Wednesday, February 28, 2024

The bubbly man with a large heart (1237)

Basudev Pal, Basu in short, has been in the hospital only for less than a fortnight and it seemed an eternity for him.  He had a heart attack in the office and was luckily brought to the hospital immediately. After a week or so in ICU, he was moved to a room with two beds separated by a curtain.

Though he was stable, the cardiologist scared his wife that the first three weeks and three months after the attack were crucial and that anything could happen during this period. He told her that Basu needed to rest for three months and get doctors' care for the scar to heal.

Basu was just 45 years old with a small family of a wife and two kids. He was not financially very sound except for the monthly salary from the good job he held. Though the medical expenses would be completely taken care of by the company, this unexpected attack rattled him wondering how it would alter his life.

Scary thoughts often crossed his mind as to what would happen to his wife and children if he were to die suddenly, a possibility that the doctor had not ruled out. He was the sole breadwinner for the family. Although his wife put up a bold face and gave him pep talks that he would be soon normal, he knew she was very worried. He could not also come out of the negative thoughts.

One afternoon, three days after Basu moved into a private room from the ICU, a new patient was wheeled from the ICU into the other bed in his room. There was a flurry of nurses moving in and out fixing several tubes connected to different monitors and bottles for drip. A senior doctor along with his associates was by his side monitoring the condition of the patient.

Basu wasn’t exactly excited about the arrival of a new patient to give company. The condition of the patient rather depressed him. The curtain, however, hid him from the things going on in the other bed. It was only later that Basu came to know from his wife that the patient’s condition was not good with an enlarged heart with practically little strength to pump the blood. It seemed that he was in ICU for 10 days before being shifted here. Except for the nurses and doctors, no relatives or friends of the patient were seen. Basu learned that he was of the same age. Things became quiet after some time. Around 7.30 pm, the curtain was drawn open at the new patient’s request. Basu slowly turned his head to see a beaming smile from a burly face with a ‘hello, Johnny well met’ attitude.

He said “I am Anand Sinha. Don’t be scared by all these tubes and bottles. They would remove them after three or four days. I have grown accustomed to them so much. I am fine and happy despite my being here. What is bothering you? Why are you here? You look young and healthy.”

“Thanks, I am Basudev. I suffered a mild heart attack and have been in the hospital for about ten days. “he replied.

“Phew, mild heart attack? That is nothing. The stent they must have fixed will take care of you for decades. You will be fully fit in a month or so and will be your usual self short of jogging. Nothing to worry at all. Every other fellow gets this in this stress-filled competitive world. A little precaution in your diet and a bit of walking will take care of you. You can just forget that you ever entered this hospital.” he said and loudly laughed till his nurse motioned him to stop.

This did not lift Basu’s jaded spirit who was immersed in thoughts of self-pity while this guy in what seemed a critical condition was cracking jokes on himself, at the nurses and making them laugh despite the many attachments all over his body. He had a positive attitude, and cheerful spirit and made no complaint unlike Basu griping to the nurse about a dull pain on the right side of his chest or likely constipation.

There was no evidence of fear in Anand despite the worried look of the nurses and their constant monitoring of his condition now and then. Poor chap, he was not allowed more than 500 ml of water the whole day. Again, in the night there was an emergency with doctors and nurses making a beeline to his bed. So, it was a surprise when in the morning around 7 am, Basu heard “Hello Basu, how are you? Could you sleep well despite the disturbance from my side last night?”

The nurse cautioned him not to speak loudly and to sleep for a while. This did not deter him from talking about his office and his work. At 7-30 am sharp, my wife came with coffee, sandwiches, fruits etc. Then some relatives and colleagues dropped in with special permission. Basu forgot about Anand and the curtain was drawn by the nurse.

At dinner time Anand was at his best making Basu laugh with his crazy jokes. He said “You are a lucky bloke as your wife seems very affectionate type and constantly with you. You have so many caring relatives and good friends calling on you while not even one  cared to enquire about my well-being."

