Monday, December 29, 2008

A rare case of honesty

by KParthasarathi 29 Dec 2008
I was standing at the roadside waiting for a three-wheeler to take me to Adyar. Most autos whizzed past with passengers in them as it was morning time, peak hour. After about fifteen minutes, an empty auto did stop to take me at an unreasonably exorbitant amount and I refused. I was willing to pay about twenty rupees more than the usual fare. The greedy driver, mouthing some unpalatable remarks, sped away looking for other quarries. I met the same experience with two more autos and became mentally prepared to pay whatever would be demanded by the next man as I was in a hurry to keep an appointment. It was then a spotlessly clean auto stopped by my side. The driver, in his late thirties, politely asked me to get in. He never enquired where I was going. I hesitated and asked him how much he expected for taking me to Adyar. He replied that I could pay him as per the meter. Knowing well that the meters in most autos were tampered to show double, or even more than, the normal rate, I asked him to quote a fixed amount. He replied, “Amma, my meter is fool proof and genuine. Since you do not trust me, you can pay me eighty rupees or the amount indicated in the meter, whichever is lesser.” Eighty rupees was much lesser than the amounts asked for by others. I jumped into the auto happily.

As he was driving along, I asked him, “You seem different from your class of people. What is your name and which stand do you belong to?”

He replied “Amma, I am Chandran. Although I belong to the stand close to where you boarded, I do not wait in the stand, but a little away. The other drivers do not like me. I stay away.”

“I understand. Does this rickshaw belong to you? If you say your meter is not tampered and is willing to carry the passengers at metered rates, why do you do it? It is strange, particularly when I see almost everyone wants 50% more than the authorised rates. Some are even worse. They are also rude if you refuse. Don’t you have a family?” I asked.

“Yes, I have a family of my wife, two young children and an aged mother. I do not ask for more as I consider it begging. I am a worker with self-respect and not a beggar. I do not want doles. I take what is due to me happily. This auto is a rented one. I tailor my household expenses to my income. If need be, I will work for longer hours but I will not deceive others. I have a very good and understanding wife. I may not be very comfortable, but I am a contented man.” Chandran said.

Meanwhile the auto had come to my destination. I looked at the meter hoping to see an amount much higher than Rs. 80 agreed upon. It showed Rs. 67.When I gave him Rs. 80 and started to move, he said, “Just one moment, Madam. You have not taken the balance.” He offered Rs.13 which I refused telling him that I am pleased to give him the extra amount.

He insisted saying, “No, I will not take more than what was agreed upon. Metered rate or Rs.80, whichever is less. I told you I am neither a beggar nor live on doles. Please accept the balance.”

It was a pleasant experience to find a man with such lofty principles. I remembered the discussion I had with my superiors in the bank I worked in as to why I should supersede others for my promotion and why I would not wait for my turn. I knew how colleagues take money for things they should normally do. How the entire country was corrupt with nothing moving without greasing somebody’s palms. I could not believe that such an honest person could live in our midst.

I had given him my address asking him to meet me the coming Sunday. In the meanwhile, I made discreet enquiries at the auto stand that only corroborated what I heard from Chandran.They mocked at him and said, “He is a mental case and thinks himself as another Dharmaputra and spoils our business. We have driven him away from the stand. He is leading a dog’s life in want and driving rented auto for the last twelve years. Most of us have two autos of our own. He is a useless chap. Why do you want to know about him, Amma? Did he cheat you?”

When he came the next Sunday, I asked him how much of margin money he could afford to pay for a loan for an auto. When he mentioned the amount, I assured him that I would give the balance as an advance and arrange a loan for him from my bank where I worked. He fell at my feet crying “Amma, you are like Goddess Mahalakshmi to me. I am indebted to you for life. I would repay the advance to you and promise upon the Goddess’ name that I will continue to be honest till my end.”

"Honesty makes for a life of integrity because the inner and outer selves are a mirror image. Slander cannot destroy an honest man-when the flood recedes the rock is there"


Kpartha12@hotmail.com
www.kparthas.blogspot.com

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Lalitha's baby

The door of the labour room opened and a nurse clad in white with gloves on hand called “Anyone for Lalitha?”Even as I stood up to enter, Lalitha’s mom rushed in. I too followed her but stood at a distance. The nurse said “Mami, you have a grandson. Lalita is fine but a little drowsy. Come in and see the baby.”


The nurse gave in her hands the small baby wrapped in white sheet. It was too delicate and thin with the eyes shut. The tiny fingers were closed. I could get a glimpse of the baby. My mother-in- law hugged the baby close to her chest even as she wiped the tears from her eyes. The nurse asked her “How is the baby? It has a very good complexion and plenty of hair on its tiny head. Whom has he taken after? I don’t think the baby resembles his mother.”The old lady said “The baby looks just like his father.” I was immensely happy as I could not see the baby at close quarters. There were other nurses cleaning up and attending on Lalitha. The nurse took back the baby and said that she would call her after an hour. My mother-in-law went out of the room.

I lingered there for some more time. The nurses didn’t take notice of me and were busy with their duties. I saw Lalitha asleep with a trace of smile in her face. I didn’t want to disturb her. I went near her and held her hand softly. We had been waiting for this happy moment for a long time. She longed for a baby boy and I wanted a girl. She was lucky to get what she had wanted and must be very pleased. We loved each other very much with each one trying to please the other. She wanted her son to become like me, tall and handsome as she always said. There was no sign of Lalitha opening her eyes and was probably under the influence of sedative. I had a close look at the baby who will be the apple of our eyes. We had discussed even before we knew that a boy would be born about his future endlessly. As the nurses were getting tense with the chief doctor coming in, I quietly slipped out of the room and sat a few rows behind my mother-in-law.

The nurse came out after a few minutes with a form in hand and approached the old lady. She asked “What is the name of the father? Has he not come? Where does he work? We must fill in all the details?” My mother-in-law took her sari end to her eyes to wipe even as she was sobbing. I said loudly, “Hey,Nurse, I am the father. I am here.” She did not seem to hear. The old lady said to the nurse even as all the visitors in the lounge heard her ‘The baby’s father was killed in the last week’s Mumbai massacre. He was in the police. Lalitha does not know yet. We have not broken the news to her as yet.” There was a stunned silence and disbelief even as I was screaming “I am here. Why is it no one taking note of me.”

I get scared now and am worried for my dear Lalitha.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


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Wishing all a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Monday, December 22, 2008

Misunderstanding


- by KParthasarathi 22 Dec 2008.
The phone rang. It was Rangan who said “Do you know Raju Mama has been admitted in Apollo hospital last night? I hear his condition is critical. The doctors are planning for an open heart surgery which may be tomorrow itself. I thought I should tell you since you are very close to him.”

I asked him “Who told you? Was there any call from his house?”My thoughts went to Raju Mama, my mom’s youngest brother. An extremely pleasant and jovial person, he had a special liking for me amongst his many nephews. Possibly it could be for the reason that I resembled him or play cricket, a sport he loved very much, in first division level. We used to attend cricket matches together whenever they took place in Chennai. We used to differ violently on many matters relating to the game and players. He had strong likes and dislikes which coloured his judgment. Be that as it may, this common interest brought us together.

It was with shock that I received the news. He was in his fifties but enjoyed good health with no complaints of blood pressure, sugar or cholesterol that he had ever mentioned. Nevertheless, heart attacks are silent killers giving no advance warning and come when most unexpected. He had young children, some still school-going and one daughter to be married. I did not think he had saved much or had any paternal property to fall back upon.

When I rang up his house, there was no response. This gave me worry. I rang up another cousin. He also mentioned that he had heard it from his niece and that in all probability the surgery could take place the next day. He added for good measure that he had news the surgery was a major one with fifty percent success rate. He also added that Mama was in intensive care unit.

It was 3 pm and I decided to rush to the hospital immediately. I started praying that Mama should come out of this ordeal unscathed as he had huge responsibilities towards his family. As I went inside the sprawling and jam-packed lounge of the hospital, I saw Vignesh talking to a relative with a cup of coffee in his hand. He was laughing and showed no sign of anxiety. I rushed to him asking “How is Raju Mama? What is the latest news?” He asked me in bewildering tone “What happened to Raju Mama? Is he here? Any problem? I came here to meet a colleague and happened to see our relative here.”

