Saturday, October 31, 2009

Graduating to bigger things

Muthu had no job.He had a wife and two children.He had no skill and was a daily wage labourer doing odd jobs in the construction site.Due to down turn in the economy, construction activities had slowed down.Not many houses were coming up.He was not getting jobs daily.Many days he had to remain idle.His wife worked as domestic help in a few houses but the income was not adequate.To add to his woes, she became pregnant.She had no parents alive or siblings to seek help.In a few months she had to leave a few houses.The children were starving and she could not get any help from the neighbours who were themselves poor.

When the younger son cried in hunger, his wife gave him water.The child was not pacified and cried loudly.In frustration she beat the child mercilessly till Muthu intervened saying”Are you a human being or a demon? Can’t you see he is hungry? Why didn’t you get some food from the houses where you work for the children atleast?”

“Who will give food daily? If you have some sense of shame left in you, you would not be idling here in the house without getting some money or food for the children.Don’t sit here.Get out and get something for the children.If you cannot, get atleast rat poison for all the three of us to die.You can continue to remain happily idle.”

He left the hut in a huff stung as he was by his wife’s cruel barbs not knowing where to go.He saw a bakery.Bread packets were being kept in a cart for delivering elsewhere.When he saw the freshly baked bread and remembered the hungry faces of his children, he could not suppress the foolish temptation to pilfer one piece.When this was noticed by the bakery owner he set his employees behind him.He ran with the bread as fast as his legs could carry and was soon near the hut with his chasers close on his heels.But one man caught up with him and tried to grapple him.Muthu to save the bread pushed him hard and freed himself from his grasp and ran faster.He did not notice that the man fell down and hurt his head badly on a rock in the platform. Once he reached his hut he threw the bread inside before they caught him and rained blows on him.

In a few days he found himself inside a jail along with many inmates in a single room.They looked terrible and wicked.They were carefree and enjoying their stay in the place without any regret.He could in a short time know that they had many vices and were hardened criminals coming back to prison very soon everytime they were let out.Some were there for physical assault, some for house-breaking, some for molestation of children and some for ganja. They teased and taunted him when he said he was caught stealing a bread.They could not believe how a man could be so foolish like him.Muthu was struck by remorse for his stealing and cursed his fate for being awarded six months jail for the first offence.He wondered how could a judge could be so heartless and the law insensitive to the pathetic circumstances in which the offense was committed.

But he behaved well and kept himself away from the other inmates.But they made him do all the lowly jobs as if he were a servant.He longed to be free soon from these men and the jail to be with his wife and children.He was determined that he would never come again to a prison and do nothing that was against the law.He started counting the days but the days seemed very long. He did not relish his food when the thought of his hungry children haunted his mind and more often than not he kept it aside without touching much to the gless of his cell mates.

Six months later, he was allowed to go free with an admonition to turn a new leaf and never to come back.He was given some money he had earned there.He got some sweets and some dresses for children and virtually ran home.He wanted to tell his wife that he will learn a new skill and would be never out of work and that he loved the children most.He wished to whisper in her ears that he missed her most and that they were his apple of his eye.

It was midday. He found the hut closed.Most people had gone out for work.He wondered whether his wife had gone for work, where she would have left her children and whether she delivered the baby.He stood there waiting for someone to come that way.An old woman who lived adjacently saw him and called him “You petty thief.Where had you run away? Don’t you know, you loafer, that your wife and the small kids committed suicde the next day eating rat poison? They were ashamed of your being dragged by police before everyone for theft.Go and hang yourself you worthless fellow” and she spat in disgust.

He cried inconsolably and locked himself inside the hut.At midnight a police jeep stopped before the hut and hauled him up as a suspect in a chain snatching case that day.He was back in the jail within a fortnight in the same cell to the delight of his mates.In their eyes he had now graduated to bigger things than pilfering bread and would soon compete for a place with them.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Trisha’s new mate

Trisha was just six years old.That was the last day in the school.It gets closed for three weeks.She was very happy.Her mom had agreed to send her to her brother’s house for two or three days.They had a boy of her age for Trisha to play with.Her mom rang up her brother to take the girl from her school that ended at 1pm as she would be accompanying her husband to Delhi by 10 am flight to see his ailing father.She packed a bag with dresses for two days and gave her with lunch box.She left a message again with her brother to take Trisha from school.She impressed on Trisha that her uncle or aunt would come to pick her up and on no account she should leave with anyone else.

It was 1pm and as the school bell rang all the children came out merrily dancing and prancing.The durwan at the gate let out the children carefully one by one after seeing the guardian who came to pick the children.He knew all of them.Some of the children whose parents were generally late were playing hide and seek inside the class room.Trisha also joined them.Some hid behind the doors, some behind the benches and some in the corridor.Trisha got into an empty almirah and closed the door .It was a big almirah.She lied down waiting for others to discover her but sadly she fell asleep.None of the other children noticed her absence and left the school when their parents came. The durwan around 4pm went around all the classes shutting the almirah doors securely, switching off the lights and fans.He didn’t open the almirah where Trisha was sleeping when he secured it.The doors of school building and the outside gate were closed and everyone left.

It was 5pm when Trisha woke up.It was pitch dark inside and she was profusely sweating.She could see nothing.She cried afraid of darkness and did not realise where she was.She started crying loudly and punching the doors with her soft hand.She felt an insect,may be a cockroach,moving on her.She was scared and screamed in fright.No one noticed her bag kept inside her bench.A kitten managed to enter the room through a partially open window and meowed continuosly as it heard the noise in the almirah.The girl was crying uncontrollably repeatedly calling “Amma ,amma, I am afraid..Please come immediately and take me. It is very dark here.Some insect is biting me,amma, amma” ..She was hungry too.Tired by endless crying she again fell asleep.

Trisha’s uncle had told his wife to pick the girl and again reminded her before he left for office.He was leaving for Dhanbad that day by evening train.That lady had totally forgotten about Trisha when she got a message that her dad had a massive heart attack and was in hospital.She had rushed there to be by the side of her mom.His condition was alarming.Her son was taken care of by her neighbours.

It was around 9pm when Trisha’s mom rang her brother’s house and no one picked the phone.She tried several times before contacting her brother on mobile.He became worried when he heard her anxious concern about Trisha.He assured her that she would call her after talking to his wife.He rang up his neighbour and found that his wife had gone to the hospital around noon and that his son was with them.It was 10pm by the time he could reach his wife in the hospital and learnt to his shock that she had totally forgotten about picking Trisha in the melee.He told her to immediately rush to the school and try to trace the child.That lady with her brother left their dying dad in the hospital and rushed to school.She realised the enormity of her lapse and cried bitterly praying to all gods to keep the girl safe and secure.

It was 11pm when the aunt and her brother stared at the closed doors of the school.The aunt felt might be some parents of the girl’s friend or a teacher or Headmistress would have taken the unattended child with them.Someone offered to jump the door and look around the school..He came back saying that it was all dark and there was only a kitten mewoing nonstop.The hunt for the headmistress and the durwan took time.No one suspected that the girl would be left behind in the school.Even police help was sought.It was only in the morning around 5am they could trace the durwan in his house.He said that he cannot remember the girl unless he saw her.He added that he had checked all rooms before he locked the building.Nevertheless the police insisted on seeing the school building.

They opened and went room after room found none till they went last to the rear room which was also empty.The kitten was still meowing standing by the side of the almirah.A doubt arose in the mind of a policeman who had its door opened.Inside Trisha was lying in crouched position unconscious.She was rushed to the hospital and first aid given.Trisha’s parents airdashed as also the brother from Dhanbad.

