Friday, June 16, 2023

All that glitters is not gold

The old woman was living alone in her small house. She was getting a small pension after her husband died. She had no wealth except the small house. Her only son who was working in a hotel kitchen had left for Canada when young to work in a big hotel and rose to become a chef. Initially he used to call the postmaster (it was before mobile phone era) once in three months to enquire about his mother and convey about his wellbeing. This tapered off over a period of years. The last that was heard was that he had married a local woman.

She has been falling sick frequently these days. It is the way of the world for friends and relatives to keep away from the needy, be it of physical or financial help. Luckily, she was a woman of grit and had the courage to live her life alone though it was difficult during periods of sickness.

As she was returning home late one rainy evening by a deserted road, she stumbled in the darkness on a small boy lying under the protruding sunshade of a closed shop. It was wet and damp. The boy had a torn shirt and was shivering from the cold wind. She took pity on him and knelt by his side, feeling his forehead for any fever. The boy moved a little and moaned in pain or hunger that she could not make out. She gave him water from the small bottle she always carried.

Once refreshed he sat up and told her that he had run away from his village and had been roaming in the town for shelter and food. He had not eaten for the last two days. An orphan, he was living with his grandmother in the village. She passed away five days back and there was no one willing to give him shelter.

He said” Grandma, I will do all the work you ask me to do in your house for a handful of food. I cannot bear this hunger anymore. Please retain me as your help.”

She took pity on the boy and took him home in the drizzle. She gave him a towel to dry himself and some clothes to wear. Meanwhile she made a hot broth from rice and gave him a bellyful. She told him "Do not be worried. You are God’s gift to me.I will call you Nandhu You can stay with me. I will put you in the corporation school nearby. Study well. We can be of support to each other. Sleep well.”

Life was running smoothly for Nandhu. He studied well and helped his grandma as he called the old lady in running errands and fetching medicines when she fell sick. The old lady also found a purpose in her life and was no longer despondent as she used to be. She showered her affection on the boy as if he were her own grandson.

Nandhu had a fancy for film music. Gifted with a golden voice, he could imitate and sing very much like the reputed singers. He used to take part in competitions initially in school and later in public forums. Years went by and the boy joined some music director. He became busy and spent all the time with the director, mostly out of town. One day Nandhu explained to his grandma that he could no longer stay with her as he was away most of the days and came home at odd times. He told her he was sad to leave her but assured her that he would take care of her in times of need.

He grew busy and grew to be a reputed playback singer over the years. He came to meet her initially once a few months with a lot of goodies and fruits but these occasional visits stopped after some time. His work took him to Mumbai and he became so busy he hardly had time even for his rest and relaxation.

Meanwhile the old lady deprived of the only company, longed for her ‘grandson’. She became morose with a failing memory and over a period of time she became weak and frail, unable to manage by herself. The neighbours admitted her to an old age home. She was gradually sinking though living in her world of loneliness not muchaware of the happenings around.

When Nandhu, who was now a renowned singer cum music director visited the town for a gala award function, that was graced by all the big and famous, a few close friends could discern certain melancholy on his face. He brushed aside questions whether anything was bothering him. Immediately after the function he excused himself and went in his huge car along with his assistant cum photographer to the house where he lived with his ‘grandma’. When told that she was in an old age home and was in poor health, he rushed there.

 The old age home had never witnessed a car of this length and shine. They had practically no visitors of even relatives let alone eminent and rich men. All the inmates in their dirty semi-clad clothes came rushing out to see who the visitor was. Someone in the road knew the name of the director and soon his name was bandied about loudly along with a swelling crowd.

He rushed in to find his ‘grandma’ in an emaciated condition and fell at her feet sobbing ’Grandma, I have come, your grandson Nandhu. I have come to see you. Do you recognize me, your Nandhu. I am what I am today thanks to your compassion. I cannot forget the hot broth you fed me on the cold and rainy day. Grand ma, call me Nandhu once and tell me that you recognize this fat man?”

She looked at him vacantly with blank eyes tying knots in her torn sari. There was no sign of recognition. The director broke down and hit his head with both hands crying inconsolably and saying, “I am responsible for this pathetic sight. Had I not left you in search of money and fame, things would not have come to such a pass.” He did not notice his assistant was busy with camera all the time.

The head of the home said in a consoling tone that she had not many months to live and assured him that they would take care of her well till her last breath.

The music director replied, “I am giving the home a tidy donation for two reasons, one, is to give her greater physical comforts like a separate room good bed, fan and clothes and the second one for rebuilding and developing the home with greater facilities for its inmates.” The director took out his cheque book and donated a tidy amount and requested the home be named after her.

As he looked at her with sadness, she was still tying knots in her sari. Overcome with grief and sobbing loudly he placed his head on her legs before reluctantly leaving the home.

After the din and noise of his visit died down, the head of the home sat by old woman’s side and gently asked her, “You seem crest fallen. Could you not recognize your grandson?”