I could see none else known to me there. When I approached the help-desk dealing with admissions, they could not locate easily under the name of Rajagopalan in ICU.They said one by the same was in room L418. When I rushed there, I saw Mami standing outside talking to someone.

“Mami, what happened? Why did you not seek my help? Is Mama free from danger? How is he now and when is the surgery?” I asked her. “What are you telling? Mama is fine. He had this problem for a long time and was suffering silently. When it became unbearable, he went to the doctor. He said surgery is the only option and is slated for tomorrow”, she said.

"Who is the cardio vascular surgeon and who is the cardiologist attending on him” I asked anxiously. “What are you blabbering? Why cardio-doctors for piles operation? It is very minor and he will be sent home very soon. Go and see him inside. He is ordering all sorts of dishes from the canteen and enjoying himself”

When I went inside, the TV was blaring. He had a plate with pakoras and heartily welcomed me. “Nanu, don’t be upset with me. I didn’t want this piles business to be known to all. My children have all gone to Coimbatore for a marriage. So I chose this time.Mami stays here with me. Please don’t publicise this,” he said.

“Mama, I was greatly worried when I heard you had a serious heart ailment and was to be operated.” “Which fool told you? I told a few days ago that idiotic nephew, I forget his name readily, that I had heart-burn after eating the molagai bhajji (Hot delicacy with chillies). When he perhaps heard that I am in the hospital, he must have embroidered on that news to tell his cousin, graduating my problem to a heart ailment. May be in two days someone would have told you that I had kicked the bucket.”

News travel fast and often get garbled according to what one wishes to hear. A perfect misunderstanding without any basis, this one was. The moral is: do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. The lesson is to check with the source and not trust second and third hand purveyors of news. Most rumours have no legs to stand upon. So many relationships are broken for believing what all we hear without checking the veracity of the rumours we are given as news


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The only child

- by KParthasarathi 09 Dec 2008
Rajee and Ramjee made an ideal couple. She is an engineer working in a multinational bank. He is also an engineer with an MBA to boot working in an IT company. They had a nice apartment with two cars and were earning very well. While she is charming and attractive having won a Miss college contest, he was a tall, dusky and handsome guy. They loved each other and life was passing smoothly. She did not however like his frequent jaunts overseas on official business.
She was fond of babies and yearned for children. Even while young she used to carry in her arms the babies of her siblings much to their relief and play for a long time with them. Unfortunately they were not blessed with one even though she desired one very much. She was disappointed but never made public of her longing. Ramjee however did not show much enthusiasm for an early child possibly because he wanted their carefree romance to continue without a child to spoil it. Her parents were also not unduly worried as in some cases delays are common. The couple was also very young.
It was therefore a matter of great jubilation when Rajee conceived finally. She was thrilled and very excited with happiness. While Ramjee appeared happy for her, he did not show much enthusiasm. Possibly he felt that they were being burdened with a child so early. That could be the reason he did not share the joy with Rajee fully though he was very considerate and supportive throughout her pregnancy. All the religious functions associated with the birth of child were gone through with gaiety by families on both sides.
She finally delivered a charming baby boy. The parents on both sides were delighted. It was a month after the advent of the new born. One night as he was lying in the bed with her nursing the baby, Ramjee spoke softly. He told her." Rajee,I think it is enough with this one child. You wanted one very much and you have it now. No one will speak about you with derision.”
She asked in surprise "Why do you say all these? I have been watching you. You have not been your usual bubbly self and often morose. If you do not want more children, it is ok by me. Why do you have to put such a long face? I have not seen you playing with the baby too.”
“I have to tell you now, Rajee.I love you immensely but unable to suffer the terrible ache in my heart for a long time. It looks as though it will burst. I cannot share it with anyone else. I have decided to bare it all. Listen carefully. When we didn't get a child and you were anxious about it, I decided to test myself medically. Unluckily I had found that I can have no progeny and that I am physically unfit. The condition it appeared is beyond repair. I had not the heart to tell you then and kept it to myself. I hope you understand the full import of what I am telling you. I do not want to get anymore into this. Take it from me my love for you is not a bit reduced for whatever reason.”
She was shocked and uttered a cry as she fell on him sobbing inconsolably. When she regained composure and started to speak, he said ‘Rajee, No need. Let it remain with you forever. I am not interested. Don’t be afraid in the least. I have no intention to let you down. My lips are sealed. This baby is our son. Only ensure that we don't get any more. Do you understand?”

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A tryst with a beggar and a failed dream

by KParthasarathi 03 Dec 2008

A tryst with a beggar and a failed dream I was living in Delhi then. I had a dream one night when God said that I would be seeing Him before the end of the week. It was a Wednesday night. I could not recollect the form of god but the message was clear that He would be revealing Himself to me. I was not a very religious or a spiritual type even though I said my prayers daily. It was part of my daily routine to light the lamp after my bath, offer flowers and utter a few slokas.I would remember god only the next morning. I was naturally surprised about the dream and tried to recollect whether I had read some stories of God the previous days. I could remember none. I brushed it aside like any other dream and went about my daily routine. I did not mention about my dream to my wife though I used to tell her all the happenings of the day. Still the dream kept coming to my memory frequently with no incident of such a nature happening

A friend had come from Bangalore who wished to visit Agra, Mathura and Brindavan that Sunday .Both of us went by car. My wife excused herself from making the trip. We finished the Taj and the Krishna temple at Mathura. We were tired when we came to Brindavan.There are innumerable temples in Bridavan.We chose to visit the most popular Banke Bihari temple which is located 100 m down a side street. The approach is very narrow. The curtains before the Deities are not left open like at other temples. Every few minutes the curtain is pulled shut and then opened again. It is said that the brilliant eyes of Banke Bihari will make you unconscious if seen for too long a stretch. It is said that Banke Bihari does not like the sound of bells or conch; therefore they are not sounded in this temple. The temple was jampacked.

After the darshan, we came out. I was wondering whether the god in the dream meant this darshan as his revealing himself. The narrow road was lined with beggars seeking alms. As we walked back towards our car one old man came behind me asking me for money. It was late and I was extremely tired and hungry. I ignored him and kept walking. The man would not let me go and came close behind me incessantly asking for some amount. His persistence made me annoyed. I told him that I would not pay even a paisa if he pestered me like that. He followed me all the 100metres.Just as we were nearing the final stretch of the narrow road, he tugged my shirt and said “You have come all the way to have the darshan of the lord but you would not even turn to look at me , let alone give me a small amount.” I got angry at his audacity in pulling my shirt and shouted at the top of my voice “Go away, I say”. The man stopped following me and after a few yards, I turned to see whether he was still there... No, he could not be seen. I stood there looking for him. He had just vanished in the crowd. I was struck with remorse whether I was unduly rude to an indigent beggar. I was now in a mind to give him even hundred rupees to atone for my boorish and bad-mannered behaviour. But he had melted in the thronging crowd. My appetite was lost and throughout the journey back I was mum and lost in thoughts about the incident. His bent figure with his cringing appeals haunted before my mind.


As I was narrating the incident while lying in bed that night to my wife and the failed dream of mine, she sat up immediately and said “What an unlucky man you are? Could you not realise that it was the lord himself who was pursuing you till the end of the road? Will any beggar chase a person for 100 m and waste his time? He would rather go and ask someone else. God has kept His word. You have failed to see Him in the form of a beggar. Your dream has come true and you had refused to see the dream that had come true. You could not perceive the presence of god immersed as you are with the thought of Him in his traditional form. Did it not strike you at all there is something more in his relentless following you?”

