Sunday, July 28, 2019

Bhagavathi's blessing

Nandini was in a happy frame of mind as the plane taxied to tarmac at Mangalore airport. She would be meeting her only sister Bhargavi, elder to her by six years, after a gap of five years. Bhargavi has been pleading with her all these years to take a break and spend a month with her. The exigencies of work, her frequent tours abroad and her husband’s schedule somehow stood in the way of her visit to this coastal town till this day. Luckily she could do now as her husband was away on tour to China for a week and she was relatively free having just completed her project.
She had not decided about the visit till Bhargavi rang up two days back and mentioned,” Nandini, I know you are busy and cannot take a break. But I insist that you come down for your own sake. The Bhagavathi temple here is celebrating its famed quinquennial function this week and young women are thronging to seek the blessings of goddess. There is no question of your disregarding my request as you are wont to since childhood days.”
“Akka (elder sister), I know why you are particular about my visiting the temple. I have lost all hopes of bearing a child and all the medical opinions support such a pessimism. Please understand that I am really not keen about a visit to the temple. I will nevertheless come for a couple of days just to meet you and your two daughters.” Nandini said.
“Yay, inform me your flight details, I will be at the airport. We can decide the rest when you are here,” Bhargavi said in jubilation.
Nandini saw from a distance her sister standing tall and beautiful as ever belying her 38 years in age but a little worn out in these intervening years. She rushed to her dragging the suitcase and hugged her tightly.
“Nandini, believe me, there has been no change at all in you. You look the same charming and graceful young thing that I saw five years back. I am so happy you could at last make it,” said Bhargavi holding her hands warmly.
“Akka, you have also not changed much except for a few strands of grey hair. What is the secret of your youth?” Nandini asked with a twinkle in her eyes.
As Nandini lay in her bed that night after a sumptuous Palakkad dinner with her sister and nieces by her side, she felt as if she was in her ancestral home with her mother who passed away when she had just joined college. It was Bhargavi who was married by then who took care of her till she finished her post graduation and found a good job at Delhi. The two sisters talked into the late hours of the night after sending the nieces to their room.
“Nandini, I am not pressurizing you but having come this far especially at this opportune and auspicious time, why miss offering prayers to the Goddess. You know amma was a devout devotee of Bhagavathi and regularly visited the temple,” said Bhargavi.
“Do you really believe, akka, that visiting a temple during this time helps in conceiving a child even where doctors have ruled it out? I think it is as ridiculous as circambulating peepal tree for getting a child,” said Nandini in a taunting tone.
“I cannot answer your question to your satisfaction except saying that there is a strong belief long held by our past generations and in such matters only implicit faith helps. You need not come as a supplicant but as a devotee of the Goddess whom amma revered much.
Let us have fun afterwards in the beach as the temple is close to sea shore. The scenic beauty of the location, the incessant waves, the blue sea, the azure sky and the boats of fishermen setting into the sea is a delight to watch. Get up early. We will all go in the morning. Sleep well as you must be tired,” Bhargavi said and bade her goodnight.
The next morning was spent in the crowded temple, offering prayers and going around the sanctum thrice. While Bhargavi prayed for Nandini, it is not known what she sought for. The rest of the time about an hour were spent on a long walk in the beach and watching the waves striking the shore.
On the way back home, Nandini asked her sister, “Have you heard of cases where women without children for long years having conceived after visiting the temple? Be truthful.”
“Frankly, I do not know. It is all hear say but still people throng here. Your case should tell me whether it really works or not.”
“That means you used this ploy to drag me here, is it?” asked Nandini in an accusatory tone.
“Take it in whatever way you like. Is it wrong for an elder sister wanting to have her younger one with her and shower her affection?  Do you really know how much I miss you? Who else is there for me except you after our parents passed away,” Bhargavi said wiping her moist eyes.
Struck by remorse by her own rude remark, Nandini pleaded,” Akka, please forgive me. I was a fool to talk like that. I really enjoy my visit here. I would do anything you ask for unquestioningly,” even as she bent to touch her sister’s feet.
Once back in Delhi, Nandini plunged into her work. In about two months she had to go to Seattle for three months on a project.
It was a rainy Sunday at Seattle when Bhargavi invited her on FaceTime. “Nandini, I am in a mess and I feel highly embarrassed to talk about it. You know I have completed 38 years and my younger daughter is nearing six. I have not had the monthly thing for the last two months. I actually went to pray for you but I wonder whether Bhagavathi misheard me,” she said hiding her pain behind a smile and added,” I wished to abort but your brother in law dissuades me from it. I am very shy to go out these days and remain confined at home.”
“Wow, I concede Bhagavathi is indeed powerful though her blessings are misplaced! Why do you care about others? Let us hope it is a boy for a change. When it is time for delivery, I will come to be of assistance, I assure you,” Nandini spoke to her encouragingly.
Six months later, when Bhargavi was blessed with a baby girl, her husband offered the baby to Nandini who was there telling,” We had already decided accordingly. We felt since Goddess Bhagavathi could not help you directly due to you some medical issues, She perhaps used this ploy to give you a baby. Kindly accept this baby girl as yours. We are sure your home would be filled with laughter and fun and you will have someone to aspire for and shower your affection.
Nandini gladly took the baby in her arms to give her smooches even as her heart was filled with gratitude to Goddess and no less to Bhargavi. Her joy knew no bounds as the baby snuggled close to her and smiled. Bhargavi looked on with tears of joy in her eyes.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

