Saturday, September 27, 2008

Selfless compassion

The old woman was living alone in her small house. She was getting a small pension after her husband died. She had no wealth except the house. Her only son left for US and married a Mexican. All contacts with him were gradually lost. She was falling sick frequently these days. It is the way of the world for friends and relatives to keep away from the needy, be it of physical help or money. Luckily she was a woman of grit and had the courage to live her life alone though it was difficult during periods of sickness.
As she was returning home late one rainy evening by a deserted road, she stumbled in the darkness on a small boy lying under the protruding sun shade of a closed shop. It was wet and damp. The boy had a torn shirt and was shivering from the cold wind. She took pity on him and knelt by his side feeling for any fever. The boy moved a little and moaned in pain or hunger that she could not make out. She gave him water from the small bottle she always carried. Once refreshed he sat up and told her that he had run away from his village and had been roaming in the town for shelter and food. He had not eaten for the last two days. An orphan, he was living with his grandmother in the village. She passed away five days back and there was none willing to give him shelter. He said ”Grand ma, I will help you and stay in your house doing all the work you ask me to do for a handful of food. I cannot bear this hunger anymore.” She took pity on the boy and took him home in the drizzle. She gave him a towel to dry himself and some clothes to wear. Meanwhile she made a hot broth from rice and gave him bellyful. She told him ”Do not be worried. You can stay with me. I will put you in the corporation school nearby. Study well. We can be of support to each other. Sleep well.”
Life was running smooth for the boy. He studied well and helped his grandma as he called the old lady in running errands and fetching medicines when she fell sick. The old lady also found a purpose in her life and was no longer despondent as she used to be. She showered her affection on the boy as if he were her own grandson. The boy had a fancy for film music. He had a golden voice and could sing very much like the leading singers. He used to take part in competitions initially in school and later in public forums. Years went by and the boy joined some music director. He became busy and spent all the time with the director mostly out of town. He explained to his grandma that he can no longer stay with her as he was away most of the days and came home at odd times. He told her he was equally sad to leave her but assured that he would take care of her in times of need.
The boy became busy and grew to be a reputed play back singer over the years. He came to meet her occasionally but this also stopped after some time. It is not that he forgot her. His work took him to Mumbai and he became so busy he hardly had time even for his rest and relaxation. Meanwhile the old lady deprived of the only company longed for her ‘grandson’. She became morose over a period of time and when she became disoriented failing to recognise the day, the place she was staying and also the neighbours, she was admitted in an old age home which took care of such people. She was gradually sinking though living in her world of imagination unaware of the surroundings and the people.
When the renowned music singer cum director visited the city for a gala award function that was graced by all the big and famous, a few close friends could discern certain melancholy in his face. He brushed aside questions whether anything was bothering him. Immediately after the function he excused himself and went in his huge car along with his assistant to the house where he lived with his ‘grand ma’.When told that she was in an old age home and was in poor health, he rushed there. The old age home had never witnessed a car of this length and shine. They had no visitors of even relatives let alone eminent and rich men. All the inmates in their dirty and semi clad clothes came rushing out to see who the visitor was. Someone in the road knew the name of the director and soon his name was bandied about loudly. He rushed in to find his ‘grandma’ in emaciated condition and fell at her feet sobbing ’Grandma, I have come. I have come. I will take you with me and keep you in comfort. I am what I am thanks to your compassion. I cannot forget the hot broth you fed me on the cold and rainy day. Grand ma, tell me whether you recognise this fat man?”
She looked at him vacantly with blinking eyes tying knots in her torn sari. There was no sign of recognition. The director broke down and hit his head with both hands crying inconsolably “I am responsible for this pathetic sight. Had I not left you in search of money and fame, things would not have come to such a pass.” The head of the home said in a consoling tone that she had not many months to live and assured him that they would take care of her well till her last breath.