I felt there was a clear message for me from god that I should show compassion to the poor and be gentle to them. It is only in acts of such kindness that God is pleased. What a fool I had been to miss the significance of the dream and my failure to connect it with the beggar. In all my subsequent visits to Brindavan, I looked for the beggar. But he is not there. I am a changed man now.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Lasting love

- by KParthasarathi 01 Dec 2008
I have a friend married for ten years who has fallen in love with a colleague of his. The one nub is both are married and have children. But he claims that his life has turned brighter and the days are more exciting. I could notice that he dressed well these days and his hair groomed at regular intervals. Earlier he paid little attention to personal appearance and had to be virtually driven by his wife to hair dressers when the hairs started curling up. There was now a spring in his walk though his desk suffered from mounting files with him talking on mobile most of the time and leaving the office promptly. “Partha, I know you would not approve of this but I am deeply in love with Sumitha. Not that I dislike my wife Ranjani but I love this girl more and cannot shake her from my mind. My guilty conscience pricks me when I see Ranjani in the nights but I am too far in this relationship to retrace.”
“Does your wife know?” I asked.
He said “No, though she keeps asking me why I work late in office almost daily and also attend on Sundays. Poor thing, she doesn’t know. I am really at my wit’s end how to tell her that I have decided to separate from her. She loves me so much that she cannot see that I have lost interest in her. This is eating me day and night. Can you advise me how I go about it?”
As he burdened me daily with his romantic troubles, I looked at my wife who was sleeping by my side. She had grown a little old and there were strands of grey hair which she did not hide by dyeing. There were black rings below her eyes and new wrinkles that I had not noticed a month back. She appeared nevertheless as beautiful and charming as she was when I went to see her first time at her parents’ place. She lacked the initial enthusiasm but she never disappointed me when I needed her. She didn’t mind my going out for a binge of beer with my friends or playing bridge at the club on Saturday nights. She kept herself busy teaching the kids and looking after the house in ever so many ways. Our love for each other was intact and not a whit reduced. We did have our bouts of fun and tiffs too. On Sundays I would get the breakfast from a nearby restaurant making her stay in the bed for longer. Once in a while I would lend a helping hand in making the lunch. She loved pizza with its varied dressings. I never relished them. Whenever we went out for eating, she would always order things that I relished most like lasagna or Chinese noodles. When I press her to have pizza she would decline telling that she had it the day before at her friends place. But there would be surprises of unannounced pizza deliveries in the afternoons for her. She never complains or goes to another room for sleeping despite my heavy snoring. She puts up with my tantrums when I fail to find my car-keys or socks or mobile.
I was no less considerate to her. Having come from a large family, she never knew to cook just the quantity our small family needed. She did not have the heart to pour the excess down the drain immediately. Instead to salve her conscience she would store the left over in the large fridge for a couple of days before discarding them. I knew my budget on food can be cut to half but I never made a fuss. She had no dress sense or made attempt to acquire fine dresses. She was satisfied with simple material. I had to take the help of my cousin to choose fine party dresses for her. It was a case of each one trying to make the other feel comfortable and we found love in abundance between us despite the passing years.
One day as I was returning from an official tour, I met my friend in the airport. I requested him to accompany in my car, have a cup of tea at my house and get dropped later at his place. When I reached my home, my little daughter of six years came running towards me greeting, “Appa, you are back. I am so happy.” I lifted her bodily and smothered her face with kisses before I let her down. My son of ten years was standing shyly and I went near him and patted him on his back asking him “How are you, youngster? Who took the maximum wickets in today’s ODI?” He snuggled by my side happily. Then it was the turn of my wife. She was standing at a distance as my friend was present. I dragged her towards me and embraced her tightly saying, “Ignore this chap. He doesn’t know how to lead a joyous life”. Even as she was struggling to get out of my cuddle, I planted a couple of kisses on her forehead to her great embarrassment and my friend’s mirth. My friend asked me “How long were you away on tour?” I said just one night. I could see he was stunned by the look on his face and the unbelief that a day’s absence could bring such intense and loving greeting.
Later when we were alone sipping tea I told him” You asked my advice about your problem. I have one to give if you care to follow. Keep away from Sumitha for a month with no contact and spend the time with Ranjani and your children as you saw us here today. Give her all the love and the children your affection. Have fun and take them out. Just for one month. If you still feel at the end of the month, your passion for Sumitha is unabated, you do what pleases you. But you owe Ranjani this much for her trusting and loving you as she does since day one.”
He agreed. As I expected the togetherness and the flush of warmth did the trick. It was a month later that he told me that he had told Sumitha that they break off the relationship as he could not leave his wife and children.
It is necessary to recognize that for love to sustain and grow there must be mutual trust and reciprocity - it is not a one way street.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Lucky break

by KParthasarathi 29 Nov 2008

“What is the problem? You are sweating profusely and holding your hand on your chest.” I asked the middle-aged man over fifty sitting next to me. I was travelling to Chennai from Bangalore. The train was halting at the Cantonment station and was about to depart. I had to repeat the question before he replied, “I am a heart patient. I had come to Bangalore this morning on some work. I think it is an attack. Can you kindly help me? The pain is unbearable and I am feeling breathless.”

I did not waste a moment and instantly decided to help him out. With the help of co-passengers I lifted him bodily to the platform and had his luggage and mine brought down. The train left soon without delay. With the help of the station-staff I took him in a taxi to the nearest heart-hospital. I knew that time is the essence in heart attacks. Once in the emergency, the doctors took over and soon inserted on him various tubes and administered medicines. In a short while they rushed him to ICU.

I was lost in my thoughts as I reclined on the sofa in the waiting room. It was past 11 PM and I had missed the interview that I was to attend the next day. It didn’t bother me much as I was in a good job already. I was not sure when I could leave the hospital and waited for him to be stable so that I could collect his contact-address in order to inform his relatives.

“Are you his son? Please fill in the forms for admission and pay the advance” said a charming young nurse from the ER. I replied “No, I am just a co-passenger in the train. When he fell sick and I saw his condition was serious, I decided to break my journey and rush him to the hospital.”

“Unbelievable act on your part, Sir! How compassionate and kind you are to a total stranger! Had you not brought him promptly as you did, he would have surely died. You know, about thirty percent of patients die before they reach a hospital or get medical attention. Lucky he had you as a co-passenger and his chances of survival appear good”, she said. I requested her to find out from the contents of his pocket, the contact-numbers of his home and assured her that in the meanwhile I would fill the forms and make advance payment. She smiled at me and said “I will be here very soon with the details. I am actually free till the next emergency case arrives.”

My thoughts went back several years to my dad. We were then in Kolkata. He was travelling one night to Rourkela on official business by first class. He suffered a heart attack midway in the train in the middle of the night. His co-passengers were sympathetic but made no efforts to attempt CPR or stop the train to contact the guard to keep a doctor in readiness at the next station. The train moved on even as my dad was struggling with angina and breathlessness. By the time the train reached the next station, he had breathed his last. It was in the morning as I was leaving for my school that my mom got the telephone call breaking the shocking news. Everyone felt that had he been given medical assistance in time, he would have lived. This was etched in my mind.

I was woken up from my reverie by the nurse as she said “Dozed off? Here are the contact details. He is stable and you can see him. One thing I wish to say. I have never come across such a nice person like you in my life. Tell me, what made you break your journey for an unknown person and save his life?”

“I will tell you after meeting the patient. Please wait for me” I replied before I went to meet him in ICU. He looked much better, though wan. He smiled at me and profusely offered thanks for saving his life like a son would for his dad. He asked for my details to be given to the nurse and that his son would get in touch with me. As he went on talking about his debt of gratitude, I motioned him to silence and said that I would meet him after he returned to Chennai.

When I saw the nurse waiting for me, I related the incident about my dad and his tragic end without medical aid. I told her, “I realised when I saw the old man in distress and how much he needed someone to help him that I must act. I decided in a split-second that no matter the broken journey or the missed interview, it was a call that I can hardly ignore. I am happy that I could help him survive the crisis.”

It is totally a different matter and a piece of luck for me that the interview I was to attend had got cancelled as the interviewer suffered a heart attack in a train and that a miracle also took place in my finding my wife in the attractive nurse!


