Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Early buyer’s gift

I wish to end the year on a happy note.Here is an old and very short story to that end. Happy New Year to my readers
It was early in the morning. The old lady tried to reach the toy on the top shelf but she could not succeed. A young man who was in the same aisle rushed to her aid. When he handed over the toy, her eyes gleamed and asked him to check whether it is suitable for a boy of eight years. It appeared that she had forgotten her glasses. He looked at the details and found it was suitable..
She said “It is for my grandson. He has been wanting a remote controlled helicopter for his birthday. How much does it say it costs?”
“30 dollars.”
“Oh, oh. That is expensive. Please keep it back” she said.
“What was the price you were willing to spend?” he asked her softly.
“Why? Do you work here? My budget is around 15 dollars.  Is there any sale?.” she asked expectantly.
“No sale. But we are giving a gift to the first buyer today in the toys section” He pulled out a gift card from his pocket and said “. Here is a gift card for 15 dollars. You now pay only $15. It is a good deal. Happy birthday to your grandson” he said as left her in a hurry presumably to another aisle.
The old woman was grateful to Lord for her luck and walked briskly to the counter and said “Thanks for the gift scheme for the first buyer from your shop. I really appreciate it”
The surprised counter clerk said “What gift scheme? We have none such presently.”
The lady indignantly told her “Better check with your supervisor. Just now the young man in charge gave me the gift card. That is meant for the first buyer, he said. Please see this. Why should I tell you something that is not true?”
“Madam, this is a gift card presumably bought from this store by the young man. For your information there is no male employee in the toys section”
It then struck her that it was a kind gesture by the young man to an old lady who couldn’t afford a 30 dollar present for her grandson. She looked around only to find that he had left.

We can do no great things, only small things with great love”. ~Mother Teresa

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The early morning flight

“I have requested you countless times not to leave by early morning flights. You not only trouble yourself but also put everyone in the house to considerable inconvenience. I don’t know why you persist in harassing others!” exploded Sumitra in anger at her husband.
Murali replied softly “Why do you have to raise your voice? Our office is into austerity-drive since the last year. We are avoiding night’s halt in a starred hotel. We leave in the morning and return by the evening flight. As a senior executive, I cannot myself break the rule. How does my early morning departure affect you anyway?”
“Ha,ha! How considerate you are to others”:she replied in mocking tone, should She added”The whole house is woken up at 3 a.m. as if it is Deepavali night. Lights are on in the hall, kitchen and everywhere. You may plead you get up only at 4a.m. but you should not forget you are the cause of early morning bedlam. You wake me up at 5 a.m. asking whether I have seen your new pair of socks or spare kerchiefs. You don’t pack your things in advance in the previous night itself and raise a hell at the eleventh hour.
I am not going to put up anymore with all this nonsense of yours! Our child and I will go to bed at 10 p.m. sharp bidding you bye. We will not wake up to see you off. Do remember not to set the alarum in our bedroom. You wake up by your own device and go out of the bedroom quietly, remembering to close the door”Sumitra said unrelentingly.
“Don’t be telling lies. It is my mother who gets up early in the morning to switch on the geyser, boil milk and make coffee. Dad remains awake to wake her up as she cannot hear the alarum. Mom even offers to quickly make some upma or dosa. Most of the days, you keep snoring loudly in deep sleep even when I leave the home for airport,” contested Murali.
Rajamani Iyer and Kaveri were listening to the heated conversation in the adjacent hall from their room but kept quiet. They knew that it was best not to intervene in their discussions however untrue the statements hurled were. Murali, being a marketing man, frequently went on short tours of a day or two. He always took the early morning flights. However careful and quiet one tried to be, there are bound to be noises of the doors opening, the running water, the shower and the conversations with his hard-of-hearing mother.
Iyer would hardly sleep those nights, switching on the light now and then and waiting for the alarum to ring and Kaveri waiting for him to nudge her. They would get up at 3 a.m., get the hot water and coffee ready and keep waiting for the clock to strike four to wake up Murali .He would not get up on time and as the clock ticked by, the aged mother would get restless and the old man will be walking from one end of the hall to the other. Fifteen minutes past 4 a.m., Kaveri would go near the door of the bedroom and call gently “Murali, Murali, it is getting late.” There would be no response for a while but Iyer would hear Sumitra telling Murali in a low voice that his parents were calling.
He would finally come out hurriedly around 4.20 a.m. and get ready in a jiffy, making loud noises and intermittent conversations with his parents. The TV would be on to catch the day’s news while his mother would have put the Sri Venkatesa Subrabatham on the tape recorder. When he left the house at 4.45 a.m., the house would turn very quiet like a sea-coast town after the hurricane had left.
This was the scene when Murali left this morning too. Iyer switched-off all the lights after his son left and retired to bed. Kaveri had already slept. Both of them who could hardly sleep in the night  tried to catch a few winks before the day broke.
At 6 a.m., the servant-maid rang the bell and finding no response, rang again. Normally Iyer would have kept the door slightly ajar and be waiting for the milk and the newspaper. But this day, he was fast asleep after the sleepless night.
Sumitra got up fuming at the early morning disruption to open the door. The maid asked “Where is the periyavar (old man)? Is he not well?”
Sumitra replied in an acerbic tone, “Nothing is wrong with him. They both are still sleeping like a newly-married young couple knowing well this donkey is there for all the drudgery. It is my fate.”
The maid who knew the truth, kept mum. The aged couple was blissfully asleep, unaware of the caustic comment of their bahu (daughter in law) whom they loved dearly like a daughter.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The missing pages

