Monday, January 30, 2023

Faith moves mountains (860 words)

The morning paper no doubt carried the usual forecast of the meteorological department about the likely light to heavy showers in the evening. Yet when Vasantha left her house to do some urgent shopping, the sky was very clear with no indication of any rain. As she finished her purchases and came out of the large supermarket with a heavy bag on her shoulder, it was raining heavily with road dark. Most of the customers were waiting in the portico for the rain to subside. The wind was chilly and strong.  But it did subside after an hour when the roads by then were heavily flooded with water.

 She luckily saw a bus to her destination crawling opposite to the supermarket  in the inevitable traffic jam. She ran towards it and got into the crowded bus. She breathed a sigh of relief that she should be back in her home within thirty minutes. The bus started moving slowly and the rains also commenced again with greater fury. The road was filled knee deep with water. She could see many cars stranded after they broke down. It looked hours as the bus inched its way towards the destination. She regretted her decision to go out despite the warning of a possible rain as she also wondered who ever attached importance to  the weather predictions of the department.

The bus stopped at a stop that was about two furlongs away from her house. It was again raining cats and dogs. The conductor urged her to get down quickly. There were no trees nearby except a transformer. The bus stop was just adjacent to the transformer. It was getting dark. The road was dimly lit. She was afraid to wade through the knee-deep water with a heavy bag in her hand. She was apprehensive of open manholes that she had seen earlier. There was not a soul in sight. No auto rickshaws could be seen.

 It was those days when mobile phones were not in use. She got really nervous though a brave lady by nature. When things look so formidable with no ray of hope, people turn to god. She too prayed intensely to her ishta devatha Lord Guruvayurappan, the presiding deity of Guruvayur to help her reach home. Tears were trickling from her eyes as she continued the prayer amidst the unrelenting rain. Her clothes were drenched and legs started aching.

It was then incredibly a cycle rickshaw appeared before her as if from nowhere and the driver remonstrated at her “Have you gone mad, Amma, standing under a transformer in this heavy rain? Are you not educated enough? Get in quickly. I will drop you.”

It was then she realized that the driver was the one who took children of her locality to the school daily. Surprised she asked him,” How come you are here after the school hours on this horribly rainy day?”

“How does it matter,Amma? Lucky I am here.Get in  quickly,” he replied

She asked him” You know my house in 2nd cross street. How much do you want?”

He laughed saying “What a foolish woman you are asking me such a question in this scary situation? You give whatever you feel like. This is not a time to bargain. Get in fast”

He dropped her soon at her house and pocketed the money she gave him without even looking at it to know how much she had given. Vasantha sincerely believed that it was Lord Guruvayurappan Himself who had answered her prayers for no rickshaw driver in sane mind would be plying the vehicle in such a downpour in that desolate road.

The air was cold and it was still raining heavily as Vasantha stood watching in the downpour  at  the rikshaw with her saviour in the front fading away from her eyes in the dark road.

The next morning sky was clear and the sun was shining brightly.Vasantha was standing near the gate plucking flowers from the plants when she saw the rikshaw driver  stopping at the opposite house to take their girl.

She hailed him  and said , “Hello, thank you immensely for dropping me at home last evening in the down pour.I should have paid you much more. If you can wait, I will fetch some more and give you.”

“When did I come last evening? After dropping the children, I went home  and rested. It must be someone else who must have brought you home,” he said.

Utterly in disbelief, she said. “No, it was you only  Don’t I know you and you even chided me for standing under the transformer. Have you forgotten so soon?”

“Amma,I do not know what you are talking about. I did not take you home last evening and I went back home after dropping school children. I am certain about it,” he said with finality.

Vasantha stood  dazed with goose bumps when she grasped the truth that it was none else than the lord Himself who had answered her prayers the previous evening.

  "We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito."

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

The old man’s worry (464 words)

“Loggu, loggu,” the old man continued coughing for a few minutes before he said with a worried look, “Let me continue to stay here.  Please do not leave me anywhere else.”

“No appa(daddy). You stay there for some days. It is a good place. I will surely bring you back home soon.”

“If it is only for a few days, why do you have to send me? I am afraid you would leave me there permanently,” lamented the old man.

