Saturday, October 11, 2008

Krishnaaaa You Came!

Sridhar did not know what to do. In front of him his beloved wife Vidya of nine years was sobbing very heavily. He leaned forward to comfort her and she sank into his shoulders. Sridhar waited patiently as his mind went over the events of that morning.It was January 1st and he had planned a whole day of activities with his wife. He liked nothing more than taking Vidya out shopping and waited to admire her while she tried on new clothes. They would then go to a chat pat stall and have pani puri or bhel. They would then walk down commercial street and think of going to a movie. Then they would go somewhere nice for dinner before heading back home.
All his plans took a setback as they were leaving their home that morning. Vidya’s doctor called and asked them to stopby his office that morning. This was the doctor who was examining the couple for fertility problems. Vidya and Sridhar had been married for 9 years now and every effort to try and have a child had proved to be futile.This doctor was almost like the last resort for Vidya. She was fedup of going to different doctors and wanted to give this one last try. Sridhar was the perfect husband anyone could cope for.
He was kind , gentle and loving and adored his wife. It never bothered him that his wife could not conceive.Sridhar felt that his life was perfect the way it was. Maybe it was. But Vidya was restless. She wanted to bear a child and was taunted she did not have one by the society around her.So this trip to the doctor. Inspite of Sridhar trying to tone the whole thing down, Vidya walked as if everything was going to work out and the Doctor had the solution to her problems. Well the Doctor did not mince any words and told in no uncertain terms that Vidya will never conceive. Vidya was shocked was a mild understatement. Somehow Sridhar thanked the doctor and brought Vidya out of the there. Luckily for them there was a bench outside of the doctors office surrounded by trees. They both sat there for a long time.
Then Vidya pulled herself out of her misery and decided to forget the report from the Doctor’s office.Sridhar took Vidya that day to every place he could think of. To some fancy saree stores, churidhar shops, fine restaurants.. even to a lake to watch some geese. He knew this would never erase the hurt from her heart but he wanted to lessen it.Monday morning, everything seemed back to normal. Both of them went to work and Vidya seemed her normal self. The next week they had a call from Vidya’s aunt. Vidya’s aunt wanted her to attend a local temple sponsored Sapthaham. Sridhar also felt that it would cheer up Vidya and so suggested she attend. Vidya took leave from work and attended the Sapthaham. Though both Sridhar and Vidya were religious people, they rarely spent long hours in puja or in religious discourses. Vidya found the Sapthaham very interesting. When they chanted the slokas , she was immersed in her troubles. It helped her to block everything out and sit in misery. Unfortunately for her, the talented artist conducting the satsang refused to give her much room. He went on about the problems of the world and how everyone needed to rise out of their miseries.Vidya didn’t think much of it.
In her mind, she felt that it was easier for the person sitting on the dias to preach What did he know about her problems. One of the activities that the artisit engaged in was for everyone present to cry out to Lord Krishna. This he insisted would help everyone react better to their problems and would help ease the pain in those suffering. He also said one should open both arms and cry out loud “Krishna, Krishna”. Though the audience responded , he was not happy. He said everyone should open their arms wide and cry out with their whole heart “Krishna” as if they surrendered everything to the Lord’s feet.
Vidya too joined in the exercise and felt her heart a little lighter for trying out this exercise.The next month, Vidya’s mother inlaw visited them for a few days. Vidya knew her mother in-law disapproved that she could not conceive. One evening, when Vidya was sitting in the prayer room engaged in prayers, she overheard Sridhar and his mother talking nearby. His mother was shocked to hear the Doctor’s report and told Sridhar he should think of taking some action.
By action she might have implied Sridhar was to divorce his wife. Before she even completed her sentence, a very angry Sridhar told his mother she could not talk that way about his wife and asked her to pack her things and leave the next day. He then went for a walk unable to bear the hurting words of his mother.Vidya sitting inside the prayer room, thought of Lord Krishna and opening her arms wide she surrendered her problems to the Lords feet by crying out loudly “Krishna.. Hare Krishna..”
She realized at that moment it was not for the Doctor to decide her fate but for God to. It brought her immense happiness to surrender at the Lords feet.
Within 12 months of that prayer, Sridhar held a baby in his arms whom he and Vidya named Shri Krishna.


