A LOSS I CAN NEVR FORGET

I am fond of books and scenery. Being a pensioner, I cannot afford to buy books which are becoming costlier by the day. To enjoy new scenery I have to travel which is also not easy, as I have no car.

At Mt. Abu, I bought a Rajasthani painting showing the village scene. I liked it and bought it for Rs.100, though my wife objected.

I did not think of the difficulty of carrying it. For the time being my friend kept it in his house at Pali Marwarr. We came back to Delhi.

He got it covered with glass and framed.

Well packed, he brought it all the way to our house in Keralam. I kept it in a safe corner, to be carried to Ernakulam, to be given to my friend, VBS, as a gift. In all my life, I never gave gifts to any one.

In our absence, it was thrown up, on to the concrete shelf. When I took it after wards, it made a noise, as if something has been broken inside. Apprehensively, I opened it and was in tears, not really, to see the glass broken into small pieces!

Very patiently and delicately, as a surgeon would remove from the heart of a patient, I TOOK OUT ALL THE BROKEN GLASS PIECES. It took some time, but I managed it.

The painting got crumpled at some corners, still it was presentable. So I carried it in a bus up to Kodungallur. I HAD KEPT THE ROLLED PAINTING PACKAGE IN THE RACK OF THE BUS. When I saw most of the passengers getting down, before the bus reached the bus stand, I enquired and was told to get down there if were going to Ernakulam. My wife was in the front seat and myself in the last row. I hurried to tell her and somehow managed to get down there. The bus conductor ws annoyed as all had got off by this time.

A bus for Ernakulam was waiting there ready to start. We were happy to get seats.

When we were happily settled…..I remembered the painting I had kept in the rack!

Whoever got it, may accept it as a gift from an unknown friend!

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POWER OF SLEEP

Americans are crazy over the word POWER.

I have read three books- Power Healing, Protein Power and Power Sleep, the last one by a professor of sleep!

It is no joke. He has done research in SLEEP and come up with some remarkable theory about sleep arrears.

These are my observations, by way of introduction. We all know that a student preparing for examinations is always sleepy. Boredom induces sleep. I think it is just an escape mechanism. But I have also observed cooks sleeping soundly on a pile of faggots, after continuous work during the night. Here it is a bodily requirement. Nehru is a poor sleeper, but he falls asleep, as soon as he enters the aeroplane!

While traveling in a bus, I have fallen asleep, just before reaching my stop and carried onward, much to my annoyance. I used to go to sleep while hearing the Hindi news of All India Radio.

If sleep is a replica of death, both come when you least expect it!

Now about the book. The author says that a man requires a certain amount of sleep. He can manage with less sleep for a few days even, but eventually sleep will demand arrears. If denied, it will overpower you when you least expect. The driver of a vehicle may go to sleep suddenly, causing most accidents. I think this is a very important conclusion. Drivers should not work overtime!

In India, where there are too many unemployed people, why are drivers (both in the railways and in road transport) made to work overtime?

MY INFERIORITY COMPLEX

My height is slightly less than 5 feet 3 inch.

My legs are too short to ride a bicycle.   Children’s cycle is comfortable.

My friends assured me that I cannot impress girls.

To cap it all, my poverty. For a middle class man poverty is a matter of great shame.

I was extremely shy to speak, even if all are well known. The sound will not come out. I cannot even sign because of a nasty tremor wich agonised me, because, in those days there were no ball point pens and I have to sign in the salary bill,with ink pen, in the presence of people. I feared the first day of the month, when salary is disbursed !

Inferiority complex can have a damaging effect on one’s career. I could never make an impression during an interview. I was happy that I did not have to face the girl whom I was to marry.

Two things lightened my days. Books were always my friends. In the school, I was always a hero, because teachers and students always like a bright pupil.

GHOST WRITERS ARE INTELLACTUAL PROSTITUTES ?

Think of it. All well known politicians and even writers are employing others, to write their script.