“Please try to understand. You are coughing all the time and it is not improving. It is examination time for children. They are disturbed much in their studies,” said his son Raju.

“I will not cough anymore,” loggu, loggu”, he coughs again and resumes,” If I get cough, I will cover my mouth with the towel. Do not send me away,” he persisted.

“Appa, you refuse to understand and are becoming a problem. It is not only the children’s examination, Vanaja is not really well since a week and needs rest. Her mother is coming to help her with the chores. There is no space. When both of you get better, I will bring you back, may be in a week’s time,” explained Raju.

“What if I stay on the front porch and come inside only for a bath and taking food? Is it okay?”

“Appa, do not keep grumbling in worry. You will be taken care of very well. Do not imagine wrongly that you are being thrown out into the middle of a forest. Please be cooperative,” replied Raju.

“The food in that place would be disgusting. I like only Vanaja’s preparations,” griped the old man.

Ignoring the old man’s pleas, Raju said with a finality in his tone, “Be ready by 7am tomorrow. Do not create hassles. Be assured that I will not let you down.”

The whole night the old man could not sleep and kept turning in bed in worry. The next morning Raju and Vanaja took him in the car.

The old man in a confused tone asked,” Raju, this massive and posh building does not look like a senior home. Why have we come here?”

“Who told you that you are going to be sent to a senior home? This is a big hospital. Our family doctor advised that it is best for you to be treated at a hospital as you have a chronic infection with chest congestion. They may observe you and after several tests treat you properly. I have booked a single room for you. I would visit you twice daily and bring food from home. Be cheerful without any worry.” Raju clarified.

“Sorry da, you are a gem. I was completely wrong in my fears,” the old man confessed with an embarrassed smile.


Sunday, January 22, 2023

The enigmatic touch (1140)

(A translation of my Tamil story)

Chakrapani Iyengar would be around 70 years, tall and fair complexioned but with a frail health. He was confined mostly to his bed or easy chair in the spacious hall after a heart attack two years back. A soft spoken and gentle person, he was taciturn by nature and was content with his newspaper and TV. A god-fearing person, he was not overtly religious save the red line on his forehead. He received a fat pension and was financially sound.

His wife Champakam, short and stodgy, dusky with charming face had a kind disposition. The couple got along very well with no quarrel between them with each one trying to please the other.

In this short Rajee is an important character. A vegetable seller she brought daily in the mornings different varieties of greens and in the evening sweet limes(mosambi) and oranges. Champakam (we would call her Mami) has been buying daily greens and sweet lime for the last three years. Rajee about 40 years old, slim and very attractive, had three children. To her bad luck, her husband was a good-for-nothing fellow, not going for job regularly, given to drinking and beating Rajee almost daily for money. Her household was running only on her meagre income. She would often share with mami her miserable condition with a violent wastrel for a husband. The latter would patiently lend her ears and when Rajee struggled to pay the school fees or meet medical expenses, would give her money without expecting it back. Iyengar would be inwardly pleased that his wife was kind and helpful.

Let us come now to the crux of the story.

In the morning as Rajee announces her arrival shouting the names of different greens, Mami would hurry to lend a hand to put down the heavy basket from her head. The bright greens damp with sprinkled water drops would tempt anyone to buy. Once the basket is put down, Rajee would hastily tell, “Don’t touch the greens. Call ayya (sir), let him come and touch the greens first.” Mami’s face would fall instantly.

Some days Mami would tell her with some acerbity,” Ayya is having his bath. What if I touch the greens? Would they shrink and become pale? Funny, you keep grumbling “ayya, ayya” as if he has magical hands.”

“True, he has a mysterious touch. All the greens would be sold in a hour or two and I would be back home to cook food for children. If you touch, there would be delay and some may remain unsold. Do not mistake me. I can wait for ayya to come,” Rajee would tell.

Mami with a frown on her face would tell Iyengar, “Your Rajee tells that only if you touch the greens first, they would be sold quickly. I do not know what special or magical touch she is talking about. I am married to you for nearly 40 years and yet to know your enigmatic touch,” and go inside jabbing her jaw sideways against her shoulder.

Iyengar would not miss the mischievous punch in his wife’s words but still walk with some pride towards Rajee and tell her, “Do not offend anyone while speaking as it is hurting,” and take two bundles from her basket.

