1. Thorns & Flowers- A Short Story
Meeting you was official. Becoming your friend was accidental. Falling in love was natural. Parting you for ever was a cruel act of fate.
Laxaman Purohit a retired bank executive was seriously thinking. He was unable to come out of the situation. He went to ‘Lalbaugh’ a famous park of Bangalore city. The park and its surroundings is a beautiful scene for lovers of nature. He expressed like this, ‘If I were a poet, I would have written a poem on nature’. It was impossible to have round from one end to another in the park because the park was too vast to touch all sides. In the park, children were playing and enjoying the tricks and taunts of monkeys. He went few yards away from the water fall and sat on the seat provided beneath the tree. He observed the natural scenes with keen interest. He wanted to hear melodious film songs in loneliness. He used his walkman. It was ‘mai yaha tu vaha’ a Hindi film song. He derived inexpressible joy in listening to the song. There was a movement of people here and there. Children were playing, creating uncomfortable position for their parents. Vendors with balloon, toys, and biscuits, chocolate were going nearer to the kids to sell them. While observing keenly the movements of the people, he saw a lady sitting on the opposite side. Her face was familiar to him. Before coming to the conclusion, he thought thoroughly about the lady. He wondered “Is it Madhura Rao? His eyes could not believe it. Yes it was she. A sort of strange but pleasant emotions stirred him. He was surprised and thrilled the context of the Hindi film song and the present situation.
It was a meeting after twelve years in such a place. Due to the natural process of ageing, she had become old and was difficult to recognize her at first sight. But surprisingly, then she looked same as seen twelve years ago. She was 38 years old. She was working in bank’s branch as a junior officer and he was the chief manager. His relation with her was official. If her assistance was needed, she obliged by attending the work entrusted. During that period, an unforgettable tragedy happened. Sripati Rao was Madhura’s husband. He was a lawyer by profession. He had set up practice there since15 years. One day Rao was arguing in the court hall on behalf of his client. Suddenly due to pressure as the nature of the case was of most sensitive, he fell down on the ground due to cardiac arrest and died on the spot. Rao didn’t give the opportunity to call a physician for medical checkup. Three months later, Purohit’s first wife Mangala was admitted to hospital due to severe and unbearable stomach ache. Unfortunately she could not survive despite of best medical facility given to her. It was a saddest day in his life. Madhura became widow and he widower.
Since both were working in the same branch, they used to discuss about their tragedy. Their intention was to find solutions to the problems. Sripati Rao had deposited Rupees five lacs in the bank. Though, he was a lawyer, he did not give nomination or joint account either or survivor facility. Madhura had to face difficulties in getting a succession certificate from the court. He told her at that time to popularize the nomination facility and opening joint account. There were some legal problems for claiming deposits and he wanted to help her out of the way and a soft corner had developed. Intense relations were developed between them to the extent of lovers and seriously thinking to get marry early because both were sailing in the same boat. Everybody was observing their moments. They didn’t care for their observation. Colleagues got favors from their meeting through her. His friends were eager to know at what stage their love affair reached? When their romantic activities were in full swing, colleagues and bank customers began to gossip. Their love story had spread like wild fire in the city. It became a talk of the town. He didn’t lose his courage and continued the same. Their love story reached bank’s head office at New Delhi. The management didn’t take it seriously for the reason it won’t affect the business of the branch. One month later, he got promotion in the senior cadre and posted to bank’s head office. Madhura was also transferred to Gulbarga branch due to long stay at Bangalore. This development made them to separate each other. Both of them felt very bad as parting was a painful process. Both didn’t meet for a very long period of 12 years. When he saw her in the park, he could see her as a young lady, because he rewinded back to 12 years. Then they were lovers. Now they are just friends. Madhura had a beautiful complexion. She had a beautiful face, attractive eyes, long curly hair, beautiful lips and the attractive slim body. She used to visit beauty parlor to keep her beautiful complexion. It was quite natural for him to go 12 years back. Her traditional Indian sari and gold ornaments had added beauty.
Purohit’s only son Srivatsa was practicing doctor as a child specialist. His wife Ragini was a gynecologist. Their marriage took place under peculiar circumstances against his wishes. Both were staying in Los Angeles US and became famous doctors within a span of three years. Despite of differences, he used to visit LA and stay there for couple of months.