The director took out his cheque book and donated a tidy amount of rupees ten lakhs for building the home and naming it after her.AS he looked at her with sadness, she was still tying knots in her sari. Overcome with grief and sobbing loudly he placed his head on her legs before reluctantly leaving the home.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A happy end

Praveen turned out to be the black sheep in the family. Though born in a decent family with one sister, he fell into bad ways even while he was in school. A back bencher in the class, he often played truant spending his time with other loafers smoking and drinking cheap liquor. Even when he was sixteen, he started accompanying his grown up friends to whore houses. His father was sick of reading the reports from the head master warning the boy’s expulsion from school. He scolded, starved and beat him to no avail. The last straw was the complaint that he misbehaved with a girl in the class and the rustication that followed. He was thrown out of the house and his mother was warned not to feed him at any cost. He left the place happily that he was no more accountable to anyone but not without helping himself with a couple of watches, some silver and currency from his dad’s bureau. His sister though afraid of him felt sorry for him.
He took a train to Mumbai as he had heard enterprising people succeed there in whatever line they chose. He was good in gambling, adept in cards and knew about horses. If he had not succeeded so far in making a neat pile, it was because he had no initial capital to try his luck. He quickly converted the stolen things into cash but lost it as quickly in the gambling houses. But it was not without some benefits. He made friends with some small time crooks who helped him join a company of recovery agents. This line was after his heart and he revelled in torturing the hapless clients he was assigned. He spent the money on booze and women. A couple of times he had been taken into custody by the police but managed to come out after a short stint.
It was almost a decade since he had left his native town. His dad and mom had passed away, he had heard. His sister was married to some local young man by name Yogesh who had grown up to be an important official in the town. They had amassed good wealth but fate had been unkind by not blessing them with a child. His sister became lean and weak possibly by worry and loneliness. His brother-in-law was a sturdy man and frequently went on tours. When Praveen wrote to them that he would be visiting them for one week, it was with mixed feelings the news was received. While his sister was happy that she would be meeting his long lost brother, she knew also about the seamy side of his character. She was worried that her husband may not like him in the house.Yogesh knew that Praveen was a wastrel given to bad habits but did not wish to displease his wife.
Praveen had no difficulty in locating the sprawling house.His sister opened the door. She hadn’t changed much. Praveen could see no eagerness in her face while welcoming him but was well mannered she always was. She said Yogesh was expected any time. After tea and snacks they sat down to exchange the happenings since he left. From Praveen’s side there was nothing much to speak about though he gave exaggerated version of his exploits.
“I can see you are all comfortably placed by God’s grace. I am here actually to ask of you a favour. I need urgently fifty thousand rupees. I can return that in a fortnight. I could have taken a loan from any of my friends but I wanted to make this an excuse to visit you after so many years.”
His sister said” I will tell my husband. But he is very careful in these matters and does not part with money easily. It is better you be prepared for a refusal. I will try my utmost.”
It was then Yogesh entered. He extended his hand and said “It is very nice of you to pay us a visit. I hope you are well. Come on. Let us have dinner now itself. I have an urgent meeting at very high level to discuss pressing matters of the city and would return home very late in the night.”
His sister had a big spread on the table. After dinner she took her husband to adjoining room to mention about the request of her brother. Praveen could hear faint sounds of refusal amidst the fervent pleas from his sister. His brother-in-law came out and left without a word to Praveen. His sister came out crying and muttering to herself “Wretched miser, very unhelpful”. Praveen knew that she had not succeeded. He did not broach the subject again. Feeling bored, he excused himself telling her that he would take a stroll, have a drink in a bar and return around 10pm.Once outside the house his natural urges took over. He rushed to the nearest bar and ordered brandy, and again gave a second and third order. He soon became tipsy. He knew his brother-in-law would not be back home before midnight. He thought fit to have some fun and took directions from the waiter to the nearest brothel.
He ambled along the stairs and he was led to a large hall where young and beautiful women were sitting surrounded by a few men. Though the effect of alcohol blurred his vision and speech he could not mistake the hurrying figure of Yogesh into a room with a woman in arm. Praveen let out a howl of joy and followed him with alacrity when he smelt a god-sent opportunity. Seizing his brother-in-law’s arm he exclaimed “So this is the high level important meeting, is it? My sister would be curious to know the details” We have no more interest in the events that followed except that Yogesh generously gave the sum asked for by Praveen making both his wife and her brother happy. Needless to say that Praveen left the next day without rocking the boat of his sister’s married life.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A faux pas

- by KParthasarathi 19 Sep 2008

I was travelling from Ernakulum to Chennai by an evening train. There were three other passengers in my first class cabin. I was feeling very hungry. Soon after the train left I placed my order for a vegetarian meal on the caterer who came to my compartment. I was told the dinner would be served at Trichur.The other three passengers were bound for Coimbatore and did not ask for meals. I immersed myself in the unfinished novel but frequently checked the time for the train to reach Trichur.
