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  HE

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PostSubject: HE    Tue May 28, 2013 2:40 pm





HE - 1





The auditorium was full. It was the annual State convention of Advertising Agencies. There were more than a 1000 delegates in the hall. There was pin-drop silence in the hall, which was made semi-dark for a powerpoint presentation.

The Master of Ceremonies was quite restless. She had one eye on her wrist-watch and another on the entrance of the hall. The waiting was killing and she badly wanted to do something about it. She pulled out her mobile set from her hand bag and started to punch numbers on it.

Her table was a little away from the main podium. The convention organisers had wanted to provide some assistants to her to handle two days’ proceedings of the mamooth convention. She had flatly refused and had been handling the job all by herself.

Of course in an emergency she could give a missed call to some of the members of the Organising Committee, who would rush to her place. That was what she did right now.

Her complexion was dark. There was always an engaging smile on her face. She had come dressed in an off-white cotton saree and a sleeveless blouse. Her hair was cut in layers and curled. The shining black hair which just about touched her shoulders added an extra grace to her looks.

Though she was sitting, one can easily guess that she was quite tall. Her facial features were not very sharp. But there was something in them that made people look at her, stare at her and even ogle at her.

And precisely that was what many of the middle-aged delegates were doing at that time with the semi-darkness of the hall providing them an excellent cover.

The Secretary of the Convention came running to the MC’s table in response to her missed call.

“Any problem, Priya?” – the Secretary’s whisper was quite loud. A bunch of delegates sitting near looked in that direction.

Priya placed her finger on her lips and told him in a barely audible whisper.

“The valedictory session is right after this. We have barely twenty minutes to go. The Chief Guest for the Valedictory Session has not yet come.”

“Oh, Priya, that’s Madhavan. You don’t have to worry about him. He will be on dot. He has never let us down in the past.”

“He is cutting it rather too fine. Once this presentation ends, it will be difficult to hold the audience, if there’s a delay.”

The Secretary laughed.

“You know something, Priya? The delegates have been waiting all day only to hear Madhavan. This session is full because the delegates wanted to have advantageous seats for the next session. Madhavan is the best crowd-puller I have ever seen.”

She was not impressed.

“Ok, what shall I do after this session ends and he does not turn up? Ok, ok, he is reliable and will surely come. The audience will wait. But I want a Plan B.”

“No need for Plan B with Madhavan. I tell you, once this is over, start introducing Madhavan. By the time you complete the intro, I am sure, he will be on stage. Is that clear?”

“Very.”


At that very moment the subject of their conversation was walking towards the ample car park in his office complex. Another young man was following him carrying a sheaf of papers, a lap top and a couple of cell-phones.

A black C 350 Mercedes Benz and a golden colour Honda Accord were waiting side by side, with their engines running and the chaffeurs waiting near the front door. Madhavan chose the Benz. And the two men got into the leather upholstered rear seats of the classy automobile.

As soon as the car pulled out of its privileged parking place and started to glide on Khadar Nawaz Khan Road, Madhavan said,

“Rishi, can you give me a brief on what they did for the last two days at the Convention?”

Rishi was in his late twenties. Rishi was his Executive Assistant, the most coveted post in Madhavan’s company, Ad India Limited. In terms of power wielded, Rishi was next only to the CEO of the company, which was Madhavan himself.

Rishi was an IIT and IIM graduate. Personally handpicked by Madhavan from the IIM Ahmedabad Campus. An investment bank in the US had already offered top money to Rishi.

Madhavan upped that offer and brought him in. Rishi’s compensation package was far better than that of the heads of many nationalised banks doing business in lakhs of crores.

Rishi had to be with Madhavan most of the time. Apart from overseeing his programme and travel, Rishi could take many decisions without even consulting Madhavan.

Madhavan’s management style of having a powerful, well-qualified Executive Assistant had been the subject of a case study in one of the IIMs.

Rishi smiled as he passed over a piece of paper to Madhavan. He had anticipated his Boss’ request and the smile was a kind of patting himself on his back.

But many times his Boss had asked for something which he had not provided for. Working with Madhavan had been a profound learning experience for Rishi. He had learnt more during the last three years of working with him, than during all his IIT and IIM years put together.

Madhavan’s decision making style, his eternal preparedness, the way he handled a crisis and above all his ability to remain cool even in the worst of the situations – well, one day, Rishi was going to write a book on them and was sure that book would be the prescribed text for the leading Business Schools of the country.

He cast a sideward glance at his boss who was immersed in the paper in his hand.

He looked better than most of the men who modelled for men’s suitings. Madhavan was tall at 6’ 1” . The unruly hair on his head contrasted by his clean shaven face made him irresistible to ladies.

But Madhavan was not just handsome. There was something in his face, a vague sort of vulnerability which attracted people towards him. When Madhavan asked for help people thought he was doing a favour to them by giving them a chance to help him.

Madhavan handed over the papers back to Rishi and looked lost in thought. He was actually preparing his valedictory address. He never believed in typed speeches. He had been wanting to tell something to the industry all along and he was just organising his thoughts.

In spite of the reassurance given by the Secretary of the Convention, Priya was restless. She saw the time. Barely twelve minutes. ‘How the hell is he going to make it?’

Then out of curiousity she pulled Madhavan’s biodata from her desk and started reading it.

Madhavan never knew who his parents were. He grew up in a large orphanage in the ouirts of the city. My God! Priya thought. A classical rags to riches story.

By the time the car reached the signal at the Gemini Flyover, Madhavan had finished preparing his speech. He knew how he would be introduced at the convention.

They would say that he was an orphan and his was a rags to riches story. But not all things could be said on the intro.

Madhavan never remembered living in a proper house with parents or relatives. His earliest childhood memories were in the orphanage he grew up.

He remembered the Swamiji who was in charge of the orphanage. The Swamiji was a kind individual but never let his kindness stifle the growth of orphans under his care. He made them work, he punished them and subtly taught them what the world outside would be like.

Madhavan was a care-free child at the orphanage. He never suspected of a possibility of life existing outside its claustrophobic buildings. But when he tasted outside life for the first time, it was a great shock for him. And his life-defining moment too.


Madhavan was hardly twelve. It was Deepavali time. The members of a voluntary service organisation had offered to take the children to their homes for the festival. Madhavan was assigned to the house of a very rich couple. They had come a day before the festival to pick him up.

As Madhavan stood before Swamiji to take leave, Swamiji told him: “Be prepared for anything. The world outside is neither fair nor kind. Whatever happens, do not show any reaction in your host’s place. And do tell me later what happened and how you felt.”

Of course it did not require any clairvoyance to issue such a warning. Swamiji had been seeing for years. Boys went out to hosts’ places in a state of ecstacy but came back crying in a state of disillusionment. And that, thought Swamiji, was the best practical demonstration of the outside world, which the boys had to see sooner or later.

Madhavan’s hosts were very kind and sweet. They showered him with gifts. And they invited all their friends to show what they had for Diwali this year. A real orphan!

And they were going to be so good to him that he would never forget his stay with them. Of course Madhavan could never forget the stay – and it was for the exactly opposite reasons.

They had a boy who was of Madhavan’s age. The boy took an immediate liking for Madhavan. Soon the boys were playing together. They shared the same bedroom All went well till the next morning.

The boys were woken up at four in the morning. They had their bath and were asked to wear the new, festival dress kept in another room. Both the boys ran to the room.

The rich boy had a silk sherwani with dazzling art work in it, while Madhavan had a set of cotton shirt and shorts. Of course for Madhavan it was the best dress he ever had in his life. But besides that glittering sherwani his dress paled into insignificance. After all Madhavan was just twelve to know these differences.

With a mind that only a child can have, he asked the rich boy, “Can we swap the dresses, Anand?”

With a mind that only a child can have, Anand replied with a smile. “Sure.”

Twenty minutes later the boys walked down the stairs, Madhavan dressed in the silk sherwani with glittering art work and Anand in the nondescript dress intended for Madhavan.

The lady of the house was waiting with a camera on her hand to capture the boys in their new dresses. The moment she saw them her face darkened. She did not even have the grace to hide her feelings.

She grabbed Madhavan’s shoulders violently.

“Why the hell are you wearing my son’s dress?”

Even then Madhavan was not disturbed. He was not old enough to pick up the body-language of hatred so manifest in the lady.

“I asked Anand if I can swap my dress with him. He said yes…..”

Anand was telling his mother that it was all right. But the lady would not listen. She slapped Madhavan on his face with such a force that Madhavan would have fallen down, had not Anand held him.

“You worthless orphan! How dare you wear this dress? Do you know how much this costs? Five thousand bucks. And you cooly swapped your worthless piece of dress for this. That’s why I have been tellling that people should be kept in the places where they belong. And you, you, belong to the orphanage. Not here. “

Madhavan was stunned. After a while he told them in a drained voice, that he wanted to go to the orphanage. They unceremonioulsy dropped him there, of course only after making Madhavan take off the expensive Sherwani.

Madhavan had his pride in tact and flatly refused to wear the new dress they had bought for him or take the gifts they had given him the previous day.

He donned his old clothes and went crying into the arms of Swamiji.

“You feel hurt? You are stung, right? And you want to slap that lady on her face, right? Well, she deserves that is another matter.

“But son, she represents the outside world. The typical,materialistic, selfish world where there is no love. But wait. What do you think about the boy? Didn’t he give his dress just for the asking? The world has good people too.”

Madhavan was still crying.

“You want to take a revenge, right? Yes. You will, eventually. And I will help you. But remember son, revenge does not mean slapping the lady.

"She did not just slap you on your face. She hit your pride. She gave a blow to your self-esteem. You need to study well and succeed in life. And there could not be a sweeter revenge than your success. Start working for it from today.”

For Madhavan the lesson was too powerful to ignore. To become successful became a magnificent obsession for the happy-go-lucky boy who had not so far taken his life seriously.

Madhavan joined an ad agency when he was 20, when he was barely out of college. He was a creative genius in his profession and by the time he was 32 he was the CEO of his own company Ad India.

The Benz had reached Hotel Chola Sheraton, the convention venue.


“And today his company Ad India Limited has a billing of close to a hundred million. One of the ad agency giants Lintas is sourcing out its prestigious work to Ad India. The Business Week has listed Ad India as the fastest growing advertising agency in the South……”

Priya was introducing Madhavan. The audience stood up and applauded as Madhavan walked to the centre stage. What a perfect timng! Priya could not help admire the man.

“And ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Mr. Madhavan, CEO, Ad India.” The applause was deafening now.

Madhavan waved his hands to the audience.

Priya wanted to tease him. She knew very well that Madhavan was not married yet and as on date the most eligible bachelor in town.

Nevertheless she wanted to embarrass him. And she spoke on the mike in the naïve tone of a MC who wants to make every thing interesting,

“And Mr.Madhavan a small question, before you start to speak.”

Madhavan saw Priya for the first time.

“May I know Mr.Madhavan why haven’t you brought your wife along?”

Even from that distance Priya’s beauty captivated Madhavan. And her courage in asking that question impressed him. He knew that she wanted to tease him. Because the whole world knew that he was not married.

The hall was silent for a few seconds. Madhavan recovered himself.

“Lady, for that to happen, they should have postponed this convention by a year. Because I have planned to get married only next year.”

The audience applauded. But Madhavan was not done yet.

“And lady, may I know why have you not brought your husband along?”

The audience applauded again. The lights were now on Priya.

She shivered. She tried hard to hide her tears. But she could not. She was lost for words. But that was only for a few seconds.

Then she wiped her tears, forced a smile on her lips and talked in the microphone.

“For that to happen, they should have held this convention a year ago. Yes, my husband died last year.”

An uncomfortable silence enveloped the hall. Madhavan did not know how to respond. It was game,set and match for Priya.





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PostSubject: Re: HE    Fri May 31, 2013 2:48 pm







HE - 2




The security guard standing near the massive wrought iron gates of Hotel Le Meridian took out a cigarette from his pocket. He looked around before lighting it. It was 7 AM in the morning. The traffic had not picked up in the busy GST Road. It would take another two hours before the entire road got clogged with vehicles coming from all directions, with their drivers driving on all possible sides giving a big six to the very concept of discipline itself, let alone lane discipline.

As he was enjoying the ingression of nicotine into his lungs, his eyes saw something at a distance. Adrenalin secretion began in full steam. He put the cigarette down and crushed it. He snapped to attention and was ready to receive the dark grey Honda Civic which was coming towards the hotel.

As the car entered the gates he gave a stiff salute to the woman who was driving the car. She smiled at him and drove to her most privileged parking lot near the lobby entrance.

The tall man dressed in full regalia designed for the lobby-guard at a five star hotel came running to open the door of the car.

“Good Morning, Ma’am”

“Good Morning.”

She was in her late thirties and was dressed in a business suit. She could never be classified under the heading “beautiful”. But the way she bore herself, the way she dressed herself and the unmistakable intelligence in her eyes made her worthy of second looks, not of love or lust, but of admiration.

She was wearing fashionable rimless spectacles which served to accentuate the intelligence in her looks. She was Nalini Ganesh, the General Manager of Le Meridian, Chennai Facility.

She always preferred the hands-on management style which incidentally was the only style that worked in a star hotel.

She walked to the reception desk which appeared a little crowded for the time. There were guests of all nationalities waiting to check-in. She established eye contact with the reception clerk who assured her by signs that everything was under control. That was what she wanted.

She then moved on to her most favourite part of the facility, the hotel’s large multi-cuisine restaurant. Even at that early morning hour it was almost full. It looked more like the food court of an international airport than a restaurant. As the hotel had mostly foreign guests trying to adjust to time-zone differences, the restaurant operated round the clock. And was crowded most of the time.

“Hi Naaalini…”

She turned around to respond to the call. The person was a part of a group of tourists from the US. That was a unique group consisting mostly of people in the field of creative arts – dancers, singers, writers and some painters too. They had planned a kind of “thematic” tour of India.

Their theme was India’s ancient fine arts. The previous day they had listened to a two-hour nadhaswaram concert.. Today was the highlight of their stay in Chennai. A classical dance performance by a celebrated artist preceded by a demonstration and symposium on dance.

“Hi Matt. Anything I can do for you?”

“Thanks, Naalini. When is SB coming here?”

SB referred to Dr. Sharada Balakrishnan, the numero uno in the field of Indian classical dance, bharatha natyam.

She was giving an exclusive performance to the American group. Only a few other VIPs of the city had been invited for the event. SB was not only a dancer but also a research scholar in the field of dancing. Her dissertation on the concept of dance tracing the art from the cavemen days to the present had earned her a Ph.D. from North Carolina University, USA.

She was a rare phenomenon, who could enthrall an international audience with her Allarippu and with equal grace stun a scholarly audience with her incisive research findings.

Unlike many dancers of the day, who were trying fuse Bharathanatyam with other art forms and were in effect giving a remix of the classical art, Sharada delivered to her fans, the purest form of the divine art.

For the American Group interaction with SB and seeing her dancing was the highlight of their stay in Chennai. Nalini had spared no pains for organising the great event.

Nalini looked at her watch.

“She is flying in from Mumbai. The flight touches Chennai at 8. She will be here by 9.”

“We are SB’s ardent fans. We want to receive her at the hotel gates. We want to give flowers and welcome the great artist. Can you please organise that?”

“Sure, Matt. It is very thoughtful of you. SB will be delighted.”

Nalini returned to her chambers with a smile. She stood for a minute in silence before her mother’s picture before starting her long day.

She saw the notes on her table. None of them were important. She called her secretary on the intercom.

“Good Morning, Ma’am.”

“Good Morning, Susan. What problems do you have for me this morning?”

Running a facility of this stature - 250 rooms, a large multi-cuisine restaurant and two 24-hour coffee shops, a large bar, a travel desk and a host of allied services always implied that there was some kind of problem or other every day, every moment. Nalini always looked for problems.

The earlier you face them, the sooner you get rid of them.

“Everything under control, Ma’am. But there is one problem I want to discuss with you.”

“Come in, right now.”

“SB and her group will be coming in by 9. We have the Queen’s Suite and the three adjacent rooms booked for them. The rooms have been cleaned and the linen changed. I have placed special fruit baskets and a welcome note in all the rooms. I have got the food preferences of the group and have passed them on to our F&B Manager.”

“Susan, cut the details. Come to the point.”

“We had fixed Joseph to be the CP for SB’s group. You know they might require a lot of assistance for their evening performance. Stage co-ordination, lighting, mikes, seating etc.”

CP referred to the contact person. Whenever a large group stayed in the hotel they always chose an experienced member of the staff as the contact person, CP. The CP would be equipped with a walkie-talkie and would always be near the leader of the group.

He would serve as a single point of contact between the Group Leader and the hotel. Depending on the size and the complexity of the Group, a number of busboys,waiters and other staff would be assigned to work under the CP.

“Joseph is the right guy. We have already discussed it.”

“But Ma’am, Joseph’s mother fell down in the bathroom this morning. She has been admitted in the hospital. She’s serious. Joseph called. He can’t come.”

“Oh, My God! Ok, who else we have now?”

“I thought of putting in Venkatesh in his place. Is that okay?”

“No. He is short tempered. And his Engish is not good. We will have communication problems.”

“Then can I call Mani from F&B?”

No he won’t fit. And F&B will not let him go. They need him for the speical South Indian Cuisine they have planned for the group this evening.”

“All the rest are juniors, Ma’am.”

“Wait, let me think.”

Nalini’s face brightened after a while.

“Can you ask Sethu from the Health Club to come and see me?”

“But Madam, Sethu has been here only for two years. And.. and.. he is.. too proud. I don’t think he will take the job.”

“Leave it to me, Susan. I will talk him into it. Now be a good girl and call him.”

Ten minutes later there was a mild knock at the door..

Nalini knew who it was.

“Come in.”

Sethu walked in. Everytime Nalini saw Sethu her motherly feelings were aroused though she was just three years elder to him.

She had always wanted furiously to protect this vulnerable, grown-up child.

Sethu looked exceedingly calm. There was no sign of a smile in his face. He was quite tall. He had a well-trimmed beard and well-oiled hair. He had the looks of a saint who had seen everything in this world.

There was something about him that made him very attractive especially to women. May be it was the well-exercised muscular body which his clothes could not effectively conceal. May be it was the love-lorn look in his face which resembled that of a child searching for its mother in a crowd of people.

Sethu was attached to the hotel’s health club as its masseur. He was an expert in his field. He had learnt the art under the feet of a master, a saint in Kerala for more than two years. There was always a long waiting line for Sethu’s massage-service.

People who had had their bodies massaged by Sethu told that they had never felt so relaxed in their life.

Massaging was a really hard job. Sethu could not handle more than five customers in a day.

The hotel gave Sethu one-half of what it charged to the customers for his service. Sethu was making good money for someone in his station. But what was more important was that he loved his job. He loved to see people happy.

While his deft hands sought the elusive pressure points on his customer’s body, his habit of silently listening to the customer, massaged their minds.


The world is full of talkers. Listeners are few and far between. Many of his customers poured out to Sethu, who indulged them with his active listening. Sethu was a man of few words.

But those few words were exactly to the point and in many cases were as therapeutic as his pointed touch at the chosen pressure point on the customer’s body.


And more often than not, the massage-bed doubled as the psychiatrist’s couch. Sethu was a masseur and a counsellor, rolled into one.

Sethu never induldged in small talk which made many of his colleagues think that he was a proud man. Of course he was, when it came to his profession, when it came to his dignity as a man.


There have been a number of complaints against him. But a proper enquiry always revealed that it was the customer who was at fault.


“Please sit down, Sethu.”

Sethu remained standing.

“We have a problem. The famous dancer Sharada Balakrishnan is coming in an hour. Joseph was to be her CP. But he could not come to work today. I am not happy with others.
“I want you to take that responsibility. I know Sethu, I am asking too much. I hate to place you at the beck and call of a lady, though she may be a world-famous dancer. But, Sethu, if I place somebody else and they mess things up, we would lose a lot. That’s why I am embarrassing you with this request. Will you please do it for me?”

“I will, Ma’am.”

When Nalini looked into Sethu’s eyes and talked to him Sethu could not refuse anything. If Nalini had asked for his life, he would have given it with pleasure. It was as if his mother was asking and he did not have the heart to say no.

“Thanks a lot, Sethu. I will compensate you for your absence in the Health Club.”
Nalini stood up and shook hands with him.

“I’ll ask Susan to brief you on the job. Thanks once again. Remember, I owe you one.”

“It’s my duty, Ma’am. And you don’t owe me anything.”

Sethu said it in a voice drained of all emotions.

Nalini intuitively knew that some great tragedy had struck in his life. But she never had the courage to ask about it, though her heart always bled for this sad man.

At five to nine Nalini was standing at the hotel lobby with a bouquet in her hand. She was there to receive Dr. Sharada Balakrishnan, the world-renowned bharatha natyam exponent.

She turned her eyes to the main door. She was surprised to see Matt and about fifty other Americans standing in a line with flowers in their hand. She was moved. These Americans who were creative geniuses in their own merit were ready to worship the artist in Sharada.

People like Sharada made this country proud. To make 50 American artists stand in line to receive her was no mean achievement. That was the finest tribute paid to her art and to this country’s great culture.

At 5 past nine a white colour Ford Ikon glided into the hotel’s driveway. The guard ran to open the rear door. Sharadha Balakrishnan got down from the car with a smile.

“Thank you very much.” She told the guard before walking into the lobby.

SB, as she was popularly known in the world of fine arts, was not tall. She was just about 5’ 4”. And slightly plumpy for her height. But the world forgot these minor imperfections when it saw her fair, round, glowing, beautiful face. Her face was a perfect circle.

If the sharp end of a compass is placed on the tip of her nose and a circle was drawn of a specified radius, it would perfectly describe her face. She was exceedingly fair.


Her eyes were large and were very expressive. She had a sharp nose which along with her eyes, made the press describe her “a celestial beauty”. Dance was everything for her.

Her slow walk towards the lobby resembled a graceful dance movement.


Nalini was the first to greet her. Matt and his group were still standing in line waiting to be introduced by Nalini. But as per the prior arrangement Nalini introduced Sethu first.

“Madam, this is Mr.Sethuraman, your contact person during your stay. Anything you want, you can call him. I have provided him a special desk near your suite. You may also call him from your room phone. He will take care of you.”

Sharada saw Sethu. Her eyes lingered on his face for a fraction of a second more than it was necessary. She was confused whether she should extend her hand to him or not.

Sethu resolved her confusion by just folding his hands in her direction. Sharada had to take enormous efforts to take her eyes off Sethu’s kind, sad face. Hurriedly she returned his gesture.

“And Madam, this is Matt. An opera singer. He is from the American Group. A highly talented group of artists and writers. Matt and his friends want to welcome you with flowers. Here they are.”

The Americans came in an orderly line to shake hands with Sharada. She was moved by this show of affection.

Sharada’s troupe arrived a little later. There were 15 women and 5 men comprising of dancers, musicians and stage decorators.

The first problem erupted soon after Sharada’s troupe settled in their rooms. The singer of the group, a spinster in the wrong side of forties, buzzed for Sethu.

“My slippers look dirty. Clean it up.”

The order was curt and impolite. Sethu composed himself and said in a flat voice,

“Le Meridian does not provide that kind of service. I’m sorry, Ma’am.”

“How dare you talk like that? I have stayed in many hotels. And they all have done that for me.”

“May be you have not so far stayed in a place as nice as Le Meridian, Ma’am. I am really sorry that I could not be of help to you.”

“What an impertinence! I will call Sharada rightaway.”

“Please yourself, Ma’am.”

The lady barged into Sharada’s room and complained about Sethu.

“It’s not fair Mythili. How can you request somebody to clean your chapals? I will get you a new pair. Don’t worry.”

“But Sharada that arrogant idiot, what’s his name, Sethu or something, should be taught a lesson.”

“I know how to handle it. Let me make a big tip to him right in the beginning itself, so that we remove the unpleasantness straightaway.”

Sharada allowed some time and then called Sethu in.

“You know Mr….”

“Sethuraman”

“Yes, Mr.Sethuraman, I have a policy of tipping the staff right in the beginning. So please accept this from me.”

She was flashing a thousand Rupee-note in her hand.

Sethu saw Mythili sitting there at the other end of the room with a long face.

“I too have a policy, Ma’am, of not accepting tips from those I have not yet learnt to respect.”

Sethu cast a pointed glance at Mythili. Sharadha did not know what to do. Sethu walked out of the room. It was game, set and match for Sethu


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PostSubject: Re: HE    Tue Jun 04, 2013 3:26 pm





HE - 3





After responding to Priya’s teasing question on his ‘wife’, Madhavan attacked her with the same question.

“And lady, may I know why have you not brought your husband along?”
Priya composed herself and responded with a tear drop balanced in each of her eyes.

“For that to happen, they should have held this convention a year ago. Yes, my husband died last year.”

An uncomfortable silence enveloped the hall. The ball came with a bang to Madhavan’s court again. He had no mind to hit the ball. He had no mind even to continue the game.

Everybody felt sorry for Priya. In the name of sympathy Priya was now being more intensely ogled by the middle aged delegates in the convention. Knowing that the dusky damsel was a widow, everybody started travelling fast to the land of fantasy – a land where the uncomfortable reality will not be there to obstruct their vicarious pleasures.

Nobody knew how to break the ice, except of course, Priya.

“Mr. Madhavan, now that we have settled the issue relating to our spouses, can we please go ahead with the rest of the programme?

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I now claim your attention to Mr.Madhavan, CEO, Ad India who is going to deliver his thematic address on the Value Created By Advertisement.”

When Madhavan looked at Priya and let out his captivating trade mark smile, Priya’s heart fluttered for a moment. There was of course more of gratitude and relief in that smile than anything else.

Unlike the professional speakers who spoke with a bunch of cue-cards and sought the aid of Powerpoint graphics to make their talk lively, Madhavan spoke straight from his heart.

“For the last two days almost every speaker in this convention was focussing on the value created by advertisement. I am going to deviate from the topic and talk about something else. Something more important for our long term survival.

Of course, we advertisers, do create value. Otherwise the businessmen out there will not give their millions to us so easily.

India’s largest car maker, Maruthi Udyog, could not sell its product Maruti Van, a few decades ago.We advertisers dropped the word Van and coined the word Omni to describe the same product, changed the mindset of its customers and made the product a runaway success.

