Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Trust deficit

Inspector Harish was not happy with the new posting. His station and beat were in the notorious red light area of the city. The area was the haunt of pimps, mafia and the pleasure seekers. As there was a sudden surge of complaints of intimidation, extraction of money, harassment of passersby and even frequent violence, his higher authorities knowing his integrity and hard working nature had chosen him for this beat. He was known to enforce the law strictly and not succumb to the lure of the money or women. But he was not accustomed to deal with type of people who live in this area or its shady visitors. The owners and their pimps can be harsh to hapless girls, deceive the innocent ones and force them to lives of shame. . He rather preferred to face a rowdy known for violence and murder than these slimy guys.
Harish had to go frequently to these houses of disrepute when he got a complaint that needed his presence. Being a handsome and muscular young man, the women would look at him lustily both in fear and admiration. He never paid attention to them though he sympathized with these women. So long as there was no force and women did it willingly, he had no complaint. But he came down heavily when someone has been tricked and forced into this profession.
He hated two things; the smell of chloroform and phenyl in the hospitals and the smell of cheap scents used in these houses. The men who visited these places also covered their foul smelling bodies with cheap attar or native pungent perfumes in jasmine, rose and thazhamboo. The mix was heady and unique particularly in one large house that had maximum occupants. The odour so assailed his nose that he was compelled to cover It. He hated the interrogation with the plump matron with her pan stained teeth and loud voice. He hoped for a transfer as this posting was much sought after for the money and thrill it yielded.
Meanwhile he married Lalitha, a charming young woman, with the blessings of his parents and set up a home. She was qualified but worked for the deprived, handicapped and poorer sections. She visited blind schools, destitute homes and taught illiterate adults. Harish was proud of her.
One evening soon after the marriage when he returned home his wife brought him a tray with tea and biscuits. Suddenly the smell of the perfume of the big whore house assaulted his nose. He inhaled twice and the odour was unmistakable. Refraining from asking directly he asked her “How was the day?
She looked at him intently and said slowly “Nothing special, it was like any other day.”
“Did you go beyond your usual places?”
“Only the usual places. Why do you ask?” she asked
He did not reply but pushed the tray away.
“What happened? Aren’t you taking tea?”
“Slight head ache. I would like to close my eyes and relax. I hope you wouldn’t mind” he replied.
 She took the cue and left him alone. Harish was certain she was in that foul place that day .Why did she go there and why is she hiding the information, he wondered? He decided not to be rash in judgment but watch for few days. He came the next few days early and on a few days he could smell the stench of cheap perfume. He was convinced that she was frequenting the place in the afternoons. He avoided her. She was perplexed at his strange behavior but did not know what brought about the change.
He on his part decided to catch her red handed. He told her that he would be going out of the city daily for a few days and be back late in the night. He went next afternoon to the whore house on some pretext. The matron was startled initially but wondered why he came without any valid reason and whether he was also like any other. Though somewhat happy in not finding Lalitha, he went the next day also. To his utter shock he found her car parked outside. Would she be so foolish to come to this despicable place publicly in a car?
As soon as he entered, the matron asked what brought him again and what exactly he needed. Harish said he wished to meet all the girls and women at one place. The matron without questioning took him to the interior hall where to his great surprise he found all the women sitting on the floor listening to Lalitha in what appeared as a lecture. While all the girls stood up, Lalitha ignoring him totally asked them to be seated and continue to listen.
The matron took him aside and explained the lecturing lady along with her assistants from a NGO  visit once a while to talk to them about the danger of HIV/AIDs .The inmates are wiser now and are overwhelmed about the good work she is doing voluntarily particularly visiting the place where no respectable lady would visit. He didn’t tell her that she was his wife
In the night Harish said ”I am sorry Lalitha.I could have asked you directly about the smell of scent instead of sulking. I should have realized that you work for all types of social causes.”
“I should also have been frank when you asked me where all I went. I was hesitant as I did not know how you would react to my visit to such a place. Let me trust you more. I am also sorry” Lalitha said.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Tanwar’s laugh