Call girls are selling their beauty and body for making money. Those with the skill to sing and dance, exhibit their inborn talent to please all, for earning money.

Is there any difference?

Ordinary workers too sell their labour for money. But there is no moral stigma in it. A drama troupe earns money by entertaining audience. That is honest art, because they all do it openly and honestly. Not so the ghost writers. I am told that a well known figure in the newspaper industry has published a lot of well written articles, travelogues and books- all by ghosts !

Like the prostitutes, they deserve sympathy.

A Chief Minister is unable even to read what his ghost has scripted. Many Heads of Scientific Institutions read research papers in a gathering, as if he has done the research.

Long ago when such activities like writing, doing research etc. were done by almost unknown people, who did it without realizing its commercial value; ghost writing was unknown. Nehru never read from a paper. Be honest. Do not give a lecture, if you cannot speak.

Do not depend on ghosts. Let the ghosts come out and earn their money and respect in society.

SHORT STORY – NARASU OR PURE LOVE

Narasu was three years senior in our school.
His sister Devi was in my class. I liked her. She was very simple without any make up. Her fragrance was a peculiar mix of sandal, tulsi and herbal hair oil, which I liked.
I am half Hindu and half Christian. I have a slight preference for my Hindu Papa, with whom I used to go to temples. I have a necklace with Guruvayoorappan locket on one side and a cross on the opposite end, the cross end in front, when I invariably went to the church on Sundays with my dear Ma, wearing frocks which I like very much.
When we were in the seventh standard, I accompanied Devi to her home, some distance away from the main road. When we reached the front court yard, swept clean and very spacious with a tulsi plant in the centre, well protected with a cement concrete enclosure, I was surprised to hear the mellow musical sounds coming from a veena, rarely heard these days. I hesitated to disturb it by my crude intrusion, but Devi said it was all right and we came in.
It was Narasu. He went on playing the instrument as if I never existed. It hurt my ego, as I was very popular with the boys.
I was offered sweets made of rice flour, jaggery and pure cow’s ghee. It was grand and I went on eating with relish, forgetting Ma’s instructions to be circumspect in the presence of strangers. Devi and her mother encouraged me to eat more and more.
Afterwards, we came and sat in the front room, where Narasu was practicing. When he finished, Devi introduced me.
You are the daughter of Krishna Kanth, isn’t it?
Yes.
I noticed you the day you joined our school. Where were you before?
I was in Delhi.
We talked for some time and I came away in my scooty.
Narasu was hardly my height, slender and unconspicuous. He was above average in studies and preferred to remain aloof. So Iused to meet and talk to him in his home. He had a collection of detective novels which I liked to read. Devi told me he writes poems, but he never allows her to enter his room.
Gradually, our friendship matured. Sometimes the three of us would go for a movie in the town . I liked English movies, but did not mind seeing Malayalam films which Devi liked.
When Narasu left for higher studies, I felt a sudden loss.

When we were in the ninth class, Devi became ill.
It was just a fever, but it refused to go away. So I brought a physician who diagnosed it as typhoid.
Her father was a poojary in a far away temple. I have never seen him. “If he takes leave Bhagavan will starve”, said Devi.
So I became her brother as well.
During illness, I shifted to their house with all my baggage. I had to take her temperature, give medicines and do other nursing, like changing the sheets without disturbing the patient etc. which I learned from my books.

One night I heard a terrified sound from the kitchen. When I rushed there, I found Maji pointing towards the corner where faggots had been stocked for burning the hearth.
I saw a cobra, with its fangs fully spread, surveying the whole scene, for possible attack from any source.
I quietly went and detached the brass vessel, used for drawing water from the open well. Then I brought it near the snake, showing the mouth of the vessel and waited patiently. When it was fully satisfied, it entered the dark inside of the vessel, which I carried outside and deposited on the ground outside. That night I slept in Maji’s room.
Even after Devi fully recoverd, I continued my stay there, as my Papa had become a State Minister and shifted to the capital.
I used to talk almost daily to Narasu. We had become so attached to each other that Devi even talked about our marriage.
“You are too innocent; do you know whether he loves me?” , I asked.
She was sure of that.
I loved him in an etherial way, if I may put it that way, like a beatiful sun set or a mountain landscape. I do not want to do anything which may disturb his composure. I have no objection to some other girl marrying him, who can look after him and his children.

