Sunday, February 28, 2010

Lalitha's wish

“Saro, you can go to your friend’s house today in the evening at 3pm and return after 7pm.Some young man and his parents are coming around 4pm to see our Lalitha.If she asks you to stay back, tell her you will return very soon but remember to stay back till 7 pm” mom was telling Saroja.

Lalitha who had just come there to talk to her mom stopped at the door when she heard this conversation.This was nothing unusual.It has happened many times before.She was wondering why even her dear mom should hurt her by such thoughless words.Lalitha was slighltly dusky, a little obese and heavy built but had very well defined charming features.Saroja on the other hand was petite,very fair complexioned, slim and attractive.Lalitha was well read, very bright,topped her classes always, sing well and could converse very intelligently.Saroja was no match to her elder sister. On one initial occasion when Saroja was present when someone had come to see Laitha,the young man’s mother had the temerity to ask for Saroja’s hand for her son in lieu of Lalitha’s..Since then her mom ensured that Saroja was nowhere in the vicinity of the house at such times.

Lalitha felt disgusted with these bride seeing occasions when her parents agreed to anyone coming for seeing her without even an initial screening through exchange of photos.They were labouring under the impression that photographs often lie and that the young men would like the bride once they see face to face and talk to each other.Somehow nothing clicked not because Lalitha looked plain in comparison to Saroja but for various reasons including some young men feeling inferior before Lalitha’s intellectual prowess.

It was one evening that Lalitha’s mom got a ring from Chella mami informing that her son Vishwa had come from New York on a short visit to select a girl.Vishwa an extremely talented chap had done his Masters in Business Management from Harvard and was employed in UN.He didn’t believe in traditional meeting of girls at their houses and instead had requested his parents to arrange an informal get together when all the girls whom his parents wanted him to consider would be present along with their parents.There would be a high tea on the occasion.He would interact with them during the party. Chella mami wanted Lalitha’s parents to come with both Lalitha and Saroja..She however wanted the purpose of the meet be kept a secret from the girls.

Vishwa’s house bore a festive look with about dozen girls in their best attire along with their parents gracing the occasion.Vishwa in his jeans and embroidered kurta looked very handsome.A tall, muscular guy with chiselled features reminded one of Sylvester Stallone.He was an out going and gregarious guy greeting everyone warmly and putting at ease the shy amongst the girls and drawing them out of their shell.There was lot of gigling and laughter.Most of the girls had brought some small gifts.Vishwa thanked them and requested them to exhibit their talents in singing, dancing or playing instruments.He set the pace playing guitar and saxophone.

The girls then took over and Saro as usual stole the lime light with her filmy music,ghazals and jigs.The other girls were also not wanting.It was a laugh riot with the parents watching with amusement at their daughters endeavour to catch the eye of the most eligible bachelor.Lalitha in contrast was silent and subdued.She sat in one of the chairs and watched with shy smile the other girls outdoing each other.Saro was seen all the time by the side of Vishwa picking small conversation with him and joining him in his applauding the others.

Lalitha after sometime silently moved away unseen from the crowd to the adjacent spacious verandah.She wished to be away from the noise and she had a mild head ache .She kept her mobile by her side on the sofa and opened the purse to take a tablet.She then found her mobile missing by her side.Evidently it had fallen into the edge of sofa.As she bent and was looking for it,Vishwa was right by her side asking ”What are you looking for?”.When she said her mobile, he took the number and dialled in his.The ring came immediately from under the sofa and he retrieved it by going on his knees.Lalitha was shy but muttered her thanks.

Vishwa said “You know I am Vishwa.Why are you sitting alone here? Aren’t you keeping well?You haven’t introduced yourself except mentioning your name which also I forget. Now.If you are not in a hurry, please sit down for a small chat.Tell me everything about you,your interests,the work you do,your goals if any , and such like ”

Lalitha introduced herself and spoke clearly about herself,the work she did,her reading habit and her favourite authors, her love for classical music both Carnatic and Western,It was more than thirty minutes he was with her.Lalitha felt very comfortable with him and secretly wished for his hand.But she had her doubts as he was also seen talking to other girls including Saro.Lalitha did not fail to notice how Saro kept him in splits with her banter and humour.

It was next day morning when Lalitha,Saro and their parents were having their morning coffee,the telephone rang.It was Chella mami who had called their mom..“I have a happy news to convey..Vishwa has given the green signal for your daughter.We would like you to drop in for further talks” she said

“How can we proceed further with younger daughter’s marriage when the elder is there,Chella mami?” asked Lalitha’s mom presuming it was Saro’s hand they were wanting..

