Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thank God for the doughnut

by KParthasarathi 24 Nov 2008
Sukanya was resting in her bed one hot afternoon reading a novel. Her children hadn’t yet come from the school. The day was busy and she had to attend to many things like going to the bank, sending an important letter through courier, a visit to the tailor and the library. It was then that she heard someone singing happily some village tunes. It was melodious and soulful. She waited for the song to be completed and then went into the small room wherefrom the song came. She found Muniyamma lying on the mat and humming another tune.
“Hey, I never knew you can sing so well. Did you learn singing when you were young?” asked Sukanya even as the maid got up in a hurry. She replied shyly, “No, Amma. I just picked up these songs from my mother when I was young. She sang so well, you know.”
Sukanya’s thoughts went to Muniyamma’s chequered life. It was only a couple of months since she had hired her. She was a real find for Sukanya who had to keep looking for a new maid when every alternate month they left the job for one reason or the other. Muniyamma lived in the small room at the rear of the flat and was provided with food too. She took care of all the house-hold chores including giving a helping hand while cooking. Sukanya was relatively free to pursue her other interests.
Muniyamma, though past sixty, was slim and in good health. She was charming with a pleasant smile writ on her face permanently. But fate had not been kind to her. She was married when young and her husband gave her nothing except for four children. An alcoholic, he treated her badly and died of ulcer. Life was a struggle. Her only daughter had eloped with an auto-rickshaw driver who was fifteen years older than her. Muniyamma later learnt that he had deserted her when a baby was born and that she went to Mumbai to lead a life of shame. None of the sons studied well and two became vagabonds. The eldest, it appeared, was serving a life sentence for raping a child and strangling her. One of the other two fell into bad company and was in and out of jail on several offences. The last one went to a Northern city to eke out an honest living and she never heard of him again. Her life was one of misery and want. She worked all day long in two or three houses as a domestic help and led a hand to mouth living till she got the job in Sukanya’s house.
Sukanya started to wonder how in such a careworn life of drudgery, Muniyamma could be happy and sing with abandon. Sukanya had all the blessings a young woman can dream of: a good husband, high education, riches, two well-behaved children and good health. Yet she was unhappy at some minor inconvenience or disappointment putting on a scowl on her face frequently. On the other hand, this poor woman with apparently not a single thing to rejoice about, was singing merrily like a lark.
Muniyamma looked at Sukanya and asked “Amma you are lost in some thought. What is it? You are not uttering a single word!”
Woken up from her thoughts, Sukanya asked, “Do you sing like this frequently?” “Yes Amma. I do sing when I am happy and ever since I came to work for you I am happy.”
Sukanya was rendered speechless. How could this poor woman, whose life was drudgery all day long with no joy in her life thus far, be happy? She asked her, “What makes you so happy that you break into songs?’
Muniyamma replied, “God has been kind enough to entrust me in your care. You are a very gentle and compassionate person and treat me with the affection of a daughter. Your children are all well-mannered and do not treat me like a servant in the house. They come and talk to me once in a while. Your husband is a decent person and is very affectionate to you, the kind of affection that I have never enjoyed from my husband. You provide me with the same hot food that you eat and not give the left-overs. You give me clothes not for covering my shame alone, but also of good quality that I have never known. You are also taking me to the doctor when I fall ill. You are also paying me well. What more blessings can I want?”
It took a minute for Sukanya to regain her composure. She learnt that happiness lay in counting the blessings and not bemoaning over the minor difficulties in life. She was humbled by the positive attitude of her maid-servant and learnt that happiness is available for those who seek it. It inspired her to decide that she will not lose her cool by minor stresses or small hurdles anymore.
“Let us thank God for the doughnut instead of cursing the holes in it.”