When Basu smiled weakly, Anand remonstrated him,” Don’t scare your wife by pulling a long face all the time. Cheer up particularly when you are well and on the road to recovery. When we both go home, we will have a binge of beer to celebrate our homecoming.”

It was then it struck Basu that Anand had no visitors, not even his wife or kids. He must have read his mind and said, “My wife got separated from me a few years back and my daughter is with her. She has cut off all connections with me and even my daughter is not allowed to see me.”

Basu could see his moist eyes and felt bad that he was so wrapped up in himself that he never made any enquiry about Anand and his family till then. But he was amazed at his strong spirit and cheerful disposition despite the sad happenings, Basu decided to share his breakfast, talk to him for a long time the next morning and make amends for his lapse.

Alas, Basu did not get the chance. When he woke up the next day morning, the curtain was pulled closed between their beds. He could hear the nurses with sombre faces whispering to each other in soft voices.

Basu asked one whether anything was amiss but she did not speak but showed her hands heavenward. After 30 minutes, when Anand’s body had been removed, the nurse told Basu “Anand ji was aware that he had less than a week to live. He wished to remain in the hospital till his end. There was nothing that was medically possible to prolong his life. Poor man, he had none to care for him in his last days. He told me last night that he was enjoying his stay in the hospital thanks to his friend on the other bed and was making fun of your imaginary fears.”

The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.” —Mark Twain

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Beauty is skin deep (1208)

            "I didn't give you the gift of life, life gave me the gift of you"

It was a sultry day and there were no visitors to the institution. Some days there used to be even four or five couples and a few days there would be none. It used to be boring then with nothing but novels to keep me busy. I do voluntary work in this child adoption centre out of affection for my mom who was heading this institution till she passed away a few years back. She was insistent that I give back to society at least a portion of what I have taken from it.

 This adoption centre is a part of the institution that ran a shelter for orphans and destitute women, a school, vocational training institute comprising of tailoring, laundry, carpentry, a printing press and a small machine shop. It is a home for hundreds of children and women where they were cared for until they were rehabilitated into society.

Many social workers give their time and money to this institution. I chose the adoption centre when I was asked to choose by the head of the organization as I loved children and playing with them. It was only later that I realized one needs to have an abiding interest in children and plenty of patience. I had to minimize my social life and even skip minor family functions. But I always felt happy with this work when I saw my mother’s photo and remember her total dedication and the immense satisfaction she derived when she found safe and secure homes for the children of the centre. The choice of foster parents required utmost care and gathering of information. One cannot afford to make mistakes as the future of the babies is dependent on the right homes.

A young couple, Vanita and Varun, one day dropped in. Both of them were working in a well-known IT company drawing hefty salaries. She was in her early thirties and was exceptionally beautiful. Varun, a tall and handsome man made a good partner. When she expressed her desire to adopt a child, I asked her why she was doing it while still young, she explained that she was not medically fit to bear a child,

I kept quiet for some time wondering how even advanced medical knowledge is unable to cure some maladies and asked,
“You both are working and that too for long hours. Who will look after your baby?”

Varun said “My mother is staying with us and we intend to engage an ayah also to look after the baby during the day”

” Are you also as much keen on this adoption as your wife is? I asked Varun.

“Yes, keener than her and we are in total agreement on this. We have discussed this endlessly and have come to choose a baby. We want a baby girl in particular,” he said with a smile.

I was surprised as normally couples prefer boys even in these days when gender discrimination is frowned upon. They usually seek fair-complexioned boys with good features. They even try to ferret out information on the biological parents and their background, if any of the child. As a rule, we never disclose such information. I asked them to fill up the application form with all the details and gave them a day to see the children.

 As there was a general tendency to pick fair-complexioned and good-looking babies leaving behind the dusky and ordinary-looking ones, we show the latter first. Only when the couples are not happy with them and prefer to return, that we show them some more. Our objective is that all babies should get willing ‘parents’ and that those not endowed with looks or colour should not be left out and be offered first

On the appointed day I had chosen four baby girls between 2 and 4 who have not been lucky to be adopted so far. 

