Sunday, May 13, 2018

A day for double celebration

  “I am Deepa studying in class six and wish to narrate an incident on Mother’s Day.
It was around 7pm one day and my dad was due anytime. I was cleaning vessels to help my mom who was giving finishing touches to the dinner she had cooked. We wished to finish the kitchen work before he came. She gets stressed around this time though not without a reason. My dad is an alcoholic, violent when drunk as he is always in the evenings and beats my mother blue for no reason. He would let out on her all his frustrations suffered outside the home during the day and leave her on the floor bruised all over the body mouthing profanities nonstop. He would gulp his food laid on the table like a glutton and spread himself on the couch to fall asleep and snore loudly. It was a disgusting daily ritual that we hated but could do little to avoid. To my pleadings to my mother that we move away from him, her constant refrain was, “He is a good man when sober. He doesn’t know what he is doing when intoxicated.”
I heard the sound of his vehicle and soon he was banging the door impatiently even as mom hurried to open. I hid myself behind the door of the kitchen afraid of his mad fury. I hated him intensely.
I heard a hard slap followed by his shouting,” You slut, why do you keep me standing outside. Didn’t you hear the loud knocks on the door? Are you deaf or what?”
“Could you not wait for a few moments. I was in the kitchen making rasam(soup) and waiting for it to froth,” mom was pleading in defense with her hand on her burning cheek. She knew he was fully drunk and was in dread of his rage.
“How dare you backchat today?” he shouted even as he pulled out his belt and mercilessly lashed at her. She cringed in pain and was begging him to stop hurting her. He kicked her finally before he tottered to the sofa.
​​I waited for him to doze off and then tiptoed towards mother. She was sobbing more hurt by his inhuman behaviour than pain. I caressed her and requested her to come to her bedroom.
“He has fallen asleep without taking his dinner. You go to your room. I will join you soon. Do not worry. This is no new thing,” my mom whispered.
“Don’t you have self-respect? Why do you demean yourself? Who cares whether he eats or not?” I said in anger.
 She patted my cheeks with a trace of smile and signalled me to go to my room. I could not sleep for a long time thinking how this harsh routine could be changed. It was my mother’s birthday tomorrow and happily it was Mother’s day too. I wanted that day to be a happy day with no harsh word spoken to her. Let me confess that somedays when he was cruel to my mom I wished in my hate that he were dead.
The next day at the school I was standing alone not playing with my classmates thinking about my mom. I wished to buy her a gift for her but had no money. Someone ran her hand on my head from behind and I turned to see Swarna madam smiling at me.” Why are you not playing with others? Why the sad face?” she asked.
 Did I tell you that I love my teacher Swarna madam? She knows about my family as I confide in her when things became worse at home.
“Ma’am, today is my mom’s birthday and happens to be Mother’s day too. I have nothing to gift her but I want it to be a happy one for her free from the daily scolding and beating. I shudder at the thought of a drunken monster coming home in the evening and hitting her,” I told her
“No Deepa, you should not speak of your dad like that. I do not like it at all. Did you say today is your mom’s birthday? Do not worry. I hope he comes home sober and is kind to your mom. Meet me before you go home. Hurry now to the class, the bell is ringing.”
When I met her after the evening bell, Swarna madam hugged me and said, “Do not worry. Your dad will nice to your mom. Here is a small bouquet, a token gift from you and me for your mom. Tell her my regards and good wishes.”
It was only 6. 30pm.The house was clean and the air was filled with fragrance from the incense stick lighted in the puja place. There was smell of elaichi and saffron from the kheer she had prepared. Mom looked charming in her silk sari. My dad was not expected before 7pm. Still my mom was pacing to and fro to the front door looking for him.
 It was then I heard a gentle tap on the door. Who could be at this hour, I wondered. My mom hastened to open the door as was her wont. Her face beamed as dad entered singing ‘Happy birthday’ tune much to her delight and surprise. He was followed by a person of his age in police uniform. “Meet my college mate Asokan who I learnt today is the Inspector of police in our city. He surprisingly met me at my office when I was about to leave and insisted that he would come with me. I could not shake him off for my usual haunt,” he said with a sheepish smile.
He looked around and asked, “Where is the little girl, Deepa?” I ran up to him from the corner not believing whether it was real.
“Deepa, I haven’t forgotten today is your mom’s birthday. I got the hint from the banner “Happy birthday, my dear mom’ you had stuck at the dining hall,” he said with a loud guffaw. He proffered the two packets in his hands to mom, one I could see surely contained a cake from the famous bakery’s name on it and the content of other remained a secret.
“Do you want to know how this buddy of mine found me out?” he asked me with a glint in his eyes. It seems his sister is working at your school and got to know from her that I am living here. He even got to know from his sister that today is your mom’s birthday. It seems you are tom tomming every little thing at the house to your teacher.”
“No appa, I do not gossip with anyone. I talk only to my class teacher and answer the questions she asks,” I said.
“Is Swarna your class teacher,” asked dad’s friend. I nodded in affirmative.
 I ran inside in joy to set the table with the cake and the candles. Suddenly the thought of Swarna ma’am telling me once that her brother was in city police occurred to me. I could immediately surmise her effort behind her brother’s surprise meeting my dad unaware till then that he happened to be his college buddy. I brought out the bouquet I had kept hidden to put it on the empty vase setting the mood for celebration of my mom’s birthday and Mother’s day.

