Tuesday, June 29, 2010

On the brink

I was on the terrace of a 14 floor building that housed my former office.There was no difficulty in entering the building as I was thrown out of my job only recently six weeks back and I am known well to security..I looked down at the busy road.The cars, buses and people looked tiny crawling like ants.It gave giddiness when I looked down for long.My life has been a total failure and would soon come to an end.The fall from over 150 feet would mean instant death, no pain and no agony.Total freedom from worries.I have come to this decision after a lot of deliberation.There is no going back.

I had no professional skill.I was doing clerical job in the accounts department till they gave the pink slip..Jobs were not aplenty.I climbed the stairs of countless number of offices only to draw a blank.I had taken some loans from friends and others.They started pressurizing once they knew I lost my job.They have become abusive in their language.I wish to put an end to this misery and can think of no other way.

Sita would no doubt be shattered.A good wife she had been and stood by me through thick and thin.Life had been hard for her with my low paid job and three children.The last one Neena just seven years was unplanned and an accident.I have never been able to get for Sita even a gram of gold after her marriage to me.She never grumbled.The thought of leaving her with the burden hurt me.The terminal benefit that was not much after adjusting for the loans taken would not last long.She was a teacher in a school before marriage and may have to find a job after I am gone.

“Why do you worry so much?If you do not get the job, I will work as a teacher.You take care of the kids and your aged mom.Get out of the depression.Come with me to the Ganesh temple at the end of road.He will surely show us the way” Sita had said in the morning.

“Let me visit some offices.We can go in the evening to the temple.Sorry Sita I have become useless.”I had said

“Tut, tut.Stop this whining.You are not the only one to lose the job.There are so many who have not even got their first job and much worse than us.We are not sick.We can find some way.Have faith in God”she admonished

Poor thing,she did not know my whole financial situtaion.Loan taken on the small flat for which instalments are in arrears,the private creditors after me,the bleak job market and above all my diffidence to face the situation.I love her most.I love my children.My aged mom dotes on me.I would not like to leave them. But I dread the recovery agents set upon me who wait for me to come out of the house.No,I cannot bear the mental torture.

As I stood on the parapet wall, the cool wind blew over my face. I looked down.It was no longer scary.But I wished to have one last look at the photo of my wife and the kids.As I fumbled in my pocket for it I found a paper from a school note book folded neatly addressed to Dear Papa in crayon.It was from my daughter Neena.I opened it”Dear Papa,Next week is my birthday.You had promised a Teddy bear.I have changed my mind.I do not need it or anything.It is enough if we all sit together and play.It is very long since we did it.That would be my birthday gift.I love you most.Affectionately Neena”

Tears flowed from my eyes.I instantly decided that I would not take the extreme step but give my life a try.Suddenly there was a big gust of wind upsetting my balance and I fell down off the ledge.”Neenaaaa….” I shouted as I fell down.When I opened my eyes after what seemed an eternity I found I was lying on the terrace.Thanking God,I rushed home like a mad man to be with Sita and my children.
kpartha12@gmail.com


Saturday, June 26, 2010

True love

I was foolish in loving a man only for his handsome looks, strong physique and easy camaraderie.It was a case of blind love without knowing the real man.Within three months and after a few dates I could see that he was not the guy I would be comfortable with.I could sense that he was highly possessive and suspicious type and that would just be a torture in a long term relationship.He was sadistic by nature hurting those poorly placed with a fiery temper to boot..I broke away from him before any damage could be done.It was then his real nature manifested.A jealous type, he would not allow me to move away from him.He made a vieled threat that I would regret for life if I chose to leave him for someone else.I had no specific friend then.But I was determined to leave him and stopped seeing him or answering his calls.He tried his best but I stood firm unyielding to his threats.

It was then after a few months I met Rajesh in my cousins’s marriage.She introduced him telling that I would be grateful to her for the introduction.There was nothing extraordinary about his looks or physical structure but his face exuded certain warmth rarely seen.He was a pleasant guy and made intelligent and humourous conversation.He made me feel at home in his presence.True to my cousin’s assurance, he turned out to be the Mr.Right I was looking for..After a short period of friendship, we tied the knot and moved in to our new house.

