Sunday, August 29, 2010

Happy end???

Ranjita stuffed a few clothes that would suffice for a couple of days in the small bag. She removed the golden bangles and ear rings and wore tinsel stuff.She kept in her hand her mobile and a few hundreds of rupees that she had.The mobile she had kept below the pillow rang in a muffled tone.

“Ravi here, I am in bus stand.Come quickly.It is already 10 PM”

“Yes Ravi, I am almost ready.Waiting for my parents to sleep.I am very much afraid but will surely leave soon”

“Don’t be afraid.You can trust me .I will never leave you.We can get married if possible tomorrow itself in a temple”

“Thanks.I believe you.Still I am scared about the fall out once they come to know that I have eloped with you.”

“Nothing will happen.We are both major.They will initially be upset but would reconcile in course of time.We have discussed this humpteen times.Come quick.Do not take any costly things.That is important.”

“It is not about their anger.My dad is a heart patient and his heart is very weak to bear shock.I have a younger sister and brother who are very attached to me.My mom dotes on me.Ravi, I am so confused.i want to be with you but do not wish to lose my family” she said sobbing

“Look, we have talked a lot and finally decided to get married as you are pretty sure your parents would not permit you to marry me.If you are still undecided, be frank with me.I will go back to my room and forget marrying you” said Ravi with some irritation.

“No, Ravi.Please wait.I will be there hopefully in 30 minutes.Do not go away I will be there positively.”

When she saw the lights in her parent’s room switched off and the house was very quiet, she tiptoed silently with her bag to the main door in ground floor.

As she crossed her parent’s room she heard them conversing in low tone.She heard her mom telling her dad “How can you be so adamant? Is not Ranjita your daughter and her happiness most important for you?What is so wrong ,if she loves a man of another community.He is also equally well qualified and working in good position.His family is no less decent than ours. Do not be rigid and spoil the life of a girl.Caste and community rank in my opinion lower than mutual happiness between couple. I have not told Ranjita what I feel about this in view of your stand.”

“Okay,if you also support Ranjita, why should I be a hurdle.I thought of finding some very good match from our own community.If she has cast her lot with him,I will not stand in her way.Tell her we would both go and talk soon to the youngman’s parents” said her dad

“So sweet of you.I will talk to Ranjita.She is such a good girl especially in these times when girls run away with lovers without a tinge of remorse” said her mom

Ranjita could not believe what she heard.What nice parents she was blessed with and how cruel of her to have entertained the thought of eloping.Meanwhile her mom found her out standing near the door when she abruptly came out.

What are you doing here, Ranji?”asked her mom

“Came to take water.I forgot to carry the water jug”

“ is good you are awake.Come on, let us go down and chat for a while”her mom said

They discussed for nearly an hour about what transpired between the parents and their plan to visit Ravi’s house for taking matters forward.When she rang up Ravi subsequently, his mobile was shut off.She kept trying many times in vain and wondered why he had closed the mobile.

Next morning when she tried the land line she was told by the maid in the house that all the family membersy were in the hospital and that Ravi was seriously ill.Prodded further the maid divulged that he had consumed sleeping tablets the previous night..

Shocked Ranjita along with her parents rushed to the hospital to find his parents sitting worried outside the ICU.

His mom said “We don’t know why he did this utterly foolish thing.They have given a stomach wash but he is still critical.What disappointment he could have had in such an young age? You tell me if you know of anything.You are a close friend of his since childhod days.Is he in love with anyone and jilted by her?”

Ranjita had no words except hugging the lady and comforting her with words “By god’s grace all will be well.Do not worry, aunty.”

They all sat on the bench waiting anxiously for the doctor to come out with good news.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

True repentance

The body of Nataraj had been taken out of an ice box that lay in a corner and laid on the floor.There were rose garlands and wreaths of multi coloured flowers placed on his body.The hall was filled with many grieving friends and relatives.The priest had commenced the ceremonies for final departure.Smoke was coming out of an earthern pot from a corner. Nataraj’s only son in a wet cloth was standing by the side of body with tears from his eyes and complying with instructions from the priest.Nataraj’s wife was seated in a corner sobbing much in sorrow surrounded by ladies trying to comfort her.The atmosphere was grim and heavy.People were in tears.

