The Voice From Heaven

Anand was a step ahead of the idiom “born with a silver spoon“ because he was born into a family of affluent goldsmiths. From a very young age he was infused into the ancient art of gold making like all his ancestors were.  His family was one among the well-known lineages of craftsmen who had been reputed goldsmiths for generations. So naturally he was good at his work; but he had a foul temper and an arrogant demeanor. So,the name Anand that meant ‘happiness’ was an absolute irony in his case.

Like his father before him, Anand too stared working in the workshop as an apprentice to his father and gradually mastered the art of making fine and intricate jewelry. As time progressed, as per his parents’ wishes, he married a girl named Sita from the same community of goldsmiths, who thankfully had the temperament of a cow. It remained quite a mystery if he noticed the girl or was he more bothered about the jewelry she wore. However, she managed his household without complaining or nagging him too much except making subtle hints about provisions and groceries from time to time; but only after gauging his mood.

Meanwhile, Anand lived a routine life making gold jewelry for aristocrats and wealthy patrons. While he was distantly polite and sometimes curt with his patrons, he maintained a respectful distance just talking bare minimum just to explain the intricacies’ of his work. Whereas, common people from the village did not dare to approach him at all, but sometimes got their jewelry made or got them repaired from his assistants.

One day, his wife Sita found an abandoned parrot chick that had somehow fallen of the nest. Being a compassionate woman by nature, she brought the little parrot home and nurtured it back to health. She named the bird Mittu and nursed it every day. In a few days the bird healed completely and began to flutter about inside the palatial house in an effort to fly. She requested the local carpenter to make a large cage for the bird and placed it in one side of the courtyard.  The bird flew about inside the cage and performed it usual acrobatics that all parrots do. During her free time, as she fed Mittu she would talk to the parrot, who, perched inside the cage would be too busy relishing his treat. But one day he paused in between his meal and after a few attempts the bird shyly repeated a few words back at her.

Thus began a whole new chapter in the woman’s otherwise drab life. Sita found a companion in the parrot and began to have long conversations with Mittu which she could never have with her curt husband.  She would sometimes just talk her heart out or sometimes train the bird to talk a few words. Either ways they both had a close relationship.

As days passed, Mittu picked up more vocabulary. He would whistle to the dog, meow to a cat, and even mimic a crow or a domesticated animal that passed by. Every day, when Sita lit the lamp in the front porch as per tradition, Mittu would chant a prayer or two. When the women of other household came in to gossip, the parrot would also join in and acknowledge them with an occasional sentence, even though it made no sense to the context.  But he would cock his head to one side and listen carefully to the conversation and repeat a few sentences out of the blue. Mittu would order tea to be served if there were guests. Sometimes he would ask for tea when the guests have already been served or after they left. In any case, he kept everyone happy with his cheerful antics.

Soon, Mittu became a minor celebrity in the villages. People passing by the street would call out his name and he would respond to them cheerfully. He loved the attention except for some unruly children since they were loud and banged on the cage door. He would withdraw to a far corner and sulk for hours.  Even though Anand did not really care about the bird, Mittu looked at him as a savoir since the children ran away and did not enter the street when Anand was around.  So every day when visitors and passersby were invited for tea and refreshments, Mittu held a special place for Anand and he was often invited for a meal in his own house.

One day, Sita’s brother visited them and stayed over for a few days. Being a brash teenage boy, he had a foul mouth and out of some sheer sadistic pleasure, he taught the parrot a few abusive words.  One of them included a proverbial quote that roughly translated into -‘a goldsmith would pinch a little gold even from his mother’s jewelry‘.  And so the parrot went on repeating it every time he saw the boy.  One day Mittu repeated this phrase when Anand was at home which enraged him and he hurled a few abuses at the parrot. A few moments later, Anand was still in a foul temper when the parrot repeated the newly learnt phrase and the newly learnt abuses. Mad with rage, Anand opened the cage to strangle the bird. The parrot’s frantic calls brought everyone in the household to his rescue. The wife begged and pleaded with Anand to spare the bird and in the confusion the parrot escaped and flew away.

Unlike pigeons, domesticated parrots usually do not return to it cage once they are set free. But over the following days, villagers heard phrases and occasional invites for tea from tree tops. But every day when Anand was on his way to his work place, there would be a torrent of abuses.

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A Twist of Fate.