It was all hunky dory and care free days for a few months..I had forgotten totally the wicked man and had not reckoned with his sinister ways.It was a few months after my marriage as I was coming out of my office around 7pm when there were not many people on the side lane where our exit gate was situated, someone threw a tin can at my face..There was searing pain and intense burning. .I fell down screaming in pain before I lost consciousness. It was only when I recovered at the hospital I knew I had lost one eye and suffered severe burn injuries on one side of my face.I knew I would no longer possess a charming face and would have to live a life of shame and embarassment due to physical scarring.I knew who the culprit was and it took no time to take him into custody.

The doctors and surgeons did their best but could only salvage.My face was disfigured on one side.I left my job.More than the physical trauma, the mental agony was unbearable..Friends gradually stopped visiting me..It was only Rajesh who stood by me through the worst days.But I felt a deep pity for him.Six months after the incident, I was in the bath room taking a shower.When I saw my ugly face that can only cause revulsion, I decided upon the course of action that I felt was right.

Rajesh was lying in the bed reading a book.I went near him and said ”Rajesh, I have made up my mind.I am serious.I would willingly grant you divorce.You do not have to suffer the rest of your life by seeing a despicable face and cowering in shame while taking me out.I would miss you no doubt but I cannot hold you for my comfort.”

He stood up and hugged me as he wiped the tears from my eyes. “Foolish girl, I did not marry you for your beauty alone.True you were charming to look at.But that is not the only thing I like in you.Ours is a life time commitement of love and relationship.What happened to you could have happened to me too.Would you have left me then? Forget it.I am taking a month’s vacation and have already booked our stay at a hill station.I love you with the same inetensity as on the day I first met you.Do not ever raise this topic again.Come on give me a tight hug”

Grateful tears flowed from my eyes even as we were in warm embrace and as he kissed me on the scarred cheek.I could realise his depth of love and the strong commitment for me..The scar on my face may be permanent but no longer worried me and the worry in my heart had vanished. .’How blessed I am” I gratefully acknowledged to God

“The only genuine love worthy of a name is unconditional.”

Friday, June 25, 2010

The costly gaffe

When Sekhar mentioned over morning coffee that he will be away at Washington for two days on official work, Veena demurred.She had never stayed alone in this place.Her house in Fort Lauderdale was independent though with many adjoining houses on both sides. She was by nature timid.

Sekhar said with finality ”Look honey, I cannot put off this tripI will leave tomorrow morning and will try to be away just for one night.I will be back by day after tomorrow night, you can be sure.You have to get adjusted to staying alone.There is absolutely no fear here.”
Veena woke up with a start when she heard a heavy truck pass through the road.Without moving she looked at the clock it was 1 am.Her child was fast asleep on the tiny cot by the side of their king size bed .When she opened her eyes fully and looked around , she was shocked to find a dark silhoutte of a man standing by the side of door .The room was dark as Veena never liked even the night light in her room as it disturbed her sleep.The street light that found its way through the curtained windows was adequate.It was clearly a tall young man and must be a burglar as he had no business to intrude in her bedroom at this hour.She did not move and had her eyes almosts closed as if she was asleep.She cursed Sekhar for having left her alone.The figure came close to the child and stood staring for a couple of minutes at the child and towards Veena.It then slowly tiptoed to another room.

Veena making sure the figure was not there, jumped out of the bed and locked the door.She rang up 911 seeking help.In a few minutes she heard four police cars with coloured lights blinking screeching to halt outside her house.There was dazzling light from the cars.She gained confidence when she saw through the curtain of the window the policemen approaching the door.As sh e was waiting for the bell to ring, she heard voices in the living room

“You say you didn’t call us.But we got the panic message clearly with this address.Who else are there in the house?” asked one of the policeman in gruff tone.

“My wife and childare sleeping on the first floor.There must be some mistake some where.”Veena heard someone telling

When she came down, she saw Sekhar and understood what had really happened.She explained to the policemen how she mistook the shadowy figure for some burglar as her husband was supposed to come only the next day.There were profuse apologies by Sekhar for the surprise he wanted to give his wife and the loud laughter at the gaffe as the policemen left.

