Monday, December 31, 2012

The treasure trove

Priya and Ranga finished their dinner early. Their son and daughter were away for a New Year party in the adjacent complex. The couple was before the TV watching some programme that failed to grab their attention.
Ranga asked" Priya, have you thought of any New Year resolution? I know you will laugh when I say I have three ready for me. May be I have failed in the past to adhere to them but this year it would be different"
"Ha ha ha, you and your resolutions!!The ones you resolve over booze, you forget the next day. Never mind, tell me what they are for the coming year. At least they reveal your intentions" Priya said with a giggle.
“Mark me this time. I am dead serious and do not intend to give up for they are important to me. I will tell you on condition you will tell me yours."
"Ok, I am all ears."
"Here they go. First one, I wish to go with you all on a long holiday that may include a Caribbean cruise and for this I will be careful with money and not splurge"
“This seems two resolutions in one. Never mind. Very ambitious, what next?"she prodded
"The second one would be to reduce drastically eating out and have healthy food made at home"
""Mmmm, what is the last?"
The last is not to lose my temper as frequently as I do now and be a little more demonstrative of my love for you" he concluded
"Fiddlesticks, your resolutions are as impossible for you as weeding out corruption in our country” Priya said with a loud laughter
“Can you be a little more specific instead of your usual vague ramblings?"
"I mean you are totally broke and poorer than a church mouse except for the paltry pittance you get each month as salary after all the deductions towards various loans. Where is the money for holiday? What Caribbean, are you day dreaming? As regards the second portion of your first resolution, you are already a miser. What splurge you are talking about? When did you buy for me anything worthwhile for me to show my people with pride? When did we eat out really except for the pani puri in road side shops and alu tikia in the market? We have never gone for ages to a restaurant where you book tables in advance. Have you ever visited a good Chinese, Mexican or Italian restaurant? All you take us to are cheap joints with dirty cutlery and dirtier China with waiters in rags."Priya said in a contemptuous voice.
"You filthy and ungrateful woman, don’t forget your roots. You were raised in a chawl born in a poor family going to free municipal schools. Despite my parents' reluctance I married you because I liked your face. I have given you everything that you would have never dreamt of. What cheek you have to call me a church mouse or a miser, you brat?"Ranga shouted.
"You have proved that you cannot control your mind or tongue and already failed in your third resolution. I have never expected any love, let alone the demonstrative part, from you. I am a drudge in this house out of a sense of duty” Priya said amidst sobbing and went away to the bedroom.
He switched off the TV, drank a glass of water and reclined on the sofa with closed eyes for a while before following her.
"Priya, sorry, I lost my wretched temper. I didn't mean to hurt you. I promise I will try my utmost to control myself, my dear. Please excuse me” he cringed
"It is ok.Nothing new to me. Shall I make a hot cup of drinking chocolate for you?" she asked
"No, no.I want you to tell me what your resolutions are. I assure you that I would not make fun of you" he pleaded
"My resolutions are more in the nature of prayers than any effort by me. I will pray daily for landing on a treasure trove that will fetch us enough money to send the boy and girl to US for further studies. Second one will be to curb my desires and expectations in day to day life. Thirdly, to do some voluntary work and help in finding resources for the orphanage from well to do" she said
"The last one is admirable and the second one is always desirable. Only the treasure trove part seems farfetched. No harm in praying of course .I am indeed blessed to have you" he said as he hugged her.
"Enough now of the demonstrative part of your third resolution” she said with a shy smile
The New Year came and Ranga was as short tempered as he was and the outings continued to be few and far between. The much expected annual raise also turned out to be meagre thanks to downturn in the economy. Life was a dull routine.
Three months later there was a registered letter addressed to Priya Rangan from a solicitor firm. Priya was afraid to open lest it be an ultimatum to pay back the any of the several loans her husband had taken. She had put her signature in many of the loan applications.
In the evening when Ranga read the letter, he jumped in joy.Bewildered; Priya asked him the reason for his exultation.
”Tell me first whether your mom had any brother in Malaysia “ he asked.
“My mom had one brother. He fought with his father over a minor matter and ran away now in his teens from the house. He went to Singapore initially and the family lost touch with him. After several years he had come to our house and I had seen him. I was a young girl then. By then my grandparents had died. Seeing his sister’s indigent circumstances he used to send mom frequent remittances and that was the thing that saw us through. After mom’s demise the contact was lost. Why, is it a letter from him?””
“The letter is from his lawyers. He has left 25% of his wealth to you as he had no children from the Malaysian woman he married. He had left her the balance setting aside some portion for charities. This bequest is a mind boggling amount for us as he was very wealthy” he said incoherently in unexpected joy.
“My mom used to say he was a loving brother but short tempered like you. So I hit a treasure trove thanks to the grace of God. Our dreams are now realizable” she said