I was very uncomfortable inside my mother’s womb. I totally detested being cooped up inside the confined environment and in the midst of the body fluids. I repeatedly wondered why I was sitting in this unfortunate state when I heard the words clearly and loudly and serenely, the chant ”Om Namo Narayana”.My whole being attained a peace in just that moment. I then knew the purpose of my going to take this birth.I wondered where from such a voice sounded and to my utter happiness the voice continued to talk about the greatness of Lord Narayana and the wonders of his divine grace. I continued to hear the voice whom then I identified as Sage Naradar in the presence of my mother Kayadu.
Sage Narada had intervened to save Kayadu when her home with her husband Hiranyakashipu was attacked by Indra and other devas. I listened long and eagerly to what the Sage had to say about Lord Narayana. Needless to say my stay inside the womb and my birth thereafter was totally dedicated to the Lord and in chanting the divine name did I find peace and purpose and pure bliss.Once outside in the world of Hiranyakashipu, I realized that the world inside the confinement of the womb and the world outside at large were two different worlds.
Mainly because inside the womb I could dedicate my mind to Lord Narayana and my mouth and heart to the chanting of the divine name in peace but outside I was rudely awakened to the fact that my father did not want anything to do with the divine.I was subjected to many tortures to abandon my use of the divine name. I could not. For me it was the sight and sound of Lord Narayana every where. However I could not understand why the divine name bothered my father so.My father poisoned me and got me to be trampled by elephants and put me in a room with venomous snakes but I prayed to my Lord Narayana to save me and he did.This only served to anger my father further as he considered Vishnu his enemy. My father then resolved to eliminate me himself. He asked me to acknowledge himas the supreme lord of the universe.
I was mind boggled and baffled at this demand. Did not my father see that my Lord Narayana could be the ONLY supreme power in earth and heaven.? Why then did my father demand so? Why then did my father not accept this truth?I refused with my whole heart that there was any other supreme lord but Lord Narayana.This infuriated my father so much that he asks me pointing to a nearby pillar, “Is your Vishnu in this pillar?”. I answer with the calmness that pervades in every soul on this earth who have accepted the Narayana within ,”He was, He is and He will be”.
My father unable to control his anger and madly infuriated then smashes the pillar with his mace. There followed a tumultuous sound and Vishnu in the form of Narasimha appears from it and in defense of me he moves to attack my father and destroys Hiranyakashipu. I stand in awe , my hands folded in greeting unbeknown to me and I pray. Lord Narasimha accepts my prayers kindly and crowns me king before he departs.With tears in my eyes for the Lord’s kindness and love in my heart for his greatness, I wait till I would be with my Lord Narayana again.


This is Fiction with references, research and pictures from the Internet.

Lord Ganesha was my favorite God. I loved to spend time in front of him fascinated by his long trunk and long ears and kind eyes.I loved to play a game with him. I used to always offer him four cups in my daily worship, each filled with milk, honey , rice pudding and nuts.I used to plead with my beloved Lord Ganesha that I was giving him four things in return for which I only wanted three, the gifts of poetry, music and drama. I thought that this was a good deal since clearly Ganesha is the winner here as I gave him four and asked for only three in return.
My beloved God whose kindness surpasses everything honored my proposal so much so that I became famous for poetry music and drama.Never for a moment did I pause to think that my parents had abandoned me at birth, for I was grateful to my foster father whose interest in poetry moved me in that direction too.My natural talent now grew to formidable heights and this earned me fame, far and wide, that I started getting pestered with proposals for marriage.
All these proposals started hindering my work and took my mind away from God and poetry. Who else would I turn to but Ganesha. I prayed to Lord Ganesha and requested him to remove my beauty that had become such a burden to me and a deep distraction too.I was aged overnight by my God. No longer did I look the picture of youth but now I looked the picture of old age. My hair had completely grayed, I had lost all my teeth. My eyes had sunken in and my body was no longer firm as an youth but sagged like an old maiden.
Rejoice I did at this transformation. My long black hair was no more. In its place was white and gray hair. My youthful and beautiful looks no more. In its place was a withered face. My brightly colored dresses were no more. In its place was the robe of a monk and a stick to support my tired body.No sooner than this transformation happen, that all my marriage proposals were gone with the wind.No longer did anyone want to marry me neither did they want to look at me.
