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ramblings of an unknown psychiatrist

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New View, New Hope & New Life: a story

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on January 9, 2011

“It was wonderful, Harsha. Your drives have improved a lot”, I said. I doubt if he heard it. He was running around with joy. Why not? He was the man of the match in his school cricket. I realized that it was this day five years ago, Savithri left this earth for me to live on alone. We had been together for more than 30 years. It had been tough for me. With both my sons being well settled abroad, I had no reason to live without Savithri.

It was then an accident happened. My friend Chakri, his wife Hamsa and his son Raman died in a bus accident. They had gone to attend a wedding in the neighbouring town. The bus collided head-on with another bus on the bridge and fell into the river. I was wallowing in my own grief after Savithri’s loss till the death of Chakri and his family shook me awake to reality of sufferings of many others.

Raman’s widow Sukku is young, beautiful and not so educated. How would she survive in this dirty world? After the funeral I invited her to bring her son and live in my home as my daughter. I suggested that she could give their home on rent to someone so that she could have some money for herself. She agreed. Some relatives did not like it. Is it not surprising that many invisible uncles and aunties become visible, when a dad or mom is found!

Harsha is Raman’s son. I teach him everything be it shlokas, cricket, school subjects or moral values. Being a retired civil engineer, I can handle many subjects. Harsha is from a good family though not an accomplished one. Chakri was not a great student. He dropped out from our school in class X. He became a watch-repair man. He was skilled in that trade. Raman too was not very good in studies. He too joined the trade and later found a job in HMT Company as a technician. They might not have been brilliant but they were always upright. One could always trust the work and word of Chakri and Raman. It is not difficult to bring up Harsha, in whose veins flows such good blood.

I have never felt as depressed after Sukku and Harsha joined me in my home. Good things cannot be limited or contained. They will find a way out to influence and affect others. About a year after Harsha and Sukku joined me at our home, I happened to visit Choklingam at his home. It was being moved. His son had sold the house. He needed capital for investment in Australia. So thought it was better to move his retired father and mother to a rented apartment and sell of the house. It was a decision worth praise in economic terms.

Chokli was a surgeon employed with the state Government. He had spent all his evenings in a busy private practice to make money to guarantee a good future for his children. His day began very early as he completed his operations of private practice before he reported for work in the Government Hospital. He sent his kids to the best tuitions available. His children studied well. He afforded post graduate education in engineering for one son, who is now in the US. He gave his daughter in marriage to an NRI based in UK. The youngest son, who had done an American MBA was setting up a business in Australia. It was he who decided to sell of the property of the father. I am glad I did not give away my property to my children before my time is done. Chokli is now dependent! He is the man who made most money among all friends.

I have seen him move from a palatial bungalow to a place which was more like a dungeon. I visited him about three months after the move. I was aghast when I found Chokli and his wife in an unconscious state. I called for an ambulance and got both of them admitted in a hospital. His wife had been having memory problems for few months now. She was diagnosed as having Dementia. Chokli had diabetes and hypertension which had led to a stroke. His children never came when told of that the parents were serious. They did give me all the possible contact numbers just in case the one I was contacting them with did not work. It was as if they did not want to miss the news of death of their parents.

Chokli improved with treatment. He still has some weakness of his left side. We were told that his wife will become dependent in the future, but her general condition improved with treatment too. Where could I leave them? Leaving them in that dirty dungeon, without anyone to care for them would be cruel. I though I could take them into my custody. I asked Sukku about it. I honestly do not know what she thought. She did not refuse. Chokli and his wife moved into our home. Sukku had to cook for more people. Our expenses increased. I started giving consultations for the local builders. Chokli joined a private medical college nearby as a faculty. The college arranged him to be picked and dropped. Sukku managed the kitchen and helped care for Chokli’s wife.

Six months ago I went to the village we all hailed from. I had some land which I had given on lease. Usually the produce of land was sold and shared between the farmer and us. I did not want rice to be sold now. I thought we could consume part of it ourselves. It would cut our costs. It had also been long since I smelt our village. I needed a break badly too. As I was walking from the bus stand to the interior of the village, I wanted to drop into a shop for a cool drink. As I bowed down to clear my get my head through the thatched roof of the shop, I saw Lakshmi. I froze for a second.