“That seems strange with possibly a sinister angle to it” said inspector Tanwar
“It is. Ever since I stumbled on it, I am sleepless and waited for the first occasion to tell you” said Sub Inspector (SI) Shukla
“Give me briefly the events as they unfolded before you” said Tanwar
“I got admitted on an emergency to this famous Medical Miracle hospital owned by the renowned Dr Surendra. My wife took me here instead of a government hospital that is far from my house. I was there for a fortnight. It is a very clean, efficient multi specialty hospital with its tariff somewhat stiff. Lot of patients come from far and near.”
“I know all that. Come to the crux of the matter” prodded Tanwar
“One afternoon around 2pm when the doctors had finished the rounds and nurses were having lunch, a ward boy was in my room to clean something. A young boy about 18, he smiled at me and said “Namaste”.
“How long are you working here?”
“Since six months, Sir” he replied
“You look different. Do you belong to this state? Where do you stay?”
”No, Sir. I belong to another state. I was a destitute living in destitute home when this hospital agreed to take me under their fold, train me for such jobs and take care of me. I am living in a hostel of the hospital along with others like me”
“That is great. Are you happy? You are no longer a destitute but a working employee who can look to future with hope. Am I not right?” Shukla asked
The young man did not reply but looked on all sides with fear in his eyes. Shukla suspected something was amiss. It was then a nurse entered and found the ward boy talking to the patient.”What are you doing here disturbing the patient? Don’t you know you are not allowed to talk but do your work silently?”
Shukla intervened to say “I only called him to clean some stain on the floor”
The nurse did not appear satisfied and took the boy along with her. Her attitude intrigued Shukla. The ward boys were not in jail and why their conversations be curbed. He felt there was something more than what met the eye given the fear in the eyes of the boy. He decided to probe further. But the boy did not come for three days and someone else came.
On the fourth day, a Sunday, the boy came around 3pm and saluted me
“Where were you all these days? I was expecting you” Shukla said
“I was asked to work in the canteen and I am on duty there even today. I got some free time and so came to meet you” he said.
“Tell me quickly why the apprehension>Do you suspect some wrong doing? Be quick before someone comes”
He hesitated looking at the door. I said “Come to the wash room. I will lock it. You can tell me all”
“I am very much afraid what will happen to me anytime. Every month three or four boys disappear from the hostel. All are destitute with no parents or deserted by unwed mothers. No one is there to enquire about our well being. When my mates disappear we hear from the warden that either they ran away without leaving their whereabouts or possibly gone back to the destitute home. The authorities say they inform the homes but they do not evince any interest. I was not so sure about their return to destitute home or running away till my best friend disappeared a week back. In fact he was telling that after some experience he will look for a change to another hospital and study in the evenings. He was full of optimism and hope that I cannot by any stretch of imagination think of his running away without telling me.I am afraid when my turn for disappearance will happen”
Shukla was in utter disbelief but did not want the boy exposed to any danger. He gave him his wife’s number and asked him to take further instructions. He rang up his wife and told her what was required to be done. They boy was taken to Shulkla’s home and taken care of
“This is the revelation during my stay in the hospital. I heard there are many transplantations taking place and people from neighbouring countries flock for treatment. One thing I would like to find out discreetly the names of these homes. I can get the names of missing boys. We should ascertain whether the homes got any communication from hospital about the disappearance” said Shula
“I agree with you. But I will depute someone else as your association will cause some doubts. Let me talk to my boss who in turn may take clearance as the hospital has a big name and the owner a very reputed doctor. We should not do anything without proper strategy. One fault step, we are ruined”repled Tanwar.
It was then Shukla’s mobile rang and it was his wife.”What are you telling? Are you sure? Are you saying that the boy has run away taking with him the silver, watches, and cash? Oh my god, is the steel bureau opened by force? How gullible and sucker  I was to trust his yarn? I am coming home soon” Shukla was heard talking.
Tanwar let out a loud laugh despite the inappropriate moment.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mutually grateful