Within minutes of the train reaching Trichur, a man brought a very large circular stainless steel plate covered with a spotless white napkin and left it by my side very deferentially. He lingered for a while before he left. Being accustomed to smaller aluminium plates, I was surprised at the huge size of the plate. When I lifted the napkin a greater surprise was in store for me. It had about a dozen or more katories, big and small, filled with different varieties of sabzis,dhalls,hot chapattis rolled in silver foil, fragrant smelling fried rice, plain rice,sambhar,rasam , five different varieties of chips jackfruit, banana , alu,plantain and yam besides pappadams,curd,achaar,sweets and kheer.I instantly knew there must have been a mistake as I was expecting a bland Spartan meal of rice,sambhar and two side dishes. I knew this was a feast fit for a royal personage and not for a plebeian like me. I peeped out to see whether the bearer was visible. He was nowhere to be found.
Meanwhile the train started moving. I was not sure whether I should commence eating. My hesitation was obviously observed by the three passengers and they looked questioningly at me. I said with a sheepish grin ” I had ordered for an ordinary meal. I do not know whether the railways supply special meals especially a sumptuous fare like this. I feel there must be a mistake somewhere. But the bearer is not visible and I am famished.”
One gentleman replied “Why do you worry? You ordered for a meal. The caterer has supplied this. He is also not seen to clarify your doubt. You are hungry. Please help yourself. If he asks for higher payment, it can always be paid. Please commence eating as it is already past 8.30 PM.”
I said ” Thanks. All these items are too much for me. Let us share.” When they declined I persuaded them to have chips, sweets and a few other delicacies. This they did with much pleasure. We had become friendly by then and laughed over our windfall. A few minutes later we heard a commotion followed by loud noises and people walking in the corridor to and fro. We could not make out from the Babel of voices till a gentleman from the next cabin came and asked generally whether we had our dinner. The gentleman opposite confirmed that I had the dinner and that they are getting down at Coimbatore. He looked hither and thither and saw the large empty plate before he left. When the train reached Coimbatore, I saw some railway officials enter the compartment and crowding in the next cabin talking in an apologetic tone to a lady passenger there. I saw the bearer being beaten by one of the officials.
The three passengers who were themselves railway officials told me in hushed tone that the rich fare served to me was actually intended for the lady in the next cabin. She was the wife of Chief Commercial Superintendent. Due to the faux pas committed by the bearer, she was given the aluminium plate with the frugal meal intended for me. It appeared she who was accustomed to such fabulous free dinners was seething in anger at the indignity and the carelessness shown. I smiled happily at my good fortune and by the thought that “Every dog has its day”

Thursday, September 18, 2008

An apt gift

Lalitha has been working her mind to death like a dog with the bone for the last few days to determine the apt gift for her mom on her ensuing 60th birth day. She did not want it to be gaudy or rich. Neither a sari nor a jewel seemed appropriate. Her dad had passed away only six months earlier and her mom would desire no celebration what so ever.
Her parents were very loving and caring to each other in their married life that spanned forty years. Each one of them gave in to make the other happy.Lalitha has never witnessed even a single instance of their being angry with each other while tiffs seemed a matter of daily occurrence in her life. Her mom had not got over the shock and was living in her past memories refusing to move on with life. Her husband could be of no help with his crazy idea of taking her mom out to a picturesque spot on the occasion. He presumably thought that it would be a change from the surroundings. But then he had not understood his mother-in-law well. Her mom had emphatically told everyone that she would not like any celebration and that the day would pass off like any other day. She wanted her children to respect her wishes.
