Friday, April 29, 2011

Kothandam’s menu

When I was young I worked in a government office for a short period. I cannot forget one jolly person whom I had the good fortune to know. Kothandapani or Kothandam as he was called was a young man in his early twenties. He was tall guy, had a twinkle on his eyes, a broad forehead with a red vertical line and a loud voice. Clad always in a white dhoti and white shirt, he could keep his audience spellbound with his witty views on all men and matters. There would be no rancour when he cut his detractors to size with his rapier like jovial remarks that would leave no gaping wounds. He would hug them soon after and get along as if nothing happened. Wherever he was there was good cheer and laughter.
When he entered the office in the morning Naidu would greet him
“Good morning Kothandam, you seem to be in a happy frame of mind”
“Yes, why not? After a hearty heavy meal cycling all the way was tiresome but the mood is happy. Would you like to know the morning menu?” he would reply
“We are all ears” a few voices would be heard.
“It is nothing special. The usual South Indian fare. Morekuzhambu with ladies finger, beans usili, poosanikkai puli koottu, lemon rasam and thayir(curd) with mango pickles. The rasam was so delicious I had an extra helping in a cup” he would say.
This would leave all the listeners with their mouths drooling.
“Do you people make so many items daily? Looks like a kalyana (wedding) meal” Hanumantha rao would comment
“My mom is fond of making good food and my dad is a gourmet appreciating her culinary abilities”Kothandam would reply
It is a daily refrain with Kothandam detailing different menus taking care not to repeat the same item on successive days in the week. This would start the day in the office on a bright note with large smile writ on everyone’s face.
Kothandam was a good person and helping by nature. He would offer his help to his colleagues when they had heavy backlogs to clear. He was a fast worker and had time to spare. I know of many occasions when he had come to office on Sundays to help his colleagues in their work. He would be the first person to donate blood if a member of colleague’s family needed blood. He was liked by all though there were one or two who did not find his loud conversations in the morning amusing.
What was intriguing me was when everyone during lunch time opened their lunch boxes to eat, Kothandam would not eat anything. He would have a glass of cool water telling others that he was not feeling hungry. Gradually I became close to him and started playing a skittle in chess during lunch times. He never spoke much about his family or invited me to his home.
It so happened that one evening I had some work to attend to in the area where he lived. I accompanied him in my cycle on his way back. When he neared his house, he bid me good bye.
I asked him jocularly “Won’t you invite me to your house and offer me a cup of tea? I have never been to your place although we are close friends.”
The colour in his face changed abruptly. He was quiet for a few seconds and then said
“Can I take you another time?I will make my home presentable and be ready to entertain you” he replied
“Don’t be formal. A friend’s place is like my own abode. I do not mind in whatever condition it is” I said
“Okay then but you will be in for some shock. I haven’t told you about my family. You can see for yourself” he replied.
It was a two roomed side portion in a small house. It was dark and dingy with stale smell emanating. There was no furniture. Poverty was writ large on the house. The walls had never seen a colour wash for decades. In the front room lay his dad on a bench afflicted by paralytic stroke and unable to communicate. I saw his mother, who dragged her feet afflicted by arthritis as she walked, frail and emaciated with shrunken cheeks.
Kothandam said to her as if justifying my visit”He is my office friend, Partha.He expressed a desire to visit our home”
He went in and brought a glass of cool water. It was then a young girl entered the house. She was tall but looked skinny although good looking. He introduced her as his elder sister working as an assistant in a private company. It was their meager salaries that kept the hearth burning. He said his mom was suffering from asthma too and needed constant medication. His sister was to be married but they had no money or savings.
It struck me like a sledge hammer how this young man could possess such a pleasant and affable disposition despite the deadly combination of a dad struck with paralysis, a mom with frequent asthmatic bouts and an unmarried sister waiting to be married for want of money. He never allowed his private sufferings to affect his infectious spirit of warmth and helping nature. He indulged himself to the merriment of others in a fantasy world of opulence when he described the morning menu while what he actually took was a bowl of rice soaked in water and diluted butter milk. He went up in my esteem by several notches. Such men are rare indeed.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A good deed

I was driving back to Chennai after dropping a party at Bangalore. I was not feeling well since morning but could not refuse the trip as I had joined the tourist Taxi Company as a driver only recently. I could not afford to lose the job. My wife was pregnant, mother was sick and I had no money. It was past 8pm by the time I dropped the party at Bangalore.Though I was exhausted and tired, I decided to return the same day. I had a cup of tea and some idlies packed. By the time I left Bangalore it was 9pm.There was not much traffic as I took the bypass. I didn’t stop anywhere as I wanted to reach my home by 2am at least and rest my tired body for a good sleep.