When Trisha came home after a day in the hospital, she found to her great glee a new mate to give her company.It was the kitten that stood by her without moving away till she was rescued from her predicament.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A good deed

The bus was jam packed.Nalini never expected this.When her two wheeler refused to start she hurried to the bus stop.The threewheelers were plying but all of them had passengers.She waited for more than ten miniutes for an empty auto.She had to reach her office on time for a meeting.It was cloudy with the threat of rain.She took the bus to avoid the rain.There was hardly any space to move.The men were virtually breathing on her neck.She could not stand the stench of their body odour.The conductor asked her where she was bound for.When she mentioned he tore a 4 rupee ticket and thrust it on her hand.She proffered a fifty rupee note having no coin.Hedeclined saying with asperity in the voice ”No Change with me.Give me the exact amount.”

She replied “Sorry, I have only one two rupee coin.Please help me.I will take the balance later when I get down.”

He whistled the bus to a stop and said heartlessly “Give me back the ticket.Please get down.Be quick”

“It is drizzling outside.Please help”she pleaded

Even as the conductor refused to listen to her, an elderly man who was sitting in a seat near her said ”How could you do that? Don’t you see it is raining? Here is a five rupee coin.Give her back the ticket.”

The conductor insolently gave her the ticket and one rupee to the man muttering some unintelligible swearing.Nalini was dumbfounded as this happened quickly.”I don’t have change.You can give me back whatever you have.Take this fifty rupee note. she said

“Never mind, four rupees is not a big amount.Are we not human having sisters and daughters like you? Forget it” he said as he got up to alight at the next stop.He did not look very affluent from his tattered shirt , a pair of cheap chappals and the bristle on his face.Nevertheless in her mind ,this face of the kindly man from among many onlooking passengers was etched .

It was two months later Nalini’s dad called her and asked “Nalini, do you have any plan to go out? If you are free, why don’t you accompany me.I am going to the orphanage of which I am the president to select a new manager.The old manager had left the job.You can join me and help me in the selection.What do you say?”

Nalini was very happy and said “I will gladly join you.Give me five minutes .I will change the dress and be here soon.”
The orphanage was a trust property of her father’s trust.Her father being an industrialist and a philanthrophist founded this institution to help the hapless children.They were taken care of well,given good education and vocational training too as they grew older.The previous manager was very efficient and managed it well.Her dad wanted to choose a good man.As they sat down in the room,she asked her dad what was he looking for in the candidates.Her father said that he looked for some one with experience in running such an institution and capable also.

The candiadates started coming one by one.Some had experience but looked for a good compensation, while some had no experience and were willing to work for any salary and a few others had no commitment to work in such an institution.Her dad asked her to give rating on a scale of 0 to 10.At the end when one elderly man entered,Nalini immediately recognised him.His beak shaped nose and the bristle on the face was unforgettable.He was the good Samaritan who came to her rescue in the bus two months back.He showed no sign of recognition and stood deferentially.Nalini asked him to take his seat.

Nalini’s dad asked him” You don’t seem to have any experience in such an institution.You had worked in a private company in an ordinary position.There is no managerial experience also.How do you think you are suitable for this job?”

He was silent for a few seconds before he spoke” True, I have no experience.But I have a sincere wish to serve in such an institution. But I have many children .I can look after these boys and girls as if they are my own.I will bestow the same care as I give my children.I may not have the requisite experience but I think I will discharge my duties conscentiously to the best interests of the hapless children.I need this job also incidentally to maintain my big family.”

“We don’t pay much.OK .Let me see.Please wait outside.We will decide in another thirty minutes” said Nalini’s dad.
Nalini turned to him after he left the room and said “Appa, I think experience is good but not an essential parameter.What I look for is something else.”

“OK, who have you chosen out of the seven we have interviewed?” asked her dad

“My vote goes to the last gentleman” she repled

“What? What are you saying? He has no experience at all and has worked as a clerk in a private firm.He has not an iota of adminitratve experience.I have already crossed his name”he said.

“Appa, I think experience can be gained on the job but there is one qualty that cannot be gained.It is inherent in a person.For an orphanage with luckless children devoid of love and affection of parents, what is needed is compassion and a concern for them.The rest are all immaterial.All the others came looking for a job while this man said he came to serve.” said Nalini

“How can you be so credulous and say this man has compassion? Do you know him or go merely by his words?” taunted her dad

Nalini then related the incident that took place two months back and clinched the decision in favour of the old man.

A thousand words will not leave so deep an impression as one good deed

Friday, October 23, 2009

A case of amnesia

I am an honorary secretary of a senior citizen home that has fifty percent accommodation on payment basis in a separate complex with the remaining as free to those who could not afford.It is not a poor home open to all as certain requirements were to be met.It was however caste and gender free but the inmates should be literate.The ambience was good and there was a clamour for accomodation from many.Some kind hearted soul who had land adjacent to the home donated it. I was runnng around along with few others in search of sponsors to build additional rooms and facilities on the donated land.
One moning I had gone to a nearby temple to offer prayers.As I was returning I saw an elderly man in spotless white dress sitting on the floor.He had a gleaming wrist watch on his wrist.I could see a pen tucked in his shirt.He had a laced angavastram on his shoulder.But the place where he was sitting was by the side of garbage box and where shoes and chappals were left behind by the devotees.It looked odd for someone who appeared affluent squatting like that.I stood before him and smiled.There was a vacant and empty look without any recognition of someone smiling.I was intrigued and felt something abnormal.I went near him and said
“Sir, why do you sit in this unclean place? Aren’t you well needing help.My name is Partha.I can render any assistance you may need.Let me help you get up.”
There was no reaction.He did not reply but looked at me vacantly.I looked round to see whether there was anyone who had accompanied him.One flower seller who was near the gate told me”That old man is sitting there since two hour. .He does not reply anyone and may be a mental case.”
I lifted him with my hand and he stood up.He came along with me quietly without one word as if he was hypnotised.When I went near my car,I asked him where he wished to be dropped.He did not reply.
I asked “What is your name? Where do you live? Any telephone or mobile number?There was no answer.I saw his pocket had some currency notes but no details of his name or address.There was no mobile.There was no way of finding out his identity.He had just gone blank.I decided he should not be left there uncared for.I decided to take him to the senior citizen home.He came meekly without any resistance like a sheep being led..Once there he was provided food which he ate quietly but very slowly often losing himself in thoughts.I informed the temple to put on notice that an elderly man (details given) who had total amnesia was being taken care of at the senior citizen home and that his family can contact the secretary on phone,,,,.Meanwhile I had a photo of his taken and sent to local paper to publiish in their found column.
A week went by without anyone coming in search of him.I decided to keep him for some more time in the paid block before moving him to the free section..He was taken to a doctor who diagnosed it as amnesia with a profound memory loss possibly caused by some traumatic or emotional event.The old man, the doctor felt, will have difficulty in absorbing new information, and difficulty in recalling past memories.. He can also be disoriented and confused. The doctor also said that it can take weeks, months, or years for recovery to occur.
I decided to retain him in the paid area for two weeks more till the end of month hoping some light would be thrown on his identity.I felt sorry that how men and women however well placed are neglected by their own kith and kin when they reach their twilight years.I could visualise that he must have been living a decent life wih adequate financial backing. Whether he had a loving wife or children were all in the realms of conjecture.That was the last day of the month and I was busy looking at the books in the office when an attender came running to inform the old man had fallen in the bath room.I hurried to the scene and found a cut in the forehaed with blood trickling.He was unconscious and was rushed to hospital.
The next day when I went to see him I saw him sitting on his bed.To my great surprise, he smiled at me and said “I asked the hospital staff just now how come I was here and they said you would be coming soon to provide the answer.Can you enlighten me as to who you are and how I came into your custody and why I was brought here?”
I briefly told him the circumstances of his being found in the temple , the intervening days at home and the fall in bath room and requested him to reveal his identity.He said “It does not matter.I am Srinivasan , a retired bank official and live in this city.I do not wish to go back to my home as my son has not cared to look for me. I was already an unwanted person there and there was a scene on the last day when I was insulted by my daughter-in-law and asked to get out with my son remaining a mute witness.I would like to come to your home and spend my last days there and help the home in administration.I have sufficient income to stay in the paid accommodation”
The story does not end here with Srinivasan easily merging and identifying with other inmates and taking charge of administration.He donated a hefty amount sufficient for the construction of the new block in the new area already donated .His only request was to name it after his long lost wife.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Devaki's ailment