As she was thinking about her parents while in bed, she dozed off to sleep only to have a wonderful dream. Her dad had come to her house alone from the evening walk and asked her to bring good tea with namkeens.It was unusual of him to come alone as her mom always accompanied him. He was in a happy frame of mind making jokes and laughing loudly. It was then her mom’s birth day celebrations came up. He said he wished to make it a big and private affair starting with an appointment the previous day at a local beauty salon for a facial and massage. He would then take her to get for her a new outfit of clothes, shoes and a matching hand bag .On her birth day, he would pamper her with a breakfast in her bed with a bouquet of sixty roses. In the evening they would have a quiet dinner at a nice hotel along with the children. She praised him for his thoughtful plans and wanted what should be her present to her mom. He said ”I have already thought about it. I think a beautiful and big frame with her picture along with me would be the ideal gift she would cherish. Go to the best shop and get it. I can provide you with the picture.” The idea seemed very good and even as she was thanking him the dream ended abruptly. But she was happy that her dad had solved her problem so well.
During one of her visits to her mom’s place she rummaged the old photo albums and found the latest picture of her parents that her dad had mentioned. She quietly brought it with her. She had it enlarged it to the size of the frame. On her mom’s birth day, she took the frame with her neatly covered in a sober gift wrapper. When Lalitha handed over the same her mom was upset and said “I told you clearly that I will have no gifts and yet you bring this packet. Don’t you respect the sentiments of your mom?”
Lalitha said ”Ma, this is no gift. I am respecting the wishes of my dad to get this for you. He came in my dream and suggested that I do his bidding. Open it and see for yourself.”
When her mom opened the packet to see the picture in a wonderful frame with her sitting by the side of her standing husband with his arm around her, she was thrilled beyond words.She read the verse below the picture with tears flowing on her cheeks.
“Do not worry and weep.
If I am not there...
When you wake from sleep in the early morning hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft, starlight at night.
Do not worry and weep.
If I am not there."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Was it even justice?

The house was palace-like with large well-furnished rooms and all provided with air conditioners, indicating the affluence of the inmates. The large Iron Gate leading to the portico, where three cars were parked, was always closed with the security guard opening when a visitor knocked at the door. There was a small room 10x10 added a few years back. The owners evidently had thoughtfully provided a fan but forgot about the air-conditioner. The room was adjacent to the pump house and one could hear the motor running, which it did throughout the day, to pump water to the tanks, for watering the large garden and the green lawns. There was a window and a ventilator, though the former remained closed to prevent the menace of mosquitoes. One could smell the unpleasant and stale odour. All this description of the room is necessary as the story revolves around its inmate lying on the old cot with a few folded blankets doing the duty of the bed. The bed was covered by a red-coloured rubber sheet as a matter of abundant caution. On it lay an old woman of eighty-plus, mostly motionless with the eyes moving. She neither spoke nor showed any sign of recognition but lay inert the whole day. A maid was appointed by her son to look after the old woman, clean her and feed her through the mouth. The ladies of the house or the sons rarely entered the room that was kept out of bounds for the children.
It was in this house that she had run the household like a queen and kept her flock under her discipline. She was affectionate and warm but never tolerated slovenly habits from her bahus. As the head of the family, she was more feared than respected. They disliked her totally but could not do much as the three sons attempted to pacify their wives, but without upsetting their mom. The house belonged to her. After the death of her husband, two sons went to live separately in two other houses that also belonged to her. She had three daughters too, all living in the same city. Things were moving along without major hassles till she fell one day in the bath room and had her back-bone damaged. At her advanced age, nothing could be done to restore her walking. She was confined to bed but could sit up initially. Gradually, she became an invalid, lost the power of speech and the movement of limbs stopped, putting an end to all modes of communication with her. As guests kept coming frequently, the eldest bahu decided that it was best her sick mother in-law stayed in the corner room at the rear of the house and shifted her without even a formal mention of it to her husband.