Bhilla and Ranga were hardly 20 but had all the vices. School dropouts after they failed successively three times they relied on their wit to make some easy money. They were not nimble with their fingers for successfully picking pockets. They generally haunted railway station and central bus stand for filching small suitcases or bags when one of them kept the owner engaged in asking direction or about the next train/bus. They spent the ill gotten money on food, booze, drugs and women who sell sex.The last time they pilfered a laptop, there was a minor ruckus as the owner found Bhilla making a hasty exit. Ranga too ran with the owner to nab the culprit but Bhilla dropped the laptop and was too fleet these days footed for the fat owner to catch him. Ranga retrieved the laptop and the owner rewarded him with some money. Since then they avoided the station for a few days.
By nature Ranga was timid and did not like the way he was messing up with his life. He wished to get out of this but Bhilla the wily and ruthless of the two threatened him of dire consequences. Bhilla, heavily built and slightly older than Ranga was prone to sudden rage and violence. He drank more and spent his share mostly on women.
They had no money these days for booze and for other pleasures. Even the small balance they had for food was just enough for a couple of days. They dusted some old receipt books in the name of a fake home for destitute and orphans they had printed some months back when they had money. They had earlier duped a few gullible people saying they did social work part time by collecting money for the home that was in financial straits. Even small amounts would do, they would stress, as they needed cash instead of cheques. They hired for a day a pair of jeans and T shirt from the local dhobi and set out trying their luck. Many turned them away with some reason or the other. It was hot, the sun was scorching and throat parched.
They found a small house at the end of the street with vacant plots on both sides. When Bhilla knocked the door, a young girl of 18 opened slightly and asked what they wanted.
“We have come to collect donations for a destitute home. We work part time normally after college hours. Today there was no class. Can you please call your dad or mom?”said Bhilla in soft voice.
“Both are away. Mom is expected in an hour. Please come in the evening or some other day” she said and was about to close the door.
“One moment, we are very thirsty having walked in the hot sun. Can you kindly give us cool water? We would be thankful”
The young thing hesitated for a moment but on second thought went inside to fetch water. It was then Bhilla went inside dragging Ranga. When he closed the door, Ranga said”Bhilla, it is not proper. She has gone to get water trusting us. No harm should befall her. Open the door and let us wait outside”
“You fool, stay away from this. She looks good and it has been long since I went to a woman. If you so wish, get out before she comes” Bhilla said. Ranga could visualize how ruthless and beast like  Bhilla can turn when a hapless woman were to fall in his hand and felt very sorry for the girl who had meanwhile come with a bowl of water and two steel tumblers.
The moment she noticed the door was locked from inside, she grew suspicious and asked “Who closed the door? Please go away”. As she moved towards the door, Bhilla with a smirk on his face caught her hand and dragged her close to him. As the young girl in fear shouted at him “don’t touch me. I will scream and have you caught by the neighbours.”
Bhilla laughed loudly and remarked “No one will hear you. I will be done with you in a short time. Do cooperate otherwise you will get hurt badly, I warn you”. He clasped her in a tight hug and pulled  her to the sofa nearby. When she bit his hand, he slapped her hard and pushed her violently on the sofa.
When the girl looked at Ranga pleading for help, he stood for a few seconds bemused at his companion’s violence. When Bhilla started tearing and disrobing the girl, Ranga unknown to himself although he was no match to the strength of Bhilla, plucked courage and hit him on his head hard with a chair. When he slumped at the sudden assault, Ranga hit him again with chair repeatedly. He shouted to the girl “Go and change your clothes before he gets up and run outside. I do not think he will get up for quite some time”
By the time the girl came down in a minute or two in fresh clothes, Ranga had disappeared from the scène. She found him missing and came out of the house locking it from outside. She shuddered at the thought of what would have happened to her at the hands of the beast but for the kindly guy who turned out to be her benefactor. She gratefully remembered his face.
Tucked away in a corner in a  general compartment without ticket, Ranga was in a  train bound for Mumbai intent on starting a new life from scratch and  was thankfully thinking of the girl who indirectly changed the course of his vicious life to an honest one.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The corporate side to T6 cricket in our colony