When I entered the hall I could sense the derision and hate from the looks of relatives and close friends of Nataraj at my coming there.I wish to narrate here in brief about my close friendship with the deceased and how we fell apart.We were very intimate friends but became business partners when we started our business.He invested his brain and me my brawn.We were in service on small salary working for someone.It was Nataraj who suggested that we start business on our own.The idea was solely his,what to make,how to make and where to make.We invested our entire small savings and took loan from bank.Production and marketing were his area.I looked after finance, administration and dealing with government.The business took off very well much beyond our expectations.We grew in a short span of three years and recovered the money we had invested and our income grew month after month.

It was then devil took In my greed,I siphoned off each month by fudging accounts some portion of our income to my wife’s brother.When he came to know of my treachery and deceit he was more shocked than disappointed with the loss.He decided then and there to part wanting to deal no more with me.He took his share of the small net worth and never spoke to me again.

I repented for my mistake and sought his pardon many times only to be rebuffed. I had requested him to join again and take control of finances also..But he did not relent though he never made good in life thereafter.Life was comfortable but not luxurious for him.If my business grew to such a phenomenal size this day, it was all because of the seed sown by him and the start he gave.

The ceremony was over and the body draped in new shroud was ready to leave for the crematorium.A few friends spoke eulogising the nice qualities of the departed soul and stressed on his integrity and fairmindedness in all his dealings .I felt it was an oblique reference to my dishonesty.As I rose to speak, I became aware of the air of embarassment and unpleasantness in the hall.The tension in the faces of Nataraj’s wife and son was clear.

Nevertheless I spoke in slow voice.”I am aware you might be wondering why I came at all here and why I rose to speak after the bitterness in our relationship caused by me.Though we broke up I had always considered Nataraj as my close friend and have the same regard for him as when we started working together.I did a grievous mistake and caused a betrayal of the immense trust he had in me but repented sincerely for it and sought his forgiveness.But he would not accept me after the incident.I wish to divulge on this occasion that I still considered him as a partner and set apart his share of money each year in a trust of which his wife and son are the sole trustees.I have no connection to it.It has considerable amount and engaged in charitable activities.

I had hoped that our bonds of friendship would be cemented further as we had a girl and boy.If God wills the two families can still get together again.I would request Mrs Nataraj to forgive me and accept me back as a family friend.”

Having said that I wiped the tears from my eyes only to find that all eyes which had contempt and scorn initially had softened.I could see some faint smiles .The heaviness in my heart that I carried had vanished and I felt lighter than ever.when Nataraj’s wife beckoned me to her side and said”Do not worry.He always mentioned that you were a good person and whatever you did was just an aberration.Do not grieve.”

Monday, August 23, 2010

The give away

Ranga is no criminal.It is just that he had fallen into bad days.He was working in a petrol bunk as an assistant.The job was on night shift.Not a big job but It suited him and everything went well.His basic needs were met from the meagre income and occasional tips when he offered to help in filling air/gas and do minor vulcanizing work.

He had this nasty habit of frequently exploring his ear with bits of paper rolled like a bud.It itched him always and the habit could not be broken.It was one night around 1am a sports car drew up and a woman in her early twenties stopped the car before the small bunk where he was sitting reading a comic and exploring his ear..She was smoking a cigarette and when she got down he could see from her swagger that she was heavily drunk.

“Yes, ma’am what can I do for you?” he asked
“Plenty of things, young man.You have a good physique and winsome look”

“You need gas.How much?”he asked ignoring the hint

“I don’t need gas.I need you” she said with a smug smile

“Leave me alone.Please do not disturb me". he said politely

She suddenly hugged him tight with her white dress coming into contact with his soiled blue uniform smelling petrol.When he wriggled out and shouted “Get lost” a patrol car just then screeched to a halt at the bunk.

