A Story Told Of A Story Not Told

I had timed it. The walk from Royapettah (near Anna DMK office) to the end of Radhakrishnan Salai on the Marina Beach took an hour up and down. At a pace allowed by a pair of sticky eyeballs and an asthma playing up now and again.

The morning traffic on the Salai was light. Not many pedestrians either. I took to the small strip about 2 to 3 feet wide available between the side-walk and the outermost road-lane. While it offered a level surface – the side-walks are all ups and downs – and a free stretch save an occasional parked vehicle at this hour, one had to, however, constantly look out for not-so-uncommon rogue two-wheelers speeding down from the front on the same stretch.

This day I made it to the Beach and was returning when I saw him, a rag-picker, some ten feet ahead of me carrying a not-so-heavy sack thrown over his shoulders.

Even at my pace, I was able to catch up with him in a minute or two. In fact I went a couple of steps past him and then turning around I saw him. I judged him to be in early forties, but life had messed him up to look older. He was mussed up hair, unshaven and uneven stubble, high cheek-bones, a shirt that had more grime than fabric with the top buttons open or absent showing a chest just about covering the rib-cage. No chappals (foot-wear) and a lungi doubling up at the knees and wrapped around at the waist as southerners are seen to do. A full-body bath must have been weeks or months ago. He was sure-footed in his walk, his alert eyes looking all around for paper, boards, plastics that our honourable fellow-citizens deposited on the side-walks, road, anywhere.

The neural network in my head hummed and cleared him as safe. Had to be careful for a good reason: On the same stretch an year ago one morning in my walk I saw a destitute and unsound woman sitting on the side-walk and looking lost. Thinking money meant nothing to her, bought some idli’s and vada’s from a street-vendor. When I went near and offered her,she turned squarely to me and let out a loud stream of abuses, not all intelligible. I was both scared she might turn violent and embarrassed at the attention I was drawing from passers-by. Totally unprepared for the situation, quickly withdrew myself, feeling both sorry for her and helpless.  

Presently I slowed down, waited for him to pull up alongside and tapped on his shoulder. He was startled, perhaps unaccustomed to be accosted in this manner.

Still a little unsure of how he would react, took out a tenner and said: ‘Keep this, it’s for you.’

His gritty face slowly gave way to a smile. He set his sack down, took the rupee-note from me and folded his hands.

I could feel my sugar going down with no biscuits or toffees on hand. With another fifteen minutes to reach the base, decided to move on and not engage him in a talk as is my wont. Just then, noticed something I had not seen before. My friend of the morning had a black string tied in several strands on one of his legs just above the ankle. Already on the move, asked him what it was.

I heard him tell me, it was to ward off evil eyes!! Like the raksha we wear on our wrists.

As said I did not have the energy to pause and ask. Unfortunate, but, yes, missed drawing out a story lurking there – so the mystery endures till date who did he think was envying his lot! And why did he tie the raksha around the leg and not on the wrist as customary.   

End

PS: 1. Subsequently I did find at a least couple more, not rag-pickers, wearing it on their legs. May be it’s a practice followed in certain communities 2. The image is from The Hindu. For some reason, I did not feel comfortable about taking a snap of him.

Friendly Neighborhood

A story from by gomathiji lightly edited.

**

It was a Sunday morning and so everyone got up late, took the phone and indulged in a bit of idle talk or came out to watch the traffic lazily; and this Sunday started with a promise – a promise of some fresh fat to chew on.

It was Sumit who first saw Prakash bringing two large suitcases and placing them in the boot of his car. His wife Sarala joined him now in the balcony, watching. Prakash got into the driver’s seat and waited. His father walked out with his customary tripod and then his mother. They got into the car. The noise of the car door brought out some of the others. Prakash’s wife did not come out. Where were the three going out?

Some in the colony especially the elderly were watching from behind curtained windows and some others had opened their doors and stood at the doorway on the pretext of trying to get some fresh air.

Here’s where they relied on the mastery of Kailesh. He was everyone’s man Friday in that colony, paying their electricity bills, delivering milk sachets at their doorsteps, buying vegetables for them, lending a hand in rolling out roti’s…On Sundays too he worked overtime running errands for them.

So it was not a surprise that he knew considerable details in the family matters of everyone there.

Kailesh had just then come from the market; he pulled the cycle’s stand with his leg, simultaneously got down and climbed the fourth floor bounding up two steps at a time. He found the inmates of the house for whom he had brought milk sachets, dekho’ing from their balcony.

