Monday, May 27, 2024

Manoj's predicament (401 words)


Manoj was in deep debt and was threatened by recovery agents with dire consequences if he failed to return the money. He was the sole breadwinner for his parents and younger siblings. He could see no way to clear the debt except to seek refuge in God He left a few hundred of rupees with his parents and told them he would be back in two days.

He travelled to Tirupati ticketless and stood in the long queue for a free darshan safe from the recovery agents for two days. As the queue moved slowly, he prayed with closed eyes, “My lord, show me a way out, other than suicide. I cannot think of any other way to resolve the problem. The ruffians have given me the ultimatum that if I do not pay immediately, they will break my limbs and throw us all out of our house. If I am freed of this burden of debts, I promise to renounce the world and be your devotee and at your service forever.”

Everyone around in the vicinity saw the handsome and young Manoj praying intensely with tears flowing from his eyes.

When the queue pushed him, he opened his eyes and was surprised to find a bundle of yellow cloth lying hidden behind a pillar. Someone must have dropped it, meant for the Hundi, by mistake. He hid the bundle securely in his dhoti. All his problems vanished in a trice like snowflakes before the sun. God in his infinite mercy, he thought, had answered his prayer. He rightly decided to honour his promise from the very moment he found the bundle. 

As he left the temple and walked into the bazaar the thought, of missing fancy dress, a motorbike, and a binge of good food with beer, tormented him. Undeterred, he wore an ochre robe. His mind was restless as he sat again in the temple in his yellow clothes. Tears trickled from his eyes as he realised it would not be easy to take to Sanyasa. It was a promise he foolishly made in haste. He was now in a quandary not knowing how to get out of this tricky situation he had invited upon himself. His eyes with tears flowing were closed in deep thought. 

Then he heard a voice,” Pack up. The day’s shooting is over,” even as the director patted him and said,” Well done, Manoj.”



Saturday, May 25, 2024

An encounter with a noble soul (668 words)

We live in a small town, rather an oversized village, about thirty kilometres from Trichy. It is an old house slightly narrow but very long with a porch at the entrance and a large vacant ground in the backyard. It was built during my husband’s grandfather’s time. We chose to live in this place as we had vast lands in the adjacent villages. A lawyer by profession, my husband is not practising much these days except to help old clients. The children in the city visit us on weekends off and on.

One evening, I was watching the TV, when I heard someone calling ’Amma’. I found an old man of about seventy, frail, small-built and not looking well off. He had a smiling face belying his indigent circumstances as revealed by his frayed collar and much-worn-out chappals.

He said softly “I am sorry to bother you. I came to this place to return some amount I had taken as a loan from a friend. He came home only at 9 pm. The last bus to my place had already left and the first bus arrives only at 6 am. Would you kindly allow me to sleep on the porch (thinnai in Tamil) for the night? My relations with that person are a bit strained and there was no question of my requesting him.”

 As my husband was yet to return from the city, I hesitated a little. My six-year-old granddaughter Suguna who had come to stay with me for a few days said,” Grandma, please allow grandpa to sleep on the porch. Where else can he sleep in the night? He looks tired and hungry.” That clinched the matter.

I gave him a mat, a pillow and a sheet to cover as mosquitoes are a menace here. Declining to have food, he accepted a glass of buttermilk and plantain when I insisted. I could hear him talking to Suguna and her peals of laughter now and then from the hall where I was before the TV. I could discern a jovial personality within this frail man depressed possibly by financial worries.

 When I came to take Suguna inside, he mentioned, “I have a married son with children living in New Delhi. My daughter-in-law is also well-employed. Unfortunately, my wife fell from the bus some years ago and is unable to walk. She needs help even to take her to the bathroom.”

