Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What did Kokila do?

Kokila was waiting for more than an hour before the jail door opened. She went to the counter where Sendhil was seated on the other side. The guards were seen at a distance. It was not a bright area. The high walls in faded cream colour and the stale smell with sunlight peeping through grilled doors gave an uncomfortable feeling.

“How are you? You look a little drawn. Are you taking your food properly” asked Kokila.He didn’t answer and was just looking at her.”I asked you some questions. Did you not hear them?” she said a little hurt.

“I do not like this place. I hate the people around. I wish to be back with you in your arms at our home.I will grow mad if I stay here” he said

“I understand. I too wish the same but it is not going to be. You have been convicted for life and the lawyer says even the higher court has not given relief. I do not know whom to approach. Your ‘leader’, really a scoundrel to me, with whom you were associated with much against my wish and for whom you got into trouble is moving around freely in the car while you are languishing here. He had the cheek to come home one day and offer me some money with the suggestion that I can be in great comfort if I live with him. I even suspect he did all this with such a plan in his dirty mind. I threw him out but am always worried. He has his side kicks roaming around the house” Kokila lamented.

Stung by the oblique accusation, he kept silent for a while before he said “Don’t you trust me? I did not kill anybody. I swear upon God. That wily man sent me there even when that victim was stabbed already and his life was ebbing out. There was none there. The dying man asked me for water. I could not turn a deaf ear to the last wish and I went to kitchen to fetch water. Someone must have tipped the police and they arrested me when I could give no reason why I was there with the dead man.The leader denied talking to me at all. I was made a scapegoat.”

“You have repeated this many times. I trust you but what shall I do without you for entire life time?” she cried.

“Will you listen to what I say? Please marry someone who is good and move away from this place before any harm comes to you.” he said

“I hate you for talking like this. Marriage is not like a shirt changed so easily. I would wait for you till my death” she said

But if you stay in the same place, one day he will abduct you. It is not safe to be without a man’s protection” Sendhil said

“Don’t you worry. You know Kumar, my cousin, who is a police constable. He has shifted few months back with his mother adjacent to our house. He has assured that he would ensure my safety. I am working in a private clinic as a help and am out during the day. It is time to leave. I will see you next week. Take care” she replied.

It was more than a year since Sendhil was taken in custody and life for young Kokila was miserable. She had no one having been brought up by some kindly relative. Just 28 and in robust health, she missed her husband much. Kumar came usually on weekends and sometimes in the evenings to cheer her up. Just about the same age, he loved Kokila but had not mentioned to her as she was already in love with Sendhil before her marriage. The frequent visits and her close proximity kindled old emotions. They watched films together in the TV often and she would persuade him to have food with her. He wished for some gesture from her for broaching the subject.

One Sunday when Kumar was with her, she tripped and fell down. Kumar gave his hand but she could not get up. He lifted her bodily with his sinewy arms and carried her to the cot. He sat by her side and massaged the leg where she had hurt herself. She did not stop him. She felt a strange sense of happiness in his firm and caressing touch and the smell of his masculine body set the butterflies in her stomach to flutter. He snuggled closer and asked as if in whisper “Do you feel better, Koki?”

She said “Yes, it is soothing. I feel secure with you around.”

“Don’t you worry? I am always there for you" he said and moved the hair from her forehead. She shivered as he bent closer, clasped both her shoulders strongly by his arms and kissed her gently on her forehead. She didn’t push him away when he brushed his lips with hers. She had goose bumps all over.

“No, no.Please do not tempt me. We may end up doing wrong thing. I am still his wife” she said weakly

“Have you realized he will be there for his life time and cannot come out before you become old? Please marry me. I will take care of you as apple of my eye. Do you know I have loved you for many years? Please say yes.” he gently tried to persuade her.

She wished to scream an yes but remembered her statement to Sendhil a few days back that marriage is not a shirt to be changed so easily.

What did Kokila do? Did she change the shirt in the circumstances she was placed? What would you like her to do?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The true Christmas spirit

Susan and Mathew made heavy purchases of various gifts, cakes and sweets and toys the whole afternoon and had them bundled in colorful wrappers and put in the rear seat of the car. With both earning good salary, they spend every Christmas a tidy sum towards gifts for their friends. They generally surprise their friends on Christmas Eve.

They decided to start with a friend on the outskirts of city. This would enable them to see the bright lit streets and houses with decorations and shining lights in multi colours.They drove through the various streets slowly seeing happy people and happier children playing around the Christmas tree. They could even see the tables in a few houses with food, cakes and sweets laid on them lavishly. They heard the singing of girls and young men dancing. There was mirth all around.

As they were exiting the busier part of the city through the darker and poorer areas, Mathew saw a man in Santa’s robes signaling them to stop the car. Surprised he stopped the vehicle by his side. He was white in complexion, old in years and looked really like a Santa Claus with his flowing white beard, smiling eyes, merry, and round-bellied. He was bespectacled and complete with his red coat trimmed with white fur and a bag on his shoulders.

“How can I help you? Would you like a lift? But where are your sleigh and the reindeers?” Mathew asked jocularly.

“Thank you. I don’t need a lift. But I was wondering where you are bound for as there are no rich men of your class beyond this point” he said even as he peeped into the car and added “I see you carry lots of gifts like Santa Claus. For whom are they intended?”

