Monday, February 13, 2017

A story for Valentine's day

Deepak works from home. Around 1pm, he heard repeated but faint knocks on the door possibly from the adjacent apartment followed by shouts of “amma, amma”. He opened his door and saw a five-year-old girl with a bag on her shoulder on the verge of crying. Evidently there was none at home.
“Come inside and sit on the sofa. As soon as your amma comes, you can go. We will keep the door open so you can see as she comes. Meanwhile you can watch TV,” Deepak said softly.
“Amma will not come. Roja will come,” she replied haltingly.
“That is fine. You can go after Roja comes. Is it okay?”
Nodding her head, she entered and sat gingerly on the edge of the sofa opposite the door clutching the bag in her hand. Deepak kept the door ajar. He had nothing to give her to eat except couple of pencils to make her feel at home. Luckily the maid Roja came running within five minutes and took the child after profuse apologies. It transpired the child’s mother comes at 4pm and Roja takes care of her during her absence as there is none else at home.
The next day, somewhat curious to see whether Roja was available at home when the child came, he was looking for the arrival of the child.  The child came promptly at 1pm and saw him. Instead of knocking her door, she came running inside with a large smile on her face. “I took your pencil to school today after telling amma that you gave me. She sharpened it for me. Do you have an eraser?” she asked innocently.
 “I am sorry. I should have given you the one I have yesterday itself. What is your name?” Deepak asked as he gave her the eraser along with a bar of chocolate
“Deepika is my name, but amma calls me Deepu.It looks like a boy’s name but she will not change. Amma told me I should not accept things from strangers especially chocolates, cookies and cool drinks. You keep the chocolate as she will get angry otherwise.,” said the child.
“Oh, ho. Tell her that I am no stranger but a good neighbor. Keep it with you and eat after showing it to amma. What is your appa’s name?”
“I have no appa,” she said sadly when Roja came and took her away abruptly.
The child came straight to his apartment frequently if the door was open and after small chat about her school, her teacher and her amma, she would go invariably with something to eat.
One day she told Deepak “Amma asked me whether you are an old man. Do you know Hritik Roshan? I told her you look like him and amma laughed uncontrollably. I tell her what all we talk and she will listen with interest. If I forget someday, she will remind me and ask what did uncle tell you today. I think she also likes you as I do.”
“We have been friends and we are called by the same name. I wish to give you a gift. Here it is but open the wrapper at your home. Be careful not to drop it, “  he said
“Can I open and see here itself,” she asked. When he nodded, she unwrapped to see a large red mug with a picture of heart on it and words ‘With love to Deepu’
“You bought it for me?” she asked
“No, it was given me by a very dear friend of mine, I have given you because I like you” he said
 It was a Tuesday and Deepak was watching TV. He was surprised when he heard the soft knocks on his door. Thinking it must be Deepika, he rushed and opened the door to find her standing with her mother. He stared at her mother in great surprise unable to believe his own eyes. She had not changed much except for a little flab and looked more beautiful than Ashwini he had known. They loved each other from college days and moved intimately after deciding to marry each other within six months. A small incident where no one was at fault magnified into a great misunderstanding of Deepak’s fidelity to her that led to separating in rash anger with ego standing in the way of rapprochement. All his attempts to contact her failed with her moving out of the city. Left with no option and highly dejected, he went abroad. She had moved to Bangalore.
“Do you recognize me, Ashwini? he asked
“How will I not, Deepu, when you are always in my heart and mind? I suspect you deliberately gave the cup I gifted you to my daughter” she said with a mischievous smile.
“Nothing deliberate except that we carry the same name. Infect I was hesitant to part with that precious memento, but I love that child very much. I never knew she was your child I was foolish and in rage when you scorned me. I had to leave without an opportunity to explain only to regret in leisure. I have not been able to forgive myself and never married,” he said
“I am very sorry. I was a big fool. Kindly excuse me,” she pleaded.
“Belated realization. You seem to have married. Who is the lucky father of Deepika?”
“No, I did not marry repenting for my mistake.”
Deepak looked at the child in a confused way.
“Don’t you see your image in her, Deepu.It is your child that I carried when you left,” she said
He wasted no moment in hugging her and smothering her with smooches much to her embarrassment and the amusement of Deepika.
“Stop it, Deepu” she said in mock anger as she freed herself when the child clapped her hand in joy in having found her father.