“My God, it is very tough for both of you. How are you managing?” I asked

“By God’s grace, one lady in the adjacent flat is friendly and helpful whenever I had to go outside. After this accident, my son and his wife have become distant and aloof. He was sending money earlier whenever asked for. But I have since stopped asking him. I am getting a pension that is just adequate. I have no complaints to make and am thankful to God for keeping me physically fit and healthy to take care of my wife and manage my affairs without imposing on others,” he said

A thought crossed my mind. Financially not sound, advanced in age, a crippled wife, denied the affection of his only son in the twilight years of the couple, yet he counted his blessings instead of griping about his disappointments. He was grateful to God for the doughnut he had, instead of cursing the holes in it. I wished him good night and went inside with my granddaughter Suguna

When I woke up the next morning and went out to the porch with a cup of coffee, I found he had gone. The mat and the sheet were neatly folded and kept over the pillow. When I lifted them to carry inside, I found a small piece of paper folded and a fifty rupee note fell on opening. He had scribbled in pencil “To dear Suguna, with love, Grandpa.” I wiped the tears from my eyes.

“Circumstances do not make you what you are, they reveal what you are” John Maxwell


Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Miss.Veronica finally smiled (923)


“Do not judge by appearances; a rich heart may be under a poor coat.” –                                       
Miss Veronica was not a bad teacher as many supposed. She was a conscientious and a good one. She took great pains to prepare her lessons well in advance. She burnt the midnight oil to correct the homework the same day and give remarks in every notebook. That the comments were forthright was no fault for she wrote what she genuinely felt without effort to be nice. To others, her remarks may appear rude and discouraging, though they indicated where the students had gone wrong and what was the right answer.

 But the children en masse disliked her but she was not perturbed. Her class was always serious with no light-hearted banter and she came down heavily on any kid trying to be flippant. She never touched any child but her tongue was rapier-like. She was not endowed with good looks though many held that could be why she remained a spinster. She was lean and scrawny and the thick glasses she wore made her figure not a pretty sight. Sadly, she paid no attention to her dress also.

Her colleagues in the staff room gave her a wide berth though she did nothing to merit such a mean treatment. As a result, she was seen sitting alone in a corner poring over a book or a paper while the room was filled with riotous laughter and banter from others. She never smiled either in the class or in the staff room. Her eyebrows were knit in what looked like a constant frown. In short, she had no friends.

That particular day her mood was nastier than usual. That was the last period for the day. She put questions on the lessons she taught the previous day as she did daily. When the boys and girls failed to give satisfactory answers, her anger erupted and was followed by a stern order asking them all to stand up with hands folded for the rest of the class while she revised the lessons, she taught earlier. The children were not amused and one could see the hate in their eyes. When the bell rang there were shouts of relief and joy with the children making a beeline for the door.

Vinay saw the teacher walking slowly with a bag heavy with notebooks of the children. She was seen stopping every ten steps and shifting the weighty bag from one shoulder to the other. He felt pity for the teacher, though he was also the one amongst those who stood the last hour in the class. He increased his pace to reach  her and said,” Ma’am, can I please carry your bag up to your home?”

“I can carry my bag. I don’t need your assistance” she replied curtly.

“I know ma’am. I still wish to carry it for you as you seem to find it heavy” he answered her.

“Don’t pester me. Don’t you understand that I do not need your help? Go home” she said with certain irritation and finality as she started walking.

Vinay kept following her at a safe distance though he could have gone back home. It was then he saw to his shock his teacher trip over a stone and fall flat with the notebooks and papers spilling. He ran towards her and lent his hand to make her sit. He collected and put the scattered notebooks and papers in the bag and hung the bag on his shoulder. She stood up and slowly trudged her way home with the boy by her side. Not one word was spoken. Probably she was in pain.
When she reached her small home, she asked the hesitant boy to come in. It was a one-bedroomed tenement but neatly kept.

“Please wait. Let me change my clothes after a wash” she said as she switched on the fan.

The boy found pictures of Jesus on the cross, the Virgin Mary and a few other saints on the wall. There was a bible on the table with candles on the stand. He could see a rosary alongside. He thought she must be a devout lady though he could not understand why she was always serious.

She brought a plate with some cookies and a glass of fruit juice.

“Have it. Thank you very much. You were persistent in helping me. I would have struggled but for your help” she said with a smile. That was the first time he saw her smile and she looked better with that smile.

“Thank you ma’am for permitting me to carry the bag. You can give me any errand in the class. I would willingly do. Sorry, we could not answer your question in the class. Yesterday’s lesson was tough for all of us” he replied.