Gopi was the eldest amongst the three siblings. His father had taken to the bottle and due to this habit he lost his job, the house and eventually died early. Gopi’s mother, fed up of her husband’s habits, had taken the other two children and had gone to live with her brothers in the village. Meanwhile, due to some favor of some relative or a well wisher’s foresight, Gopi was able to complete his basic education in a free school run by a British mission. Ever since his father’s death, Gopi was the sole breadwinner of the family.  Since Gopi had some basic primary education and could read and write in English along with a few regional languages, found himself a job in a 5-star hotel as a Bell Hop.  His mission-led education had paid-off and it showed in the way he conducted himself at work. He was always found well-mannered and extremely polite and hence he quickly gained popularity among guests and his superiors’ alike. A few years later he was promoted to a Room Boy.

One day, he was asked to assist a guest into his room and Gopi with his usual charm ushered the English gentleman into his suite. Thanks to his Anglo -Indian education, the guest was pleased with Gopi’s mannerisms and was particularly taken to his impeccable language and charm. After a few days of casual interactions, the Gentleman who was referred to as “The Sahib” took a liking to Gopi. He would have Gopi run a few errands after work hours or just chit-chat with Gopi occasionally enquiring about his family and his background.  The Sahib was a frequent visitor and each time stayed for a fortnight or longer and he would always call upon Gopi for assistance.  It was later known that the gentleman was a British national; a chronic bachelor and he along with his two brothers had invested in oil and struck gold. They were immensely wealthy and with no apparent heir, had formed trusts and gave away much to charities.

One evening, the guest asked Gopi to meet him in his suite after his shift and when he arrived, the Sahib asked him to wait in the room while he would return after a few minutes. Gopi went into the room as instructed as soon as the guest left. What Gopi saw in the room was something he was not prepared for; he saw the bed strewn with bundles and bundles of currency notes of various denominations. Gopi had never seen so much money all his life. There were open brief cases with bundles of money kept on the tables too. Gopi felt dizzy with excitement and fear. One side of him told him to take a few bundles and run away. If he managed to smuggle a bag of money it would make his life. Another side instructed him to just do what he was asked to do. The Sahib had said he will be back in a few moments and Gopi feared he might be caught in the act if he tried to steal any money. Again his conscience got better of him and instructed him to stay put and guard the room. Out of perplexity or fear, Gopi stood rooted to the spot cursing the Sahib in putting him into this dilemma.

The Sahib did not have any particular work at all. After instructing Gopi to wait in the bedroom he just headed to the poolside restaurant and had a laid-back evening with a few drinks. After a leisurely dinner, he lazed by the poolside smoking his usual cigars and having an occasional drink. Sometime in the early hours the Sahib returned to find Gopi rooted to the spot just outside the bedroom door staring at the money and almost dazed out of his wits.

Perhaps it was the Sahib’s way of testing loyalty and faithfulness since he already knew of Gopi’s background and circumstances. A few days later, the Sahib took Gopi under his tutelage and employed him as his personal assistant. In a classic tale of rags to riches, the world changed for Gopi overnight. Over the forthcoming years Gopi became prosperous and the Sahib took care of him like a son. He learnt the tricks and trades of trading from the Sahib of handling finances and documentation pertaining to the business. After a few years, the Sahib retired and settled in the countryside and Gopi returned to his hometown, married and fathered two children and lived a contented life.  When the Sahib passed away, in his Will, the lawyers were instructed that all his wealth was to be donated to various charities and trusts, but a substantial amount was left behind for Gopi.

In the Lime-light

Balram, being one of those who took the most simple things too seriously, he normally gave too much thought to unimportant things. One day, his mother asked him to buy a few lemons from the shop at the end of the street. As usual, being the one who gave unnecessary thought for small things, he decided to go to a traders market that was a few miles away because it would be cheaper there. Although anyone else would normally pick up the lemons, which would normally cost Rupees 3 to 4 each, at any local neighborhood shop. Balram spent over an hour making a trip to the market, without realizing that the petrol spent to commute would cost a lot more. In any case, he went to the market on the scooter and parked it at a distance and walked through the crowded roads to locate a vendor who sells lemons. Eventually he found a vendor who had a large basket of lemons and many more stacked in his shop.  Balram began his lengthy conversations and his inquiries about the agriculture, the region, and the origins of the lemon. He felt it was necessary to negotiate the cost of lemons. He was particularly happy that the lemons cost him one rupee lesser than the local vegetable store. But as usual, he still gave it a little more contemplation and asked the vendor if the price could be reduced further if he bought a large quantity. Since it was a wholesalers market, usually the fruits and produce were traded in truckloads .It wasn’t unusual for such requirements in a wholesale market and the vendors get accustomed to such requests. So, the vendor agreed and asked how much would be required and then, Balram in all his generosity told the vendor that he wanted 15 lemons.