“No, ayya, I have not spoken in an inappropriate manner but was only telling that if you touch the greens first, I would be able to reach home early. Don’t I know about the good nature of Amma?" Rajee would reply in pacifying way.

If for one or two days Rajee does not come, Mami would be concerned as to what happened and tell Iyengar, “I am wondering why Rajee has not been  coming and whether her cruel husband has hurt her.” He would reply, “I have been wanting to ask you the same. Why don’t you ask her sister if you happen to see her?” Such is the kind of impact Rajee had made with this elderly couple.

One day around 7 pm, Iyengar told his wife,” Champakam, I am unable to breathe and the chest is paining. Get a doctor immediately.”

Dazed and frightened, she ran to the front porch and shouted at the boy in the opposite house, “Ranga, Ranga, please fetch a doctor immediately. Uncle is unable to breathe and is having acute chest pain intermittently.”

Within a few minutes, a doctor and some neighbours were there. Someone tried to revive him through CPR but to no avail. There was nothing they could do and Iyengar passed away.

Next day morning, when Rajee came as usual shouting the names of various greens, she saw small groups of people standing on the lawn and inside the porch. She put down the basket immediately and rushed in. To her great shock she saw Iyengar’s body laid in the hall, she let out a shriek,”Ayya,ayya, how can you do this and leave us as destitute?” and cried inconsolably as if her own father had died. Everyone without exception wiped their eyes seeing the grieving vegetable vendor.

For more than a month Rajee was not to be seen. This added worry to the already grieving Champakam. She chanced to see Rajee’s sister who worked in the neighbourhood and enquired about her. It transpired that Rajee stopped selling greens and fruits ever since and sitting stupefied at the entrance to her hut. It seems when asked why she was not resuming to sell greens and fruits, her reply was that business was closed for ever with the passing away of ayya. Her sister also informed the children were hungry despite some help from neighbours. She has now started making idlis daily and selling from the front side of her house.

 Mami gave her 500 rupees to be given to Rajee and wanted that she should meet her immediately.

Mami was touched by the strange bond of affection between a simple vegetable vendor and the aged husband of hers.

Rajee came after a week. She looked pale with her eyes swollen. On seeing mami, she started crying again. It was now the turn of Mami to console her. She told her,” I heard you have stopped selling greens and fruits and instead begun selling idles from your house. Why don’t you come daily for one hour or so to help me? I will pay you monthly 2500 rupees. You can come after10 am by which time you would have finished selling idlis. What do you say?”

She agreed telling Mami that she would do whatever she asked her to do. Mami then confided to her,” My husband had instructed me to treat you like his daughter. He has left 75000 rupees in your favour in his Will. Do not worry,” and patted her gently.

On hearing this, Rajee  started crying again at the strange affection and kindness of the old couple for her.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

The teacher in trouble (1335)


Shanmugam was walking along Pondy bazaar  with his son Kumaran when the boy suddenly dragged his father to the opposite platform. When asked why, the boy pointed out to a tall man in his late thirties in dhoti and ochre coloured  jibba,  with ash mark and kumkum prominently  on his forehead,  coming towards their direction and said in a timorous voice that he was his class teacher Masilamani Sir and  he wished to avoid him.

Ignoring the boy’s fear, Shanmugam went towards the teacher and introduced himself as Shanmugam father of  Kumaran. Masilamani put his hand around the boy and said,”Kumaran is  a well behaved and obedient boy but needs to improve much in arithmetic, algebra and geometry where his marks were consistently poor while in other subjects they were satisfactory.

“I am working in Pondicherry and visit home only on weekends and unable to devote time for the boy. Can you kindly coach him specially in the weak subjects and generally guide him in other areas. I am willing to pay whatever you demand.” said Shanmugam.

“Money is not important. You can pay whatever you deem fit after watching his progress. I am in Nana  street adjacent to post office and I hope your house is not far,” replied the teacher.

“Very well. He can start coming to you from tomorrow at whatever time is convenient for you. We live close by near Agastiyar ashram temple..

Within a month there was a dramatic improvement with the boy scoring good marks not only in arithmetic, algebra and geometry but high marks  in other subjects. It was not only the gentle and affectionate manner in which the teacher handled him but also the way he kindled the interest of the boy in a wide range of areas. He gave often the boy cookies, sweet balls of groundnut mixed with gur and other snacks to eat. Within six months, Kumaran with his new studious habits  was  within the first three positions in the class with centum in arithmetic every time.

