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. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

A tryst in the train

Sweta boarded her AC two-tier compartment just a minute before departure She looked around her lower berth and found no ladies nearby. One middle aged stout man in spotless khadi with ash and vermillion mark prominently on his forehead was in the opposite berth and was rolling beads covered partially by a cloth with his eyes partly closed. She could not see the two men who were already on the upper berths. On the side lower berth, she saw a young man of her age staring at her, who smiled when she turned towards him. She ignored him and looked at her mobile for messages. When she lifted her eyes after a while she saw the young man still watching her but he quickly lowered his eyes.
As she took out a blanket from her bag to cover herself preparing to sleep, the khadi man’s hand rubbed hers presumably by accident and he was profuse in apology. What a contrast to the ogling guy she thought. She was travelling to Chennai to attend her college mate and close friend’s wedding.
She could not sleep as she felt uncomfortable at the constant attention from the young man sitting close to her. But, she drew comfort that there was the pious gentleman clad in Khadi just across her berth whom she can always approach if a need arose.
She must have dozed off to sleep and around 1 am she felt to her horror someone rubbing her back when she heard a loud shout. She sat up abruptly to find the stout man standing close to her and the young man from the side berth shouting at him in anger.
“Why do you people wear khadi, caste mark and roll beads when your mind is dirty? I have been watching you for a long time frequently getting up and standing near that young lady and brushing your filthy hand on her. I thought initially you were going to toilet but you never went even once. Why did you do that? Don’t you have sisters or women in your house?”
“Don’t utter a lie. You do not know who I am? I will break your teeth. As I got up, my hand accidentally brushed against her once. Don’t you see I am fat and the space is narrow? Ask her if I did not apologize to her the first time?” he said in an angry tone.
“I agree if it happens once. But, you have stood by her side half a dozen times. It is because of you and concern for the lady I did not sleep and kept watching,” the young man said
“Who is she to you, sister or lover for you to take care of?” he asked with shameless audacity
The other passengers woke up meanwhile and looked in bewilderment at the stout man not knowing what had transpired. When he saw the others looking at him, the khadi man mumbled something and sat down quietly.
Sweta was much embarrassed and looked at the young man somewhat gratefully for coming to her rescue.
Turning to her, he said “Please do not worry. I suspected his intentions right from the first time he brushed his hand against you. It was deliberate. I knew he would trouble you again and did not sleep keeping a watchful eye. As I surmised he turned out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. If you wish, you can call the RPF and complain. I will be a witness.”
“No, no. It is not necessary as I have a marriage to attend to early in the morning. Thanks to your vigilance, nothing serious happened. I will remain seated and awake for the rest of the journey. I am grateful to you,” she said in apologetic manner feeling bad for mistaking him initially.
The young man exchanged his berth with her and asked her to sleep in peace.
At the queue for prepaid taxi at Chennai Central, she noticed to her surprise the young man standing just before her in the line. When he saw her, he exclaimed “The world is round. We are meeting again,” She smiled a bit shyly
When his turn in the line came, he said “T. Nagar” and paid the money. He turned back and asked her where she was going. When she said T Nagar, he asked her whether she was willing to accompany him and that he would drop her at her place en route. She readily agreed with all her suspicion gone.
They did not speak much during the journey except exchanging names and stolen glances. When the car neared T Nagar, he asked her for her destination. When she named a marriage hall, he was startled and literally jumped making the driver to look back.
“My God, what a strange coincidence! I am also going there. Whose side are you representing?” he asked.
“Sunita, my classmate and closest friend, is getting married” she uttered when he jumped again to her great amusement and said” Oh God, she is my cousin, my mom’s sister’s daughter. She had never told me she had such a sweet friend”
“What did you blurt, something like sweet or savoury?” she asked in mocked anger.
When Sunita, who by chance was standing at the entrance of the marriage hall, saw them alighting from the same taxi ran to Sweta and hugged her tightly. Turning to the young man she asked “Suresh, how did you manage to hook my friend already? Do you know her for long? In fact, I have been wanting to introduce you both during my wedding but you two stole the thunder so cunningly. She is such a sweet girl, if you are not already aware. I bet you both would make an ideal pair”
Sweta lowered her head and started scratching the ground with her toe nail, while Suresh said “I would be beholden to you, Sunita, if you can carry it forward.”
