Friday, March 30, 2018

The case of the torn ticket stubs

Shraddha, generally a bubbly and lively person, was morose and brooding ever since her husband returned three days back from a tour. She had found accidentally a pair of torn stubs of cinema tickets from the pocket of Naveen’s pant while folding the heap of his clothes washed after his return. She had not gone in the recent past to any movie with him. The tickets were so crumpled and the letters faded, she could not find more details than that they were movie tickets. Naveen was not a movie person and gave in to accompany her only after much pleading from her. Who could be the other person, a female colleague or stranger, was she younger than her and more beautiful and was Naveen in relationship with her and whether that was why he went to Hyderabad frequently and similar such questions rankled her mind bringing in its wake a severe headache. Naveen was a good guy and loving husband, she was aware, but what worried her was if the woman was wily and snared him into her fold. She decided to confront him directly that evening.
On his return from office that evening, Naveen found the living room dark and switched on the lights to see Shraddha   sitting on the sofa with her eyes closed and hair disheveled.
“Aren’t you well or what? Why are you not dressed up ready to go out as you usually are?” Naveen asked with concern. She did not respond and continued to ignore his presence. Sensing something unusual, he went near her and put his hands comfortingly on her shoulders only to be shrugged away.
“If you do not tell me what is bothering you, how can I help you?” he asked gently
After some uncomfortable silence, she said, “I never expected this from you. I have always believed that you loved me. But you seem to have developed other interests,” and started sobbing.
“What crap are you talking? Why can’t you be forthright and tell me what is it you are trying to convey indirectly,” he asked in an irritable tone.
She ran inside and brought the pant, pulled out the torn tickets and thrust them on his hands saying “Do you need more proof of your cheating on me while on tour? Do remember we had not gone to any movie in three months. Come out with your excuse that you had gone with your male friend despite my knowing that you hate to go to movies.”
“Believe me, I have never gone to any movie after we went together whenever it was. I am hurt that you suspect me despite my abiding love for you,” he said. Suddenly he pulled the pant from her hands and examined it minutely as Holmes would do by turning it from one side to another and measuring it against his body. He finally spoke, “It is you who needs to explain a lot. This is not my pant, the waist is shorter in width and length longer than my size. Further I do not have a pant of this texture that is somewhat cheap. How has this come to our house? We do not go to dry cleaners at all. Whose pant is this? You may have to account for the mysterious presence of a stranger’s pant and possibly that of a younger and taller man than me?”  
Shocked at his veiled accusation, she could only mumble, “Frankly I don’t know how this has come here,” and snatched the pant and tickets from him only to examine them further. Not finding any clue. She threw away the tickets in disgust.
“No point in wasting time by examining the pant. Take your time and think of any plausible reason why a stranger’s pant is in our house. Do remember the adage that people in glass houses should not ….,” he trailed before she put her palm on his mouth screaming hysterically, “No, no. I swear in the name of god that I do not have an inkling of how this has come to our house. You must trust me and have faith in my words.”
“I thought faith was mutual and not one sided,” he said with a smirk. She started crying loudly.
He kept quiet watching her weeping inconsolably till he heard a knock on the door. It was the maid Krishnaveni with a man who could be her husband standing behind her. She looked disheveled with swollen eyes possibly after a bashing   from what seemed a drunk husband. “Can I speak to amma(Memsahib) urgently?” she asked.
Hearing her voice, Shraddha came rushing to door and asked her to come in side with the man left outside to wait.
“What is it you want to speak to me urgently at this hour? Why are your eyes swollen and black? Did he beat you for money again?” Shraddha asked in concerned voice.
“Amma, you must promise me not to throw me out for a mistake I committed. I have never done that and will not do again,” she implored looking alternately at Shraddha and Naveen.
“What are you blabbering? What mistake you committed? Have no fear. Tell me the truth,” Shraddha said looking at Naveen from the corner of her eyes.
“Amma, I will tell you the truth but promise me that you would not throw me out. My brother got a new pant for my husband for his birthday and this wretch of a man wore it when he went for booze and rolled on the wet road unable to stand up. I washed it many times at my home but the muddy stain would not go. Devil got into my head when I decided to put along with your husband’s clothes in the washing machine. Since you went out to your mom’s house, I could not take it out from the washing machine that day. As you had removed the clothes the next day, I could not muster the courage to ask you for the pant.