Mathew did not appreciate his impertinence in stopping his vehicle and asking him questions that was no concern of his. But the genial manner of the man and his attire softened his anger. He said “I am taking this to distribute these to my friends before night fall. I am in a hurry actually” he said.

“I would not take much of your time. Your friends must be well off like you. Am I right?” he asked

Though irked at his impudence, he politely answered in the affirmative.

“Oh, oh, you seem to have missed the spirit of Christmas and what the Man who died in the cross stood for” he said.

“What do you mean?”asked Mathew in anger.

“Nothing. It is just that Christmas is not merely fun, feast and family that includes friends and relatives. It is not just giving gifts to each other. It means embracing the true Christmas spirit, to reach down within ourselves and be willing to give to the needy. Give ourselves, our time, our love, and our possessions to those who are not as happily placed as ourselves. Giving gifts to such people is no obligation, but a symbol of love. Yonder, a little down on the road you will see the poor in the humble tenements with no light or adequate food or well dressed to protect them from the cold weather. It is the same Christmas for them too but without the merry making and joy” said the old man

For a moment Mathew was speechless. The truth of the words hit him hard and he could see from Susan’s face that she was also affected.

The old man seeing their silence said “The poor people shiver in cold and wallow on the damp floor with hungry stomach. Let your gifts bring cheer and warmth on this special day if you are inclined to agree with me. Do remember that Christmas is a season for hospitality and charity.

“Thank you Sir for opening our eyes. This Christmas will be special. We haven’t bought the blankets. We will presently buy and distribute all these to the poor. Our friends can do without these.” Mathew replied and turned to Susan asking her for approval. She was elated at the suggestion. They both turned to find the old man had vanished just as quickly as he appeared. They were left wondering whether Santa Claus is real as in that long stretch of road no one can disappear that easily.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

A Christmas Blessing
This Christmas
May the blessing of JOY abide WITHIN you...
May the blessing of PEACE rest UPON you...
May the blessing of LOVE flow THROUGH you...

May all the blessings of the Lord be yours at Christmas and in the New Year

Friday, December 23, 2011

Bringing sunshine

Amrutha Joseph was returning home after buying some grocery. She bought daily for three reasons; one she cannot carry heavy load and another she liked to buy fresh stuff. The third one was she combined her walk with this daily ritual.A smart lady in her 50s she lived alone.

As she was walking leisurely this afternoon from the store, a boy of nine dashed against her. She lost her balance and was about to fall down but managed to regain her posture. The boy who dashed snatched her bag in the melee but alert as Amrutha was, she caught hold of the fleeing boy by his collar. Unable to get free, the boy started crying and pleaded for mercy. Clad in a dirty short and torn shirt that was too big for him with hair that has never seen a cut, he was dirty. She asked him why he snatched.

“My mom and sister haven’t eaten for two days. They are starving. I could not bear to see them die of starvation. I am sorry. What I did was wrong. This is the first time I erred” the boy said amidst sobs.

Meanwhile a few passersby crowded around her and asked what happened and whether the boy did some mischief. She denied and said the boy is known to him. She then dragged the unwilling boy to her home. Once home she asked him to have a wash from the tap in the backyard. She then gave sumptuously whatever was made for lunch.

“You said your mom and sister are starving for two days. Why cannot they work? You also do not appear to be starving from the way you snatched and tried to pull away from my grip. How come?” she asked?

“True they are starving. Mom is sick and sister is younger to me. I come to the roadside stalls and compete with dogs when the customers throw biscuits or bun. They take pity on me and buy some refreshment or give the left over. It is wrong but I cannot bear hunger” he said.

“Okay from tomorrow you come early morning and help me. I will put you in a school. I will give some money too each month for the help you do. You can go home at 6pm daily. You can go now” she said.

Amrutha was happy that she can save the boy from turning a wastrel and a criminal. The boy came sharp at 7am and started helping her in the chores. She had a barber cut his hair and gave him new clothes to wear. She got him admitted in a school nearby. Everything seemed to go well.

On the third day she found some people shouting outside her door. There was a police constable. He asked Amrutha deferentially, this woman has complained that you have kept her son forcibly in confinement and not allowing him to go home.

She got angry and said “What crap is this? The boy leaves for home at 6pm after his supper. Ask him”

When the boy was asked, he said “I am not going home. I leave this house at 6pm and sleep in the market place.”

“Why didn’t you go home as you were told? You never told me the truth. Have you started your old ways again?”Amrutha asked the boy.

“No, ma’m.If I go to home, I will be turned to picking others pockets, stealing or snatching bags as I cannot bear seeing them in hunger. But I have promised you that I would not go back to old ways. That is why I am not going home. I hope when you give me money each month that should help keep their hunger away.I would then go” the boy said amidst sobs.

Amrutha Joseph said ‘You are such a sweet boy. I will give you your wages in advance. Give it to your mom and you also go home along with them.” She was never happier than this day seeing the smile in the boy’s and his mother’s faces.

The church bell rang then loudly as if to say "Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves."

