Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Kamli's shock

Keshav and Kamli were anything but a ‘made for each other couple’. She was an extrovert, fun loving and gregarious while he was an introvert, a loner and a staid type. She loved eating out, fond of many cuisines and a liking to savour new and esoteric dishes while he always preferred traditional home made food by Kamli.She loved friends and kitty parties, sociable and fond of travel. He avoided parties and talked nothing but office matters. She loved watching films both Hindi and English in theatres on the first day while he dozed in the cinema halls. She was a great fan of Shreya Ghosal and Sonu Nigam while Keshav liked hearing Carnatic music of TMK or Vijay Siva. She loved Soccer and had a crush on Becham and never missed Federer and Nadal contests. Keshav liked chess and a grand fan of Vishy.But the silver lining despite all these differences was that they were very loving couple fond of each other

One Sunday as they were sipping tea at the balcony, he was nibbling with his Blackberry.Kamli broke the silence.“I had great expectations from the marriage. But I never expected even in my dream such a dull and monotonous life. We are married three years. Tell me whether you had surprised me even once with an outing to a far off place for m birthday. I am not asking you for a hot balloon ride at a hilly resort that my friend R got from her hubby as a surprise gift. You never take me frequently to a local restaurant blaming office for busy work. Just try to tickle your mind to see any gift given for our wedding anniversary. I am not asking for a rich silk and gorgeous dress. You do not even take me for a long drive along the sea that is so close to us. You need not surprise or even thrill me. You haven’t even shocked me doing something different from your insipid routine”she said.

“I am sorry Kamli.What you say is possibly true. I am not giving excuses but the pressure of office work is too much and it is only on Sundays that b I relax. But I have given you total freedom to do what pleases you and never questioned you on what you did or where you had gone. I have provided a vehicle for you.

It did not strike me that you get carried away by the outward demonstration of love. I love you deeply you know” he replied

“It is not only these. We are like two islands with no common interest. You do not like anything what a modern young lady would like. I wish you understand and make me get over the feeling of being a drudge in this house”

“I will try and please you very soon’ he concluded

Two days later on 31st March, he told her “I may have to work late tonight in the office even up to 2 am as I am to submit the annual report in gist to Chairman on 1st.Do not wait for me. I may stay over in office”

She went to bed early by 9pm and spent some time reading an unfinished novel listening to Suniti Chauhan on iPod. She switched off the night lamp too and soon fell asleep. Around 1am as she was half asleep and turned to one side, she felt the warmth of a body behind her and an arm over her. She was drowsy and thought her hubby had returned even as she snuggled closer. The grip of the arm tightened drawing her closer to him. He had put his leg over her and ran his hand over her shoulder and arm rather roughly. She enjoyed the comfort of the grasp from behind her and the smooches on the shoulder and her nape that sent goose bumps across her body. Keshav was always soft and gentle but today he was different. She called “Keshav” softly and asked “when did you come?”

Instead of answering she was pulled forcefully towards him. It then struck her that this was not the revlon musk that Keshav used daily but something pungent. Scared beyond words,that it could be someone else she tried to push him aside

Her both hands were now in his clasp in a scissor hold and her scream was silenced by his palm closing her mouth. It was dark and she could not see. It was obviously someone else who had stealthily entered and about to criminally assault her. She prayed to God and summoned all her strength to free herself from him and succeeded in freeing herself. She jumped out of the bed and ran to a corner.

It was then the light was switched on and she saw Keshav sitting on the bed laughing loudly and uncontrollably.

“What a foolish act is this? You scared my life out of me. Your perfume is also different. I could have hit you with anything I could get hold of” she said angrily

“Calm down, Kamli.You are right about perfume. I wanted to shock, thrill and surprise you as you had wished. I hope you have had enough. As a bonus be ready next week to fly to Hong Kong for a week. I have some work there but will find time to be with you showing the city. Your message that day has gone home well. You will have no more occasion to be unhappy.”

It was now Kamli's turn to hug him in joy.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The test

Vimala will be 79 in two months. She had moved to this high class senior home on the outskirts of the city five years back with her husband. He drew good pension and was financially well off. They had no children. They did not wish to be alone in their big house depending on domestic help. They had their own suite at this home that had all facilities and everything they wished at their beck and call.Mami’s husband died about a year back but she continued to remain in the same suite.