Saturday, December 29, 2012

Burden of memory

They had checked in a few hours back at the beach side hotel after a six hour drive. Their two kids looked forward to this trip. The hotel looked grand with all amenities. The kids were jumping with joy as Ambrose got ready to take the kids to the swimming pool. Stella said “You three enjoy but take care. I have some things to buy besides some sweaters for Nancy and Raj. It gets chill in the night. It is 4 pm now and will be back by 6pm."She married ten years back and Ambrose has always been a loving and warm person. She had no complaints.
As she drove the car along the familiar road and saw her college building, her mind went back to her college days. It was here that she did her engineering for four years. It was one of her happiest period in her life made memorable by George, her classmate. Her friendship with him started on a tiff when one day in the first year he jumped the queue in the canteen. Her raspy admonition 'get back to the line' was unexpected and stunning as he was a notorious prankster. He meekly went back smarting under the rebuff but silently admiring her for her grit and beauty.
They were soon great friends. She liked him for his dash, gutsy nature and strong physique. Besides he was in good in studies too. He belonged to this city and was a day scholar while she resided in the college hostel. They fell in love and adored each other. Evenings and weekends were spent together frequently. It was at the end of final semester he took her one day to his home to meet his parents. They were very nice to her and enquired about her parents. George met her the next day early in the morning and announced that his parents were very much impressed with her and surprisingly he proposed to her telling that they can marry after they settled down in life. She accepted and foresaw no objection from her parents.
He took up a good job in a Northern city while she joined a college as lecturer in her own city. They spoke to each other daily and exchanged endless messages. It was well nigh impossible to live without each other. He promised to come in six month's time to marry and take her along with him. Except for the long wait, things were fine till one day she got the devastating news of his being killed in an air crash. She was shattered as all her dreams of a wonderful life with her only love came to naught. Her parents understandingly let her be to overcome the grief.
It was almost a year when she met Ambrose at a family function and his parents approached Stella's for her hand. The marriage took place after gentle persuasion by her mom. Though she liked Ambrose and his caring nature, the thoughts of George held her mind. She was unable to forget him and even saw his image in Ambrose. She knew that was not proper and that she had failed to reciprocate the love of Ambrose in full measure.
"You are always thinking of something and your mind seems far away. Is there anything bothering you for me to set right?" was the frequent refrain from him.
When she confided to her mom how George was still occupying a large space in her heart, she chided her telling that it was a virtual act of betrayal and infidelity and that she should wipe his thoughts completely away from her mind.
It was 4.30 pm and she was at the cemetery where he was buried. She sought the help of the security to locate the tombstone. There were four with same name but the dates of birth and death and mention of air accident in the inscription settled the issue. Obviously his parents were no longer in city as the tombstone lay covered with dry leaves and layers of dust. The space around the place was also dirty. She took a broom and cleaned the place. She swiped clean the tombstone with a bucket of water till the black granite sparkled clean. She laid on it a bouquet of flowers she had brought and knelt before it. She placed her head till the tears from her eyes made the gravestone wet.
Her heart became light and she suddenly found her freedom from the weight in her heart and the mind became free of guilt. She had one last look, said a prayer to Jesus and shed instantly all memories of George. When she returned to the hotel with sweaters, pizza, chocolates for the kids, she felt like she was floating in joy. She hugged the kids and to the great surprise of Ambrose embraced him showering him with smooches to the amused glee of the two kids.
“HeyStella, what has taken possession of you? I have never seen you so happy” he cried in joy
“You’ she said very happily.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The unusual cabby

Jasram was leaning on his yellow coloured Ambassador cab at Howrah station waiting for the last train to come. It was past 11pm.The train from Delhi it seemed was running late. He could not say he had a good day and most of his rides were for short distances that did not fetch him much. As a principle he never asked for more than the metered fare for he considered it a form of begging.Scruplously honest he never tampered with the meter. He had some self made rules. He never refused to take a pregnant woman however short or long the distance may be. He avoided drunken men, gang of troublesome looking youngsters or shady looking couple. He would be happy if he got a foreign tourist or an occasional rich man. The latter type has their cars.
His wife Tara reminded him in the morning that there was no stock of grocery and unless he fetched money the children would go hungry. She said the youngest girl was having fever for two days and had to be taken to some doctor. His elder son told him that the last date for school fee was over ten days back. His mom’s request for a blanket to protect from chillness was remaining unattended for a month. His immediate concern was to earn some money for buying food for family.
He wiped his old car clean and took care of it as if it were his child. He put a lighted joss stick in front of Ma Kali’s picture on the dashboard and said a quick prayer. He saw some quick movement amongst the other drivers towards the station to solicit passengers. The prepaid taxi counter had closed by 10 pm.Jasram heard the hoot of the train and there was a scramble for a vantage position amongst the cabbies to catch the attention of arriving passengers.
Jasram stood a little away from others on the opposite side. The other drivers managed to get passengers and started driving away one by one. When the arriving passengers became a trickle, he got worried and the starving family came to his mind. He quickly prayed again Ma Kali when an elderly gentleman with a suitcase and a bag approached him. He looked tired and unable to pull the box.”Baba, let me take your box and bag. I will take you wherever you want to go. Please come with me and get into the car.”
He opened the door and made him sit comfortably. He kept the box and bag in the boot of the car. As he sat at the wheel and started the car, he asked the elderly passenger “Where am I supposed to take you?”
“Lake market .Once you reach there I will direct you. I have never seen anyone taking a passenger without asking for the destination. You seem a good person”
“Thanks, Baba.I don’t ask normally and today wherever you wished to go I would have taken you” he replied
“What is special today?”
“Since morning I have had only a few rides mostly minimum fare. I need to take some money home. My wife has asked me not to come home without money for buying grocery for kitchen”
“Oh, oh I am sorry to hear about it. Don’t worry. I will pay you two hundred rupees more than fare. I have no family or children and tomorrow is Christmas. Are you in Lake Market area and in which case I can use your cab?”
“No, Baba.Pay me the due fare. I don’t wish to take more”
“I am not feeling well. Let me rest for a while.” he said and took a five hundred rupee note.”Keep this with you. You can return me the balance if any after taking the extra two hundred rupees” and dropped it in front seat by the side of driver.
“Why now itself? What is the hurry?”Jasram protested mildly but found the elderly man resting with closed eye. He did not disturb him as he said he was tired. He tried to pick some conversation when he came near Victoria memorial. But he seemed to be asleep. Again as he crossed Bhowanipore and was nearing Hazra road he asked “Baba, we are nearing Kalighat and will soon be at Lake Market. Wake up to give me directions”
There was again no reply. Worried he stopped the car near tram depot and nudged him. The man fell down on his sides. He quickly got out of the car and. nudged him repeatedly calling “Baba, Baba.”When there was no response he quickly turned the car to take him to Ramakrishna mission hospital nearby.The doctors there pronounced him dead after a massive cardiac arrest.Jasram told them of the circumstances and gave them his address and the taxi number. He left the bag and the box with hospital authorities. The fare including extra 200 was only 360 rupees. He inserted Rs.140 in dead man’s pocket to the amused stare of those around and left the hospital in tears after paying obeisance to the departed soul.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Paul's surprise