My relief that I could now focus on God’s work cannot be measured. Now I felt there was no stopping me from working for God and with God.Faced with this evidence of spiritual power, everybody accepted that they had encountered somebody meant for higher things in life and I was able to leave my family forever to live the life of wandering so beloved to the holy, by walk only.My wanderings were a source of great education and inspiration for me and I was able to develop a social consciousness in my poetry before its time. I was able to see the lives of the common people and their sufferings at close quarters.
I disdained the rich and their pretensions and I felt indignation at the injustice of the caste system.According to me, there were only two castes.“The highborn are the good who help those in distressThe lowborn are those who never help.”Once after a very long walk I was sitting tired beneath a tree, which happened to bear the Jambu fruit so beloved of my Lord Ganesha.I was too tired to get up and shake some down but I noticed a boy, a cowherd who was grazing his buffaloes and was resting in the branches of the tree.This little imp called out to me.“Oh Grandmother”, he said. “Do you want hot fruits or cold fruits?”, he asked.சுட்டபழம்வேண்டுமாசுடாதபழம்வேண்டுமாI wanted to play around with the little boy since he was playing mischief with me. So I asked for hot fruit. The boy knocked the fruit out of the tree and they fell onto the dust below.Picking them up I had to blow on them to clear the dust. Looking at me, the boy started to laugh. He then asked me if the fruit was too hot for me.(This is an untranslatable pun, involving wordplay as well as the fact that blowing on something could mean it needs cooling.)
A young boy had outsmarted me, the master of words and all I could do was to sing “I, an old axe, who could withstand the hardest ebonyMust acknowledge defeat before this watery young plaintain stem!”.That was when I realized an ordinary cowherd could not be linguistically adept and in my heart and soul knew the boy standing in front of me was none other than Skanda.Pleased with my sporting attitude and devotion the young god asked me 4 great questions.“What is hard?, What is sweet?, What is big and What is rare?”
I answered, “Poverty is hard, Poverty in youth is harder, harder still is incurable disease. Exceedingly hard is the faithless lover and hardest of all is to take food from one who does not love you.”“Sweet is solitude. Sweeter is the worship of the Lord. Sweeter still is the company of the guru but the sweetest is to constantly be moving around with him”.
“Big is the world, Brahma created it so he is bigger. But he comes out of Vishnu’s navel who sleeps on the ocean, which was drunk up by Sage Agastya who was born of a pot.Pots are made of clay which comes from the earth which rests upon the head of Shesha, the cosmic serpent which is a ring for Parvathi’s finger but she is only a part of Shiva.Shiva lives in the heart of the devotee so that alone is truly big.”
“Rare is human birth, rarer without deformity. Rarer still is a human birth when one is interested in wisdom. Rarest of all human births is one possessing charity and penance.”So saying I took leave of my beloved Lord Muruga.I then traveled throughout the length and breath of the country until I could travel no more.My legs got very weak and I could not walk as I strived to walk towards Kailasam (Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva).
My body was very weak and could not move forward and I started to crawl towards Kailasam. My Lord Ganesha, benevolent that he is, could not bear to see his devotee suffer so.He himself carried me to Kailasam so I could feast my eyes On Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi. There looking at my Gods, I departed from this earth to forever be at the divine feet and never apart.

Association Aunty

This is Fiction.

Me, I am nobody. My husband is the association president. By association I mean the apartment complex we live in. We both a flat in a good location and settled in when we got our children married of. They too happened to settle in the same city as us and now they all have a good life, with both spouses working and children busy with schools.
My husband is not the type to go canvassing for the post of president for the complex. It happened to fall on his lap.Sheila Aunty was the president before. She was tall and very lean. She expected everyone to tow to her wishes. Unfortunately the rest of the flat owners did not share her enthusiasm for the job. So my husband was called in to help smooth the issues.Every morning we would hear the door bell chime. Some one would be standing at our door step and would tell me, ”Is Srinivasan home?”Where else would he be at that hour, I would think, but just say yes on the outside and ask them to come in.
