Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Who earns your admiration?

Mani Iyer has been ailing from an acute heart ailment and was not expected to live long. He is past 75 and has been staying in this poor home for the last ten years. He was discarded by his children who were themselves leading hand to mouth lives. Although life was not comfortable in the home with its Spartan meals and dormitory type of accommodation, Iyer was grateful for the shelter and food the home provided. He shuddered to think of the alternative and had no complaints to make. He had no place to go and did not have any visitors. Some kindly people used to visit the home on festive occasions and distribute sweets and dresses for the inmates. Some used to give five or ten rupees each to them. Some of the inmates bought betel leaves and areca nuts, some procured snuff, some peppermints and the others kept them in their boxes. Mani iyer had bought for the first time in his life a Sikkim lottery ticket for Rs10 on the persuasion of another friendly inmate and kept it in his diary. He bought it only to please his friend. He never thought about it though his friend would come up with various suggestions how the winnings should be utilised in case his ticket won the prize.
Ramu was a young man working in the home for a paltry salary. Mani Iyer had taken a liking for him as he was gentle in his words and kind by disposition unlike the many others who were rude and irritable most of the time and went about ordering the poor people.Ramu also liked iyer and used to spend the leisure hours chatting with him and seeking his advice and guidance.Iyer had a great trust in Ramu.It so happened that iyer’s friend who goaded him to buy the lottery ticket passed away suddenly. In the grief iyer had forgotten about the lottery ticket for months. One afternoon when Ramu and iyer were talking, the latter saw the ticket in his diary. He asked Ramu to keep the ticket with him to check the results and added that he would make it worth his while for the help. Ramu jokingly asked iyer what would be his share.Iyer without any hesitation instantly said fifty-fifty.Ramu was surprised and said ”Sir, I don’t need so much. If you win huge amount you expand this home, provide more facilities, give better food and clothes to the inmates and increase our salaries.” Iyer replied “Don’t build castles in the air. We are destined to this lot in this birth. If per chance we get a few thousands, we can buy mats and pillows for all as they are in tatters.” Ramu was touched by his generous nature and concern for others.
That night Iyer unexpectedly suffered a massive heart attack and died even before he could be taken to the hospital. The entire home was enveloped in sorrow at the passing away of the kindly soul.Ramu could not control his tears at the demise of iyer whom he regarded as a father. The vacant space in the hall brought him sad memories. He did not care to check the results for fifteen days.
On the sixteenth day Ramu was in for the biggest surprise when he saw from the lottery results that iyer’s ticket had won one crore rupees. He made doubly sure without telling others and went to the bank manager of the bank that the home dealt with and narrated truthfully the happenings. The manager was a good natured man and asked him “Since you possess the ticket, you are the rightful owner of the entire winnings. I will credit initially the money in your name. Tell me how you wish to deal with it. In the first instance please sign at the back of the ticket your name and write the address.” Ramu replied “Iyer had a great desire to improve the living conditions of the inmates and provide basic facilities without being cramped. I would request you to spend the entire fortune in expanding the home with a pucca building with greater facilities. That would please the departed soul. I do not want even one rupee for myself as the ticket was purchased with his money.”The bank manager stood up and embraced Ramu telling “Frankly I do not know who is more praiseworthy-the humane iyer and the scrupulously honest you. I think I will set apart 90% of the net proceeds after tax for building and modernising the home and 10% for you in your name. That alone will meet the ends of justice. If you wish I can make it 80 and 20 percent also.” Ramu reluctantly agreed for 10% and left the details to be worked out by the bank manager who made a written record with proper signatures. It is defying a ready answer as to which character in this story is really laudable

Friday, June 20, 2008

Lucky break

by KParthasarathi Friday, June 20, 2008
Mohan was driving his jeep towards the main bazaar. He was in his starched Khaki uniform with its stripes. His wide leather belt carried the holster for the pistol. His cap in Khaki and black sat trim on his head. It was evening around 5pm.He saw a crowd in the middle of the road with the people on the periphery craning their necks to see what was happening in the middle. There was a Babel of noises ”Kill her”. “Strip her”, “Break her hands”, and so on. When the crowd heard the shrill horn of the jeep and saw his khaki uniform, it parted and gave way. Some people started to disperse silently and some stood still to witness what was likely happen. Mohan saw a woman in her mid thirties beaten blue with bruises on her eyes, lips and cheeks. Blood was oozing out. Her clothes were torn and upper garments removed except for a torn blouse hiding her chest. Even the sari had been pulled away and she was in her petticoat. It was a distressing sight with the mob in mindless fury with everyone relying on hearsay. Even as Mohan stopped the jeep, some men came near the jeep on their own and started telling him “Sir, this woman is a witch and possibly a child abductor. She stole a packet of bread from the opposite shop. We were teaching a lesson that she would not forget in her life. Luckily you have come, Sir.”