“Someone could have told me. I would not have made you all stand for an hour. I was in a bad mood today as I got news of my grandma’s death in the village. But I should not have shown my private grief in the class like this” she said.

The boy was touched by her frankness. He decided to tell all his classmates how nice Miss Veronica was.

As Miss Veronica entered the class the next day, all the students stood up and loudly said in a chorus with smiles “Good morning, Miss.”

It was the first time she received such a hearty ovation and warm welcome. She smiled for the first time as she thanked them and saw the happy face of Vinay from one of the benches.

Friday, May 17, 2024

Sonu’s gift (584 words)

I had a business meeting at a starred hotel at 5 pm where I was to deliver a speech. I finished jotting down key points at home and dressed myself. My son of seven years was playing with toys in the living room. My wife who had been to a dentist for a routine cleaning should have been here by 2 pm. It was already 3.15 pm.

The phone jingled. “I am afraid you I will be held up. Please drop Sonu at the clinic on your way,” said the message from my wife.

“Sure,” I replied as I changed Sonu’s clothes and thrust a packet of cookies.

“Where are we going?” he asked as I drove through a busy main road.

“I will drop you at the clinic with Mom as I have to go urgently for a meeting,”

 The traffic on the road was heavy with too many cars. At the noisy intersection, the signal changed to red.

“Babu…babu.” I heard a squeaky voice accompanied by a popular tune from a single-stringed instrument made of a coconut shell. I turned to see a ten-year-old girl in torn clothes with a twinkle in her bright eyes proffering one instrument through the door to Sonu.

“No, no, take it away. The signal will be on very soon. Rush to the platform before you get caught amid the cars,” I shouted.

“Daddy, I want that instrument. Please do not send her away,” he started crying.

“This is a cheap stuff, Sonu. I will get you a Harmonica which can produce several sounds and you can play good music. Draw your hand inside for me to close the door,” I shouted.

The girl saw the signal switch on to amber. She dropped the instrument inside the car and said, “Today is my birthday. It is a gift from me to my brother Sonu,” said the girl as she ran away to the platform. I was rendered speechless.

I lost sight of the girl amid many cars running on both sides of the lane with impatient horns from behind. Compelled by the circumstances, I drove reluctantly towards the clinic with a heavy heart.

Dropping Sonu at the clinic where my wife was waiting, I could see the happy face of Sonu making musical noises with a bow from the coarse contraption in his hand to the amused look of my wife.

Even at night as I was lying on my bed, the smiling face of the little girl lingered before my eyes and the thought of her generous disposition despite my curt and petulant manner made me feel guilty.

I was at the same crossing same time the next day waiting near the curb for the girl to appear as my eyes roved all around. I waited for 15 minutes but she was not to be seen. As I started the car deciding to get her some other day, I heard a knock and the squeaky voice “Babu… Babu”

Thrilled, I turned to see the girl smiling. “Where is Sonu,” she asked.

I opened the window and said, “He is at school. Give me two more pieces of the instrument. How much does it cost?”.

“15 Rs each, Babu”

” I have this gift for your birthday from Sonu,” and handed over a box of Cadbury’s chocolates and 150 rupees. As she looked at me amazed, I added, “Do bring your parents one day, I wish to talk to them.”

“Remember to stop and smell the roses”




Tuesday, May 14, 2024

The budding love at Chang's (884 words)

The Chinese restaurant Chang’s in the mall in Orlando was not crowded. The owner Wu Chang was getting ready for the evening rush. He was directing the workers on different assignments. Two young Indians, one lean and of medium height and the other tall and well-built were sitting in one corner slowly eating Mapo Tofu while awaiting Lo Mein and Jasmine Tea. They were conversing rather loudly in their native language. One young Chinese girl was seated at a table a little away eating Fresh Cooked Broccoli. The Indians must be in their twenties and working here. A few Chinese were seen sipping tea and an American was drinking coke.

” Sundar, just turn your head casually to your right and look at the beauty sitting near the entrance. Don’t make it obvious”, said the tall guy.

Sundar stood up as if he was taking out his handkerchief from his pants and turned to see the girl. “What a charming and beautiful girl she is. I have never seen one so attractive, Mano, said Sundar.”