“Why are you angry? I thought you will be happy at my return. I saw you both asleep and did not want to disturb.So I came to the living room and reading the unfinished novel.Come up and let us go to bed”said Sekhar

One month later Sekhar had to go to Newyork for one day.He promised to come back by next day evening.Veena was half asleep as she felt she heard her child making some noise.She found the child sleeping soundly.The clock struck 2 am.When she turned to the other side, she found the dark shadow standing near the door.Not to be taken in by her husband’s trick again, she smiled and said”I know you will come.I am waiting for you.Come and lie down by my side”

The shadow stood for a moment and then hesitantly moved towards her bed.

Sekhar was snoring heavily in his room on the 7th floor of Sheraton Manhattan at Newyork.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The young man's impulse

“Vasu, please hurry to the hospital.The blood bank wants six units of blood that your grandpa would need for his heart surgery.There was a call last evening.Find out whether any of your friends are willing to donate.I will be going to hospital after the chores in the house.Do not wait for me” his mother was loudly telling from the kitchen
Vasu knew she was very much tensed about her dad’s health.Grandpa is staying with them after grandma’s demise a few years ago.A disciplinarian with traditional values grand pa was generally critical of Vasu’s carefree and leisurely ways.Vasu liked to sleep on holidays till 10 am but grand pa would come from 7 am to his room and make noise to wake him up.He believed in the dictum ‘Lie with the lamb and rise with the lark’ and in early morning baths while Vasu took his bath in the later afternoons after lunch on holidays.Nothing that he did was acceptable to his grand pa.There were constant clashes when mom would intervene and tell her dad to leave the young Vasu alone.As far as possible Vasu kept away from grand pa though he could not stop him from coming to him.
When Vasu reached the hospital, he saw in grandpa’s cabin his uncle talking to the chief cardiologist.He waited till the doctor left. It transpired that on second thoughts the doctor would not recommend surgery keeping in mind the latest reports showing some new development in his health and would instead try just medication for some months.
His uncle told Vasu “I do not see the need for blood.You may go to blood bank and cancel your appointment for their drawing your blood.You may come here thereafter and relieve me so I could go home.”
When Vasu went to the blood bank and had the appointment cancelled, he saw an old lady in conversation with the nurse in charge.She did not look affluent and appeared drawn from lower middle class.The nurse said “Your husband would need minimum eight units of blood.His blood group is also not the common variety.Kindly arrange to bring some donors.Otherwise you may have to buy the blood and this may be costlier than others.”’
I have only a daughter who herself is not well off.I do not know anyone who would be willing to give blood.I asked some of my neighbours .They are reluctant I think though they are not refusing openly.I really do not know where to go for help” she started sobbing.
Vasu who has never experienced any difficulty in life was moved at the pitiable plight of the old woman.He went on an impulse to her and said “Patti (grandma), do not worry.I will give my blood right now. I came to give my blood for my grand pa.What if, if the blood is not for him but for another grandpa?”
He asked the nurse to draw the blood.To her surprise Vasu’s blood group matched the old man’s unusual group.After the formalities and blood was drawn he took leave of them.He rushed to his uncle but did not tell him why he was held up.
The story did not end there.The next day the same elderly nurse at the blood bank was surprised to see in the morning Vasu standing before her with seven friends of his and asking her to draw blood from them on the account of the old lady for whom he had given blood the previous day.All the youngsters in fine health were beaming with smile at the new experience of donating their blood.
She said” I have seen people bringing relatives and friends to donate blood for their relatives who are patients.This is the first time I see a young man bringing with him a gang of his friends to give blood for someone whom he does not know, whom he has not seen and whom he may not see.I am so happy with you.Your mom is indeed blessed to have a son like you.I will tell the old lady when she comes here.You have wiped the tears off her eyes.”
"The purpose of life is not to be happy - but to matter, to be productive, to be useful, to have it make some difference that you have lived at all"

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The cruel cycle

He was not even 12 years old.There was the innocence of the baby in his eyes that were at once distant and vacant.He had brought the provisions from the local grocery stores.He was in shorts with a tight and torn T shirt that he had outgrown.It was very hot and the sun was blazing mercilessly.As I gave him the money,I asked him to wait.I gave him a glass of cool buttermilk to drink even as I asked him his name.Santosh was surprised and hesitant as he was not accustomed to people talking kindly to him.He became free from the next trips he came to deliver groceries and I could see the trace of smile and recognition in his face.