I had crossed Vellore and was cruising at a steady speed of 100 km.It was dark and drizzling. I saw at a distance a car parked on the left side towards Chennai. I could see the cars preceding me did not stop to enquire though they slowed down only to speed away. Obviously the car had some problem. When I slowed down I saw a young lady in her early twenties in the driving seat. Worry was writ large on her face. She signaled me with her hand to stop. Normally in the highway drivers do not stop cars in the middle of night in lonely stretch as it was a common ploy for a woman to stop and the men in hiding pouncing upon the driver once he got out. But one look at the swollen eyes and the crying face indicated that here was a genuine problem.

I stopped the vehicle and asked “What is the problem?”
“The car has broken down. It is not starting despite my attempts. I don’t know what to do. I am scared to stay alone here. I haven’t seen any buses stopping. Can you please help me?” she pleaded
I got down and checked the vehicle. There was some electrical problem that needed to be attended to.
“There is some electrical problem. Only a garage can set it right.” I asked.Where are you bound for?”
She said “Chennai. What am I to do? I am in a predicament. Pray, do not leave me here. It is scary”
“Okay. Let me tow the vehicle and leave it at a safe place in the next small town. You sit in your car and steer the wheel as I tow.Once we do that I can drop you at Chennai” I said
She was obviously relieved from the faded worry lines in her face.
As we were driving she talked about her dead mobile phone, how the cars and trucks sped away without stopping to help and how people turned inhuman because of fear of mugging by a few wicked men. She gathered details about me, my family, where I worked and lived and my goal in life. Neither did she reveal much about her nor did I have the temerity to ask her. When she learnt I was feeling feverish, she insisted that we stop the car at a way side teashop for a cup of tea. It was past 3am when we reached Chennai. She was luckily living in a posh area on my way to my house. When .I dropped her, she profusely thanked me for my helpful nature despite being unwell and went inside abruptly wishing me good night. Not that I expected a gift or anything of that kind for helping her out but I was disappointed at the abruptness of her taking leave.
He was later narrating the incident to his wife and telling her how ungrateful people could be. It is not that he wanted anything but she should have at least offered him some money.
When I reported for duty,I was worried whenIwas asked to meet the proprietor immediately. I wondered whether the lady had innocently informed the company that I gave her a lift.
When I hesitantly entered, he said in a loud voice “Santosh, do not be afraid. I heard that you gave a lift to a young lady and dropped her at Manapakkam. Though it is against the rules of the company, I appreciate your helping nature and the compassion to help people in distress. Here is a token gift of Rs. 10,000 as my appreciation” and handed me an envelope.
As I stood stupefied, he continued with a large smile “You did not ask why I was giving you money for the help rendered to some lady. She happens to be my daughter.”

Monday, April 25, 2011

Quick in rage and slow in repentance

My dad was a stern man with no heart. He had a quick temper and lost it even for mild irritants. When he drove the car, he would be swearing at every passerby who crossed the road or the vehicles halting before him for signal. In shops or restaurants he demanded immediate attention and the slightest delay would provoke him. He could not suffer fools. He was a man full of ego and autocratic in his ways. Little wonder he had few friends. All of us dreaded him when he came back home from office. Even as he entered the home, he would survey the scene around him and will flare up if he saw anything like school bags, shoes or books lying scattered away from their designated places. The three sisters including me would swoop down gathering the offending things and run away fast from his sight. He was not violent but his tongue was sharp with a sarcasm that was biting. We simply detested him never looking up to him for anything. It was our dear mom to whom we confided and on whom we showed all our affection. We pitied her for having to spend her life with this boorish man. While my sisters would not defy, I would protest when I found him unreasonable to mom. This would anger him further and he would shout at my mom for bringing me up as a brat.

