Sunday, April 29, 2012

Whose inspiration?

There is a Perumal koil (temple) not far from my house housing several deities with Lord Krishna being the principal deity.I visited the temple daily in the early mornings and some days in the evenings too. Usually I stop at the main shrine to pray and walk around other shrines without stopping to offer prayers

.Let me come to the main character in the story. In the last two months I have been observing this elderly lady at the portico outside the main shrine away from the inner sanctum where the devotees enter for darshan and for theertham (holy water). She was not a hindrance to others as she stood in a corner. A frail old lady with silver hairs, good looking and in traditional nine yard sari worn in Vaishnavaite tradition, she was always seen devoutly praying to god with tears running on both cheeks. Her lips were always mumbling presumably praying for fulfillment of wishes. If there was no crowd, I have seen her also in conversation with god as if He was present before her. She would be staying for about 30 minutes and the priests took kindly to her as she caused no disturbance.

I would feel ashamed that I was not getting that much devotion and fervour as her and feel bad that my visit to temple is merely a ritual without the passion and hunger for god as she displayed. Gradually I grew acquainted with her and would greet her with a smile when she looked at me. But we never exchanged words. If I miss seeing her for two days continuously I would be concerned whether she had fallen sick. In a way I felt a slight change in me as I grew more devout seeing her and started praying to god for greater devotion.

It was then that I missed seeing her continuously for more than a fortnight. I was certain that she must have fallen sick. I didn't know whom to ask or knew where she lived. As I was in the inner sanctum one day with none else present, I asked the priest “Are you aware why the old lady is not seen these days.I used to see her daily without fail and her devout presence was an inspiration for me."

He laughed and said "You must be referring to Chellamma patti.I am surprised to hear that instead of the lord here inspiring you towards bhakthi Chellamma patti did. Anyway, why don't you meet her yourself? She is in the house adjacent to the Ahobila mutt in the same road hardly a furlong away and the door is painted in green color."

I was hesitant to meet her at her house but curiosity overtook my discretion.Afterall I was just going to enquire about her well being, I thought. The door was half open. I heard loud noise from TV.I called "Patti, patti" twice.There was no response as the volume of TV was high. I pushed the door and craned my neck inside. To my utter surprise I found the old lady sitting on a sofa munching pop corns and watching a popular Hindi serial Sasural Genda Phool in Star TV. What a different setting from the tearful lady in divine ambience of temple to this air conditioned hall with sofa set, carpet, showcase and a wall TV,I wondered. She did not notice me initially being totally engrossed with the show on the screen. When I coughed to draw her attention, she saw and welcomed me to sit by her side.

"what a surprise? I am happy to see you here. Is there anything I can do for you?" she asked.

No, I was concerned when I did not see you for long. I asked the priest. He just gave your address"

“Oh, oh, it is very sweet of you to have worried about me. I am fit and fine. Actually, I visited the temple daily to pray for the early marriage of my granddaughter. It was getting delayed and my daughter was worried. Luckily thanks to Lord Krishna her marriage has been fixed. Since my prayer has been answered, I have stopped coming." she said and laughed loudly.

The taunting words of the priest about my getting inspired by Chellamma patti instead of the Lord Himself came sharply to my mind.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The serpent Meenakshi saw

Meenakshi continued to stay at her apartment alone even after her husband's demise. She declined her daughter's pleading to stay with her but comforted her saying that her house being close by they can meet daily. Though past 70, she was keeping fit except for the pain in the legs and could cook her food. She spent the time watching TV, reading and cooking. She always had her nap at noon. It was around 1 pm and she was woken up from her sleep by the bell. It was Muthu the carpenter who had come. He had done plenty of petty jobs when her husband was alive. He knew plumbing and some electrical work. A handy man, he came whenever asked to come to fix minor repairs. But she had not asked him to come today. Wondering the purpose of his visit, she opened the grill and asked him"What brought you here? I trust you are doing well"

"Amma, I always remember ayya (her husband) and wished to check about your welfare. I have also some business with you" he replied. He seemed slightly drunk from the smell that emanated when he spoke. She felt she had done a mistake in letting him in but put on a smiling appearance.