Madhav has been noticing from his balcony for many days her standing next to the window of the adjacent apartment looking at him whenever he came out.Though it was dark in her room (she perhaps used dim light for better vision outside), he could see she was stunningly beautiful with long hair falling on her shoulders and beyond.There was something in her that attracted him to the balcony frequently.He had an easy chair put there and under the pretext of reading a paper or a book would be watching her sideways and seeing whether she also did the same.Yes, she was transfixed as if was like a statute.She must be around twenty two, quite tall and a well built body that lent elegance and grace.He mustered courage to smile at her and received a 1000 volts shock when she returned his smile with an imperceptible wave of her hand .Needless to say Madhav spent most of his time at home in the balcony savouring her beauty and exchanging gestures. Strangely she neither came out or gave any indication of her working anywhere.Madhav had no means of checking out the reason for her being tied to home.
A week later he was greatly surprised to see her one evening at a nearby temple.She was in a beautiful blue salwar suit and her dark eyes shone brightly and her red coloured lips stood out in her fair complexion.Madhav smiled at her and she smiled back.Her mom was a little away talking to the temple priest.She moved slightly out of her sight as Madhav joined her
“What is your good name? We see each other daily all day long for many months but meeting for the first time today.Why is it I don’t see you much out side? Aren’t you working?”
“I am Devaki.What is your name? Mom doesn’t allow me to go out.No, I am not working also for the same reason” she replied
“I am Madhav and work in a MNC.Do you come to the temple daily with your mom at this time? asked Madhav
She saw her mom turning and looking for her and said as she left quickly”Later, Mom is coming.” As Madhav stood watching her walk, he saw her repeatedly turning her head to look at him.
During dinner when Madhav and mom were alone eating, her mother broached the subject of his marriage.Taking advantage of this he confided to her his deep fascination for the girl in the adjacent apartment and wanted her to talk to them.
“I think they have come to this complex recently.I have seen the lady and the daughter but not spoken.Yes, the girl is very charming.Do you know whether she likes you? I have no objection in meeting that lady and telling her of your interest” his mom said.
Madhav hugged her telling”Sweet mom.Please ensure this materialises somehow.I am madly in love with her and I think she too with me.”
The next day evening when Madhav returned from office his mom asked him to sit by her side. ”Madhu,I am sorry, my mission failed.I saw the girl for a fleeting moment.She is no doubt exceedingly attractive and fetching.But her mom was telling when I mentioned about the purpose of my visit that the girl is not well for a couple of years and that was the reason she was not working also.When I told her that I have seen her going out with her and nothing seemed wrong,she said that she looked apparently ok but has some serious mental problem.Once or twice a year she develops violent tendencies.She is under treatment and it appeared the cure will take a couple of years more.She also added that she was frank as she did not want to deceive anyone but requested me to keep the information to myself. She did not show any interest to pursue the conversation and bid me farewell rather abruptly.”

“Amma, I don’t believe an iota of this crap of her being amental case..I talked to her and gained the impression she was very normal but a bit afraid of her mom” said Madhav
She replied”We cannot say with certainty from stray conversations.They have periods of normal and abnormal behaviour.Which mom would spurn a good match and speak adversely of her daughter? She must be a very good lady in coming out with the truth despite the pain in her heart”
Madhav was shattered totally.He felt a deep pain in his heart when she the saw Devaki standing at the window and waving her hand and smiling at him.His heart was wrenched at the way fate played cruelly on this innocent girl .Tears welled from his eyes as he went in and shut himself up.He was in a state of total dejection and stayed away from office.Every now and then he will peep through window to see Devaki standing by window and looking expectantly at this side.
Two days later when Madhav’s dad went to bank, he met Devaki’s father.Though they had not met earlier, he introduced himeself as Madhavs dad and said “I am sorry we didn’t know as otherwise we would not have approached.It was only when my wife met yours we came to know of her ailment.Poor girl, God has been cruel to her”
“What are you talking, Sir? Who said my daughter has an ailment.She is in the pink of her health.She has no medical problems at all.Did you say my wife said like that? Oh, I can see a conspiracy in this.She is my second wife My first one died soon after Devakis birth.Devaki is very rich with a large bequest by her maternal grandfather.This woman is ill disposed to her and refusing to send her to work.She is obviously wanting to stop her getting married also..Let me check with Devaki whether she likes your son and if she says in affirmative, let us proceed further.I will teach this shrew a fitting lesson.You can take my daughter to any doctor and subject her to any test, if you wish to..It is good you brought this to my notice”said Devaki’s dad as he shook hands.
Madhav came out to the balcony and started waving his hand at the smiling Devaki

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Varun had come to the public library to see some reference books. As he was looking for the book in the shelves, he found a young lady in early twenties trying to reach the top shelf.She was already standing on a small stool and yet she had difficulty in reaching it.She looked at Varun a little accusingly and said “Hey you could be a little chivalrous to a lady in trouble.”
“Sorry, I didn’t notice your being short.Come on, tell me which book you need”
Varun replied with mischief
“I am not short.The shelf is too high suitable only for giraffes” giggled the beautiful lady.As she received the book, she said “Thanks a lot I am Vanita.I come here daily and spend a couple of hours.”
“ Oh, I am Varun, tell the librarian to provide a taller stool as I may not be available on all days though I will try to make it henceforth.I need to learn lessons from you on chivalry” he said with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.
What began with atiff soon blossomed into love.They made it a point to be there daily thereafter and instead of searching for books they sat side by side in a secluded corner relishing each others company but talking very little in the silent zone..Months passed by and their bonds of love grew stronger.
She said one day”Varun ,you seem a timid guy.When do you propose to take me out to a film where we can sit together in the dark closer to each other than we do here and talk to each other to our hearts content.”
The next day itself they were in the cinema hall in the box hugging and caressing each other.They found their company soothing and pleasant beyond imagination.
Varun said softly”I love you very much Vanita.But I am afraid darling that the gap in our status may come in our way.Your dad is a very rich industrialist and I am from lower middle class and nothing to commend except for my brilliant academic qualifications and a good job in a MNC”
Vanita repliied”I am aware and equally apprehensive.I had broached about you to my mom.She asked me to forget you saying that dad with all his hot headed ego and status consciousness would never agree.I told her that I cannot leave you and it was upto her to convince him.” She assured Varun that she would marry only him and none else come what may.To his suggestion that they elope being major,she turned down saying “I cannot hurt my mom who is an heart patient and that she would rather remain unmarried than elope.”
They met regularly and spent long time together but with a big question mark on their future.
One day after a few months she broke the news that dad was furious about her love for Varun and that he had decied to get her married to a young man of comparable status.She also told him about the constraints placed in her coming out alone.She mentioned “You know my dad is a ruthless man.Nevertheless .I will not agree under any circumstances to marry anyone else.But I am afraid of your safety.Please for my sake shift to some safe place. I will keep in touch with you thro mobile in emergency but cannot talk much as I am kept under constant surveillance.”
Varun did not hear from her thereafter.She did not come to library too.He could not reach her as possibly her number had been changed.He was depressed and stopped attending office. He was all the time brooding and went to extreme depths of melancholy.He did not take bath, skipped the food often and lay on the bed looking at the cieling aimlessly. He became a wreck and often toyed with the idea of putting an end to his life.He shut himself out from outside world.
An advertisment he saw a week later about the ensuing engagement function of Vanita in the news paper turned to be the last straw.He decided to take his life out by jumping before the electric train at the nearby station.The end will be quick and pain least.The station was jampacked in the peak morning hour.He stood at the edge of the platform ready to jump at the last moment when the train entered the station.The signal yurned to green.The passengers moved closer jostling with each other trying to get near the door of the compartment.Varun saw the train entering and was getting ready to jump when his mobile rang.He tried to take it from his pocket when the crowd pushed him aside and some one pulled his collar to make way for himself.Varun fell down on the platform and could not get up as the paasengers scrambled to get into the train.He managed to put the mobile on his ear as the rush thinned down.
“Hey Varun,Hip Hip Hurray.Engagement called off.My uncle,dad’s brother,convinced my dad not to marry me to someone against my wishes.He told him what if , if Vanitu’s lover is poor.He is qualified and well employed.Take him into your business and make him the MD.He gets the status and becomes rich.More than that your daughter will be very happy. Where are you? Come to the library right away.I am waiting with sweet packet.”
Varun for once thanked the morning rush and his stars.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The last night