It was getting dark and cloudy with a nip in the air. I could see no one around in the park and did not wish to sit there anymore. As I was getting up from the bench, I saw a dark figure hurrying towards me. I could only see the silhouette signaling frantically with its hand to wait for him. I was a little jittery and wished to move away quickly. But, the figure was faster than me and was by my side asking me to sit down for a few minutes.
It was a tall and big man draped in black blanket with a long mustache. The eyes were big and sharp and the white teeth pronounced. He looked strange though he smiled at me.”Do not be afraid. No harm will come to you. I need a small help from you as you seem to belong to this place” he said.
I mustered courage to ask “Who are you? You don’t look like a human with your unusually large frame. Tell me first before I decide to help you or not”
“Ok, let me not beat around the bush. Hold your breath! I am a Yamaduta(messenger of God of death) looking for one guy in this town” he said
“Where does my help come?” I asked
“It is like this. Such a thing has never happened in the annals of Yamaloka. Our boss Chitragupta maintains a record that is known for its infallibility and accuracy. Strangely and inexplicably something that is unheard of, a few pages of the record is found missing. There cannot be vested interests tampering with records as in your world. We are moving heaven and earth to locate. Our master Yamaraj is furious and worried about his reputation.
By chance we came to know that one Sugavaneshwaran from this town is due to die today . I have no clue about him except for his name and town. I must take his life today if I value my job. You must tell me where that guy lives here. Luckily his name is uncommon and can be easily found out” narrated the worried Yamaduta.
I assured him “Do not worry. I was born here and am living all my life and know almost all the people here being in the postal department. Give me five minutes to think undisturbed. Ply me with no questions”
“Take even 30 minutes. You are my savior. But remember I have no clue except his name and town. Make sure you do not make a mistake”
An evil idea took over my mind. I have been under great financial strain. My landlord who lives a few houses adjacent to mine has been pressing for the rental that I owe for seven months. Three days back he made a scene outside my house with neighbours watching and threatened he would throw out my belongings outside if I failed to pay within a fortnight.
My wife had also been complaining that he frequented the house almost daily when I was not there casting his lecherous eyes on her and even obliquely suggesting a couple of times that the problem of arrear rental can be sorted out amicably.
This was a god send opportunity to solve my problem. I wasted no time. Pretending that I suddenly remembered the victim’s name, I uttered rather loudly “Eureka, I know where your quarry lives. I remember his name very well. Have no worry as your problem is solved.”
The Yamaduta jumped in joy and exclaimed “Where is he? Tell me here and now. I will carry out my assignment and be gone to my place in satisfaction.”
“The man lives close to my house. He is a short and fat fellow. He is middle aged and answers to the name Sugavaneshwaran. He is married…”
Even as I was continuing to describe, the fearsome man cut me short telling,” I don’t need all these details. I will rely on your word. Just show me his house. Is there any other man in the house to confuse me?”
I said none even as I pointed out my landlord’s house. He thanked me and disappeared in thin air.
The next morning my wife came running hurriedly as I was lazily rolling on my bed and said “I cannot believe it. It seems our landlord died of a sudden heart attack around 7Pm yesterday. The poor lady is wailing in great grief at this tragedy. Get ready .We will go there.”
The next day when I left early for work, my wife asked me why I was leaving earlier than my usual time. With a poker face I replied “I am going to Newspaper office to insert an advertisement changing my name to Sukumar from Sugavaneshwaran.”