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A holdup

Velu is a school dropout. He lost his father when young. His mother worked at various homes as domestic help. His uncle, mom’s brother, got him inducted for training in several shops-a cycle repair shop, an automobile workshop, an electrical repairing unit and even a plumbing outfit. He would not stick on even for a fortnight and did not like hard work. He fell into bad company, started smoking cigarettes thrown by others, drinking cheap liquors and picking pockets. Uncle gave him up as a lost case but still showered his affection on him. He used to give him some money once a while and plead with him to mend his ways. Uncle had a daughter whom he wished to give in marriage to Velu if he became good and responsible. But it was not to be. Picking pockets in crowded bazaars and snatching bags from unwary old women was easy. He avoided buses for practicing his trade as it was risky with police in plain clothes. But he wanted to make big money and was looking for ways to do it.

After he saw an old Western film where a man robbed a bank brandishing a gun, the idea caught his fancy. He had never gone into a bank till that day and had no idea of its working and where money was kept. He visited a couple of times the local bank that was at the outskirts of his town close to uncle’s house. It was not a crowded branch and around 12 noon there were hardly any. He took a toy gun that resembled like a real one. He had filched this from his uncle’s grandson.

The teller was a plump lady around 45 with thick glasses. There was no one except an old man at the other end.Velu tapped gently with the gun covered by kerchief and showed a paper with words “This is a holdup. Don’t scream. Put the money in bag and give.”

The woman became pale in fear as he moved the gun up and down. She quietly put all the money in the bag as commanded.

“Be quick. Don’t leave anything behind” whispered Velu in gruff tone.

As she was about to hand over the bag to Velu, he heard a loud but familiar voice from behind.”Hey, Velu, what are you doing in the bank? Do you have an account also? I knew you will turn a new leaf”. Velu turned and saw his uncle approaching him. Suddenly he started perspiring when he saw his plan going awry.

When uncle came near and patted him, he saw the gun in the hand.”Hey, what is this? My grandson has been searching for his toy gun ever since you came to our home. Are you having fun threatening the cashier with a fake?”

Immediately there was a loud shriek from the cashier "Save me, it is robbery." The other officials came running and pounced upon Velu.

Velu is doing time in jail and his uncle is frantically looking for a match for his younger daughter.

The moral is never rob a bank near uncle’s home with a stolen toy gun.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Christmas blessing

Ambrose was still reclined in the sofa and had no mind to get up and switch on the lights even though it had become dark. He had shut down the TV after seeing for a few minutes, kept aside the novel he was reading and silenced the music system. He lost interest in everything ever since his young wife Sharon passed away two years back. He could see the bright lights in all the houses , the brightly decorated Christmas trees through windows and the shining stars hanging outside. Christmas was just the next day. He remembered how Sharon and himself would spend hours on the Christmas tree adorning it with beautifully wrapped gifts, ribbons and attractive items .The tree still was in one of the rear rooms but he had no mind to have it brought out.

To get out of the stuffiness and the dull head ache he sauntered across the road to the market close by. He was just walking along a shop full of Christmas trees, hanging decorations for the trees Christmas tree lights, ornaments, shiny balls and so much more. There was a little boy of eight or nine year old standing outside the shop peering through the glass at the various things inside. He would move from one end to the other without taking his head away.

“Hey, what are you looking at so intently?” asked Ambrose.

The boy turned immediately and said “I am watching all the things stored inside. Aren’t they beautiful, Mister?”

“Yes, they are. Don’t you have a Christmas tree in your home? What is your name?” Ambrose asked.

“No, we don’t have one. We have become poor after dad passed away two years back. Mom says we cannot afford. Xavier is my name” the boy replied

“I am sorry to hear that. I have a nice Christmas tree with all decorations. I do not need it .I can give you” Ambrose said

Just then he heard a voice from behind.”Xavier, how long are you standing there? Come away. We are returning home.” It was the boy’s mom. She looked about 30 and very strikingly attractive. Ambrose stood bewitched.

“Mom, uncle says he has a spare Christmas tree all done up and that he can give me. Can I take it?" the boy asked pleadingly.

It was then she turned to look at Ambrose whose eyes were already transfixed on her. Ambrose 34 was a handsome man and her heart skipped a beat. But she told “Xavier, we should not accept gifts from strangers. Come here. Let us go.”

Ambrose stepped forward to her and said “We are strangers only till we become known and turn into friends. I have a tree that I would not be using. Let Xavier have it. If you kindly agree I will drop it in my car at your house. I stay opposite to this place.”

When she was hesitating, Ambrose told with finality “Xavier, please tell me where you live? I will bring it within an hour”

Soon the tree was set up in their small but well kept house. Ambrose had tied some gifts in the tree.

He turned to the lady and said “My name is Ambrose. I lost my wife two years back. That is the reason I have no mind to celebrate. Thanks to Xavier I am now drawn into the mood. You haven’t introduced yourself yet”

“I am Sharon. I lost my husband in an accident two years back. I am working in a small job. I am glad to meet a kind hearted gentleman like you. We are sailing in the same boat as I too did not feel the urge to celebrate Christmas though the boy has been pressing. Thanks to you I could feel the Christmas cheer and happier days ahead”

“What a strange coincidence? My wife too was Sharon. Did you say happier days ahead? Yes, we can make them happy. Please accept me as friend initially. I am no longer a stranger” Ambrose said with a big laugh.