“Kailesh! Where are they going?” asked Sarala.

“Mmm… not sure. In fact I don’t know” Kailesh said.

Sarala and Sumit looked at him incredulously, “Really! We thought you would have known. Yesterday you had been there to take a huge number of their clothes to the drycleaners, hadn’t you?”

Kailesh: ”Yes, I don’t know if Prakash saab’s phone call has something to do with this. While I was collecting and counting the clothes, he asked someone for the address of a home – a home for the aged, you see.”

“Oh

“Prakash saab’s father, when I was leaving, was muttering that Punitha was making a too much of a fuss for nothing,” he added.

It was a while before the car had started moving as Prakash had to help the old couple get in.

By now Parbathi, the house help working in most of the homes there, had arrived and she could supply them a few missing pieces in the puzzle. She enlightened the assembly with: Prakash’s wife Punitha’s parents were arriving that evening.

So it was obvious that Prakash was taking them to the most probable place, as Prakash was their only son, a home for the aged.

“And to think, only a few weeks back Punitha advised us all to care for the elders of our household well,” observed Sarala.

By now, Rita and Kumar had joined. Their flat did not have a view of the front.

Rita remarked, ”Punitha has always been reserved and secretive. I knew something would happen like this.”

Kailesh ventured, ”Punitha didi is the only daughter for her parents. So where will her parents go?”

Kumar retorted, ”That does not mean Prakash has to send his parents to a home!”

“Kailesh, do you remember the name of the place Prakash was mentioning?” Sumit asked.

Kailesh, his forehead creased with an effort to remember. “Something like anda – dhal

Anda – dhal? What in the world was that?” they wondered.

All of a sudden it struck Kumar – a friend of his had been on the lookout for a home, to deposit his own parents.

Amanda Dale! That’s it. But it is well out of the city limits!” He exclaimed

It was the prime story of the day to cook, spice, chew, swallow and spit for the colony.

Evening came and a taxi pulled up in front of Prakash’s house. A middle aged couple alighted welcomed and hugged by a beaming Punitha, witnessed by many pairs of eyes.

Almost at once they heard another car. They could guess whose it was. They were right. Prakash was getting down andWhy? His parents were also getting down slowly. Punitha’s parents walked out to greet them. Then they all went inside the house, laughing.

Such a let-down it was. A drama that was not to be. Some even shook their heads in disapproval behind curtained windows.

Yet, soon afterwards, many of them happily received a word from Punitha and Prakash telling them not to cook for the night as a sumptuous packed dinner was on the way!

It was in celebration of his Pitaji’s eightieth birthday! And that they had been to the home for the aged earlier in the day to distribute clothes and sweets – Punitha could not go with them as her parents were to arrive.

So the neighborhood went to bed that night looking forward to another interesting day ahead – with so many families residing how could it be otherwise!

**

End

Source: Images from architexturez.net

How Did We Miss Seeing It Until…?

End

A Problem Child – Flash Fiction

My constant look-out for good FF posts led me to this, yesterday. Clever though fiendishly evil. Read till the end:

Source:  horrorinpureform

I hate it when my brother Charlie has to go away.

My parents constantly try to explain to me how sick he is. That I am lucky for having a brain where all the chemicals flow properly to their destinations like undammed rivers. When I complain about how bored I am without a little brother to play with, they try to make me feel bad by pointing out that his boredom likely far surpasses mine, considering his confine to a dark room in an institution.

I always beg for them to give him one last chance. Of course, they did at first. Charlie has been back home several times, each shorter in duration than the last. Every time without fail, it all starts again. The neighbourhood cats with gouged out eyes showing up in his toy chest, my dad’s razors found dropped on the baby slide in the park across the street, mom’s vitamins replaced by bits of dishwasher tablets.

My parents are hesitant now, using “last chances” sparingly. They say his disorder makes him charming, makes it easy for him to fake normalcy, and to trick the doctors who care for him into thinking he is ready for rehabilitation. That I will just have to put up with my boredom if it means staying safe from him.

I hate it when Charlie has to go away. It makes me have to pretend to be good until he is back.

End

From Reddit

The Sparrow Knew – A Parable

Once in a village there was this farmer tilling his land from dawn to dusk.

His hard work was amply rewarded as the crops thrived and in time, laden with grains, ready for harvesting.