After about three years Shanmugam was transferred to Delhi and the family also moved with him. Masilamani lost touch with Kumaran.

More than two decades had elapsed and Kumaran who had finished PG in economics in Delhi school of economics had become an IPS officer in the central government at Delhi. He had visited Chennai many times but never went  so far to the place where  he lived or studied. Impelled by a strong desire to visit the temple at Agastiyar ashram he was there at 7 am on a Friday during the current visit. The temple was his  childhood haunt and brought back many fond memories of his house, the school where he studied and most of all his teacher, Masilamani Sir. He even wondered whether he would have time to pay him a surprise visit.

When he went to the main sanctum, he found a figure on the steps with his head bent towards the sanctum and sobbing softly. Wondering whether it could  be a person crying emotionally before the lord or someone who needed medical help, he went near him. The trademark ash marks with kumkum on his forehead, the aquiline nose and the ochre coloured jibba gave away unmistakably  who he was. He. had grown old and the body was emaciated. He gently touched him and asked  “Sir, I am Kumaran, your old student. Why are you in this position? Are you unwell or what?”

The figure sat up with a start and blinking unbelievingly at Tall and grown up Kumaran in his mid-thirties asked, “Are you Kumaran the bright boy in my class who visited my house  for three years and later left for Delhi?”

“Yes Sir, I am the same Kumaran,” he said as he bent down to touch his feet. “What is bothering you? Why are you crying? Is anything bothering you? I can be of some help if possible if only you deem fit to tell me,” he said holding Masilamani's hands.

“It is a serious matter. It is all my destiny. Today is fixed for my daughter’s marriage  in the adjacent marriage hall. The muhurtam is fixed at 9 am. The bridegroom’s father demands that I pay immediately the promised dowry of Rs.5000 if the marriage were to proceed further. All the guests had assembled and were having breakfast. The purohit had started the rituals.I explained I could not muster the resources within the promised date and that I would pay within a fortnight. He is adamant and not agreeable. He shouted that they would pack their bags and leave. Everything stopped abruptly. I did not know what to do. Embarrassed by the muffled murmur among the guests, I came running here to plead before  God to save the marriage,” he said at one go.

“Have no worry, Sir. Let us go to the marriage hall. Get into my car. I have a meeting at 10 am at Fort St George and there is  no time to waste. I can surely help you out,” assured Kumaran. The car followed by a jeep with two men in Khaki stopped before the nearby marriage hall.

Seeing Masilamani alighting from the car with a tall gentleman and followed by a  jeep with two khaki clad men, the bridegroom’s father got scared that policemen had come to arrest him and rushed inside in a hurry.

“There is nothing to fear. You don’t have to rush. Please wait. We intend to resolve the matter amicably,” said Kumaran loudly followed by Masilamani pleading with his would-be-sammandhi to stop. Kumaran suggested that they go inside a room to finalise the issue and it was readily accepted.

Meantime, Kumaran handed over to Masilamani a packet containing Rs5000/ and said, “Here is the amount you need. I had brought this amount to be put in the Hundi at the temple. If today  I am in a good position , it is entirely  because of the hard work you put in to guide me. There was no turning back after the kickstart you gave me. Acharya or Guru is also considered like parents as equal to god. Instead of the other god at the temple, I offer this to you with grateful thanks,” and added  as he bent to touch his feet,” Kindly  accept it and bless me.” Dumbstruck at the unexpected and happy denouement, Masilamni embraced Kumaran with tears of joy flowing from his eyes.

The bride groom and his  father were summoned to the room when the money was handed over. Kumaran gently admonished the father, “What you have done is highly improper and unlawful. I hope there will not be any more demand or  harassment of the bride in future. Beware, she is like my younger sister. Turning to the groom, he said," I learn you are an ASI at Vellore. Give me more details about you through my teacher. You can all go to the hall and get started immediately.”

Turning to Masilamani,he asked, “ Sir, can you please  call your daughter? I am in a hurry to go to the meeting after visiting the temple.”