Purohit was transferred as chief manager to the Bangalore main branch. It was quite natural that being a large branch, there were number of problems. He had skills to tackle all these problems without creating any kind of tension. Head Office had recognized his talents and awarded him as a ‘best manager of the year.’ While taking major decisions, he never compromised with the interest of the branch. He had succeeded to maintain cordial relation both staff and management. In those days, he was leading a happy and peaceful life with his first wife Mangala and only son Srivatsa. His marriage could not take place during her life time. He was very much worried about this. He was not happy after the demise of his wife. It was very difficult for him to lead lonely life. His friends and well wishers suggested him to go for second marriage. Sujata became a perfect wife for Purohit. She could not marry at young age due to several reasons. Both were made for each other. He was surprised to see Madhura’s presence in the park. If she was in the city and informed him earlier she would have joined in the vana bhojana. He went near to Madhura while she was in deep thinking. She didn’t notice him. He stayed for few minutes for her attention. If a person meets suddenly after a long gap of time, the other will be naturally surprised. He didn’t want to give such surprise to her.
“Madam, are you Madhura Rao? He asked
Coming out from deep thinking she saw him. She was astonished to see Purohit. She was dazed.
She said, “Yes! You were my boss Purohit…?”
“Now I am not your boss just a good friend. Please do not be excited Madhura. I was also shocked seeing here.”
She let me sit beside her. He sat leaving some space in between. She shook hand gently. It was emotional.
“What is this Madhura; you are meeting me after a long gap of 12 years?”
“Yes Sir, I wanted to contact you soon after our separation. But I am sorry sir all my efforts went in vain. I was stopped to contact you.”
“Can you tell me who stopped you to contact me?”
“It is a long story.”
“Madura, tell me briefly.”
“Sir, you know very well that our separation was a painful process. I am unable to explain the nature of pain. Bank had transferred me from Gulbarga to Kolkata on promotion. I had not seen Kolkata earlier. Place, people, language and environment were quite strange to me. I had to take trouble to learn Bengali language. I tried to learn a few important Bengali words and gained functional knowledge. It took more than six months to adjust with the situation. Soumya was always remembering her father. It was a difficult task for me to console her. Due to pressure of work in the bank, I had to face lot of problems. In the pretext of business development, the branch manager used to be outside almost whole day. I had to attend entire routine work of the branch. Pressure and tension of work made me moody. I used to abuse Soumya for no reason. After sometime realizing the mistake, I apologized to her. Such incidents didn’t affect her studies. Soumya was academically brightest. One day, I revealed her our affair and expressed my desire to remarry. I also told her about the sudden death of your first wife. I was expecting a positive response from her. She became wild and told me in clear terms not to go further. My dream to marry you was shattered. I asked her the reason for refusal. She said if I remarry with you, her father’s soul would hardly rest in peace. It amounts to betrayal as step father cannot give same love and affection like own father. I thought my dream of getting you as my husband was only an illusion. Soumya insisted me not to contact you for ever. I had no choice except to promise her to forget you during my life time. After completing five years stay at Kolkata main office and other local branch, I was transferred to Bangalore branch on my request. The sole intention of my coming over to Bangalore was to provide good education to Soumya. She put in hardwork to get through Bachelor of Engineering in Information Technology with distinction. It was her good luck to get a good job and a suitable husband of her choice. Both are happily settled in London and are prosperous. I visit London, as and when I can. I had to undergo a difficult situation in Kolkata branch. I was cheated by one of the customers of the bank to the tune of rupees five lacs. The case was booked against me by the bank on the ground of negligence of the duty and enquiry commenced. I was placed under suspension from service. One of my colleagues trapped me in this unholy episode. He gave me false assurance about the customer and managed to get the customer’s cheque honored. I believed in him and took the risk of honoring the cheque without making any discreet enquiry. The customer’s cheque was presented and there was no sufficient balance in his account. I allowed him overdraft facility for a week. I came to know that the customer was untrustworthy. Immediately, the bank’s management had issued me a memo that if I failed to recover the amount with interest within a fortnight suitable action will be initiated in accordance with service regulations applicable. The enquiry went on for about three years. The bank was in a position to recover entire amount with interest from the customer after three years. When the enquiry was completed it was decided by the bank’s management to reinstate me and pay all the dues held up. I was fed up with the developments and resigned. The resignation was accepted by the bank after two years, when I was working in Bangalore. Thereafter, I was compelled to live alone.” She concluded her sad story
“I felt very sad on hearing your painful experiences. We could not contact each other during this period. When my first wife died, I was not in a position to lead lonely life. I was moved by and took decision to marry Sujata. To my good luck, she proved to be best life partner to me and I am leading a peaceful life.” He said
“Sir, I pray God to bestow a long happy married life.” She said
“Why did you come to Bangalore again?”
“The city is most suitable for a people like me. After resigning from service, I came here and rented two bed rooms flat on Bannerghatta Road.”
“Madhura, you took a hasty decision by resigning bank service. You could have sought suggestion from the well-wishers. Why you didn’t inform me after coming over to Bangalore?”