Paul hardly gets any personal mail except bills or promotional materials by post. Most communication is through emails or mobiles. He had not visited a post office for several months. It came as a surprise when he had a personal envelope amidst the many useless letters he got. His name and address were  neatly written. It was difficult to decipher whether it was from a male or female though the cursive writing indicated higher probability of the latter. Meticulous as Paul was always, he opened the envelope with scissors and found a short note in two inches square paper.
It read ’Please come on 23rd at 7 pm to the address on the envelope. A surprise awaits you. This is no ruse or in anyway harmful. Please do not fail. You will be pleased for the effort. This may change your life the way you wish it to be. K”
Paul didn’t know anyone with name beginning in K.He had no business dealings or had any enmity with others. His life was placid like a stream. He had loved a girl and is still in deep love except that she moved away to a far off country along with her parents. She was busy with her studies. The correspondence tapered off with not even an exchange of greetings on birthday or Christmas. She too had loved him with as much intensity but distance and time blunted it. Nevertheless he wrote to her professing his love for her even recently only to be met  by a stone wall of silence. It could not be her as her name was Diana.
Paul was well employed in a reputed company with potential for growth. He was paid well and identified as material for growth. Could it be competitors trying to wean him away, he wondered. Curiosity overcame discretion. Clad in good dress, he was there at the appointed time but as a measure of abundant caution told his friend where he was going and if he was delayed beyond 9pm he should come there with help.
It was a large bungalow with a long drive way .A butler sort of man met him at the door.”I am Paul and have been requested to come”
“Yes, Sir. We are waiting for you” he replied
“Can you please tell me who this K who has invited me is?”
“Oh, didn’t you know, how strange. She is Katherine Bridgewater, a spinster of around 50, extremely wealthy lady with estates across the country in several places.”
“Do you have an inkling of the purpose of this visit for I have had no connection with her?”
“I wouldn’t know and dare not tell you even if I can make a fairly good guess. But one thing is certain. You are an extremely lucky man to be in her good books” he said with a mischievous smile that was irritating to Paul.
Paul was ushered into a spacious room heavily curtained with rich furniture. In the big sofa he saw an Amazon like   plump woman with very little neck but with big arms and thighs. But there was an infectious smile and kindly eyes that gave her a charm. She was looking at him he thought like a tiger at its prey within its grab.
“Welcome Paul. It is so sweet of you to have responded to my request. Pray, please be seated by my side for my vision is dim.”
Paul sat adjacent to her and smiled at her as a courtesy. She held his hands and kept them on her lap and said “You have made my day. I am so happy you came.” Paul tried in vain to wriggle out his hands. Meanwhile the butler brought a tray with cookies and tea.
“May I know the purpose of my visit?”
“How credulous you are? It is nothing but romantic in nature that should hopefully culminate in wedding” she said and laughed loudly.
Paul stood up in anger and said in angry tone “I don’t enjoy this. There has been a mistake. Though single I have no intention to marry. I wish you had not wasted my time”
 “Please do not get upset. I find you eminently suitable and will not let you go easily. You will become wealthy beyond your imagination. I have decided not to let you out without clinching matters”
“What nonsense you are talking about? I am just not interested. If you keep me against my will one moment longer, I will lodge a police complaint. I don’t care how much money you have. I have a girl by name Diana with whom I am deeply in love. She is abroad and I am waiting for three years for her to return. Do you understand, madam? Now let me go “He stood up and started walking towards the door.
The butler stood in the way and said “Sir, you are in a hurry .Just turn and see”
When Paul turned he saw to his great surprise Diana sitting by the side of her aunt and giggling at him.
“Sorry my dear, I came with my parents only two days back. They are aware of our love. We just wanted some fun and wished to surprise you before we announce our engagement” she said as she rushed to hug him.