“Then come to this chair and sit. You can have an eyeful from this vantage position,” said Mano.

“I think she must be from China. I would like to befriend her. I have no idea whether she is an immigrant on visa working here like us or a citizen. How do I approach her?” asked Sundar

“I don’t know. Let us come daily and see if she also comes. If she does, maybe she has a fancy for you. I have seen her seeing you with sideways glances frequently. One day you can break the ice with a smile and a small talk” said Mano

“Don’t talk loudly. I see the proprietor frequently looking at us uncomfortably” warned Sundar

“Foolish fellow, how can this Chinese fellow follow us speaking in Tamil? Be bold. Come on, throw a smile at her as you leave,” said Mano

Almost daily these two Tamilian guys visited the restaurant at the same time. The girl was also seen there in her seat.

Sundar told Mano” I tried to catch her attention by smiling at her, dropping my car chain and lingering to take it She saw the owner staring at her and ignored my question as she left with a faint smile.”

“Let us change our tables from tomorrow and sit adjacent to her and see whether you can make any headway” advised Mano.’

This went on for a week with no advancement in their efforts to make friends with her. Mano asked him” Look here Sundar, this is a fruitless chase unless you take the bull by the horns. You are shy.. Are you serious about her? Is your yearning for her just for fun or for a long-term relationship? She is from the Far East and you are a Tamil. Marriage may not be on your mind. Just stop brooding over her. Let us not come here anymore.”

“No, I would even marry her if I know more about her, her mind, and her credentials. But how can I make an acquaintance when she seems disinterested? Let us come here for a week more before I give up, Mano,” pleaded Sundar..                                                                                             

The owner was looking at them with a poker face.

The girl surprisingly walked towards their table while waiting for their food the next day and said to Sundar with a twinkle in her small eyes, “I am Lijuan and work in an electronic company. I see you both almost daily and gather that you want to meet me. What can I do for you? “

Unable to get over the great surprise, Sundar in an incoherent voice asked her “How come you knew that I wanted to meet you? I haven’t told anyone except my buddy here.”

She giggled and said “Never mind that. You haven’t yet introduced yourselves.”

“I am Sundar S… u…n…d…a…r and he is Mano. We work in reputed IT companies. Pray tell me how you came to know about my interest in you,” said a happy Sundar.

“That can wait till you reveal what you wish to tell me.” she asked.

Sundar looked embarrassed when Mano told her with a smile, " My friend Sundar wishes to be your friend. He is a single and I suspect he has fallen for you.”

She turned her head towards Wu Chang and spoke something in Mandarin. He came near them and said with a large smile, “I have been listening to your rather loud conversations in Tamil in the last few weeks. I was in Chennai for 15 years running a shop in China Bazaar. She is my daughter and had her schooling there. She said the lean guy was interested in befriending her but lacked the guts to approach her directly and talk to her. She felt both of you were visiting only for her sake. I told her, if she likes him,  she can make the first move.”

“My god, does she know Tamil?” asked an aghast Sundar.

“She was topper in her class and took part regularly in Tamil debates,”he said and laughed roaringly.

As Lijuan extended her hand to Sundar, Mano discreetly left with the owner towards the cash counter leaving his friend to strike a friendship and make his romantic interest known to her.

Friday, May 10, 2024

The revenge (925 words)

“Sunil, I understand you go daily to AIIMS hospital to visit your grandpa. Can you please do me a favour? Can you hand over this packet to my friend Roopa at South Extension Part I? It is not far from the hospital.  Tomorrow is her birthday and I am tied up with something urgent.” said Praveen, his next-door neighbour.

“Surely, please write her address and phone number on the packet. You can inform her that I will be at her place around 6.30 pm,” replied Sunil.”

Both have been neighbours at Karol Bagh for two decades and classmates in B.Com.

While Praveen was a tall and handsome guy with curly hair, Sunil was short and stodgy with receding hair. While Praveen was outgoing, a man of wit and intelligence and sociable, Sunil on the other hand was a hardworking, insular and cautious type. Their circles of friends were different. Sunil suffered from an inferiority complex compared to Praveen’s good looks, height and winsome personality. The womenfolk in the college and locality usually gravitated towards Praveen in any gathering to catch his attention while Sunil was left alone to fend for himself.