“What a coincidence. It is Valentine’s day today! Let us celebrate our reunion in a befitting manner,” said both in chorus.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The melody of bansuri

 The tank, with its water in greenish hue and lined by large trees, was unusually big for the size of the temple that had only a few shrines. Situated in a small town, it was not a crowded temple but drew many devotees throughout the year by virtue of the famed powers of the presiding deity Venugopalaswami and His readiness to grant the reasonable wishes of the devout supplicants.
This story however revolves around a bearded man, tall and muscular, in his late fifties whom you may call a mendicant, an aspirant, devotee, nomad or even a vagabond as he seemed fit to you. What stood out was his beak like nose and sharp eyes. He sat all day long under a tree facing the temple but never spoke a word or showed any emotion. If ever he entered the temple, no one knew when he did.
If he were a god man or an evolved soul, he demonstrated no such evidence. He wore a white dhoti with a towel over his shoulder that seemed the only worldly possessions he had. His eyes with a faraway look had the power to hold the people who gazed at him in a deferential thrall. It looked he found peace alike amid the noisy crowd during the day or the silent solitude in the night. People said, though no one vouched to the fact, that they heard from his direction occasionally in the middle of dark night dulcet tunes of seductive charm as if from a bansuri.
People never knew when, where and what he ate for he never stirred out of the place. Devotees placed before him fruits of different kinds or left coins with some even water bottles. They remained untouched and it was surmised the poor that lined at the entrance took them in the evening.
One evening a bewailing couple brought a child of seven years and laid him at his feet and prostrated before him. “ Ayya, you must save the child. He has been vomiting and having loose motions countless times. After keeping in hospital for four days, the doctor asked us to take him home telling he will not survive. Please help us, ayya. We would be eternally grateful to you,” pleaded both of them in chorus.
The man looked intently at the still child for what looked eternity and then scraped the mud from the ground below muttering something and put it on the navel of the child. He did not answer the anxious questions from the parents and the people around. One young man from the crowd even exploded in anger,” Why are you silent? Are you deaf and dumb? You seem heartless and impervious to the anxiety of the parents.”
It was then the child opened his eyes and uttered “ Amma” that was sweet music to the woman and great surprise to the people around. Some clapped their hands that looked inappropriate for the solemn occasion.
It was a week later around 11.30 am, half hour before the temple closed, a jeep screeched to a halt close to the tank where the man sat. Four policemen with baton in hand rushed towards the man and surrounded him. “Get up, you scoundrel and get into the jeep,” said one in peremptory tone.
“What for are you taking that yogi? What harm did he do to you? He has been here for three years virtually living on air with not even a drop of water. Woe would befall on you if you treat him disrespectfully,” shouted one elderly man.
“We do not know the full facts. May be someone had complained against him. We have orders to pick him up.,” said the policeman even as he pulled the hand of the man. Everyone was startled at the turn of events. Many vehemently objected and wanted specific reasons. Some who had come to pay their obeisance started to suspect him.
The man stood up, spoke nothing, offered no resistance but politely signaled to the constable to allow him to go into the temple and offer prayers before he was taken to police station. Seeing the angry mood of the crowd, the constable agreed to the man going inside the temple and returning in five minutes. They stationed themselves at the only entrance to the temple that was surrounded by high wall.
The priest who was getting ready to close the doors of the sanctum saw him hurrying and waited outside the sanctum. The man prayed for a while, sipped the holy water poured by the priest in his palm and unexpectedly walked into the sanctum. The priest ran behind him saying “You are not allowed to enter the sanctum. Come away, come out immediately.”
To his utter shock and surprise, the priest could not see him inside the small sanctum. It looked he had just disappeared into the thin air. The melodious tune from a bansuri seemed to fill the air.To add to the mystery,the temple bell also started ringing on its own giving goosebumps to everyone assembled there. The priest with folded arms and flowing tears looked at the God wondering if this was also one of his famed miracles. There were many who had crowded in wondering in total disbelief at the source of music and how he could have vanished.