This wretch standing outside accuses that I had given the pant to someone else when I could not produce it and has been beating me ever since to tell him to whom I had given. When I told him that I had put in your washing machine and that I could not take it out, he would not believe me. Would you please save my marriage by locating the pant and giving it to me in his presence? It is dark in colour,” Krishnaveni spoke nonstop.
“Did you say save your marriage?” Shraddha smiled as she ran inside to fetch the pant and asked if that was the pant she was looking for.
The maid fell her feet and said “Amma, you will be blessed by God for ever. Yes, this is the one. Let me hand over to my husband so that he will stop suspecting me and beating me,” before rushing out.
Naveen gravitated towards her and drew her close to him with   both feeling embarrassed at their wild accusations. It was then Krishnaveni entered but stopped abruptly at the door only to retreat.
Shraddha freed herself from Naveen and called her to tell “Good, you are happy. Do not put your clothes again in the machine  without my permission. Come tomorrow for work as usual.”
“Small misunderstandings add spice to life. Get ready in five minutes, my dear We will eat out. I am famished,” said Naveen. Shraddha hastened to her room with a spring in her walk.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The treasure trove

I found this story of mine  in my documents and do not remember whether I had posted  it in the blog.I could not resist my temptation to post it now.
Veda and Rangan finished their dinner early. Their son and daughter were away at a New Year party at their cousin’s place in the adjacent complex. The couple was before the TV watching some programme that failed to grab their attention.
Rangan asked "Veda, have you thought of any New Year resolution? I know you will laugh when I say I have three ready for me. May be I have failed in the past to adhere to them but this year it would be different."
"Ha ha ha, you and your resolutions!!The ones you resolve over booze, you forget the next day. Never mind, tell me what they are for the coming year. At least they reveal your intentions," Veda said with a giggle.
“Mark this time. I am dead serious and do not intend to give up for they are important to me. I will tell you on condition you will tell me yours."
"Ok, I am all ears."
"Here they go. First one, I wish to go with you  on a long holiday that may include a Caribbean cruise and for this I will be careful with the money and not splurge."
“This seems two resolutions in one. Never mind. Very ambitious, what next?"she prodded
"The second one would be to reduce drastically eating out and have healthy food made by you at home"
""Mmmm, what is the last one?"
The last is not to lose my temper as frequently as I do now and be a little more demonstrative in my love for you," he concluded.
"Fiddlesticks, your resolutions are as impossible for you as weeding out corruption in our country,” Veda said with a loud laughter
“Can you be a little more specific instead of your usual vague ramblings?"
"I mean you are totally broke and poorer than a church mouse except for the paltry pittance you get each month as salary after all the deductions towards the various loans. Where is the money for holiday when we are finding hard to make both ends meet? What Caribbean, are you day dreaming?
As regards the second portion of your first resolution, you are already a miser. What splurge you are talking about? When did you buy for me anything worthwhile for me to show my people with pride? When did we eat out really except for the pani puri on the road side shops and alu tikia in the market? We have never gone for ages to a restaurant where you book tables in advance. Have you ever visited a good Chinese, Mexican or Italian restaurant? All you take us to are cheap joints with dirty cutlery and dirtier China with waiters in rags, “Veda said in a contemptuous tone.
"You filthy and ungrateful woman, don’t forget your roots. You were raised in a chawl born in a poor family going to free municipal schools. Despite my parents' reluctance, I married you because I liked your face. I have given you everything that you would have never dreamt of. What cheek you have to call me a church mouse or a miser, you brat?" Rangan shouted.
"You have now proved that you cannot control your mind or tongue and already failed in your third resolution. I have never expected any love, let alone the demonstrative part, from you. I am a drudge in this house toiling out of a sense of duty,” Veda said and went away sobbing  to the bedroom.
He switched off the TV, drank a glass of water and reclined on the sofa with closed eyes for a while before following her.
"Veda, sorry, I lost my wretched temper. I didn't mean to hurt you. I promise I will try my utmost to control myself, my dear. Please excuse me” he cringed
"It is ok.Nothing new to me. Shall I make a hot cup of drinking chocolate for you?" she asked
"No, no.I want you to tell me what your resolutions are. I assure you that I would not make fun of you" he pleaded
"My resolutions are more in the nature of prayers than any effort by me. I will pray daily for landing on a treasure trove that will fetch us enough money to send the boy and girl to US for further studies. Second one will be to curb my desires and expectations in day to day life. Thirdly, to do some voluntary work and help in finding resources for the orphanage from well to do" she said
"The last one is admirable and the second one is always desirable. Only the treasure trove part seems farfetched. No harm in praying of course .I am indeed blessed to have you" he said as he hugged her.