While we are busy creating value for our clients, I am afraid, we are slowly forgetting our values. We are too busy thinking about how to sell a product, that we do not have the time to examine, what we are trying to sell.
A few years back a leading ad agency ran a vigorous compaign to promote magnetic beds knowing well that it was a fraud on the Indian public. Many agencies got involved in promoting spurious financial products. Every day the Advertising Standards Council receives complaints about unethical advertisements.

We all know the ‘laws of advertising’. There are wonderful texts on the subject. But please do not forget that the laws of life- some of them like honesty and transparency are quite simple and straightforward - are of greater importance.
We naively think we can break the laws of life once in a way, to our material advantage. Remember the words of Cecil B DeMille, the creator of the film, Ten Commandments. “We can’t break those laws. We can only break ourselves against them.”

As it always happened, Madhavan got a standing ovation for his speech. He saw Priya through the corner of his eyes. He was happy to see her standing and furiously clapping her hands.

His happiness was that of a child who, after performing at a school’s fancy dress competition, had seen his parents among the audience, clapping for him.

As soon as Madhavan came down from the dais, Rishi came running for him.

“We are already late for the dinner meeting with the General Manager of Raheja Industries. It’s at Taj. Can we go now?”

Madhavan looked at his watch.

“Sorry Rishi, I do not have the stamina to talk business for another hour over dinner. And that too with the Raheja man. You go there for me. You can take the Benz. Call the office to send in the Accord for me. I will have dinner and go home from here.”

“Yes, Boss.”

“What’s the first agenda for tomorrow?”

“We are flying to Bombay by the 630 Jet Airways Flight. We have a meeting with the Sterlite people.”

“Can you please put the relevant papers in the car?”

“Yes, Boss.”

“Thanks. Be careful with the Raheja fellow. He is a wolf.”

Madhavan went into the dining area.

Having sat in silence for the last two hours, the delegates felt as if they had been released from a prison and were all talking in high pitch now, making the place look like a vegetable market on a Sunday morning. Everybody had a glass in his hand.

Madhavan took a glass and charged it with canned orange juice and started looking for Priya.

“Wonderful speech, Madhavan.”

It was the Secretary of the convention.

Madhavan blurted out a ‘Thanks’ but his mind was not there.

“Are you looking for somebody?”

This question jolted him into full consciousness. Of course it would be unwise for Madhavan to look for Priya himself. People would start talking. He was already conscious of people closely watching his actions. Transparency always worked miracles in situations like this.

“Yes, Rajan. I am actually looking for that girl who was the MC today. What was her name…”

“Priya.”

“Yes, Priya. I want to just tell sorry to her.”

“It’s ok, Madhavan. You didn’t do anything wrong. But you should meet that interesting lady. I will find her out for you.”

By the time Madhavan had finished his orange juice, had small talk with a dozen delegates, took a plate and charged it with minimum food, the Secretary came running to him with Priya tagging along.

“Oh, Ms.Priya, I just wanted to apologise. I’m sorry for what I said.”

“It’s all right. It doesn’t matter.”

The Secretary excused himself from them.

As the hall was crowded, Priya was standing very close to him. Each was attracted by the other’s good looks.

For a full 30 seconds, no words were exchanged. And then both of them started to speak simultaneously, broke into laughter and started again, simulatenously.

They talked shop for a while. And then about the weather. About the convention. About Priya’s job. About Madhavan’s company.

Now Priya was aware that almost all the eyes were on them. She looked Madhavan in his eyes and told him softly,

“Mr.Madhavan, we are now the centre-piece of this circus. Let’s stop here. By the way, do you want to do all the talking here itself? Won’t you treat me to a lavish dinner, let’s say, at Taj or the Le Meridian and do the rest of your talking there?”

Madhavan smiled.

“Ok, give me your number. I’ll call you.”

“Come on, Mr. Madhavan. You are the man in our industry. A creative genius. Can’t you find out my number yourself? And Saturday is just four days away. I am of course free on that day. So long.”

Priya merged into the crowd and disappeared.

Madhavan found out her contact number in twenty minutes flat. Priya had finished her dinner. She was about to get into her Hyundai Verna, which the valet had just brought to the driveway for her. Her mobile rang.

“Priya” she answered softly.

“Come on Ms. Priya. You can find out who’s calling you?”

“I know. It’s Mr.Madhavan. You have booked a table for two at Taj this Saturday..”

“Full marks for the first statement and zero for the rest. The place is ‘The Park’ near the Gemini Flyover. The day Friday and the time half past seven. And you are free.”

The last line was almost a command. Priya laughed.

“I am.”

“I had to fight with my EA, Rishi, to steal this time. He is negotiating a deal worth ten millions with Cadbury India Ltd on my behalf.”

“Thanks, Mr.Madhavan.”

“You are welcome, Ms.Priya.”

“Can we drop the prefixes and be just known by our first names?”

“Sure.”

The meeting extended till 11 in the night. They talked about everything under the sun except their personal lives.

The next meeting was at Taj, the next Saturday. And then at Fisherman’s cove the next Sunday.

It was only in the fifth meeting that Madhavan gained enough courage to venture into dangerous waters.

“Pardon me if I am rude. Your husband died just a year ago. I am sure you would have been devastated unless of course….of course….”

Madhavan stopped midsentence and looked like a lost child.

Priya’s eyes were full.

“Let me complete it for you. I should have been devastated unless of course I did not love him enough.”

Madhavan hung down his head.

“Yes, I was, Madhavan. And I loved him with all my life and soul. Ours was a love marriage. Our courtship was for five years before it matured into marriage. I know what do you think.

“If I am devastated, if I really loved my late husband, why am I not still mourning his death? Why am I not behaving like a widow? Why am I so happy and so full of life? Right?”

Madhavan’s silence spoke for him.

Priya’s voice was choked.

“Almost every man I know has asked this question. I never thought that it would come from you, of all the persons. I am hurt, Madhavan. Deeply hurt.”

Madhavan wanted to hold her hands and speak consolingly to her. But it was too early to risk such liberties.

“For others I just said whatever came to my mind at that moment. For you I am telling the truth. Nothing but the truth. I did love my husband when he was alive. We had a great marriage.

“But that does not mean that after his death I should love his picture or his memory and be tied with that for the rest of my life. His picture is not him. His memory is not his real self. And no one can live with some thing as dead as a picture or a memory.

“I am now living my life on my own terms. You know that was what Raghu wanted me to do. He insisted that there should not be any picture of his in the house I live. And that I should not spend any time thinking about him. Am I clear now?”

“I am sorry, Priya.”

“It’s all right, Madhavan. I feel like a big burden has been lifted off my heart. I have confided in somebody. I feel much lighter now.”

The rest of the evening was spent in meaningless small talk. Their weekly meetings continued for the next two months.


Miss Priya..”

“What’s this Madhavan, why this formality..”

It was late morning on a rainy Thursday.

“Listen to me Miss Priya. Do you know where Ad India’s corporate office is?”

“I do. It’s at Khadar Nawaz Khan Road, Off Nungambakkam High Road.”

“Can you come here to meet me in another hour?”

“But Madhavan, I am with a client…”

Madhavan cut her short.

“No excuses. Please do come. Otherwise you’ll feel sorry.”

Priya was offended by the curt manner she was ordered around. Nevertheless she did not want to take any chances.

She finished with her client and within fifty minutes was at the ample anteroom outside the CEO’s cabin at Ad India’s office.

She was kept waiting for fifteen minutes before being called in. She decided to pull up Madhavan by his collars and ask him about this rudeness.

As she walked in she was surprised to see half a dozen people sitting there along with Madhavan.

“Sit down, Miss Priya.”

A young gentleman in full suit shouted.

“Can you describe yourself? We’ll give you a minute.”

Priya was stunned. ‘Are these people kidding? Or is it some kind of a game? Or is today the first of April?’

Priya tried to smile. But withheld it seeing the expression on the face of the lady who asked the question.

Priya described herself in 45 seconds.

“Well, Priya, you got a gold medal in your PG in Mass Communications. Did that help you in your job?”

Priya was now in her element.

“Madam, my MassComm degree, like any other diploma, helped me to get a job. But it did not help me in the job. I used it as my visiting card and nothing more.”

“And now a really embarrassing question, Ms. Priya.”

It was the same young man in full suit.

“Shoot.”

“Let’s suppose you are working for a leading ad agency. You are negotiating a deal worth several crores for your company. The prospective client insists that you should sleep with him if you wanted the deal for your company. What will you tell the client?”

Priya’s face was red with anger and shame. Even Madhavan was a little embarrassed. In five seconds Priya composed herself.

“Let’s suppose you are that honourable client. This is what I’ll tell you:

“Sorry sir, we are running an ad agency. Not a brothel. If you are going to give the deal to us for the only reason I slept with you, then, Sir, God save your company.

“And Sir, I am sure, you will apply the same principles to your wife too. When your customer wants to sleep with her for an order, you would happily let her do so. God save your family too. So long.”

Madhavan could almost hear the sound of the invisible applause.

Then Madhavan asked about her vision for her future. Where did she see herself in 2027? Priya’s answer was caustic but was sprinkled with enough humour to make some of them smile.

After being grilled for an hour, she was asked to wait outside. When she was called in, she found Madhavan sitting alone in his ergonomically designed chair, with his trade-mark smile.

He rose up and extended his hand. Priya shook hands with him with a puzzled look in her face.

“Congratulations, Priya. Ad India is offering you the post of Executive Assistant to the CEO at a CTC of Rs. 30 lakhs, which incidentally is three times your current CTC.”

(The word ctc stands for cost to company. The CTC figure represents the gross salary figure and includes the monetary value of all perquisites including company owned car, house, PF contributions, gratuity etc. in short, what it costs the company to keep that person on the job)

Priya was bowled over with this offer. That was a dream job, a dream salary. And with Madhavan as her boss, it could be a sweet dream too.

Her heart was racing. She wanted to thank Madhavan in so many words. But only empty air escaped from her mouth.

“Relax, Priya, relax. Rishi is leaving us. He has a great job offer at World Bank. In fact he was a little reluctant to go. But I insisted. We had shortlisted three candidates for his job.

“I wanted the panel to consider you as well. They saw the other three yesterday. After seeing you they were unanimous in selecting you for the job. I thought might have some bias. So I let them do the selection. How do you feel now?”

“On the top of the world, Boss.”

“Thanks. When I called you, the entire interview panel was with me. I had to be curt and formal. Sorry.”

Priya just smiled.

Priya was one month into her new job, when Madhavan had to take a decision whose impact was to last a life time.

Priya and Madhavan were in Brussels for meeting a client to discuss a new compaign to be launched in Europe. The client was so delighted by the preparedness of the Madhavan-Priya team that he organised a tour of a few neighbouring countries during the intervening holidays.

It was a three-day- package that included hotel stay and food. Madhavan accepted the offer more for Priya’s sake as she had not seen Europe earlier.

On the second day of their tour they reached their hotel in Amsterdam late in the night. The travel agent had messed up with the booking. They were both booked in the same room.

Madhavan protested. He insisted on an alternate accommodation. But it was tourist season and the hotel was full. They were both exhausted.

“We can manage, Boss.” Priya said more out of exhaustion than anything else.

Madhavan signed his name and they checked in.

Ten minutes later they stepped into their room.

When Neil Armstrong stepped on the Moon in July 1969, it was described as “a small step for a man but a giant leap for mankind.” Madhavan’s small step into that double-bed room was equally significant in his life.

For the six-footer it was just a small step. But in terms of his life, it was a giant leap and a great plunge.

A year later Madhavan would still vividly remember this exact moment.

There are some steps in life which are irreversible and their impact last a life time.

This was one of them.










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PostSubject: Re: HE    Fri Jun 07, 2013 3:48 pm






HE - 4




“I have a policy of tipping the staff right in the beginning. So please accept this from me.”

Sharada was flashing a thousand Rupee-note in her hand when she said that.

Sethu saw Mythili sitting there at the other end of the room with a long face.

“I too have a policy, Ma’am, of not accepting tips from those I have not yet learnt to respect.”

Sethu cast a pointed glance at Mythili. Sharadha did not know what to do. Sethu walked out of the room.

Mythili jumped from her seat.

“Sharada this is too much. I wanted you to punish him for his impertinence. You offered him money. That blackguard threw it back on your face. Come let’s talk to the Manager. I want this arrogant fool out of the hotel right away.”

Sharada failed in her attempt to pacify her. Mythili was Sharada’s distant relative. She had had a role to play in moulding Sharada’s career in dance. Sharada had to give in to her insolent demand.

They were directed to Nalini’s cabin. Mythili did not allow Sharada to talk. She poured out her grievance against Sethu. Nalini looked at Sharada straight in her eyes and asked her,

“Madam, do you like to make this an issue? Do you really want to prefer a complaint against Sethu?”

Sharada looked at Mythili with pleading eyes. Mythili was adamant.

“Yes. We do.”

Nalini’s face fell.

“Ok, Madam, as you please. I will have to call in Sethu now. Whatever you want to say against him, you will have to do it only in his presence.”

When Sharada saw Sethu’s elegant form, her heart fluttered. Why on earth should somebody have something against this nice man, Sharada mused.

But Mythili was hell-bent on getting Sethu out of her way. She spoke vehemently against Sethu for the next ten minutes.

“Do you have anything to say against this, Sethu?”

Sharada and Mythili turned sidewards to look at Sethu. He remained calm. He had a smile on his face, something similar to an indulgent smile on a parent’s face while attending on a fussy kid.

“Nothing, Ma’am.”

“Ok, Miss Mythili, I want to know whether Sethu was rude in refusing your request?”

“No he wasn’t. But I want to say that his mere refusal was rude.”

“Think like this Miss Mythili. Let’s say somebody has invited you to their house to teach music to their child. While waiting for the child to come, suppose the lady of the house asks you to clean the bathroom, what will you do?”

Mythili was now cornered. But some animals when cornered exhibit a greater degree
of ferocity.

“But still I insist that Sethu should apologise to me. Otherwise we won’t have the dance programme today.”

Nalini felt hurt. She looked pointedly at Sharada and spoke.

“Madam, I think this is an emotional blackmail. Had this come from any other guest, I would not have given a damn to it. But you, Madam, the one and only Sharada Balakrishnan, is different.

“I was moved to tears this morning, when 50 Americans stood in queue to greet you. You are part of our national heritage. And before my country’s pride, my self-esteem is nothing.

“But even then I can’t ask this man to apologise. Because you see, the fault is squarely with me.

“Do you know that Mr.Sethuraman is an acclaimed expert on body massage and Ayurveda Therapy? Do you know that his Master declared that he is fit to run his Ashram as its head? And yet for some personal reasons he is here with us?

“And I out of my foolishness, deputed him as your contact person. I find nothing wrong in his actions. But if you insist that only an apology can make you dance, I will apologise, Madam. I will apologise for the grave error of deputing an expert like Sethu to do small chores for you. I am ready to fall at your feet and apologise.”

“No, Madam. No.” Sethu shouted.

“Your apologising to these people…” Sethu was so overwhelmed with emotions, that he could not even speak for a while. “… can happen only over my dead body. For your sake, Ma’am, I can swallow my pride and fall at the feet of this lady.”

It was the primordial ferocity of a son protecting his mother’s dignity.

There was a charged silence in the room which even Mythili did not want to disturb for a while.

“But even then….” Mythili resumed her arguments.

“Shut up Mythili. Enough is enough.”

Sharada shouted at her. The expression in Sharada’s face frightened Mythili.

Sharada now looked lovingly at Nalini.

“Do you mind, if I call you, Nalini?”

“Absolutely not, Madam.”

“And please do call me Sharada.”

Nalini was speechless.

“I am moved by what I saw here, Nalini. I am now sure of one thing. If someone has to apologise, it’s me. I should not have listened to Mythili.

“I think that even my offering tips to Mr.Sethuraman was a kind of rudeness. I just wanted to exhibit my money-power and buy him over. It was wrong.

“Mr.Sethuraman, I am sorry for what this lady did and what I did. Please forgive us. One more request, Mr.Sethu, please continue to be our contact person till we stay in this hotel. We assure you that we will treat you with the dignity you deserve.”

Sharada folded her hands towards Nalini and Sethu. She then quickly walked out of the room. Mythili virtually ran behind her.

“I’m not done with him yet.” Mythili hissed.

“What did you say?” Sharada asked her.

“Nothing.”

Mythili was now like a wounded tiger who badly wanted a revenge.

An hour later Mythili buzzed for Sethu. Sharada was with her.

Sethu came with a smile. “Yes, Ma’am, what can I do for you?”

“Mr.Sethuraman, I hear from your GM that you are an expert in body-massage. You see I have been having a sort of vague body-pain for the last two days. Can you please give me a full body massage?”

‘When the arrogant bastard gives me a massage, I will make a scene that he misbehaved with me. It is difficult to disprove such a charge.’

“By all means, Ma’am. Today Miss Kanchana is in charge of the ladies section. If you can come with me to the Health Club, I will see to that Ms. Kanchana herself attends on you.”

“But Mr.Sethuraman, I want you, the expert, to do that.”

“I’m sorry, Ma’am. As a matter of policy I don’t attend to ladies.”

“In many star hotels I have seen ladies attending to men and men attending to ladies. Why is it different here?”

“No, Ma’am. It is not the hotel’s policy. It is my personal policy. Ms. Kanchana attends to men too. Can we go to the health club now?”

“No. I have changed my mind.”

“It’s okay, Ma’am.”

Sharada was lost in admiration for Sethu. Mythili was still fuming.

The mid-morning symposium started on time. The subject was “Enjoying Indian Classical Dance.”

A suite on the fifth floor of the hotel had been converted into a mini conference hall. It had a capacity of about 100 and was packed. The entire American Group was there.

After a couple of good speeches, Sharada rose to give her concluding remarks. She told that to appreciate classical dance, especially something like Bharata Natyam, one has to acquire the taste.

“Any one can enjoy a Mills & Boon romance novel. But only very few can appreciate Gone With The Wind, though it is also a sort of romance novel.

“Anybody can enjoy the hip-gyrations that go under the name of dance in the modern Indian movie. But only a selected few can enjoy pure, classical bharata natyam..

“It is not given to many to enjoy Shakespeare. The privilege goes to a chosen few who have worked hard to refine their tastes.”

The session became even more livelier when the floor was opened to questions.

“I still can’t agree with your pantheism, worshipping many gods. We believe in one god.”

It was an American woman in her fifties.

Sharada was now in her element. Her years of training in dance and her study of the nrtya-shastras had given her a deep spiritual inclination. She had a thorough grounding in the Indian scriptures.

“Madam, you believe that there is only one God. We believe that there is only God. The tall mountains, the vast sea, the green fields, the butterfly, the birds, the animals, even the earthworm, the filth, good, evil, beauty, ugliness, you, me, the men and women – everything is nothing but God.

“’Eesavaashyam Idham Sarvam’ ‘Whatever is there is only God’, our scriptures roar.”

Sharada was distracted by a single man clapping. Sethu. It took some time for the Americans to understand her words and join Sethu in applauding her.

For reasons she could not fathom, Sethu’s applause gave indescribable happiness to Sharada.

After she apologised to Nalini and Sethu, Sharada felt that a heavy burden had been lifted from her heart. And now seeing that Sethu was enjoying her speech made her drunk with happiness.

May be she got down from the podium in that drunken state, and therefore missed a step. She fell flat on the carpeted floor.

Several people ran to her. They tried to lift her up. When Sharada tried to straigthen her legs she felt a shooting pain on her knees. Her scream echoed against the walls of that mini chamber.


Nalini threw her weight around and had summoned the city’s best ortho specialist to see Sharada. Sharada was in a state of acute pain. The fall had resulted in a severe cramp in her right leg.

She could not stretch it. Every time the Doctor attempted to do that Sharada screamed in pain.
>
The Doctor did what best he could to salvage his professional reputation. He prescribed a dose of antibiotics, painkillers and sedatives.

Nalini was in a state of shock.

“Doctor, she has a dance performance at 6 pm today. Can she…”

“Are you kidding? She cant even stretch her legs. If she is able to stand on her legs by tomorrow evening that will be a medical miracle. Dancing.. forget it. She has to be in bed for six weeks.”

When the news spread to the American team they were terribly upset. Nalini offered them a free sight seeing trip to the city or a dinner by the pool side, or whatever they wanted, to compensate for their loss.

The American lady who asked Sharada about many gods, spoke for the entire group.

“We don’t want any enjoyment when SB is in pain. We are going to pray for her. God is everything and everywhere. He’s sure to help her.

Nalini held her hands tightly with tear drops suspended in her eyes.

When Nalini returned to her room, she was surprised to see Sethu waiting for her.

“Sethu, you can take the rest of the day off. There is not going to be any programme in the evening. She can’t dance.”

“Ma’am, my master has taught me about these cramps and sprains. If it is okay with you, let me try ….”

Nalini almost slapped herself on her head. ‘How the hell did I forget the local expert?’ she thought.

Nalini almost dragged Sethu to Sharada’s suite. Mythili was happily attending on Sharada.

She had a wicked pleasure in the cancellation of the programme. She could later quote that it was her curse that led to all these.

Sharada smiled at Nalini and Sethu.

“Madam, I’m sorry, Sharada, in our confusion we all forgot our local expert, Sethu. He is an expert on removing cramps. He would like to help you, if you permit.”

Mythili was waiting for this chance to pounce upon Sethu.

“No he can’t do it. The cramp is on her knee. How can another male see it? It’s against our culture. No, I wont allow that.”

“Don’t be silly Mythili. The Doctor was seeing my bare knee for half an hour and you didn’t object. I think you know that the Doctor was a male.”

Nalini turned the other side to suppress her smile. Sethu just hung down his head.

“And Mr.Sethuraman, you told me that it is against your personal policy to attend on ladies. I think you know that Sharada is also a lady.”

Sethu’s smile was benign.

“I know that, Ma’am. I’m not giviing a regular massage to her. I have come here for treatment. Now I am like the Doctor. Our system of treatment may be different. But that does not make me less of a Doctor.”

“Well said, Sethu.” Sharada shouted in joy.

“Any help you want, let me know, Sethu.” Nalini told him as she started to go out of the room.

“Madam, can you please ask Ms. Kanchana to be with me?”

“I’ll do that, Sethu. Thanks a lot.”

Mythili started to walk out of the room along with Nalini. Sethu called her back.

“Ma’am please stay here.”

“You want me to assist you?” Mythili asked sarcastically.

“No, I don’t want any assistance.”

“Then why did you call, Ms. Kanchana?”

“This is a delicate operation. I want a witness for my side. I know you will never speak for me.”

Sharada chuckled. Mythili frowned.

As soon as Kanchana came in Sethu started his work. He first sat on the floor in lotus posture and prayed to his Master and God.

By the time he finished his prayer Kanchana had arranged Sharada’s saree in such a way that only the affected part of Sharada’s knee was visible. She had also placed a chair by her bed for Sethu to sit.

Sethu sat down and took some oil that Kanchana had brought and let the oil drip on the affected part. When Sethu’s hands first felt Sharada’s knee, she shivered.

‘What’s happening to me? When the Doctor examined the knee, I didn’t feel a thing. No it’s wrong. ’

She composed herself and started chanting Soundarya Lahari.

Sethu looked as if he were in a state of trance. For him it was not a beautiful lady lying in bed with her knees exposed. For him it was just a complex system of nerves, veins, arteries and pressure points. His deft hands were searching for the precise location of the cramp.

Varmakkalai has no equivalent in the West. An expert in that art has such an intimate knowledge of the human body, that he knows the originating point of a cramp or a sprain.

People who normally give first aid to cramp-victims by rubbing Iodex or other creams, concentrate on the point of pain. But an expert like Sethu knew where the pain originated and where its control switch existed. His hands were looking for that.

As his hands went near that point of origin, Sharada felt a greater degree of pain. Her chanting became louder. Sethu was now able to feel the exact point. He closed his eyes for a moment and applied the right amount of pressure at that point.

“Amm........a.............” Sharada screamed in pain. Then she became unconscious.

Sethu stood up. Kanchana adjusted Sharada’s saree. Mythili was looking askance at Sethu.

“Kanchana, gently wake her up and give her some warm water. She should be fine.”

Sharada woke up as if from a dream. She sipped the warm water. Suddenly she felt an immense relief in her leg. She was now able to stretch it, fold it and stretch it again.

Sharada looked at Sethu. She was looking for words to thank him. But did not find even one. But the expression on her face did the job of a hundred million words.

She knew she could dance in the evening.

With tears in her eyes, she folded her hands towards Sethu. Sethu reciprocated the gesture and walked out of the room.

Kanchana picked up the phone to convey the good news to Nalini.

The evening dance programme was in the Banquet Hall of Le Meridian. There were 500 people in the hall. And about a hundred were standing on the periphery.

Nalini found out the American woman who asked about many gods.

“Madam, your prayers have been answered.”

“Oh, it is not just our prayers. It’s Sharada’s devotion and her art. She is God’s pet child, you know.”

The stage was set and the programme was about to start.

The leader of the American Group walked on to the stage with a king-size rose garland in his hands.

He took the microphone and spoke:

“Friends, this is our way of worshipping the art in this great artist Sharada Balakrishnan. I request her to please accept this garland as a gift from her American fans.”

There was a huge round of applause.

Sharada walked into the stage. She was now dressed for her first item. She was draped in a bright yellow silk dress.

She had a light make up on her face which emphasised her large eyes and sharp nose set in a perfectly round face. Her hair was made into a long plait with shining ornaments on it.

The dress, the make-up and the hair arrangement fully brought out the woman in her. Her feminine grace filled up the entire space.

The American was waiting for her to accept the garland. Sharada went to the microphone.

“I am touched and moved by your kind gift. When you stood in line to welcome me this morning, I felt like having won a great Award. And now this beautiful garland makes me feel at the top of the world.

“But Friends, there is one person, who deserves this honour more than me. It was that person who gave my dance back to me. When the Doctor condemned me to bed for six weeks, this man cured me in six minutes and it is only because of him, that I am able to dance for you today.

So please permit me to invite that person on stage and accept this honour from you. He is Mr.Sethuraman.”

The applause was deafening this time.

Nalini was sitting in the corner of the front row. Sethu was standing by her side. As soon as he heard his name announced, he tried to move away. But Nalini grabbed him by his arm and commanded him to go to the stage.

Meanwhile Sharada was explaining what Sethu did to cure her. When Sethu walked on the stage and the American garlanded him, the audience gave a standing ovation.

