Sunday, May 31, 2009

A quirk of fate

I have read somewhere that success in life is not coming always to genius and happiness is not guaranteed to clever. Life can be cruel to a few even when they do not seem to deserve. I could witness such a quirk of fate recently. I clearly remember my class mate Venkat for he was a class topper and sat in the same bench adjacent to me. We were thick friends. Puny physically, he was lean and tall. He had a large reddish birth mark on his right arm. He came from a poor family and he used to wear the same khaki colour shirt. I remember my putting an ink mark to see whether it was the same shirt and his getting upset with me. He was a nice chap and very friendly. He has told me of his ambition to be an engineer and also his apprehension whether it would materialize as they were very poor. He had many sisters and brothers. I left the school in my eleventh class when my dad was transferred to North and I lost touch with my good friend there after.
It was about four decades later when I was attending a marriage of my colleague’s son in Chennai that I came across my old friend in totally unexpected circumstances. I was seated in the dining hall along with my colleague and several other friends who were all well placed in life. It was a marriage done in style and ostentation. As the servers were serving the food and different delicacies, I saw the reddish birth mark on the extended arm of a tall puny man in his fifties who was placing a sweet on the plantain leaf before me. Recollecting that my friend Venkat had a similar one, I looked up and could instantly recognize him. The same tall figure and the unmistakable aquiline nose confirmed that I had not gone wrong. When I asked him whether he was not Mr. Venkat, he nodded in agreement. I asked him “Don’t you recognize me as Partha? We were sitting adjacent to each other in classes nine and ten. He hesitated for a moment and said that he had not met me before and tried to retreat hastily. I persisted asking him to make an effort to remember me and the ink mark I had made on his shirt? For a split of a second his cloudy eyes cleared but he left denying any knowledge of me or the incident. I was doubly sure that he was Venkat and that he wished to remain unidentified. I could not thereafter enjoy my lunch or the conversations around me. How could this misfortune happen to such a bright person whom I had hoped would rise to high positions?
Immediately after washing my hands, I rushed to the kitchen area looking for Venkat.Not finding him there, I approached the head cook and asked him where I could find Venkat.He replied that he came to him and pleaded severe head ache and wanted rest. He must be back in a couple of hours, I was assured. Thereupon I told him about my friendship with him in my younger days and asked him how he came to work as a server. The head cook, an elderly man, narrated how Venkat’s father died suddenly leaving behind a very large family with no resources to fall upon. He said the entire responsibility of looking after his mother, sisters and brothers fell upon his young shoulders. He had not completed class eleven. As his father was working for him for several years, he took pity on this young boy and took him under his fold. He has married off all his sisters and educated his brothers. But he has remained a bachelor.
I could understand now why he wished to hide from me. He must have seen my shock and pain on seeing him in such a role and being a man of high self respect, he probably wanted to save me further embarrassment. I wanted to help him in some way. I left my card with the head cook and requested him to ask Venkat to call me in the next two days when I would be in Chennai. But he never did make the call.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

The cat is out of the bag

The kitchen has always been the women’s preserve for ages and there was a tacit belief that the wives took care of providing the food at the dining table and the husbands worked to earn the wherewithal. Rarely did men learn to cook or find the ways the wives went about the job of making mouth watering delicacies. As I grew up eating what my mother made, I had developed a great liking for the culinary delights she made day in and day out. Even the hastily made mulligatawny rasam (Soup) when she was in a hurry to go somewhere was the nearest approximation to ambrosia with a teaspoon of ghee added to the mix with rice. I would not settle for anything less if I could make it. The scene changed when I got married to Vasantha who was brought up in the North. She had visited South only once before her marriage on a visit to Tirupathi She brought with her the flavour of garam masala, kala namakh and jeera powder in whatever she made. Their staple food was roti with all the side dishes that are a mix of Punjabi, Rajasthani and UP flavours with no whiff of South Indian aroma. Since her stay in my house after marriage was very short as I was working in Bengal, she had only her own culinary skills to fall back uninitiated in my mom’s way of making the food. I used to grumble foolishly (in retrospect) that the items she made painstakingly tasted different from my mom’s preparations despite my wife’s protestations that she followed to the T the recipe of a famous cookery book by Meenakshi ammal. Initially they were slightly alien to my taste buds but soon I got accustomed to her ways knowing well that she was gifted in this area too as she was adept in many other fields. More so when my friends and their families praised her whole heartedly for the exotic and delicious dishes that she turned out. In fact they sought her guidance on the choice of menu and their recipe whenever a party was held at their homes. Proud though I was I could not concede that my mom was in any way inferior.
We went on a holiday to our home in South and I was once again relishing the familiar Sambars,Vattha Kuzhambu, different types of rasams and various side dishes that my mom made with the combo different each day. My wife was telling my mom one day as I was enjoying my sumptuous lunch that though I ate the food she prepared without any complaint that I relished my mom’s food more with its own unique flavour.She asked my mother the secret of her cuisine and whether it was different from the recipe of Meenakshi ammal that she followed religiously. My mother had a hearty laugh and said “Partha has neither taste buds nor a nose for smell. He cannot distinguish between a toor dhall and chana dhall.Frequently I enlarge the left over of the previous night’s food with little more water and spices. He will eat anything that is hot without fuss. He cannot distinguish even when the food has gone a bit stale. Do not take him seriously, dear. You are lucky that you have for a husband who is not a gourmet or a fussy type. Mark my words; he would proclaim very soon that none makes such delicious food as my wife does. It is a fact too that you cook very well and tastier than me. Somehow from my young age I have never taken a liking to cooking.”
The remark about my inability to distinguish between good and bad food though left me deflated a bit, I thought it was intended to assuage my wife. But I was mighty pleased with the laudatory remark about my wife’s culinary talent. After my return to Kolkata I found there was a distinct change for the better and the food my wife made these days got the tang and taste of my home at Chennai. When I congratulated my wife she could hardly suppress the proud smile. It was one night there after when I opened the fridge to have cool water, the cat was out of the bag. I found to my dismay the racks were full of vessels containing the left over food of the previous night and the morning.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Beauty is in beholder’s eye

I vividly remember when I was in the interviewing panel for selection of office assistants, there was among the candidates one exceptionally beautiful girl who had excellent academic credentials and equally good extra curricular achievements. A keen participant in the debates conducted by local associations, she had represented her college in many inter collegiate sports activities. She did particularly well with confidence in the interview with a pleasing smile writ on her face and was head and shoulders above the rest of candidates. Yet when we finalized the list for selection, the head of the selection committee who happened to be the HR head of the organization put his foot down against her selection. I was honestly thinking that subject to other things being equal, beauty tilted the scale in favour of the fortunate few endowed with it. Dumbfounded I asked him what could be the valid reason for his strange stand. He replied”Partha, remember we are not in the panel for beauty contest. I do not want any distraction in the office as men would stop working and keep endeavouring to catch her attention all the time. The atmosphere in office would not be conducive to work.” Aghast I replied” Forget the beauty part, she gets herself selected on the basis of her other attainments. Are we not supposed to select the best among the candidates? Beauty is god’s gift and how can we consider it a negative point?” He overruled me and the meek rest of the panel kept silent. The girl, a daughter of a poor school teacher, lost out for no fault of hers.
This episode set me thinking whether really beautiful women are at a disadvantage in the society. No, not at all as in most of the fields, it is considered an asset. The matrimonial columns emphasize particularly about good looks being a basic requirement. Attractive look is certainly a passport for filmy world or modeling or ramp shows. Even in politics beauty does add to the charisma of the personality. Do beautiful politicians have better chance of getting elected? Yes, one study indicated that “evaluations of beauty explain success in real elections better than evaluations of competence, intelligence, likability, or trustworthiness. The beauty premium is larger for female candidates” I think beauty seems to matter more where “the electorates are poor and illiterate and where the average age is low”. How else can you explain an actress winning hands down in a far away Hindi heartland hailing as she is from a distant Southern state? I would think that besides her other political and intellectual accomplishments her attractive face fetches a political leader sizable votes from the rural womenfolk very much like a matinee idol won with his handsome figure. Hillary Clinton given her grace and charm should have won convincingly to become the President of US but for charisma of Obama.
Somehow people tend to associate finer characteristics with good looking persons. Unless a plain looking individual is endowed with overwhelmingly other successful attributes like education, intelligence, riches, and incredible achievements in chosen fields, she/he loses out to the better looking. Could this be the reason for our poltical parties rooting for charming actresses to bolster their chances where the opponents are strong? They hardly choose a plain looking Jane. Even in the advertisement world or in the visual media you rarely come across girls with next-door-neighbour look championing products in the myriad advertisements we see on the tube. They have to be necessarily fetchingly attractive and sexy to boot to get the attention of the onlookers riveted on the screen. Even in the field of sports a Sania Mirza or Anna Kournikova has a greater following than what their games would justify. Fans may admire the prowess and talent of a Serena or Martina but they go crazy and start crooning when they see a tall and gorgeous Sharapova hitting an ace.
True, attractive women get unwelcome attention and embarrassing stares wherever they go. But these women are aware of their acting like magnets to draw men around them but wise enough to keep them at safe distance. There is the mistaken notion that beautiful women are dumb dolls, dull and egoistic. But I have known enough friends who are beautiful women and brainy too. These days they are worldly wise and know their onions. Sadly only a few unlike my HR honcho can see their accomplishments past their beautiful looks. Beauty one must remember is much more than a pleasing appearance. When they open their mouth the beauty should be complemented with intelligent talk. Otherwise the fool in the woman shows up quickly. Yes a good look makes people listen and if competent she can push her way through easily. In fact it is an asset that she can cleverly use to manipulate the admiring men to get things done her way. Is it not said that the whisper of a beautiful woman can be heard further than the loudest call of duty.
But then beauty is in beholder’s eyes and there are strangely a tiny few who consider an Angelina Jolie or an Aishwarya plain looking and skinny. Beauty again has nothing to do with age or social status. You can if you are lucky see in the fields of the rural hamlets unsurpassed beauties and chiseled perfections with nothing artificial about them. They may lack the formal education but can be simple, warm hearted with no guiles and unspoilt by the lures of the modern metros. Women endowed with such a beauty where accompanied with intelligence and competence are sure winners whatever calling they choose.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The power of smile

