Sunday, April 27, 2014

A loyal Soul (short story)

It was a holiday.  As usual I was relaxing on the easy chair reading a newspaper, sipping my morning cup of coffee.  My mobile rang.  It was Mari my ex-driver talking excitedly on the phone.

“Sir, I am happy to tell you that my wife and I are going on a two week holiday to Europe”.

“When, Mari?”

“In the first two weeks of  December, Sir!”

“But December will be very cold in Europe.  How will you manage?”

“My nephew who is in London, has asked us to come and stay at his house in London. as he is being transferred back to India, Sir. He has also arranged for a two week holiday in Europe preceding our visit to London”

“Well, go well protected and take care.  I wish you all the best!”

The line got disconnected.  My mind went back to the time, 30 years ago, when Mari joined us as a driver, recommended by a family friend.  What a long distance he has travelled in life!

* * * * *

Born in a well to do business family in Salem, Mari was a problem child for his parents.  A mischievous boy he was always getting into trouble with everyone, with his aggressive nature.  Though he was sent to a good school, he was not interested in studies, skipping classes very often to play with boys of his age – leading to frequent confrontation with his parents. They  began to worry about his future.

When he was 12 years old, after a very bad confrontation with his parents, Mari decided to run away from home. He landed in Chennai, seeking protection from a distant relative, who was running a very successful business.  Since Mari  was not interested in studies, the family agreed to keep him as a helping hand  to  run around doing errands.

When he grew up to be a handsome youngster of 18,  they decided to teach him driving, so that he could pursue a vocation in case he was interested.  Mari took to driving like the duck to water and became the favourite driver in the family.  They even found a girl from a decent family from their native place and got him married.  He was settled in a small LIG flat, which they bought for him so that he could lead an independent family life.

When everything seemed to be getting along well, Mari realized that the next generation in his employer’s family was not treating him well.  He was getting into frequent trouble with the son who had taken over from his father  and  was steering the business.

Unable to swallow the frequent insults, one fine morning, he quit his job and decided to try his luck elsewhere. He  joined my good friend Gopal as a company driver.  Within the next two years, when Gopal got transferred to another city, he strongly recommended Mari to me, as he was a good, hardworking and honest man.   Since I was looking for a reliable driver, I readily agreed to take him least realizing that it was going to be a life long tryst with Mari and his family.


It was almost six years  that Mari had been with us. He was not only sincere in his job but was extremely loyal to the family. He would go beyond the call of duty to give a helping hand to any member of the family. A friendly and a very loyal soul, he knew all my relatives and would be respectful to anyone who visited us. Just as he was fond of our family, especially my aged mother, we also began to treat him like a member of our family.

On his pay day, after visiting a temple near our house, he would invariably visit us seeking blessings my old mother  before taking his  pay pocket home.

Obviously, my mother’s blessings worked.  One morning, when I was comparatively free, he came into my office room, standing and scratching  his head.  I realized that he had, as usual, come to make some request.

“What is it Mari? What do you want?”

He hesitated before saying, “I am leaving your job Sir, because I have got a very good job in Saudi Arabia, Sir”

I was jolted by the news.  When the whole family was happy that we had at last got a good driver, he was going to leave us.

“But Mari, I thought I am giving you a good salary.  You have also become a part of our family.  Why do you want to leave?  You want more salary. I will give you”

“No Sir, I am very happy with you but the salary I am being offered in Saudi Arabia is very, very  good sir.  With that kind of salary,   I can save a lot and give my two sons good education, Sir”.

I tried another tactic to retain him. “You will be leaving behind your very young sons, when they would be needing their father most”

“No problem Sir, I have been promised a two months paid holiday every two years by my employer ”

Since Mari  seemed  to have made up his mind, I had no choice but to relieve him.  He came home with his whole family to receive blessings from my mother before he left the shores of India, seeking a fortune in Saudi Arabia.

I thought  that it was the end of our relationship with Mari but  it was not to be.


Mari continued to be in touch with us.  Every new year, he would send a greeting card to my family, with a special message for my mother, whom he adored and respected!  Every two years  when he visited India on a holiday, he would not forget to bring some gifts for my children.  Before he went back to Saudi he will visit us with his whole family and seek my mother’s blessings!  His  love and loyalty to our family was unbelievable!