"It is nice of you. It is very hot. Let me get you a glass of cool butter milk “she said.

When she went in, he surveyed all the sides of the hall. He knew the apartment well as he had worked in all the rooms. There were two bed rooms and one of them had cots and a steel almirah.Ayya used to get money from it. Things were as they were when he came on the previous occasion.

"Drink this. It is cool" she offered the glass of butter milk. After he had finished, she asked him whether everything was fine.

"Amma,By god's grace I am fine. Can you bring the silver plate you keep in your puja room?"

She was taken aback at his audacity. She suspected his intentions were not honest and that she was in a piquant situation. Wanting to buy some time, she said" I don't know why you want the silver plate. Any way please wait. I will bring it"

"Please get it. You will know why I asked” he said with a smirk in his face.

After a couple of minutes, she came trembling to the hall with the silver plate. To her great surprise, she found him taking from his cloth bag dozen plantains, betel leaves, areca nuts, turmeric sticks and an invitation letter in traditional yellow and pink combination. He wound his towel around his waist and placed the things on the plate. When she looked at him with wonder, he prostrated before her and said "Amma, I want your blessings for my daughter whose marriage I have fixed.Ayya was like my father. You are the first I have come to invite.. It will give, me utmost pleasure if you can come and bless the girl"

She felt very small and bad at mistaking him and said “I am happy to hear the good news.Ayya would have been very happy were he alive. Please wait"

As she gave him thousand rupees, he said " Amma,please give it to the girl when you attend the wedding.You must not fail to attend."

Just then three of Meenakshi's neighbors entered her apartment and asked " Mami, what for you wanted us. There was some urgency in your tone."

“Please wait. I will tell you presently. Incidentally he is our carpenter Muthu and known to us for several years. My husband had a liking for him. He has come to invite me for his daughter's wedding."

After Muthu left, she said" When I sent you SMS, I thought I saw a serpent enter the house. I realized later it was the serpent of my foolish suspicion. Everything is fine. Thanks for coming"

Not understanding her, the neighbors looked at her with a quizzical expression as they left .

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The maniac on prowl

Sidhu came earlier than usual from office. He made a cup of hot chocolate, switched on the AC and reclined on sofa. The news channel was blaring. The anchor had assembled a few young and old for debating how the government can put an end to the menace of daily rapes and molestations taking place. There were strong and heated arguments about lack of police patrol as the entire force is deployed on VIP security. Someone accused the media and cinema industry for the growth of this scourge. One political person presumably drawn from opposition attributed it to lack of governance. Some blamed the IT and BPO industry for not giving protection. Someone pointed out it is only the young girls who walked on the roads who are abducted and molested and not the IT girls going in office- arranged cabs. One old man accused the girls for inviting trouble by their skimpy dress while a young girl attacked him as a Rip Van Winkle. Sidhu could not contain his laughter.

The morning papers carried headlines of a sex maniac stalking the neighborhood attacking young girls walking alone after dusk or in lonely roads. They were killed after the dastardly act. Four cases have already been reported within two weeks and police had no clue whatsoever. The TV channels spoke of the cunning and quick manner in which he attacked the unsuspecting victims appearing suddenly from nowhere like tiger pouncing on its prey. Though there were no eye witness accounts many spoke of near experience and how they escaped .Such stories often get exaggerated with a good mix of imagination with real. Yet they created a scare in the minds of people that parents hesitated to permit girls to stir out alone. The working girls trooped out of office in groups. They carried pepper spray in their bags and even pen knives. Karate schools did brisk business with girls making a beeline to master self defense. When they mentioned even young men in teens were potential victims, the scare was complete.

Sidhu wondered how fast the modern communication systems purveyed the news to the public giving them opportunity to be alert and protect themselves. Nevertheless the sex maniac had not slowed down his escapades and had already four in his kitty. No doubt the number of girls walking in isolated roads have become less making the job for maniac difficult. He felt girls with pepper spray or skill in martial arts had a better chance against the maniac on prowl.

