Sunday, March 27, 2011

A kidnap

The train was chugging along. We had crossed Ongole and the lunch was over. Passengers were sleepy .It was hot in the second class three tier compartment. The fans did not help. I was then I noticed tears trickling down from the eyes of an 11 year old girl in the opposite berth. The middle aged man in a faded jeans and T shirt and the woman by his side with a large bindi and pan stained teeth who were presumably travelling with the girl did not give me a favourable impression. He was admonishing the girl I could gather from his tone and the way his eyeballs turned. I closed my eyes and pretended to sleep but kept my ears tuned towards him.

“Tvaraga thinu” (eat quickly) he was telling her in Telugu

“Vendam” (no) she pleaded in Tamil and started sobbing

“'Edisthe, champestha ninnu'” (if you cry, i will kill you) .She did not reply “Verevallatho matladaku” (don’t talk to others) he spoke sternly. The girl looked at me possibly to see whether I was listening “Kallu moosuko” (close your eyes) he chided her

I suspected that this girl did not belong to him. She looked from her dress and demeanour that she came from a middle class family unlike this coarse couple. As both he and his woman companion were awake I could not talk to the girl. The more I looked at the sobbing girl my suspicion grew stronger and I decided to help her out.

I turned to my wife and started speaking to her in Tamil though the words were addressed to the girl.

“Answer me by doing what I ask you to do. Do you belong to the couple by your side? If you are not, close your fingers of both hands tightly”

The girl immediately closed the fingers of both hands. I was encouraged. Luckily the couple could not follow Tamil.

“Are you being taken away by them against your wishes? If so place one palm of yours on the other.” I asked pretending to talk to my wife. She also mumbled some reply to make it appear that I and my wife were conversing.

The girl immediately brought the palms together. “Can I help you to take you away from them? If you agree then close your eyes three times in quick succession”. I found her doing the same.

“Wait. Do not get down with them as the train is stopping. If they force you scream loudly and refuse to move. Meanwhile I will get help” I said.

I went to the exit door and got hold of ticket examiner. I told him hurriedly what I saw and heard. I sought his help in saving the girl and nabbing the culprits. He readily agreed and sent one man to fetch a policeman sitting in the adjacent compartment. When I rushed back with ticket examiner and the policeman, I found the girl talking animatedly with couple in Telugu.Taken aback

I asked the girl in Tamil “What is this? You said that you were being taken away against your will. I ran to fetch you help and save you”

The girl turned to the man sand said “Naina(dad), what is this man telling me in Aravam (Tamil).He has been staring at me and talking to his wife about me all the time”

The ticket examiner asked the girl in Telugu pointing out to the man and the woman ”Who are these people?”

She replied in Telugu “My parents. Why, what is the problem?”

Both the ticket examiner and the policeman turned to me and said “Sir, you look decent. Why do you suspect innocent people and trouble us? Can I see your tickets please?”

I shrank in shame. Why did this small girl play a trick on me? Is she really the daughter? She feigns ignorance of Tamil when she understood earlier. I was in a quandary.

My wife was upset.”How does it matter which girl gets kidnapped or not? Why did you have to interfere and get humiliated like this? There is something more in this than what meets the eye in this” she said in disgust.

The train stopped at Tenali where we were bound for .We got down hastily in embarrassment. When I turned at the last moment to see the girl, she winked at me with a mischievous smile.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Flowers to Anasuya