One of them Sumi (3), was very dark but endowed with very sharp features. She was a quiet girl not given to much interaction with other children. There was a forlorn and lost look on her face.

Lakshmi (4), was fairer but was not attractive with a wide bulbous nose and big ears for her face. She was, however, a pleasant and outgoing girl.

Sweety (2), dusky in colour, had a squint and always cried uncontrollably on such occasions putting off even those who contemplated to consider her.

Shanthi (2), who was the darkest of the lot. She was skinny with the ribs showing, and protruding teeth and limped a little looking awkward when she walked. But she had a smiling twinkle in her eyes. She has never been in the zone of selection thus far.

I had all of them dressed in good frocks after bath and breakfast and made them sit in the adjacent room playing with toys.

When Vanita and Varun came, I was not very sanguine of their liking any of these four. They have been rejected time and again. She had brought plenty of chocolates. The children looked at me for my approval to accept the toffees. They have been trained that way. I left the couple with the children and came to my room. It took more than an hour and they had not come out.  Curious to know what was happening I peeped in through the door. All the children wreathed in smiles were seen playing with total abandon as if the two strangers had known to them for a long period.

I thought they were a compassionate twosome and played with the kids just to give these tiny tots some happiness and warmth denied to them. I had seen so many come out mechanically and express their unhappiness as we do while selecting saris.

 They came out at last, though reluctantly. and the lady said” I have taken the snaps of the kids in my mobile without your permission. I hope you will not mind. We will come tomorrow again to finalise”

I surmised they were being gentle and may not come the next day. I proffered to say “In case you are not satisfied with this lot, I can show some more.”

Pat came the reply,” No need, we will choose one amongst these four”

 The next day they came early in the morning and said in unison the name “Shanthi”, when I asked whom, they had selected.

 Vanita said “We discussed the whole of last night. I could have taken all of them but we had to choose one. I was drawn to Shanthi by her eyes. We will make her a healthy child and after some three years, I will have her teeth aligned and do something about the limp if possible. Don’t worry. We like the dusky colour that God has given her. She is such a cute little darling.”

Varun said” My mom was not fair complexioned after all. Beauty and colour are skin-deep. What mattered is that Shanthi caught our fancy and both of us zoomed on her.”

He added “Maybe, God willing, we may come again next year and adopt one more of the other three. Thanks a lot. What wonderful people you are!”

Thoughts of my mom raced in my mind at the successful conclusion.

(This is fiction to be enjoyed for its spirit though it may or may not strictly conform to the adoption laws.)


Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Krishna’s munificence (968)

Although Bhama and Gopalan were a loving and smart couple, they struggled to make both ends meet each month. They had four children. He was a clerk in a private company with a meagre salary. They could not provide nutritious food and good schooling to the children. They were pious but their prayers yielded no result. Gopalan, an honest and hard-working guy, found no way to augment his earnings.

In such times, the couple went one day to the local Krishna temple as they usually did, to pray and find peace, and found an upanyasakar, narrating the story of Sudama’s (Kuchela) visit to Krishna at Dwarka. With nothing much to do at home, they sat among the crowd and started listening to the story that was narrated in a moving and gripping manner.

The gist of the widely known story is as below.

Sudama and Krishna were childhood friends during their study at Sandipani Ashram. Though Krishna belonged to the royal family and the former from a very poor family, they were close friends and fond of each other.

In due course, Krishna became a powerful ruler in Dwarka, while Sudama was an impoverished man, facing lots of hardships in raising his several children. 

Sudama's wife Susheela reminded him one day of his friendship with Krishna and requested him to seek his help. Sudama was averse to the idea but yielded to her plea to visit Dwarka. With nothing worthwhile to carry as a gift, he carried a handful of flattened rice flakes (Poha)  tied to his upper cloth.