“Mister, please help me.I requested him to fill gas and he started acting fresh. Smell my dress if you need any proof” she pleaded

He lost his job and his freedom for a while.It was difficult to find anything new with this background.He as extremely hungry as he had not taken even a morsel since previous night.l.He could find only 50 cents when he rummaged his shelf.He saw the toy gun he had found in the park a few days back.It looked so real that he smiled when an idea struck him.

Mrs. Lal who lived a few houses away and who as social service distributed prasad to the devotees at the temple had seen him always jumping the queue and scrambling ahead of others to get the prasad.He would even try to get twice.She had admonished him many times and had no good opinion of him with his bristle and much worn dress in tatters.He also thought that when his turn came ,she gave him deliberately lesser than usual quantity she gave others.The dislike was mutual.

It was 8pm and he disguised himself with a black goggle, a false .moustache, and a dark cloth hiding his face except the eyes.He knew that the old woman was alone.He gently tapped the door and shouted delivery boy from Pizza corner marked to this address.When she opened,he pushed her inside and said in a whisper ”Shhh………”keeping his fingers on mouth with left hand holding the gun.”I know you are an intelligent lady and would not like to get hurt.Give me the wallet”

The old woman could hardly recognise him.She was scared stiff and muttered pulling enough courage “Please do not kill me.The wallet is in almirah.I will fetch it,I promise”

When she dragged herself slowly, he had the nasty itch in his ear.he took a scrap of paper from his pocket ,rolled it and twirled inside his ear.When she came with wallet,he dropped the paper and still pointing the gun he took just two hundred rupees and returned the wallet.She was surprised but did not utter one word.

“Thank you, Ma’am.You are safe.Just sit down without making noise.I will be gone.Please do not open doors to strangers in future” he said

He thanked his stars and the gun for his luck and the easy job accomplished.he was particularly happy that he avenged her for admonishing him in the temple always.He patted himself for the fool proof job done fast leaving no clues behind.

As he was eating the Biriyani he had bought, he heard a sharp rap on the door.He found two policeman.One of them asked him”Are you Ranga? Where were you about a hour ago?Did you visit the old woman Mrs. Lal and rob her threatening with the gun.Give it immediately”

“I am Ranga alright But I never stirred out of the house except to get biriyani.Why should I visit any woman..I have no gun” he coolly replied

The poiliceman drew from his pocket a crumpled scrap of paper.This is a bill from pharmacy with your name and address.We found it in Mrs. Lal’s house.

Ranga decided to use ear buds and never again a scrap of paper for exploring the ear.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The unsolved murder

Sub Inspector Manickam was morose sitting at his desk with his head cupped in his hands. His promotion was due any time His boss was upset on the phone at his inability to find any lead on the sensational murder that took place in his jurisdiction..There was really no clue about when and where the murder took place,the whereabouts of the weapon and how the body was shifted to his jurisdiction.The biggest hurdle was the dead man’s face was smashed beyond recognition and the body was left naked before a women’s college without anything on it.The media had gone to town when many of the college girls fainted on seeing the body at the entrance of the college and the management reported the matter to the police.The assembly was in session and the opposition lost no opportunity to berate the government at the dwindling law and order situation with this latest murder following a spate of murders in the city and the audacity of the murderer leaving a naked body at the college premises.What can poor Manickam do when even the best brains cannot unravel unless they had some hint or evidence to work upon.His boss was not interested in all these excuses but wanted SI to go out,find more about the dead man,missing men and complaints if any in other police stations.SI was told that there was pressure from high quarters as the matter was in headlines

It was then he saw a young man walking in through the swinging doors into his room with no constable announcing his coming in.

The young man stood before Manickam and said”I have come to tell you about the gruesome murder that took place with the body thrown at a college gate.”

Manickam found the man a bit unusual, pale in look, though three dimensional without solidity about him.It looked as if he could pass his hand through him.A sudden chill passed through his spine.

Gathering himself he asked”What do you know about the murder? Who was the victim? Why was he killed and who killed him? Tell me your name and address first.”

