Saturday, July 30, 2016

The old man’s worry

The weather was fine with gentle breeze and the sun was luckily still shining bright. The boys were playing in the middle of the big park and many people young and old were walking briskly on the well laid pathway. As I scanned around the park. I saw at a distance an elderly gentleman sitting alone on a bench. I went near and sat quietly beside him. He must have observed me and gently coughed possibly to attract my attention. He must be around 75, frail and lanky with a prominent red vertical line on his receding forehead. Clad in a clean dhoti and a white shirt with a towel thrown over his shoulder, he smiled at me. When I reciprocated his smile, he started a conversation asking, “I remember to have seen you often, but do not exactly remember where, whether here or elsewhere. I wish to talk to you.”
“Nice to hear you. Can you try to recollect where? Is it in the park or elsewhere? What is it you wish to talk about? My name is Partha. Do you know anyone by that name? I live in the adjacent street,“ I replied
He did not speak immediately and was lost in some thoughts with a forlorn look. He coughed repeatedly.
“Are you fine?” I asked.
“Can I address you Partha? I like that name as it is after the presiding deity of Triplicane temple. I used to live in car street years back. My son was born there,” he replied.
“You have not answered my question whether you are fine since you are repeatedly coughing,” I said.
“I am fine but suffer from lot of worries that I cannot speak out openly, but they make me sleepless. I live with my son who is very affectionate. My daughter-in-law, I forget her name Rohini or Mohini, is also very caring and kind. They look after me well and have given all comforts. He earns very well,” he said and stopped when the cough recurred.
I looked at him intently even as he saw me. There was a distant look and the eyes seemed tired with the spark missing
“Strange, what worry troubles you? You said your son and his wife are very caring and keeping you in comfort. Your health also is good as you said. What is the problem for your sleeplessness? Did you tell your son to take you to a doctor?” I asked.
“I wish to but I do not see him these days.”
“What, why don’t you see him as you are in the same house? Ask his wife to take you,” I said.
 “Ï do not see her also. Both of them are not there. May be they are away.”
“Who looks after you then? Who gives you food? You must be having grandchildren”,” I asked
“One man and his wife are there with their children. I do not talk to them though they keep coming to me frequently pestering me to take bath, eat, take medicines and sleep. They do not allow me to go out alone. They are always keeping a watch on my movements. Where is my son and his family? I am really scared. Today I managed to escape without the couple’s knowledge”, he said with a sly smile.
“What is the worry you that is bothering you? You can confide in me safely,” I said.
“My only worry is why my son and his wife have left me with this strange couple. Where have they gone? He is a good and loving chap and would never do that. Still it has happened. I suspect this man and his wife might have driven them out or done harm to them? I am afraid to ask them as they may kill me. I found you to be a decent person and thought of telling you. Do not tell what I confided to the stranger and his wife, I implore you,” he pleaded with tears and fear in his eyes.
“Do not worry. Your son would never desert you. I will get your son and his family very soon as I have tremendous influence. Do not be afraid, I will take care. No one can do any harm to you. Come with me. I will drop you at your home,” I told him
As I led him inside the house clutching his forefinger with one hand and putting my other arm around him, he stopped for a few seconds and looked at me keenly. Meanwhile my wife rushed out to me and asked “Where did you find him? I was so worried that I prayed to all gods for his safety.”
My children followed her and said “Thatha, why did you go out alone. Amma and appa were in tears not finding you in the house and searching you everywhere.”
The old man, my father, looked at us in a bewildering and incomprehensible manner and asked me after a very long pause,” Are you my son Partha? Only he would clutch my forefinger and put his arm around me as you did.”
Nodding my head vigorously in affirmative, I hugged my dad tightly as the children also snuggled around his legs. My wife was wiping her eyes in joy. I could see the distant look in his eyes had vanished.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Love at first sight