The eldest bahu felt one day that she had taken care of the old woman adequately and that it was the turn of others. What used to be a grumble, turned into loud protests and abuse of the old lady under the impression that she had lost her power of hearing and understanding. The bahus would openly quarrel within her earshot mentioning the past hurts from her hand and how they detested her. None of them wanted her. The sons, for fear of antagonising their wives, kept mum. One of the sons said if it was inconvenient they could leave her at a hospice and share the expenses equally. The daughters kept their distance. The old woman felt that sending her to a home would be deliverance for her and welcomed it. But she had no way of expressing herself except blink with tears in her eyes. The sons never came near her to pass their hands affectionately over their mom. They would crane their necks from the door as if she was suffering from some contagion. To add insult to injury, they would make highly-insensitive remarks that she was sinking and would not last for even three months.
When relatives visited the house to see the old lady, the bahus would talk so much telling that their mother-in-law was like their own mother and was always loving. The eldest said that she often spent the nights with her in her room, massaging her limbs till she slept. What passed in that despairing mind of the old lady no one could know except for the sight of moving eyes with tears trickling down her withered cheeks. Was she thinking of the blatant lies these people around her uttered? The attending maid, who knew all, was invariably sent out on such occasions.
The pitiable but alert lady could do nothing about the indignities heaped on her but to shed her tears and pray incessantly to God to take her away soon. She heard and knew the unseemly auction going on amongst the sons as to who should have her. She wanted the Almighty to save her from this living-hell and have her with Him. Barely two weeks later, God answered her prayer when she passed away in her sleep peacefully. As ill-luck would have it, the eldest bahu, on the thirteenth day of the ceremonies, fell down in the same slippery bath-room, hit her head and was admitted in hospital in a state of coma. Doctors were sceptical about her regaining normalcy and could not say when she would revive, if at all. Her daughter-in-law was seen dusting and readying the granny’s room. Was it destiny’s way of getting even?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A false move

Ramu Sastri was a well known in the circle of purohits.Being well versed in the practice of his profession and being a ganapadigal with proficiency in Vedas, he had a large clientele of well to do people and was much sought after. His house was full of aspiring assistants and trainees. He was a kind hearted and noble person helping many indigent boys find their feet. He was a strong disciplinarian and expected high standards of probity and commitment to the job. His disciples were afraid of him and spoke to him with their hands folded and covering their mouths.
He took a liking for one poor boy who hailed from his village and the son of his friend who died suddenly. Taking pity on the boy, he took him under his shelter and trained him to become a purohit.The boy, Sundaram, too was sharp and learnt quickly the mantras by rote getting up very early in the mornings.Ramu Sastri invariably took him along wherever he went to conduct functions like marriages.
Sastri had a beautiful daughter Lakshmi studying in class 12.She was a studious student, well behaved and obedient to parents. She took a liking for the handsome and well-built Sundaram with his curly hair.Sundaram too loved her and always cast furtive glances at her whenever Sastri was not around. The house being full of people did not provide him an opportunity to talk to her and reveal his fascination and love for her. It so happened one day as he was returning from an errand on his cycle, he saw her at the bus stand waiting for the bus. He stopped by her side and said ” Waiting for the bus, is it? I am not able to see you alone to exchange a few words. We are always surrounded by people. Do you know that I like you very much?” She did not answer him but kept scratching the ground with her toe nail. She looked at him slightly a couple of times with a trace of smile on her lips.
When she saw the bus approaching she said “Oh Oh, the bus is coming. I will take leave of you.”
He replied “Come early daily. I will manage to meet you as often as possible. I love you very much.” She threw a smile at him and boarded the bus.
These secret meetings for a few minutes at the bus stand went on for a couple of years though they did not graduate to even clasping of hands or touching her. When she was in the final year, Sastrigal started looking for suitable alliances. It was then after much hesitation and trepidation, Sundaram summoned his courage when he and Sastrigal were alone to seek the hand of his daughter.”Mama, I love Lakshmi very much. I think she also likes me. I would request you to give her in marriage to me.I will prove myself worthy of being your son-in-law.” Sastrigal exploded in anger ”How dare you make such a demand? How long has this affair been going on? From this instant you make your arrangements to stay elsewhere. Being my friend’s son, I will allow you to assist me but you are not welcome in this house anymore.”
