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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)

SAVIOR- Part III

For the earlier part, read here

Next day it was a silent Kittu who went to school.

‘Well, young man, have you brought the school fees’, it was Rao Sir.

‘No, my mother could not arrange it’, he said.

‘What do you mean by that, if she couldn’t then you do’

‘What, ME?’ said Kittu, ‘What will I be able to do?’

‘Why??? You can’t do anything?? Have you seen boys delivering newspapers, have you seen boys singing in the streets and then earning some money…’

‘I am not a beggar, I will not beg’, said the defiant Kittu.

‘Then work,’ said Rao Sir, ‘it is better than bossing over others’. Rao sir who knew about Kittu’s behaviour at home said. ‘Do anything but bring the fees in two days time.’ And as an afterthought he added, ‘The Tent Company has returned and people are queuing up for seeing some moving pictures.’ Those days there were no movie theaters. There would be companies showing these movies that would move from place to place with their tents. In which those movies would be shown.

Kittu sat in absolute silence trying to digest whatever Rao sahib. Slowly the fact of their financial position was sinking in. Yes, they were now poor, so poor that most of the days his mother and sister had to sleep hungry. So poor that his or rather any of his siblings education could not be funded by his mother. So if he really had to study then he had to fund it himself.

But what had Rao Sir said later. The Tent Company were in town. So what was he to do about it?

He sat for a long time.

Rao Sir meanwhile was talking to Rukmini. ‘Forgive me sister, but today I was harsh to your son’.

‘Did he do something wrong?’, asked Rukmini.

‘No, but I wanted to make him realise what situation you are in. He is a bright kid who will do wonders but he has to be independent now itself for that. He has to learn how.’

‘But how….’, said Rukmini.

‘I have planted the seeds, let’s see what happens. Meanwhile take these two rupees and do as I say’, said Rao Sir.

Kittu could not fathom what Rao Sir had told him. Then he called upon Suresh his classmate, ‘Suresh have you been to the Tent’.

‘Yes, I have’, said Suresh proudly.

‘What do you do there’, asked Kittu

‘We watch films and we eat…. candy and peanuts and….’, said he with dreamy eyes.

Something clicked and Kittu ran. As soon as the bell rang, he ran. He had lots of work to do. The day was long and there were loads to do.

‘Amma, amma I have a plan’, said Kittu and explained to his mother what he wanted to do. He wanted to sell peanuts outside the Tent.

His mother said how difficult it would be for her to finance his project but she would do it for his sake. So from that day onwards she would fry peanuts and fill them in triangular packs of old newspaper.

And then Kittu would take those in wicker baskets and go sell it outside the Tent.

He could not accumulate his school fees in two days but he did do it in seven.

There were two-three people selling peanuts but Kittu had an edge. The people who did not come to watch movies would flock around him for he would sing the songs and enact dialogues for those who could not afford to watch the movies. Slowly his brother too started standing with him selling weeklies and booklets of the songs from movies.

When there were no customers Kittu would sit and study with the help of the light from the lantern. His brother would ward off flies from their stall while in turn selling booklets.

(to  be continued)

SAVIOR Part II

for the previous part click here

1945

Fortunes change in a moment. Joys became sorrows and situations become miseries. More than two years had passed. Datta had not repaid the amount. There were still sixty people in his home and one more son had been added to his family. What is more he had realised that Shivshankar was actually a front for his brother-in-law. And they had forged the house in his sister’s name. And so about six months back Datta had filed a court case. And it seemed as if he would win the case. Anna mused the events of the past two years when,‘Anna’, someone called, he looked up to find his sister. She fell at his feet, ‘Anna, please forgive me, I became greedy, please forgive me, forgive me for old times sake’. Datta remembered the old times wherein he had pampered his sister and she in turn had served him. ‘It is alright get up’, he said. ‘Anna come home, I have made your favourite channa dal payasam, please come’, said she. Datta went with her.

An hour later Datta returned whistling a happy tune, crossing the paddy fields. When suddenly he felt bile rise in his mouth and he fell.   It was late in the night when Rukmini along with her two elder sons went in search for her husband. They covered the town but could not find him. Until someone told them of a body lying in the paddy fields.

__________________________

Radha measured the rice. It would just be enough for two or so. So today also she would have to remain hungry. Again…… It had been about six months since her father had left them. Some said it was suicide, but no, she didn’t think so. Her father was not one of those who would quit and run away. No doubt it was murder and she knew who had done that to him. It was the same person who had thrown them out of their own home. The numerous people who lived under their roof had fled on hearing about her father’s demise. Her mother was left alone with the six of them. The youngest not even a year old. And then that woman had come and kicked them out of their house, and here they were living in a shed. Her other sister had been lucky enough to live with one of her mother’s sister. The brother next to her was working as a helper in a shop. Another was working in a beedi factory. But it was Kittu who was a problem. He was the only one who went to school now. And his teacher was quite happy with his progress at school. But Kittu though intelligent had a fiery temper. And it was difficult to control it.

Their mother now worked as a house-help. Even if a single person spoke a bit harshly to their mother, Kittu would be up with daggers drawn and because of this their mother had lost her job in two places. The other problem was that Kittu could not understand that they could not afford rich foods anymore. He did not understand that whatever little they had, had to be shared. Often were the days when Kittu would demand that ‘something nice’ be made for him. Almost all the days she and her mother would tie a wet cloth around their waist misleading the stomach to give a false sense of fullness.

