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The Bench #FFfAW

Vinod proudly took his friend Hemant around the green zone. Technocity had developed 12.5 acres of dry land into a green zone. There were trees, shrubs, a lake and recently a lot of birds had started visiting. It was a place where families used to visit now to relax.

You mean to say there are no thefts of timber ‘, asked Hemant.

‘Nah’, said Vinod.

‘How are you so sure?’, Asked Hemant.

‘We have coded each tree and I know each branch , each twig of my trees’, Vinod said proudly.

‘What are they doing?’,asked Hemant pointing to some workers.

‘We are putting up some benches made of recycled plastic for visitors’, explained Vinod .

 

Next day Morning , as usual Vinod was on his ’rounds’. When he noticed a fat branch missing. A team gathered and went on a search. It was impossible that the branch had been moved out. They found some bits of wood. but nothing more.

Meanwhile a lone wooden bench sat near the lake and somewhere  a man was happy with his creation.

(173 words)

This story is written for the 177th Flash fiction for Aspiring writers. The challenge is to write a story on the picture prompt for 100-150 words (+- 25 words). Thanks to Priceless Joy for hosting the challenge. Thanks also to Wildverbs who provided this weeks picture.

 

Those small joys

spicy saturday blogs india

Ajji came in disturbed, mumbling to herself.

‘What happened Ajji, why are you so disturbed?, I asked my grandmother who had just returned home after dropping my younger brother Vinay to school.

‘Shailu, I had read in the newspaper that depression is on the rise. It is true’, said Ajji.

‘Why do you feel so Ajji’, I said.

‘I saw a man talking to himself. A young man, Shailu in his 20s. I got so upset. Chee chee, such a young life wasted. And then I saw another woman shouting at no one in particular that the report has to be submitted today….’

I started laughing

‘Why are you laughing. You should feel pity for these young lives wasted’, Ajji said.

‘Ajji they were talking on their mobiles’, I said

‘No, no, she said, ‘I didn’t see any mobiles….’, she said

‘They must be talking on their handsfree…’

‘What is that’, she asked

‘We cannot hold our mobiles in our hands while driving Ajji so we have our handsfree or bluetooth or earphones’, I replied showing my earphones to her.

‘Ohh, so they were talking on these’, she said

I laughed. Poor ajji,she was finding everything so new. Ajji never used to go out. happy at home and with her chores at home. The maximum that she went out was to meet relatives. But then recently we came to know that she was Vitamin D deficient and so the task of dropping and picking Vinny to school was assigned to her. So that in that way at least she would go out and soak in some sun.  But every day now she was seeing and learning something new and it was fun to be witnessing with her.


My friend Preeti came in one day and we were busy. No, not studies we were goofing around trying on new combination of clothes and clicking pictures when Ajji came in. ‘Huhh, Preeti, what happened to you….You fell down…your lips…why are they swollen’, she asked. We laughed till our stomach ached. ‘Why, why are you laughing like that’, she asked.

‘Ajji’, I said holding on to my aching tummy, ‘It is known as a pout, we are just posing for some pictures’.

‘Huh’, was all that my innocent ajji could say.

‘Come, come Ajji, pout like me’, said Preeti and posed. Ajji imitated like her and it was fun.

Ajji was just like a kid soaking in everything new.

‘Is it fun to ride’, she asked me one day when I was parking my Activa.

‘Oh yes’, I said, ‘I love it when I feel the wind. It makes me feel so free’.

‘Hmm’, she said, ‘will you teach me how to ride’.

‘Ajji, no, I can’t do that… I mean at this age…..if you fall down….’, said I

‘See, Shailu when I was young I learnt to ride the bicycle without my father’s knowledge but then one day he came to know and he stopped me. Those days it was not acceptable you know. Today it is. Won’t you teach me Shailu. Before dying I want to feel the wind too’, She pleaded

I just couldn’t say no.

And from then on, Ajji would sit pillion and we would go to the nearby ground where she would learn to drive.

When the first time she had driven from our complex gate to our home my father was shocked.

Obviously at her age ( 71 to be precise), we could not allow her to drive on the road but yes now and then she would drive in our complex.

One day on my return from college I noticed a group of children huddled in a corner near the complex gate. I ignored them thinking that they must be planning some mischief..

At home my mother was grumbling to herself. ‘what happened amma’,I asked.

‘The maid didn’t come in today that too without notice’, she said as she threw the doormat in a corner and continued, ‘And your ajji….instead of helping me, she has gone off to be with the kids.’