I learned that he was one among the seven boys who had come to Chennai from a Southern village.They stay in one room that is actually a shed covered by asbestos sheets with no fan on the first floor of the shop owner’s house.They were drawn from owner’s village or nearby ones from poor families.Some remittance is made monthly to the parents.They pass off as relatives of the owner but they are really child workers.

I asked one day Santosh to tell me what his daily routine was.

“We get up at four am start filling the various items of groceries in 250gms, 500 gms and one kilo packets upto 6am.We then have our bath and gruel made of broken rice before we go to the shop that is opened at 7am.We work up to 12 noon delivering goods at various homes in cycle or working in the shop.We then have our lunch of sambar rice or lemon rice or tomato rice sent from owner’s home and rest upto 1pm.There are not many people coming to shop then.”

“Is the food adequate? Are there any ny vegetables along with rice? I ask

“They give enough rice. Vegetables are put in sambhar.Once a week they send briyani.We cannot complain.We will get beaten if we are late in getting up or complain that we are not well.If we are very sick, we are taken to local government ESI hospital” he replied

How long do you work? Do you get weekly holiday?” I ask

“I am here for the last one year.Sunday afternoons we do not work.The shop closes daily at 10pm but we remain there till 1030 pm cleaning the premises before we return home for dinner at 11pm”he said

“You would hardly be sleeping even for four hours.Is there TV in your room though you do not have time watch it?”

“No TV.Once a month the owner sends us to see cinema’

“How much your parents get each month?” I asked

“I do not know.May be Rs500 after adjusting for food and lodging” said the boy.

How cruel I thought to extract unconscionably heavy work for almost 18 hours a day in conditions that cannot be termed human.I was disgusted with our legal system and the grossly inadequate enforcement machinery in tackling child labour especially when the parents of the victims are wiling accomplices to the cruelty.But the acute poevrty in villages blunts the finer sentiments.

“What class you have studied? What is your aim in life?” I asked

Pat came the reply.”Class four. In ten years I will set up a similar shop elsewhere and bring boys like my owner from my village to help me become a successful and rich businessman.”

“Where will you get the money for starting the new business” I asked

“My owner would advance some money for setting up the shop when we become 25 years.We would repay him over a period of time.Many boys who worked earlier have set up their own shops and are thriving well” he said

It was downright child labour alright but I could not fail to discern a kindly heart behind at the way the owner makes prototypes of successful businessmen like himself.He probably makes them undergo the same hardhips that he went through when he was young.The cycle would go on.I was in a quandary whether to condemn or praise him.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Shanthi’s indiscretion

The annual examinations were going on.It was 10.45am.The headmistress was taking a round .She stopped at the hall where class 11 examinations were being held, when she saw the Ms.Mary craning her neck anxiously looking at the long corridor from the door of the hall.

The HM asked her, “What is the matter? The examination is on.Why are you at the door instead of keeping a watch in the hall?”

“Madam, one girl Shanthi has not yet come for the examination.It is already 10-45 am.I know she is a studious girl but from a poor family.I was just checking whether she was coming” replied Mary

“It is ok.Let me go to my room and telephone her house and find out,” she said and hurried her way to her office.The assistant got her home number and gave the phone to HM.

“I am HM speaking.Shanthi has not yet reached the examination hall.The examination has begun 30 minutes ago", said HM

Sorry madam, Shanthi died last night” said some voice.

“What! What are you talking? She attended the examination yesterday also.Who are you? Give the receiver to her parents or brothers.”

“I am Shanthi’s uncle.She hung herself last night.The reasons are not known to us.She was weak in mathematics and was afraid of taking the examination. Foolish girl! The cremation will take place by the evening after police gives clearance” said the voice.

It was like a sledge hammer blow to HM Her thoughts went along the lines.Why should a young girl commit suicide all of a sudden? Was there any untoward incident yesterday? Being weak in mathematics did not sound a good reason.She decided to probe into it further.She went to the examination hall and asked the girls to meet her at 1pm after the examination.

