Saturday, December 19, 2020

The ancestral house

“Chandra, I heard that you are visiting Bengaluru on work and may visit Chennai also by month end. You never tell me anything,” grumbled Singaram to her son.

“Who told you? It is not yet finalized” replied Chandra

“Your son Nattu told me and that he would also be accompanying you. In case you are going, it is after a gap of many years. I wish to ask of you a favour. It is not that I wish to accompany you. There is nothing there for me after your father disappeared years back leaving no clue about his whereabouts,” replied Singaram.

“Yes, Amma, I promised Nattu to take him along as he evinced keen interest in visiting India. I will have to hurry now for a video conference. Can we discuss this leisurely over dinner?” he said as he left.

It was in the evening around 7pm when the family was in the living room, Chandra asked, “Amma, what was it you wanted from me?”

She kept quiet for a while lost in thought and when prompted again she started with a long sigh, “It is several years since your father mysteriously disappeared after he visited his village home near Kumbakonam. His ancestral house was there and he had visited it earlier a couple of times. There was no hassle till your grandfather was alive staying with us. The earlier tenant who lived there was remitting without fail to the bank a small amount as rent. The rent was collected more to ensure that the ownership was not disputed at a later stage. There was no thought of disposing the house till your grandfather was alive.

 When that tenant who was a single died after your grandfather’s demise, I suggested to your father to dispose of the very old house as we had already sold away all the lands and keeping the house served no purpose. Your dad was averse to selling as it was the only remnant connecting him to his roots though all his relatives had sold away their homes and lands and shifted to distant cities and even abroad.

Adamant as he was by nature, he fixed a new tenant without verifying his antecedents or got any reference. Your dad, a gullible man, just introduced the new tenant to the elderly village head but had no written rental agreement made out. For six months or so the small rent was remitted regularly by money order and then received at irregular intervals till it stopped completely. Besides reminding the tenant about the rental dues by post cards, your dad did not visit the village from Delhi where we were residing. The amount was too small to take the long trip and he was postponing it. Meanwhile he learnt to his dismay the village head had passed away.”

 She paused for a moment, when Chandra intervened to say, “I know all that and dad’s disappearance, Amma. Tell me quickly what is it you want me to do now.”

“Please do not be impatient. I was explaining for Nattu’s benefit also and I will be done soon. You had moved long ago to US for post-graduation and got settled here in US on a good job. After your father’s retirement, we continued to reside in Delhi. You had also chosen your classmate as your partner and married her with our consent. Life was going smoothly till your dad suddenly decided to visit his village to evict the tenant and dispose of the house. When he asked me to accompany him to visit the nearby temples, I had foolishly declined.”

“What happened thereafter, grandma?” asked Nattu.

“Listen carefully. He presumably went alone to his village, where he knew none, to accost the tenant with a view to evict him. When there was no message or call from him after once from Chennai and my calls elicited no reply save the auto message that the phone seemed switched off, I got scared. I requested my cousin at Chennai to visit the village to find your father’s whereabouts and make a police complaint, if necessary. He left the next day itself and met the tenant only to be told that your father had not visited him. The tenant also expressed his concern about his missing and wondered whether your dad had changed the plan. My cousin met the new head of the village only to draw a blank and both of them went to lodge a complaint with the nearest police station. After some enquiries, the police informed after a month that there was no evidence of your father having visited the village or met anyone and was not traceable. They were still trying though.

Chandra, I have a strong suspicion the police have closed the case. Till this date we have not heard from them or your father. He is not a spiritual person to renounce the family and to take to forests or mutts. I think something amiss must have happened and we have no clue.”

“Is the tenant still continuing and what about his eviction?” asked Nattu.

“When my cousin spoke to him a year or so back about our wish that he vacate the house after paying the dues, he got the curt response from the tenant that he owed no dues and suggested that the owner can contact him in person. In the circumstances, I want you, Chandra, to visit the village and get him evicted. Pray, do not go alone. Take someone from police with you. I remember his name is Varada kutti,” concluded Singaram.

“Surely I will visit and try to get him evicted. I will also sell the house at whatever best price we get though there may be legal hassles when dad’s whereabouts are not clear and we do not have any documents.

It was about three weeks later when the work at Bengaluru was over, Chandra met by chance at Chennai his old classmate who had joined civil services and was working in state government. With his help, it was arranged that an inspector of police from Kumbakonam would accompany Chandra to the village.

On the second day morning, when Chandra, Nattu and the inspector got down at the entrance to the village that hardly had three lanes and was looking for someone to guide them to the main lane that housed a small temple. The ancestral house was the fourth house from the temple.

It was then Nattu suddenly spoke with excitement,” Appa, I think I know the place as it is very familiar. It is close by on the road to the right,” and started walking ahead of them.

Angered, Chandra shouted, “Stop there, you idiot. This is the first time you are visiting this country and you are blabbering about your familiarity.”

“Appa, what you say is true but strange as it is something makes me very familiar with this place and I wish to run to the house. Sorry, my mind is clouded with vague memories that I cannot restrain myself and there is a hot flash all over my body,” the boy replied.

The inspector intervened to say,” Mr. Chandra, we will know in a minute if what the boy is telling is true. Let us ask him to guide us. Please do not restrain him. I will discuss about this more later.”

They followed the boy who walked confidently and turned right to see the main lane with a dilapidated small temple at one end. Most of the houses were tiled and in poor condition. There were a few new constructions. They went to the temple, a very small structure with only one room doing the duty of sanctum. A lamp was burning outside the locked and broken doors. Both Chandra and the inspector stared at each other meaningfully at Nattu’s inexplicable familiarity.

They walked to the fourth house and the main door was open. When Chandra knocked the door, a tall middle aged man of about 50 years came out. His height was contrary to the suffix kutti (small)to his name.

“Are you Mr. Varada kutti? My father is the owner of this house. After he came here several years back, he went missing and has not been traced till now. I wish to talk to you,” said Chandra.

As Varada kutti saw the police inspector in his uniform, Chandra could discern a streak of fear flash through his face. He deferentially invited them inside the long hall. While they sat in cane chairs, Varada kutti sat on a wooden swing (oonjal). He asked the boy to sit by his side on the swing. The boy looked at him in an unfriendly manner and sat over the lap of his dad.

Chandra explained the purpose of his visit and asked him to vacate the house within a week as he was planning to sell the house before his return to US.

“A week is too short a time. I can vacate in two months. If you are planning to sell the house, I am willing to buy at whatever price such old houses are being sold,” replied Varada kutti.

It was then Chandra and inspector heard a shriek from Nattu from inside the house. He had obviously gone inside unnoticed by all the three of them. The inspector rushed inside to the courtyard adjoining a kitchen to see the boy highly agitated with his eyes shining animatedly and jumping at one corner of the courtyard.

