Saturday, March 24, 2012

Is kindness sometimes foolish?

It was past 1 am. I was rushing back in my car from Hissar to my home in Rohini. I had gone there to strike a business deal. The party insisted that I have my dinner with him and I could not refuse him after the lucrative deal. But I took care not to have any drink as I had a long distance to drive. Except for the occasional cars the road was clear. It was February end and the air was cold. There was a slight smog that restrained my speed. But I was in a happy frame of mind and played Sonu Nigam as I drove carefully.

As I was cruising along, the car gave some trouble after it had crossed Rohtak and ground to a halt abruptly. As I opened the bonnet, the edge slightly scratched my elbow but the blood stopped immediately. I checked the electrical connections inside the car and found everything fine. The fuel was more than half the tank. I switched off the car, waited for it to cool down. I lit a cigarette and was lost in thought how blessed I was. I was just 27 but my business had already picked up. I was making good money though it entailed a lot of travel. I was a commission agent who knew the art of bringing together the needy buyers and eager sellers to make my living. I was earning a lot for my age despite my lack of professional education. My mom felt it was time for me to settle down and give her a grandchild to pamper and play with. She had chosen an attractive young woman for me and talks were on to finalize the wedding.

Luckily to my great relief after about 30 minutes the car started. I had lost more nearly an hour. I soon crossed Bahadurgarh and the Tikri border of Delhi. I found from distance a figure lying on the road. I slowed down the car to find a young woman covered with bruises and blood sprawled on the floor. When I got down and went near her to see whether she needed any medical assistance, I found her stark naked without a shred of cloth on her to cover. She must be less than 30 and appeared to be a victim of sexual molestation. The rapist (or the vile gang) having done the evil act must have killed her and dumped the body on the road. I placed my fingers under her nostrils. There was no evidence of life. I felt her forehead to find her cold. The sight of blood and the gaping wound across her chest made me feel like throwing up. I quickly walked away to my car.

Just before I started the car, the thought of naked body lying in open assailed my mind. What an indignity to the unknown young woman. I opened the door, went near her and without a second thought took out my blue denim jacket and covered her nudity. The chill wind was biting and I rushed back to the car.

I could see the next day the furor the abduction and rape as I suspected had caused and the repeated visuals in the TV only added to the sense of insecurity for women in the capital. There was a hue and outcry to capture the guilty and punish. People were aghast at the impunity with which such ghastly crime took place immediately after the Gurgaon rape. Police were under intense pressure to nab the culprits.

Two days later I was just relaxing after dinner watching Sasural genda phool in the TV when there was a knock at the door. There was a jeep outside with three policemen. Residents from the adjacent apartments peeped through windows or gathered near the vehicle. The blue jacket on the dead body and a bill left inadvertently in it led the trail towards me. I was taken to the police station and asked about the jacket. I narrated the fact as it had happened and admitted the jacket was mine.

There was a persistent but polite questioning. We went to Hissar to corroborate my statement of visit there on business. The business associate confirmed and told them the time I left. What I could not satisfactorily explain was about the one hour gap.. My plea that the car broke down did not cut much ice. The scratch on my elbow only accentuated my vulnerable position. To make matters worse the woman hailed from Rohini.. Police were under compulsion to show quick results. The media were invited as I was led to the police station. The TVs blared with the visuals of the blue jacket, the unaccounted one hour and the scratch on the elbow. There was a spate of praises at the alacrity shown by police in nabbing the culprit so soon after the gruesome incident. One paper screamed for castration of all rapists while another pleaded for summary capital punishment with no mercy pleas..

All my denials were met with stony silence by authorities.My parents were devastated not because the bride’s party withdrew but the evidence the police were mounting were strong against me. The well known lawyer whom they fixed assured he would do his best but confessed the mood of all segments of society was unforgiving towards crime against women. Is protecting a woman’s honour by draping her with one’s own shirt a crime?

I am keeping my fingers crossed as the world around me has crashed and turned hostile..

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The turn of luck

This was written about five years back.

Looking for tranquility and bewitched by the sight of some rare birds I strayed deep into the dense forest and soon lost my way. Try as I might, I could find no way to get out of the labirynth.. After an hour of tiring and fruitless walk in the dark wood, I got jittery as the evening was fast approaching.