It was 7pm.He switched off the TV. He had some work outside. The news upset him. He had a quick shower, changed his clothes and took off in his powerful motorbike. The sky was overcast and it was dark. Barring the main thoroughfare, even medium roads sported a desolate look. He saw a little yonder a tall girl of may be 20 walking hurriedly to join the main road. The road was dim with lights few and far between. Has she not watched TV or read newspapers, he wondered. How foolish of her to walk alone in this lonely stretch, he thought. As he neared her, she hurried her steps. But he drove fast and screeched to halt before her.

“Do not be afraid. Care for a lift? Don’t you know that it is not safe to walk alone in this deserted road?” he said to the trembling but beautiful girl.

She looked at both sides of the road and found no vehicle or pedestrian in sight. She was silent and shivering in fear

“Come on. It is just a two hundred yards. I will drop you at the main road” he assured her

When she sat on the pillion, the motorbike made a sudden U turn and hurried with the girl screaming.

The next day papers carried the headline in bold letters

Unsuspecting girl waylaid and criminally assaulted before being strangled

Friday, April 20, 2012

The transformation

Narayanan’s sister Jalaja had come to his house for a few days. She and his aged mom wished to visit the famous Krishna temple. Though he was an atheist at heart, he agreed to take them to the temple town in his car. He had a great fondness for his sister and always tried to please her.

When they were at the temple gate, he asked them to go inside for the darshan and said that he would be waiting at the tea stall sipping tea.

“Narayana, why don’t you accompany us and come inside? It will make mom very happy” asked Jalaja.

He shook his head and said “Pease do not insist. You take your time and have good darshan.I will enjoy watching the people and the temple elephant tied to the railing here.”

“Jalaja, do not waste your time. He is a nasthikan (atheist) and will lecture like Jabali that there is no god. It is all his past karma. Leave him alone. We should hurry up before crowd starts turning up” said her mom.

When they went inside, Narayanan bought a cup of coffee and sat on a bench outside the tea stall with the day’s morning paper. He looked at his morning emails and kept his iPhone on the bench by his side as he turned his attention to the swaggering elephant. Though he felt sorry for making his mom unhappy, he had always been like this irreligious and without faith. His father was a communist ideologue and may be it was his influence on him.

As he was browsing the headlines, he felt a movement by his side and saw a boy running towards the temple. He found his iPhone missing and ran after the boy. Nimble footed the boy ran fast inside the big temple corridor(Prakaram).The boy ran so fast amidst the crowd of devotees that Narayanan could not keep pace with him. Everyone stood and stared in wonder at this chase.

After one complete round of the outer prakaram (corridor), the boy ran inside towards the sanctum sanctorum with Narayanan closely behind him. Amidst the commotion everyone including his mom and sister turned towards him. Both were surprised to see him and were happy that he had come just in time when the bell rang for the arathi. Narayanan could not see the boy. He mingled with the devotees and suddenly vanished

Just then the priest moving the arathi clockwise around the God illuminating the sanctum was heard telling “Today, the lord is in Shri Bala Krishna alankaram(decorated as a young boy).Tears were flowing on the cheeks of his mom and sister grateful for His grace in bringing Narayanan inside the temple.. As everyone raised their hands, involuntarily Narayanan also raised his hands folded with his eyes towards the god.He had a good darshan of the lord who seemed to smile at him.

When asked by Jalaja “How come you followed us surprisingly?” Narayanan mentioned about the young boy who snatched his iPhone and ran inside the temple.

“What are you talking? I can see your iPhone very much in your shirt pocket” she exclaimed.

As he felt the phone in his pocket he wondered who and where that mysterious boy could be.He was sure that boy had snatched the phone. Confused when he looked again at the God in child’s form amidst the light of sole oil lamp, he felt he knew the answer.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Moment of happiness

I could discern some unhappiness about killing and death in the previous two stories.This is a light hearted piece written five years back

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 box on wheels rushed towards the coach. She must have run as she was panting and perspiring heavily. She put the box 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 is 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 lookout 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 went 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 just 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 rather reluctantly 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 remark .“So Aravind, shall we ask them to proceed further if they are willing?”

“Appa,I am sorry. I have lost my heart to a girl who travelled with me in the train” he replied

“What are you blabbering? You should have told me beforehand and avoided this visit here. Who is that girl anyway?” he exploded in anger.

