This Too Shall Pass (Short Story)

Based on a mushy story in Tamizh making rounds in WhatsApp, running its course quite predictably, here’s my effort, muddying up the waters a wee bit along the way:

Oratechsolve old_people_India

‘Last month itself I had warned you when you sent hundred rupees. Now this letter. This will not end here, I’m telling you again. Once it’s falling roof, this time it’s hospital charges…who knows your dear sister may be behind all this.’

She paused to regain her breath.

‘Don’t forget we have two children of our own growing up. There’s fees to pay once the school reopens, new uniforms…’

‘All right, all right. I’ll write to them. Will you please stop now?’

‘Please do that first thing…One thing you do well is to shut my mouth.’

Silence.

It became the lot of utensils in kitchen sink to bear the brunt.

Normalcy returned over next couple of days helped by the week-end outing with the children – it was the last before the close of summer vacation.

A week later, one evening when he returned from his office,

It was all quiet in the house. The children were heads-down into their books – quite unusual so early in their term. No usual greetings and hugs. He could see through the open door her feet on the bed.   It wasn’t time yet. At the end of a long day he was in no rush to find reasons for the calm. He peeled off his pants and shirt to wear a comfortable dhoti and banyan. There was no coffee on the table. So be it. As he looked around for morning newspaper before settling down in his easy-chair, his gaze fell up on an opened envelope sticking out from under a magazine on the table, quite unsuccessful in its attempt to be elsewhere aided by the draft of the ceiling fan.

As he picked it up, he knew it was his mother. It was always so ever since his father’s fingers had turned stiff some years ago. Schooled up to sixth grade before going off to her in-laws’ house, she could write though not tidily.

He sat on the straight-backed chair never designed to suffer its occupant for long, and read:

Dear Son,

We’re sorry and concerned to hear about the sickness of our dear grandson. The young lad still has a long way to go. Tell bahu (daughter-in-law) to give him lots of vegetables and fruits and milk…of course she knows.

Don’t spare any expense in getting him treated. Along with this letter there’s a check for five thousand rupees. Hope it helps. If you need more let us know.

Do not worry yourself, this money is legit. You know we had this small patch of land at the back of our house, the one we had willed to you? Luckily for us, we could sell it at short notice to be able to send you this check and keep some for treating your father. Our neighbor had his eyes on this land for long. He was good enough to pay all of ten thousand readily across the table.

Your father was very much against it. He doesn’t understand. You needed the money right now and we needed it too. He maintained it was worth many times more – it could even fetch as much as a couple of lakhs, if we wait a little longer. But, how could we? You sounded so helpless. Of course, he could be right – these days freehold land prices are suddenly shooting up unbelievably.  He says our neighbor unfairly knocked us down for a pittance knowing our urgency.  I had to press on him very hard to go ahead with the deal. Last couple of days, he isn’t even talking to me. Don’t worry, he’ll come around. I hope you too don’t think I’ve erred.

And don’t lose sleep over his health. Now we the money to pay the doctors.

Once again, take good care of the child. We’re sure you’ll. Do keep us informed. And tell us if you need more, we’ll manage.

Yours affly,

Amma.

The letter slipped gently onto the floor from where it took off to the far corner, greatly relieved, its job done.

Feeling like a loser, though he wasn’t sure what was it about, he got up to make some coffee for himself. He needed it.

He’ll come around.

 

End        

 

 

 

Image: oratechsolve.com

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Monks Tell No Lies

Time again to turn to the artist adept at ‘sewing coats give the mere buttons’ – no two alike – that leave you wondering at the cut and the fit and wanting more!

Here he walks you down a don’t-know-where-it’s-headed path until in a flash it’s all laid bare, only some 100+ words later!

Momus News

The Spaniards arrived at the temple first, looking for gold. New to Cambodia, their translations were incomplete. All the Spanish got from the monks was, “Beware the Nangalang.”

Fearless leader Diaz merely scoffed, “A monster?” He stepped inside the entrance, screamed, and disappeared. The remaining Spaniards fled, telling stories of the horrific monster guarding the temple. Rumors spread across Europe.