When the bride came and prostrated before him, he gave her a cover containing Rs.1000/ and said, “Have this small gift. I bless you both  with everlasting happiness.” Turning to the teacher, he asked ,”Can you give me a cup of coffee? I am in a hurry. One more thing lest I forget. I learned your son is a SSLC,24 years old and unemployed. Please send me his resume to the email address  in  this card of mine .I will  forward it to a  friend who is running a big Security Agency.”

As he stood up to take leave, surprisingly the temple bell tolled  and as if taking it as a cue, the nadaswaram and melam also started playing enthusiastically. The hall that was silent hitherto  came alive humming  with activity and noise amidst the rustle of silk saris and laughter from the ladies moving hither and thither.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Winning an argument with the spouse


Sometimes we do not say what is in our mind for fear of hurting people. This silence can cause problems. Contrarily we tell immediately what is in our mind and this also can create misunderstandings. What do we do? There is no hard and fast rule. There is a time and place for everything. A wrong timing or place can do great harm to a relationship.

Sharmila did not mean to hurt Sanjay. Yet when he came from the office and went straight to give her a bear hug, she said, “Sanjay, you smell a lot. Take a wash and change your dress before you come near me. Sorry, don’t take me amiss.”

It was a truthful statement as he was stinking after the long drive in the afternoon to the project site. The ‘sorry’ did little to assuage the hurt in Sanjay. He looked at her with anger in his eyes and moved away. Sharmila did not expect him to react this way to what she considered a reasonable comment. She was right but chose a wrong moment especially when he was wishing to express his love for her after a long day. She could have mentioned later when they watched TV after dinner.

When he came after the bath, he did not go near her but sat on the sofa to watch TV. She knew he was upset. When she took a cup of tea that he usually took, he declined saying he didn’t need it.

“Why are you angry? Even the kids have complained that you stink. You know I am your well wisher and if I don’t tell you, who will? Your friends, you must have noticed, are probably keeping away from you” said Sharmila. This made matters worse. The act of deriving support from the statements of children and an insinuation that friends are possibly keeping away infuriated him. He refused to believe what he considered a hearsay statement from the kids.

He blurted out in anger “I have not been telling you not wishing to hurt your felicity that every time I come near you, your mouth repels me. You don’t brush your teeth well. Often, I feel like throwing up. Being considerate, I have been putting up with you. Don’t think you are a paragon of cleanliness and personal hygiene.”

“Oh, you talk like this. Do you know the sleepless nights I suffer from with your loud non stop snoring? Have I ever mentioned this even once? How heartless can you be accusing me of nonsense when I brush my teeth twice daily?”

What started as an innocuous statement had graduated into full blown mutual possibly exaggerated accusations and resulted in both going to bed without their dinner.

There was no attempt on both sides to understand each other. The issues were never dealt with patiently at any time but started as accusations. Instead of indulging in ridicule or sarcasm, there should have been a friendly chat when both were in happy mood and in receptive mood to other’s viewpoints. It must be agreed by both that the arguments resulted from a real issue that had to be resolved. Putting up with sweat and smell however close the couple might be is certainly not conducive for bonding. The initial dislike may run the risk of spiraling into incompatibility. The entire unpleasant situation could have been avoided had care been taken about timing and also either of them ending the argument by some acceptance of some responsibility. Ego has no place in close relationships.

Some tactics may help.

See the purpose behind the accusation or argument. If the intention is honest and shows a genuine concern from the accuser, accept it with grace and address it in a comfortable manner.

Avoid ridicule, sarcasm, and offensive tone. The purpose of the argument is lost if anger is provoked without eliciting a proper response to the message that is conveyed.

Never resort to making others agree that you were right and that the mistake lay with them. Just leave the message directly in a pleasant tone which would surely be taken note of.

Maybe if all these  things fail, it may be necessary to show resentment and show anger to make others know that you are interested in them and care for them. But that should be the last resort. Expressing resentment is preferable than suffering in silence and allowing the chasm to grow wider. In some cases, anger may actually  trigger affection and emotional closeness too.


Saturday, January 7, 2023

In search of happiness


This is not the usual short story. Your thoughts on what constitutes happiness are welcome in comments section.