Monday, December 15, 2014

Ranjana’s wedding anniversary

Ranjana felt honestly that her husband should have remained a bachelor and not married her at all. A good man, no doubt, he was not cut for married life .Wedded to office and a workaholic, he spent long hours in the office and whenever at home with the mobile talking office-matters. In these fifteen years of married life, she could remember only three occasions when he took leave from office to take her out on holidays. One was immediately after the wedding, taking her to the various temples that passed for a honey moon and the other two, when her parents had passed away.
But he gave her a lot of freedom to do what pleased her, ample money for running the household and for buying dresses and jewelry that she desired. But he never accompanied her nor did he insist her accompanying him to office parties. It is not that Ranjana was not good looking or unsophisticated. She was a tall and very beautiful woman with an all-India rank in professional accountancy examination.
The problem was his world was very small and revolved around his office. Unfortunately they had no children to provide occasions for them to be together. It is not that he did not love her. He had a warm affection and high regard for her. But he lacked the finer sensibilities of pleasing the woman and had to be reminded even about their wedding day or birthdays. She diverted her mind to literary pursuits and had a couple of published novels to her credit. She wrote for all leading magazines and was widely read. She however nursed a deep hurt in her heart at the wooden nature of Ravi despite the mechanical conjugal life they led devoid of demonstrated love.
It was 4pm on a Saturday when the phone rang at Ravi’s office. It was Ranjana reminding him that it was their wedding day and that he had promised to come earlier than usual. He looked at his watch and the note-sheets before him. With a frown on the face and affected tone of warmth he said “Ranjana, I am on the verge of finalizing the report to go to the Board tomorrow. I will surely come but may be held up a little. Get dressed and be ready. We will have our dinner outside. Thanks, darling, for reminding me.” He took two hours to finish the job and ignored meanwhile the calls from his residence. By the time he left, it was 6.45 p.m. and it was drizzling outside.
The parking lot in the office basement was deserted as most of the people had left. It was dark when he reached his car. He fumbled for the car keys and found to his dismay that the door would not open. He tried several times and jabbed the door when he heard a voice behind him “Hey, excuse me; you seem to have a problem.”
Startled Ravi turned to look at the slightly aged man, big built, in tattered clothes and three days’ bristle smiling at him in a twisted manner revealing his yellow teeth. He looked a bit unusual and a chill ran through Ravi’s spine.
He said “Yes the door lock is jammed. I am in a hurry to go home as it is our wedding day. But I haven’t seen you here all these years”.
The man came closer and said “I have been here for a very long time and even before you joined here. You have not seen me but I see you daily as I see others. I make myself visible only when everybody had left. You are foolish to have stayed this long especially on this day”
Struck by fear by the uncomprehending words and his unnatural demeanour, Ravi stood immobilized when the old man said “Move away a little. Let me open the door. Keep the keys with you.” Ravi immediately moved away looking at this strange man placing his strong hand on the door.
There was a sudden noise of the door ripping away from the car. He looked at the car with its front door missing and could see neither the old man nor the missing door. He had just vanished in a jiffy even as he heard the sound of laughter a little away. He quickly jumped into the car, started the ignition and sped away to the safety of the road. He was sweating profusely with goose bumps all over. When a cold hand touched him on his forehead, Ravi blabbered, “Please do no harm to me. My wife would be waiting for me. I have never taken her out for long. After a very long time, I have promised to take her out and make the day a memorable one. Please, I beg you to leave me unharmed.”
As the cold hand pressed him further and shook him violently, he started howling till he heard Ranjana, “Ravi, what is this you are blabbering in sleep?
“You have been sleeping from 3 p.m. ever since you came home. It is getting late. Get ready for the dinner at the hotel.”
 He opened his eyes and saw her beautifully dressed standing before him. There was no sight of the fearful strange man or the car park. He pulled her towards him to embrace her tightly and kissed her till she pulled herself away admonishing him that the maid was still there in the house.
“Ranjana, I have been a fool all along. I thought my life would be over today even before our celebrating the wedding day. I realize what I have missed all these days. I promise to give you lot of my time and make our lives a very happy one from this moment.”