It was a month later when Sastrigal finished a betrothal function at a rich man’s house, there was a commotion that a big silver bowl that contained sugar was missing. It was a function where only close relatives and friends were present. The rich man’s brother-in-law a police officer ordered a search. To the great shock of everyone, the bowl was found in Sastrigal’s bag. The police officer caught the upper garment of Sastrigal and shook him asking” how come with your pious image you stoop to such act? The rich man shouted at his brother in law “Take off your dirty hands. How dare you touch him? It was me who put the bowl in his bag as a surprise gift for him. He has been my guru for three decades.” He fell at Satrigal’s feet and sought him to forgive for this unfortunate incident.Sastrigal who stood bewildered and trembling with shame put his angavastram on his mouth and sobbed. He emptied the bag and left without uttering a word and without listening to the pleas of rich man.
He did not eat food that day and did not sleep. He was dazed wondering how the bowl came to his bag. He did not believe what the rich man had said.His wife and daughter were pleading and begging him to have at least buttermilk. It was then Sundaram entered and fell headlong at his feet and clasping his feet cried ”Mama, forgive this wretch. In anger at your refusal to give Lakshmi in marriage to me whom I love ardently, I did this treacherous act. I have already confessed to the crowd in the hall of my misdeed and got beaten. Until you forgive me, I will not get up.”
It was then Lakshmi in a rage unseen ever before screamed at Sundaram “I hate you from the bottom of my heart. I detest standing in the same ground where you are. You have no sense of gratitude and no devotion to your father like teacher. You are a scum of the earth. Get lost before I kill you.”
Sundaram knew that he had forfeited her trust and love and left quietly never looking back.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Happy resolution

Mathrubutham iyer did not succeed in life though he was a precocious student in the school days. He had to discontinue his studies abruptly when his father died suddenly .He had joined his B.A class just then. The local advocate of the town took pity on the boy and employed him to assist him. Iyer soon learnt well the routine of an advocate’s office and helped him in many matters .It was said of him that he knew well the intricacies of law and even prepared the brief for the advocate. Be that as it may, life was difficult for him with an ailing wife, two grown up daughters and a young son who was born a cripple and slightly retarded.
He gave his good looking first daughter in marriage to a distant relative disposing of his ancestral property. The daughter and her husband moved to North India. The son-in-law never allowed the daughter to visit her parents. Even when iyer’s wife passed away, the first daughter came on the tenth day and left in three days.
The younger daughter Parvati bore the brunt of running the household and looking after her brother. She finished her graduation and B.Ed and became a teacher in a local school. She was also very beautiful, tall and slim eliciting offers from parents of eligible young men. But Iyer turned down every proposal on one flimsy ground or the other. With his scanty knowledge of astrology, he would himself go through the motions of comparing the horoscopes and find some reason to reject. When she was 24, he dropped the bomb shell that she was passing through a bad phase by the planetary alignments and there was no prospect of marriage for another seven years. Even the advocate called him one day and advised him that it was a parental responsibility to get the daughter married and that he should not rely much on the horoscope matching once the other factors are acceptable.Iyer remained silent all through the advice and came back assuring the advocate of nothing.
Parvati knew the real reason. The fault did not lie in her horoscope but in the mind of her dad. Her father was afraid that he was getting old and that her elder sister would not be of any help gentle request to keep the boy with her on one occasion was turned down by her husband. The boy needed the caring attention unable even to clothe himself. He could not be left alone. Once she got married and left the house, there would be none to look after the cripple.Iyer must have steeled his heart and decided that the girl should remain a spinster to take care of her brother once iyer passed away. A difficult decision no doubt for a father seen often wiping away the tear from his melancholy eyes. He would on some evenings silently sit by her side and pass his hands over her head affectionately showing his concern for her. He was torn between the two conflicting duties towards his grown up daughter and the pathetic son dependent on others. On many nights when Parvati saw her father tossing in the bed without sleep, she will bring him a glass of water and tell ”Appa, do not worry. I am happy as I am. I like the school and being with children. I will take care of my brother till my last day. Please relax and go to sleep.” The old man will sit up and start sobbing till the early hours of the day when sleep would overtake him.