There the day’s events would start. Also would start my coffee making routine. Who ever said that retired people had it easy, did not live in our association for sure.During day more women would drop by. After finishing their house works, they would drop in to see my husband and wait for their husbands to come back, who would have gone to the bank or some other errands. Then my Tea making would start as everyone seemed to want to drink Tea.Sheila aunty’s head would be bashed around by my these people. For the most part, my husband would be the silent spectator.
He would nod his head in all directions, making me think its going to fall off with all these noddings.Not that Sheila aunty did anything wrong. She took everyone to task. She admonished some people who drove fast inside the compound. She told every body to pick up the trash and not just throw it outside. Maybe the way she said was aggravating. But any other way no one would listen. And so it went till one fine day Lakshmi aunty wanted Sheila out.For some reason she latched onto my husband and almost by default my husband became President.Initially I was very happy.
I thought the endless coffee and tea making sessions would come to an end. But no things got worse.Now the moment anyone saw me , they had some message for my husband and I had turned overnight into the courier boy or should I say courier aunty?Also for me tracking all these one line messages to and fro was stressful since I forgot things quickly. If I came back home and said “Lakshmi wanted to see you urgently “ and “Swaminathan wanted to you to taste his mysorepak” I would get into greater trouble because I had inadvertently twisted what the two of them had said.This message service did not end as they followed me to the temple or the grocery shop.
Needless to say the door bell rang at all times. Now I could not even take a nap peacefully.Finally the year came to an end and the association members met to elect a new president and to give a send off party to the outgoing president.I attended attired in a grand sari. Nice words were said about my husband and glowing terms to describe his tireless service and then the mantle was handed over.I stood gaping as no mention of me was made. No mention of my supplies of coffee or tea, No mention of my coming to the door every time the door bell rang, which was constantly, No mention of my scurrying around with the messages to and fro.. No mention of me at all. I just wanted to sit there and wail “What about me?”.


(This is fiction with references from the internet)
In the city of Poompuhar, which was then rules by the Choza dynasty, where river Cauvery flows into the Bay of Bengal, there lived two renowned businessmen by name Masaathuvan and Maanaicken. Masaathuvan had a son by name Kovalan and I was the daughter of Maanaicken.I was married to Kovalan and our marriage ceremony was performed to the amazement of the entire town of Poompuhar.I lived very happily with my husband in the city of Kaveripattinam. My happy married life came to an abrupt halt when my husband met a dancer Madhavi and fell in love with her. In his infatuation, he forgot me and gradually spent all his wealth on this dancer, aiding a plan by Madhavi’s mother to strip me of all my wealth.One fine day, my husband took Madhavi to a trade fair and had a nice time. In his exuberant mood he requested Madhavi to sing a song and she obliged with a song. My husband however read in between the lines and developed a suspicion on her that she being a Devadasi still possessed an interest on the Choza King.At that moment of grief and loneliness did my husband think of me. He was overcome with remorse now that he could see his hurtful actions quite clearly.He came back to me and I welcomed him with open arms much to the chagrin of everyone around us. They had always detested my approach to this whole affair. My neighbors claimed that I should have turned against my husband and remarried. Now that he had come back, they wanted me to shun him as well.Little did they know of our marriage vows nor my commitment to my husband in thought and deed. I did not care my husband had strayed in between. It was only infatuation which I knew could never last. He had squandered our wealth but I always knew together we were worth more than that. Wealth we could always recover. To me it was of great importance to be united to my husband.Rejoice I did when he came back and we started to pick up our threads of union which had been speared in many places. I knew it was not going to be easy, the task of patching the gaping holes in our tapestry of marriage but I had a will and we had a desire and together we knew we could weave back the magic.The only asset we still could call our own was a precious pair of anklets(cilambu) filled with gems. Kovalan and I decided we should travel to Madurai the Capital city of the Pandya Kingdom and begin our trade with these anklets to provide the basis of the fortune with. I willingly acceded to his request and we made arrangements for our travel to Madurai. We started our journey by feet that night itself.During our voyage, we encountered a female Jain Saint whose name was Kaundhiadigal. She accompanied us to the city of Madurai where her hermit was. And she left us under the protection of