Verily a marriage was made in the train and not in the proverbial heaven.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A young woman in distress

After a daylong shooting from early morning with repeated retakes, Director Manivarman sought refuge at his usual haunt for some quiet. He sat on a bench near the old bridge across the wide river in the outskirts of the city. The view was somewhat sombre with the sun setting fast and the sky aglow in deep orange with occasional flock of birds flying speedily to their nests.
His eyes were closed but he could not refrain from thinking of the day’s events. The beautiful actress was   from a different part of the country new to the local culture and the hero, a busy and impatient guy, could not hide his annoyance at the frequent retakes. Manivarman had to cajole him to go easy and be tolerant reminding him that the film was almost complete. He expected this romantic venture to be a great hit with its bold scenes and novel theme. Nevertheless, a thought flit across his mind that he should pick a local but a new face for his next film.
It was then, he heard a soft sob nearby and turned to see a young woman with disheveled hair and crumpled clothes standing close to the railings of the bridge and peering at the silent water. He immediately knew that she was in some distress and her choice of this lonely location did not augur well.
“Why are you standing alone at this hour near the railings? Don’t you know the river is deep in this part? I suggest you come away from the railings and tell me, if you wish to, what is bothering you. May be I can help you,” he said.
She did not answer though she turned her face towards him. What a beauty with her chiseled features, he thought for a second. “Haven’t you heard me or what?” he prodded her to speak.
She wiped the tears flowing from her eyes with her dupatta and continued to stare at him silently.
“Don’t you follow Tamil? he asked her.
“I am a Tamilian but why should I talk to a stranger about my problems. What is wrong if I stand here? “she asked
“Ï am glad you can speak well. You have every right to stand anywhere you like but it is unusual for a young lady in disheveled condition to be alone at dusk on a bridge with hands on railings. That reveals something is amiss. Do not act rashly with God-given life. Do remember that all these things get sorted out but a life lost can never be retrieved. Sit on this bench for a while. You will feel better.” said the director.
“Thanks for your concern. But you can do little to help me. I beg of you to leave me alone for me to find a solution to my problem, “she said with teary eyes.
 “Okay. I will leave you to your own devices but on one strict condition that you promise never to take your life. I am in a hurry to go home, “he said.
“You cannot force me to promise. But, I am willing to share with you provided you promise to leave me alone.” she said in a determined tone. He nodded his head in agreement
 “I loved a young man since my college days and he too loved me with same intensity. He sought time for our marriage till his younger sister got married. I agreed as he was a decent and honest guy. I trusted him so much that we spent several weekends together. His sister was married more than a year ago and ever since I have been pressurizing him to marry me. He was putting off initially offering one reason or the other and I did not mind giving him time. But when he came to know a week back that I was bearing his child, his attitude changed abruptly and advised me that I better abort the baby. When I refused, he avoided talking to me or meeting me. When I managed to confront him last week, he had the cheek to tell me that he had already married another woman under pressure from his family. I was devastated and initially thought of complaining to police and have him behind bars but the thought of his newly married wife deterred me. My doctor refused to abort the child saying it is late and would endanger my life. I cannot hide from my parents anymore. I was foolish and will have to pay the price. I assure you that I would not do anything rash and will think over the matter this week calmly. Please go home,” she said.
“It is dark already. Can I drop you at your place?” he asked
She agreed and went to fetch her bag while Manivarman turned and walked towards the car. It was then he heard a loud splash behind him. He looked back and found to his horror the young lady was not to be seen. He ran towards the railing and peered into the silent river for any sign. It was dark already and he could not see clearly. He hit his head repeatedly with his hand loudly remonstrating himself for trusting the troubled girl and for leaving her to walk behind him.
His legs trembled and he sat on the bench muttering to himself when he suddenly heard a loud giggle followed by peals of laughter. He saw the young woman emerging from behind a flower pot with bushy plant and said, “Sorry uncle. Did you fall for my short acting? I dropped a big stone into the river. I know who you are as you are famous and that you visit the place once a while. I was waiting for an opportunity to showcase my skill and I am happy I could do it today. The story was all a big bluff. Can you now help me with a break as promised? “she said smilingly.
