Thursday, January 30, 2020

The search

As Mahalingam was about to enter the house late in the evening, he heard his father speaking in a frustrated tone to his mother and he stood there listening to the conversation.
“Paru, stop building castles in the air about Maha.From what I hear from his teachers in school, he is irregular to the classes and is at the bottom of the class. The teachers have given up on him as he has absolutely no interest in studies. He is a loafer often spending time at the temple and doing errands for the priest, “ bemoaned his dad.
“Can we give up on him like his teachers? He is after all our only son and is no muff. The only problem with him is he is deeply devoted to god and relishes being at temple and doing things he considers holy. I have spoken to the priest many times to encourage Maha to devote his time to studies. I suggest you also talk to him as his words may carry greater weight than ours, “replied his mom.
“I have done that many times and the priest tells me the boy is destined to become a spiritual leader and that we should not interfere in his pursuits. I have decided to leave Maha at your brother’s place at Coimbatore where he will be with his studious cousins and may change his ways. I intend to take Maha tomorrow. You pack his clothes in a bag,” his dad spoke with a finality.
Maha quietly retraced his steps and rushed to temple. To his disappointment, the sanctum was closed and the priest had left. He scribbled on a paper just mentioning that he is going in search of a guru and that none need search for him and inserted it in the keyhole of the lock to sanctum.
The priest had told him once about sage Ramana maharishi and how he became evolved by atma vichara (introspection) and that such intellectual pursuits are not easy for ordinary mortals. He was told further that it is only through a guru that one can progress spiritually and that Guru materializes only when one is ready for the knowledge to be imparted. They are not found easily but even to this day the siddha purushas roam about in secluded and silent spots like forests and are not visible easily. Devotees can see them if destined.
A young and innocent boy of 15, Maha was guileless and trusting by nature. He had grown physically big for his age, tall and well-built. He had no money in his pocket but set out on his spiritual journey to nowhere in particular. He started out travelling by train and foot only to reach the very same hills of Arunachala that Sage Ramana took. He was famished with hunger when he reached the temple. He lived on broken pieces of coconuts and plantains usually found left behind by pilgrims. He went around the hill in the quiet hours when it was not crowded and made inroads into the interiors hoping to meet the invisible mystics. Unluckily it never happened, though when he espied a clean spot he sat down to meditate. Without proper initiation, unable to stop crowding thoughts or prevent stings and bites of insects, he never could be at peace with himself. When the shadows lengthened and darkness descended, he heard strange cries and came away from the jungle in fear. He never gave up in his daily search for guru or his frequently interrupted meditations. Hunger and thirst bothered him much and the first boon he wanted was to be free of them.
It was hot summer and the sun was blazing in all his fury. Maha was extremely thirsty with his throat parched and there was no visible source of water with everything seemed dry. He trudged along towards the road where he saw a thatched hut. A man was ambling along from the hut towards him with two plastic tumblers in hand. He gave one to Maha urging him, “You seem very young but look very thirsty and tired. Drink this, you will feel better”
Maha gulped it without a second thought thinking it was water but found it tasted differently with some strange smell. With his thirst partially quenched, he did not refuse the second tumbler. He felt comfortable sitting on a culvert and was at strange peace with himself singing loudly a Tiruppugazh song. He could not recollect how long he lay there till he found someone gently nudging to wake him up. The sun had gone down and not many could be seen in the vicinity. He opened his eyes to see some young person with long hair falling down partially covering the face, a faded blue jean like thing with one portion covering up to knee and the other to the ankle. The figure had a mala of beads with a big rudraksha as pendant. He could not make out whether it was male or female except the figure had a very fair complexion.
“Are you here in these parts seeking Moksha? I am also looking for gyan from one of the gurus that abound here as people told me. I could not meet anyone for the last one week except some mendicants requesting for alms. Can we team up if you are also like me tracing a mystic?” the figure said in a husky voice.
Maha blinked at the young figure unable to size up the situation and found it difficult to stand firmly. He thought something was wrong in what he drank for water and shook his head sideways vigorously to get a control of himself. He could hardly stand up till he held the soft hand that was proffered to help him get up.