When Sunil pressed the bell at the address given, a charming woman in jeans and a brightly coloured top opened the door.

“Is it Ms. Roopa? I am Sunil and my neighbour Praveen requested me to hand over this packet to you,” said Sunil as he handed over a colourful box tied with ribbons.

“Yes, I am Roopa, please come in. I am sorry he troubled you when visiting your grandpa at the hospital,’’ she said as she looked at the packet eagerly.

“You can open and see what Praveen has gifted you,” teased Sunil laughingly.

On opening it hurriedly. she found a cute black pen and exclaimed,” My god, it is a Mont Blanc.”

“Mont Blanc, it is an expensive pen,” he said as he took the box and the pen and scrutinised carefully as the colour on his face changed unseen by Roopa.

He remembered Praveen’s visit to his room a couple of days before to return a book.  Sunil showed him then the black Mont Blanc pen he had got as a gift at a three-day paid workshop. A day later he noticed that the box in which the pen was kept was missing on the table where he had placed it. There were no other visitors. The old maid who worked for them for years was very honest. He never suspected Praveen but wondered how it could have so mysteriously vanished.

When he returned the pen to Roopa, he could not banish the thought it was his pen and Praveen must have stolen it. All the pent-up jealousy and inferiority complex he suffered from added to the anger that arose in him but he did not show any sign of it.

“Sunil ji has Praveen ever mentioned to you that we love each other for quite some time though our parents are not yet aware? I do not think there would be any hurdle as he is a qualified Chartered Accountant working in reputed E&Y, very handsome to boot and comes from an affluent family. I am just confiding in you as you are his good pal,” she said.

“Did he say that he is a Chartered Accountant and is with E&Y? We studied B. Com together and he was an articled clerk in a small auditor’s firm. Please make independent and discreet enquiries without asking him. It is always wise to be sure of qualifications and the job. He is surely a handsome guy with a winning persona but….,” Sunil bit his tongue and stopped talking.

“My god, what a foolish person, I have been. I was falling for him madly by his false words based only on his charm. He must be a cheat. Let me ask my dad to check and if he is a cheat, he will pay dearly for it,” she said furiously and added, “Is there anything else you would like to warn me about?”

“Nothing much, I know of except that he has many girlfriends meeting him and possibly going out. I must, however, say there is nothing wrong with having friends. Nevertheless, do have this in mind while you probe. I am sorry. Let this exchange be between us,” Sunil said before taking leave of her in a show of hurry.

While driving home, he was inwardly happy that he had sowed seeds of doubt in Roopa’s mind and taken revenge for the pen stolen by Praveen. Roopa may reveal his name eventually but who cares, Sunil thought.

As he switched on the light and surveyed his room, he could not believe his eyes when he found the pen box on the table. He opened hurriedly to see his Mont Blanc pen secure inside and collapsed in the chair with both hands on his head.

His mother who entered the room asked, “What happened? Why are you sitting like this as if you had lost a kingdom? How careless are you? The maid told me this afternoon that she found the pen box under your table beneath a newspaper.

“What a wretch I have been? How can I make amends for the heinous mistake now, I do not remember her number too” he racked his brain.

“Where are you going now at this hour, Sunil? You haven’t taken your dinner, “asked his mom anxiously as he hurried to his car.

“To South Extension. An important work to attend to immediately,” he replied.


Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Kindness from an unexpected source (1233)


Ranga Vilas is an old complex with a dozen tiled houses,  six on each side facing the other with a wide paved pathway in the middle. Each house had a veranda (porch) in the front. At the far end of the path, there was a row of six bathrooms and six separate toilets common for all houses. At the rear of the plot, there was one small room that was possibly a watchman's room earlier during construction. The tenants were far from affluent belonging to the lower middle class from different communities. The good landlord collected a small amount as rent, maintained the complex well and did not ask them to vacate.