55 word fiction

Yet another peep into 55-word fiction

If you kiss her, you get the money you wanted
I don’t like it and in public
Take it or leave it.
She may not like.
She will say nothing and is readily available.
Why do you insist?
So you will not ask me again
OK I need money
He produced a frog to kiss.

Midnight scare
It was past midnight. Trriing, triing.. Wife on phone from Chennai
“Arun, why are you awake so late? “
“Sarah is coming. I am struggling to avoid her.”
“Sarah, who? Don’t open the door.”
“Can’t, she is too big to stop.”
“Have you met her earlier?”
 No, her landfall is expected  in half hour”

The chase
With wind blowing his hair, Nitin chased at hectic speed to retrieve what Vipul had snatched from him. But the gap never seemed to close with both maintaining the same speed. Unrelenting Nitin rode on till he finally grabbed Vipul’s collar to demand the chocolate bar back. The music and carousel had by then stopped 

They were young pretty girls clad in jeans and T-shirts.
When I stared, one of them said “Just 200 rupees Sir. You will be happy for the visit”
I was hesitant wondering at the open soliciting.
“Come, I am free now.”
My wife nudged and said “You need a haircut. Try, it is a new salon”

The mango trick
After the magician’s rope walk and wriggling out of a narrow ring, the dumbfounded audience clapped. Commencing mango trick he placed the seed under a basket under watchful eyes. After some mumbo jumbo, he was about to lift the basket, when his young son shouted, ” Appa, you have left the mango here with me”

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

A peep into my old 55-word fiction

He paid Rs.500 to the famous tantric for an unfailing talisman to attract women. He came out and tried it on a young woman waiting at bus stop. Lo, she smiled at him and came near. He smiled back not seeing the talisman she also had in hand and trying on him. Talisman seemed working.
What started as banter turned violent. Though 15 feet away, she could hardly follow the quarrel between the two goons. Her heart missed a beat when one of them whipped a knife and plunged it deep in other’s abdomen. As red blood gushed, the attacker turned his gaze at her. She quickly shut the television