Kartha knew she wouldn’t live long.His wife Sevanthi’s heart had lost most of its pumping function and was managing at ten percent of its normal efficiency.She was bedridden and lay alone in the bedroom whole day long aware of her terminal disease and the gradual count down that had commenced.Doctors had said there is nothing that could be done except make her remaining life bearable without much discomfort.She was not afraid of death , rather she preferred it than being bedridden all day long totally dependent on others.Still it was a depressing thought,not about her permanent departure but about her leaving her soulmate and loving husband alone behind her.Though a good and intelligent man, he was not capable of looking after himself and leaned heavily on Sevanthi for even minor matters.Eversince she fell ill and in between her frequent stays at hospital whenever she was at home, she had taught him to cook simple food, entered the recipe herself in the laptop of a few items that he normally took and adequate to manage.
.He had taken long leave to be by her side all the 24 hours except for small errands when he left her in the care of the maidservant.He never stayed away from her for more than 30 minutes.He tried to make her life pleasant.She was fond of computer and liked chatting with her daughters who were away.He got her a laptop.He brought regularly new CDs of films and music she liked.But she could not watch or listen for long.She grew exhausted easily and turned in the bed many times.She was on saltless and liquidless diet.Total liquid allowed daily was half a litre in any form.All intake was measured.He tried his best to make the food palatable within this constraint but it was still bland and insipid.She detested the sight of her food.There was nothing he could do but punished himself by taking the same saltless food without her knowledge.
But he made up for her sense of loneliness and despondency by being at her side constantly telling her stories,reading the news paper,brushing her hair, massaging her painful limbs,putting his arms around her gently, caressing her face or keeping her head on his laps.His only objective now was to keep her happy,free from pain and sullen mood.He kept nice and fresh flowers in a vase on the TV table.He freshened the room with assorted room fresheners of different fragrances.They would go through the photo albums since their marriage reminscing the happier days.He would play scrabble or wordsbuilding or cards for a while till she felt tired.Still the thought of separation soon lay heavy on their hearts though they spoke to each other little of it.Each saw the concern and worry in the others’ eyes..
It was 10 pm that night.They were in bed together.She had snuggled close to him and he put his arms around her in a gentle embrace. He ran his fingers over her face moving them gently to the shoulders and her hip .As she turned her face towards him, he planted a soft kiss on her forehead.She suddenly found the strength from nowhere and hugged him tightly to give a passionate and long kiss.
Exhausted soon by thiis effort, she lay on her back and whispered “ Darling, I am very happy now.You have been so loving and caring all through my life and much more so in these few months,I shudder at the thought of leaving you.I think my end has drawn near.It may not last more than a week. I wish to talk to you.Will you pay me your full attention?”
Kartha tried to wipe his tears without her knowledge but could not as she said in admonishing tone “ You should not cry.Remember you are a man.You must learn to acept the inevitable stoically.Lucky that I am preceding you for I cannot live one moment without you.”
Kartha said ”Don’t talk foolishly.You will be fine and live much longer.I read in paper today of some effective hormonal treatment for such conditions. I will talk to doctor tomorrow.It is late now. Please sleep.”
“Honey, I am not a child, I know. I have been seeing oflate bad omens.Some uncommon figures appear in my dream.Promise me you will go and settle down with the daughters in US.You can shuttle between them two.They are affectionate and loving.Do not stand on false prestige and stay alone here adamantly thinking of me all the time.I will depart happily if you assure me on this one request” she said
“Sevanthi, you are being silly and irrational.Nothing is wrong with you.Nevertheless I promise you that I will abide by your wish” responded Kartha
She tightly embraced him again to kiss him hard.They were silent for some more time till sleep drifted across her face.Kartha was awake for a long time watching her breath move regularly.He didn’t know when he slept till he woke up with a start.The clock showed 5am.
He turned to look at Sevanthi.She appeared to be fast asleep.He went in to make tea for her.He came back soon with tea and some cracker biscuits..He gently touched her and called “Sevanthi, good morning.Your bed tea is ready.”
She made no movement.He nudged her a little..She did not respond.He became worried and felt her breath.There was none,.The doctor in the first floor of the complex pronounced her dead.She had died peacefully in her sleep.There was a faint smile of satisfaction on her face.
It was a week later when he was browsing their common id, he opened one message in the draft dated a fortnight back.Sevanthi had evidently picked the lines from the net. It read
Do not worry and weep. When I come to the end of the road, do not cry for a soul set free? Miss me a little--but not too long but do remember the love that we once shared. Miss me--but let me go for this is a journey that we all must take and each must go alone. When you have become alone, do go to the daughters.Bury your sorrows in doing good deeds. Miss Me - But Let me Go!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Pleasing God through compassion

Natarajan and his wife got down from their Honda City opposite to the big temple.They regularly visited this temple being devout and God fearing.A very rich businessman,he was a familiar figure.The moment he alighted ,the urchins in rags surrounded him pleading for alms.When he ignored them and started walking briskly towards the temple, one of the girls may be 9 years old, touched his spotless cream kurta to draw his attention.This made him furious and he raised his hand.The driver who was behind him drew the girl away.Natarajan told his wife in disgust” I hate these beggars crowding the place and making a nuisance of themselves.I will tell the Executive Officer of the temple to have them thown out by police and keep the temple free from this menace” His obedient wife nodded in agreement.The pathway to the temple was lined with beggars both men and women with children.Some were maimed,some lame,some lepers and some blind while some had small heads disproportionate to their size.These abnormal children were exhibited to invoke the sympathy of the pilgrims who thronged the temple.They appealed loudly with protruded arms often touching the passing legs for their mercy and alms.It was a pathetic sight and the devout who came to pray were often distracted and their mood made sullen.