In the 1930s, fearless treasure hunter Idaho Johnson braved the temple. He disappeared in an instant.

During the Vietnam War, fearless war hero Colonel Davidson heard about the terrifying monster guarding gold. “Beware the Nangalang!” warned the monks. He ignored the “superstitious” natives…and screamed as he disappeared.

In the 90s, High Priest Dong-Hue introduced his son to the temple. At the entrance he said, “Beware the Nangalang!”

“Right, Dad,” said Quok, obviously fluent in the local language. “I’ll watch out for the hole in the stairs leading to a bottomless…

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A Known Story And A Hither-To Unknown Moral Or A Super-Dad!

The mother read from a picture book a story for her 6-year old at bed time, along the way explaining words that were new. The story – quite familiar to us from days we were knee-high or even before – goes like this:

A farmer in the village had four sons who always quarreled over one thing or the other. All attempts by the man to bring them together were to no avail.

sticks Four_Sons_Moral_story.png

The matter assumed greater urgency in view of the man’s failing health. He decided he would make one last try before leaving them to their fate.

He called them to his bed. When they had assembled he bade the eldest to bring some dry sticks and a piece of rope from the back of the house.

The sticks were tied together in a bundle. The eldest who was also the heaviest was asked by the farmer to break the bundle into two. He tried hard exerting himself to the limits, but he couldn’t.  His brothers too tried one by one and failed like he did. They gave the bundle back to the father, crest fallen.

Thereupon the farmer asked them to untie the bundle and gave them a stick each. This time they could break the sticks rather effortlessly, all of them.

sticks 2a

At this point the mother paused, as she always did in these story-telling sessions, put the book away to quiz the girl on parts of the story including questions like what-would-do-you-do-if-you-were, inevitably ending with what-is-the-moral-of-the-story.

The girl thought for a moment screwing up her eyes and then broke into a smile:

‘Mom, this is exactly what I do. If ever you’ve a difficult problem to solve, take it to your dad. He’ll find a way out.’

Just then dad walked in and seeing the mother holding her head in her hands, silent, searching for a response, inquired: ‘Why, what’s the problem?’

End

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PS: Based on a real experience at my daughter’s place.

Source: Images from kutties.in, kidsultimatezone.blogspot.com

Breaking a Habit – The Beggar on the Bridge

Storyteller's Campfire Blog

It was over my morning cup of coffee today that it occurred to me that as much as I like to think of myself as a spontaneous and free spirit, there are realms in which I am very much wedded to my habits. The coffee itself is a case in point. If there has been a day in the past decade that I didn’t begin the day with ‘the black water medicine’ I can’t recall it. I can stumble out of bed, dreams still clinging, barely awake, and make my way, eyes closed if I wanted, and find the drawer with the filters, the cabinet with the ground beans, the bottled water dispenser, the electric pot… each in a different place, and complete the morning ritual. At about 6AM everyday, you will always know just where to find me.

And so it was with the philosophy students and the beggar…

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Pardon Me, Your Slip Is Showing

She finished dinner in her room and buzzed for the plates to be cleared – after the meal, she did not want any smell of food lingering in the room.

A knock at the door – she opened to find a stranger in place of the room-service she had expected.

The stranger seemed no less surprised at seeing her.

Recovering quickly, ‘I’m sorry, I thought it was my room…’

Not waiting for a response, he swiftly turned away making to the bank of elevators at the far end.

She closed the door softly and returned pensively to the lounging sofa…shortly after she got up and called the front-desk.

If it wasn’t to follow up with room-service, what was it about?

End

 

13-year-old Aditi Krishnan had me scratching my head until she gave it out. My excuse: I had not had my mid-day coffee yet. If you had yours and still…look it up in the comments.