A  repeat for the cricket season
The cricket season was in full swing. The schools were closed for summer vacation. I saw daily about a dozen young boys in the age group ranging from nine to eighteen playing cricket in the vacant ground opposite to my house. The sun may be scorching at 40 degrees Celsius but the boys were there undaunted by 11am, some with oversized county caps and some bare headed. Only some boys had shoes while the rest played with chappals, Hawaii or otherwise. There were three stumps on one side and a bamboo stick doing the duty of a stump at the bowler’s end. They played with used tennis ball as they had no money to buy a regular cricket ball. There were two pads with one of them smaller than the other. The batsmen chose one each according to their heights. A torn hand glove was used by boys who were timid in heart. None of these deficiencies dampened their soaring spirits or muted their loud appeals.
They adopted a shortened version of IPL T20 by dividing the number into three teams and played 6 overs each. They christened themselves with equally high sounding names though they lacked the colourful uniforms or the smiling faces of celebrities. Luckily they had a common set of cheer leaders for all teams drawn from urchins of less than 7 years with or without shirts aping the lusty movements of the regular cheer leaders we saw in TV. There was the unfortunate incident of one mother pulling away her 5 year old girl from the cheer leaders’ team for what she considered an obscene movement of the child’s posterior.
As I watched daily from the balcony of my house, I saw one fat boy sitting alone under the tree besides an improvised score board without playing on any single day. I called him and asked him his name and why he was not joining others in the fun. Amidst sobbing he told that he is Sunil Kumar a Gujarati boy and that the boys were not taking him for the game though he was pleading with them daily. It seemed they were telling the poor boy that he was the owner of all the three teams like Sharukh Khan or Preity Zinta and should therefore remain at the pavilion. I felt it was unfair to exclude a colony boy on silly grounds of possibly being a Gujarati and called three captains who were playing.
.I asked them “Why are you excluding him? If there are thirteen players, let one sit out by turn.”
The boys said in chorus that he was the owner. I got annoyed and shouted “What rubbish are you saying? What owner? Take him for the game or I will not allow you boys to play here/”
The boys pleaded “Uncle, the bat, ball, stumps, pads and gloves belonged to him. That is why he is the owner.”
I said “Are you not ashamed? The boy is giving you all the equipments for you to play with .Without them you cannot play at all. Don’t you have a sense of gratitude?”
The boys again said in one voice “Uncle, he is not giving them free. He collects a rent of Rs.10 each day.”
When I looked at the boy, he put his head down in shame. I made the compromise that he will collect Rs5 henceforth for wear and tear and that he should be included in the team. That left everyone happy including the chubby Gujarati boy. I remembered Vijay Mallya’s words that IPL had a corporate side too. The Gujarati boy true to his nature remembered it in the local T6 tournament.

Friday, March 15, 2013

A golden dream

Menaka in her late thirties had crazy dreams and vaulting ambitions of a life in opulence and comfort. Sadly she had three children and her husband slogged in a small position for an income that was just adequate for a Spartan living in a rented house. She was not qualified to seek a job and depended on her wit to augment the income. She took tuitions for small kids in the locality and taught music to the beginners. She made pickles during season and sold them. She believed that planets have an influence on one’s life and consulted astrologers who would suggest remedial measures for free. She wore several rings with different gem stones. She prayed to all gods and goddesses for prosperity and observed rigorous fasts but her financial condition did not improve.