She turned coy and her eyes lowered unable to stand the gaze of the man.A love was born on the Christmas Eve.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Rajalakshmi's violin

Rajalakshmi mami must have been a very beautiful in her younger days. But the pangs of hunger and poverty had left their marks on her shrunken face. But it could not rob even at the age of 70 her natural dignity, smiling eyes and her poise. She lived in one of those several dark potions adjacent to each other at the rear of the narrow house with her husband who was bed ridden. Who else could one blame but the quirk of fate that brought the once rich lawyer and his wife to this abject state? They were rolling in wealth once but some foolish investments, certain wrong decisions and reckless generosity eroded whatever they had. Today they were virtually on dole from a kindly relative. Mami was supplementing her income by teaching violin till a couple of years back before arthritis chose to reside in her. Her dad had taught her violin when she was young from a vidwan of great repute till she had mastered the art to the level of accompanying senior musicians. But the lawyer husband forbade her playing in public and she had to be content teaching her art to the young chits.

Among the many of her wards who had grown big in the field of music, the famous Thirunangur Naryanan is one. He was a poor lad with passion for learning music but had no means to learn from a teacher .Mami took him in her fold and taught him free besides getting a violin for him free during her well- to-do days. The alert boy picked up the nuances of music with alacrity to become in due course a leading violin vidwan.But he had not forgotten his roots and often visited mami and her husband with fruits and new clothes. He knew they had become poor and needed financial support and he was willing to help. But mami’s pride would countenance no such favour having been accustomed to give rather than take. She would accept only the fruits and return the clothes however badly she needed them.Narayanan would return back sad with moist eyes. When the landlord of the portion wanted to increase the rent, Narayanan made a secret deal with him that he would bear the increase without mami being aware.

Mami’s husband became sick with fever. It was more than a week the fever had not subsided. The kindly doctor in the neighbourhood, who treated them free and dispensed free samples he got, wanted them to have certain tests done at a laboratory.Mami had no money or anything to sell save the old violin that her dad bought decades ago. All the other violins that she had acquired, she had disposed off one by one whenever the need arose. This violin she had kept in her puja place alongside the gods. It brought her always happy memories of her younger days when her dad took her to a shop and got her this violin. She had learnt her basics with this instrument. Her husband had grown weak and the need was urgent. She was ready to sell and told the landlord’s wife to let her know whether someone was willing to buy .

The next day a young man came to mami and wished to see the violin.He played on it and was greatly impressed. He offered to buy at whatever price she was willing to sell it for.

Mami said ”I don’t know the price of violin. I would need a thousand rupees for my husband’s treatment. I do not know whether it is worth it.”

“Mami, you are still in thretha yugam.Do you know how much a good violin even for basic model for a beginner costs these days. But this is of superior quality. Thank god, I came as otherwise you would have been cheated. Here is Rs. 10000, please accept it. I have made a good deal” the boy said

“Ada paithyakara (mad man). This has remained unused for several years and not worth even the thousand I had asked for greedily because of want. Give me just that amount and take the violin. I am grateful as your money will enable me to treat my husband” mami said.

“Mami,I have heard about you and how you have been instrumental in bringing out great vidwans.This violin has some sentiment for me that cannot be measured in rupees. I am highly employed and can afford. It may fetch more if sold to a connosieur.Please accept Rs.10000 and bless me” the young man said and fell at her feet.

A month later when mami’s husband had recovered completely, Thirunangur Narayanan visited her. After pleasantries, he said ” Do you remember the young man who bought your violin. He was learning from me. But unfortunately he had to leave for Europe permanently on work. He left the violin with me requesting me to return it to you. He wanted it replaced in the puja space as before.”

“Oh my god, I have spent the money on treatment. How can I return the money” she said with a shock

“Who asked for money? He has left with specific instruction that no money should be taken back” said Narayanan.He did not intentionally mention that the young man was his son.

Mami was speechless with tears flowing from her eyes.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A happy end

Rajesh looked around anxiously from his car on the pavement outside the Bata store. He could not talk to Ranjitha as she had specifically told him not to give her a ring to her home. He had sent a sms “All arranged at Tiruneermalai temple. The muhurtam will be at 9.30am tomorrow. Please be at the Bata shop at 8.00 am. I will pick you up. Do not bring any jewelry or clothes. I have arranged everything. Cheers “.He hoped that she did not develop cold feet at the last moment. They have been in love for nearly two years and wished to marry. His parents were against it. She did not even broach the subject to her parents for she was sure they will shoot it down without a second thought. They were old fashioned and very conservative and would not countenance her marrying someone from outside their own caste.

He was relieved when he saw her outside the Bata shop in her usual Salwar khameez with a small bag in her hand. As she got into the car, he said“Ranjitha, I am so happy that you are on time. I have bought a gorgeous silk sari with matching blouse. I have also got a mangal sutra along with a few jewels for you. We will have our breakfast on our way and proceed to the temple. My friends would be overseeing the arrangements. After a short and simple ceremony, we will be off for our honeymoon at Mauritius in the evening. Do not be afraid. Everything will pass off smoothly”.

“I am very much afraid, Rajesh. My parents left early morning for some function they told me. It was easy for me to come away as my younger brother had also left with them. I have never done anything till this day without my parent’s knowledge. I cannot imagine that I have run away from my home like this. But I cannot dream of being without you” she said.

After a small breakfast, they changed themselves to the wedding costume. He wore a silk dhoti and a cream colored silk kurta.She looked beautiful in the deep maroon silk sari with heavy zari borders. She had worn the gold chains, gold bangles and diamond stud that Rajesh had bought for her.