Friday, November 21, 2008

How Ananthu won my heart

- by KParthasarathi 21 Nov 2008
Category: OthersThis story has been read 54 times. I was a teacher in a Matriculation school in a small town. As a teacher I strived hard to inculcate in the children that the values are best measured not by the degrees held, the riches owned or the positions acquired but by the moments spent in wiping tears and touching hearts, in helping the aged and needy, in sharing the knowledge and in making the world a better place to live in. Yes, I taught them their lessons too spending more time on the slow, admonishing the laggards and encouraging the bright. I tried to ensure that the gap between the best and the weak boy was abridged by raising the level of the latter.
In one particular class I had the challenge in the form of Ananthu.A well built boy, pleasant in disposition, endowed with high stamina, he excelled as much in sports as he failed in his studies. All my special attention on this young boy was unsuccessful as he continued to get poor grades. I used all methods in vain to kindle his interest in studies by cajoling, threatening and punishing. His father, I learnt, was an alcoholic and mother an illiterate woman. There were daily fights in the presence of the boy. There were no other children in the family. When I knew the uncongenial atmosphere at home, I sympathised with the boy and doubled my efforts to make him a better student. But no matter how much I struggled, he stood at the bottom of the class.
It was recess time. There was a sense of defeat in me. I was cursing myself for my inadequacy in motivating him to succeed and felt that I too along with his parents should share the responsibility if he failed to come up in life. It was then I heard a commotion outside in the verandah by the side of staircase. When I came out I saw a crowd of students around someone on the ground. One boy came running to me and said “Vignesh fell down while he was walking on the parapet wall and has broken his leg and arm. He is writhing in pain “ Even as he was narrating what happened, I saw Ananthu rushing towards the crowd and coming out with the boy who had hurt himself in his strong arms and walking towards the gate. He had run to hail an auto before he came to lift the boy. That he took the boy to the nearest clinic is not so important for me to relate as the singular point that amongst all the brighter boys who stood curiously watching Vignesh in pain, it was only Ananthu who came to his succour on his own and acted as a leader with compassion. It struck me that he may not be a leader in studies but he excelled himself as a compassionate and helping person in times of need unlike the other boys.
There was another instance about Ananthu that I came to know very soon. There was a big school function where all the parents and students participated. The dais was a little away from the gate and involved walking two hundred feet. There was the big crowd as was expected. Some of the boys chosen to help the invitees as volunteers in white uniform with a big coloured ribbon to distinguish them were seen standing at the gate guiding the visitors. One frail and old lady past eighty with a hunch back came in a rickshaw with her grandson. With a walker in hand she struggled to move even a short distance and was seen pleading with her grandson that they better return home. The boy was reluctant and refused to go back even as the uniformed boys in ribbons were watching them with amusement. I learnt Ananthu appeared from nowhere asked her to get into the rickshaw and had it pulled on the side close to the dais. He lifted her bodily and made her sit in a comfortable seat. This was beyond the call of his duty as he was not one of the uniformed boys. What impelled him to act as he did was his compassion. From that day onwards, I stopped worrying about the poor grades of Ananthu.He may not become a graduate and may not even be the type of boy that school would expect of its students to come up with high marks in the final board examination. But he stood tall in comparison to others in his compassion and kind ways. None of my teaching the prescribed lessons would have given him these god endowed gifts. No university degree would announce these sterling qualities that Anantu had in immense measure. He might not have scored a centum in mathematics or high marks in physics but he had scored an A plus from my heart.

Fond remembrance

by KParthasarathi 20 Nov 2008
I remember as a young boy I used to play cricket in our colony about three decades back. There was not much of vacant space except the side road. Three sticks of different heights served the duty of stumps with a brick twenty two yards away as the fourth stump. There were half a dozen boys of varying ages forming the team. Discarded tennis balls were donated by the dad of one of the boys. Two hours in the evening till the shadows lengthened were sheer thrill and joy for us. The high decibel noise and shouting were not objected to by the elders though one old gentleman Bhaskar Rao living adjacent to the playing area did not relish the game being played there. He often came out and remonstrated with us saying “you are all shouting too much and are a daily nuisance. This is not a play ground .Why don’t you go and play in the corporation ground in the next street.”
We would plead with him “Uncle, we will not shout or make noise. Please allow us to play here as older boys are playing in the corporation ground and do not allow us to enter there.”
“I don’t wish to hear all your excuses. I am not going to allow you fellows to play here. I will tell the Secretary of the colony in writing though I know his son Mukesh is also one of your gang” he said. Nevertheless he had never written spoken to the secretary and we continued playing merrily. One day Mukesh had brought his cousin an older boy. A tall and strong fellow, he hit a ball on the window of Bhaskar Rao’s flat. Luckily the ball hit the wooden frame and the glass was not broken. The old man rushed out of the flat to survey whether any damage had been done to the window. I said “Uncle, nothing has happened. It just hit the frame. We will be careful.” Without uttering one word he took the ball that was lying near him and went inside. All our pleas for the ball fell on deaf ears. When he did not open the door, I remember to have pressed the bell at regular intervals, sometimes nonstop for long duration. He came out seething in anger and exploded “You rascal, how dare you press the bell like this continuously. I will complain to your father in the evening. I have no intention of returning the ball” He slammed the door and never opened despite our shouting. The day’s play had to stop as there was no spare ball. As we dispersed I took a small stone and hit the glass of the window directly making a small hole in it .I ran away before he came out.
I was a bit scared that the old man would catch me the next day. But surprisingly we found the ball lying on the ground and he never came out to make noise about the window pane. . When there was no mention of the broken glass even when I crossed him on the way to my school, I felt guilty. I could not return his smile and instead I hung my head in shame. His stony silence about the incident made me all the more uncomfortable. When I told about my rash behaviour in anger that day and how I broke the glass to my mom, she said that Rao had lost the only son of my age some years ago while playing cricket. When he was fielding at close quarters, it appeared the ball hit him on his head near the brow and the poor boy died the same night. My mom felt that It was basically the fear of likely injury to youngsters that made him paranoid about cricket. I could not sleep that night. I had saved about two hundred rupees from the gifts for my birthday. The first thing in the morning I did was to go to his house and fall at his feet. He lifted me up and said with a smile “Raju, why are you prostrating? Any examination today or birthday for you?” He saw me crying and asked hugging me “What happened? Why are you crying? Tell me.”In sobbing tones I remember to have said “Uncle, you must pardon me. I was the wretch who broke the wndow that day in anger when you did not return the ball. Here is two hundred rupees that I had saved that would cover the cost of putting a new glass. Please accept it. I never realised why you did not like us playing cricket till mom told me last evening. Until you forgive me, I cannot look straight into your eyes.”
“Wait a minute” he said and came back with a new cricket bat.”This was bought by my son a week before he had the tragic accident. I am not against cricket when played with protective gear. Take this bat, I gift it to you as it can be put to better use than being an article of memory. Here is the money you gave me. I knew you had broken it. But I have left the door deliberately unrepaired as it would make you all play carefully. “
I remember fondly even after about thirty years the kindly face that taught me a lesson on forgiveness and magnanimity.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Honesty pays