‘Ohh, is it she with them’, I said.

‘Who else’, she said as she banged the broom down.

We both looked at the group. Someone had said some joke and all were laughing heartily.

‘Let it be amma. She cannot do all these work anymore, isn’t it. Let her do what she can’, I said.

‘Yes’, said amma softening a bit, ‘The next door neighbour is having a migraine and was complaining about the din the children were making. So she took them aside,’ amma said.

‘It is good that she is keeping herself active….let her do whatever gives her joy’, I said. Amma nodded.

‘And now’, I said, ‘let ME help you’. And I took the broom from amma’s hand.

Raise your ‘Hood’

image

Once, during a rainy day, I was sitting on the window sill holding my coffee mug mulling over life in general.

Nothing was going right. Finances were down. I am an interior designer working with my husband. We have a small firm which does interiors, landscaping etc.Business was good. We got a lot of contracts, advances were paid upfront but though we finished work on time, the balance payments took months together. In some cases years.

My father in law needed regular dialysis. Son’s fees and other activities needed money. EMIs were due and I was depressed.

We are both straight forward people. We do not understand how shrewd people can be. Clients come and show as if they need their home/office interiors to be done. They show so much interest in our work, they pay advance so hurriedly but then once the job is done, they disappear. Don’t they understand that we have a home to run that we have families too. Our team too suffers because of delay in payments.

It’s at that moment that my mobile rings. It is Hitesh, my friend from college. We exchanged pleasantries….talked for some time and then..’Avanti, whats the matter? Why do you sound so low?’

Me in a choked voice,’Nothing.’

He; ‘Don’t lie, I can understand from your tone’

And then it all came out, the tension, the frustration, the pain

‘Hmmm’, Hitesh said, ‘I will tell you a story.’

I was astonished. Here I was on crossroads almost on the verge of bankruptcy and here was he telling me a story.

‘I will just tell the story. You draw conclusions and the inferences’, he said, ‘There was a cobra who lived in a pit. That pit was near a road. Whoever came near the pit, he bit them. Narad muni was once passing through the path. He saw the snake and felt sad. So he gave a sermon about karma and how each one has to pay back. He advised him not to bite people unnecessarily. So saying Narad muni left. The muni’s words affected the cobra a lot.

After some months Narad muni was going through the path again. So he stopped to meet the cobra. What he sees is a battered snake.What has happened is though the snake has become non violent, people do not know that. So when they see the cobra they beat him with sticks. Then Narad says “I asked you to be nonviolent but I didn’t ask you not to be defensive. When people come near you, you can raise your hood and scare them.”‘

That was the talk that I had with Hitesh two years back.

Today again its a rainy day. I sit with my mug of coffee but today I am happy. Our home is now our home. My father in law had a successful transplant. All is well at least financially.

How you wonder?

We just raised our hoods

We start work only when we receive an advance-substantial advance. Often we tell the client only to buy the ‘raw materials’. We don’t finish the work until the payment is paid even though the client is well-known, a relative or tells us sob stories. Some of the old balances are still pending but for now we are doing alright.

Some advises are just brilliant.


This post is a part of Write over the weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

This weekend the prompt was, Once during a rainy day.

#fiction

 

 

 

Broken dreams

Ginny hops and skips across the street. My eyes follow her, wherever she goes. Presently she holds some flowers in her hand and hops towards me. ‘For you’, she says and skips away.

I am a young lad of some twenty and five years, waiting by the medical college holding a bunch of red roses, Aashus favourite. She comes out and sees me and then she sees the flowers and her eyes light up. 

‘Ajja, ajja.’, Ginny says, do you want to go on that side, lot of kids playing over there’, she says. I nod. She takes me near the ground where some children are playing football whr=ereas some younger kids are just running around.

Aashu holds my hand and we go to the nearby cafeteria. It is our habit to go to the cafe, the day I get my pay package. Other days of course we cannot afford to eat out.

The ball hits me I shrug, a boy comes running up and says, ‘Sorry ajja’. I smile and wave him off.

Aashu jokingly pats my back, I feel her slender fingers, the warmth of hers touches my heart.

The children play, I enjoy looking at them, their energy fills me up, my only joy of the day when suddenly a boy cycling loses his balance and falls….

 We are crossing the road, the road was empty but suddenly there is a roar of a bike. Aaashu is hit, she is falling, I try to save her…….