Chandra shouted at the boy scolding, “Why are you behaving like a mad cap and possessed since we came here? What is bothering you? Come away from that place.”

“Appa, I felt a hard blow on my head by a hammer and hear recurring noises on the ground,” bewailed the young boy even as he was jumping with a faraway look.

Chandra with a worried look dragged the crying boy after a tight slap away from that corner.

“Mr. Chandra, do not be rash. Let me handle this. This is a serious matter not to be ignored. Please be seated. I will talk to the boy,” he said and turned to Varada kutti to tell him in stern voice,” Do not leave this house till we are finished and be seated with Chandra.”

He took Nattu to another side of the courtyard and putting his arm around the boy gently said, “I am inclined believe you. You can freely tell me anything else relating to this matter freely.”

“I am scared to be here but I am sure some mystery underneath there where I stood. I know the entire house and nothing has since changed except that corner,” the boy replied.

“What else you remember? What were the noises you repeatedly heard on the floor? There is no evidence of any digging and re-flooring the corner,” asked the inspector without any leading question.

Looking at him vacantly as if he was in a trance and with the body sweating heavily, the boy explained to no one in particular, “My memory is hazy but I distinctly remember the heavy blow on head with a blunt object and the faint sound of earth being dug out for long time before everything turned black.”

“Whom are you referring to when you say I? You have never been here earlier,” gently prodded the inspector.

“My mind is confused. Can I have some water?” asked the boy.

“Surely, finish quickly expressing the thoughts passing through your mind before it becomes blank,” said the inspector.

When he saw Varada kutti getting up on the pretext of getting water, the inspector pressed him down.” Do not stir. This my order,” he admonished the tenant and turned to Chandra to get the village head there immediately.

As he waited for village head, he stroked the boy gently and said, “Have no fear. We will find out the truth soon if you are pretty sure.”

“I am confused about me but am positive that something mysterious under the place where I stood,” he said

When the village head came, the inspector took him aside introduced himself with his card and briefed him about the suspicious disappearance of the owner after a visit to his house to get the tenant evicted and the unexpected prescience of the boy about some assault and possibly burial under the ground.

 “He seems familiar with the village and guided us to the house correctly on his first visit to this village. I have heard cases of a few young children make statements of past lives. I learn the boy is very bright and has had no mental issues or hallucinations earlier. Since there has been no clue to the owner’s disappearance after a purported visit, I need your help in getting the place dug out. Keep also some men on the front and rear side to prevent the tenant from attempting an escape.”

In an hour, the cat was out of the bag when they found the skeleton of a body with shreds clothes on it and a broken mobile without any sim card.

When the inspector pulled up Varada kutti by his collar and asked him to explain the presence of the skeleton amid hostile stares of all the men around, he broke down and fell at Inspector’s feet owning up the crime in his greed to acquire the house. The man was taken into custody.

I will skip the details about the subsequent events like last rites, the taking over the house and letting out the house free for a primary school after repairs. Chandra also donated some amount for the upkeep and maintenance of the temple.

Though the outcome turned sad for Singaram, the family decided not to broach the subject of past memories to Nattu and allowed them to be forgotten over a time.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Mera jootha hai Japani, ye patloon Englishthani...

(This is a light hearted old story to remember Raj Kapoor on his birthday )

I am no hard core criminal. I neither assault people nor touch my victims. I just pilfer whatever I can easily conceal in my pocket. The modus operandi is simple. I wear neatly pressed clothes and well-polished shoes. My handsome face, curly hair, my good height and soft speech give some respectability. I have a computer with CorelDraw facility and I make laminated identity cards to suit my purpose. One day I would be a census enumerator, another day market surveyor or a fund raiser for charitable causes, and some days I don ochre robes on behalf of fake religious institutions/temples. I used to wonder at my own bewildering variety of professions I choose daily.

Generally, I choose the late afternoons when the sun is less severe for my work. Where I find many inmates in a house I move away quickly. Where a lady or old man is alone and gullible enough to invite me to the living room for enumeration, survey or whatever I tell them, I take casually a quick look around the hall. Then with a sigh I take my kerchief for wiping the perspiration and make a request for a glass of cool water. When she/he goes away to fetch it, I quickly pocket whatever is not prominent and what I can easily lay my hands on before they return. After pleasantries and a quick survey, I make a fast move to another complex slightly away. If I am pretty lucky in one house I usually stop the activity for the day. This was adequate for the day’s expense. You see, I am no greedy person.

Today being my birthday, I wore a blue jeans and a new   colorful T shirt with cream and brown stripes. But the first house I visited could not be considered ideal though the young lady was alone and credulous. But there was hardly anything of value in the hall save her cheap mobile on a show case. I try hard not to leave any house  empty handed and had to filch the cheap cell phone. After drinking water, I left in a hurry after giving her some form to fill in and telling her that I would collect it the next day.

When I rang the bell at the next apartment that I visited in the adjacent street, an attractive young lady in her early thirties was talking on her mobile. When she saw me there was a look of surprise, may be attracted by my personality enhanced by my new clothes. She smiled at me, opened the grill door for me to enter and said “Just one second”. She talked for a couple of minutes more and concluded saying” OK, I have a visitor. I will talk to you later”.

The apartment looked rich with showcase brimming with all curios and costly clocks, crystal wares, ivory idols of gods and many other things. When I started with the usual refrain about a glass of water, she asked “Coke, Orange or Sprite?” I gave her my charming smile and said “Anything you offer me”

As she went in to bring the cool drink, I quickly pocketed a few things when the wretched mobile rang. It was not mine but the cheap one I stole at the other house. It started singing in shrill and loud tone an old tune of Raj Kapoor in Shri 420 ”Mera jootha hai Japani, ye patloon Englishthani...”  Before I could remove it from my pocket to silence it, the lady came out smiling and said “What an old tune you have installed? “ She saw the other mobile in my hand and exclaimed, ‘You seem to have two”

I offered a weak explanation that it was my wife’s and I had brought it for some minor repair. Meanwhile two burly security men of the complex entered. The lady’s smile faded and she asked the security not to allow me to escape. “Mister, I knew you are a fake. Your earlier visit was unfortunately to my friend’s flat. She was telling me on her landline about your visit and your stealing her mobile. She was just bewailing her carelessness and we never knew you would come here. Lucky for her and me, you came to my place and I rang her number from the kitchen to make sure you are the culprit. The mobile whose tune I knew gave you away. Give back the mobile and the things you pocketed here. The security men would hold you till the police arrive to take you.”

As I swore under my tongue “You bloody b***h”, she laughed hysterically at my sorry plight.


Saturday, October 31, 2020

Who was it in skeleton costume?


