“You throw away all these?” Swamy asked Ramya, surveying the stock of waste Newspaper and cardboard cartons piled up in the trash can.
” Weekly twice, all the trash accumulated in the two big wheeled -boxes are cleared by the Town Sanitation department, and materials such as paper, tin or plastic waste, collected separately, will go for recycling.” She explained.
“You recover some money?”
“No, dad.” Ramu answered expecting some more questions from his father.” In fact, we pay some amount for clearing the waste which is included in the monthly service bill”
” Trash is generated in tons in this country” commented the old man and added with a smile,” with this much waste, I cam make sufficient money in India, to pay my electricity bill. ”
The door bell rang. Swamy was excited to receive his old friend Sundaram along with his son, Chandru, who helped Ramu to come to USA and secure a job in his office. They came to meet Ramu’s parents and spend a night or two over there. The old pals had a lot to share about their insipid past.
“While pushing the tube-deflated Hero bicycle through the street of our village, did you expect that one day you would fly over the oceans and we will meet here in this country to share our food on a posh dining table in a palatial building owned by your son,?” asked Sumdaram while Swamy raised his head and glanced at his son, when the word,’owned’ was mentioned. Ramu twinkled his eyes and nodded his head to sign, ‘don’t worry dad, one day it will become my own’.
” Sundaram, we are indebted to your son for making this possible” Swamy replied, passing on a ‘thank you’ note to Chandru, by a nod. ” All the agonies undergone by us to bring up our children, vanish like a due drop, at the sight of a sun-ray, when we see them happily settled in life.”
“Good” Sundaram agreed, ” but tell me frankly, are you able to cast completely your past, forgetting all the cuts, bruises and scratches it inflicted on you, and enjoy the new riches rightly due to you, willingly shared by your son?”
“No, Seshu ” admitted his friend,”that exactly is my problem. And I have a reason, very valid one, for that. The injuries inflicted on me by the past is not just skin-deep. It sliced my inner self with its mighty weapon named ‘poverty’, into slices. That wound will not heal till my last breath”
” I was not from a ‘rajavamsam’ royal family ” clarified Seshu, “but I do not worry much over my past, drenched in poverty because it was not my making. I rejoice that I could come out of the dreaded dragon’s grip, though after a long spell , thanks to my son.”
“My case is not that simple, Seshu,” Swamy said and his son mildly rebuked, “Appa, poverty is not a sin. Forget the past and enjoy the present”
“True, Ramu” Sundaram agreed, “poverty is not a sin but it can force you to commit sin, as it happened in my case. And therefore, it is not possible for me to forget the past as Seshu could.”
Every one around the dining table looked anxiously at Sundaram, worrying what sin did he commit.
“Appa, enough” Ramya took over the situation as women always do.” Enough of this talk before ‘annam’ rice. You can continue after you finish eating.
The dining hall became silent, but for the movement of vessels.
Later, when they all reassembled in the drawing room, Ramu, anxious to know what was bothering his father asked him to continue from where he had left.
Swamy was mum for sometime, his mind wandering through the thorny path of the past.” I should have somehow managed to stay in my village till the last days of my father,” he mused, “no, it was impossible. it was impossible” He consoled himself.
“You have told me that thatha wanted to die in his ancestral house but could not, as you shifted the family to Coimbatore. That is all what we know”
“Why did you shift him in his old age?” enquired Seshu.
“Because I had no job when my old school building collapsed and it would have taken an year or more, for the management to construct a new one. My ancestral agricultural land was captured by the Land Reforms Act. I had no bank balance or any other source of revenue to lean upon. Recommend by a student’s father, a mill owner offered me a gumastha’s job, which I accepted and decided to shift my wife and children, under unavoidable circumstances, to Pollachi. I wanted to leave my parents in the village under the care of a distant relative but my mother insisted that I should take them along with me.
“If something happens to your appa, who is here even to send a telegram to you ?” she asked .
“If something happens to me there, will your son bring my body here and convert it into ashes on the bank of our village pond, where the bodies of my great ancestors were burnt to ashes? ” enquired my father, unable to suppress his anger in leaving the house.
” ‘Appa, I assure you, nothing will happen to you in an year or so after which we will come back to our own place.” I tolld him. What I didn’t tell him was that our ancestral agricultural land had been taken away from us, lest his heart would have stopped pumping blood, at least for a short while, had he known that shocking news”.
“Nee Brahammavoda? Areyou the god to decide when I will die?” asked Appa, his heart still steaming .”
I was certainly not. Within a week after reaching Pollachi, Appa’s health deteriorated and he had to be put in the hospital. The total cash available with me at that time was less than one hundred rupees, after meeting the travel expenses and settling some dues in my native village. Krishnswamy Gowder, my new master had promised free rice and vegetable as a reward for the daily pooja I agreed to perform in his house and therefore, feeding the family was not a very big problem. Accomodation also was free. But cash? How to ask Gowder for an advance within a few days after taking up the job.?”
Swamy stretched his legs as if the pain in his heart was spreading to his feet. Ramu sat on the floor pressing his father’s leg seeing which, little Swan came running towards them and started pressing the other leg as if he wanted to prove that in no way, he was less considerate than than his dad. The old man, overwhelmed by the care and consideration of his progeny, combed slowly Ramu’s hair and collected his grand child, put him on his lap and started pressing the kid’s tiny, rose petal-like feet. He wanted to sing but it got stuck at his throat. The child’s grandma came to support her husband and sang a lovely cradle song, in a low rhythmic sound and that folk song, like the small waves of the village river, moved up and down which made the kid to slip into the bliss of sleep.
The old man too, agitated over the memory of his father’s death in a most undesired place but slightly smoothened by the song, fell into sleep.
Ramya collected the kid and took him to her bedroom and Ramu held his father’s hand and lead him to his bed.
The wife supporting her child and the husband supporting his father! How well- knit are our families, whether they are in India or abroad.!
Top class narration.
Heart warming scene sketching.
I had no problem visualising this touching scene in my mind’s eye.
Is it only me who, reading this with an Iyer’s perspective, sees shades of R K Narayan’s Malgudi days in these stories ?
Please keep sending me my personal copy.
The same posting at our Iyer123 group gets closely packed into one long unreadable para unlike this decently spaced email to my personal email address.
Awaiting chapter 7 eagerly.