When Krishna heard that Sudama was at the palace gate, he rushed to the gate with His consort in tow. Though his boyhood friend was seen looking haggard and unshaven face after a long walk, Krishna in great jubilation hugged and embraced Sudama fondly.

He sought the gift, Bhabhi had sent for him and ate the flattened rice with much relish to the amusement of Rukmani. Neither Sudama revealed the purpose of his visit nor Krishna asked him. After pampering with affection and hospitality for a couple of days, Krishna sent Sudama in his chariot to his village.

It was only when Sudama reached the village, that he could witness how Krishna had relieved him totally from poverty with a palace-like house, with his wife Susheela and children decked in finest clothes and jewellery and many other copious and costly gifts.

With tears in their eyes on hearing the moving story about the munificence of Krishna, Bhama and Gopalan came out of the temple to find a very small picture, of Krishna washing the feet of Sudama, in a stall outside the temple. They bought it and hung it in their puja place for daily worship hoping He would bestow likewise  His grace on them.

Within a week, an important development took place in Gopalan’s company with the owner handing over complete responsibility to manage the company to his only son due to declining health. The new master who was of the same age as Gopalan and had known him for long for his honesty and hard work, employed him in his secretariat to assist him giving him a promotion along with a good raise in salary.

The joy of the couple knew no bounds and they were certain that the picture of Krishna with Sudama was the main reason for this unexpected but welcome change. They started praying more and luckily the company’s operations expanded with increased profits. Within two years, he was promoted to a higher position with greater responsibilities.

Human nature being what it is, greed and avarice surpassed devotion and contentment that Gopalan got the picture enlarged to 2’xI’ from the present 4”x3” hoping for greater benefits to accrue. He bought more flowers in different varieties to decorate the god and made Bhama prepare nice and different delicacies for Prasad. Though Bhama felt unhappy about the change in Gopalan, she remained quiet.

Six months passed with nothing big happening at the office. One evening when Gopalan was resting on the balcony, Bhama came and sat beside him. The children were away. It seemed to Gopalan that she wished to convey something but looked hesitant.

“Do you wish to tell me something? Shoot out without hesitation. By God’s grace, we are doing well, isn’t it?”, Gopalan said.

“I think you should not have meddled with the size of the picture in your greed. You employed a cheap human trick thinking that increasing the size of the picture would fetch you greater riches. I think the Lord is upset. I am now in the family way and the lady doctor confirmed it and added a bombshell about the certainty of a twin,” she mumbled with a crestfallen face.

Gopalan’s face fell and lost its colour. After a long silence, he said,” I fully agree with you. I repent for what I did and will seek His forgiveness, though the consequences of my foolishness cannot be changed”

 “Do not worry. I have a suggestion. Let us hang the big picture on one of the pillars at the Krishna temple for childless women to go around it. That way you can atone for your mistake,” Bhama said with a certain finality in her voice.

When he nodded his head in agreement and promised to consult her in future, Bhama hugged him and said,” I am glad that you realized your mistake and sincerely repented for it. Please excuse me for pulling a fast one on you. I am neither pregnant nor did I consult a doctor. It was only to restrain you from overzealousness to get rich quickly. Let us be content with what God has given us. Let us return the smaller picture to the puja room and hang the bigger one at the temple.”

Saturday, February 17, 2024

The Golden Key to Gates of Heaven (1108)


“Amma, you should not be lying on the bed all the 24 hours. You must sit now and then on the chair and keep moving about a little once in a while,” said, Champaka, her daughter-in-law, a bit loudly.

“What can I do? My back pains when I sit. I cannot walk and this walker is more a nuisance than a help,” replied Chellamma.

“At this rate, you would not be able to even walk to the toilet in a few months,” warned Champaka.