Their friendship started on the internet. Both were avid bloggers and followed the other commenting on the posts. They started exchanging mails rebutting the perceived unfair comments that gradually led to their Google chatting and eventually to Skype. They started talking on mobiles and luckily both worked in the same city, one in IT sector and the other in banking industry. They started meeting and spending time together in coffee shops or malls. Malini found Suresh handsome, decent with lots of common interests.. Suresh was no less attracted to her and found her very intelligent. After dating nearly for a year, they married and moved into a decent apartment. It was all hunky dory and they were very happy.
Suresh was asked to go to Australia on a project assignment that needed his presence for two months. He tried to avoid it in many ways but could not. Malini brought her old parents to be with her during his absence. One day as she was leaving for her office, a courier boy gave her a cover addressed to Suresh. It was from a departmental store that sold stationery, confectionary, flowers, books and gift items. She found a bill for delivery of flowers on different dates to one Anasuya.She wondered whether it was wrongly delivered here but found her husband’s name, address and mobile number correct. It seemed strange as he had not mentioned at any time about any Anasuya. Why should he send her flowers periodically, she thought? She felt suddenly a throbbing head ache. There was a faint doubt whether she was being deceived. She rang up the store and took the address of the place where the flowers were delivered. She wanted to probe further before asking her husband.

She drove directly to the house at Conan road. It was a bungalow in a quiet corner with one or two vehicles that included an ambulance outside in the lawn. When she rang the bell, the door opened and was met by a young charming lady. For a moment Malini felt jealous of her beauty but she soon composed herself and said that she had come to meet one Anasuya.
“Do you know her? I haven’t seen you coming earlier. Are you related to her? What is the purpose of your visit? ”the lady asked

“No, I haven’t met her earlier. Frankly I do not know whether she is young or old. My husband knows her. Is there any problem in my meeting her?” Malini replied
“No, not at all, Please follow me” the lady said and led her to a small room in the rear. There she saw an old lady in her late seventies lying in the bed. She looked so frail and shriveled. She did not seem to recognize the entry of the two in her room and there was a vacant look from her.Malini looked questioningly at the young lady. There was a flower vase by her side with some faded flowers.

“This is Anasuya and she has been here since five years. Is your husband Suresh? He is her guardian and visits her once a month. But I haven’t seen for the last two months. Where is he now? Hasn’t he told you about her?” she asked with a surprise

“No, Can you tell me a little more about this old lady? She does not seem to have noticed our presence. Is she related to Suresh in any way? She cannot be his mom as his parents had died when he was young” Malini replied
“I do not know much except that she was a headmistress of the local school. She is a spinster and had no one to look after her. She was living alone. When she fell sick after a stroke, she was brought here by Suresh. What I have learnt from him was that he was her old student and that he stood indebted much to her. He had told me once that it was she who helped him complete his education when he lost his parents in an accident.

“Yes, she is very sick and cannot recognize any one and even Suresh. I think her end is nearing. This is a hospice taking care of a few well to do old patients. Though her condition is not good there is no immediate danger” she said
“Malini took leave of her after informing her that Suresh was expected back in a fortnight and that she would convey the news about the old lady. She rang up the departmental store to send flowers to Anasuya immediately and thereafter weekly once.

She felt relieved and happy though she wished Suresh had taken her into confidence. She was proud of him particularly about his sense of gratitude. She also decided not to mention about her visit to the hospice when he calls her daily.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Karthik,Kausalya and the tantric

Ever since Karthik met Kausalya at the Japanese class, he fell in love with her. She was a bubbly girl extrovert by nature and talked to him pleasantly when he befriended her. Both were working in nearby offices and met each other often over coffee. He talked to her many times over mobile phone, chatted with her and texted her. He professed his love for her but she had told him that she did not love him but liked him as a good friend. But Karthik was not unduly worried for he hoped she would come round if he persisted with her. Two years passed by and many a time he broached the subject of marriage only to get rebuffed with a polite no. But poor Karthik could not think of any other girl and nursed the hope she may relent in due course.