Mohan understood the situation. Had he not come, they would have stripped her naked and killed her. In a commanding tone full of authority he said” It is wrong to take law in your own hands. Leave the job to the police.” He asked them to lift her and put her in the back seat. He said “I will leave her at the police station and have the matter enquired into. If she dies, you will all be in trouble.” The woman was promptly put in the jeep. One or two fellows offered to come along. Mohan said “So you would like to be witnesses when she lodges her complaint that you all beat and stripped her. “ The men quietly withdrew allowing the jeep to proceed.
After traveling some distance, Mohan stopped the jeep and asked the sobbing woman as to what had actually happened. “Sir, my children are starving for the last two days. My husband has deserted me. It is true I stole the bread without knowing the consequences that would follow.” Mohan said ”I understand. Lucky I was there in time as otherwise they would have put you to great shame and injury. Take these 100 rupees and go home. Don’t go near the bazaar for a few days.” She thanked him profusely as she got down.
Mohan proceeded towards the school where he was supposed to be at 5-30pm.As soon as he reached the gate, his wife and son came rushing towards him. “Why so late? The function is to start in a few minutes; the chief guest has come already. Hurry up. You look swell in your uniform, cap and all.” He saw his boy dressed like a politician in kurta, pyjama with black glasses with a pan parag tin in hand. He was taking part in school fancy dress competition that evening. His son had asked him to come behind him as a special protection security guard. Mohan had to get the uniforms on hire for an evening.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Perform without making a promise

-by KParthasarathi Wednesday, June 18, 2008
It was summer vacation and all trains were overbooked with long waiting lists. The railways managed to overcome the rush to some extent by running special trains.There was no online booking those days when everything was done manually. Touts were thriving then in collusion with some corrupt officials. I had to go to Delhi at short notice on an urgent official business. Air travel was very expensive and allowed only to the top level then.The office managed to get a berth for onward journey from state government quota normally utilised for high government officials. My return ticket was waitlisted way down with remote chance of getting a berth. Nevertheless I left for Delhi hoping to cross the bridge when I actually meet one.
I was given one berth in a first class coupe. No passenger came to occupy the seat till the train was about to leave. Just as the train slowly started to move one middle aged man boarded the train with the porter pushing his suit case in the passageway. I was wondering why people could not manage their time well and are putting themselves to considerable hardship. It was then he entered the cabin and smiled faintly. I told him “You were about to miss the train. Lucky you could get in by the skin of your teeth.”He replied “True, I was held up in a meeting and had to rush,sir.” He was short and bald with a a deferential tone in his voice and he ended his sentence with ’sir’. It was late already and we went to sleep without much of conversation.
The next morning while we were sipping our coffee, he asked me “Sir, are you from Tamilnadu cadre?” I told him that I was no IAS officer and that I was working for a public sector company. He became instantly relaxed and started chatting with me about Chennai and its peculiarities. Being a North Indian he must have faced difficulty in getting his regional cuisine as hotels those days were small and catered only to the local tastes. He asked me about my work and the purpose of my visit to Delhi. It was then that I casually mentioned about the difficulty faced in getting the berth and about my apprehensions of being stranded in Delhi without accommodation in the train for my return journey on the second day. I showed him my ticket with waitlisted number beyond 300.He scribbled something in his pocket note book and said “Let us pray that you get your berth as luckily as you got for the onward journey.” He did not tell much about him except that he was a resident of Delhi and worked in the government. I did not also pursue the matter. The rest of the journey was eventless with me busy with my big novel. He slept most of the time except when he came down for lunch or dinner. When the train reached Nizamuddin station, he took leave of me and wished me a pleasant day and good luck in getting the berth for my return.