“Ask her, she knows”: he said pointing to Shanti.There was a silence for a few moments before they all broke into laughter when they saw Shanti giggling.

Both Aravind and Shanti smiled shyly realizing that their moment of happiness had arrived.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

You won

Mahalingam was sitting on the steps of the temple tank. He did this most evenings to find a secluded spot for himself. There was always a cool breeze at this place. Generally except a for a stray few like him, most get down the steps to wash their feet before entering the temple.Maha never went inside the temple save on rare occasions. He is neither an atheist nor devout. He was past 80 and had lost his wife a decade back. He lived with his son Dandapani who was affectionate towards him but never demonstrated it except when alone.Dandu as Maha called him endearingly maintained a diplomatic balance between his wife and his father.Maha had this drawback. He spoke whatever came to his mind and was never tactful. This brought him into logger-heads with his daughter-in-law and the grand children. They hardly spoke to him and pretended not to have heard when he called. Luckily he had good health and could manage his chores himself. He would spend time reading the dailies from cover to cover and read books that he brought from local municipal library.

It was one evening and the sky was overcast though there was no indication of any rain. The tank was almost empty but for a silhouette of someone bathing on the opposite side. When Maha turned towards the Southern side he found some hazy figure in dark clothes standing at a short distance from him but watching him. Maha was eating hot masal vadai bought from someone who made hot snacks in his cart at the entrance to the tank.Maha looked at the figure and called “Come here. Why are you staring at me? Sit by my side and have some vadai”

The black figure had a puzzled look and moved closer to him without saying anything.

“Why are you silent? I think I saw you yesterday too. Come closer. Why are you in dark dress? Do you belong to any political outfit?” he asked in his exuberant style. When he came nearer, Maha offered him a couple of vadais and asked him to sit by his side.

The figure nodded its head to decline. It said in a gruff but peculiar voice “You have only one more day.”

“One more day for what? You are talking like a Yama dhuta”Maha roared in laughter.

“One more day to live. You will follow me thereafter. Your guess is correct”

“You don’t seem one. I thought they come dark in complexion, bare chested and with scary face without a nose or mouth or wide mouth with protruding tongue or teeth. That is what my mother just a day before her death told me that she saw grotesque and fearsome faces. You seem to have black cloth on. I haven’t also heard that these emissaries of Yama talked to the victim announcing the date of departure. Either you are a nut or a knave” Maha said laughingly.

The figure for the first time smiled and said “You seem a jolly old fellow and are not scared. Though I don’t have to tell you, I took a liking for you and hence gave the news for you to make suitable arrangements before your final departure”

“Ha, ha, ha!! Don’t think I will fall for your ruse. Surely you are a drama actor coming after rehearsal without changing costume and may be trying to get some money out of me. Show me some evidence that you are Yamas’s messenger” said Maha

“Nothing like what you say. See this rope” he said as he dangled a long rope.

Maha was in splits. “Rope you said Ha-ha, showing a clothesline for a life line (pasa kayiru) and scaring me or what? I am in perfect health. Though past 80 my heart is strong, I walk long distance, digest all food, no complaints except fading vision. I don’t think I will die for another 5 years. Get lost and find some easy quarry” he said

“OK, Can you see my legs? Watch whether I am standing on the floor or a foot above the ground.This should set your doubts at rest” said the figure

“You know I have poor vision and cannot verify the veracity of what you say when it is dark. Get going and we can meet tomorrow evening here. But you must have some vadais with me” said Maha and got up to go home.

Maha didn’t tell his son Dandu lest he got worried.Maha saw it as a joke though the next day before he left for the evening jaunt to the temple tank, he kept all his things in his room clean and in an orderly manner.

He looked around for the dark figure as he munched the vadais.He was not to be seen though he waited till 7pm.He heard the temple bell toll and left the place after folding his raised arms in the direction of the temple. .He was in a happy mood as he walked into his house.