When I dropped by one afternoon, I saw my cousin happily reclined on a sofa before a wide TV with one arm around his wife and enjoying a serial. He had a nice and commodious flat and a lucrative job with his charming wife also earning as much. They looked a perfect picture of contentment and happiness. After the initial pleasantries, I asked him how things were on his side. His wife had gone inside to make some tea. He pulled a long face and said that he wished God had been kind to him. It was five years since he was married and his wife wanted a baby very much. This set me thinking happiness is not in good earnings or an attractive wife or in owning a posh house or enjoying the comforts of life. It is something more. It varied from individual to individual. I had no solution to offer except the pious hope that God would open His eyes soon.

I asked our maid servant the next  day when she was crying, what was it that made her cry and what would make her happy and free from all worries. I was expecting her to tell me about a big increase in her salary, a one room tenement with a toilet inside the place and with an exclusive water tap or some such mundane things. Instead she said these things though would make her life comfortable did not matter and that she would be happiest if her husband returned from work daily without taking alcohol and talked to her affectionately instead of beating her for no plausible reason in an inebriated condition. A simple wish and legitimate expectation were denied to her.

My elderly neighbour, a kindly and timid soul, was being tortured day in and day out  mentally by a shrew and termagant for wife. She broke his confidence and made him a diffident blundering nervous wreck. The irony is he held a high official position with big responsibilities in government before  his retirement and was regarded well in his large  circle. He was one day confiding to me that he would be happiest if God were to give him deliverance from her by taking him away from this world and that he did not have the guts to take his life on his own.

What is then happiness? Will ten crores of  rupees give one permanent joy? Are the sportsmen or actors   from humble circumstances who earn mind boggling amounts even before they are in their thirties and wallowing in wealth satisfied with their lot?

Are material comforts equated to happiness? Possibly none of them. Is the quest for happiness always successful when one does not know what constitutes happiness? Happiness, it is said, is just an emotion like anger, sorrow or depression. It keeps changing from time to time. A small child is happy with a new toy for a few minutes. It soon gets tired of it, throws it away and starts crying for something else. Adults too are no different, only the toys differ. Happiness is like a mirage always within your sight but never realized permanently.

Happiness again is not related to the character of the individuals. We see wicked men seemingly happy and good men passing though pangs of pain and suffering. I have no explanation for this strange fact except trusting in the law of karma.

Spiritual people talk of a different kind happiness that one would get if only they  knew the real purpose of the human  life  just like what the realized souls enjoyed when they realized who they really were, when they merged with the Supreme even while being alive in this mundane world. Such  countless siddha purushas  have lived in the past and many unknowns are still  living  and walking invisibly among us.   

For common people like many of us, I think instead of looking for happiness, we should look for contentment. It does not mean we should not attempt to improve our lives. While making an honest endeavour, we should learn to be content with what we have and not be obsessed with the distant rainbow only to lose the present peace of mind. Real happiness would appear as being satisfied with the results of our efforts without craving for more.

 Happiness is a state of mind to be cultivated where one would be thankful to the god for his blessings and accepting the difficulties with equanimity wherever it is not possible to remove them. Otherwise how would you explain the restlessness of the very rich to acquire more and more while  contentment on the day’s small earnings is writ large on the face of a cobbler under a shaded tree? Happiness is not elsewhere. It is within one’s mind.

A sage found a man on hands and knees. He asked him what he was searching for. The man said he was searching for his keys. So, the sage got on his knees to search. After a while the sage asked whether he was sure he lost it here. The man replied that he lost it at home. When asked why he was searching here, he replied he was searching because there was lot more light here. The lesson in this story is for us to search for happiness where it belongs and not elsewhere.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

An uninvited guest (1045)


(A translation of a Tamil story of mine)

There was a big board decked 
with flowers at the  entrance announcing in bold letters “Sumathi weds Naveen”. The air-conditioned marriage hall was crowded with guests and  relatives. The air was filled with the aroma of  sandalwood and jasmine flowers despite the smoke emanating from the homakund. The nadaswaram  music  from the piper to the accompaniment of loud drums (melams)  added to the gaiety of the happy occasion. The priest was chanting the appropriate mantras with Naveen the bridegroom and Sumathi the bride doing his bidding closely watched by the parents of the to-be -married couple.