The crowd was heavy that day and the line was long.The jostling by impatient crowd, the sweat and the body odour, and above all the cringing beggars often tugging them exasperated Natarajan. He wanted to pray quietly today seeking the blessings of the Presiding Diety for a new venture he was planning to start.He was to sign an agreement that day and he was very anxious to have a darshan of the God.There was this long line as that day happened to be auspicious.He was looking at his watch repeatedly as the crowd inched forward slowly.There was no system of paying extra money to get a quick darshan in that temple.The rich and the poor were treated alike.Natarajan was fretting at the delay and worried whether the doors of the Sanctum would be closed before his turn came.
It was then a lame man tugged the dhoti of Natarajan seeking his munificence.Natarajn lost his temper and shook his leg in anger to free himself from his clasp.It hurt the chin of the beggar who was in a crawling position.There was a trace of blood from the unintended cut.The other beggars crowded around the lame man.All the other members in the line were shocked at his boorish behaviour and murmured their protest and dissatisfaction.Natarajan told his wife without any remorse ” I had only freed my leg from his clasp.The hurt was accidental and unintended. What can I do if they block the way like this?

The line started moving fast.The hopes of a successful darshan rose in Natarajan’s heart. In a matter of a few minutes he was almost near the sanctum.The temple authorities allowed some 25 people at a time and when they came out another 25 were allowed.When people who were slightly ahead of Natarajan moved in and he hoped to get in with his wife.But unluckily just when his turn came the wicket gate was closed..Natarrajan prayed to God incessantly.In a few minutes the people who went in came out but the wicket gate was not opened.When he asked the man who was in charge of the gate, he was told that the darshan was over for the morning session due to some reason.When an official who appeared to be in some position came Natarajan asked him the reasons for stopping the flow.

”I learn that some inauspicious thing has been done and some purification ceremony is to be done.It may take a while for the darshan to resume” he replied

Natarjan’s wife whispered in his ear “I think the God is angry with you for hurting the beggar and that is why hurdles are coming your way today preventing the darshan.”
Natarajan kept silent for a while and then said “I too think so.The line is unusually long.I got angry when I got down from the car at the urchins and was contemplating talking to EO and again was rude to the lame beggar.Even when he was hurt, I never bent down to pacify him.It is clealy a case of God being displeased with me.I shall pray to him to fiogive me for my pretulance.”

His wife said “This is not enough.Tell Him that you would donate liberally for charitable causes and that you would be generous and compassionate to poor.You lack these qualities.”

The repentant Natarajan stung by his wife’s words promised God that he would be a changed man and that he should be given darshanthis day as if in answer to his prayers for seeking blessings before starting an important project.There were tears from his closed eyes and he was lost in thought.It was then the official touched him and asked him to get in along with others as the purification ceremony was decided to be done after an hour at an auspicious time.Natarajan became a chastened and changed man from that moment wondering at God’s infinite compassion

After the darshan, he did not go to his car but waded through the crowd with his wife in tow in search of the lame beggar.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A good Samaritan

Krishna iyer was always averse to going to US as he was nearing 78 and had a previous heart ailment with a bypass done on him.But his daughter would press him to visit her atleast once in two years to spend six months with her. Unable to refuse her persistent pleas, he had gone to US for six months stay with his daughter.He had taken a medical insurance cover taken at a substantial premium but it had lot of riders that would ensure the rejection of any claim.No medical cover is normally given for persons aged above 75 and that too for ailing people and if given they do so after collecting exhorbitant premium that would not cover existing diseases except for admission into the emergency in life threatening situations limited to three days or certain amout.They are as bad as going without a cover.Hospitalised treatment for those not covered by insurance in US is unthinkable.The charges if such an unfortunate eventuality happens would bring great financial hardship to the children living there.Still Iyer made bold to take a trip with a seemingly good cover but practically a dud.Iyer knew this and it was always nagging him at the back of his mind.
Once there in the enthusiasm he forgot about the health or the insurance.He enjoyed the weekend outings ,daily visit to malls or other places and the long drives.He lived in a place with undulations in terrain.He avoided those roads with deep gradients and walked on even park.One day his grandson pestered him walk to a certain place where he can shoow him big ferocious looking mastiffs the size if tigers .He had also assured his grandpa that the gradient was not much.The old man went along with the boy to humour him..It was a long walk.The weather was plesant with a nip in the air.They went cracking jokes and laughing a lot. It was the return trip that did the mischief.The young boy did not know what appeared a small rise in height was too much for the tired and weak heart of his grandpa.He became breathless, stopped at every ten yards and sat down.They were coming in the byelane away from the main road where cars passed frequently..The boy got scared when his grandpa rebuked him for bringing him to this place.It was with great difficulty that they made to the house.The boy was scolded by his mom and the chap started crying asking “Will grandpa die?” The old man had two days bed rest but he stopped taking walks there after even on even surfaces.
Eversince that incident he felt dul pain and uneasiness but dared not tell his daughter lest she took him to doctor.He became dull and often excused himself from going out with her as he did earlier.The daughter was wondering why her dad was so scared and asked him whether he felt unwell.This man denied and said he was allright. But Iyer started feeling that he was unable to climb stairs as frequently as he did and so kept himself in the living room at the ground floor and climbed only once in the night...It was already four months. One day he expressed a wish to return to Chennai.He said though he was in good health, he had a nagging fear that he may fall sck and that he would like to be in Chennai soon. She would not agree as he had agreed for six months stay.What stareted as occasional plea became persistent requests that both her daghter and son-in-law finally relented and got him booked him to Chennai at the earliest available flight with wheel chair facity.Iyer ensured that did not strain at all and was mostly in bed or sofa till the date of departure.He rarely walked.
The day of departure came.The daughter was worried about sending him alone.She found some indians at the airport and asked them to take care of him in case he needed any help.She requested her dad to give her a ring from Frankfurt as soon as he reached and again before departure.There was a stop over of over three hours and he had ample time to make the call..Unluckily no wheel chair was provided to him at Frankfurt and he had to walk some distance.All his pleas that he was a heart patient were in vain with the indifferent staff.Once he came to rest in the terminal where his onward flight was to depart he remembered his daughter’s request.There was a phone nearby but it worked only on prepaid card.He asked some one who was there where he could get the card.He was told it was a little yonder away.The oldman was afraid to walk that far.But he was worried that his daughter would be anxiously awaiting his call.He went again and again near the phone which was adjacent to him.He could not see any Indians nearby and was shy of asking the few were who were hurrying now and then.
One German who was watching him for a short while approached him and asked“I see you going to the phone frequently but not using it.Can I be of some help?”
“Thanks, Sir.I have promised my daughter that I would give her a ring soon after I reached Frankfurt.I am told that a prepaid card is needed and that the place where they sell is far away.I am a heart patient and unable to walk that far.”
“Oh, I see.How long would you like to talk to her”he asked
“Just a minute or two at most.” replied Iyer.
The man made no offer to get the card for Iyer to give him the dollars. But a thought crossed Iyer's mind whether this man was a dupe..But the German left without a word.It was more than 30 minutes and Iyer sat listlessly.Suddenly the German appeared before Iyer with a card in hand saying he got a five Euro card and asked Iyer to use the phone.Iyer fumbled for his daughter's number and the German helped him in dialling and getting the connection,.Whne Iyer happily told his daughter of the travails of no wheelchair,no mobile and the prepaid card system, she was greatly relieved. Iyer promised to ring her up again before going for security check.With the call finished , he turned round to look for the German to pay him the money.Lo,he was not there.Iyer looked around hither and thither but the good Samaritan had mysteriously vanished without collecting the eight dollars from him.Iyer felt ashamed of himself for doubting such a kind soul.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