“Shanthi had committed suicide by hanging last night.What did Shanthi do after her examination yesterday?Did she tell any one of you that she was afraid of taking mathematics test/Did she accompany any one of you on her way to her house.Think carefully and tell me the truth”asked HM when the girls met her.

The girls saw one another but remained silent.The HM was annoyed.”Am I to assume that none of you saw Shanthi after the examination? How was she in Mathematics?”

One girl said”Shanthi was average in maths but good in all other subjects.She used to get 50 to 60% in maths but score above 80% in all other subjects.”

“That is good. But tell me, what did she do after writing the examination yesterday?” asked HM

There was again silence and none of the girls came up to say anything making it evident they were hiding something.

She prodded them again telling that she would not reveal their names under any circumstances. Then there was a chorus of voices telling "Suresh Sir, maths teacher, asked Shanthi to come with him to the staff room and that he would give her some last minute tips for tackling today’s examination.When she was hesitant and looked at us to accompany her Suresh sir said that he would assist only Shanthi as she was weak and that other girls need not come. Shanthi followed him reluctantly.We waited for 30 minutes and when she did not turn up we left for home.We do not know what happened subsequently.”

HM asked the girls not to speak to anyone about this and to go home.When she sent for Suresh, she was told that he had not turned up.She recollected some complaint about two years back against him for touching a girl inappropriately.She decided not to let the matter rest there.She rang up Shanthis house asking for her father to speak to her.When he came on the line, she narrated what she had learnt and that he should insist on medical examination and lodge a compalint about his suspicion that someone could have molested the girl.

The medical examination revealed attempts of a criminal assault.Suresh was rounded up from his native place.The interrogation revealed about his misbahviour with the girl when she refused to cooperate with him even when he lured her with centum in maths paper.He was arrested.

What was amazing in the whole episode was that Suresh happened to be the brother of HM and that she did not allow the relationship to cloud her decision to take matters to logical end..How many such people are there in our permissive and corrupt society??? I wonder!


Thursday, June 10, 2010

The party at Pizza Hut

Meena had overslept after seeing Indian Idol late in the night and it was past 7am when she woke up.Her husband Nataraj would be leaving for office by 8.15am and the breakfast should be ready.Milk was not yet delivered.She took the only packet available from the fridge and boiled it for making coffee.It curdled to her dismay..The maid had abstained the previous evening and was yet to come.The vessels were in the sink unwashed.To add to the misery the power went off suddenly..The day had not begun well for Meena.She was fretting and fuming at Kavitha her maid for playing truant repeatedly and decided to tell her to stop coming if she cannot be regular.

Her daughter Neena and son Kartik were still sleeping blissfully being holidays.Her husband was busy with his mobile opposite to the TV and asking Meena now and then to bring coffee, his specs or his diary. The last straw was when the gas was over in the cylinder needing to replace.She started shouting “I am not a slave in this house to slog while others enjoy sleeping or watching TV.My parents have not sent me here as an unpaid servant.I am not making any breakfast.Let them order from Saravana Bhavan or anywhere if they need to eat.”

Nataraj shouted”Meena, talk slowly.Don’t you see I am on phone? Someone is ringing the bell..Please answer and keep ready the flowers for the puja.”

“I am on strike.You can do your things.I am not the only one to answer the bell.Ask your children to get up and do the needful.I am having severe headache and I am going to lie down.If Kavita does not come,let them order food from caterers” she replied

Nataraj left for office in a huff without taking breakfast.The children woke up in the noise but were afraid to come near their mom.It was around 9.30 am when Kavita made her appearance along with a sob story that her husband took ill suddenly and had to be taken to hospital.When she saw Meena buying her story, she requested Meena to advance her Rs.1000 towards medical expenses.Meena flatly refused saying that she had more than two months salary as advance already.

Kartik was telling his sister that he needed Rs. 1000 for the treat ,a lunch at Pizza Hut, he had promised his friends for being a topper in the class and he was afraid to broach the subject to mom in her present mood.He sought her help to get the money for him from mom.

When Meena started shouting at the two for being lazy and late in rising from bed, Neena thought it prudent not to talk about the money Kartik needed.Meena being a good natured person could not deny the advance the maid had wanted.She kept Rs. 1000 on the dining table to be given to Kavita after she had finished the work.She went to rest after asking the local caterer to send food for lunch.