It was the last week of October. The pandemic confined Sumitra and Sudhakar rao to their home with very rare visits outside. They have been living in Boston for more than 10 years. The weather was getting cooler, the leaves were changing their colors and some falling announcing the onset of winter soon. They were on a long drive towards North to see nature’s beauty in many of its transient forms. The trees were lined up on both sides of the road with their leaves in various hues with scarlet and gold dominating the landscape. Little the trees were aware that they would soon be naked waiting for spring to clothe them again. It might be a refreshing change the couple thought from the dull home and duller routine of working all day.

“Why are you morose, Sumi? Watch out the captivating scenes outside. We came out primarily to watch the nature in its splendor,” asked Sudhakar rao.

Sumitra did not reply but looked at him intently wondering at the question.

“I know. You do not have to explain. No point in grieving over things over which we have no control. Our son Sundar came in our lives like a fleeting star only to vanish away. I know it is a less than a year. Have fond memories of him but do not grieve,” Sudhakar consoled her.

“In another three days we have Halloween. He used to pester me for different types of costumes each year and remind me of the candies to be bought. I will miss him going along with his friends in his costume. If he is a bit late, his friends would be knocking at our door,” she said in sobbing tone.

“Let us stop on the way back at Target to buy some candies for the children. Let us not deprive them of their joy and expectations because of our grief,” suggested Sudhakar.

Both of them lost interest in the scenic drive and started driving back home. There was total silence till they found a Target store open. When he went near the candies section, she went to Halloween costumes section to relive her last visit to buy costume for Sundar. There were many kids and moms with their masks keeping distance from each other.

The shelves featured costumes in many varieties mostly in loud black, red and yellow to appear as skeletons, witches, ghosts and in many other scary designs. Last year Sundar wanted a skeleton costume in ghost form but she insisted him to take a fire fighter costume. After much discussion, she agreed to his compromise proposal for a firefighter disguise for the year and the extra one in black and red skeleton to be used in the subsequent year. He was jumping with joy at his acquisitions and also made sure she bought Eclairs, his favourite along with other candies. Unable to bear the torment of sad memory, she came away quickly from costume section.

She found her husband waiting with packets of candies. “Have you bought some Eclairs? Sundar loved them so much,” Sumitra enquired.

“Oh I am sorry, I didn’t buy. Let me get it,” he said as he rushed inside.

Three days later it was Halloween day. Not wishing Sundar to miss the fun even when he was no more, she bought two carved pumpkins with lamps inside to be lit in the porch. She had kept baskets filled with candies ready even before dusk when the kids usually visit homes.

It was 7pm.Sudhakar was busy in his room chatting with some of his cousins when she heard the door bell. She rushed to see five urchins in their costumes with their faces hidden except for eyes and mouth. One of them looked like Spiderman, another a hair-rising monster, yet another but short figure as a bunny rabbit along with another looking like a witch. A little behind she saw the fifth figure in skeleton costume in black and red resembling a ghost identical to what she bought for Sundar.

She hurried inside and brought the baskets of candies for them to help themselves. She asked the fifth boy standing behind the four ,”Why are you standing behind others? Come forward and stand in line with your four friends.”

“Mrs.Rao, we are only four. In fact, we wished to take Sundar with us as he normally accompanies us. Is he not well or what?” said a boy turning around to see only four including him and added” I think you are imagining,” with all the three others affirming in chorus.

“No, I see clearly the fifth boy in the skeleton robe before me as clear as the palm in my hand” and asked the boy in the disguise of skeleton, “Why don’t you come forward? Have you taken the candies? You seem shy,”

When she heard the fifth boy asking in squeaky voice,” Where are the Eclairs? You know that I love them so much?”, she almost fainted crying,” Are you my dearest Sundar? Won’t you call me mom and speak to me?”

The bewildered American boys looked at her in utter disbelief while one of them pressed the bell bringing Sudhakar into the scene.

“Sir, we are only four but Mrs. Rao insists that we are five and that the fifth is Sundar. Do you see him here by any chance?”

“No, I see only four of you. As we lost our son Sundar, may be she is overcome by grief and imagining. She will be fine in a short while. Thank you for pressing the bell,” explained Sudhakar. The four boys said sorry in unison and quietly left.

Meanwhile she rushed inside to Sundar’s room and opened the closet looking for the skeleton costume she bought extra last year at Sundar’s insistence to be used subsequently. Lo! it was not seen at the place she had kept. She searched the closet completely only to draw a blank. Many questions like “Where had the costume gone? Who could have taken it? Is it not the same one worn by the fifth boy? Is it Sundar as he asked for Éclair?” tormented her to no end as she wailed in grief.

Sudhakar, no wiser than the baffled boys, put his arm around Sumitra who was inconsolably crying and led her to the bedroom.

“Who was the fifth boy Sumitra saw in identical skeleton robe and who asked for Eclairs?” haunted his mind too with no answer.





Thursday, September 17, 2020

Ma's compassion

(Normally this is the time for the advent of Durga Puja/Navratri but they are on astrological considerations  being celebrated a month hence.Nevertheless I thought a story featuring Kali Ma would be apt now.)

It was a leisurely journey by AC two-tier rom Kolkata (then Calcutta) to Chennai. I have an aversion for reading long novels during train journey as most do. Instead I enjoy conversing with co-passengers drawn from different back grounds. Those days there was no menace of biscuit bandits. The gentleman next to me was a portly man, dark complexioned, clad in white khadar and ash mark on his forehead with kumkum between the brows. He was sporting a rudhraksha mala around his neck. With his eyes closed, he did not appear to evince any interest in the conversation around him.

When he opened his eyes, I smiled at him and asked him,” Are you traveling beyond Chennai?”

” Yes, up to Madurai,” he replied

“Do you reside in Madurai or Kolkata?” I asked wishing to prolong the conversation.

“I belong to Madurai. I came to Kolkata to visit the Kali temple at Dakshineswar and Ramakrishna Ashram at Belur”

“Oh, you must be spiritually inclined. What do you do for living? I hope your family is there.”

He let off a sigh.” I have none. I do not work. It is a long story and I would prefer to talk about it later. I am very tired and would like to rest for some time, “ he said and went up to the upper berth

My curiosity was roused. I was intrigued by his response but waited for him to open up on his own. It was a few hours later when he came down for a cup of coffee, he cleared his throat and talked in low tone that was almost a whisper.

He said with a rueful smile,” You asked me many questions. Let me tell you in my own way. Though it is very personal and unsavoury, I do not mind sharing with you as It will relieve me of my stress somewhat. I belong to Madurai district and born to a very rich landlord. Being the only son, he pampered me a lot. He wanted me to look after the extensive land and the rice mills after my graduation.

I had an aversion for agriculture and the village atmosphere with mud roads, the smell of cow dung and stacks of gunny bags with paddy. I longed to be in Chennai permanently amid the many friends that I had cultivated in college. I had a weakness for watching Tamil films. The village had no theatre facility. There was no television then. My dad’s repeated pleas to assume responsibility to look after the lands and mills fell on deaf ears. He was getting old and falling sick frequently. My parents pressured me to get married to a good looking girl who had studied only up to class 10. They thought this would bind me with home and stop my frequent visits to Chennai. No doubt it did initially.

