Sunday, November 1, 2009

My First Story on this blog. Truth and Trust

This is my first story online. Comments and suggestions are welcome.

Note: This is not my story. This is writer Sujatha's story, called, 'Nijathai Thedi'.
I liked the story very much, hence decided to translate.

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon, as far as the Murthy’s were concerned. Krishnamurthy and Chithra were spending it the same way as they had been doing it for the past 8 years. M was immersed in a newspaper and Chithra was reading a novel, while waiting for the cooker whistle. M and C were not exactly a pair made for each other, But C had more than made up for it. She tried to be docile and the ‘not-so-intelligent’ wife of M and had slipped into the role with ease.
The wooden gate creaked open. M looked out of the window and saw a man walking across the lawn towards the house. He was probably around 30, had a 4 day stubble and was barefoot. He was holding an aluminum plate in his hand.
“Who are you?” M’s voice resonated across the lawn.
Slightly perturbed the man spoke, “Sir, My Name is Raju. I came to Bangalore, In search of a job. My wife died today morning in an accident. I need some money to cremate her. Please help!”
The voice had a plea to it. It was also filled with sadness.
M looked down at the aluminum plate. There were a few torn notes and coins in it. There was also an incense stick, half burning.
C kept the book down, and joined M on the porch.
“What does he want?” C asked M gently.
“Madam, My name is Raju”, the man told his story, again, in capsule form.
When C heard his story, her heart went out for this young man. A wife’s death is not something that anybody can take so easily. She wanted to give the young man something, but no, M would never accept this sort of behavior. ‘Inquire-Analyze-Decide’ was his mantra.
“Where is your house?”
“Sir, I am new to this town. I am staying at a relatives place”
“You have not answered my question”
“It is nearby sir, Near Gokulam”
“Give me the address”
“Murthy, Its O.K, let him go. Wait, I’ll give you something…”
“No!! Chithra, Wait!!! Give me the address”
“Sir, I don’t remember correctly. It is near a theatre.”
“Which Theatre? There are 14 theatres in this area.”
“Sir, it is very close to Anand Bhavan Hotel, that is all I can remember.”
“Murthy, why are you cross questioning him like this?”
“Can you keep quiet for sometime Chithra?. Give me the street name.”
The man’s eyes now welled up. “Sir, I don’t know. If you can give me something, please give it, else let me go. Don’t question me as if I am a thief.”
The man wiped his tears off his sleeve and silently walked across the lawn. He latched the wooden gate and went outside.
Chithra did not expect this. She expected more. She expected the man to say,
“Can’t you see I am already grieving the loss of my beloved, you insensitive bastard!!!”
But instead the man had quietly walked away. This shook Chithra. She spoke loudly, “Murthy, this is Heights!! Can’t you see the man’s request was genuine? Couldn’t we have given him something?”
“Chithra, relax. Don’t over-react. I’ve done the right thing.”
“The right thing? Are you in your mind?”
“O.K How do you know that the man’s request was genuine?”
“Come On Murthy!! Can’t you see it in his face? His eyes told the truth”
“What if I told you the man is a fraudster, who goes into the posh localities of Bangalore, trying to get money from the affluent families?”
“O.K How do you know that he is a fraudster?”
“To start with, he didn’t tell where he lived.”
“Murthy, try to look at it from his perspective. He is staying at a relative’s place. Maybe he felt awkward to say it.”
“Chithra, Be Practical. This is a scam. Trust me; the world is full of lies. He is a perfect example.”
The whistle beckoned Chithra.
M leaned back on his chair, with his newspaper. He couldn’t concentrate on the paper. How could his wife be so ignorant about the world? Look at Narayanan’s wife or even Sivan’s wife. She wasn’t even half as intelligent as they were. He could see the anger and frustration written all over her face, as she ran towards the kitchen. He started again.
“You very well remember, what happened last time?”
“What happened?”
“The Old lady who said, she wanted to go to Thirupathi”
“Didn’t we see her in the theatre, the next day?”
“Yes”, a subdued reply.
“Remember the ‘The School for Orphans?”
No response.
“A man came with receipts, bills and even photographs.”
“Did I not prove, that the street itself did not exist?”
“And that Husband and wife Jodi, who claimed to have got lost in Bangalore?”
“Do you remember?”
M entered the kitchen, just in time, to see, C wipe off her tears.
“Why are you crying now?”
“We could have given him something.”
“Why are you siding him ?”
“I am not siding him. I am just trying to be kind. Is that wrong?”
“The man looked genuinely in distress. We spend so much un-necessarily. Last week, we spent more than Rs.3000 on that dinner at Basil. Rs.10 should not have made a big dent in our pockets.”
“Chithra, why don’t you try to understand?” M said exasperatedly. “The question is not about the money. It is about principle. If he had come to me and said, “Sir, I am poor. I do not know when I will get my next square meal. Please help me!’ Why 10, I would have given him 100. But he didn’t…”
“If he did that, wouldn’t you have told him to coolie work, some sand lifting work? I am sure your comment would have been “You look fit enough. Don’t you feel ashamed to beg?”
Silence for a few seconds. M and C look into each others eyes. Both eyes blazing. One with Anger and the other with Ego.
“Chithra, this is not why we are arguing about. Moreover, did he actually look like someone who lost his wife?”
“The sadness was genuine. What about the tears?”
“Part of the act.”
“Enough Murthy!!” the knife went flying into the corner and the onion rolled on to the floor.
Murthy walked out in a huff.
A few seconds later, C could hear the almirah open, and sometime later, M walked into the kitchen, fidgeting with the Keys.
“Come with me”
“Where to?”
“To the address he gave”
“Look Murthy, this is absurd.” Chithra was clearly shocked.
“No No, It is perfectly alright. Its time we know who was right and who was wrong.”
“Murthy, No!! This is not the way it is done.”
“”Fine, then tell me, how it is done.”
“Murthy, Fine. You win, I lose. Enough of these silly games.”
“No, Chithra, it doesn’t end like that. Come with me.” He pulled her.
“Look, I have work. Ranganathan mama and mami are coming tonight for dinner. I have a lot of preparations to do.”
“That can wait”.
“Murthy, What is wrong with you! I am telling you, I have work”
“Fine, then do your work. I will go and check this out.”
“Murthy, you are insane! You don’t have to prove yourself to me…”
Before she completed the sentence, the door had shut and Murthy was already taking out his car.
Inquire – Analyze – Decide.
M mentally recalled the conversation that he had had with the young man and started the car.
He was really determined to prove something to his wife.
8 years of marriage, yet she couldn’t understand him.
It took M hardly 10 minutes to drive to Anand Bhavan. Alankar was the only theatre nearly. There was a small lane just before Alankar’s compound wall started. Though the thatched huts were not close to the main road, they were only at a stone’s throw.
“So much, for the space crunch in Bangalore”, thought M sarcastically.
The lane was quite short and there were about a score huts in all.
M parked his car on the main road and walked into the kuccha road.
There was a nasty stink to it.
Murthy called up one of the passerby’s.
“Was there an accident here today morning?”
“Yes Sir, Near the signal. Are you from Municipal Corporation? Have you come for checking the Dead body? Police a sir?”
“No No, I just know them. Where is the house?”
“Third house from here sir. On your right. Poor fellow sir. He got married only 8 months ago. I heard his wife was pregnant…”
The last remark bit Murthy like a wasp’s tail.
8 years of childishness had taught him a lot of things.
“Hmmm.. O.K O.K Thanks…”
M walked up to the third house.
The aluminum plate was there, with all of the change and the incense stick.