It was then his friend Shankar suggested the name of a female tantric. Karthik found at the address, a shop selling incense sticks, pictures of gods, religious books, rosary, lamps and many other sundry things used for prayer. He saw at the counter a young lady with a large bindi and a string of Tulsi beads around her neck. He was not sure whether he had come at the right place as there was no board to indicate her as a tantric. He finally made bold to ask her whether she knew of any tantric as he was given this address. She smiled at him and said “I am the tantric. Tell me what do you want from me”

Karthik hesitated as she was herself quite young. When prompted by her he blurted out of his love for Kausalya and her disinterest despite her spending lot of time with him. He wanted the tantric to give him some device like an amulet to make her fall in love with him. The tantric laughed and asked him to come inside to the inner room. When he hesitated, she made fun of him as a timid guy unfit to fall in love. He found the room slightly dark with only an oil lamp before pictures of gods and their idols. There was the smell of incense sticks, camphor and burning oil. She took out from a small box a yellow thread and chanted some prayers with her eyes closed for what appeared to him a long time.

When she opened her eyes, she told him “Listen carefully and follow my instructions. Tie this thread on her right wrist on a Friday morning after she had taken her bath but ensure you put only one knot and not more. Tomorrow is luckily a Friday. You will see a change in her and she would be drawn towards you soon”
“How much does this cost?”he asked

“Nothing.Whatever you feel like, you put it in the plate kept opposite the god” she said.

The next day they met at 9am in the coffee shop. He said “I got this sacred thread from a temple .Let me tie it around your wrist. It is supposed to beneficial for your general well being and growth in your career”. When he wound it around her wrist and put one knot, she wanted one more saying it was loose and may fall down. But he declined and said it was adequate. She got annoyed and insisted on his putting one more. He didn’t want to displease her and tied one more knot. She wanted one more which also he did.
The moment he did this, he saw her face brightening up and her eyes sparkling. The next moment she suddenly hugged him tightly and smooched unmindful of the presence of amused glances of everyone in the restaurant. He was very much embarrassed and wrenched himself from her clasp. Something strange had come over as she snuggled close to him and said “Karthi, I love you. I cannot live without you one moment. Please marry me.”

Karthik could not believe his own ears.He was amazed at the high powers of tantric’s thread and led her away arm in arm from the restaurant. The whole day she did not allow him to work telephoning, pinging on the computer for chats and texting him fifty messages professing her love for him. When he came out of the office at 6pm she was standing there and when she saw him came running towards him shouting “Karthi and again hugged him in the presence of all. He hastily took her to his car and offered to drop her. Once inside with the doors raised they embraced each other warmly and kissed. She wanted him to marry her immediately which he agreed.

When he stopped the car at the gate, her parents were seen standing at the portico. Before going inside, she embraced him passionately to the shock of her parents and Karthik himself. He freed himself and drove straight to tantric’s house. He thanked her for the help but wanted her to do something to reduce the power of the thread to prevent her from behaving undesirably in public places.

The tantric asked him how many knots he had put. When he said that he had put three, she said “A great damage had been done. You have not paid heed to my instructions. The spell is irreversible. She will continue to behave like this and make you both a laughing stock”

“No, no” he cried loudly

It was then he felt the nudge and heard the soft voice of his mother “Karthi, get up. Did you have any nightmare? You were screaming at the top of your voice.Get up.I will get you coffee.”

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ranjana’s dilemma

It was three days since five year old Nikhil had disappeared. He was playing opposite his house around 5pm and riding his tricycle when the incident had occurred. The tricycle was found lying on the lawn without any trace of the boy. One of the Hawaii he was wearing had fallen lending credence to the belief the boy was taken away against his wishes.Rajnana had not heard any scream. Ranjana and Rajesh were shattered. The police were keeping their telephone under surveillance for any call. Rajesh could not console his wife however much he tried. She was crying all the time. He stayed back home for two days with her. The police had nothing to work upon as Rajesh was neither wealthy nor had he enemies. There was no ransom call as yet.Ranjana’s parents who were away at Houston were expected in a couple of days. Rajesh had to go to attend an important meeting at Jaipur. He had left in the morning and promised to return late in the night.

She was alone in her single storied house at the end of the street in the suburb of the city. Normally a secure place, there had been no incidence of criminal activities here. People in that locality moved freely even in late nights though it was not densely occupied. There were no houses opposite Rajesh’s and some construction was going on there in one of the plots. The neiighbours in the adjacent house had gone on a pilgrimage.