During the fourteen years, he was in Saudi, he not only managed to send his two sons to a good school, but also saved sufficient money and wisely invested in real estate both in his native place and Chennai, where his family was living.

Every two years when he visited us we could see his growing prosperity reflected in his growing tummy. He  was putting on weight and was having blood pressure problem.  He was acquiring not only wealth but also health problems  that the rich usually get.  When I warned him to take care of his health, he would smile and say that he was trying hard.

During his seventh trip to India, after 14 years in Saudi Arabia, he had a massive heart attack and was admitted to the hospital.  He had to undergo a By-pass surgery to get rid of the four blocks in his heart.  He was only 46.  Under pressure from his family, he decided to quit his job in Saudi and  stay back in Chennai.  That is when he realized that he had a problem, in re-establishing his authority over his family.

                                                                    * * * * *

Six months after his return to India and after fully recovering from his health problem, Mari visited me. 

“Sir, I have decided to work again as a driver. I will  look for a job elsewhere, only if you do not want me”. 

Though I was happy to hear the news, I was hesitant,“ But Mari, I cannot afford the kind of salary you are used to”

“I  will accept whatever salary you  offer me ,sir”.  Obviously he was talking based on the strength of the  adequate savings in his bank account.

Since it was not easy to find sincere, honest and extremely loyal people like Mari, I promptly hired him and the whole family was delighted.  Soon I realized that I was not only his employer but also a consultant in sorting out his family issues, which he encountered frequently. 

                                                                   * * * * *

One Sunday morning when he visited us in our home I knew that he had come with a problem. 

“What Mari?  Everything   alright at home?”

“That is what I came to talk to you about, Sir”

“What is it Mari?”

“Sir,  while my second boy is good and obedient my elder son is giving me a lot of problems.  He doesn’t listen to me, does not study well and is constantly spending time  with his friends who are known bad boys”

“Have you tried to talk to him, Mari?  Find out what is bothering him”

“I will blame my wife, sir. In my absence  she has thoroughly spoiled him by indulging him too much.  I also have  frequent quarrels  with my wife because of this.  Life has become hell, Sir.  I feel like going back to Saudi,  Sir”

I was jolted out of my casualness. I did not want to lose Mari, again.

“Ok,  Mari, why don’t you bring your son one day.  Let me talk to him and find out what is bothering him”

“I don’t know if he will listen to me Sir, but I will try”

The following Sunday, Mari’s wife visited us with their elder son.  While the wife got busy talking to my mother, I tried to understand the son’s problem by talking to him at his level.

 I realized that the son was resenting his father’s bullying nature. He did not like the idea of sharing his mother`s love, which he  was enjoying exclusively, with his father.  I felt a streak of jealousy in him towards his father. While he respected his father, he had a problem accepting him on the same terms   as his mother, who was always kind and understanding.

I tried to tell the son how his father had spent fourteen of his youthful years, away from the family only to save money to give him and his brother a better life.  The son listened to me, without any expression Mother and son soon left.  Obviously, I had not made much impact on the son, as I continued  to hear complaints about him from Mari.

                                                 * * * * *

Years rolled on.  While the younger son had a smooth sailing   through his education and got a decent job after graduation, the elder son continued to give nightmares to his parents.  However, with Mari’s relentless persistence the elder boy also got a degree, after a couple of failed attempts.  He continued with his waywardness and was unable get a job. Even if his father managed to get him a job through his contacts,  he would quit the job at the slightest provocation from any of his colleagues. Mari continued to blame his wife and his son’s bad friends for the state of affairs.  While I did not know how to help with Mari’s problem, the news he gave me one day, shocked me!

“Sir, I have decided to get my elder son married”

“What? He does not even have a job.  How can you get him married?”

“No sir, I have come to the conclusion that only if we tie his legs with a responsibility he will change his behavior.”

Mari was talking based on his native intelligence.

I tried my best to argue and tell Mari that he is likely to ruin a girl’s life if his son continued to behave badly even after marriage.  But Mari was adamant and went ahead and located an educated and pretty girl from a distant relative’s family.  My wife and I even attended the marriage at Salem performed in a grand style, befitting  Mari’s improved status  in his society.  Having blessed the couple, my wife and I returned from the wedding praying god that Mari’s prophesy for his son’s future,  comes true.