“I am Elizabeth but you can call me Liza. Where do you stay here? If you have no place you can spend the night in my tent and both of us can go in the morning to forest in search of guru,” she said.
When he struggled to keep pace with her, she took out from a pouch a small tablet and gave him telling, “Chew this, you will find your mood better in our search for guru and liberation.”
He refused initially but she insisted that he open his mouth and put the tablet in when he could not resist her request. She put her hand on his shoulders as a support and gently led him towards her tent. Maha felt some queer feeling as if he was floating in the sky amid stars and expressed his fears to his companion.
“This is nothing. Get used to this and I will take you to the uncharted world of bliss in the days to come to prepare ourselves for the great liberation.” she whispered softly in his ears even as the blond hair rubbed against his nostrils. He snuggled closer to her as the chill wind blew across making them hasten their steps towards the tent. He could vaguely see her spreading a sheet on the ground and making him stretch himself on it. He could not recollect what happened next as he fell into deep sleep.
He did not know how long he had slept, till he felt a baton hitting his knees gently. When he opened his eyes, he found a police man in Khaki telling him in contempt, “Are you not ashamed to sleep in this foul smelling gutter lane with no clothes on save your undergarment? Get up and pick your dhoti lying in the corner and cover yourself before others see you in this predicament.”
“I was lying under a tent of my companion and I did not see any gutter. Frankly I do not know how my dhoti got separated from me,” Maha pleaded in shame.
“What companion, a female hippie? You look hardly an adult and some wily woman has trapped you. Go home immediately and if I find you again here, I will lock you up,” he shouted in anger as he hit him hard on his leg.
He could see no trace of Liza or the tent or the sheet and stood confused till the constable pushed him out of the stinking lane.
 Maha walked fast towards town when he heard the clang of a temple bell from a nearby small temple. This made him halt and turn towards the temple. When he saw a young priest in yellow robe and forehead covered in ash, a change came about him. He smeared himself with ashes after having a bath in the well. As he stayed to watch the puja he could not control his tears and started weeping inconsolably at his foolishness. Perambulating the small temple 108 times, he found a new vigour and purpose as he walked back to the beckoning hills and its shady forest. He was determined not to stray away from his goal.
As he entered the jungle, he avoided the beaten track leading into jungle but chose a bushy opening in the opposite direction. He waded through the thorny plants pushing them with his hands till he reached after a furlong or two a clearing with sunlight. He sat on a granite rock and started chanting loudly for long with his eyes closed, Om Namasivayah, Om Namasivayah…. When he opened the eyes, he found the sun was about to set and he wished to go to the plains. It was then he heard from behind a soft voice, “What are you doing here in the forest at this time when the wild animals would soon be on prowl? I heard you chanting the lord’s name. What is your name?”
He turned to see a small frail figure, dark in complexion with matted hair and long beard smiling at him with eyes that glistened. He had no clothes save the loin cloth with ashes smeared all over the body
“I am Mahalingam, Swami. I am here in the forest in search of a guru to lead me in the spiritual path, I have not been successful so far,” Maha said.
The figure laughed aloud and asked ‘” Do you expect the guru, in ochre robes with rudhrakhsa mala and kamandal, announcing he is guru?”
When Maha blinked not knowing what to say, the dark figure asked him to come near and whispered in his ears the mantra. and said “You can now go to plains, find a secluded spot, observe silence, avoid people, just  eat to live and do japa."
Electrified Maha fell at his feet prostrating in full and clasping his legs, he   mentally thanked him for his compassion and guidance. When he opened his eyes, he saw the figure missing. He realized now​ that he had met his guru and jumped in jubilation shouting repeatedly,”I have found my guru,” till he heard a voice, “Yes, your search has not been in vain. Think of me when you need me urgently, I will appear.”

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Is he really guilty?

Sharp at 6 am without fail, I daily hear the bell ringing continuously from the adjacent flat with the smell of camphor burning accompanied by the low tone of prayers being said. It was an annoyance initially but gradually grew accustomed to it. In fact, I get up invariably with a guilty conscience. Raghav Chaturvedi, my neighbor for the last five years and junior in age by about ten years, is a devoted person given to prayers, daily puja with homa early in the morning to Sri Ram durbar. With a prominent Tilak on his forehead and a garland of Tulsi beads, he evokes instant respect. I think he gets up early in the morning at 4 am to complete the rituals in time for him to leave for work by 8 am. His wife Vanita seems a gentle lady and very supportive to her husband. They have two small children. On many days especially holidays they visit the nearby temples.