But things went beyond control when I wished to marry a colleague of mine. He was a perfect mate for me being highly qualified, holding a good job and coming from a respectable family. The only snag was he belonged to a different religion. I was firm in marrying that guy even when my mom pleaded with me to go by dad’s advice lest he snapped all relations with me. When I did not budge and went ahead with printing invitations, he called me one evening to the living room and shouted in the presence of all ”Nivedita, you are no longer my daughter. You are a slut unfit to belong to my family. Get lost right away. I disown you. Do not enter my house even when I am dead.”

When my mom protested at his crude words, I was shocked to see him raising his hands to hit her. I got up and just walked out with my handbag with no clothes even for a change. That was the last I saw him .. My mom and sisters used to call me occasionally but dared not visit my house where I lived with my hubby.

I got a call from one of my sisters that dad had passed away suddenly after a heart attack in the morning and that cremation was to take place in the evening. She didn’t ask me whether I would be coming home or not. I felt bad for my mom and wished to be by her side. But I remembered crystal clear the stentorian voice of my dad forbidding me to enter the house even when he was dead. I decided to respect his wishes. He had made no attempt to build bridges with me and I learnt he even prevented mom from visiting me when I was ill once.

It was crowded with relatives and neighbours at the crematarium.I stood at the fringe of the crowd. I could see his body laid there in a large hall with a new white shroud and mom and sisters sobbing by his side. I could not restrain the sudden gush of grief coming out as a suppressed sob and the eyes well up with tears. I disliked his ways but did not hate him. I always felt sorry for him. I do not know how long I stood till I felt someone touching my shoulder. It was my sister. She didn’t utter one word but dragged me to my mom’s side. My mom’s eyes were swollen and with worried lines on her fatigued face.I broke down on seeing her melancholy face and the dead body unable to control the heartache kept suppressed for years. I had no words to say except to embrace her warmly. She asked me to come home after the ceremony. I mumbled some excuses and said would come later.

It was a week later there was call from attorney’s office asking me to meet at 3pm.When I went there my mom and sisters were already there. In a brisk manner the lawyer said he would read out the gist of the will left by my dad only a month back. I did not evince any interest as I was certain about the outcome after he disowned me and carried the grudge till his end.

“…………………….I have done a grievous wrong to my daughter Nivedita and I repent for it sincerely. It was my foolish ego that forbade me from granting her wish to marry a man of her choice. It was not the religion of her chosen man but her decision to go ahead without involving me that made me angry. In my anger I paid scarce attention to the pleas of my wife and other daughters to accept her marriage and bring her back in the fold.Nivedita had taken after me with an independent mind of her own. I am proud of her for standing up to me. I love her as much as my other daughters. I beg her to forgive me and start visiting her paternal home.
I hereby bequeath one third of my wealth to my wife and the balance two thirds equally amongst the three daughters…………….”

Nivedita was could not believe her ears. Choked with emotion and tears on her cheeks she let out a scream “Daddy, forgive this wretch for not understanding you. Daddy, I miss you so much. Why did you leave me?......................”

“What is past is past, there is a future left to all men, who have the virtue to repent and the energy to atone"