It’s Kodakandan And Vidakandan Again! A Story For Children

It’s unfortunate the lore of Kodakandan (the guy loathes parting with) and Vidakandan (the guy who never lets up) has not gained currency as much as Tenali Raman of Akbar Birbal stories. Nonetheless the stories are fun to read wherein the duo try outwitting each other and sometimes as in this piece…

Here we go:

Part 1

Sadhu1

‘Listen,’ Kodakandan looked around nervously if someone is overhearing them. ‘I learnt thru my sources the siddhar (1) has arrived. He would be in the cave only for a day or two before he disappears into the forest again. Not many know about it yet and even fewer know about his powers. I’m going to the hills to meet him carrying with me jack fruits and honey – for that’s what he loves to have. And when he’s sated and happy, I would get him to cast his grace on these stones.’ He opened his palm to reveal a few ‘stones’ that were like black pepper seeds, no larger. ‘If it’s like last year – no reason for it to be otherwise – they would turn into lustrous pebble-sized gem stones! And, man, we would be rich beyond wildest dreams.’

Vidakandan: ‘I’m glad this year you’re taking more stones with you unlike in the past when you brought back just one that still let us live in style for one whole year. With so many this time, I’m already seeing visions of us wallowing in unimaginable luxury and fun for all times to come.’

Kodakandan: ‘Yes, my friend. Don’t breathe a word about this to anyone, even to your own shadow. A stampede outside the cave is not very conducive to receiving favor from the siddhar. Take care of yourself while I’m gone for no more than a couple of days. Perhaps you could take shelter in the Shiva temple near the river.’

The conversation reached the ears of the rich man inside the house behind them as intended and drew him out of his house.

‘Hey strangers, you must pardon me for overhearing you, not that I really wanted to. Come inside, come inside…I may have a proposition mutually profitable to us.’

With appropriate expression of shock and surprise at a third person becoming privy to their well-guarded secret and with due reluctance, they allowed themselves to be invited into the house.

‘Permit me, please, to be your host, first. Fortunately, it’s time for breakfast. Join me – always, belly before business, I say, eh?’ He believed a full belly made one feel expansive and generous – it always worked for him in negotiations.

Holding Kodakandan by hand he led them to the dining place. Keeping with his social standing, the fare was sumptuous and finger-lickingly delicious, bringing out the hungriest hogs in them.

And then, the business.

‘Why do you trouble yourself climbing the hills alone? You don’t appear heavy. My men could easily carry you all the way to the cave without breaking sweat. And with you, a sack-full of jack fruits and honey that would be hard for the siddhar to grow tired of.’

Kodakandan: ‘Won’t work. I must do it alone. There’re certain niyamam’s and nishtai’s (prescribed do’s and don’ts) to be observed diligently while approaching a siddhar, even more than going to a temple. It’s not some tourist spot to visit. Also, any crowd and commotion at his cave-step – well, he might just pack up and go back to the forest.’

‘Okay, okay, so be it. I was merely trying to help. While you’re away, your colleague can be my guest in this house. You may not know this…the Shiva temple is locked up in nights to allow the spirits and snakes to pray in peace.’

Vidakandan went pale for a moment and felt relieved at the next. A narrow escape if ever: ‘Oh…we are grateful for your kindness; and what do we owe you…’

‘Well, nothing much…I’ve this pricey pebble-sized gem stone. If it could be made egg-sized or, even better, rock-sized…could be a small rock, you see. One can’t get too greedy. You’ll be rewarded well for your effort. A purse of gold coins, eh?’

Kodakandan thought about it, eyes crinkled, forehead furrowed.

‘We’ll do better than that to repay your kindness. I’ll carry two stones for you, if you have them.‘

‘You’re a large-hearted person, just as I thought. Two? I could spare two dozen, if you ask.’

Ask Kodakandan did, though it was something else: ‘And make it two purses, one for each of us. Now if you can get those stones, I’ll be on my way – must reach up there before noon.’

A little disappointed at the cost escalation, he went in and returned presently with a small leather pouch and the stones in hand. What the duo saw before them was absolutely eye-popping – two of the finest specimens they had ever set their eyes on, goose-berry sized, flawless and brilliant blue in color.

‘I still have a question before we proceed…are you guys close?’