“My name is Rajan and I am the victim” the man uttered

Manickam sat up with a start and rang the bell feverishly till a constable entered.Asking him remain, he asked the young man before him”Are you a mad man? I asked you who the murdered man was”

“I understood Sir and answered you correctly.I am the murdered man.Please listen without interrupting” he replied

“I was in love with Kokila and we decided to marry despite the opposition from her parents and brothers.They are rich and powerful.I belong to a lower caste and they would not allow her to marry me.She told them she would either marry me or remain a spinster.In fact we had decided to elope.They must have got a scent of it when her mobile was lost by her..They had finalised someone rich from their own community.Her brothers with the help of some hired killers killed me as I was proceeding in a two wheeler in the outskirts of the city” the man said

“I don’t really know what to make of your statement.Can you name them?Can you also show me some evidence to nab them.I promise I will avenge your death as you have been god–sent to me when I was at my wit’s end.Can you show me the place of crime?You can come on my pillion’Manickam said hurriedly.”

“I can travel on my own.Come on let us go”said the figure

About 40 miles away from the city the man took the SI into a desolate area surrounded by trees a little away from the highway.The man stopped near a very large and deep well and said” they threw the sickle and the iron rod with which they murdered me in the well and pushed my two wheeler also in it.Come with me to the tree here and see for yourself.Here they dashed my head against the tree before killing me ”

The SI saw evidence of blood with hairs sticking on the tree.The forensic department was called and it appeared to SI that the case against Kokila’s bothers and father was all sewed up water tight when they found the murder weapon and the two wheeler.

Manickam was in high spirit in cracking what appeared an unsolvable crime.The SP who was initially jubilant became lukewarm when the girls parents met him at his residence and discussed.Not much was known about what happened in the background except that Manickam was transferred overnight to a god forsaken place.The two wheeler unearthed from the well it was announced had no number plate and the engine number illegible and the identity of the dead person could not be established.Kokila’s lover it was mentioned had ditched her and ran away when rebuked by girl’s brothers leaving no clues about his whereabouts.

The frustrated Manickam had reason for some small comfort when he heard after two months that his earlier boss the SP had gone mad after what people ascribed to hounding by a ghost as he was always seen screaming staring at vacant spaces ’Go away.Go away.Do not harm me.Do not scare me’

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Raju's luck

Raju had lost his way in the dense forest.He had come along with friends to explore the green forest on a Sunday and spend time with nature savouring its raw beauty in all its manifestations.His enthusiasm took him deeper inside till he lost his friends and the way.He tried to reach them through his mobile but the battery had run down.It was only 2pm but looked dark.He heard unusual and strange noises and was afraid of reptiles.He got scared and started praying even as he kept moving into the maze finding no clearing or brightness of sunlight. Something soft and cool slightly rubbed on his cheek and he jumped startled that it could be a python from the overhead branch.He could see nothing and moved away quickly.

He was relieved when he saw an opening a little brighter.When he went nearer he found to his great relief and glee an old man of indeterminate age sitting under a tree.He was sitting with his legs crossed in Padmasana , had flowing white beard and his eyes were closed obviously in meditation.He sat quietly before him waiting for him to open his eyes.Raju was afraid to disturb lest he got angry and refused to help him find his way out.Minutes clicked past and it was almost an hour and he was still sitting before him when the weird noises around him grew shriller and louder.When a fly sat on the edge of his nostril he could not stop the loud sneeze despite his attempt to smother it.The old man opened his eyes and surprisingly smiled at him.

In a soft voice that was almost a whisper, he asked “Son, what are you doing in this dense forest? It is risky to be here with wild animals roaming about.”

He prostrated before him and said “Swami, I lost my way here and could not find my friends with whom I came.I am afraid I have strayed deep inside the jungle.Can you please help me get out of the forest?”

“I have not seen a human for several years ever since I came into the forest as a young boy in search of meaning of life.I am not normally visible to others eyes.Lucky you could see me.I am pleased with you.Ask me three wishes.they would be fulfilled immediately.’