Lakshmi was one of the brightest students in my class. She was the only daughter of a small farmer. Her mother died while giving birth to her. A rare man that he was, her father did not marry again. He took good care of Lakshmi. When we were in 8th standard, she had to drop out of school. Her father had taken a loan and was not able to repay. The Zamindar wanted to marry Lakshmi in return for the waiving off the loan. Lakshmi’s father had no choice. It was everyone’s knowledge that Lakshmi was abused badly by Zamindar. He father could not tolerate the pain of his daughter and committed suicide.

Lakshmi gave birth to a baby boy. She was of course never given the status of a wife in Zamindar’s household. She was like a slave in his haveli. Her social links were all cut off. Her world revolved around her son, Rajesh. As her son grew up, he was not unlike his father. He was impulsive, irritable and hot blooded. There was a feud in their home regarding property when Rajesh claimed a share equal to Zamindar’s other sons. There was an exchange of blows. In a fit of rage Rajesh stabbed his father to death. He realized his folly and surrendered to the police. The other sons of Zamindar got Rajesh killed in Police custody. Later the police showed it as suicide.

Lakshmi lost everything. She had lost her education, her father, her son, her so-called husband, her lands, her residence and livelihood. I knew she moved out of the haveli, but I did not know what she was doing for a living.

We recognized each other in an instant. I asked her, “How are you?” “Life is going on”, she said “I make pickles and sell them in few villages nearby. I sleep in the village school. I use space near the temple for making pickles. No one says anything. I am able to make ends meet.”

Then the shopkeeper said, “Sir, she makes excellent pickles. We have stopped the bottled pickles from the town. Everyone is buying her pickles only.” I wished her luck as she picked her bags to leave to the next village. I had my cool drink and then caught up with her when she was alone.

“Lakshmi!”, I cried and added “Why don’t you come to the town and make pickles on large scale? God has given you skills and you should use it appropriately. I always knew you were capable of great things. Life treats some of us very badly. Bad times need not last a life time. We all live in the same home- Chokli, his wife, Chakri’s daughter-in-law and grandson Harsha. Do you remember Chokli and Chakri? You could join us Lakshmi. It would be great. You would be an asset to our home. You will have a room to rest. More importantly, you will have fellowship and friendship. Come and see.”

Lakshmi thought for a while as she stared into the blue sky and smiled. I took her bags full of pickles and walked back to the bus stop. Lakshmi now lives with us in our home. She has started supplying pickles to few malls here. ‘Lakshmi pickles’ has become a local brand now. She does not think of expanding now as she is also helping Sukku in taking care of Chokli’s wife.

I am wondering how much life has changed since I stopped looking at myself and my own problems and looked at others and their problems. It is not that difficulties have all disappeared but we find strength from each other as we care for one another. We are quite like firewood in a stove. When removed from others our fire dies out. When we are in touch with one another despite the weak flame, we all keep burning.

I have toyed with the idea of marrying Lakshmi. If things had gone the way I desired as a teenager, I would have married her in my youth. Things did not go that way. This was my opportunity. She was never loved in the real sense. She was always betrayed. I know she respects me. There is no reason why she should reject me. At the same time, I also think of Sukku. She is young. She has a son. If I were to think of companionship at my age, how much should she be concerned of her own needs? If she were to think of her own life, what would happen to Harsha. But anyway, her problem is different from mine. In fact if she were to get a decent young man who would accept her as she is and also the responsibilities that come with marrying her, we would be happy to get her married again. Isn’t it? So it is not wrong for me to consider marrying Lakshmi.

I mustered courage and went to Lakshmi’s room yesterday evening. I called, “Lakshmi, Do you have a minute?” Lakshmi came out and asked with a gentle smile, ‘What is the matter?” I swallowed saliva from my parched throat and said, “Nothing…nothing special…just that your pickles are very nice.”

Shloka: Verses in Sanskrit

Zamindar: Landlord

Haveli: Private Mansion


One Response to “New View, New Hope & New Life: a story”

  1. Kakali Behera said

    Really good thing to talk about!! If everyone thinks in the same way about others, then it will be a great country to live in.

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