‘Amma’, she called as she saw her mother hurrying in, Amma the rice will not be enough for all’. ‘See, what I got’ and Rukmini opened a box to show some curry, ‘Today I hope Kittu will be happy’.

But no, Kittu was not satisfied. ‘I want some more of that curry and what is this, just this much rice?’ Raghav, the eldest of the boys tired from the work of the day was irritated and blurted out. ‘Be happy that at least you got that much’. Kittu, the fiery one, rose up and said, ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Do you know that most of the days, Amma and Radha akka sleep with empty stomachs with a wet cloth tied to their stomach? Be happy, that it is them and not you.’ Kittu was shocked and he looked at his mother and sister. Both averted their gaze. (to be continued)

SAVIOR-Part 1

I am appalled with the events which are happening around us and how we are projecting negativity at every step. It is my belief that to step out negativity we should stop thinking, speaking about it much. It does not really mean that you are escaping from it but it means that YOU DO NOT ALLOW NEGATIVES IN YOUR LIFE. I always used to have sleepless nights when agitated and then I realized that thinking too much does not help, not thinking helps sometimes. You just give the problems some space and you get solutions. The rapist got his two minutes of fame with the interview. While the nation debated, the interview must have given ideas to some other perverts. So was the interview necessary, were the debates necessary?

Today I bring to you the first part of the story Savior. A story based on true life incidents and someparts of which the regular readers must have already read. It is a story of a family and their fight against odds. A story of courage and yes….positivity. So read on……….

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Year 1945

Kittu ran. As soon as the bell rang, he ran. He had lots of work to do. The day was long and there were loads to do.

Year 1943

The rambling house of Dattatreya had scores of people living in. It was known that anyone facing a crisis whether financial or medical could turn to Datta saheb. And so the house held sixty- seventy people at a time.

Rukmini, Datta’s wife had a daily tightrope walk. Managing such a huge household was no mean feat. The food had to be cooked, the house had to be cleaned and laundry……….those were mountain loads.

Aayi (Dattatreya’s mother) disapproved of the magnanimity of Datta considering the meagre earnings. But somehow Datta was always able to placate her.

Datta had five children. The two daughters he considered his ‘eyes’. And his sons were his arms. The youngest was eight-years- old. He loved kids and excluding his five there were eight others in the house, with whom he enjoyed playing kabbadi. The neighbours would often see him outside his house running about with the kids, frolicking in the sand running after each other.

In short Datta’s heart was of gold. But then can one survive in this weird world in such simple terms?

Datta had a sister Gowri, whose desires had no limit. Call it chance or divine providence that her husband was no better. Extremely shrewd, he lost no chance in making a quick buck. Mahindra as was his name had been eyeing on Datta’s ancestral home for long. The ancient home enthralled him. The vast rooms, the open space always kept him scheming.

‘Gowri’, he called out one day, ‘Gowri don’t you feel stifled in this two room house. You were brought up in a mansion. Don’t these two rooms stifle you?’

‘Yes, it does, so….? Are you going to build one for me?’, she asked.

‘Not really but maybe I will get you the one that you love.’

‘Eh…is it? And which house is that?’ Mahindra gave a crooked smile, ‘Guess…. the house which you like the most’.

Gowri thought. The only house that came to her mind was the one with large windows, open balconies. A house in which she had run and played hide and seek. ‘But’, she said, ‘Anna lives there’.

‘Yes, he does but he may not live there for long’, he smiled shrewdly.

Some days later

Datta closed his shop and came out worried. The business had not been much. Buyers wanted more range of goods. Earlier people were happy with the few things they got now, they wanted choices. And to keep variety he needed money. But from where could he get money when he hardly could manage afloat. Managing a household of 60 was no mean feat. His two daughters had to be married off and he so wanted to take his mother on a pilgrimage. But for all that he needed money.

 

He went to the grocers who refused to give him any provisions until he paid his old dues. Datta was crestfallen. How could he face his wife and his family? Wasn’t it his job to care for his family, he could not see them starving.

He went to the moneylender of his area, who refused him too. He was at his wits end.

‘What Datta, what is the matter/’, it was Rajanna, Datta’s cousin.

‘Nothing’, said Datta.

‘But your face says something else. …..Money problems?’, asked Rajanna.

‘Yes…what to do Rajanna, maintaining such a large household is no mean feat’, said Datta.

‘Hmm, so he refused, ‘asked Rajanna pointing to the moneylender.

‘Yes’, said a crestfallen Datta.

‘Is it urgent?’ asked Rajanna.

Datta nodded.

‘I know someone who can lend you provided you can give some security?’, said Rajanna.

Datta thought of all the family gold, the copper vessels, the family heirlooms which he had mortgaged and asked, ‘Security… what can I keep as security?’

‘Let us see what he says, come with me’, said Rajanna.

 

Rajanna took Datta to a big trader, Shivshankar.

‘Anna, he is my cousin, Dattatreya’, said Rajanna.

‘Hmmm, said Shivshankar, ‘ Aren’t you the one who lives near the flower market’.

‘Yes, yes I am the one, how do you know’, said Datta.

‘Your mother and I are related’, said Shivshankar.

Datta felt a ray of hope. Maybe just maybe Shivshankar would lend him some money without any security.

 

‘So you need some moeny, is it?’, asked Shivshankar, ‘What can you give to me in return’.

Data felt the ground slip away from underneath his feet.

‘What would you need?’, asked Datta in a quivering voice.

 

Ultimately it was decided that Shivshankar would lend him Rupees Five hundred on the basis of the papers of the house.

Datta would have to repay the amount within twelve months.

(to be continued)