Monday, October 27, 2014

Thank God for the doughnut

Sukanya was resting in her bed one hot afternoon reading a novel. Her children hadn’t yet come from the school. The day was busy and she had to attend to many things like going to the bank, sending an important letter through courier, a visit to the tailor and the library. It was then that she heard someone singing happily some village tunes. It was melodious and soulful. She waited for the song to be completed and then went into the small room in the rear wherefrom the song came. She found Muniyamma lying on the mat on the floor and humming another tune.
“Hey, I never knew you can sing so well. Did you learn singing when you were young?” asked Sukanya even as the maid got up in a hurry. She replied shyly, “No, Amma. I just picked up these songs from my mother when I was young. She sang so well, you know.”
Sukanya’s thoughts went to Muniyamma’s chequered life. It was only a couple of months since she had hired her. She was a real find for Sukanya who had to keep looking for a new maid when every alternate month they left the job for one reason or the other. Muniyamma lived in the small room at the rear of the flat and was provided with food too. She took care of the house-hold chores including giving a helping hand while cooking. Sukanya was relatively free to pursue her other interests.
Muniyamma, though past sixty, was slim and in good health. She had a charming face with a pleasant smile. But fate had not been kind to her. She was married when young and her husband gave her nothing except for four children. An alcoholic, he treated her badly and died young of ulcer. Life was a struggle. Her only daughter had eloped with an auto-rickshaw driver who was fifteen years older than her. Muniyamma later learnt that he had deserted her when a baby was born and that she went to Mumbai to lead a life of shame. None of the sons studied well and two became vagabonds. The eldest, it seemed, was serving a long sentence for raping a child and strangling her. One of the other two fell into bad company and was in and out of jail. The last one went to a city in the North to eke out an honest living and she never heard of him again. Her life was one of continued misery and want. She worked all day long in two or three houses as a domestic help and led a hand to mouth living till she got the job at Sukanya’s house.
Sukanya started to wonder how in such a careworn life of drudgery, Muniyamma could feel happy to break into a song with abandon. Sukanya had all the blessings a young woman can dream of: a good husband, high education, wealth, two well-behaved children and good health. Yet she was frequently unhappy at some minor inconvenience or disappointment putting on a scowl on her face. On the other hand, this poor woman with apparently not a single thing to rejoice about was singing merrily like a lark.
Muniyamma looked at Sukanya and asked “Amma you are lost in some thought. What is it? You are not uttering a single word!”
Woken up from her reverie, Sukanya asked, “Do you sing like this often?”
“Yes Amma. I do sing when I am in good mood and ever since I came to work for you I am happy.”
Sukanya was rendered speechless and wondered how this poor woman, whose life was drudgery all day long with no joy in her personal life thus far, could be happy?
She asked her, “what makes you so happy that you break into songs?’
Muniyamma replied, “God has been kind enough to entrust me in your care in my old age. You are a very gentle and compassionate person and treat me with the affection of a daughter. Your children are all well-mannered and do not treat me like a servant in the house. They come and talk to me once in a while. Your husband is a decent person and is very affectionate to you, the kind of affection that I have never enjoyed from my husband. You provide me with the same hot food that you eat and not give the left-overs. You give me clothes not for covering my shame alone, but also of good quality that I have never known in my life. You take me to the doctor when I fall ill. You are also paying me well. What more blessings can I want?”
It took a minute for Sukanya to regain her composure. She learnt that happiness lay in counting the blessings and not in bemoaning over the minor difficulties in life. She was humbled by the positive attitude of her maid-servant and learnt that happiness is available for those who seek it. It inspired her to decide that she will not lose her cool by minor stresses or small hurdles anymore.

“Let us thank God for the doughnut instead of cursing the holes in it.”