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thank God for the doughnut

by KParthasarathi 24 Nov 2008
Sukanya was resting in her bed one hot afternoon reading a novel. Her children hadn’t yet come from the school. The day was busy and she had to attend to many things like going to the bank, sending an important letter through courier, a visit to the tailor and the library. It was then that she heard someone singing happily some village tunes. It was melodious and soulful. She waited for the song to be completed and then went into the small room wherefrom the song came. She found Muniyamma lying on the mat and humming another tune.
“Hey, I never knew you can sing so well. Did you learn singing when you were young?” asked Sukanya even as the maid got up in a hurry. She replied shyly, “No, Amma. I just picked up these songs from my mother when I was young. She sang so well, you know.”
Sukanya’s thoughts went to Muniyamma’s chequered life. It was only a couple of months since she had hired her. She was a real find for Sukanya who had to keep looking for a new maid when every alternate month they left the job for one reason or the other. Muniyamma lived in the small room at the rear of the flat and was provided with food too. She took care of all the house-hold chores including giving a helping hand while cooking. Sukanya was relatively free to pursue her other interests.
Muniyamma, though past sixty, was slim and in good health. She was charming with a pleasant smile writ on her face permanently. But fate had not been kind to her. She was married when young and her husband gave her nothing except for four children. An alcoholic, he treated her badly and died of ulcer. Life was a struggle. Her only daughter had eloped with an auto-rickshaw driver who was fifteen years older than her. Muniyamma later learnt that he had deserted her when a baby was born and that she went to Mumbai to lead a life of shame. None of the sons studied well and two became vagabonds. The eldest, it appeared, was serving a life sentence for raping a child and strangling her. One of the other two fell into bad company and was in and out of jail on several offences. The last one went to a Northern city to eke out an honest living and she never heard of him again. Her life was one of misery and want. She worked all day long in two or three houses as a domestic help and led a hand to mouth living till she got the job in Sukanya’s house.
Sukanya started to wonder how in such a careworn life of drudgery, Muniyamma could be happy and sing with abandon. Sukanya had all the blessings a young woman can dream of: a good husband, high education, riches, two well-behaved children and good health. Yet she was unhappy at some minor inconvenience or disappointment putting on a scowl on her face frequently. On the other hand, this poor woman with apparently not a single thing to rejoice about, was singing merrily like a lark.
Muniyamma looked at Sukanya and asked “Amma you are lost in some thought. What is it? You are not uttering a single word!”
Woken up from her thoughts, Sukanya asked, “Do you sing like this frequently?” “Yes Amma. I do sing when I am happy and ever since I came to work for you I am happy.”
Sukanya was rendered speechless. How could this poor woman, whose life was drudgery all day long with no joy in her life thus far, be happy? She asked her, “What makes you so happy that you break into songs?’
Muniyamma replied, “God has been kind enough to entrust me in your care. You are a very gentle and compassionate person and treat me with the affection of a daughter. Your children are all well-mannered and do not treat me like a servant in the house. They come and talk to me once in a while. Your husband is a decent person and is very affectionate to you, the kind of affection that I have never enjoyed from my husband. You provide me with the same hot food that you eat and not give the left-overs. You give me clothes not for covering my shame alone, but also of good quality that I have never known. You are also taking me to the doctor when I fall ill. You are also paying me well. What more blessings can I want?”
It took a minute for Sukanya to regain her composure. She learnt that happiness lay in counting the blessings and not bemoaning over the minor difficulties in life. She was humbled by the positive attitude of her maid-servant and learnt that happiness is available for those who seek it. It inspired her to decide that she will not lose her cool by minor stresses or small hurdles anymore.
“Let us thank God for the doughnut instead of cursing the holes in it.”

Friday, November 21, 2008

How Ananthu won my heart

- by KParthasarathi 21 Nov 2008
Category: OthersThis story has been read 54 times. I was a teacher in a Matriculation school in a small town. As a teacher I strived hard to inculcate in the children that the values are best measured not by the degrees held, the riches owned or the positions acquired but by the moments spent in wiping tears and touching hearts, in helping the aged and needy, in sharing the knowledge and in making the world a better place to live in. Yes, I taught them their lessons too spending more time on the slow, admonishing the laggards and encouraging the bright. I tried to ensure that the gap between the best and the weak boy was abridged by raising the level of the latter.
In one particular class I had the challenge in the form of Ananthu.A well built boy, pleasant in disposition, endowed with high stamina, he excelled as much in sports as he failed in his studies. All my special attention on this young boy was unsuccessful as he continued to get poor grades. I used all methods in vain to kindle his interest in studies by cajoling, threatening and punishing. His father, I learnt, was an alcoholic and mother an illiterate woman. There were daily fights in the presence of the boy. There were no other children in the family. When I knew the uncongenial atmosphere at home, I sympathised with the boy and doubled my efforts to make him a better student. But no matter how much I struggled, he stood at the bottom of the class.
It was recess time. There was a sense of defeat in me. I was cursing myself for my inadequacy in motivating him to succeed and felt that I too along with his parents should share the responsibility if he failed to come up in life. It was then I heard a commotion outside in the verandah by the side of staircase. When I came out I saw a crowd of students around someone on the ground. One boy came running to me and said “Vignesh fell down while he was walking on the parapet wall and has broken his leg and arm. He is writhing in pain “ Even as he was narrating what happened, I saw Ananthu rushing towards the crowd and coming out with the boy who had hurt himself in his strong arms and walking towards the gate. He had run to hail an auto before he came to lift the boy. That he took the boy to the nearest clinic is not so important for me to relate as the singular point that amongst all the brighter boys who stood curiously watching Vignesh in pain, it was only Ananthu who came to his succour on his own and acted as a leader with compassion. It struck me that he may not be a leader in studies but he excelled himself as a compassionate and helping person in times of need unlike the other boys.
There was another instance about Ananthu that I came to know very soon. There was a big school function where all the parents and students participated. The dais was a little away from the gate and involved walking two hundred feet. There was the big crowd as was expected. Some of the boys chosen to help the invitees as volunteers in white uniform with a big coloured ribbon to distinguish them were seen standing at the gate guiding the visitors. One frail and old lady past eighty with a hunch back came in a rickshaw with her grandson. With a walker in hand she struggled to move even a short distance and was seen pleading with her grandson that they better return home. The boy was reluctant and refused to go back even as the uniformed boys in ribbons were watching them with amusement. I learnt Ananthu appeared from nowhere asked her to get into the rickshaw and had it pulled on the side close to the dais. He lifted her bodily and made her sit in a comfortable seat. This was beyond the call of his duty as he was not one of the uniformed boys. What impelled him to act as he did was his compassion. From that day onwards, I stopped worrying about the poor grades of Ananthu.He may not become a graduate and may not even be the type of boy that school would expect of its students to come up with high marks in the final board examination. But he stood tall in comparison to others in his compassion and kind ways. None of my teaching the prescribed lessons would have given him these god endowed gifts. No university degree would announce these sterling qualities that Anantu had in immense measure. He might not have scored a centum in mathematics or high marks in physics but he had scored an A plus from my heart.

Fond remembrance

by KParthasarathi 20 Nov 2008
I remember as a young boy I used to play cricket in our colony about three decades back. There was not much of vacant space except the side road. Three sticks of different heights served the duty of stumps with a brick twenty two yards away as the fourth stump. There were half a dozen boys of varying ages forming the team. Discarded tennis balls were donated by the dad of one of the boys. Two hours in the evening till the shadows lengthened were sheer thrill and joy for us. The high decibel noise and shouting were not objected to by the elders though one old gentleman Bhaskar Rao living adjacent to the playing area did not relish the game being played there. He often came out and remonstrated with us saying “you are all shouting too much and are a daily nuisance. This is not a play ground .Why don’t you go and play in the corporation ground in the next street.”
We would plead with him “Uncle, we will not shout or make noise. Please allow us to play here as older boys are playing in the corporation ground and do not allow us to enter there.”
“I don’t wish to hear all your excuses. I am not going to allow you fellows to play here. I will tell the Secretary of the colony in writing though I know his son Mukesh is also one of your gang” he said. Nevertheless he had never written spoken to the secretary and we continued playing merrily. One day Mukesh had brought his cousin an older boy. A tall and strong fellow, he hit a ball on the window of Bhaskar Rao’s flat. Luckily the ball hit the wooden frame and the glass was not broken. The old man rushed out of the flat to survey whether any damage had been done to the window. I said “Uncle, nothing has happened. It just hit the frame. We will be careful.” Without uttering one word he took the ball that was lying near him and went inside. All our pleas for the ball fell on deaf ears. When he did not open the door, I remember to have pressed the bell at regular intervals, sometimes nonstop for long duration. He came out seething in anger and exploded “You rascal, how dare you press the bell like this continuously. I will complain to your father in the evening. I have no intention of returning the ball” He slammed the door and never opened despite our shouting. The day’s play had to stop as there was no spare ball. As we dispersed I took a small stone and hit the glass of the window directly making a small hole in it .I ran away before he came out.
I was a bit scared that the old man would catch me the next day. But surprisingly we found the ball lying on the ground and he never came out to make noise about the window pane. . When there was no mention of the broken glass even when I crossed him on the way to my school, I felt guilty. I could not return his smile and instead I hung my head in shame. His stony silence about the incident made me all the more uncomfortable. When I told about my rash behaviour in anger that day and how I broke the glass to my mom, she said that Rao had lost the only son of my age some years ago while playing cricket. When he was fielding at close quarters, it appeared the ball hit him on his head near the brow and the poor boy died the same night. My mom felt that It was basically the fear of likely injury to youngsters that made him paranoid about cricket. I could not sleep that night. I had saved about two hundred rupees from the gifts for my birthday. The first thing in the morning I did was to go to his house and fall at his feet. He lifted me up and said with a smile “Raju, why are you prostrating? Any examination today or birthday for you?” He saw me crying and asked hugging me “What happened? Why are you crying? Tell me.”In sobbing tones I remember to have said “Uncle, you must pardon me. I was the wretch who broke the wndow that day in anger when you did not return the ball. Here is two hundred rupees that I had saved that would cover the cost of putting a new glass. Please accept it. I never realised why you did not like us playing cricket till mom told me last evening. Until you forgive me, I cannot look straight into your eyes.”
“Wait a minute” he said and came back with a new cricket bat.”This was bought by my son a week before he had the tragic accident. I am not against cricket when played with protective gear. Take this bat, I gift it to you as it can be put to better use than being an article of memory. Here is the money you gave me. I knew you had broken it. But I have left the door deliberately unrepaired as it would make you all play carefully. “
I remember fondly even after about thirty years the kindly face that taught me a lesson on forgiveness and magnanimity.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Honesty pays