Manivarman looking at her beautiful face and bewitching smile decided that here was the new face he wished to employ for his next project.
” I am angry with you for scaring me but appreciate your guts and impromptu histrionic skill. Yes, you will be the leading lady in my next film to commence soon if you pass the screen test. Here is my card. Visit me after a fortnight as I am currently busy,” he said with much relief and a large smile.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The comforting hand

The bright colors on the walls of the building or the well ventilated rooms did little to lift the gloom that had enveloped the space inside the hospice run by an NGO on a no profit no loss basis.   The building was built out of the donations from philanthropic souls and many who worked there, except for the nurses and other maintenance staff, took no remuneration.
Priya, looking at her watch, hurried the pace as she neared the building. A young woman in her early twenties, she is a voluntary day time worker doing the duty of a nurse, administrative staff and overseeing the kitchen depending on the needs. She was accustomed to the groans, the grunts and the cries from the inmates that filled the air. There was an unmistakable stench despite the good ventilation and the liberal usage of floor deodorants.
Most of the patients were in their final stages of lives afflicted by cancer, Alzheimer’s and other acute ailments that are terminal in nature. Some of them were paid in-patients, some of them abandoned by children and admitted by friends or relatives and a few from poor families. Such of those who were well off contributed liberally for their upkeep and even donated for the corpus. Those who paid for their maintenance were housed in rooms that had very few beds and had attached bath rooms. The others were in spacious halls with many beds. There was however no discrimination shown in food and medical attention.
As was her habit Priya entered first the room where 89-year-old Kumuda was staying.” Patti, how are you keeping today? You look slightly better. Could you sleep well without much pain?” she asked with warmth in her tone even as she was caressing her back. Kumuda was in the final stages of cancer of liver and her end was expected any time. She lay in the bed folded like a small bundle, emaciated and skinny.
Kumuda turned her head slowly with some effort and one could see a flicker of brightness in her doleful eyes.” Is it Priya? Bring your face closer to me. You know well, my good girl, each day is no different from the other and I am just biding my time for the bhagwan to take me in his fold and relieve me from this pain and suffering. I wish He opens His eyes quickly to answer my prayer,” she said with much difficulty.
Priya took her hand in hers and said softly, “Pray do not talk on these lines. If the pain is too much, I can arrange a pain killer. I am here by your side till evening. Have no worry. I went to Ganesa temple and prayed for you to keep you free from pain. Let me apply the ash on your forehead. It will surely help. I will make a quick round of the other rooms and return soon to sit by your side,” As she got up from the stool, she saw a trickle of tears in Kumuda’s eyes and said as she wiped it,” Do not cry. I know how painful it is, Patti”
“No, it is not pain. I am overwhelmed by your affection and deep concern for me, when my own children hardly make it here,” she spoke almost inaudibly.
Kumuda patti had three sons and a daughter, with two sons living in faraway cities. The local son visited her once a fortnight but ensured financially that the hospice kept her in great comfort. His wife rarely came. The daughter came once a week but spent time with her mom mostly griping about her problems. Priya even remembered patti tell her as to why her daughter was coming here only to grumble and complain. Priya had not seen patti’s grandchildren visit her though she knew they were living in the city.
Priya knew that terminal patients can only be kept comfortable and pain free to the extent possible but hospices cannot cater to their emotional and psychological needs. Patti, though she never spoke much, had in an unguarded moment once expressed her deep disappointment about the lack of demonstrated warmth and affection from her children. Priya only tried to fill that want by spending extra time with her, talking to her in comforting ways and confiding to her personal dreams and goals. Such interactions always lifted the old lady’s spirit.
A week later Kumuda’s condition grew worse and attending doctors felt her end was very near. Priya lingered with her for as long as possible. Patti was mostly drowsy with occasional consciousness. Sad as she was, Priya could not wrench herself away from her   and was seen whispering into her ears whenever patti’s eyes opened, “Patti, Priya here. I will be by your side. Do not worry and sleep calmly.”  Patti’s lips would quiver as if she wanted to say something but soon would sink into drowsiness.
That evening as Priya was standing near the reception, she saw Patti’s son entering. He smiled at her and came near her and said “Can I talk to you for a few minutes? We can go to that corner.”
