Sunday, October 28, 2012

A tug at Pushpa's heartstrings

Pushpa in her early thirties looked much younger for her age may be her petite figure feeding such an impression in others. She had recently resigned her job when she was transferred to a distant city. Her husband Prasad suggested that she have a break for six months and relax. Her pet hobby with canvass and brushes was dormant for want of time. Now she could indulge herself driving in her car to scenic places where nature cast its charm for those who are tuned in to it. Prasad, a nice guy, was always busy as a faculty in a business school and a consultant to boot. They had a nice house and all the comforts that money could buy. But god had not blessed them yet with a child despite eight years of married life.
One afternoon she went to the backyard to dry the clothes on the clothesline. As she was putting the clips, she had a strange feeling that someone was staring at her from behind. She quickly turned to see a pair of eyes below a head with curly hair transfixed on her hidden by the fence from across the adjacent house. The moment she saw him, he rushed inside the house. In that fraction of a second she could see a very handsome face. .She wondered how long she was an object of his gaze but the thought left her inwardly with unexplainable glee. She rushed inside and opened the bath room window slightly to see whether he was coming out again. But he did not.
Inexplicably she went every now and then to see whether the clothes have become dry with her eyes turned towards the adjacent house obviously overcome by a desire to catch a glimpse again. It was on the third time he came out and stood on the steps looking at her continuously.Pushpa lowered her eyes unable to face the stare but felt the flutter of butterflies in her stomach. She raised her head to see a faint trace of smile from him. She came running inside with half the clothes. She went again and found him nearer the fence as if waiting for her.Pushpa had never seen a better chiseled face with such charm. As she collected the clothes she felt she heard him cough gently to draw her attention. When she turned, he was smiling at her with his eyes twinkling in unsion.She could hardly repress her smile in return. But he abruptly rushed back making her wonder why. In the night she could hardly erase the bewitching face from her mind and was turning in her bed for long before she was overcome by sleep.
The next day she put the clothes in washing machine by 8 30am itself and after hubby left for office went to back yard for drying them. She was in no hurry today. She lingered longer but the hide and seek game continued adding to the thrill.. It was only in the afternoon when she went to collect the dried clothes, she found him standing across the fence as if waiting for her. When he saw her, he lifted his hands for the first time and waved at her. She could not resist her desire to go near and hold his hands. She was so caught up in his spell that she was willing to do whatever he bade her. But she controlled herself and just giggled at him as he continued to wave and beckon her towards him. But he never uttered word.. It was a conversation in silence with eyes and smiles
She had found a spring in her life looking forward to the dawn of each day. Prasad even asked her”Pushpa what is happening? I see you are up early morning daily  and rushing through the work as if you have an office. I told you to relax and take things easy. I find the canvas on the easel empty. Are you into watching serials in TV?”
“It is nothing. I am not getting the mood to paint nor even to read novels that I have brought from library”
The next day as she went to the backyard, he was seen standing and beckoning her towards him. She left the bucket on the floor and went near. He suddenly held her hands firmly sending tingling sensation all over her body. She wanted to hug him and smother him with kisses when he asked abruptly ”is there anyone else in your house?”
When she said none besides husband who goes to office, he said “Can I come one day” and laughed.
It was then she heard the buzzer and freed herself and ran inside .It was the courier with a packet. When she came back, he was not there. He never came that day again making her wonder why. She had once seen Susila, the lady of that house, a Keralite slightly younger than her but plain in looks and fat. They had come recently here within a month but had not interacted with her except once
It was Sunday morning. She was having tea with her husband when the bell rang. When she opened the door, she found Susila the next door lady standing with a five year old kid in tow.”I am to go to hospital urgently and cannot take the boy as they do not allow children. Can he be with you till I return within one hour?” she asked
The boy ran to Pushpa without the slightest hesitation and even as she lifted the hugging boy, he said “Did I not say that I will come one day?”

