy to report later about his progress.
I forgot totally about the boy and the man in the busy days that followed. It was after a week the boy appeared again. There was a forlorn look that did not augur well. When asked about his dad’s condition, he said with tears trickling that he had passed away the second day. Since he had no money or help from his people to cremate him, he did not go to the hospital hoping they would dispose off the body. Shaken by the news and the plight of the boy, I asked him what he proposed to do and where he would be staying. He had no answer and his sobbing grew louder. I decided to take Sundar under my shelter. Childless as we were, my wife would only be happy to have him under her care. I took him home and asked him to stay in a room in the out house that was occupied by my driver and his family. I got him admitted in a good school. Being intelligent he did well. Time flew past and in a few years he joined a private engineering college.
It was then my happy life received a sudden jolt. My wife had a heart attack and it affected her kidneys. There was a renal failure needing an urgent transplant. Her blood group was uncommon and the doctors were waiting for a suitable donor. To add to the problem Sundar had absconded. I was very much upset. It was then one day the hospital informed me about the availability of a donor and the date fixed for surgery. Since the donor wished to remain anonymous the hospital authorities would not allow me to meet him. I was tense till the transplantation was successfully done and had not gone to the clinic. It was only after the operation that the driver told me that Sundar was away for a week or so and had just returned home. The driver also told that he was lying in the bed and that he looked pale and weak. It appeared that Sundar had told him that he had fever when he was away.. When I went to see him, he got up and tried to appear normal. To the trained medical eyes, it was clear he was not well. When I came near him to examine him, he would not let me do so. This made me angry and I shouted “You ungrateful wretch, how dare you prevent me from examining you? Keep quiet and remove your shirt.” I saw an unmistakable fear in his eyes as he averted my gaze. He still did not relent. My anger went out of bounds and I bellowed “Get lost for ever. I do not want a disobedient fellow with me. I have enough problems of my own. Please go away.”
On hearing this he fell down and prostrated before me. Hugging my legs, he pleaded”Doctor, kindly pardon me for what I had done. Do you believe I would ever disobey you? You are my living God.“ With tears rolling from his eyes, he removed the shirt. When I saw the surgical slit mark above the abdomen, I knew what he had done. I cried aloud” Sundar, what have you done? Why did you sell your kidney? If you had needed money I would have given you.“ He replied that he had not sold it and when he learnt about madam needing a kidney he offered his on the condition that his name would not be revealed. The hospital after examination agreed to his stipulation and took his kidney. He said that what he did was but a small recompense for all the kindness shown and for making him a man with certain values. He sought my blessings to live up to them. I was rendered speechless and I started crying overcome by emotion at the great sacrifice of the young man.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Raju's amulet

Raju was leading a very happy life with his wife. It was a care free life where money was in no want as both of them were earning huge salaries. They invariably went out on the weekends to the tourist spots in their car and stayed in starred hotels in comfort and style. On most of the days they ate out in posh restaurants. Even though it was past three years since they were married, it appeared an endless honeymoon for them .Suchi (shortened for Suchitra) is such a lively and fun loving girl that life seemed for Raju an unending bliss. It was then that one day his mother in law (mil for short) descended on them on a very short notice that allowed no room for preventing her arrival.Suchi was her only daughter and both mother and daughter were very close. They looked very different with mil short and plump but extremely fair like his tall and slim wife. He was not the one of the type who disliked mothers in law as we often read in stories. He took her around along with his wife to all the malls and temples nearby within a fortnight in case she had plans to depart early. There was however no talk of such an eventuality. What got his goat was his mil insisting that they both eat at home the hot and spicy food she made both mornings and evenings.Suchi loved her mom’s preparations. Their eating out stopped totally. As if these were not adequate reasons for upsetting him, Suchi loved to see the TV serials along with her mom in the evenings. Somehow Raju had a feeling that his mil did not have a high estimation of his capabilities not withstanding his engineering degree and a M.S from an AmericanUniversity. Be that as it may, the final straw was her oblique taunt that her expectations of a grand child were not met because of some inadequacy in him. When Suchi also started grumbling, he decided to take the bull by the horns.