Monday, April 23, 2018

A happy compromise

The short form of cricket being the flavour of the season,I am posting an old story on this theme written almost a decade back for readers who had not followed my blog then
The cricket season is in full swing with annual T20 tournament being played across the country drawing everyone to the grounds or the TVs whichever was convenient. The schools were closed for summer vacation. I see daily from the porch of my apartment about a dozen young boys in the age group ranging from nine to fifteen playing cricket in the large vacant space of my housing complex. The sun may be scorching at 40 degrees Celsius but the boys are at the ground by 11am undeterred by the sweltering heat. A few wore over sized county caps while most were bare headed. Only some boys had shoes while the rest played with or without chappals, mostly Hawaii. They played with three stumps of irregular heights on one side and a bamboo stick doing the duty of a stump at the bowler’s end. They used old tennis balls as they had no money to buy a regular cricket ball. There were two pairs of pads with one pair being smaller than the other. The wicket keeper had to be content with torn and frayed gloves. For the timid among the boys, an old hand glove was available but rarely used. None of these deficiencies dampened their soaring spirits or muted their loud appeals during the game.
They adopted a shortened version of T20 format by dividing the number of available boys 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 to own and patronize the teams. Luckily they had common cheer leaders for all the teams from urchins of less than 7 years with or without shirts aping the lusty movements of the regular cheer leaders we see on the 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 was watching daily from the porch of my apartment, I saw one fat and short boy sitting alone under a tree beside an improvised score board. I have never seen the boy 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 replied, “I am Sumitkumar. I keep asking my friends to include me in any of the teams but they refuse asking me to look after the scoreboard. They keep telling me that I am an owner like Sharukh Khan or Preity Zinta and should stay in the pavilion with dignity as they do.
“This is grossly unfair. Each one of you can take care of the score board by turn. What is this nonsense of you being an owner? Call the boys right now. I will have this matter sorted out,” I said angrily.
“Uncle, it could be because I am a Gujarati boy and my Tamil is not that good,” he added to buttress his case.
I felt it was unfair to exclude a colony boy on silly grounds and called three older boys from among those who were playing.
“Why are you excluding Sumitkumar? I learn he is benched daily. Is it because he is from another part of the country? If there are thirteen players, let one sit out by turn to look after the score board. If you people behave like this, I would see that the ground is not used for playing cricket,” I said in feigned anger

The boys said in chorus, “No Uncle, though a Gujarati he can speak Tamil as fluently as any of us and can even swear in filthy manner. We have not excluded him for his being Gujarati but because he is the owner of all the teams. Owners do not play.”
 I got annoyed and shouted “What rubbish are you saying? What owner? Include him in the game or I will not allow you people to play here anymore.”
The boys pleaded “Uncle, kindly listen to us. The bat, stumps, pads and gloves belong to him. That is why he is the owner.”
I shouted “Are you not ashamed? The boy is giving you all the equipment for you to play with. Without them you cannot play at all. Yet you do not have any sense of gratitude?”
The boys again said in one voice “Uncle, he is not giving them free. He collects a rent of Rs.10 per day. It is actually high  for us but he would not reduce the amount.”
When I looked at Sumit, he hung his head down as if to confirm what was said. “I have considered your points. Henceforth Sumit would collect Rs5 per day and he should be included in one of the teams. Score board would be taken care of one of you by turn. Sumit will arrange to get a good   fourth stump instead of a bamboo stick. Since you are playing with tennis ball, there is no need for batting pads or gloves for batsmen.” I concluded
That compromise left everyone happy including Sumit who  remembered that T6 tournament too had a commercial angle.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The kind cop