“Arrey, how could you assume that we are asking for Saro’s hand? Vishwa is taken in by your elder daughter Lalitha and has said if he were to marry anyone from the lot he had met yesterday, it would be only Lalitha.He is all admiration for her and feels she would complement him in many ways and be an ideal partner”said Chella mami

As her mom hugged Lalitha,Saro abruptly left the hall.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Happy Holi

H a p p y H o l i

The premonition

Major Chandra was sipping the hot tea that was soothing in the biting cold but his thoughts were far away with his family in his native place.He had written that day a couple of letters to his wife Sweta and parents.He was unusually silent and not talking much as he was wont to with his colleague and friend Major Aravind.The latter knew the reason for his low spirit.Both of them were leaving the next day for the front that was very active and war ridden.Aravind was not married. He knew that Chandra dotes on his wife and his two children a daughter and a son.The son hasn’t completed a year yet.But for this urgent call of duty, Chandra would have gone on leave to be with his son whom he had not seen and his beloved wife.

Chandra broke his long silence.”Aravind,However much I try to avoid, my mind is full of negative thoughts for the last few days.I have had bad dreams.There is a nagging fear at the back of my mind that I may not be able to see my family again.”

Aravind cut him short.”Stop it, Chandra.I have never known you to be afraid and in fact you have inspired me on many an occasion with your fearlessness.Have trust in God and do your duty.I am sure you will be with your family very soon once we overcome the assault and drive the enemies away.”

Chandra was quiet for some time and then spoke.”I have this request to make.In the sad event of my not coming back alive, will you promise me that you would take care of my family.Sweta is well qualified and can easily get a job..Financially there wouldn’t be a problem.She needs someone as a mentor and a guide.Please assure me that you would fill this role and my mind would be at ease.”

“Don’t worry.Nothing will happen to you.It can be the otherway too where you may have to be a support to my aged parents.We can both be assured that we will not let go the other’s family uncared for.I promise you that from my side.”

Chandra patted him on his shoulders saying”Agreed.Thanks buddy”

Six months later Major Aravind was at Chandra’s house.The bloody war was over but not without its heavy casualities on both sides.Chandra’s premontion had come true and the posthumous decorations did little to lessen Sweta’s grief.Aravind narrated to her Chandra’s unusual fears and the conversation they both had the day before they left for the front.

”Sweta, I have taken voluntary retirement from the army and have decided to settle down in this city and be of assistance to you and your children as I had solemnly promised my friend. You can freely ask me of any help.I will arrange for speedy settlement of pension and in financial matters.I will also assist you in finding a job whenever you choose to look for one.The baby is hardly one year.You know Chandra and myself were very close friends.You can therefore be free with me” he said.

As if he remembered suddenly, he took out and gave her a sealed envelope addressed to Sweta.”Sorry I forgot about this.Chandra wrote this letter after our conversation and wanted me to deliever to you in the event of his not returning from the front.”

“Thanks.I am grateful to you for your offer to help me.It would certainly reduce my apprehension of managing all alone.I would certainly avail of your help whenever I need.I will now go through my husband’s letter in private”Sweta replied
“Dear Sweta,

When this letter of mine is read by you, I would have laid my life for the country in the war.However much I wished to be with you and the children, the call of duty could not be ignored.Grieve not at my passing away.I will ever be with you in spirit. We were aware of the risks involved in serving for the country.There is little point in bemoaning your lot.For the sake of the children and yourself,you should reconcile yourself to the harsh realities of life and change to meet the years ahead with enthusiasm and courage.I have one request to make to you which I think you would not spurn .

I have mentioned many times about Aravind.He is my age , a very close friend of mine and we share all secrets.He is a very pleasant person, caring and considerate and with commitment to the job he undertakes.I had requested him in the unfortunate event of my dying to take care of you and the children as I would do if I were alive.This is possible only if you marry him.Please be assured that you have my blessings and support for this move.You would be making me immensely happy by marrying him as I would be at peace that you and our children are well taken care of.He is a shy person.He is not aware of the contents of this letter.You may request him to live in the front room and over a period of time I am sure love would blossom between you two facilitating an union by marriage.I am sure you will abide by my last wish.

With blessings for your continued happiness,

Aravind had moved to the front room and was a great source of help.In the course of a few months they were drawn to each other and fell in deep love.When he proposed to her, she wasn’t surprised.They married and led a very happy life.

Aravind however suffered from pangs of guilt and remorse.Unable to bear the regret and his culpability, he decided to come clean.One night when they were in bed, he said ”Sweta,I have a confession to make.I did a grievous wrong and my mind is not at rest.I betrayed my friend and the guilt is hurting me unbearbly.I have seen your picture many times before when Chandra showed me.I was struck by your beauty.The thought of marrying you occurred after Chandra’s death.I drafted the letter in his name,typed it and forged his signature.I thought with his blessings you would readily agree.I seek your forgiveness for the wrong I had committed.Kindly say that you have pardoned me.”