Just as he climbed the three steps, he tripped and fell down. The sharp corner of the concrete step hit his forehead hard. As blood came out and he was losing consciousness, he turned his head to see the dark figure with the rope smiling at him. Maha wanted to say “You won” but his life ebbed out by then.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Susan's grin

She got up with a start when she heard a car drive in. She did not know how long she was lying prostrated before her husband’s grave. The grief of sudden separation was heavy on her heart and the loneliness was killing her. It was exactly six months he died and she came here with a bunch of flowers. She spent long time crying and lost in the thoughts of the happy days spent together though for a brief period

It was as if the terrible accident took place only the other day. It changed her life topsy-turvy. She lost her husband and two month old baby in it though she escaped with minor injuries. A speeding car in the adjacent lane lost control and swerved towards their car. Her husband to avoid the collision turned sharply to the other side and hit the divider. That car crashed into hers. She heard there was casualty in the other car too. Whatever it may be, the driver had no business to drive so fast as to lose control and cause death to innocent persons. Her anger had not subsided though she had not followed up due to the pain of loss and her own injury.

As she was getting up from the spot opposite the grave , she heard a shrill cry of a small infant and she turned towards the car. She saw a young man in late twenties struggling with a small baby girl of say eight months in one hand and trying to take out something from inside the car. It was dusk and the sun was going down fast it seemed. There was hardly anyone. She rushed to him and offered to hold the baby. He hesitated for a moment when he saw her swollen eyes turned red by crying and then when the infant’s cry became hysterical, she virtually snatched it from him. May be the softness of her arms or the gentleness with which she was holding the baby stopped crying instantly. It looked at her face and broke into a smile.

She walked behind him to the grave. He looked at it and walked around feeling the marble structure with gentle care. He kept the wreath and looked at it for a long time with tears in her eyes. She did not know whom he was grieving for but desisted from asking. When it was time to leave, he extended his arms to take back the baby but the baby clung to her and started crying when he tried to take the infant.

She said “It is o.k. I will hold her for some more time. It is funny she has got attached to me so soon.I am Susan Mathai”

Thank you, Susan. I am John Sebastian. I lost my wife in an accident and struggling ever since with this girl. I have employed a nanny but the baby would not accept her. I work from home thanks to the understanding employers. Where do you live? I can drop you on my way” he said

It was with difficulty he wrenched the child from her. She felt sorry for the baby and was drawn to it. She said “You may leave it with me in the day time. I am alone and would love to be with infant”. He was touched and promised to do so whenever he found a need.

The next morning itself he came with the baby and said “She hasn’t stopped crying whole night. I could not sleep even for a few minutes. Give me a ring any time to this number I will take the baby.”
When he left she took the baby to her bedroom and could not stop the urge to nurse the infant. She stopped crying and soon started smiling. This became a daily ritual. John and Susan became friends as he started coming frequently. One day he came in a different car. “Is this new?” she asked.

“No, the old one was involved in the accident. It has undergone major repair and overhaul” he said. She mentally noted the number.

It seemed to her that he was getting drawn to her and found some pretext using the baby to be with her. She found him decent but was in no mood to think along romantic lines as the grief in her for her hubby was overwhelming and fresh. After he left she took her diary where she had noted the number of the vehicle and found to her utter shock, it was the same vehicle that ruined her life. In an instant she developed an hatred for him and wished he were dead as her husband was. But her feelings for the baby remained unaltered and she wished it was with her ever.

The next day when John came, she tried her best to disguise her feelings of loathing for him. But he was shrewd and said ”Hey Susan, aren’t you well? You seem a little out of sorts.”

“No, nothing of that sort. Just some headache” she replied.

“Then let us go to the restaurant and go to the terrace, have the panoramic view of the cliff and the lake below, have fresh air and dinner before we come back” he suggested.

They strolled around the restaurent, went up the terrace. The wind was blowing fast and it was exciting and all fun till the accident occurred. When they were watching the landscape below, he tripped and fell over the low railing.

Susan with a smug grin walked down the stairs unhurried with the baby in her arms, her own henceforth.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ranganayaki's dignity

This was written four years back

Ranganathan a director in a consulting and engineering firm lived in the company’s sprawling fully air conditioned flat with several bedrooms in Alipore. He had a small family of wife and two children studying in college. As an executive in his department I had gone to his residence on a few occasions. A very jovial and friendly person, he had a good name in the company for delivering results. He grew up in ordinary circumstances at Srirangam near Trichy.He studied on scholarships being a bright student and rose to the present level by dint of hard work. His wife is from an affluent family and the only daughter of her aged parents who were also living with Ranganathans.