To my great luck I stumbled upon a sage who was sitting under a large tree. He was in a trance with his eyes closed sitting in padmasan. I remembered the mythological story of Parikshit Maharaja who in similar circumstances got impatient with a sage when he did not respond to his questions. In anger he put a dead serpent on his neck only to be cursed by sage’s sons that he would die within a week bitten by a snake.. Though scared by the threatening surroundings, I waited patiently for the sage to open his eyes which he did luckily soon thereafter

When he smiled at me gently with a benign look, I was assured that he was no Durvasa type ever quick to curse. A thought occurred to me then. Why miss the golden opportunity that has come by me by divine grace? I forgot to ask him the way to get out of the forest. Instead I prostrated full length before him and sought his blessings to lift me from the pall of poverty that I was in. To impress him I told him that if only I were rich, I would feed the poor daily. He was highly pleased with my concern for the poor and readily granted a boon that I would find a thousand rupee note every time I opened my purse. I did an instant check in his presence and found one. I asked him in all eagerness whether I can open the purse any number of times in a day. He nodded his head with a smile and showed me the way to exit the forest.

My joy at the turn of events knew no bounds but I was careful not to share this stroke of luck with my neighbours lest they also went in search of the sage. But they were all wondering at my sudden affluence and the stream of poor at my door daily for food.. I was a very happy man till one day the Reserve Bank of India in its wisdom decided to withdraw the existing thousand rupee notes and introduced a new water mark in all new notes issued.

Sadly the notes that I got from the purse continued to be the older version and no more valid. Ever since I keep searching for the sage daily in the forest and have not found him till date. The old thousand rupee note keeps propping up in my purse to my great chagrin whenever I open it.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A scary walk

The weather is always pleasant in this city for a walk at any time of the day. The pathways are well kept though the roads go up and down in the undulating terrain. Despite the salubrious climate, there were always very few who walked except an occasional old lady with her dog or a stray young couple jogging along. I always took the pathway that ran along the main road. In the middle of my usual route, there was one place where the pathway forked with one of them taking the walkers through a heavy thicket almost forest like on both sides. Semi circular the route, it eventually joined the main road. Once you are in that narrow path you never knew what lay on either side of the bushes and how far the forest extended. My grandson used to scare me that coyotes are generally seen though a big bear had appeared once from the forest on the main road. I therefore avoided going through that usually deserted way though the young boy would plead with me to take that route and even succeeded once in taking me along with him in this trail. Except that it was longer and had more ups and downs, it was actually cool and quiet except for the chirping of birds, the rustle of leaves and the noise of water flowing possibly though some creek inside the greenery.

It was one fateful weekday when I do not remember what overtook me to cast aside the usual caution and venture into that route. Everything went fine till I had gone deep into that narrow pathway that was slightly dark as the sunlight was hidden. Suddenly out of the blue there appeared a little yonder two rattle snakes intertwined in the middle of the path. I knew they were no water snakes but the venomous type from the rattle sound that emanated from their tails. I stopped abruptly wanting to turn back and rush to the open space. Though the vipers did not slither towards me, they were watching my movement. I stood still almost petrified afraid to instigate them to attack me. A few minutes passed by and they showed no inclination to disappear into the shrub but remained where they were watching me through their sharp glistening eyes.

It was then I heard shuffling of feet behind me. Wondering whether it could be some joggers, I turned to see to my great horror a large bear with stocky legs, dark and shaggy hair and a dirty wet snout, its paws were big with long claws and I could see the short tail as it ambled towards me from afar. With danger from both sides and virtually no exit on the sideways, I was paralyzed with fear. My throat went dry,limbs got numb and clothes got drenched with perspiration. As ill luck would have it, I had left my cell phone on the dining table. The bear was closing in and its angry snorts made no secret of its violent intentions.

Afraid to scream I froze in fear when what seemed a hand from the shrubbery pulled me inside away from the road. Strangely there was no one around making me confused. It was scary but the thought that I had escaped from the snakes and bear momentarily was comforting. I had a glimpse of the stream with gurgling water for a moment before I noticed to my shock two crocodiles slowly crawling towards me. I moved backwards with my body coming into contact with the thick foliage when I felt a hand press my shoulders. Slightly relieved I turned to see again to my great horror a pair of bony hands on both shoulders clasping around the neck. There was an eerie laughter that sent chill in my spine and the last I remember before I fainted was that I let out a shrill scream that would have been heard even in the distant road.