It was during such times a young man in his early thirties joined her school as a teacher. He soon became very popular winning the hearts of the management, his peers and the students by his pleasant disposition, hard work and the ability to carry the school children with him. He was naturally drawn towards Parvati by her charming looks and began cultivating her. With her suppressed desires and starved of love, she too succumbed to his winning ways. Love blossomed between the two. He knew her predicament. He knew that if he approached him, the old man would find some excuse to reject as he did in all other cases. They both went to the advocate and sought his blessings for their marriage without the approval of the dad and their strategy to resolve the issue. He readily agreed.
After tying the mangal sutra in a temple in the presence of advocate and school teachers, the newly married couple went to Iyer and prostrated before him. He was speechless in shock and anger for a moment and like a mad man shouted at her ”Drohi, how dare you come and fall at my feet after running away with an unknown stranger. You are no longer my daughter.Parvati is dead and gone. Don’t ever think I cannot take care of your brother. Get out of my sight this instant” and broke down crying. Parvati said ”Appa, Please listen calmly. Please hear our advocate mama for a moment. We are not leaving you.”
“Mathru, Be patient. Don’t give in to anger. They married with my blessings and under my advice. Allow your son-in-law to say a few words.” said the advocate.
The young man said in his soft tone” Mama, accept me as your elder son. You and the boy are coming to stay with us pemanently.You don’t have to work anymore. Stay at home when we are at school. I promise to take care of you both as a son and brother would. Please bless us on this auspicious occasion.” Both fell at his feet. The advocate spoke in stentorian tone”Mathru, don’t stand like a log of wood. Bless the young couple. You are lucky to get a son-in law like him.”
Tears flowed from Iyer’s eyes as he blessed the couple and hugged them affectionately.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The cultured pearl set

Rajan is a loving husband and an affectionate father to his two children. He invariably spent quality time with his wife Sheela and children whenever he was in Kolkata, his head quarters. He enjoyed taking them to top class eating places, cultural programmes, picnic spots, watching TV with them or playing board games on holidays.
Being a vice president of marketing his job took him on tour of a day or two for more than twenty days a month. A jovial and handsome personality with a gift of the gab, he was given to amoral tendencies when away from home. He had kept this weakness of his unknown to his wife or colleagues. He had come to Mumbai from Delhi around noon on a Tuesday and had a meeting only the next day. One even suspected whether he arranged his flights in such a manner to have the long day available to him. After a discreet call from his mobile, Leela promptly arrived at his room for the lunch. This is not the first time he had met her. She had come three or four times earlier. Rajan took a special liking for her who was in early thirties but maintained a trim figure. A very passionate lover she too gave him pleasure more than the money’s worth. They spent the whole day in bed enjoying each other’s company. When it was nearing five she readied herself to leave.
She saw on the table a box containing an attractive Freshwater cultured pearl strand and Bracelet set and let out a cry ‘wow’. Pretty, a heart-shaped clasp in sterling silver accent, each piece is an ideal gift for a young woman. Rajan was in such a satisfied and happy frame of mind that he readily offered it to her without a second thought as his memento for the company given. She was so overwhelmed with this unexpected gift she smothered him with kisses and hugs and reluctantly left. He had bought this set to surprise his wife but decided to buy something else in lieu.
He made a call to his old buddy Srivastava whom he had not met for almost five years after his marriage. Rajan agreed to meet him at his office around three PM on his way to airport. He expected his official meeting to be over by 1-30pm.Srivastava had put on lot of flab and was very obese for his age. After the initial pleasantries, Srivastava sighed and said “I envy you. You still maintain a handsome figure and look a lot younger than your age. I could see you are enjoying your life to the brim.” Rajan nodded his head in affirmative.
Srivastava continued,” You are already in a senior management position at this young age. You have a pretty and loving wife and two children .What more does one want in life than a loving wife who can give her time and company to her husband when he returns home after a heavy day."
“Why, what is the matter with you? You have told me that you have an attractive and talented wife though I haven’t met her.”Rajan knew they had no children but felt this does not in any way affect the bonds of love between the couple.
Srivastava said “True, she is beautiful. How does it help? We lead a humdrum life devoid of love and affection. We respect each other and appear happily married. She is frigid and gets stiff whenever I approach her that even our occasional physical relations are mechanical that we are inclined to avoid. I am no doubt fat and clumsy for the slim and energetic woman that she is. I get out of breath even on slightest exertion. I come home tired most of the days after hard day’s work in a famished condition and after a heavy dinner doze off to sleep. She watches serials or keep chatting with her friends on mobile or on internet."