Mohan was driving the jeep towards the main bazaar. Tall and stodgy in his starched Khaki uniform with its stripes,with a baton on hand and a pin pointed mustache, he was evoking instant respect. His wide leather belt that carried the holster for the pistol and his cap in Khaki and black that sat trim on his head only added a vague fear. It was evening around 5pm.He saw a crowd in the middle of the road with the people on the periphery craning their necks to see what was happening in the middle. There was a babel of angry voices,” Kill her”. “Strip her”, “Break her hands”, and so on.
When the crowd heard the shrill horn of the jeep and saw Mohan’s khaki uniform, it instantly parted and gave way for the jeep to proceed. Some people started to disperse silently wishing to avoid trouble and some remained curiously to witness what was likely happen. Mohan saw a woman in her early thirties beaten blue with bruises on her eyes, lips and cheeks. Blood was oozing out. Her clothes were torn and upper garments removed except for a torn blouse hiding her chest. Even the sari had been pulled away and she was in her petticoat. It was a distressing sight to see the mob in mindless fury assaulting a defenceless woman.
Even as Mohan stopped the jeep, some men came near the jeep on their own and started telling him unsolicited “Sahib, this woman is evidently a witch from her looks and unkempt hair. She is very likely a child abductor as we saw her talking to and dragging an unwilling child. She also stole a packet of bread from the opposite shop. We were teaching a lesson that she would not forget before  bringing her to police station. Luckily you have yourself come, Sahib”
Mohan turned to see a four year old girl child crying in a corner and understood the situation. Had he not come, they would have stripped her naked and possibly killed her too. In an authoritarian tone he said to the crowd in general” Move away. It is wrong on your part to take law in your own hands. Leave the job to the police. Disperse immediately.” He asked two men to lift her and put her in the rear seat. The woman was promptly put in the jeep.  
When she in pain turned and pointed to the weeping girl child who had ambled towards the jeep and pleaded almost inaudibly,” Please do not leave my daughter alone here. They may kill her. Allow her to come with me.” He lifted the child and put the girl by her side.
Turning to the mob, he said “I will take her at the police station and arrange to have the matter enquired into. Beware, if she perchance dies, you will all be in trouble.” One or two fellows wished to come along to see what was done at police station.
 Mohan said “No one need come. If you still come, you could be made witnesses. When she lodges her complaint that you all beat and stripped her, you may have to prove your innocence.” Thereupon the men quietly withdrew allowing the jeep to proceed.
After traveling some distance, Mohan stopped the jeep and asked the sobbing woman as to what had actually happened. “Ayya (Sir), my children are starving for the last two days. My husband has deserted me. It is true I stole the bread without knowing the crowd would beat me up.”
Mohan said” I understand your predicament. Lucky I was there in time as otherwise they would have put you to great shame and injury. You should not steal henceforth. Take these 200 rupees, get food and go home. Don’t go near the bazaar for a few days.” She thanked him profusely as she got down with her child.
Mohan proceeded towards the school where he was supposed to be at 5-30pm.As soon as he reached the gate, his wife and son came rushing towards him. “Mohan, Why so late? The function is to start in a few minutes. The chief guest has already come. You look swell in your uniform, cap and all,” said his wife
He saw his boy dressed like a politician in kurta, pajama with black glasses a pan parag box in hand and long angavastram on his shoulders The boy was taking part in school fancy dress competition that evening. and he had requested his dad to come behind him as a special protection guard as netas are seen. Mohan had agreed to play along and had come in hired uniform for an evening.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Feminine charm