“You don’t have to sob.I knew that letter was not written by my husband on the very day you gave me the letter He always addressed me Sweeta and never by Sweta.I married you on my own volition as Chandra had spoken well of you and also I took a great liking for you.The fake letter never influenced me in my decision.I am glad you have got rid of the burden of your fault. You may now be at peace, my dear” Sweta assured him as he drew him close to her.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The invisible danger

Usha kept observing her husband Vikas without being seen by him.He kept turning behind every second minute without watching the comic serial before him.His face wore a scary look of a haunted man.He kept clenching his fists and gnashing his teeth.

“Usha is there anyone behind me” he kept asking the same question the humpteenth time.

“No,darling.There is none in the house except the two of us.The only door to our apartment in the front is locked.Watch the serial.It is very funny.I will get you dinner.The medicines have to be taken on time” she replied.

“No Usha.He is invisible.I can feel his presence and even his hot breath when he comes close to me.I am scared he may kill me.The problem is you never believe what I say.May be you are thinking I am a nut.”

“This is a safe complex with security at the gate.No one can enter.I have seen all the three rooms.Don’t suffer from hallucinations.There is no one in our flat .Let me sit by your side.Why should any one kill you?You haven’t hurt a fly.” Usha said with a smile even as she put her arm around him

Vikas pushed her angrily”You never trust me.Your smug smile tells me clearly that you think I am deranged and imagining.You will know only if someone is after you.”

“My dear,I have full trust in you and your words.I only wanted to assure you there is no stranger here.Please .have the dinner and let us go to bed early.I will give you a tranquilser.You will feel better in the morning.” she said

She recollected the doctor’s words.”You cannot manage him alone.It is not advisable also.He is suffering from hallucinations after he unearthed some scam in office and is afraid although without any basis that big men are after him.He needs to be in sanatorium under the watchful eyes of the assistants.Please do what I advise you.Admit him immediately. He is a sick man.”

She thought with love and care along with medicines he would get better.Things are not improving.The atmosphere in the house was stuffy and the silence was killing her.She had initially asked friends and relatives to come and spend time with him.But he thought all had come to ferret out the details of what he knew and put him in danger.Usha was the only person he was comfortable with.

He refused to eat.She had to forcibly make him eat some curd rice before giving him medicines.She put him to bed, covered him with a soft sheet and had the AC on.She assured him “I will be back in a jiffy after cleaning the kitchen and putting the vessels in the dishwasher.You catch some sleep”.She dimmed the light and went out to kitchen

As he was lying on the bed he felt that Usha might be in danger from the invisible man and that he must rush to her aid.He slowly and silently tiptoed to the kitchen without wanting to alert him.He was certain he must be standing behind her breathing on her neck as he did often to him.

He saw her busy scrubbing the cooker before putting in dishwasher oblivious to the great danger lurking behind.He went behind her and plunged the kitchen knife that he had removed from the work station deep in on the invisible man’s back.She turned with a gasp and found to her horror Vikas standing beside her.
She gave a loud shriek that was heard all over the complex.. “Oh my God! I should have heeded the doctor” she muttered even as she gasped in pain.

“You never believed me.See someone was after me and being my wife he was after you too.Do you now agree that the there was someone lurking in the house.You thought I am unbalanced in my mind.I had to come to your rescue” said Vikas

As blood was gushing out she fainted and fell on the floor. Vikas bent and caressed her cheek.”Are you ok, my dear?How come you are hurt? Poor thing, she never listened to my warnings.She will now see reason and understand what it is to be chased by unknown invisible man out to kill you”

He started crying loudly as he saw the blood all around.”Usha please get up.I am afraid you will die.The man who attacked you is still in the house and out to get me.You were adamant and had to pay the price.Open your eyes,please”

There were thuds of feet outside and the door being broken.An ambulance was soon seen rushing the lady to emergency and a police van taking the sobbing Vikas.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Is it a blessing or coincidence?

As Kalpana was sitting at the sit out gazing at the starlit sky wondering how life for her had changed all on a sudden from one of endless joy to pathetic misery, she remembered that it was this day a few years back that her parents had left her after a gruesome road accident.The only child, heir to large wealth, was entrusted by elders to the care of a distant aunt who offered to keep the girl with her.There were no siblings to her parents and this was the only option available.

The aunt who initially seemed outwardly well disposed had really no affection for the girl.She spoke softly but was dominating and ruthless by nature.She put on an appearance before outsiders though seething within with jealousy at her fortune, good looks and pleasant disposition in comparison to her daughters.She was put in an ordinary school not distinguished for good teaching.All her pleadings that she also be admitted to the same school where her cousins were studying were in vain. She was made to toil in the house by making her do all the domestic chores that she had never done before in her luxurious life with her parents.Despite the hurdles the girl did very well in her studies and this embittered her dull cousins.She was not allowed to join engineering course which he wanted but compelled to do graduation in History like her cousins who had no choice due to their poor marks..They never mingled with her, always taunted her and made her a scape goat for their entire lapses.The aunt needed little prompting to side with her children and harass the pitiable girl.