My work in Delhi was over that day. I sought the help of local office in getting accommodation in the train next day. They were not sanguine about the outcome of their efforts for the holiday rush was beyond imagination. On the day of my journey the office assistant dealing with arranging tickets came to me running around 4PM and said” Sir, I learn a berth has been released in your name. It was not based on our efforts as even our application for release of emergency quota was not accepted. When I cross checked with the reservation office, I was told that the berth has been released from the quota of Chairman, Railway Board.” I then realised the unassuming gentleman who travelled with me must be someone in particular in the Railway Board and must have helped me. I recalled his scribbling the particulars in his note book. He neither revealed who he was nor made any promise to help.
I was reminded of the Sanskrit sloka
sharadi na varshati, garjati, varshhati vaarshhaasu niHsvanaH meghaH
niichaH vadati, na kurute, vadati na saadhuH karoti eva….
In the autumn, the clouds thunder but yield no rain; during the season, they rain without thunder.
The inferior man talks but does not perform whereas the great man simply performs without talking.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Did Anjalai do the right thing?

by KParthasarathi Thursday, June 12, 2008
Anjalai looked into the cup that contained a poisonous brew in her trembling hands
wondering at the likely depressing scene in her hut a few hours later. True the news of her suicide would be shattering to her husband who had just been discharged from the hospital. Her young daughter Ponmani of two years would not realize the gravity of the loss and would be playing with the children assembled at her house. But she was determined that was the ultimate price for her sin however mitigating the circumstances were.
“What am I doing?” Anjalai thought for a moment as the weak but kindly face of Murugan and the innocent smile of the child appeared before her. She felt terribly sorry at abandoning the two like this. She knew there can be no going back even as the course of events ran before her mind’s eye like a film. An orphan Anjalai was living in her uncle’s house after the death of her parents in an epidemic. Life was not easy and one of hard labour with her cruel aunt not reconciled to her living with them from day one. She was very charming to look at making her aunt still more jealous. When she was twenty, she came up with the idea that she be married of to her brother who was nearing fifty and who had lost his wife and had four children.Anjalai’s uncle demurred to the proposal but the termagant went ahead with the preparations. It was then Murugan who was twenty five and who lived in an adjacent house eloped with her to the city. He found work in a mandi as labourer and married her duly in a temple without loss of time and lived happily. Her aunt considered it a good riddance and did not trouble them. In due course Ponmani was born and life went on smoothly with Anjalai augmenting the income by working as domestic in a few houses nearby. It was a hand to mouth living though.
As ill luck would have it, Murugan met with a serious accident when a steel girder fell on his thigh. He was rushed to a government hospital. After the tests , they decided that a major operation was urgently necessary. But nothing was done unless one was highly connected or greased the palms of many from lowly ward boy to the attending doctor. She had pledged her only chain and borrowed from neighbours.All were spent in the first two days. The doctor would visit the ward and walk away silently after seeing him. The nurses were not communicative. His condition was worsening. She was starving virtually and clueless what to do. It was then the ward boy came near her and said”Sister, I do not think they will proceed with the surgery. You must meet the attending assistant doctor in his room separately after 3pm. He is very influential and can get anything done. Do not delay. Be careful.” When she stood outside the cabin, the doctor called her inside. He was about forty five and his look and smile warned Anjalai that he had wicked intentions. Without beating about the bush, he told her ”You do not have money and nothing moves here without it. Your husband is to be operated immediately. Otherwise he will get into complications and die. I can arrange it day after tomorrow itself provided you give me yourself in lieu of money. For such emergent situations affecting the life of husband, this is a small price. Tell me by 5pm.Do not worry, may be we would be meeting a few times till he is discharged. I am doing this only out of pity for you.”
