Tuesday, December 30, 2014

God`s Child ( Short story)

Nikhil was visiting his friend Keshav after many years, on a Sunday morning.  After the preliminary enquiries,  when Nikhil found Keshav looking very perturbed and downcast he asked, “what is bothering you Keshav? Are you not well?”

“I feel like a man in a rudderless ship on a turbulent sea, Nikhil !”

“What happened ?  Are you in a serious financial crisis?  Can I help?”

“No, it is about my son Gopi.  Suddenly he has become very restless  and often becomes violent.  I don’t know what to do?”

“Your son must be in his early 30s.  I remember he had problems with speech and you were consulting experts”

“I have done everything possible to make him self-supporting.  But I seem to have failed miserably”.  There were tears in Keshav’s eyes.


When Keshav’s wife Laxmi gave birth to a second child – a boy, there was much rejoicing in the family.  Since the first child was a girl, every one complimented Keshav and Laxmi for having a complete family.  ‘A girl for love and a boy for the assets’ as they say in Tamil.

While the child was growing physically well, there were signs of potential problems which the parents did not realize.  The child Gopi never turned or crawled.  He only rolled. Up to the age of 3 he could not speak.  He would only utter  words like Amma, Akka.  Obviously worried Keshav and Laxmi started offering prayers at various temples hoping that Gopi would  soon become alright and would start talking like other children.  It was not to be.

A cousin of Keshav, who was an acknowledged speech therapist, after observing Gopi for sometime, declared that the child suffered from some disability, leading to a deficiency  in speech.  This discovery was followed by visits  to all kinds of experts who proclaimed that the child was neither autistic nor dyslexic. He did not suffer from any physical or mental disorder. But they could not identify the reason why the child was suffering from speech deficiency.

 On the basis of expert advice, Gopi started getting speech therapy at home.  After an intensive struggle for 2 years, Gopi could express himself in a language which at least the near and dear ones could understand.

When Gopi was 7 Keshav admitted him to a nearby school, where a friendly headmaster agreed to take special care of the child.

In the class it was discovered that Gopi  also had a writing problem .  What he wrote nobody could read.  But he had ready answers to any questions posed to him.  Those who could understand him knew that he was giving the right answers.

With constant supervision and training at home by Keshav and Laxmi, and the generosity of the Head master the child progressed up to class V.  When everything seemed to be cruising along well, a major problem cropped up  putting Keshav  in a spot.

The friendly and understanding headmaster and two other teachers who were taking special care of Gopi left the school.  The new team did not take kindly to Gopi.

It was at this stage, based on advice from well wishers,  that Keshav decided to admit Gopi to a normal school.  In this school  not only did  teachers have  no  patience to deal with Gopi  but his classmates were also not kind to him . They started making fun of his disability to speak and write  leaving Gopi very frustrated.   Gopi started bunking classes.  He would leave home with the tiffin box packed by his mother but instead of going to school  he would spend the time in a nearby park. The self confidence that the boy had developed over the period of five years in the earlier school  was completely destroyed Gopi  had become a nervous wreck. Soon the matter reached Keshav & Laxmi. They were totally crestfallen. In retrospect, they  realized that they  had made a big mistake by admitting the boy to a regular school without ensuring that the school had arrangement for teaching  children needing special care. The question was -What Next?

Again based on some friends` advice they sought the help of  a special tutor to teach Gopi on a one on  one basis. The tutor was located in a distant suburb.  Keshav would  come back from office early so that he could take Gopi to special tutor’s house for training five days a week. Unmindful of the physical stress this involved  Keshav  relentlessly pursued his  efforts to provide basic education to his son. Being in a government job with an understanding boss, helped him to have flexible timings so that he could take special care of his son.  With great difficulty the boy managed to study up to class VIII. Beyond that he refused to go to any school. In the meanwhile Gopi had grown into a handsome teenager with the normal feelings of a growing adolescent. This posed new problems for the parents.

Though he could not speak clearly  nor could he write, Gopi was a very  intelligent  boy with   a phenomenal  memory.  Unlike mentally retarded children who often did not have any self awareness, Gopi was aware that for his age he was not doing well.  All around him his friends were doing well and progressing in life. He had not progressed beyond a point. The sexual awareness and  his consequent efforts to express it met with derisive laughter from his friends. This added to his discomfiture leading to an inferiority complex.  He started avoiding friends. He became a recluse and could be often found  sitting in a corner and brooding.