Thursday, October 25, 2012

For a sumptuous feast

Srini had a weakness for good food that was not available at his home. Being an unemployed graduate from a lower middle class family and looking for job in day time, his evenings were relatively free. God had endowed him with a good physique and handsome look that evoked an instant admiration. The leisure in the evenings gave him time for some adventure and satiation of his taste buds. He had a finely embroidered Khurta in cream silk which he used about three times a week depending upon the marriage receptions held in the vicinity. He had a friend who was driving an Innova car for a private travel company. The car did not sport any indication that it belonged to a travel company. Dressed immaculately, he would alight before the gate about an hour after the commencement of reception. His friend would rush to open the door for him making the onlookers believe he was someone in particular. He would be welcomed at the gate with someone sprinkling rosewater and another handing a red rose for his buttonhole.
Once inside he would quietly walk to one of the middle rows of chairs and settle down unobtrusively listening to the music concert or the noisy band that is played invariably in most receptions. After about 30 minutes he would sneak into the dining hall and enjoy leisurely the sumptuous feast. He would as quietly walk out as he came collecting a bag of coconut with some sweet and snacks that is usually given. Luckily he has never had any hassle with none detecting the interloper he is.
As he alighted from the car one evening and entered the reception hall nonchalantly, an elderly gentleman of about 65 with a bald head with a laced angavastram on his white shirt welcomed him with a broad smile. As he led him inside, he casually asked whether he was from the bride’s side or the bridegroom’s to enable him to get him seated with appropriate people. As generally brides people stand at the gate to welcome guests, Srini said he was related to bridegroom. The loquacious bald man asked him in what way. Not to be taken aback Srini said he was bridegroom’s uncle’s son.
“How lucky. I was just now talking to your dad. Let me take you to him” he said as he held his hand and started walking to the front.
Srini though alarmed at the prospect of detection could not back out except saying “Thank you. I will go to  him  after meeting my other friends and relatives.”
“No, no, he is just sitting two rows ahead and was sitting alone without company”
Approaching a lean man ina safari suit, the bald man said “You don’t have to sit alone without company. Lucky I was there when your son came. I brought him to you”
“Hey Babu,why are you late? I have been looking for you for a long time. You had promised to come early” and turned to bald guy and said “Thanks for the help. You carry on”
After the bald man left, Srini turned to see the lean guy smiling at him and said ”Thanks Sir, for saving me from discomfiture as otherwise there would have been a scene”
“Never mind, we sail in the same boat. It is mutual help” he said with a loud guffaw.
After a few minutes they moved to the dining hall, sat side by side and ate to their hearts’ content the sumptuous dinner with extra helpings of Badam Kheer.After stuffing their mouths with meeta pan,they ambled towards the entrance with lean man’s arm around Srini’s shoulder.
When they saw the curious bald man talking to a few youngsters, there was a slight trepidation and worry. But they put on their best faces and walked towards the entrance. He did not fail to see them and came hurriedly asking them “Why are you leaving so early? Have you had the dinner and enjoyed it?”
They said in chorus “Thank you for your warm welcome and the kind attention. The feast was very delicious”
The baldy turned to one of the youngsters and asked them to take their picture and said very casually “I happen to be the only uncle of bridegroom. I was therefore surprised when you said you are his uncle” and turning to Srini added ”The bridegroom’s uncle does not have a son but only a daughter. Why did you both do this? I could have handed you over to the police or have you treated roughly”
With panic and embarrassment written on both faces, Srini saw the angry faces of youngsters and held the bald man’s hands pleading for mercy with an assurance that he would not repeat such deception. The lean man said “Pardon me, let not my dress give you a wrong impression. I haven’t eaten for two days.udhara nimittham bahukruta vesham.For the sake of stomach, I donned different roles. I would be grateful if you let me go without further loss of face. I promise I will not do again”
The bald man asked one of the youngsters to give them each a bag of coconut with sweet and snacks and went inside the hall as if nothing had happened..