Ayai, a Yadhava woman. Ayai took so much care of us and was so very loving and affectionate to us.The city of Madurai was ruled by the Pandya King Neduncheziyan. Kovalan’s objective was to sell the anklets in the Pandya kingdom and to try and start a new life with me.When Kovalan set out to sell one of the anklets, it so happened that the Queen Koperundevi, the Queen of Madurai, had also lost her anklet. It was stolen from the Queen by a greedy court jeweller. The anklet that was stolen from the Queen was similar to the one held by Kovalan.The only difference being that the anklet that belonged to me was filled with rubies and the queen’s was filled with pearls, a fact that was not visible to the outsider.When Kovalan went to the market to try and sell the anklet he was directed to the premises of the court jeweller who handled expensive anklets. The court jeweller upon seeing Kovalan saw his way out of the mess created by him when he stole the Queen’s anklet. He knew Kovalan was a stranger to Madurai and he also knew no one could tell what was inside the anklet. Cunningly he connived a scheme by which he reported to the King he had captured the thief who had stolen the royal anklet.The King overjoyed and relieved to hear that the thief had been apprehended quickly ordered that the thief be beheaded and retrieved the anklet from the court jeweller to give to the Queen. Since the anklet looked like hers, the Queen was happy to get her anklet back and the King breathed a sigh of relief that his Queen was content.The death of Kovalan reached me through the good people with whom I had been residing in Madurai. I was initially so shocked to hear the news of my husband’s demise that I fainted. Upon being revived, I listened to the people around me telling me what happened. They told me that my husband was a thief who had robbed the Queen of her anklet and then had been trying to sell it in the open market. It seemed that the court jeweler had been able to apprehend the thief red-handed and as a culprit of a royal crime, he had been beheaded as per the King’s orders.On hearing that my husband had been accused of stealing, a rage entered my heart and slowly seeped through my entire body. This rage then overpowered me giving me the impetus to move forward to question the King of his unjust sentence.I walked, nay thundered toward the Palace grounds. My feet echoed my resounding rage from within. The glare of my eyes the sun could not bear to witness and hid behind the clouds. The birds stopped their chirping when they realized the King had done a grievous err.My body trembled not with fear but at the unjust nature of the King’s action. He had chosen to behead an innocent person thereby setting the precedent that one is guilty unless otherwise proven.Coming from the kingdom of Chera, I knew that was not the way of the just. One is innocent unless proven of guilt.“Where from did this Pandya King learn to rule his kingdom so unjust”, my thoughts ran faster than my legs could carry me. I reached the Palace doors and demanded the gate keeper I be let in. He went inside to get permission and then let me in. I stormed through the open court where the King was presiding.For a moment there was an eerie and utter silence at the spectacle I must have created. I can only imagine the shock waves through the court as everyone watched me walking in. I flew in was more the truth. My hair all awry and my eyes screaming madness, my mouth curled into a tight knot of anger and disbelief that I had become a widow. My hands holding my own anklet and trembling with disgust at the sight of an unjust king. My feet ashamed to step foot into an unjust place. I was nothing short of a towering inferno.The king asked me, ”Who are you and why did you come before me?”“Oh , Injudicious King” I retorted with contempt in my speech and anger slurring my words.“I have a complaint. I hail from the famous Poompuhar in the Chera kingdom, where we have a tradition of justice. In the name of fair play one of our Kings appeased a pigeon (by giving his own flesh) to the amazement of everyone; In order to uphold justice to a grieving cow who rang the enquiry bell thunderously, another King ordered the chariot run over his only son, who earlier killed her calf by negligently running his chariot over it. From the same city comes Kovalan, son of an affluent, accomplished and highly respected grain merchant, Maasathuvan.To overcome his cruel fate, Oh King, Kovalan who came to this city to sell my own personal anklets and rebuild our lives, got killed by you unjustly. I am Kovalan's wife, Kannagi".
On hearing this, the King stood up enraged. He thought, how dare a demented woman come into his grand court and accuse him of being unjust in front of his entire assembly.“Do you have proof of my unjustness” he asked me.“Yes” said I. I lifted my arm holding the anklet and smashed it down with such great force that rubies scattered from the broken anklet.“Now open the anklet your wife is wearing to see if it belongs to me or to her” , I screamed in rage.“My anklets had rubies in them and your wife, her Majesty’s anklet had pearls in them. When the court jeweler said he retrieved the stolen anklet from my husband, you ordered my husband to be beheaded without deeply probing into the truth.