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Swati’s gambit

Akshay’s mom was disappointed at her son’s persistent refusal to meet the girls from whose parents proposals had come. He assured her that he had no one in mind and that he was not interested in marriage. He was already 28 and well settled in a good executive position. His sister Swati was still in college doing post graduation degree. His mom saw no reason why he should delay marrying. He was not amused at her plea that he gets married soon so she will have a grandchild. He shouted at her saying that he would get a transfer to another city if she pestered him like this any further.
The old lady was sullen when she got a good proposal for a young lady Neha by name who had done her engineering degree and was in a reputed IT firm. From the photo sent, she looked very charming. It seemed her side was keen in finalizing the alliance. It was then Swati hit upon a plan. She revealed it to her mom and requested her not to tell about the proposal received or show the photo of Neha to Akshay.
It was next Sunday morning. When Akshay returned from the gym, he saw a tall and beautiful lady talking to his sister in the living room. As he entered the hall, Swati stood up and called “Akshay, come here. Let me introduce to you to my friend Neha”She turned to Neha and said “This is my brother Akshay. He has done his B.Tech from IIT and is with a MNC. He can play guitar well, fond of movies and travel. He is also a fitness freak”
Turning to Akshay she said “Neha has done her PG in economics and will be writing civil services examination in a few months. She is highly talented with a gold medal, proficient in music, teaches Japanese and runs a blog on culinary matters. ” Neha coolly proffered her hand to him for a handshake and said that she was glad to meet him. Akshay was a little shy but looked greatly impressed with her. After mumbling some words, he excused himself and went to his room on the first floor.
In the subsequent days, he saw her frequently with his sister and on Sundays invariably. Swati often called him to join the discussions. He was inwardly happy and even skipped the gym sessions to be with them. One day when Neha was talking to mom, Swati said to Akshay “Can you do a help for Neha? While she is good and well prepared on her subjects for the examination, she wants your help to hone her skills in general knowledge and English paper. She is willing to spend two hours every Sunday with you if you can help her. What shall I tell her? I want you to help her for my sake” she pleaded.
Akshay didn’t need any persuasion. He readily agreed. From the next weekend, her classes with him commenced. He found her extremely intelligent, an engaging conversationalist and well informed on current affairs. He even wondered why she needed his help accomplished as she was. But he started eagerly looking forward to the two hours they spent together. They soon started talking on mobile phones when they were not together and found they had so much in common. As weeks passed by, he knew he was deeply in love with her and as he looked deep into her eyes he felt he saw a similar desire from her also. When he called her one day for a coffee in a restaurant, she readily agreed. They started meeting outside often but kept such meetings a secret from his sister
It was her birthday. He had taken her to a good restaurant and ordered her favourite dishes. He had decided to tell her of his love for her and propose to her. After they had finished the dinner and as they were having ice-cream, he looked deep into her eyes and holding her hands he gently whispered to her”Neha, I am in love with you. Will you marry me?”
“Why not? I would simply love that. I too love you very much” she giggled in joy with tears flowing down her cheeks.
They hugged each other and decided to break the news to Swati and mom. When he stopped the car in front of his house, he saw his sister and mom waiting at the door.
“Congratulations, Akshay” said Swati
He looked bewildered and asked whatever for.
“You know. Spill it out for mom to be happy”Swati said with a mischievous grin
Akshay turned towards Neha and looked at her questioningly.
It was then they all broke into uncontrollable laughter.
Swati said “Akshay it is all a well rehearsed drama.Neha is actually an engineer working with the big IT firm. She is not appearing for any examination as we told you. A proposal from her parents came. We were highly satisfied with her. Fearing your usual reaction, we set up a meeting for you in our own way as if she was my friend. I met her and had her approval. As expected you fell for her hook, line and sinker. Don’t worry, we will take this forward”
When he turned to look at Neha, she ran away in shyness to the adjoining room. He ran behind her to the accompaniment of peals of laughter from Swati.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Briging a smile in the face