“You are not a worldly wise man. It is my misfortune that I am married to you. When all the drivers like you bring 400 or 500 rupees extra daily, you are putting on a foolish image of a good man and making me and the children suffer as a consequence. While the other women buy clothes, mixie, TV, mobile etc,I keep borrowing small amounts from them frequently. Why can’t you be like others adjusting the meter and bribing the policemen?” wailed Ravi’s wife loudly.
Ravi, an auto rickshaw driver, calmly replied “ I cannot be dishonest even if it means suffering for us. There is no point in your crying and making scenes. Be content with what you have. God would surely reward honesty.”
“It is easy for you to preach. I have to take our son to the doctor. His fever has not come down for the last three days. He is not sipping even a spoon of tea. Where is the money? Nobody is willing to lend. Give me five hundred rupees and then keep preaching your lessons to others” she replied angrily.
Ravi slammed the door and left without taking his breakfast. He knew that his wife was frustrated due to want but he had no mind to earn money by devious ways. He can work harder but not demand more than the prescribed rates. Ravi was sitting in his auto brooding over his poor earnings and was waiting for his next fare. He reluctantly decided if God doesn’t show him the way,he would also turn like his fellow drivers. It was extremely hot and sultry even around 11 am in the morning. He had parked the vehicle a little away from the auto stand under the shade of a tree on the side of the busy road. It was a commercial area with several shops and there was the milling crowd on the road. Not a blade of grass moved and the leaves were all still. Ravi was not an avaricious type unlike other members of his ilk. He generally accepted the fare as shown in the untampered meter and gratefully acknowledged any extra given by the passengers on their own volition. As this was not to the liking of the other drivers, he generally kept away from them.
“Can you take me to Adyar” asked a tall man in his thirties. Ravi looked at the neatly dressed man and noticed that he was glancing behind his shoulders frequently as if someone was following him. Even before he said he was willing to take him, the man jumped into the auto and sat in the corner closely huddled to the canvas cover. When Ravi tried to start the auto, the passenger said “Not immediately now. Please wait. I will tell you when to start.” When Ravi asked him whether he was expecting anyone else to accompany him, he denied even while he was looking behind thro the rear window of the three- wheeler.
Ravi could not help but be puzzled by the man who was obviously tense , restless and kept fidgeting with his watch as if he was expecting some threat to him. He did not put out his head outside the auto and kept watching thro the narrow opening at the rear of the vehicle. When Ravi asked him after ten minutes whether he can start the vehicle, the man pleaded with him to wait a little longer promising him extra for the waiting. He said “I am waiting for someone and at the same time avoiding someone else. I am compelled to seek refuge in the cover of your vehicle till the person comes”
Ravi left the man in the auto telling him that he would buy a cigarette from a shop nearby. He was making small talk with the friendly shopkeeper about the passenger waiting in the auto. When he returned after a few minutes, he was shocked to find the man was not in the vehicle. When he looked in, he found a leather bag and a hundred rupee note on the seat. When he opened the bag he found it stuffed with lot of money. He was confused and baffled at the discovery. He turned round with the bag in hand looking for the man who had mysteriously vanished. He realized that he should not have left the man alone in the vehicle especially when he found him nervous and edgy.
It was then he heard a distraught man running towards this side of the road with a constable. There were other idle passers- by also coming along with them. He saw the constable stopping now and then and asking the people some questions. When he approached the shop keeper, Ravi saw him pointing out to his vehicle and telling him something. When the policeman came running followed by the distressed man, Ravi knew the game and offered the bag to the constable.. The man who had vanished was a chain snatcher and pick pocket who used his vehicle as a hiding place till such time the commotion subsided. The man who was with the policeman shouted in glee ”Sir, this is my bag snatched by the thief without my knowledge by cutting the strap.” When Ravi’s explanation of the incident corroborated with the version of the shopkeeper the constable handed over the bag to the owner. On verifying the contents to be intact, he instantly offered Ravi Rs 1000 and asked him to meet him at his residence the next day. He said ”I have hundred employees working for me and I have found very few honest men of your type. I have a great use for men like you. You need not drive three-wheeler anymore but can earn much more being in my employment in the stores department.”
God’s ways may appear inscrutable but there is a method in them.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sound sleep