With my cholesterol level jumping northwards, my physician had prescribed me a strict regimen of a daily walk for 45 minutes . My watchful wife never allowed me to miss the morning walk. There was the sprawling municipal park conveniently adjacent to my apartment. Three rounds would account for nearly three kilometers and take the time suggested by my doctor. The park had a nice pathway all around its periphery with flowers and crotons on both sides. The park would be full of morning joggers, young and old people walking briskly along the pathway and the children playing around in the children area in the sea saws, swings and slides.. There were the groups of people doing yoga under the eyes of masters and laughing loudly and continuously at the end as a therapy. Old couples would be seen sitting on the benches comforting each other in what could be painful twilight of their lives. Young lovers would be seen hugging in shady corners or sitting opposite the pool watching the ducks gliding. I invariably met a middle aged man in his track suit jogging at good pace three rounds daily. When he neared me he would always raise his hand and say “Ram, Ram” in salutation which I would respond heartily. There would be no exchange of words except the smile that accompanied the salutation. This went on for years with neither of us making any attempt to know each other.
We were living then at Delhi. My mother took seriously ill at Chennai .I had to go there along with my wife on the same day or the next. It was a summer month with heavy rush of seasonal traffic. All trains were booked to full with long waiting lists days ahead. There was little chance of getting berths without getting them thro emergency quota. Plane tickets those days were prohibitive. I went to Railway office to try my luck though I was not sanguine about the outcome. There was a huge crowd of people each one carrying some recommendation letter. When my chance came I went in to meet the Deputy Chief Commercial Superintendent planning to plead with him explaining the urgency. It was an unexpected surprise to see my acquaintance in the park seated in the high chair. He welcomed me with the usual “Ram, Ram” and smilingly asked me what brought me there. When I explained, he asked me whether I can take that day’s night train and on my nodding instantly gave me two berths.
It set me thinking. I did not know his name till then and my acquaintance with him was limited to the smile and salutation daily in the park. It was then that I realized the power of smile. It was then I regretted that for years I had never made any attempt to know him or even ascertain his name. If even a passing acquaintance could help so much, how about having genuine friends. I remembered the six lessons to make people to like us. Smile at people and say Hi as they do in US to total strangers. If you smile at someone, they are sure to smile back. It is said that the shortest distance between two people is smile. It is not for nothing that Mother Teresa said “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”Ascertain the name of people whom you see frequently. It is good to remember that a person’s name is the sweetest sound to the person. It is nice to be a good listener and encourage others to talk. When our turn comes it is good manners to talk in terms of other man’s interest. Above all we should become genuinely interested in other people and make appreciative comments wherever apt. From then on I started telling “Ram, Ram” with a genuine smile whomever I saw frequently in the park or elsewhere. I have found people who were otherwise distant and aloof in office and the colony where I live gravitating towards me wanting to cultivate my friendship

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A damsel in distress

Just a story and not real incident
I was on my way to Boston. I was sitting with my hand bag in the lounge after check in. There was ample time for security check. It was around 11pm. I found one young lady with a child in arm in lengthy argument with the staff at the check in counter for a different flight. Obviously there was some problem as she retuned with her trolley carrying her luggage. She sat close to where I was seated. I could notice that she was crying. She appeared decent presumably belonging to upper middle class. I waited for some time for her to tell what the hassle was about. After several minutes when she must have been debated whether she should seek my help, she came to my side hesitantly. I told her that I have been watching her discussing with the counter staff though I couldn’t make out what it was all about and whether I can help her in any way. She said that she was not very sure whether to approach a stranger like me on a personal problem. When I prodded her to tell me, she said that her luggage was in excess of prescribed limits and that one of her bags was slightly oversized. They are demanding slightly in excess of Rs. 4000 and that she had only around $50 with a small amount in Indian rupees. As she had come alone, there was no way of sending back the excess luggage. She said she would need about Rs.2500 and that she would leave with me her gold ring that was around 8 Gms.
A fleeting thought occurred in my mind whether this could be some kind of ruse. I asked for her pass port and ticket to make sure about her journey. She had a small baby. She pleaded with the staff for allowing her to take the flight and that she would arrange payment at the destination before leaving the airport. She really appeared as a genuine case of a lady in distress.I agreed to lend her the amount telling her that I trusted her and that she can send me the money to my address that I gave her. I told her emphatically that I had no intention of taking her ring as a surety and that I am acting on good faith. She would not agree to take the money from a stranger without parting with the ring. I told her to accept the money on my terms or find some other willing person to help her out. Time was running out. I told her that I too have sisters like her and that I am doing her a help which I would expect from anyone else to my sisters. This clinched the matter.
She got the boarding pass. She gave me her address, phone numbers and details about her husband like where he worked. She touched my feet and thanked me profusely with tears in her eyes and voice choked with emotion .She soon left looking back again and again. I left for security check for my flight.
Once in Boston I was busy with my work and forgot about this incident. It was about a fortnight later there was parcel in my name from DHL containing a draft for $75 and a cute Mont Blanc pen set with a card signed and saying ”Thank you brother for the timely help that I cannot forget”

Monday, May 25, 2009

Ray of hope

There is a fine moral in this short story. There lived a wicked man who went to hell on his death. He found himself in pitch dark bottomless pit deep down. He could hear many voices of people around him screaming, sobbing, cursing and some even laughing. It was an eerie atmosphere. Even this heartless and ruthless man became afraid of the utter darkness enveloping the place. He did not know how long he would be condemned to this pit. Time passed interminably with no rays of light or hope of deliverance. It was then that he thought of god for the first time in his life. He had not entered the portals of a temple even to protect himself when rains lashed.
Daunted by the plight he was in, he prayed from his heart”Oh God, won’t you please save me from this frightening hell if you are real” and started crying.
As is His wont, God responded to the non-believer promptly. The bad man heard the voice of god saying” yes, child, you sought my help in this difficult situation. I can help you if you can narrate a few incidents in your life where you have done well to another human.”
The man could not recollect however much he tried any such acts of kindness. Only the pictures of his cruelty appeared magnified several fold.
God prompted him in His kind voice” Even one incident would do and it can be even towards the lower species like animals, birds or insects. I want to help you to turn into a good person. Tell me quickly”.
The man after a long time replied” I can think of only one instance .I do not know whether it was kindness on my part. As I was walking I was about to put my foot on a spider that was crawling on my way. I held my foot for a fraction of second for it to move away and save its life.”
"That is splendid and an act of kindness deserving some reward. You will soon see for yourself. But remember to show the same kindness to all in future “
The voice was gone and it was all silent. Soon the man found a very thin shining strand of web passing near him. He put his hand on it and gently pulled it towards afraid it may snap. Surprisingly it did not. He pulled it strongly and the strand was strong. Slowly he started climbing up and up and could see the rays of sunlight. The bright opening of the deep pit was close by and he moved up swiftly.
There was a sudden fear whether others also would have seen this ray of web and climbing up along with him. He was afraid the strand may not withstand the weight and break. He looked down and found many climbing up behind him from the dim light of the ray. He stopped climbing and shouted “This is my strand of web given me by god for the many good things I have done .You cannot come up on my strand. Leave it immediately”
The moment he uttered these words, the ray snapped and all went down to the dark abysmal depths.
kpartha12@hotmail.com