It was 8pm, pretty dark outside and pretty silent..Rajesh would come only around 11pm.She was watching TV for any news. It was then she heard some shuffling of feet in the porch. She looked and found no one. After a few minutes she heard a distinct knock on the door. She switched on the light in the porch and saw through the open window grill. There was a big man in mid forties, muscular with strong biceps, unkempt hair and dirty T shirt over tattered jeans. When she gave a scared look at him, he said with a leering smile “Excuse me for disturbing you..I am very hungry and haven’t eaten for two days. I need something to bite and some drink to quench my thirst.”
The odour from his body and his sweaty shirt assailed her nose. She hesitated without replying as she was not sure what to do.

Please, I cannot bear the hunger. Kindly open the door” he said
“Please wait. Let me see if anything is there’ she replied without opening the door.

She soon came with a few slices of bread and a big slice of cake bundled in paper. She kept it on the grill and he took it instantly and started eating.

“Can I have a big mug of water?’ he asked

“Sure” she said and brought a large plastic tumbler with water. As she gave the tumbler through the grill, he grabbed her hand and laughed hysterically. She screamed loud in fear but no one heard her. He would not let go her hand and said as he caressed her hand”Do not be afraid.I will do no harm. I just played upon your fear. I thank you for giving me food and water that I needed badly”

He let go her hand. She was so much relieved and wondered whether he could be a mad man. As she waited for him to leave, he walked a few steps towards the gate and then returned.Ranjana looked at him with dread wondering what he was up to
He said in soft voice” Do you wish to see your son. The boy is crying hoarse asking for mommy and the men are hitting him to be quiet”

She could not believe her ears and she asked “What were you saying about my son?”

“Isn’t Nikhil the boy’s name?”

“Yes, where is he? Do you know the place? Please tell me” she asked in frantic tone

“I know. I can take you now in my two wheeler if you come with me” he replied
“Can you hold a second? I will ask my hubby.”she pleaded

“No, you should not ask anyone or use the phone. I give you one minute for you to decide whether to come with me or not.” he said with finality

“Please I beg of you. I will pay a large sum of money. Tell me where the boy is. I beg of you as your sister.” she cried

“I am sorry I am going. My life is in danger. I will only show you the place from outside. If you try to double cross me by using the phone, the boy’s life would be in peril” and he said as he started walking.

His leering smile, his grabbing her arm and his caressing it came to her mind. Would it be wise for her to trust him and accompany him in the night in his two wheeler? If not, was she endangering her dear child keeping in mind only her safety?

The bike roared into life as he kick started it. He turned his head towards her. What did Ranjana do? Did she open the door and rush to him or did she stay back calmly? What will be your advice to her?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

An unresolved murder

It was 9.30 in the morning. Sunil, the inspector, had just arrived at the police station. His telephone rang and the call was from Stay longer lodge. He got the information that one of the lodgers was found dead. They wanted to open the door in the presence of police. He rushed in his jeep along with two constables. He was informed that the room was occupied by one man in his thirties a day before and that he had asked the reception to wake him up early in the morning for him to go to the market. It appeared he was a regular visitor, a business man, coming to the city to make purchases for his business and that each time he came he procured some woman to spend the night with him. They were trying in vain since morning to wake him till they had someone peep into the room from the ventilator. He was seen lying in bed motionless. There was no one else in the room.

When they entered the room, they found him dead due to suffocation presumably with his face smothered by pillows. There were no external injuries. Two empty bottles of liquor were seen along with two glasses. Evidently he must have been drunk and might have been drugged till he was killed. When asked whether he had any visitor in the evening, Sunil was told that some young woman had come around 8pm.Since it was customary for the guests to bring women for the night, the lodge people did not keep a note of their movements not to embarrass them.They were not aware when she left. The man who had seen the woman did not remember her as she was not a regular visitor but he added a glimpse of her showed she was tall, well built and a big woman with a big red bindi on her forehead.