All the eyes that looked at Sethu were full of love and admiration. Except of course an odd pair which belonged to a man in the last row. And there was nothing in those eyes except jealousy, hatred and evil. The man’s name was Balakrishnan.



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PostSubject: Re: HE    Tue Jun 11, 2013 3:16 pm






HE - 5




Madhavan and Priya were on an European tour.

On the second day of their tour they reached their hotel in Amsterdam late in the night. The travel agent had messed up with the booking. They were both booked in the same room.

Madhavan protested. He insisted on an alternate accommodation. But it was tourist season and the hotel was full. They were both exhausted.

“We can manage, Boss.” Priya said more out of exhaustion than anything else.

Madhavan signed his name and they checked in.

Ten minutes later they stepped into their room.

It was a spacious room with a small alcove attached to it. The alcove had a teapoy and two comfortable chairs. The bed was made and had clean linen on it.

Human mind is the most amazing thing in the world. Even after almost a century of psychological research, we are still not able to unfold a hundredth of its mysteries. Perhaps the problem is there in the way we perceive mind and body as separate entities.

The next giant leap in psychology, and in physiology too, will be to see body-mind as one organic unit without any dividing line in between. Till that happens we will have to put up with bull**** like, “My body has its cravings; but my mind is strong.”

The best proof of these statements lay in how Madhavan’s and Priya’s minds behaved as soon as they entered the room.

Half an hour earlier they were travelling from the Amsterdam Central station to their hotel by Tram. They were so exhausted that each had planned to skip dinner and hit the sack the moment they got into the hotel room.

But now closeted in the same room, there was an excitement, a palpitation of heart which drove out all fatigue. If a doctor had monitored their heartbeat and their blood pressure, thirty minutes back and now, he would have been really concerned.

Priya took her night dress and disappeared into the bathroom. Meanwhile Madhavan also changed. The beige colour pajamas emphasised his height and made his jet black hair shine in contrast. The loose-fitting pajamas and his uncombed hair made him even more handsome.

A few minutes later Priya came out of the bathroom. She had changed into an embroidered sky-blue night gown which added an extra stress to her trim figure. The nightie was made of silky material. Priya had picked that up specially for her Eurpoean trip. She used to wear only cotton nighties back home in India.

Their eyes met and stayed in that state for a while.

It took a full minute for Madhavan to compose himself.

“Priya I’m famished. I am going to order French fries from the Coffeeshop. How about you?”

Priya spoke as if somebody had woken her up in the middle of a sweet dream.

“Oh, for me, well.,.. I don’t want…. Make it a double order of French Fries and some hot coffee too.”

Madhavan went to the phone.

“Boss, I don’t feel like sleeping now. Why don’t we chat for a while, if it’s okay with you?”

They sat facing each other in the tiny alcove. It was more of seeing than talking to start with. They were first talking of inconsequential things.

Their order arrived. When the bearer went out, Priya switched the conversation to something serious.

“Boss, you have sort of arrived in life. You have everything. You have money, looks, fame and success. Do you miss anything or anybody in your life?”

Madhavan was about to bite a piece of the crispy fries. He stopped midway and looked at Priya. Her facial expression was one of deep concern rather than just being nosy.

“I do, Priya. I do miss the Swamiji who brought me up. He was my mother, father and God, all rolled into one. I left the orphanage when I was 18. I told him that as soon as I come up in life he should come and live with me.

“I told him that I wanted to serve him in his old age, the same way a son would serve his father. I told him that I wanted to repay at least a hundredth of what he did to me.”

Madhavan was lost in emotions for a while. Then resumed in a choked voice.

“Do you know what that great man told me? He quoted his most favourite saint. “You fool, love is like the Ganges river. It flows from the heights of Himalayas, comes down to enrich our land and then flows into the sea. It does not flow back to the Himalayas.

“If you want to repay my love, love your children, love your wife. Take care of other orphans like you. Don’t waste your love on a dying old man.

“And he died before I finished my college.”

Priya reached for Madhavan’s hand.

They spent the next ten minutes silently devouring the delicious French fries dipped in ketchup.

As Priya poured coffee for both, Madhavan asked her.

“How did your husband die so young?”

Priya sighed.

“Raghu was a freelance software engineer. He was an expert in his field. Even the giants like Infosys and Wipro used to call him for critical problems. I have seen nobody being so passionate about what they do for a living.

“He was working from home. My office was quite far away. He used to get up early in the morning, make coffee for me, cook my breakfast and on some days, he used to even pack lunch for me.

“Then one day he got his dream project in the US. Microsoft invited him to be part of their design team for a new product they were developing. The money was great. More than that Raghu loved the challenge. But he had to be in the US for one and a half years.

“When he told me about this, he was almost jumping in joy. I told him that I wanted to go with him to the US. Not that I was enamoured by US. Any day I prefer being in India. My problem was that I couldn’t think of a life without him for 18 months.

“He told me it was not possible. He was going to work for 15 to 18 hours a day and would come to the hotel room only for sleeping. I will be bored to death sitting in the room all by myself. I might lose my job and lose on my career.

“I was so drunk with love for him that I told him that I was going with him, period. That was the first time ever we had arguments. And that was the last time too. I was so madly in love with him that I started accusing him that he wanted to be with the American women away from the prying eyes of his wife.

“Raghu was upset but did not show. Later in the day when he drove out to attend on a customer, he met with an accident and died on the spot. I am sure that my words would have broken his heart before it was crushed by a truck on that fateful day.

“You see the irony, Madhavan. I was not ready to lose him even for one and a half years. I argued with him and then lost him for ever. Can you find a more foolish woman than me in this whole world?”

Priya was sobbing as she said these words. Her body was shivering. Madhavan reached for her right hand and held it tight. Priya found Madhavan’s grip very comforting. She cried even more. Madhavan made a clumsy attempt to wipe her eyes.

Nobody knew what happened thereafter. Ten minutes later they were in each others arms. The lights were on. The coffee was getting cold.

But Madhavan and Priya had gone deep into a world where there was nothing but sweetness.

Each were trying to comfort the other. Each wanted to know more of the other, to have more of the other and to give more of themselves to the other. The distance between them came down to zero and then even less.

Madhavan had never slept like that before. It was a deep, dreamless sleep. He stirred in his bed only when it was 8 AM in the morning.

Priya also had a good sleep but was up since five in the morning. She was in the alcove thinking of so many things.

When she heard the sound of Madhavan getting up she shouted enthusiastically.

“Good Morning, Boss. Your coffee is on the way.”

Madhavan stared at her. She was now dressed up for the day in her navy blue business suit.

Madhavan had his coffee almost black. The strong brew cleared his senses. He got up and went to the alcove and sat opposite to Priya.

“Will you marry me, Priya?”

Priya had anticipated this statement but not that early. In spite of her anticipation she had tears in her eyes. But her voice and more than that, her thought process was abundantly clear.

“First things first, Boss. My answer to your question is a yes. A big YES. YES, a million times. No girl in her senses will ever think of saying no to you, Boss.”

“Thanks, Priya. I feel that a big load has been lifted from my heart.”

“I am coming precisely to that. While I will be happy to marry you, you need not have to marry me simply because of what happened last night. And please don’t take it as your obligation or your responsibility.

“You are my Boss. But in spite of that, I know, we are good friends. Yesterday night we came a little more closer. Period.

“But I am not mean enough to demand your hand in marriage because of that. That will be blaspheming the beautiful relationship we share.

“Let’s be practical, Boss. I am a middle class widow. And you… you are the most eligible bachelor – richest, most handsome and the most intelligent. I didn’t deserve Raghu and I think that was the reason I lost him. And frankly speaking I don’t deserve you either.”

“Have you finished, Madam? Now just hear me out. When I said that a big load is lifted from my heart, I did not mean a guilty conscience. I was afraid that you might not want to remarry out of your love for Raghu. So when you said yes, I was relieved.

“Priya, I may have money. But I am still an orphan. You know today I have nobody in this world whom I can call my relative.

“I fell in love with you the moment I saw you at the Convention. I am not interested in marrying a rich industrialist’s daughter and then lose my identity.

“Both of us share a kind of tragic past and that will give us more responsibility in the relationship. But, Priya, I did not make a list of pros and cons of marrying you before proposing to you. I want to be with you for all time to come. That comes from my heart.”

Now Madhavan stood up and talked in a pleading voice. Priya also rose from her chair.

“Now that you know the background better, I am now proposing again. Will you please marry me, Priya?”

Priya could not speak. She virtualy pounced upon Madhavan and smothered his face with kisses. She then buried her face in his chest and amidst sobs mumbled a feeble ‘yes.’

Then she placed her hands around Madhavan’s neck and told him in a whisper.

“I will not just be your wife, but your mother, your father, your friend, your servant, everything. You are not an orphan, Boss.”

An hour later they went down to the restaurant for a buffet breakfast. Their train to Brussels was in the evening. They had no intention to go around Amsterdam as they had scheduled originally.

“What do we do now, Priya?”

“Boss, I am not interested in going to the Museum or Zoo. Lets take the day off.”
Priya blushed as she said that. Madhavan noticed that and placed his hand gently on hers.

“I am not asking about today, honey. How do we plan our wedding? When, where, how – I have a million questions.”

“Boss,..”

“What’s this, Priya, why should you still call me Boss?”

“Because you are my boss. I am working for you and you are paying my salary. As of now I am still on the job. Hope you have not fired me. So long as I work for you, I will call you boss.”

Madhavan just smiled he knew how to make her stop calling him boss. But that had to wait.

“Listen to me, Boss. I have a wonderful plan. We are going to Brussels tonight. Tomorrow we sign the deal with the client. As per the original plan we are to fly to India by early morning the day after tomorrow.

“I checked your schedule for the next week. There is nothing in that which our executives cannot handle. We will extend our stay in Europe by a week. And go to Venice for a honeymoon. Then we can fly back to India and get married.”

“You are quite fast, lady.”

“Boss, you owe me a fat bonus. I have saved you the cost of round trips to Europe for two persons, by just advancing the honeymoon. Aren’t I an efficient employee?”

“You are, dear. I accept your plan. I request you to consider my plan for the marriage. I don’t know about your religious faith and all. I will never interfere into that. My Swamiji used to visit the Parthasarathy temple at Triplicane quite often.

“So I want our marriage to be solemnised there with just a handful of people. We will have the marriage registered immediately. We can have a formal reception later in the evening.”

“Deal, boss.”

Madhavan shook hands with her.

Whatever the love birds planned happened to a t. And a few things they had not planned also happened.

The pre-marriage honeymoon was the sweetest period in their lives. The Brussels client knowing about their marriage gifted them their trip to Venice. First class air fare, expensive hotel, and sight-seeing tours – he had designed a deluxe package for them.

As they were strolling near the EU Headquarters in Brussels the evening before they were to leave for Venice, they chanced upon a lady palmist in a small alley. Priya was in a playful mood and wanted to consult her regarding Madhavan’s future.

The astrologer demanded 5 Euros which Priya happily gave. The lady saw Madhavan’s hand for a full minute. While Madhavan and Priya were waiting for her to come out with her predictions, she silently took out the 5 Euros and gave it back to Priya.

Madhavan and Priya were stunned. When they insisted that she should have the money, she blaberred something in Flemish and ran away.

Industry experts said that the wedding reception of Madhavan and Priya was more like the Annual General Meeting of Reliance Industries.

The entire city had assembled there. Madhavan had thrown his weight around and had booked both Raja Muthiah Hall and Rani Meyammai Hall for the event.

It was difficult to remember the names and faces of the thousands of guests who had come for the event.

But one face stood out. It was that of the Swamiji who was currently in charge of the orphanage in which Madhavan had grown up. Priya was busy talking to her friends. Madhavan touched Swamiji’s feet.

“Son, I am a penniless Sanyasi. I have not brought any gift for you, except my love and these words of advice. Remember this son, you are in the middle of the most happiest period of your life.

“And from now on practise standing a little away from your life and watch it as a witness. The wheel of life has to be in constant rotation. The wheel is now on the top and you do not need an Einstein to figure out where will the wheel go next. Remember God will always be with you whether the wheel is up or down.”

Madhavan was thrown out of balance by these words. In his jubilant mood he dismissed those words as the usual dose of advice coming from those who had renounced this wordlly life.

Had he known that the Swamiji was an acclaimed clairvoyant, Madhavan would have lost his sleep on those words

Their friends had decorated their bedroom for their ‘wedding night.’ Priya had gone into the room first and was impatiently waiting for Madhavan.

She teased him when he came in.

“Boss, you have reversed the entire scene. You are supposed to come first and wait for me with bated breaths. And you have made me wait for an hour. It’s not fair, Boss.”

“Sorry, Priya, I have been thinking about the right wedding gift to you. I wanted to gift you a brand new house I have built in Velachery. Then I thought of buying you a C-350 Benz. Ultimately I could come only with these pieces of paper. Please forgive your prosaic husband.”

Madhavan was flashing a cover in his hand. Priya got it from him and pried it open.

There were just two sheets of paper.

The first one informed Priya that she had been co-opted as a Director in Ad India Limited and had been made the Executive Director of the company.

The second one informed that subject to completion of legal formalities, she was a 50% owner of Ad India Limited.

Priya flew into Madhavan’s arms with a sob.

“Don’t do that, Bo…”

Before she could complete the word, Madhavan closed her mouth with his.

“Priya darling, now you can no longer call me the Boss. You are my Partner, my fellow Director on the Board. You have 50% of my company and 100% of myself.”

“But still you and only you are my boss. Nobody can change that.”

Priya blurted amidst sobs.

It was a commencement of a life-long honeymoon, or that was what they both thought.

Six months flew like six minutes. Madhavan and Priya had everything a human being can ever hope for. Money, fulfilling work and eternal marital bliss – very few had them all together.

Destiny is a strange creature. When a life is not perfect it stays on the sidelines and watch people struggling to make it perfect.

If the slate of life is already crowded with confusing writings Destiny stands away and watches with amusement.

Once people have perfected their lives, have cleaned up their slates, Destiny steps in to write some rubbish on the slate and at times, to even break the slate into pieces.

Now seeing that Madhavan and Priya had created a clean slate of their lives, , Destiny stood up from its place, yawned and stretched its limbs. It’s eyes shone with wickedness, as it always happened when it was looking for some piece of action.



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PostSubject: Re: HE    Fri Jun 14, 2013 2:55 pm

*
 
 
 
 
 HE - 6
 
 
 
 

 
Sharada explained to the audience what Sethu did to cure her cramps. When Sethu walked on the stage and the American garlanded him, all the 300 people gave a standing ovation.

All the eyes that looked at Sethu were full of love and admiration. Except of course an odd pair which belonged to a man in the last row. And there was nothing in those eyes except jealousy, hatred and evil. The man’s name was Balakrishnan.

Sharada was enjoying the happiest moments of the day blissfully unaware of the danger waiting for her in the last row.

She saw Sethu getting down from the stage and trying to go out of the hall. She wanted him to see her dance. She ran to the mike again and announced.

“Ladies and Gentleman, I am not yet finished. I want Mr.Sethuraman to occupy the seat of honour in the front row and be my special guest this evening. I seek the General Manager’s permission on his behalf. Nalini, please….”

Sethu stopped in his tracks. Nalini smiled, turned towards Sethu and beckoned him to come. The person sitting next to Nalini vacated his seat and a shy Sethu was almost forced to sit there.

The dance programme started. When Sharada bowed to the audience in keeping with the traditions of dance, her eyes met Sethu’s. There was reverence, gratitude and something more than that in those pleading eyes.

Sharada was explaining the second number in her own style.

“For us Indians, religion is not different from our literature. Nor is it away from our life or love. Prayer, for us, is not an actitivty scheduled for a particular time of the day. It is a state of mind. Our prayers are poetical and our finest songs are prayers.

“And the song which I am going to dance now is a prayer. It is also the softest expression of love a human being can have for God. It is poetry at its best.

“The lover is insulted by her beloved in the presence of others. He has let her down. But the girl is so madly in love with him that she still seeks him, she still longs for him.

“I am like that girl, O Lord, cries the devotee. You give me pain, disease, dishonour, death and hell. I will still be singing praises of your bejewelled feet.”

Sharadha tried to capture the devotion of Kulasekara Azhwar in her dance movements and her facial expressions.
When she described the lover’s humiliation, the hurt feelings expressed in her vulnerable face made the Americans look for tissues. There were no dry eyes in the hall.

Before the last item was about to commence Sharada received a chit from the Americans that they had a few questions. Would she care to answer them after the performance?

After a ninty-minute performance Sharada appeared on the stage to receive a standing ovation which lasted for a whole minute. . Her dress was now a dazzling red silk saree. She was profusely sweating;yet she was eager to answer the questions.

The Americans now showed a greater degree of reverence and the questions were on the dance schools, the time it would take to learn classical dance and about the Bhakthi Literature of South India.

Sharada answered the last question and was about to get down from the stage, thanking God for the perfect evening. But Destiny which hated perfection started wagging its long, ugly tail.

 

A hand shot up from the last row.

“Yes, please.”

Someone passed on the wireless mike to the person. When the gruff voice echoed against the walls, Sharada identified its owner and shuddered.

“What do we gain by this dancing? How many man-hours have you wasted? Five hundred people in this hall. One and a half hours each. 750 hours have been wasted.

“What’s the big deal about this dance, songs, poetry, when we have more important things to do? In short, Mrs. Sharada Balakrishnan, what do you want to achieve by dancing? What’s the purpose of dancing?”

The blatant rudeness shocked the Americans. Nalini signed to someone near her. She asked him to be ready with some strong men just in case.

Had this question come from any other member of the audience, Sharada would have taken it in her stride and would have answered with the same eloquence she had used while answering the question on many Gods

But the question came from her husband Balakrishnan.

Balki, as he was known in his circles, owned an automobile ancillary unit near Chennai. He was short and bulky.

There was a cruelty in his face, normally found only in the faces of hardened criminals and cunning politicians. He was worth a few hundred crores and was constantly on the look out for earning more.

Pretty early in her life Sharada had decided not to marry at all. Dance had been her first love and till then she thought it would be her only one.

She had been following the lives of some of the best dancers in the city. After marriage they sort of shrunk into their shells. Their lives had turned upside down. They had a deep yearning to dance; but their husbands and their circumstances did not let them do it.

With the divine art in them struggling to express itself and their domestic responsibilities pressing them down, they ended up mostly as wrecks. That was especially so if their passion for dance had been really intense in their formative years.

Sharada was ready to sacrifice marital bliss and even motherhood on the altar of dance.

It happened two years back. Sharada’s beauty had attracted a big industrialist who started stalking her. Police was not of help.

She desperately needed somebody with man-power to guard her. Mythili suggested that she take up the matter with Balki, a rich industrialist, distantly related to her.

Balki was a childless widower in his mid thirties. Balki solved her problem in three minutes flat. Sharada was impressed.

At that time Balki used to talk about dance all the time. Sharada never knew that he got information from other dancers and reference books, with the sole purpose of impressing her. Balki was all sweetness during courtship.

When Balki proposed. Sharada was in a dilemma. Though she liked talking to him about dance, she was not very ecstatic about the relationship. She needed somebody strong like Balki to protect her from the male predators. She was also not ready for a life-long commitment.

She talked to him about her passion to dancing. Balki was drunk with love for Sharada’s beautiful body. He said yes to whatever conditions she imposed.

After getting an express permission from him that he would not interfere with her dancing career, Sharada mumbled a weak yes to his proposal.

For Balki, Sharada was just a woman to be ticked off. He could lure other women by money and gifts. For Sharada it was marriage. Within a month Balki got bored of Sharada.

But he wanted a famous, beautiful wife as a status symbol. So the marriage continued. Soon Balki started to show his cruel inner self. He would not beat her. But his words, abusive language and inhuman teasing would make Sharada tremble in hatred and humiliation.

They had stopped talking to each other. Balki had never given a damn to her dance and had never been to any of her performances after marriage.

 

But today Mythili had secretly called him to talk about Sethu’s “treatment” and Sharada’s inclination towards him. Being continually snubbed by Sharada and Sethu she badly wanted a revenge.

There was no better way to do that than by tippiing Balki about Sethu and making him come for the evening programme.

A cunning Balki attended the programme with the sole purpose of embarrasing Sharada in the presence of an international audience.

Sharada was paralysed. Tears of humiliation were streaming up in her eyes.

Sethu was the first to understand the situation. He jumped on to the podium and was before the mike in no time
.
“With your permission, Madam” he told Sharada before turning to the belligrent Balki.

Sethu was now in his element. His Master was a deeply religious person and had talked to Sethu about many things, while training him in Varmakkalai.

“Sir, your first question was “What do we gain by this dancing?
“The answer is nothing. What do we gain by seeing a flower? Nothing.
“By reading beautiful lines of poetry, nothing.
“By listening to music, nothing.
“By looking at a smiling child or a beautiful sunrise, nothing.

“These activities are not business propositions which you examine under the lens of profits. To attribute ulterior motives to these activities is to deny life itself.

“Working in an office, manufacturing articles, rendering commercially valuable service is necessary to live. But dancing, poetry, sunrise and a child’s smile are the reasons for living.

“You ask what is the purpose of dancing? Dancing itself is the purpose. The purpose of dancing is not to get across to the other side of the room. You can do it more efficiently by running.

“Looks like you will ask why at all we should love. By loving we cannot find a cure for cancer or a cheaper fuel for our cars or a cleaner environment. Love is its own purpose. Am I clear sir?”

The applause from the audience was thunderous. Nalini was clapping with tears in her eyes. It was the pure happiness of a mother seeing her son being appreciated by others.

Balki wanted to have one last dig before he quit. Mythili had told him that Sethu was single.

“Mister, it is easy to talk about love. Have you ever been in love?”

It was apparently a general, innocuous question. But for Sethu it was a barb aimed at his heart. It did not miss its target. Sethu’s heart bled.

He was silent for a while. Sharada looked at Sethu. Nalini was more hurt than Sethu as she knew his background. She knew very well that Sethu could never answer this question without reliving a portion of pain of his past life.

Sethu told Balki in a choked voice.

“I have loved and lost. But Sir, looks like you have never been in love. Even after facing the most cruel betrayal from the only person I loved in all my life, with my heart and soul, I still feel, that it is better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all.

“And, you Sir, if you have ever loved another human being in your life, you will not have asked those questions.”

Balki walked out of the hall in a state of anger. Sharada was still shivering. Nalini ran to the stage and took Sharada in her arms. As Sharada was being slowly taken away from the stage, she turned around to look at Sethu.

Sethu had given her dance back to her earlier. And now he had protected her pride. There was no need for her to talk. Her eyes conveyed her feelings far better than the finest language of the world can ever hope to do.

 

Sharada checked out of the hotel around half past ten.

Nalini was waiting for her. Sharada came to her cabin.

“Nalini, I can never forget you in my life. I am the only child of my parents. I had all their love and attention and never had to share it with any sibling. I thought that I was a lucky girl that way.

“But after meeting you I now feel that I would have been luckier if I had an elder sister like you.”

Nalini stood up and hugged her.

“Nalini, please don’t think I am nosy. The relationship you share with Sethu is something quite special…..”

Nalini sighed.

“You are right, Sharada. He is more like a son to me. And there is a background for that. Let’s talk about it some time. It’s a long story.”

“Sethu has done so much for me. I want to make a special gift to him. Can I go and see him now?”

“He just left. I’ll try to get hold of him.”

Nalini called the security at the entrance. Luckily Sethu was just crossing the gate. Nalini called him to her cabin.

A few minutes later Sethu entered Nalini’s cabin. In spite of Nalini’s repeated requests, he refused sit down before her. Now Sharada stood up and spoke.

“Mr.Sethu, I am no longer the foolish lady who thought of buying you with money. What you did to me cannot even be measured in terms of money. So will you please be kind enough to accept this gift from me?”

When she took out the gift from her bag, Sethu was shocked. It was her dancing anklets. For a dancer they are as precious as her life.

“Whatever you talked about dancing applies to gifts also, Sethu. There is no need that the gift should have utitlity value for the donee. Gift is an expression of love, affection or gratitude. I know no better way to express my gratitude than by giving some thing that is as dear to me as my life.

“This is the anklet my teacher gifted to me on my debut performance.

“I was just 16 at that time. My teacher was an old woman of 72. She was a very strict teacher and did not let me set foot on the stage until after 7 years of rigorous training.

“She was so pleased with my performance on that day that she walked up the stage and put these anklets on my feet herself. When her old, withered hands touched my feet, I sobbed unable to contain my happiness and pride.

“I keep this in my prayer room when I am not wearing this. Please Sethu, please accept this from me.”

Sethu did not know what to do. If Sharada had gifted a million Rupees, Sethu would have rejected it with alacrity. But this was quite different. Sethu accepted the anklets with utmost reverence.

Nalini was speechless. Sharada switched the topic.

“Nalini, please allow me to come and see you whenever I feel like it. If you are busy, I’ll just come here, sit before you for a few minutes and silently walk away. Can I do that?”

“Oh, Sharada… you can come anytime. If you are busy, just call me, I’ll be there at your place.”

“Thanks. See you. Thanks, Sethu. See you.”

Sharada went to the door and came back.

She looked around the cabin to assure herself that there was no one else in that big room.

“I was debating with myself whether I should tell you this or not. The person who rudely asked about the purpose of dancing is my husband.”

She allowed a minute for the fact to sink in.

“He is a very wealthy industrialist. I am ashamed to say that he is venomous. I am afraid that he might try to hurt Sethu. Sethu, I am really worried about your safety.”

Nalini’s face darkened. But Sethu was smiling.

“Don’t worry, Madam. If God decides that I should be hurt by someone, nothing I do can prevent it. If God decides that I should not be hurt, a thousand persons like this man cannot even touch my hair. Thanks for the concern, Madam. So Long.”

Sethu bowed to Nalini and walked out of the room leaving the two ladies in a state of shock.


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PostSubject: Re: HE    Tue Jun 18, 2013 2:58 pm

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HE - 7
 
 
 
 

 
Madhavan and Priya started their married life. It was a commencement of a life-long honeymoon, or that was what they both thought.
 
Six months flew like six minutes. Madhavan and Priya had everything a human being can ever hope for. Money, fulfilling work and eternal marital bliss – very few had them all together.
 
Destiny which had all along been sleeping, now got up from its place looking for some piece of action.
 
That was the best period in their business. India had opened her doors to foreign countries a decade earlier. Companies like Ad India started to enjoy the full benefits of liberalisation only now.
 