When I was having my breakfast one day, my wife Savitri came and sat by my side and said in hushed tone, “Yesterday, Vanita invited me to see the new dish washer installed in her place two days back. It is so comfortable and elegant to look. It seems it is completely automatic. They have already a washing machine. See how fortunate she is having no backbreaking workload on her.
“I am aware that these labour-saving devices reduces the work but they are both expensive especially if you go for a versatile model. I wonder how they could afford. I learn Raghav works as a junior executive in the commercial department of a private company. I feel he would not be drawing much more than me and has also no rich background as I could observe when I saw his parents when they visited him. I suspect something fishy,” I mentioned. 
“During the last three years, they have bought new furniture, a big double door fridge, Acs and exchanged the old bangles for new ones. I do not know whether they are well off or not. He must be earning well or bought some of them on instalments. Whatever, he is very considerate and loving providing Vanita all the comforts. Why cast aspersions on such a pious person, if you are unable to?” my wife replied. 
“I know what you are driving at. But, as an inspector in revenue department, just by seeing the face I can tell whether a person is honest or not. All this bell clanging, homa, camphor burning and puja early in the morning, I suspect, are all a camouflage to deceive the neighbourhood. This is one reason why I keep away from the guy. If he were in government, I could have in no time done something to find out his source of income,” I said.
 “I am disappointed with your professional habit of always doubting others’ honesty and disparaging them. In fact, many of my friends who visit me, often tell me why I could not reduce the burden of the domestic chores with these useful gadgets. Possibly they believe that with you being in revenue department all these can be easily acquired. They do not know that you are scrupulously honest and live frugally on what you get legally”. Savitri remonstrated. 
I got angry, “I do not want you to mingle anymore with Raghav’s family or invite your other nosy friends’ to our home to poison your mind like they do with their husbands in their greed.”
 My wife, a gullible and innocent person, trusting everyone unaware of the deceitful and corrupt ways most acquire goods and other assets, was miffed at my command. I do not discuss my financial matters with her.
A week later, when I reached home a little earlier than usual, I saw Vanita standing on the balcony. She opened the front door of her flat opposite mine and said, “Please come in and wait for a few minutes. I saw Savitri going out and should be back any time.” 
While I was hesitating, she insisted that I must come inside and bless them on Makar Sankranti day. I went in and found her husband was away. To my great shock, I found the house bare, bereft of even basic furniture. The walls were faded and the bare floor needed repairs. She drew a plastic chair and made me sit. When she excused herself to bring me tea, I looked around and could see no evidence of prosperity or even the basic needs that a modest home would need. The old fan was creaking making much noise. The curtains on the windows were in need of urgent replacement. I peeped into the dining place and found a cheap study table doing the duty of dining table and place for study. There were two chairs and two stools. The two children were looking emaciated and were in ordinary clothes. There was a lump in my throat and a sense of pity overcame.
Something is totally amiss here to what I was told about them. Where were the sofa sets, the split ACs, the colourful carpet that Savitri spoke about? I could sense immediately with my long experience that this was no cover-up to conceal some opulence but sadly real. I knew it would be foolish to find out if they had ACs, washing machine and dish washer that Savitri said they had. Nevertheless, to make sure, I told Vanita that there is occasional seepage in our balcony from the terrace and wished to see if they had a similar problem. She took me to the verandah through the kitchen. There was neither seepage nor the washing machine and dishwasher. There were only plastic buckets.
” I am very happy that you could visit our house on this auspicious day for the first time after so many years. My husband would be here anytime. Kindly have the tea,” she said as she placed a tray with a cup of tea, some pheda and namkeens. Luckily Raghav entered soon and seeing me seated there, he rushed towards me and touched my feet. Vanita and children also joined him to receive my blessings. I fished out a 500 rupee note from my pocket and gave it to the two children.