After the demise of my father a year later, my mother too died in a few months. I was compelled to take charge of the responsibility. Having neither experience nor interest, I could not manage the farm operations. I did not listen to the advice of elderly well-wishers of our family or the loyal employees. It soon started to be a losing proposition and became worse in five years when a distant relative offered to buy up the lands and the house. I jumped at the offer, collected a tidy amount and reached Chennai.”

“Did you not consult your wife or her parents before this momentous decision? “I asked

“My wife was averse to my decision but knew I was adamant by nature and never paid heed to her words. I was never close to my in-laws. I had enough money to live comfortably without working. I bought a nice house in Mylapore, furnished it well, acquired a new car and happily settled down.

Initially it was all hunky dory but gradually I fell into bad company and developed all vices: races, wine and women. Meanwhile my wife had conceived to our great joy. This was not to last long as she developed complications at the time of delivery and passed away giving birth to a still born baby. I started drinking heavily to drown the sorrows. It was in that unguarded moment that one of my friends sowed the idea of taking a film feeding me with rosy stories of successful producers and the good life they had with lady actors.

Being a green horn in the film industry I was surrounded by greedy tricksters with money flowing like water for setting up an office, staff, food and drinks, story discussions at expensive hotel and identifying actresses and actors with tidy advances. It all ended up in making a film that was a total flop and did not last a week. To make a long story short, I lost all my wealth and was saddled with debts. I became an insolvent and virtually thrown out on the road. The ‘friends’ deserted me as was expected. I was also a physical wreck afflicted by a dreaded disease and could not work.”

He stopped there and said that he was tired and that he would continue after dinner. A dismal story, I thought to myself, that we often hear from the cine field and the man went down low in my esteem. Dinner over, he resumed his narration without any prompting.

“With no home I loitered around not knowing where to go and what to do. I had no skills to work having wasted away my life. I was restless having foolishly frittered away all the wealth. To get some peace, I gravitated towards Sri Ramakrishna Mission ashram. I sat there daily for long hours dazed with tears trickling down.

 One day a kindly swamiji in ochre robes patted me gently and said “Do not grieve whatever be the reason. I often see people coming in such state here. Do not give up hope and try to be manly.”

 I narrated him my tale. “It is sad that you have lost both your wife and money. You have also realized with much remorse the wrong way you had led your life thus far. These are the outcomes of prarabda karma. You could not have prevented it. Though relatively young, you look very sick. Would you like to rebuild your life and start afresh?” he asked.

“No, Swamiji, I do not have many years to live and would not like to get into that cesspool again. Can I stay and work in the ashram? To be frank, being a sick person with a deadly disease, I would not like to pollute the ashram”

Swamiji in a consoling voice said” Ashram admits only sanyasins. It is not easy to become sanyasin as the initiation would be done only in deserving cases with the right temperament after a long wait. Many do not turn up again. In your case as you are ill, it is best to spend your remaining years in the vicinity of a temple praying for your salvation. Temples provide food. Hand over whatever money you have to some charitable institution and they may provide room and food.”

“Yes Swamiji, I think this is the best course open to me”

“Do not grieve much. Confessing one’s faults sincerely is a sign of repentance and transformation. I would strongly urge you to visit Dakshineswar before going to your place and pray with devotion to the merciful Ma to give you peace and comfort. I am sure Divine Mother will listen to your prayers and do what is best for you,” the swamiji advised

“I am now going back to Madurai to collect some money kept with a distant relative. I intend to settle down near a famous temple in a nearby district. This journey to Kolkata has made me very weak and my condition worse. Sorry sir, I have burdened you with my depressing story.”

“What did you pray to Kali Ma?” I asked.

“Sorry, I forgot to tell you. It was an undefinable and mesmerizing experience that I had never felt before when I had Her darshan. My mind went totally blank with no thought of me or my needs. I was completely lost in Her divinity and compassion till I was nudged by the crowd of devotees to move. I turned my face towards Her to have one last look and prayed Her to give me peace,” he replied with his eyes becoming moist.

I had no words to comfort him and said “It is getting late. Go to sleep. We will see in the morning”

I was woken up in the morning by the aroma of coffee. When I was having mine, I remembered the gentleman on the top berth. I thought he was catching up with the lost sleep after unburdening his weight on me. An hour went by and breakfast had started coming. I stood up and patted him. When there was no response, I did again and this time with a nudge. There was no movement. A young man went up and shook him only to find him inert and lifeless. I was wonder struck at Ma’s infinite compassion in answering his prayers with such swiftness.


Saturday, September 12, 2020

The magic of the kite

Dinesh and Savitri along with their six-year-old son had come to South India on a vacation. They had been planning this visit for a long time with Chennai as their last point. Both of them had not seen Marina beach in their life. They had reserved one day in Chennai specially for this purpose.

When they went early in the evening, they were taken in by the bewitching beauty of Marina beach. The warmth of the long stretch of sands, the view of the vast expanse of sea with its roaring waves in the azure back ground and the accompanying cool breeze transported them to heavenly joy. Both had wanted to stand in the water and enjoy the waves lashing at their feet. But they had not envisaged the great problem that arose from their son Varun.

 Ever since he came to the beach, he was cross and irritable. He was scared of the sea with its vast expanse of water and its giant waves. He grumbled that he cannot walk on the sand and complained of pain in the leg. He squatted on the sand sobbing and imploring them not to go near the water. He was throwing up all sorts of tantrums. Not all the cajoling and appeasing with candies, ice cream, and pony ride would make him budge. He stood adamant refusing to move and wailing at the top of his voice. He was afraid the water would swallow them. The couple were at their wit’s end not knowing what to do. They didn’t want to miss enjoying the beach having come this far but were also averse to make the boy cry further.

It was then Varun saw one young boy of his age with his shorts fully drenched in water returning with his dad from the sea shore. He. came running straight towards Varun and surprisingly handed him over the thread of the kite he was keeping afloat. Varun was elated at this unexpected gesture and got immersed in keeping the kite afloat in the sky. He stopped crying and was able to stabilize the kite with the help of his daddy. All his petulance had vanished and he was walking with his parents towards the water. There was no resistance as he was busy keeping the kite in position. Dinesh and Savitri took turns to stand in the water with the waves breaking on their legs, and drenching their clothes. It was an exhilarating and new experience for them. The sun was still shining but they had to leave to catch the night train to Delhi.

When they started walking back, with a reluctant Varun behind them, towards the waiting car on the road, they saw another young boy again of Varun’s age with his parents crying and refusing out of fear to move towards the sea. He too, as Varun did, squatted on the sand, and wailed hysterically with his parents looking helplessly.