‘Close? We’re like brothers…only born to different parents. Thicker than thieves. Once for me it was a zamindar’s daughter in marriage or him. What do you think I did?’

‘Okay, that’s settled. Now, be careful with these gems…they cost a king’s money. I’m trusting you with them. And quit worrying about your friend here. Until you return, he’ll be my guest, I insist.’

Hostage would be more apt, Vidakandan thought. And there was always this element of risk: Would his mate now with gems in his possession return to get his friend released? Of course, he would – they were in it together – unless he veered off their plans.

Kodakandan: ‘Lay all your doubts to rest, Sir. Instead, get busy filling up the purses to bursting. Will be back by tomorrow noon. For the last day in your life you’re a millionaire…from tomorrow you’ll be a multi-millionaire!’

To Vidakandan, ‘Don’t worry, my friend, I won’t be a minute later than necessary. Meanwhile enjoy the hospitality of out generous host.’

So, he took off not forgetting to procure from his host a couple of jack fruits and a pot of honey, its mouth closed by a piece of cloth.

Part 2

Following day, beyond noon, the rich man was getting increasingly restless with each passing hour. What if the siddhar did not like the jack fruits or he no longer dispensed favors or worse, he was ‘over the hill’ with his tricks. Could it be that Kodakandan lost his way in the hills? The fool had insisted on it doing it alone. Or, was it all a scam? With all these thoughts swirling in his head, the rich man was losing his congeniality like water hissing away on a hot tava.  As the shadows grew longer, he turned downright hostile. He had Vidakandan bound to a pillar with ropes. A search team was assembled to be sent up the hills to hound Kodakandan out of his hiding if he ever was and another to scour the neighboring villages if he had taken to his heels.

Just when the ‘dogs’ were ready to be unleashed, Kodakandan was sighted rounding the corner on his way to the rich man’s house.

Quickly Vidakandan was freed with profuse apologies and made comfortable. The rich man went half-way out with open arms to welcome Kodakandan. Once inside and seated, an attendant rushed to his side to fan him, another fetched him a glass of refreshing nimbu pani

Business is never crass, business never waits.

‘So, man, honestly, we were all quite worried if you’ll return at all. I’m sure you’ll not blame a man for having anxious moments after he had parted with his riches without any commensurate collateral.’

If Vidakandan was cut to the quick with this assessment of his worth as abysmal, neither the rich man nor Kodakandan seemed to take note.

‘My good friend, I’m all ready to receive…you may unload the goodies now and restore my cheer.’

A somber faced Kodakandan made no move.

The rich man’s ardor cooled down by a few notches on noticing a distinct lack of spirit on the part of Kodakandan.

‘What happened? Where are my gems? The siddhar didn’t work on them?’

‘Well, he did. There’s good news and bad news for you.’

‘Don’t talk in riddles. I’m in no mood to…’

‘The bad news first: Your gems were in fact germs afflicting you…they’re gone…they just turned into ashes in siddhar’s hands.’

‘What did you say?’

‘Yes, I saw it happen right before my eyes.’

‘I can’t believe this…’

‘Now to the good news: Siddhar said these stones of yours would have brought you untold misery in the days ahead. It was good riddance – those were his words to be precise. Your run of bad days is behind you and things will look up now, he assured.’

The rich man struggled in his mind if he should be happy or sad at this. What was he blabbering about bad days? He enjoyed sanguine health, his business flourishing…wait a minute…but then the harvest failed for the first time only after he appropriated the stones – the tenant had died on him before repaying the loan in full; a couple of months ago his prized cows perished from some unknown ailment. To cap it all, the king turned cold after a jealous neighbor had filled his ears about him – falling out of the king’s favor would have far more deleterious consequences for him…mmm…He had so far not connected these dots. Only now it all seemed to make sense…

On the other hand, these two guys might just be conning him out of his priceless gems.

How was he to figure out what it was?  Maybe he should lock them up and give them a sound thrashing to see if they change their siddhar story and come clean.