You sentenced an innocent man to be killed and you have made me a widow.”, I said.Upon hearing this, the King took the anklets from his shocked wife and threw them open. One had pearls and one had rubies.On seeing the evidence of his unjust ruling, the King fell to the ground and died.Not being satisfied with my conclusive proof of my husband’s innocence, I swore that is my chastity meant anything then the whole city of Madurai would be set ablaze
There after I left to travel towards the Chera kingdom and led by my feet traveled for a few days beseeching my Lord to take me away from this life. Lord granted me salvation so I was relieved of my pain and anger and suffering and found permanent peace at the feet of my Lord.

A Simple Heaven

Raju knew she was the one when he first glanced at Shantha. He was sitting in his Physics class when she walked in late. She was wearing a pale pink saree which was casually draped over her tall and lean frame. A thick strand of hair were taken from behind her ears and tied back in a small knot and the rest of her hair was left to sway on her shoulders ending in small curls.The lecturer gave her a hard time for stepping in late which she handled with ease. She came to sit next to Raju as he sat closer to the room entrance. After class was over she asked help from Raju to catch up with the lost time and Raju noticed her eyes. They were grey and specked with green and a true pleasure to behold.Soon Raju and Shantha became good friends. Raju had to move on to medical college while Shantha stayed back to get her bachelor’s degree. They stayed in touch and when Shantha wanted to do her post graduation, she moved to the city where Raju was studying for his medical degree.Every evening they met at a coffee shop near his campus. It was walking distance for him and Shantha had to catch a bus to get there. She did not mind as she was aware of the heavy work load Raju carried and this afforded them some close quality time. Their friendship blossomed into a caring and affectionate love and the need to see each other every evening.They were famous at the coffee shop as they spent more money and time than other customers and probably ate or drank next to nothing. Still the employees of the coffee shop welcomed the young couple and left them to their talks of sweet nothings.Both set of parents became aware of them and soon a wedding date was marked on their calendars.Raju debated a lot on his choice of residency. He wanted to become an eye surgeon but he knew the demands of his choice of profession. If he were to take internal medicine, the demands on his time would still be there but would be less compared to that of being a surgeon.Shantha made his choice for him. He completed post graduate studies as an eye surgeon before his wedding and the young couple found a good home relatively closer to Raju’s workplace to start their married life.Soon Shantha was busy with raising two small children and Raju was involved in building a private practice.Raju’s hard work and dedication paid off that he soon became a prominent surgeon in the city they lived in. This meant he was more at work and less at home.Shantha initially occupied her time with her children. Once the children went to school. She had more time on her hands.She became involved with the ladies clubs and soon got tired of their inherent politics. She then became involved with charity work and realized it helped her to some extent. But nothing could help cover the void that her husband’s absence created. She was extremely aware of the work he had to do and her husband’s dedication but she still longed for those years as a college student when they had each other for company and the thoughts of work and career a distant future.It was their 15th year wedding anniversary and Shantha was wondering what gift to get for her beloved husband. She decided to get a beautiful water fountain as she knew they all enjoyed to hear the sound of running water. It did cross her mind what gift her husband thought of but she knew she would be happy to get anything even if it were just wishes. Both Raju and Shantha did not place emphasis on material things so were happy to be recipients of each other’s love and affection which was their own special chord that connected and held them close through the trials of life.Before Raju left for work on the morning of their anniversary he told Shantha to be ready at 7 p.m and make arrangements for someone to take care of their children as they would be returning late in the evening.Shantha blushed a bright red when she heard this from Raju and eagerly anticipated the evening. She could not resist sharing this news with her close friends who insisted they meet for lunch to celebrate the anniversary.Shantha knew they were all meeting more to pick her brains and to try and guess where Raju was taking her and what gift she might get.Her friends decided that Raju was taking Shantha to the newly opened and high priced French restaurant and their assumptions of the gifts Shantha would get varied from a diamond necklace to expensive sarees to fancy vacations and even on a trip aborad.Shantha accepted their good natured banter and remained relaxed in anticipation of her special evening.She had a nanny come in to take charge of the children and had made arrangements for the nanny to sleep in if needed.7 p.m. saw Shantha step in to the car driven for her and she had decided to wear a simple pink saree with her hair tied back the way Raju liked it.As she sat back in the car and looked at the passing views she soon noticed they were entering the neighborhood of the medical university campus. And soon enough the car stopped outside the coffee shop that they used to frequent and Shantha stepped into the coffee shop her eager and surprised eyes darting in search of her husband.