Varun was amused. His parents smiled remembering the antics of Varun a couple of hours before. They were surprised when Varun walked towards the crying boy and handed over the thread of the kite that was still floating up in the sky. The same metamorphosis from fear to joy came about in the boy’s face with Varun walking proudly with his parents towards the car.

(Written 11 years back,this story has not been read by most of my current followers)

Saturday, August 22, 2020

A promise hastily made

 The young man was in deep debt. The debtors were pressurising him with threats. He was the sole bread winner for parents and younger siblings. His income was hardly adequate to meet the basic needs of the family.  He could see no way out except to take refuge in God at the temple. He took a bath, applied ash marks prominently on his forehead, arms and chest went to the nearest Vinayak temple. He removed his shirt, stood bare bodied before Lord Ganesha praying devoutly with his eyes in tears.

” Show me a way out of this mess I am in. If I am freed of this burden of debts and the onerous task of looking after the family, I promise to you sincerely that I would renounce the world and be your devotee forever. Kindly show your compassion, “he pleaded.

As there was a jostling crowd in the morning, he chose a corner and sat with his eyes closed to chant His name.1008 times keeping his shirt before him.

Many devotees thought him to be a mendicant and dropped coins, notes and even fruits. Engrossed in prayer, he did not notice this. It took a long time for him and just when he completed the count, the temple bell tolled repeatedly and if to signify his prayer was answered.’

The young man rose to jump in joy with his eyes closed unknowingly at the amused smiles of the people at the young man jumping madly as if possessed. When he opened his eyes and saw the small crowd around, he was highly embarrassed and bent to pick his shirt. To his utter bewilderment, he saw the coins, currency notes, fruits and surprisingly a lottery ticket too on and around the shirt. He hurriedly picked them all and made a hasty exit.

He thought someone had left an expired and useless lottery ticket. However, his curiosity overcame his impulse to discard it and found the next day was the day for the results. He was hopeful that Lord would not let him down but had not much hope on the lottery ticket. He put his signature and address behind the lottery ticket as a matter of abundant precaution.

The next day when he went to the bazaar, he was thrilled to find the ticket had won him one crore of rupees. All his problems seemed to vanish in a trice like snowflakes before Sun. Lord Vinayaka in His infinite mercy had answered his prayers. He quickly settled the debts, opened a small grocery store for his father and made proper investments to get regular monthly income.

 After a month his conscience pricked that his part of the prayer remained to be fulfilled, when he saw in the bazaar young and beautiful girls walking past him, the array of textile shops with display of beautiful clothes and the bars and beer beckoning him. He had not gone to temple except once after winning the lottery for elaborate puja and offerings.

Unable to bear the guilt and remorse at his being a cheat, he bought himself an ochre robe and gave away the pant and shirt to a beggar. He decided to move away from family and the town., His mind was restless as he sat in the temple in his yellow robes. Tears trickled from his eyes as he realized it was not easy to take to Sanyas.It was a foolish promise made in haste but he cannot fail to keep it. He was in a quandary not knowing how to get out of this tricky situation that he had invited upon himself. His eyes were closed in deep thought at his predicament.

It was then he heard the voice,” Cut, pack up. The day’s shooting is over.”. The garishly rich young man, smiled at the director and readied to get into the sleek car as the door was opened by his chauffeur.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The power of prayer

Selvam, a 12 year old boy, did not know what to do.His mom had been unwell for the last four days and since this morning did not open her eyes. She did not respond to his call. There were none to help them in the huts around. His father had deserted them and went after another woman. An old woman living in the adjacent hut had given his mom some home made herbal remedy the previous day but it had no effect at all. Her condition had worsened and caused him much worry. She had not taken any food even tea. The old woman advised the boy to take her immediately to some hospital. He had no money even for a rickshaw let alone taking her to a doctor. The boy sitting outside the hut was crying.
An old man who lived nearby and whom this boy called grandpa came and sat by the boy’s side. He was moved by his pitiable condition but was equally poor. He put his arms lovingly around the boy and said “Selvam, do not worry. I will be sitting here. You go to the Vinayagar(Ganesh) temple and pray to Him to make your mom alright. We have no other recourse poor as we are but to trust Him. Pray sincerely and He will answer your prayers. I have seen this many times. Hurry up. I will keep a watch over your mom.”
It was already 8 PM and dark. The boy ran to the small temple. The door of the sanctum was closed. The priest was not to be seen. There were none there. Selvam was disappointed. He peeped through the holes in the door and prayed devoutly to the God whose idol was visible faintly in the dim oil lamp that hung from the ceiling. Tears flowed from his eyes. He rang the bell loudly many times hoping it would notify the God of his presence. The boy sat on the ground before the sanctum, closed his eyes and repeated the name of the God 108 times. He opened his eyes with a start when he felt someone touching his head. He found before him an old man short, pot-bellied, wide mouthed and with a smile on his face. 
He asked softly
“Young boy, why are you crying and what were you praying the God for?”
“My mom is very sick. Her condition is bad. I have no money to take her to a doctor or hospital. I have none to help us. I prayed to the God to make her alright. I am very much afraid about my mother’s condition” Selvam said.
“Do not worry. I will come with you and see personally. Take me to your hut.” the old man said.
When he reached he found the ‘grandpa’ missing outside the hut. The short old man placed his hand on her head, applied some sacred ash on her forehead and sprinkled a little on her body. He turned to the boy and said “She would soon wake up. Give her something hot  to drink. She would be alright. Do not worry.”
The boy turned to his mom and saw her opening her eyes. Astonished at this quick development he called “Amma, how do you feel? Can I give you some tea?” She held his hands and smiled feebly at him. The boy wished to report to the short old man about this and rushed outside only to find the visitor no where seen. He ran a small distance towards the temple but he had mysteriously disappeared.
Hurrying home he found his ‘grandpa’ sitting inside the hut and talking to his mom.When Selvam narrated what happened since he went to the temple, about the short old man’s visit, sacred ash and his abrupt disappearance, his ‘grandpa’ was certain that he was none else than God Vinayagar(Ganesh) He queried the boy further about his appearance and any strange thing that he had observed while the old man was there.
Selvam replied “I did not see anything strange  except a mouse unusually sitting at the entrance and watching the short old man when he was inside the hut.
(Mouse is the divine vehicle of lord Vinayak popularly known as Ganesh or Ganpati Boppa)

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Who scooped the butter?

                          A topical story on Janmashtami day

Sukanya was like any other twelve-year-old girl, gregarious and fun loving, playing with neighbourhood girls but studious in studies coming in the top three of the class. Strangely in the last three months, she had changed into a silent and serious type not mingling with others. Even her parents wondered at the change.