“My first wish is to be out of this jungle” he said

“”It will be done immediately after you express your other two wishes” said the sage like person

“Swami, I love Swarna my colleague very much but she is not reciprocating.Can you make her fall in love with me please?” asked Raju

“What is your third wish? Tell me quickly before I become invisible to your eyes”

“Swami, I cannot believe at my luck and I wonder whether I am dreaming from my sleep’ Raju said

He heard his mother waking him up shouting “Raju, you said you had an interview today. .It is late .Get up fast as it is already 8am”
Did Swarna reciprocate his love? I am not aware.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Romance on the net

“Hi, I am Raja, 24/Chennai/M/Single/Engineer

“Hi, Sweta, 22/Chennai/F/Single/MCA

“My first visit to chat room and my first conversation’ said Arun who had given a different name

“Me too. We sail in the same boat.Nice to meet you.Working?’ said Lakshmi aka Sweta

Thus began the internet friendship between the two. Arun was on the look out for a job and spent time in the internet café browsing the net and chatting with friends in google chat. What commenced as a few minutes chat extended into hours daily. They became close to each other sharing all information except pictures and addresses. They seemed to like each other and found many common interests. Six months past they were still chatting daily with the same fervour and got to speak on mobile phones. When Arun suggested that they meet at a movie theatre, she politely declined. But the romance built up with each one swearing by the other. They felt they would form an ideal couple with both hopefully working on similar profession.

Meanwhile he noticed one tall young girl in her early twenties visiting the internet café daily around the same time. She was extremely charming with her long hair in plaits hanging up to her hip. She had hazel eyes and very well aligned teeth. Though Arun smiled at her, she ignored him.He made repeated attempts to pick conversation with her only to be rebuffed with a cold stare. One day as he was working on his computer in his cubicle, he heard a sweet voice “Mister, I need your help. My computer is not working. The man in charge of the café is not found. I am required to send an application today itself. Can you please check” and found the tall hazel eyed girl leaning on his the cubicle partition.

“Sure. One second, will be there” he said as he went to her cubicle. It took longer time than he expected. He said “I have no urgent work. You please use my computer while I try to set this right.”

The girl profusely thanked him. From that day their friendship blossomed. They spent longer hours outside the internet café talking to each other. Not a day was missed to be together though there was no suggestion of romantic inclinations from the girl's side.She considered him as good friend.

But Arun was torn between the girl who chatted with him daily and the new found attractive girl. He was not sure whom he loved more. The hazel eyed girl had an edge over the other whose face he had not seen. He was not sure how she would look like. Nevertheless the chats continued professing love for each other.

It was then one day Sweta mentioned during the chat about her birthday, Arun jumped at the opportunity and pressed her to come for a Pizza and coke at Dominos. He said it was a public place and she should have no objection. She relented. It was agreed that she would come in blue denim and a cream colour top and he would come in blue jeans and black T shirt. He would be carrying a bouquet in his hands for the meeting at 6pm sharp. Arun thought he would decide whom to pursue whether hazel eyed girl or Sweta after the meeting at Dominos.
Sharp at 6pm he entered Dominos with a bouquet on hand and was shocked to see the hazel eyed girl standing there. But he gathered himself, put a broad smile on his face and greeted her asking “How come you are here?”

“I have the same question for you.” She answered

“I have come to meet a college mate of mine here. She should be here any time” he replied

“Why bouquet? Any special occasion, Arun” she asked

“Yes, it is her birthday.” he replied

Abruptly she asked “Are you Raja by any chance waiting to meet a girl by name Sweta?”

He was shocked and mumbled incoherently “How do you know? She was supposed to come in the same dress you are wearing.What a coincidence?”

The next moment he heard a raspy voice “Raja, your game is out. I am Sweta with whom you were chatting daily.I hate you” she said.

Arun aka Raja went on his knees next moment and with a flourish extended the bouquet telling “Lakshmi, all is well that ends well. I wish to propose to you right away. Will you marry me?”