Friday, December 21, 2012

A ride in the playground

Ramanujan had nothing in particular to do at home. His wife Anasuya would return home only at 630pm after attending sat-sangh, sloka classes, singing in temples and such like spiritual activities. He had no interest in these. He would sit at the park after office hours and watch the children play in swings and slides and various other games with nonstop chatter. Some of them would come to him to adjudicate on their disputes. Having no kid of his own he derived immense pleasure watching other kids.
He did not notice the middle aged and tall man in jeans and T shirt sitting by his side on the bench till he noisily opened a paper packet. He smiled at him and hoped Ramanujan would have no objection to his sitting there. Ramanujan found him to be about 40 with a square face, sharp nose and smiling eyes. He seemed a hail fellow well met type breathing familiarity. The only jarring thing to the otherwise handsome features was his ears were unusually broad and protruded on the sides reminding one of an elephant.
“Kids are fun to watch like flowers in full bloom, isn’t it?”he asked. Ramanujan nodded his head in affirmative.
“Do you come here daily?” he queried evidently wanting to start a conversation with him
“Yes, I try to come most of the days” Ramanujan said as he unconsciously pulled his laptop bag towards him.
After some pleasantries about weather, he opened the paper bag and started eating some chocolates with much relish.Ramanujan’s tongue drooled. The guy said “Have some, I am Suresh” and handed him a few toffees.
It was 7 pm when Ramanujan woke up to find himself lying on the bench. His laptop was missing and so was the wallet in his pocket. He realized his foolishness and regretted for falling to the routine trick of drugging unwary people.
It was one day three months later that Ramanujan’s wife Anasuya was telling him that a Swami ji (saint) had come to the town and staying close by adjacent to the temple and was attracting huge crowd of devotees. It seems devotees can write their problems on a piece of paper and drop them in a kept specifically. After the puja such devotees are called one by one to a separate room where the Swami ji even without referring the paper answers the queries and suggests solutions that usually is some special puja for some fee. She requested him that he come early from office that day as she had requested Swami ji to grace her house on his way to another temple. After the formal welcome and offering of milk and fruits, she said that she would seek his blessings for a child that the couple was longing for.
At 5pm the Swami ji came with a horde of disciples behind him. He wore an ochre colored robe that covered the sides of his face that had prominent ash mark with red kumkum between the brows. His personality was striking with many beads adorning his neck. He had a long stick with saffron cloth tied at end. Anasuya nudged Ramanujan to prostrate along with her. When the saint blessed Anasuya touching her head with both palms, the robe that covered the sides of Swami ji’s face fell down. Ramanujan could get a good a darsan (glimpse) of the face before the Swami ji adjusted the cloth.
He quietly went behind Anasuya who had gone to the kitchen to fetch warm milk and fruits. Their hall was already crowded with neighbours who were all paying obeisance to Swami ji. He quietly rang up Anasuya’s brother to come with his men immediately telling him of his suspicion.
As the Swami ji was helping himself to milk and fruits, Anasuya’s brother in his police uniform entered the house with couple of policemen standing outside near the jeep. The Swami ji was shocked and seen perspiring suddenly. He hurriedly stood up when Ramanujan’s brother said “No hurry. Please wait” and asked all the rest to leave the house. When Swami ji’s men tried to rush inside the house, they were stopped by the policemen.
“What is your real name and where do you come from?” he asked in a loud voice.
“I am Satyananda.I dropped in here to bless the couple for a child. Why are you humiliating me in the presence of my devotees?”
“Okay, come with me to the police station. We will give you the respectful treatment you deserve. You are Suresh with more than dozen cases against you. Your protruding big ears are big give aways.You cannot be in criminal world leaving such a big trail like the snail with its slime.. Follow me silently or you will be roughed up”
The Swami ji turned towards Ramanujan and his eyes spat such  venom as never seen.





Sunday, December 16, 2012

Gruesome murder

The police van screeched to a halt outside the building. Two policemen with guns drawn ran up the stairs to the second floor and rang the bell of apartment 213.There was no response and one of them just pushed the door. It opened with no difficulty. They rushed to the living room where the TV was on and blaring loudly. They recoiled for a moment at the ghastly sight of body of a young woman around 25 in her nightie lying on the sofa with blood sprayed all around. The body was puckered with several stab wounds.

There stood by the side of sofa a heavily built man around 45  in a faded jeans and T shirt. His hair was disheveled and his clothes were dotted  all over with irregular patches of blood.
One of the men felt her nostrils and flashed torchlight on the wide open eyes and remarked "dead" to no one in particular

“Hey, you gave a ring, is it? Who killed her, any idea?" asked the second police man

"Do you have any doubt? Here is the evidence. Look" he said and took a blood soaked kitchen knife from the sofa and stabbed the dead body repeatedly like a mad man

“Stop it, I say. Drop the knife and hold up your hands" shouted the policeman with the gun pointing at the man.

As the man dropped the knife,the other policeman went behind him and  put the handcuffs on the hands behind him.

"Why did you kill her?"

"Go to the bedroom and find for yourself" he said with a smug smile.