Initially after they moved here, some relatives dropped in occasionally. But distance of the senior home from the city was a deterrent. Over a period of time the trickle of relatives who visited dried up completely. In fact she had a host of close relatives like two younger brothers, three sisters and many nephews and nieces from both her side and husband’s side. Initially she participated in functions when invited. Even contacts by phone became nil unless mami herself rang them up. This never bothered her as she had many good friends here. She also knew that everyone had their own priorities and things to attend to.Mami’s best friend was Kausalya who lived in the adjacent block. They spent major time together sharing their personal matters.

One day mami’s relatives received the following email from her while some got letters post.

Dear relative,

I am addressing this to all my close relatives and not individually. I will be having a hip surgery very soon. I am assured by the doctors that I would be back to normal. I would be discharged from hospital within a week and thereafter will be able to move about with crutches for a couple of months. I should be able to take care of my needs without much help from others. While I can return back to home where I command all facilities, I would be missing the ‘homely’ atmosphere. I wish to spend about 6 to 8 weeks with any relative who is willing to accommodate me. I can even have a help at my cost. But the ambience of a home and the company of people who are related to me would be mentally invigorating.
Please let me know whether anyone of you would be willing to host me. I would try not to be an imposition on your time or regular schedule. But I will not be offended if it is inconvenient to have me. I would however expect a line in reply at your earliest


Here are the mails she received

Brother 1:

Vimala, How is it you have not kept me informed about the details of surgery to take place? I would not have been able to be of much help even if you had. We are leaving for US this week to be with our daughter who has bought a house in Cupertino and wanted us for grihapravesh.We will be back after five months when I will meet you. Meanwhile stay in touch by mail. Best wishes and God speed for your early recovery, affectionately Mani

Sister 1:

Vimmu, I am sorry to hear that you need a hip surgery but feel assured that these days they are done with expertise and patients are back to normal soon. You (and athimbertoo) were always independent and managed your affairs single handed. At a rare occasion when you have sought my help, It pains me to be not in a position to invite you. My daughter from Dubai and son from Sydney are coming with their families during that time and have some vows to be discharged at the temples. We may be away too. I hope someone of our siblings would come forward, always yours, Raji

Brother 2:

Vimala, I can only tell you in extreme confidentiality that my wife is unwilling and exhibits the same hostile feelings towards my side of relatives. I feel ashamed in not being able to help you when you have approached me for the first time. I am sure you will understand my helplessness. I wish you the best. Tell me where the surgery takes place. I will try to visit you without her knowledge. Siva


One sister did not reply even after a reminder. The other one wrote
Vimmu, I am myself staying as a dependent with my daughter who is not in very comfortable financial position with her daughter and son both in engineering college. I pray you get well soon. I hope one day I am able to meet you, Jalaja

One niece

Athai, Glad you could think of us at least now when you need our assistance. Take care. I wish you well. I am sorry I may not be in a position to host you due to other preoccupations
Another niece
Mami, I am in UK with my daughter to help her in her delivery. Best wishes for successful operation and speedy recovery.Priya

One nephew

Periamma, You never bothered about us when we were passing through troubling times. By God’s grace we are all well.But we cannot forget the taunts so easily, Sundaresan

Vimala knew the kind of response she would get but the reality shattered her. She was sullen and dejected. Even when Kausalya asked her about her glum mood, she did not divulge. Two days later she received an inland letter. It was from Lakshmi, her late eldest brother’s daughter. It read

My dear athai, I am sorry to hear the need for a surgery. Please inform me the place and date when it is to be done. I will be there with my husband to be of whatever help and as a moral support.

My doors are always open to you. You were very dear to my father. He always spoke with affection for you and he would be happy if I am of little help to you. As you may be aware we are living in a housing board two bed roomed flat. Still we have ample space for you in our hearts and house. My children have decided to set apart their room for you exclusively. Accustomed as you are to rich comforts, you may find the house small and cramped. Luckily the toilet in your room is Western in style. You can stay with us as long as you wish. Please decline any other offer and come to my place. I will soon meet you at the hospital. Awaiting your confirmation.