As they reached the top of the hill to the temple, they were shell shocked to find Ranjitas parents and her brother all decked in fine clothes.Ranjita expected the worst and feared her dad would explode in rage and do unseemly things. Instead both were smiling and beckoned Ranjita and Rajesh towards them. Is this a lull before the storm, she wondered? She didn’t know how her parents in the first place came to know about their secret plans. Nevertheless both of them fell down to touch their feet.

“Don’t be surprised, Ranju. Your alert brother saw Rajesh’s message coming to your mobile when you were having a shower and instantly showed it to us. We realized that things have gone too far and there was no reason or point to go against your wishes. Rajesh is also an eminent match except that he belonged to another caste. But we decided to overlook it and give you a surprise. We are taking charge of the wedding from now on from your Rajesh and his friends” said her dad.

It was then that Rajesh heard a familiar booming voice calling “Rajesh, congratulations. We have come in time” He turned to look and found his parents and sisters all attired for the occasion. Surprise writ large on his face, Rajesh gave a sheepish grin and a questioning look. His dad said “Sammandhi was kind enough to telephone me last night of your secret escapade and requested us to agree for the alliance. We also wished to join the celebrations when we knew that nothing can stop you from attaining your dream girl” his dad said

The priest said “It is getting late. Let us start” and signaled to the melam to start playing. The two young things were in cloud nine.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

First meeting

Vinita didn’t know how it happened. It all started with a comment in her blog. One reader Satyavan, as he called himself, ripped her post to pieces calling it a flawed one written in haste without deliberation. This set the tone for others to pick holes on her post. Vinita became enraged and answered all points with equal ferocity. But Satyavan did not allow matters to rest there but poured more ridicule that Vinita lost her cool and sleep. So it was a shock when she had a mail later from Satyavan expressing his genuine regret for having been harsh and praising her for her good English and writing skill. When she did not reply, he persisted till she relented. She soon found him to be a well mannered young man from affluent family with a Masters in law. They started chatting and texting daily and soon became close friends. She never liked people in the legal field because her father was one and she has seen how little time he spent with family. But this guy looked different with varied interests that were common with hers. They could talk for hours on the books they read, the films they have seen or music they like. But they haven’t shared their personal details or seen each other. They wished to wait for some more time to meet in person. Though they knew without the other one knowing that they had fallen in love for each other.

Her dad had a roaring practice and had many juniors working under him. His office was always crowded with his assistants and clients till late in the night. Despite his persuading her to take to legal career, she chose management and was working in a big pharmeutical company. She felt that lawyers have no permanent values and would choose to argue any cause depending on the client and the fees involved.

One morning her car did not start however much she tried. She rushed to her father’s chamber to ask for one of his cars when she found his father discussing a case with one of his assistants. He looked tall, handsome, and slightly dusky with his hair falling on his forehead. First time she noticed him as she never came much here. When they were gazing at each other, her dad said “Haven’t you met Shyam? He is one of my brightest assistant and helps me a lot.” Turning to Shyam he said “Meet my daughter Vinita. She is an MBA from Ahmadabad and is in a MNC.She hates law” he said with a guffaw. Then he asked her “What brings you here, my young lady?” He asked Shyam to accompany her and hand over .the keys of the car that had fuel in full.

“Nice to meet you. I wish you had also taken to law. We would have been working together” he said with a mischievous grin.

She smiled back and said before driving away “Thank you. I hope we will have occasions to meet. I am sure you will be attending my birthday party tomorrow in our house. Dad said he would be coming with his team”

That afternoon when Satyavan came online, she said “It is time we meet each other. There is an occasion tomorrow. Please come to my house for my birthday at 6.30pm.It is 335 Chamiers road. My dad’s name is Govind Narayan.”

He said “Oh my god” and kept silent

“Why what happened? Why that exclamation?” she asked

“Nothing. He is a very senior and famous lawyer. Are you his daughter? I never knew you are that highly connected. I am a small fry” he replied.

“How does it matter? Do not fail to come. I wish to meet you and take forward our friendship to the next level. You will have no difficulty in identifying me. Just mention Satyavan when you see me. I can introduce you to my parents. My dad will like you since you are also in the same profession” she said.

It was 630pm.The hall was crowded. Her colleagues, dad’s selected staff, and some relatives were there. There was no trace of Satyavan. She was looking at the main entrance every now and then. It was 6.45pm.Dad said “Let us cut the cake at 7pm” When she saw Shyam smiling at her, she beckoned him and whispered in his ear “I am expecting a close friend of mine, Satyavan by name. Can you kindly go to the gate and find whether anyone is standing there. He hasn’t met me so far and may be hesitant”

He came back and said there was none. Dad asked her to cut the cake.Crestfallen, she managed to wear a smile and cut amidst claps and wishes of Happy Birthday. One by one everyone came near her, wished her and gave presents.. It was then Shyam turn and he came near her with a big packet and a bouquet and said “Happy Birthday. I hope your friend made it.”