Appa, appa’, cries Chetan my son, be careful……take care of yourself first Appa, children fall and get up but if you fall…..’ says he as he holds me and makes me sit on the wheelchair again. I look at him with glazed eyes….how do I tell him I was trying to save my broken dreams.

 

 

Life’s teachings

Aarti  usually went for a walk after dropping Medha at the bus stop. It was at the return when she met Mrs. Panicker. ‘How are you Mrs. Panicker?’,

Mrs. Panicker gave a lame smile and said, ‘Fine’ and carried on.

‘Someone not well Mrs. Panicker, why these medicines’, asked Aarti.

Mrs. Panicker sighed and said, ‘Sahana is not well Mrs. Mittal. She has severe viral infection. You know how it is. Her fever is not coming down. And she has been missing school for the past week. And summatives are up next week. I am worried’.

‘Don’t worry Mrs. Panicker, everything will be alright. And don’t worry about summatives, she will be fine by then. Also you can copy Medha’s notes, I will send it in the evening…..’, said Aarti.

‘NO, no Mrs. Mittal, we will manage, no need of Medha’s notes’, said Mrs. Panicker and hurried away.

Aarti kept on looking her way. From a past few days she had observed that Medha was left alone. Very few of  the colony children would talk to her. Most would keep a distance. What could be the reason?

In the evening Aarti went to Mrs. Panickers place laden with fruits and Medha’s class notes.

Mrs. Panicker opened the door but obviously she was astonished. ‘I brought some fruits and notes for Sahana’, said Aarti and stepped in. She saw a very weak Sahana sitting on the couch. And said, “hey Sahana….how are you darling, see I have brought you Medha’s notes, you don’t have to worry about studies now…’

‘Medha’s notes??, I don’t want Medha’s notes’, Sahana said and with teary eyes looked at her mother and said, ‘why did you ask?’

‘I didn’t’, said Mrs. Panicker but by then Sahana had rushed to her room.

There was a heavy silence in the room. And then Mrs. Panicker said, ‘Thank you Mrs. Mittal but we won’t be needing  Medha’s notes.’

Mrs. Panicker, will you explain to me why Sahana does not want Medha’ss notes’, Asked Aarti.

‘No, nothing like that, you know children when they are weak behave in weird ways’, said Mrs. Panicker.

‘I don’t believe that Mrs. Panicker. I have observed that from some days none of the colony children want to play with Medha. So there must be something. Please tell me Mrs. Panicker. I want to correct my daughter if she is wrong. Please I insist.’

Mrs. Panicker looked embarrassed but then began to speak, ‘Medha is of course, brilliant, sharp. Obviously her IQ is high but then…’

‘Please tell Mrs. Panicker, please don’t hesitate’, insisted Aarti

‘Medha thinks very highly of herself Mrs. Mittal and makes fun of others. You know my Sahana doesn’t speak very good English, so she teases Sahana about her accent. My Sahana is a sensitive child Mrs. Mittal and it affects her. Medha shows of her superiority in everything and that is why none of the kids like to play with her any more.’

Aarti was shocked. She mumbled a thanks and left.

Over the past few days Aarti just observed Sahana. And found out that what Mrs. Panicker had said was true. At every given opportunity Medha would boast or show her superiority and Aarti knew that, that habit of hers had to be set right.

Medha was excited. The next day was the open day at school. She wanted her parents to meet her teachers, especially she wanted them to meet Teacher Angela. Angela teacher liked her a lot and she knew that she would praise her in front of her parents.

She told her parents what to wear and instructed them to speak good english as Angela teacher spoke very good english.

It was then that Aarti had a brain wave.

The next day Medha proudly took her parents to Angela teacher. After the formalities were over. Aarti asked some questions in faltering English.

Medha was devastated and she looked around checking that no one was listening. Then she signalled to her mother but her mother ignored her completely.

The rest of the meeting went on like that and then they stood up to leave, when Aarti spoke, ‘Sorry my english is not so good’

‘Oh that is ok Mrs. Mittal. A famous person has said, Never make fun of someone who speaks broken English. It means they know another language‘, she said with a smile and added, ‘one can’t judge anyone on their language, can you. It is the character that matters’.

Medha was thoughtful on their return home.

Aarti looked at her from the corner of her eyes. She hoped that she had learnt a lesson today. In the coming days she would learn some more.

 

Arjun learns a lesson

Arjun and Saket were playing cricket. Mishra aunty called them and said, ‘Arjun, Saket, It is so hot. Why are you playing cricket now?’