I heard indistinct voices and several hands gently shaking me when I opened my eyes in the large lounge of the North Shore mall. There were anxious eyes on me and I was blinking in embarrassment. It was then my grandson and daughter came running from the huge Apple stores that was just opposite and asked me with great worry “What happened, Appa? Are you ok? You declined to come with us preferring the lounge to watch the jungle picture on the TV.. Why did you scream?”

When I kept quiet, someone who was sitting by my side said “He was uttering something about snakes, crocodiles and bears. Maybe he dozed away while seeing jungle picture”

There were loud guffaws and peals of laughter to the chagrin of my grandson and embarrassment of daughter. On our way back home in the car, my grandson said emphatically to my daughter “Mom,I will no more accompany grandpa to mall”

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Pizza, Jalapeno and Mexican wraps

A repeat while I am busy thinking of a new story. I think you will like this

I woke up to the non-stop door bell. It was irritating early in the morning. I wanted to sleep a little more as it was a Sunday. I opened the door to see Sudha, the maid. She had come earlier than usual. I asked her with some irritability, “Why are you so early today? You woke me up from my sleep”. She smiled and brought her hands hidden behind her back and gave me a small bouquet of roses and said “Happy Birthday”. I was so touched by her thoughtfulness and generosity. I hugged her at the door itself to the amused smile of my neighbours taking their morning walk on the pathway.

“How do you know it is my birthday? Why did you spend your money on this when you seek loan from me every other day?” I asked her.

“How can I forget, amma.You are very special to me” she replied with a grin.

I was lost in thoughts about the good natured girl and her warm disposition. I was shaken from my reverie by her question.

“How are you celebrating today? Where are ayya, Shruthi and Rohan?” she asked

“What celebration?” I said with some frustration.”Don’t you know that my husband has gone on tour? He said he would be returning today but didn’t tell at what time.Shruthi has gone on her college excursion and has promised to be here this morning.Rohan; I hope will come during the day from hostel. Only you remember my birthday and even gift me with roses. None else do. They did not even greet me. But your gesture more than compensated for all their defaults” I said with a tinge of disappointment.

By 10 am all of them had come. Except what seemed a cursory happy birthday greeting and a tiny hug, there was no indication of any celebration or outing for lunch. They were in their rooms with husband busy on his mobile, Shruthi chatting with her friends on her lappy and Rohan in the basement presumably searching for something. It was 11.30 am and I was fed up with making a lunch at home even on my birthday. I felt shy of suggesting that we go out for eating and thought ”Don’t I for every birthday of their’s do shopping ahead getting them new dresses they would like, buy sweets, bake or order a big cake, get big costly greeting cards without their knowledge and even decorate the dining area for cutting the cake. How could they be so forgetful of all that I do? Forget the kids, what about hubby?” I was really upset and decided I would not cook come what may and at least then they would remember their lapse in not giving me one free day from kitchen.

It was 12.30 PM.They would soon come asking for lunch. In frustration I went to the fridge and got some vegetables to cut. As soon as they heard the noise, all the three trooped in. They all asked in chorus”What are you making for lunch? I hope the menu will be good. We are famished having been out of home for two days”

“I am not cooking anything special, not even the usual stuff. Am I a drudge working for the family? I will make just rice. You can eat with curd” I replied with some bitterness in my tone.

It was then the door bell rang.Shruthi ran to open and soon came with a very large bouquet, a joyous assortment of garden fresh flowers. It was accompanied with packets of chocolates I expected them to hand it over to me but they quietly kept it on the dining table.

My husband said “I am famished. How long would it take for the rice to be ready?” How insensitive this man is totally oblivious to the sentiments needed for the occasion I thought. I suppressed my anger and asked him to wait for 5 more minutes.