From the verandah of my house, I saw the old lady of the adjacent house reclined on an easy chair in the front porch. The sun’s rays were seen falling directly on her face. She covered her eyes with her hand. With the summer having come, it was already hot even at 8am.It looked she needed help to get up and move inside her house. But there seemed none nearby. I was in two minds whether to go personally and help the old woman inside the house. But I was a new comer here and had not met them. I do not know who all lived in that rather big sized house. I was hesitant lest someone charged me with intrusion in their affairs.
It was then my servant maid Sathya entered. She saw me staring at the old woman in the adjacent house.
“Amma, what are you seeing?” she asked
“I am seeing that lady in that chair for nearly 30 minutes with the sun hitting her directly and it is pretty hot. Poor woman, she possibly is unable to get up and go inside. Is there not anyone in the house?” I asked her
“Amma, only the son of the old woman is there. His wife who was very much younger to him was with him only for a year before she left him. People say she eloped with her lover. He has employed a part time cook and a full time maid to take care of his mom. The cook comes around 9am.The maid should be there possibly flirting with the gardener. She is a lazy woman and I think is not taking proper care of the old woman. She is a bully and picks up a fight at the slightest pretext.The old woman cannot get up or walk without her assistance. Her condition is pathetic. The son goes for work early in the morning and comes late in the night leaving his mom under the care of this virago” she said. But Sathya is given to exaggeration and half truths.
That night when I was mentioning this to my husband, he said “you have been working in social organizations earlier visiting old age homes and hospitals. After you have come here you are confined to home .Why don’t you visit her and provide her the comfort that you can give.”
The next day I went around 9am.She was still seated in the easy chair with the sun’s rays falling on her. She was not very old as I suspected but she was badly affected by arthritis. She must have been very beautiful in her younger days but now her eyes looked distant and her speech halted. Frail in her build, she had a smile writ constantly on her face.
I went near her and said “Aunty, I am Veena and live in the adjacent house. I have come recently here. I see you daily here in the mornings .I just wished to introduce myself.”
There was a long silence before she asked “What did you say your name is?”
Surprised at her short memory I repeated my name.
She was quiet for long and then asked “Do you have a daughter? I wish I had one.”
“No, I have no daughter or even a son, Why do you wish you had a daughter? Not many in our parts want girl children” I said
“Foolish people. I have none to care for me. My son is busy with work and has his own problems. I am dependent on others. There is no lack of physical comfort as my son has provided everything. But I feel lonely and long for the love of a daughter. My vision is impaired and I cannot read or watch TV. I have none to talk to. Servants after all work for money and they do not bond even after years of association” she replied
“Can I help you to go inside? It is very warm here” I said
“Will be grateful. I am actually waiting for the maid. But she comes whenever it pleases her. My words have no effect on her” she said
I gently put my arms around her and lifted her. I led her carefully to her bed. As I made her sit on the bed, she hugged me and would not leave me
. “You seem such a kind girl. For a moment I felt I had my dream of a daughter fulfilled” she said
I had never felt her as my mom. But as she hugged me tight unwilling to let me go, my heart was filling with love. “Aunty, please consider me as your daughter. I had a feeling that it was my own mother putting her arm around me. I will come daily and spend time with you.”
Her eyes became moist and as she rubbed her eyes with her sari I knew I can give her what she needed most. A piece of my heart to bring some sunshine in her life, a companionship to hear her bright past, the fears of future and the concerns of the present and above all some loving care. Why should I go to a faraway old age home when I can make my neighbour’s life one of joy and peace?
“Aunty, what do you like to eat most? I can make for you. What music you like to hear? I can sing for you” I said. I could see certain disbelief initially in her eyes but soon they shone brightly. I have now found a reason to be happy and busy.
As I walked back to my house I saw the maid giggling and holding the hands of the gardener at the backyard.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A drunken blunder

Vignesh was full of remorse. It was clearly his mistake on several counts. Firstly he had brought Vanita to the restaurant on a date promising her to drop her back by 9pm positively. It was nearing 10.30 pm and he would not get up even as she stood up to leave. Secondly she was against his drinking heavily as he was to drop her back. But he smiled at her fears and kept on drinking. Finally he brushed aside her plea to drive his car telling her that he was quite fit to take her home. He remembered he went to restroom to wash his face but it did no good. His ego would not accept that he cannot handle the car. He wanted to drop her quickly as her parents would be worried .It was raining but not heavily. Although traffic was not much at that hour, it seemed to him too many blinding headlights posed a hurdle. Luckily her home was just four miles away. The broad road was straight with one side abutting a lake and the other side a declining deep slope. He remembered driving carefully in the inner lane and her asking him incessantly to stop the vehicle. Possibly due to a blinding lightning abetted by the undimmed headlights, Vignesh lost control and he remembered the vehicle hitting the protective rails and plunging down the deep slope. He thought either she was killed or she was terribly angry with him and kept herself away from him.

He never saw her thereafter. He prayed to God that she was safe. He sincerely regretted for not allowing her to drive the vehicle. He was hazy about what happened after the mishap and why he could not meet her even after so many days. He knew she had not confided her love for him to her parents and wanted him not to contact her at her home.. He had never been to her house so far. But he decided to drop first thing in the morning a letter to her in the post box kept outside apologizing for his mistake and requesting her to meet him again.