While he was weighing his options, there was commotion outside his house. To his great trepidation, it was a man from the royal court bringing him a message.  It was a personal invitation from the king for him to attend a pooja in the palace clearly pointing to his reinstatement in the king’s good books, a happy augury for the times ahead! How did this happen? Perhaps the king finally saw thru the web of lies about him? Not of an inquiring disposition, he let it be. Anyway, all is well as they say that ends well.

His thoughts went back to the siddhar – his prophecy was indeed playing out right!

And on the debit side, the stones were never his in the first place. The hapless tenant had almost paid back the loan in full before his untimely death. A loss, if any, was amply compensated many times over by his regaining of the king’s favor.

Overjoyed at the turn of events, the rich man expressed his gratitude in good measure by presenting them with their purses of gold coins and much more.

The duo took leave and headed away as fast as their legs could carry.

Part 3

On reaching a big city far removed the rich man’s place, they would sell the pebble-sized blue stone to a merchant not wanting to know about its provenance. Should fetch them a good deal though not the market price. If you are wondering, yes, it was one of the two stones that the rich man had parted with.

What had happened to the other stone? Well, to keep the story short: the king was immensely pleased to receive a rare and precious gem as a present from the rich man so discreetly sent thru his personal emissary, Kodakandan, and promised never to discuss or divulge the source to anyone, as requested by the rich man.

Now you know why Kodakandan asked the rich man for giving two stones in place of one, if he really went up the hills, where did he go instead and how the rich man made it back to the king’s good books!!!

Later one day when Kodakandan was changing his clothes for taking bath, Vidakandan noticed a thick gold chain with a pendant bearing royal insignia swinging from his neck.

Vidakandan: ‘Anna, namakulla ippadi saiyalama? (Brother, between us, how could you?). You didn’t tell me about and give me my share of the gifts you received from the king.’ He was referring to their code of conduct of sharing the booty equally in any joint endeavor,.

Isn’t something said about a tiger and its stripes?

End

 

Notes: (1) Siddhar is a venerable spiritual person who has gained power over natural forces thru yoga and other esoteric practices. There were many siddhar’s chronicled in the past. It is believed by many some of these siddhar’s are still alive today.

 

Image from ruchiskitchen.co

Cat Within by R.K Narayan

Cat Within is a delightfully light, funny tale about exorcism and its varied practitioners who feed on people’s fears and imagination of the paranormal. Often the affected are no innocent babes and it becomes a case of who gets the better of whom at that point of time.

The story runs for 26 minutes with never a dull moment. Sit back and enjoy. The finish is brilliant as only RK can pull off!

Here it is: ‘Cat Within’.

In case you need a plot summary:

The tale takes place in Vinayak Mudali street in Malgudi around a sethji and a guruji (exorcist). The former is both a landlord who denies basic amenities to his tenants under constant threat of eviction and a shopkeeper selling provisions marked up substantially. The guruji is an established exorcist with a regular flow of clients handing out esoteric prescriptions for curing illnesses. Fearing burglary, the landlord cum shopkeeper sleeps at night in front of his shop.  He even rigs up an ‘alarm’ system of empty tins and cans strewn about to alert him of any intruder. One night he hears noises from inside the shop and peers in through a porthole. Sees vessels tumbling and one of them actually flying about! He calls guruji for help besides waking up the entire neighborhood. The guruji instantly ‘recognizes’ it as the handiwork of an evil spirit given to occupying up-turned empty vessels. He uses the occasion to trick sethji into confessing his wrong deeds. At a point sethji sees through guruji’s tricks, gets angry and forces him into the shop bidding him to drive the sprit away and locks the door from outside.

Inside the shop, the guruji freezes in fear as he sees the vessel flying through the air knocking down things. Eventually to everyone’s relief it’s only a cat – it frees itself from the vessel and flees. Sethji mocks at guruji: ’The cat is out. Where’s your vessel-residing evil spirit now?’ In a brilliant finish, guruji has the last word!

End

Source: writersasylum.in/2014/02/uncategorized/cat-within-by-r-k-narayan/