It was in that small room Sankaran lived alone. A widower past 75, he had worked as a cook for many years with Rangaratnam, a rich businessman, who owned the complex. Being a kind man, he allowed his cook Sankaran to live rent-free in the small room on his retirement a few years back and gave him monthly a small amount for his living. To express his gratitude, Sankaran helped his master’s family in the kitchen on festival days or important days even to this day.

In the last house adjacent to Sankaran’s room, Vinayagam and his wife Shenbagam lived with their two school-going daughters, Amirtha and Ambuja. Three years back, when Sankaran heard Vinayagam severely scolding Amirtha for securing poor marks, he went to them and said” “Vinayagam, do not get angry with Amritha. She is not a dull girl. I will teach her daily in the evenings and make her get good marks. I can teach Ambuja too if you wish.”

“Uncle, she is in class 9 and her lessons are tough. I do not think you can handle it,” Vinayagam replied thinking how an old cook can teach to a high school student.

“Do not think I am an illiterate cook. I have studied up to intermediate and was a topper in my class. When my father who was a head cook died suddenly, I had to discontinue my studies and had to work as a cook in his team to take care of my family. Let us see for a month or two and if she does not score good marks, I will withdraw. I am offering to help her for free.”

“Sorry Uncle, please do not take me amiss. Both of you can start tomorrow itself. Ambuja will also join. We are very grateful to you,” replied Vinayagam.

Luckily for Sankaran, both were not duds. Once they understood the concepts and were made to do their homework daily before him, they commenced doing very well in their studies Vinayagam was very happy to see higher grades in their report cards after each successive term and thanked Sankaran profusely,

When Amirtha passed class 12 topping her school, the parent's joy was boundless. The entire family came with a packet containing a pair of new dhotis and shirts with a basket full of nuts and fruits and prostrated before him.

After the initial pleasantries, Sankaran asked,” What next Amirtha? You have got wonderful marks that all engineering colleges and RECs would gladly offer you a seat.”

The girl started to sob immediately. When Sankaran looked at Vinayagam, the latter coughed gently and requested Sankaran to come outside the room.

 When they were alone together, Vinayagam said,” You know very well, Uncle, my financial circumstances. We are living hand to mouth trying to make both ends meet with difficulty. I have a small job in a private company. After office hours, I work in a shop to earn extra income. How can I admit her to engineering college? Even an ordinary graduation course would be tough on me. This foolish girl does not understand and keeps crying. I have no savings even for her marriage. Soon I have to send Ambujam too to college. Kindly advise Amirtha suitably and impress on her that there are many openings after she does well in graduation and that Engineering is not the only option to progress in life."

“I understand the situation and will talk to Amirtha separately tomorrow. I am sure a satisfactory solution could be found. Do not discuss this subject today with her anymore,” Sankaran said.

When Amirtha met him the next day, Sankaran said, “You have made me proud and given a purpose to my life. Many parents in the complex request me now to help their children too.. Ambuja is also faring well. I just wanted to tell you about future options as I know you and your family well. I hope you are willing to listen.”

“ Thatha (grandpa),” all credit for my good result goes to you and for your timely help. I value your advice. Please tell me without any hesitation. I am all ears,” replied Amirtha.

‘There is nothing wrong with having a dream for a particular objective. Your desire for engineering is natural given your high marks. But it should be tempered with what is feasible under the family circumstances. Engineering courses cost a bomb and many families take loans for this purpose. Your dad is struggling already. You might have heard that one must coat according to one’s clothes meaning in your case that one must make choices that align with the family's financial means. Out of lakhs of students, only a few thousand join engineering colleges Are the others not progressing in life?

One option, I think, is the annual Civil Services examination. With your intelligence and knowledge, you can easily pass the examination. It offers positions of power and reasonable wealth and above all opportunities to return to society with gratitude in innumerable ways of development and help the people. Choose an Economics honours course and study well, keeping IAS as your only goal. Can I tell your father accordingly? I will help him financially for your study but do not mention this to him now under any circumstances. He will be glad to accept this option. What do you say? Think carefully and tell me, “said Sankaran.