At this stage his only friend was his elder sister  who was a  very understanding  person on whom Gopi  started leaning heavily for emotional support.  Soon even this support was to move away from him.
Gopi’s elder sister Nalini was a bright girl.  After sailing through school and college with honors  she did an MBA in a well known institute, which helped her get a good job in a different city. Gopi, who was very attached to his sister, was completely shaken up when Nalini left home in pursuit of a dream career. In spite of all the love and affection that both his parents were showering  upon him, his bond with his sister was special.  An already frustrated Gopi became even more despondent and insecure when Nalini left home.

He started developing the feeling that the whole world was turning against him.  Nalini’s efforts to pacify him by talking to him every day on phone  did not help.  When in course of time Nalini decided to go abroad, Gopi was shattered.

He would not talk to any one nor go out any where or meet any body.  Though he was physically capable he refused to do any work.  He became suspicious of everyone, including his parents.  He refused to meet any doctor who could   help him get over his depression. He even attempted to commit suicide. 

With the help of a friend,  Keshav  took Gopi to meet a psychologist informally without telling Gopi the purpose of the visit. When  Gopi found out  the truth he became so violent that he tore up all the case papers infront of the doctor and stormed  out of the place.

 Keshav felt totally helpless and was  at his  wits end , not knowing what he should do next.

 It was at this stage that Nikhil had visited Keshav in his home. Listening to Gopi`s story,  Nikhil could only sympathise but  had no  suggestions or advice to give his friend to get out of his predicament.
However a window of hope opened for Keshav in the form of a Guruji whom he met seeking advice & solace.

After a couple of years Nikhil bumped into Keshav at a function and was surprised to find him cheerful and happy.  The conversation naturally lead to enquiries about Keshav’s son Gopi.

“So Keshav, you seem to be relaxed.  Is your son alright?  What is he doing now?”

“He is alright for the present Nikhil.  But he continues  to do nothing”

“Do you still worry about his future?”

“That is what all the parents with special children do. Worry what will happen to their special kids after them. Who will look after them after they leave this world. I was also in the same boat for all these years. Thanks to the advice I got from a Guruji I have come to the realization that by worrying I am not achieving anything. 

Since our last meeting, we managed to put Gopi on medication  with the help of another friendly doctor.  He started responding and stopped being violent.  After retirement I have taken to  spiritualism.  I am also  spending a lot of time with my son.  I have become his best friend.  I take him wherever I go and Involve him in whatever I am doing.”

At this point a tall, good looking youngman walked towards them. Keshav introduced him to Nikhil as his son Gopi. Without saying a word the boy  mechanically shook Nikhil`s extended hand and started moving away.

Keshav  continued, “I will do my best to keep him happy and engaged  as long I am alive.  After me, I am sure the Lord above will have some plans for him.  My daughter who is married and settled in this city has promised to look after him”

Nikhil was happy to see the transformation in Keshav.  But was a little intrigued that a normal looking boy with intelligence and self awareness  with some deficiency in speaking could not be trained to look after himself. Surely there are institutions which take special care of such children, many of whom develope into successful individuals leading normal lives.

He got an answer to his question when he met Nandan, his friend who was a well known special educator. Having heard the story of Keshav & Gopi , Nandan said,`”While the parents realized early that their son had a problem and were doing whatever they could to the best of their knowledge and information, they must have  failed to protect the son from close relatives who were tactless & indifferent  in dealing with the boy. Special children are always a challenge to the whole family. Everyone must be understanding and supportive of such children to help them face the world with confidence.  Even if one family member is impatient and rude in dealing with such children, it can impede the development of the child. Fortunately today there are many schools  which take special care of such children and help them grow into normal human beings  in a friendly atmosphere with a lot of  understanding. May be Keshav did not find such a school for his son at a time when the boy was growing up. But now it is too late for him to do anything as the boy has become a frustrated individual with a mindset which refuses to accept any new ideas. I have my sympathies for Keshav`s  family. I am sure God will give them the strength to live with the problem during their lifetime.”