They were liberally using the income from Kalpana’s wealth but spent very little on her.It was utilised on the worthless cousins in meeting their every whim.Both the aunt and her wily husband had on eye on her wealth and wanted full control over it before her marriage.

Tears trickled from the girl’s eye as she saw no redemption.She took out the locket that she wore and placed it on her eyes.She vividly remembered her visit to a sage’s ashram along with her mom some years back.The venerable old saint looked at the girl intently when she got up after prostrating before him and gave her a locket with a picture of a Goddess and said “Child, keep it always with you.Never part with it.When you have unbearble problems facing you,take it out and press against your eyes in prayer.The compassionate Goddess would take care of you”

Both the mother and Kalpana were overwhelmed by his kindness but wondered why he talked of problems when he gave her the locket. Even after she came to aunt’s house she refused to part with the locket and wore it on her neck with a string.The locket served as a talisman and a legacy bringing back fond memories of her mom and the visit to the ashram.

Kalpana wished to pursue post graduation on completing creditably her graduation.Aunt stood against it on the tenuous plea that as guardians they would like to see her married early.They wished to marry her off to a nondescript guy of poor attainments but related to aunt.It was their idea that way they could keep the wealth with them and the girl under their subjugation.When they tried to push through this by arranging for a betrothal ceremony the next day , Kalpana had none to turn to except pray.She thought there cannot be a greater misfortune than this and her thoughts turned to the sage and his advice.She prayed devoutly for his blessings as she placed the locket on her eyes and let things in Goddess’s hands.It was that night her aunt had a stroke that paralysed her limbs and left her speechless. She became a total wreck unable to comprehend or communicate.It is not known whether her incapacitation was just a coincidence or divine intervention.Be that as it may, the threat of Kalpna’s marriage to the idiot vanished and the girl heaved a sigh of relief.

But she had not reckoned with the evil uncle who saw greater urgency in getting the wealth atleast a portion of it transferred in their name.He along with his daughters intimidated her daily, confining her in her room,starving her of the food and in a variety of wicked ways.They compelled her telling that she can go her way and do what pleased her, if she transferred half the weath to uncle’s name.The torture was unbearable and she knew that even the fifty percent of her wealth was a tidy sum that she can comfortably live with.When she relented under duress and agreed to accompany her uncle to her lawyer who had all the documents,she was warned that she should tell the lawyer that she was gifting this out of her own free will and out of affection for them for taking care of her.
The family lawyer, a kindly old man and who knew her parents for years was not amused, with the way her uncle presented the matter and pressed Kalpana to make the statement on tutored lines.He could smell something fishy and see through the whole game.He told the uncle that he wished to talk to Kalpana alone before he could proceed further.

When prodded to tell him the facts truthfully and that her revelations would be safe with him she narrated in detail to the lawyer her predicament and sought his protection as she even feared for her life.She broke down and said crying.”I want you to save me from this veritable hell.I am tretaed as a slave there and physically tortured.It was the sage’s locket that saved me from the marriage they were contemplating with an idiot. I do not mind parting with some wealth if that wuld make my life happy” Even as she mentioned about the locket, she took it out and pressed it against her eyes praying that she come out of this ordeal.

There was a commotion outside.The lawyer’s assistant came running and said “The gentleman who accompanied the lady felt acute breathlessness and wanted water.Even before we took the water, he clutched his heart and collapsed” A doctor who was summoned pronounced him as dead due to massive cardiac arrest.

The lawyer consoled the girl telling”Your travails are over.I will tell your cousins of the changed situation and that you out of compassion would give them a monthly allowance provided they stop harassing you.You can stay with me till your marriage. I have no children.My wife will be happy.”

It was then the full import of the words uttered by the sage years ago and his foresight dawned on her even as she gratefully paid her obeisance to him

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Love returns

Savitha is an intelligent girl, very pretty and with a pleasant dispostion. She had a Masters degree and was employed in a women’s college as a lecturer.She was twenty five and saw no reason to put off her marriage when her parents broached the subject.Her only condition was that she would marry only the person she loved. She turned down a few good proposals from her parents as she had no faith in arranged marriages.The one flaw in her was that she was highly possesive by nature and got upset easily on percieved hurts..She never had the trait to evaluate things patiently and took decisions on an impulse.This also made matters difficult for her to find someone whom she can love and marry. She was also shy by nature having studied in girl’s school and women’s college.She never had any boy friends worth the name.Her working environment was also a women’s place.There were not many opportunities for her to meet young men.