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dimpled smile

I was in class 6 or 7 in a school that was not far from my home. Of the many class mates of mine in the lower secondary classes, the face of only one is strikingly fresh and the faces of the rest oozed out of my sieve like memory. Veda must be my age or a year younger. What I could never forget are the dimples on both her cheeks when she smiled and her blue eyes. A very fair girl, tall with hair stretching below her hip and a beautiful face, she must be from an affluent family as she wore silk pavadai (skirt) with thick zari.She sat on the edge of the girls’ side while I sat on the edge of boys’ side with only the aisle separating us. She was shy and receding by nature and spoke only to me among the boys.
Though at that age it was just an attachment, I felt the urge often to steal glances at her. One day as we were walking back from the school, she remonstrated with me “Whenever I turn my face, I see you always looking sideways at me. Don’t do that, Babu, as the teacher and others would see you doing it”
“How do you know I was always looking at you unless you turn your face to see me?”
She will just giggle that would give me pleasant feeling. We walked back slowly together but her house was hardly a furlong away and when we neared it she will rush into her house through the gate without looking at me. She had a beautiful handwriting and whenever my homework piled up due to my lazy ways, she would write for me but deliberately scribbling lest she is found out. In my turn I used to help clearing her doubts.
I think we studied together hardly for two years before I went to some other city. But the bond of friendship was green even after two decades and her face etched forever in my mind. Married to a software engineer and employed in Fremont, California, life was comfortable with a small baby girl to adore.
It was Navrathri time and my wife Renuka had set up a small golu.She was telling me that a new Tamilian family had come to the complex and lived two floors below and that she had met the young lady accidentally at Indian store. She also said that she had invited her to come along with her hubby the next day, being off day. It is a huge building complex with hundreds of apartments housing various nationalities that you never know who lives where.
The young couple along with a boy of five years came around 7pm.Renuka introduced them “She is the lady about whom I had mentioned. Lucky they are in the same building.
I extended my hand and said “I am Suresh working for Apple. Nice to know you.Renuka works from home presently. I am from Chennai, T.Nagar to be exact.”
I am Ravi working for Wipro while Veda is a home maker. We are here for the last 5 years and shifted here very recently”
I looked at Veda and said “A very familiar name though Vedavallis are common in Chennai.” She smiled and the two trademark dimples revealed who she really was.”Nice to meet you people” I said. I could sense a sign of recognition from her sideways glance that I was accustomed to.
After seeing the doll exhibition, we all sat in the living room with snacks and coffee.Renuka was very pleased with her, I felt, when I saw them talking animatedly. The children were playing. Ravi seemed a gregarious type and an engaging conversationalist.
Abruptly looking at me Veda asked “Did you study in RK School in classes 6 and 7?” When I nodded in affirmative, she exclaimed”Are you known as Babu? There was a boy in my class with a mole at the temple as you have.”
“Yes, Veda, I am the same Babu and I could place you immediately after I saw your dimples as you smiled>Nice to meet after two decades”
Ravi patted me on my shoulders and said with guffaw “Great you knew my wife even in your younger days. Was she a cleanliness freak even in those days?”
That night as we lay in the bed, Renuka said “I don’t think I like that Veda and I may have nothing to do with her”
“Why what happened? Are you jealous or what? She seemed nice and Ravi also appeared as a pleasant guy”
“True Ravi seems ok and an innocent guy with no guile. But that Veda, I detest her”
“I think you are completely wrong. I know her well from her younger days. Coming from rich family, she was not only pretty but good in studies, very methodical and talented in music. I think they should be in our close circle of friends”
“You be dreaming of her dimples and pretty looks. She will not enter my house. I am sleepy now “she said as she turned her head to the other side.
A month later when I met Veda at Walmart, she said”Babu, did I say anything wrong that day? You wife is cold towards me since then and turns her face even when I greet her. I thought initially she might not have seen me but this has happened several times”
“Sorry Veda. You spoke or did nothing wrong that day. Some women have complex. Actually I was happy to have met you that day and looked forward to you people visiting regularly. Some people are funny and develop a prejudice for no reason.. I liked Ravi and he was friendly”
“I am not so sure because he keeps asking “What about your old friend with the mole who remembers your dimple. Sad people cannot accept two of opposite gender being just good friends. He has mentioned since then that this complex is far from his office and I do not think that  is the real  reason.”
“Let us hope someday they would realize their folly. I apologise on my wife’s behalf” I said and walked away feeling sad.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Gobind's philanthropy

