This was written four years back
Ranganathan a director in a consulting and engineering firm lived in the company’s sprawling fully air conditioned flat with several bedrooms in Alipore. He had a small family of wife and two children studying in college. As an executive in his department I had gone to his residence on a few occasions. A very jovial and friendly person, he had a good name in the company for delivering results. He grew up in ordinary circumstances at Srirangam near Trichy.He studied on scholarships being a bright student and rose to the present level by dint of hard work. His wife is from an affluent family and the only daughter of her aged parents who were also living with Ranganathans.
I had some official work during Deepavali time at Trichy.I always avail such opportunities to visit the famous temple at Srirangam.My boss rang me and said” I learn you are leaving for Trichy tomorrow morning. I need a favour? Drop in at my place after 7pm.I will give you an addressed envelope containing some money to be delivered to my mom at Srirangam.”
In the evening when I went the entire family was watching TV. After pleasantries, he came up to the gate and took an envelope from his pocket and gave me. It seemed to me as if he was doing this unknown to his family. He said ”Tell my mom that I am extremely sorry for not visiting her for long, that I am tied up with work and that I will snatch sometime soon to visit her.”
It was two days more for Deepavali.I had finished my work and was to return after visiting Srirangam temple. I went in the morning to the address given on the envelope and enquired about Ranganayaki ammal, my boss’s mother. One girl of about ten in a skirt (pavadai) who was skipping a rope took me inside the house thro a narrow passage to the dilapidated rear portion of the house. The room was locked.The girl said “Uncle, patti (grandma) must have gone to a house close by.If it is urgent I can show you the way.” She made the gratuitous remark “.Do you know that patti being poor works hard by making sweets and savouries for Deepavali?
’I could not believe what she said till I saw the lady in her late seventies when the girl brought her outside a house that was a little away. She was frail bent and emaciated in an old faded nine yards cotton sari tied in a traditional manner. The poverty was evident.I was shocked and rendered speechless by the pathetic sight. Still doubting about the correct identity, I asked her, “Patti, are you Kolkata Ranganathan’s mother?” When she nodded her head in affirmative, I added “I have a cover for you from him”
There was a trace of a faint and tired smile in her face. She asked “What is your name? Are Rangan and his family keeping well?” I nodded my head and told her how Ranganathan was feeling bad at not being able to meet her for long and that he would find time amidst the busy schedule to pay a visit to her soon.”
She replied “It is okay. Tell him not to worry about me. If my son Rangan is not here with me, there is the Lord Ranganatha Himself here to take care of me.”
When I gave her the envelope, she asked me to open it. I found five thousand rupees inside. When I gave her, she took them from my hands and asked me ” Have you visited the temple? You must hurry if not.”
When I told her that I was on my way to the temple, she asked me.”Can you kindly drop this money in the hundi at Sri Ranganatha’s shrine? I will pray from here for the good health and happiness of my Rangan and his family. You see, I am having arthritis problem and unable to walk much. I have also one request to make. Please do not mention about where you saw me or about arthritis to Rangan.Tell him I am hale and hearty and that he can take his own time to come.“ She asked me to wait and brought for me two hot Jangris t she must have been making in the hot kitchen for some family.
Tears welled up in my eyes as I took leave of this noble lady in poor circumstances but had not a single complaint to make of her ungrateful and inconsiderate son wallowing in wealth.. I was struck by her concern for his well being in her offering the entire amount to the temple though it would have been of great help to her. I developed a deep dislike at that very moment for my heartless boss. Her bent figure and gentle face lingered in my mind long after I took my plane to Kolkata.