The old woman did not respond. A frail figure in her late eighties, her vision had gone dim, her hearing impaired and her limbs so weak that she needed a walker to move about. Of late, she fell sick frequently with minor ailments like cough, cold or fever making herself more dependent on others. She lay mostly in her bed watching vacantly the ceiling fan or the picture of Guruvayurappan on the wall. With her handicaps, she had no use for a TV or music system that Champaka had thoughtfully provided in her room. Loneliness enveloped her as the body became weak with age.

Her only pastime was to revive old memories of years bygone. She could recollect the old incidents but forgot the recent happenings. There was a trace of a smile on her face as she thought of her younger days when she like a queen had ruled her sprawling bungalow consisting of her soft-natured husband, who was a leading advocate, and their seven sons and two daughters. Her writ prevailed in the house and none dared to question her. It was affluent days with no want. She was kind by nature but never allowed her daughters-in-law to claim intimacy with her. There were many servants and two cooks in the large house. The front hall was always bristling with many juniors and clients with a non-stop supply of coffee and refreshments. She carried herself with dignity and was held in great respect. There was happiness and harmony in the family with all sons living together with their wives and children.

These days she lived in a well-ventilated room at the rear of a big apartment with her second son Rajappa, as all the others were living separately, some in the same city and others in different cities. Both Rajappa and his wife Champaka were caring and dutiful, but were away at work in the daytime. They had no children. She kept the food and coffee in a flask on a table adjacent to her. She had employed a reliable girl after good reference to assist her and keep an eye on her. Nevertheless, it was silence and monotony for the old woman all through the day.

When Champaka returned home tired after a day’s hard work, she invariably entered to caress her amma’s arms and head warmly. She did not, however, talk to her much, not because of unwillingness but because there was nothing meaningful to converse. Chellamma mostly rambled incoherently. Champaka used to frown unseen and mumble sometimes and pull up the girl at the scattered and spilled food on the bed or amma’s dress.

The boredom and loneliness frustrated the old woman so much that she would pray to God to take her quickly to Heaven. The failing health, perceived neglect and emotional stress of being dependent made her depressed and yearn constantly for deliverance, praying most of the time

One Sunday she was telling Champaka,” I am tired of being tied to bed. I am constantly praying God to take me away. I hope He will listen to my prayers and take me to Heaven soon,”

 “Amma, how do you think that the Gates of Heaven would be kept open for you to enter at your will? How can you be so sure that you will go to Heaven? Do you have the key for it by any chance? “asked Champaka with a smile in a mocking tone.

“I don’t know all that. I pray to Guruvayurappan daily that He should take me to Him. Wherever He is, it must be Heaven” replied the guileless lady.

Chellamma prayed that night intensely to God “Guruvayurappa, Narayana, don’t ditch me on any count. I have been praying all the waking hours. Please take me to your feet soonest I have nothing against anyone. Rajappa and Champaka are very kind and caring. I depend on you for deliverance.” She went on praying amidst cries for His grace till she dozed away to sleep. This went on for three nights pushing the poor woman to extreme misery.

It was on the fourth day she had a dream in which Guruvayurappan appeared and assured her “Chellamma, do not worry. I have heard your prayers. The gates of Heaven will be open and you will have the key before long. Trust me and do not cry.”

The lady woke up with a start and was greatly surprised and relieved. Peace and calm descended on her face at what she believed to be God’s message to her.

 “Amma, what happened during the night? You seem fresh and happy. Have you got the Key to Heaven’s Gate?” taunted Champaka the next morning with a broad smile on her face.

Chellamma did not respond but turned her head and closed her eyes. She was quiet throughout the day.

It was past 8 am the next morning and Chellamma had not got up from the bed. It was getting late for the office. Champaka came to wake her up followed by Rajappa. When she nudged the old woman, her clutched hand fell on her side. Champaka felt her breath with concern and let out a shriek when it dawned on her that the old woman was no more. Her puckered lips looked to her like a faint and mischievous smile.  Intrigued by the tightly closed hand, she opened her fingers to find a shining key golden in colour.