“Thank you for this wonderful gift”, she said after planting a moist lipstick laden kiss on Raju’s cheek.“What gift ?” asked Raju his eyes alight with pleasure and love for his wife shining through.Meanwhile coffee was served with an assortment of the delicacies that Raju had picked out for them.“This gift of meeting at the coffee shop”, said Shantha her teeth biting into a moist chocolate cake.“Oh that is not the real gift”, said Raju as he opened his leather attaché case and drew out an envelope.“This is your gift” he said as he handed over the letter to Shantha.Shantha wondered what could be inside this envelope as she opened it in amazement. The letter was addressed to Raju by his senior staff Kumar. In the letter Kumar stated his pleasure in accepting partnership of Raju’s private practice.Though it was good news that Raju was getting a partner, Shantha could not make the connection of how it was her gift for their wedding anniversary.“Once Kumar starts as full time partner, my working hours will be vastly reduced. As part of the arrangement I have decided to work only 10 – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. This would of course mean setback financially but well worth it.I miss not being there for you and the children but I had to work long hours to bring the practice to where it is today.Also as per the agreement, in 5 years I will become a consultant to my practice which would mean I can work the hours I choose to.For our 25th wedding anniversary, I have chosen to retire. By then our children would have grown up and would have finished studies.Then I would like to volunteer my time at the reputable eye center catering for the poor and the needy.Only if its o.k with you as well” said Raju as he ended his small speech.Shantha was speechless. Her eyes thanked Raju for his thoughtfulness and her mind fell in love with her husband allvover again for his unique qualities.She was well aware of the financial sacrifice he was making to compensate for his time away from practice.His philanthropic nature wanting to serve the poor was a fact that Shantha accepted and resonated with as well.Not trusting herself to speak she nodded her assent and blushed when her husband held her hand to place a warm kiss.What better way to look forward to retirement when they both would go back to old times, walking hand in hand and serving life’s purpose as a couple bonded in love and united before God.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Chellamal woke up before dawn. It was her routine to get up at 4 a.m and had never needed to see a clock in most of these 80 and odd years of her life. By 5, she would have put the kolam on the front of the house and would then start to pluck flowers for her daily puja. Today she was in the process of finishing the kolam when a shadow fell over her. Looking up she saw her only child Shanmugam standing in the Thinnai (balcony). A glint of surprise crossed Chellamal’s face as she also knew the routine of her son and daughter –in-law, Valli’s life. Shanmugam would get ready to goto work around 8a.m. and Valli usually woke up around 6 to head to the kitchen to start her work. Though Valli and Shanmugam had requested her innumerable times to get up late and not to do so much work around the house , Chellamal had paid no heed to their loving words. She had to do her daily work and it brought her more pleasure than pain.Her reverie was broken when Shanmugam came down the steps towards her holding a white envelope in his hand. As he was about to give it to her the envelope fell down and Shanmugam bent quickly to pick it up. Chellamal felt his hands touch her feet as he picked up the envelope. Standing up closer to her, She could now see his face writhed in worries and a very grim look around his mouth. “Keep this with you amma. If anything happens to me give this to anyone who comes to collect it. You will know what to do then” so saying Shanmugam opened the gate and walked briskly away. Chellamal was speechless holding the envelope in hand. This was very unusual. Sure she knew Shanmugam had lots of troubles at the mill where he worked as a supervisor. The management was a rough lot and constantly pressured Shanmugam to be ruthless to this workers, who worked very hard in poor conditions for their daily wages. One of the constant gripe for the management was to try and cheat the workers of their daily wages. They would have been successful but for Shanmugam. He stood for justice and fought with all his might.Chellamal slowly walked inside the house. She noticed Valli was still not awake. She decided to keep the envelope matter a secret. Her hands went about her routine of cleaning the puja vessels and adorning her Gods with flowers plucked fresh from her yard. But her mind remained very upset and went over and over again what Shanmugam had said to her. She now realized the slipping of the envelope to the floor was not an accident. He had wanted to touch her feet before he left for work that