I very well knew, such an orthodox family will not accept a half Hindu like me. My Papa’s experience still persicutes me.
There was no secret between myself and my Papa. He knew all about my friendship with Narasu. At heart he liked the idea. He confidentially consulted an astrologer, who after consuting our horoscopes, said I will die if I married him.
After passing tenth, I went back to Delhi where Ma’s family stayed.

Most of our people are engaged in nursing, mostly from middle class families. I had no financial worries; yet I decided to join this group, because I liked to serve people who are suffering.

Time passed into months and then years. Devi was married and then Narasu. I didn’t have much contact with them as I was fully engaged in my day- to -day work. On Sundays I attended churh conclave.

One fine morning Narasu came. I was not excited when I saw him. It all seemed like a story from children’s books.

He seemed prematurely old. His hair had white streaks. His eyes which were lively and searching, has become deadened like an old man’s. It was shocking.

He had a brief married life, resulting in three kids when he became a widower. He had come to Delhi to attend a conference of medicos. He had some difficulty in locating me, he said.

Involuntarily, I moved closer to him and held his hands in mine. I said: it seems His will, that we must unite- Doctor and Nurse.

WE LIVE IN OUR OWN WORLD

Our mental horizon is different from our physical world.

The experience of our childhood make an indelible impression in our mind. This world we always carry with us.

 The books we read, the friends and hostile people we met during our youth, the TV shows and a variety of scenes we witnessed- all these contribute to our mental horizon. As this spiritual world is different for each individual, sometimes we do not understand each other, even when we speak the same language.

“Hang him, not let him live; hang him not, let him live.” A comma makes all the difference ! When we talk, how can we put the comma? The result is break down of communication.

 Many newly married couple fail to make it, because they cannot appreciate the view points of another, as each one’s spiritual horizon is different.

Rural and city people can never appreciate each other. Patience is a valuable asset in the success of married life, as also in the office and on the road. Alas ! We are very much deficient in this respect.

Instead of making a cushion, our words sharpen the edge, when we use each word as a weapon.

Yet we are eager to have friendship and love.

SHORT STORY – ANANTHU’S FAMILY

My name is Ananthapadmanabhayyar. As it is too long, all called me Anathu. As we lived in a remote village, father put me in a school in Bombay where my uncle lived.

I had some school mates who led me to women of undesirable character and soon I knew things which were very tempting, including alcohol.

Uncle arranged a stenographer’s job for me. I was very quick and accurate; so much so that I got several jumps in my factory. Then father thought of marrying me to a girl who was related to him

There was no thrill of the “first night”described in novels and shown in films; still I enjoyed deflowering her. For the first time, I saw hymen!

 She was plain but very docile and enjoyed our new life, seeing a city like Bombay for the first time.

We were living in the quarter allotted by the company. I found that my wife, Nina, was becoming very popular with the neighbours and one or two were always there, when I came home. I didn’t like it but could not find a way of convincing Nina, who was too innocent to suspect their intentions.

I was happy to leave her in her home in the village as soon as she became pregnant. I reestablished contacts with my night lovers who were too eager and adept in making love.

When she came with a son, everything changed. I never knew that a baby could be so sweet and precious. As son as I came home, the boy would come smiling and the next one hour would be spent in playing with it. On holidays, we would go for a movie or to some friends’ flat. Or simply moving around in parks or temples.

The years passed and my son was enrolled in a good school. As soon as the school bus moved away with the kid, I would be uneasy until the boy returned safe and sound, at two in the afternoon.