She stood in utter disbelief staring at the unfamiliar key and wondering how and where she got it even as she remembered her taunt about the key for the gates of Heaven. Overcome by extreme remorse, she fell on Chellamma crying and said “Amma, forgive me. I have seen the golden key to Heaven you were always talking about in your hand. I am a wretch making fun of you and never spent time to regale you daily. I implore you to pardon me.”

 A confused and crestfallen Rajappa looking at both of them asked Champaka,” What key are you talking about? I do not see any in amma’s hand. Are you imagining?” 

To his bewilderment, Champaka continued to cry inconsolably.


Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Not all love stories are smooth (1369)

Muthu was learning Desktop publishing in a private institute as he could not afford a college education. His mom was working in a private clinic. He visited daily the local government library to read the various dailies and magazines. There were many books and novels but a deposit was to be paid to take books home. He read the books in the library itself as he never liked to sit alone in the house when his mom was away.

He was reading a paper supplement looking at the ‘Situations Vacant’ column. When he turned his head hearing a rustle of feet, he saw a young girl of maybe 17 or 18 standing near the table looking at him. She looked very pretty with a small nose and well-chiselled features. She was in a much worn-out faded salwar suit that indicated her poor circumstances. There was some apprehension in her eyes.

“Do you wish to tell me something?” he asked her. She was seen hesitating to talk.

He smiled at her and asked again whether she wanted to say something.

“I am waiting to see the supplement you are having in your hand. When you have finished it, please give it to me before others take it “she said softly

“I am sorry I didn’t know. I was just browsing without any specific purpose. Please have it” he said as he handed over the paper

She smiled and said “Thanks. Someone told me of an ad that has come today.”

As she returned to her table, I saw her long hair in plaits falling almost below her hip. She looked graceful in her walk. Though he was not inclined to read, he brought an astrological magazine from the shelf and turned inside its pages. Now and then he looked at her side and noticed she was also glancing at him sideways. After about half an hour, she stood up and lingered for a moment at his table with a faint smile on her face before she left.

That night as he was lying on his bed, he was dreaming of his future, of a steady job in a publishing company and about the girl he met in the library. He cursed himself for not asking her name and whether she visited the library daily.

He was there the next day in his best T-shirt and jeans. His heart sank when he found she was not there. He took a couple of papers with appointment supplements to the same desk and sat there hoping she would come soon. In about twenty minutes, she came hurriedly and he could see the expectancy in her face when she looked around and at his table. He smiled at her and showed the opposite vacant chair.

 When she sat down, he said “I am Muthu learning desktop publishing and living next to Ganesh temple on the next street. What is your name?”

“I am Saroja” she replied after some time. When prompted what she did, she said “I stopped school after class 10. I have joined typewriting classes. “

“Why are you not studying further?” he asked.

“I have no parents. I am living in my uncle’s house next to the flour mill. He cannot afford my education, though he is affectionate towards me. I am looking for a job.”

“I am sorry to hear that,” he said feeling pity for the girl. They started meeting at the library almost daily except Sundays. When her birthday came, he wished to give her a small gift. She refused saying “My aunt is very watchful and if she found any new thing she would enquire and stop me from going to the library and typing classes.”

They became very fond of each other and wished to spend time together as much as possible. One week later when he met her, she smiled at him rather weakly but looked away quickly. He felt she was trying to hide her face. He turned her face to see tears trickling down and asked her what bothered her. She did not reply but looked forlorn and lost.

When prompted, she said, “My uncle has decided to shift to a village near Salem this Thursday. I do not wish to go out of Chennai. I want to be here permanently. I feel like crying.”

He was shocked and couldn’t gather words immediately. “I know Saroja. Don’t worry. We will find a way out We have still three days” he replied without knowing what else to say.

“Muthu, I am shy to tell you. Please find some way to keep me with you,” she said as she hid her face behind her dupatta.