It was past 8 pm and the sky was threatening to break into rain. The road was a bit desolate and the lights were few and far between. The office crowd had thinned out. There were not many on the road that had many sprawling IT offices in the interior of big IT park. Cars were of course whizzing past now and then at great speed. Amar had a meeting at one of the offices that should have been over by 6pm. But it started late and he was held up. His wife Ruchika had taken his car as Amar had agreed to come home in a taxi.
As he was walking with the brief case in one hand, he saw a young woman virtually running from another gate of the complex towards him. He could see that she was afraid of something as she was frequently looking behind her shoulders. About thirty yards behind her, he saw two young men trailing her and increasing their pace to close the gap. Amar wondered how this young lady dared to walk alone in lonely stretch without the security of numbers. As the distance between the woman and the young men reduced, she ran faster towards him.
When she was a few yards from him, she shouted “Raghav, how are you? How come you are here at this point of time?” Amar looked behind to see whether anyone else was behind him. When he saw none, he turned towards her wondering to whom she was talking.
By that time, she had clasped his hand with hers and whispered hurriedly, “Please save me. These fellows have been stalking me for quite some distance and keep whistling. I am sure they are wicked men and their intentions are not honourable. Please pretend that we are friends.”
Amar immediately forced a big smile on his face and shook her hands vigorously talking to her some meaningless nothings enthusiastically. The stalkers on seeing the big built Amar conversing animatedly with the young woman went past them possibly looking for another easy prey.
After they left, the young woman said, “I am Sonali.I have no words to thank you enough. I am sure but for you they would have ruined me. You are my saviour and I would be eternally grateful to you. Can I walk with you up to the auto stand?”
 She looked very attractive when she smiled. When they walked together, she actually snuggled close to him possibly as it gave a sense of security. Nevertheless, Amar relished the soft fragrance of her perfume and the feminine charm of her close proximity rubbing shoulders with him, though not without a guilty conscience. When they reached the auto stand, she gave him a hug with smiling eyes in gratitude for his help. She took a three wheeler and Amar took another one.
When he reached home, Ruchika was already there. He told her proudly how he saved a young woman from the clutches of rogues but did not mention how she walked with him rubbing shoulder to shoulder. When he changed his dress, he found to his great shock that his wallet was missing from the rear pocket of his trouser. He had kept Rs. 6000 in cash besides a few credit cards and ATM card. He notified immediately the banks about the loss. They then drove to the police station near the IT park to lodge a complaint.
The kindly Sub Inspector after listening to his woes sympathetically said “I will register the complaint, but you are the seventh loser this month. This is a new strategy. The woman and the two men are part of a gang and deprive gullible men of their belongings. The woman being good looking and well dressed, people fall for this trap. We are trying hard to catch them with a decoy walking daily in that stretch. They are clever and have not so far fallen into our snare. We are sure to get them. Don’t worry. We will get in touch with you.”
While they were returning, Ruchika said, “Do not mind this small loss. However, this incident of being cheated by a wily woman should not deter you from helping other genuine women in distress.”

