Friday, April 21, 2017

Flash fiction

It was around 8am Ananthan was talking on the landline phone in the drawing hall. He seemed deferential in tone and all attentive. The caller must have been his senior boss on urgent matter.
His six-year-old son came running to the hall and tugged his shirt calling “Papa, come with me”. He looked at his child angrily and signaled with his hands to remain quiet,
The little boy did not stir but pulled him more vigorously and said sobbing “Papa, come quickly. You can talk on phone later.”
Balancing the receiver on the ear and simultaneously cupping it near the mouth with one hand, Ananthan slammed the boy on his back and pushed him away even as he shouted, “You dirty scoundrel, get lost from here before I kill you.”
The boy who fell down rose up immediately and clasped his dad’s legs crying inconsolably and telling, “Papa, amma has fallen down on the kitchen floor and not answering. Fire is burning big all around. I am terribly afraid. Come immediately
Ananthan dropped the receiver and ran towards the kitchen shouting “Why did you not tell me earlier, you fool,” even as he heard a loud sound from the kitchen side.
The Saviour
Gunaseelan was waxing eloquent at the local Corporation school on Children’s day on his concern for children and the gross violations of Child Labour Act. There was a large crowd of children and their parents, mostly mothers.
He thundered on “It is highly deplorable that in our country that tender children who should be studying in primary and elementary schools are employed in tea shops, tailoring, provision stores, eateries, match factories and fireworks units toiling all day long in unhealthy conditions. The Child Labour Act specifically prohibits children below some age limit from employment.
It may be said that the poor parents themselves send their children for work to augment family’s income. Still it is illegal as it barters away the children’s golden future for narrow temporary selfish ends. I strongly condemn this practice and vouch to take it up for stricter enforcement of laws. I would plead in the legislature for a special grant of monthly allowance of Rs. 1000 to children in BPL families. The quality of mid-day meal should also be greatly improved and books and notebooks given free.”
There was an audible appreciation with loud clapping for a long time. Gunaseelan was happy at the good impression he had made before the parents particularly two months ahead of the elections.
He concluded his speech with a loud statement in his stentorian voice, “Every child found working is a stigma to this constituency and particularly against me. I am sure you would extend your support to fulfill my pledge made before you .”
As he alighted from the car past 11pm and entered his house, he shouted “Meenakshi, send that boy Babu to my bed room. My legs are aching after a long day of speeches.
As he lay on the cot in the air conditioned room with his legs stretched, the eight-year-old kid Babu in his shorts and banyan was seen standing massaging the man’s legs continuously. At frequent intervals the leader was admonishing the boy, “You dirty scamp, massage properly giving good pressure. If you do not do well, I will flog you and starve you.”
It was more than an hour and the leader was seen dozing with a soft snoring. The room had turned cold. The hungry and sleepy boy slightly slackened a bit prompting the leader to get up and give him a sharp cuff (குட்டு) on his head with his closed fingers. “Rascal, are you sleeping when I dozed a bit? I will skin you alive you scoundrel “exploded the great saviour of children.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The distant rainbow

Palani, an incurable alcoholic beat his wife Bhagyam daily in the evenings for money. A lazy loafer, he brought no money for the house. With three young children to feed, Bhagyam worked hard in many houses. Life was a monotonous daily grind with nothing to enthuse and only back breaking work all day long. It was the last week of the month with not a grain of rice let alone other essential ingredients to cook a broth. The left overs she brought from houses where she worked hardly helped to keep even the kids from hunger especially at the end of month.  In desperation she often toyed with idea of suicide along with kids but would abandon such thoughts when she saw their trusting eyes and start visualizing a better tomorrow
Palani was tottering to get up after getting fully drunk at a cheap arrack shop when a friend by his side proffered a twenty-rupee note saying that it was found by the former’s side.
“It is not mine, I have spent all my money” Palani mumbled but the equally inebriated friend insisted it was his and added “You are ruining your life by drinking. What have you done for your wife and kids so far? Surprise them with some snacks with this.
 The confused Palani took the money and started ambling towards his home. Pricked by the taunt of his friend, he was filled with remorse when he thought of Bhagyam and the children. As he vowed that he would stop drinking, he saw the shop selling molagai bajji (chillies bajias) and other namkeens. He took molagai bajjis wrapped in old newspaper and hurried in his unsteady walk.
This particular evening, Bhagyam had made gruel from broken rice she had borrowed and diluted liberally with tangy butter milk she had brought from a household Hardly adequate, it only kindled more hunger. Each one had a large glass with some quantity kept for Palani.
The chimney lamp was flickering starved of kerosene in the dimly lit dark hut. As Palani entered, he saw the children jumping with joy amidst peals of laughter. Bewildered he saw a smiling Bhagyam with her eyes glued on a small TV placed on a rickety shelf covered by his lungi, a freebie from the generous government ahead of a municipal poll. He too joined the gaiety and danced with the kids happy with the new bounty. In the commotion, the packet of molaga bajjis lay uncared for on the floor. The distant rainbow is more enchanting than a small blessing on hand.