Illiterate as she was and with none to support her and with no other solution visible she decided to succumb to the lust of this animal being the only way to save her dear husband’s life. She prayed to her goddess for forgivance and promised she would make suitable amends for the sin to be committed. Once she expressed her willingness to the doctor, things moved fast and Murugan was successfully operated upon. The doctor took his price unfailingly on several days till the patient was discharged after ten days.
Murugan was able to walk with the help of a walker. His employer had agreed to give him a light job.. But Anjalai had a forlorn and lost look always in her face.Murugan asked”Hey, what is troubling you? Thanks to the assistant doctor who was kind, I am back to normal health. Why are you dejected?” She smiled weakly at him and said she would be back soon.
Anjalai took one deep breath and gulped the contents. She returned home and fell dead at the door step with foams frothing from her mouth. The entire neighbourhood assembled wondering why she took her life.Murugan was rendered speechless and numb by the shock. A week after her death the ward boy who came to commiserate with Murugan confided the likely reason.Murugan dashed his head against the wall and cried inconsolably ”Anjalai, why did you have to take your life? You did though unwillingly what you felt was the only way to save me from death. I would have asked you to forget it as a bad dream. I would not have mistaken you even the slightest. You have now left us in deep misery. I could have as well died.” Ponmani wiped his tears looking puzzled at her crying father.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dad's sacrifice

by KParthasarathi Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Gupta was busy working on his laptop when his 10 year old daughter Meenu came rushing to him. She had her three friends in tow. She asked in plaintive tone “Dad, can I go and play in the park with my friends. They have put new swings and slides there. Lot of children play and there is no need to be afraid of” Gupta hesitated for a while. His wife was away at her office. He finally agreed as the park was very close by and told her “You four must all be together. You can play for just one hour. Take care. Do not talk to strangers” The memories of Nitihari killings were fresh in his mind. He would have liked to accompany them but the work on hand had to be completed that day itself.
It was hardly ten minutes when the three girls came running towards him. He could not see Meenu with them. He became highly anxious that something untoward had happened. The girls panting for breath spoke in chorus”Uncle, one young man who came in Maruti dragged Meenu inside his car even when we were proceeding to the park. She screamed and few passers by also saw. He drove the blue car in a matter of seconds.” They started crying telling that they could not save Meenu although one of them held her skirt tightly. He rushed with them to the spot. There were a few people talking about how unsafe the city had become. There were no clues from the children except that he was about twenty in blue jeans with whiskers and long hairs and that he had dark glasses.Gupta went to the police station and lodged a complaint. They visited the spot and made enquiries there. They promised to trace the child and nab the culprits immediately. The inspector was very nice and put a couple of men on the job as he knew the media would flash by the evening their reports in headlines.Gupta and his wife who had returned from office were praying intensely in their puja room. Some relatives had also assembled to give moral support.
It was at four pm that day when there was a call from the police asking Gupta to reach there immediately. The Inspector took him to an isolated part of the road leading away from the park and showed him a naked girl of ten lying unconscious amidst bushes.Gupta identified his daughter. She was badly battered. Her one eye was swollen, her lips cut and there were bruises and cuts all over the body indicating resistance by her and blood was smeared on her stomach and legs. It was evident she had been criminally assaulted by a brute repeatedly as Gupta came to know later from the hospital. She was rushed to emergency room in the hospital. Luckily the timely efforts could bring her back to normal in a week. But she was yet to recover from the trauma and the horrible memories remained etched in her mind. The entire family and friends were all mentally agitated needing a very long time for the scars to heal. Despite the best efforts of the police and the sketches published in papers and shown on TV, they could get no clue of the culprit. There were assurances that the police would nab him soon and they were in hot pursuit of some leads.