Vanita was taking a stroll in the garden.. There was a nip in the air. She still limped even after the surgery. She had broken many bones and her stay in the hospital was long almost four months. It was a providential escape, she was told. Luckily she was able to walk without any aid. She felt sorry for Vignesh.Her mind went back to the fated day. She was not aware how long she remained at the bottom of the slope with her limbs mangled in the crashed car. It was only when a cop touched her shoulder and said “Madam, do not worry. Don’t move your limbs. Help is on its way. Lucky you escaped by God’s grace. Sorry for your buddy. He could not make it.”It took months for her to get over the shock though thoughts of Vignesh still filled her mind.
She heard her mother calling her for breakfast. As she turned towards the house she saw an envelope protruding in the postbox. How it could be as it was too early for postmen, she wondered. The handwriting on the envelope was very familiar. She tore the envelope and pulled the letter. It read
Vanita dear,
I am extremely sorry for all my mistakes. I should have listened to you. It was my bloated ego that brought you near death. I hope you are fine. I am worried at your silence and not contacting me. I promise I will not drink anymore. Please forgive me. Broach the subject of our love to your parents. I wish to marry you at the earliest,
With love, Vignesh

She shuddered for a moment and looked around. How could this letter be written? She wanted to scream”Vignesh, I have nothing against you. I love you. Do come back” Tears flowed on her cheeks as she remembered that it was only the previous Sunday she had placed a wreath on his grave.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Teachers should act as triggers

This is an old post.I was reminded of my school days friend Chellappa and an incident in the class.He was from Kerala and born on Vishu day.He became an auditor and commanded a large practice.

Our former President Dr.Kalam always exhorts students to dream, hoping that dreams may ignite their minds to accomplish great things. This wasn’t so five decades ago for back then, a dream was associated with slumber and I still remember getting whacked for yawning in class. Yawn, I did not know then, is a prelude to sleep often induced by boring subjects or people.

No one explained why the paper planes that fly in the classroom glide effortlessly at times but nose-dive most often. Nobody ever asked such questions as minds were not encouraged to be inquisitive. It would be presumptuous to interrupt the class with questions and riskier if they turned out to be foolish.

I was in class VIII when the English teacher asked us to write an essay on what we would like to be when we grew up. As a child, I fancied being a steam engine driver with the thrill of driving the engine in the dead of night across the fields accompanied by the rhythm of the wheels and occasional long whistle, watching the stars and stopping at stations to drink coffee from the IR restaurants without the risk of ever missing the train. But afraid of being reprimanded, I wrote about some mundane ambition.

My friend Chellappa, more imaginative and bolder, refused to divulge the subject he wrote about. In the last hour of the day, the English teacher walked in. From his ominous look, we could smell that something untoward was about to happen. “Chellappa,” he bellowed, “Come here.” Chellapa walked up with trepidation towards the table.

“So, you want to be a scientist,” he roared and laughed hysterically like Gabbar Singh in Sholay. The entire class joined the laughter only to be stopped abruptly by the tight slap my friend got. “What is your optional subject,” the teacher asked.

Chellappa mumbled, “Book-keeping.”

“How dare you want to be a scientist, having chosen book-keeping,” he demanded.

My pal replied meekly, “Sir, you asked us to write what we would like to be and not what we would be.” Rebuffed, the teacher dismissed him from the class with the words"Chellappa,veliyae sellappa".

The teacher also ridiculed a boy who had a squeaky voice and wished to be a play back singer and another who took part only in the lemon-and-spoon race but wished to excel as an Olympic runner. Then, there was the boy who opted for Tamil medium on account of his poor scores in English, but wished to be a playwright like Shakespeare. The unimaginative teacher, who had neither vision nor compassion, smothered all the harmless instincts of the children. The young minds, peculiarly sensitive to ridicule, never recovered from the shock.

Luckily, this teacher was an exception. I have known several scholarly teachers who responded to their calling with sincerity and passion despite the pittance they received. They shaped minds and stoked fires that lay latent in young hearts. They would discover talent-academic, aesthetic and technical-and stimulate and guide the children to become proficient in their chosen skills. The teacher should act as a trigger, letting children roam free in their minds and seek answers to their unresolved questions. He should rejoice at the discovery of kindled spirits and provide the answers wherever he can.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sarasa’s shame

“Sarasa, the fan in the room is not running well as it was bought 15 years back. It is very hot and sultry in the nights. I am unable to sleep” said Meenakshi to her daughter-in-law.