* * * * *

Almost a year passed without any complaints from Mari.  One day  I  asked him how his son was behaving after marriage.

“First two months, he continued to behave badly Sir,  But thanks to my daughter-in-law’s persuasion he has now  got a permanent job.  I think he is doing well in his job.  Since he keeps himself busy with his job and his wife, I have less problems  dealing with him,  sir.

I was truly amazed.  A decision that Mari took based on his rustic common sense was working better for him than the advise I was trying to give him to sort out his problems.

Obviously, the son found a life partner who belonged exclusively to him as against his loving mother whom he had to share with his father.  I think that made all the difference to the attitude  of his son to life in general and family in particular.

Soon, the son and daughter-in-law gave the greatest  promotion in life to Mari and his wife.  They became grand parents as they were blessed with a beautiful grand daughter.

I thought Mari must be a very happy man now, what with a grand child to play with and watching the son grow  into a responsible human being, with a loving wife and child.  It was not to be. Mari  began to complain again about his son for different reasons.

* * * * *

“Sir, I have decided to retire from my job and settle down in our native place”

“Why, what happened Mari?” I was worried about looking for a new driver.

“No sir, these days  my son only listens to his wife and does not care for our feelings”

“You should be happy that your daughter-in-law helped your son change from an irresponsible  young man to a responsible husband and father”

“That is alright sir.  But we have to keep our self respect, too.  When he does not care for our feelings, we cannot stay with him in the same house”

He started mentioning several instances where Mari`s views on issues were ignored and the son decided to act only as per his wife’s wishes. I realized it was a problem of Mari`s ego.

“But Mari you will miss the grand daughter.  You love her  so much”

“Yes sir, but we  will keep coming to Chennai whenever we feel like it.  My grand daughter can also spend her holidays  with us in Salem.”

Mari, had made up his mind, again. I wondered why people are never satisfied with what they have and are always clamouring for what they don`t get.

* * * * *

A couple of month later Mari left for Salem, where he already had a house which he had rented out. He got re-integrated with his extended family in Salem.  Having fulfilled all his responsibilities in life, he is now busy travelling across the country,   going on pilgrimages with his family groups and generally having a good time.

I am very  happy for Mari,  because he has realized most of his dreams in life by sheer perseverance and hard work.  My family will, ofcourse,  miss him.  Because it is very  difficult to get such fiercely loyal souls these days.

Rooma ( short story)

Nithya returned from office late that evening.  It was a hectic day.  Apart from attending a couple of internal meetings she also had to meet the deadline for sending a proposal to a prospective client.  A highly respected senior manager in her office, she had decided to remain single to pursue a career with single minded devotion.  As she was very tired, after a quick dinner, she retired to her bed and soon was fast asleep.

She opened her eyes to see who was shaking her shoulder.  She was surprised to see the smiling face of her dearest friend Rooma, staring at her.  She sat up on the bed and asked, “Rooma, when did you come?” 

“Nithya, I have come to say good bye to you.  I am leaving”.

“Leaving for where?  How did you come in?  I did not hear the door bell ringing”.

Before Rooma could reply, the mobile started ringing; Nithya woke up with a start.

Obviously Rooma had come in her dreams.  She picked up the mobile.  It was the voice of Suresh, Rooma’s live- in partner.

“Hi Nithya, this is Suresh. I am sorry to tell you that Rooma committed suicide an hour ago”

“Why?? What happened?  How did she die?”

“We came back from office around 7.00 pm.  She was looking very depressed.  I went out to buy some medicines for her.  I was delayed as I met an old friend at the Pharmacy and we got talking.  When I returned around 10.00 pm, I found her dead on the bed. 

“Oh my God! She just came in my dream, and she said she was leaving.  Obviously her spirit had come to say good bye to me”

 Nithya broke down on the phone, but managed to inform Suresh that she was on her way to his house.

Rooma and Nithya were classmates from school.  While Nithya came from a middle class family, Rooma’s father was a senior manager at a Multinational company who could afford to live a life of luxury because of the perquisites that came with his job.  Rooma’s mother was also employed with a Public Relations firm, which meant, Rooma, the only child of the couple was left in the hands of a live-in maid, an old woman, who took good care of her.  Yet that could not substitute for the time Rooma expected her parents to spend with her.  They were busy attending office during the day and parties in the evening, and most of the days she saw them only at the breakfast table.  She grew up as a lonely child, reclusive and prone to frequent outbursts of anger.