Despite owning palatial house, Gobind Pande chose to live in a retirement community that catered to 60+ senior citizens. His only daughter in Indian Foreign Service and married to another IFS officer lived presently in one of the Latin American countries. This community situated in a vast expanse offered a resort style living with all facilities. Depending on individual proclivity, one can enjoy privacy and independence or share the zest for living with other like minded people on matters of common interest and hobbies.Gobind liked to stroll around each morning in the sprawling area smelling a flower or watching the sun. He relaxed in the afternoons at the library amidst books or watching a movie. He had a few selected friends but was essentially a private person. Very affluent and with fairly good health in his early seventies, life was all rosy and sunshine for him.
One Sunday evening around 5pm Gobind walked to a park nearby and sat on chair watching idly passersby walking briskly or jogging. He noticed the man who came to sit next to him only when he coughed gently as if to attract Gobind’s attention. He looked at the old man with his flowing white beard and mustache reminding him of Santa Claus and responded to his smile with a hi. There was something in him that evoked a fearful respect.
“I haven’t seen you here, Sir, in all the years that I have been visiting the park” said Gobind.
“True, I go to places only when I have a purpose” he said in a squeaky voice with a faint trace of smile.
“Oh,I come here very frequently and live in the opposite retirement community”
“Then you must be a very wealthy man and must have earned lot of wealth”
“All blessings of God” Gobind replied modestly
“Haha, tell me what have you earned by yourself that will stand in good stead later”
“I don’t follow you. All the wealth is earned by me only though with grace of God”
“I did not refer to this material wealth of yours. What have you earned in this life that would stand by you always” he said
“Do you mean punya through philanthropy? I haven’t yet  thought about it. I am fortunately in very good health”
“How many children do you have? Are they dependent on you?” he asked
“I have only one daughter who is married and in diplomatic service. They are very well off by themselves”
“Nice to hear. What are you then waiting for? Can you say with certainty that you will be here next week ?”
“True, one cannot. I have already in mind the idea to set apart a major portion of my wealth to various charitable causes. Now that you have drawn my attention,I will waste no time and will call my lawyer tomorrow itself for doing the needful. Can we meet this Wednesday here at the same time. I will tell you what I have done. Thanks for reminding me” Gobind said
“God willing we shall meet” he said witha twinkle in his eyes and walked away rapidly
Gobind got busy the next day and by Tuesday he had all things finalized with 70% of his wealth for philanthropy, a small portion for the community and balance to some needy relatives. On Wednesday morning he was restless wanting to meet the bearded man and tell him what he had accomplished. He walked to the park at 445 pm itself and sat on the same bench. Possibly because of his hurried walk, he felt a little breathless. He wiped his forehead and settled comfortably in the chair. It was past 5pm and the bearded man had not arrived. His uneasiness grew more and he was sweating heavily. He clutched his heart when there was a sharp pain that came in quick succession with greater intensity each time. He looked around. He saw faintly the white bearded man at a distance waving his hands even as the passersby crowded around him anxiously. He saw someone call 911 and thereafter there was complete darkness.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