The policeman saw a body of a young man in his twenties clad in pajama on the bed. He had obviously been strangled with a tie and his head smashed  by some blunt weapon.

"Who is this guy? Anyone known to you"

"How would I know? I have cast my eye for the first time on him in this bed of mine"

"Is the lady in the living room your wife?"

"What else do you think, my concubine is it?"

"Why did you kill them both?" the policeman asked realizing the stupidity of the question.

"For fun, " the man spluttered in rage."Are you so dumb?" he asked

A mobile phone started ringing and by the time the policeman could locate it, the ring stopped. The mobile was found in the pocket of the pajama of the dead man. He checked the calls and said to his colleague the call to police was from this mobile. Surprised at this sudden and unexpected disclosure the security at the gate was called. He identified the dead duo were couple and that the man in cuffs was a visitor seen for the first time.

There was a puzzled look on the faces of the two policemen as they saw a possible psycho.


The director said "Cut and pack up for the day"


Thursday, December 13, 2012

A fitting reply

The corner bench in the park is my favourite haunt. I have chosen this place for a reason in that it is away I from the children play area with its swings and slides. Chatty young moms with loud children playing boisterously spoil the solitude that I look for. I hate being disturbed from my reverie by boys coming to retrieve the ball hit carelessly towards my corner. Being in a corner slightly away from the pathway, very few come to occupy the bench. But it afforded a good view of a small fountain that is lit only occasionally. I am a poet of no great merit but still find joy in penning simple thoughts in abstract words giving an aura of a mystic.
Today the sky was cloudy though there was no sign of impending rain except it rendered the evening dark. As I settled down comfortably and opened my note book, a heavy built but stooping old man came towards the bench. He looked around a little unsure whether to sit by my side or not but finally took out his long coat and settled himself by my side. I turned towards him and said with a smile" Hi, I don't think it will rain though the sky is overcast"
"How can I predict? I am no weather man but I have an umbrella always" he said in a not a friendly tone making me look foolish.
.I felt rebuffed and wracked my mind to find some idea for my poetry. But it struck work after the jibe. I closed my eyes to avoid looking at him and wondering at the incivility and rudeness of some people. When I opened my eyes after some time, I found to my relief and satisfaction the bent man had gone.
Within a few minutes a middle aged man came near me and asked" May I sit here?"

"By all means. II would welcome company" I said with a smile.

"Thanks. Do you come here daily? I would like to but hardly get the time"
He looked a bit shabbily dressed and did not appear to be a man of means. The stubble in the face he hadn't shaved also for a few days. The eyes were sunk and there was a pathetic look.
."Aren't you well? You don't seem to be in good cheer"
"You have good power of observation. You are right. I lost my job two  months back and have a family to support. I have overdrawn my credit and have only some small amount. I keep visiting various offices in the day time for a job but the business climate being not favourable I am yet to find one. The future looks scary"

"I am very sorry to hear that. I wish and pray that you get one soon “I said
  "Sir, do you believe in karma theory? It is all destined and the current bad patch of ill luck is haunting me like a shadow. It is very embarrassing to ask for help from unknown strangers though there are great philanthropists among them" he replied
"I am sorry. I do not have any money on me. But I wish you the best “I said with genuine concern.
The man stood up, muttered a few words of thanks and left. After sometime when I moved I my seat to make myself more comfortable, something brushed my fingers. It was a wallet and when I opened there were a few hundred rupees notes.Oh my god, this must be the last remnant of his money, I thought. I got up and literally ran along the side he took. Luckily I could catch up with him and said “Lucky you are that I found your purse that you had left inadvertently behind soon after you left. I am sure you will be able to tide over a few days till you get a job"
He took the wallet, said thanks and hurried on his way possibly to buy some food for his hungry family
I was greatly pleased at my act of kindness and returned to my bench. To my surprise I found the heavily built stooping man searching something under the bench and feeling with his hands as it was slightly dark.
When he saw me, he asked “Did you see my wallet that must have fallen down when I removed the coat. It is missing and must have fallen only here"
Stung by his rude reply a  little while earlier, I said “How would I know? I am no detective or clairvoyant to find lost articles"