Affectionately Lakshmi

Tears trickled from Vimalas eyes. She knew Lakshmi’s husband had a small job and her children were in college. Yet how generous and kind they were, she wondered. Such good nature is not related to ones financial or other circumstances. Kausalya entered the room and saw her friend happy .

Vimala said “I have asked my advocate to come next week for making a will. I have decided to leave a major portion for charitable causes. Still I wished to see whether I should mention some deserving relatives in the will. I kept a small test. I have found to my great satisfaction the answer” and gave Kausalya the inland letter

Friday, August 24, 2012

The giveaway

Sajitha had finished making palak paneer, baingan bharta and the dough for making rotis.She invariably asked her husband Atul the menu for lunch. It could vary from South Indian, North Indian, and Mexican to Italian pastas. He enjoyed whatever she made and heaped praises on her. He generally came around 1 pm from his office that was just seven minutes drive away.

She lived in a large apartment complex that housed nearly 800 apartments that had all amenities like a gym, pool, club, small store and play ground. There were only few Indians in her complex. Her neighbors in her floor were a Spanish bachelor, a Japanese family, a Philippine girl and her fiancé, a couple of American families, two Chinese families and a few others whom she had not seen. While most were friendly, she detested the Spanish fellow as his stare at her and the grin in his face betrayed his wicked intentions. He was a heavily built tall man with a large bulbous nose that stood out prominently and he always reminded her of big sized wrestlers in WWE on the TV. She had mentioned to Atul once her aversion for him without going into details.

It was 11.45 am .She thought she would make the rotis and put them in casserole before having her shower. She stirred the Palak paneer and kept it warm by keeping the burner low.When she heard the doorbell, she was not surprised as Atul frequently came earlier for lunch if he had meetings later. But to her dismay and shock she found the Spaniard with a leer on his face when she opened. He literally pushed her in and closed the door behind him. She ran towards the phone and he came rushing behind her and grabbed her hair. As she tried to extricate herself, he tore her blouse from behind. She hit him hard repeatedly on his head and face with the ever silver ladle she had in her hand. Unable to bear the onslaught, he let her loose only to grab the kitchen knife lying on the work station. She was cowering in a corner in total fright and was dazed by the sudden happening. Angered by the blood trickling from his head and face, the brute stabbed her deep in her stomach.

As she lay bleeding, he quietly swiped the knife of the finger prints with her apron and left the apartment leaving her to die a slow and painful death. She could hardly move let alone walk towards the phone. Things began to black out and she was alternating between consciousness and blankness. She feared her life was ebbing out and closed her eyes involuntarily. It was then she heard a voice as if from a deep well “Sajji, Sajji, please open your eyes. Tell me who did this to you” Even as she recognized Atul’s faint voice and could feel his gentle touch she heard him ring someone.

As she lapsed into unconsciousness she could feel his shaking her shoulders and asking “Give me a clue on who did this. Police and ambulance are on their way. Please indicate quickly before you blackout.”

She raised her hand and touched his nose before she lapsed into unconsciousness

Even as finger prints were taken and she was being carried to hospital, Sergeant Jackson told Atul that he would accompany him to the hospital leaving his colleague behind.

On the way he asked Atul “How long are you living here? Do you have any enemies or did you get any threats?”

“Two years. I can think of none”

“Was she conscious when you came home? Did you not ask her who did it?”

“I was shaken and she was not fully conscious. My concern was to take her to hospital to save her life. Still I asked her to give me a clue on who did it. She was in no position to talk”

“Did she indicate? Think carefully as it is important.”

“She lifted her hand with difficulty and touched my nose. I don’t know what it meant. She blacked out immediately thereafter”

“I can now understand why your nose is scarlet. I was wondering. The clue is the nose. Who are your neighbours?

As he was telling, the sergeant asked Atul “Is there anyone whom you could relate to a nose?”

“Yes, my adjacent neighbor on the right side, a Spaniard has a prominent nose big for his face. Come to think of it, I recollect my wife telling she disliked him though she didn’t tell why”

“OK, let me check on him now.I hope the doctors would take care of her. You stay here.He seems a violent guy. I will return after having a look and a small chat with that fellow.”