The constables who had come in were equally dumbfounded. One of them patted on his cheeks looking at the god for the marvel that was beyond human understanding.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The revelation

Set amidst coffee plantations with scenic beauty all around, the hillside resort offered a perfect get away from the hustle and bustle of city. The cottages with well laid pathways were clean, comfortable and well furnished. Deenadayal had chosen a cottage that had a view of a water fall slightly away. His wife Lochana and their 15-year-old son Dhana specially loved the place and were roaming around all over while the portly Deenadayal spent his time mostly confined to the room watching movies gorging on Scotch and whiskey or sitting in the balcony watching the scenery. He along with Lochana even had their breakfast, lunch and dinner served at the room. They had planned a vacation for a week.
When Deenadayal was 40 and Lochana 38, the childless couple wished to adopt a baby. It was then some friend suggested adopting Dhana, a newborn baby whose mother had died during childbirth and whose father was inclined to part with the child. When the tall and muscular man came to friend’s house with the baby, Deenadayal was assured that the baby would be healthy. Baby Dhana looked cute except for the big black birthmark on the centre his forehead which only enhanced his charm. Lochana liked the baby so much that she grabbed him from his father’s hands. The baby snuggled on her shoulders with a smile. Deenadayal struck a deal with the man that he would be paid a hefty sum as a token of gratitude and that Dhana would be looked after very well, but he should on no account ever attempt to see his son.
The boy was put in the best school, given all the comforts and he turned out to be a good student. He was a loving and obedient son making them proud and happy.
“Dhana, why don’t you have your breakfast with us in the cottage? You never eat with us,” pleaded Lochana.
“Amma, I go after my  jogging direct to the dining hall for my coffee and breakfast. Further the food gets cold by the time it reaches us. Things served in the dining hall are hot and fresh. The ambiance is good with many eating amidst chatter and laughter. The servers are friendly especially one Murari who serves me is exceptionally good. You both must dine in the hall. You are missing lot of fun,” Dhana replied.
“I am eager and willing but what can I do with a couch potato for my husband?” grumbled his mom and added “Are you tipping Murari generously for him to be very solicitous to you?”
 “I like eating here all the three of us together,” interjected Deenadayal much to the chagrin of Lochana.
“Sorry, appa, I like eating at the dining hall. Let amma decide for herself, “ replied Dhana.
Two days later, Dhana had not returned even at 10 am and the parents were worried. When Deenadayal readied himself to go to dining hall to enquire, a server came running to inform that a poisonous snake had bitten their son and that he is safe now resting in a room at the hall.
Shocked they literally ran to the hall to find Dhana sitting on a chair but pale and crying with many around him. They hugged him and asked what had happened, whether any doctor was called or he was taken to hospital.
One person came forward and signaled to Dhana to keep quiet and said to the anxious parents,” I am the resident doctor here. Normally snakes are not common here and no idea how he came to be bitten by a venomous snake. There are no hospitals nearby with necessary antidotes and it would have been risky to travel far without something being done immediately. We had put a tourniquet in the leg above the point of bite. Still the boy started frothing when one of the servers came forward and started sucking out the poison through his mouth. Luckily this helped save the life of the boy.”
“Where is the man, the savior of our boy?” cried Deenadayal and Lochana in chorus.
The doctor and the others who were around remained silent with downcast faces. When prodded, the doctor said, “Sadly the man who sucked the poison had ulcer in his mouth and the poison spread in his blood stream. He died immediately giving us no chance to revive him. His body is outside.”
“Does he have a family? Have you informed them?”” asked Deenadayal
 “No, sir, Murari was single and had no family. He stayed in the accommodation allotted to him here. He was a good person, always quiet and a bit forlorn. I don’t know why he did this foolish thing when he had a wound in his mouth. He could have asked someone else to do,” he replied.
“Murari, did you say? Is he the server who served my son daily?” asked Deenadayal at no one in particular. Someone nodded his head.
He went along with doctor and others to see the body of the server. As he saw Murari’s body, a thought flit across his mind. Then as if on an impulse, he pulled up the white sheet covering him at his legs to find to his great shock six toes on both legs.
He remembered vividly the six toes, he saw more than a decade back, in both legs of the man who gave his son for adoption and his having checked immediately baby Dhana’s legs to make sure they were normal. He could not resist from thinking that Murari must have known Dhana was his son from the large birthmark on the latter’s forehead and must have sacrificed his life for Dhana’s sake. Tears started flowing copiously from his eyes to the bewilderment of Lochana and others around. He took care however not to reveal the secret to anyone.
Lochana was surprised to find her normally thrifty husband spending a huge amount for Murari s funeral.