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Proximate cause

I had just moved into my apartment after being away for a decade .I was busy getting things organized like getting gas and telephone connection, fixing a paper boy, cable connection and such like. Most of the residents in the colony were new to me. None came forward to check whether I needed some help or to introduce themselves. They acted as strangers busy with their own work. My tenant had kept a well maintained garden with many flower plants roses,jasmines,sunflowers,and different varieties of crotons. These needed some attention. It was a week after my arrival I stumbled on Govind in my backyard early morning. He was cutting branches from the crotons in my garden for transplantation in his garden. I had seen him going for morning walk daily in his track suit and canvas shoes but we have not talked to each other. He was living in the adjacent block. A fifty something, he had not paid much attention to his appearance with unshaved face, unruly hair and a much worn T shirt. I did not fail to notice that his hands were muddy showing that he has been at this work for quite some time. He was startled by my unexpected appearance and mumbled something as he got up. I smiled at him and told him “It is perfectly ok. Make yourself comfortable but take care not to damage the plants.” There was a look of surprise in his face as he presumably expected me to be upset. He said “Sorry for taking these without your permission. Your earlier tenant used to allow me. I am Govind in the adjacent block residing in ground floor flat .” Our friendship commenced on this positive note grew as we exchanged greetings daily as he passed my house and occasionally walking together for short distance.
One day I had been to his flat at his insistence. What a surprise it was to find a beautiful home with cozy furniture, carpets, curtained windows, well painted walls with soft music playing in the background. There was the fragrance of incense as he had just finished his daily puja.He was clean shaven in a spotless white dhoti and shirt in contrast to the disheveled appearance on the first day. He introduced me to his wife who had brought us steaming cups of coffee. He had taken voluntary retirement after a heart attack and was doing some consultancy work from home. A well read man he could engage himself in conversation on a variety of subjects. Unfortunately they had no children.. Gardening was his hobby to which he devoted considerable time. We discussed about this common topic frequently and he had offered some plants that were not there in my garden. I found him a helpful person when he brought his gardener to remove the weeds and tidy up my garden. When I went to the nursery I brought for him some flower pots and left them in his garden without his knowledge. When there was a power failure once in my flat very late in the night which he happened to notice, he spoke to the Assistant Engineer on his own and got it fixed within an hour. We were becoming good neighbours and enjoyed each other’s company.
There was a wedding in the family of another resident in the colony. I was going in my car to the marriage hall that was close to my apartment around 9AM when I noticed Govind’s wife walking slowly . As I thought she was alone and as the hall was not far I drove without offering her a lift. It was after thirty minutes I found both Govind and his wife entering the hall. Evidently he has been following her as I did not notice him walking side by side with her. There was big crowd in the wedding hall and I could not talk to him. I came back after an hour and had a short nap. Around 3PM I saw an ambulance standing opposite their complex that had eight flats. I presumed someone must have taken ill and did not make further enquiries. It was around 5PM that the Secretary of the colony rang my door bell with a wreath in his hand. Shocked as I was, I asked him who was the person who had expired. He said “Don’t you know Mr. Govind after returning from the marriage had a massive attack and passed away before medical help could reach him.” He added he had walked both ways in the hot sun and that could have been the proximate cause for the stroke.
I was numbed by guilt. Had I stopped the car on seeing his wife and looked behind I would have seen him too and would have taken them in the car and brought them back. I blamed myself that it was not the sun but my foolishness and carelessness that was the proximate cause for my good friend’s end.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

An act of loyalty

Vignesh was in class seven. He was taking regular tuition from his Sanskrit teacher as his father wanted him to become highly proficient in that language. He went to his master’s house in the evenings to learn. His teacher was dark complexioned, frail and small built man in his early forties. He had a dangling tuft in the unkempt hair that was not tied properly. His face always bristled with unshaven hair. He was on the whole an unattractive person. But he was a great scholar of gentle disposition and soft in words. One rarely saw him smile. He had a soft corner for Vignesh as he was studious and excelled in Sanskrit. The teacher’s wife slightly taller than him was very fair and exceptionally beautiful. Slightly plump with a twinkle in her eyes, she was always well dressed and appeared graceful in her deportment. She too liked Vignesh very much and gave him often some delicacies to eat.
Vignesh found that his teacher was always morose and lost in thought when he was with him in the evenings. The lady would be watching TV serials or reading some film magazines or novels. He had not seen them talking much with each other. There was always a tight atmosphere in the house. But when the teacher was not around, Vignesh could see her happily laughing and playing with small babies from the adjoining houses.Vignesh felt that the couple did not get along well as they had no children of their own.
The teacher had a strange habit of forgetting to bring some thing or the other to the school. He would send Vignesh almost daily to his house during the day at no fixed hours asking him to bring a book or pen or lunch box. When he returned he used to pat him and ask him whether he saw anyone in the house.Vignesh would reply that he saw none as auntie always gave the article through the window. It appeared to the boy that the teacher was not satisfied with his reply. Months flew by but the routine remained unchanged.
One afternoon when Vignesh went to the house, he did not knock the door as he usually did but peeped in thro the window that was partly closed. To his great shock he saw an uncle reclined on the lap of auntie and both of them laughing about something.Vignesh quietly withdrew and knocked the door and asked for the book the teacher had forgotten. As usual she did not open the door but gave him the book thro the window.Vignesh was confused whether to tell the teacher or not. To his young mind it struck for the first time that auntie was not good. He started disliking her but did not tell the teacher what he saw. He felt sad for some unknown reason for his teacher. Nevertheless he chose to peep thro the window thereafter before knocking the door. He found the same uncle frequently in the house hugging the auntie or caressing her till one day the auntie found out the peeping Tom. She pushed the man aside and came running to Vignesh highly excited asking him how long he was there.Vignesh pretended that he had just come and gave no indication of what he saw. She did not appear convinced of what he told her. She said she became afraid thinking that a stranger was peeping when she was alone in the house. She asked him to wait and brought a box full of chocolates. She told him after giving the box that she liked him very much and that he should not peep in future. On his way to the school Vignesh threw the box in disgust into the garbage bin.
It was a week after this incident that one day when he came to the school in the morning, he found all the teachers standing outside in groups talking in hushed tones with many boys milling around. Sensing something was amiss he went near them only to learn that his beloved Sanskrit master had committed suicide in the early hours of the day. The teachers were all discussing what could be the reason for him to take this extreme step of hanging at this young age. He had no worries financial or otherwise and seemed happily married to a charming wife. What more one could want? True he had no children but these days so may people adopt children. None were the wiser for the reason the gentle teacher chose to inflict upon himself this ultimate and irreversible punishment. Tears trickled from Vignesh’s eyes. But he was determined to remain quiet to keep his revered teacher’s fair name and dignity unsullied by lowly gossip.
Kpartha12@hotmail.com

Friday, May 22, 2009

Loan redeemed

I knew Rajamani Iyer for a long time. He was living in the same locality for years. We became good friends over a period of time. He had retired from state government and was drawing a small pension. He was a man of character and despite working in what is considered a lucrative department he had not made money. He was not popular amongst his colleagues who were all worldly wise and amassed wealth disproportionate to their salaries. Surprisingly Iyer was not shifted from the department until his retirement for reasons best known to the department. He did not get any promotions too. These things did not bother him. Spiritually inclined he spent most part of his time reading books and attending religious lectures. He had one son who after a brilliant academic career left for States. He married an American woman and settled there permanently. There was practically no contact except an occasional letter from him.
Iyer moved to his village with his wife where he had a dilapidated ancestral house that was small and needed good repairs. An independent man with lot of self respect, he refused to accept any remittance from his son that was offered to him. The couple led a frugal life within their income spending their time in the local temple activities. I had lost touch with him for nearly a decade when one fine morning he dropped in at my house. After the pleasantries, he informed me that he lost his wife a year back and that he was living alone. He was getting his food from the temple on some payment and that he spent most of the day voluntarily helping the temple administration. He said that the temple was in very poor condition and that efforts are on to make some minimum repairs. Being associated with the temple he wanted to donate some amount from his side. He wondered whether I could extend a loan of Rs.5000 which he would repay without interest in due course. He did not specify any time. He said he had no ready cash and did not want to ask his son’s help. Considering the facts that the amount was not big, the cause was worthy and that this was the first time he was seeking my help, I readily gave him the money. I knew his poor financial position and was not particular or sanguine about getting the money back.
Years passed by with no communication from Iyer.I had also forgotten about the money I lent him. One day, I received a long letter from his son Ravi along with a draft for Rs.5000 intimating that his father had passed away about three weeks back. He had lamented that after his marriage his father never forgave him and refused to accept any help even monetary from him. He was not kept informed of his mother’s death too. He came to India when the trustee of the temple had telephoned him about his father’s demise. His father had left a note in a diary wherein he had mentioned that the ancestral house was pledged with a cooperative bank for a loan taken. It appears that he had spent a major portion of the money for his wife’s treatment and the remaining portion he had donated to the temple. Iyer had also mentioned in the note that he had taken an interest free loan of Rs.5000 from me and that he was feeling guilty about the debt he owed me for a long time. He desired that the amount be paid to me with his sincere apologies for the delay from the sale proceeds of the house after settling the bank debt. Ravi had expressed his surprise that the balance left after clearing the bank liability was exactly Rs5000 that his father owed me.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A shocking revelation