The sergeant knocked the door twice. It did not open. He took out his gun and asked his colleague to cover him. When he thumped again loudly the door opened and the Spaniard in a clean jeans and white T-shirt appeared showing surprise. He had three plasters on his head and one under the eyes. He asked”What is it you want?”

The sergeant asked him to go to the wall with his hands up even as he asked colleague to have a quick survey

“Did you go to the adjacent apartment today? You seem to have recent wounds all over you head and face? How did they happen?”

“You mean the Indiians.No,I did not go. I do not know them” The sergeant remembered that he did not say which side of Spaniard’s apartment but only adjacent. This was a giveaway.

“You have left a lot of tell tale evidence of your having been there” the sergeant said

The Spaniard looked at his T shirt and jeans and said “What evidence you are talking about? You cannot pin anything on me. I have been resting in my place. I did not stir out”

“OK,if you have been resting, can you explain how you got those wounds? Were they self inflicted?”

Meanwhile the colleague came to report blood soaked garments in the washing machine. The sergeant put the handcuff on the Spaniards hands held behind and went to see the clothes. He asked the colleague to take him to station for further interrogation

On reaching the hospital, he put his arm around Atul and said “I learn from doctors that your wife will be out of danger. She will be fine soon. You will be pleased to know that we have nabbed the Spaniard and have clinching evidence against him. He is in our custody and we will ferret out the truth.Do you have any relative or friend in the city to be by your side? Give me his number. Do not worry. It is iron clad and we will secure a conviction.”

Monday, August 20, 2012

The count

I cannot offer any rational explanation to this strange phenomenon occurring in this temple tank but can only point out that it bears statistical scrutiny. The fact is that each Tamil year from Chithirai till end of Panguni there is a minimum of a dozen people getting drowned in the tank. It can be more but never less than twelve.This count of 12 holds good strangely only for Tamil year and not for Gregorian calendar year from January. The people in the locality had reconciled to this as something divinely ordained.Nevertheless they keep a careful count of the number of drowning till date.

It is a well known temple and pilgrims throng throughout out the year but swell to unmanageable levels during festival days. The temple management had put iron railings across the steps all around the big tank at the level where water commences. But they were unable to keep the steps from being slippery. The water emanating an odour would appear green in colour covered by moss. Notwithstanding this risk, the pilgrims and local population get into the tank carefully to soak their legs in the water before visiting the temple or take a regular bath. One will find people on all sides but generally after the sunset very few venture into it.

It was the last day of Panguni and the Tamil year. There was not much crowd and the evening was drawing to a close. A car stopped before the shop at the entrance of the tank selling flowers, betel leaves, plantain fruits, coconuts and things for offering prayer inside the temple. A young man who alighted with a small boy asked the woman selling flowers “Is this the entrance to the tank? Can we go inside?”

She said “Ayya (Sir), it is already dark. The tank is slippery. You can go to the temple directly.”

“No, we wish to wash our legs in the sacred water and sprinkle some on our heads before entering the temple. We will be careful” he said

“I beg of you. Please avoid the tank. There is nobody there inside. It is an ill fated tank at this point of time. Please go to the temple and wash your feet in the tap at the entrance” she pleaded

A middle aged man who was with her in the shop, obviously her husband intervened and shouted at her “Keep quiet, Bhagyam.Why are you preventing them from washing their feet because of your foolish fears?” He turned to the young man “Sir, you can go freely. Ignore this crazy woman who always blabbers”

Bewildered the young man looked at the woman who pleaded with her eyes and with expression in her face against their entering the tank. The middle aged man prodded him “Go sir, do not be afraid.”

As the young man and the boy slowly walked towards the tank, Bhagyam asked her husband “Don’t you know this is the last day of Panguni and it is already evening. No one will go to the tank. There have already been 11 drownings.Do you want one of the two,the young man and the sweet little boy, to lose his life? Are you not a human?”