- by KParthasarathi 09 Nov 2008
“I have requested you countless times not to leave by the early morning flights. You not only trouble yourself but put everyone in the house to considerable inconvenience. I don’t know why you persist in harassing others” exploded Sumitra in anger to her husband.
Murali replied softly “Why do you have to raise your voice? Our office is into austerity drive since the last year. We are avoiding night’s halt in a starred hotel. We leave in the morning and return by the evening flight. As a senior executive, I cannot myself break the rules. How does my early morning departure affect you anyway?”
“Ha, ha.How considerate are you to others should be seen to be believed? The whole house is woken up at 3 am as if it is Deepavali night. Lights are on in the hall, kitchen and everywhere. You may plead you get up only at 4am but you should not forget you are the cause of early morning bedlam. You wake me up at 5 am asking whether I had seen your new pair of socks or spare kerchiefs. You don’t pack your things in advance and raise a hell at the eleventh hour. I am not going to put up with this anymore of this nonsense. Our child and I will go to bed at 10pm sharp bidding you bye bye. We will not wake up to see you off. Do remember not to set the alarum in our bedroom. You wake up by your own device and go out of the bedroom quietly remembering to close the door.”
“Don’t be telling lies. It is my mom who gets up early in the morning to switch on the geyser, make coffee and boil milk. Dad remains awake to wake her up as she cannot hear the alarum.She even offers to make quickly some upma or dosa. Most of the days you keep snoring loudly in deep sleep even when I leave the home for airport” contested Murali
Rajamani iyer and Kaveri were listening to the heated conversation in the adjacent hall from their room but kept quiet. They knew that it is best not to intervene in their discussions however untrue the statements hurled at each other were. Murali being a marketing man frequently went on short tours of a day or two. He always took the early morning flights. However careful and quiet one tried to be, there are bound to be noises of the doors opening, the running water, the shower and the conversations with his hard of hearing mom that is a bit raised.Iyer would hardly sleep those nights switching on the light now and then and waiting for the alarm clock to ring and Kaveri waiting for him to nudge her. They will get up at 3am, get the hot water and coffee ready and keep waiting for the clock to strike four to wake up Murali.He will not get up on time and as the clock ticked by the aged mother will be restless and the old man will be walking from one end of the hall to the other. Around 4am Kaveri will go near the door of the bedroom and call gently “Murali, Murali, it is getting late.” There would be no response for a while but iyer will hear Sumitra telling Murali in low voice that his parents are calling.
He will finally come out hurriedly around 4.20 am and get ready in a jiffy making loud noises and intermittent conversations with his parents. The TV will be on to catch the day’s news while his mom would have put the Sri Venkatesa Subrabatham on the tape recorder. When he left the house at 4.45am the house would turn very quiet like the hurricane ravaged coastal town after it had left had left.
This was the scene when Murali left this morning also. Iyer switched off all the lights and retired to bed.Kaveri had already slept. Both of them who had hardly slept would catch a few winks before the day broke open. At 6am the servant maid rang the bell and finding no response rang again. Normally Iyer would have kept the door slightly ajar and be waiting for the milk and the newspaper. But this day he was fast asleep after the sleepless night. Sumitra got up fuming at the early morning disruption to open the door. The maid asked “Where is the periyavar (old man)? Is he not well? “Sumitra replied in acerbic tone “Nothing is wrong with him. They both are still sleeping like a newly married young couple knowing well this donkey is there to do all the drudgery. It is my fate.” The maid who knew the truth kept mum. The aged couple were blissfully asleep unaware of the caustic comments of their bahu whom they loved dearly like a daughter.