We chatted for a while as Savitri had not turned up. During the conversation, I learnt that his company was not doing well and was running on loss. The company paid only half the salary and that too in instalments for the last one year or so. He was passing through trying times as his parents at the village relied on his monthly remittance. Luckily as the flat belonged to him, he had a roof over him. I commiserated with him promising him of my effort to locate some good opening for him.
Soon Savitri came much earlier than my usual time and stood frozen with shock when she saw me on the plastic chair with Vanita’s family. I smiled at her and said, “Lucky you were away. Otherwise I would not have had the pleasure of meeting such a loving and pleasant family. You should have brought me here earlier instead of just sharing information about them. Come on, let us go.”
With two of us alone and children out playing, I asked her,” Savitri, tell me honestly why you were telling brazen lies about a good family making me dislike them. What benefit do you derive from it? Tell me the truth before my trust in you is completely shattered.”
Savitri squirmed in her seat and pleaded, “Kindly excuse this wretch. In my greed for a high end dishwasher and washing machine, good furniture and 16” mattress and a nice carpet, I was fabricating stories to tempt you to buy them for us. Since you were not kindly disposed to him due to his pious ways, I thought you may not go there at all. I promise that this mistake would not recur. Kindly pardon me I am proud that you are a very honest man of integrity.”
I patted her and said in assuring tone, “Do not worry. Don’t I know you. I can afford what all you wanted. But in my job not only I should be very honest but also seen to be so. If I show off, people will suspect me. I will get you one by one. Do not worry or discuss these matters with your friends.”
Savitri had become a transformed person and life was hunky dory till one day after a fortnight, a covered blue van stopped outside her building at 6AM in the morning. Everyone in the complex craned their necks through their balconies wondering what could bring half a dozen men to their colony so early and who they were after, till one of the men knocked at the doors of Satyanarayan. A policeman guarded their door while four men entered the apartment and nothing was heard from inside. After an agonizing wait, one of the men told the onlookers they were from CBI. Soon Satyanarayan was escorted to the van, while his wife was seen weeping inconsolably.
I forgot to tell you at the beginning, that my name is Satyanarayan. You have all seen how Spartan has been our living. They would not take my word but tell me that these are all cover up and they have concrete evidence of my shenanigans. What shenanigans I am not aware of, till they produce the evidence. I may be busy for a few months. Kindly take care of Savitri and the children. I promise they are lily white pure and know nothing of my official work.
Vanita turned to Raghav and said, “We will take care of her as our didi till he returns.”

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

The last minute glitch

I know Siddarth, Sid as I call him, well since he became my colleague six years back. You cannot fault him if he attracted a bevy of young women yearning for his friendship. Such was his god given magnetic charm. I would not say he was tall at his 170 cms or boast of a six pack abdomen that film stars invariably flaunt. In fact, he was dusky with an unruly hair on his head that defied any styling but his chiseled face, his aquiline nose, the twinkling eyes and the spontaneous laughter that he broke into even over trivial remarks, made him a heart throb of women who came into contact.
Add to that the facts that he was a qualified engineer with a Wharton MBA. He held a senior position in a renowned company drawing a fat salary. He had a swanky car with a compact rented apartment in a posh colony. On a rough count it could be a dozen young female fans whom he regularly met individually or collectively. He never hid his friendships with them.
But he had some principles that he strictly followed. He took special care to keep friendships with female colleagues in office strictly formal and professional with no hint of romance. He also kept them away from his external friends.
He met his personal friends only after his office hours, took them out to restaurants or movies individually mostly and on occasions three or four by turn. He was a fun-loving guy who threw a party at his apartment on weekends to all of them once a while when in mood. A tactful guy he never left anyone feel she has been ignored or made it appear as anyone special. He never shared personal information of one with the other. The women trusted him as each one was left to feel that she was closer to him than others. There was seemingly no envy among these young women but one could sense an undemonstrated rivalry among them to win his hand.
He had confided once in a weak moment that he had different boundaries for these ladies with a couple of them friendly with him even before their marriage. I suspect he was a smooth operator and ensured the women got the impression that he just enjoyed being among them and revel in friendly banter and hoo-has than with any ulterior motive. They felt safe with him.