Beating death
It was a complicated and long heart surgery for four hours. The cardiac surgeon emerged triumphantly announcing ’Operation success. I can beat death.” He told his assistant, ‘Keep things ready for the next surgery. Will be back after a short rest” After an hour, assistant was waking up an inert doctor. Death was smugly laughing
"You will hit jackpot today!"  said my neighbour first thing in the morning, I wondered how he knew my plan to visit Casino. In high spirits, I determined to try my luck fully. As I took the car out, I broke a flower pot by mistake. My wife shrieked "You have hit Jack’s pot!!!"
First time
My family was away. I saw her when strolling in the mall. Tall, shapely and attractive, she was. I took her home. What a pleasant surprise it would be, I thought, even as I laid her on  bed. I gingerly caressed her soft hair. It’s my first gift of Barbie doll for my young daughter.
He made sure to see her thrice daily. Her blue eyes, the way she spoke and her smile made her his obsession. She never knew his love for her. She talked a lot but never to him. She just ignored him. He nevertheless hung on to her words till his mom switched off the TV.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

A snap decision

Today is the final of the World Cup 2019.Cricket transforms the lives of a few talented but poor young boys into one of great wealth and prosperity. This is a story on one such boy.

Sanjay was the last recognized batsman at the crease. It was the final of an international one day series and with the series evenly poised 2-2 each. He was facing the last ball of the 50th over. A sixer was needed to win the match. It was a do or die situation. He was the cynosure of all the millions of eyes on the ground and before TVs. His future depended on what he did today.
 The stadium was packed to the full. There was an eerie silence with the hearts of viewers in their mouths. The suspense was punishing with the commentators going silent with their fingers crossed. As the menacing bowler was walking back to the starting point, there was a flash of his life for Sanjay from his child hood days like a film on a screen.
The couple in their thirties with their two children were the last to get down from the passenger train at the last station. The compartment was empty. The husband and wife took their small luggage in one hand and the children on the other. Just as they were moving away from the train, they heard a wail of a baby. They both stopped wondering where from the cry had come. The shrill cry from a new born babe came again from within the compartment. The man went up and saw a babe of hardly ten days old under a seat. It was clear to him that it was abandoned. The wife too had followed him and looked around. There was not a soul seen.
He said, “We cannot leave this abandoned baby here. We will take it and leave it at the police outpost in the station.” The moment she took the baby in her hand, it stopped crying and broke into an innocent smile. It was cute looking baby boy.
 She turned to her husband and said, “Why not we keep this baby ourselves? The police will surely hand this over to an orphanage. I don’t wish this gift of God should go there.”
The husband meekly pointed out that they were already leading a hand to mouth existence and that addition of one more member would strain their tiny budget. She put her foot down telling emphatically that they could share whatever they had amongst the five and that the baby should be retained by them. That settled the issue. The baby boy grew up as a member of their family. They bestowed the same affection and care as they gave to the other two children.
Sanjay broken from reverie looked at the bowler running intimidatingly towards him to bowl the last ball. The entire crowd stood up on their feet in high anticipation. His mind was blank to the noisy surroundings and his eyes were focused at the bowler’s arm. Sanjay hit the ball with all the strength at his command and lo the ball fell on the roof of the pavilion opposite him with a thud. There was a deafening uproar with his team mates running in to the middle to lift him in their arms. His country had won. As he walked back to the pavilion with pride along with other players forming line on both sides, the thunderous applause from the stands was resounding.
Declared the man of the match, one of the of the officials approached him with a mike and said, “This is a memorable occasion in your life. You have been instrumental in bringing the trophy to our country. You will be showered with riches and goodies in plenty. What would you like to say on this unforgettable occasion? To whom would you ascribe this outstanding feat?”
Even as he wiped the tears from his eyes, Sanjay replied without a moment’s hesitation, “I dedicate this achievement wholly to my loving parents. My thoughts go back very long. Twenty five years ago, they took a snap decision at a railway station that changed the course of my life. I owe everything to them today, tomorrow and forever.”
There was a puzzled look in the official’s face and the millions who heard him. Sanjay continued,” The snap decision they took that day transformed an abandoned orphan in a train to a loving son in their home. I will now be able to transform in a small way their lives to one of plenty and comfort”