“You are not a worldly wise man. It is my misfortune that I am married to you. When all the drivers like you bring 400 or 500 rupees extra daily, you are putting on a foolish image of a good man and making me and the children suffer as a consequence. While the other women buy clothes, mixie, TV, mobile etc,I keep borrowing small amounts from them frequently. Why can’t you be like others adjusting the meter and bribing the policemen?” wailed Ravi’s wife loudly.
Ravi, an auto rickshaw driver, calmly replied “ I cannot be dishonest even if it means suffering for us. There is no point in your crying and making scenes. Be content with what you have. God would surely reward honesty.”
“It is easy for you to preach. I have to take our son to the doctor. His fever has not come down for the last three days. He is not sipping even a spoon of tea. Where is the money? Nobody is willing to lend. Give me five hundred rupees and then keep preaching your lessons to others” she replied angrily.
Ravi slammed the door and left without taking his breakfast. He knew that his wife was frustrated due to want but he had no mind to earn money by devious ways. He can work harder but not demand more than the prescribed rates. Ravi was sitting in his auto brooding over his poor earnings and was waiting for his next fare. He reluctantly decided if God doesn’t show him the way,he would also turn like his fellow drivers. It was extremely hot and sultry even around 11 am in the morning. He had parked the vehicle a little away from the auto stand under the shade of a tree on the side of the busy road. It was a commercial area with several shops and there was the milling crowd on the road. Not a blade of grass moved and the leaves were all still. Ravi was not an avaricious type unlike other members of his ilk. He generally accepted the fare as shown in the untampered meter and gratefully acknowledged any extra given by the passengers on their own volition. As this was not to the liking of the other drivers, he generally kept away from them.
“Can you take me to Adyar” asked a tall man in his thirties. Ravi looked at the neatly dressed man and noticed that he was glancing behind his shoulders frequently as if someone was following him. Even before he said he was willing to take him, the man jumped into the auto and sat in the corner closely huddled to the canvas cover. When Ravi tried to start the auto, the passenger said “Not immediately now. Please wait. I will tell you when to start.” When Ravi asked him whether he was expecting anyone else to accompany him, he denied even while he was looking behind thro the rear window of the three- wheeler.
Ravi could not help but be puzzled by the man who was obviously tense , restless and kept fidgeting with his watch as if he was expecting some threat to him. He did not put out his head outside the auto and kept watching thro the narrow opening at the rear of the vehicle. When Ravi asked him after ten minutes whether he can start the vehicle, the man pleaded with him to wait a little longer promising him extra for the waiting. He said “I am waiting for someone and at the same time avoiding someone else. I am compelled to seek refuge in the cover of your vehicle till the person comes”
Ravi left the man in the auto telling him that he would buy a cigarette from a shop nearby. He was making small talk with the friendly shopkeeper about the passenger waiting in the auto. When he returned after a few minutes, he was shocked to find the man was not in the vehicle. When he looked in, he found a leather bag and a hundred rupee note on the seat. When he opened the bag he found it stuffed with lot of money. He was confused and baffled at the discovery. He turned round with the bag in hand looking for the man who had mysteriously vanished. He realized that he should not have left the man alone in the vehicle especially when he found him nervous and edgy.
It was then he heard a distraught man running towards this side of the road with a constable. There were other idle passers- by also coming along with them. He saw the constable stopping now and then and asking the people some questions. When he approached the shop keeper, Ravi saw him pointing out to his vehicle and telling him something. When the policeman came running followed by the distressed man, Ravi knew the game and offered the bag to the constable.. The man who had vanished was a chain snatcher and pick pocket who used his vehicle as a hiding place till such time the commotion subsided. The man who was with the policeman shouted in glee ”Sir, this is my bag snatched by the thief without my knowledge by cutting the strap.” When Ravi’s explanation of the incident corroborated with the version of the shopkeeper the constable handed over the bag to the owner. On verifying the contents to be intact, he instantly offered Ravi Rs 1000 and asked him to meet him at his residence the next day. He said ”I have hundred employees working for me and I have found very few honest men of your type. I have a great use for men like you. You need not drive three-wheeler anymore but can earn much more being in my employment in the stores department.”
God’s ways may appear inscrutable but there is a method in them.
Kpartha12@hotmail.com
www.kparthas.blogspot.com

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sound sleep

- by KParthasarathi 09 Nov 2008
“I have requested you countless times not to leave by the early morning flights. You not only trouble yourself but put everyone in the house to considerable inconvenience. I don’t know why you persist in harassing others” exploded Sumitra in anger to her husband.
Murali replied softly “Why do you have to raise your voice? Our office is into austerity drive since the last year. We are avoiding night’s halt in a starred hotel. We leave in the morning and return by the evening flight. As a senior executive, I cannot myself break the rules. How does my early morning departure affect you anyway?”
“Ha, ha.How considerate are you to others should be seen to be believed? The whole house is woken up at 3 am as if it is Deepavali night. Lights are on in the hall, kitchen and everywhere. You may plead you get up only at 4am but you should not forget you are the cause of early morning bedlam. You wake me up at 5 am asking whether I had seen your new pair of socks or spare kerchiefs. You don’t pack your things in advance and raise a hell at the eleventh hour. I am not going to put up with this anymore of this nonsense. Our child and I will go to bed at 10pm sharp bidding you bye bye. We will not wake up to see you off. Do remember not to set the alarum in our bedroom. You wake up by your own device and go out of the bedroom quietly remembering to close the door.”
“Don’t be telling lies. It is my mom who gets up early in the morning to switch on the geyser, make coffee and boil milk. Dad remains awake to wake her up as she cannot hear the alarum.She even offers to make quickly some upma or dosa. Most of the days you keep snoring loudly in deep sleep even when I leave the home for airport” contested Murali
Rajamani iyer and Kaveri were listening to the heated conversation in the adjacent hall from their room but kept quiet. They knew that it is best not to intervene in their discussions however untrue the statements hurled at each other were. Murali being a marketing man frequently went on short tours of a day or two. He always took the early morning flights. However careful and quiet one tried to be, there are bound to be noises of the doors opening, the running water, the shower and the conversations with his hard of hearing mom that is a bit raised.Iyer would hardly sleep those nights switching on the light now and then and waiting for the alarm clock to ring and Kaveri waiting for him to nudge her. They will get up at 3am, get the hot water and coffee ready and keep waiting for the clock to strike four to wake up Murali.He will not get up on time and as the clock ticked by the aged mother will be restless and the old man will be walking from one end of the hall to the other. Around 4am Kaveri will go near the door of the bedroom and call gently “Murali, Murali, it is getting late.” There would be no response for a while but iyer will hear Sumitra telling Murali in low voice that his parents are calling.
He will finally come out hurriedly around 4.20 am and get ready in a jiffy making loud noises and intermittent conversations with his parents. The TV will be on to catch the day’s news while his mom would have put the Sri Venkatesa Subrabatham on the tape recorder. When he left the house at 4.45am the house would turn very quiet like the hurricane ravaged coastal town after it had left had left.
This was the scene when Murali left this morning also. Iyer switched off all the lights and retired to bed.Kaveri had already slept. Both of them who had hardly slept would catch a few winks before the day broke open. At 6am the servant maid rang the bell and finding no response rang again. Normally Iyer would have kept the door slightly ajar and be waiting for the milk and the newspaper. But this day he was fast asleep after the sleepless night. Sumitra got up fuming at the early morning disruption to open the door. The maid asked “Where is the periyavar (old man)? Is he not well? “Sumitra replied in acerbic tone “Nothing is wrong with him. They both are still sleeping like a newly married young couple knowing well this donkey is there to do all the drudgery. It is my fate.” The maid who knew the truth kept mum. The aged couple were blissfully asleep unaware of the caustic comments of their bahu whom they loved dearly like a daughter.
Kpartha12@hotmail.com