Arjun looked at her and said, ‘Dadi, its our vacations now and we are getting bored at home’

‘But beta, it is hot now, you will fall sick’, said Mishra aunty.

The boys kept playing.

After some time Mishra aunty called them, Saket, Arjun come, I have made some shikanji, It is so refreshing’.

The boys could not resist the cool drink and ran towards Dadi’s home

And while they munched on some biscuits and had some cool shikanji, Dadi was busy. She kept a mango in the centre of some funny apparatus which had a wooden plank with a knife attached to it. The plank had a depression in the centre. Dadi kept a mango in the depression and brought the knife down. Cutting the mango into two neat halves. Then she kept each half and then bisected them again.

‘What are you doing, dadi’, asked Saket

‘Cutting mangoes’, told Dadi simply.

‘Yes’, but for what’, asked Saket

‘For pickles. After I cut them, I will apply some salt and some haldi and keep it in the sun for some time’, said Dadi

‘Arjun, will  you help me in cutting these mangoes’, said she

‘Me, why?? I am not a girl’, said he.

‘And what do you mean by that’, Dadi asked

‘Only girls do this work. I mean all this kitchen work’, said he.

‘And what are boys supposed to do?’, asked Dadi.

‘Umm, drive cars, go to office….’said Arjun

‘Why then does you mom drive a car and go to office’, said dadi, And I have seen your father cooking sometimes’.

‘Oh that is when mom is sick or too busy’, said he.

‘Oh then why does Sanjiv Kapoor become a chef, after all cooking is a girl’s job’, retorted Dadi

All this was confusing Arjun. He had just assumed that cooking was a girl’s domain and had never thought more than that.

‘Beta, one should know or at least try to know everything. There is nothing as boys work and girls work’, said dadi.

Saket meanwhile was trying his hand in cutting mangoes. He squealed in delight as one piece flew and fell far away. After a few strokes but he was cutting fine.

Arjun’s hand itched to try tha apparatus once. But he felt shy. finally curiosity took over and he asked, ‘May I try it once’.

In no time both boys were taking turns and having a good time.

Dadi smiled. She had managed to put some sense in Arjun and whats more a full bag of mangoes had been cut for making pickle. Her work had been simplified.

Mummy hurried to make dinner, she had been late from office and she was sure Arjun must be famished. As such she felt guilty on leaving him alone the full day and if she didn’t give him food at right times she felt even more guilty.

Arjun came into the kitchen.

‘Wait son, just 15 more minutes and I will serve you dinner’, said she

‘No mama, it is alright, I came to help you. Do you need help in cutting vegetables??’, he asked

His mom meanwhile stared at him in shock.

 

 

 

 

To group or not to group…..

Jini moved in bed and then a hand popped out searching for her mobile. Pavan had already opened the curtains and the sunrays peeped in. ‘Good morning world’, she typed, ‘good to see the sun after the evil dust storm’. Pavan looked and sighed. Nowadays he was afraid to even speak to her lest it found its way in her whatsapp messages.

Sometime later he sat working on the report which he had to send immediately to Oman. As he switched on the wi-fi on his mobile, it started beeping. He let out a sigh. What was the need for so many messages. Often repeated on multiple groups. ‘Does anyone read them’, he murmured.

Jini  came in, ‘Hi, good morning’, she said, ‘somebody is grumpy….what happened?’

‘Does anyone read these junk messages which keep on forwarding from one group to another’, he said

‘But then some are useful’, she said.

‘Like if you drink two litres of water, your digestion improves and…..’,

‘Like you didn’t know already? And why do we have to have so many groups? There is my school alumni group, college alumni group, …….’, he said

But don’t you feel good to be back in touch with your friends?’, she asked.

‘Yes, it does but what is the need for my office colleagues group, don’t we meet everyday’

And then there is Nikita’s school parent group….what is the purpose of the group. I would rather exit that group’, he said.

‘oh no, don’t do that. That way we know whats going on in school’, she said

‘But all I see is silly messages and jokes’, he countered

And what about this building group. what is the need for that. I can just go and knock someones door if I want to ask something,’ he said

‘The owner created that group so that he can communicate to everyone in one go’, she said.

‘And what about this family group’, he began

‘Oh let it be, we all can be in touch through that group’, Jini said

The phone beeped again. Pavan switched off the wi-fi. Jini meanwhile was punching in a new status, ‘ To group or not to group is the question in the better half’s mind’

Pavan thought a little and then switched on the wi-fi, for the first time he punched in his status, ‘ I am a social animal who thrives in isolation, please don’t add me in groups’. Please…..please……_/\_

 

Life and an icecream

He sat by the corner. I could see that he was upset. I went and sat by him.