“You know I have given promise to Soumya not to contact you.”
“Okay! I am happy that you have come here. Let us forget our previous experience and be good friends.”
“Sir, you didn’t tell me about your whereabouts from New Delhi Head 0ffice.”
“I was posted in and around New Delhi and stayed there for many years. I came back to Bangalore, just before retirement.”
Madhura gave him some items kept in her bag. These items include a book titled ‘Memories of Malgudi’ edited by S.Krishnan, and a gold ring presented by him on the occasion of her birth day.
“Please do not return the gold ring presented to you on a special occasion. Moreover it is a token of love and affection.”
“Sir, if I keep the ring with me it will remind me of our love. When love does not exist such things should not be kept.”
“Accept it as a gift at least presented by a close friend.”
“Anyway, it will haunt me the unforgettable moments between us. Please do not insist to keep the ring with me.”
He took back the ring with great disappointment. Their conversation continued for sometime. He had totally forgotten that he was in the company of his wife and other friends, who were waiting for him for vanabhojana.
Sujata was waiting her husband Purohit, who left alone about one hour back. She had told him not to walk aimlessly and return early. All the group members brought adequate sumptuous food. The closing time of the park main gate was 8 p.m. When group members entered the park the time was 6 p.m. They decided to spend at least one hour for sharing humorous jokes. Some of them were eager to gobble food early as it was mouth watering. Before leaving alone to have rounds in the park, Purohit shared happy moments for some time with the team members.
“Sir, it appears your wife want to hear a good joke from you, so that everybody can laugh.” Said Srinivas Potdar a long time colleague of Purohit
Purohit was waiting for such an opportunity so he said, “Once, I was insulted by a lady co-passenger in a city bus. My nature of offence was simple. I had occupied a seat meant for ladies. It was not a big issue to create hue and cry. Even after vacating the seat, she continued harping on high indiscipline of educated gentlemen and tried to project herself a champion of women cause. After one month, I was surprised to know that the same adventurous lady was proposed to me for tying a knot. I gave approval for the marriage. You may ask me why I consented for marriage in spite of humiliation.”
“Madam Sujata will give appropriate humorous reply. All of us will derive joy after knowing the answer from her.” Said Potdar
Turning towards Sujata, Purohit asked her to reply ignoring his presence.
“Lakshman Purohit, who was proposed to me for tying a knot, visited home on one day with mutual consent. He was to clear some points. He was unwittingly looking at me for few minutes. His only son Srivatsa, who lost his mother, cautioned him to stop staring at me. At that particular moment, my mind went to the movie world wherein I and Purohit as lovers were in a beach. We were exchanging pleasantries on the future married life. Immediately, I came out of my movie scene. It appears Purohit also might have experienced similar feelings. He gave instant approval because of my fair complexion and bravery to face the situation. He was under the impression that I resembled to former miss universe Sushmita Sen. Even he told me to change my name as Sushmita. With these in his mind, he forgot to ask questions to clear some points on me. I may be looking like former miss universe. But in reality I am neither fair like Sushmita Sen nor bold in facing the situation. I get terribly scared when I see rat, lizard, and cockroach.” Sujata said with a loud laugh.
This was a laughing moment for all. Others too joined the jokes to enhance the mood. Purohit wanted to spend quite moments in the divinely heaven. He informed the same to Sujata.
“Madam, do not allow your husband to have rounds in the park. Probably, he may be recollecting his younger days. Young girls will be in confusion and in dilemma by seeing him in his latest fashionable dress, curly hairs with dye, talcum powder applied on face, costly spectacles, perfumes sprinkled on the dress and attractive personality. Your husband being an actor fully aware of the technique of how older can become younger by costumes and makeup. His purpose of going on rounds is suspicious. Please beware of him.” Potadar said in a joking mood
Others also joined to create the joyous ambience.
Purohit knew well with Potdar’s nature. He cautioned him smilingly not to make comments on others, when he doesn’t know the meaning of romance.
“See, my husband Purohit may be looking like a young man. But he will not create any embarrassing situation being a respectable man. I have full confidence in him.” Sujata expressed in a lighter way
She didn’t forget to caution her husband not to move aimlessly and return early.
Sujata asked team members to find out her husband as it was already 7 p.m.; the time for closure of main gate was fast approaching. Sujata was too much worried about her husband for the delay. Observing the seriousness of the situation Potdar told her to have patience.
“All of you accompany me. I will show you the place where Purohit is taking rest.” Said Potdar
Sujata was surprised to hear this from him.