She would set apart some small amount by cutting some essential grocery item to buy lottery tickets. She used to justify that God cannot shower gold through roof and that she should facilitate His job for Him to shower Grace through the lottery medium. Never has she won but her faith that one day she would hit a jackpot remained undimmed. She used to envy the winners in Kaun banega crorepati

It was in such  despondent moment a middle aged man in ochre robe,  in  flowing beard with entire forehead smeared with white ash and dotted with a red bindhi appeared before her door. It was a hot afternoon

She was sitting in the wooden swing after lunch. The kids had gone to school. A lady from the adjacent portion was chatting with her about how costly vegetables were.

“Amma, can I have a glass of cool water?” Menaka heard a voice.

When she saw the ochre robed man, she indicated a bench and asked him to be seated before hurrying to kitchen to fetch water

“God bless you. You seem such a kind hearted lady” he said

Highly pleased, she asked him “Have you had any food Swamiji?”

“It does not matter. We are accustomed to hunger and eat once a day whatever and wherever available. We have no home and always peripatetic”

“One second Swamiji"she said and hurried inside only to come out soon with two plantains and a glass of buttermilk.”I am touched by your compassion” he said as he gulped all that were given and added “I do not want to leave obliged. I wish to help you through my siddhi (attainment) powers. Get me a lemon sized tamarind. If you give me a small piece of copper, you will get a treasure in copper. It will be a silver treasure if the piece is silver. A gold piece will fetch you a big bounty of gold. You can choose what you want. I do not usually confer this boon but I am moved by your generosity. I don’t see you in rich circumstances”

Menaka was in two minds whether to trust the Swamiji or not. She looked at her friendly neighbour and could read the signal of caution in her eyes. For a moment she wondered whether it was God who is using this medium to confer on her the riches. Her hands became damp and she sweated profusely. She went inside and took one of the pair of silver anklets of her daughter. Let me get silver. Its prices have risen abnormally high, she thought.

When she brought it to the hall, the swamiji saw the anklet in her hand and said “Not that big size. It should be something small that can be concealed in the lemon sized tamarind”

She thought surely this man is not a fake. He refuses the bigger size for a smaller one. She had nothing that was small in silver. Her daughter had worn her gold rings to her school.Menaka had a pair of  thin gold bangle and thinner chain on her. Their absence would attract the attention of husband. She had a much worn out gold ring in her finger since her marriage. She did not want to miss the God send opportunity. What if the ring is lost, she thought and consoled herself that  it is not a big deal. She can always tell her husband it had slipped somewhere.

When she gave the ring to swamiji, his eyes glistened while her friend’s were perplexed. He took the tamarind ball and kept the ring inside. He placed the ball on his left palm and covered it with right palm. He closed his eyes and muttered some mantras for a while with both gazing at him in wonder. After what looked like eternity, he opened his eyes and asked the two ladies to see North, East, West and South so that Goddess of wealth can come from all directions. The two women obediently complied with his request. He then lifted his right palm and lo, the left palm was empty with the tamarind ball vanishing mysteriously before their very eyes.

“Don’t look worried. It has gone where it should. There will be a kanakadhara (golden rain) very soon may be within a day or two. Never lose faith on Goddess and doubt her. I am happy that I could do a good turn to you. You deserved it” he said and took leave of them.

Both of them stood hypnotized as he walked out in dignity.Menaka asked her friend “Do you think I have been taken for a ride? But his eyes were so kindly and honest.”

“Initially I doubted but when he looked at me before chanting and asked me to see on all sides, I had developed awe for him. After all in two days, we will know how lucky you are. I had half a mind to try my luck too but I thought you may mistake me”

It was 6.30 pm. She was in the kitchen cooking dinner. She heard her husband   in the hall swearing and cursing and rushed out to see him scraping the bottom of his shoe with a broken knife.

“What is it? Why are you raising a hell as soon as you enter the house?”

“Don’t you see that someone has thrown some dark sticky thing outside our house?”

Shocked Menaka bent down to see what it was. She fainted and slumped down when it turned out to be the tamarind ball.