‘What happened?’, I asked

‘I hate my teacher’, he said.

My son as such loves going to school but somehow he was not able to relate to the new class and the new teacher.

‘it is a new class, you will take time getting used to it’, I said.

‘it is already one week’, he said.

I sighed.

‘Sometimes it takes a little bit longer’, I said.

He shrugged and then said, ‘ I don’t want to go to school’.

That hit me…hard.

‘See sonny, you have to go to school, school gives the basis to get a good job. And when you get a good job,  you can do as you please’. I said

‘Huh’, he said

‘What?’ I said

‘You are in a good job, aren’t you? But you crib all the time. About your boss keeping high targets, about your co-workers back stabbing. Whats more you can’t do as you please, so what is the use of having a good job, what is the use of going to school?’

I stared at him with my mouth agape. He had his point.

My son was growing up….he observed….a lot.

‘Come let’s have an ice cream’, I said

‘Mamma will scold’, he said

I shrugged and said, “I will have a sugar-free one’, I said.

We had our cone ice creams, he a strawberry, me a sugar-free vanilla.

‘You know life is like an ice cream’, I said

‘Huh?’, he said

‘Sometimes it is cold, sometimes soft and always it looks tough like the waffle here. but then it gives the crunch. So it is with life, it looks tough, it is sometimes hard, sometimes it is a breeze but the important thing is you enjoy each bit because they become memories’, I said.

He looked at me as if with new understanding.

‘Thats what you talk about with Suresh Uncle’, He said

I nodded, Suresh was my childhood pal. Whenever he came to town, we reminisced about bike rides and movies and of our dreaded Physics teacher and so on.

‘So enjoy this bitter-sweet moments’, I said

He smiled.

*fiction

 

 

 

SAVIOR -Part V

For earlier part click here

Kittu whenever he came to his hometown would try to put some sense in Mohan about the importance of education but to no avail. For Mohan who had always been pampered by everyone, who had got everything easily, studying was a pain. And so Raghav thought it was better if he started working than to become a wayward.

Whenever Kittu and Harish would get some holidays they would take their bicycles and roam. It was at one of those holidays that Harish told of his family. He told of his siblings, of how they were surviving amidst odds. A philanthropic father who served others forgetting his own children; of how he and his elder brother had worked odd jobs to support their family, of his sister who wanted to study but could not. Of how lovely she was, how modest, loving and kind she was. And at that moment Kittu promised Harish that he would marry his sister-Karuna once he got a job.

 

Kittu’s troubles were not yet over. There was a slump in the market and he did not get a job as soon as he graduated. And he did not want to go back and be a burden on his brothers. So he took up a job in nearby Mangalore. A job which seldom paid him. He was taken in as an apprentice but the statutory stipend was seldom paid and so he again took up tutoring to fund himself. It was after some months that he came to know of Bhilai-the steel plant in Madhya Pradesh that was going to come up and for which recruitment was on.

He was selected.

What followed was uproar. His mother was aghast as to how her son would manage alone in an alien place. Karuna fainted. Others felt that he had betrayed his dharma. It was Harish who stood rock solid beside him.

Kittu’s possessions were little but his dreams were not. As he travelled on the wooden planks of the India Railways from Mangalore to Madras, then to Nagpur and then to Bhilai, he fixed up goals to be achieved in the coming months.

The training was tough for others but not for Kittu. Life had hardened him and made him strong. His first home was in a tent until the accommodation was readied. The first thing he bought himself was not a pair of trousers but a bicycle which he would use to cycle himself from home to the plant and to travel about.

The group of youngsters had fire in the belly and dreams in their eyes. Jawaharlal Nehru’s statement of temples of modern India ignited them.

Kittu worked hard. He and Savitri communicated regularly. Once he had accumulated enough, he along with his sister Savitri with the help of a third party bought their ancestral home from their aunt and uncle. If they had gone to buy it themselves, his uncle would never had sold it to them.

The look on Rukmini’s face was enough for Kittu. The family moved back into their home. And after a few days of holidaying, Kittu returned to Bhilai where a surprise awaited him. He had been chosen with some others to be sent on training to Russia.

He was proud. He sent message back home but there a  pandemonium broke out. The people of their community said that it was not right for him to go beyond the country, his religion would be lost. Some said that the family would be an outcast. Rukmini was in a dilemma. What was she to do whether to follow the dictates of society or let him follow his dreams?