We used to attend parent-teacher meetings. The teachers were full of praise for our boy, except that he needed improvement in maths. So we engaged a tutor for him.

One day I returned at noon from the factory to search for some document. I saw a pair of shoes in our front veranad. The door was locked from inside.

I quetly went round towards our bed room. There were sounds from inside; when I peeped through the window curtain, Nina was lying on the bed with her skirt drawn up and Pawar was pumping with gusto…. More forcefully, more forcefully: she was shouting…….

I was dazed and completely lost my senses.

 Somehow, I managed to walk away towards the railway station

I was sitting on a parapet on the road side, where the road and the rail line were running parallel. I do not know how long I sat there, watching the movement of suburban trains and the red buses. A woman came and sat beside me. It was Mary. Both of us had learned short hand in the same institute together.

She said: after a long time I am seeing you; what are you doing here? You look terribly upset.

I was in no mood to speak. We new each other too much and all attempts at evasion were futile. I spoke out, about what I saw in my bed room.

She kept mum for some time; then she urged me to go with her: my mother is not well. That is why I am here.

We walked along, talking. I just listened.

I am working in a private company at Nagpur. You know I can manage any boss with my beautiful body. Now I am getting handsome salary. Still unmarried. I don’t say you marry me. Let us live together. I shall fix up a job for you. I have just to ring up my boss.

We reached her place. It was a rented house which her parents occupied long ago. Her father was no more.

Her mother was very pleased to see me She told me to sit beside her in the bed and kissed me on the cheek: I am seeing you after a long time. Now you have become a man. Aren’t you married?

Yes, Maji. How are you?

I am beyond hope. My daughter gives me all sorts of medicines. I tell her not to waste money on me.

Mary brought coffee and biscuits. Afterwards, we went to her room.

As was our habit, we lay on the bed. She cuddled towards my body and whispered in my ear: I am yearning for your warmth.

I was in no mood. Yet, can any man resist it? How long? Soon we were converted into the Khajuraho postures.

At last, when fully satisfied, she opened the subject: you must realize that circumstances make us virtuous or not. What will your wife do when you are away in the factory and the kid in the school? And this neighbour, having done his night duty is ready all the time. It is not a new thing. Fashionable ladies are always eager to have a fling. They are just afraid.

I told her I can come with her.

The first few months were somewhat pleasant. But I missed the joy we felt at home, with the boy a source of great comfort, especially when I return from the factory. He was a tonic, better than a glass of fresh fruit juice.

And those barbs…….Poor Mary has to satisfy her boss in the office and Ananthu at home…. some wags would say.

I told her about it.

She said: if you want, I shall give up my job.

That is a good idea, but I want my boy.

We decided to go to my quarter in the factory, but my family had already left.

One day I just went away, in spite of Mary’s protests.

First, I went to Hardwar and then Rishikesh. In those days the mountainous Rishikesh was somewhat scarcely populated, especially upstream along the bank of the Ganga. In my state of mind I approached several sadhus living in caves. No one impressed me, but their very presence was soothing.

A well known Guru in a math was different. He advised me about life in general.

He said: sanyas is not for young people like you. You have done Brahmacharya (schooling). Now you must complete your Grihastham, including looking after business, property, children etc. When all things are settled and your children grown up and able to look after the business, should you think of Vanaprasth. You may wander the whole Himalayas even now, as it will change your narrow out look and enable you to see things objectively. Stay here for some days and go through the books in my library.

I followed his instructions literally and then returned to my village, after wandering in the Himalayas for full six years.

I was able to locate my family after some enquiriesthough her people had shifted to Salem.

 Nina appeared like a shadow of her former self, very thin and wiry. The boy was grown up and could not recognize me. In spite of the presence of curious on lookers, I went and embraced them.

WHEN WE REJOINED, IT WAS A NEW LIFE.