The inspector asked them to wait outside and closely examined the body and the room while waiting for the homicide department people. The dead man was only in his undergarment. The woman must have spent the last hours with him before she murdered him and vanished. The man was also well built and could have offered resistance. Obviously he did not as he was drunk. A close examination of his wrists showed they were held together. A search revealed a crumpled towel in bath room Except for about two hundred rupees and odd bits of paper in his wallet, there was no money in it. It was clearly a murder but for what reason he was clueless. It could be large money taken away from wallet since he had come for purchases. He found some strands of hair on the bed. He could make out nothing more till his eyes fell accidentally on a small pink button on the floor by side of cot. He put it safely along with hairs in his pocket.

He made sure the daed man had put in no calls through the board or received any. He pocketed the victim’s mobile. He noted the number of the last outgoing call and rang the number from his own mobile. There was a faint hello from a woman.

He said”Hello, I need your usual help urgently” and kept quiet for her response.

“Don’t feel shy. Who are you? Where are you staying? Which lodge? When do you want? Any specific requirement?” she asked
Sunil said “Not here. I need privacy I wish to come there. I will leave the town in three hours. I have some spare time.”

“Have you come here earlier? How did you get my number?” she asked.

When he said he got it from his friend she gave the location and said all the girls are sleeping and that she will manage to find one.

Sunil discarded the uniform and changed into normal clothes. It was a red light area and he was taken to the madam of the house by a stout well built man. She was tall, well built, and muscular with a large red bindi.

He said “I would have preferred to have the woman in my lodge but since morning there was a large crowd of people and police there. Somebody had a heart attack or something.” and watched her closely.

He felt he saw a trace of fear in her eyes but she maintained her cool.Then she became businesslike and said “I will call a couple of girls. You can choose anyone.”
He said “I don’t want anyone else. I want you only.”
She laughed and said “I have left this profession many years back. I just run the show with a few girls. They are all young. I am in mid thirties.”

He was adamant and said” No, If I have any, it is only you. .Expense is of no consequence. Will pay you whatever you want.”

She hesitated for a moment and said “OK.I can spare you just one hour and from next time onwards you should not insist on me.”

“Can I use your toilet?”he asked

When she agreed, he went in and as he surveyed he saw a big washing machine in the corner. He rummaged into it and found a pink blouse in it with one button missing. He matched the one in his pocket with others and found it was from this it had fallen.

He revealed his identity and confronted her with strong evidence of button and her hair. After some theatrics, she confessed that she knew him earlier and that he carried money. She was tempted on the spur of moment by the huge money he had in his wallet and killed him as she was in financial straits. After her pleadings and long discussions, he spent the next hour with her alone in the room and left the place a satisfied man. Sunil’s wife in a few days got the diamond necklace she had been wanting for long

The last heard about the murder was that the police despite their best efforts were unable to break the case and that all leads ended nowhere. They were still vigorously pursuing it and hoped to nab the culprit soon..

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Nambiar's compassion

Nambiar has been working on this beat as post man for several years. It was not certainly a posh area dotted as it was with many slums and lower middle class houses of government housing board. The area of his beat was also not too large and extensive to cover in his old bicycle. There were no heavy parcels for him to carry as these people hardly got any gifts. What they received were mostly money orders from kith and kin and post cards filled all over the card mostly in illegible writings. It was given to his lot to read and explain the content. Though a Keralite, he was born and brought up in Tamilnad and could easily read and write Tamil. He knew most of the people by name and always had a kind word or two to exchange. They were guileless people and regarded him with respect despite his tattered khaki uniform and much worn shoes.Of late his vision was giving him some trouble and he had been putting off a visit to the hospital..On summer days when the sun was hot they offered him cool water from mud pot or even buttermilk. Nambiar never regarded his duty as an imposition but as a social work enjoying meeting the people and listening to them and their woes.