morning. She had no one to turn to for solace but God so she started her prayers. Her mind and heart hoped fervently nothing untoward should happen to her son. She had two grandsons who were married and well settled and lived in the big city. Valli and Shanmugam would visit them once in a while and they came to see Chellamal too. She thought maybe she should call her grandsons and tell them about the envelope. Very soon Valli had started her kitchen duties and brought Chellamal her morning kanji. As they both sat down to take a small break and have their kanji there was a noise near the front door. Valli got up to go and see and came back inside with the Tashildar. He was older than Shanmugam and almost like a son to Chellamal. His face was lined with sorrow and Chellamal could see he had brought bad news. “Will you have some coffee Sir?” asked Valli moving toward the kitchen. The Tashildar took a seat near Chellamal and asked Valli to come and sit too. “I am deeply hurt to bring you this bad news” and broke down crying as he said it. “This morning when Shanmugam was walking to work some miscreants attacked him and robbed him off his gold chain and gold rings and the money of Rs.1000 or so he had on him. But Shanmugam had started to bleed after the attack. By the time he was spotted by the road and then taken to the hospital his life could not be saved.” Barely did he finish his lines Valli started crying and wailing and the Tashildar could not contain his grief either. Valli moved closer to Chellamal who held out her hand to embrace her daughter in law and Valli sobbed into the shoulder of the woman who was like her mother too. Chellamal’s heart had hardened after hearing the news. She knew there was one task yet to do. Her mind thought of her husband who was no more but wished he was there to support her. Shanmugam was very much like his father in his honest ways. But today’s world did not give credence to honesty and principles and made life harder for people not adapting to corruption.Very quickly all the last rites had been completed. She did not step foot out of the house as was her custom. It broke her heart to see Valli as a widow. She still rememebered the day Valli had entered her home as a young bride. Her grandsons’ came to help with the rituals and today they left back to their works and homes. They had insisted for the two ladies to come and spend time with them. Valli had said nothing to this request as she had completely lost her self in grief. If Chellamal had not been around everyone wondered what would have happened to Valli. Inspite of her age Chellamal tended to Valli as if she were a young child. Chellamal knew this grief as she had been through this before. There was no greater sorrow for Chellamal than to see her beloved son pass away and Valli in so much grief and pain. Still Chellamal had not shed a tear after her son’s death. She knew she had to finish her son’s last request though she did not want to.Chellamal looked up from her prayers to see Valli had come and stood nearby. At her glance, Valli said “Amma there is someone here to see you.” Her face registered her bewilderment that she must have felt. In all these years other than very close relative no stranger had come asking to see Chellamal. “Show them in here” said Chellamal. When Valli left to fetch them , Chellamal slowly removed the white envelope from her Bhagavad Gita book and held it in her hands. For a moment she hesitated. If she did not hand over the envelope she could only imagine what would happen to her family. She clearly did not want her grandsons to loose their lives too. Her uneducated mind could clearly make the calculations of the foolishness to fight the power of corruption. One could never win and just for a split second wished her son had no principles and had been as unscrupulous as his management which he had worked for. Then he would certainly be still alive today. At her age she had seen most that life had to offer. But she also knew her soul would never have been in peace if Shanmugam had been any different. His life was very dear to her but his death was dear to his values and principles. As a mother she was proud she had carried a noble person in her womb. That act alone justified her purpose in life. Her mind was made up and her mouth was taut as was her face. She looked upto to see a man , short stout and muscular, whom she would never have invited into her house. His eyes seemed to be fascinated by the white envelope. She placed it on the floor between them which he quickly picked it up. He looked into her eyes again. The fury he saw in those eyes he felt in his body and he shuddered to think of the misfortunes his family would have to suffer for generations to come for the killing of the innocent and the pious. He quickly walked away without a backward glance.Valli was sitting on the swing in the living room. She watched all this through dazed eyes. She did not want to know about the envelope. She had already lost what was most precious to her. As she watched Chellamal approaching her, for the first time she noticed the droop of Chellamal’s shoulders. She had aged more than a hundred just through the last fortnight. Chellamal slowly sat down beside Valli. Now it was Valli who opened her arms to embrace Chellamal who started to cry for the first time since her son’s death. Both knew they would remain like that for a long long time.