There was another bell from the door. I was wondering who could it be when Rohan ran. He came back to my utter surprise with two large boxes of Pizza. My husband said “I don’t want your curd rice. I would prefer pizza.Hey Shruthi, open the box and see what pizza has been ordered by whoever it is.” .When the boxes were opened all of them saw two pizzas that were hot and steaming .The Pizzas were loaded with crunchy onions, crispy capsicum, juicy tomatoes, and jalapeno with a liberal sprinkling of exotic Mexican herbs. Whoever had ordered had not forgotten the side dishes too .There were veg Mexican wraps, garlic bread sticks with two large bottles of coke. Meanwhile my hubby had quietly slipped away only to come back with a big parcel.

It then struck me there was a conspiracy of sorts. All the three took out the hidden cake, lit a candle and dragged me to the dining table. When I blew the candle they all sang happy birthday song. The bouquet was given by hubby with a flourish.Shruthi had opened the packet to display a gorgeous maroon coloured Mysore silk sari with a large zari border.

When my husband handed over the sari ceremoniously with a big bear hug, Rohan let out the secret of the evening plan of a movie and a dinner at a famous restaurent.How foolish I was to think that my dear ones would ever forget my birthday.

Sudha, who was a witness to the happenings, was quietly smiling at me.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Swarna's suitor

The swanky car screeched to a halt.Swarna turned to see a young man with dark glasses on the wheel. She had been standing alone in the wretched bus stop that had no shelter for 40 minutes. The sky was overcast with dark clouds getting darker and threatening to break into rain any moment.

“Can I drop you at the first auto stand? It will start raining any moment and there is no shelter. You can get in if it is ok for you” he said

She was hesitant initially but when he opened the front door and she saw no other male occupants, she got in. He did not talk much but dropped her at the nearest auto stand. He waited till she boarded one before he drove away even before she could thank him. He seemed decent.

Three days later the car again stopped and she was dropped. What started as once or twice in a week soon became a daily ritual. They became friends. Vikas came in different vehicles. He told her he was the son of a rich businessman and that he had done management course and was learning his own business. A pleasant faced engaging conversationalist, he won her heart in a short period. She was drawn from middle class circumstances and worked in a private company. Their friendship blossomed into love and they started meeting on weekends.Swarna found him a cultured and nice chap. Nevertheless he was pressurizing her to accompany him to a resort for a weekend. She firmly refused telling that it had to wait till they wed each other.

It was a Sunday and she had an unexpected visit by her college friend Akila.They were close buddies but hardly met after Akila’s marriage.. They had lunch together and had a long chat in her room.

“Akila, I have news to confide in you. I am in love with a guy and we have been meeting regularly. He wants to carry forward the relationship to the next level and I have been restraining him. I told him that my parents would formally approach his” Swarna said

“I am so happy Swarna.I hope he is qualified and employed well. What is his background?.”

“They are very affluent and that is one thing that is bothering me.. His dad has big business and he comes in different cars.Vikas is a management graduate wanting to start his own business” Swarna said.”Here is his picture. Have a look. Isn’t he very handsome?” she asked.

“Yes, he is quite good looking. But his face is very familiar. I have seen him somewhere and recently too. Do you have any other picture?” Akila asked

When Swarna handed her a bunch of pictures of Vikas in different cars, Akila said “Swarna, brace yourself for a shock. This guy is a mechanic in a reputed and big automobile shop. Look at this picture. This car is ours and we had given it for a major overhaul and service. I think he is a big liar and a crook.. Tomorrow take a day off. I will come in my car. I will take you to the workshop and expose that rascal.”

The next day as the car stopped at the large automobile workshop with many cars, Akila got down asking Swarna to stay inside the tinted glass doors. After some time she whispered “Your man is coming towards us. Just lower the glass slightly and see whether he is the guy.”

In a few minutes Swarna heard the voice of Vikas and saw him in the blue overalls of the workers.

He asked Akila as he quickly surveyed the car ”Yes ma’m, what can we do for you?”

“I get some humming sound. By the way what is your good name?”asked Akila.

“Vikas, Vikas Menon to be exact” he said

Immediately the door opened and out came Swarna. Her face was red with anger and disappointment.”So you are a mechanic in this workshop and take daily the cars that are left here with you. Why did you lie to me that you are a management graduate and come from a rich family? I would have loved you even if you are a mechanic had you been truthful. You are a cheapster, a liar and a crook. I curse the day I met you” she shouted and started weeping inconsolably.