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Neelam's surprise

Neelam saw a little ahead of her a young man with a walking stick walking slowly but unsure of himself. He had stopped abruptly at the signal presumably to cross the road. There was a park on the other side. The traffic on the road was heavy with cars and buses whizzing past in great speed. She hurried her steps to be by his side. Just as she feared, he got down from the platform on to the road even when the signal was in amber. She held him back by her hand and said "Please wait. The signal has not yet turned green for pedestrians to cross"
"Thank you. I couldn't notice it"
"Never mind. I will take you across the road" she said without leaving his hand.
"I can manage as I am accustomed to walk alone"
"I am going to that side only. It is no trouble for me. I think it is pretty risky crossing the road alone even when the way is clear as some drivers are always in a hurry"
She led him to a bench in the park and was about to leave when he asked “May I know the good name of my benefactor. I am Mahesh living in a complex Green heights nearby"
She noticed that he was around 27 or 28, very handsome with a rebellious hair that refused to subdue and a gentle voice that was mesmerizing in effect. His eyes were open but had obviously lost its power, it seemed. She wondered why god was cruel in endowing him with great charm but denying him the vision."I am Neelam and residing in Apoorva complex a few blocks away from yours. Do you visit the park daily at this time?" she asked
"Yes, I do. Thank you, Neelam A sweet name.I am lucky to meet you. From your voice I infer you must be young. What do you do, studying or working?"
"I am 24 and a software engineer. What do you do for living though it may sound silly asking this question"
"I am a writer and a poet but I need help to write .I employ people for that" he said
“How nice to know you are a writer. I love poetry and even dabble in it. I can help you at this time for an hour or so if you can dictate"
What started like this soon turned into love within a week though both did not openly express it. She was not sure whether her parents would ever agree and she herself was in two minds. He had also not indicated his love for her as he was presumably averse to imposing himself on a young lady with bright and happy future. Nevertheless they kept meeting daily with her helping him out amidst small talk. Both of them evidently seemed to look forward to this daily meetings.
.One day when it was drizzling, she suggested that she would accompany him up to his house but he declined. Asked about his family he said he had an elder brother who was married and younger sister..Neelam also did not invite him home for fear of what her parents would say about this friendship.
A week later she met her friend Mandira in the mall after a long time She was working in Mumbai and had come down to her parent's place on a short holiday.Neelam suddenly recollected that she was also residing in Green heights as Mahesh did. Neelam asked her "Are you aware of a young and handsome guy by name Mahesh, a writer and poet but unfortunately blind living in your complex?"
"Yes, I know one Mahesh who dabbles in poetry but the guy is not blind. May be someone else or in some other complex  you are referring to" she replied.
"May be another person but this guy dictates daily his poems or novel and I write for him since a fortnight. He said he has an elder brother married and a younger sister. But this guy is very handsome but sadly blind"
"Neelam, I think I know this guy and what he is upto.Why don't you come today at 4 pm to my house? I think I will be able to unravel the mystery" Mandira said
“What mystery?”
“You come and you will know” said Mandira
At 4 pm sharp when she pressed the bell and Mandira opened, Neelam saw to her great bewilderment Mahesh watching TV with his parents and laughing loudly at some scene. She wondered." How come he watches TV?Is he a liar and cheat?"
Mandira said “Mahesh, turn round and see your scribe Neelam. Why do you play this dirty trick on her? Do you know we are great friends from college days?"
A highly embarrassed Mahesh turned to Neelam and said “I am sorry. I didn't know how to befriend you initially and employed this trick.. I was about to surprise you by revealing my ruse but my sister spoilt it. Please excuse me but I can tell you .It was difficult to pretend as blind. It is good that you have come. My parents would be happy to meet you"
“I suspected as I found you always staring at me” she said with a giggle.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Setting an example

"How are you feeling today, young man” asked the Doctor as he entered the cabin with a horde of his junior doctors. He placed his hand on Bharat's shoulder in an assuring manner.
“Breathlessness is there but managing somehow with oxygen" he replied with a forced smile on his face.
"I know but am unable to increase diuretics beyond the present high dosage. The discomfort is due to accumulation of fluid as the heart is not efficient. Let me see tomorrow what else can be done"
"Doctor, my dad has just left for home and mom is expected any moment. Can I have word with you in private?"
The doctor turned towards the nurse and his assistants. They left the cabin immediately leaving the two alone.
"What is it,Bharat?"
"Doctor, let us drop all the pretensions. I am aware of the seriousness of my condition. There is no cure for this except may be a transplant. That option is financially beyond us and is also risky with no fail-proof guarantee. My end can come anytime say a month or two. My object of talking to you privately is to take my acceptance for the use of all the organs that can be harvested successfully. My parents may not agree old fashioned and sentimental as they are. Please have a letter made out quickly and I will sign in the presence of two witnesses."
"Be positive. Our life is in the hands of god. Losing hope will only harm you. I appreciate your noble values. I have never come across in my long career such a request. These things are best discussed with your parents. But there need be no anxiety. I am doing my best to make you better. Be cheerful"
"No, doctor. I am a major and alert in mind. I can decide what to do with my body..Anything can happen anytime in my present condition. My desire should not remain unrealized by default. Please get this done today itself" Bharat pleaded.
"Okay, as you wish. I am proud of you and strongly believe you will recover. Will ask my assistant to see you shortly with papers"
It was 7pm.The doctor was still seeing the out patients in his chamber at the hospital. He got a call on intercom from the ward.Bharat was rushed to ICCU and put on ventilator. His condition worsened and he breathed his last at 9 pm.The doctor was still at his bedside. Though a professional, he could not suppress the tears welling up in his eyes.
The parents were inconsolable when shown the letter of permission from Bharat and as a measure of precaution their nod was also obtained. There were critical patients awaiting already  for the many healthy parts except for his heart.
The measure of a life does not lie in its longevity but how well one has served the society. It is not duration of life but the willing donation of eyes and other organs that sets apart the noble from the ordinary.