It was a nice colony of about hundred apartments amidst the shaded trees with ample space for car parking, children’s play ground with swings and slide. It also boasted of a small Vinayaka temple in one corner. There were twenty fours security. The residents were friendly and mingled well. The camaraderie among the lady folks were more than among the gentlemen. The former except for a few young things who went to work had the entire afternoons at their disposal. They assembled in the children area, exchanged news and gossip and lamented about the irregular sweeper boys or the unfettered growth of weeds on the rear side of the houses. Water scarcity was no longer an issue thanks to the munificence of metro water. Although many of the apartments were in wives’ names, the colony association was an exclusive male preserve.Bhujanga Rao a long time owner resident has been serving as the president of the colony. A soft spoken lawyer with abundant common sense and a good knowledge of the Apartments Act, he was acceptable to everyone. Only the secretary and other office bearers changed once in two years. Rao had a great capacity to bring about compromises even on tricky issues of the colony that threatened to explode once in a while. He was sort of a father figure respected by all though they knew that he was a meek person before his wife.Mrs.Rao was a big built and tall woman, well educated and had a stentorian voice that commanded instant compliance. None of the lady folks dared to talk against her in her presence.
Things were going on smoothly in the colony till recently. What irked the female members was the new occupant of a first floor flat in one of the blocks. Mallika seemed a woman in her early forties but did not appear to be more than thirtyfive.She was very pretty and attractive. Tall and slim, there was always a twinkle in her eyes and pleasant smile in her face. It was a winsome appearance that made people turn their heads. The women did not take kindly to this. No one knew where she worked. The person who seemed her husband was rarely seen. She spoke freely with the men in the colony but kept the females at a distance. This irked them a lot .They were already unhappy after the revelation by the durwans that she had male visitors in the evenings who stayed over. They were convinced that she was a woman of easy virtue and that her presence could be a likely threat to the peace and happiness in their households.
Mrs Rao discussed that night with her husband and pleaded with him that the new occupant should be thrown out. But Bhujanga Rao told her that as long as she was no inconvenience to others, she cannot be evicted on mere suspicion and loose talk of watchmen. He taunted her saying that ladies seemed jealous of her good looks and that they lacked faith in their husbands.Mrs Rao informed her friends the next day what her husband had told her. She also added for good measure that she agreed entirely with him. She was absolutely confident of her husband and that she had no reason to worry as he was like Ram an eka patni vratan.It was up to them to ensure that their husbands did not stray away. Her friends who were not satisfied prodded their husbands to take up with the president. Somehow they were also reluctant to send the woman away for reasons best known to them. The woman continued going about her job unobtrusively.
Some months later Mrs Rao had gone to Coimbatore for a wedding in the family. Mr. Rao could not accompany her. It was during such time in the middle of one night an ambulance arrived at the colony with siren blaring and waking up all residents. It stopped opposite the block where Mallika lived. The men quickly took the stretcher to her first floor flat. The doors were partially closed and she was standing grim and quiet at the entrance. The ambulance driver told the anxious residents that someone has had a massive heart attack. The stretcher soon came out.Every one craned their necks to see who the victim was. They were all shocked to see the venerable Bhujanga Rao unconscious on the stretcher. The news spread like wild fire after the ambulance left. One could see a sense of utter dismay accompanied by a muffled glee amongst the faces of the ladies at the plight of Mrs. Rao.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dushyanth's feast

No explanations.Just inability to write new stories.Sorry.regards,KP

Dushyanth is a tall, handsome and fair complexioned man though this was slightly marred by a protruding sixth finger in his right hand. In his spotless white dhoti and cream kurta there is an aristocratic demeanour.An unemployed graduate he had no family commitments and loafed around addas and playing carom on the roadside. It was a pleasurable pastime for him to enter uninvited marriage pandals, pose as an invitee and partake of the sumptuous feast. His good looking personality helped him to go undetected thus far.
One evening when he saw a very artistically decorated pandal with festoons of lights, he stopped by for a moment reading the banner outside”Santosh weds Sabitha”.After changing into a well pressed dress, he joined the marriage crowd and sat there watching the light music programme.After about thirty minutes he entered the dining hall and ate to his heart’s content relishing in particular sandesh, misti doi and mango sweet chutney.. As usual nothing untoward happened. When he started moving for washing his hands, a server in a hurry dashed against him and spilt the entire hot dal makhni on his kurta.Embarrassed he stood for a few moments wondering what he should do while the waiter was profusely apologizing. People started crowding near him. The brides brother who was in the hall overseeing rushed to him and said” Sorry sir, I will now give you a new dress to change. Excuse this chap. It was clearly a mistake on his part” Immediately one of his friends brought a gift bag containing new dhoti and kurta.As he gave the packet he asked “I am bride’s brother. Are you from groom’s side?”
Remembering the name he replied “Yes, I am a friend of Santosh.”
Meanwhile someone rushed to Santosh’s brother who was also in the hall about the incident involving Santosh’s friend. He rushed to the spot and apologized to Dushyanth and asked”Sir, I am not able to readily place you. I am Santosh’s brother. I haven’t met you”
Dushyanth replied” We were together working in an office for a short period and were fairly close”
“What are you talking? Santosh is an IIT and IIM graduate working in US since he got selected in campus interview. Come out with truth. Who are you really?”When Dushyanth became pale and speechless the brides’ brother snatched the bag from his hand and said “He is a fraud and has come to steal bags and boxes. Let us teach him a lesson he will never forget” and showered blows on him. All the others too joined in hitting him and tearing his kurta and pulling his hair.

Meanwhile Santosh hearing the commotion rushed to the scene saying.” Stop beating. What if one man takes the food. Hundreds are eating here” Looking at Dushyanth intently and his sixth finger, he asked “Were you not a student in Chetla high school and are you not Dushyanth?
Dushyanth replied feebly” Yes, aren’t you S.Kumar”
“Correct. I am Santosh Kumar. I am so happy you have been able to make it to my wedding. I am very sorry for the unfortunate incident. Please do not take it amiss. Have you had your khana? Here please accept this gift bag .You have made me very happy” He also pulled a Rs. 500 note and thrust it in his hand saying that this was his token present
Dushyanth after a moment’s hesitation returned the Rs. 500 note and asked it to be treated as his present for the wedding.
Santosh took the same and gave him two Rs 500 notes saying” Please accept this without fail. Here is my address. Please come home. I will be leaving for US in a week’s time. We can reminisce of our old days together”

