Monday, August 22, 2016

Paramasivam’s bequest

I rushed back from Bengaluru, on hearing the sudden demise of my maternal uncle Paramasivam. Despite his advanced years, he was reasonably healthy with no ailments. Lean and lanky, he never missed his daily walks till recently. His cook Sundaram, a bachelor, who has been with him for 30 years zealously ensured he ate limited but healthy food. My uncle treated him like a brother and their affection for each other was great but was muted not easily visible for others.
Paramasivam, a very wealthy man with huge landed property, several houses at Chennai, Coimbatore and Salem where he hailed from, unfortunately lost his wife in his late forties. He did not marry again but brought home a young woman, Selvi by name, from Salem, whose antecedents were not known. I have gathered from hearsay that her past was shady but somehow inveigled into uncle’s heart. She brought along with her a boy, who she claimed as her brother’s child. The boy was put in best school and college till he eventually became a pharmaceutical graduate presently working in Mumbai. He had come on a vacation when this sad event occurred.
 My mother till she was alive never spoke to her brother angered by his living with an unknown woman. I had pleaded in vain with my mom that it was none of our business to judge what uncle did and with whom he lived. But, I maintained cordial relations with my rich uncle hoping it would be beneficial in the long run.
The spacious hall where his body lay was crowded with people. A few from his native place in Salem were also seen. Though there was a pall of gloom, no one seemed to be in great grief save the cook Sundaram who was seen wiping his eyes frequently with his towel. Selvi looked dazed sat in a cornet unable to digest the suddenness of the calamity. Somehow I had never taken a liking for Sundaram with his show of undue deference that I suspected was fake. The dislike must have been mutual. I was rebuked once by my uncle when I spoke something against Sundaram.
While the purohit was busy with rituals for taking the body for cremation, there was a sudden commotion when two or three policemen headed by an inspector entered the house There was a hushed silence with all eyes filled with unknown fear and an avid curiosity to know the reason for their presence. No one dared to ask why they had come on such a solemn occasion till the inspector announced after gently coughing that there was a call from an unknown person informing that there was something amiss with the old man’s death and needed an investigation. Everyone turned around looking at other faces for a clue about the informant. The eyes rested a tad longer on Sundaram and me. I wiped my face with kerchief unable to overcome this oblique insinuation. Sundaram on the other hand was cool as cucumber.
The samples of the blood and viscera were collected and the inspector asked the priest to defer the cremation till next day and keep the body in the freezer till then.
The inspector asked the inmates of the house and close relatives to stay back permitting others to leave. One could hear the people who left wondering loudly whether there was some mischief in Paramasivam’s unexpected demise.
Two constables were left outside the house and the inmates were asked in stern tone to remain within the house till next day morning when the lab results would be known. Uncle’s bedroom was locked. The purohit was asked to come next day. I did not like the stentorian and authoritative manner of the inspector but avoided rubbing him on the wrong side. An attempt by the cook to fetch vegetables from outside failed as the sentry did not allow him to go out.
The next day morning Selvi was called inside the study by the inspector first. She was asked, it transpired later, what her relationship with the deceased was like, whether she was married to him secretly in any temple and why her brother’s son was with her instead of brother and whether she was aware of any will made by Paramasivam or discussions held regarding disposal of the property after his death.
She had replied though not married legally despite her many requests to him they lived like a married couple and that he had indicated he would not leave her in lurch. She confessed she was a sex worker before she met Paramasivam. She did not know whether he had made a will but he had a lawyer friend. Her answers about brother’s son were vague, neither helpful nor did she know about her brother’s whereabouts. She discussed freely about Paramasivam’s nephew and the cook expressing her opinion about them. I know of her deep dislike for me. A police doctor collected blood samples of Selvi and her brother’s son despite their protest.
It was my turn next and I went in with some unease as I have had no such experiences in the past. The Inspector asked after some pleasantries, “Gopal, I hear you are close to your maternal uncle despite your mother’s staunch dislike for him. What was it that brought you close to him? Were there any common interests like hobbies, games, literature or politics?”