An encounter with a ghost

It was evening.The three friends were sitting in a park opposite to a girls college watching the girls coming out.They had nicknames for many and each one had chosen three or four for their interest without clash with others.They teased each other as those girls came out.None of them had the guts to approach them as there wer plainclothes ploice women dressed like students on duty.But they enjoyed daily the harmless ogling and ocular enjoyment .It is doubtful whether those girls were even aware of these youngsters.
It was one such evening when instead of the girls comng out, a funeral procession oved along the road towards the burial ground.
Chellappa said” I am scared of burial grounds and will never dare to go 100 metres near them especially during nights.”
Rajesh laughed loudly and said”You spineless coward.I can stay the whole night alone in the burial ground.Want to bet?”
Chellappa kept mum.Seva threw the gauntlet and said,”Yes I will give you five hundred bucks if you were to remain alone in burial ground from 10pm to 6am.What do you say? You should carry no torch light.Do you accept the wager?”
“You have decided to lose the money.OK .I accept.It will be tonight itself” said Rajesh.
“Selva repled “Don’t think you can fool us .We will be around in the vicinty keeping a watch when you go in and when you come out and whether you are in there alone.”
It was 10pm and Rajesh was in the burial ground covered with a sweater.It was chill in the night but not cold.As a matter of preacution,he took a baton with him though he was aware that ghosts cannot be scared away with baton as we do with dogs.There was a body burning with a few people around.There were many others burning with varied degrees of dying embers. It was dark and a few dogs were running hither and thither.There was a howl of a bird from some ditance.A cow was chewing its cud a little away.Thepathways were littered with coocnut leaves and broken pots. There was an eerie smell of smoke and dead bodies adding to the spooky feeling.The few people who were there had left.He saw the time and it was past 11.30pm.Even the man in charge of the ground was not seen.He was alone there.There was a shed with benches for visitors to sit.But the shed was far interior and away from the main gate.A thought crossed his mind whether he was foolish in makng such a bet.He had neither belief in ghosts nor had he seen one so far.Still there was some uneasy feeling.He put a walkman on his ears and tried to listen to music.But he decided to be alert and removed the earplugs. He heard a distant bell marking 12 midnight.Another four hours and he would coolly pocket 500 bucks he badly needed.
His eyelids were heavy with sleep.He turned round hearing some rustle of leaves.He saw faintly a figure draped in what seemed white moving slowly towards him.He stood up and watched intently.Yes,it was certainly an apparition like figure fully covered head to foot ambling towards him. His heart began to beat faster and the pounding became unbearble.His throat went dry.He wanted to run towards the gate but his legs froze in fear.He gathered courage in a few seconds and screamed in fear as he began to run.The figure also rushed behind him.Poor Rajesh tripped and fell down and the figure soon caught up with him and fell on him.Rajesh’s heart almost stopped and was about to faint
.It was then he heard”Rajesh,don’t be afraid.I am Selva.I tried to scare you out of the 500 rupees bet.I thought you would runaway.But when you fell down,I could not keep quiet.Come on get up.We can go home.I think you are bleeding from some scratches.Sit down .I will wipe them with my kerchief.”Selva said
They sat down.Rajesh said “I don’t know whether ghosts exist or not.But I would never like to be in this place alone again in my life.”
Selva laughed and replied”Yes, its spooky.the smell, the darkness and the ambience are all forbidding”
It was then Rajesh saw at a distance a real figure approaching them in a floating like movement clad in white with two big hollows for the eyes approaching them.Both stood upparalysed in their feet.
“We cannot fight ghosts.They have no body to hit but they can kill us.It is blocking our way.Let us sit here quietly” whispered Rajesh.Both of them clasped each other and with half closed eyes were watching in trepidation the approaching apparition.It came near them and as if it did not notice them kept moving further.They were relieved but still in grip of fear.They smiled to each other at the danger that passed away.Suddenly the apparition turned and howled as it ran approaching them “Hooey, hooeye’ in a strange guttural voice. Both fainted and it was after considerable time they recovered when they felt water being sprinkled on their faces and heard their names being called out and asking them to get up.
It was the quite and docile Chellappa who was laughing hysterically at the frightened friends.“I could not resist the temptation to pull this stunt on you both.Come on.Let us get out of the place quick and fast.”

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The last straw

It was a tiresome day for Sasikala. With endless files and meetings.She was in a high position in a bank.She was having a mild head ache since morning.She just closed all files and packed up for leaving home.It was a dull routine doing the same monotonous work day in and day out.There was no thrill at home too.As she parked the car in the drive way, she found the house was dark with no lights on.The post box was full of mails with some protruding outside.She collected them and entered the home using her key.
She called “Purush, are you at home? Why haven’t you switched on the lights?”There was no response.She went to the living room and found him lying on the sofa with the TV on and an open bottle of beer.He was asleep snoring loudly
She nudged him and said “Purush, get up.Did you have tea? Has the maid not come? Why are you sleeping in the evening?”
He moved a bit and said” I don’t know whether she came or not.I was asleep.I don’t want tea.Why do you always like to disturb me like this?Cannot a person sleep in his home peacefully whenever he liked?.”
She didn’t argue with him.He was always an easy going person not taking interest in any thing including her.She was 49 but was physically fit and active like a forty year old.She loved fun and wished to go out,attend parties, travel and theatres.She mixed well wih people but was afraid of going out along with him as he invariably got drunk and created scenes.He had no interest in anything except watching some babes on the TV with a bottle by his side.He was tweleve years older than her.He had become a diabetic.Possibly due to medicines or otherwise, he has lost interest in sex.They were just living together with no physical intimacy since two years.Let alone sex, he was not even loving her with an occasional hug or kiss.He was not like that when she married him..Till some years ago he was a passionate lover and kept her more than happy.They used to go out on all weekends.
She sighed and took her cup of tea and some namkeen to her room .She switched on the ac and lied down on her bed.The cool breeze was comforting and soothing.She was a good lady.Though she had many young colleagues working with her, she never took any interest in them. though a few were wanting to get close to her.She kept them at a distance.Many nights she tossed in the bed restlessly and would put her arm on Purush and shake hi.m. He would turn the other side mumbling that he was sleepy..She knew he had become impotent and was avoiding her.Being healthy and young, she had to suppress her normal urges and divert her mind on novels till late in the night until she dozed of to sleep.
It was one Sunday she was sitting with her laptop.Purush had gone out to attend a function.She normally avoided the chat room.Monotny killed her.Curious to find out what it held, she opened the site.
Soon there was a text”HI,I am Vikram.Would you like to chat?”
“Yea, why not? I am Sanjana.Glad to meet you.”Sasikala said giving a false name
“Nice Sanju, Call me Vik.I am an engineer married with two kids.But she has separated and the kids are in her custody.”he said
“Oh,Oh I am so sorry.It must be difficult being alone.” She replied
“Yes, it is very boring.I want to get some good friend with whom I can be in regular touch and forget the pain.Would you be my friend?” he asked.
“Why not? We can meet online regularly.”
“I am 45 and in Delhi.Where are you living.How old are you.Are you married?”
“I am also around your age with a daughter married and living abroad.I also need a good friend.”She replied but did not tell him that she also lived in delhi
The conversations became regular and intimate sharing all their personal woes and problems.He was very caring and considerate.He had a magnetic charm always saying things that were pleasing and intelligent.Their discussions apart from some flirting were serious too.They became close friends.She confided her dulland insipid lifebut never agreed to his suggestion that they meet.She felt that she would not be able to resist herself once she met him.The chats were frequent daily extending to long hours.She found life a lttle more tolerable and promising.He had expressed his deep love for her and even suggested they can meet secretly and have fun.She steeled her yearning mind to be within certain boundaries. But she found in him the love she missed from her husband and the comfort his soothing words gave.
It was a Saturday evening.She camehome around 5pm earlier than usual.She found a small crowd standing out side.The maid was also there.She rushed to find out.The maid said”Saheb is not opening door.The TV is on full blare.The taps are open and the water is flowing from under the doors.I was knocking the door and ringing the bell.Our neighbours have also tried.Saheb is no opening the door.”
She opened the door with her keys and walked across the wet floors with all carpets soaked.Others followed her.She found Purush lying on the sofa on his shorts with bare torso with bottle in hand and blabbering unconcerned about the surroundings.She felt ashamed and wished she dropped dead.Others pitied with her and slowly went out.The maid started cleaning the mess.Saikala did not utter one word to Purush.This was the last straw.She quietly went up and opened the laptop.
“Hi Sanjana, Where are you? I miss you Honey” typed Vikram
“Darling, I am very much here.I have finally decided to meet you in person.” Sasikala said