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Subhadra's gift

Subhadra has been working her mind to death like a dog with the bone for the last few days to determine the apt gift for her mom on her ensuing 75th birth day. She did not want it to be gaudy or rich. Neither a sari nor a jewel seemed appropriate. Her dad had passed away only a year ago and she knew her mom would have no celebration whatever. Her mom had not got over the shock and was still grieving living on past memories and refusing to move on with life.
Her husband could be of no help to her in choosing an ideal gift with his crazy idea of taking her mom out to a picturesque spot on the occasion. He presumably thought that it would be a change from the surroundings and the monotonous routine. But then he had not understood her mother’s psyche. Her mom had emphatically told him when he broached the subject that she would not like any celebration and that the day would pass off like any other day. She wanted Subhadra and her husband to respect her wishes.
As she lay in the bed thinking about the right gift keeping in mind her mom’s wishes, memories of her younger days came to her mind. Her parents were very loving to each other in their married life. Each one of them gave in to make the other happy. Her dad would stealthily wash dishes or cook an impromptu meal when her mom was away to the temple. Her mom would take delight in replenishing dad’s wardrobe with new shirts and pants without his knowledge. While they would argue in feigned anger for such acts, they were inwardly happy at the demonstration of love. Subhadra had never witnessed even a single instance of their being angry with each other while tiffs and tantrums seemed a regular feature in her life. She always believed that a happy married life is a blessing not given to all.
She dozed off to sleep only to have a wonderful dream. Her dad had come to her house alone from the evening walk and asked her to bring good tea with namkeens. It was unusual of him to come alone as her mom always accompanied him. He was in a happy frame of mind cracking jokes and laughing loudly. It was then her mom’s birth day celebrations came to her mind and sought his help to choose the gift.
“Ha-ha, you want me to tell you how I would celebrate her birthday? However, unwilling she might be, I would go for a big and private affair starting with an appointment the previous day at a local beauty salon for a facial and massage. I would then take her to a mall to get for her a new outfit of clothes, shoes and a matching hand bag. On her birth day, I would pamper her with a yummy breakfast in her bed with a bouquet of sixty roses. In the evening we would have a quiet dinner at a nice hotel along with you and your husband. What more would she need?” he laughed aloud.
“Appa, I admire you for your thoughtful plan but I wanted your suggestion about what I should gift mom on this occasion.”
” I have already thought about it. I think a beautiful and big frame with her picture along with me would be an ideal gift she would cherish. Go to the best shop and get a very good frame You can locate the picture in the bottom drawer of my study table,” he said to her great joy and relief.
It was a wonderful suggestion and even as she was thanking her dad, the dream ended abruptly. Making her sad for a while. But she was happy that her dad had solved her problem so well.
The next morning, she hurried to her parent’s house that was kept locked and rummaged the old photo albums in her father’s desk to find the latest picture of her parents that her dad had mentioned. She quietly brought it with her. She had it enlarged it to the size of the large golden frame.
On her mom’s birth day, she quietly tiptoed to her mom’s room along with her husband carrying with her the big frame with photo neatly wrapped in a sober gift wrapper. When her mom saw the gift in Subhadra’s hands she became deeply upset and said “I told you clearly that I will have no gifts or celebration and yet you choose to hurt my feelings by bringing this packet. Don’t you respect the sentiments of your mom?”
Subhadra said ”Amma,please listen, this is no ordinary gift. I am respecting the wishes of my dad to get this for you. He came in my dream and suggested that I do his bidding. Open it and see for yourself.”
When her mom opened the packet to see the picture in a wonderful frame with her sitting shyly by the side of her standing husband with his arm around her, she was thrilled beyond words. She read the verse below the picture with tears flowing on her cheeks.
“Do not worry and weep.
If I am not there...
When you wake from sleep in the early morning hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft, starlight at night.
Do not worry and weep.
If I am not there."