Nambiar was nearing retirement age..His only son had gone to some Middle East country on a small job and there was practically no contact thereafter. His eldest daughter fell in love with a boy from Kerala who had no steady job and married him despite Nambiar’s reservations about the chap. He had learnt that they were leading a happy life though passing through difficult times without steady income. She came once after marriage but had not visited him for almost five years. He had two more daughters studying

Nambiar felt his pocket to see whether the hundred rupees note he had was safely there. .He was to take his wife to the doctor but put it off to first week when he would have received his salary. He was to take some medicines urgently. She has been ailing for nearly four years and he had spent most of his savings on her treatment. He found it difficult to make both ends meet and was always short of money.

As he was entering a narrow alley to deliver a money order, he saw Bhagyam lying on a bench outside her hut. An old woman past 70 looked emaciated shrunken eyes, pale colour she gave the appearance of one whose end was not far away.

“Nambiar”, she hailed as he was moving away. “Is there any money order for me from my son?” she asked .This was the daily refrain and Nambiar would stand patiently by her side and tell her consolingly that it should come anytime if her son had remitted. He would even mentally curse that wretch for leaving his old mom to fend for herself. In his memory she had not received any remittance after the first year or two. The tragic part is that old woman’s daughter had left to her mom’s care a young daughter of ten years when she died of cancer. Her husband had deserted her long back.

This day he could not wrench himself away from her as he saw tears flowing from her eyes and she started sobbing. He sat by her side and said softly “Bhagyam, do not cry. Is this a new development for you to feel sorry now? What is bothering you so much?”

“Nambiar,I would have preferred hell to this life and taken poison but for this wretched girl budened on me by my daughter. She has not eaten a morsel of food for the last two days. I don’t mind my starving but I cannot be a witness to this young thing silently suffering. Please see inside the hut. She is lying folded with hands on her stomach. “she cried loudly.

Nambiar could not suppress his eyes from becoming moist. Without a thought, he took the only hundred rupee note from his pocket and gave it to her telling “Get something to eat immediately. Manage a few days with this money. I know one person in my beat who is running a poor and destitute home. I will ask him to take you both. He will ensure your granddaughter comes up in life. Don’t worry. Come on, get up and get some idlies for the girl and yourself.”

As he got up, he thought of his suffering wife and muttered to himself that he had to choose first the more needy and that he would find some way to get his wife medicines. She can wait for a day with no great harm but Bhagyam and her granddaughter cannot.

“One's life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion”. Simone de Beauvoir

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

On Women’s day

“Can you give meRs.100 towards bus charge for going tomorrow to Thiruvallur?”

“Why do you have to go there? Don’t you have your classes to teach? “asked her husband

“I am to participate in a meeting as chief guest in a girls school there. I must go early in the morning for the function starts at 7 am” she replied

“Who will cook in your absence and take care of children? What about my old mom who needs a bath? You know she cannot bathe without your assistance. You do not have to go” he said in a peremptory tone.

“Please, I have already committed as my Headmistress wanted me to go.I will get up at 4am cook the food and give a bath to your mom. You should only see off the kids to the school. I will return by noon. I have requested our co-tenant Parimala mami to take care of your mom after you had left for office” she pleaded

“I cannot waste RS 100 on such wasteful trips. I am sorry. You are not going” he ruled out

“I am not asking from your salary. I am requesting you to pay me out of my monthly salary that you take from me at the beginning of the month” she said in obvious chagrin.

“How dare you backchat with me? I can even stop you from your going to school. Beware, I am allowing you as my income is inadequate. Serve me dinner. I am to go out to meet my friends for a session of Rummy. I will be back by 11.30 pm.Don’t fall asleep and forget to open the door” he said with finality

“I beg of you. Please allow me this time. I will not commit myself without telling you beforehand” she sobbed

“What is the big function you are to be a chief guest. Could they not get better person?”he taunted

“I am required to give a talk to the girls on the Women’s day movement” she meekly answered.