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The revelation

by KParthasarathi 29 Oct 2008
“Shyamala !” I was startled as I lifted my head from the book. I did not expect my husband Rajesh to call me so loud though I was sitting adjacent to his bed in the ICU.He was still connected to various equipments with tubes crisscrossing over his body.
“I will agree to the divorce. Call the lawyer for signing up the papers.”
I looked around and found no one within earshot. The nurses were busy with patients in other cabins. I said putting my fingers on my lips “shh…shh.., this is not the time to speak or worry about such matters. Relax please.”
“I am at peace. After what I witnessed, I concluded that there is little point in saving our marriage.” He said panting slightly for breath.
Shyamala and Rajesh were married for five years. It was an arranged marriage. No couple could be as incompatible as they were. She did not like the people, things and the values he liked. They were diametrically opposite to each other even on the food they liked or disliked. She hated his mom as much as he loved her. While he was an introvert, she was a bubbly fun loving extrovert fond of meeting people and outdoor activities. To make matters worse, they had no children. He worked for long hours and returned late. She came back home by 5.30 invariably. Though they never quarreled, she was sulking always and went to her parents place on most weekends.
She started confiding her problems with Shankar her colleague who gave her a patient ear. He empathized with her and took her out to coffee shops whenever she was low in spirit. They became friendly and had similar tastes. In the course of a few months he occupied her mind totally and she longed for his company even on weekends.
He also liked her very much. Being a decent guy and knowing that she was married to someone else, he kept the intimacy within boundaries. When he had come to her home one day when her husband was on tour, he did not encourage her advances. He gently explained to her that she would regret such relationship and suggested that she first take a divorce from him. He added that he would wait as long as it took to get the divorce.
When she sought separation from her baffled husband, he was not willing to agree. He said most young couples work for long hours in the offices in the competitive environment and that she should cultivate other meaningful hobbies to keep her engaged. He did not understand that the estrangement was not only due to physical distance but also mental remoteness. She insisted on a divorce by mutual agreement as it was quicker than through the legal methods. He demurred and told her to wait for a year more expecting some change of heart.
Coming back to the present, she asked “What is it you were saying that you witnessed? Why the sudden change of heart? “
"Tell me the truth. Don’t you remember the events of yesterday when you and your friend were here? You might have thought I was dead and gone when the doctors were endeavouring their best to save my life.” replied Rajesh
She recollected the events as they happened the day before. When he had some discomfort while in office and was quickly admitted in a nursing home.Shyamala accompanied by Shankar was at his bedside within a matter of minutes. As ill luck would have it, he suffered sudden cardiac arrest.They were asked to stand outside the cabin. She could see what was going on inside The doctors resorted to giving him shocks with a defibrillator. He did not respond immediately and there was anxiety writ large in doctors’ faces. They did not give up and continued administering repeated shocks. She surmised when he did not respond, he was a goner and leaned on the shoulders of Shankar in a state of shock. He also put his arms tightly around her to comfort her and said “Do not worry. Everything will be fine.”
Rajesh continued “When they were giving the shocks, you did not see me floating in the air over my body. I saw clearly you falling over him and the warm hug given to you by that fellow and his assurance that things would be fine soon. You thought I was dead and that the shocks failed. It was at that moment one of shocks worked to revive my heart and brought me back to life. I didn’t know earlier about your secret liaison with this guy. Fortunately or otherwise, this para normal experience opened up my eyes. Now that I know the way things are, I would not like to stand between you and your lover. Even though our nature is very different, I loved you still. But after this revelation I will give you the freedom and sign the papers anytime you bring them.”

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The harmonium

- by KParthasarathi 24 Oct 2008

Lakshmi always rushed to the door from the kitchen with a tumblerful of rice when she heard the soulful music from the harmonium coming from a distance. She liked to watch him play the instrument effortlessly accompanied by his soft rendering in his sweet voice of Thyagaraja keerthans or bhajans.The man in his late fifties came invariably around 8.30 ,one or two minutes this way or that, in the mornings. Clad in dhoti passing through the legs without any shirt to cover his bare chest, he had a turban like head gear in yellow cloth with a long portion falling behind his back. A glistening brass vessel spherical in shape hung on his shoulder. He seemed to forget the surroundings when he sang with his eyes half closed pouring out his soul in praise Sri Rama.It appeared to Lakshmi when he played on the harmonium gently passing his fingers over the keys, he was plucking at the heart strings of the very god in whose praise he was ecstatically singing. Even the hardened soul not given to aesthetics cannot miss the richness of his voice and the devotion in his dulcet music. He did not linger beyond a minute or two for the lady of the house to offer the bhiksha.An unchavrutti Brahmin he lived on the offerings and would return when the vessel turned full. He never collected more than the day’s requirement. Lakshmi was taught classical carnatic music as a young girl. Her dad had bought a harmonium years back to keep the rhythm. She had learnt music for eight years and could sing well and relish good music better. With children grown up and the household chores taking her time, she left singing totally. Her two sons had no aptitude for carnatic music.

The mendicant knew by long experience that this lady would not fail to drop the rice. She would rush to the door even when he was a few houses away and once he reached her door she would walk slowly to savour for longer time the matchless patterns of music that he created from the harmonium. Though a poor man in rags, she had a great respect for the man whose music and musical imagination she felt would have received wide acclaim had he been exposed to the connoisseurs and the Sabah secretaries. Most probably he had scorn for such publicity to what was purely a musical expression of his devotion to his Devatha. He was like a flower ’born to blush unseen and waste its fragrance in the deserted air’ though he never thought on those lines. She occasionally made small talk with him if he had failed to turn up the previous day. His songs lingered in her ears on some days long after he left.

He was not seen for three days continuously. She was a bit worried whether he had fallen sick but knew not where and whom to enquire. When she mentioned his absence to her husband, he mocked at her and said “Why do you worry about that poor man. He is just a dignified beggar singing the names of the god to invoke the sympathy of the housewives?’ She became angry and did not pursue the conversation with him. She silently prayed to god for the well being of the singing mendicant.

As if in answer to her prayer, she heard the next day the song from outside her door without the accompaniment of harmonium. She hastened with the rice to see him standing without the harmonium hanging from his shoulder. He looked weak with his cheeks sunken. She asked him “You were not seen for three days. What happened? Were you not well? Where is the harmonium?” He hesitated for a while and slowly replied “There was a minor accident. As ill luck would have it, a cyclist dashed against me and I fell down. I escaped with minor scratches. The harmonium which fell a little away was run over by a speeding tempo and broken to smithereens. It is bad time for me. My lord Sri Rama is testing me. This instrument helped in attracting the griha lakshmis like you. I am now compelled to sing louder the names of the lord.”