When I prodded him, “Do you have fancy for anyone among this lot as a potential life partner? You must be having a special and romantic interest with one individual? Though you might not have expressed it, you must have conveyed in other subtle ways.”
“Yes, you are right. I love one Shreya very much and I feel she Is also pining for me. I came to know of her only recently less than a year and find that her interests, taste, and attitude complement mine. In fact, I am waiting for the right moment to tell her.”
Sid has told me more than once that his mom, who was living alone in the village but with relatives around, has been pressurizing him for the last three or four years to get married. She often pleaded with him that she was sick and getting old and would like to see him married before she passed away. Having lost his dad in his early age, it was his mom who brought him up in difficult circumstances selling the property to fund his education. He loved her as apple of his eye and was ever grateful for the sacrifices she had made for him. He sent her money generously each month.
But he liked the present unattached life and put off the marriage to the extent possible till one day his dad’s cousin rang up from the village a fortnight back and informed that his mom has been unwell with high BP and had fainted a few times. The town doctor has prescribed her medicines. They had fixed a poor lady to be with his mom all the time and cook food for a monthly fee and that the amount was not much especially for him. He suggested Sid to visit her once immediately as it may have a calming effect on her who has been uttering his name frequently.
I do not know what happened during the visit but he said one day,” Sudhir, I have committed to my mom that I will marry within three months and keep her with me. She was very happy but indicated firmly that she would continue to remain at the village only.
“How are you planning to go about getting the lady after your heart? Would she be willing after your inaction all these months or do you need any help from me in scanning the matrimonial sites?”
” Why should I go out when I have one already in view? I know her well including her family details. I intend to invite all of them for a party at my place the coming Sunday without telling the purpose and break the news there,” he said with a happy smile.
“Would you need me to assist you there in the party?” I innocently asked.
“No, you will be an odd man out there. I will introduce them to you later after my engagement, Anyway, thanks, I can manage the get together.” he rebuffed with his usual boisterous laughter.” I will be at my home. Call me if you need any assistance.” I told him in serious tone.
 At 5 pm the next Sunday, the living room at Siddarth’s house was reverberating with Bollywood songs interrupted by peals of laughter, shrill screams along with clinking of glasses. There were fourteen women assembled there that included cousins of two invitees. The table at a corner had sweets from a nearby Bengali shop, Rajbog, Sandesh, Pantua resembling gulab jamoons and a pot full of misti doi. There were namkeens too like kachoris, samosas, dhokla, roasted cashew nuts and some other stuff. There were several soft drinks and a few bottles of other stuff.
The women were dancing to the tunes of latest Bollywood songs with total abandon. Seated from a vantage position, Siddarth, in denim and yellow Lucknowi kurta, was watching Shreya dance and sing on the sly without making it obvious. He announced after a while if they are willing they could start eating.
It was then one after the other, the women went to the only wash room attached to his bed room. As the door of washroom was not locking, they closed the bedroom door at his suggestion.
When the clock struck seven, he stood up and said,” I would like to make an important announcement soon. I will be right back. Please bear with me for a few minutes,” he said and went in after closing the door.
He went straight to the unlocked steel cupboard that had the key hanging there. He then opened the unlocked locker and took out a jewel box from under the pile of pressed shirts to see the Solitaire diamond ring he had purchased for proposing to lady of his choice. Lo, the ring was missing mysteriously to his great shock. It was not the outrageous amount he had paid for it that bothered him but the treachery of one of the assembled ladies that he could not stomach. He was certain as he had seen it just before they had arrived. It was obvious one of them had stolen it. Who could it be, he wondered but did not wish to embarrass all of them. He decided to explore further. He went out very casually with his trademark smile and announced that he had second thoughts about the news he wished to convey and would however meet them all again with in a week. There was a sense of disbelief and disappointment when they started dispersing especially from Shreya as Sid could see.
Without wasting time,I was there with a friend after I got the call from Sid. My friend is in a private detective agency. It was agreed that the mystery would be unraveled without embarrassing the innocent. Sid was prepared to lose the ring than miss any true friend. Agreed on that, the detective guy, started dusting the cupboard with chalk piece.