An angel in disguise

Naren was in depths of despondency. The ash tray before him was full. The curtains were drawn and the room was dark. His company was in deep red due to mismanagement. It is six months since he got his salary and when he went to enquire, he was given instead a pink slip. The installments on the house were in arrears as also the school fees. He had borrowed some money from private lenders and they were pressurizing him to repay when they learnt he was not getting salary. He sold his car and pledged his wife’s jewels to keep the goons at bay. He stopped the school bus and sent his children  by a ramshackle vehicle jammed with kids to the brim.
Renuka, his wife, though qualified was not working. She was frantically on the lookout for a job and kept going out daily in the hot sun by public bus. She was not accustomed to such hardship. He had walked up and down many offices and drew a blank. His experience in an airline company did not help as most airlines were working under loss and pruning expenses. He was at the end of his tether. The sparrow on the ceiling was chirping incessantly to his annoyance. He threw the newspaper at it in anger. It flew to another corner and chirped more vigorously. Frustrated by failure at all fronts he toyed with the crazy idea of putting an end to his life. But he felt bad to leave his wife burdened with two kids and nothing to lean upon. She had been understanding and never grumbled. She only counseled patience and gave him the hope that the bad patch would soon be over.
He could not bear the agony. Coward as he was, he decided to put an end to his life. He poured the coke in the glass and mixed it with some poison stuff. He wished to pray and closed his eyes to ask for forgiveness to the Lord for taking his life .The chirping of the bird grew louder. Annoyed he went out to the puja room to pray silently. Tears welled up his eyes. There was no indication from the God dissuading from the foolish step. He took it as approval for his move. With folded hands he made one last prayer and went back to the room to consume the coke before his wife arrived.
To his bewilderment he found the glass tumbler fallen on the ground  with all coke spilt on floor. The chirping continued nonstop. He looked at the sparrow and knew who the culprit was. It was then he heard the door bell. It must be his wife, he thought. She came running shouting “Naren, cheer up .I have some good news for you.”
“I have got a good job that will fetch me initially 50,000 rupees. They will increase after six months. We do not have to worry. You can look for a new job without much hurry” she said and stopped abruptly  when she saw the spilt coke and the fallen glass.”What is this?” she asked
“Sorry. I felt thirsty but the glass slipped from my hand. I am so happy for you. This will give us a breather. Thank god for His grace” he said as he looked at the noisy bird that no longer appeared a disturbance but as a protective angel
She looked at him quizzically when he said “Can we provide some space for the bird to build a nest?”

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The bit role

Vijay had a bit role in the office drama to be performed on the New Year eve. He did not wish to take part but was compelled by his friends. He relented for a part that had no dialogue. As a passerby in the road, he was to faint and fall down abruptly. That called for no histrionic skill but only the natural way of falling. With regular practice he accomplished it with finesse in today’s rehearsal.
He suddenly remembered that he was to withdraw one lakh rupees and rushed to bank. It was crowded though not much. As he was writing the cheque on the tall desk, he observed one lanky guy with Hitler mustache watching him from a corner. He did not like the man’s look or his slouching figure with a cigarette in hand despite the NO SMOKING board. He turned his face away from him and finished writing the cheque.As he waited for his number to be called that guy came near him and sat in the adjacent chair. There were a few people near the teller. As he approached the teller on his number appearing on the board, he saw the man approaching him. But he ignored him till he felt a metallic thing pressing his hip after he received the money and pocketed it. He whispered in his ears “Walk quietly till the gate  and normally if you don’t wish to get hurt”
Vijay turned his head around and saw people minding their own business, filling forms, depositing money, receiving cash or just waiting for number to appear. He nudged him asking him to move forward. He seemed ruthless with a scar across his cheek and nobody seemed to watch his being herded by the crook.
Vijay started perspiring and the nudge became a shove. It was then he remembered the rehearsals and crumbled like a pie by fainting on the floor with a thud. Everyone turned towards him and rushed around him forming a circle, feeling him and gently nudging. Someone sprinkled water on his face  from a bottle. The crook moved away sensing the inopportune situation. The anxious people heaved a sigh of relief when Vijay opened his eyes. He looked around to find the crook no more in the vicinity.
He sat up and said ”Thank you all. I think it was a sudden blackout. I am fit to go. Can a couple of you kindly escort me to my vehicle?”
As he sat at the wheel, he told the kind hearted gentlemen “Do not worry. I am fully fit and can drive safely. Thanks a bunch for the support’
As he drove the car, he thanked God for the bit role he got and felt pleased at his realistic act..