Flam’boy’ance

The one who named him Harish Chandra perhaps failed to see the irony of comparison to the legendary king – Raja Satya Harish Chandra, who, according to the legend, lost his kingdom, wife, and son but still stuck to his principles of righteousness and truthfulness.

Hari, as he was called, was a dusky boy whom no one paid much attention to. He was a self important boy and went around boasting about his connections and wealth. Each time he bragged, it would be different stories to different people and hence he would forget whatever he had said to each one earlier. For instance, one day he bragged about how he saw an imported bike on display and without giving it a second thought, he just paid the amount in cash and wanted the bike to be delivered immediately, but sadly it would take a month for a new bike to be imported, but adamant that he was, he offered to transport the bike in his paternal uncles private jet. A few days later, he goes to the same friend on the pretext of borrowing some money and pours out his woe that he is expecting guests at home and since his father is bankrupt, they can’t even manage to serve lunch and refreshments to them.

Hari was also trying to be popular with the girls and since no one paid much attention to his declaration of family fortunes and connections, he tried to gain sympathy by saying that he was a victim of incurable ailments. One day he coughed a lot and connected it to some serious disease of the lung. After a few days he claimed that he could hardly walk and the disease of the bone has taken its toll. Another day he said his memory was failing and the culprit was a certain disease of the brain. And these references to ailments happened so often, that he forgot the body part he was supposed to mention and so he just stuck to just an incurable and mysterious disease.

He also often bragged about his younger brother who was a muscular, tall, dusky, and handsome boy, who was also so virtuous and responsible that he was almost considered a vigilante in the locality, since he beat up all the hoodlums who eve-teased or created nuisance. This younger and handsome ‘muscular’ brother just turned out to be a dark, sweaty and obese boy who could hardly walk a furlong with out stopping to gasp for breath.

Like all boys in their teens, there were many boys who frequented the cinemas for a movie at least once a month. It was almost a day’s work to watch a movie. People had to stand in the queue and when they reached the ticketing counter there was always pushing, shoving and heated arguments. One day, Hari overheard a group of friends discussing the plans to watch a movie in the nearby auditorium. He immediately began to brag saying that the theater belonged to family friend and he claimed it was silly that his friends should even think about the queue when he was there. Hari claimed that he would get the tickets delivered to his house for the normal fee. Even though not everyone was satisfied, one of them decided to take a chance with Hari’s considerable influence at the theatre. It was decided that two others will accompany Hari to the theatre and wait in the queue as an added measure, just in case, if Hari couldn’t get the tickets from his so called connections. But to everyone’s surprise, Hari got the tickets to the show and he was an instant hero among this group. But then, what ideally happened was when Hari went into the manager’s cabin, one of the boys standing in the queue wanted to use the washroom and happened to pass by a window where he heard a man yelling, and out of curiosity peeped into the window. He saw the irritated manager abusing Hari and warning him not to be seen in the premises again. He seemed furious and just to get rid of a boy making a scene, the manager had handed over the tickets to Hari who was on his knees begging and pleading for the admission tickets.

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Company Act

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Balram once went to attend a job interview. He was referred by a friend when there was a job vacancy in his company. Balram dressed in his best attire in what he thought was formal outfit with a red striped tie that was quite a mismatch to his light blue trousers and yellow shirt. In any case, he met the respective recruiter and with the usual formality of an interview, she said “tell me something about yourself” Balram immediately fell into a monologue about his family, his pet dogs and uncles and aunts and his grandparents. He completely missed out the information about ‘himself’ in this process.

The baffled recruiter in her confused state was trying to compose herself when the immediate manager walked into the room apologizing for the delay. As formality demanded she introduced Balram to the manager who would sit through the rest of the interview. After a while, the manager who must have been equally flabbergasted perhaps wanted to end the ordeal, he said, “Balram we are a bit held up today, so can we have the rest of the interview tomorrow? One of us will call you on your number”. To which Balram thought for a minute and said “I am quite busy tomorrow so why don’t you keep yourself free the day after tomorrow”. Balram was perhaps the first candidate who gave an appointment to the recruiter and the manager for a job interview.