Meenu had not started going to school. One afternoon as Gupta was reading the news paper and while Meenu was watching the TV, she suddenly yelled ”Dad, look out. It is the same fellow come again.” Gupta quickly turned to see the young fellow with wickedness writ large on his face approaching Meenu.Quickly he realized his intent. He was trying to remove the one witness who could see him behind bars.Gupta pounced on him and grappled with him. He thought of his young daughter and how her innocence was robbed by the brute in his hold .He wished to strangle him and tightened his grips. But that beast was too strong for the middle aged Gupta. In a jiffy he pulled out a sharp knife and started repeatedly stabbing him in the arm and stomach.Meenu seeing her dad falling hit hard on the head of the young man with the cricket bat that she found by her side. She hit him twice and stopped when he tumbled down. She went out and screamed for help. It took a little while for the neighbours to rush and take Gupta to the hospital. The best medical attention could not save him.Meenu was shattered at the great loss and a sense of sadness descended on her. She cried inconsolably along with her mom. But deep within her, she was proud of her father for taking revenge on the wicked man by fighting with him till she came to her dad’s rescue. He did not die in vain. The man was sure to be hung. Her dear dad gave his life to save her from what he perceived as a threat to her honour again and also her life.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Let us foster moral courage

by KParthasarathi Wednesday, June 04, 2008
When I was a young boy studying in class 6, there was a heavily built bully in the class. Being the son of the class teacher he ran amuck doing things that pleased him with none bold enough to question him or complain against him. He stole lunch boxes and took away from the school bags of others whatever he desired. He beat the weak boys and frequently pushed a polio affected boy without any provocation. The poor teacher was not aware of the misdeeds of this bully as none informed him. It was a hot summer. There was a big earthen pot kept in the corner of the class room. The water boy filled the pot with water each morning before the classes commenced. There was a brass tumbler kept by the side of the pot. The boys slaked their thirst in between the two classes. It so happened one day the bully commanded one boy to fetch him the water in the tumbler. The boy ignored him and after drinking the water came back to his seat. The bully roared” how dare you disobey me? If you do not get me water within the next minute, I will make you pay for it.” The boy did not move. All the other boys watched anxiously suppressing their glee at his defiance. The bully got up in anger and thrashed the boy. He took the black board wiper and hit the pot breaking it into pieces with all the water spilling out. It was a little later the class teacher entered and saw the damage. He took the cane in his hand and asked generally who broke the pot. There was a deafening silence. The bully stood up and said that the boy who refused to give him the water broke the pot in anger as others were drinking water and he did not get the tumbler when he wanted. The good teacher lost his temper unusually and beat the boy once when there was a sudden shriek ”Stop it, Sir”. Everyone turned towards the direction of the voice. It was the polio affected boy. He said “Sir, the pot was broken by your son in anger as that boy refused to bring him water. Your son beat the boy also. He is tormenting us daily in several ways.”The teacher looked at the class and asked “Is it true? You do not have to fear him or me. Answer truthfully.” All the boys en masse shouted ”Yes, sir” in affirmative. The teacher full of remorse at his rash behaviour rubbed the boy’s arm and asked him to take his seat. He called the polio affected boy to his side and affectionately put his arm around him and said “I really appreciate your speaking out the truth. I do not know why all the others did not have the courage as you have. I am thankful to you.” He called his son near him and caned him thrice telling that he was ashamed of him.
