Set amidst coffee plantations with scenic beauty all around, the hillside resort offered a perfect get away from the hustle and bustle of city. The cottages with well laid pathways were clean, comfortable and well furnished. Deenadayal had chosen a cottage that had a view of a water fall slightly away. His wife Lochana and their 15-year-old son Dhana specially loved the place and were roaming around all over while the portly Deenadayal spent his time mostly confined to the room watching movies gorging on Scotch and whiskey or sitting in the balcony watching the scenery. He along with Lochana even had their breakfast, lunch and dinner served at the room. They had planned a vacation for a week.
When Deenadayal was 40 and Lochana 38, the childless couple wished to adopt a baby. It was then some friend suggested adopting Dhana, a newborn baby whose mother had died during childbirth and whose father was inclined to part with the child. When the tall and muscular man came to friend’s house with the baby, Deenadayal was assured that the baby would be healthy. Baby Dhana looked cute except for the big black birthmark on the centre his forehead which only enhanced his charm. Lochana liked the baby so much that she grabbed him from his father’s hands. The baby snuggled on her shoulders with a smile. Deenadayal struck a deal with the man that he would be paid a hefty sum as a token of gratitude and that Dhana would be looked after very well, but he should on no account ever attempt to see his son.
The boy was put in the best school, given all the comforts and he turned out to be a good student. He was a loving and obedient son making them proud and happy.
“Dhana, why don’t you have your breakfast with us in the cottage? You never eat with us,” pleaded Lochana.
“Amma, I go after my jogging direct to the dining hall for my coffee and breakfast. Further the food gets cold by the time it reaches us. Things served in the dining hall are hot and fresh. The ambiance is good with many eating amidst chatter and laughter. The servers are friendly especially one Murari who serves me is exceptionally good. You both must dine in the hall. You are missing lot of fun,” Dhana replied.
“I am eager and willing but what can I do with a couch potato for my husband?” grumbled his mom and added “Are you tipping Murari generously for him to be very solicitous to you?”
“I like eating here all the three of us together,” interjected Deenadayal much to the chagrin of Lochana.
“Sorry, appa, I like eating at the dining hall. Let amma decide for herself, “ replied Dhana.
Two days later, Dhana had not returned even at 10 am and the parents were worried. When Deenadayal readied himself to go to dining hall to enquire, a server came running to inform that a poisonous snake had bitten their son and that he is safe now resting in a room at the hall.
Shocked they literally ran to the hall to find Dhana sitting on a chair but pale and crying with many around him. They hugged him and asked what had happened, whether any doctor was called or he was taken to hospital.
One person came forward and signaled to Dhana to keep quiet and said to the anxious parents,” I am the resident doctor here. Normally snakes are not common here and no idea how he came to be bitten by a venomous snake. There are no hospitals nearby with necessary antidotes and it would have been risky to travel far without something being done immediately. We had put a tourniquet in the leg above the point of bite. Still the boy started frothing when one of the servers came forward and started sucking out the poison through his mouth. Luckily this helped save the life of the boy.”
“Where is the man, the savior of our boy?” cried Deenadayal and Lochana in chorus.
The doctor and the others who were around remained silent with downcast faces. When prodded, the doctor said, “Sadly the man who sucked the poison had ulcer in his mouth and the poison spread in his blood stream. He died immediately giving us no chance to revive him. His body is outside.”
“Does he have a family? Have you informed them?”” asked Deenadayal
“No, sir, Murari was single and had no family. He stayed in the accommodation allotted to him here. He was a good person, always quiet and a bit forlorn. I don’t know why he did this foolish thing when he had a wound in his mouth. He could have asked someone else to do,” he replied.
“Murari, did you say? Is he the server who served my son daily?” asked Deenadayal at no one in particular. Someone nodded his head.
He went along with doctor and others to see the body of the server. As he saw Murari’s body, a thought flit across his mind. Then as if on an impulse, he pulled up the white sheet covering him at his legs to find to his great shock six toes on both legs.
He remembered vividly the six toes, he saw more than a decade back, in both legs of the man who gave his son for adoption and his having checked immediately baby Dhana’s legs to make sure they were normal. He could not resist from thinking that Murari must have known Dhana was his son from the large birthmark on the latter’s forehead and must have sacrificed his life for Dhana’s sake. Tears started flowing copiously from his eyes to the bewilderment of Lochana and others around. He took care however not to reveal the secret to anyone.Lochana was surprised to find her normally thrifty husband spending a huge amount for Murari s funeral.