During the first six months of that fiscal year Ad India’s revenue climbed by more than 50% over the corresponding period of last year. Madhavan and Priya were thrilled.
 
50% growth in a year was a fine piece of statistics when viewed from outside. Financial press went ga-ga over it. But to those who were inside, it was a terror.
 
Growth happened all of a sudden and infrastructure and man-power support were lagging far behind. Every one had to put in 14 hour work-days. And many had to forego weekly holidays.
 
Travel schedule was quite hectic. As Ad India’s major customers were abroad, Madhavan and Priya were frequently time zones away from each other. Each of them had hired an Executive Assistant and many times actual communication happened only between their EAs.
 
There were softer moments too. When Priya travelled to Europe she brought a state of art Blackberry set for Madhavan. Madhavan went to Middle East and brought Priya an exclusive hand-crafted golden necklace.
 
But the pity was they could not even meet each other face to face to exchange their gifts. They got it done by their Executive Assistants and each called the other from a different time zone to thank profusely for the gift. Life moved on.
 
Destiny was still looking at them with a mischievous smile.
 
 
 
Madhavan was bidding for a multi-crore ad compaign from a FMCG giant. That would be the most shining feather in Ad India’s cap and would push them several rungs up in the growth ladder.
 
His presentation to the Top Management team of the company was immaculate. In terms of pricing and features, his was the most creative compaign. He was sure he would get the deal. But then he lost it.
 
When the news came he was devastated. The time was 11 AM. Madhavan was in Chennai. He cancelled his appointments for the rest of the day. Then he called up Priya’s EA to know about her programme.
 
She told him that Priya was coming by the afternoon flight from Mumbai. Madhavan told her not to send any car to pick her up. He would do that himself.
 
Priya was delighted to see Madhavan waiting for her at the terminal. Forgetting for a moment they were in a public place, she flew into his arms and kissed him on his cheeks.
 
“Can we go to my club for lunch, Priya? Please…”
 
Priya had a hectic day ahead. She had half a dozen meetings to attend. But she instinctively knew that something was wrong and that she had to be with Madhavan for the rest of the day. She called her EA and cancelled her meetings.
 
As soon as they were seated in the comfortable lounge chairs of Gandhinagar Club in Adyar, Priya gripped Madhavan’s hands.
 
“Now tell me dear, what’s bothering you? ”
 
Madhavan was not immature enough to ask, ‘how did you know that?’. He knew that she knew.
 
The bearer had come for their lunch order. Priya knew what the club chef was good at. She ordered for thick drumstick soup with crispy vegetable springrolls and panneer 65 on the side, ghee cashew pulao rice accompanied by red chilly panneer and hyderabadi vegetables and a large bowl of chocolate ice cream with fruit salad.
 
Madhavan was surprised.
 
Priya waited for the bearer to go away.
 
“When you are troubled, you should treat yourself with rich food. That’s the first step to recovery. Now tell me what’s the problem?”
 
Madhavan told her about the ad compaign he lost.
 
“I worked really hard for it, Priya. Ours was a better offer both in terms of pricing and coverage. The General Manager of the company is my personal friend. He told me unofficially that we have got the deal. But suddenly… it went to the other guy.”
 
“Who got it?”
 
“Smart Ads.”
 
“Really? They are a lousy lot. OK, leave it to me, Boss. I will find out where we went wrong. Let’s now enjoy the food.”
 
Priya excused herself to go to the rest room. On the way she made a call to one of her contacts. As she was walking out of the restroom she got a call on her mobile. She listened carefully. As she disconnected there was a big smile on her face.
 
She went to Madhavan and ruffled his hair.
 
“You don’t worry dear. It’s not your fault that you lost the compaign. That Smart Ads leech had provided women to the President of the client company and got the deal.”
 
“My God! Do those things still happen in our industry?”
 
“They do, Mr. Clean. My contact tells me that they brought in a top actress for the purpose. Now let the client and Smart Ads go to hell. Cheer up. We have a lot of things to do.”
 
“But it’s not fair, Priya. I gave my life and soul to it. I can’t digest the fact that I lost it because I could not stoop low enough to supply women to that bastard.”
 
“Cool, boss, Cool. Remember what your Swamiji said. Nothing is fair in this world.”
 
“But.. I…. But I….”
 
Madhavan was so overwhelmed with anger and frustration that he could not complete the sentence.
 
“Boss, you want a revenge, right? Ok, don’t think of any plan now. You are now emotional. Any plan you think of now will be strategically weak. Leave it to me, Boss. I will come up with something.”
 
 
 
Madhavan was consoled. They went home and made love. In the evening Madhavan took her to the Sheraton for a poolside dinner. As Madhavan would remember much later that was the last happiest day they spent together.
 
They went home around ten. They made love again. Madhavan had almost forgotten about Smart Ads and was slowly drifting into a dreamless sleep, when Priya shook him.
 
This was the watershed moment that destiny was looking for.
“Get up, Boss. I have an idea.”
 
Madhavan saw the time. It was one in the morning.
 
“Priya….”
 
“Dear, certain things cannot wait. Unless I tell you my idea I can’t sleep.”
 
“Shoot.”
 
“Just listen to this story, Boss. My grandfather’s friend was a very, very rich man. Once he went to Bombay. This man had leukoderma. Back then people did not know that it was not a dangerous or a contagious disease. They thought it was a variant of leprosy.
 
“So when this man went to a hotel and asked for a room, the Manager flatly refused. He would not let lepers stay in his hotel. This man produced a Doctor’s certificate saying that his disease was not leprosy and it was harmless.
 
“The manager abused him and almost threw him out of the hotel. It was almost mid-night. The rich man went back to the Railway Station and spent the night there. But the very next day he came back, bought the whole damned hotel and fired the manager.”
 
Madhavan yawned.
 
“Now Boss, in the same way Ad India is going to take over Smart Ads. The Ad compaign you lost is going to be there for three years. We will take over the company in six months flat. Then you can run the compaign yourself.”
 
“But I have not bought any company so far…. Is it ethically right…..”
 
“What’s this boss, a company is like any other piece of property. You bought a flat in Bangalore last year. In the same way we can buy this company. I don’t see any difference.”
 
“But if they refused to sell….”
 
“Well, boss, we are not going to do what my grandfather’s friend did. What I have in mind is a hostile takeover. That will teach them a lesson.”

But how do we….”
 
“Leave it to me, Boss.”
 
Destiny was still smiling. Someone not familiar with the ways of Destiny, would naively ask, ‘They have become even closer. So what’s the big deal?’ Destiny has no duty to explain its actions. But if it did, it would say, “I don’t work in ways you can understand.”
 
 
 
They were back to their usual hectic life from the next day. Priya started working on taking over Smart Ads. She worked through the phone for first half of the day and identified the best kick-ass take-over lawyer in the town.
 
Priya hosted a dinner for that lawyer that very night. When they walked out of Hotel Breeze in Poonamallee High Road around 11 that night, they had designed a fail-proof strategy.
 
In the normal course of things Priya would have told about the meeting to Madhavan. But she wanted to give Smart Ads to Madhavan as surprise gift. So she kept the details to herself. She did not even tell Madhavan about the lawyer she had hired for the purpose.
 
Destiny’s smile became wider.
 
An astute lawyer, a cool Priya, a time-tested strategy, and an enemy not well- prepared – nothing more was required to ensure the success of the project.
 
Smart Ads fell into Priya’s hands in the next three months. She clinched the deal for just one-half of the amount budgeted for the purpose by Madhavan.
 
She shook hands with the lawyer, gave him a fat bonus and retained him as the company’s permanent legal counsel.
 
She then checked with Madhavan’s EA about his programme for the day. Madhavan was flying in by the night Singapore Airlines flight from Singapore.
 
It was now Priya’s turn to go to the airport to pick up Madhavan. Madhavan was delighted to see her. As the luggage was loaded into the black Benz Priya took him aside and gave a cover.
 
“Some mail for you, Boss.”
 
Madhavan opened the cover. A paper inside announced that Smart Ads was now legally a part of Ad India, Madhavan lifted Priya off the ground.
 
“Awesome, Priya. How did you pull that one?”
 
“Boss, it was an easy prey. I found out that theirs was an unlisted company and they had forty shareholders each holding about 2% in the company. I approached them individually and offered a good price for their shares.
 
“With all the expenses factored in, we have got the company at half of its real price. And you can run that compaign sitting in your office, Boss.”
 
Madhavan was on Cloud Nine.
 
 
 
Next day. Madhavan’s EA called Priya on her phone.
 
“Madam, MD wants you to come to his cabin. Right now.”
 
Priya was a little offended by the EAs authoritative tone. She nevertheless ran to Madhavan’s office.
 
“Am I the boss, or are you?”
 
Priya was taken aback by Madhavans demenaour.
 
“Anytime, you are the boss.”
 
“Then will you take orders from me?”
 
“Sure, Boss.
 
“Now listen, lady. From today, you are the Joint Managing Director of the Company. Our Company Secretary will come to you with a lot of forms to be signed. And from now on you will be in charge of business planning, finance, tax and overall corporate strategy. I will focus only on marketing and HR.”
 
“Boss… what’s this….”
 
“I am not yet finished. Listen. The company is placing an order for a BMW car exclusively for your use. Henceforth your air-travel will only be in first class.”
 
“Boss..” Priya ran into Madhavan’s open arms.
 
The smile on Destiny’s face turned even more wicked.
 
 
 
Taking over other companies is an easy way to leap-frog growth and go to the top in no time. It is also the easiest way to accumulate wealth. A successful takeover gives a ‘high’ which very few things in life can match.
 
Precisely because of this reason, it is a highly addictive activity. Once you have successfully taken over another company, you naturally start looking around for potential victims. That was what Priya was doing. And that was what that shrewd kick-ass lawyer was doing.
 
When they both saw a soft target on the horizon their mouths watered. As usual they defined their strategty and closed in for a kill.
 
Madhavan was in a client meeting when the call came. The caller was quite frantic. Madhavan did not want to take the call. But then the caller had called more than a dozen times in two minutes.
 
Madhavan excused himself to take the call. His face went pale. He returned to the client meeting.
 
“Are you all right, Mr. Madhavan?”
 
“I am not sure. Can we continue this meeting tomorrow?”
 
“No issues. Take care.”
 
Madhavan stormed into Priya’s office.
 
“What’s this Priya? Are we planning to take over Creative Ads?”
 
“Yes, Boss. So what?”
 
Priya’s non-chalance was neither deliberate nor arrogant. But it appeared so to Madhavan.
 
“What the hell is happening in this company? Smart Ads played a dirty game. We revenged them by gobbling them up. What sin did Creative Ads do?”
 
Priya was shocked by the emotional outburst.
 
“Boss, this is not a question of sin or merit. And we are not Gods to reward them for their merit or punish them for their sins.
 
“Taking over companies is a corporate strategy for faster growth. I have been looking for nice, little companies, so that we touch the billion mark that is a gross billing of Rs. 100 crores in the next year.”
 
“But Creative Ads is my friend’s company.”
 
“Boss, in the world of business there are no friends or enemies. There are companies which can be taken over and companies which can’t be.”
 
“What if someone takes over our company?”
 
“No way, Boss. We hold the entire hundred percent between ourselves. Unless one of us betray the other, our company cannot be taken over. But those idiots at Creative Ads, their shares are with a hundred and fifty people. We have cornered 30% already. And in another two weeks, we will have 51%.”
 
Madhavan’s face became red with anger.
 
“Priya, I want us out of this nasty business rightaway. Am I clear?”
 
“Very.”
 
Madhavan stormed out of the room leaving Priya in a state of shock. She picked up the phone to talk to her lawyer.
 
There was an understanding smile on Destiny’s face.
 
 
 
The take-over lawyer whom Priya had hired had closed in for a perfect kill of Creative Ads. He was in the position of a lion who had chased a gazel for miles and was about to pounce on the hapless animal.
 
The lion’s digestive system had already recognised the presence of delicious food. The preludes to the digestive process had begun. And at the last wonderful moment someone was holding the lion back. The lion decided to leave the gazel for now and train its eyes on the person holding him back.
 
Priya and the lawyer were now in the take over business for more than six months. Unlike the soft business of advertising where you talk of things like creativity, mass communication and at times even values, there in take-over you talk of victims, survival, killing, eating up and high-end money.
 
And Priya had been moving closely with a person who was known in his field as a vulture. Her thought processes had changed quite a lot over the past few months. The ‘high’ she had when Smart Ads was gobbled up made her crave for more and better ‘highs’.
 
It was she who had identified Creative Ads and she almost single-handedly wrote the strategy to swallow the company. The lawyer now appreciated her skills openly. But Madhavan had stopped her in the last minute. She was kind of frustrated.
 
Madhavan and his set of values looked quite funny to her.
 
Destiny was now laughing uncontrollably.
 
The ‘vulture’ lawyer, the lion who was prevented from tasting that delicious gazel, now trained his eyes on Madhavan. For him anything in life was like a take-over.
 
Study the victim, know his weaknesses, find out the opportune time and then pounce on the victim with much greater force than what is neccesary. This was his universal strategy. Surprisingly this strategy used by cavemen in prehistoric days to hunt food, still worked in the greedy corporate world.
 
A week later there was a 100 page dossier on Madhavan on his table. And that became his favourite bed-time reading that night.
 
Madhavan’s strongest point was Priya and her love for him. Every time Priya talked about Madhavan love sparkled in her eyes. The vulture decided to do something about it. That should be the starting point.
 
The vulture was quite adept in understanding the workings of the human mind. For instance the vulture knew that when one’s own survival is threatened, love, values, his sense of good and evil all take a backseat.
 
There are some exceptions to this fundamental rule. But the vulture has not come across any so far. The vulture decided to apply this rule to the case on hand.
 
Some angels decided to go in support of Madhavan. But it was already too late.
 
Madhavan was busy in his office when that call came to his direct land line number. The caller introduced herself as a lady lawyer practising in the Madras High Court.
 
She wanted to talk to him about the danger that was surrounding him on all sides. She could not do so on the phone as she was sure that the line was not secure. She called him to her country club on the East Coast Road for an hour’s session.
 
Madhavan was shocked. But accepted the offer.
 
Unknown to Madhavan the line was tapped and the conversation was recorded.
 
Destiny was now sure that it had done its part. From this point onwards people would come in to finish what Destiny had started.
 
Destiny left the place searching for greener pastures.



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AruN
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PostSubject: Re: HE    Fri Jun 21, 2013 1:53 pm

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HE - 8
 
 
 
 

 
Before leaving Le Meridian Sharada had warned Sethu of her husband’s vicious propensities.
 
“He is a very wealthy industrialist. I am ashamed to say that he is venomous. I am afraid that he might try to hurt Sethu. Sethu, I am really worried about your safety.”
 
Nalini’s face darkened. But Sethu was smiling.
 
“Don’t worry, Madam. If God decides that I should be hurt by someone, nothing I do can prevent it. If God decides that I should not be hurt, a thousand persons like this man cannot even touch my hair. Thanks for the concern, Madam. So Long.”
 
Sethu bowed to Nalini and walked out of the room leaving the two ladies in a state of shock.
 
As Sharada’s black Skoda Octavia was gliding on the almost deserted GST Road around 11 PM that night, her mind was in a state of turbulence. She was deeply disturbed by Balki’s behaviour that evening. She was afraid that Balki might in all probability hurt Sethu.
 
But just remembering the word Sethu brought pleasant feelings to her mind. As the car was crossing Raj Bhavan, Sharada looked outside. When she thought about Sethu and his point-blank replies to Balki, her mind was brimming with happiness. The forest-like Raj Bhavan campus looked very beautiful to her.
 
Her feelings of pleasure lasted only till the car reached her palatial house at Indra Nagar.
 
She got down from the car and went into the house. Seeing Balki chatting with somebody on his mobile, she developed a shooting pain in her head. Holding her head with her hands she ran to the kitchen.
 
The cook was just preparing to go to bed. She requested her to make a cup of strong tea for her.
 
Balki was watching her movements through the corner of his eyes. Had Balki and Sharada been in talking terms, he would have openly abused her with his sharp tongue. His mind was thinking of ways to hurt her some way or other.
 
The cook prepared strong tea laced with ginger and cardamom and placed a jug full of it before Sharada. She also placed Sharada’s favourite tea mug. As Sharada sipped the strong brew she felt a little relaxed and refreshed.
 
Balki was now in the adjoining room and was seeing her actions. He knew that he could cause maximum damage only at this time. His mind was feverishly looking for ways to hurt Sharada. He found one and smiled cruelly.
 
He punched some fictional numbers on his mobile and started talking to an imaginary person.
 
“Oh that guy was rubbing all over your body! Simply great! And you enjoyed his actions right? Marvellous. And were you wearing any dress …..”
 
That was the last straw on the camel’s back. Sharada threw her tea mug across the room. The sound reverberated throughout the house. Balki now ran to his bedroom in the ground floor with a wicked glee on his face.
 
Sharada ran to her bedroom in the first floor. She fell over her bed and cried herself to sleep.
 
 
 
Sharada got up a little late in the morning. When she came down for breakfast, she saw Balki talking enthusiastically on his mobile. A good night’s sleep had strengthened her mind and now she did not want to leave Balki unpunished for what he did last night.
 
She used the same technique to turn the tables against Balki. She punched some imaginary numbers on her mobile and started talking very loudly.
 
“Yes, dear. It was simply great. The man has something in his hands. When his hand touched my knee, I would rather say, a little above my right knee, you know, a chill of pleasure went through my spine.. and … I…”
 
Balki now threw his N-60 Nokia mobile phone against the wall. It broke into pieces. He left home in a fit of rage. Sharada was now in a meditative state of mind. She really enjoyed her breakfast.
 
Balki’s Elantra was now caught in the peak-hour traffic near Madhya Kailash temple. Balki was no longer emotional. He was now full of evil.
 
Evil was almost a second nature to Balki in the same way dance was to Sharada.
 
Making Sharada to throw her tea-mug and her making him to break his mobile phone were all minor skirmishes in the grand scheme of war which was being framed in his mind. He first formulated the objects of his grand plan.
 
Object number one, to disgrace and then destroy that masseur. Object number two, to divorce and disgrace Sharada after accomplishment of object number one. If Sharada is incidentally killed in the process, it is all the more better.
 
Balki had a unique mind, something which could not be replicated even by the world’s most sophisticated computer system. When he thought of something good, then only 10% of his brain would be working and that too on a single track. But if he is engaged in something malicious, almost 80% of his brain will be working and that too on multiple tracks.
 
When he reached his large office complex in GN Chetty Road he was ready with a plan of action. He had to just utilise what was running on two of the several evil tracks, to formulate his war plan.
 
 
 
His first call was to a famous divorce lawyer. He did not want to close any of his options right in the beginning.
 
“Mohan, one of my close friends wants to divorce his wife. Reason, her infidelity……OK you want evidence, agreed. What do you want, pictures or video? Anything is good, right. I’ll make a full-length feature film. Will that be enough? Good, he will see you in a week’s time. Good day.”
 
Then he called a lady on the phone. He explained his plan to her for more than fifteen minutes. The lady was a little heistant at first, but when Balki indicated the price he was going to pay for service, her acceptance was enthusiastic.
 
Now Balki had just one more loose end to tie up. This he wanted to do in person considering the delicacy and the importance of the job involved. He called up ahead to tell that he was coming to see him.
 
He walked out of his office. Seeing him the driver came running to the car. He waved him off and opted to drive himself. It took more than fortyfive minutes for him to drive to Harrington Road. He stopped his car two blocks away from the intended destination and walked the distance.
 
He met the Chief of a private detective bureau and entrusted to him the task of photographing Sharada and Sethu together.
 
 
 
Sharada did not move out of the house during the next two days. She spent her time in reading, in doing yoga, apart from her usual dance practice for about 90 minutes every day.
 
It was sheer hell for the person posted near her house to shadow her. For two days he had nothing to do but just watch the house and send messages to his bosses.
 
On the morning of third day, he let out a smile of relief. He saw Sharada’s black Octavia backing out of the garage.
 
The car joined the pre-peak-hour traffic at the Sardar Patel Road and was heading towards Raj Bhavan. And then it joined the traffic at Mount Road and was heading towards GST Road, to Hotel Le Meridian. A helmeted motorcycle rider was shadowing her.
 
Sharada was not sure of her reception at the hotel now. She hesitantly approached the Reception Desk and asked for Nalini. She was told that Nalini would come a little late that day.
 
Sharada told them that she wanted to spend sometime in their health club.
 
As she was walking along the swimming pool, her mind was in a state of conflict.
 
‘Am I in love with Sethu? Is it morally right to be constantly thinking of another man? Is my relationship with Sethu purely platonic? Or is there something more to it? And if there’s something more to it, where will it lead to?’
 
The moment she saw the sad, soft expression in Sethu’s face all her inner conflicts disappeared.
 
Sethu stood up and greeted her. He pulled out a chair for her to sit.
 
“Sethu, I am not going to say, that I came for some other work and just peeped in to see how you are doing. I came only to see you and spend some time with you. Can I, Sethu, please?”
 
“You can, Madam. Absolutely no issues with me. I will be free till my next customer comes.”
 
Sethu enquired about the cramps in her ankles.
 
When Sethu praised her for her dance performance on that day Sharada blushed.
 
Sethu saw her blushing and was aware of what was happening inside her. They could not speak to each other for a few minutes. They were sitting across each other at a distance of about four feet. They were not even seeing each other.
 
Both were looking at a distance. Even then something strong and powerful was passing between them. Sharada had never been so blissfully silent in her whole life.
 
It was not a state of mindless trance, which an ordinary pschedelic drug could induce. It was a state of mindful bliss happening simultaneously in two souls fusing them into one. It was caused by the world’s most powerful drug, love, a drug for which there are still no known antidotes.
 
The person engaged by the detective agency was on the other side of the swimming pool and was taking a tight close-up picture of Sethu and Sharada in his powerful Nikon Camera.
 
He was frustrated that they kept too much of a physical distance between them, and at this distance, the photograph might lose its value as incriminating evidence.
 
After what seemed as an eternity they both came out of their state of bliss.
 
 
 
“Sethu, I simply loved the way you replied to that man. Where did you learn all these?”
 
“A life well lived is sufficient enough to teach these basic truths, Ma’am. I might not have been fortunate in that. But I had the greater fortune of learning them at the feet of my Master.”
 
Sethu was lost in admiration for his Master. Then he recollected some of his Master’s words.
 
“My master used to say, whether an activity will help us spiritually grow or not, depends not on the nature of the activity itself; but the intensity with which we do it.
 
“Thus a person who does Puja all day may not grow at all, if he is not intensely involved in it. The same thing goes for the mindless chanting of the holiest of scriptures in the world.
 
“On the other hand a butcher who is so intensely involved in what he does for a living will spiritually grow.
 
“He used to quote a Zen story again and again. One Zen student, in spite of years of his training, had not realised the truth. One day his Master sent him to buy fruits for the monastery. Now the fruit-vendor was a Zen Master himself.
 
“The student asked him to give the best of the fruits he had. The fruit-vendor replied, “whatever fruits I have are the best. There is no need to choose.”
 
“Then it hit the student that there are no superior activities like meditation or prayer and there are no inferior activities like eating, sex and selling meat. At that very moment the student became enlightened.”
 
“Great, Sethu, great.” Sharada stood up, reached up to Sethu and shook his hands.
 
The detective got what he was waiting for since morning. The Nikon camera captured the wonderful moment for future record.
 
That was one of the grandest failures of technology. The state-of-the-art device could not capture a millionth of the current of love that passed between them a few minutes back. And could only capture an apparent physical nearness in which there was not much of love or romance.
 
“Your Master is a great man, Sethu. When I dance, in that white heat of intense passion and precision, I feel that I am much closer to God, than when I stand in the sanctum sanctorum of the world’s most sacred temple.
 
“While dancing I am in communion with God. While standing in His temple I feel that I am away from him.”
 
The discussion now became even more lively. Sharada was impressed by Sethu quoting from Herman Hesse and Alan Watts.
 
Like the many scholars Sharada knew, Sethu did not quote to prove a point, much less to prove his erudition. He quoted them because he enjoyed what those people said and wanted to share his enjoyment with Sharada.
 
Sethu was transfixed by Sharada’s spritual inclination.
 
 
 
Sethu was trained in a form of martial arts, Varmakkalai, which demanded a kind of eternal awareness. At times the awareness was so intense that a good warrior can “see” something happening right behind his back.
 
So Sethu did not miss a buxom woman who was about to plunge into the swimming pool. Sharada was a trifle hurt when she found what Sethu was looking at. She thought that Sethu was ogling that buxom woman, while Sethu was looking at the article she had placed on the floor, before taking the plunge into the pool.
 
Their conversation was interrupted by a ten year old boy who asked Sethu in a pleading voice, “Uncle, can I use the rest room here?”
 
“Oh, yes. Go ahead.”
 
Sethu looked again at the pool. The buxom woman had come out of water. She was frantically looking for something.
 
Sethu excused himself from Sharada and walked into the rest room attached to the health club.
 
He came back after fifteen minutes.
 
Sharada was restlessly waiting for him.
 
Sethu now talked to Sharada about the constant awareness and alertness which are essential for any activity, spiritual or otherwise.
 
“Spritual life does not contradict this worldly life. It just transcends it. A person who is not alert is neither fit for this world nor for the other.”
 
Sharada was surprised as Sethu’s words were totally out of context. She never thought that soon the context would grow large enough to accommodate Sethu’s words of wisdom.
 
“What’s that, Sethu?”
 
The question came not from Sharada but from Kanchana who had just come out of the ladies room after servicing a customer.
 
Now all the three looked ahead. The buxom lady who was swimming earlier was leading a group of people towards the Health Club.
 
“I don’t know.”
 
Sethu replied with non-chalance.
 
As the group was nearing them, Sharada saw Nalini running behind them.
 
“I want this place to be searched. RIGHT NOW.”
 
The buxom lady was shouting amidst tears.
 
There was a couple of burly security guards in the group.
 
By that time Nalini had reached the place.
 
“Madam, tell me what happened.”
 
“I left my golden necklace by the pool side and went for a swim. When I came back the necklace was not there. There was no one in the pool. From a distance I could see only these two.”
 
She now pointed her accusing hand to Sethu and Sharada.
 
“You mean to say, this man or this lady would have stolen your necklace? This lady is one of the finest dancers of South India. She is so rich that your necklace is just a piece of metal for her.”
 