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A dream materialized

Sivanandam asked the driver to stop the car at the beginning of the lane that was narrow. He could recognize it from the small pillaiyar (Ganesh) temple still there at the entrance. The only addition is an asbestos shed in the front. Many tiled houses he was accustomed to forty years ago have become pucca houses some with even a first floor. It is the first time he is coming here after he ran away from his uncle's house unable to bear the insults and beatings. He became an orphan at a young age and was brought to uncle's house. Though a good man, he was timid before the termagant of his wife. They had no children and she hated the boy who she felt will ultimately inherit their land and house. She made the boy a virtual slave and made him toil all the time. But she could not stop him from attending the school for fear of the people around. Siva was bright in school and liked by teachers.
Siva remembered a Chettiar shop at the corner where he would be sent frequently to get something or the other. His aunt reveled in disturbing him from his study .At the front of the shop there was a well which was common for the street. One person he could not forget even after the long time was Parimala, daughter of Chettiar.She was 12 or 13 then and extremely fetching with her long hair touching her bottom. She had big eyes and her eye lashes fluttered like a butterfly whenever she saw him as he could recall at this distant time. She normally looked after the shop when Chettiar was away procuring groceries. The girl knew Siva’s circumstances and had a soft corner for him. She would attend to him quickly to make him escape his aunt's taunt though he would tell her he was in no hurry.
Among the endless errands of his aunt, he relished the visits to the shop. The young things took to liking each other and talked when no one was around. She often gave him pencils, erasers and ball point pens saying they were freebies to the things they bought. Chettiar was indifferent to the boy and had only the sympathy that one had for a hapless orphan.
Sivanandan walked in the small lane and found a building with party flags and posters on the wall at the place where his old house was. His uncle and aunt must have passed away and the house grabbed by some party leader.He walked further to the corner of the lane. The well was still there and he was happy to find a small provision store. Instead of a thatched shed it was now housed in spacious area carved out of the front room of the house. He found a handsome young boy around 22 in the shop and asked for a bottle of chilled coke. The boy seemed brisk and attended to the customers fast.
“I am happy to see your efficient handling of customers. What is your name?"
"Sivakumar, sir.Are you new to this village?"
"Yes and no. Yes because I am coming after 40 years. No because I used to live here when I was your age. This used to be owned by one Chettiar. Are you related to him?"
"Yes sir. I am his grandson. He is no more"
"Are you Parimalam's son? How are your parents? Are you studying?"
Looking surprised, he asked "Do you know my mom? She is inside and looked after the store till I finished college two years back. My dad passed away three years back. Please wait. I will call her"
In a few minutes Parimalam came out and instantly recognized him from the way her face lit up and eyes widened in pleasant surprise.”How are you, Sir? You look the same though the hair has turned grey a bit. It is nice to see you after so many years. Please come inside. Siva, you also come in and ask Velu to look after the store.”
“Parimala, you have not also changed much. Your son is very smart and handsome. I trust you are all keeping well.
I could not come all these years. By god’s grace I am doing well and own a big departmental store in the adjacent town. The business is flourishing and I have opened another outlet. I own a house and an apartment complex of six flats. I have one daughter who will be finishing her college this year. My wife is a good natured person”
“What is the name of your daughter?”
“Parimala” he replied with a smile
She put her head down hiding her face and asked “What brought you to this village after so many years?”
“When I started for this village, I had no specific purpose. It was just an idle curiosity to see whether the village has changed much and whether Chettiar store is still there. Having come here, I have found a purpose and wish to talk to you” he said and turned towards young Siva. The boy took the cue and left the hall.
“I have only one daughter. I have two departmental stores one big and another medium. I find your son smart and can manage business efficiently. I do not want him to work for me. If you kindly agree we can get our children married and our families closer. I will send the car for you and your son to come and see the girl on any good day. I would request you to agree”
“I know you were always my wellwisher.I gladly agree.”Parimalam said
He said “Thank you. Some dreams though unrealized in our cases, we wish to see them materialize through our children”
“Very true” she said as she bent down her face unable to meet his eyes.