Sunday, February 5, 2023

Tell me, whom would you blame? (760 words)


Meena had overslept after seeing Indian Idol late in the night and it was past 7am when she woke up. Her husband Nataraj would be leaving for the office by 8.15am and breakfast should be ready. Milk was not yet delivered. She took the only packet available from the fridge and boiled it for making coffee. It curdled to her dismay. The maid had abstained the previous evening and was yet to come. The vessels were in the sink unwashed. To add to the misery the power went off suddenly. The day had not begun well for Meena. She was fretting and fuming at Kavitha, her maid, for playing truant repeatedly and decided to tell her to stop coming if she cannot be regular.

Her daughter Trisha and son Kartik were still sleeping blissfully being holidays. Her husband was busy with his mobile opposite the TV and asking Meena now and then for coffee, his specs or his diary. The last straw was when the gas was over in the cylinder needing replacement. She started shouting “I am not a slave in this house to slog while others enjoy sleeping or watching TV. My parents have not sent me here as an unpaid servant. I am not making any breakfast. Let them order from Saravana Bhavan or anywhere if they need to eat.”

Nataraj shouted “Meena, talk gently. Don’t you see I am on the phone? Someone is ringing the doorbell. Please answer and keep ready the flowers for the puja.”

“I am on strike today. You can do your things without my help. I am not the only one in the house to answer the bell. Ask your children to get up and do the needful. I am having severe headache and I am going to lie down. If Kavita does not come, let them order food from caterers” she replied

Nataraj left for the office in a huff without taking breakfast. The children woke up in the noise but were afraid to come near their mom. It was around 9.30 am when Kavita made her appearance along with a sob story that her husband took ill suddenly and had to be taken to hospital. When she saw Meena buying her story, she requested Meena to advance her Rs.1000 towards medical expenses. Meena flatly refused saying that she had more than two months’ salary as advance already.

Kartik was telling his sister that he needed Rs. 1000 for a treat at Pizza Hut and that he had promised his friends lunch for being a topper in the class. He sought her help as he was afraid to broach the subject to mom in her present foul mood.

 When Meena started shouting at the two for being lazy and late in rising from bed, Trisha thought it prudent not to talk about the money Kartik needed. Meena, being a good-natured person, could not deny the advance the maid had wanted. She kept Rs. 1000 on the dining table to be given to Kavita after she had finished the work. She went to rest after asking the local caterer to send food for lunch.

Kavita finished her work quickly and left in an angry mood that her request for advance was turned down. Trisha was not aware that money was kept on the dining table to be given to Kavita.

When Trisha was taking bath, Kartik found Rs. 1000 on the table and thinking it was kept for him he pocketed it and was thankful to Trisha for getting it from mom.

When Kavita came in the afternoon and pleaded with Meena again for the advance, she shouted at her, “How dare you ask me again after taking Rs.1000 kept for you on the dining table in the morning? What do you think we are? A tree raining money?”

“What Rs.1000, amma? What are you talking about? I have not taken any money,” she replied

“Trisha, where is the money I had kept on the table for Kavita? “asked Meena

“How would I know? You never told me of any money kept on the table. Ask your son?” she retorted.

The bell rang then. Kartik entered the hall laughing along with his friends after a hearty lunch consisting of ubiquitous Bruschetta, a veggie Pizza with a healthy mix of mushrooms, red onions, bell peppers, black olives, tomatoes and spinach, along with coke. He was surprised to see the angry face of his mom and the quizzical smile on his sister’s face. He asked her innocently,”Wassup?” oblivious of the storm to follow.


Thursday, February 2, 2023

Yama’s self-appraisal (847 words)

Yama, the death god (DG in short), had come down to the town in disguise like an ordinary man to know firsthand what the people are saying about his work. He had been doing his destructive work diligently and with great care without any mistake from time immemorial but no one was still happy with him and his name brought instant disgust. There was no one above him to review his work or assess him. He had been entrusted with this ‘thankless’ job that only evoked fear and dread and no respect.

In this trip, he wished to find the reactions of people when death struck a house. It is not that he was whimsical or arbitrary in the choice of his ‘victim’ but there was a method and an unfailing system anchored on justice. He had an able assistant in Chitragupta who kept minute details of the good and bad that one did and a personal record for everyone without the fancy gizmos that can splutter to a halt due to system failure. No one has ever accused him of mistakes in identity though they would have liked him to spare them and visit somebody’s house nearby instead.

He inwardly smiled when he thought, what would have been the consequences if his work were in the hands of an earthling in authority with his greed, corrupt ways and pronounced propensity to subvert the system. There would have been mind boggling scams with the rich and powerful remaining untouched by the icy hands of death but the death rate still maintained at the expense of the poor, lonely and lost. There would have been an unwritten rate for extension of life for each week, month or year. If any activist dared to question, he would have been the instant victim. Luckily for mankind, DG was still in charge of affairs.

As he was walking on the road, he saw a crowd at one spot craning inside a gaping hole. Someone told him that a child fell in the hole a day ago and they did not have the necessary expertise or the equipment to bring the child out alive. He smiled to himself as he knew the child had died last night itself. Luckily no one was blaming DG but only the municipality though the child’s mom was bewailing that Yama was blind bringing to an end the life of a child even before it had bloomed. Little did she know that the child was indeed blessed to depart so soon as it had no bad karma to linger longer? Her grief was immeasurable though.

An old beggar lay dead unclaimed on the platform. Everyone walked past him with their nostrils closed by hankies/towels and again the municipality was the butt of their anger and no one thought of DG

It was at the death of a young woman stricken with cancer and who had three small children, that the entire crowd of mourners cursed him for his cruel and insensitive snatching of a young life. The wailing children and sobbing husband was a pathetic sight even to DG, known for his calm and stoic demeanour. But in his job, there was no place for emotion or special dispensation. It was her past karma that gave her this sad and short life.

The scene was different at the violent death at the hands of an assassin of a political functionary. He was well known for his corrupt ways, immoral life and dadagiri. While the ordinary folks kept mum, the dead man’s huge band of followers were restless and angry wanting a vent to let out their emotions of loyalty on buses and other public property. Luckily, DG was never in their radar. The common folk seemed pleased at the ‘leader’s’ departure and no grouse was heard against DG for doing his duty.

Strange was the scene at another house where DG heard someone calling him by name, ‘Yama dharma Raja’. He peeped in to find an old lady in her late 80s who lay on a mat on the ground coughing intermittently and turning her body in pain or hunger. DG found the house folks seated before TV happily watching a music serial unmindful of the suffering of the old woman. She was muttering “Dharma raja, won’t you take me away? Enough of this wretched life, I do not wish to be a burden anymore and suffer unwanted and uncared for. Take me away immediately., I implore you” He knew her time had not come and that she was destined to suffer for a few months more. Though he pitied her, he could not abridge her life before the predetermined time.

 But he never had entered any house without taking a life from it. The next day morning the household woke up to witness their cow dead. Someone said heartlessly “Yama could have taken that useless old woman instead of the cow that yielded good amount of milk daily”: to the accompaniment of approving nods.

Yama let out a sigh in disgust and left for his abode