Radha came forward then and said, ‘Amma where were these so-called pillars of society when we were thrown out of our home’

Rukmini got some strength from her words. But she was worried about how Karuna and her family would feel. True they were only betrothed but Karuna’s family may object to Kittu’s training in Russia. So she called upon Harish.

Harish upon hearing that Kittu had been selected for training in Russia, started dancing in joy.

‘Will your people have any objection?’, asked Rukmini

‘Objection, why? It is such an honour, Mayi. Why will they object?’, said Harish. Rukmini’s worries melted away.

 

Kittu returned from Russia with new vigour. The training had been good, now it was time for implementing what he had learnt. Also there was something more which he was looking forward to. His and Karuna’s wedding had been fixed two months hence. A wait of over six years was finally being culminated in marriage. He felt pride that a promise that he had made of marrying without any dowry to a girl who was good natured, intelligent and hardworking was going to be fulfilled.

 

Rukmini looked around with pride at the banner which read, KARUNA WEDS KRISHNA. The boy who had always given her trouble for food and otherwise was today getting married to a lovely lady. Even in her wildest dreams she had not imagined that the imp of a boy would strive to do something which would change the course of the entire family.

It had all been possible because his teacher had challenged him to earn his own tuition fees.

‘Ahh Rao sahib, welcome to the wedding of your pupil’, she said welcoming the visionary teacher unto the wedding hall.

———

And with this I conclude this series. If you have not guessed it yet, let me tell you that this is the story of my father. A person who fought destiny to pave his own path. He celebrates his 78th birthday in two weeks time. Please keep him in your prayers.

SAVIOR-Part IV

(For earlier part click here)

Meanwhile their two sisters had to be married off. And married off they were to widowers almost twice their age.

At that time Kittu pledged that whenever he married, it would be to someone who was good natured, intelligent and hardworking and not because her family had money. Money would be the least in his criterion, he decided.

His two brothers who had dropped out of school because of their family conditions took care of educating themselves nevertheless. The elder Raghav started his provision shop and the other brother Sudarshan also opened his own shop in another nearby town.

Kittu meanwhile funded his own education and gave the surplus to his mother. Now they were staying in a rented place which was far better than the shed they had been forced to stay earlier.

Kittu passed his Intermediate with flying colours and then was eligible to join Engineering but the question was how to pay for the fees. And so he opted for Diploma. His sister Savitri who stayed in the city invited him to stay with them. But the original problem still remained….how to pay fees. Though Savitri was fairly well off, he did not want to be a burden on her. Studies were hard too, so he had very less time to work but work he had to.

It was at that time he came in contact with Harish. Harish was a man of similar circumstances who had to work as a truck driver to earn some money. He and a couple of his friends all of them had been forced by situations to quit studies. And Kittu had a brilliant idea to start a ‘tutorial’ for them. He borrowed books on simple mathematics, geography, science and some scripture too. Whatever his students offered he accepted as fees he accepted. Someone gave a bag of rice, someone an old pair of trousers and some plain currency. And so in the Hall of his sister’s residence, Kittu’s adult education centre flourished.

Savitri’s husband Mani, loved Kittu as his own and so whatever good Kittu did, Mani offered his support whole heartedly. Owing to malnutrition at a young age on part of Savitri and advanced age factors on part of Mani, they did not have any children of their own. But there was this family whom they had befriended who had about six children and out of those six, one Mani cherished. The family would have gladly given him to Mani for it was difficult for them to feed so many. But the times were different then. Adoption was frowned upon and that too among different castes.

It was Kittu and his troop who stood up for Mani and Savitri. They adopted the cherub and named him Prakash. And though the society gave troubles, Kittu and his friends saw that the small family wasp protected. For some time none of the shopkeepers gave any provisions, Savitri was not allowed to draw water from the common well, people spat on the path Mani walked, his business dwindled but after some time when people saw that nothing could deter Mani and Savitri, their opposition died its own death.

For Mani and Savitri, Kittu became even more precious. And for his students an example, that if you believed in something, you could remain steadfast on it.

His eldest brother Raghav meanwhile got married and he moved to another house nearby. Sudarshan was doing well too in another city. Raghav came to know of another shop available on rent and so he took it and gave his old shop to the youngest, the darling of all, Mohan.

Mohan though the darling of all was not that enterprising. Though circumstances were favourable for him, he did not study beyond his eighth grade.(to be continued)