"Enough now of the demonstrative part of your third resolution” she said with a shy smile
The New Year came and Rangan was as short tempered as he was and the outings continued to be few and far between. The much expected annual raise also turned out to be meagre thanks to downturn in the economy. Life was a dull routine.
Three months later there was a registered letter addressed to Veda Rangan from a solicitor firm. Veda was afraid to open lest it be an ultimatum to pay back any of the several loans her husband had taken. She had put her signature in many of the loan applications.
In the evening when Rangan read the letter, he jumped in joy. Bewildered; Veda asked him the reason for his exultation. “Tell me first whether your mom had any brother in Malaysia, “ he asked.
“My mom had one brother. He fought with his father over a minor matter and ran away in his teen from the house. Heard he went to Singapore initially and the family completely lost touch with him. After several years he had come to our house and I had seen him. I was a young girl then. By then my grandparents had died. Seeing his sister’s indigent circumstances he used to send mom some remittances and that was the thing that saw us through. After mom’s demise the contact was lost. Why, is it a letter from him?””
“The letter is from his lawyers. He has left 25% of his wealth to you as he had no children from the Malaysian woman he married. He had left her the balance setting aside some portion for charities. This bequest is a mind boggling amount for us as he must have been very wealthy,” even as  he hugged her and said incoherently in utter disbelief and joy.
“My mom used to say he was a loving brother but very short tempered like you. So I hit a treasure trove thanks to the grace of God. Our dreams are now realizable,” she said even as she closed her tearful eyes with her hands folded in the direction of puja room.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The fortuitous realization

“Amma, why do you buy for Shanthi the same good quality and design of dress materials as ours for every occasion? She is after all our cook’s daughter,” questioned the two daughters Rohini and Chandra in chorus their mother Raji.
“I am greatly disappointed with your attitude. Do not be petty minded and jealous. She is also of your age living with us in our premises. Her mother has been working for us since the day I got married. I consider them a part of our family,” replied Raji with slight irritability.
Not mollified, the eldest Rohini said, “We are not petty minded. Only you seem large hearted in equating Shanthi with us. Hereafter we will select our own dress materials. You can buy anything that pleases you for her.” When Raji did not respond, they left the room in a huff. This was the first time she spotted their jealousy for Shanthi.
It was only then an earlier incident came to her mind. Shekhar was not in town. It was a Sunday when all of them were having breakfast, she noticed the two girls Rohini and Chandra were whispering to each other and giggling at Shanthi.
“What for are you both giggling staring at Shanthi? It is bad manners. Come out with your answer and till such time we will stop eating our breakfast,” Raji said in an irritated tone.
When they did not answer, she said “I am giving one last chance to tell me truthfully why you both smirked at Shanthi. If you do not come out, I would no more share the table with you two and would prefer to eat alone.”
Shaken by fear, Rohini blurted out, “We were wondering at the audacity of Shanthi although the Cook’s daughter taking the seat on the table even before we took ours.”
Raji flew into rage and told them curtly that Shanthi too was like the other two girls for her and that she would no more tolerate such silly behaviour from them.
As she lay in the bed recollecting the harsh words from the girls and the earlier incident, she could not resist the flashback of the initial years of her marriage with Shekhar. Her father had died leaving her mom and herself, a baby then, in penury. It was a struggle for the young woman to bring up the child though her brother was supportive to the extent he could afford. It was only after Raji completed her inter that she could get a job in Sundaresan’s, an auditor, office. Being intelligent, she learnt her job quickly and managed his office and files well. The auditor, a distant relative, used to wonder how quickly she had picked up the tax laws and efficiently presented the draft returns of the clients for his examination. He relied on her more than on his qualified assistants and article clerks. He gave her good increase in salary to enable her family live in comfort. He treated her with dignity and affection as if she were his own daughter.
Though Raji’s mother wished her married, Raji was not interested as she was apprehensive if her husband would at later date refuse to keep her mother with them. Years went by till one day auditor Sundaresan paid a surprise visit to her apartment on a Sunday. The driver came inside and left a large basket full of fruits. Flustered by this unexpected visit, Raji dusted the chair with her sari and requested him to be seated even as she called her mother. After the introduction and pleasantries, Sundaresan turned to Raji and said,” I have come to discuss some marriage proposal for you with your mom. I do not mind, rather I would prefer, your sitting here to listen.”