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ganesh's mascot

Deepavali was just two weeks ahead.Ganesh was walking aimlessly in the bazaar gazing at the shops, the glittering showcases, the screaming hawkers and people laden with bags in a tearing hurry. The jostling crowd, high humidity and the warm weather was suffocating and he wished to get away from the crowd. It was then he saw a vendor who had spread in a corner of the platform assorted things like combs, mirrors, shaving gadgets, perfumes, cheap clocks, glass beads, hairclips, safety pins, small toys and such sundry items with a placard that announced any of them is for just 10 rupees. Ganesh espied a tiny Vinayak doll in white porcelain. Without a second thought he produced the only ten rupee note he had and got it from the vendor wrapped in a newspaper tightly.
There was now a spring in his walk back home as he felt the burden in his heart had lightened. Ganesh led a miserable life always in want. He held a low position with meager salary and worked for long hours. He had a wife and two kids to take care of. He needed a big break that has been eluding him for long. He bought religiously without fail one lottery ticket each month as he strongly believed in the dictum that God helps those who help themselves and that lottery ticket may provide the medium for God to bless him with a windfall. It saddened him each month when the results were out that his time had not come. He hoped that   Vinayaka idol he bought would soon prove to be his mascot and bring him great wealth.
He kept the idol in puja shelf and placed a flower at the base. He reasoned with his wife Vimala that the small amount was well spent instead of on onions and that Vinayaka would before long bring the family good fortune. Though she did not share his optimism, Vimala made no comment.
As you have guessed it rightly, it was a month later that Ganesh hit a jackpot winning Rs 25 lakhs in a lottery. He jumped in joy and hugged his wife with the ‘Did I not tell you” look. Things improved for them vastly and they could get some comforts in life. Special prayers were held for Vinayak.
A week later while they were in the bed, Vimala told him “Our neighbour’s wife Lalitha is carrying. They have a girl already and the couple wants a boy this time. She was wondering whether we can spare our idol for six months till they get the son. I assured her that I would seek your approval. What do you say?”
Ganesh was reluctant to part with his mascot but changed his mind when his wife said” I feel we should share things that would give joy to others. That way Vinayaka would be pleased with us and bless us more”
A few  months later Vimala came running to Ganesh in tears from Lalitha’s house and said amid sobs ‘That ungrateful Lalitha accuses us for her plight as the idol we lent her brought her ill luck with twin girls instead of a son she wanted. There was a hostile look at me from her husband. What can we do if it is their karma? We gave Vinayak only because she wanted”
“Forget those foolish people. What a crap and who said girls are bad luck? Both our kids are girls. Are we not happy and feel blessed? Get the idol back soon” said Ganesh.
With idol back in puja place, Ganesh was happy at the thought of protective cover of the God. Things were moving smoothly till one day Ganesh’s brother Raghu who was rarely in touch with him surprisingly visited him. Seeing Ganesh in reasonable comfort unlike in the past, he was overcome with jealousy but concealed it cleverly.
”Ganesh,I am happy to see you well settled. I learn you got a promotion too. Our mother was telling all these had happened because of a Vinayaka idol you had acquired. You know I run our dad’s old grocery store in the village. It is not doing well. Branded a rebel and an atheist in younger days, I am not getting anyone to marry me.Amma suggested that I get your Vinayaka idol and pray for things to turn prosperous for me. Can you please lend me for one year?” he asked. Ganesh could smell alcohol and surmised he had not changed.
They had lunch together and Ganesh gave some money separately for Raghu and his mom along with the idol.”Keep the idol carefully.Vinayaka confers His blessings if you pray sincerely with faith. Get rid of vices and work hard. I am sure you will do well” advised Ganesh.
A fortnight later there was a message from his village asking him to come immediately. It was dusk by the time he went there. His mom’s house was dark with no light lit. He pushed the door to find it unlocked. At the corner on the floor was his old mother lay huddled.
“Amma, what happened? Why is there no light? Where is Raghu?”he asked many questions as he lifted his mother to sitting position. She started crying inconsolably.
It transpired that Raghu immediately on returning with the idol started preparing for a puja.His friends who came mocked at him and made fun of him for this. He left the idol as it was and went out with his companions only to return late night fully drunk. It appeared in a few days he sold the grocery store and eloped with a married woman.
“Did he give you any money I had sent?” Ganesh asked
“What money? He always beats me and takes away from me and has never given anything” she said.
Ganesh returned home with his aged mother and the idol wondering all the time whether  the events that took place were in any way connected to Vinayak idol or one’s karma. True Raghu got some hard cash and a woman he was wanting though illegal in means. There was no short answer to this question that rankled in his mind till his wife assured him that faith in God is personal and the idol is indeed a blessing for them.