“Thatha, you have opened my eyes to the reality. I have been selfish and unthinking about the sacrifices my parents are making. What you have advised inspires me to undertake, not for fame and money, but for the opportunity to help the deprived and disadvantaged. No second thoughts, I am fully fired up to take this challenge and clear the examination in the first attempt very creditably. I will tell my father that  I am for an economics honours course in a good college.”

“Ask him to see me when convenient. I have something to tell to clinch the matter,” said Sankaran.

When Vinayagam met him the same evening, Sankaran, told him,” Vinayagam, you need not worry about her college fees. They would not be as high as engineering. I have about three lakhs as savings in the post office for donations to charitable causes. What better charity there can be than Vidya Dhanam to a deserving student? I shall bear the cost of her fees and books till she completes. You do not have to repay. Ask her to apply immediately to a few top colleges. In a few years, your daughter will be a collector and what more do you need? Don't we need more women in our country's administration?

Vinayagam started sobbing with his towel over his mouth.



Thursday, May 2, 2024

Sudheer's blunder (668 words)

 I was bored staying alone at my home. The TV showed an old action movie Bad Day at Blackrock with Spencer Tracy in the lead. I liked his role as a single-handed stranger who was on a visit to investigate in a small town with a shady past and prone to violence, if necessary to keep its past a secret. How long can one see the old classic Westerns though I loved them.. Then I watched the recorded Tennis match between Rafa and Djokovic at the French Open. I was hungry but had no mind to cook. I ordered some Chinese food from Wang’s with the instruction that it be delivered within 30 minutes.

It was then the mobile rang. “Hello,” I said and there was a brief silence from the other side.

“Hello, is Sudheer there? “ That was a young woman’s voice with a drawl and a convent accent.

“Yes, Sudheer here. Who is it?” I asked as there was a number without a name.

“I am sorry. You don’t seem to be the Sudheer I rang for.”

“How do you know?”

“His voice is youngish with a life in it”

“I am also young and not old as you seem to suggest”

“Sorry. I didn’t mean that way. He is 28 and a singer with an arresting voice.”

“It is alright. I am Sudheer t though I cannot sing like your friend. You did not tell me who you are.”

“Anita Roy, your voice is also good but different. I like the mix of husky and the  baritone in yours.”

“Thank you, not as sweet as yours anyway. I am unlucky as I am not the Sudheer t you are looking for. What do you do for a living?”

“I am a software engineer. Why unlucky? We have come to know each other now, though by chance”

“One second. Let me switch on the AC. It is sweltering here and sultry too”

“ Oh, do you live in Chennai? It is miserable, unlike this place. I visit Chennai often  once or twice  a month at least and will be there this weekend for some work at my  office on Monday”

“You must be in Bangalore”

“How did you know?”

"Where else do these software engineers swarm to? Hahaha.”

“Why the contempt for software engineers I could discern in your laugh? "She said.

 “Far from it. I am also in the IT sector working for TCS,” I replied.

“Same pinch. Then we can meet at our office when I come there next week.”

“With much pleasure. Are you single staying alone in Bangalore?”

“Yes. How about you?” she asked.

“Single for a few months only though. My wife has gone to her parents’ place in Coimbatore.”

“Oh, oh. married eh… It does not matter anyway. We will stay in touch.’

“ We must meet over dinner early next week, "I said.

“Sure. By the way, congrats”

“Whatever for?”

“I surmise you are becoming a father in a few months.”

“Yes, you are sharp and thank you. You have my cell number. You can ring me any time.”

“Yes, that is the intention. I will smother you with phone calls. Hehe, bye”

“Would love to be. Are you in a hurry? If you were in Chennai, we could have met right away”

The call was cut making me wonder why she disconnected abruptly. I checked through the True Caller App to find her name. I was shocked to see it was from Mahalingam & Co., my father-in-law's Chartered Accountant’s firm at Coimbatore.

I realized immediately that it was my unmarried and mischievous sister-in-law, Malini, a Chartered Accountant by profession, playing a prank on me impersonating some  Anita Roy, with whom unwittingly I indulged in a flirty conversation. I am sure she would have squealed by now the talk we had with my wife.

After a little while, I rang my wife’s cell number repeatedly only to find my calls getting cut unanswered. I knew the mischief had been done.