She threw her arms over him and sobbed “I am so happy today. I was afraid we were moving apart. I thank your dream for opening your eyes at last.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Computer literacy at Perumbakkam

“Amidst all the boast of our IT supremacy, the nation wants to know the extent of computer literacy in the rural parts of our country. I know that in some states laptops were given free before elections to some children. But this hardly touches the fringe of the gigantic problem. Will the honorable minister explain what the government intends to do? ” thundered the much renowned anchor of a popular TV channel at the Minister.
“A good question. I have no ready information on this but can assure you that our government is determined to spread computer literacy hundred percent to the villages. This would strengthen the governance and bring people closer to the government” replied the minister.
It is not known whether it was a sequel to this conversation in the form of directions to schools but it is a fact that Saranya, Gomathi and Nirmala of class 12 were asked by the Principal of their school  to do a project about the spread of computer literacy among the women in the villages to be sent by the school to the Education Department. She suggested a visit to a nearby Perumbakkam the next day and advised the girls to meet the womenfolk who generally assemble at the Noon meal centre of the schools to find out how much they know about computer and its usage.
It was a small village, dusty and dry. They found a few mothers sitting under a long shed adjacent to a school that did the duty of the dining hall for the mid day meal. Some women were seen cooking. The assembled women stared at the girls as they alighted from the car. The girls who were exuding knowledge, confidence and prosperity introduced themselves in Tamil to the illiterate women and explained the purpose of their visit.
“First let us ask you people how much you  know of the knowledge revolution that has taken place in the country in general and computers in particular” asked Gomathi
“Pappa(Little girl), we don’t follow anything of what you are talking about. What do you, girls, want from us? asked one woman.
“Do you suspect that we have come here to eat the food prepared for children?”asked another woman.
No,no.We need to make a survey as desired by our school. Kindly help us with your answers” pleaded Saranya
“Ok,you can ask freely anything you wish to” said one women amidst the giggles of others.
“Have you seen a computer? How many of you have seen or using it? It has a monitor like TV” said Nirmala.
“Oh, yes, we have seen big TV in Ramu’s house though that miser will not permit us to see daily.. Occasionally we are allowed to see a  Rajini or MGR movie.”
“No, not the TV we mean. We are talking of computers. There is a keyboard like type writer to the pc (They make sign of typing).If you type,  the words will appear on the screen” explained Saranya
“Oh, you mean the small black box he presses to change the film from Rajini to MGR or Kamal?”
“I love Kamal” said one middle aged woman.
“You are referring to remote of the TV”
“Who said we are sitting remote. No, we sit very close to TV, not far. We can see Deepika’s face clearly” assured one woman.
Exasperated at their innocence,Gomathi said “Answer this clearly. When you type on key board do you see words on the screen?
“Words come at the bottom only when we see SunTV news”.
The girls were at their wits end. They then remembered the laptop in the car. They brought it and opened the machine. When they saw the screensaver in colour, the women in chorus shouted “What a cute little TV box? Don’t you need current for this?
“This is not TV. This is computer working on battery now. It works on data card also” said Gomathi
“We do not have Aadhar card yet.They are promising for years” said the women in one voice
“This is data card to operate the computer if you do not have power and internet”
“Where is electricity in our huts,papa.We are not interested in computer. Do not lie to us. Please show us at least Rajini movie.” pleaded the women
The girls asked in serious tone” Do you know about emails?”
“What, email, what is that?”
“The letters you send to friends through pc”
“We do not know to write or read. Are you playing with us or what?”asked one angry woman
Exasperated with their ignorance, they explained generally about personal computer, hard disc, modem, key board, Windows, emails, internet and Bill Gates to the blank faces. The womenfolk were all the time admiring these young and pretty girls who seem to know so much about things that have absolutely no relevance to them. They found their seriousness and smile charming. This encounter was a welcome change for them till the mid day gruel was ready. They had come to ensure that their wards get it in adequate quantity.
The girls thanked the women before leaving for the time given to them.They gave each one a talcum powder box.
The three girls with a smug smile on their faces submitted a neatly spiral- bound project report about the great strides the knowledge revolution has made and about the invasion of PC even in tiny hamlets and the access to internet by farmers for agriculture, weather and the good the government is doing for them and for the village school teacher to download study materials for the children. They also mentioned about the games the kids play in their free time on the computer. The project report  envisioned every hut in the villages to have a pc within a decade and suggested all high school girls should be provided with a laptop free.