She requested him to wait for a few minutes and rushed inside to the puja room where she had kept her harmonium. It was kept covered in cover made of red velvet cloth. She stood for a minute with her eyes closed before the god as if seeking His permission to take away the harmonium. She hurried back to the front door and offered the harmonium without a word to him. When he raised his eyes from the instrument to hers, she could see the surprise and the warmth. She slowly removed the cover and asked him “Please accept this offering. I am in fact selfish and wish to hear your divine music from this harmonium that once belonged to me .It was lying idle in the puja room and would now be put to better use for which it was intended. Do not hesitate. I am like your daughter.” He wiped the tears of joy and gratitude from his eyes and smiled at her. She requested “Can you please sing the piece “Nithi sala sukhama, Ramudu sannithi seva sukhama” for me once?” He kept silent with his eyes closed for a few moments and then sang the timeless piece softly spreading the mysterious joy and tranquility that only the devout can invest in their music. After the song was over, he took a small quantity of rice from his vessel and sprinkled on her head blessing her “Dheerga sumangali bhava” Kpartha12@hotmail.com

A Celebration of Sharing

by KParthasarathi 28 Oct 2008
It was Diwali that day. The air was thick with fun and revelry and echoed with the laughter of children. The houses were all decorated in multi-coloured serial lights. The children were seen running hither and thither bursting crackers and lighting sparklers. The smell of elachi, kesar and other spices wafted from the kitchens that were preparing scrumptious sweets and namkeens. One could see well-dressed men and women hurrying in cars to make the last minute purchases of dry fruits, gift boxes, sweets and clothes. Gopal and Vijaya were sitting morose in the veranda watching the brightly-lit houses across the road. Gopal put his arm around Vijaya and gently patted her comfortingly without uttering one word. Both knew what was passing through each other’s mind.

Exactly a year before, the scene was different. Their boy of eight years, Sunil, dragged both of them out to help him in lighting the fireworks. For a month in advance he was busy making endless list of crackers he wished to buy and deciding how much of the money should be for the light and how much for the sound varieties. He liked long Lars that would bring to a stop the entire neighbourhood with its noise and dazzle. He also had a fancy for the multi-coloured fountains and flower pots while his dad had a weakness for rockets. The boy and this dad would go with a predetermined budget only to be exceeded by several times. They would come home with large packets that would be almost impossible to finish.

They were lighting the crackers after it grew dark. Sunil, despite his love for the fireworks, was a timid boy and afraid to light up the noisy stuff. He would ask his dad for help. There was a slum close by and about half a dozen urchins, half-clad, in unkempt hair, stood outside the fence and watched the display with awe. For the poor and the deprived, Deepavali was like any other day of toil and hunger. The children would with covetous eyes watch the vast spread of crackers of assorted varieties in a corner. When one of the crackers did not go off, a boy from across the fence ran inside to pick it up .Gopal shouted at the boy “You fool, don’t go near, it may burst” It was then Sunil had said, “Can I make a request, Dad? They are all very poor and do not have the money to buy even a shirt. They are as young as I am.Can I call them also to join in the fun?” His mom said “No, give them some crackers and send them away. You don’t have to rub shoulders with them.” Sunil was adamant “Ma, I want them to enjoy as much as I do when Dad lights up the crackers. They will be here only this evening for two hours. Please do not say no.” Gopal intervened to say, “Vijaya, let them also enjoy. Had I known Sunil’s mind earlier, I would have brought some clothes too.”

Sunil was very happy and called the children to come in. For the next two hours it was a riot of laughter and gaiety amidst the glittering light and colour. The entire lot was finished except for stray items which Sunil gave away to the boys. When they started to leave, Vijaya called them in and said “Don’t go away. Come inside and wash your hands. I will give you some sweets and snacks to eat.”

The beaming and happy face of Sunil was still fresh in their minds. Despite all the care and treatment the boy died last year struck down by leukaemia, a few months after Diwali. When Gopal saw Vijaya crying, he said “Get up, let us go and get lots of crackers and sweets for Sunil’s friends. They are bound to come looking for an encore of last year’s happy experience.” She readily agreed and wanted him to buy some shorts and T- shirts too for the boys. When they returned back with the bundles, it was just in time as the boys were turning disappointed in seeing the house bereft of the brightness, noise and more particularly the boy. Gopal called them inside and gave them the new dresses. Then under his supervision, the little urchins enjoyed to their hearts’ content the lighting of the crackers. One little girl in that group innocently asked “Uncle, where is the boy who played with us last time. We enjoyed this more when he was around. Has he gone out of station?” Vijaya could not suppress her tears and covering her face with her sari she cried aloud. Gopal told the girl “Sunil is no more. We did this as we felt he would be happy if he could see you all in smiles today.” As the entire lot of urchins stood as if frozen, the little girl said “We are very sad. Had we known this earlier, we would not have made all this merriment.” Vijaya pulled the little girl to her side and said “Don’t feel sad. Sunil is feeling happy wherever he is. Come each year on this day for making him happy.” Kpartha12@hotmail.com

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lalita's revenge

- by KParthasarathi 22 Oct 2008
“Lalita, a call for you from some Aravind” called her colleague as she was searching for some file in the shelves. As she went slowly towards the desk, she wondered why he was calling her after nearly five years since she walked out of his house. It was an arranged marriage and her parents were happy that Aravind was well educated and in a good position. It was all hunky dory in the initial years when it was all fun and revelry. As the years passed by, she found it hard to get along with him. He was an easy going and fun loving guy with no sense of responsibility towards his family or the house. Given to drinking and endless partying with all kinds of people, he insisted on her accompanying him. When she found the crowd indecent, she refused. He came late in the nights often inebriated and dropped by some woman. He was not giving enough money to run the household or for paying the bills and whenever she complained, he abused her in anger. When her two children grew and were put in school, the position became intolerable. They hardly spoke to each other. The last straw was his philandering and staying away from the house for a few days. It was then she decided to walk out to her parents place. That was five years back. Ever since she refused to accept his calls or meet him. She did not inform him even when her parents passed away.
“Lalita, I wish to meet you soon. Can we meet at the hotel near your office during lunch time tomorrow? Please do not refuse.” he told her.”Whatever for?” she asked with acerbity. “I cannot explain over phone. Please allow me to meet you personally to tell you” he pleaded. She wondered if he had mended his bad ways and wanted to live with her again. She decided not to readily fall for any of his baits though she agreed to meet him sharp at 1pm.She was expecting that he would come up with lots of explanations and ask her to live with him again.
She was at the reserved table five minutes earlier. It was past 1.15pm.There was no trace of him. She decided to leave the place. As she stood up she saw Aravind entering the hall in an immaculate suit. He looked handsomer than he was when she left him though the hairs at the temple had turned grey. He expressed no apology for being late. He said casually “I was held up in a meeting and knew you would wait for me” he said. This arrogance did not go well with her. When the waiter came and she found him reading the menu card, she expected him to order. As he showed no signs of doing so, she ordered two thalis for both. He kept mum looking hither and thither at the different tables and their occupants. After some embarrassing silence, she asked him “How are you? What is it you wanted to speak to me about?”
He replied “I am sorry, we had to break away. We found we were not getting along well. I am not finding fault with you. This is actually good for us.”
“Yes, what is it you wanted to discuss urgently?” she asked suppressing her disappointment and anger about his not asking even one word about the children.
“You see after you left, I became friendly with my friend Swarna and she started living with me. She doesn’t complain as you did and makes do with whatever I give her. She is now expecting her baby and wants me to marry her immediately. I have come to request you to help me in getting the divorce. We would only be regularising the present situation of being apart”
How self centred and remorseless this man was she thought. He has approached her only to get out of the tricky situation and has no tinge of regret for spoiling her life. When she kept quiet, he pressed her for her reply. She said “Let me think about it. We have been separated for five years without divorce. No harm will come to wait for some more time for divorce proceedings.”
“No, I cannot afford to wait. If I don’t marry her immediately, she is threatening to take me to police that I made her pregnant promising to marry her. She means it and I will be behind bars. I beseech you to help me out of this problem”
She quietly got up even as he was begging for her consideration. When he touched her hand as she was leaving, she turned and said “Stop harassing me. Take your hands off me. You have not changed. You continue to be a worthless rake. This serves you right. If you follow me one more step, I will scream and complain.”
Kpartha12@hotmail.com

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Teacher's compassion

by KParthasarathi 21 Oct 2008

Saraswati madam was taking her class. She saw Sunita from the corner of her eyes sitting morose in one of the rear benches and frequently wiping her eyes. She knew the girl well and was also aware the young thing had lost her mother and her father was an alchoholic.He had married again but the step-mother was not kindly disposed to the poor girl. The thought sat heavy on her mind. She went through the lessons hurriedly and was relieved when the bell rang announcing lunch time. She called the young girl of thirteen near her.