Her only dear friend in school was Nithya in whom she confided all her problems.  They continued their friendship through college and later kept in touch with each other while pursuing their respective careers.

While she was still in college, Rooma’s parents had a big fight over her father’s infidelity and decided to separate, leaving Rooma to decide who to stay with. It had been an emotionally trying time for her and she suffered the pains and heartaches that children from broken homes go through,  having decided to stay with her mother.

All her pent up emotions would later find an outlet through her poems which got published in a few magazines – indicating a flair for creativity in her.  So after doing a course in creative writing, she joined an advertising agency as a copy trainee.  It is in this advertising agency that she met Suresh, an Account Executive with a bright future.

Suresh took an instant liking for Rooma and they would go out on dates whenever they were free.  Rooma felt that she was experiencing the true meaning of love for the first time!  She was sure that Suresh was also reciprocating her love.

One evening, over a cozy dinner that they were having at a restaurant to celebrate Suresh’s promotion, Suresh proposed to her.

“Rooma will you marry me?”

Though she was expecting this from Suresh, she did not think it will happen so soon.  Instead of a positive response from her, when Suresh saw that she was hesitating to respond, he asked,

“What is the problem Rooma?  Won`t you marry me?”

Rooma was silent with a down cast eyes!  The flashback of her parents’ life passed through her mind.  She was not sure if she could face a turbulent marriage and dreaded that something would go wrong. Most certainly she was not interested in bringing a child into this world. She gathered the courage to tell Suresh what was going on in her mind!

Suresh who knew her background decided to drop the subject for the time being!

After several failed attempts at reopening the topic, Suresh one day asked her;

“How long will we go on like this Rooma?  I want to marry you and set up a home, where we can live together.  You know that as part of my recent promotion, I have got a company flat allotted to me.  So place is no problem.”

Rooma could not get out of her aversion towards marriage and children.  After some thought she responded;

“Suresh, I also want to live with you and set up a nice home, but…but, don’t insist on marriage and children.”

After some discussion, it was decided that Rooma would move into Suresh’s flat on an auspicious day.  Though her mother was against the idea, Rooma was adamant about her decision.  When everything seemed to be going well for Rooma and Suresh…it happened.


After separating from her mother, her father had re-married, to his ex-secretary.  Rooma was very upset with her father for what he had done to her mother and so she refused to respond to her father’s efforts to keep in touch with her.

Within two years into her live-in arrangement with Suresh, a serious health problem confronted her mother.  They found out that she was suffering from cervical cancer.  As metastasis had already set in, doctors told Rooma that her mother would not live long.  Rooma was shattered!  Apart from a job and managing a house she took on the additional responsibility of care-giving her mother.  The frequent visits to the hospital and taking care of her mother`s ever growing needs, put a tremendous stress on her.  Suresh helped to the best of his ability.  When she was trying hard to cope with all the stress, she was in for another shock.

In spite of the precautions she and Suresh had taken, Rooma realized that she had missed her period.  Her gynecologist told her that she was pregnant, which came as a bolt from the blue for Rooma.

Suresh felt it was god’s wish and he told Rooma that they should now get married to give legitimacy to the yet to be born child.  Her ailing mother was also happy for Rooma and advised her to go through the pregnancy. But Rooma was adamant about not bringing a child into this world.

The repeated arguments with Suresh only added to her stress.  In the meanwhile, her mother passed away leaving a big vacuum in Rooma’s life. Rooma went into a deep depression. She only needed an excuse to take her own life.


When Nithya reached Rooma’s house, she saw Suresh, sitting next to Rooma’s body, totally shattered.  He had one hand on his forehead while the other hand was holding a piece of paper.  When Suresh saw Nithya, he handed over the paper to her.  It was the suicide note…

“Dear Suresh,

I am guilty of prying on your mobile. When your mobile, which you had left behind by mistake rang, I picked it up to find Geetha from your office on the other end.  I know that she has been lending her shoulders to you to cry and you have been finding some solace in her company.  I could not resist the temptation to see some SMS messages that she had sent you too.