“Swarna, don’t come to rash conclusions. Let us go inside the office and talk. People are watching” he softly said

“No, I don’t wish to listen to your falsehoods anymore.Akila, let us go” she shouted

Akila said ”No, let us hear him. Come along with me”

Vikas took them to the office and entered a spacious air conditioned room and offered them the chairs. He sat before them in the richly upholstered chair. Both were surprised. He pressed the bell and a boy in blue overall entered and saluted him.

”Get some cold drink. It is hot today”

He looked sharply at Swarna and said “I am proud to be a worker and work along with my employees. I wish to learn the nuts and bolts of the job even though I am the owner. Turn behind and see the picture. You can see me welcoming the Governor who inaugurated this shop. I dislike rash girls generally but you had a genuine reason.. Thanks to your friend for bringing you here”

Swarna with her face bent down said feebly “I am sorry, Vikas”

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Was Rohini right?

It was an arranged marriage. Both Rahul and Rohini were compatible in terms of age qualification, job, looks and family background. She saw no reason to say no especially when her parents went gaga about him. The honeymoon was all fun and fast. They had set up a separate apartment midway between both their offices that were in opposite ends. She worked in a foreign bank and reached around 8pm.He came from office around 8 30pm.

It was a fortnight after they had moved in and when Rohini was cooking the dinner, Rahul barged in around 9pm.He surveyed the scene and said in a gruff tone “I want things clean in the house and expect when I come back a plate on the table with hot dinner. I just want to make it clear so there is no misunderstanding”

Rohini was taken aback at his brusque tone and insensitive statement. He knew that she also worked in a supervisory role and that she returned home only around 8pm.It was a shock but she felt that he may be tired after a hard day and frustrated by the traffic snarl.

“I came just an hour back and the dinner should be ready by the time you have a wash. You are perhaps tired. Have a glass of fruit juice” she said softly.

“I don’t need any. But I want my house to be spic and span and do not like things to be littered here and there. I like the sink to be clean at all times and the vessels loaded in dishwasher then and there. It is ok today but make sure hereafter that my dinner is ready when I come back” he said without any remorse.

Rohini did not reply and turned to hide the tears from her eyes. She kept the dinner on the table and went to the bath room for a shower. Rahul when he came back found her missing. He did not wait for her and finished his dinner before settling down before the TV. She came down after sometime, skipped her dinner, cleaned the table and went back to her room.

When he came a little while later and asked her whether she had her dinner, she pretended to sleep. He went on asking her questions and even touched her but she did not budge. The next morning as he came down he saw sandwiches, hot milk, cereal and fruit juice on the table. She had left for office. He found the sink clean and the dishwasher running. He smiled smugly satisfied that his reprimand worked.

When he came at 730 pm itself earlier than his usual time, he found a middle aged woman in the kitchen setting the table for dinner. He found the counter clean and all things neatly kept. He looked askance at her when she replied “Madam had employed me to cook the dinner and keep the place clean. I am to come at 6 and leave at 9pm daily. You dinner is ready. Madam had instructed me to serve you and not wait for her.”

His face became red as anger surged in his heart. He quietly had his dinner and retired to the living room before TV. Rohini came at 915pm.”Why are you late? I came at 730 pm itself expecting you to be at home. What is this new arrangement of a woman to cook dinner?” he asked her.

“I had work at office. She will keep things clean and have your dinner hot when you return home as you wished” she replied

“I have not married wanting a maid at home waiting for me with dinner. I want my wife to be available when I come back” he said

“You don’t need an IIM graduate for keeping your home and readying your dinner. I am disappointed with your attitude” she said softly but firmly.

“I am the boss in this house and things should happen as I wish. I am earning enough. You may find a job that will enable you to be at home by 6pm.Till such time you find a similar job, you can stay at home” he said rather loudly.

She wondered what has gone wrong with him and why he has turned cranky. He knew that she was talented, an IIM graduate worked in a foreign bank and earned more than him. He was aware of all these and never mentioned before marriage about his expectations from her. She had a glass of water and said “Can we discuss this later? I have just returned. I need a wash and some rest”

“No, what is there to discuss? You either agree with me or not?”he bellowed

“Ok, Let this arrangement continue for a couple of months. I do not want to cause any anguish to my aged parents so soon after my marriage. I will take a transfer and move away from you in a couple of months. You can then choose a wife to suit your requirements” she said in controlled voice.