It all happened suddenly when on a visit to her grandmother’s place, she was gifted with a doll of Sri Krishna. It was a two feet high, doll of Krishna in blue colour standing with a flute in hand and a cow behind. With His bewitching smile and handsome features, the doll of Krishna caught the fancy of the little girl. Her grandmother had narrated to her, the story of Meera Bai and her unflinching devotion to the Lord despite the trials and tribulations she faced. The story made a deep impact on the young girl and transformed her completely. She lost interest in studies and playing with friends. She spent all the time other than school hours with the doll she had kept in the puja room, dressing it up, making flower garlands, talking to it, singing bhajans and doing puja. A beautiful girl, she was blessed with a sweet voice and sang well with devotion.

Her parents were upset initially with her constant attention to the doll to the detriment of her studies, play and other chores. While her mother Savitri understood the girl’s love for the doll and her sincere devotion to the Lord, she did not confide much to her husband Hariharan knowing his impulsive nature. As a result, Hariharan was not fully aware that Sukanya spent most time with the doll.

About two months later, Hariharan when on evening walk happened to meet Sukanya’s class teacher whom he knew slightly having met in one of the school functions. The teacher from the other side of the pathway signalled him to stop and came towards him. After the pleasantries, the teacher asked him, “I find of late Sukanya lagging behind in studies. She was always in the top three but she is not performing well. More than that, she is morose and not the ebullient type she used to be. Lucky I met you today. I have been wanting to apprise you. Is she not well or what?”

“Thanks for informing. She is in good health I will look into it, “replied Hariharan.

As soon as he reached home, he asked his wife angrily, “Where is Sukanya? Call her here and you also remain here.”

The girl came out of the puja room with a flower garland in her hand unaware of her father’s mood. Hariharan plucked the garland from her hand and threw it away to a corner. He roared in anger at Sukanya who looked dazed, “Look here, I have just met your class teacher and I had to hang my head in shame when he made unflattering remarks about your performance and morose ways in the last two months and asked me whether you are keeping well. I find that you are always closeted with the doll in puja room and I have not seen you before your study table. I am not also happy with your mother in not sharing about your lazy ways and playing like a three year old baby with a doll. I am going to put it in the loft tomorrow. I warn you no more playing with doll.  I hope you will mend your ways.”

She cried inconsolably pleading, ’Appa, I am not playing with the doll. He is Lord Krishna. I am doing puja daily decorating him and offering raisins while singing bhajans in His glory. I promise to study well as before and score high marks. Please do not deprive me of my dear Krishna, I beg you appa.”

 After Savitri’s persuasion, he relented on the condition that she spent only 30 minutes in the morning and again in the evening and that she went to play daily, do her homework like before. She readily agreed but audaciously put a stipulation that her mom should provide her with butter in a small cup for her Lord. This was agreed to by them without fuss and inwardly happily.

 She knew that Krishna loved butter most. The doll remained in the puja room and not a day passed without Sukanya doing the soul stirring Bhajans, puja and offering of butter to the lord, all within the stipulated 30 minutes. The parents too saw no harm in her devotion, as it did not clash with her studies, play and other chores

One day when she had finished the puja, she found the butter had been scooped as if by small fingers. With surprise and glee, she asked her mom to witness the strange happening. When her mom looked at the cup and her fingers, Sukanya denied amidst sobs that she had not touched the butter. While they didn’t know what could have caused it, they decided to keep quiet. When this phenomenon happened in the successive three days, her mom told her husband about the strange occurrence.

The father called the girl and told her sternly that he would stop all the puja if she did not come out with the truth. With this veiled accusation as if she had taken the butter, the girl denied her hand vehemently. But the dad was not convinced and said, “I have not come across any incident of God taking the prasad offered to him. May be you are not aware that you are unconsciously handling the butter. I think there is something fishy about the whole thing.” Sukanya was deeply hurt but did not respond unwilling to provoke him.

The next day Hariharan stayed at home to get into the bottom of the matter. When the girl was doing the puja, he surreptitiously came down without the knowledge of the girl and his wife who was busy in the kitchen. Now and then, he saw through a narrow opening of the puja room door, the girl singing softly with her eyes closed. When the song was over and the puja seemed to end, he peeped again through the opening. What he saw astounded him.

 He saw a boy of ten years bluish in colour with yellow silk around his waist, a peacock feather on his head and a flute in hand stooping down to the cup and taking the butter with his fingers. When the boy turned his gaze towards the opening in the door, Hariharan instantly fell unconscious.

 Hearing the commotion both Sukanya and her mom came running towards him.” Appa, please open your eyes. What happened? Why did you faint?” asked Sukanya.

When the man blabbered about the blue boy he saw with his flute and the feather, her mother splashed some water on his face and gave him some to drink.She waited  for  him to  calm down.

 She said “What boy and where is he? The front door is locked. There is no one here. Sukanya also hasn’t seen anyone. Are you day dreaming?”

 “No, I saw him distinctly. I have never seen such a beautiful face and the eyes were red in colour of unparalleled beauty. He stooped down and scooped the butter. Believe me, you can see the cup yourself if you do not trust me.”

When they saw the cup, they found the butter had been removed by two tiny fingers. Sukanya with tears welled up in her eyes shouted in elation and excitement, “Kanna, Krishna, Govinda, Navneetha chora, how lucky I am that you have heard my prayers and had come to stand by my side. How unlucky I was to keep my eyes closed when you stood near me and ate the butter? Why did you not make some noise?”

 The parents embraced the girl who was in rapture and delight and smothered her with kisses.

 The choice is yours, dear reader, to dispute the strange happening or trust in full faith as Lord's Divine grace.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Raghu,a boy of a different mettle