Some days later, Balram got a job in a retail outlet chain. His job was to identify localities and properties suitable for business. He surprisingly took to this job like a duckling to water. He spent most of his time scouting the city. Over a period of time, he became good at his work and he got along with people as he was quite warmhearted otherwise.

One day, he was asked to inspect and submit a certain feedback to the CEO directly as his reporting manager was not available. That evening there seemed to be some discrepancy in the feedback and there was a heated argument between Balram and the CEO. Apparently, the CEO had approved of a property that belonged to his acquaintance to set up a new outlet and Balram considered that it was not the appropriate location. He clearly submitted a report that said the CEO was mistaken and the property was not suitable. The CEO, in a fit of rage forgot his professionalism and threw the printed sheets of reports onto Balram’s face. Now, Balram with his usual temperament picked up those papers from the floor and said “I am the one who is out on the field and I have more practical knowledge about the feasibility of these outlets than someone who sits at office all day. Saying this he threw the reports back on the CEOs face and walked out of the office.

Sing along

Padmini was a pleasant and cheerful lady. She was always smiling and got along with anyone. All her friends and neighbors liked her. She had married the man she loved during her college days and was quite contented with her life. The marriage had borne her a fine son named Suraj. Even though Padmini and her husband were calm and collected, the 6-year-old boy turned out to be hyperactive who always kept everyone on their toes.

Usually, during holidays, Suraj went to visit his Grandparents who lived in the same city. He always looked forward to such holidays as he always had a good time being petted and pampered by his grandparents who always fussed over him.

One day, Suraj and his grandmother went to a wedding ceremony in the neighborhood. Suraj found a few boys of the same age group and began to play with them. After a while, he wanted to go to the toilet to relieve himself. He saw his grandmother gossiping with her cronies across the hall. He called out to her a few times to take him to the toilet but she didn’t hear him at the noisy gathering. Suraj being a bright boy noticed a microphone beside him on a platform that was being used by the men who played musical instruments. He climbed on to it and announced loudly to his grandmother that he had to urgently go to the washroom. Even though most people were amused with the incident, his Grand mother was quite embarrassed. After the wedding, on the way back home she advised Suraj “ The next time you want to use the toilet, just say, Grandma I want to sing”,I will understand and take you to the washroom.

A few days later, Suraj was having an afternoon siesta with his Grandfather when he felt the urge. He said, “Grandpa, I want to sing”. The Grandfather, unaware of this new development of the code language said, “ Not now Suraj, you sleep for sometime. You can sing later in the evening”. Suraj obediently held on for another 10 minutes and when it became unbearable he shook his Grandfather awake and said, “I really have to sing now”. Even though he was annoyed for being disturbed during his nap, the affection for his Grandson took over. He closed his eyes turned around on the bed and said ” Alright Suraj. If you really feel like singing now, you can sing softly into my ears”

Granny’s Remedies

Balram was one of those who took even little things to heart; he normally gave too much thought to unimportant things. He usually did most of the tasks that was asked of him without thinking why it had to be done. For instance, one morning, his father had some minor work in the city and decided to send Balram to follow up. He had said “Balram, you have to go to the city in the afternoon. But don’t loiter around there for too long. Get back home soon!” Balram, being the obedient son, immediately agreed without asking any further questions. He had an early lunch and even before his father woke up from the afternoon siesta, Balram had gone to the city and was back too!

One day, Balram had just retuned from a long trip after visiting relatives. During dinner, his mother casually said in passing “Balram, don’t you remember that old woman who lived at the end of our street? She passed away a few days ago in her sleep.” Even though he couldn’t recollect who it was, Balram was quite sad to hear the demise of an old woman. He thought about it all evening, trying to recollect the old woman his mom had mentioned. After dinner, he paced about in his room trying to remember and eventually he gave up and went off to sleep.

Sometime during the night, he ran out of his room screaming and shouting, waking up the entire household. He seemed terrified and was frightened out of his wits. His parents tried to pacify him explaining that it must have been a nightmare and there was nothing to be scared of. He refused to believe that it was a dream. He said that he was woken up gently by someone who smiled and said, “Don’t worry about it too much Balram. I am the old woman who died last week”