Kavita finished her work quickly and left in an angry mood that her request for advance was turned down.Neena was not aware that money was kept on the dining table to be given to Kavita.
When Neena was taking bath Kartik found Rs. 1000 on the table and thinking it was kept for him he pocketed it and was thankful to Neena for getting it from mom.

When Kavita came in the afternoon and pleaded with Meena for the advance, she shouted”How dare you ask again after taking Rs.1000 kept on the dining tablein the morning?What do you think we are?”

“What Rs.1000, amma? What are you talking about?I have not taken any.’she replied

“Neena, where is the money I had kept on the table for Kavita?”asked Meena

“How would I know? You never told me of any money kept on table.Ask your son?” she retorted

The bell rang then.Kartik was seen entering the house laughing along with his friends after a hearty meal of Pizza ,Pasta, garlic bread and coke.He was surprised to see the angry face of his mom and the quizzical smile on his sister’s face.He asked her innocently ”Hi,wassup?”

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Marriages are made in heaven

Ramanathan was trying frantically to find a match for his son Suresh who was expected from Boston in a fortnight’s time.Suresh was not keen to get married and was always pleading that it can wait.Nevertheless Ramanathan wished to keep in readiness a few girls for Suresh to choose from when he came.He had been telling friends and relatives. Suresh after his doctoral programme has been working at MIT, Boston

One day when Ramanathan was at Kapaleeswarar temple which he frequented, the priest introduced him to one Subramayam saying”It is God’s grace that both of you are here at the same time.Ramanathan, my friend Subramanyam is a staunch devotee of Kapaleeswara and I know him for several years.He has a daughter in America and he has been asking to suggest some suitable match for her.I think your son would suit her eminently.I have seen her and your son.Both would form an ideal pair,”

He turned to Subramanyam and said “Subrmanyam, Ramanathan is very well known to me.His son also is in America and would be here very soon.You both talk to each other.Many devotees are waiting for darsan.I will get busy with my work”

Subramnayam’s daughter Vanita it transpired was also in Boston studying at the same MIT.What a good augury. Both of them felt as if it was ordained by God that they meet here on this day and finalize the match.The other parameters like age, qualification, birth and star were all agreeable.Both the two old gentlemen took an instant liking for one another and desired they became closer through this alliance. Luckily Vanita was already in India for a month..

They met the priest and thanked him telling” it is through your thoughtful kindness and God’s grace that we could meet.We strongly desire that this alliance should fructify.We will now hasten matters from our sides.We will keep you informed of the developments.”

The horoscopes were exchanged and the compatibility checked .They duly informed their respective offsprings about the developments at the temple and expected them to comply with their parents’ wish without demur subject ofcourse to their liking one another.

The two friends met frequently at each other’s place planning where and how the wedding was to be celebrated.Some tentative dates were chosen keeping in mind the availability of marriage halls.They were already discussing on the choice of a good caterer.They were just waiting for the formality of the ‘boy meeting the girl’ to be over and had little doubt as both were good looking, talented and working in the same place.What better coincidence does one need, they thought.

Both Suresh and Vanita resisted initially the attempts of their respective parents to fix the ‘boy meeting the girl’ occasion but gave in to the relentless emotional blackmail.When finally on the appointed day Suresh along with his parents met Vanita at her place, the parents were very happy that things are moving to the desired outcome.

Both of the young things met separately in one room exchanging information.Suresh was surprised that even though he was on the faculty of the same institute, he had not seen her or heard about her.They decided to meet again at a restaurant and expressed their wish to the parents who were no doubt delighted .What was supposed to be one meeting extended to five meetings on different days much to the glee of the parents to what looked like both of them enjoying each others company.

Both Suresh and Vanita discussed many matters of common interest and finally decided to convey their decision to their respective parents.

The marriages took place though after two months with the venue being Boston instead of Mylapore in Chennai.Suresh married Lynda a co-faculty member and Vanita married Mark her guide in the institute.Ramanathan and Subramanyam, it is learned, are not on talking terms and had not visited Kapaleeswarar temple since then.