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

In lieu of coffee

Sulochana patti as she was known was well to do in her younger days.Her husband was a leading lawyer.Children were considered an asset those days.The more the children merrier were the couple They never felt ashamed of getting pregnant even in forties.No control was exercised.As a result they had seven sons and three daughters. None of the sons distinguished themselves and were all in small positions or as briefless lawyers.Two daughters were married off well before Sulochana pattis husband passed away.By the time the last daughter Sumathi was to be married, the family’s financial position was not sound and she was married to a clerk in a private company.
Initially patti lived with various sons by turn.She was shunted out after a mandatory month with each son whether she was well or not.Patti bore all these indignities with equanimity and never compalined. .In a year she lived about 6 months with Sumathi.She was very affectionate to her mother.She had her own family of four children and they lived in a small apartment.But her heart was generous and her children too loved their patti.The family’s income was scanty and with children studying in schools and colleges, it was a great effort to make both ends meet.Sumathi was coaching children to supplement the income.
Patti’s vision which was already impaired became worse.She had difficulty even in moving about the house freely.Sumathi took her to a big eye clinic of a very renowned ophthalmologist. After a long wait when her turn came, she took the frail old woman inside dodctor’s chamber.The doctor examined the reports of the various tests done by his juniors and examined her eyes.afetr finishing the examination.He told Sumathi that patti’s eyes are ready for operation and that it can be done immediately.He told her I will be away for a month abroad after two days.I can opearte her eye tomorrow if you admit her today.It is minor ahd she can go home the next day..What do you say?”
Sumath asked “Amma, doctor says operation can be done tomorrow itself as he will be going out of station”
Patti asked her “What is the need for immediate operation? Where will you go for such huge amount?.Ask him to give some drops.I will manage.”
Sumathi was embarassed.The doctor asked “Patti, aren’t you Chandru’s mom.I was wondering all along at the familiar face.Now only it struck me you are Chandru’s mom”Patti nodded and said “Yes ,Chndru is my son..How do you know him?”“Patti, have you forgotten Sundararaman.I used to play cricket in your house with Chandru and his brothers.We were class mates.You used to give me coffee .Have you forgotten me?’” asked the doctor
Patti squinted eyes and looked at him trying to recollect but gave up
She said”I have become old.I am also not able to see you clearly.Sorry But there is a vague memory of a very smart boy by name Sundu.”“Patti, I am that Sundu.Don’t worry about money.We will see later. Please get admitted now itslf.I will operate you first in the morning.” He turned to Sumathi and said “Do not bother about the charges.I will see what can be done.Get her admitted now itself.”
Patti whispered to her daughter “I Know Sundu.He was very smart even in younger days.You can pledge my two gold bangles and get the money.Please admit me now itself”
The operaation was done successfully and the bandage was removed on the second day.The doctor asked “Patti, can you see Sundu now?”Patti smiled
Sumathi asked “Doctor, how much we should pay.You had said the charges would be reduced.We cannot afford much.”
“It is ok.I have already spoken to the billing section.This nurse will help you in getting the discharge certificate.I came today only for patti to see me and recognise me.I will not forget the coffee she used to give me.Patti,you will be given glasses after a month.You can have the other eye operated in 3 months.I am to go in hurry.All the best, patti” said the doctor as he left
The nurse toook Sumathi to billing section.The billing clerk gave a bill for nil amount telling that the entire charges have been waived by the doctor.He showed the bill where the doctor had written “All charges waived in adjustment of coffee taken”
Patti and Sumathi were overcome with emotion and stood speechless.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Second thoughts

Vyshnavi exploded in anger. “I cannot agree to your hustling me into a marriage.You both know that I have been wanting to study further and become a professional I am just a post graduate in English literature and would like to do a course in journalism in a reputed institution.I will not marry for two more years.That is final ,do you both understand.”
“Vyshu,you are 23 already.The match that has come is very good.The people are from decent background.The boy is highly qualified and in a senior executive position in a MNC with a bright future.They are also wealthy and a small family.Please do not be adamant.As parents do you think we would do anything against your interests” said her mom softly.Her dad nodded in agreement.
“I don’t care whether I am 23 or more.People marry even in late twenties.I just need two more years and Heavens are not going to fall by my not marrying immediately.He is also not the last eligible bachelor.They are dime a dozen.Amma, please do not make me disobey you both..Allow me to do what pleases me”said Vyshanavi
“Vyshu, listen to me.You don’t have to marry if you don’t wish to.We have given our word to them and they will be coming to see you next Sunday.I am told the boy is very handsome.If you do not like, we will not proceed further.We will give some reason like horoscope not matching or some such.Please help us to honour our word” said her mom softly.
“OK,I agree,Do not ever dream that I would fall for this guy and succumb to your plans.I will just meet him as I do so many outside.I hope dad, I have made myself clear” replied Vyshu
Vyshu, though she agreed, considered it as a clever ploy by her parents.She decided to take the bull by the horns.She would meet the fellow Shyam or whatever his name at his office and let him know her mind and request him to help her by rejecting her.She was even prepared to be his friend.
It was 4pm when she entered his room.He was surrounded by many discussing some official matter.When he saw her, he stood up and extended his hand.He made a sign to others and they left immediately.”Please take your seat, miss….. I am Shyam”he said.
“Vyshnavi is my name.Sorry to disturb you in the midst of your work.I have come to you with an unusual request”
“Vyshnavi is a sweet name. I like it.If it is a matter of importance and urgency, I suggest we go down to the restaurent at the ground floor.We will be disturbed here by innumerable phone calls and visitors barging in.I can spare you 30 minutes” said Shyam as he got up.She could not say anything but nod her head.
Once seated in the corner of a rather empty restaurent, Shyam asked “What will you like to have.Can I order some pakoras and fruit shake? Do you have any preference?”
Vyshu was taken aback at the easy candour and camardaerie in his manner.He looked very handsome, much more than what she had visualised and was well built with strong arms.His curly hairs and a small button on his right ear only enhanced his charm.But she steeled herself not to be taken in by these and decided to express herself clearly.
Vyshu started”It is like this.I understand….”
He stopped her saying “Ssshh, we will talk about it later.Let us know each other.I am a Mtech from IIT and Asst Vice President here.I am fond of fiction, travelling and wish to be a writer.I am into blogging seriously.I am fond of any good music and see films selectively.I am a good cook too as a hobby.That summarises my profile.Tell me about you and the things you like.”
“Wow, your interests match mine.I am a PG in English literature and wish to do a diploma in journalism in a reputed place.I wish to be a writer.I write poems and short stories.I too have a blog with great following.I also have a travel itch wanting to see new places.I can sing carnatic music reasonably well.I do not miss good English films.But I am not into cooking or very much interested in it” said Vyshu
“Yes, a wise decision to do a PG diploma in journo.You must do it.Why haven’t you joined already.What is holding you?”
“It is like this.My parents want me to get married immediately.I am against it for fear that the man who marries me may not allow me to pursue my studies.We have been fighting over this” said Vyshu
“Which fool will stop a talented wife not to pursue? I for one would go all the way supporting my wife in her literary endeavours.I will take pride in her work.Ask your parents to ascertain this beforehand and you can achieve two things in one stroke.Is this the only objection to your not willing to marry or do you have any other ?” asked Shyam
“There is nothing else of consequence”conceded Vyshu
Shyam asked her”Now tell me, what is the help you wanted from me on some important matter?”
“Oh, it is nothing.” Said Vyshu
“You came all the way to take 30 minutes of my time only to tell that you have nothing to talk to me.Come out, Vyshnavi.Don‘t feel shy” asked Shyam
“Sorry Shyam.I came with a different purpose.After my discussion with you I have second thoughts on the wisdom of my earlier view.It is very nice to meet you.I am really impressed by your kind courtesy and hospitality.Let us hope we would meet more in the future.Sorry to have taken up your time.But it helped me resolve my issue.Thanks a bunch.” Vyshu said as she stood up extending her hand
“You ladies are enigma.I am happy to have met you and hope I will have occasion to meet you in future