Commitment ( short story)

Kishore  is a manager in a pharmaceutical company leading a decent life in an upper middle class locality in Chennai.  He owns a three bedroom flat in an apartment complex where he lives with his wife and two kids.  Writing is his hobby.  He pens short stories whenever he gets time and is happy to see them in print in some magazine or the other.  A keen observer of people, he is constantly on the look out for material for his short stories- which  people around him or anyone he comes into contact with provide him.

One day he was requesting  Ramu,  a man in his early forties, who helps him with the maintenance of his  house on a monthly retainer, to recommend a driver.

“No problem Sir, I have my younger brother Ganesh who is looking for a job as a driver. The gentleman with whom he was working has been transferred.

“Good! Is he your blood brother or a cousin?”

“He is my step brother, Sir”

“So your father married twice?”

“No Sir, my mother did”

Kishore  was intrigued with the unusual response.  Seeing the surprise look on Kishore`s  face, Ramu clarified.

“My mother,  a couple of years after giving birth to me and my sister, divorced my father  because of differences  with him and married again.  Ganesh is the son of my step father sir”.

Kishore  realized that here was  material for a very  juicy story.  Ramu  was more than happy to elaborate his life story for Kishore`s  benefit.


Ramu’s parents hailed from Chengalpet, a small town 75 km away from Chennai.  While Ramu’s father Selvam belonged  to an upper caste middle class family, his mother Selvi belonged to a scheduled caste.  Selvam, after completing his high school, joined a small  garment factory where he was working as a supervisor.  Selvi was an employee  in the same factory working as a tailor.  Both were good looking and took a natural liking for each other.   The friendship  developed into love and finally  a marriage vehemently opposed by families of both Selvam and Selvi!

When life in Chenglepet became unbearable because of the constant  harassment  by  family members, the couple decided to move to Madras to try their luck there.  Selvam managed to get a job in an automobile spare parts factory and Selvi got a job in a small company located near their  modest LIG flat in a suburb in South Madras.

Life was cruising along beautifully.  Soon the couple was blessed with their  first child – a boy they named Ramu and a girl born after two years they named Mala.

With the growing responsibility of bringing up children and the need for more money, Selvam started working long hours in his factory – working overtime to  earn some extra income every month.  He would leave the house by 7.00 am and return home every day only at 9.00 pm.  He would be so tired at the end of a gruelling  day that as soon as he came  home he would have his dinner and hit the bed.  He had no time to spend with the family.

Selvi,  loaded with the responsibility of working in a company , looking after the home and children found it tough to manage! She was badly missing a connect with her husband.

She started protesting which led to frequent quarrels between husband and wife.  As it happens in many such families, Selvam started hitting the bottle and on many evenings he would not even return home.

The frequent fight between the parents would  unnerve the children who lived in constant fear of their lives!  While Selvi was tormented  by her hopeless situation -  a silver lining  appeared in the form of co-worker Shanmugam!


Shanmugam was a senior assistant in the company where Selvi was working.  He was a bachelor, two years younger to Selvi.  Since Selvi was reporting to Shanmugam on a day to day basis, they developed a friendship beyond the call of duty.  After a very  bad encounter with her husband she would invariably pour her heart out to Shanmugam who was more than willing to lend his broad shoulders for Selvi to lean on!

After office hours he started visiting Selvi’s home and tried to get friendly with the children.  Though Ramu and Mala resisted the intrusion of a stranger initially, the gifts he brought them regularly made them to like the stranger.

Selvi was completely floored with  Shanmugam’s affection for her and her children.  The admiration transformed  into love leading to her getting into a  physical relationship with Shanmugam.

Since Shanmugam was a regular visitor to Selvi’s house and the neighbours often saw them going out together, tongues  started wagging and the rumours reached Selvam.  


Being unwell, one day Selvam returned home in the afternoon early.  Only to find Shanmugam opening the door of his house.  Since children were away at school, Selvam had caught the couple red  handed.  All  hell broke loose!

While Shanmugam quickly slipped out of the house,  Selvam and Selvi had a big show down.  Before Selvam turned violent, Selvi decided to walk out of the house – never to return again. She had found her new love in Shanmugam who was more than willing to provide her a shelter.  

Selvam did not know what hit him.  His efforts to get back Selvi through friends proved futile. His estranged mother, with whom he had no contact since his marriage,  came to live with him to look after the young children who were obviously shattered by the events in their life. They missed their mother badly. But she did not seem to miss them.