In the middle of the field a sparrow had built its nest. And by now with its brood of two little chicks.

One day when their mother was away, the little sparrows overheard the farmer telling his son: ‘We’ll begin the harvest from tomorrow early morning. I’ve called in our neighbours.’

When the mother returned in the evening, the alarmed chicks related the conversation and said they should move right away.

The mother becalmed the chicks: ‘Yes, we must move, but not yet, there’s time, I assure you.’

Next day morning,

Like the mother sparrow said the harvest did not begin.

During the day, once again, the little sparrows overheard the farmer telling his son: ‘Son, get ready, we’ll commence harvesting from tomorrow early morning. Our relatives have promised to help.’

In the evening when the mother heard from its chicks, she was unperturbed. ‘Not yet,’ she said.

The following morning,

There was no move to towards beginning the harvesting.

On this day, the farmer told his son: ‘Tomorrow, keep yourself free and ready. You and I – we’ll do it ourselves.’

In the evening, the mother and her chicks flew away to find a new home.

End

Source: moral stories and image from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Paws)

When The Gold Went On A Trip – A Children’s Story

Part 1

In a village off Ujjain, there lived a merchant Sukhdev. He had a shop in the town selling fabric and garments. He did brisk business and built up his wealth over the years.

Presently, a spate of robberies took place in his and neighbouring villages targeting the community of merchants and traders. When the King’s soldiers were brought in, the robbers would lie low; and resume their nefarious activities once the soldiers withdrew.

It made Sukhdev nervous; he knew for sure sooner or later he would be visited too.  A mitigating factor in his favour was: being a miser by nature, his Spartan household and life-style gave no hint of his affluence or the gold he had hoarded.  Nevertheless he decided to act.

One day, his son and he loaded the casks with his gold on a couple of donkeys, threw some clothes over to make it appear he was taking merchandise to the market. They marched off to a jungle just beyond the village. Keeping their eyes peeled for any observer or follower, they reached an abandoned temple inside the jungle, a place no one ventured to. Holes were dug in the ground with the help of the tools they carried. Carefully, without making noise, they carried the casks and lowered them one by one into the hole. Half-way through the job, the son paused.

‘Father, I think there’s someone out there. Let me go and look,’ he said, pointing to a thicket at some distance.

‘Take these with you, there could be some wild creatures,’ the father gave him some small tools.

After a while the son returned: ‘Just as I suspected, there’s a man lying there. Looks to be a beggar. Not to worry, he’s dead. Probably starved without food. Just to be sure, I nicked his ear. No sound or motion, dead as stone.’

They moved more casks.

This time it was the father: ‘Let me also go and check. It’s better to be doubly certain – this is my life-savings.’

He too returned in a few minutes, ‘You’re right, Son, the poor guy is gone. Like you did, just to be sure, I nicked his other ear. He won’t be needing them anymore.’

They finished their job, all the casks lowered into the hole. The hole was filled back with the dug-out earth, the surface flattened, dead leaves spread over, all to leave no signs of the spot having been dug up.

That night and the following, they slept peacefully.

Part 2

The man was not dead yet. A destitute who had hit the end of road and did not even have the energy to carry out what he contemplated – suicide. Starving for several days, he had fainted near the bush.

The sharp pain on his ear-lobe woke him up to see someone attack him with a sharp tool. Fearing worse, he simply played dead biting the pain somehow.

His attacker withdrew to a spot ahead where an elderly man was burying in the ground some urns.

Ignoring the pain he watched the proceedings.

After a while he saw the elderly man heading in his direction.

Quickly he resumed his posture.

He felt being kicked a couple of times and then a sharp pain this time on his other ear.

With great difficulty, he once again played dead.

Luckily for him, the elderly man went back to the spot without inflicting anymore damage.

And in a short while he saw them both leave all the time looking around for any prying eyes.

He waited. They could come back looking for something they had forgotten.

Once the coast was clear, he mustered his last ounce of energy, not minding the throbbing pain, made it to the spot, clawed away the soil with bare hands to reveal close to the surface the lid of a cask.

He took the lid off and peered into the cask. Thrust his hand in and grabbed a fist full of coins in gold and silver. That would set him up nicely to begin with, he thought.

Part 3

Monsoon arrived with a bang in Ujjain and the surrounding villages. Torrential rain caused streams of water to wash away anything in their way.

Sukhdev was worried. It would be calamitous if the top soil was carried away and the casks were exposed.