Raghuram, Raghu in short, was a class mate of mine in seventh standard in my younger days. I have forgotten most of the other boys but I still remember distinctly his face for the prominent beak shaped nose. He was slightly built and had a constant puckered smile on his soft face. He never talked unless spoken to and rarely mingled with others. He did not participate in sports. He was happy to be left alone to his devices. He wore his caste mark prominently on his face. He was not distinguished in his studies. Except in Sanskrit, history and moral sciences, he had no interest in other subjects. He just scraped through, I think.
I remember one incident when the class teacher asked us to write in one page of what we wished to be when we grew old. Some of us wrote about our wish to be engineers, while some wanted to be teachers and some others business men or lawyers and such like callings. When the boys were discussing excitedly among themselves, Raghu stood aside alone without showing any interest.
We did not know that Raghu was different from us till the afternoon. We came to know when the teacher called him softly by his side and asked him to tell the class on what he wished to be. He kept quiet feeling embarrassed. The teacher goaded him telling that there was nothing to feel shy about and that he was proud to be his teacher.
Thus prompted, the boy said, “I wish to be a monk and recede to forest to meditate on my God and do Tapasya till I have His darshan.” There was a disbelief and stunned silence even as the boys saw the teacher wiping his tears from his eyes.
The teacher wondered at the serendipitous discovery and felt that this deep devotion and serene detachment from worldly ways of the boy’s age were not common possessions. Least of all are they to be found in a teen aged school boy. Later after the class was over, the teacher patted Raghu gently on his shoulder and told him “Will you take me along with you to meet your parents this evening. I wish to pay my obeisance to the fortunate couple.”
Raghu immediately implored “Sir, please do not mention about this essay of mine to them. They are already unhappy with me about my poor marks and my ways.”
“Why are you not studying well? You score well in Sanskrit and a few other subjects but seem to neglect important subjects. What is it that you do to displease your parents? Should you not listen to them?” he gently asked.
Raghu said, “Excuse me if I am in the wrong. I am a great devotee of Sri Ramachandra and Sri Anjaneya swami. I have their idols and do puja both mornings and evenings. I do not know why but I wish to do nothing else except thinking of my Lord. My father is against all these as he considers them a waste of time to the detriment of my studies and  future. He wants me to stop all this and go out to play with other boys. He beats me if he sees me sitting before my darling idols. So I have hidden them in the terrace and do the puja unknown to him. My mom knows but she does not dissuade me.”
The teacher kept silent and later learnt from his parents that what all he had stated was true. Both the parents were dejected and had given up hopes of ‘reforming’ the boy. He did not mingle with his siblings except a little with mom and spent all the waking hours before the idols and deriving pleasure in dressing them and singing bhajans praising their glories.
The teacher knew that the great Acharya Sankara himself pleaded with his mother at the age of seven to allow him to renounce the world. Coming to our own time, a twelve-year-old Ramana felt a spiritual tug in his heart strings that set him forth on his spiritual journey. In the instant case too, the teacher perceived an uncommon boy who had a rare spiritual hunger and deep devotion to Lord Ram and who gave all his unwavering attention and time praying to Him in the hope of having His darisan. The teacher kept quiet as he knew that it was best not to interfere with the boy’s ‘spiritual progress’ only to safeguard his parental wishes.
Years had gone by. I lost touch with Raghu after I came out of the school but the essay incident in the school remained etched in my mind. It was some decades later I accidentally met his younger brother who was also then studying in the same school.
I learnt that Raghu did his graduation in Sanskrit and did not marry. He became a Sanskrit pundit in a school. He had not changed a bit except that his devotion grew intense. He did not become a sanyasin or wore ochre robes. After his parents died, he stayed alone and had his food brought from a nearby temple on payment. He spent all his leisure hours in a religious Mutt, assisting them in their activities and tending to the sick and needy persons. No one knew what puja he did and when. He lived a life of recluse and did not participate in family functions. He gave away his share of the property to charitable institutions. The last the brother heard about Raghu was that he lived in a temple town spending his remaining days in the temple. He preferred solitude and discouraged any contact with him. He had obviously discovered his real identity, knew his true nature and felt the presence of Supreme spirit in everything and everywhere.
I chose to visit the same temple soon hoping to see him. Yes, I could see him sitting in a corner near Anjaneya shrine and went near him with folded hands. He had grown a beard, looked emaciated but the puckered smile was intact. I could see his penetrating eyes that seemed at once far away and distant as he saw me. When I introduced myself, there was no display of emotion or flicker of eyes but total silence with no hint of recognition. I wondered whether he was in a state of trance, Samadhi. I was convinced that he is no ordinary soul. He has turned an evolved person who belonged to this world and yet not part of it. Life for him was a voyage that he had to undertake to liquidate his past karmic debts. Involuntarily I fell at his feet before leaving with my eyes moist and throat choked with emotions. That was the last I saw him.
Fully conscious that such divine grace does not come by to all, I could only proudly tell my children and grandchildren that I had the privilege of studying together with a karma yogi who had realised himself.
The winds of grace are always blowing; it is for us to raise our sails.”

Thursday, June 4, 2020


(A story written 11 years back have not been read by many current readers).
Venkat was in class seven. He was taking regular tuition from his Sanskrit teacher as his father wanted him to become proficient in that language. He went to his master’s house in the evenings to learn. His teacher was dark complexioned, frail and small built man in his early forties. His teeth were not aligned properly and he had a dangling tuft in the unkempt hair that was not tied properly. His face always bristled with unshaven hair. He was on the whole an unattractive person. But he was a great scholar of gentle disposition and soft in words. One rarely saw him smile. He had a soft corner for Venkat as he was studious and excelled soon in Sanskrit.
The teacher’s wife slightly taller than him, very fair and was exceptionally beautiful. Slightly plump with a twinkle in her eyes, she was always well dressed and appeared graceful in her deportment. She must have been younger by more than ten years to the teacher. She too liked Venkat very much, called him Venky affectionately and gave him often some delicacies to eat while running her hand over his head.
Venkat found that his teacher was always morose and lost in thought when he was with him teaching Sanskrit in the evenings. The lady would be watching TV serials or reading some film magazines or novels. He had not seen them talking much with each other. There was always a constricted atmosphere in the house. But when the teacher was not around, Venkat could see her happily laughing and playing with him or with the small babies from the adjoining houses. Venkat felt that the couple did not get along well as they had no children of their own.
The teacher had a strange habit of forgetting to bring something or the other to the school. He would send Venkat almost daily to his house during the day at no fixed hours asking him to bring a book, a pen or lunch box. When he returned he used to pat him and ask him whether he saw anyone in the house. Venkat would reply that he saw none as auntie always gave the article through the window. It appeared to the boy that the teacher was not satisfied with his reply. Months flew by but the routine remained unchanged.
One afternoon when Venkat went to the house, he did not knock the door as he usually did but peeped in through the window that was not fully closed. To his great shock, he saw an uncle reclined on the lap of auntie and both of them laughing about something. Venkat quietly withdrew and knocked the door and asked for the book the teacher had forgotten. As usual she did not open the door but gave him the book through the window before closing it fully.
Venkat was confused whether to tell the teacher or not. To his young mind it struck for the first time that auntie was not good. He started disliking her but did not tell the teacher what he saw. He felt sad for some unknown reason for his teacher. Nevertheless, he chose to peep through the window thereafter whenever there was a vent before knocking the door. He found the same uncle frequently in the house hugging the auntie or caressing her till one day the auntie found out the peeping Tom.
She pushed the man aside and came running to Venkat highly excited asking him how long he was there. Venkat pretended that he had just come and gave no indication of what he saw. She did not appear convinced of what he told her. She said she was afraid thinking that a stranger was peeping when she was alone in the house. She asked him to wait and brought a box full of chocolates. She told him after giving the box that she liked him very much and that he should not peep in future. On his way to the school Venkat threw the box in disgust into the garbage bin.
It was a week after this incident one day when he came to the school in the morning, he found all the teachers standing outside in groups talking in hushed tones with many boys milling around. Sensing something amiss he went near them only to learn that his beloved Sanskrit master had committed suicide in the early hours of the day.
The teachers were all discussing what could be the reason for him to take this extreme step of hanging at this young age. He had no worries financial or otherwise and seemed happily married to a charming wife. What more one could want? True he had no children but these days so many people adopt children. None were wiser for the reason the gentle teacher chose to inflict upon himself this ultimate and irreversible punishment.
Tears trickled from Venkat’s eyes. But he was determined to remain quiet to keep his revered teacher’s fair name and dignity unsullied by lowly gossip.