I had some official work during Deepavali time at Trichy.I always avail such opportunities to visit the famous temple at Srirangam.My boss rang me and said” I learn you are leaving for Trichy tomorrow morning. I need a favour? Drop in at my place after 7pm.I will give you an addressed envelope containing some money to be delivered to my mom at Srirangam.”

In the evening when I went the entire family was watching TV. After pleasantries, he came up to the gate and took an envelope from his pocket and gave me. It seemed to me as if he was doing this unknown to his family. He said ”Tell my mom that I am extremely sorry for not visiting her for long, that I am tied up with work and that I will snatch sometime soon to visit her.”

It was two days more for Deepavali.I had finished my work and was to return after visiting Srirangam temple. I went in the morning to the address given on the envelope and enquired about Ranganayaki ammal, my boss’s mother. One girl of about ten in a skirt (pavadai) who was skipping a rope took me inside the house thro a narrow passage to the dilapidated rear portion of the house. The room was locked.The girl said “Uncle, patti (grandma) must have gone to a house close by.If it is urgent I can show you the way.” She made the gratuitous remark “.Do you know that patti being poor works hard by making sweets and savouries for Deepavali?

’I could not believe what she said till I saw the lady in her late seventies when the girl brought her outside a house that was a little away. She was frail bent and emaciated in an old faded nine yards cotton sari tied in a traditional manner. The poverty was evident.I was shocked and rendered speechless by the pathetic sight. Still doubting about the correct identity, I asked her, “Patti, are you Kolkata Ranganathan’s mother?” When she nodded her head in affirmative, I added “I have a cover for you from him”

There was a trace of a faint and tired smile in her face. She asked “What is your name? Are Rangan and his family keeping well?” I nodded my head and told her how Ranganathan was feeling bad at not being able to meet her for long and that he would find time amidst the busy schedule to pay a visit to her soon.”

She replied “It is okay. Tell him not to worry about me. If my son Rangan is not here with me, there is the Lord Ranganatha Himself here to take care of me.”

When I gave her the envelope, she asked me to open it. I found five thousand rupees inside. When I gave her, she took them from my hands and asked me ” Have you visited the temple? You must hurry if not.”

When I told her that I was on my way to the temple, she asked me.”Can you kindly drop this money in the hundi at Sri Ranganatha’s shrine? I will pray from here for the good health and happiness of my Rangan and his family. You see, I am having arthritis problem and unable to walk much. I have also one request to make. Please do not mention about where you saw me or about arthritis to Rangan.Tell him I am hale and hearty and that he can take his own time to come.“ She asked me to wait and brought for me two hot Jangris t she must have been making in the hot kitchen for some family.

Tears welled up in my eyes as I took leave of this noble lady in poor circumstances but had not a single complaint to make of her ungrateful and inconsiderate son wallowing in wealth.. I was struck by her concern for his well being in her offering the entire amount to the temple though it would have been of great help to her. I developed a deep dislike at that very moment for my heartless boss. Her bent figure and gentle face lingered in my mind long after I took my plane to Kolkata.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Alamelu’s regret

Ambi was 11 though his chubby childlike face made him look much younger. Every vacation he comes to his grandfather’s place for two months. There were boys of his age to play with, a big temple and a large river with water flowing always to lure him. His grandpa’s house was a big one but narrow and very long. Except for the structure in the front with a first floor, the rest were a long line of many tiled portions of two rooms and a kitchen. Grandpa lived with his two sons in the front building. His room was in the first floor overlooking the temple and the river behind it. It was not a planned structure with several rooms added at different times. There was one small room with shelves on three sides with books that uncles used. This was where Ambi did his homework in the afternoons. Grandpa taught him English grammar, essay writing and algebra/geometry. Adjacent to that there was an unused room called strangely Gandhi room, where there were broken chairs, big boxes the contents of which are unknown, tall stool and many sundry unused items. There was however a long and wide bench by the side of window. The room was never locked but still had the smell of stale air. There was no bulb in the room. The only connection to Gandhi was a big picture of Mahatma hung on the wall. Ambi could watch the room through the window in his room. He kept the window closed mostly leaving a small opening for him to see without being seen. These two rooms were adjacent to a wooden stair case and anyone had access.