“But then there is this man. And now I see another lady.”
 
She was pointing her hand to Sethu and Kanchana.
 
 
 
“Nalini, Sethu has been talking with me all along. He did not go to the poolside at all.”
 
Sharada pleaded on behalf of Sethu.
 
“You mean to say that you are going to search our belongings?”
 
Kanchana was almost in tears.
 
Nalini did not know what to do. Sethu asked her,
 
“Madam, can I, with your permission, ask a few questions to this lady?”
 
“No. I want to have you, this lady and this room searched first.” The lady was shouting.
 
“Yes, Madam, you have the right to search us all. But just give me a minute.”
 
“Madam, did you come with somebody?”
 
“No. I came alone.”
 
“Are you sure?”
 
“I am damn sure.”
 
“Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you. Because I saw a plump boy of about ten years old, having your resemblance, being carried away by two masked men. That’s why I asked.”
 
Suddenly the lady broke down.
 
“My son! Rahul! My son!.... “
 
When Sethu spoke to that lady his voice was full of compassion.
 
“Madam, you are working for a wrong person. Even now it is not too late. If you come out clean, you will have your son as well as the necklace. Otherwise.. who knows.. they might even kill….”
 
“NO. Please don’t say that. I’ll confess. I was sent here to disgrace this man. The idea was that my son should drop the necklace in his bag and run back to the car. And when the necklace is found out…..”
 
Nalini did not let her finish. She slapped that lady on her face with so much force that she almost fell down. Sethu held her.
 
“Madam, please, she is not to be blamed. She is acting for somebody. And if we force this lady to squeal, she might even be killed. Poor lady!”
 
Sharada was too stunned even to speak.
 
Sethu went in to the rest room and came out with a boy. The boy had the necklace in his hand.
 
“I smelt the fish when this boy asked my permission to use the rest room. I just went behind him and caught him when he was about to drop the necklace in my bag.”
 
Then he turned to the lady.
 
“Madam, this is your son and this, your necklace. Don’t you think that your son is more precious to you than all the money in this world? And what kind of a lesson you are giving him? Just think over this. You may go now.”
 
The others in the group wanted some Police action taken against the lady. But Sethu convinced them all that it was worthless and sent the lady away.
 
Nalini gripped Sharada’s hands. Sharada was still in a state of shock. After a while she asked Sethu,
 
“But Sethu, how did you know?”
 
“When I was betrayed by my friends and lost everything in my life, my Master saved me. I asked him, “What sin did I do to merit all these sufferings?”.
 
“I have never forgotten my Master’s words. “My son, you committed the gravest sin of not being alert enough. To make sure that you do not commit the same sin again, I am going to teach you a form of martial arts, which demands alertness as an eternal state of mind. It was my Master who saved me then and it was him who saved me now.”
 
Sethu placed his right hand reverentially on his heart and closed his eyes.
 
Nalini knew the pain in Sethu’s mind. She looked at him with affection. Sharada looked at him with admiration.
 
The private detective, still standing at the same place, looked at them with frustration.
 
For such a long wait he had only one picture of value. But his was a state of the art camera and he had a sophisticated computer and an even more sophisticated software back in his studio. He could work miracles with that one picture.
 
Even Sethu’s alertness could not extend as far as the private detective.
 
The detective sent a curt message to the mobile number he was given. “Subject caught in action.”
 
A few seconds later Balki was reading the message with a wicked smile on his face.



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PostSubject: Re: HE    Mon Jun 24, 2013 11:59 pm

.
 
 
HE - 9
 
 
 
 
 

 
Trouble started for Priya and Madhavan, especially for the latter, when Madhavan vehemently stopped their firm from taking over his friend’s company.
 
Some angels decided to go in support of Madhavan. But it was already too late.
 
Madhavan was busy in his office when that call came to his direct land-line number. The caller introduced herself as a lady lawyer practising in the Madras High Court.
 
She wanted to talk to him about the danger that was surrounding him on all sides. She could not do so on the phone as she was sure that the line was not secure. She called him to her country club on the East Coast Road for an hour’s session.
 
Madhavan was shocked. But accepted the offer.
 
Unknown to Madhavan the line was tapped and the conversation was recorded. Destiny left the scene fully confident that what it started would be completed by human beings viler than itself.
 
Even before Madhavan reached the lady lawyer’s country club the person sent to videograph the meeting was there. The Vulture had friends in all high places. So the videographer had come in as club’s staff to record something for an ad.
 
Soon the lady lawyer joined Madhavan. She was dark and a little on the plumpy side. But the sharp features on her face and the way she bore herself portrayed her as a no-nonsense woman. There was a ring of truth and honesty about her.
 
The videographer had erected tripods and cameras in many places. He and his staff were making a lot of noise running here and there. Nobody suspected them. He had placed two powerful Sony Handycams at vantage points to capture the historic meeting.
 
Even before they started to converse the cameras had started running eager to capture even the slightest of the gestures and the smallest of the sounds coming from their side.
 
In order to distract their attention from the real cameras, the videographer was making a lot of movemets and noises with the dummy cameras he was handling along with his assistants.
 
 
 
“I’m Kalpana.”
 
“Madhavan.”
 
“I hate to discuss things like this in our very first meeting.”
 
“If you want to help me, please come to the point directly. I am stressed up already.”
 
“Well, Mr.Madhavan, do you know who is your company’s permanent legal counsel?”
 
“I don’t know. My wife Priya is handling all that kind of stuff. She said some name, but I don’t remember.”
 
Kalpana gave the name of the lawyer.
 
“He is known as the Vulture. I don’t have to tell you that when vultures circle around something, it is as good as dead.”
 
“….. ”
 
“Yes, he is a take-over specialist. But nothing about him is either legal or professional, let alone moral. I am a company lawyer myself. I have never seen a company surviving with the Vulture as its Counsel.”
 
“Well, Madam, you want me to fire him and retain you as our Counsel, right?”
 
Kalpana was offended. Remembering her crucial mission she swallowed the insult and went ahead.
 
“No, Mr. Madhavan. I don’t want that. Thank God, I am making enough money in my profession.”
 
“Mrs. Kalpana, at one time I was pissed off with Smart Ads. Priya teamed up with this lawyer to help us take over that company. That’s the whole relationship between our company and that lawyer.”
 
“And you have forgotten the Creative Ads story.”
 
“OK, that was a mistake. Priya’s over-enthusiasm was the problem there. Now that’s over. I told her not to go ahead with that. And they have stopped.”
 
“Or they just told you so. They have not stopped, Mr.Madhavan. They have just put it on hold. They have not transferred back the shares to their previous owners. Even though they were offered twice the price, they are not willing to part with the shares. What does that mean? They want to go in for the kill.”
 
That was news to Madhavan. Before it could sink fully in him there was another bombshell.
 
“I will not be surprised.. if there’s an affair between Priya and that Vulture.”
 
“MADAM..”
 
Everybody turned to look at them. The pity was even the videographer who was just standing a few feet away was stunned by the outburst.
 
“Please, Madhavan, please. Control yourself. Please sit down.”
 
“How dare you say that? You are a professional and you are a woman. How come you had the heart to utter such a bull****? If my Priya hears that she will kill herself.”
 
“Please Madhavan. Please try to understand. This is about your last chance. That’s why I am desperate. If I had hurt you, I’m sorry. I apologize.
 
“Fifteen years back this Vulture was the Counsel for a leading textile group in South Tamilnadu. He laid a trap for the MD’s wife and seduced her. She was a foolish woman who could not resist his charm. She fell for him.
 
“Then he coaxed her into gifting her shares in the company to him. Then he made her file for divorce. The young MD killed himself. The vulture sold the company for several millions and then dumped that lady. He is a professional womaniser.”
 
If Madhavan was a little shocked, he did not show.
 
 
 
“That can’t work with Priya.”
 
“That’s where you commit a blunder. Priya is after all a human being just like that MD’s wife. I have seen this problem in almost all the cases I have handled.
 
“People think ‘This cannot happen to my wife or my husband or my daughter or my son.’ They forget for a moment that being their wife or husband or son does not make them any less a human being.”
 
Madhavan was frozen.
 
“Your wife is a good lady. I almost did a research on her and find her a woman of high moral standards, if we just overlook this nasty take-over business. But please remember that the Vulture is a past-master in the art of seduction. And being your wife does not grant her any special protection from the Vulture.”
 
Madhavan was at a loss for words. Kalpana took the lead.
 
“Is your wife in town now?”
 
“No. She has gone to Delhi. Will be back in two days.”
 
“Now listen. As soon as your wife comes you force her to take rest for a month. And preferably send her to a foreign location. Revoke all the authorisations and powers of attorney given in her favour. Then fire the Vulture. And never go a mile near him again.”
 
“Will that be enough?”
 
“For the time being, yes. We will meet here next week. We can review the situation at that time.”
 
“One question, Madam. Why have you taken all the trouble to warn me? I am not known to you. Is it because of the professional rivalry you have with the other lawyer?”
 
“Personal rivalry, Mr.Madhavan. You heard about the young MD’s wife. That was me. I come from a very rich, respectable textile family in Coimbatore. I studied law before my marriage. So I was sent to discuss our company’s legal cases with the Vulture.
 
“I was a religious and pious woman. But the Vulture destroyed all that. Once he got what he wanted from me, he dumped me mercilessly. I suffered hell for a while.
 
“Then with the help of some of my friends I joined a law firm and then established my own profession. I don’t have the power to destroy him. The least I can do is to prevent others from being destroyed by him.”
 
Now there was real fear in Madhavan’s eyes.
 
“So long, Mr.Madhavan. We’ll meet here next week. Meanwhile if you want anything, you can call me on my mobile. This is my card.”
 
“Thanks.”
 
That was the first and the last meeting that Madhavan had with his guardian angel. The meeting they scheduled for the next week did not happen at all.
 
When Destiny wields its power, at times even guardian angels are helpless.
 
Madhavan was determined to do something on this crucial issue. But the Vulture was too smart to let him to.
 
 
 
The Vulture was sitting in his private office in his Penthouse Apartment in a premium residential complex at Velachery. A glass loaded with the premium Black Label Scotch and a plate of roasted cashewnuts were before him.
 
The Vulture was in his element now. The evil in him was so pure and perfect that never in his life did he suffer any qualms of conscience.
 
While his intended victim Madhavan, was tossing in his bed unable to get even a wink of sleep, the Vulture was rejoicing. When he heard what Kalpana had to say about him, he was not angry. He just smiled.
 
The Vulture did not have a family as such. He had reckoned pretty early in life that for his way of living, having a family would be a kind of weakness and a nuisance. He always had an army of servants, butlers and maids in his place. There were a lot of temporary laisons who provided him conjugal pleasure.
 
But he had almost an orgasmic happiness when he planned something evil, as he was doing now.
 
He put his glass down and thought for a moment. He had to tackle Priya and Madhavan now. If he did not do anything, Madhavan would drive Priya out of his office and then fire him. His target was not Creative Ads now. His target was Ad India.
 
For a moment he stepped into the shoes of Madhavan and thought what kind of protective actions he might take. And he set out to destroy each of them.
 
He called Priya on her mobile. Like all top bosses Priya carried two mobiles. Only a very few knew the existence of her second mobile and they called that number only in the case of a dire emergency. When the Vulture’s number flashed she knew something was seriously wrong.
 
“Priya, just hear what I say. Don’t talk. You are in danger. Your husband has started plotting against you. Now don’t talk to your husband. If he calls you sound normal. I’ll take care of your interest.
 
“You may not believe me. But just listen. Your husband will receive you at the airport and before you reach home, will suggest, that you need to take a month off from work and go abroad for a vacation.
 
“If he says so just ask time to think it over. Then when you are alone, call me. I’ll give my plan. Take care.”
 
The Vulture disconnected.
 
The Vulture placed the next call to a popular TV serial Director who was on his rolls. He ordered him to come to his place immediately.
 
 
 
After getting the call from the Vulture, Priya lost her sleep. ‘Will Madhavan plot against me? Will my Madhavan, my love, do something to hurt me? No, it cannot happen at all.’
 
She wanted to wake up Madhavan and ask him about all that nonsense. But she had never dared to go against Vulture’s instructions. Vulture might have a bad reputation, Priya mused. But he will never play with me.
 
That was always the excuse people had while dealing with evil. ‘Yes, he might me evil to others; but he wont dare to do those things to me.’
 
That was a kind of cognitive dissonance into which people fell, when warned about the presence of evil in a close confidante.
 
‘Let me just obey the Vulture’s instructions now. If by any chance Madhavan forces me to go on a holiday then I will think about the next step. But if Madhavan does not propose that, I shall immediately fire the Vulture and would not have anything to do with him.’
 
Priya’s Jet Airways flight landed in the Kamaraj Domestic Terminal, Chennai at about 8 PM two days later. As soon as the craft came to a grinding halt, she switched on her Blackberry. A cryptic Email was waiting for her.
 
“Should Madhavan ask you to go on a vacation, don’t show your emotions. Just pretend to agree. Any wrong move now will cost your life.”
 
She knew it was from the Vulture.
 
Madhavan was waiting for her just outside the arrival gate. When he hugged her, there was neither love nor romance in it. Priya could feel a sense of emptiness within. She was now really afraid that what the Vulture stated might be true.
 
Priya was surprised to find that Madhavan had not come with a chaffeur. That in itself was unusual. She was now prepared for the worst.
 
As Madhavan eased the car out of the parking lot and started driving towards the gate, he started talking about the weather in Delhi, the tax problem they had of late and other issues.
 
The car was cruising on the GST Road, when Madhavan asked from out of the blue,
 
“Honey, you have been working a lot. Why don’t you take a vacation let’s say for a month? You can be here in Chennai or better still go to some place Venice or Zurich. But just don’t do any work. Okay?”
 
Madhavan had a strong sense of values. He had never lied or deceived in the past. So he could not play-act his part as efficiently as he wanted to. Though he was convinced that he was doing everything for the good of Priya, he had to strain his conscience a lot before telling a blatant lie. And the pity was, it showed.
 
Priya had to take Herculean efforts to hide her shock and dismay. She turned the other side and mumbled feebly, “Not a bad idea, dear. Let me sleep on it.”
 
Madhavan now felt that a great load has been lifted from his heart. He reached Priya’s cheeks with his free left hand and fondled it.
 
Destiny was of course not present in the scene. But It was playing from afar. Had Madhavan raised his hand a few millimetres more, he would have felt Priya’s tears.
 
Then he would have known that something was wrong. He would have stopped the car. There would have been some heated exchange and the truth would have come out. The matter would have been sorted out then and there. The Vulture would have been driven out of their lives.
 
All these and a hundred other “would have beens” were powerless before the one most powerful “is”.
 
 
 
The Vulture was on his sixth large of Black Label Scotch when the TV Serial Director was ushered into his room.
 
He offered a glass to the Director and then without much of preliminaries flicked his remote. The meeting between Madhavan and Kalpana came to life before them. The LCD projector produced a crystal clear image on the large white wall before them.
 
As the bass voice of Madhavan started filling the room, the Vulture flicked the remote to mute the audio.
 
“I want you to do the script for this scene on these lines.”
 
The Vulture described the scene for the next few minutes.
 
The Director had done many such ‘scripts’ for the Vulture. Even then he found the suggestion quite shocking. But he knew better than to speak his views, or speak against the Vulture.
 
The next important scene happened in the Vulture’s office. Priya was seated in a large comfortable chair, when the famous club scene was projected before her. The Director and the computer graphics expert had done a brilliant job.
 
In the very first scene Priya saw Madhavan almost hugging that dark, plump woman.
 
“I hate to be away from you dear, even if it is for a few hours.” Priya heard the lady talking.
 
“Please help me, honey. I too can’t live without you.” Priya choked on hearing Madhavan.
 
“Well, Madhavan, we need to plan now.”
 
“Yes. I want to eliminate Priya. I can’t wait to be away from you any longer.”
 
“Patience, Darling, Patience. I have a master plan for you.”
 
“I can’t wait.”
 
“Is your wife in town now?”
 
“No. She has gone to Delhi. Will be back in two days.”
 
“Now listen. As soon as your wife comes you force her to take rest for a month. And preferably send her to a far off foreign location. I will see to it that she never sets foot in India. Is that okay, honey?”
 
“Superb plan. I shall personally go to the airport to pick her up. And suggest that she take a vacation.. as if I am concerned with her health….”
 
“NO”
 
Priya screamed.
 
She picked up a paper weight and threw it on the wall. The Vulture was precisely waiting for this moment.
 
The video Priya saw was at once the height of technological excellence and the lowest depth of moral depravity.
 
The Director who worked on the project had ensured a right mix of truth and falsehood in that video clipping that it deceived even a person like Priya, whose alertness was respected in her business circles.
 
The Vulture waited till Priya finished gulping a glass of cool water. He knew very well that in matters like these, even the slightest trace of speech or movement in the wrong direction would result in an overkill.
 
While the video showed Madhavan as a scheming villain, the Vulture spoke in support of him. That way he placed himself beyond suspicion.
 
Priya was passing through the worst period of her life. And her time was so bad, that the devil set out to destroy her looked like a guardian angel to her.
 
“What are you going to do Priya?”
 
The Vulture asked point blank.
 
Priya’s answer was a violent sob. The Vulture got from his seat and put his hands affectionately over her shoulders.
 
Amidst sobs, Priya blurted: “I am going to confront him with this CD. I am going to pull up his collars and ask him on his face, where did I fail as a wife, to make him go for that ugly hag.”
 
“That’s risky, Priya. Once he knows that you know, you are at danger. Promise me you will never do that.”
 
Priya mumbled something.
 
The Vulture was now giving his master-stroke to the whole scheme.
 
“You know, Priya, even after all these, I still respect Madhavan. He’s a great man.”
 
“He’s a worm.” Priya shrieked.
 
“Now wait dear. Anybody who works 16 hours a day and travels for 20 days a month, would probably succumb to stress. I think he’s sick. Very sick. And he needs professional help.”
 
Priya was shocked at this new development. There was now a little hope in her. Madhavan being sick was a whole new scene, compared to Madhavan being vile.
 
“I discussed his case with my psychiatrist friend. He says that this could be a classic case of endogenic depression caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. He says that a complete rest and a dose of anti-depressants would make him right again.”
 
Priya was moved by this sudden ray of hope.
 
“But how do I tell this to him? I cant tell him that you need to visit a psychiatrist.”
“What are friends for, Priya? I have already thought about it. Here’s your game plan.”
 
When the Vulture finished talking Priya shouted, “Brilliant. You are a real genius.”
 
As soon as Priya left the Vulture placed another half a dozen calls to put the final stage of his destructive plan in place.
 
 
 
“Priya, have you thought about your vacation plan?”
 
They were seated in the 24-Hour Coffee Shop at Sheraton. It was almost midnight. They had been working late that day. When Madhavan suggested about going out to “unwind and talk things out”, Priya readiliy agreed. After all she also had a hidden agenda.
 
When Priya heard these words from Madhavan she felt a tug at her heart strings. She gulped a glass of water, cleared her throat and talked in a choked voice.
 
“Madhavan, I need to confide something in you. I hate to tell you, but of late, I am getting depressed. I am afraid that I may be sick. I am afraid I may need professional help.
 
“I have fixed up an appointment with Dr. Shankar. I am afraid to go alone. Will you please come with me? Will you please hold my hands, when the Doctor is talking to me?”
 
Madhavan reached for her hands and held them tightly. Priya could see tears in his eyes.
 
“Sure. Sure. What happened darling?”
 
At that moment Madhavan wanted to give up all his business, assets and money and go with Priya to some exotic location to the other corner of the world.
 
They had both reached a point of no return.
 
They were now fully entangled in the web of deception.
 
In a war between good and evil, good always wins, but only ultimately. It loses a lot of battles before it can claim its final victory over evil. A war is a war and so there are always some casualties on the side of good as well.
 
Now this battle was won by evil. The Vulture. And it was too early to reckon the casualties.






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PostSubject: Re: HE    Fri Jun 28, 2013 2:15 pm



HE - 10




Sethu foiled Balki’s attempts to disgrace him. Sharada looked at Sethu with admiration.

The private detective, still standing at the same place, looked at them with frustration.

For such a long wait he had only one picture of value. But his was a state-of-the-art camera and he had a sophisticated computer and even more sophisticated software back in his studio. He could work miracles with that one picture.

Even Sethu’s alertness could not extend as far as the private detective.

The detective sent a curt message to the mobile number he was given. “Subject caught in action.”

A few seconds later Balki was reading the message with a wicked smile on his face.

Balki was seated before the CEO of the private intelligence agency at Harrington Road.

“Sorry, Balki, we didn’t find anything wrong with your wife. She was just talking to the masseur at Le Meridian. That was a decent, harmless talk that happens between friends.

“I don’t know whether you will believe me. But your wife is a very good woman. A woman of high moral standards. And here’s the real picture.”

“KV don’t give that crap to me. When I gave the job to you, I told you that I wanted some “touching up” to be done on the photographs. Now my mission is not to gather intelligence about my wife’s morality; but to find some strong evidence I can use against her in the divorce case.”

“I know, Balki. I have got the photos touched up. You are my long-term client. You pay me very well. I have always loved working for you, though many times, the transactions were shady.

“But in this case, I will have to warn you Balki, you are trying to accuse a blemishless woman. It has never worked. And it always backfires.”

“KV, when I feel like listening to your preaching I will fix up an appointment and come. But now I want those photos.”

KV pulled a Manilla envelope from his table drawer and pushed it towards Balki. Balki grabbed it, pried it open and took out a picture. Sharada was lying on Sethu’s lap. Sethu’s fingers were on Sharada’s face.

“Don’t be so heartless, Balki. If you decide not to use these fakes, I will waive my entire fees for this assignment. I am ruthless in my job, Balki. But even I do not have the heart to hurt a noble woman like her. Please, please… leave her alone.”

“KV you are not my conscience keeper. You are merely doing some detective work for me. And here’s your payment, all in cash, in small denominations, the way you prefer. Have you kept the negatives inside?”

“This is 21st century, Balki. We are using digital cameras and computers for the work. No negatives. I have asked the photographer to destroy the original photo and all these fakes. Don’t worry about that.”

With all the cost and clumsiness of the olden days film-photographs, there was one great advantage. Having the photo negative ensured that nobody else can have the copies.

But with digital photography and modern computers, the pictures are never completely destroyed. They are stored in the system in a back-up folder and in some CDs, just in case. Sharada’s touched up pictures were no exception to that rule.

The doctored photographs represented a cruel victory for Balki. They were a matter of moral concern for the otherwise ruthless CEO of the detective agency. But for the photographer who took those pictures it was just a matter of professional expertise.

He used them to prove to his clandestine customers to get more orders for similar work. Even before delivering the doctored pictures to the detective agency he made a copy of all of them in his 1 GB pen-drive. He printed out copies of some of the pictures.

He threw one of the touched-up pictures before a prospect who doubted his abilities.

“See, this lady is cheating on her husband. This guy is her lover. I was hired by her jealous husband to take this picture. You know this lady is a popular dancer.”

“I know.. I know…… and I think I know this guy. He is….”

“A masseur at Le Meridian. I took this near the hotel’s swimming pool. Do you know how difficult it was? I was hiding behind a bush all day to take these pictures.”

“OK. Let’s continue the talk tomorrow. I have to to go now.”

That prospect was Mani, a big name in the Chennai real estate market. He belonged to the same club to which Balki belonged. There was a long-standing rivalry between the two. Balki had defeated him in the last year’s election for the Club’s secretaryship. Balki had insulted him many times on the cards table. They were not on talking terms.

Mani saw the time. Balki would be in the club now. He ran to his car and drove like mad to the exclusive club on the Mount Road.

Balki was in the club’s bar with another friend. Mani sat in the adjacent table. He looked around the bar and found an acquaintance. He called him to his table.

As they were conversing about something, Mani talked about the rigging that happened in the election for club’s secretary. He was deliberately loud to infuriate Balki.

“But for a massive rigging in the last election, this club would not have had an impotent man for a secretary.”

In a flash of a second Balki was upon him.

“You scum, how dare you call me impotent? I am keeping three woman and can’t have enough sex. And you, eununch, you are talking about my potency!”

Mani was outwardly enraged. But inwardly he was happy that Balki had fallen into his trap.

Balki was now trying to strangulate Mani.

Mani replied with characteristic nonchalance.

“A man who’s wife is going steady with a masseur – how do you call that cuckold?”
Balki was shocked. His hands lost their grip on Mani.

“I will accept that you are a man, if you have the guts to kill the other man. Otherwise, be decent enough to accept the title I conferred on you.”

Balki pounced on him and pushed him down to the floor. Other members intervened and pulled them apart.

Killing Sethu was what Balki had planned eventually. But now he wanted to do it right away.

Sharada was in a state of turmoil. She knew very well that between her and Balki, not even a faint façade of marriage subsisted. Should she walk out on him now? What was the pointing in living with a heartless man and suffer his taunts for no fault of hers?

If she walked out on Balki, she would not be killing their marriage. She would be just performing a decent funeral for an indecent marriage that had died long back. Or a marriage that never showed any sign of life but for some brief moments during the first few months.

She badly wanted a change of place. She decided to go to Bangalore that afternoon to spend time with some of her friends. She called her travel agent and did her ticketing. She was to fly by afternoon flight on that day.

She called the live-in maid and cook and told them about her programme. That was the unwritten code of conduct followed in that house. If Balki or Sharada planned an outstation trip, they would keep the servants informed. The servants, in turn, would inform the other spouse.

When Balki came home for a late lunch on that day, the cook informed him about Sharada’s Bangalore trip. Balki had been planning a small escapade for quite some time. Now that Sharada was away he wanted to use the opportunity.

He told the cook and the maid to go on leave till Sharada came back.

Balki returned home early in the evening with a voluptuous woman, one of his several liaisons. Balki was so overcome with passion that things got out of control right in the drawing room itself.

As fate would have it, Sharada’s flight was delayed inordinately. When she learnt that she could not get to fly out till 9 PM that night, she cancelled the trip and returned home. It was about six in the evening and there was still some light outside.

She let herself into the house with her key and was shocked to see Balki and another woman in the drawing room in flagrante delicto.

That was the proverbial last straw on the camels back. A straw that was so heavy that it almost broke the camel’s back.

Sharada was not naïve enough to think that Balki never cheated on her. But to bring a lady to the house and have it in the drawing room, was a crude affront to her womanhood.