Friday, March 30, 2018

The case of the torn ticket stubs

Shraddha, generally a bubbly and lively person, was morose and brooding ever since her husband returned three days back from a tour. She had found accidentally a pair of torn stubs of cinema tickets from the pocket of Naveen’s pant while folding the heap of his clothes washed after his return. She had not gone in the recent past to any movie with him. The tickets were so crumpled and the letters faded, she could not find more details than that they were movie tickets. Naveen was not a movie person and gave in to accompany her only after much pleading from her. Who could be the other person, a female colleague or stranger, was she younger than her and more beautiful and was Naveen in relationship with her and whether that was why he went to Hyderabad frequently and similar such questions rankled her mind bringing in its wake a severe headache. Naveen was a good guy and loving husband, she was aware, but what worried her was if the woman was wily and snared him into her fold. She decided to confront him directly that evening.
On his return from office that evening, Naveen found the living room dark and switched on the lights to see Shraddha   sitting on the sofa with her eyes closed and hair disheveled.
“Aren’t you well or what? Why are you not dressed up ready to go out as you usually are?” Naveen asked with concern. She did not respond and continued to ignore his presence. Sensing something unusual, he went near her and put his hands comfortingly on her shoulders only to be shrugged away.
“If you do not tell me what is bothering you, how can I help you?” he asked gently
After some uncomfortable silence, she said, “I never expected this from you. I have always believed that you loved me. But you seem to have developed other interests,” and started sobbing.
“What crap are you talking? Why can’t you be forthright and tell me what is it you are trying to convey indirectly,” he asked in an irritable tone.
She ran inside and brought the pant, pulled out the torn tickets and thrust them on his hands saying “Do you need more proof of your cheating on me while on tour? Do remember we had not gone to any movie in three months. Come out with your excuse that you had gone with your male friend despite my knowing that you hate to go to movies.”
“Believe me, I have never gone to any movie after we went together whenever it was. I am hurt that you suspect me despite my abiding love for you,” he said. Suddenly he pulled the pant from her hands and examined it minutely as Holmes would do by turning it from one side to another and measuring it against his body. He finally spoke, “It is you who needs to explain a lot. This is not my pant, the waist is shorter in width and length longer than my size. Further I do not have a pant of this texture that is somewhat cheap. How has this come to our house? We do not go to dry cleaners at all. Whose pant is this? You may have to account for the mysterious presence of a stranger’s pant and possibly that of a younger and taller man than me?”  
Shocked at his veiled accusation, she could only mumble, “Frankly I don’t know how this has come here,” and snatched the pant and tickets from him only to examine them further. Not finding any clue. She threw away the tickets in disgust.
“No point in wasting time by examining the pant. Take your time and think of any plausible reason why a stranger’s pant is in our house. Do remember the adage that people in glass houses should not ….,” he trailed before she put her palm on his mouth screaming hysterically, “No, no. I swear in the name of god that I do not have an inkling of how this has come to our house. You must trust me and have faith in my words.”
“I thought faith was mutual and not one sided,” he said with a smirk. She started crying loudly.
He kept quiet watching her weeping inconsolably till he heard a knock on the door. It was the maid Krishnaveni with a man who could be her husband standing behind her. She looked disheveled with swollen eyes possibly after a bashing   from what seemed a drunk husband. “Can I speak to amma(Memsahib) urgently?” she asked.
Hearing her voice, Shraddha came rushing to door and asked her to come in side with the man left outside to wait.
“What is it you want to speak to me urgently at this hour? Why are your eyes swollen and black? Did he beat you for money again?” Shraddha asked in concerned voice.
“Amma, you must promise me not to throw me out for a mistake I committed. I have never done that and will not do again,” she implored looking alternately at Shraddha and Naveen.
“What are you blabbering? What mistake you committed? Have no fear. Tell me the truth,” Shraddha said looking at Naveen from the corner of her eyes.
“Amma, I will tell you the truth but promise me that you would not throw me out. My brother got a new pant for my husband for his birthday and this wretch of a man wore it when he went for booze and rolled on the wet road unable to stand up. I washed it many times at my home but the muddy stain would not go. Devil got into my head when I decided to put along with your husband’s clothes in the washing machine. Since you went out to your mom’s house, I could not take it out from the washing machine that day. As you had removed the clothes the next day, I could not muster the courage to ask you for the pant.
This wretch standing outside accuses that I had given the pant to someone else when I could not produce it and has been beating me ever since to tell him to whom I had given. When I told him that I had put in your washing machine and that I could not take it out, he would not believe me. Would you please save my marriage by locating the pant and giving it to me in his presence? It is dark in colour,” Krishnaveni spoke nonstop.
“Did you say save your marriage?” Shraddha smiled as she ran inside to fetch the pant and asked if that was the pant she was looking for.
The maid fell her feet and said “Amma, you will be blessed by God for ever. Yes, this is the one. Let me hand over to my husband so that he will stop suspecting me and beating me,” before rushing out.
Naveen gravitated towards her and drew her close to him with   both feeling embarrassed at their wild accusations. It was then Krishnaveni entered but stopped abruptly at the door only to retreat.
Shraddha freed herself from Naveen and called her to tell “Good, you are happy. Do not put your clothes again in the machine  without my permission. Come tomorrow for work as usual.”
“Small misunderstandings add spice to life. Get ready in five minutes, my dear We will eat out. I am famished,” said Naveen. Shraddha hastened to her room with a spring in her walk.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The treasure trove