Though quite pretty and talented, none came along her way for her fascinating enough to fall in love.She had met a few friends of his brother and cousins.She even went out with them for a coffee or film but found none to be her prince charming or catching her fancy.Some persisted in wanting her friendship but she moved away without any further interest in them.Her parents were pressurising her to come up with someone acceptable.Their constant reminders irritated her and she chose to spend the time in her room reading novels or listening to music than in the living room before the TV with her parents.

That day she had some assignment in the college after college hours for some function the next day..She was held up for two hours.She wanted to reach her home before it got dark.The sky was cloudy but there was no sign of rain when she started her Maruti.She took the shorter route instead of the main road as the traffic was less in that desolate road.As ill luck would have it, the car stopped midway in that lonely road.It also began to drizzle.She tried to start the car but could not.A few cars whizzed past hers.None stopped.She was getting worried and thought of calling her dad or brother though it would take nearly an hour for them to reach the place .It was then a blue coloured Accent drew up by her car.A young man in a white shirt and a tie craned his neck outside and asked “Any problem?Want any help?”

“The car is not starting.I tried many times” Savita replied

“Would you mind if I have a look at it?”he asked even as he got down from the car.

Even before she replied, he asked her to come out and sit in his car while he checked her car.She quietly made way but stood outside without getting into his car.

“”Get into my car.It is drizzling. Have no fear.I am not going to abduct you”he said with a big smile.He looked very handsome with his well cut features that reminded her of Pierce Brosnan.She ignored him and stood watching him tinker under the bonnet.He asked her to sit insde her car and start it.She turned the key and - Presto! the car came alive.Her face was wreathed in smile even as he rubbed his hands on his kerchief.

“I am Madhavan.Here is my card and you have my mobile number there.I will follow you till the main road and be on my way thereafter.Would it be proper to know with whom I am talking?” he asked with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes

“I am Savita, Thank you very much.I would have been in trouble without your help” she said

What began as an accidental meeting soon blossomed into love.They met often at various places- restaurents, multiplexes and malls.He was well qualified and earned a tidy sum in a reputed company.But what caused worry to Savita was in his disinterest in getting married. He mentioned one day that he would not like to get married for atleast a year and they could be close friends as they were.This was not acceptable to her or her parents.They did not like her to maintain a friendship without amy assurance of commitment in the near future.When she questioned him for the reasons, he had only vague answers.

While she continued to meet him, they often had arguments on this matter and on a couple of occasions he left abruptly in what she thought as feigning urgent work.But he continued to be as warm and loving as ever though Savita felt some chasm between..It was her birthday on Sunday and they had agreed to meet at a posh restaurent.Around 5pm he rang up to inform her that he was bringing another woman to the restaurent. When asked who she was he replied he would introduce her in the evening and declined to answer her further questions.

She banged the phone and started crying.When he rang her up repeatedly she switched off the mobile.She did not go to the restaurent.She was sure that he was loving someone else concurrently and that was the reason for his reluctance to get married.She deleted his name from her mobile and computer.She gave strict instructions to her parents not to connect him to her.Her resolve to have no truck with him was final.She told her parents that she would consider proposals from them after a year and that she needed sometime to get over the disappointment.When her dad got transferred to Delhi, it was a blessing in disguise for her.She also got the transfer to her Gurgaon office.

As she was slowly getting over the disappointment and seething anger, one evening she came face to face with Madhavan at the mall.Shocked she tried to move away.He pulled her by hand and said “Savita, tell me atleast why you broke away from me when both of us were in deep love?You can go therafter your way.”

“How dare you ask this question you two timer.While you were professing yourlove for me, you had a dalliance with another girl.You even had the cheek to bring her to the birthday party that evening.I have no place in my heart for cheats” she replied in anger

Instead of retorting he fell into loud laughter and covered his mouth unable to contain it and attracted the attention of passersby.

“Stop it.This no laughing matter.Let me go”Savita said

“Just one moment you silly girl.The woman that I wished to bring that evening was my mom who wished to see you before I formally proposed to you and appraoched your parents for your hands.In your impatience and hasty assumptions,you goofed the matter.” Madhavan said

Savita hung her head in shame and muttered sorry and sought forgiveness.

“I can see you are still unmarried as I am.Can I propose to you here?”he said kneeling formally before her with extended hand to the merriment of all around

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The clever ploy

The marriage hall was jampacked.The music from nadaswaram was unusually subdued but the dulcet music was soothing.It was an airconditioned hall with bearers carrying cool drinks to the guests who had assembled.The ladies were in their best attire.The smell of jasmine and sandalwood paste wafted across the hall.The bride groom Rakesh clad in yellow was sitting on a wooden plank along with his parents standing behind him.The pre-marriage ceremonies were over and the time for the tying of the knot(mangalya dharanam) was fast nearing.