Sunday, December 9, 2012

Prema's wish

Prema whenever she found time in the evenings wrenched herself to the lake nearby. Sitting alone and watching the darkening sky as sun went down made her forget her gloomy life. With mom sick, dad slogging at a textile shop for long hours for a measly salary and four siblings, she bore the brunt of the work. She could not join college. Although smart and attractive, she was not fortunate in circumstances but had a positive outlook hoping for a miracle.
She saw a little yonder on the sky a dark blackish smoke like thing emerge from the lake that soon morphed into a tall figure that was broad in the middle but tapered into a narrow line. She got up hurriedly to leave the place but it stood before her in a trice. In a booming voice it said "Don't be afraid. I will not harm you. I am a genie and remained bottled up for many years by an evil man. I got released a little while ago when the bottle was pushed against a rock by a fish and the bottle broke. I am in a happy frame of mind and wish to grant you a boon being the first person I saw on my release. You can choose one of the three wishes that can neither be modified nor taken back. I will appear after two years to see how you are. Listen now carefully. Are you ready?"
Prema gathered courage and said “Shoot out. I am in a hurry."
"The first one is you can become very rich but remain a spinster all through life.The second one is you will remain poor but get a very handsome and loving husband.
The third one is you will get rich and get a reasonably good husband also but you will live only for three more years. Think carefully and tell me what you wish"
It was a tough choice for Prema. She thought about her needs, her family’s needs and also about the future. It was difficult taking considerable time
“Be quick. I give you two minutes to decide” said the genie
“Okay, I have decided to go for first wish”
“Oh my god, do you wish to remain a spinster all through life for the sake of money. It is your choice. I grant it now. Will see you again after two years. Good luck”
Within a week she became a crorepati in KBC and made wise investments in textile business that turned highly profitable. She had a new house bought, educated the siblings, got her mom treated well. Everyone was happy and life very comfortable with servants to assist. Prema was also cheerful and had put on some flab in her happiness. It was all hunky dory for them.
Exactly after two years when Prema was sitting in her usual spot at the lake side, the genie appeared as promised.”How are you, my young friend? I can see signs of prosperity and you also look healthier. But I am sorry that you remain unmarried at an age when you should be enjoying life”
“When were you bottled up by the evil man?” she asked
“Ah, must be more than sixty years though I don’t remember exactly”
“Never mind. Much water has flown under the bridge since then. The world has changed. What if I am a spinster? Haven’t you heard of ‘live-in’ relationship? I have a handsome guy living with me and we are not married in deference to your condition. I am very happy and  indebted to you for life” she said and laughed loudly.
“I never knew that as otherwise I would have worded the wish differently. Where is the world headed to, I wonder?” the genie exclaimed as it vanished.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Christmas blessing

 Sarah was waiting for the doctor to call her. He had just seen her husband Navin Kuruvilla’s scan report. Navin had been complaining of stomach pain and distaste for food. The routine treatment having failed to help, they had come to the consultant at the reputed hospital. They were married for three years. She worked in a private firm while he was in an IT company. Life was one of joy for the young and loving couple.
The nurse called her name.”I am sorry, madam. Things do not seem okay. I am afraid it is worrisome. The CT scan reveals a big cancerous growth and has spread to other parts. I am not sure whether surgery will help. Do you have parents, brothers and sisters?” said the doctor
“Is it that serious? Can we not explore the option of surgery? I have no one. I am the only child of my parents who are no more”
“We can always have an operation done. But there is the risk that it may aggravate and quicken the growth. Luckily he has no unbearable pain as of now but can have them anytime. It is my considered opinion not to meddle with it and do nothing except for some medication. Yes it is in very advanced stage. I am really surprised that he does not look as sick as he should be. Come to me after a fortnight and we will review then.” he said.
“Will it be possible to indicate how long….?” she didn’t complete.
“Seeing his scans, I would give maximum three months. But we are no gods. You can call me anytime. Give him whatever he needs and keep him happy. Be brave” he said and patted her
Her head reeled and she feared she may faint. She was shattered but managed to wear a smile when she ambled to her waiting husband.”What did the doctor say?” he asked
“As of now he said we need do anything except take medicines. He said we will review after three months. Don’t worry. You will become fine” she said as she walked along the wheel chair towards their car.
Her life had come upside down and everything looked gloomy. She took leave for three months. Initially there was a flurry of visitors both from his and her office that tapered to occasional phone calls and odd visits once a while. Although Navin was not aware of the exact status of his ailment, he could gather from the cautious answers from Sarah and his friends that he was recovering from cancer.
She took him daily to the park across the road, made him sit on a bench and watch the children playing in the play area while she took several rounds as exercise. Navin looked normal except for worried look. She feared whether this could be the bright flicker of the lamp before it extinguished out.
It was past ten days and as she was briskly walking in the park, she saw from afar a young girl of seven or eight years talking animatedly to her husband. She was very fair, charming and in white frock with lots of frills. When she came near him, the girl was gone to her surprise.
“Who is that little girl you were talking to?”
“Oh, you saw her, eh? Cute isn’t she? Funny too and she was asking me why I was sitting in the bench and wanted me to play with her. When I told her I that I was sick, she giggled and said that I am not. She took my hand and pulled me with her tiny hands to get up and play. All of a sudden she was gone” Navin replied
“Strange though I agree with that little girl you don’t appear sick rather you look quite healthy. Get out of your mind that you are sick” Sarah said as she sat by his side. Suddenly she picked a white feather from the bench and exclaimed “Look at this. Wherefrom it could have come?”
“”May be the girl”he said. Sarah kept wondering.
The next day there was a surprise call from the doctor’s office asking her to come along with her hubby.Baffled why she was asked to come, she nevertheless went with Navin
When she was ushered to doctor’s cabin, he stood up and started profusely apologizing for what he considered a grave mistake
“Young lady, I have heartwarming news for you. There was a goof up here and we found it only last night when another patient, a namesake of your husband and of same age, came in serious condition. We then found out the mix up of the scan reports. Your husband Navin Kuruvilla is absolutely fine. There is nothing wrong with him except for chronic colitis. I will prescribe medicines “He turned to Navin and said “Sorry Navin, kindly excuse us for scaring you both. You can join office and be normal as ever.”
As Navin and Sarah walked back to car in a happy and relieved, Navin took out the white feather from his pocket and said “This has proved to be my mascot. Do you think we can ever meet that little girl?”
 Sarah was not sure about meeting the girl but with Christmas hardly a fortnight away she was grateful to the Lord for His blessings