The old woman looked at him for long with tears flowing from her eyes and uttered "This is not 'my Nandhu' I knew and brought up. This is a singer who came here craving publicity."

The head of the home, nodding his head, gently ran his hand over her head and said, "Do not worry as we are all here for you."


Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Rajesh's final decision

 “Rajesh, now that you have completed your B. Tech and M Tech from IIT very successfully, what are your future plans?” asked Brigadier Sethuraman. They were in the living room watching TV in a relaxed manner along with Rajesh’s mother Sita.

 When there was no instant response from the Rajesh, the retired Brigadier continued, “You are aware that our family for generations have been serving the nation in defending its integrity and sovereignty. Your grandfather was a general who participated in the 1962 war against China and sacrificed his life when he was directing his men personally in the front. I have heard his father was in the police. Your two uncles, my younger brothers, were also in the army. The one next to me went abroad to serve in the UN army and did not return. Neither the army headquarters nor the local outfit could throw any light to this day on his whereabouts, whether he was killed or taken captive, The youngest brother, who was just in late thirties, was killed when his bunker was bombed. He left behind his young wife and two children. Both of my brothers were honoured by the government with high distinction and medals.”

 “Appa, I know all that as you have told me with pride and with a tinge of sadness umpteen times,” Rajesh intervened.

 “Allow me to complete. Sita, I hope you are listening. Ours is a patriotic family and deemed it a duty and an obligation to serve the country in its defense of the borders. We never flinched because of risks associated with the work. Notwithstanding the two sad events, we are a proud family.

 Why I am repeating all this now is because you are about to take a decision soon. Many go abroad to pursue their studies and work in foreign companies in lucrative positions or join locally prestigious management institutes to equip themselves for high positions with attractive remuneration. I just wanted to know what is in your mind,” said Sethuraman.

 Before Rajesh could reply, Sita intervened to tell, “Our family has contributed to the country’s cause more than its share for two generations. It is time we allow others also to contribute their share.” Turning to her husband, she added” I do not want you to influence Rajesh with your ideas. He is grown up and very smart. Let us allow him to decide for himself what he wants to do,”

Rajesh sat up on the sofa and said in soft voice, “Appa(dad) I took into account all the facts you have said many times and am contemplating working in a major IT company in the US. I had applied to them and received an instant offer. I wished to reveal to you both after their confirmation of my acceptance.”

 “That settles the issue, I have no regrets. I am happy and proud of you,” said Sethuraman. and added, “Rajesh, there is a Carnatic music contest this evening. I have two tickets. Would you accompany me?”.

 “Surely, I will join you. You know my abiding interest in Carnatic music, having learnt it for a few years. God willing, I intend to pursue my interest after settling down in a job.”

Rajesh in his white ethnic Kurta looked very handsome as he accompanied his dad. As expected, it turned out to be a great concert with the well-known artiste in her melodious voice rendering initially some familiar pieces that he liked. She then took up raga Bhairavi and sang elaborately and leisurely traversing over it to bring out the different shades and beauty of the raga Next a popular Kriti was taken up followed by amazing Kalpana swaras in lovely patterns followed by a brisk avartan by percussionists. There was a brief pause

He was seated in the first row reserved for VIPs. Just then a young lady passed by Rajesh brushing his legs with her sari pallu and the gentle perfume that wafted from her was pleasant. By the time he turned to look at her she had gone a few yards away and he could get only a glimpse of her silhouette in the dim light. She seemed quite tall and elegant in her gait. To his great surprise the girl walked up the steps to the rostrum on the dais.

 As the lights were switched on, she started addressing the audience.

“Dear Ladies and gentleman,

You must all be aware by now from the banners and notice boards the purpose of holding this fabulous concert today. This concert has been sponsored by an NGO that is working for the cause of the families of our warriors who have lost their lives or been incapacitated. While the governments both at Centre and State have their own systems of reaching out to the distressed families, we supplement their efforts to meet the families’ special and varying needs. We have often come across many situations that are grim and pathetic. When we think of the patriotism of the valiant soldiers that impelled them to fight at the hostile terrains of the war fronts risking their lives and their sacrifice willing to suffer for safeguarding the integrity of the nation, no amount of our help to their families would be adequate.

I am Ranjita and happen to be the daughter of the President of the NGO and know the situation more acutely as I am myself a war-widow having lost my husband at the war front six months after our honey moon. Luckily, I come from a well to do family and do not need any financial support. But I know it is not the case with most of the distressed families when they lose their breadwinners.

I would be failing in my duty if do not express my admiration and gratitude to the celebrated musician of the day and the equally popular accompanists for coming forward to perform without any honorarium keeping the noble cause in mind

I would request all of you to contribute as much as you can for this worthy cause. The details of the website and links for making donations are on the notice board and also on the reverse of your tickets.

Thank you all for attending the concert that will resume now. Jai Hind !”

When Rajesh and Sethuraman were back at home and having dinner, Sita said, “Rajesh I am very happy that you took the right decision to go to US breaking the family tradition of joining the army.”