Drowning the loud conversations from the guests and the music from the piper, the shrill voice of the purohit was heard clearly.”Call the bride soon.It is time .We hardly have 30 minutes.”

Sowmya’s mom was seen scurrying into one of the rooms.Minutes went past and she made no appearance.Inside the room her mom was pleading “You cannot do like this.Everyone is waiting.Please wipe your eyes and face and come out with a smile.We had after all arranged all this only after getting your approval.”

“What approval are you talking about? I have been right from the beginning against this .You are pushing me into this hell forcibly.I hate appa(dad) from the bottom of my heart. Why is he thrusting me into this unwiling marriage.For him only status and weath matter.He does not understand what love is or for that matter any finer sentiments.” Sowmya shrieked

But the boy Karthik whom you love though well qualified is from an ordinary lower middle class family without even a small house of their own.Your dad feels strongly that he is not suitable at all .Rakesh owns a big industry, very wealthy and well connected socially.. Please do not put us into embarassment at this stage” her mother argued

Sulochana aunty who was close to Sowmya gently led her out telling her it is too late to go back.She whispered in her ears”I hope everything will go well and you will be really happy.Please keep smiling as all are looking at you”

As Sowmya sat on the plank by the side of the groom, the purohit began the rituals.The mangalyam that passed around the audience for blessings came back and was given to Rakesh.An unwilling Sowmya sat on her dad’s lap with her neck bent for Rakesh to tie the knot.

It was then they heard a commotion in the hall..
“Stop it!”
The loud voice came from a young woman of Sowmya’s age who appeared to be haggard and in tears.When all eyes turned on her with Rakesh staring at her bewildered and shocked, she continued.

“You promised to marry me even last week Don’t you know that .I am carrying your child? Yet you have the cheek to marry another girl.I will not allow this to proceed come what may” she screamed
“I haven’t seen you at all in my life.What crap you are talking about? Where did I meet you and when? What is your name, you fraud?” Rakesh asked in anger

“You have the temerity to talk like this after cheating me and enjoying me for nearly a year.I am willing to go to any length to prove my case.Let us go to the police station.I am willing even for a DNA test”she shouted back.

There were audible whispers from among the guests accompanied by some giggling.Rakesh’s father turned to him and asked “What is all this nonsense? Do you know her? If not, let us call the police”

Even before he could answer Sowmya shouted ”Whatever they do,I will not marry this man.I do not want my marriage to start on a doubtful note.The marriage is off.”She turned to her dad and said “Appa, please call off the marriage.I am prepared to remain unmarried forever.”

Knowing Rakesh’s propensity for dalliance with girls,,Rakesh’s dad preferred not to get deeper into it.He hung his head in anger and shame as he marched out without a word with Rakesh and his mom in tow..The guests from their side took the hint and slowly dispersed.There was a look of uncertainity amongst the remaining guests.The purohit sat quiet with his face grim.The nadaswaram was silent.There was a strange silence and the atmosphere gloomy.

It was then Sowmya’s uncle, younger brother of her dad, approached his brother and whispered softly in his ear.”Why is it you are adamant and spoiling the life of an young girl,, your own daughter, all because of your bloated ego? Karthik is highly qualified and well employed.They both love each other.What if he is poor? By marrying your daughter and becoming your son-in-law he instantly acquires a status and also weath that you can bestow on him.The boy is here.Just give me your approval I will have him on the wooden plank to tie the knot within the auspicious hour.Please agree to me”

Sowmya’s mother looked at him plaintively.The father looking at his sobbing daughter and his affectionate brother relented..Immediately the nadswarram started playing and the purohit stood up chanting loud the mantras.The gaiety returned and all faces were wreathed in smiles.

On the seconday of marriage, when Sowmya and Karthik were alone in the garden, Sowmya’s uncle who came near them along with his wife Sulochana asked Sowmya with a twinkle in his eyes”How was the little drama at the marriage hall? I had to shell out Rs5000 to the starlet for my niece’s sake but the girl did her part well”

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The renunciation

“Krupananda, come near me” he heard the soft voice of the Swamiji. The sixteen year old Krupananda, fair, tall and handsome in shaven head and ochre robe, went near him and bent before him with his mouth covered by his fingers.As if in answer to the expectant look in his face the Swamiji putting his hand on his shoulder said” I have a sad news for you.Your mother passed away at her village three days ago.Her cremation and last rites were performed duly by the villagers.The ashram got the knews today through the postmaster.”

He heard an audible sob from the young sanyasin and looked at the tears swelling from his eyes.