“Let us make a move with Potdar without wasting time. I am too much worried.” Said Sujata
“Madam, you need not worry and be happy.” Said Potdar
Everybody followed Potdar carrying food bags and water bottles. After covering few yards, Potdar asked them stop for a moment.
“Sujata Madam, look at the scene. He is holding her hands firmly like lovers. I don’t know for how long this fun was going on.” Said Potdar
Sujata could not tolerate this and angrily told, “Potdar, tell me who is this lady? I will go and slap her.”
Sujata was virtually weeping after observing the scene. The lady members of the group were consoling her. The others were silent and waiting for the outcome.
“Madam, please do not get excited. She is Madhura retired employee of our bank. She retired from the bank two years back. Purohit and Madhura were working in the same branch for more than three years. Her husband Sripati Rao died due to cardiac arrest. After three month, Purohit’s wife Mangala died due to severe stomache. Both became friends and then loved each other. They even decided to marry. Their marriage could not take place for the reasons well known to them. This is a closed chapter for both. It is a surprise meeting for them. At present both are just friends. Do not take it otherwise on your husband holding her hands. You may raise this issue at an appropriate time and clear your doubts. Please restrain from taking any action at present.” Potdar requested with folded hands
When Sujata heard the name of Madhura Sripati Rao, she again became angry.
Potdar approached the lovers with all the group members. Purohit was shocked and perplexed to see all these persons at a time. He was not in a position to defend him for a moment. To calm the situation, he wittingly exploded a joke that did not produce any humor. The situation became very serious when Madhura and Sujata recognized each other. Sujata revealed that Madhura’s late husband Rao is her own elder brother and they were not keeping good relationship. Rao did not honour the commitment in settling Sujata’s stake in the hereditary property. He was also failed to provide her good education being a guardian. He refused to arrange her marriage at young age to a lover of her choice. She was forced to live unmarried for a long time. Sujata became disgusted with all these developments and decided to live independently. Purohit loved Sujata at first sight, when he met her in the city bus. Sujata did not disclose her relationship with Rao and Madhura at the time of marriage.
A scene was created when both the women entered into heated arguments.
“How dare are you to hold my husband’s hand? I am ashamed to say you are civilized educated woman.” Said Sujata.
“Sujata, get lost. You need not teach me. I am not here to listen whatever you say. I know my limits.” Said Madhura
During the scuffle Madhura unknowingly hit on the forehead of Sujata. She fell on the ground. Madhura had to face embarrassing situation. Everybody looked at her as a culprit. Purohit was a silent spectator to the scene. He could convince Sujata to stop fighting and be ready to face the situation. He told Madhura with folded hands not to complicate the issue further and forget him for ever. Sujata told Madhura leave the spot. Madhura left the place with heavy heart. With all this unexpected developments, the other team members, who had no links with the episode, had the taste of sumptuous food. The purpose of visit to park was different and the end was quite different. Disturbed Sujata could not eat properly. It was clearly evident from her face that she was unhappy. Knowing the reason of her gloomy face, Purohit did not force her to have food. He too did not touch the food. By the time the vanabhojana was over, it was 8 p.m. Watchman told to leave the place immediately. All the members packed up the empty vessels and left home.
Sujata was unhappy with her husband for his acquaintance with Madhura. Lot of misunderstanding erupted between the couple. They had to spend many sleepless nights. He was unable to find early amicable solution. Sujata went to the extent of filing divorce petition in the court. He took the help of his son Dr. Srivatsa and daughter in law Dr. Ragini. Both came to India to help Purohit. Hectic discussions and arguments went on for a week. Purohit’s home was converted as a battleground. The powerful weapons were in the shape of abusing words. It was a hell of job for young doctor couple. There was no sign of resolving the issue. At one stage, young couple wanted to go back leaving the elders to their fate. With the constant persuasion, Purohit and Sujata agreed to come to an understanding. Sujata accepting ‘wisely’ as matured. She too had her past.
There was shocking news for Purohit. His lover Madhura committed suicide in her Bannerghatta Road flat by hanging to a ceiling fan. Purohit and Sujata went to see her to pay last respect. Soumya and Navin were already there did not permit Purohit and Sujata to see the dead body.
“Mr. Purohit, you are responsible for my mother’s suicide. You are a criminal. I hate you. Do not show your face.” Said Soumya
“Sir, you will be behind the bars shortly.” Said Navin
“Let us see who will take action on whom? Please allow us to see Madhura.” Asked Purohit with folded hands
Soumya was adamant. She told them to leave the place. With disappointment they left the place. In the suicide note Madhura expressed her inner feelings of unhappiness and despair in life. She had also mentioned in the note that no one was responsible for her suicide and she was taking the extreme step as she was depressed about life.
Tag der Veröffentlichung: 26.04.2010
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