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.

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VANTHU – MY COUSIN

 His name is Vasudevan; we call him Vanthu.

He is the richest among the kk clan, but lives by serving sanyasis, till recently.

 He wears simple dhoti and big necklace of rudraksha beads (actually dried fruit of the tree which are available at Hardwar), traveling by bus only when necessary. He prefers to walk “small” distances up to five miles.

 Now he is ill and tied to his house, which is part of our ancestral home, being the house attached to the pond for use of men folk. He has made only the minimum alterations.

He is fair, fat and handsome. He owns several plots of land. He has a collection of gold coins of different nations of the world, costing at least a few lacs of rupees, in addition to stocks and shares.

 No one knows his bank balance. He is notoriously miserly. While working in Rourkela Steel plant, where all Ramaphan brothers have worked, he used to carry tea in a thermos flask, along with his tiffin box. All his salary and plenty of overtime allowance, were deposited in the bank, surviving on frugal rice and dhal

His wife Parvathy too worked there. Once he was admitted in a hospital at Trichur. When his wife came to see him, he scolded her: Why did you waste the bus fare? Here the doctors and nurses are paid for looking after me.

Quite a few cents of the land had been washed away by the river. He reclaimed it by providing granite embankment right through the river and filling it with soil brought from a hill. The money spent is productive and so he does not mind it.

He paved the bathing ghat with granite, for the convenience of devotees at aaratu of Bhagavaty, of Kadalassery and Oorakath Ammatiruvadi, as both have it in our home.

 He is diabetic, but takes liberal quantities of rice and sweet things like appam, if offered free. I don’t want to live forever, he would say.

 He has no issues; he is seventy five.

TODAY IS MAKARSANKRANTY

A very special day is this new year of all Hindus.

The new year is marked by kite flying and eating ladoos made of thil and jaggery.

This day is the  beginning of Kumbhmela. Lacs of devotees take a dip in the holy Ganga at Hardwar, the ice cold water notwithstanding. The spirit empowers the body!

There is a significance to to the figure 12. The planet Jupitor (Guru, vyazham in Malayalam) takes 12 years to complete its orbit round the sun. As it remains in the same star group for one year, its influence is felt the whole year, according to astrologers. The Kumbhmela comes every 12 years because of this, the Jupitor coming to the same position again.

There are 12 months in a year. 12 hours make a daytime.

According to Hindus, the man’s life time is 12 x 10 = 120 years, consisting of various dashas, each dasha governed by a rishi such as Shukr, Shani etc. When a person goes from one dasha to another, it may be a bad time. So while matching the horoscope of man and woman, they see whether both are facing dashasandhi (transition from one to the next dasha) at the same time. They avoid marriage in such cases. Matching means compensating qualities; if one is a spendthrift, the other must be miserly.

There are 12 Jyotirlingas. The Sardarji is called bara baje (12 o’ clock). At 12 noon, they lose their brains!