Monday, May 18, 2009

Mahalingam Iyer's solution

Sorry,you may have to put up with another old story.regards,KP
It was a MIG apartment.Mahalingam Iyer had sold his share of land in the village and bought this house some twenty years back. A retired government servant he was getting pension. He had a son and a daughter born late in life. Govind his son had finished his MCA and joined a reputed company. They sent him to US two years back. Although of marriageable age, iyer was waiting to finalise his daughter Lalitha’s marriage first. He was frantically searching for a suitable match. Traditional and conservative, he spent long hours in the local temple assisting in it’s affairs.
Padmini, a close friend of Lalitha and slightly elder to her was also living in the same apartment. An extremely good looking and tall girl, she had learnt multi media and was working with a big publishing company. Her father was not well to do. Though they were searching for a suitable match, nothing could materialize as her parents could not meet even the ordinary demands of the other parties. It was then a rich business man approached her parents wanting her hand for their only son. They said they were struck by the girl’s beauty and that they were not particular about the status or the wealth of the girl’s parents. They assured that they would take care of the marriage expenses too. The boy looked decent and was assisting his father in the family business.Padmini’s parents were flabbergasted at this god send offer and readily agreed. The marriage over, Padmini soon left for her husband’s place. Initially she came to her parent’s place a couple of times but was not seen thereafter. It appeared that they were not letting her go.
After three or four months Mahalingam iyer saw Padmini’s father in the temple. The latter rarely visited the temple.Iyer found him standing before the deity praying with eyes closed and tears trickling down his cheeks. He went near him and stood by his side quietly. When he opened his eyes he put his hands on his shoulder asked him ” Are you alright? You seem to be tormented with some problem. If it is not very confidential, you can share with me. It will lighten your burden.” The neighbour hastily wiped his eyes and said “We have been deceived.Padmini’s life is ruined.” Even before completing the sentence he started sobbing.Iyer asked whether they are ill treating her because she did not bring adequate jewelry or dowry. He replied that the matter was much more serious but kept quiet without telling what the problem was. It took a while for Iyer to ferret out the information that the marriage has not been consummated and that the boy was unfit for married life. It appeared that it was beyond any medical remedy.
Iyer was shaken initially and after some deliberation asked Padmini’s father to bring the girl home. She was a major and can come out on her own volition.Iyer told him that they can find a solution after talking to her. The poor father readily agreed.
In the night after dinner iyer broached the subject to his wife.Lalitha was also present. His wife also sympathized with the girl’s lot and wondered what could be done. The fate is cruel in some cases, she added. Iyer told his wife “I have arrived at a solution and wanted to know your views before expressing it to Padmini and her parents. Firstly, I am going to ask Padmini to get a divorce. This can be obtained within a short time.Secondly, I will ask Govind to marry her. She is a good match for him. I am not going to see horoscope or bothered by any tradition. I have almost decided and just need your approval.” Iyer’s wife said”Padmini is no doubt a very good girl. Even Govind has a soft corner for her. My only worry is that this marriage should not impede Lalitha’s marriage. You know conservative people may think twice before agreeing to marry a girl from our family.” On hearing this Lalitha exploded “I don’t care. If no one is willing to marry me for this reason, I am prepared to remain single all my life. But Govind should give a new life to Padmini.There is no room for any discussion on this.” Iyer’s wife remained silent.
In six months Padmini was married to Govind.Lalitha too got a good match. The only negative off shoot of this episode was the temple management’s strange decision to divest Iyer of his responsibilities in the temple.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Beauty is skin deep

I do hope to come up with a new story next time-regards,KP
It was a sultry day and there were no visitors. Some days there used to be even four or five couples and a few days there would be none. It used to be boring then with nothing but the novels to keep me busy. I do voluntary work in this child adoption centre out of affection for my mom who was heading this institution till she passed away a couple of years back. She was insistent that I give back to the society at least a portion of what I have taken from it. This adoption centre is a part of the institution that ran a shelter for orphans and destitute women, school, vocational training institute comprising of tailoring, laundry, carpentry, printing press and a small machine shop. It is a home for hundreds of children and women where they are cared for until they are rehabilitated into the society. There are many social workers who give their time and money for this institution. I chose adoption centre when I was asked to choose by the head of the organization as I loved children and playing with them. It was only later that I realized one needs to have an abiding interest in children and plenty of patience. I had to minimize my social life and even skip minor family functions. But I always felt happy with this work when I see my mother’s photo and remember her total dedication and immense satisfaction she derived when she found safe and secure homes for the children of the centre. Choice of foster parents required utmost care and gathering of information. One cannot afford to make mistakes as the future of the babies is dependent on the right homes.

A young couple, Vanita and Varun, one day dropped in. Both of them were working in a well known IT company drawing hefty salaries. She was in her late twenties and was exceptionally beautiful and very fair. Varun who was tall and handsome made a good partner. When she expressed her desire to adopt a child I asked her why she was doing it while still so young. When she explained that she is not medically fit to bear a child, I kept quiet for some time wondering how even the advanced medical knowledge is unable to cure some maladies.

“You are working and that too for long hours. Who will look after your baby?”

The man said “My mother is staying with us and we intend to engage an ayah to look after the baby during the day”

I asked him” Are you also as much keen in this adoption as your wife?”

“Yes, keener than her and we are in total agreement on this. We have discussed this endlessly and have come to choose a baby. We want a baby girl in particular.” he said.

I was surprised as normally couples preferred boys even in these days when gender discrimination is frowned upon. They usually seek fair complexioned boys with good features. They even try to ferret out information if any on the biological parents and back ground of the child. As a rule we never disclose such information.

I asked them to come on a particular day the next week filling up meanwhile the application form with all details.

As there is a general tendency to pick fair complexioned and good looking babies with the dusky and ordinary looking ones never getting chosen, we show the latter first. Only when the couples are not happy with them we show them some more. Our objective is that all babies should get willing ‘parents’ and that those not endowed with looks or color should not be left out. On the appointed day I had chosen four baby girls between 2 and 4 who have not been lucky to be adopted so far. One of them Sumi (3) was very dark but endowed with very sharp features. She was a quiet girl not given to much interaction with other children. There was a forlorn and lost look in her face.Lavanya (4) was fairer but was not attractive with a wide nose and puckering mouth. She was a pleasant and outgoing girl.Sweety (2) dusky in colour had a squint and always cried uncontrollably on such occasions putting off even those who contemplated to consider her. Shanthi (2) who was a new entrant was the darkest of the lot. She was skinny with the ribs showing, protruding teeth and limped a little looking awkward when she walked. But she had a smiling twinkle in her eyes. She was never in the zone of selection thus far. I had all of them dressed in good frocks and made them sit in the adjacent room playing with toys.

When Vanita and Varun came I was not very sanguine of their liking any of these four. They have been rejected time and again. She had brought plenty of chocolates. The children looked at me for my approval to accept the toffees. They have been trained that way. I left the couple with the children and came to my room. It took more than an hour and they had not come out. Curious to know what is happening I peeped in thro the door. All the children wreathed in smile were playing with total abandon as if the two strangers were known to them for long. I thought they were a compassionate twosome and played with the kids just to give these tiny tots some happiness and warmth denied to them. I had seen so many come out mechanically and express their unhappiness as we do in selecting saris.

They came out at last, though reluctantly. She said” I have taken the snaps of the kids in my mobile without your permission. I hope you will not mind. Will come back tomorrow”

I surmised they are being gentle and may not come the next day. I proffered to say”Incase you are not satisfied with this lot, I can show some more.”

Pat came the reply” No need, we will choose one amongst this four”

Next day they came early in the morning and said in unison “Shanthi”when I asked whom they have selected. Vanita said “We discussed whole of last night. I could have taken all of them but we had to choose one. I was drawn to Shanthi by her eyes. We will make her a healthy child and after some three years I will have her teeth aligned and do something about the limp if possible. Don’t worry. We like her dusky colour that God has given her. She is such a cute little darling.”

Varun said” My mom was not fair complexioned after all. Beauty and colour are skin deep. What mattered is that Shanthi caught our fancy and both of us zoomed on her.”

He added “May be, God willing, we may come again next year and adopt one more of the other three. Thanks a lot. What wonderful people you are!”

Thoughts of my mom raced in my mind at the successful conclusion.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A lingering fragrance

Again an old story written long back and not included earlier in the blog.Please bear with me for a while-regards KP
I was in class 8 I think when I had Mr.Govindarajan (we called him GR Sir) for my class teacher. From my sieve like memory I clearly remember that he was short and frail with a small physical frame and unkempt hair and appeared much older than his early fifties. But I cannot forget the twinkle in his kindly eyes and the ever present mischievous smile in his face that belied the initial impression one got of him. His witty and lively classes, however drab the subjects were, made him very popular amongst the boys in the school. Despite his bubbly humour and warmth, there was a certain aloofness inhibiting any intimacy or liberties. He knew well how to instill and inspire confidence in his pupils and in making them believe that they can achieve whatever goal they had set for themselves. He never derided even the weak students and took trouble to explain the lessons again and again. He used to devote invariably the last 10 minutes of his class to kindle the interest of the boys in general subjects and expand their mental horizon. There was some innate charm about him and his teaching method that we wouldn’t have willingly foregone his classes. A wise master, he inspired awe in his abilities and earned the respect of one and all including his peers. He had surprisingly a soft trait in that he could not be harsh even on impish and roguish boys when occasions demanded it. When any boy complained of slightest physical discomfort, he never looked askance but sent him home immediately for rest
For reasons not known to me, he took a special liking for me possibly because I lived very close to his house. He used to give me small errands occasionally like getting chalk pieces from the office. It was one day when he entered the class unusually late by a few minutes; he looked distinctly fatigued and distraught. He called me near him and whispered”Partha, I went to hospital this morning to admit my aged mother who is suffering from acute Asthma. It was an emergency and I am coming directly from there after she stabilized. You know my house. Can you please collect the lunch from my wife? Tell her that I was held up and couldn’t come home. Also tell her that doctors are attending on my mother and that I would be going to hospital directly from the school.”
I virtually ran to his house that was close to school. It was a small two room side portion, dark and dingy. After I conveyed the message I was waiting for the lady to pack the lunch. I could see in the dark and bare hall a small boy of my age huddled on a mat. When he saw me, he tried to get up but could not. He made some unintelligible guttural noises that brought his mother scurrying to his side. She said “Lie down quietly and I will come in a minute to you after sending lunch to appa”
I blurted foolishly “Aunty, is he not well? He is not getting up and is making strange sounds.”
She turned to me attempting to hide a tear and said before going to kitchen” Yes, he is very unwell and cannot walk on his own. He cannot speak and is not a normal child.”
It struck me then that he was not only polio affected but also mentally retarded. What a cruel punishment to have befallen on the excellent and loving teacher who never betrayed even in an unguarded moment the piteous and depressing scene at home. An aged sick mother frequently on bouts of asthma, an abnormal child with no future, a small decrepit home and low emoluments is a deadly combination that no ordinary person can withstand. I wondered how this man’s devotion to his duty and amiable disposition remained unshaken by such extreme personal disappointments. My esteem for him grew boundless when I remembered his natural dignity, infectious warmth of spirit and willingness to walk the extra mile to teach the slow children till they understood. He never allowed his private grief to intrude in the call of his duty.
Education for him is something more than book learning. For him it is an initiation of the young and eager minds into the wonders of the world and life where time and money played little part at personal level. The memory of such a great but simple teacher of the past abides like a perfume even after the lapse of long years. Such rich contentment and serene detachment are no common possessions of ordinary mortals..