It was dark and the wind was howling. Kanchana was alone and her husband was expected only the next day evening. She walked up to the rattling window to close it. When she put out her hand to draw the shutters, she saw a young man standing at the opposite window of adjacent house and intently staring at her. It is not the first time, as whenever she came to the window, he was there watching her with a sly smile. Kanchana knew but she was impelled, by some magnetic force as it were, to be drawn often to the window for no reason. He must be in mid-thirties, tall and with a muscular body, sharp featured and handsome, and a mesmerizing eyes that had a seductive twinkle. She was always happy to see him virtually devouring her with his eyes transfixed on her. She had no guts to look at him straight except by stolen glances. They had never exchanged words or waved their hands or met except once at the local grocery this afternoon but she relished their mutual infatuation. Her conscience pricked her as her husband was loving to her and she too loved him much. She still had a deep crush on the irresistible young neighbour and enjoyed his attention. This mutual but distant admiration continued for a month or so.
 It was in the afternoon when she had finished buying groceries and walking towards her vehicle, she had dropped a bag unknowingly. When she was about to get into the car, she saw someone calling ‘Madam, you have dropped your bag’ and rushing towards her. It was the neighbor. When he handed the bag, his hand brushed against hers perhaps by design but set the butterflies aflutter in her stomach. It was a strange delectable feeling that she wished to linger for long.  
When she thanked him profusely, he said, “Do you know that I live in the adjacent house of yours and often see you? I am Suman, an IT engineer, living here since recently”
He looked more handsome and like-able at close quarters. She kept quiet for a while before saying, “Yes, I know you are the gentleman found standing always by the window” and broke into a laughter that he too joined in.
“How would you know, madam that I am always at the window? You are er.” he asked mischievously.
“I am Kanchana and my husband is a senior marketing executive. Thank you again for the help” she said as she got into the car.
“Can I drop in sometime to get introduced to your husband? We can then have many social occasions to meet”.
“Surely, but my husband is away and would be back only tomorrow evening. May be some other time later “she said.
That night as she lay in the bed she could never take off his face from her mind for long.
The patter of the rain had stopped and she came to the hall to open the window. Looking out expectantly, she saw the window at the adjacent apartment also open at the same time with Suman standing with his hairy bare chest uncovered. Both could not suppress their giggle as they saw each other. He waved his hand at her with her responding in equal glee and not moving from the window for a long time.
As she lay on the bed reading a novel, there was a knock on the door. Wondering who it could be, she opened the door to find Suman standing. She felt a shock of million volts pass through her and stood dazed undecided whether to invite him inside or not. He gave her no choice as he entered the hall shutting the door slightly.
“I had told you my husband is away and that you can visit some other time,” she said with a frown in the face.
“Yes, I am aware but I wished to come to meet you. How long we should be content gazing at each other? I could not resist this opportunity to visit, know you more and exchange our feelings for each other,” he said even as he sat on the sofa unasked. Not only that he had the temerity to pat on the sofa by his side suggesting that she sit by his side.
Though torn between the attraction of new found love and her sense of loyalty to her loving husband, she could realize where a moment of indecision and weakness would irretrievably lead to. She decided instantly that she would not betray her husband and told him in stern tone, “You are not welcome when my husband is not at home. Please leave this place immediately.”
“I am surprised at your sudden volte face. What is the meaning of standing before each other smiling and giggling all these days? I thought you were in love with me just as I am ardently with you. Please be sensible, you will not regret.” he pleaded with his arms extended towards her.
“I agree I was at fault gazing at you daily. I should not have done it especially when I am married and not a single. True I was infatuated rather foolishly but I would not be untrue to my husband till we have each other. Please go away before I scream,” she said in a determined tone.
Suman stared at her in disbelief and left the hall without a word.
On the Sunday two days later Kanchana was standing in the verandah in the morning waving her hand to her husband Kartik as he left for gym. Just as she turned to go back into the house she saw, Suman accosting Kartik on the road in front of his house and shaking hands with him after some small conversation. She wondered why he was befriending him especially when she avoided seeing him. The window since two days was fully covered by curtain. She went in knowing that Kartik would tell her after his return from gym.
As she was working in the kitchen she heard loud thuds from the adjacent house as if a wall or floor being demolished. This continued for long though she ignored it presuming some repairs are being carried out. She could see no workmen however.
It was past 11am and there was no trace of Kartik. He normally does not work out more than an hour. Worried she crisscrossed the house and finally rang up the gym to ascertain whether Kartik had left. To her shock, the assistant informed Kartik did not visit the gym. Not knowing what to do, she ran to the adjacent house and rang the bell. Suman came out in shorts and a vest with body covered with mud and cement and asked her somewhat surprised what brought her to him.
. “I saw my husband talking to you on his way to gym. He has not returned till now. He hardly spends an hour there. The gym says he had not come there. You were the last person he met before he left. Unfortunately, he had left his mobile at home. Did he tell you of any change in his plan?” she asked.
“Nothing. We just said good morning and talked about the weather before he left on his way. I am sorry to hear that he has not come. May be, held up somewhere. If you need any help, feel free to ask,” he said.
As Kanchana was slowly recounting to the police inspector the happenings since morning and also about the exchange of greetings between Suman and Kartik, Suman entered the hall unexpectedly. Turning to Kanchana, he said " I saw the police vehicle and wondered whether you needed my help."
The inspector who was seated spoke to him " I was myself wanting to meet you. Luckily you are here. Can I have some details of you before we discuss about this matter?"
Suman produced an identity card from his pocket and on seeing it the inspector stood up deferentially and saluted him to the surprise of Kanchana. Suman patted him on his shoulder and said "Do not worry about Kartik.There is nothing for you to do. He is safe in custody at a secret place. In fact, I wished to inform this lady but felt better to break the news to her gently in the evening."
Turning to Kanchana, he said, “I am sorry I did not reveal my true identity to you. As the inspector will testify, I am in the intelligence wing. Kartik is not what he seems to you. He has been indulging in many illegal, criminal and anti-national activities. He is no marketing man but a hardened criminal in disguise. I wonder how and when you got married to him? It may shock you that you are one of the many whom he has duped and left in lurch. True, he wallows in money. He has been escaping our net for long and I moved in to the next house after getting to know he is here. We wished to catch him red handed." He added with a faint smile in his face, “It may disappoint you to know that I was initially watching your window to get a glimpse of him and his activities. Anyway brace yourself to know he may be in jail for decades. You will come to know of his treacherous activities in due course. Luckily you are out of harm’s way. Please get some friends or relatives to stay with you for a few days. I will meet you later. You can always ring me," he said as he gave her his card.
Without going into details, suffice it to inform, from the information gathered, that Kanchana and Suman are happily living together in a Northern city with none wiser about the secret lying buried in the adjacent house.