Grandpa was a kind hearted man and let out the portions to his distant but poor relatives for very small rent and some defaulted even in paying regularly. Suffice it to know a few characters in these portions for our story.Alamelu a 35 year old plump woman who was fair and charming lived with her 45 year old husband afflicted by tuberculosis and looked a 60 year old emaciated man. He coughed constantly and stayed at home mostly. They seemed very poor. In one of the portions there lived Varadhu a muscular well built man of about 30 with his mom. He worked somewhere in night shifts. In one of the rear portions, there was Gopu an electrician and a plumber who went out whenever he had work. He was a bachelor living with his cousin Chinni looking for a job. It appeared to Ambi that these men never went out and always stayed at home. He had some unexplained aversion for them. Ambi is an introvert not given to talking.

One afternoon as Ambi was doing his homework, he heard the shuffle of feet. He peeped through the opening and saw Alamelu aunty walking hurriedly and entering Gandhi room. He soon saw Varadhu enter the room and close the door. Ambi continued to watch through the small opening till Alamelu aunty came after about 30 minutes. She quietly hurried her way through the staircase. Ambi saw Varadhu emerging after a while. The boy only knew that something wrong was happening though he did not know what. He started to keep a watch daily. Two days later the boy saw Alamelu aunty and Gopu entering the room. After about one hour he saw Gopu giving aunty something before she pushed it inside her blouse. This happened regularly with Varadhu or Gopu and only once he saw Chinni.

One day as Ambi slightly opened the window door to get a better view aunty came out of the room unexpectedly a little earlier. When she saw from the corner of her eyes, Ambi watching her come out with Varadhu panic struck her and she literally ran down the steps. For almost ten days Ambi did not see Alamelu aunty come to Gandhi room. One evening as he was in the temple, Alamelu who was there smiled at him. She came near him and said “Ambi, I am very happy that you are learning lessons from your thatha (grandpa).Have this orange given at the temple.”

Thanks aunty, give it to uncle. He is sick” Ambi said

“True, his condition is worsening and I am to spend a lot for his medicines. By the way I wanted to ask you one thing.That day what did you see through the door? Is it not improper to peep like that?”When Ambi kept quiet she prompted him saying “I know you never tell a lie. Do tell me what you saw”

The boy innocently said “I saw you and Varadhu uncle coming out. I have seen many times even with Gopu uncle”

“Siva, Siva, I come to take some money for treatment of uncle. I did not want uncle to know that I am taking loan for his treatment. Do you understand?” she said. But she could see the disbelief writ large on the child’s face. She asked “Did you tell your thatha?”

“No, I promise I haven’t told anyone” the boy said proud that he could keep a secret. He added”Aunty, I don’t like them. They are wicked people. Please do not meet them”

Two days later as the boy was at the river, Varadhu and Gopu came to him and said “Your thatha (grandpa) wants you urgently. Get on the motorbike”

That was the last Ambi was seen. Intense search in the river, temple tank and other places were made. He was not traced. Alamelu anxiously asked Varadhu and Gopu “What did you both do to the innocent kid? I hate you both. Don’t ever appear before me”

“Do not scream Alamelu. There is no one to spy on us anymore. Be happy” the two said laughingly
She spat on them and left weeping inconsolably. Little did the two wicked men know Ambi had written all the details without mentioning aunty’s name in his homework note book?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Panikkar's amulet

Dileep is nearing 30, handsome and has a good job but is a very unhappy man. While there seem no repulsive habits or behavior in him, he has not been able to get a steady girl friend. It may be his serious countenance that puts off the girls and the very few who came left him soon. His aged mom in the village had left to him the job of finding a girl for himself. He was waiting for someone to fall in love with him but this was not happening.