Monday, June 1, 2020

The shrew

Parvatha Vilas, a palatial building on a six ground plot, large and imposing was rightly named after the lady of the house, Parvatham. You might have not known her but you must have certainly seen Khubsoorat with Dina Pathak and Rekha playing admirably well the  important roles in it. The lady of the house in the film was a no-nonsense, nose upturned type with no trace of smile in her face. Her writ ran large in the house and her wishes were commands strictly obeyed by all members of her family. The character in our story is no different but even slightly worse than that
Tall and heavily built, with a stentorian voice and hawk like eyes, Parvatham never took a No for an answer. She brooked no dissent and went into rage at the slightest hint of dissatisfaction to her diktats. Hers was a large and affluent joint family of five daughters and three sons. Three daughters were married and two of them live separately close by. One married daughter continued to live with her family at her parent’s place. The three sons who were all married continued to live in the house with their wives and children.
Subramania iyer, a capable lawyer with lucrative practice, while at home was a timid man with shifty eyes and of small build. He had stopped practicing since two years. Most thought he was henpecked but he believed in the dictum discretion is better than valour. He knew all his renowned communication skills and knowledge were of little avail against the harsh-tempered termagant. That she was disagreeable and evoked more fear than respect among her children, husband and servants is a fact none disputed. The evening dinner when all assembled as a rule was more a silent ritual of filling the stomachs than the bonhomie of family members eating together, exchanging good natured banters and laughing around the dining table.
Parvatham always decided what should be the daily menu giving scant regard for individual preferences, what dress to be bought for whom and what dress to be worn on what occasions, what courses the children should take in their colleges, what time the TV can be on and what serials can be seen by whom. The younger daughters and the grandchildren never liked her autocratic ways and detested her habit of checking their mobiles unseen or refusing permission for granddaughters to go out with boyfriends and insisting they are back home for dinner. She was in short a terror in the house running it at her will and whims. She was no doubt a well-intentioned lady though and being the only daughter in her house, pampered and spoilt, she grew to be a shrew. One gets somewhat the scenario of the house, if one can remember Mrs. Trunchbull of the movie Matilda.
Of late, she suffered from memory loss and would repeat the same instructions again and again. She would rebuke the servants for not carrying out her orders that had already been complied with. But she would strongly deny that she suffered even a trace of amnesia and none argued with her for fear of her foul mouth. The doctor suspected signs of onset of dementia though she managed her chores on her own. Nevertheless, her forgetfulness caused concern and fear to all.
 It was on one such day when family members had gone to a function at relative’s place. When they returned in the evening, Parvatham was not to be seen. The servants had no clue when and how she went out of the house. Even the security at the gate had callously missed her slipping out unseen. Everyone scurried hither and thither searching for her in all rooms and neighbourhood. She was not to be found. They phoned and went out searching for her amongst friends and relatives but could gather no useful information.
The next day they lodged a police complaint for missing person. Two or three days had elapsed with no news about her whereabouts. But there was a total metamorphosis in the atmosphere at the house. One could hear shouts, peals of laughter, happy guffaws and joyful screams with many running about without fear of reprimand. The old man was before the TV watching WWF wrestling matches nonstop alternating in between to cricket and tennis. One could hear the buzz of mobiles nonstop. The dining table got totally a different fare with several items to suit individual tastes. TVs were installed in many rooms. They took the plates and watched TV sitting on sofas that was earlier strictly forbidden. They got up late, took bath whenever it pleased them. There was a total laissez-faire or anarchy depending on the way you look at it. There was a sense of freedom all around though they inwardly missed the old lady and pangs of sadness were felt.
At the suggestion of the old man, an advertisement with her photo was inserted in the popular dailies both English and Tamil.. Within two days, they received a call from a senior home.
“Sir, I am the Secretary calling from ABC senior home. Three days back some people who found her loitering aimlessly in the vicinity brought her here in the night. She seemed a decent looking rich lady from the jewelry worn. She could not answer our questions properly or realize her predicament. Luckily we saw the advertisement today. We wish you to take her away immediately. She is threatening all and ordering about the other inmates as if she owned this place. We understand that she is not alright. However, we are not running the place free. We collect 15000pm from each. We cannot keep her free here. Please come and take her immediately.”
The son who attended the call said to others who crowded around him, “Mom is safe at a senior home. She is suffering from amnesia but it seems her old imperious ways have not left her. They want her to be taken away immediately as it is a paid home for senior citizens at Rs15000 pm.”
There was some silence. One of the sons nudged by his wife spoke, “Mom is not well. We had problem even when she was in full possession of faculties. Now with signs of dementia, I shudder. Why not allow her to continue there? We can pay whatever money they want including the salary of an exclusive maid for her. We can visit her by turn regularly.”
The eldest daughter-in-law said, “We all like her though she acted as a Mother Superior of a strict convent. Let her stay there for some time for her own benefit and we can take a call later.”
When the son who took the call found there was no objection from others, he spoke to the secretary to tell him,” We will give you a ring shortly. Please wait”
“We cannot wait. We can keep her with us in our assisted living block on a fee of Rs. 20000 pm covering the expense of a maid also. Three months’ fee must be paid in advance along with a small deposit. If this is not acceptable, we shall send her by ambulance after lunch. Please convey the decision in five minutes,” said the Secretary.
There was another round of hushed confabulations and everyone looked at the old man after explaining that house now bore the atmosphere of a home instead of a hostel earlier and they be allowed to enjoy the freedom and peace for some more time.
Like the Oracle, the old man finally gave his ruling. “Let it not be mistaken that we have no affection or concern for Parvatham. She loved us so much that she was willing to bear the cross of being disliked by all. But it is a fact that she tread on the corns of everyone here. The house is now wearing a joyful atmosphere after years of stuffed feeling. She is also not physically and mentally well and needs some rest which I am sure this house cannot offer. Although the secretary’s words that he would send her here in ambulance smacks of black mail, we will not succumb to such threats. We would on our own accord allow her to stay in the Senior home for six months initially. We can take a call at the end of the period. Each one of you should promise to visit her frequently. Tell the Secretary accordingly and give a cheque for six months’ fee.”
There was great rejoicing accompanied by dancing to which the old man said “This is not becoming of us. We really miss her.”