Rahul was shocked as he never expected such a response from what he thought a timid Rohini.”What did I say for you to carry the matter to such ridiculous lengths?” he asked.

“Sorry, my mind is decided. You are not the guy with whom I would like to spend the rest of my life. You have fallen very low in my esteem. I need rest and wish to be left alone. What I have said is final and irrevocable” she said with finality and left for her room.

Is Rohini justified in not giving Rahul another chance?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Who is Komal’s benefactor?

Komal had a strange dream early in the morning.Komalavalli thayar, the consort of the Presiding deity Aravamudhan of Sarangapani temple, asked her in the dream to visit Her shrine at 9am and that She would bless her personally. When she woke up from the dream, she was perspiring heavily and excited with awe. Strange as the dream may seem, Komal prayed daily to the goddess to bless her with a good husband. She dared not tell her mom about the dream lest she thought her daughter had gone soft on head. Nevertheless she confided to her friend Pankaja in the adjacent flat who said ”Komal, do not ignore this command. Perhaps the Goddess has a plan for you. Though I too have my reservations on Her meeting you in person, what harm could there be by visiting Her shrine which you do in any case daily.”

Komal was 27 working in a bank and living with her mom. With dad long dead and no relatives to take personal care, there was no effort in finding a good match for her. Being shy, she had no guts to find one on her own. When she reached thayar’s shrine, there were not many devotees who were seen in large number at the main shrine. After her prayers, she sat down with her eyes closed before the sanctum thinking of the dream. She woke up with a start when she heard a gentle voice “Kannamma, I am happy to see you offering your prayers so sincerely. What is your name?”

Komal turned to find an elderly lady in dark maroon sari with lot of jewelry and large bindi on her forehead. She had smiling eyes and a face with indescribable charm that evoked respect. “Komala is my name but friends call me Komal” she said

“So you are a namesake of the Goddess. What a happy coincidence? I have seen you many times here but have not spoken to you. Tell me where you live and about you.”

After ferreting out the information and some light pleasantries, she moved away. Komal sat there waiting for the Goddess to make Her promised appearance or give some clue. When nothing happened, and she was about to move, the priest from within the sanctum called her and gave her some flowers taken from the feet of Goddess. She was surprised by this unusual attention and went back home happily.

As she was narrating the happening to Pankaja, a big car drew up before that apartment and a lady who seemed affluent got down with a young man. She made enquiries with watchman before knocking Komal’s door. Pankaja was also there.

“We belong to Kumbakonam but are settled in California. We came here to visit our ancestral home and the temples of the town. It brought nostalgic memories of the past. One lucky thing happened this morning when we were at Sarangapani temple. An elderly lady on her own accosted us and said she knew my dad, his father and the members of our family. We were somehow drawn towards her possibly by her dignified bearing and the warmth that exuded from her” said the old lady as she came in.

Komal’s mother was pleased that they were also from Kumbakonam and warmly welcomed them.

The young man made himself at ease as he sat on a sofa. He was around 30 tall and looked handsome with kumkum on his forehead.

The lady continued “You may be wondering why I came here. That elderly lady suggested that I visit your place and seek the hand of your daughter for my son here. She said that she knows Komal well and that she would be an ideal match even as she gave all the details about her.”

Komal wondered how the elderly lady knew all details except the name which she told her and looked at Pankaja..Komal’s mom asked that lady “Did she tell you who that elderly is and where she stays? I am not able to place any such person readily”

“That elderly lady said only this much. That her name is also Komalavalli and she is a resident of this town for very long time. I did not also pursue the matter as I was keen on coming here and meeting you all. Coming to the purpose of the visit, my son Chakra is an engineer and well employed in US. We are planning to relocate to Bangalore. We like Komal and he would like to have a few words with her”

“Komal’s mom looked at Pankaja and told her “We are happy at the outcome whoever the old lady at the temple is. Why don’t you ask Komal for her views after her talk with the young man, Pankaja?”