Obviously, she is deeply in love with you.  I have decided to take my life so that not only I am free from the hell that life has become for me but also give you a chance to marry Geetha and have children and lead a normal life. I am sorry that I have been a difficult companion in your life.

I take full responsibility for the decision to end my life!


Nithya stood transfixed.  When she turned to look at Suresh, she felt a wave of sympathy for him.

Suresh who was deeply in love with Rooma, who would not have done anything wrong to hurt Rooma, saw that understanding look, broke down and was inconsolable.

Marriages are made in heaven ( short story)

It was a Sunday morning.  Two weeks after the demise of Shantha the dear wife of Raman, due to cancer the much dreaded disease.  A few friends and relatives were still dropping in to offer their condolences.  Sunder and his wife Mala had come all the way from Madurai to be with him to share his grief.

“Shantha Mami was very special to us.  We cannot forget that she was the person who found the alliance for our daughter.  If my daughter is leading a happy life in USA with her husband and two children, we owe a debt to Shantha Mami” said Sunder.

“Such a simple and unassuming person she was.  So talented yet so humble, I always had a great admiration for Shantha Mami” added Mala.

“We have so many close relatives in Chennai but visiting your home has been always special to us because of your wonderful hospitality”, Sunder continued to heap praises.

As they were talking, Raman’s mind travelled back fifteen years, to recall the days preceding the marriage of Sunder and Mala’s daughter Meera to his nephew Raju.
                                                X x x x x x x x x x x

Raman’s sister Chitra was almost in tears when he visited their house that Sunday. She had just finished talking to her only son Raju on a long distance call to USA and looked very disturbed.

“Raju is becoming impossible, Anna.  He is nearing 30 and is not agreeing to marry anyone we suggest”

“Did you ask him if he is in love with anyone in USA?  As long as the girl is a Hindu we can look at his choice of a life partner”

“I even asked him that.  He is denying involvement with any girl in USA.  Today when I talked to him about a good alliance from Chennai, he was angry with me.  He only wants a girl from Mumbai.  According to him girls from Chennai would be backward.  Every time I have a talk with him about his marriage, we end up fighting and I end up crying.  I don’t know what to do?  Will we ever find a good wife for Raju?”

“Don’t worry Chitra.  I am sure that there is a girl in this world who is destined to marry him.  Whenever God decides that the time has come, I am sure we will find her, as they say marriages are made in heaven”

Raman did not realise that within two months of his talk with his sister, God would open a window of opportunity in the form of a girl from a village near Madurai.

* * * * *

Raman, with his wife Shantha and his sister Chitra and brother- in- law were visiting Madurai to attend a wedding in the family.  They were put up in a hotel.  During their conversation, they realised that the family of Meera, with a Masters degree in Computer Science, whose horoscope Shantha had got through one of her close friend, were living in a village on the outskirts of Madurai.  According to the astrologer, Meera and Raju’s horoscope had all the ten poruthams and if they married, they would live happily ever after.

Though Raman knew that Raju,  as a boy born and brought up in Bombay and now settled on U.S.A., did not prefer any girls beyond the Vindhyas, the family decided to give a call to the prospective Sambandhi to meet them at the hotel.  During the informal chat Sunder and Mala, parents of Meera told them that though their daughter was born in a village and did her initial schooling in the village, she had completed her schooling from a boarding school in Kodaikanal and done her graduation from a college in Chennai.

When they informed that Meera was actually working in a software company nearby Raman suggested that they call her to the hotel so that Raju’s parents have an opportunity to meet and talk with the girl.  Fortunately Meera agreed to their telephonic request and presented herself at the hotel room within fifteen minutes.

When she knocked to announce her arrival, it was Raman who opened the door.  He was more than stunned to see a charming girl full of poise and grace standing before him.  After she took her seat and they started talking to her, everyone found her not only intelligent but very articulate in English and Tamil.  Raman and his family realised that they had at last found a perfect match for Raju.  But the question was who will tell him and convince him that a girl from a village near Madurai would be the answer for his long quest for a perfect life partner.  Raman’s creative brain quickly hatched a plan to solve the problem.

* * * * *

After Meera excused herself from the hotel room as she had taken permission from her boss only for an hour, Raman decided to initiate the first step in his plan.