 “Nothing like that. It was a natural affection. He was my only uncle and led a lonely life. He had helped me financially for my studies. He was a good and pleasant natured man bearing no grudge even against my mom,” I said
“Do you visit him often and did you recently bring eatables like sweets and confectioneries?”
“Why do you ask? Was there anything wrong with lab results?” I asked rather jolted by the implied question.
  “Answer my question,” he curtly said
“Yes, I visit him once in a month or two. I do not fetch him any eatables except multi vitamin tablets for his general health. He would not otherwise buy for himself saying it was unnecessary. But he took them when I brought them. Is there anything wrong in the results? “I asked.
“Where do you buy the tablets?”
“In a reputed pharmacy of a well-known hospital.” I replied.
“Okay, please do not leave the house till I permit you. I will call you later after talking to other members of the family,” he said.
Sundaram was called in. The inspector came out alone and talked to a couple of his men in hushed manner. All members were asked to remain seated in the living room. When he went in, everyone heard a long wail from Sundaram bemoaning his loss. “He was like my elder brother and brought this orphan up with utmost affection. I have been orphaned again,” he went on grumbling loudly till Inspector asked him to stop.
“Tell me who gives him his food daily. Does he come to the dining hall or food taken inside?”
” Earlier he used to have his meals in the hall. Of late all things are taken to his room by me. He does not walk much complaining of tiredness”
“All thing means, what?”
“Morning coffee, breakfast, lunch, evening tea and dinner,” he replied
“Does he take any medicines?”
“Yes, Sir, I give him a vitamin tablet after breakfast. Gopal brings couple of bottles of these tablets once a month or two.”
Meanwhile one constable entered and said “We made intense search of the kitchen but could find only these medicine bottles deep inside the bottom drawer of a cupboard.”
Turning to Sundaram, “These seem the vitamin tablets we were talking about. Why are they kept in kitchen when the medicine is intended for the master?” asked the inspector.
“It is easy for me to take it with breakfast without forgetting,” he replied. The inspector did not ask him why they were kept deep inside the bottom shelf.
“I understand your concern for your master. What will you do now? Where will you go? “asked the inspector in a sympathetic tone.” Do you think the master would have left something for you?” he added.
“He told me once not to worry about my future after he is gone and that he would provide enough for my comfortable living.” he replied.
Ï am not so sure as you are. These rich people often forget those who had served them sincerely. He might have left the entire thing for the woman and Gopal,” said the inspector provoking him to react.
“No sir, he will never do that. He is a kind hearted man and a philanthropist. I once overheard his speaking to his lawyer recently how much to provide for each. I could not hear fully as Selvi amma suddenly came” Sundaram said  
The next day the inspector had Selvi and her son, Sundaram and me brought to the police station. He had already discussed with the lawyer about the details of the bequest. It seems that Paramasivam had left 70% for charitable purposes,15% for Selvi,10% for Sundaram and 5% for me with cash balance for miscellaneous
Sundaram was taken inside and told the tablets contained slow poison that made him weak and kill in due course.The inspector said," I learn from Gopal that the bottles are given with seals unbroken. It is evident that someone in the house had tampered with medicine." Sundaram put on a show of injured innocence professing his gratitude for his master and pleaded ignorance about their being poisoned. He could not explain satisfactorily why the bottles were kept hidden when the tablets are intended for daily use.
A mild treatment by the constables inside a cell in the lock up was enough to break his will power and he began to sing.  Selvi and her son (not brother’s as already corroborated by DNA test) along with Sundaram hatched a plan to get the money quickly. Her son brought from Mumbai the poisonous drug that resembled the vitamin tablet. Sundaram also confided after another beating to his amoral relationship with Selvi.
When accosted with such evidence, Selvi broke down and confessed her complicity. The three were arrested and I was asked to go home urgently to attend to the final ceremonies of the departed uncle.
 Police were tight lipped where from the initial call came and passed the buck to lawyer to reveal to whom and in what proportion would the wealth go if Selvi, her son and Sundaram were very likely convicted for murder.