Soon Selvam received a divorce notice from Selvi, who made it clear that she had no intention of reuniting with him and that she had decided to start a new life with Shanmugam.  She made no demands about wanting to take her children with her.

Selvam realized  rather  late in the day that he was mainly responsible for the break-up with Selvi.  He not only had to mend  his ways but also had to look after his two young children, who were struggling to cope with their trauma.  Whereas Selvi married Shanmugam, he never married again!  His mother`s repeated efforts to persuade him to marry again were in vain. She even threatened to walk out on him as she was too old to look after the children on a permanent basis. Selvam refused to agree.  He accepted the challenge of bringing bring up Ramu and Mala, as a single parent. Providing them all the love and care that he could give to ensure  that they never felt insecure - So that they would grow into responsible human beings.

After completing their school education, as they were not interested in further studies,  both Ramu & Mala started working and in due course got married to spouses chosen by their father. Surprisingly their mother attended both their weddings accompanied by children she got through Shanmugam.

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“So Ramu,  Ganesh  is  the son your mother  bore  through Shanmugam”

“Yes sir, Ganesh also has a younger sister sir,”

“Were you in touch with your mother after she married Shanmugam”

“Yes sir, though she was never allowed to visit us, my father did not have objection to our  seeing her – especially on festival occasions!”

“Is your father alive?”

“No sir, he died of cancer seven years ago. And Shanmugam uncle died in a road accident two years ago”.

“So,  your mother is staying with your step brother , Ganesh?”

“No sir, she is staying with me”

“But, she ditched you and your sister and married again. Yet you like her?”

“She is after all my mother Sir.  It is my duty to look after her in her old age”

In this day and age when children, staying as nuclear families, are not keen to look after their old parents, Kishore   found  Ramu’s commitment refreshingly different and commendable.

 He hired his step brother Ganesh as a driver the following week.

Changing Society ( short story)

 Sunil was pacing up and down the corridor outside the delivery room of the maternity ward of the hospital.  Anxiously awaiting the news of his third child.  It was almost four hours since his wife Roopa was admitted to a private hospital after she complained of labor pain early in the morning.

After two boys, now aged 7 and 4, the whole family, including his parents who were staying with him were looking forward to welcoming a baby girl in the family.  In fact, in anticipation, Roopa had even got some special girly dresses ready for the baby.

Sunil turned to the door of the delivery room when a nurse, carrying a bundle, came out of the room towards him. 

“It is a baby boy!” she declared happily.  “A pretty boy, no?  See, how much hair he has got”, she continued.

Though Sunil was disappointed that it was not a baby girl, he did not reveal it to the nurse.  He took the bundle in his hands and after cuddling it for sometime, returned the baby to the nurse.

When he went to see Roopa in the ward, she was in tears.

“Again it is a boy.  I wanted a girl so badly”

Sunil held Roopa’s hands and said, “It is God’s wish Roopa, we will accept it with grace”

Since it was a normal delivery, Roopa was discharged after 48 hours and she was home with the baby on a Friday.


Years rolled by.  The baby boy who was named Krishna was growing up to be a beautiful child.  Since there was a delay in taking the child to their family temple in their village for his first mundan (tonsure) ceremony, Krishna had plenty of hair.  Roopa would plait the hair and tie it up with a ribbon. Dressed in a skirt and blouse, he could easily pass off as a girl. The whole family used to admire Krishna dressed in girl`s dresses.  To satisfy their craving for a girl, they even arranged to teach him Bharat Natyam when he turned 7.

Though his brothers Ram and Ravi would tease him about this, Krishna did not seem to mind being treated like a girl by the elders in the family.  He seemed to enjoy it.  As an adolescent, he would even secretly wear his mother’s salwar kameez or nighties and admire himself in the mirror. He was also very fond of cooking.

At 17, Krishna had grown into a beautiful young man.  Fair with glowing skin and curly hair, he was surely a pretty sight to behold.  Not only the girls in that area but even some of his boyfriends used to admire Krishna…and Krishna used to enjoy all the attention!

While Ram & Ravi decided to pursue Engineering courses, Krishna decided to do a course in Catering. Since he did not get admission into the local institute, he moved to an Institute in Delhi where he got admission to pursue his dream course, staying in the hostel. 