She said in a dejected tone “No, he failed me. Any way thanks for the gift”

“No, he hasn’t failed you. Please look at your gift”Shyam said

When she saw the gift and the word Satyavan written on it, her eyes sparkled like 1000 watt bulb and asked “Who gave this to you/”

“Why would anybody give my gift to me?”he smiled at her

Forgetting that she was amidst a crowd and the centre of attraction she shrieked”Satyavan,I am so happy”All heads with eyebrows raised turned towards her.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Biding his time

At 70 with his wife long dead, life held no charm. He had taken to liquor to drown his sorrow. As drunken men are wont to he came home sometimes in inebriated condition blabbering and making a nuisance of himself. Otherwise he was a quiet man spending time in the local free library or in the park watching children play. But his daughter-in-law taunted him much and hurt him always with barbs of insult saying he was a worthless burden. She did not permit the grandchildren to come near him. The only saving grace was his son being considerate to him but he was afraid of the termagant. When she was within his earshot, he would raise his voice and tell his dad with a wink”Can you not keep your room clean?” and inserting under his pillow at the same time a packet of orange candies that the old man loved. That reprimand would keep the woman happy but it was the son’s affection that kept the old man put up with all indignities.

But things went too far this afternoon when he broke a glass vase by mistake. She raised a hell and in anger asked him to leave the home if he had some shame left in him. He didn’t know where to go and what to do. He wished to put an end to his life as there was no purpose in prolonging it. The only way that he knew which many others have done before is to jump over the railings from the bridge across the wide river. He had no guts. He drank a whole bottle of the heady liquor. It was dusk and the sun was setting fast. There were not many walking .Cars were whizzing past in speed. He could see a couple of men sitting in a bench a little yonder. As he neared the railing in the middle of the long bridge, he saw a young girl of around twenty standing already there. She was craning her neck to see the river down below. The old man sensed that things were not all right with the girl. He hurried towards her. He could see that she was not happy about his intrusion.

He forgot what for he was there. His mind was occupied fully with the girl.”Hey, what are you doing? Why do you lean on the railing so dangerously. The water is swirling in current and it is deep there” he said with a concern.

She did not answer and instead she started sobbing.”What is bothering you, young lady?”Why do you cry? Whatever you plan to do is not the right way. Tell me your problem. May be I can help you” he said softly.

Sorry Uncle. The only way you can help is not to stop me from putting an end to my life. Please leave me alone and go your way” she pleaded.

“No, I have no such intention of leaving you in this miserable state. Come with me and tell me your problem. Taking one’s life is an extreme step that cannot be reversed. Please be sensible” he persuaded her.

The girl instead of responding suddenly lunged forward towards the railing. The old man reacted with alacrity and caught her by her shoulders and pulled her away from the railing. The girl immediately raised her voice and shouted “Save me, save me.”

The two men who were sitting a little away came rushing and caught hold of the old man and started assaulting him. The old man pleaded”This woman was about to jump into the river. She told me that she was ending her life. I saved her from jumping.”

“It is a lie. He made some indecent proposal seeing me alone. I asked him to go away. When rebuffed, he tried to misbehave with me” she accused him

“Yes, we were watching from a distance. Although an old fellow, he was troubling her for some time” said one of the men.

“Oh my god, she is young to be my granddaughter. She is lying I do not know for what reason. Believe me, I have my son and grandchildren” wailed the old man

“Okay, how much money do you have in your pocket?”one of the two men asked

“May be three or four hundred” the old man replied

They felt his packet and ferreted out six hundred and odd rupees. They retained two hundred and gave the balance to the woman telling her “Take this. He is an old man. Let him go this time” She quietly pocketed the money and started walking along with the men.

The old man knew he was conned. As he entered the house he heard the termagant shouting at the top of her voice “Where has that old nuisance gone? Does he think this is a choultry open for him to come and go as he pleases? It is my bad luck to be stuck with such a burden”

The old man quietly tiptoed to his room biding for another favourable time.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Behind the façade of ugliness

I was in the market with my young daughter of seven years old. I had just finished buying some groceries and cakes and chocolates from a bakery. The evening was pleasant and there was a gentle breeze. My daughter wished to sit near the fountain outside the store and watch the falling water. I moved towards a bench where a young boy was sitting already. But as I went near, my appraising eyes found him to be dirty with torn knickers and oversized T shirt. His hair on the head was unkempt having seen no wash for days together. He was bare legged with dirt and grime on his legs. As my daughter rushed towards the bench, I called her back and said “Let us sit in the other bench”

“Why mom? I would like to sit here. There is a boy there” she asked innocently.

Without elaborating I simply commanded her to come to the adjacent bench where I sat down. She turned and looked at the disappointed boy before coming to me with a crestfallen face. She did not speak to me for a while but kept turning often to look at the boy. The boy smiled back with his eyes sparkling in joy.

“What is wrong if we sit by his side? Is it because he is poor? I don’t understand you” she said in a tone tinged with sadness and anger.

“He is dirty and grimy. Look at his matted hair. He has never had wash for months, it seems. I do not want you to be near him”

She sat grumpily by my side and did not look at the fountain that she longed to see. Her face turned towards the boy frequently. The boy stood up suddenly and pulled out something from his pocket. I looked at him sideways. It was a wrist band, a friendship band, one that he got from somewhere with Raksha Bandhan ahead in a few days. He dangled it before her with a childlike smile that was inviting. My girl stood up and begged me to let her go and have the band.