When Chakra and Komal came out of the room smiling, Pankaja said “I know her answer. I also seem to know who the old lady at the temple who recommended Komal is. I think Komal would also have guessed by now”

Everyone turned to Komal and Pankaja wanting to know who the old lady is. Both of them kept mum but were seen smiling.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

How Sheela clinched the job

Sheela was waiting in the hall for her turn to be called in. Already about 11 men had gone in. There were four more waiting including her. From the bits of information she could gather, she learnt there was only one vacancy. Some said when they came out of the interview room, they suspected it was all a sham from the indifferent way questions was put and that they must have chosen the candidate already. She had all along been working on temporary vacancies for a few months. Since she last worked, three months had passed and it was difficult to make both ends meet with meager savings. She had her sick father and mother to look after. Sheela needed this job badly. She prayed to all Gods for their grace. She was hungry and tired both physically and mentally. All the four men had finished. She was the only one to be called. There was no call from inside. It took unusually longer time. Her heart beat fast and was perspiring heavily.After what looked infinity, she heard her name being called.

With prayers in her heart and papers in hand she entered with hesitation. There were three persons with an elderly man in grey hairs and glasses in the centre. He smiled at her and said “Sheela, is it. Please take your seat”

”Thanks, Sir” she said as she took her seat.

“So you are the last candidate. You must have been waiting for a long time” he said in a kind tone.

Another person who was looking at her papers asked her “I see you have not stayed in any company for more than three or four months. Why is it so? Do you find it difficult to stay on at a place for long?”

“It is not my fault, Sir. All of them are short term temporary leave vacancies. I would very much desire to work for very long in one place. I have been unlucky so far” she replied

The third gentleman said “As a result you have not been able to accumulate enough skill and experience as your tenure came to an end. We have interviewed candidates with longer experience” But he did not expect any answer from her as he turned to the senior man in the middle seat.

The elderly man smiled at her again and asked her “Can you tell us why you think you deserve this job?”

She wiped the perspiration from her forehead and said “I am the only daughter. My father is sick and not working. My mom is unlettered. My family runs on my income. I am without a job for the last three months”

One of the men intervened to say “Most of the candidates who attended the interview are without jobs even for longer periods. Tell us something different.”

“I am academically bright. I am hardworking and I am sure you will not regret your selection in case you give me the job” she replied

“That is what everyone says”

The older man gently prodded her asking “Please give me one convincing reason why I should tilt the scale in your favour.Take your time to reply”

She did not take much time to reply.”Sir, today there were 15 candidates and I am the lone female. Today happens to be Woman’s day when internationally it is regarded as a day of celebration in honour of women giving them respect, appreciation and love and help them in their economic and social achievement. I feel Sir this is a valid reason” she said with a smile
All the three let out peals of laughter and said “You won”

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


He was looking at me intently. I could feel his piercing eyes even when I turned. I collected his order of burger and coffee and headed to his table. He smiled at me and said with a laugh”Thanks, that is very fast work .I like quick service and brisk girls.”

Tall and handsome in early 30s, he had hypnotic eyes that bound me to him unable to move.”Thanks Sir. This is very normal. We keep our patrons happy” I said

“I have seen you earlier here and that is why I chose this table” he said with a wink. The dimple in his cheek as he smiled had a mesmeric effect. I stood there transfixed as it were though I should have moved after placing the plates on the table.

“Sorry for asking. How much do you make here in a month” he asked

“About four to five thousand in a month including tips” I said

“That is a peanut considering that you are on your legs for the entire duty and walking to and fro endlessly” he said with a tinge of sympathy and quickly added “Would you be interested to quit for a better option?”

“Yes, it is low but for my skill I cannot get any better. What do you mean by better option” I asked

“I have been wishing to get one like you. I am greatly impressed with you. You are quite attractive and efficient. I mean by better option chuck this job and come with me .You can lead a very comfortable and satisfying life in my home” he said. When I was silent at his incredible offer he added “I am serious. Come away with me now. You can settle later with the owner”

When I was overcome by disbelief and surprise at my good fortune in being e asked me to move to his home with him, he held out his hand and as I took it he assured “It is a deal. Don’t be afraid. You will be happy for this instant decision.

As the big and sleek black car moved smoothly with me by his side, I wondered whether he could be the prince charming to the poor Cinderella as I imagined myself. He drove slowly and made small talk about my family, my education and where I lived.