“I would have readily but for your duplicity,you two timer.You were flirting with Sweta professing your love for her while at the same time romancing with me at the internet café” said Lakshmi angrily as she threw the bouquet on his face and walked out.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Shanthi's freedom

Shanthi was just 14 but yearned for her freedom.A freedom from the stressful life she was passing through.A freedom to pursue her studies in the government school that was denied to her by her own mom,Mangala.She was in the top five in her class and teachers praised her for her diligence and intelligence.But mom was adamant that she should chip in her share of income by working in a few houses as domestic.Her dad ,an alcoholic and a no-gooder, came home only to sleep with her mom and snatch whatever money she had after beating her blue.When she stood up one day and refused to part with her money, he abandoned her and left never to come back.She had no company.Even the little cat that was living in her hut died one day.There were not many girls to speak to for her and the other women in the locality saw nothing wrong in her discontinuing her studies for helping her mom.

She was growing into a beautiful girl.Instead of a blessing this turned to be a bane.The unwelcome attention of younger men when she stirred out and the seemingly friendliness of the older men trying to pat or touch confined her within her suffocating abode..She wished to skip with the rope in the open outside her hut, play games with girls of her age or walk on the road freely to the nearby temple without the covetous eyes groping on her.Life was drudgery with each day being no different from the other and she suffered silently the shackles to her freedom.

What seemed a welcome break came when an aunt, from Mumbai a distant cousin of her mom visited them.She painted rosy pictures of job opportunities in the homes of rich that was safe and lucrative compared to the pittance earned here slogging all day long.She even mesmerized Shanthi with the prospect of continuing her studies which many employers permit.Mangala fell for the persuasive talk of her cousin and decided to move to her brothers place in the village while Shanthi worked at Mumbai.Aunt advanced some money to Mangala to settle some debts.

Shanthi was in high spirits and found her aunt who was well dressed very pleasant and sweet in talk.She assured the dazed girl that her life would change dramatically and she would love the new life there.She said initially she may feel the pangs of separation after being wrenched from the familiar comfort of her being at her home with her mom but gradually she would love her new life.

It was on one 10th of August morning that she landed at Mumbai.When she entered her aunt’s home she found many young women and girls.They smiled at her as if they knew her for long.Some even came running to her ,clasping her hands and telling her what a beautiful girl she was.When she turned to her aunt questioningly, she smiled and said”This is like a working women’s place and they stayed there.Don’t worry, you have a separate room adjacent to mine.Have a wash and rest.You must be tired” and shooed away the girls telling”She is new to this place.Let her get adjusted”

Within hours Shanthi knew she had come to a wrong place.There was a total metamorphosis in her aunt.She was no longer the pleasant and sweet talking person she knew.She issued orders to the various girls and a few men there.They were all subdued in her presence and seemed under fear.Two days later around dusk she was taken to the large hall where the girls changed into skimpy dresses with heavy painting of faces were all sitting..Strangers started entering one by one only to disappear with the girls to some cubicles.Shanthi was shocked at the revelation, ran inside her room and cried at her misfortune.

She heard some footsteps and found her’aunt’ standing by her side.The face was grim and angry.There was no trace of the sweetness she had known.She spoke softly but firmly.
“Look here and be sensible.I am no aunt of yours.I have paid huge money to your mother and brought you here.If you listen to me and carry out my orders, things would be smooth.Otherwise you would suffer and the end result would be the same.Do remember one thing.There has not been a single instance where the girls have escaped.I give you one day more to realize how you are placed.If you are sensible ,you can save lot of money and in a few years you can go to have your own life.If you create any problem, a thug will be upon you to make you learn the lesson the hard way..Go and have your dinner.”

Shanthi knew that she was trapped in a house of violence and threats with its dark cubicles and strict security.She knew all the inmates lived a life of shame with their brutalized bodies as testimony.She resolved that night that she would not under any circumstance submit to this ignominy.

It was August 14th.Shanthi dressed herself and put on lipstick and rouges as other girls did.They were all standing in the balcony of the third floor watching the illuminated buildings and the mad rush of people with kids in tow in the road below on sight seeing.There was jubilation all round.More clients were expected.”Aunt’ was happy at the smooth change in Shanthi’s attitude and wished to ensure she had a young man on her debut.It was only 7pm. The rush started generally from 8pm.The girls were giggling.