Suddenly he stopped the dusting and asked,” Do you have any friend in the group who is left-handed? Think carefully and tell as the prints indicate a woman who uses her left hand.”
“My God, how could it be Shreya? She is the only one who is left handed and whom I was to propose. It cannot be her. She is honest and I love her immensely. “he blurted.
“Let us call her and find out. Just tell her that you had wished to propose to her but the ring you bought for her was misplaced and hence you had to put off. Let us see her reaction,” I told him.
When Sid rang her up and conveyed her, she laughed and said, “I knew always that you had fallen head over heels for me and after this incident I wonder whether I should marry a blunderbuss to be my husband.”
“Shreya, I am serious. This is no time for frivolous talk. Please come out with the truth,” he said with some acerbity.
“Okay. Before you ask someone else to meddle with your cupboard further, put your hand deeper into the pile of shirts and report me back your findings, ”she said with a giggle.
Putting the phone aside, he ran his hand under the pile of shirts to find another shining box from reputed jewelers. He opened it to see in astonishment the Solitaire ring he had bought for Shreya along with another captivating platinum ring for man. My friend and myself could not suppress our laughter much to Sid’s annoyance.
The phone rang. “What did you find, my dear Watson? Was it elementary? Have you learnt a lesson? I have second thoughts on marrying you unless you make amends by calling the party again in the next two days and propose in front of all of them to signify you are no more a Romeo on the prowl,” Shreya stipulated.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

The unexpected outcome

Jagannathan after his retirement started visiting the famous Krishna temple twice daily as if to atone for his lapses in this regard while in service. He lived in a modest house very close to the temple. There was no hurry in steps or disappointment when there was long line for darsan at the various sanctums. He took leisurely walk around the corridors chanting hymns in praise of the Lord.
One evening as he was resting on a bench in one of the corridors, he chanced to see a young boy of 12 years piling white salt in crystal form on a small black stone before a minor sanctum. It was more a niche on the wall housing some minor god. It was a belief among the school boys (girls were rarely seen) that if one successfully piles the entire quantity of a kilo of salt on the small base of an elevated stone without spilling, he can be assured of good success in the examinations. This place would usually be visited by many students prior to examinations. None else went near the place save folding their arms in reverence while passing by its side.
Jagannathan saw the boy repeatedly failing to keep the entire salt on the base and seen wiping his face often in great tension. He took pity on the youngster and went near him and asked, “Shall I help you? You can put a small portion of salt at the end to signify that you had completed.”
“Thank you uncle. I am unable to do it. My mother would be worried as it is late already,” said the greatly relieved boy.
Jagannathan in a trice accomplished it and the boy put carefully a small quantity on the pile. After prostrating before the Deity, he turned towards Jagannathan beaming with smile to touch his feet and thank him profusely.
“What is your name and where do you live? This is no examination time. Why are you doing it now? It is unusual, “asked the old man.
“Yogesh, I live on the Eastern side of the temple tank. True there is no examination now. I am getting only average marks in mathematics while I am good in other subjects. I cannot afford to have tuition. I am praying to god to help me score high marks,” replied the boy.
Taking pity on the boy, he said, “I will teach you free for just three months and you will start scoring very good marks. You need not have to come thereafter. Take permission of your parents. I live in the house adjacent to the hotel you see on the Southern road. You ask for Krishnan’s house and they will point out. He is my son and popular here.”
He found Yogesh hardworking and sincere but lacked the concepts. He taught the boy daily in the evenings elementary algebra, geometry and solving various problems in arithmetic. His scores improved dramatically to the surprise of his teacher and parents. At the end of the year, he came along with his parents with a bag full of fruits to inform that he scored centum in mathematics and stood on the top of the class. Jagannathan was very pleased and blessed the boy. Thereafter they used to meet once a while at the temple or at the house and on one occasion he mentioned about the impending transfer of his dad to North. That was the last he saw the boy but his memory lingered whenever he passed by the small sanctum.
More than a decade had passed and Jagannathan’s visits to temple got reduced to only festival days. He fell sick frequently. The boy also had faded away from his mind. He was taken care of by his only son Krishnan who was getting a small income. His house stood out in a dilapidated condition while other houses were well maintained.