“Shed not tears.You are aware that soul is immortal and does not die.It is only the body that perishes.Pray for her soul’s peace.I have asked the priests at the local temple to lit a Moksha Deepam and also chant the hymns from Mantra Pushpam besides reciting slokas from ‘Bhakti Yoga’ 12 the chapter of Srimad Bhagavadgita. Go and have a bath in the river and meditate for her peace” said the Swamiji

As the young monk sat under a tree on the banks of the river after a bath, there was a flash back of past memories.He remembered the old decrepiet tiled house, the board high school three kilometres away that he had to walk and the face of his angry father shouting “ You will never amount to anything anyway”.The boy known as Mahalingam was different from others of his age.He had no interest in studies or games.He did not relish the talk of his class mates.He was always alone, silent unless spoken to and muttering some mantra taught to him by a mendicant in the local temple.He spent most of his time in the temple doing with great relish all errands like ringing the bell at the appointed hours,bringing flowers from the flower garden,assisting the priest in several ways.He was at the bottom of the class on all subjects except Sanskrit where he was at the top.The beatings by father made him hate studies more.He had the pictures of the Gods hidden in his room and spent hours in meditating with closed eyes which his fond mother mistook for sleeping.

He remembered her shielding him from the anger of his dad and breaking her husband’s injunction to starve him. When her husband was not around she would plead with him “Kanna, why is it you are infuriating appa? Why can’t you be like the rest of the boys and study well? I know you are intelligent.I know your mind is attuned towards God.But in this materalistic world you must study to get a job.The priest tells me you are always at the temple even during school hours”

“Amma, I am sorry.I have no interest in studies.Life for me as others live is frightening and my mind is always after God.I cannot even pray in peace in our home and am compelled to hide God’s pictures from dad.I spend the time in temple praying as I am unable to tear my mind away from Him.’

“Won’t you study like other boys and take up a job?You are our only son.We have no one other than you to look after us in our old age.Your dad’s health is not good and doctors tell he will not live long.Please understand and change yourself.I am not saying you should not pray.Do it for a reasonable time without neglecting studies.”

He looked into amma’s eyes.Tears were trickling. But he could never change his ways. His father died six months later when returning from the adjacent village with a heavy jack fruit on his head. He had not left behind any wealth except the old house.His mom started helping other houses.Even the changed circumstances did not deter Mahalingam from his old ways.He wished instead to go in search of a guru to initiate him into spiritual path.He confided all his longings to the temple priest. He realised that Mahalingam was not cut for the humdrum life of a householder.He knew that here was a blessed child yearning for liberation from the bonds of life.

A chance meeting in the neighbouring town with a Swamiji from North India proved to be a spark to ignite his passion to seek sanyasa.The Swamiji had come for staying there for a couple of months.Mahalingam never left him and stayed in the place without going home till the Swamiji relented to take him in his fold

Mahalingam’s mom came running to the temple priest for his intervention when she heard that her son has renounced the world.The priest consoled her saying’Amma,Mahalingam is no ordinary soul.Please do not compare him with other boys He is destined to become a great spritual savant.Please do not stop him.It will be of no avail.Please do not worry about your future.I promise in the presence of the presiding diety of the temple that I will take care of you like your son.You can eat the temple prasadam daily.Be a proud mother of a budding spiritual leader.”

He took the distraught lady to the place where Swamiji was staying.When she saw her son there along with Swamiji, she could not suppress her tears.But she said”Kanna Mahalingam, I have not come to take you back with me.Do what pleases you. I deem it my good fortune that you were born to me.I have decided to sacrifice my son for his and society’s well being.I bless you with long life” She could not continue as she pressed her sari against her mouth.Mahalingam with his eyes moist fell at her feet saying”Amma, please excuse me.I could not think of any other way” That was the last Mahalingam saw her

“Krupananda, come on.It is time we go back into the ashram” he heard the Swamiji telling him He folllowed him with a heart that was suffused with peace.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sleight of hand

It was dusk and getting dark.I was standing on the bridge over the river watching the almost stagnant water and enjoying with a tinge of sadness the fading skyline.The smell was not pleasant.The park in the distance with dazzling lights and varied plants and flowers looked alluring. A boat was seen gliding down the lethargic water with a young boy pushing it forward with a long pole leaving behind faint ripples.I had no interest to rush home as my wife was away at her parent’s place. She was expecting.

He heard a soft voice by his side”Sir, sorry to disturb you.Are you inclined to see a little magic?”

Startled I turned around to see a middle aged man in a much worn out jeans and a faded Tshirt with a coat that had seen much decay.His face was slighly long but there was a twinkle in his eyes suggesting a pleasant personality behind.He wore a hawai chappal that must have been in long use.

I asked him “What do you want?” even as I put my hand in my trouser pocket looking for small change.

He smiled at me saying”Please don’t bother.I am not a beggar seeking alms.I just wished to show you a magic if you are in a mood to witness.”