The car entered through big gate and glided through a drive way towards a large white bungalow surrounded by big garden and green lawns. I have never seen miracles except in stories but this one seemed to be happening to me.

He opened the door and led me into the spacious living room.He asked a butler like man who opened the door to give me fruitshake.He turned to me and said “Excuse me. I will be presently here with you” and ran up the stairs leading to first floor. As I surveyed the hall, I could see rich opulence everywhere.

When I heard some shuffle of feet, I turned to see him coming down the stairs with his arms around a young lady carrying a small baby in her arms and a girl of five years in tow. The little girl in pony tail and pinafore came running to me exclaiming “I like my new nanny”

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Biren’s luck

Biren spends all his evenings in what one may consider an unusual place. A large open space that one cannot call it a park but well lit with lots of flower plants and small trees. The ground is green with grass and well laid out pathways. There were convenient concrete benches that one can comfortably recline. Most people come there for a purpose and very few to idle away their time despite the pleasant surroundings. The architecture of the few buildings may give an initial impression of a temple but they actually house a crematorium. The municipal corporation had transformed what was a dingy dark and dirty place into a beautiful one. The smell of burning bodies though it assailed his nose did not deter him from visiting the place.

It is not that Biren is given to melancholy or a negative mindset for him to frequent this spot. It is close to his house and a convenient get away from the constant wrath of his dad. It is not his fault if no one offered him a job. The old man berated him daily and even suggested manual labour if need be to earn a few rupees. But his kindly mom would intervene and tell that her son would work only in an office. A graduate he had no skill except playing carom. The unemployed young men like him played at the corner of the street and in the evenings under a light, power for which was stolen from the main box. He was popular there but had to leave as he could not afford the periodical expense for tea and singharas when his turn came.

It was past dusk one evening. There were not many people. One group had just finished the rituals for cremation and was readying to leave. He saw at the gate another group entering. There were many men and women in tears. He was sitting in a chair in the far corner watching idly the movement of the people and the body on the shoulders of a few young men. It was then he noticed a dark and tall figure draped in black shawl approaching him. He sat up with a start.

The figure said in a soft but gruff tone “Do not fear. I need an instant help from you. Please do not refuse as a life is dependent on it.”

Biren was not afraid. He said “Tell me”

“It is like this. There has been a goof up by my assistants. The man, whose body has just been brought in, is not destined to die now. His time is much later. That was a case of mistaken identity and a big blunder by my men.” He said

Even when he had not finished Biren asked him “Who are you? You are talking as if you are Yama Dharma Raja. Why are you playing such pranks when the people are already sad? Please go away. I have no time for you”

“No, just look at me for a second” he said when Biren espied him sitting on a dark buffalo with his large mustache and protruding bulbous eyes and with a rope on his hand. Involuntarily Biren stood up and with folded hands prostrated before him.

“Young man, get up. I am infusing life into that body. Please rush to the people there and tell them he is alive and not to burn him. They may not believe you and may even beat you. But please persist and ask them to have him checked by a doctor, if need be” Yama said

“I will do,Sir. What will you give me for this favour?”

“I know your need. You may apply to the Municipal Corporation for an assistant’s job in this crematorium. It will be done” he said and vanished

As the relatives were getting ready to consign the body to flame after the rituals, Biren rushed crying aloud “Hold on. Do not burn him. He is not dead. He is alive”

They were all baffled and looked at him in disbelief as if he was insane. A couple of young men caught hold of him and rained blows on him. But Biren continued “You can beat me any length. But pray do not burn him. Call a doctor and have him checked. I say with reliable authority that he is not dead”

One old man in the group shouted at the young men ” Stop it. Go and fetch any doctor nearby. I want instant action” and then turned to Biren and asked him in soft tone ”You know we are all in great grief at the loss of my young son. What made you say this? Be frank”

Biren narrated what happened and the vision he saw before it disappeared and said that he did not want to ignore it as a life was possibly at stake.

A doctor who examined the body heard faint beating of the heart and a low pulse. Things happened swiftly with the young man taken to hospital. Biren was gifted with Rs 10000 by a grateful family. His dad became happy and his mom cooked a special fish delicacy. Needless to say Biren is now overseeing the place as an office assistant under a fan with table and chair as his mom desired.