Raju confided his problem to his close buddy Venkat and sought his advice. Being an experienced guy in this sort of domestic troubles, he suggested that the problem being serious Raju should consult a famous tantric known to him. He said the matter has to be sorted out discreetly only this way without offending his wife’s sensibilities. The tantric looked very professional with several garlands of rosaries adorning his neck, prominent ash mark with a big kumkum dot on his face and innumerable pictures of gods and lamps in his incense filled puja room. He heard Raju patiently and said an amulet costing Rs.500 would witness her departure within a week. The tantric collected the full amount in advance and asked him to collect the amulet on the second day. When he went to meet him on the appointed day, he gave the amulet and asked him whether his mil was short and plump with a large bindi on her forehead. When he nodded his head in affirmative, the tantric said that she had also come to him and procured an amulet for Rs.1000 to make her son-in-law manly to give her a grand child and also make him submissive to her. He added that since she had taken a more powerful amulet than Raju’s, his would not be effective. He suggested that he can upgrade his for another Rs.1000.As he was bent on sending mil out; he readily parted with the amount. When he went again, the tantric said the lady had come again and took an amulet worth Rs. 2000 to nullify the effects of amulet given to him. Raju paid another Rs. 2000 with the request not to entertain the lady anymore. Two days later when he met him to collect his highly potent amulet, he specifically got it confirmed that the lady had not approached the tantric subsequently. Before taking leave of him he casually asked him whether the lady in question was fair complexioned. The tantric vigorously shook his head and said she was very dark and walked with a limp. Raju realized the mistaken identity but kept quiet without revealing his disappointment and foolishness. It is six months since he got the amulet. The powerful device is yet to work on his fair complexioned mil with no plan of her leaving for another year as his wife is now on family way.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Punctured ego

Suguna is a young Chartered Accountant and a rank holder. She was offered job in a MNC with very attractive terms. Her husband Vivek is a mechanical engineer working for a private steel industry. It was an arranged marriage. The question of her employment came up for discussion prior to finalizing the alliance.Suguna was not very keen to work if Vivek was against it. She had other interests like music where she was very proficient and trained by her parents through a guru to a high level. She had a passion for sharing her knowledge with young girls. But Vivek was very much in favour of her continuing to work as he felt that two incomes would permit them to maintain a comfortable and high style of living. She could surmise from the discussions that Vivek was still in the third level against the ten in the hierarchy and that she was drawing more than him.Suguna was apprehensive whether after the initial honeymoon period Vivek would find marrying someone with a bigger status and earning capacity would hurt his ego and rock his world. But he was insistent that she worked and that she could do whatever she felt with her money.
It was all hunky dory in the beginning when Suguna was the answer to all his dreams; a professional accountant, tall and beautiful, a very competent singer and appreciated by all his relatives and friends. They bought a mid size car, furnished the house with swanky furniture and all equipments and rented a flat in a posh area a little away from her office. They had cereal at home in the mornings and lunch in the office. They frequently ordered their dinner from a fast food joint nearby or from pizza corner. Week ends they spent moving around visiting places and friends.
Six months after they were married Vivek shocked Suguna one morning when they were having cereal "When are you going to make idly or dosa for breakfast. Not once you have shown any interest in providing good food’" He knew that she had to leave early for office like him and had no time for all this work.She kept quiet surprised at the change in his attitude. From next day onwards, she made the dishes he wanted from the ready mix available in the departmental stores. He was still grumbling.
She found a few days later thro her friend whose husband also worked in Vivek’s office that he had been passed over in the promotions. He did not share this with her. He was sulking at what he felt was injustice. But she knew he did not put his heart into his work and just did the bare minimum to retain his job. With no competitive spirit in him he was an easy going person. Some of his ‘friends ‘who were jealous of his having married an accomplished wife with high salary in a MNC poisoned his mind telling that since he drew less, he would evoke no respect from his wife. He started behaving funnily. He started picking quarrel frequently on non-issues and turning every conversation to conflict. He made her buy another car telling he cannot come daily to pick her up on the way home and if she wanted to work she better buy. He came home late after beer sessions at the club. He belittled her amongst his relatives on every conceivable occasion. She knew that it was a case of hurt ego as he earned much less than her and aggravated after he missed his promotion.
She talked to her seniors to let her have a sabbatical for six months. She told Vivek that evening that she had left the job as she found it tiresome and would prefer to be a full time housewife making sumptuous breakfasts and dinners and also taking care of his other needs. He was rendered speechless but knew that the family income would get reduced by more than half. His ego stood in the way of asking her to change her decision and suggesting that they can employ a cook. The drop in income manifested soon in several ways. It was difficult managing the same luxurious style on his small income. His extravagant spending on friends and beer binges had to be curtailed. This made him angry. The friends deserted him.
Three months passed.Suguna was happy refreshing her music and learning new songs. One night Vivek blurted “Who asked you to leave the job without talking to me? We could have employed a lady to cook for us. It is difficult to make both ends meet with my income which as you know is not as high as yours. I might have said something in anger to you as I was superseded in my office. I wish to change to another company soon. Won’t you please ask your old company to take you back? After all you were a brilliant manager and much appreciated by your bosses? Please reconsider, Suguna dear. I am sorry for my foolish behaviour all these days.’
Suguna with her eyes misty said that she would go back to work if he stopped drinking beer and that she would thro her placement cell find a good opening for him soon. She found that she was no longer a target of for jealousy or anger. She knew her ‘resignation’ punctured his ego.