Monday, August 8, 2016

A bid to abort a suicide

Amit had just graduated from his old motorbike to a small car. To be precise, he bought a Maruti Zen from a used car dealer two days back for a price that was affordable and reasonable. He had taken a mechanic who certified to its good condition. He had the seat covers replaced and took the car out for the first time with much pride for going to his office.
As he sat in the car and opened the glove compartment to keep some packet, he chanced upon an envelope that remained stuck at the top of the box. He had failed to locate it earlier when he examined the glove compartments. The envelope was addressed in a female hand writing ‘To whomsoever concerned’ in big and bold letters. It was not closed by paste or cello tape. Out of curiosity, he pulled out the sheet and started reading. There was initially a frown that turned into a worry with beads of sweat on his forehead. He switched on the air conditioner.
With no intention to keep you in the dark, the letter read thus:
Dear Vikram,
When you get to know about my fate, I would be lying bundled in a white sheet along with many other dead bodies in the icy cold mortuary of a hospital, most likely the one close to my apartment. The doctors would have pronounced me dead on arrival and a postmortem would have indicated overdose of sleeping tablets as the cause. I know the body would be claimed by none and least by you
I am forced to take my life out after all my pleas to you to marry me, with an unborn child in my womb through you, fell on your deaf ears. You forgot your repeated promises to marry me within a year of our moving together in your ramshackle room. We have lived together for two years even as you were searching for a job that had always eluded you. I am not saying you lived off me but the fact is you had no income of your own except what I gave you and what you took from mine without my knowledge.
When you drove me out of your room, I could surmise you must have acquired a richer but dumber catch than me and most probably moved into her place. It was a tough decision for me to take the life of an innocent unborn child along with mine but I had no option as I have none worth calling my own.
Beware, I will not let you go scot free for the treachery you committed and will leave enough leads for law enforcers to get you to justice.
I sold my car and my flat three days back to leave the proceeds to a destitute women’s home. This took some time. I am not complaining to police beforehand lest they prevent me from the contemplated step. But I have devised means for the authorities to find their way to you soon when you least expect them. I intend to take my life this Thursday night
I hate you from the bottom of my heart and my soul would rest in peace only when you are condemned to lifelong cell.
Amit did not waste a minute as the day was the said Thursday. He thought if only he could reach the woman in time, he can save her life. He rushed to the used car depot to find to his great luck the owner. Without mincing words, he explained the gravity of the matter and gave the letter to the owner.
He read it carefully and said, “I don’t think the woman who sold the car a few days back appeared depressed. She was smiling and bargained hard to get a good price. There is something wrong here.”
“No, she might have tried to get more money for the destitute home. That is not a valid reason. Again why reveal her troubles to strangers? I think it is better to meet her and hand over the letter to her. If she seems suicidal in tendency, we must do something to save her life,” Amit implored.
“I agree this needs to be explored quickly. I will give her address. It is good not to give a ring as it may alert her. I cannot leave the depot as no one else is here. Please hurry up. If you need my help, do give me a ring. The workmen would have come by then,” he said,
As Amit rang the bell of the apartment, there was no response. He put his ears on the door to see if there is any movement inside. Luckily he heard soft film music giving him hopes of finding her. The name board indicated Kokila assuring he had not come to a wrong apartment. He pressed the bell long and repeatedly. When he put his ear on the door, he heard a faint voice, “Please wait. I am having shower.”
In a few minutes, the door opened and he found a tall, young and beautiful woman clad in bright colored sari and drying her hair with a towel. She had a smiling face as she said, “Sorry, I made you wait. I haven’t met you earlier. What is it you want?”
“I am Amit. I bought your Maruti Zen,” he said as she interrupted him telling, “I have already sold the car. Any complaint you have, you must talk to the depot chap.”
“No, I have no complaint about the car but chanced to see your letter in the glovebox of the car. It was an unusual and serious letter and I wished to waste no time. I took off from my office, went to depot and got your address. I came to dissuade you from any rash step. If you permit, I can discuss with you in your drawing hall,” he said giving her his card and the letter.
“I am extremely sorry for lacking in common civilities. Please come in and be seated,” she said as she also sat beside him opening the letter and reading it. After reading a few lines she burst into uncontrollable laughter holding her sides unable to restrain.
After it subsided, she said “There is nothing to panic or worry. I am Kokila no doubt and in the most cheerful mood. I have no intention of taking my life out now or ever especially when I have not lived it fully. Banish the thought of any suicide by me. What are you Amit? I am really touched by your deep concern for a stranger’s life. We rarely come across such type.”
“Tell me first about the letter and why you wrote it,” asked Amit sort of unconvinced with her bonhomie.
“Okay, I will tell you. It is part of a script for our office drama we are planning to enact where the characters have their own real names. This is amenable to verification, if you do not trust me. That Vikram is my boss, a decent and happily married guy with two children,” she said with a large smile. She continued “We really need to celebrate your genuine effort by having your breakfast with me now. It is Spartan though with fluffy idlies and chutney along with a large glass of orange juice. We can then head to our respective offices. Incidentally I bought a new medium sized car and I will show it to you when we get down,” she said proffering her hands to shake.
He took them with alacrity even as Cupid got busy.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Gold waist belt (Oddiyanam, kamar patta)

