“Amma, I don’t want to take ordinary graduation course. I wish to do engineering in computer science. I have topped the school and my admission letter has been received. We have only to pay the fees by month end” pleaded Janaki
“. Don’t I know you are very smart? I am also feeling frustrated that our financial circumstances do not permit us to do what we wish. Where can your dad go for the astronomical fee that we have to pay? Be understanding, my dear child. God willing, you can succeed in any line” said Lalitha
Aware that her dad held a small position with monthly income hardly adequate to make both ends meet, Janaki quietly started moving to her room, when her mom said “Come with me to the temple. I am sure goddess will listen to our prayers.”
“No, amma.I am not coming. Please allow me to stay at home”
“It is alright.I will be back in 30 minutes. Switch off the cooker after three whistles.”
It is not a big temple but had several sanctums for Kothandaramar, the presiding deity, His consort Janakavalii, Anjaneyar and some minor deities. Lalitha visited the temple daily at 11am.She spent longer time praying before the goddess .It was not crowded except on weekends or festive days. She would pour out to the goddess her disappointments, grievances, her wishes and even share the little joys as one would do to one’s bosom friend. Once done, it would lighten her heart immediately.
This day she pleaded with Goddess her helplessness and deep disappointment in not being able to meet with legitimate aspiration of her only daughter. It was not that she expected Goddess to fulfill her desire by a miracle but only to salve her troubled mind. Once done with moist eyes she turned to go back home.
It was then she heard a voice” Can you help me get up, young lady. I feel giddy” It was from an old lady of about 80 seated against a pillar. She was well dressed in traditional nine yards with some jewelry and seemed affluent.Lalita saw her almost daily but never spoken to her. She rushed to her side, held her in arms and slowly lifted her up.”Patti (grandma) how can you go alone? Can I drop you in your home in auto?”
“That is not necessary. Take me to the entrance. I am fine now”
As both came out Lalitha asked “Are you far from temple? How will you go? I can safely escort you. Do not feel obligated”
The old woman smiled as a big car drew near the entrance and a driver held her hand towards the car. Before getting in, she said “You are so sweet and lovable. What is your good name? We will meet daily here“
In a week they became close to each other but Lalitha never discussed her personal matters. One day as they came out of temple, the old woman expressed a desire to visit Lalitha’s house that day itself if it was on ground floor. Lalitha felt shy of taking her to her small portion on the side of a house. It was three roomed portion with a small hall, smaller bedroom and very small kitchen. The hall did the duty of drawing room living room and dining space. The house was faded in colour and dark. She could not refuse as the old lady directed the driver to take them to Lalitha’s place.
Lalitha hurriedly put a stool for the lady to sit and brought a glass of cool water. The old lady could see poverty writ large in the house. She drank the full glass of water and seemed pleased. She saw a young girl of around 18, lean and emaciated.
The old lady asked the girl “Are you Lalitha’s daughter? What is your name? Where are you studying?”
“I am Janaki.I have finished 12th and topped the school. I don’t know what I will be doing.”
“What a funny answer. Have you applied in any engineering or medical college? If you are good at studies they would be willing to offer you a seat”
“I have received admission for BTech in computer engineering from XYZ college.Amma wants me join ordinary graduation course in a nearby college.”
“Lalitha, what is this your daughter telling? When is the last date for payment?”
“True Patti. The last date is month end but we cannot afford even ordinary graduation course. She can succeed in life even without an engineering degree if god wills it”
“I understand your difficult position. Let Kothandaramar and Janakavalli bless her” Patti said before she took leave of them.
Patti was not seen the next day and succeeding week. Lalitha got concerned and asked the temple manager whether he knew why patti was not visiting.He said that the old lady had fever initially, then a stroke and is bed ridden. I do not think she will be coming”
“Mama (uncle), do you know where she lives? I wish to go and meet her” He gave her the address. When she went straight from temple to the place that was closeby, she found a very large bungalow sitting deep inside a large ground. The gate was guarded by security.
As she was standing hesitantly near the gate, the security asked her what she wanted. She said” I came to meet the old lady whom I meet daily at the temple since she has not been coming for a few days”
The security took her name and came out with a young lady of her age.”Patti has had a stroke. She cannot speak and her left side is paralysed.She is mentally alert. Her eyes brightened when I mentioned Lalitha from the temple. You can just see her for a couple of minutes.”
As she entered the room, Patti made an effort to smile and with eyes beckoned her near her. Lalitha could hardly control the tears flowing from her eyes even as she caressed patti’s arms. Patti asked with her right hand by sign why she had not brought her daughter”
“Patti, I will surely bring her tomorrow. I will pray for your recovery to the goddess. I want you back at the temple daily as before” Lalitha said
Lalitha could discern tears from patti’s eyes even as she was led out of the room.
The next day when Lalitha went with her daughter, she saw dozens of cars inside and outside the house. She knew something was amiss when the security approached her and conveyed the demise of the old lady the previous night.
Crying inconsolably Lalitha returned home with her daughter when a courier boy was waiting with a letter for Janaki.It was from XYZ College informing her about receipt of fees in full for four years as also the college bus charges from a benefactor who wished t to be unknown and that she can join the college on the scheduled date. She would also be entitled to some scholarship
Lalitha wailed aloud with tears at the thought of the kind soul that had bestowed this bounty on her daughter out of great compassion.Whether the happy denouement was due to Lalitha’s daily prayers to goddess or the generosity of the old lady is beyond the purview of this story.