Friday, May 15, 2009

In search of happiness

I will burden you with one more of my old piece.I assure you this is not a sad story but talks of happiness. I will come up with new stories in a couple of days.
When I dropped in one afternoon, I saw my cousin happily reclined in a sofa before a wide TV with one arm around his wife and enjoying a serial. He had a nice flat and a lucrative job with his charming wife also earning as much. They looked a perfect picture of contentment and happiness. After the initial pleasantries, I asked him the hal of everything on his side. His wife had gone inside to make some tea. He pulled a long face and said that he wished God had been kind to him. It was five years since he was married and his wife wanted a baby very much. This set me thinking happiness is not in good earnings or an attractive wife or in owning a posh house or enjoying the comforts of life. It is something more. It varied from individual to individual.
I asked our maid servant one day when she was crying what would make her happy and free from all worries. I was expecting her to tell a big increase in her salary, a one roomed tenement with toilet inside and with an exclusive water tap or some such mundane things. Instead she said she would be happiest if her husband returned from work without taking alcohol and talked to her affectionately instead of the daily beatings from the inebriated man.
My elderly neighbour, a kindly and timid soul was being tortured mentally by a shrew and termagant for wife. She broke his confidence and made him a diffident blundering nervous wreck. The irony is he held high official position before retirement and was regarded well in his circle. He was one day confiding that he would be happiest if the God were to give him deliverance from her by taking him.
What is happiness? Will ten crore rupees give one permanent joy? Are material comforts to be equated to happiness? Possibly none of these. Is the quest for happiness always successful? Happiness is just an emotion like anger, sorrow or depression. It keeps changing from time to time. A small child is happy with a new toy for a few minutes. It soon gets tired of it, throws away and starts crying. Adults too are no different. Happiness is like a mirage always within your sight but never realized permanently.
Happiness again is not related to the character of the individuals. We see wicked men seemingly happy and good men passing though pangs of pain and suffering. I have no explanation for this strange fact except trusting in the law of karma.
Spiritual people talk of divine happiness that realized souls enjoy. I have no experience of it. I think instead of looking for happiness, we should look for contentment. It does not mean we should not attempt to improve our lives. While making an honest endeavour, we should learn to be content with what we have and not aspire for a distant rainbow only to lose the present peace of mind. Real happiness would appear as being satisfied with the results of our efforts without craving for more. It is a state of mind to be cultivated where one would be thankful to the god for his blessings and accepting the difficulties with equanimity wherever it is not possible to remove them. Otherwise how would you explain the restlessness of the very rich to acquire more and the contentment writ large on the face of a cobbler under a shaded tree? Happiness is not elsewhere. It is in your mind.
A sage found a man on hands and knees. He asked him what he was searching for. The man said he was searching for his keys. So the sage too got on his knees to search. After a while the sage asked whether he was sure he lost it there. The man replied that he lost it at home. When asked why he was searching there, he replied he was searching because there was more light there. The lesson in this story is for us to search for happiness where we lost it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Discreet silence

My mind is blank.I am posting an old story written long back.Please bear with me

Ravi and I working in the same office are close to each other sharing even our personal matters.. His rich dad had died some years back. His old mother was living with him. Unfortunately Ravi’s wife Anita had not taken kindly to the old woman. Coming from a rich family herself, she was a much pampered lady lacking in finer sensibilities with a harsh tongue. So long as the old man was alive, things were going on without coming to surface. There were no children to lighten the atmosphere. Things became gradually worse till it became intolerable. Ravi on return from office saw his mother crying almost daily but never had any word of complaint against Anita. Knowing the latter’s abrasive nature, he knew what must have happened. His words of advice had little effect. Ravi being timid in nature, she was domineering. It was about three years ago he discussed the matter with me and we decided that for the peace of the old lady, it was best to admit her in a well to do senior citizen’s home which had all the facilities. When he broached the subject to his mom, she did not mind the verbal torture but desired to be with him. Ravi persuaded her saying that he could not bear to see the indignities heaped on her and that she better go to the home and that he would be meeting her frequently.
Ravi went initially often but this tapered off to monthly visits partly due to pressure in office and mostly due to the taunts of Anita. The change had affected the old lady mentally. She became morose and aloof. Calls would come from the home asking him to come and meet his mom. He went sometimes taking time off during office hours but this also became less. But he ensured that his mom got all the physical comforts. There was a phone call one day informing that the old lady slipped and fell down in the bath room. She had broken her back and was unfit for any surgery due to advanced age. Some complications had set in with her kidneys failing. Her eye sight had also diminished abruptly. She became weak and emaciated in the course of a month. Nursing attendants at the home took care of her 24x7.She was all the time muttering “Ravi, Ravi…” I had gone one day with Ravi. It was a pathetic sight seeing the old lady cringe” Ravi, please take me home from this prison and let me be with you in my last days. Please do not refuse. I would myself plead with Anita” Ravi’s eyes became misty with tears trickling down. He said” Mom, Do not worry. Let me talk to her. I will come tomorrow.” He tried in vain knowing fully there was no chance of Anita relenting. He did not have the face to meet his mom. He did not go. The tricky wife compelled him to take her on a holiday to Darjeeling despite the ailing lady. When he was away a call came from the hospital informing that the lady’s condition had turned serious. I informed Ravi and rushed to her side.
I held the lady’s arm. Her eyes were closed. There was a deathly pallor about her. She was too weak even to open her eyes. She said”Ravi, I am glad you have come. I want to breathe my last holding your hand. I have caused a lot of anguish for you.”
I was perplexed about what I should do. The nurse who knew me indicated that I should not reveal my identity. She signaled that she was in her last moments.
I replied “Mom, do not strain yourself. You will be ok.Just rest and I am here by your side”
Ravi, were you not allright? You said you will come the next day when we met last”
“Mom, I had to go out of India on tour suddenly. I could not refuse. I am here and will not leave you. Please sleep as I keep holding your hand”
“I know you are very affectionate to me. “ She kept quiet thereafter and peace descended on her face. I did not stir from the chair and stayed on by her side. I must have fallen asleep in that position till I was woken up by the nurse telling “Sir, it is all over. She passed away a few minutes back. It is very nice of you to have provided the love and warmth she was yearning for. Thanks a lot for your discreet silence.”
Wiping the tears from my eyes, I moved towards the phone booth to inform Ravi.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Paying back in same coin