While Lord Vishnu was reclining on the thousand hooded serpent Adisesha on the great ocean, a strange idea struck Him. Not one in a million is praying devoutly for His vision but  all only for some material benefits. Why not surprise the first human being He accosted by appearing in his presence in the form as He is generally perceived when He is least expected and grant him a boon? The word would spread around and many would start thinking of Him and wishing for His darshan (vision).
He then descended on the earth dressed in peetambaram yellow cloth with a crown, the wheel(Chakra), Sangha(conch), Gadha(Mace), Kundala (ear rings) and various gold ornaments studded with precious gems and adorned with garlands of flowers and sacred beads. It was around 8pm already dark in the desolate road of a small city. He chose to wait without getting into the crowded area. The halo around Him gave enough light and visibility for a passerby to see Him. There was a dim lamppost too.
It was by a stroke of luck that police constable Manickam had just finished his beat and was proceeding towards his home on this stretch. He could not believe his eyes when he saw the dazzling figure standing a little yonder. He rubbed his eyes to make sure what he saw was real and not an apparition. He hurried his steps swinging his baton vigorously to show his power.
Vishnu smiled at him beatifically and said “Hello”.
In his typical irreverent way, Manickam asked Him, “Who are you in disguise like a God? Are you from a drama or film troupe come out without changing the make up? What are you up to?”
“No, Manickam, I am real God. You are very fortunate to be the first person on whom I set my eyes in earth,” Vishnu answered with a smile that enhanced the beauty of His lotus like lips.
“Hey, what guts you have to address me by name? Even the hardened thug speaks to me with back bended and hands covering his mouth. I will put you in the lock up for impersonating God and duping people. Beware,” Manickam spoke in anger.
“Do not be foolish and waste your God sent chance. I have come here to give you one single item you want. Do not have any doubt about my identity. I am very much the real God. Don’t you see the halo around me? Ask me what you wish,” Vishnu replied.
“Are all the jewelry you are wearing made of gold or in cheap metal as we have in drama theater? Answer me first that point,” Manickam asked eyeing all the time what item would be best for his wife Anjali. He had never purchased even a gram of gold despite the money he made on side most of which goes for his booze.
“They are real made of 24 carat gold and the gems are all genuine. Choose what you want but remember only one item,” He said with an impish smile.
A though struck Manickam. What if this person is real God and should I be foolish to let go this rare chance? The gold belt on his waist is quite wide and should weigh heavily. He can even melt it and make enough jewels for his wife and daughters. As of now Anjali would look captivating with this gold waist belt even though she was a bit stodgy.
“Okay, I trust you.  I will take your waist belt for my wife, but If it turns out to be cheap metal, I would not hesitate for a moment to put you in lockup when I see you next. No one dares to cheat Manickam and go scot free,” Manickam said.
“Here is it. Take it home carefully hidden lest someone robs you. I hope you will remember me henceforth daily, “Vishnu said and disappeared instantly.
Manickam felt the waist belt heavy and gloated over his luck as he hurried home.
“My darling, come quickly and see what I have brought for you. You will look mesmerizingly beautiful in this gold belt that is four inches wide with many gems studded. Do not complain anymore that I do not love you. Come near me, sweetie, and I will tell you how I got it for you without anyone knowing about it,” said Manickam
The next moment there was a sledge hammer blow on his head and he heard his wife Anjali with her hands on her hips  screaming at the top of her voice, “You worthless two-timer, who cannot keep me happy all these years, want to give a golden belt to your darling lover.You are thinking of her even in your dream. How long this treachery has been going on behind my back. Who is that cheap woman you call your sweetie?Tell me now I will break her back.”
Poor Manickam rubbed his eyes as he got up from the bed aware that he had overslept and that a long day of haranguing awaits him.