Original Climax Here....

M looked at the plate. His hands trembled. But he did not think twice. He hurried towards the car.
C was surprised see him return quickly. She immediately guessed he was in a foul mood.
He threw down the car keys onto the sofa, and sat down in a huff.
“So? What happened?”
“As usual, he turned out to be a fraud.”
“You strained yourself unnecessarily.”
“I will be careful henceforth.”
“Careful about what?”
“Of these fraudsters, of course. How can a man lie that his wife is dead? … Heartless wretches… !!”

My Climax Here ...

Hearing the footsteps, the young man came out. There was anger seething in his eyes when he saw M. But the next second, they melted to tears. M could hear wailing inside. He wasn’t strong enough to enter the house.
M held the man’s arms, as if he were to embrace, but stopped short of it. He took out his purse; there were a few 500’s in it. He emptied the contents on to the aluminum plate.
The young man fell at M’s feet and started crying. M stood still for a couple of minutes, decided it was time to go home, and walked back to his car.
When he reached home, the smell of pakodas wafted to the drawing room.
“So, what happened?” Chithra asked disinterestedly.
“What do you think happened?” M asked disguising the tone of his voice.
“I don’t have the time for it Murthy”
“As usual, he turned out to be a fraud.”
“Tch… must be careful henceforth”
“Of what?”
“Of these fraudsters, of course. How can a man lie that his wife is dead? … Heartless wretches… !!”