I found this story of mine  in my documents and do not remember whether I had posted  it in the blog.I could not resist my temptation to post it now.
Veda and Rangan finished their dinner early. Their son and daughter were away at a New Year party at their cousin’s place in the adjacent complex. The couple was before the TV watching some programme that failed to grab their attention.
Rangan asked "Veda, have you thought of any New Year resolution? I know you will laugh when I say I have three ready for me. May be I have failed in the past to adhere to them but this year it would be different."
"Ha ha ha, you and your resolutions!!The ones you resolve over booze, you forget the next day. Never mind, tell me what they are for the coming year. At least they reveal your intentions," Veda said with a giggle.
“Mark this time. I am dead serious and do not intend to give up for they are important to me. I will tell you on condition you will tell me yours."
"Ok, I am all ears."
"Here they go. First one, I wish to go with you  on a long holiday that may include a Caribbean cruise and for this I will be careful with the money and not splurge."
“This seems two resolutions in one. Never mind. Very ambitious, what next?"she prodded
"The second one would be to reduce drastically eating out and have healthy food made by you at home"
""Mmmm, what is the last one?"
The last is not to lose my temper as frequently as I do now and be a little more demonstrative in my love for you," he concluded.
"Fiddlesticks, your resolutions are as impossible for you as weeding out corruption in our country,” Veda said with a loud laughter
“Can you be a little more specific instead of your usual vague ramblings?"
"I mean you are totally broke and poorer than a church mouse except for the paltry pittance you get each month as salary after all the deductions towards the various loans. Where is the money for holiday when we are finding hard to make both ends meet? What Caribbean, are you day dreaming?
As regards the second portion of your first resolution, you are already a miser. What splurge you are talking about? When did you buy for me anything worthwhile for me to show my people with pride? When did we eat out really except for the pani puri on the road side shops and alu tikia in the market? We have never gone for ages to a restaurant where you book tables in advance. Have you ever visited a good Chinese, Mexican or Italian restaurant? All you take us to are cheap joints with dirty cutlery and dirtier China with waiters in rags, “Veda said in a contemptuous tone.
"You filthy and ungrateful woman, don’t forget your roots. You were raised in a chawl born in a poor family going to free municipal schools. Despite my parents' reluctance, I married you because I liked your face. I have given you everything that you would have never dreamt of. What cheek you have to call me a church mouse or a miser, you brat?" Rangan shouted.
"You have now proved that you cannot control your mind or tongue and already failed in your third resolution. I have never expected any love, let alone the demonstrative part, from you. I am a drudge in this house toiling out of a sense of duty,” Veda said and went away sobbing  to the bedroom.
He switched off the TV, drank a glass of water and reclined on the sofa with closed eyes for a while before following her.
"Veda, sorry, I lost my wretched temper. I didn't mean to hurt you. I promise I will try my utmost to control myself, my dear. Please excuse me” he cringed
"It is ok.Nothing new to me. Shall I make a hot cup of drinking chocolate for you?" she asked
"No, no.I want you to tell me what your resolutions are. I assure you that I would not make fun of you" he pleaded
"My resolutions are more in the nature of prayers than any effort by me. I will pray daily for landing on a treasure trove that will fetch us enough money to send the boy and girl to US for further studies. Second one will be to curb my desires and expectations in day to day life. Thirdly, to do some voluntary work and help in finding resources for the orphanage from well to do" she said
"The last one is admirable and the second one is always desirable. Only the treasure trove part seems farfetched. No harm in praying of course .I am indeed blessed to have you" he said as he hugged her.
"Enough now of the demonstrative part of your third resolution” she said with a shy smile
The New Year came and Rangan was as short tempered as he was and the outings continued to be few and far between. The much expected annual raise also turned out to be meagre thanks to downturn in the economy. Life was a dull routine.
Three months later there was a registered letter addressed to Veda Rangan from a solicitor firm. Veda was afraid to open lest it be an ultimatum to pay back any of the several loans her husband had taken. She had put her signature in many of the loan applications.
In the evening when Rangan read the letter, he jumped in joy. Bewildered; Veda asked him the reason for his exultation. “Tell me first whether your mom had any brother in Malaysia, “ he asked.
“My mom had one brother. He fought with his father over a minor matter and ran away in his teen from the house. Heard he went to Singapore initially and the family completely lost touch with him. After several years he had come to our house and I had seen him. I was a young girl then. By then my grandparents had died. Seeing his sister’s indigent circumstances he used to send mom some remittances and that was the thing that saw us through. After mom’s demise the contact was lost. Why, is it a letter from him?””
“The letter is from his lawyers. He has left 25% of his wealth to you as he had no children from the Malaysian woman he married. He had left her the balance setting aside some portion for charities. This bequest is a mind boggling amount for us as he must have been very wealthy,” even as  he hugged her and said incoherently in utter disbelief and joy.
“My mom used to say he was a loving brother but very short tempered like you. So I hit a treasure trove thanks to the grace of God. Our dreams are now realizable,” she said even as she closed her tearful eyes with her hands folded in the direction of puja room.