The point of this story is that most of us lack the moral courage to stand up to injustice wherever we see. While the soldiers who fight the war, the firemen who fight the raging fires and the policemen controlling a violent mob are all courageous in the course of their duty, ordinary people remain mute witnesses to the atrocities out of fear. The daring few whistle blowers pay heavy price for their courage in this unethical system. While individually we cannot fight the corrupt politicians, the greedy mafia, the defrauding traders, we should collectively raise our voice of protest at the appropriate times. I have read that ‘moral courage is not just an intellectual exercise. Having the strength to do what is right when faced with difficult decisions is key to being an ethical leader.” If the ration shop or a petrol bunk deals with adulterated goods, we must have the courage to appeal to the consumer protection organisation. If the auto driver fleeces you, you must stand up for your right and take a public bus than succumb to his unreasonable demand. It is difficult and inconvenient too but we must at some stage learn lessons from great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi or a Nelson Mandela. The latter had said that "I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear." We should teach our children by personal example in the ordinary daily transactions about the values of integrity and moral character. Even in the sphere of games, how many players have the willingness to walk without waiting for the umpire’s ruling when they know they are out? We must develop the strength to stand up for what we believe. Our actions should be based on our ethical values and willingness to undergo hardships and even face some risks. We should not be willing accessories to manipulative bosses in office, cunning politicians during elections and corrupt bureaucrats in our dealings. It is high time that schools set apart an hour for moral instruction to children even from the small classes to build a nation of high moral fibre.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Dream fulfilled

-by KParthasarathi Monday, June 02, 2008 Smita is the only daughter of her aged parents. Her father continued to work in a small job after retirement. Her mother ailing with asthma was mostly sick.Smita had done a course in Nursing and was employed as a nurse in a private clinic. Her earnings augmented by father’s income was just adequate to make both ends meet. She worked hard both at home and clinic without respite. She was already 26 and there was no talk at home about her marriage. Some kind relatives and friends referred some good matches for her but her parents showed no inclination to pursue further. Her father has been telling for years that he would think of her wedding the next year. It seemed the parents were insecure about their future if Smita were married off. Smita being a quiet person never complained about the uncertain and long wait. Her friends were all married by now and had already become mothers. The work at the clinic was the only diversion that she looked forward to and even opted to work on Sundays. Some days the moods of depression would grip her when she pondered over the dull routine daily without an inkling of what life had in store for her. She sighed when she saw young wives in family way with their husbands waiting in the clinic to meet the gynaecologist.On some days she would dream of some prince charming falling for her natural beauty and wanting her hand. Instead she had only angry patients wanting to know when the doctor would see them. It was on one such day she saw Sekhar get himself admitted for an urgent appendicitis operation. He was a tall and handsome man around thirty. She was assigned the duty of attending on him. She could not take her eyes off his well built muscular body and his smiling eyes. When he asked her a question, she could barely answer him lost as she was in her thoughts whether this handsome man could be her prince charming. He coughed loudly to draw her attention and asked her name. He said with a mischievous grin that this was his first stay at the hospital and hoped it would be pleasant under the special care of his beautiful nurse. It appeared to Smita he stressed on the word special deliberately. She found small excuses to be with him most of the time even when patients in other cabins waited for her attention. He frequently asked her either to record his temperature or read his pressure apparently enjoying her proximity. He had in the short stay ferreted out all the details about her. He gave the feeling that they were good friends.Smita never felt so happy for as long as she could remember though there was no oblique indication of romantic interest from his side. After he was discharged, there was no news about him. He made no attempts to contact her as she was hoping. She did not also think it proper to call him and enquire about his well being. When more than a week had passed, she reconciled herself to the fact that he was one more patient she had attended on. It was then she got a call asking her to be ready at 5PM to go with him to his apartment telling that he would like her to meet his mom. She started thinking that this is a prelude for happy events to follow. He came at the appointed time and took her in his car. She saw an old lady with kindly eyes in a wheel chair. The lady smiled at Smita and beckoned her by name to come near. She said “As Sekhar told me, you look really beautiful and I will like your company.” Bewildered Smita looked at Sekhar who intervened to say”Smita, you see my mother is an invalid. She needs someone to assist her and provide her company when I am not there. I liked the way you took care of me. I decided to bring you here then and there.” This was a hammer blow to Smita crashing all her dreams.. Her anger and frustration grew inside her. When she stood dazed without replying, Sekhar prodded her “Do you have any objection to being a companion to my mom? I don’t know how much you are getting. You will be much more comfortable here.” Smita did not know what to say. She put her handkerchief to her mouth and began sobbing.Sekhar’s mom intervened “Stop joking, Sekhar, why do you tease her playing with her emotions?” She drew Smita close to her and said “He is always playful. He wants you to come here as my daughter-in-law and give me your good company.Eversince he set his eyes on you in the clinic, he has fallen flat for you. Would you please agree to marry him? I will talk to your parents and do the needful.” When she saw Sekhar watching her eagerly, she put her head shyly down and started scratching the ground with her toe nail. Kpartha12@hotmail.com