“What does she do in the afternoons” Rajan asked. He replied “No idea may be she is visiting her friends or attending kitty parties. I think she also helps blind students reading lessons. But she makes it a point to be back by 6pm when I return from office. She is otherwise very loving and ensures that I am well fed. She does not bother me with petty household problems. Perhaps she is missing children.”
Rajan sympathised with him and suggested he consulted a doctor to reduce his weight and increase his zest for life. He took leave of him promising to visit him at his house next time. When Srivastava reached home at 6-15 he found his wife listening to music and in a happy mood. She came rushing towards him and hugged him. The maid brought tea and snacks. As he settled his heavy body on the easy chair, she came close to him and snuggled.
“How was the day? Could you read the lessons to the students at the blind home? How was the baby shower at your friend’s place?” he asked. “I had a very enjoyable day after a long time at my friend’s place. In the evening I got this for a steal at the jewellers. Do you think this set will give me a lift?” she replied producing the open box containing the cultured pearl set.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The charity of the poor

I see the old beggar woman sitting at the same place in the bazaar very close to my house. She never changed her place but in the evenings moved to the opposite side of the road to escape the Sun’s rays. I don’t know why-but my eyes look for her crouched figure whenever I pass that way. She may be around seventy but looked much older for her age. An emaciated and shrunk figure she had unkempt hair that had never seen oil for ages. There was a slight pucker in her lips suggestive of a smile but it otherwise revealed no emotion.
She sat on a torn mat with a tattered bed sheet on it. She was a leper with her dimmed vision and eaten away fingers. I used to wonder where she lived and who brought her safely to the corner. She raised her head whenever she heard the approaching footsteps but never made a plea for alms. There was however a dignified deportment about her even in her pitiable state. I have always found natural dignity is not associated with one’s station in life or the by the apparel worn. Even a beggar can look dignified while a rich man can be indecorous in manner. In the news paper spread before her the people flung the coins that she gathered with her trembling fingers once a while to put them in a Dalda tin.
One day there was a heavy drizzle and I saw her drenched completely but she made no attempt to move away to a shelter. The next day I gave her a big sized old umbrella that was lying unused for her to protect from the rain and scorching sun. She did not thank me except raising her head towards my direction and letting out what seemed a smile. I dropped invariably a coin whenever I passed through that place. I suspect she had an uncanny knack of identifying me from my footsteps as she always raised her head as a form of salutation. God evidently gave keener faculties to compensate for those lost.
I asked my wife that day whether she can give one or two of her used saris to be given to the beggar woman.”Why one or two? Take these half a dozen saris and give her. If you need more, I have a huge bundle that I have been thinking of to give a poor home.”The next day I took four saris with me on my way to the bank to be given to that woman. Surprisingly she was not there. I could not find her in the succeeding two or three days also. A vague fear that she might have fallen sick or got involved in an accident while crossing the busy road took over me. I could check with none and my ego wouldn’t permit me to check with the small tea shop nearby.
I was relieved when I saw her at the same place four days later. I went back home much to my wife’s surprise and amusement to collect the four saris. When I told the beggar woman that I was looking for her, she replied she fell sick after the drenching in the rain. When I proffered the packet telling that there are four saris, she immediately said”Sami (Sir), I don’t need more than two. I have no hut. I sleep on platform. This bag contains all my earthly possessions. I cannot carry more weight. One spare would be more than adequate.”
When I was hesitating, she said “There is a young woman sitting a little yonder. She is an orphan after her mother another beggar passed away. She has no clothes to conceal her shame. She is troubled by the other beggars when it gets dark and seeks my protection. I remain awake in the nights and shout them away almost daily. Give her these two saris and help her by finding immediately a secure home for her. I would be indebted for life to you, Raja.”
My eyes became moist at the generous heart within this frail and destitute woman who is more concerned about a pitiable woman than herself.”What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal” I found her taller and richer than me as I learnt in that single incident that the value of a person resides in what he/she gives and not in what he/she is capable of receiving. I was reminded of the famous quote.”A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog.”