“I know all that.You invariably after closing the shop go down to wash your legs and sprinkle some flowers on the tank. I am forced to accompany you. One of us may be the last victim today. That is why….”he did not complete the sentence

Bhgayam jumped from the stall and ran down the steps towards the young man and the boy who were very close to water shouting like a mad woman “Don’t get into the water. Promise upon God, please do not put your feet in the water”

Her husband came running behind her in the steps to prevent her from going to the water. There were now four near the water for the tank to choose its remaining victim.

Friday, August 17, 2012

An encounter

"Is this the way you put up files to a GM of the company? Are you are not aware that this is being put up to the board of directors? The pages are not numbered and the references are not flagged. Do you expect me to fish through the file? Such inept work I cannot tolerate" shouted Uma at the young man who came to her room and literally threw the file on the table to the corner he was standing.

The handsome young man who was in early thirties did not react but quietly took the file and left the room.Uma who was 28 had joined the company recently as GM (finance).The Managing Director had asked her a week earlier to prepare the important note for the board meeting the next day in the absence of a director for finance. A rank holder with good experience she wanted to impress the board at the first opportunity she got

The young man returned in a short while with the file in a new folder with all pages numbered and some earlier references flagged. She also found to her surprise some corrections in the note in pencil both of figures and grammar. She wondered to her obvious embarrassment how she overlooked these flaws.

Recovering herself she said “Thank you for the good job but you should have taken care in the first instance. What is your good name?"

“Kumar" he replied

"Thanks again. You can go and let me finalize this now"

It was 6.30 in the evening .She tried to start her car in the parking lot at the basement. It did not come alive despite her several attempts. Worried she came out of the car and locked it wanting to take a cab. It was then she saw Kumar coming towards her.

"Any problem, miss? Can I help you?"

"I don't think you can do much. Some electrical problem, I think"

“Let me just have a look, if you do not mind" he said as he opened the door. After starting a couple of times, he opened the bonnet and peered into it. He did something and asked her to start the car.With disbelief she got in and started it to find the car come alive instantly. She said with a big smile

"You seem an expert with cars unlike with files" she giggled and added “Where is your vehicle?"

"I came by a cab as my car has gone for service. I was looking for a friend here"

"I can drop you. Get in" she said as she opened the front door. She asked "Where do you live? Married?"

"South Extension. No, I am single"

"Good, I am in Lajpatnagar"

"Why good?" he looked at her questioningly. She was beautiful..

She was silent for a while."Nothing, your place is on my way" she said with a sheepish smile.

The next day she was waiting anxiously for the call from the board room when her file came up for discussion. It was already 12 noon. She was fully prepared on the subject and wished to impress the board. In a short while she was called.

When she went in there were about nine directors seated on the oval mahogany table with other officials seated on chairs lined across the wall.

"Welcome, Miss Uma.We have discussed your report. Our new Director (finance) needs some clarifications. He will be here presently" said the MD.

It was then she saw Kumar emerging from the toilet in the corner and coming towards her." How do you do, Miss Uma?" he asked as he sat by the side of MD.

It was then Uma realized her blunder the day before and started perspiring in her seat on the side.

"Please come forward to the table and take your seat. I am greatly impressed with the way the issue has been analyzed and the final suggestion made." He added with a grin on his face "It was easy to flip through the file as the pages were numbered and flagged". He then sought some clarification and when given, he said that he looked forward to work with her.

Around 5.30 in the evening she entered Kumar’s cabin when she knew he was alone and said “My profound apologies for my rude behavior yesterday. I mistook you for a junior executive in the department. I am never like that. Kindly forgive me.”

“Don’t worry. It is all forgotten. I knew that you mistook me for someone and I just played along. Yesterday I was in fact narrating the incident to my mom. She was greatly amused and said “I wish to see that daring girl who is going to work with you. Can you bring her along with you today?” He added ‘If it is ok by you, my driver can bring your car and we can go together to my home for a few minutes” He added “Would you mind accompanying me as I had assured my mom”

Uma felt that there was something more than what met the eye behind this request but could not ignore the butterflies fluttering in her stomach.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The smirk

Her mobile rang. It was from her ex boy friend. She ignored the call and deleted the missed call. It rang again and again many times. There were five missed calls she had deleted and he should have known that she was not interested. Then a tinkle for a sms message.”Swetha, I am having high fever and shivering since evening. Can you please come for a few minutes to help me”? She deleted that also

Arun was living in the adjacent block in the same Purva Mantri complex. She never met him after they broke up. She was happily married to Suresh both in the same IT line but in different offices. He was aware of Swetha’s past friendship with Arun and why they broke up. Her parents never liked Arun from day one, his parents had separated and married again and he belonged to a different community with different eating habits. It was only after striking friendship with him that she came to know he has had many girl friends and ditched them one after the other whenever a better one came along. She had observed his roving eyes and decided to sever her relationship much to his annoyance.