There was noise inside when some client had come with a large box of sweets.All the girls rushed inside.That was the moment Shanthi waited for.In a trice she broke her shackles and leapt to her death from the third floor for her eternal freedom she wanted most
A group of children was seen walking on the road with flags in hand singing”
Vande mātaram sujalam suphalāṃ malayajaśītalām śasya śyāmalāṃ mātaram vande mātaram
(Mother, I bow to thee! Rich with thy hurrying streams, bright with orchard gleams, Cool with thy winds of delight, Dark fields waving Mother of might, Mother free.)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The abandoned

It was raining heavily since morning with no sign of abatement though at mid noon the sky was dark.Lalitha was playing with her two boys aged five and three in the living room when she heard the voice of a woman pacifying a crying child.She opened the door to find a young woman around 20 fully drenched huddled against the wall in the portico.A shivering small child of a year was crying in her arms evidently in hunger.She ran inside fetched a couple of towels, an old sari and a bedsheet.She asked her to come in and change her clothes.Meanwhile she rushed into the kitchen to get some milk for the child and something to eat for the woman.When she came out in a few minutes with the food, she found the crying child laid out on the folded bedsheet with no trace of the young woman.The boys were watching the baby which had a large and round black mole on his chin with wonder and the elder could not tell where the woman had gone.The cute looking baby started giggling once it had the milk.Lalitha was looking out for the woman hoping she would come.

When her husband Laxman came they telephoned the police who advised them to send the baby to a particular foster home..Since the couple were attracted towards the young baby, they were allowed to retain it till the actual mother came to claim.The baby boy named Naren grew to be a very smart child.Years flew by and they had become legal guardians.Naren excelled in school while his brothers were dullards and were at the bottom of the class.Lakshman openly praised the boy and beat his two sons.Invidious comparisons were always made much to the chagrin of Lalitha.She gradually started disliking Naren and treating him unfairly.Naren would be bullied by his brothers and Lalitha would turn a Nelson eye or always support her boys.Naren became bitter and was drawn inward.He became reticent and his eyes always had a hurt look.There were frequent quarrels between the couple over her cruel treatment of the young lad who was made to work household chores like a domestic help.

Unable to bear the insults the boy ran away from the house when he was just 15.He became an angry boy unhappy with society.He soon fell into bad company and was trained to pick pockets.Caught and beaten a few times, he was sent to correctional home for young boys Once out he resumed his wrongful chain snatching, robbing people at knife point in desolate places and even teasing young girls with bad intent.He was in and out of trouble till one day when he was 19 he waylaid a couple in a lonely road in late evening.He stabbed the man when he resisted handing over the money and attempted to violate the modesty of the woman till some passersby rescued her.The man succumbed to injuries.Naren was sentenced to a long imprisonment

He took the punishment quietly.He knew that good behaviour would fetch him reprieve in sentence and would be released much earlier than his ten years sentence.He gave no trouble to jail authorities and was very well behaved helping the warden and others.The jailer took a liking for him and sent him to work in his home.Jailer’s wife was very kind to him ,fed him well as if he were a family member.They had no children of their own. There was not much work to do and he spent time in helping her in cleaning the house and odd jobs.She took a great liking for him and treated him as one of their family and insisted on his addressing her as mom.When at the end of each year his case came up for appraisal, she would strangely plead with her husband not to give him reprieve as she could retain him longer with her.The jailer obliged her by adverse remarks on the young man though he felt bad denying the lad his rightful due.
When at the end of ten years he was released and he came to jailer’s wife who was alone to take her leave, she cried as if she was parting from her own son.

“Why mom, why do you cry so much? I will come to meet you frequently.I am a changed man now and I promise you I would not relapse into old ways.”

“Forgive me, Naren. I have done you great harm for my own comfort.You should have been released long back by virtue of your good behaviour but I made my husband deny you the facility.I am a wretch in having stooped to such low length for my comfort and wish to be near you always.”