“Sunita, I have been observing you during the class and you were crying. Stop it and cheer up. Tomorrow is the annual day when prizes would be distributed by the chief guest. You have been an outstanding student topping the school in every examination and class. You are being given a special medal and there will be a special mention by the Principal about you. You must be happy. Tell me what is troubling you?”


“M’am, you know all the prize winning students have been asked to bring their parents for tomorrow’s function. They are required to be on the dais along with the student while receiving the prize. You know the situation in my house. Dad will not be in a fit condition in the evenings to come to school. My mom has also refused to come. There is a fight daily in the house and yesterday it was the worst.”


Sunita remembered how she sat crouched in fear in a corner listening to the noise from the hall. It was his drunken dad mouthing profanities and her step- mother sobbing. There were the noises of glasses, the bottle-opener dropping down followed by loud swears, beatings and finally slamming of the door. She never went down when her dad and mom were together. He had begun drinking ever since Sunita’s mom died, three years back. He was a loving dad but never demonstrated his affection even when her mom was alive. It was only her mom who was her best friend in whom she could confide anything and everything. Her step-mother Savitri was also very affectionate to her initially. It was all the mistake of her dad which turned the affection to dislike. He would taunt her needlessly telling her he married her not for her beauty but only to take care of the motherless girl. In the process, unknowingly, he drove a wedge between them.


The school was in all festoons and the music blared through loudspeakers. The lawn was filled with students, parents and teachers. In a corner, snacks and tea were being served. Groups of people were seen standing along with their children talking animatedly, some with teachers and others amongst themselves. Saraswati madam was looking for Sunita and smiled to herself when she saw her in the corner where tea was served helping the guests with spoons, sugar and paper-napkins. An announcement was made requesting the guests to sit down in their seats and the prize-winning students to assemble by the side of the dais with their parents. Saraswati went near Sunita who was standing at the rear with a glum face, and said “Look here, it is not your fault that your dad and mom could not be here. Cheer up. I am there for you. Wipe the tears off your face, my darling girl.” She moved away as the proceedings began with a prayer song.


After the welcome, the prize distribution started. As the name of each student was announced by the Vice-Principal, Saraswati madam, the student along with parents came up the dais to receive the prize from the hands of the chief guest. There was an endless stream of prize-winners coming up the rostrum with beaming smile, with their parents in tow. Finally, Sunita’s name was read out with the special mention that she was declared the best-student amongst all the classes not only in academic performance, but also in all extracurricular activities. When the chief guest stood up with a medal, he saw the girl coming alone in the dais towards him. He remarked “Where are your parents? Don’t they know this is a red-letter day for their child?” There was a murmur amongst the audience and some muffled jeering remarks. Saraswati madam walked towards the girl and stood behind Sunita. She loudly announced that her parents were not in a position to attend. Turning to the chief guest she said “You can deem her as my adopted daughter.” When the chief guest saw her with a puzzled look, the Principal was seen walking towards them telling “Sir, you may consider me as the god-father of Sunita. She has made us all proud by her achievements and good behaviour. I may add she is a role-model for all the other students.” Saraswati madam was seen wiping her tears even as she clasped Sunita tightly. The chief-guest pinning the gold medal on her loudly said “Pardon me Sunita, I didn’t know the circumstances of your parents not being here. I am so happy to hear the praise heaped on you by your teacher and the Principal. I pray to the Almighty for your success and happiness in life. Do remember that you are doubly fortunate in getting such a teacher and Principal.” The entire crowd was surprised when they saw Sunita falling full length at the feet of Saraswati madam and the Principal.


The entire audience rose as one man and gave a standing ovation amidst joyful cries of “Sunita, Sunita” It is not often that we come across teachers like Saraswati with such compassion and empathy, helping the children realize their self worth and esteem.


Kpartha12@hotmail.com

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A pardon


- by KParthasarathi 17 Oct 2008
It was nine in the morning and the children had left for the college. It was always hectic for Swati in the mornings with hurried preparation of breakfast and lunch for them. She normally watched TV thereafter for a while before getting back into the household chores. But this day she sat in the sofa with the head resting on both hands staring at the wall vacantly. Her head was aching and tears were trickling from her eyes. Ever since she got the letter from her husband Mahesh, she was grumbling to herself “Why did this happen to me? What is it that Mahesh found in her that I do not have? How foolish I had been not noticing the change in him?” There was no clue whatsoever to guess such a likely development. She was kept in the dark.
Swati was happily married for twenty years and Mahesh was such a loving husband. He did not earn much but just adequate to run the family. She was as smart as she was beautiful and managed carefully within the income. She never nagged him and he in turn was considerate often giving her a helping hand on holidays. Life was going on smoothly. It was then he got an attractive offer in a far away land. They had no flat of their own and the children were soon to pursue higher education. They badly needed money. He convinced Swati that a few years of his working abroad will make them financially secure and that she must agree to his taking up the offer. He pointed out that she being the only child of her aged parents cannot leave them alone. The children were also in the middle of their education. He promised her that he would return in five years after saving some money. She was not happy with the arrangement but had to relent when he pressed her.
Initially he came once a year and later once in two or three years. It stopped thereafter. He prolonged his stay beyond the promised five years telling her he hadn’t saved much. All her pleadings that they were away from each other in the prime of their lives and that he should return early fell on deaf ears. She missed him very much and was pining for him... It was then this letter that shattered her world completely.
“Dear Swati, I know how much this mail would hurt you but I have no option but to break the news. We have to part ways permanently. I have been away from you for almost a decade. Since the last two years Melinda who works with me has grown very friendly with me. She is an orphan with none to look after her. She comes over the weekends to help me in cleaning the house and provide me the company. Over a period of time we have grown to like each other. I thought over the matter for long. I have finally decided to marry her but intend sending you money for the upkeep of family. You had been a good and loving wife and it was a painful decision for me. I permit you to choose a partner of your choice though I know you would not. Please forgive me. Give my love to the children. With love, Mahesh”
Her life would be no more the same. Practical as she was, she thanked the god for not leaving her job in the nearby school as she had planned. He had evidently been unfaithful to her. There is no question of his coming back into her life. She was aware that long years of separation and the close proximity of the woman must have broken his resolve. But he was a good man and it hurt her that he strayed away. She resigned to her fate and determined to see that her sons came up well in life. She also decided to bring her aged parents to live with her.
Years went by quickly and her two sons were well settled in life. Her parents had passed away. She was left alone though the boys visited her frequently. Life was moving uneventfully with no discomfort. She was in good health and devoted part of her time for the service of poor and handicapped. It was then she got a letter from Melinda whose name had almost faded from her memory. The letter had depressing news.
It read “Dear madam, You may not remember me but I know all about you. Mahesh had told me more than once what a lovely and gentle person you are. Though he had moved away from your life, he often spoke of you and your two sons. I felt he had no courage to communicate with you after the injustice he meted out to you. Even today I have a sense of guilt for snatching him away. But we paid a heavy price for this. He lost his job two years back when he became ill and was unable to work. His condition grew worse and he died a year back. With two children of ours we passed through worst financial problems with his mounting medical expenses. We managed thanks to my job. But my misfortune is hounding me. I am now afflicted with a dreaded disease and my days are numbered. Being an orphan myself I have none to look to. When I think of my young daughter and son too as likely orphans, I am unable to bear the pain. I am writing this to seek your pardon and blessings for the two children. I believe strongly that god has punished us for the grievous wrong done to you and that your forgiveness alone will release us from His anger. Please write a line that you have pardoned us. Sincerely, Melinda.”
Swati’s eyes became moist. She knew that she can never recover from deep injury done to her unless she forgave and felt the power to wish Melinda well. She took a paper and pen and wrote
Dear Melinda, I am very sorry to hear the bad news. I share your grief no less. Have no worry in the least. I would willingly take care of the children. After all Mahesh’s children are mine too. But in the meanwhile please make arrangements to come away immediately to our home here. Please rest assured that I bear no grudge against you or Mahesh .The doors of my home are always open to you and your children. I shall remit you some money for your travel if you let me know the details of bank etc.Please do not hesitate to come. Regards, your sister, Swati Kpartha12@hotmail.com