At the first instance of the rains letting up he son and he went back to check if the casks were safe in their place.

To their shock they found the hole uncovered and the casks missing. They looked around for any clues and found none.

They returned home devastated.

His son gathered his wits and said: ‘Father, we’ll find him and recover our treasure.’

‘How? We don’t know who took it.’

‘Did you notice one thing – we never got any news at any time of a dead-body being found in these parts? Because he was not dead. He saw us burying the casks…took them away after we were gone. That’s him, the guy we saw.’

’‘Be it so, how do we find him? We know nothing about him.’

‘Nothing? Father, don’t forget we nicked his both ears.’

‘How do we still find him in the multitude? Do we go around entire Avanti looking at people’s ears? You’re forgetting one more thing. Even if this guy walks right past us, we won’t figure out.’

‘Why so?’

‘Simple, because he is head would be encased in a turban. Notched ears are no badge of heroism to flaunt about.’

The old man had a point…in fact, several points, the son thought.

Part 4

Days, months passed. The son was no nearer to figuring out a way.

Two years later,

It was a Sunday. It was a once-a-month ritual: The old man was sitting there in the back-yard getting his hair cut by a barber. To be followed by an oil bath.

The man was not his usual self looking woebegone.

Sensing it, the barber tried to perk him up by engaging him in small talk and some village gossip: ‘I shouldn’t be saying this…but you know your neighbour’s son is losing hair at his young age…’

Suddenly an ‘Ah’ moment. Who would know but the personal barber?

He checked if the barbers networked among their kind.

They did, it turned out, directly or indirectly.

That’s it – he tasked the barber to find out through his network, for a handsome fee, the whereabouts of a man in thirties, possibly quite rich, with both his ears nicked.

Part 5

It was about one long month before they struck pay dirt.

On the far side of the city, he was spotted. His ex-barber whom he had dismissed recently spilled the beans. The man was a top jeweller in the city claiming several royal families among his clients.

The father and son rushed to meet the dismissed barber. They assured themselves the jeweller was indeed their man. It was easy to find out where he lived. It was a huge mansion guarded like a fortress by armed staff.  All their attempts to gain an entry or even get a message through to him failed.

They thought enough about the options and decided to approach the King. Though the King himself could be one of the clients for the jeweller.

The King holding a public court was easier to reach; he heard them out and summoned the jeweller to appear before him.

When he arrived, the father and son recognized him despite his opulence. But he could not; for, he had only seen them from a distance and when they stood close on that occasion his eyes were shut playing dead.

The King briefed him on why he was summoned to the court.

The jeweller looked at the complainants for a few moments. And then he readily admitted:

‘Yes, I did take those casks away from where you had buried. I used part of the gold in one of the casks as capital to start and build my business in gems and jewels. And whatever I’m today, it is the fruit of my labour. The remaining stuff, in fact, remains in a safe room even today untouched. Was planning to…’

The father and son breathed a sigh of relief. At least good part of their hoard still remained intact.

The jeweller further offered: ‘…it is okay by me for you to cart away your stuff anytime you wish as long as I’m adequately compensated for what you did to me.’

The son countered: ‘What you took from one of our casks – wasn’t that already an adequate compensation? We thought you were dead – why didn’t you scream when you were hurt?’

’I feared for my life. You were two, ready with tools and here I was sprawled on the ground…’

The wrangle was cut short by the King.

‘Listen, folks, here’s what I think,’ the King turned to the jeweller: ‘Thankfully you admitted to it without any run-around. Knowing you to be an upright person of ethical practices, I want to be fair to you. There’s a choice for you: Either you similarly nick the ears of these two and return all the casks, making good what you took from them or simply let them go with their casks as they are now.’  

The jeweller thought for a moment like a businessman he was. Was notching the two worth the gold he had taken? He decided against and opted to return the casks as-was.

When they received the casks, the father and son checked: five carried their original seals.  The sixth with its seal opened…

…too was full to its brim.

It was his ‘Thank You’ for starting him off to a meteoric success.

End

Source: Inspired by a story in Chandamama (1955), Images from Saddle Ridge Hoard discoverers via Kagin’s, Inc. and shutterstock.com

Finally, The ‘Why’ Is Answered!!!

A question tormenting the human race for ages is finally laid to rest:

End

vide Matthew Kroeger‎ to Non-political Beyond the Far Side group