Monday, August 1, 2016

A letter from lover

Deepika had sprained her neck and taken a day off. The pain was not unbearable and she was watching an Australian chef program, not that she was fond of cooking or in trying new recipe. The music was also playing from her mobile. She liked to eat out just like her husband Anirudh. They had similar tastes and were a loving couple. There was one point however they had different views. She wanted a child being married for three years and he wanted her to defer the plan and was also vague when would be the proper time.
It was then she heard the doorbell. It was the young security guard from Bihar who stood with an envelope in hand. He asked for Anirudh and when she told him that he would be late in coming, he handed over the letter with much hesitation. It was correctly addressed to Anirudh,312, Beach view apartments though his second name Sharma was omitted. There was an initial K at the left bottom. It was a plain envelope stapled to secure the content with a cursive female handwriting.
“Who gave this letter to you? It does not seem to be from post office or courier?” she asked.
“Madam, one lady came in a car and requested me to deliver the letter personally to him as she was in a hurry,” he replied.
“Did she say personally? Was she young or middle aged?” she asked.
“A young lady like you, madam, in jeans and T shirt,” he replied with unsolicited extra information.
As she entered her bedroom wondering who that K could be, there was a gentle perspiration. She switched on the AC and turned the envelope many times. When she smelt, she sensed a gentle fragrance of a perfume. This upset her. She got up from the bed and drank a glass of cool water. She walked up and down the room trying to recollect any known woman with name starting in K. None of her friends or the wives of his friends he brought home had such a name. His personal assistant was one Sulochana about whose shoddy work he always griped. She felt a creeping head ache.
Normally they do not open each other’s personal letters. But this stapled carelessly evidently carrying no confidential messages. After some hesitation, she opened the envelope taking care not to break the staple pin.
“Anirudh dear,
You had promised to visit me last evening. I was waiting eagerly for you after asking the maid to cook the dinner quickly and leave early. There was no call or message from you about any change in your program. Your phone was also switched off. It is more than a week since we met. Why do you punish me like this?
I had specifically requested the security chap at your gate to hand the letter personally in your hands. Please ring me immediately you see this.
Yours as always
Deepika could not believe what she read and an improbable treachery. This cannot be true as Anirudh loved her so much, a god fearing and a very decent guy not given to any vices. But she remembered that he came late one-day last week and went to bed without eating complaining tummy upset. Could this be the day he met her and was it the first time? She went for a painkiller and tranquilizer as her head was splitting with ache.
She rang up in vain many times his number and then through switchboard contacted his steno to be told that he was busy in a high level meeting. In anger she threw herself on the bed and skipped her lunch.
She must have dozed off till she felt someone shaking her to wake up. It was Anirudh who said “Are you not well? Why are you sleeping at this hour? My secretary told me you rang for me and that there was urgency in your tone. I left the office immediately after the meeting. What happened?”
“Were you in your office or outside reveling? Did you tell your secretary to tell me you were busy in a meeting? How is your tummy? Any upset again as in the last week?” she bombarded him with questions.
“Deepika, what are you blabbering? Are you mad or what?” he asked in disbelief at her anger and abrasive tone.
“Here is the letter from your dearest K wanting another tryst with you. What audacity has she to send her love letter in a stapled envelope to our house?” she screamed.
As Anirudh perplexed somewhat was about to open the stapled envelope, there was a bell. When he went to answer, she also followed him hurriedly. It was the same Bihari security chap.
“Madam, galati ho gayi (There was a mistake. That letter is for Anirudh Srivastava saheb jo upar rahte hain (the one residing above) at 412.He asked me whether a lady had given me a letter for him and why I had not given. I realized then the mistake and ran up here,” he said.
Deepika grabbed the letter from her husband   and handed it over to the guard. She dragged the confused Anirudh to the bedroom saying “galati ho gayi, sorry” even as she hugged and smothered him with smooches.