Rani was just twenty when her alcoholic father gave her in marriage to a forty five year old ugly looking pock marked Velayudham for the few thousands he received. She had no mother to look up to. All her cries and the pleas of neighbours fell on deaf ears as he forced her to marry that widower. He took her away to his place and guarded her from all eyes. He never allowed her to go out and ordered her to remain within the house.. He even locked the house when he went out. He was suspicious if she talked to anyone and would want to know what she talked about. Being an older man, he had nagging doubts about his physical ability to please a much younger wife and he got irritated whenever she showed amorous tendencies to him. He avoided her. Lacking in self confidence, he beat her frequently and used abusive epithets.
There was one young man Murugan living not far from Rani’s house. He was living with his mother and they knew the cruel and suspicious nature of Velayudham.They empathized with her as they knew her pitiable condition. His mother used to visit Rani whenever Velayudham was not there and console her. The talks with the old lady were soothing balm to the neglected young girl. It so happened that one day when Murugan could not find his mother at home, he came in search of her to Rani’s house. As he was enquiring her about the whereabouts of his mother, Velayudham came unexpectedly .Seeing his wife talking to the young man, he flew into rage, abused Murugan of having dishonest intentions and pushed her inside the house. He beat her legs with a log of wood telling that he would break them so that she cannot run away. The poor girl was rescued by neighbours but she had to limp thereafter. She hated him from the bottom of the heart but could not escape from him as she had none to look to. She was afraid he will catch her and inflict more injury on her.
It so happened that Velayudham fell sick with high fever and some other related conditions. There was nothing he could do as Rani had to go out to fetch medicines, grocery etc.When she went to get the medicines from the pharmacy, the thoughts of how her life had been rendered a failure and how her dreams of being married to a handsome young man had been crushed by her husband came to her mind. The total incompatibility in the way they thought, and dissatisfaction in meeting her physical needs and above all living like a prisoner within four walls stood stark in her face. Her revulsion for him was at its highest. When she returned home she found the pharmacy had given her wrong medicines intended for somebody else. Bitter with him in her heart, she decided to keep quiet.
She opened the wrong packet given by pharmacy to find many tablets in different sizes and colours.She coolly gave these along with water when he opened his mouth. She didn’t know whether it would affect him or not but was sure they were not the right medicines for curing him. She loathed him so much that she cared little for him.Soon he was drowsy with his eyelids feeling heavy. He could not sit up for his dinner. She gave him the gruel with some more of the wrong medicines. The next day morning he tried to get up from the bed but could not stand as his legs were wobbly and weak. It appeared to him that the muscles had lost their strength. He became disoriented and unable to focus. He was totally bed ridden. She continued with the wrong medicine till he lost his ability to walk but she did not leave him though she could have .
After a week when she brought the doctor and showed his condition without telling about the wrong medication, the doctor prescribed another set of medicines. This time she gave the right ones but while he recovered from all ailments, he could not gain his ability to walk. He was confined to bed and chair It was one evening she came along with Murugan and handed over him her divorce papers. She told him “Your filthy mind will assume all sorts of wrong ideas about my relationship with this young man. He is like my elder brother who has helped me get out of this wretched place. You broke my leg out of your suspicion and inability to keep your wife happy. As a retribution, you will suffer all through your life” As he lay dumbfounded,she limped out happily released from bondage once and for all.
.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A love affair

Vijay had promised to take Naveen and Neeraja to the beach on Sunday evening. He had just spoken to Manjula about the programme.He requested her to join them. He wanted her in particular to come to his home for lunch. The phone rang. It was Naveen reminding about the beach visit.” Naveen, I haven’t forgotten. I have already asked Manju to join us and she had agreed Inform Neerja.”.
Vijay had lost his wife three years ago to a brain tumour.It was tough period managing the children and more than that he missed his wife. The solitude despite the children was too much for him. He had not thought of another woman in his wife’s place till he met Manjula in a seminar. They were paired for panel discussions providing those opportunities to spend the entire two days together. Vijay was no longer the same sullen person.Manjula was a whiff of fresh air that he longed for in his life. .She was also a single. They contrived reasons to meet each other daily on some pretext or the other. Both were deeply in love with each other. The kids liked Manju and her easy ways in getting along with them. She invariably brought things to eat and knickknacks. She took particular interest in winning the confidence of the young girl.
“Naveen, take your shoes off and give them to me. It is easy to run without the shoes.Neerja, you also run along with him. Do not go near the water till we come” said Vijay as they walked on the sands of the beach.
Neerja lingered and pleaded “Aunty, you please come with us. I am afraid of the waves. Will a Tsunami come?”
Manjula told her “Do not be afraid. The waves will not come near you as you will be far away from the water. No more Tsunami. Go with Naveen.I will come behind with your dad.”
As the girl ran behind the boy, Vijay held Manju’s hand and walked slowly side by side rubbing shoulders.
Vijay broke the silence and said, “I have not broached the subject of our marriage. I get a feeling both of them know that we are fond of each other though they have not yet visualized you in their mom’s place. I do not envisage any problem at all from Naveen and hopefully from Neerja.”
“Vijay, I wish that we tie the knot soon. I cannot be away from you and want to be with you all the time. Please hurry” pleaded Manjula
“Sure, it is vacation for them I will talk to them this weekend. Do not worry” said Vijay
They then spent time standing in the water for the waves to wash their legs.Neerja snuggled by Manju’s side and found comfort and security in her hands
Two days later as he was working on his laptop in the night both the kids snuggled up to him and said “Daddy, we have a request. We wish to celebrate Mother’s day this Sunday at 6pm. We have pooled our allowances and we intend to buy a cake from the Italian bakery. We want to have it cut before our mom’s photo. Please invite Manjula aunty also for this occasion. make sure she attends.”
Vijay was surprised and wanted to play along with his children by readily agreeing to their request. It was Sunday and the large box containing the cake and tied with ribbon was kept on the circular glass dining table. Opposite on the wall was their mom’s photo.Manjula had also come as promised.
Naveen and Neerja in chorus said, “We will blind fold aunty and dad. They will open the cake box and only then the blindfold would be removed.”
Both Manjula and Vijay were intrigued but joined the fun by getting their eyes covered by a red cloth. When they opened their eyes amidst the clapping by the kids, they were thrilled to read the icing text/
Dear Manju mom,
Happy Mother’s day,
Naveen and Neerja
Manju wiped the moist eyes even as Neerja pulled her close to Vijay and placed her hand on Vijay’s.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

To all mothers
Happy Mother's Day
Mother's Day comes but once a year on the officially designated 2nd Sunday in May but in the hearts of many - every day is Mother's Day
Being a mother not only takes time,but also requires generous amounts of faith and courage

Dada ji's time

Atul loved his grandfather with all of his heart. He liked spending all his time with him listening to his stories and talk. The old man on the wrong side of eighty doted on his grandson. The boy, though just ten year old, knew that his mother hated the old man and insulted him for anything he did or did not. Atul felt his father did not seem to care or at any rate never talked to his mother about it. He also knew that his father generally never spoke against his mom. He felt sad for the old man. He knew that his mom considered his grandfather a burden thrust on her although the old man had six sons and three daughters. None of them were willing to take care of him in his twilight years.Atul’s dad was the eldest of the lot.
The one thing Atul liked best was the stroll in the opposite park with dadaji.The old man used to regale him with incidents in his younger days. He always asked him to be truthful no matter the consequences.Atul would contest him telling “What if truth were to harm some innocent person? Would you tell it even then?”Dadaji would smile proudly and tell him that truth should always be spoken when it serves a good purpose. He never complained about anyone to the urchin.
Atul was not happy with dadaji repeatedly telling him of late ”I am biding my time. I think it will happen very soon. I want you to promise me that no matter in whatever circumstances you are placed you would take care of your parents with love and care and never make them feel unhappy.”
“Dadaji, I know you are at times unhappy. I am too when mom shouts at you. I hate her for this” replied AtulDadaji remonstrated with him telling ”You should not talk like this. I am not happy with you. Never talk ill of others whatever they do or say.”
Atul was always reprimanded by his mom for spending his time with his grandpa and she complained to her husband frequently. No one in the house talked to dadaji. His dad who came late from office spent time before TV with his mom. There was no TV in grandpa’s room that was at the rear of the building. Occasionally his dad used to walk in only to tell loudly to his father to adjust to the ways of the house and not be a source of nuisance. He would not however spell out where his grandfather failed to adjust.Atul smart as he was knew that his dad was doing that only to please his mom. He was also aware that she added extra water in his coffee and often gave him left over and cold food. She also served him just adequate and made him eat alone in the dining table much before the family sat together. After the lunch around 11am he practically had nothing till 7pm except for a cup of tea and biscuits at 4pm. Atul knew he was always hungry and would quietly bring cookies from the kitchen after he returned from school and share with him. Grand pa had a sweet tooth and he loved sweets very much but mom never gave him enough though his dad brought sweet packets frequently. She would keep them in the fridge for four or five days only to be given later to the maid.
One afternoon Atul’s mom had gone out leaving the boy and his grandpa alone in the house. He was playing computer game in his room and totally forgot about the old man. It was already 4-30pm. When he came down and peeped in he saw his grandpa opening a peda box that he must have taken from the fridge. He went to him and told him “Dadaji, you could have called me and asked me to fetch. Never mind let me also join you. I am also very hungry like you.” They finished the five pedas in the box.
It was around 7pm Atul heard his mother shouting at the top of her voice “Nothing is safe in this house. How can one lock the fridge whenever we go out?” She called “Atul, did you eat the box full of pedas I had kept in the fridge. I wanted to send them to my mom. It is missing. I am sure you would not have touched it. Who would have stolen this except the ever hungry gluttons in this wretched house?”
Atul shouted back in anger “Don’t talk without knowing. I was feeling hungry and looked for cookies. Nothing was there in the fridge except the pedas and I took them and shared with Dadaji too. What is wrong in it? There were only five pieces and not a box full as you are alleging. Yes, you can call me a hungry glutton or by whatever name you like. It was 5pm then and Dadaji hadn’t had his tea also. I hate your shouting all the time indirectly at him. I do not like to stay in this house anymore.”
The old man in his room heard the boy taking the blame on himself to protect him from the mouthful of rubbish. He wiped the tears trickling from his eyes. After a little while the boy entered the room and said “Dadaji, I have not been truthful but it was done for a good purpose” The old man hugged him tightly and kissed his forehead. “Come to me first in the morning before others come to my room. Do you understand, my little buddy?” The boy laughed and ran away
The next morning when Atul woke up earlier than usual, he remembered dadaji’s request and rushed to his side. He was sleeping quite unusually at this hour. Atul nudged him softly initially and then harder. It dawned quickly on his young mind that dadaji’s time had come.