Shakespeare’s sutra, “Sweet are the uses of adversity” proved true in a strange way. The incident helped her go ahead with her decision of walking out on Balki.

Surprisingly after the initial flush of emotions, her mind was unusually calm. Her way forward in life was still not clear. But one thing was clear.

She was not going to live in the same house with Balki. She went to her room silently. She packed all her valuables – jewels, bank deposit receipts, share certificates and a few property documents.

She took out her large travel case and stuffed some of her dresses into it. In another case she stuffed her important personal belongings. Then she picked out the most precious books from her collection and put them into a sack.

She transferred her baggages to her car all by herself going several times up and down.

Balki was not to be seen. May be he had taken the lady to his bedroom, she thought. She felt relieved that he would not be there to block her way or raise unnecessary questions.

While Sharada had decided firmly to go, she had not decided whereto. She was driving her black Skoda Octavia like mad. She even contemplated killing herself. But then decided against it because that would give an undue, undeserved victory to a heartless criminal.

She was caught in the late evening traffic at the Tharamani junction. And then she was slowly inching towards west. She travelled further and at the end of the Sardar Patel Road turned left to join the heavy Mount Road traffic.

She realised all of a sudden that she had nowhere to go. She ruled out going to any of her relatives’ houses. None of them were close enough for her to seek a refuge. Her friends were in Bangalore. But then she did not want to drive to Bangalore all by herself, especially in the night.

By that time the car was in GST Road. To her left she saw Le Meridian’s huge neon sign board. Her decision was made in a fraction of a second. She turned left earning choicest abuses from the drivers coming behind her.

She parked her car in the lot and almost ran into the hotel. When the receptionist told her that their GM was Nalini was still there, she heaved a sigh of relief.

When she saw Nalini’s affectionate welcoming smile, Sharada almost broke down. Seeing Nalini’s PA Susan in the room, she checked herself.

Nalini sent Susan for some work and made sure that her room was locked.

“Tell me Sharada, what happened?”

“Nalini….. Nalini…. I… have….”

Sharada was about to break into sobbing.

“Tell me dearie, what do you want.”

“Nalini, I want to hug you and cry. Please….”

Nalini stood up from her seat and came near Sharada. Sharada buried her face in Nalini’s chest and broke into violent sobs. Nalini let her cry for a while. When Sharada finished crying she gave her a glass of cool water and ordered tea for her.

Nalini did not ask anything from her. But Sharada started talking. She told about her marriage, about Balki and finally about what she saw in her drawing room that day.

“I am now on the street, Nalini.”

“No, Sharada, you are not. Didn’t you say that you wanted to have an elder sister like me? You have one now.”

“Nalini” Sharada flew into her arms once again.

“Sharada, my house is in Guindy. It’s under renovation now. So I have got special permission and am staying in a room here. The room is big enough to hold both of us. I will have your baggages shifted to the room. Have you finished your dinner?”

“I am in no mood to eat tonight.”

“Come on, Sharada. The best way to beat the stress is to indulge, especially in rich food. I will have the best food ,our chefs can manage, delivered to our room. We will eat together. I have another hour of work left. If you want to take some rest I will show you the room.”

“I don’t want to go to the room. If it’s okay with you, I will just be here watching you
doing your work. Somehow my hope to live gets renewed when I see you.”

“Anything you want, Sharada. Can I get you some more tea?”

“No thanks.”

The Chefs at Le Meridian had gone out of the way to do something for their loving boss, Nalini. When Nalini told them that she had a guest and wanted nothing but the best from them for dinner, it was celberation time for them. For a true Chef there is nothing more rewarding than preparing the best food for somebody he loves.

The dinner menu for the two ladies was simply outlandish.

They started with a mild concoction of tender coconut water sprinkled with spices and fruit pieces. Hot minestrone soup with crispy panneer pakoras and vegetable springrolls followed suit.

The next to come was the cute mini cucumber oothappams liberally dozed with the traditional chilli powder.

A cook from Down South had strained himself to mimic the famous Azhagarkoil Dosai. It was a little harder than the normal dosa but with an overdose of pepper it was delicious beyond words. He had made them into small pieces to be taken one at a time.

Kamala orange rasam and rice followed. After some curd rice, in rolled the dessert trolley which had Fig fruit Walnut Halwa and a yummy chocolatie ice-cream sundae in freshly baked waffles.

After the dinner Nalini made it a point to call each of the Chefs to appreciate their handiwork and to thank them for the great food.

After an hour of chit-chatting with Nalini, Sharada went to sleep. She had a nice dreamless sleep after a very long time. Nalini woke her up around 7 AM with a cup of hot South Indian filter coffee.

“Good Morning Sharada. Don’t do anything today. Just relax. You can spend time in our bookshop or in the health club.

“I suggest that you go to our multi-cuisine restaurant. It will be like an airport lounge. Seeing so many people from different parts of the world, you will feel refreshed and will get a proper perspective of your problem. We can discuss about it after three days.”

“Thanks a lot, Nalini. I hope I am not imposing myself on you.”

“Not at all, dear. Oh, I forgot. Sethu will be coming around two in the afternoon today. He will not be busy till five in the evening. You can spend some time with him if you want.”

Sharada did not know why her heart skipped a beat when she heard the name of Sethu.

Sharada had a very light breakfast and had a light buffet lunch with Nalini late in the morning. She spent some time browsing the books. She had an eye on her watch and was eagerly waiting for the hour hand to go near two.

At ten past two Sharada was present at the health club.

Sethu stood up and smiled at her. Sharada thought she found more friendliness in his smile. Or was it just an hallucination caused by her over-worked mind? She was not sure.

Sharada drew a chair and sat down to talk.

“If you don’t mind, Madam, can we go to the ladies section? Your sitting with me here in the gents section will raise some eye-brows.”

“Whatever you say, Sethu. But on one condition.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“You should call me Sharada hereafter. I don’t like you calling me, Ma’am.”

Sethu smiled.

“I am comfortable with Ma’am. Honestly, I feel it is a little too early for the next step.”

Sethu was only referring to the way of addressing. But Sharada read between the lines. The words indicated that Sethu was interested in the next step; but the time had not come. Sharada was quite happy.

“Ok. As you please.”

They moved on to the ladies’ section which was practically empty at that time. Kanchana had gone for lunch.

“Do you have anybody to assist you, Sethu?”

“I do. He has gone for lunch and will be back at four.”

Sethu placed two comfortable lounge chairs in a large ante-room in the ladies section.

This time the talk was not about Zen, dance or philosophy. It was personal. Sharada was determined to have it that way.

“Do you know, Sethu, that I have moved in here with Nalini?”

“Ma’am told me this morning.”

“Wont you ask me the reason?”

“I thought it would be an intrusion into your personal life.”

“My husband ditched me. And I have run away from my house.”

Sharada briefly narrated the events of the previous day. Sethu listened with rapt attention.

There was definitely not a tinge of happiness in his eyes. They were as sad as usual. There was not even a slight look of condescension or amusement. But the absolute serenity with which Sethu received her story without hurrying to add any comments or an angry remark against Balki offended her.

Sethu’s body language made her restless and at the end of her narration she blurted out.

“Of course, you can never know my pain. You have been living a recluse life. How can you know the pain of a cheated spouse?”

Many times casual, unconscious remarks like this one caused a deeper wound than the words deliberately intended to hurt others.

Tragedy in life affects different people in different ways. It makes many people totally insensitive and immune to further grief and renders them incapable of being happy.

Once these people go through hell, they lose their emotional capacity either to enjoy in heavan or to suffer in hell. It is a kind of disability no doubt; but hardly felt.

In a few exceptional cases the tragedy tends to heighten one’s sensitivity. That was the case with Sethu.

He never thought that of all the persons Sharada would hurl such words at him.

In spite of his best efforts to control, his eyes became red and tear-laden in no time. Sharada now realised her mistake. She got hold of Sethu’s hands.

“Sethu, I’m sorry. Absolutely sorry. Please forgive this arrogant fool. I never meant to hurt you, Sethu. Please….”

Sethu was looking straight into her eyes.

“It is quite easy to think that we are the only persons suffering in the whole world. And the rest of the world is dancing in happiness. The truth is that suffering is universal. There is virtually no life without some kind of a pain or other.”

Sethu’s voice was empty of all emotions. But his suffering was quite obvious. Sharada did not know what to do.

They were silent for a while.

Sharada’s mind was working furiously. She was now technically free from the bonds of marriage. This was the right time to tell her feelings to Sethu.

But how could she tell that on his face? What if Sethu rejects her love? In a way it is better to declare one’s love and be rejected than not to speak your mind at all. As Sethu said while replying to Balki, ‘It is better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all.’

“Sethu…”

“…mm.”

“Sethu…..”

“….mm”

“Sethu, I’m afraid this might be the last chance I have. I love you, Sethu.”

Sethu stood up from his seat. He looked shocked.

“Please sit down, Sethu. Just hear me out. Then whatever you decide, it’s fine by me. “

Sethu sat down.

“I have lost all hopes to live. I know you carry a deep wound within you. So I am not forcing you to accept my love.

“But I badly want a life with you, Sethu. If not as your wife, at least as your maid. I want to be with you, talk to you, live in the same house with you. Please Sethu, please don’t let me down.”

“Ma’am, you do not know me at all. What you have seen is only a small fraction of my real self. One day I will tell you about my past life. Then…”

Sethu’s words were interrupted by a loud wail coming from the gents section of the health club.

Sharada shrieked in response. Sethu recognised the owner of the voice. Nalini.

“MADAM” Sethu yelled as he ran to the gent’s section.
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PostSubject: Re: HE    Mon Jul 01, 2013 2:16 pm

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HE - 11


Sharada expressed her love to Sethu. Sethu was so much taken by surprise that he could not immediiately respond to her proposal.

He had just started narrating about his past life, when a loud wail was heard from the gents’ section of the health club.

Sharada shrieked in response. Sethu recognised the owner of the voice. Nalini. Sethu ran out like mad.

Nalini was lying in a pool of blood. She had been stabbed in her stomach. The assailants had run away. Sethu saw them running. But his priority was to save Nalini.

Balki had sent two of his goons to kill Sethu. They were gathering information about their victim. When they found out that Sethu was a past-master in Varmakkalai they were mortally afraid.

At the same time they did not have the courage to withdraw from the project. Enmity with Balki was worse than having AIDS. If they backed out now, Balki would have them killed.

They decided that a surprise gorilla attack on Sethu was the only way out.

They had planned to come in as customers to the health club during the lean hours in the afternoon. And while Sethu was attending on them they had planned to stab him to death and vanish from the scene.

When Sharada came to see Sethu and wanted to spend some time with him, Sethu decided that it would be better if they talked in the ladies section. He did not want any raised eye-brows especially because Sharada was now Nalini’s guest.

The goons came to the gents’ section and had enquired a bell boy about Sethu. They were told that he would be in the ladies’ section and might come there any time.

They had planted themselves behind the door in the mens section. They changed the plan now. When Sethu entered that room they would pounce upon him and stab him repeatedly so that he did not have a chance to defend.

From the place they hid themselves, they could not see who was coming. So when they heard the sound of footsteps, they thought that Sethu was coming in. But it was Nalini who came in to find out how Sharada was doing.

As soon as she entered the reception area of the gents’ section the assailants pounced on her and stabbed her in her stomach. Then only they realised that they had attacked the wrong person and ran out of the hotel.

In a flash Sethu lifted Nalini in his hands and started running towards the hotel lounge. Sharada ran before him to the Reception.

She made them call Apollo Hospitals for an ambulance. She asked the lady in the reception to check whether any Doctor was staying there in the hotel.

As luck would have it, one of Apollo Hospital ambulances was returning to its base from a place which was just a mile away from Le Meridien.

When the hospital transmitted the call to the Ambulance driver’s radio he switched on the wailing siren and started driving fast towards Le Meridien.

Meanwhile Appollo’s ER staff located a Doctor who was living near that area. He was asked to rush to Le Meridian. The Doctor’s contact number was then furnished to the Ambulance Driver who started co-ordinating with him.

Sethu and Sharada got into the ambulance along with Nalini. Nalini had fainted by then. The Doctor came just at the nick of the time and jumped into the ambulance.

He checked Nalini’s pulse, her eyes and the condition of her wound. He sought Sharada’s help to remove Nalini’s dress and dress her in a sterilised hospital gown which was there in the vehicle. He tried various ways to stem the blood flow.

Then he called Apollo’s trauma care and started barking orders. By the time Nalini was wheeled out of the ambulance at the main Apollo Hospital at Greams Road, a well-equipped medical team was ready to take over.

Sharada and Sethu ran with the stretcher till it disappeared into the emergency room.

Several minutes later a senior Doctor emerged out of the room. Sethu ran to him and caught hold of his hands.

“She is out of danger. Thank God, we could find an ambulance quite close by and that has made all the difference. We need to do a surgery right now. Some blood transfusion may be required. She will be all right tomorrow morning.”

Sethu shook the Doctor’s hands violently. Sharada heaved a sigh of relief.

“I need one of her close relatives to sign these forms.”

The Doctor was waving some papers in his hand. Sethu grabbed them and started signing in the places pointed out by the Doctor.

“There is absolutely no risk. Or I’ll put it this way. She has a 95% chance of survival. But you know, a corporate hospital, has some extra formalities….”

Sethu was signing those forms furiously.

The Doctor collected the forms from him and before going back into the ER he turned around and asked, “You are..”

“Sethuraman.”

“You are her….”

“Son” – That was what Sethu wanted to shout. But that would invite unnecessary questions as Nalini was just a few years elder than Sethu.

“Brother.” Sethu mumbled.

“When is her husband coming?”

“He wont come. He left her long back. She’s divorced.”

Sharada was shocked. She felt ashamed that in spite of moving so closely with Nalini she had not enquired about her life.

Sharada vividly remembered what Sethu told her in the health club.

“It is quite easy to think that we are the only persons suffering in the whole world. And the rest of the world is dancing in happiness. The truth is that suffering is universal. There is virtually no life without some kind of a pain or other.”

These words had crushed her heart at that time and they crushed it even now.

Till that very moment Sharada was thinking that Nalini should be leading a picture-perfect life.

She always assumed that as Nalini had a good job and was an outgoing woman, naturally she should have a happy family back at home. It was a rude shock for Sharada to realise that Nalini too had her share of problems.

Now she felt like a small girl besides Nalini who was facing her problems with majesty and grace. Sharada lapsed into a sob on this discovery.

Sethu thought that Sharada was crying for Nalini.

He came near her and told her softly.

“Don’t worry Sharada. She will be fine.”

Sharada was surprised. She never thought that Sethu would call her by her name so soon. Even in that moment of grief and guilt, Sharada felt a sudden joy leaping in her heart.

After the surgery Nalini was wheeled into a special ward late in the night. Sharada stayed with her in the hospital.

Sethu came early next morning. He had a flask in his hand.

“Sethu, I don’t think the Doctors will now let her take coffee.”

“It’s for you, Sharada.”

Every time Sethu told her name she felt as if he was touching her face. She blushed.
Nalini was sleeping.

The Doctor who performed the surgery came around 9 in the morning. Nalini had just woken up. Sharada and Sethu were by her side.

The Surgeon checked her pulse, pressure and temperature.

“Mrs. Nalini, you are out of danger. I am sorry, we had to remove your uterus. It was badly damaged and we did not want to risk any infection over there. Other than that you are doing fine. You might have to be here for a week’s time at the maximum.”

There was a bland smile on Nalini’s face. As soon as the Doctor left Nalini spoke almost in a whisper.

“Did you see the irony, Sethu? My uterus was like my appendix. It did not have any known purpose. The doctors told me long back that I could never become a mother. I had lost its functions already. Yesterday I just lost the form. What’s the big deal?”

Sethu’s eyes had become red. Sharada was too shocked even to speak.

A nurse came in to give some tablets to Nalini. After a while Nalini dozed off to sleep.

Sharada was sitting in the adjoining bed constantly looking at Nalini’s sleeping form. Sethu had gone out on some work.

When Nalini woke up around noon she was pleasantly surprised to see her room full of bouquets. Sethu had returned by then.

“All these are from our staff, Ma’am. Almost every one of them has given a bouquet and a card. Here are the cards.”

There was a large bunch of get-well cards. Nalini picked up a card at random and tried to read. She was in tears.

From the Chairman of Le Meridian to the bell boy, from the F&B Manager to the trainee-waiter, every one had sent her a card.

“Did you bring all these things, Sethu?”

“No Ma’am. The staff were here. They came in batches. The Doctors told them that you should not be disturbed at any cost.

“They told him that they did not come to see you. They came just to pray for you. They were all standing in batches before the room and were silently praying for your recovery. The nurse told me that such a thing has never happened here in Appollo.”

Nalini sobbed.

“What did I do Sethu? Why should these people love me so much? How am I going to repay that love, Sethu?”

“Love is meant to be experienced, Ma’am. It is not a debt to be repaid.”


“And you know, Mani from F&B met the Doctor and asked about your food. The Doctor told him clearly that you should eat only the food provided by the hospital.

"Mani fought with him to get a special permission to personally prepare the food for you. The Doctor was adamant. He told him that there are ten persons in this wing. And he could not allow special food to be brought to one of them.

“Whereupon Mani told him that he will prepare food for all the ten persons every day till you leave the hospital.”

“Sethu, do you think that any other boss in this world has enjoyed this much of love from her staff?”

“You are not their boss. You are their mother. You have been taking care of them all along. Now it is the childrens’ turn.”

They heard a knock in the door. Sethu went and opened it. F&B Mani was standing outside with a large lunch basket.

“Sethu, can I come in and just have a look?”

“Please, Mani. Madam is awake. We were just talking about you.”

Mani had always been used to seeing Nalini in action. For him she was a real boss who could take tough decisions in a fraction of a second and be very caring at the same time.

Somehow he could not reconcile himself to seeing Nalini lying in a hospital bed. He meant to ask, “Madam, how are you?” But only a sob escaped from his mouth.

Nalini had to take herculean efforts to avoid an emotional breakdown in Mani’s presence.

“Come on, come on in Mani. I heard that you fought with the Doctor to cook for me. Now let me see whether the food is worth the fight.”

Mani was a born cook. He was not yet a Chef. But they were going to make him one the next year. On hearing Sharada’s words, he wiped his eyes and started taking things from his lunch basket.

In just a few minutes he set a table before Nalini. He had brought in a table-cloth, flower vase and even a few candles. When Mani was in the catering college the first thing they taught him was that a well-set dinner table was as important as a well-cooked dinner.

“Ma’am this is warm water with cumin. An excellent appetizer. And this is beet-root soup with coriander leaves. These are mini idlies soaked in ghee and dozed with pepper powder. And this…”

Nalini was overwhelmed. But she was not sure whether she could eat all those fancy stuff brought in by Mani.

Mani read her thoughts.

“I have got the whole thing approved by the hospital’s dietitian. I even made her estimate the calories to ensure that they are within limits. She is now after me for the recipe.”

“Did you prepare this kind of food for all the ten persons?”

“No, madam. I checked with the Dietitian. She gave me their standard menu. It was some bread, rotis, rice, sambar, rasam and curds. The usual stuff.”

Nalini sipped the warm water. Even that tasted awesome. The dark-red beet root soup with coriander leaves floating in it was heavenly.

The recipe might list all the ingredients. But with Mani preparing the food, one major ingredient that no recipe ever specified was there in abundance. His love and reverence for his boss.

Nalini turned her face the other side, wiped off her tears and started eating her food.

Mani had also brought food for Sethu and Sharada.

“Why should you bother, Mani? We can have the hospital food.”

“Sethu, I am preparing food for 10 people who are total strangers. Then why not for you two?”

Nalini shook Mani’s hands to congratulate him for the excellent preparation. Even a double-promotion and a triple-increment could not have made him that happy.

After Mani left the room, they were chit-chatting for a while. The nurse came in to check Nalini’s pressure and temperature. They were all normal. She was given some tablets and was asked to sleep for a while. The nurse left the room.

“Sethu, can you please ask her to give me some sedatives? I cannot sleep now.”

“Most of the sedatives have some side effect or the other. They are habit-forming. And when you get up, you will have a strange feeling of depression.”

“But how to sleep now? I cant sleep at all.”

“I’ll help you. Please stretch yourself. Relax your body. Close your eyes. And now let me start the treatment.”

Sethu placed the thumb and the index finger of his right hand on Nalini’s forehead. He exerted the right pressure on her forehead and slowly started massaging it. Nalini instantly felt a kind of relaxation and within five minutes she lapsed into a dreamless sleep.

Sethu signalled Sharada to come out of the room. He told her that he would have to go to the hotel now and would be back late in the evening.

Sharada was just lying in the other bed in the room lost in thoughts. At about five in the evening there was a knock. Sharada opened the door. The afternoon coffee had come.

Nalini had woken up. Sharada sat in her bed by her side.

The women were sipping hot coffee in peaceful silence. Seeing the cards and bouquets,Nalini heaved a sigh.

“See the irony of life, Sharada. Nature has made me unfit to be a mother of a single child. And now I am the mother of so many children.”

“I’m sorry, Nalini. I have been a selfish giant, all through. I was always thinking about my life and my problems. I never even suspected that you would have had so many problems in your life.”

Nalini sighed again.

“I got married to a wonderful man, Sharada. Our life was unbelievably sweet. We loved each other so much that for the first few years we didn’t even think about the child.

“He was very loving and told me that he didn’t even want a child. But I was desperate. I went from Doctor to Doctor. Their verdict was unanimous. I was unfit to be a mother.

“With my hubsand by my side, even that was bearable. I even told him that he could marry another woman if he so badly wanted a child. But he refused.

“Then one day he left me just like that. Left for another woman. I could never understand why he did it.

“I was in such a state of shock that when his lawyer sent a divorce notice, I did not even resist that. I gave him the divorce he so badly wanted. I am still wondering what made him decide like that.

“Sometimes I feel it would have been better if he had fought with me, abused me and shown to me that our marriage could not work.

“After several years I still can’t digest why he did that. The beauty is that even now, even after all that, I still could not bring myself to hate him.”

“Does Sethu know that?”

“Yes. Sethu is another story. I met Sethu in his Master’s Ashram. A friend had taken me there and I was crying before the Swamiji.

“Swamiji heard my story. I could never forget his words.

“The Universe is a beautiful, well-connected web. When a need is felt somewhere the entire Universe rushes to fill up that need somehow or other.

“I now have a man with me who requires a mother. And here you are, a mother looking for a child. Being a mother to someone is not a question of age, position or relationship.

“It’s all a question of love. Pure, selfless, motherly love. You have it and he needs it.”

“He introduced Sethu to me. He spoke about his skills. Then he sent him along with me..

“Since then he has been a son to me. Of course we do not live in the same house and he does not call me Ma.

“But he takes care of me as only a son can. And he comes to me whenever he has any problem. I got him a job in Le Meridien as I wanted to have an eye on him.”

It took several minutes for Sharada to absorb what Nalini had told her.

“Nalini, in a way, I am responsible for all these.”

“Don’t be a fool, Sharada. If somebody stabbed me, how can you be responsible for that?

“I now think that this stabbing is the best thing that happened to me. Otherwise how could I have even known the love my staff have for me?

“God thought that I am such a dimwit that he gave a knife-wound in the stomach to know these loving hearts. God did this transaction in His usual way. He took very little from me and gave me quite a lot.”

“That’s okay, Nalini. But you should also know who’s behind all these. Those are my husband’s goons. I could see the face of one of the men. He is in my husband’s payroll. He should have sent the goons to kill Sethu. They hit you by mistake.”

“I almost suspected that.”

The ladies turned around to see Sethu walking into the room.

“And now a time has come to repay your husband’s kindness.”

“Sethu, don’t do anything silly. You can never win over violence with violence.”

Nalini was afraid that Sethu might get himself hurt while taking revenge against Balki.

“No Madam. I am going to win over violence with intelligence. Sometimes we need to just tell the guy that this is not all right.

“And we have to tell it in a language he will understand. Looks like he can’t understand any of the languages which we human beings speak through our mouths.

“You know, Ma’am, my hands speak a language which he will instantly understand.”

Sharada did not know what to say.

Nalini was still concerned.

“Promise me Sethu you wont do anything silly.”

“I promise on you, Ma’am, I wont do anything silly. And I further promise on your honour that I will teach a good lesson to that man, a lesson, he wont forget for the rest of his life.”

Sethu walked out of the room. Balki’s bad times had started.








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PostSubject: Re: HE    Fri Jul 05, 2013 2:14 pm

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HE - 12




Madhavan and Priya were now fully entangled in the web of deception.

In a war between good and evil, good always wins, but only ultimately. It loses a lot of battles before it can claim its final victory over evil.

A war is a war and so there are always some casualties on the side of good as well.

Now this battle was won by evil. The Vulture. And it was too early to reckon the casualties.

Acting on the Vulture’s words, Priya had told Madhavan that she was suffering from some kind of depression and that she had already fixed up an appointment with Dr. Shankar, a psychiatrist. And that she would be grateful if Madhavan could come along with her.

The appointment was on Friday evening. There were four characters who were concerned with this appointment and each in his or her or its own way.

First, Priya. She naively thought that she could tell the truth when they were in the clinic and somehow convince Madhavan to go for a full-course treatment and psychoanalysis. He was going to be fine and they would start their second innings in life with renewed vigour.

Second, Madhavan. He was now really concerned over his wife’s health. He forgot all the warnings given by Kalpana, the lady lawyer. The business, the risks, the mergers, and the vulture of a lawyer - everything else can wait.

When Priya was ill, nothing in the world was important for him. He would tell the Doctor about Priya. About how soft she was and how loving she had been.

Madhavan would insist that the treatment had to be tender and at no point of time, Priya should be roughed up. Priya was going to be fine after the treatment.

After that there was going to be nothing but happiness in their lives. May be they could even start planning for a family.

Third, the Vulture. He had his own grand plans for the meeting. For him the meeting was the climax. He wanted to eject Madhavan out of Priya’s life immediately and out of this world, eventually.

While Priya was interested in swallowing Creative Ads, the Vulture would silently gobble up Ad India and Priya along with that.

Fourth and the most important, Destiny. It had left the scene long back and was still acting from afar. It was now planning to return to the scene and was waiting for the opportune moment.

Destiny was the only character that knew what the other three thought. And it also knew that only its plan was going to succeed.