It was then that  a young man approached some relative standing at the entrance of the marriage hall  and told him that he wished to meet the bride’s father urgently. When told that he is busy at the mandap with marriage proceedings, the man replied that the matter  cannot brook  delay and urged the relative to fetch him immediately.

When the matter was conveyed to Mahalingam, the father of the bride and about the man’s insistence of urgency, he hurried to the entrance wondering who the man and what the urgency could be. When he saw the young man with an  unkempt beard and mustache and dressed  in faded jeans and striped T-shirt, there was an instant  frown on Mahalingam’s face.

“Who are you and what do you want? Have you not been told that I am busy with marriage proceedings? You are still pressurizing that the matter is urgent. What is it you wish to say? Spill it now,“ Mahalingam asked in an irritated tone.

“I am Mohan. It is a delicate and confidential matter that you may not like to be told in the presence of others. Let us go to the room there and talk,” he said with a  smug smile. Mahalingam could sense  an attempt to black mail and quietly took him to an empty room in the corner.

“Kindly listen to me patiently without getting flustered. Sumathi and I were college mates in the degree class. What started as friendship soon turned into love. After a trip to Mahabalipuram, we became intimate and started dating each other regularly. When we were nearing the end of final year, I suggested that we get married. She was hesitant and said her parents would never approve of the marriage and wanted  our relationship to be brought to an end. We were still carrying on till recently, when one day, she announced her marriage had been fixed and that we should stop seeing each other permanently.” Mohan said.

When there was a pause, Mahalingam replied, “ My daughter had never spoken about this matter and this is totally new to me. Do you have  any proof of this long love affair in the form of letters or photos?”

“Sumathi was always cautious and  neither wrote to me nor allowed me to take any picture of her or us together. I have no objection to confront her in your  and Naveen’s presence to bring out the truth,” he said cheekily and added, “On the last occasion we met, she begged me to allow the arranged  marriage to happen and that she would do anything possible to help me.I have been wanting to start a business and needed some money, a minimum of two lakhs rupees. She pleaded that she cannot afford more than a lakh. Being concerned about her wellbeing, I reluctantly settled for the reduced amount. But curiously she never turned up. I want this matter to be settled before the marriage. I will go away quietly without any scene, if you hand over the money,” he concluded in a determined manner.

Mahalingam looked at the defiance in his face and replied, “You wait here.I will come presently with the money after a word with her privately.”

After about 15 minutes, Mahalingam  took him to a room adjacent to the mandap,where Mohan was shocked to find the bridegroom Naveen seated by the side of Sumathi. Mahalingam started telling, “Sumathi, do you know this man? He tells me that he knows you well and that he was your classmate in  college. He tells me that you promised financial help of one lakh rupees.”

“Appa, I neither  knew him nor talked to him even once. Maybe he studied in the same college  but I am not aware of. I have however seen him loitering on a few occasions in the lounge at the ground floor of my office building when I wait for the lift, “Sumathi replied.

At that time a police inspector entered the room and stood in attention with a salute to Naveen and said, “Sir, I got the information that the Commissioner of Police is on his way  to the marriage hall.”

“Okay, can you in the meantime ask sub inspector Logu to come with two constables to take this man and interrogate him. The bride’s father will apprise him of the details. Let there be no scene here. He may be taken to the station and given the necessary treatment to ensure that he never ventures to give any trouble in future,” said Naveen IPS.

Mohan’s face turned  deathly pale and with folded hands  begged Mahalingam, ”Sorry Sir, I did not know that your son-in-law is a big police officer. Allow me to go away. I promise I will not trouble you anymore.”

When Mahalingam turned his face to the other side, a shaken Mohan who was held by the constables  looked to Sumathi and pleaded helplessly with her, “Please help me.I promise I will not meddle in your affairs anymore. I do not need any money. I am very much afraid that the police would beat me blue. Kindly ask them to let me go.” When Sumathi did not reply and looked at him with sneer, he started crying hoarsely inviting hard slaps from the police men.

When Naveen signaled with his hand to take him away, the two constables dragged him towards the jeep by the side entrance. Naveen along with Mahalingam rushed to the mandap to be ready to receive the Commissioner.

Sumathi  lingered behind for a moment to see  Mohan being  pushed into the jeep and as she walked back to the mandap  let out  a soft chuckle at the  satisfactory conclusion.