He told Meera’s parents that the 60th Birthday of his brother-in-law was planned to be celebrated two months later in Chennai and Raju as the only son will be there to participate in the event.  During his brief four week stay in Chennai, they had planned to get him married.

Raman told them, “We will be happy if your family along with  Meera attend the function as our special guests.  I have a gut feeling, which I am sure is shared by my family members here, that Meera will be a perfect match for Raju. If an informal opportunity is presented to him to have a talk with Meera I am sure   both will like each other”.

Though reluctant initially Meera’s parents agreed to consider the request after consulting their daughter and await the formal invitation to take the final call.

* * * * *

Two months flew in a jiffy.  The day of the event saw hectic activities at the venue with a number of friends and relatives gracing the occasion.  Raman was on tenter-hooks.  Though he had sent the invitation to Meera’s parents, there was no response from them.  Raju, who was busy on the stage, participating in the religious ceremonies warranted by the occasion, was not even informed about their visit.

It was closer to the Muhurtham time.  Raman’s eyes were drifting between the entrance and the stage with anxiety writ large on his face.  Will they come or will they not?  Suddenly, his face brightened when he saw Meera’s family making a hesitant entry into the venue.  He rushed to the entrance and welcomed them with all the love and response they deserved and made them sit in the hall.  Now Raman’s mind was planning the next step in his plan.
                                                       X x x x x x x x x

During a break in the ceremonies, Raju who was a tall, fair and handsome young man,  whom any girl would like,  came down to mix with the audience.  As a part of his strategy Raman introduced Meera’s family as his good friends from Madurai.  Raju, obviously impressed with Meera`s looks, sat with them for an informal chat.

From the corner of his eyes Raman could find out the vibration passing between Meera and Raju.  Both seemed to be enjoying the brief conversation they had, while the parents of both of them were looking tense and anxious.

Raju had to excuse himself suddenly, as he was called on the stage to participate in further ceremonies.  From the stage, Raju  showed signs to his uncle that he wanted to have a word with him.  Raman realised that he had passed the first step in his plan.  With a spring on his feet he rushed to the stage and lent his ears to Raju, who whispered, “Mama, I want to meet that girl Meera again.  Will you ensure that they don’t go away?”

When Raman realised that he now had an upper hand he answered, “Let me see, I will find out if Meera also wants to meet you”. 

His mischievous smile revealed to both parents, who were watching Raman anxiously, that the plan was proceeding on the right lines.

* * * * *

After the ceremonies, when the guests were busy taking their turns to have lunch, the family found Raju busy talking to Meera, sitting in one corner of the hall.  The animated discussions and the frequent bursts of laughter between them indicated that the pair was getting along fine, like  `house on fire` as they say.

After lunch when Meera’s family was taking leave, Raju requested for a date with Meera in the evening to have further chat with her.  Meera’s parents reluctantly agreed to the request because it meant postponement of their trip back to Madurai. It fell on Raman’s shoulders to drop Meera and Raju at a restaurant so that they could get to know each other better with instructions that Raju would drop Meera back at her host`s place.

* * * * *
Things then moved very fast.  Raju and Meera met a couple of more times, with Raju delaying his decision, causing a lot of anxiety to both parents. Finally when Raju brought Meera to his house and told his parents “Appa – Amma, meet your future daughter-in-law”, they heaved a big sigh of relief.  When the following day Meera’s parents came with their relatives to exchange Thamboolam and fix the date for a hurried wedding to be conducted within two weeks, there was joy all around.

After the marriage function was over Meera and Raju did not forget to take special blessings from Raman and Shantha for making their marriage happen.  Shantha even received a special Kancheepuram saree as a token of thanks for getting the horoscope of Meera from her friend.

                                                 * * * * *
With God’s grace and elder’s blessings Raju and Meera got along very well and in due course were proud parents of two lovely kids.

During one of his trips to Raju’s home in USA, Raman asked him “What Raju? You had refused to even look at any alliance beyond Mumbai.  How is your marriage with a girl from a village going?”

“Come on Mama!  That is an old story.  Today Meera is really the better half in my life” said Raju with a sheepish grin.

                                                 X  x  x  x   x  x

Ringing of the doorbell announcing the arrival of another friend to offer his condolences brought Raman back from old memories.  Taking the cue Sunder and Mala took leave from Raman, inviting him to Madurai to spend some days with them.