It was then in a blinding flash of realization that I became aware of how peevish I have been and failing to see a beautiful child in that grubby outfit. I could no longer see the filth in his hair or dress. His smile looked angelic to me. I remonstrated myself at my superciliousness. I told my daughter to her great surprise “Why not? Go to him and have the band tied around your wrist”

She jumped in joy and was in the next moment with him. The boy gingerly tied the band without touching her with both of them watching me carefully. I told my daughter “Give him your hand and a warm shake and bring him here to me”. They both came to me running with their hands held together. I could see the happiness writ large on their faces. They then around the circular fountain

I handed her a packet of chocolates asking her to give him. The ugly boy no longer seemed so and I could see the beauty that was not initially visible. A guileless warm boy from humble circumstances spread cheer round him. Soon I was lost in thoughts of my younger days in a large family with my parents struggling always to make both ends meet. Life is often like that. Where we are born or how we are born is God’s gift to us. We may be born in a rich or poor family or possess a charming or ugly face but these are things over which we have little control. But being like that little boy exuding warmth of spirit and joy despite the poor circumstances is within our reach. There was no trace of envy in the urchin’s eyes save the stoical reconciliation to his destiny. My girl too taught me a big lesson that day that real beauty lies not in outward apparel or appearance but one has to look deeper to see the inner beauty. A lame man guiding a blind across the road is far more acceptable than a well attired dude driving the car and hooting at the slow pedestrians in sheer petulance. If we care to linger and see, we can perceive behind the façade of seeming ugliness, an inner beauty of rare charm.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas spirit

Anita Sebastian was watching her husband children decorating the Christmas tree. They were weaving strings of light along the branches. Her daughter Priya was sitting around the multi coloured glass baubles and glass ornaments waiting for her dad and brothers to ask when they needed them. They had both a large star and a beautiful angel but were still undecided which one to put on the top of the tree. There was laughter, loud cackle and mirth amongst them. They were seen inviting Anita now and then to join them in the fun. But she was in no mood. She sat in the sofa a little yonder vacantly looking at their direction. There was a dull head ache and listlessness. She made tea for all and brought a plateful of cookies for the children and hubby. The tea didn’t help her much.

She had been the previous day afternoon to the next building complex. It was a smaller one with mostly single bed roomed flats. She had met Mrs. Christine many times at the church a year or two back and not seen thereafter. She is old and walked with the aid of walker. The pastor was making enquiries of her and in passing mentioned that she was leading a lonely life on her meager pension. The flat it appeared was owned by her and she has a son who stayed abroad. He married someone there and got children. In the initial days he used to come alone once in two years and always promised his mom to bring his wife and children for the Christmas the next year. This never happened. In the last few years there has been no news about him, whether alive or dead. Christine had sought pastor’s help to contact him but could give no details of the country or place where her son lived. Pastor was mentioning that the lady frail in health and poor in vision was holding on to her life with the hope and dream of seeing her grand children at least once during Christmas. Anita learnt that pastor had kindly arranged for a reliable young maid to take care of the old Woman.

“You are so close to her. Why don’t you add some joy to her dull life by meeting her once a while? She would much appreciate it. I am sure Lord would bless you for your compassion” the pastor gently suggested to her.

It was this request from the priest that took her to Christine’s apartment. The maid took her to the room where she was reclining in an easy chair. She looked at Anita hard when she introduced herself asking her to bring her face closer. She broke into a gentle smile when she recognized her and said “Aren’t you the charming lady who lives close by. I remember meeting you at the church and also have heard you playing piano and singing in choirs.”

“Yes, aunty.I should have come to see you long back and also be visiting you regularly. I am in default. Pastor was suggesting that I meet you. Here are some cookies I made at home. Children are at home having holidays for Christmas” Anita said

“Won’t you bring them too next time? I am actually waiting for my grandchildren to come. My son has promised to bring them for Christmas and I have even kept some gifts ready for them. I wish to have fun with them at least on one Christmas” she said

Anita saw in a corner some loosely bundled packets in gift wrapper with lot of dust piled on them.

When Anita saw her face turn sad at the mention of grand children, she held her hands gently and said “Please do not worry. I hope they are able to make it this year. I will pray to Lord that they come.” She knew inwardly it was not to happen but had not heart to tell her. She left soon after exchanging some pleasantries with a promise to return.

It was this unhappy revelation that sat heavy in her heart ever since she met the old woman and it was brought to sharp focus when Anita saw her children enjoying the Christmas spirit with their dad setting up the tree. She could not wrench her thoughts away from the woman easily to join the fun with kids

Sebastian who has been watching her with sideward glances came by her side. He gently wrapped his arm around her and pushed her hair backward from the forehead.”Do not worry, honey. We will do something for Mrs.Christine.We will go to mall and get her some nice gifts and cakes too.” Her mood lightened when she joined the children and placed a Santa Claus figure on the top of tree and later went to the mall.

It was Christmas Eve. The whole house was brightly lit. Final touches were made to the tree with extra colored shells, some apples and pine cones. Sebastian was not seen. They were planning to visit the church for the mid night Mass. The dining table was full of various fruits, pastries and chocolates. Children were humming hymns and carols. The mood was upbeat.

It was then she heard Sebastian’s car pull up. She opened the door to see Sebastian gently escorting a beaming Mrs. Christine into the house.”Anita, Christmas is an occasion for family reunion. Mrs. Christine will be with us for two days and enjoy the company of grand children and an affectionate daughter”he said with a hearty smile. Anita rushed towards the old lady to fall into her extended arms.