. “I know. I am also in deep love with you, Saroja. But you are minor and I cannot take you away to my house,” he said

“No, I turned 18 two months back and am a major,” she said

“Let me check with my mom whether she can keep you with us till such time you find a job. Give me time to think. I will come up with some solution before Thursday, “he assured her.

He discussed it with his mom that night itself. She was supportive and assured him that she would discuss with the owner of the clinic to employ that girl as they were already in need of an assistant. She also said that Saroja could stay with them till she found an alternative accommodation with the nurses. She asked him not to give her high hopes till the matter was finalized.

He did not go to the library the next day. On Tuesday night when he learnt that his mom had got the approval from the owner-doctor for Saroja’s appointment, she suggested that they could go to her house the next day morning and talk to her uncle. Muthu was jubilant and could not sleep the whole night.

There was no difficulty in locating the house when they went the next day to the flour mill. When asked about the whereabouts of Saroja, an elderly woman sitting nearby showed the locked door and asked who they were.

When his mom explained the purpose of their visit, the woman said “How unlucky the poor girl is. She was crying for the last two days. She never wanted to leave this place. Her aunt kept her locked in the house and did not allow her to go out fearing she might run away. They forcefully took her with them early this morning itself instead of tomorrow as planned. Are you related to that nice girl?”

His mom replied “, No, but we wanted to get related to her. Do you have any idea of the place they have gone to?”

“No, they did not leave any address behind them. They were secretive.”

As Muthu’s mom put her arms gently around him, he was crestfallen with all his hopes come to naught.

“Do not feel sad. We did our best. It is destiny. The girl seemed intelligent and let us hope she can contact you soon,” she assured him wiping the tears from his face.

As they reached their house, Muthu’s mom said, “Let us pray first at the temple for her wellbeing and her ability to reach you.”

As both of them were praying with their eyes closed, Muthu felt someone tugging his shirt from behind. When he turned and saw, he let out a cry of jubilation saying,” Amma, look who is here.”

 It was Saroja, who fell at the feet of Muthu’s mom sobbing,” Kindly accept me and do not turn me away. I gave the slip to my uncle unseen  just as the bus was about to leave and came right here waiting for you to come.”

Muthu’s mom wrapped her shoulders with her arms with much warmth, kissed her forehead and said softly, "Do not fear. You will be with us forever. You have a job. Your future is safe and secure with us. Look at Muthu’s face beaming with happiness.” 

As an afterthought, she added,” Hold his hand and enter the house with your right foot forward. We will let your uncle know about the developments in due course.”


Thursday, February 8, 2024

Embracing presence of God (640)

Below is a small and touching story/incident by an unknown author. It speaks of the transformation of an agnostic into a believer in an unusual circumstance. Maybe I had edited this story but not sure whether this was posted earlier in my blog. Please read on.

A young man raised as an agnostic was training to be an Olympic diver. The only religious influence in his life came from his outspoken Christian friend.

 The young diver never really paid much attention to his friend's sermons, but he heard them often.

One night the diver went to the indoor pool at his college. The lights were all off, but as the pool had big skylights and the moon was bright, there was plenty of light to practice by.

The young man climbed up to the highest diving board and as he turned his back to the pool on the edge of the board and extended his arms out, he saw his shadow on the wall. The shadow of his body was in the shape of a cross.

 Instead of diving, he knelt and asked God to come into his life. As the young man stood, a maintenance man walked in and turned the lights on.

The pool had been drained for repairs.

Normally he would have dived without making much of the shadow that appeared as a cross on the wall. But it was nighttime with him being alone and none around the pool. it was dark and sombre with no lights turned on producing a lonely feeling. It is only when things are different from normal and when you are alone that your mind turns towards the unknown god. The shadow of a cross formed by his body with extended arms was enough to bring a sudden transformation in his uneasy mind. He looked in the shadow of the presence of God whom he had been ignoring all the time. It was the personal repentance at that moment that made him kneel before the shadow and seek God coming into his life.