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Honouring mom's memory

Kumar heard her distinctly. It was his dear mom’s voice calling him by his name. He could see only a hazy figure. He cried out “Mom, where are you?”Then the figure became clearer. He could see her smiling face and kindly eyes. She was much fairer and healthier than he knew ever. He saw two feathers on both sides giving her an angelic look.”Do not worry my child. I am always around you. Think of me whenever you need me” she seemed to say. Even before he wished to say that he wanted her always by his side, she had vanished when the bell in the home began ringing. He heard the voices of boys around. He woke up from his dream.
Kumar, just eleven years, came to this orphanage when his mom had died. His father had deserted her for another woman and she struggled hard to bring him up. She was neither wealthy nor had any relatives to support her. When he asked her once about his dad, she remained quiet for long with sad eyes and then said”He is not a good man and had many vices. He did illegal things in association with undesirable elements and has a deep scar on his leg. His desertion is good for you in a way though it has left us poor.” He still remembered how she did strenuous jobs in other houses till her last days suffering in pain due to cancer. Tears always trickled from his eyes whenever he thought of her.
“Kumar, have your bath and get ready for the breakfast” he heard the warden telling him. Kumar knew he was kind to him and took a special interest in him. Though all the kids in the home were destitute orphans, Kumar stood out different by his cheerful disposition and smartness. He assisted the warden in small ways and studied well.
The orphanage functioned on private donations that were neither regular nor adequate. It reflected in the quality and the quantum food that children got. The warden, a kind man, struggled hard to keep the children away from hunger. He was ever on rounds soliciting help for the poor orphanage. The children studied in the adjacent municipal school and availed of the food served in the mid day meal scheme. Whenever childless couples came for adoption, the warden gave away the children after proper scrutiny.
One day the warden called him to his room. He found a tall and big man with his wife there. The warden called him by his side and putting his arms on the boy’s shoulder said ”Kumar, this gentleman is a well known and influential politician and he wants to adopt you specifically. They have seen you at a function in the school. Though I like to have you with me, the adoption will do you immense good in several ways. I could not also refuse his request”
“Ayya (Sir) please do not send me away. I am very happy here. I do not need any comfort than the joy of being near you” Kumar said along with sobs.
“Kumar, I have promised him. Please go with him. You can always be in touch with me. Be a good boy and do not turn down my advice”
Kumar was feeling uncomfortable in the spacious bungalow with many servants. He did not take kindly to the master of the house who insisted that he call him daddy. He did not like his domineering ways and the look of his visitors. The master’s wife was very affectionate and caring. She got him new dresses in plenty, had him admitted in a good school, sat by his side when he took food and even played with him. Whenever he was with her, he felt as if he was near his mom.
One day as he was returning in the car from the school, the driver told him “Kumar, when the master asked you a question in the morning, I noticed you ignored him. When he repeated the question rather irritably, you answered him in an indifferent manner. It is not proper. Be attentive and polite. Otherwise he will throw you out of house.”
“Who will throw out one’s own son, though adopted?”
“You don’t know him. He will for he has left his first wife and child mercilessly years back when he was no one in particular. He is an angry and vengeful person. Please be careful. I tell you because I like you”
Kumar kept quiet as he did not wish to discuss about master with him. A week later one Sunday morning he was playing some game with master’s wife whom he addressed as mom. She stood up abruptly when the master came out of the bath room after a shower. He had just wound a towel around him. Kumar saw a deep scar in his leg. He immediately remembered what his mom had told him long back. He realized at once that master was his biological father and hated his presence the next moment.
It was 4pm the warden was resting after a tiresome day. He was surprised to see Kumar standing before him with a bag in his hand. ”What brought you here, Kumar” he asked
“Ayya, I have come back for good. I do not wish to stay there anymore. I am happy to be here. Please accept me”
When asked why he had come without their permission, he narrated how he realized the master was his dad and his aversion to live with him who had deserted his sick mom. He pleaded with him that he can never be happy there despite all the comforts.
“This is the only way I can honour my mother. If you reject me, I would rather take my life than go back there though I would miss the affectionate master’s wife. Please take me back” the boy said as he fell at warden’s feet
Warden wiped his eyes and said ”He will create problem for us using his power and influence.But I am determined to face it all than forsake you. Do not worry. I hope you have not brought anything from their house”
Does a child have a say in his/her adoption?