Friday, December 2, 2011


Govind was watching TV after a Sunday breakfast when the telephone rang.


“Today 3.00 pm is time fixed for you. Be ready. I know this is unexpected and you would be least prepared. Meanwhile reflect on all the good and bad that you have done in this life. When we come to meet you, this may come in handy.’’

“Hello, hello, who is this? Whoever you are, I am not free at 3.00.What do you want from me? Why are you coming to see me?”

“We have told you that your time is fixed and we have no power to alter it even by a second. Consider you are lucky you are informed in advance. For most we barge in without notice. Don’t be worried. People will talk of you nicely after this. You can inform your near and dear ones to be with you on this occasion” the weird voice said. The line was disconnected.

Govind started perspiring even in the AC room. “What does he mean my team is up? Is it my end? Who is he anyway? I haven’t heard of Yama’s messengers informing over phone. Could it be a prank?” he thought.

He told his wife and children. They too were shaken. She called her brothers and sisters to convey about the mysterious call. Likewise Govind’s siblings were also duly informed. One of them brought a doctor along with emergency kit ready.

They all felt it must be some prank but had a lurking fear of the worst scenario.Govind was in good health except that he was obese and had high blood pressure..His parents had heart ailments. He was 49, a vulnerable age. Only a week back one neighbour passed away when doing a work out.

Somehow the news trickled to office colleagues. A few of them had come with bouquets to assure him that nothing would happen but inwardly not wanting to miss seeing him before any untoward thing happened. The doctor was checking his pressure every now and then. In the anxiety it shot up.

Someone started a bhajan invoking the blessings of God to ward of the danger.

One of his sisters said ”Govind likes onion bajji.Can someone go and get it from Venkateswara boli stall?”He was forced to eat one much against his wishes. The moments became tense as the hands of clock touched 2.30pm.The prayer became feverish and loud pitched. Even neighbours swarmed the house and craned their necks through doors and windows to get a glimpse of Govind before his final moment arrived and saw the doctor feeling his pulse and reading his pressure.

The clock showed 2.45pm.His wife rushed from kitchen with a glass of horlicks.Govind was perspiring heavily and grinned sheepishly at the attention paid to him. As he was sipping, he saw everyone’s eyes fixed at the clock. Suddenly he felt giddy.

The clock struck 2.55pm.There was high expectancy accompanied with worry.

Then they heard a booming voice,”Saar, Saar’ from the verandah.”We have come from UTV as informed already. Are you ready? Oh my god, you have gathered so much crowd” said the TV assistant and asked the boys to bring the equipments inside.

Someone asked him what this was all about. He said “We informed over phone that Sir’s time is fixed for 3.00.We will have a short interview with him on his life in the earlier days and how it has changed in the present times and what needs to be done. This is for a new programme entitled. Your days –past and present. Is he ready? We can start it right away as we have another appointment at 4.00PM.

There were loud peals of laughter everywhere. Govind sat up abruptly. His son brought him a well pressed shirt to wear. Someone combed his hair while another snatched the bajji from his plate. The lights started glowing brightly and the camera came alive for Govind’s 15 minutes of fame.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Raju’s benefactor

It was drizzling outside. There were not many in that small bank in the outskirts of the city.Raju had just withdrawn a heavy sum for some function in his house. He suddenly felt a sharp nudge of cold steel on his back. He heard a rough voice”Don’t panic. Hand over the money quietly. There is a reason”

Raju turned to see a coarse looking man with a big mustache and a deep scar on his face. There was a faint familiarity in his face. He looked like any sidekick of the villain in the movies with shaven head and a red scarf around his neck. Raju perspired heavily in fear. The few staff in the bank behind the glass partitions did not notice them.

Raju said “I am a poor man. I have withdrawn this money for my daughter’s wedding preparation. Please spare me.”

“Don’t fear. I have not come to harm you as you think. Your money would be safe if you give it to me” he said

Raju asked “How come? I need this money immediately for my use. Please spare me, I beg of you.”

“There are two men outside waiting on their motorbike to snatch this from you. When I saw you, I decided to save it for you. I will give it back after they are gone.” he said

Confused and still shaking in fear Raju asked “How can I be sure that you would return this money? Why are you considerate to me? I have never met you. Please allow me to go.”

“Okay, if you do not trust me, deposit the money back in the bank before they pull down the shutters. Do it fast. I cannot remain here for long. One of them waiting outside may come in here to see what is happening. I will tell you why I am being kind to you after you have deposited the money back “ he said hurriedly

Raju without loss of time quickly credited the amount back in the bank much to the amusement of the bank cashier..

The man said “You may not remember me. About six months back on a lonely stretch I way laid you and asked you to hand over whatever money you had on you. You had just a few rupees and a watch. As you were handing over the money, a police patrol car suddenly screeched to a halt by our side. Seeing you in your clean attire and me in my rowdy appearance, the police asked you whether there was any problem. You told them’None.we know each other and are exchanging pleasantries’ and they sped away.”

“I could not forget the help you did that day. You could have simply handed me over to them. Probably you took pity on my poor condition. When my buddies and I decided to rob, I was sent inside to keep watch. When I saw you, I wished to do you a good turn. Let me hurry before they become suspicious” he said and vanished

Raju stood there dumbfounded at the thought that even vile persons have a streak of gratitude in them and that it is not the possession of only the virtuous.