The principal patted them for the wonderful report in the fond expectation of an appreciation for the school from the department.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The new problem

Raju was the only child of Rani and Krishnan. He was born seven years after their marriage after intense prayers at all famous temples. Krishnan had a small business in hardware and paints. They showered all their affection and pampered the boy meeting every wish of his. He was put in school with all fanfare. The boy was playful and had no interest in studies. He played truant frequently without the knowledge of his parents. He was at the bottom of his class and the report card indicated that he was absent many days.
Raju had not shown the card to his parents till the teacher sent word through another boy. Krishnan had set much store by the boy and was furious when he saw the progress report. More than the poor marks in single digits, he was worried about the boy’s truancy. He was afraid he may fall into bad company and develop undesirable habits.
 He hit the boy with a cane repeatedly till his wife screamed to stop it. He told her firmly before leaving for the shop not to give the boy any food for the night or allow him to go to play. Rani tried to pacify the boy and applied fomentation on the injury. The boy shouted at her and locked the door.
Around dinner time, when she went to knock the door, she found it open with no trace of the boy. She searched hither and thither in vain and alerted her husband. Despite all efforts the boy could not be traced. Police also drew a blank. Days passed by with the mother always crying and the father regretting his rash behaviour..The boy had just disappeared. Months and years flew by. Krishnan lost his interest in his business. They commenced again their pilgrimage to all temples to get back their boy.
They were travelling in a three tier compartment to Mathura and Brindavan in the North. The train had halted at Nagpur station.Rani was vacantly looking outside the window at the station that was heavily crowded with hawkers shouting to sell their wares. Chaiwallahs and orange sellers kept coming and asking her. She always nursed the fond hope that one day she can see Raju. But luck was not on her side. The train started moving slowly.
 She started crying and Krishnan patted her telling her that others are watching her. When she went towards toilet she saw a little away a boy of Raju’s age with his face bent polishing a shoe He had long hair that almost covered his face and was in tattered dress. As her attention was on the boy, she did not notice the server from the pantry car bringing tomato soup. He collided against her and she fell down on the boy.
The boy was stunned but recovered soon and lent a helping hand to lift Rani. The moment she saw the boy, she let out a shriek and wailed ”Raju,Raju,my dear boy, What is this? I am seeing you in such a pathetic state”
Krishnan on hearing the commotion ran towards her. He saw the boy and asked him his name. He replied in Hindi”Tiwari”
He knew he was not Raju as his son had a big mole on his chin.Rani was holding the boy and crying “Raju, please come home. I miss you so much. We swear upon god that we will never scold or beat you. My darling, please call me amma.”

The boy gave her a surprised look. Krishnan told her that he is not their Raju and led her towards their seats. The moment she sat, she saw all the co-passengers looking at her with sympathy and some wiping their misty eyes. It was then she suddenly broke into a hysterical laughter and  Krishnan knew he had a new problem on hand to pray for.