“I do not understand.Why did you have to retain me, an utter stranger to you, no way related to you/”

“Noooo…you are no stranger.You are my own son.I recognised you on the day you came first.Your mole on the chin gave you away.I could not confide in my husband as you were born out of wedlock when I was hardly 19. I suffered in silence all these years ever since I abandoned you on a rainy day years back at someone’s house. Please forgive me.My heart will break if you go away.”

“Mom, don’t you think it would have been better had you adopted me after my early release instead of prolonging my detention? Not that I am hurt..I am actually happy that you have bestowed all your affection on me.Only I would have been a free man living in your house without the stigma of a prisoner.It does not matter now Please be assured that .I will be your son always”he said as he wiped the tears from her eyes.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A castle in the air

It was Saturday morning and Anil had no mind to stir up from the bed. It was then that hell broke loose with his angry wife Anita screaming by his side with a cup of coffee. She said she had had enough of his pretence in acquiring the flat and that if he were serious, he would not be dozing without seeing what is happening to their Velacheri flat. He had promised to take her to the site for suggesting the changes in the lay out.. She taunted him that it was not for her that he was buying the flat and that he was always cribbing about his hefty income tax and how the flat purchase can reduce the burden.

Unwilling to spoil her mood and the weekend, he got ready within a matter of minutes with a mere cereal doing the duty of a breakfast. When they reached the site the watchman said the engineer had just left and whether they would care to come around 4pm. Disappointment was writ large on Anita’s face.

Anil assuaged her saying “Why not we go and see the third floor that has been constructed to some stage. May be that should give us some ideas about the changes to our fifth floor flat to suit our requirements.. I am never comfortable with the plan in blue print as it gives me an impression of cramped rooms. The lift is not yet installed, Anita.Would you mind climbing up through dusty stairs.”

Anita with a beaming face expressed her happiness about the spacious long L shaped hall that would conceal the dining area from the main hall. She said “I am averse to the visitors prying into the dining area and looking at the dining table.

Anil nodded in agreement saying “I agree.The drawing hall is very bright thanks to the large French windows opening into the balcony and gives a feeling spaciousness.”

Anita however went into the kitchen telling “Kitchen is my first priority as I would be spending the best part of my waking hours in it. I am very clear that I do not want a 8x8 rat hole for me and that the store should be separate.”

Anil not to be left behind remarked “I see the kitchen is more than your expectations though I wish the puja room had a small window.”

Anita expressed her satisfaction “I find the bed rooms are big and well ventilated. I am happy that the bathrooms too are well planned.Do you know reputed builders though they charge a little high never stint on basics.”

Anil replied “Honey, the rates are not a little high but very high”.

After the lunch at a restaurent, they slept till 4-30 pm when the telephone rang. It was the engineer from the site expressing his regret that he was not there when Anil and his wife came .He hesitated for a while before adding that there was an unexpected development and that the Manager would speak to him.

The manager in apologetic manner said very softly “Sir, excuse me. A very top political leader had sent a party that day and insisted that the flat earmarked for you be given to them. He refused to listen that the flat was already booked for you. It is very embarrassing for us to back out after booking the flat for you.”

Anil was shocked and exploded in anger “What crap you are talking? How could you go back when the booking was already confirmed? Do you people remember that when I was willing to pay whatever advance your firm demanded, I was told that your office was waiting for the formal approval from CMDA before accepting the payment and I was assured that the booking was final? “

The manager continued to plead “Sir, please understand that this party is related to a big political family and that their request is a command to us. Our owner himself had explained that this flat had already been allotted to you but the VIP would not agree. The owner is aware that you were ready to pay the advance but we had made a blunder in not taking even a token advance.This gave room for the VIP to threaten that there was no valid contract. You are aware that we cannot survive in this business even for a day without their support. I would plead with you with folded hands not to take us amiss and our next project is coming up at Manapaakkam soon. With multi layered flyovers coming up and the IT complex in the vicinity, the place would be a prime area and a prestigious one. We promise you, Sir, that you would get the first choice.”

Anil slammed the phone down in anger and disgust knowing that little can be done where politicians are involved. He turned to see his wife fast asleep possibly dreaming of her fifth floor flat with its panoramic view, a spacious modular kitchen and hidden dining space.