Monday, October 5, 2009


Navin stared at the letter before him.It came today stamped 12/09/09 He did not open the envelope. He had been morose for the last six weeks eversince he got the news that Archana was getting married and that she had gone permanently away from his life and subsequently her sad suicide.
.His thoughts went back to the day a year back he first met her.She was obviously in a hurry wanting to reach her office in time.The railway station was jampacked with passengers moving and out of the platform in the morning rush. In her hurry she collided with Navin causing his briefcase to fall with papers scattering all over.He was very angry at this foolish girl intially that soon gave way to a grin when she bent down with profuse apologies and collected all the papers.She was very fetching in her looks and her eyes shone brightly .Before he could thank her, she scurried away in the crowd.He felt sorry that he had not ascertained her name and her contact number.
It was a week later he met her accidentally in a restaurent where he was taking his lunch.She came with two other girls and was looking around for vacant seats.There was one by his side and two others a little yonder.When she saw him, he smiled at her and she nodded with a faint smile in recognition.She came and sat by his side saying ’I hope you are not upset with me for the inadvertent collision that day”
Navin said”I am actually happy for that lucky incident as I get to know an attractive friend.My name is Navin working in….”
“I am Archana and my office is closeby.I come here for my lunch daily around this time”she giggled suggestively.
What started as regular meetings at the restaurent soon grew into an intimate friendship.They keept meeting daily and found in each other their soulmate.They were in deep love and wished to marry soon after keeping their parents informed..She was from an affluent family while Navin had a middle class background.But he was well qualified and in a good position.
It was when Archana’s parents spoke to her about a suitable match being finalised and that the young man would be soon coming to meet them, Archana was shocked but courageously broke the news of her love to Navin. Like any other rich parents, Archanas’ dad too did not approve of her choice pointing out the wide gap in status and his dreams of merging his business with his son inlaws’. Archana was the only daughter.All her pleas fell into deaf ears and they would not budge.The young man came and saw her.He expressed his willingness to marry her.He looked quite handsome and was the son of a leading industrialist.There was nothing that would go against him. Archana had nothing to point out except that her heart was already with that of Navin. But her parents proceeded further and fixed the date for the marriage.She was not allowed to go out alone without her mom by her side.
Navin grew restless when she was not meeting him.There were no mobiles those days.She had asked him not to give a ring to her house as her friendship was kept a secret.He checked with her office and found she was not attending the office for sometime and that they got the news that she was getting married soon.Navin was very upset and wondered how a girl who professed her undying love for him and who always spoke about their marriage and the family they would raise could ditch him for a rich guy. He thought of the intimate and personal moments with her and his rage only grew.He concluded that she was just an opportunist and used him till it suited her.He could not sleep and she ocupied his mind all the time. He could not forget her.
It was after a week that he saw in the news paper that she had consumed sleeping tablets and killed herself one day before the marriage.He was shattered and wrestled with doubts as to why she would take her life when she was to get married.Could it be that she was unwilling and forced to marry someone whom she did not love? Could it be that he was wrong in his hasty assessment of her? Could it be that she did not want to marry ay one other than him? Such questions stared at him always begging for answer.He became depressed and morose as he had none to answer.
It was at this moment that the letter on the table had arrived.He had no interest to read letters.he was disinterested with everything.But the handwriting looked unfamiliar and appeared written by an illiterate. He tore the envelope and saw a scrap of paer torn from a child’s note book.He read
I could not tell you that my parents have fixed my marriage against my wishes for 21st of this monthThey will not allow me to marry you but I am determined to marry only you and none else.I am not left alone or allowed to go out.I manage to write this letter from the toilet and getting it posted through our cook who is very fond of me.
I will manage to come out on the pretext of a facial and wait for you at the usual restaurent on 19th at 4pm.Please be there without fail and come prepared to take me with you.We will get married in some temple.I am a major. Please do not fail me.If you fail to turn up, I will not marry the person chosen but end my life.
Expecting to meet you and hoping for the happy times ahead
Your Archana
He saw the letter was posted on15/7 from the stamp but delievered on 12/09.The wretched postal department had unwittingly played its lousy part in this sad denouement. .Navin started crying inconsolably cursing his bad luck

Friday, October 2, 2009

Does marriage retain its charm for women?

This is not a short story.Just a thought to invite the views of readers on the subject
I read in The Week that 51% of the American women are living without husbands. This percentage perhaps would need correction as it possibly included women whose husbands are working elsewhere or in Jail or female students above 15 . The point that was stressed that the percentage of women living without male companion is significant and is going up. The situation in India cannot be different though the percentage may be lower given its culture and customs. However the days are gone when women end up immediately after the school or college education as a wife getting married to a man. In the earlier days our society was such there was the parental and social pressure towards matrimony. Single woman were viewed with disfavour and suspicion. The women reconciled themselves to the status of a home maker ,an euphemism for an unpaid worker or a drudge, tending after the children, washing clothes, cooking, cleaning and doing all jobs that men loathed. The women were also not allowed to study beyond a point in the patriarchal society we lived.
All these are history now with women making giant strides in education and competing with men in the work place. Still the percentage of women beyond a graduation level is significantly low compared to male students.. There are only very few women competing in engineering, medical, IITs and IIMs with men when you remember that at the higher secondary level percentage of girls are equal or more in number than boys. Besides the women students compared favorably with male students in merit at that stage. The drop could only be due to the economic reasons along with the tradition of giving primacy to son’s education and daughter's marriage.
Be that as it may, it is a fact that large number of women are today economically strong with well paid jobs and independent income in all strata of society. They are not dependent on parents or husbands any more. They are free to do what they like and shape their lives as it pleases them. Getting shackled to a man thro marriage is not viewed as a priority. The work place and social circles offer them male companionship and even live-in relationships to such of those who need it..
It is only when they get into thirties they may contemplate to settle down. In such conditions the role of husband as bread winner with woman playing a subordinate role is passé. He is expected to share the household chores as much as the wife. There are even role reversal when wives go on tour or husbands stay at home. Wives are not afraid of seeking divorce where the marriages do not work out. Marriage viewed as a long term institution or a sacred bond has become fragile and requires considerable tolerance and give and take on both sides to succeed.The awe and fear that inlaws imposed on girls is also a vanishing feature atleast in the educated and employed classes.
Women have found that remaining single is not the end of the world and life can be as much exciting and enjoyable. With the advent of liberalization, rise in standard of living and increased job availability, the number of educated single women with steady income would only grow though it may not assume the proportions of the Western countries. How this phenomenon would affect the fabric of society eventually remains to be seen..