“Why, it is running alright?” replied Sarasa with certain asperity in her voice.

“Yes it runs but very slowly and no air is coming” said the old lady

“Ok, let me see but not this month as we have many commitments like school fees, insurance etc. May be I will get a new one next month or the one thereafter.”

“This is midsummer. The weather is very oppressive. That is why I mentioned” she said hesitantly.

“What can I do for that? All of us are suffering. I am unable to stand in the kitchen even for five minutes. Keep the windows open” Sarasa replied as she hastily went out.

She saw her 15 year old daughter Lavanya standing outside the door with a glass of chilled coke in her hand. She asked “When did you come from school? How long were you standing here? You are perspiring a lot”

“I just now came from school. Heard you talking to grandma and so came here” Lavanya replied

“That is alright.Go to your room, switch on the AC and rest a while. I will get something for you to eat” Sarasa said.

“Amma, I don’t want anything. But I want you to permit me to go on an excursion arranged in the school for three days. Mummy, please do not say no.”Lavanya pleaded.

“Which place? How many days? How much you are required to pay?”Sarasa asked

“Three days at Kodaikanal.Just Rs1000, Tomorrow is the last day for payment .All my class mates are going and our teachers are accompanying us. It is safe, amma” Lavanya said.

“It is okay. I will just mention to your dad. You can pay the money tomorrow. You are lucky as you will escape this hot place for a few days at least. The woolen sweater you have is old. It will be cold there. We can buy a new one this evening” Sarasa said.

She expected the girl to jump in joy and hug her. Instead Lavanya looked at her with derision and left without one word to her room. She switched off the AC that was running and switched on the fan and adjusted the regulator at the minimum speed.

When Sarasa who was perplexed at the strange behavior of her daughter entered the room with a plate of sandwiches, she saw Lavanya on the bed with her face buried on the pillow. “Why have you switched off the AC? The fan is also moving at snail’s pace. What is wrong with you? Aren’t you happy that I permitted you to go on excursion? You behave in a strange manner” said Sarasa

“Amma, leave me alone. You don’t have to switch on the AC or increase the speed of the fan. I will keep the windows open and rest” the girl said

Sarasa did not fail to notice the taunt in her voice and was certain the girl must have overheard when she was talking to her mother-in-law. “I know what you are alluding to. You are not behaving as young girls should do. I hate people eavesdropping the conversations of others” admonished Sarasa

“I did not eavesdrop. You were talking so loudly I could hear you even from the living room. Whatever it is, I hate you. I am not going for any excursion. I don’t need your money when you have so much of commitments to meet” said Lavanya with tears trickling on her cheeks.

When Sarasa looked at her daughter in disbelief, the girl continued saying “You cannot bear your daughter to be uncomfortable even for a few minutes and want me to have the AC and the fan at full speed. But you are so insensitive to the great discomfort grandma is experiencing both day and night. You did not think for a minute before you offered to pay me the money I asked for the excursion and also get a new sweater. But when it came to grandma, you were weighed down by the commitments. I never knew you can be this hard hearted to an old person. I am ashamed of you.”

Sarasa felt overwhelmed with shame and guilt at her behavior with her mother-in-law. She rang up the electrical stores and asked them to send a new fan immediately with a mechanic to fix it.

She went to her mother-in-law and touched her feet pleading for a pardon. The old lady was perplexed unable to understand what brought about the change. She however ran her hand on her head and said “Don’t be silly. You did not utter anything hurtful. You only pleaded for more time to change the fan. I am accustomed to live even without fan as I have spent many years in village without electricity. Wipe your tears and go happily”

Sarasa came out of the room teary eyed but chastened by the experience.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

'reflections' blog activated

My blog reflections( ) was lying dormant.I have resumed writing in it giving a short break to the stories in random thoughts. You can access reflections by clicking on blue rectangle on the right side in my random thoughts blog