Many of us cry out to God when we pass through difficult times in our life particularly when we feel helpless, weak, abandoned or overwhelmed by daunting challenges. Even during life-threatening circumstances, we turn to God. When our ego is less, we are closer to God and once the situation changes for the better the old ego returns stronger we tend to live in our normal ways away from Him.

It was for this reason that Kunti, mother of Pandavas in Mahabharata, prayed to Lord Krishna to keep her always in trouble so that she would remember Him always.

“My Lord, Your Lordship can easily be approached, but only by those who are materially exhausted. One, who is on the path of [material] progress, trying to improve by himself with respectable parentage, great opulence, high education and bodily beauty, cannot approach You with sincere feeling.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 1.8.26).

The utterance of the Lord’s name no doubt has potency but is very high only when it is uttered sincerely with total faith in surrender mode. It is the quality of feeling or yearning that determines the potency. Such sincerity comes only when one feels helpless and has no material devices to fall upon.

Such a transformation process or change of mind towards God is preceded by sincere repentance. It is to say to the Lord, “I want to turn towards You and away from the life I’ve lived independently from You. I am sorry for who I’ve been and what I have done and I want to permanently change. I wish to receive your forgiveness for my sins.”

The miraculous appearance of the maintenance man and switching on the lights in the nick of time to save the young man’s life is indicative that the Lord has forgiven him.



Monday, February 5, 2024

Unusual bravery of a good Samaritan (582)

The local train was jam-packed with passengers returning home after the day’s hard work. There were four passengers in every seat intended for three. People were standing all along the aisle suffering in silence the sultry weather and foul-smelling clothes of the others around.

 It was then the passengers heard a commotion. A man in his early forties, in a white shirt and pyjama, caught hold of a young man in blue jeans and a red coloured t-shirt by his collar and told him angrily pointing to another passenger, “I saw you picked his pocket. Hand over the wallet to him right now.”

The young man instantly whisked out a small knife and tried to slash the older man who held his collar. The agile man gave him a whack on his hand and the knife fell on the floor.

The good Samaritan laughed aloud telling “Don’t ever try your tricks on me. I have seen many like you.”

With the purse retrieved, the passenger who had lost it was profuse in thanking the brave benefactor. A couple of other passengers tied the hands of the pickpocket and waited for the train to stop at the next station. Everyone was in awe of the man as the passengers usually do not intervene in the activities of pickpockets who travel in groups and who do not hesitate to harm people when caught. The pickpocket was pushed out by the irate passengers when the train stopped at the next station. New passengers both men and women surged in blocking the space at the entrance. But our good man who stayed on in the train moved towards the exit gate.

As the train was proceeding fast, there was a shrill scream from a young woman caught in the crowd at the entrance. When people turned towards her, she accused a middle-aged bald man in his fifties of having groped her at improper places taking advantage of the crowd and proximity. Our hero who was nearby pounced on the rogue and beat him hard. The other passengers too joined in what turned out to be a free-for-all all in meting out instant justice. The culprit was bound with his hands behind and was pushed out of the train at the next station to hand over to the police by other passengers who alighted.

While our hero was surveying triumphantly, the admiring crowd that surrounded him, four men in white uniforms who had boarded the compartment at the other entrance was seen approaching the hero of the day. One of the uniformed guys shouted.” Here is our quarry. Come quick and block the gate before he does something rashly.”

Our hero who saw them turned pale and tried to move away towards the other gate. One passenger who was a witness to all the happenings since the catching of the pickpocket accosted the men in uniform and said,” You seem to be going after the wrong man. This gentleman  has in a few minutes helped nab a pickpocket and an eve-teasing rogue.”

“We know, sir. He is our man and we have absolutely no doubt. He escaped while we were taking him along with others from the asylum to the hospital. He believes he is an inspector of police.”

The man started crying when the uniformed men took him in their custody bringing home the truth that such bravery, he displayed for public causes comes only when one is insane. The passengers felt really sad for the man’s plight even as he was dragged away.