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

A lesson on magnanimity

With World Cup in full swing, I thought a story on cricket  would be topical
 I remember as a young boy I used to play cricket in our colony about decades back. There was not much of vacant space for playing except the side road in the colony. Three sticks of different heights did the duty of stumps with a broken brick serving as the fourth stump. There were half a dozen boys of varying ages and heights forming the team. Discarded tennis balls were donated by the dad of one of the boys.
 Two hours in the evening till the shadows lengthened were sheer thrill and joy for us. The high decibel noise and shouting were not objected to by the elders though one old gentleman Bhaskar Rao living adjacent to the playing area did not relish the game being played there. He often came out and remonstrated with us saying “You are all shouting too much and are a daily nuisance. This is not a playground. Why don’t you go and play in the corporation ground in the next street?”
We would plead with him “Uncle, we will not shout or make noise. Please allow us to play here as older boys are playing in the corporation ground and do not allow us to enter the ground.”
“I don’t wish to hear all your excuses. I am not going to allow you fellows to play here anymore. I will complain to the Secretary of the colony in writing though I know his son Mukesh is one of your gang” he said.
Nevertheless, he had never written or spoken to the secretary and we continued playing merrily. One day Mukesh had brought his cousin an older boy. Short and stocky fellow, who fancied himself as famed Everton Weekes in his attacking style, hit a ball hard on the window of Bhaskar Rao’s flat. Luckily the ball hit the wooden frame and the glass was spared. The old man rushed out of the flat to survey whether any damage had been done to the window.
I said “Uncle, nothing has happened. It just hit the frame. We will be careful in future.” Without uttering one word he took the ball that was lying near him and went inside. All our pleas for the ball fell on deaf ears. When he did not open the door, I remember to have pressed the bell at regular intervals, sometimes nonstop for long duration much to his annoyance.
He came out seething in anger and exploded “You rascal, how dare you press the bell like this continuously. I will complain to your father in the evening. I have no intention of returning the ball” He slammed the door and never opened despite our shouting. The day’s play had to stop as there was no spare ball. As we dispersed I took a small stone and hit the glass of the window directly making a small hole in it. I ran away quickly before he came out.
I was a bit scared that the old man would catch me the next day. But surprisingly we found the ball lying on the ground and he never came out to make noise about the window pane. When there was no mention of the broken glass even when I crossed him on the way to my school, I felt guilty. I could not return his smile and instead I hung my head in shame. His stony silence about the incident made me all the more uncomfortable.
When I told my mom about my rash behavior in anger that day, how I broke the glass and his stoic indifference, she said that Rao had lost his only son of my age years ago while playing cricket. When he was fielding at close quarters, it appeared the ball, not a tennis ball, hit him on his head near the brow and the poor boy died the same night. My mom felt that It was basically the fear of likely injury to youngsters that made him paranoid about cricket.
 I could not sleep that night. I had saved about three hundred rupees from the gifts for my birthday. The first thing in the morning I did was to go to his house and fall at his feet. He lifted me up and said with a smile “Raju, why are you prostrating? Any examination today or birthday for you?”
 He saw me crying and hugging me, he asked “What happened? Why are you crying? Tell me.”
In sobbing tone, I remember to have said “Uncle, you must pardon me. I was the wretch who broke the window that day in anger when you did not return the ball. Here is three hundred rupees that I had saved. Please accept it. It would cover the cost of putting a new glass. I never knew why you did not like us playing cricket till mom told me last evening. Until you forgive me, I cannot look straight into your eyes.”
“Wait a minute” he said and came back with a new cricket bat.” This was bought by my son a week before he had the tragic accident. I am not against cricket when played with protective gears. Take this bat, I gift it to you as it can be put to better use than being just an article of memory. I do not need your money. I will get you batting pads, abdomen guards and a pair of helmets. Although you play normally with tennis ball, I have seen you people playing on occasions with cork ball. The boy who fields at  short leg position should always wear a helmet. Forget about the broken window.  I have left the window deliberately unrepaired as it would make you all play carefully. “
I remember fondly even after about thirty years, the kindly face that taught me a lesson on forgiveness and magnanimity.