One morning as Krishnan was standing outside the house, a flashy car drew up to stop at the gate. Wondering who could be the visitor to come in such expensive vehicle, he found a young person in mid-thirties alighting from it.
“Is this not Jagannathan Sir’s house? Is he available for my meeting him?” the man asked. Seeing the bewildered look on Krishnan’s face, he said, “Don’t you recognize me? I am Yogesh. Sir taught  me mathematics when I was in school. Can I see him?”
“Yogesh, my god, you have changed so much since I saw you as a young boy. Appa is very much there and he was remembering you till a few years back. Sadly, he is bed ridden after a stroke and one portion is paralyzed. He is improving slowly but his mind is alert off and on. Only he is not mobile and cannot also speak clearly. Come inside, he will be delighted to see you,” said Krishnan. The driver placed a tall basket of fruits, dry fruits and nuts of various kinds.
“Appa, see who has come to meet you. Let me see whether you can recognize him,” said Krishnan loudly in jubilant tone.
The old man blinked for a short while and made feeble attempts to sit up. The dim light was switched on. Yogesh went close to him and said, “Can you see my face now? I am Yogesh and you made me what I am today, uncle.”
The old man’s face lit up after a pause and showed some evidence of a strained smile. He put his left palm on Yogesh’s head and gently caressed it. Tears started flowing from the old man’s eyes. He tried to say something but only some guttural sounds came out. Meanwhile Krishnan drew a stool close to bed for Yogesh to sit. Yogesh could size up the humble circumstances in which his benefactor was living in a dark and poorly furnished room with very little comforts to make life easy. He was emaciated and a pale apology to the uncle he knew.
Wiping tears from his eyes, Yogesh bent forward and told,” Thanks to you, I could do well in studies and did engineering. I studied further in US and am in a very good position. But for your spotting me at the temple on that fateful day, I would have been a total failure. You built in me a strong foundation. I could not meet you all these days as my father was transferred to North. I am visiting Chennai after my school days for the first time and you are the first of two persons whom I have come to meet.”
Jagannathan could not speak but was patting Yogesh repeatedly. He muttered something to Krishnan who turned to Yogesh and said,” Appa wants to know whether you are married and have any children?”
He nodded his head and showed two. Meanwhile Krishnan’s wife handed him a cup of coffee with her two young boys standing behind her. After a while, he stood up and bowing deferentially held the trembling hands of Jagannathan and said “As a token of my eternal gratitude for you, please allow me to take care of the education of your two grandsons till they finish PG in US if they like. I am like your another son and intend to take care of you in some ways possible, “and prostrated before him. Overcome with emotion, both could hardly speak except shed tears.
Yogesh put his arm around Krishnan and said, “Kindly give me your bank account details to enable me to remit the money once a quarter towards education of your children in a very good school. Do not worry about high fees as I am going to pay. I am very happy today as I could meet my living god and now I will visit the other one in the temple. Today happens to be New Year day.” He lingered for a while overcome with emotion and finally took leave of them.
It was evening when there was a message from the bank for Krishnan that his account has been credited with US $1,00,000 by a remittance from an American bank. The message was followed by another from Yogesh stating,” I hope your account has been credited with the remittance. Please use part of this to renovate the house completely including electrical work with couple of ACs and to acquire new cots and beds and other furniture. You can use the interest on the remaining amount for medical and other uses. I wish to keep your dad and my uncle in good comfort and reduce your financial burden. I will take care of your children’s education and remit you money periodically. Feel free to ask if you need anymore”
Krishnan’s jaws dropped at this unexpected windfall and rushed with his wife to his dad’s room and told him loudly,” Appa, Yogesh has remitted a huge amount of one lakh dollars that is more than 70 lakhs rupees. He has suggested that part of the amount be used for complete renovation and the interest on balance for other purposes to keep you in very good comfort. He has undertaken to bear the education of the two boys till they secure good jobs I am so excited at his munificence and immense regard for you.”
Jagannathan  slightly turned his head towards the temple  possibly to pay obeisance to the presiding Deity.
“No one who achieves success does so without the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude.”