Many people crushed by the hands of Destiny mistakenly equate it with the Devil. Destiny always sided with the good. But it was constantly in movement between good and evil. And it was these movements that made life interesting and worth living.

Destiny always followed a pattern. First it would make some false movements towards the side of evil and then slowly, gradually would move over to goodness.

The false movements favouring the side of evil would always be swift and sudden. But they would not last long. The return to good would be slow and gradual. And here Destiny’s effects would last till eternity. And in the case of Madhavan and Priya, Destiny had started moving towards their side.

For the first time since Destiny raised its ugly head in the lives of Priya and Madhavan, it moved slightly away from the side of the Vulture giving him the first ever setback in his satanic career.

The Vulture had given the name of the Psychiatrist and his contact number to Priya. He knew very well that people would always hesitate to verify the credentials of a psychiatrist.

Because when a person asks about some psychiatrist the other person would immediately infer that either the enquirer or someone close to her had some mental health problem.

In India visiting a psychiatrist always carried a stigma. Whether a person visited for an endogenic depression or an erectile dysfunction, his circle of friends and relatives would consider him only as a schizophrenic fit to be chained.

Priya was grateful to the Vulture that he had spared her the trouble of finding out a good, reliable psychiatrist for Madhavan. She could never imagine that the whole thing was set up by the Vulture to trap Madhavan.

As usual the Vulture had done his homework exceedingly well. He found out that there was a real psychiatrist by name Dr. Shankar in Chennai. Even if Priya were to enquire about him, she would get only good references.

Then he hired the premises of a small private clinic for a week. He made his own man sit in as a psychiatrist there.

On the day of appointment the Vulture visited the clinic and gave his final touches to the diabolic plan.

Around 5:15 on Friday evening Madhavan walked over to Priya’s office. He gently knocked the door before walking in.

“Honey, it’s time. You said that the appointment is at six. The traffic is going to be heavy. Let’s not be late for the appointment.”

Priya saw Madhavan’s face. He did not look like a loving husband but a concerned parent now. Priya was moved by his act of kindness. How could this kind soul have plotted against her, or for that matter, against any other human being?

How this loving man could ever think of having an affair and that too with a middle aged woman? Could she ask him on his face about all those things? But then she remembered the Vulture’s words. The Vulture had said that during lucid intervals manic depressives would be exceedingly kind.

She saw the innocent face of Madhavan. He should have been really concerned over her health. He had not shaved for the last two days. Priya had never seen Madhavan like this.

“Madhavan, my dearest, we are going to see the psychiatrist only for you. I lied. It’s not for me. You are sick. And you don’t know that.”

Priya wanted to shout those words. But at the last minute she decided against that. Now she wanted to delay the ordeal by another two days. She had already talked to Madhavan’s Executive Assistant.

“Darling, if you are busy today, I’ll have the appointment postponed to Monday. Your EA told me that Cognizant wanted a meeting with you this evening to discuss their recruitment ads.”

“I can’t care less, Priya. Cognizant even threatened that if there is no meeting today they’d cancel the contract. I told them to go to hell in sweet words.

“Please Priya, please understand me. Even if I lose all the clients, even if I lose Ad India and every thing I have, I am still a winner so long as you are with me. So let’s get the whole thing finished early and put it behind us, Priya. We have a long, sweet life ahead of us.”

Priya could not bear that kind of love. She burst into tears. She was crying because she did not have the heart to betray Madhavan, even though it was for his own good.

Madhavan thought that she was crying because she was afraid of her own illness.

He came near her and placed his hands on her shoulder. He turned her face to his side.

“Don’t worry, dear. Whatever happens I’ll be with you. If the Doctor tells you that you can’t work any more, I’ll also stop working. I’ll sell the company and invest the money in mutual funds. We can live on that income. I’ll be with you all day. So don’t worry. Let’s go now.”

Priya ran up to him, buried her face in his broad chest and started sobbing uncontrollably.

After ten minutes Madhavan and Priya walked out of their office hand in hand. As usual the black Benz and the golden Honda Accord were ready with their engines running and with their drivers respectfully waiting for Madhavan’s choice.

Madhavan chose the Benz. He was about to get into the rear seat, when he suddenly thought of something.

“I’ll drive. Priya, please come here.”

He did not want the driver to know that they were going to a psychiatrist. He wanted to protect his wife’s name and reputation.

During the thirty-minute drive to the psychiatrist’s clinic in Adyar, they did not speak a word.

They entered the posh clinic located in the Third Main Road, Gandhi Nagar. Priya was gripping Madhavan’s hand. Madhavan’s grip was quite reassuring for her.

As soon as Priya gave the particulars they were ushered into a large consulting room. A man in white coat and French beard welcomed them. Madhavan and Priya assumed that the person was Dr.Shankar.

The first few minutes were spent in exchanging courtesies. Suddenly from out of the blue, the Doctor turned to Madhavan and asked,

“Mr.Madhavan, when did you first notice the problem?”

“Me? I didn’t notice anything. She appears perfect for me. She thinks that she is depressed, Doctor. If you can examine and tell her it is not so, I will be grateful to you.”

The ‘Doctor’ let out a condescending smile.

“Yes, Mr.Madhavan, she is perfect. No doubt about it. I am asking about YOUR problem.”
>
“MY PROBLEM? WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING?”

The Vulture had trained the right person to play the Doctor’s role. He was infuriating Madhavan in a scientific manner.

“PRIYA, WHAT THE HELL IS HE TALKING? I THINK THIS GUY IS NUTS.”

Priya was looking down.

“Mr.Madhavan, Priya called up ahead and told me that you are sick. Very sick. She even warned me that you could be violent. I gave this idea to her.

“I told her to tell you that she was sick and wanted your help. That way it was easy to bring you here. See my idea worked, isn’t it Priya?”

“YOU IDIOT, WHAT BULL**** ARE YOU TALKING? I’M GOING TO CALL THE POLICE, RIGHTAWAY. YOU ARE NO SHRINK.”

“I’m sorry Madhavan. I thought we could do it without force. I am sorry, Mrs. Priya.”
The ‘Doctor’ pressed a button. Three burly men in white and white rushed into the room and they lifted off Madhavan from his seat.

Priya was looking down all along. For the first time she lifted her head to see Madhavan’s face.

Madhavan was struggling to get himself free from the clutches of the goondas. And he saw Priya.

He thought that Priya had betrayed him. Priya had let him down in a very cruel way. He had been ready to forego everything – his career, his company, his wealth everything – for Priya.

Now with Priya betraying him, he lost all interest to live. He ceased to struggle. And saw Priya for one last time with his penetrating eyes.

His eyes were pleading with her.

“My dearest, what crime did I do other than loving you with all my heart? I did not listen to the lawyer who warned me against you. When you told me that you were depressed, I melted.

“I forgot all the warnings, threw caution to the winds and just came along with you. And now dear, see where I am? Will I be able to love another person in my life? Does this make you happy? Then enjoy yourself dear. Good bye.”

These words were not spoken but communicated. The communication channels did not involve Madhavan’s mouth or Priya’s ears.

Fifteen seconds of that penetrating look was enough to unsettle Priya’s mind for ever. She lost her mind then and there. The look of shock never left her face thereafter.

Madhavan was taken to another room. While the goondas were holding him, a nurse injected a powerful sedative. Madhavan fell asleep. Then he was taken to a Qualis vehicle parked near the back gate of the clinic.

The third row of seats had been removed. Madhavan was placed there. And the back door of the vehicle was secured. There was no access to the front row of seats from his place.

As soon as the Vulture received news about the success of the operation he called Priya on her mobile. It was ringing. But Priya was not aware of that. She was not aware of anything around her.

For her time was frozen at the moment when Madhavan was taken out of that room. The moment she met Madhavan’s glance was the last lucid moment she had in her life. She was frozen at that point of time perfectly oblivious of the world thereafter.

The Vulture then called the ‘Doctor’ to know about Priya.

“Boss, he is sedated is being taken away. She has lost her mind. She can’t do anything. What shall I do with her? Shall I finish her too?”

“****. Don’t do that. We may require her signature or something later. Take her to Bangalore and admit her in NIMHANS under a false name. We’ll take care of her later. But finish off that man.”

“Yes, boss.”

“Did you remember to take his car keys from his pocket?”

“Yes, Boss.”

“Raj will come there in another hour with two dead bodies. Place the bodies in the car and drive it to the ouirts of the city. We’ll stage an accident with an oil-tanker and tell the world that Madhavan and Priya died in that accident.”

“Yes Boss.”


The next day’s papers carried the news and pictures of the tragic accident that killed Madhavan and Priya.



It was a gruesome accident and the black Benz had been burning for a while. The police and the people presumed that the charred remains in the car were that of Madhavan and Priya.

he Qualis was being driven to some unknown Southern destination. Madhavan was slowly regaining consciousness.

Destiny now fully moved over to the side of good. It abandoned the Vulture and started extending a helping hand to Madhvan. After all it was not the Devil.

The Vulture had given orders to kill Madhavan immediately. But his goons had other plans. They had struck a deal with an unscrupulous hospital in Trivandrum.

The hospital was trafficking in human organs. It had promised several lakhs to the goons if they could bring anybody alive to their hospital, with all the organs intact. The goons were driving like mad to Trivandrum to deliver the prize and collect the prize-money.

At times even evil has got a role to play in defending the good. It was the goons’ greed, the hospital’s inhuman approach that saved Madhavan’s life that day.

After 17 hours of travel with some breaks in between the Qualis stopped somewhere in the middle of nothing.

Madhavan was fully awake now. He heard some sounds from the front. He sharpened his ears.

“My God! We have a flat tyre. We don’t even have a spare tyre. What to do?”

“We still have a lot of time. Let’s relax for a while. I have stashed some Scotch in my bag. Let’s have a small party.”

“But the tyre?”

“I can see a small shop there. Should be a road-side vulcansing shop. We will have our party there. We’ll ask the man to fix the flat tyre.”

“What if the guy wakes up, when we are there?”

“No way. He has been given a triple dose of morphine. He wont be conscious for another whole day. In fact we would have trouble reviving him at Trivandrum."

“Where are we now?”

“I think we should be somewhere near Kovalam. I can hear the sea. Which means we’ll reach Trivandrum in another forty five minutes.”

“Come, let’s go. Don’t forget to down the shutters and lock up the vehicle.”

After a while Madhavan did not hear any sound. It was pitch dark outside. He presumed that the men should have left for the shop.

Anaesthesia is a speciality where man’s knowledge is far from complete. The field is concerned with the human central nervous system which even now is not fully understood.

In any major surgery the anaesthetist plays an even more crucial role than the surgeon. Keeping the patient unconscious for the right length of time and then reviving him thereafter is more of an art form than medicine.

We know very well what substances should be given to put a man to sleep and what should be given to bring him back to consciousness. But how long will the sedation last is still a matter of wild guess even by the super-specialists.

With the kind of dosage given to Madhavan he should not have come back to his senses for another two days. But he was fully alert now.

Those who believed in the science of anaesthesia would mumble, “You can never be sure.” And those who believed in Destiny would praise its skilful handiwork.

Madhavan knew that he was locked in. If he attempted anything now he would draw attention and that would kill all chances of escape.

But for a gruelling head-ache and an inexplicable heaviness in his head, he was wide awake and extremely alert. He slowly sat down. The darkness was absolute and he could not see a thing.

He tried to feel with his hands. After groping for a few minutes he found a long iron rod which was bent at one end. It should be the jockey lever, he assumed. Whatever it was he now had a lethal weapon in his hand.

He was now waiting for the right time. He spent the longest five minutes of his life before he heard the sound of a lock being opened.

The repair man should have come. Madhavan knew that in a few seconds he was likely switch on some light. Either a torch light or the lights inside the vehicle. And he should act before that.

He was now ready to act. He held the iron rod firmly in his hand and when he saw the back door open, he swung it with all his force.

Destiny had now returned to the scene with a totally different mission: to help Madhvan come out of the mess, it had created earlier. Destiny sat on the iron rod and saw to it that it hit the head of the repair-man with such a force that he did not even have the time to scream. He fell down.

Madhavan jumped out of the vehicle. His feet touched the cold asphalt. He slowly walked away from the vehicle. He heard the sound of the sea and was going towards that sound.

The goondas were enjoying the Scotch blissfully unaware of the fact that their captive had escaped unhurt.

So long as Madhavan felt the need to escape from those villains he was alert and had the desire to live. But now alone in the midst of nothing, walking towards some unknown sea, remembering Priya’s betrayal, reliving the scene in the Psychiatrit’s clinic, he suddenly wanted to end his life.

He was ready to sacrifice everything for Priya. But Priya had clearly ditched him. If only Priya had been quite upfront about the visit, if only she had told him that she suspected him being depressed, he would have happily agreed to go with her.

Only now Kalpana’s words started ringing in his ears. Did Priya have an affair with that take-over lawyer? Did they both plan this treacherous act together? My God!

For a few moments he felt like Mrs.Indra Gandhi during the last few moments of her life. What kind of shock she would have felt when her own guards, who had sworn to give their lives to protect hers, opened fire on her?

That was the ultimate betrayal. And so was Priya’s.

‘It could have been better if they had killed me’, Madhavan thought. What was the point in living now?

Madhavan now felt the beach sand under his feet. He now walked towards the sea with determination.

Destiny was now skilfully moving the coins in that complicated game of chess.

With the kind of powers it had, it had already divined Madhavan’s suicidal thoughts.

It did not want Madhavan to die. It had already put a person in place to protect him.






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PostSubject: Re: HE    Mon Jul 08, 2013 9:25 pm

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HE - 13



Sethu wanted to take revenge on Balki. Nalini was worried. Sethu explained his stand.

“Sometimes we need to just tell the guy that this is not all right.

“And we have to tell it in a language he will understand. Looks like he can’t understand any of the languages which we human being speak through our mouths.

“You know, Ma’am, my hands speak a language which he will instantly understand.”

Sharada did not know what to say.

Nalini was still concerned.

“Promise me Sethu you wont do anything silly.”

“I promise on you, Ma’am, I wont do anything silly. And I further promise on your honour that I will teach a good lesson to that man, a lesson, he wont forget for the rest of his life.”

Sethu walked out of the room. Balki’s bad times had started.

As soon as they were left alone Nalini took hold of Sharada’s hands. She did not say a word. There were tears in her eyes.

“Sethu has already lost enough in his life. And that man is a cruel villain. I am really worried, Sharada. If anything happens to Sethu I won’t be able to bear it.”

Sharada could feel the suffering of a mother. In spite of all the explanations she heard, the mother-son relationship between Nalini and Sethu was quite amazing.

Of course, no real relationship could be brought within the confines of a logical explanation, she thought.

She still remembered the ferocity with which Sethu prevented Nalini from seeking apology from Sharada and Mythili on the day they arrived in Le Meridian. And now she was seeing Nalini’s anxious concern for Sethu.

“Your affection for Sethu has prevented you from seeing the reality. When Sethu talked about revenge, there was no anger in his voice. He was not at all emotional. He had as much emotion as one would have while planning the next move in a game of chess.”

“Still, Sharada…. After knowing about Balki….”

“Nalini, I know Balki inside out. He is a wounded tiger now. If Sethu does not do anything , Balki will hatch an even more cruel plan to finish off Sethu. This time it will be really difficult for Sethu to escape. So it is better that Sethu communicates some of his powers to his enemy.”

Nalini’s grip tightened.

“Sharada, tell me honestly, will your husband hurt Sethu again?”

“Objection, Your Honour. He’s my ex-husband. But honestly, yes, he will plan something even more diabolic this time.”

Nalini was just staring at Sharada not knowing what to do.

“But don’t worry, Nalini. Balki has only violence and cunningness. Sethu has intelligence. Violence and cunningness are crude weapons of the olden days.

“Intelligence is like the AK 47 and the inter-continental missiles of the modern times.

“It can teach the enemies the lesson they so badly need to learn. So don’t worry about Sethu. Balki’s friends have to worry for his safety now.”

It was Nalini’s seventh day at the Appollo Hospitals. She wanted to go back to work. She felt restless lying in the hospital bed all the time.

Late in the morning when Surgeon came to examine her she told him about her desire to get back to work.

“Yes, you can, Mrs. Nalini. I am planning to remove your sutures tomorrow. I’ll discharge you tomorrow evening. Is that okay?”

“Thanks, Doctor.”

Nalini was wheeled into the Operation Theatre around seven in the morning the next day. The Doctor had told that the procedure would take thirty minutes at the maximum.

Sethu and Sharada were sitting in the waiting room adjoining the theatre. Sethu had been wanting to tell something to Sharada for the past three days. He could not get to meet her alone.

He rehearsed what he was about to say for the hundredth time. He had been thinking about that for three days and the words had been perfectly formed.

The trouble now lay in speaking them out.

He cleared his throat and started to speak. But no word would come out. Sharada looked at him and then buried her face into the book she was reading.

Sethu cleared his throat again this time with a greater noise to distract Sharada from her reading.

“Looks like you want to say something to me. And you haven’t made up your mind, yet.”

“Your first statement is right. Yes, I want to say something to you. The second is wrong. I have made up my mind. But my tongue does not co-operate with me. I am still looking for the perfect words.”

“Any word you use to express your mind now, will hereafter become perfect. Well, if I go any further, I will be saying what you have been wanting to say.”

The moment Sethu knew that Sharada knew what he was going to say, he was overwhelmed by shyness. With a gentle smile he turned his face away from Sharada.

It was a sight to see such a muscular, well-built man like Sethu being shy. Sharada badly wanted to hold him in her hands.

More than that she was eager to know what Sethu was going to say now.

Sethu’s body language had eloquently communicated what he wanted to say. But Sharada wanted to hear his spoken language. She was looking at Sethu with all the love in the world.

“Sharada….”

“…mmm”

“Sharada….”

“..mmmm”

“Sharada….about… what you said the other day….. at the health club…..”

“Yes, about Herman Hesse… yes, tell me….”

“Sharada, please……”

Sharada moved closer to him and held his right hand in hers.

“I am here, Sethu. Waiting to hear those magical words from you. What are you waiting for?”

The moment Sharada gripped Sethu’s hands he lost his power of speech.

‘Anyday love is far more powerful than Varmakkalai’, Sethu mused.

‘In Varmakkalai when you want to make your enemy speechless you need to find out the precise point on the windpipe and then exert the exact amount of pressure. But while in love just your lover holding your hands will render you speechless.

‘In the first case the speechlessness is induced by pain while in the second it is the height of happiness.’

“OK, OK, I understand. Now go ahead and speak.”

Sharada tried to take her hands away. Sethu sensed that movement and with his other hand held her hands tightly in place.

Now it was Sharada’s turn to lapse into a state of speechless bliss. Her blushing was so obvious that Sethu could not help a smile. Now Sethu had gathered enough courage to speak out his mind.

“I… I…… I…. .. love you… Sharada.”

Sharada tightened her grip on his hands and whispered in his ears.

“Thanks, Sethu. Thanks a lot. If you had refused my love, I would have lost all interest in living. You have given my life back to me, Sethu.

“God took me through the path of suffering only to show that at the end of the path there was eternal happiness waiting for me. In your form.”

“But Sharada, you have to know me. You have just seen me putting my best foot forward. I have a nasty past which you should know…”

Sharada did not even let him finish the sentence. With her other hand she cupped his mouth. And spoke to him in the softest words.

“No need Sethu. I don’t need to know your past to love you. And if telling that to me is going to relieve you of your burden you are most welcome. But for heavan’s sake I don’t need to know about your past for loving you.”

Sethu was overwhelmed at the kind of confidence she had reposed in him.

“There are a million practial problems in our getting married. It may take an eternity to solve them all. And I don’t want you to spend your life waiting for me.”

“I know, Sethu. Marriage always has all these problems. But there is no practical problem for love. For me it is more than enough to know that you have accepted my love.

We’ll try to solve all those problems. But even if we can’t, in my life time, still, I will die a happy woman knowing that I was loved by the best man in the whole world. I can wait for you forever, Sethu.”

Sethu could not simply bear that kind of love. He gently lifted Sharada’s hand and entangled his fingers with hers.

Time had come to a perfect stop. The need to express through spoken word had completely vanished. In that state of perfect timelessness they did not see the Surgeon walking towards them.

The Surgeon realised their state only when he came near them. Then he walked back on his way without disturbing them.

After fifteen minutes he came to the scene again. He cleared his throat noisily this time and brought back Sethu and Sharada from heavan.

They saw him and suddenly moved apart.

“It’s ok. She’s all right now. You can go and see her.”

“Where’s she?”

“In her room.”

“Did she go by any other way?”

“She went only by this way.”

“But we didn’t see her.”

“You could not have seen a live dinosaur if it had walked through this way.”

The Surgeon was in his mid sixties with a big white mush. The mischievous smile on his lips added grace to his personality.

“Don’t feel guilty. When I was your age, I was far worse. You two brought back pleasant memories of my past. Now go ahead and say hello to Nalini. She has been waiting for you.”

As soon as the Surgeon left them alone, their eyes met once again.

Their lives had remained an arid desert for a long time.



This exchange of love was a miraculous rainfall that was going to convert the desert into a fertile land fit for the cultivation of happiness..


They started walking towards Nalini’s room.

“How are you, Ma’am? Are you feeling any pain?”

“I am fine. Thanks. Sethu, will you mind coming a little closer to me?”

Sethu was puzzled. Nevertheless he moved towards her bed.

“I can’t reach you Sethu. You are so tall. Now be a good boy and bend down your head.”

Sethu obeyed with a puzzled look.

“Hello Dancer, what are you waiting for? Please come this side. Closer still. Yes. Now bend down, you naughty girl.”

As soon as the two bent down, Nalini placed her hands on their heads.

“May you be blessed with a happy, hassle-free married life. May you both live long and may your love grow.”

Sharada was surprised.

“Nalini, what is this? How did you know?”

“Chi… naughty girl.The whole hospital knows. I won’t be surprised if it appears in the afternoon news on the Satellite Television.”

Sethu was concentrating on a speck of dust on the tiled floor. Sharada blushed.

“Hello, little girl, don’t think you will be spared the problem of in-laws. Mind you I will be the meanest mother-in-law the world has ever known.”

“Nalini.”

Sharada flew into Nalini’s open arms and was sobbing continuously.

“Nalini, I have never been this happy in my whole life. Even if I die at this very moment, I would have lived a full life.”

“Don’t be a fool, Sharada. You are going to live till 100.”

Sethu was looking at the two women with tear laden eyes.

Later in the evening Nalini was discharged from the hospital. When she reached Le Meridian it was almost 11 in the night.

When the uniformed security guard opened the door of her car and saluted her, Nalini could see the softness and affection in his eyes.

While remaining in attention, he enquired about her health. Nalini answered him and slowly walked into the lobby.

At Le Meridien only thirty percent of the total staff work in the night shift. The rest worked in general shifts, all of which ended before 7 PM. Nalini thought she could go to her room almost unnoticed. She was wrong.

The entire staff of the hotel including the Managers were standing in a formation to welcome her. They started singing a welcome song to their loving boss. Nalini stood frozen in her place.

Then each of them came to her, shook her hands and enquired about her health. It was 1 AM in the morning when she retired.

“Madam, Susan said you wanted to see me.”

“Yes, Sethu. I see that you have applied for four days leave. Reason: to go to my native village.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“When are you going, Sethu? Tonight?”

Sethu made sure that Susan was not there in the room.

“I am not going anywhere, Ma’am.”

“Then….”

Sethu’s smile was large and affectionate.

“Ma’am, we all know the real reason. But I can’t put that in black and white.”

“Sethu, I am still worried. I even have a half-mind to use my authority to reject your leave application.”

“Ma’am, please don’t do that. Please consider this as an act of self-defence. Offence is many times the best defence. I promise you that I won’t hurt myself.”

“But Sethu, the risk….”

“The risk is there every where, Ma’am. I will put it this way. I will be running a greater risk by walking along a busy road than in this mission.”

“Whatever you say, I am still worried. I am praying God that you should come out of all of these unharmed. Now you have one more person living for you. Sharada.

“I have never stopped praying to God on your account. I am going to forego my night dinner for all the four days to show my earnestness to God. And when you come back, we three will have a huge party.”

“Thanks, Ma’am. I’ll be very careful.”

“Leave sanctioned. You may go.”

“Thanks, again.”

Sethu woke up early next morning. After finishing his morning routines he sat for an hour in meditation.

He vividly remembered the words of his Master spoken on the day he completed his training in martial arts:

“Sethu, you are now a Master in Varmakkalai. At times you may be forced by circumstances to hurt others. But during such times you should act as if you were God. When God punishes us, He does not hate us.

“He hands over the punishment with a little bit of reluctance but nevertheless with the full force. Have that attitude while punishing your enemy.

“You are entitled to protect yourself. And you have a duty to make your enemy realise that what he is doing is wrong. Don’t indulge in mindless violence.

“And above all, while attacking the enemy there should not be any hatred in your heart.”

As he remembered the soft face of his Master and his softer words, his heart calmed down. He looked deep into his mind to look for any signs of hatred towards Balki.

He prayed to his Master and God that his punishment should be a turning point in Balki’s life. And that he should not turn over to the side of good.

After about an hour of meditation he decided on the quantum of punishment. Now he had to finalise the mode of delivery. He had four days for planning and execution.

At about 7 in the morning he left his small one-bed room flat in Ramnagar, Saidapet, disguised as a sanitation worker.

He was dressed in khaki shorts and a lose fitting slightly torn shirt. He wore a lose fitting turban made out of a dirty cloth to mask his face.

Around 8 he took his position outside Balakrishnan’s palatial house at Indra Nagar.

For the next three days Sethu did nothing other than noting Balki’s movements. He also went to Balki’s massive GN Chetty Road office a couple of times.

By the end of the third day Sethu had his final plan drawn up. He had decided on the time, the place and the mode of delivery.

Sethu had planned virtually everything.

But there is a theory that even if you had considered a thousand variables and had drawn a fool-proof plan, there will still be a last minute surprise. Sethu’s attack plan provided a vibrant proof for that theory.

It was a cold Friday night. The time was 11 PM. Balki was driving from his office to his house. He was taking a friend with him.

The friend was in his mid fifties. Balki had wanted to discuss something serious with that friend for the whole night and so he was taking him home.

On all the three days that Sethu had watched Balki, he was driving alone. Many times he did not even use the services of his driver. Sethu had not provided for the presence of another man in the car.