He was now pleading sick and needed help. It could be a ruse but what if it were true she wondered. May be she could go and size up the situation and have a doctor called or have him admitted in ER.But what deterred her was that it was past 730 pm and he was alone in his apartment. Further Suresh had gone for a party and was expected only around 11pm.She gave him a ring but there was no response.

When she finally went to his place, the door was not locked. She gently opened the door to find him lying down on the sofa in the drawing hall. He had a pillow and had covered himself with several bed sheets and a blanket. The light was on as also the TV on subdued volume.

“What happened, Arun?”she asked

“Since evening I am having terrible shivering, body pain and I think I have fever”

“Why didn’t you go to doctor? Have you eaten anything?”

“I took a paracetamol and hoped it would subside. I haven’t taken any food. Tell me if I have temperature”

She felt his forehead and found it warm. She also noticed an electric warmer by his side to keep him from shivering.”Okay, let me heat some milk and give you along with bread”

She went inside boiled the milk and came with a tray containing glass of milk and toasted bread.

He ate the bread and drank the milk.”I am having splitting head ache. Would it be too much to ask you press my forehead?”

“I may have to hurry up as my husband would be back anytime .I will press for a few minutes” She sat in a chair and pressed his forehead as he kept looking at her with a wry smile on his face.

Suddenly he said “I wish we had not broken up. At least you can keep visiting me once a while”

She abruptly got up and said “I am leaving. There is no point in discussing the past and that it is best we do not meet. I came only because you said you were unwell”.

As she was walking back to her block, she saw Suresh coming towards her to her surprise and shock.

“The security in our block told me he saw you walking hurriedly towards the adjacent block. So I came looking for you. What was it and whom did you visit?”

She narrated to him what all had happened and that she left him as he was feeling better. As they were climbing the stairs to their apartment, there was a beep in her mobile. She turned to her husband and said “It is again from him asking me to come urgently. We are not going. Let him take the help of security”

Suresh said “No, let us go and have look. In case he needs medical help, let us take him to ER”

This time the door was locked and after they pressed the bell, he opened the door and said to Suresh with a big laugh “What a surprise to see you also along with Swetha”

The sofa was clean with no pillows or blankets. There was a beer bottle with two glasses on the table. The TV was on. There was no evidence of his sickness and he was in T shirt and well groomed hair. Suresh looked at Swetha questioningly

“Arun, when I came here a few minutes back you were shivering and said you had fever. You had covered yourself with many bed sheets and blanket. You said you had taken paracetamol.I boiled milk for you and gave you with bread. How come you seem ok in a few minutes? Why did you text me to come urgently?”

“Who unwell, me? Are you day dreaming? You came to spend some time with me saying your husband had gone out. You left abruptly and so I sent a message whether you would like to come again if free”

“You dirty liar” exploded Swetha and dragged Suresh to kitchen to show the vessel in which she had boiled milk. The sink was dry and clean with no vessels. She was dumbfounded and crying fell on the chest of Suresh telling him “Trust me, He is lying to sow a doubt in your mind”

Suresh led her out of the house even when Arun was having a mischievous sneer on his face. On the way to their apartment he consoled her and said “I trust you implicitly. I know he is a scoundrel. Never go to his place again”

It was two days later, Swetha had gone to her parent’s place on a Sunday .When she returned in the evening there was a commotion outside Arun’s block. When she went to her apartment, Suresh said “Do you know Arun had committed suicide? I heard that he did it possibly consuming sleeping tablets along with beer. Serves him right, isn’t it?”

When she turned to look at her husband, she saw a happy smirk on his face. She was confused. As she opened her fridge to take milk for making tea, she found the beer bottle missing.