 “Amma, there has been a drastic change in my mind since this evening thanks to appa taking me to the concert. I was greatly impressed with the young lady’s talk about the NGO and the work it is doing for the cause of soldiers killed in army. Amma, I agree with you that our family has made adequate contribution on the fighting fronts. I have now decided to explore the opportunities to work in the army not in the fronts but in IT sector using my deep knowledge of software towards the cause of missing warriors, locating them where possible and also reach families of warriors killed to help them quickly from the official side and with proper approval through voluntary organizations like the one the young lady spoke today.”

Sethuraman literally jumped from the chair and exclaimed,” Sabash, you are not breaking the family tradition of serving in the army,”

 Sita was smiling when Rajesh softly said looking at her, “I am also thinking on my part to the cause of giving a new life to a war widow subject to factors like age, qualification and compatibility.” Rajesh did not miss the mischievous grin on his dad’s face.







Thursday, June 1, 2023

The missing egg

 Many of you, especially the current readers, might have missed reading this humorous story. about roadside magic shows that were common four or five decades back.

Raju's house was close to the maidan abutting the market. An eight-year-old boy, he heard the vigorous beats of a drum and ran out to see where the sound came from. A lean and lanky man was setting up a tripod on the ground with bamboo poles and a woman, presumably his wife, was playing on the drum loudly and at great speed to attract attention. There was a young girl in colorful dress and a monkey with a cap on its head held in tight leash by her. There were assorted things near the tripod, a couple of steel rings, black cloth, a skull, a mud flower pot and a few other things that Raju could not decipher. People trickled in one by one to watch the magic and acrobatic show and stood there forming a large circle

The show did not start waiting for the crowd to swell in number. Meanwhile the girl danced with the monkey aping her with its own dance movements sending the watching crowd into splits. The monkey did some acrobatic tricks including jumping through a burning ring. Raju was sitting in the front row watching with keen interest the tricks. The magician made the young girl walk on a tight rope tied high with a bamboo stick on her hand to balance while the audience watched with bated breath and fear that the young thing may fall down.

With enough crowd assembled, the magician got into a ring that was hardly a foot in diameter and extricated himself with great difficulty and dexterity. He planted a mango seed in the mud inside a flower pot and covered it with a basket promising to show a mango plant with mango fruit a little while later.

He called a short man from the crowd and hypnotized him after making him lie down on the ground. He covered the man’s face with a red cloth and asked the man to tell whatever he was indicating. He touched a bald man's head and asked what it was and the short guy correctly said "vazhukkai thalai"(bald head). He touched a policeman's shirt and asked who he was. The short guy said a policeman. The magician held a woman's hand and asked whether the man is wearing white shirt or blue one. Flash came the correct reply that it was a woman in green sari to the great merriment and applause of the crowd.

The magician called the attention of all to the mango trick and accompanied to loud beating of the drum lifted the basket that covered the flower pot and lo there was a tiny mango plant with a small mango hanging from it. The crowd clapped its hands in utter disbelief. 

The magician called anyone from the crowd who would volunteer to be part of magic. Raju, who always wanted to be the cynosure of all eyes, stood up and lifted his hand. The man led him near the tripod. Meanwhile the girl and the monkey in tow with a tin container in hand went around collecting the coins and notes that the onlookers offered.

The woman beat the drum with gusto for a minute or two. The magician announced that the boy will soon lay eggs to the great amusement of the crowd and embarrassment of Raju. He wished to return to the crowd but was shy of backing out. The magician lifted his bare hands for the crowd to see and patted the shorts of Raju to show there was nothing inside. He uttered some mumbo jumbo as he walked around Raju to the great anticipation of the onlookers. He then passed his hands on the back of the boy and lingered at his bum for a few seconds more as if he was pulling out something. When he opened his hand there was an egg! The crowd broke into raptures as they witnessed Raju with a shy smile on his face. In deference to the wishes of the crowd, the magician retrieved another egg and said that he was not taking out the third egg. Raju started crying pleading with him to remove it too but the magician smilingly refused with the crowd in splits.

 Meanwhile the girl and the monkey had completed two rounds collecting the money. The crowd slowly dispersed. Raju lingered longer and the magician told him to go home and not to worry. Raju was not convinced and was still sobbing.

When he returned home later, he narrated the events to his mom and asked her to feel his stomach and bum for any egg. She laughed hysterically after passing her hand and said how gullible he was in believing such nonsense. She said it was all some illusion created by the magician turning the attention of the crowd to something else. But he was not convinced.

Raju wished to make sure and went into the toilet. As he sat on the WC, he heard a plop sound. Anxiously he looked down and found a white egg floating. He screamed for his mom who came rushing that something was amiss. He said “Look here. I told you but you didn’t believe me. It is there See the egg. " She looked into WC and said "You are imagining. There is no egg. Do not go to such magic shows and volunteer yourself. Go to the dining table and have the upma. It is getting cold."

Raju stood confused when he saw no egg this time in the WC but ran his hands over his tummy to make doubly sure.