It was then his colleague suggested that he seek the help of a Kerala Tantric Kocchu Panikkar who is well versed in occult sciences and has tremendous powers to make things happen. It seems that he visits burial grounds in the middle of night and propitiates scary demigods by practicing weird rituals with human skulls. He can exorcise ghosts, make ghost posses someone, put others into trouble or ill health, and equip someone with power to attract another. His amulet would invest such magnetic powers that the girl whom he liked would be drawn irresistibly to him. The friend advised him not to mind the expense involved.

Desperate as he was, he was searching in the narrow lane for the tiled house. He walked up and down in the lane that had only tiled houses and could not find Panikkar’s.Luckily he saw a young woman standing outside a house. She was about 25 and looked tall and extremely charming though clad in a cotton sari. She looked at him as one looked at cattle with an air of total indifference. He went near smiled at her and enquired about Panikkar.

“What Panikkar? There are three Panikkars here. Do you know his door number?”she asked in acerbic tone.

“No but his name is Kocchu Panikkar, a tantric I am told” he said softly

“Why did you not say this in the beginning? You expect me to guess what is in your mind or what? The house opposite one with green door and Om written boldly on it is Panikkar’s” she said in somewhat abrasive tone.Dileep thought what a rude girl this one lacking gentleness.

When he lowered his head and entered through a short door, he saw one frail man with long hair and ash marks smeared on his bare chest and large kumkum on his forehead. He was wearing several beads in assorted colours and had a week’s stubble on his chin.Dileep said in a deferential tone “I have come to you for a solution to my problem”

“It is ok.Have this kumkum on your forehead and pray to goddess Bhagavathi first. You can tell later” he said in Tamil with a Malayalam twang.

When Dileep explained his problem, the tantric smiled a bit and said “It is simple. I can give you an amulet that will make girls come running after you. There are three varieties of amulets with prices depending upon how quick the desired results to happen. The ordinary costs Rs.2000, the medium at Rs.5000 and the special at Rs.10, 000.The results happen in 3mionths to a week depending on the amulet chosen”

“I will take the Rs5000 type. Will results happen within a fortnight?”Dileep asked

“Who knows? If Goddess Bhagawathi deigns it can happen immediately too. Have faith and good luck” he said tying the amulet in his right arm.

As Dileep came out, the girl whom he had met outside earlier flashed a big smile at him. He was greatly surprised. That rude girl who treated him shabbily is smiling. Could it be the power of amulet, he wondered?

She came to him and asked him “Is the job accomplished? Are you happy?”

“Yes, thank you very much for your help. I am Dileep”he replied

“I am Parvati and Paru in short” she said

“Do you live here?”

“Yes, you can see me anytime here. Best of luck. He is a powerful tantric”

“Yes, I can see the powers already. Come on, let us have tea in the hotel opposite” he said

“Why not?” she said

As they were sipping tea, he admired her beauty and sprightly laughter. How nice it would be if this one falls in love with me” he thought

“What Sir? You are in deep thought. Are you thinking of your lover?”she said with a giggle.

“No, I was actually thinking of you. Are you married?” he asked her

She became shy and said “No, I have work. I will see you tomorrow here at same time”

The whole night Dileep was tossing in bed and wondering whether she had fallen in love at first sight. He was happy he had invested in the amulet.

The next day she told him “There were some hurdles in the way of her marriage and until they were removed I cannot marry. My step mother is not agreeing. Only Bhagawathi should find her a way”

“Do not worry. I will seek Panikkar’s help. He should be able to “he said

“It may cost you much if you go for something special. I have heard people say it is unfailing” she said

Dileep went to Tantric and had a very powerful amulet for Rs25000 made. It took some time.When he came out after one hour ,he could not see Paru.He came the next day and for a few days thereafter.She was not seen.He became worried and wished to be near her so that amulet can work its spell on her..

The next day he asked an old woman who was seen at that place about Parvati.

“Oh are you asking about that tall and good looking girl Paru? She must be at her father Panikkar’s place. Why,what happened?Did you buy any amulet from that wily man? It has become their routine job, both dad and his daughter, to cheat gullible guys”

From what one hears Dileep is still unmarried but hates tall and good looking girls these days.