Turning to Raji’s mother, he said “I have my cousin’s son who is a lawyer in the city commanding good practice. He will be five years older to Raji. An unexpected tragedy struck about two years back when his wife died suddenly in an accident leaving behind two girls. She was a social worker working in a NGO for protection and upliftment of destitute children. She was also an honorary secretary of an orphanage that was run very efficiently. She was a very kind and generous lady. The loss left my nephew shattered and he struggled to bring up the two small girls. My cousin could persuade his son with great difficulty to marry again as it was difficult to bring up the girls without a woman in the home. I can testify to my nephew’s   character and suitability as a match for your daughter. Your daughter would be well off and I do not foresee any objection from him to your continuing to reside with your daughter. Since I am interested in the wellbeing of both Raji and my nephew, I made bold to make this request to you,”
The lady kept quiet for a couple of minutes before saying,” Raji is very fortunate to have you as her mentor. Personally I have no objection especially when recommended by you but would leave it to Raji to decide. I can only persuade her but not prevail upon her,” and turning to Raji told her, “You have heard uncle and you know he is your well-wisher. I feel that this is godsend and we should not let go. Tell him your view as it is most important.”
Raji was silent for a long time and finally spoke,” Amma, I will go by what you and uncle decide is good for me. I only wish for an assurance from the lawyer that he would allow you to stay with me even after marriage. I have no other demands.”
Shekhar turned out be an extremely affectionate and warm person and took special care that all comforts were given to Raji’s mother. Being a high profile lawyer, he could afford to employ a mami (lady cook) and relieve the old lady from the chores. He had no objection in Raji continuing to help his auditor uncle as she was used to.
The two young girls got attached to her easily. Everything was hunky dory and she had no care in the world except that she had no baby of her own. It was then Shekhar confided in her that the two daughters of his were actually adopted from an orphanage as his wife could not conceive. He also let her into the secret under strict confidence that the two baby girls were generously adopted without any reservation by his wife despite their rescue from a brothel when their mothers deserted them. Raji was initially shocked to hear this news but wondered at the good nature of his first wife and easily reconciled to the fact that she was blessed with two daughters, what if adopted from whatever source. On her part, Raji took under her care the cook’s girl also as one more daughter.
Back from reverie, she decided to broach about the peevish behavior of the two daughters to Shekhar. Surprisingly Shekhar returned from office early that day and was resting in the bedroom in the first floor.
“Are you not well or what? Why unusually so early?” she asked him even as she ran her palm over his forehead.
“Nothing. I am quite fine. There was no work and I thought fit to spend time with you. How are things at your office? How are the three girls who are all at the same time into their teens? Must be a taxing responsibility to oversee them,” he said laughingly.
“They are never a burden to me Would you like a cup of coffee to refresh you?” she asked and shouted from the staircase” Rohini, get papa a cup of coffee from mami”
She then related the day’s incident and the earlier unsavory behaviour about the two girls to him. She never expected that this would infuriate him as he started shouting at the top of his voice, “What do they think themselves to be, Princesses or what? I have been wanting to break the news about their adoption from an orphanage for a long time but kept quiet keeping in mind your wish. If this was their behaviour, I would even tell them their real source…” when Raji put her palm on his mouth gesticulating him not to talk.
He pushed her hand and was about to continue talking when they heard a gentle knock. It was Rohini who entered with coffee cups in the tray. Her face was taut and Raji noticed from the opening Chandra standing outside. Shekhar did not talk to Rohini and started drinking coffee.
“Go and tell mami that we would be there in 15 minutes for dinner. All of you be there,” said Raji softly though she suspected that the two girls must have overheard what Shekhar was telling her.
When they went down, Raji was surprised to see the two girls set the table with Shanthi sitting on her chair watching them silently. It was Rohini who broke the silence telling, “Amma,we are very sorry for our rude behavior. It will not happen again, we promise.” Chandra was then seen standing behind Shanthi putting her arms on her shoulders.
Raji said, “It is fine and I appreciate you both for this apology.Do not worry. To me and your dad all the three of you are the same and apples of our eyes.”
Mami who was watching them from the kitchen wiped her moist eyes.