Soon Ram and Ravi got their degrees.  While Ram decided to proceed to USA for his Masters in Industrial Engineering, Ravi got his admission into a leading Management Institute in India for an MBA.  Both came out with flying colours and got good jobs.  Ram continued to work in USA, while Ravi got a good job in Mumbai where his family lived.

Ram fell in love with an American girl in USA and decided to marry her. Ravi decided to marry a girl from their community whom his parents had chosen for him.  Ravi’s wedding was a grand affair, held in a star hotel attended by all relatives and friends.

Krishna, who had just finished his course in catering and was waiting for a job also attended the wedding.  As a handsome young man he was the cynosure of all the eyes in the wedding. 

Elders who saw him would tell him, “Now that Ravi is getting married, your line is clear… it is your time to get married.

“Let me settle down in life uncle, then we will see” he would reply.

Many pretty girls in the gathering were trying to draw Krishna’s attention to impress him. 

Soon Krishna left for Dubai, where he got a good job in a leading hotel.  Sunil and Roopa were secretly admiring their handsome son and hoping that one day he will also be married to a pretty young girl and settle down in life.

After marriage, Ravi had taken up a separate flat and had set up a house of his own; he was soon blessed with a baby girl. Sunil retired from his job and stayed with Roopa in their flat. Though they were free birds they felt that until they got Krishna married their responsibilities as parents were not over.

“Krishna, it is time you get married.  If you have not found any one of your choice, can we look around for a girl for you” Sunil would ask Krishna whenever he called.

“Last week Shantha aunty was here.  She was talking about her pretty niece, who has done a Master`s degree in Computer Science and is ready for marriage” Roopa would add.

“What is the hurry Amma?  You already have two daughter-in-laws and grandchildren to play with. Why don’t you leave me alone?  Let me enjoy life” Krishna would retort.


While Sunil and Roopa continued to worry about Krishna and his marriage, he was refusing to fall into any kind of trap.  A year later, during one of his regular telephonic calls Krishna informed his parents that he had found his partner  and invited them  to visit  Dubai on a holiday.  Excited at the prospect of Krishna`s imminent marriage Sunil and Roopa decided to make the trip the following month.

Krishna picked them up on their arrival at Dubai airport and took them home.  It was a two bedroom flat which Krishna was sharing with his friend Rajesh.  A decent accommodation which was maintained well by the two bachelors – thought Sunil.  They even complemented the friends for this.

Sunil and Roopa visited all the usual tourist sites of Dubai including an evening at a Desert Safari where they saw a belly dance being performed by a not so young lady!

It was the last day of their stay in Dubai.  After dinner when they were relaxing and chatting at the drawing room, Roopa brought up the subject of marriage to Krishna.

After dilly, dallying for some time, Krishna broke the news to them

“Amma, Appa; Rajesh my dear friend is in love with me.  I also love him.  We live together in this  house not just as friends, but as husband and wife”

The news hit Sunil and Roopa like a ton of bricks.  They did not know how to react to this news.  As if on cue, Rajesh came out of his room and joined Krishna to touch the feet of Sunil and Roopa, seeking their blessings!

Since they had to leave for Mumbai in a couple of hours they had no time to talk to Krishna about his decision.


On their way back to Mumbai in the flight Sunil and Roopa hardly talked to each other.  They were so shocked at the news conveyed to them by Krishna that their middle class mind could not comprehend the situation.  Roopa’s mind traveled back to the time when she  revelled in dressing up Krishna as a girl and admiring him.  She never imagined that one day her handsome son would be taken in as a wife by a young man. 

On reaching their house in Mumbai, they broke the news to a very close friend Kumar..  Kumar was not shocked; on the other hand his response was cool.

“Sunil & Roopa, such things are common in our society today.  Now-a-days youngsters are taking the courage to openly talk about their same sex relationships so that their parents do not unwittingly thrust innocent spouses on them.  For your information, my daughter Seema who has been living in USA and refusing to marry is having a girl friend as a live-in-partner. Though my wife and I were initially shocked beyond words we have decided to take it in our stride. I had no courage to tell you this earlier. Now that you are also in a similar situation I thought I will share my story with you.  I suggest that you also learn to live with the knowledge and only pray for Krishna’s well being, wherever he is.”

Sunil and Roopa were left dumbfounded.

( A Tamil translation of this story appeared in the May,2014 issue of Kalaimagal, a 85 years old Tamil literary monthly)