“Priya, amma has told me about you and how much your presence in the hospital means to her. She even said that her stay here was made bearable thanks to you. I put her here because she would get greater care and comfort than in my house. You may think I am a heartless son but I am not. I have not told my mom but would confide in you now. My wife, after an accident is paralyzed below waist and remains bound to bed and wheel chair. My children and I take turn to look after her. I have the greatest affection for my mother but cannot bear to see her suffering. Every time I come here to see her I go back with lot of heartache and anxiety. My mom is suffering from pain and I know I am unable to be by her side and give comfort to her. I am grateful to you for bringing some sunshine in her final years with your attention and affection which even my children did not do,” he said.
“It is my duty, Sir. I have also developed a fondness for patti as if she was my own. I am very sad when I think of her ebbing life. I am very sorry to hear about your wife and realize now how hard it must be for you to manage two sick people," Priya said as he hurried towards her room.
As Priya entered the hospice the next day morning, she could surmise the worst had happened from the faces of the receptionist and other nurses. One of them said” Priya, it happened at 10 pm last night even as her son was by her bedside. I heard from him that though she was not conscious, she was muttering your name many times. He wanted you to get in touch with him after a fortnight without fail and here is the number and address he gave.”
Priya sobbed inconsolably as she stared at the vacant bed.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Raghav’s strange encounter

Raghav wished to reach home before it got dark. There was a reason for this. He decided to take a short cut through the mini forest that saved his walk by three kilometres. As he walked hurriedly through the narrow winding path amidst thick bushes, he saw midway a little yonder a cloud of smoke enveloping the sky on one side. It was summer and everything was bone dry. It could be a fire, he surmised and increased the pace. Luckily the sun had not yet set giving some dim light.
He saw a little away on this desolate stretch, a lean and lanky man standing at the edge of the pathway looking at him. As he neared the man, he found him to be dark and also appeared somewhat strange with his longish neck. His face   was elongated horizontally and the head wide at the top narrowing down below reminding of an inverted triangle. His eyes were narrow but flitting brightly from one side to other. He was perspiring heavily.
As he smiled at Raghav, the latter felt uneasy but still welcomed his company in this deserted area.
The man saw a flask hanging on Raghav’s shoulders and requested him for some water. Actually the flask contained toddy, an intoxicating drink, that he was habituated to. Raghav readily gave a cup. When he saw the man drink it with gusto, he offered him another cup. The man said his name was Manidharan. Raghav became less apprehensive of the guy now and prodded him to walk faster as it was getting dark.  But the man could not keep pace with Raghav as he walked rather wobbly.
When they came out of forest, they both sat down on the mud to rest and finish the drink. Soon both of them  became inebriated and prattled loudly. It was then Manidharan gave Raghav a marble sized stone for being nice to him adding that it is very precious. Raghav with his mud soiled dirty hand took it.
“My house is very near. Do come with me and have your dinner,” requested Raghav.
“I will come with you up to your place but will leave immediately without having dinner,” Manidharan replied.
“I cannot tell you more. Do not press me. Keep the stone carefully.” he replied.
When they reached the hut, Raghav’s wife saw him highly intoxicated in disheveled condition with mud all over the body.
 ” How many times should I tell you not to drink outside the home. You can drink as much as you wish within the hut as I do not want you to remain fallen on the road,” she spoke with much irritability.
“Do not get angry, my dear.  My friend here gave me this precious stone and we celebrated a little,” he said and gave her the mud covered stone.
She took one short look at it and shouted, “Who would give you a   precious stone, you worthless fellow? This is a dirty green marble,” and lifted her hand to throw it across towards the open drain. Stopping her, he turned towards the man for help, but to his great shock, he found he was not there. Instead to his horror he saw what seemed a long king cobra slithering under the bush rustling the leaves as it sped fast.
When he realized the full import of what he had undergone, keeping in mind the shape of his face, his name, the squeaky voice and wobbly walk, he snatched the gem stone from his wife’s hands and said “You fool. You were about to throw away a priceless gem that would make us very rich. He rubbed it with his cloth to see a dazzling and invaluable naagmani (cobra pearl) in greenish yellow emitting a glow.