Friday, May 8, 2009

An internet romance

Anita had a blog and posted daily her stray thoughts, happenings around, some nice quotes and even small verses she composed. She used to spend an hour daily in the night on the blog. She loved the comments left behind by the visitors. She wrote to a few who she felt had a special word for her. Gradually her circle of friends expanded leading to exchange of mails. She never dreamt that she would meet Arjun through this medium. She liked his camaraderie with his remark “Anita dear, your blog is superb. Lucky that I stumbled on it and hope to build a great friendship.” What began as posting of comments on each other’s blog blossomed into a torrent of emails and online chats. It was no longer an hour in the night before her desktop but spread throughout the day. Anita learnt that he was a young unmarried engineer around 28 working in a big IT company drawing handsome salary.Arjun came to know from her that she was a Chartered Accountant working in a MNC and came from a well to do business family. Though they chatted online daily Anita did not agree to use of webcam. Cupid worked overtime and they were madly in love with each other.
What were flirtatious chats soon turned into passionate expressions of love sick couple. She could not get him off her mind. He had been suggesting for the last two months that they should meet which Anita was avoiding. He had sent a mail in the evening that he can no longer wait and that both must meet to carry their relationship to logical end. He had said categorically that he would not accept a no from her. She tossed and turned in her bed all night with fantasies of being his wife in his bed. Her determination yielded to her burning desire to meet and hug him. She agreed to meet him at a restaurant at 4pm near her office. It was not a crowded place and he had informed her that he had reserved the corner table at the rear by the side of a large French window..She was both excited and nervous about the outcome. They haven’t seen each other and had mental expectations of a pleasant face and figure.
When she went sharp at4pm and was led to the table, she was surprised at the bouquet of red roses on the table. He was no there. She was very much impressed at his thoughtfulness. She sat there waiting for him. It was 4.10pm.He was still not there. Luckily as she had a call on her mobile from her mom, she did not notice the delay. Within a few moments, a tall handsome man came and introduced himself as Arjun.She was very much impressed though he looked older in his early thirties but was much more than her expectations.Arjun too never expected such a beautiful young lady, tall and slim with bobbed hair in a jeans and Tshirt. He extended his hand and they shook warmly for a long time unaware of the amused stares from the adjacent tables. As he sat down he said” Wow, I must have seen a fox early in the morning to be lucky to meet such a ravishing beauty like you.Hey, what do you think of me? Am I presentable and do I kindle romantic interest in me?” She liked his affable ways and the easy familiarity displayed. She replied “Why, you are the hunk most women would fall for” and giggled.
They ordered two large lassi and paper masala ghee roast. He held her hands tightly as desire surged through him with the thought that she will be his in a few days. He whispered softly “I love you. Will you marry me?”Anita who was nervous initially had a rush of confidence and thrill as she heard him propose. She could not take her eyes off him as she said “I will broach this matter to my parents. I am certain they would be pleased.”
It was then a woman of around fifty with a boy of twelve and a younger girl materialized before them as they came out of the wash room. The woman came straight to Arjun and put her hand on his shoulders as she asked “Chellappa, what are you doing here? Where are your wife and children? Is this lady your colleague?” Arjun sat stupefied and stunned as if he had been hit by a sledge hammer. The boy snuggled close to him saying “Mama, you promised to get me a cricket bat. You have forgotten” The little girl asked the woman “Who is this aunty?”
Anita shocked at the new development stood up and said in uncontrollable anger “You cheater.Fie on you. If you ever contact me again, bear in mind that I will call the police” as she stomped out in anger

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Justice done

Lalitha and Sindhu were great friends. It was only three years since Sindhu had moved into this posh complex.Lalitha was in the floor just above hers. Their friendship began in the lift when it broke down once for a few minutes when they were alone in it together. Lalitha had no child though she was in her mid thirties. She worked as a teacher in a prestigious school. Her husband, she had said, worked as a consultant and not infrequently worked from home. They looked decent. Lalitha spoke less but was a good listener. She was god fearing, soft spoken, compassionate and had strong value system being a teacher.Sindhu on the other hand was bubbly in nature, loquacious and loved to talk on all subjects and liked making new friends. They were so different yet they liked each other. They became very close sharing all personal, went together daily for walk in the complex in the evenings and spent the free time chatting.
They had a common day time servant, a middle aged woman, till recently. But she left the work in Lalitha’s house without giving any reasons but continued with Sindhu.All the attempts by Lalitha to ascertain the reason for her refusal did not succeed. Even Sindhu tried but the woman did not budge. It was then Lalitha got a thirteen year Manju to work full time from morning 6am to 6pm. Manju was a hardworking sprightly girl and soon earned the confidence and affection of Lalitha. She got her new dresses, a pair of slippers and some tinsels. The girl helped her do all jobs though Lalitha did the cooking herself. She left the house in her care even when her husband was not at home.
It was one afternoon around 2pm Sindhu relaxed in her bed after the daily chores with an unfinished novel in hand. It was then she heard loud knocks repeatedly at her door. She rushed and opened the doors and was shocked to see Manju crying hoarsely and attempting to push past her to enter the flat. She said “Amma, let me in immediately and close the door.”Even as she let her in and was closing the door, she heard the noise of someone climbing down the stairs from the floor above. Sindhu asked her,” My God,Why what happened? Why are your clothes torn and hair disheveled? Tell me why you are crying? Did you open the door for anyone and did anyone harass you?”
She said “No, I did not open the door” and went on sobbing inconsolably without talking.Sindhu inquired ”Who is there in the house presently? Have you left the door open?” She mumbled “Uncle is there” and cried more.Sindhu thought something untoward must have happened and asked her “Do not fear. I am like your elder sister or mom. Tell me what happened. Why are your clothes torn and crumpled and your hair disturbed? Tell me the truth. Did anyone try to harm you?”
When she continued to keep quiet, Sindhu said “Unless you tell what happened clearly, people will think you were also a party to the incident. It is safe to confide in me.’ This did the trick.
The girl said”I am afraid, amma.Uncle tried to molest me. One week earlier, when he tried to touch my cheeks and pull me towards him, I told Lalitha amma.After talking to her husband, she told me that he was just patting me for being a good girl and that I should not talk disrespectfully like that. Ever since I was afraid to stay at home alone when he was there. But he came stealthily behind me today, closed my mouth with his hand and took me to the air-conditioned bed room and tried to force himself on me. My shouts were not heard as the windows and doors were closed. He almost succeeded in his wretched act, when I found the table lamp by my side. I hit him hard on his head and when he released his hands from me for a moment I came running to you. Please help me. I do not want to go into that house again.”
When Sindhu asked her whether any damage had been done, she replied that she could luckily extricate at the very last moment.Sindhu was in a fix as she had to act quickly. She was for a moment torn between two minds-her friendship to Lalitha and justice to this hapless girl. May be she may lose the friendship for ever but that did not deter her from rushing the girl to the nearest nursing home. She had the girl examined for attempted rape. The doctor found enough evidence with scratches and other clues of an attempt at criminal assault. The doctor advised a day’s rest for the girl for the shock and trauma the girl had suffered and gave her a sedative to sleep. She called the police inspector and gave him the details and about their presence in the nursing home. Soon Lalitha’s husband was taken into custody for questioning along with doctor’s report.
Sindhu dared not meet Lalitha. In the evening when Sindhu was sitting dejected at the unfortunate happening and thinking of the impact it would have had on Lalitha, she heard a knock. When she opened the door, she found Lalitha standing with a grim face. She sat on the sofa and said “Sindhu, do not be worried. I would have done the same thing as you did.. He was a scoundrel and I had warned him to keep his dirty hands off the girl when he tried his mischief. I am at fault. I should not have left Manju alone with this wolf. It serves him right. I am glad that nothing untoward has happened to Manju and she could escape in the last moment. He had to have his head stitched. I feel the earlier servant left for this reason only. Sindhu, I am proud of your acting in the right way to render justice to the young girl uninfluenced by our friendship. Trust me, you will remain my friend forever.”
Kpartha12@hotmail.com