Marriages are made in heaven and not by parents in temples..

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bharathi’s secret

Bharathi and Mukund were a loving couple married for seven years.Their daughter Meghna was five years old.As both were working, They had a full time nanny to look after the girl and also the house.Weekends were fun with outing to some picnic spots, mountains or beach resorts. It was a love marriage when they were colleagues in the same office.She was very beautiful,a picture of grace and talented.Mukund knew that she had no mother.She was however vague about her father telling that he left home when under a great stress and never came back.He did not pursue that subject as he felt she was uncomfortable.Mukund’s father was a rich landlord living in a moffusil town.They were a traditional and conservative family well respected in the society . They were initailly not happy about his son’s choice but chose to give in to his wishes.

Mukund had since left that company and joined elsewhere.The couple spent time together only in the evenings.Life was smooth and happy till one day Mukunds’ aged uncle rang up telling that he saw Bharathi’s car in the morning at Neelankrai and that he had seen her car frequently there. He and his wife being not very far from that place , they had hoped she would drop in some time.Mukund said may be she had been attending some meetings at her company’s guest house.Her uncle said it did not appear to be a guest house but a small T type house just opposite to Aavin milk booth in Neelam colony, a housing board complex. He assured his uncle that he would ask Bharathi to visit them soon.

In the evening he asked her casually how the day was .She replied that it was a tight day since the start of the day till the evening with meetings one after the other.This set him thinking she was hiding something.He could not sleep the whole night as she had never mentioned about her visits to Neelankarai even once.They practically shared daily the day’s experiences in the night.The next day itself he went after lunch to Neelankarai after making sure that Bharathi was in her office.He had no difficulty in locating the house.The door was opened by an elderly person in his sixties.Mukund greeted him and asked”I am sorry to disturb you.I am on the look out for an apartment.I was told by some one reliably that one is available for rent in this area.Are you aware of any such,Sir?”

“Please come in.It is very hot.Would you like a glass of cool water?”he asked

Mukund said “It would be most welcome.It is nice of you.”He ran his eyes around the drawing hall quickly.It was simple with minimum furniture,a TV and a a small showcase on the wall..When he went near to see a photo in it, he found to his great shock the photo of his wife.He was puzzled how come her picture was here as she never told of anyone known to her at Neelankarai.When the old man came with the glass of water he said”That is my daughter.The picture was taken some eight years back.”

“I see.Is she also staying with you?”he asked

“No, she is elsewhere in the city with her husband and child.I am not aware of any apartment vacant in this locality.I shall check and give you a ring if you can give me your number”he said

He thanked him and said it was not necessary as he would put some rental agencies on the job.

In the evening after dinner,when they were watching TV he asked her”Can we discuss something in our bedroom” She gave him a surprised look as he did not seem his exuberant self and was glum ever since he came home.

“Do you know anyone in Neelankarai?” he asked abruptly when they entered the bedroom.

“Why do you ask?” she countered

“Answer my question instead of asking me’he said sharply

“Since when you have been tailing me?I never knew this side of you?”she said

“Since when you do things behind my back?What is your picture doing in someone’ bungalow there?Can you give me a satisfactory explanation, if you care to?”

She was silent for a while.She wiped her eyes before she looked at him.
“So you had been there.How did you know that it was my dad?I had not told you about his shady past as your family is a respectable one.When we married ,he was in jail undergoing imprisonment for misappropriating money by fraudulent means in the bank where he was in charge..My mother died in shame.All his money was forfeited except what was in my mom’s name..It was only about six months back he was released.I settled him there and meet him once a while.He is now a changed man repenting for his foolish crime.He is keeping indifferent health as the incarceration has totally ruined his health.I was afraid to confide in you because of his criminal past.Please excuse me.I have not taken Meghna even once though he has been expressing his wish to see her” she said with tears

Mukund hugged her and said”Honey, you should have taken me into confidence.Don’t you have that trust in me?.It is human nature to make mistake but if it is repented they become normal like any one of us.Come on, let us go now and bring him here to live with us.He can spend his twilight years with his daughter and grandchild”

Bharathi fell at his feet and clasped his knees saying “You are so kind.How fortunate I am to have been blessed with a husband like you.”