Feeling bad that I had hurt him I said”Why not? I would love to see your trick”

“Good.Give me a ten rupee note.I will transform it into a beautiful butterfly” he said with a faint wink of his eye.

Intrigued as I was as how he can change a tenner into a butterfly, I played along and proffered a ten rupee note watching his movements carefully.I thought I heard a sweet humming tone and as my attention was distracted for not more than a second, he produced a multi hued butterfly in his hands with the tenner vanishing in thin air.The insect fluttered its multi coloured wings as he handed it over to me.I was bemused and totally taken by surprise by the sleight of his dextrous hands.

I asked him “Where is the ten rupee note?”

“It is in your hands, sir in the form of butterfly”he replied with a smile.

As I sheepishly smiled back at my naivette,he said he can transform a 100 rupee note into a 500 rupee one.I thought he did produce a butterfly as promised for a tenner and why not trust him for a 500 rupee note that surely would be in my hands.. Greed overpowered my caution.I parted with a hundred rupee note.

But this time I decided I would be extremely careful in focussing all my attention on him.As he took the 100 rupee note and asked me to watch carefully, I heard for a second a hiss like sound of a viper by my feet and involuntarily I jumped to see nothing near my feet.Meanwhile he held in his hand a crisp new 500 hundred rupee note.I took it with eagerness and turned it several times.When I asked him whether he can change one more hundred rupee note, he declined saying”It is my prmise to my guru that I would not use this magic for profiteering or for personal benefit”

I walked back home happily thinking of my good fortune.I rang up my wife and told her of my good luck.

It was three days later when I met my good friend at Adyar and related to him about the man transforming a tenner to a butterfly,he interrupted me and asked whether I got a 500 rupee note fin lieu of a hundred.Surprised I asked him whether he had spoken to my wife, he laughed uncontrollably and said “You are a sucker.That fellow has ben cheating all gullible folks like you.The 500 rupee note you have is a counterfiet one.Go to bank and check it”

It was then that I remembered the sounds of the tune and the hiss and became aware he was a ventriloquist too besides being a magician.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

What is honesty?

The film 3 idiots had just been released.There were rave reviews exolling the acting of Ameer and the much liked theme of the story.Houses were running full.Rajesh’s wife and children pestered him to take them to the film.Try as much, he could not get the tickets for any class.They were bookde for a month in advance.The chilldren pulled their faces long and never sat with him in the living room as they were wont to when he returned from the office.They were busy in their rooms sore that they could not relate their views on the film which was much talked about amongst the school mates.

Unable to bear the stuffy atmosphere at home Rajesh went to the local video shop and asked him for hire of a copy of the film.The shop keeper went in and brought it with the name of Mr.Beans movie inscribed on it.When Rajesh pointed out that he wanted 3 idiots, he said it was that film only and for safety the title was different.Being a pirated movie of a very new and successful film, they had to be cautious he was told before collecting a hefty amount.

The children and wife had all gathered after an early dinner before TV.The family in the opposite apartment had also come.The eager expectation was seen amongst all faces.When the DVD was played curiously there was a French film with no subtitles.Rajesh tried sevearl times.The dealer had given a wrong copy.It was Saturday and the shop was closed.On Monday he could not return early from office due to a late meeting.When he went on Tuesday to the shop and complained

“There has been a mistake. I had asked specifically for 3 Idiots.I even pointed out the wrong title about Mr Bean.You confirmed it was 3 idiots only.Please take this and give me the correct film in lieu” said Rajesh

“You had kept the DVD for three days denying me the opportunity to hire it out to others.You must have seen this movie too.I cannot give 3 idiots in exchange.You must pay foor it afresh” said the shop keeper.

Rajesh got furious and said ”Be reasonable.I wanted only 3 idiots and no other crap.I specifically pointed out the wrong title.You assued me it was 3 idiots.If it were Mr.Bean, we could have had atleast some laughs though we had seen his films many times.This was a French film with no subtitles.I will not pay again for 3 idiots.”

“If it was a wrong film why did you not return it immediately? Since you have retained the DVD for three days, you have to pay whether you have seen or not.I am sorry I cannot agree” the shopkeeper replied.

“Why did you not carefully check and give me the correct film I had asked for.It was all due to your initial mistake.Would you not own it up”Rajesh asked

“Yes, I would have, had you returned immediately.Sir; I am busy with many customers waiting.” replied the dealer

Exasperated Rajesh said loudly”There must be some honesty while doing business.You should be fair in your dealings with all.Your attitude is disappointing.”

“Sir, you have come here asking for a pirated DVD.Have you been honest? Practise before you preach.Funny you talk of fairness and integrity.”

There was a giggle from amongst the other customers as Rajesh stomped out in shame.