by KParthasarathi 24 Sep 2008
Praveen turned out to be the black sheep in the family. Though born in a decent family with one sister, he fell into bad ways even while he was in school. A back bencher in the class, he often played truant spending his time with other loafers smoking and drinking cheap liquor. Even when he was sixteen, he started accompanying his grown up friends to whore houses. His father was sick of reading the reports from the head master warning the boy’s expulsion from school. He scolded, starved and beat him to no avail. The last straw was the complaint that he misbehaved with a girl in the class and the rustication that followed. He was thrown out of the house and his mother was warned not to feed him at any cost. He left the place happily that he was no more accountable to anyone but not without helping himself with a couple of watches, some silver and currency from his dad’s bureau. His sister though afraid of him felt sorry for him.
He took a train to Mumbai as he had heard enterprising people succeed there in whatever line they chose. He was good in gambling, adept in cards and knew about horses. If he had not succeeded so far in making a neat pile, it was because he had no initial capital to try his luck. He quickly converted the stolen things into cash but lost it as quickly in the gambling houses. But it was not without some benefits. He made friends with some small time crooks who helped him join a company of recovery agents. This line was after his heart and he revelled in torturing the hapless clients he was assigned. He spent the money on booze and women. A couple of times he had been taken into custody by the police but managed to come out after a short stint.
It was almost a decade since he had left his native town. His dad and mom had passed away, he had heard. His sister was married to some local young man by name Yogesh who had grown up to be an important official in the town. They had amassed good wealth but fate had been unkind by not blessing them with a child. His sister became lean and weak possibly by worry and loneliness. His brother-in-law was a sturdy man and frequently went on tours. When Praveen wrote to them that he would be visiting them for one week, it was with mixed feelings the news was received. While his sister was happy that she would be meeting his long lost brother, she knew also about the seamy side of his character. She was worried that her husband may not like him in the house.Yogesh knew that Praveen was a wastrel given to bad habits but did not wish to displease his wife.
Praveen had no difficulty in locating the sprawling house.His sister opened the door. She hadn’t changed much. Praveen could see no eagerness in her face while welcoming him but was well mannered she always was. She said Yogesh was expected any time. After tea and snacks they sat down to exchange the happenings since he left. From Praveen’s side there was nothing much to speak about though he gave exaggerated version of his exploits.
“I can see you are all comfortably placed by God’s grace. I am here actually to ask of you a favour. I need urgently fifty thousand rupees. I can return that in a fortnight. I could have taken a loan from any of my friends but I wanted to make this an excuse to visit you after so many years.”
His sister said” I will tell my husband. But he is very careful in these matters and does not part with money easily. It is better you be prepared for a refusal. I will try my utmost.”
It was then Yogesh entered. He extended his hand and said “It is very nice of you to pay us a visit. I hope you are well. Come on. Let us have dinner now itself. I have an urgent meeting at very high level to discuss pressing matters of the city and would return home very late in the night.”
His sister had a big spread on the table. After dinner she took her husband to adjoining room to mention about the request of her brother. Praveen could hear faint sounds of refusal amidst the fervent pleas from his sister. His brother-in-law came out and left without a word to Praveen. His sister came out crying and muttering to herself “Wretched miser, very unhelpful”. Praveen knew that she had not succeeded. He did not broach the subject again. Feeling bored, he excused himself telling her that he would take a stroll, have a drink in a bar and return around 10pm.Once outside the house his natural urges took over. He rushed to the nearest bar and ordered brandy, and again gave a second and third order. He soon became tipsy. He knew his brother-in-law would not be back home before midnight. He thought fit to have some fun and took directions from the waiter to the nearest brothel.
He ambled along the stairs and he was led to a large hall where young and beautiful women were sitting surrounded by a few men. Though the effect of alcohol blurred his vision and speech he could not mistake the hurrying figure of Yogesh into a room with a woman in arm. Praveen let out a howl of joy and followed him with alacrity when he smelt a god-sent opportunity. Seizing his brother-in-law’s arm he exclaimed “So this is the high level important meeting, is it? My sister would be curious to know the details” We have no more interest in the events that followed except that Yogesh generously gave the sum asked for by Praveen making both his wife and her brother happy. Needless to say that Praveen left the next day without rocking the boat of his sister’s married life.