His large Elantra had taken the Thiagaraya Road, popularly known as Pondy Bazaar and then hit the Mount Road at the Teynampet Signal. He took a right turn and after a while took the left to Cenotaph Road and then to Kotturpuram Road.

There was virtually no one on the road. Once in ten or fifteen minutes a solitary vehicle was passing by.

Balki’s vehicle was stopped by a traffic sergeant in a deserted part of Kotturpuram Road.

“What the hell do you want?”

Balki had never been stopped by a traffic cop.

“I want to see your car’s RC and insurance.”

“Tell me how much do you want. Get the money and get lost.”

The Sergeant got annoyed. He opened the car’s door.

“Get down from the car. I am going to charge you for your bribe offer.”

Balki got down from the car. Meanwhile his friend also got down from the other side of the car.

“But before that, Officer, I want to see your Photo ID.”

“Really? Ok, here you go.”

The Sergeant put his hand into his packet. When it came out there was no ID card in it. But his index finger and middle finger were strangely intertwined.

Before Balki could realise what was happening the ‘Sergeant’ directed his intertwined fingers towards Balki’s windpipe. Balki just felt a cold touch and then a shooting pain in his throat. That was all.

He wanted to holler. But no sound would come out of his mouth. There was a look of shock in his frightened eyes. Balki had lost his power of speech.

The Sergeant did not speak a word. Balki’s friend panicked.

“Hey, what are you doing? I am calling the Commissioner of Police right now.”

He tried to punch numbers in his mobile.

Sethu’s mission had been accomplished. He should have fled the scene.

Sethu saw Balki’s friend in light rays shed by the bright sodium vapour lamp. He had not seen that person earlier.

But somehow his mind was filled up with inexplicable anger and hatred. It was a surprise for him. He did not have any hatred towards the man who tried to kill him.

His mind was emitting poisonous waves of loathing and hostility towards a man whom he was meeting for the first time in his life.

For the wrongdoer Balki, Sethu had precisely measured the quantum of punishment. Balki would not be able to speak for at least six months. After that he would be normal.

But that six months of trauma would be sufficient to drive out all evil from his mind. At least Balki would not come a mile near Sethu or his people.

Balki’s friend was just a bystander. Sethu never thought there would be another person in Balki’s car. But that did not matter at all. Sethu had done his job and could have just ran away from the scene.

But somehow when he saw that person feelings of loathing, disgust and a blind animosity rose in his mind. They took control of Sethu’s intellect.

Sethu acted as if he were possessed. When Balki’s friend tried to grab Sethu with one hand, while talking on his mobile, Sethu’s anger got the better of him.

His practised hand landed with a great force on that person’s neck. They stayed there for a little longer than necessary. Only when Sethu took back his hands did he realise the result of his act.

The other person would be paralysed for life. Sethu’s blow aimed at a point on the right side of the persons neck would paralyse his left side for the rest of his life.

The person let out a loud wail. His mobile phone had fallen from his hands. Sethu picked that up and placed a call to the Police Control Room. Without disclosing his identity he informed them about the incident.

Sethu could hear cars coming at a distance. He disconnected the phone, threw it into the car and slowly walked out of the scene.

Only after reaching home did he know the full import of his actions. Why did he hit an innocent bystander? And with such a force as to maim him for life?

Sethu could never forgive himself. What was the point in hitting a perfect stranger? A man he had never seen before in his life?

Why should Sethu feel so much hatred towards that man, while he could handle Balki, the man who wanted to kill him, with perfect calmness?

Sethu started walking towards his home. It was a long walk. By the time he reached his home it was two in the morning. Sethu did not even bother to change.

He just fell down on his bed in a feverish state. The scene at Kotturpuram Road was repeatedly enacted in the screen of his mind. His body could not bear the weight of his conscience.

His body temperature soared to 103 degrees. Sethu lapsed into a state of delirium.

Nothing happens by chance. There is a connection between the humble grass crushed under our feet and a star lapsing into a blackhole millions of light years away. Most of our worries arise from our inability to see the web which organically connects the grass and the distant star.

At that time Sethu could not know that his sudden outburst of inexplicable anger towards an innocent bystander was integrally connected to his past and future.







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PostSubject: Re: HE    Wed Jul 10, 2013 12:10 am

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HE - 14



Madhavan was about to be killed. Somehow he managed to escape from his captors and was now walking towards the sea.

Only now Kalpana’s words started ringing in Madhavan’s ears. Did Priya have an affair with that take-over lawyer? Did they both plan this treacherous act together? My God!

For a few moments he felt like Mrs.Indra Gandhi during the last few moments of her life. What kind of shock she would have felt when her own guards, who had sworn to give their lives to protect hers, opened fire on her?

That was the ultimate betrayal. And so was Priya’s.

‘It could have been better if they had killed me’, Madhavan thought. What was the point in living now?

Madhavan now felt the beach sand under his feet. He now walked towards the sea with determination.

Destiny was now skilfully moving the coins in that complicated game of chess.

With the kind of powers it had, it had already divined Madhavan’s suicidal thoughts.

It did not want Madhavan to die. It had already put a person in place to protect him.

The moment Madhavan’s bare feet touched the cold water of the Arabian Sea he felt a powerful grip on his shoulders.

There was no violence in that grip. But Madhavan felt so overwhelmed by the intensity of that benevloent force that he lost all desire to oppose.

Madhavan had been facing nothing but evil during the past two days. His senses were extremely alert now. He could feel in his bone-marrow that the hand that gripped him belonged to benevolence.

It takes some time for the human eye to adjust to a sudden bright light, if it had been in darkness for a while. Madhavan’s mind which had been in the darkness of evil for sometime now shrank on the seeing the bright light of benediction, but nevertheless recognised it with a jolt.

It was still dark outside. Madhavan could not see the face of the person who had so firmly opposed his decision to die.

Given his present state of mind he could have never guessed that he was standing in the presence of an enlightened soul, a real saint, who alone could restore Madhavan to his former splendour.

In fact what he got back from that person was much more than what he lost. He lost his wife, his company, all his wealth and in a sense even his identity as Madhavan.

What he got back was wisdom, maturity and sheer bliss, blessings it takes lifetimes to acquire otherwise. But all those things were to happen much later.

When the hand that gripped his shoulders turned him away from the sea, Madhavan did not offer any resistance.

They walked in the beach for fifteen minutes. Now the other person held Madhavan’s hand very gently.

If Madhavan had wanted he could have easily freed himself and ran away towards the sea and to his death. But the other man’s touch had induced a strange calmness in Madhavan’s mind that he did not want to do anything.

They reached a group of huts in a secluded area. Madhavan was led to one of the huts.

“Please lie down.”

Madhavan complied. There was no flooring in the hut. The soft beach sand served as a bed. Madhavan’s head was held by a small mound of sand which acted as a pillow.

“You need to sleep now.”

It was the strongest command expressed in the softest words.

Madhavan woke up around nine in the morning.

“Good Morning. Welcome home,my son.”

The sheer affection in those simple words startled Madhavan. He turned around to see a man in his late fifties in wornout jean trousers and a loose fitting T-shirt.

He was sporting a well-trimmed beard. His eyes were extraordinarily white and clear. The way in which he looked at Madhavan through those kind eyes made Madhavan feel that the man held him in a tight embrace.

The man called somebody else who took Madhavan to another hut nearby. Madhavan cleaned himself and was given a simple breakfast of papaya fruit, baked corn, boiled channa and a cup of hot milk. He was led to the presence of his benefactor.

“Did you have your breakfast, son?”

“Yes. Thanks.”

“Please sit down and make yourself comfortable. I know you are in deep trouble. Otherwise a good, kind man like you would not have decided to kill yourself. I want to know your story, if it’s okay with you.”

The kindness in the voice was so great that for a second Madhavan could not bear that. He broke down and started crying.

Ever since the lady lawyer Kalpana warned him against Priya and the Vulture he had had strongly felt the need to cry.

But being brought up in a society which scorns a crying man with as much intensity as it does a laughing woman, he could not give vent to his feelings. And now standing in the presence of his loving benefactor he could no longer withhold his tears.

And that crying was the most therapeutic thing that happened to Madhavan. After five minutes of non-stop crying he felt relieved and refreshed.

He cleared his throat and started telling his story.

“I was an orphan. I was named Madhavan by the Swamiji who was more than my father and mother rolled into one.”

He told about his childhood in the orphanage. How he came up in life and how he met Priya.

He also told about the Smart Ads take-over, the attempt to take over Creative-Ads and how he prevented it. And finally about the betrayal – the worst betrayal he ever saw in his life.

And how he managed to escape from his captors. And finally why he decided to end his life.

His benefactor patted him on his shoulders.

“Well done, my son, well done. You have been a good soul all along. It’s rare to find persons like you. I am really happy that I saved a good man from dying.”

Madhavan looked at him with reverence.

“I am not that foolish to think that I can offer off –the-cuff solutions to your problems. Let me meditate on them. May be we can have another talk late in the evening.”

Madhavan was silent.

“You have been a very sincere man. This is a cruel world, my son. It might choose not to punish some sinners. But none of the sincere souls are spared.”

“Sir, seeing you reminds me of the Swamiji who brought me up. Can I call you Swamiji, the same way, I called him?”

“As you please, my son. My disciples call me so.”

“Really?”

Madhavan glanced at the denim trousers and the fashionable T-shirt.

The Swamiji had a hearty laugh.

“That’s our problem, son. We cannot think of a sanyasin without the safron robes or some other foolish external symbols. Sanyas is a state of mind. Dress-code is the last thing a sanyasin requires.

“When you go around this place you’ll see my sanyasins in all kind of dresses, some in dhotis, some in jeans, some even in lungis and one person in the Scottish national dress. I prefer denim.”

“Swamiji, I want to know more about you.”

“There’s not much to know. At one time I was a leading Psychiatrist in New York City. I had my large office in the posh Fifth Avenue Street. I was very sincere to my patients.

“I was one of the very few shrinks who listened to every word the patients said and lost sleep over their problems.

“I belonged to that ever-growing class of idiots who sacrificed their precious family on the altar of their professional commitments. When I woke up, it was too late. My only son was into drugs and one day he killed himself.

“That was excuse enough for my American wife to walk away from me with almost everything I had earned till then.

“I came back to India and was given shelter by a native Doctor in a remote village here in Kerala. I have been running this Ashram as his representative for the past 15 years.”

They talked about a number of things. Then Madhavan was taken around the large Ashram scattered over a number of huts within a secured enclosure. About a hundred people were there in all.

Everybody was busy doing something or the other. For the first time in his life Madhavan felt peaceful doing nothing and watching people do the simplest of things to sustain life.

The wound was still raw in him. After all the wound had gone all the way in to the deepest part of his being. But he felt a strange peace within himself.

He was summoned by the Swamiji after dinner. The dinner was again a simple fare of rotis and dhal.

When Madhavan stepped into the Swamiji’s presence he felt as if he were in the sanctum sanctrum of the holiest temple on earth.

Swamiji was in his study, which was a hut with a row of bookshelves and a number of comfortable chairs.

The Swamiji strongly reminded him of his own Swamiji. This time he could not resist his urge to fall at his feet. It was not just a gesture of respect shown to an elder. It was the sign of complete surrender in love.

“Welcome,my child. Have a seat.”

Swamiji pointed out to a chair placed opposite to him.

Madhavan sat on the floor near Swamiji’s feet. Swamiji placed his hands on his head which sent shivers of love through his spine.

“God has been exceedingly kind to me, Madhavan. He gave me some valuable insights into your problem which I am going to share with you.”

Madhavan just looking at his kind face.

“At your stage it is easy to lapse into persecution complex – I’m sorry dear, I can never get rid of my jargons. It’s easy to blame your wife, her lawyer, your captors, your fate, God, Destiny and a million other variables. But remember Madhavan, you started the whole thing.”

Madhavan was surprised.

“You lost the bid to your competitor. Of course what he did was not fair, getting the deal through the backdoor. But your unfairness was no less. When your wife suggested that you could takeover Smart Ads, you readily agreed with a glee. Right?”

Madhavan nodded.

“That was when your downfall began. Now don’t tell me that there are many players in your industry who have done far worse things. Yes, there are such people.

“But you were God’s chosen child. “When you chose to go astray, even God felt bad. And with His overwhelming love he saw to that you did not morally go down any further.

“Your losing your wife and your possessions is nothing, Madhavan. As it happens every time, God gave a very favourable deal to you. He gave back your soul and took away your wealth and your business, which are just dust compared to what you have got.”

Madhavan was now in such a state of mind that every word spoken by the Swamiji went directly to his ears, to his heart and from there to the deepest depths of his being.

“Your life reminds me of the Appolo 13 Mission sent to Moon. It never made the trip. It was a grand failure. But it was rightly dubbed as the most successful failure.

“The whole world knows about Appollo 11 and Armstrong, the first man who set foot on the moon. Besides that, success story Appollo 13 looks like a grand failure. The craft did not reach the moon. It developed snags midway.

“There had never been a greater concern for human lives or a more intense co-operation among caring human beings to bring back the crippled vessel stranded with three men, some 200000 miles away from earth.”

“Appollo 11 was a technical success. 13 was a human success. That’s why they made just some documentaries on Appollo 11 but an Oscar-winning film on Appollo 13.”

The Swamiji allowed some time to let his words sink in.

“Your life is exactly like that. You might not have reached the targets you set for yourself. You can never use the word success in your biography except in a negative sense. But to me and to Him who sees from above, yours is the most successful life.

“There are some missing links in your life which God has asked me to provide. After that you will become a full man and lead a life of happiness, that none can match.”

After a long time Madhavan asked in a choked voice,

Then Swamiji, are you suggesting that I should go back and reclaim my life, my wealth and my company?”

“You don’t have anything to go back to, Madhavan. But you have the whole world to go forward to.”

“Then…”

“Leave your life to my hands. You are now exhausted. You have been driving your car for long. Take a break. I’ll be on the wheel of your car for a while.”

The silence in that small hut was so profound that the sound of the waves coming from a distance served only to deepen it.

After what it seemed an eternity to Madhavan the Swamiji spoke almost in a whisper.

“I have been carrying a responsibility for a long time. I have been waiting for the right person so that I can shift the burden on to his shoulders and go my way.”

“I don’t get it, Swamiji.”

“You’ll know that soon. But I now see waves of anger, hatred and resentment dashing against the shores of your mind. You still feel that you have been betrayed and want to settle your account at the earliest opporunity. Right?”

Tears of anger were rolling down Madhavan’s cheeks.

“Don’t worry. You are God’s favoured child. The persons who wronged you are going to be paid back in their own tender. Several times over. But you have to forgive them first.”

Madhavan was silent.

“I am not asking you to practise forgiveness as a virtue, the way your religious scriptures demand. As your Doctor I am prescribing that as a life-saving drug.

“You are going to start a new life from today. You are dead to your past life. You are re-born today.

“Tomorrow is an auspicious new moon day. We are going to have a simple ceremony to give you a new name, followed by another ceremony to begin the teaching.”

Madhavan was surprised.

“New name for me? What is that And what are you going to teach me?”

Swamiji placed his hand on Madhavan’s head as if to bless him. Madhavan shivered while Swamiji spoke.

“I am going to name you Sethu. And I am going to teach you Varmakkalai.”




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PostSubject: Re: HE    Wed Jul 10, 2013 12:14 am

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HE - 15



“Tomorrow is an auspicious new moon day. We are going to have a simple ceremony to give you a new name, followed by another ceremony to begin the teaching.”

Madhavan was surprised.

“New name for me? What is that and what are you going to teach me?”

Swamiji placed his hand on Madhavan’s head as if to bless him. Madhavan shivered while Swamiji spoke.

“I am going to name you Sethu. And I am going to teach you Varmakkalai.”

The naming ceremony was held on wee hours of morning on the new moon day.

Swamiji explained the meaning of the verses that were chanted during the ceremony.

In the Hindu tradition whenever someone renounces the world to become a sanyasin he is given a new name so that he does not psychologically cling to his worldly past.

Sethu was not initiated into sanyas but some of those verses had a special meaning for him. Swamiji explained their significance.

“Sanyas is not renouncing your wealth or relationships. It is an absolute renunciation of the past and the future. It’s completely living in the present.

“If you want to live in the present, if you want to forgive your enemies, the first thing you need to do is die to your past.

“This very moment I pronounce Madhavan dead. And Sethu is born in his stead. The word Sethu means a bridge. Your new name and your activities from now on will be a bridge between you and your happiness.”

The lessons started in all earnestness soon after the naming ceremony.

“Varmakkalai is the least violent of all the martial arts. Yes, you can maim and kill a person with this art. But you can also heal.

“With the kind of healing powers it possesses, I doubt whether we can still classify it under the heading, martial arts. And in no other science is such an intimate knowledge of a human body made available to us. You have to know your body in order to go beyond it. “

“It normally takes 10 years to master the art. But we don’t have that kind of time now. I am going to give you an intense course on the principal methods of attack and defence. You have to first know the various “varmas” or the “vital points” in the body….”

The Varmakkalai lessons were in the morning while in the afternoons Swamiji taught him the Varma Soothiram, the basic Tamil science of healing from which Varmakkalai was born.

“Compared to Varma Soothiram the Allopathic system of medicine is very violent. Allopathy has an unhealthy focus on the diseases of the body, whereas this system focusses on health.

“Modern medicine does not even faintly suspect that human beings are something more than their bodies. That’s why it is becoming more and more inhuman with every medical advancement.

“But in Varma Soothiram the cure is for a specific person with a mind, heart and soul. The cure is not for a specific disease.”

Sethu’s mind became highly focussed. After a while Swamiji segregated him from the rest of the crowd to have a special one to one lesson late in the night.

Unlike a modern University where the lessons are transferred from the minds of the professors to those of the students, in most cases, in a mindless manner, Swamiji’s lessons came from his heart and was mixed with an extra dose of love the teacher had for his student.

No wonder the learning process was also a kind of unique psychotherapy for Sethu.

Swamiji specially taught him the art of massaging the human body. He explained to him that the masseur should be in a state of meditative silence and be praying to God for the health and well-being of the person who has placed himself at the mercy of the masseur.

Sethu was asked to lie down and Swamiji himself did a perfect massage on him making him feel the various pressure points on his body. Then he made another student to lie down on the massage table and demonstrated the treatment.

“If massaging is properly done it will remove not only the bodily pains but also the waste the mind has accumulated.

“By juggling the positions and the pressure points you can make a person sleep, or wake him up, arouse him sexually, kill all his sexual desires, give him added vigour, or destroy all his energy.“

Two and a half years rolled by. Madhavan was virtually dead. In his place was a much more matured, a much more balanced, a much wiser and a much kinder Sethu. Swamiji had been closely monitoring his progress.

It was a full Moon day. Swamiji and Sethu were sitting near the sea and discussing some intricate points of Varma Soothiram.

Swamiji was impressed by Sethu’s learning.

“Sethu, my child, what started on a new moon day has come to a culmination on this full Moon day. Your lessons are over. You are going to leave us soon.”

Sethu had never expected that.

He was now at home in the Ashram. He had started teaching the other students. He was also massaging the people who came to the Ashram. He was sought after by students and the patients.

He was very comfortable there. He could not think of a life outside the Ashram without the loving Swamiji to bless him every day.

“But Swamiji, I don’t want to go. I’ll spend the rest of my life here in this Ashram, doing service to you and the people around here. Make me a sanyasin like yourself.”

“Don’t be foolish, Sethu. You are not meant to be here. If I had made you to cling to me, then I have failed as your Master.

“The real Master makes him unnecessary soon after the teaching his over. The real master is dispensable and has to be necessarily so. Only fakes manipulate to make themselves indispensable.”

“Swamiji, the outside world is cruel.. .. greedy….”

“Agreed. But that’s the only real world we have, Sethu. This Ashram is not real. This is a make-believe. This is like the simulated flight where pilots are trained. But you have to fly a real aircraft in the real world. Otherwise your training is useless.

“Sethu, human relationships is the only school where you can learn, grow and one day become enlightened.

“Enlightenment is not running away from relationships; it is not taking refuge in the Himalayas. Enlightenment is the art of moving with your fellow creatures while preserving the majesty and serenity of the Himalayas in the deepest parts of your being.”

“Swamiji.. how.. can I manage…”

Swamiji laughed aloud.

“Remember Sethu when you came in as Madhavan two and a half years ago, I told you that I will drive your car for you for a while.

“That was because your car had come off the road and you did not know how to get it back on the road. I have now got it ready for you. It’s time you take charge of your vehicle.”

“But I want to see you .. be with you…..”

“Whenever you are true to my teaching, whenever your touch heals, whenever you give happiness to another human being, remember I will be with you.

“Attachment to a physical form, even if it is that of one’s Guru or for that matter, even that of God, is a major roadblock on the path of spiritual development.”

Sethu did not know what to say.

“I am not going to you send you alone. You have been denied a mother’s love in this life till now. I am going to get you a mother and send you out along with her.”

Before the end of that month Nalini came crying to Swamiji. She could not have a child of her own and her husband had deserted her. Swamiji handed over Sethu to her care.

Nalini knew only some sketchy details of Sethu’s past. Swamiji had just told her that Sethu had been cheated by his wife and his friends.

Nalini did not even have a wink of sleep. She knew that Sethu had planned an attack on Balki only on that night. Sethu had promised to call her first thing in the morning. Till she heard from Sethu that he was safe, she could not be peaceful.

Sharada on the other hand had a nice sleep. She felt kind of “arrived in life” when Sethu accepted her love. She knew that their marriage was beset with a lot of problems. But for her Sethu’s love in itself was more than enough.

Sharada woke up in the middle of the night. Nalini was sitting up on her bed. Sharada got up and placed her hands on Nalini’s shoulders. It was 2 AM.

“Are you all right, Nalini?”

“I am not. I am scared to death because of that idiot. Does he think he is God? Who is he to punish that villain? He is not punishing Balki; he is punishing me. I cant bear this any more, Sharada.”

“Oh, Nalini, when will you understand Sethu? He is far more powerful and intelligent than Balki. Don’t worry. You’ll get a call from Sethu early in the morning. Now, please try to get some sleep.”

Sharada was woken up by Nalini at 6:30.

“Good Morning, Nalini.”

Nalini did not have the mind to reciprocate her greeting.

“I haven’t got a call from Sethu yet. If I stay here any longer I am sure to die of a heart attack. I am going to Sethu’s flat right now. Do you want to come along?”

“Sure.”

“You have just ten minutes to get ready.”

Sharada had never seen Nalini talking in that tone. But she could understand a mother’s anguish.

When Nalini and Sharada reached Sethu’s flat in Ram Nagar, Saidapet, it was half past seven.

Nalini virtually ran the two flights of stairs. She pressed the bell with all her might. There was no response. She tried calling him. She was knocking the door vehemently. Still there was no response.

“You see that idiot has not come yet. Now what are we going to do? Should we call the Police? What can we tell them? That Sethu being God Himself went out to punish evil and is now missing in action. We will make fools of ourselves.”

“Nalini, why are you getting worked up? Let me see.”

Sharada tried to open the door and it opened. Sethu had not locked it. Nalini ran into the flat followed by Sharada.

Sethu was in his bed. His mouth was continually mumbling something. She placed her ears close to his mouth.

She could not make any sense of what Sethu said.Then she instinctively placed her hands on his forehead. It was as hot as an oven.

“My God! He has a very high fever. He has lapsed into dementia.”

Till the Doctor came, examined Sethu and told them that there was nothing to worry, Nailni was restless. Sharada was a little concerned but peaceful.

In the meanwhile Sethu had woken up and was fully alert.

“I have prescribed some paracetamols and antibiotics. Let him take rest for two days. He’ll be fine.”

Nalini heaved a sigh of relief. She was back to her old charming self.

As soon as the Doctor left the place, Sethu started to talk.

“Ma’am, please, there’s no need for those medicines.”

“Are you crazy, Sethu?”

“No, I am not, Ma’am. My body will violently react to antibiotics. I will be cured just by changing my food for today and tomorrow. And that’s the first lesson in Varma Soothiram. Food when taken properly is a medicine that heals. And when taken improperly it’s a poison that kills.”

“Ok,ok, don’t start a lecture now. Tell me what happened? Why the hell did you forget to call me?”

Sethu told her everything. He also told her about the guilt he was carrying in his mind.

“I have violated my vows, Ma’am. I have betrayed my Swamiji. He is never going to forgive me.

Why should I hit an innocent bystander? And that too with so much force? I am sure he is going to be paralysed for the rest of his life.”

“Do you know who the person is?”

Sharada wanted to help.

“Can you describe him to me?”

“It was dark. I could not see his face clearly. He should be in his fifties. My hitting him was almost a reflex action.”

“Sethu, don’t let guilt overwhelm you. When you did that you acted as if you were possessed by something, some unseen force. You did not plan to hit that spectator in the same way you did, to hit Balki.

“So there was some greater force which acted through you. Now raise a question within you, “Why on earth did I do that?”

“Don’t become judgmental. That’s not going to get you anywhere. Try to understand and not to judge.

“Don’t you remember the words of our Swamiji – “When you want to know something, throw yourself into Nature’s lap. Mother Nature has an astonishing way of answering all your questions, even the ones you have not yet thought of.”

Sethu was pacified to an extent. Nalini held his hands in hers and told him in softly,

“Now relax. Don’t worry about anything.”

Sethu was completely pacified. Nalini stood up and turned to Sharada.

“Sharada.. can.. you..”

“Don’t worry, Nalini, I’ll be here with him. I will prepare his food and attend on him.”

Sethu tried to decline. But the ladies did not leave him any choice in the matter.

“Sharada, take care. I’ll come late in the evening. If you want anything call me on my mobile.”

Sharada was lying on the floor using her hand as a pillow. Sethu had taken nothing but a bowl of rice gruel.

Sethu offered to order lunch for Sharada from a nearby mess. But Sharada flatly refused. She also had the same rice gruel.

Sethu was peaceful now. Nalini, by her motherly love, had converted his guilt into a mystery. Sethu remembered the words of Swamiji quoted by Nalini.

He had now raised the question in his mind. His adoptive mother had driven him gracefully to Mother Nature’s lap. But even Sethu did not expect that Nature would give him the answers in less than two days.

Sharada had always slept in the softest of mattresses in airconditioned comfort. But now lying on the cool grey mosaic floor she felt very happy and fulfilled. Her happiness was so overwhelming that she could not get a wink of sleep.

She sat up every now and then just to see Sethu sleeping peacefully. She was almost drunk with happiness when she heard the door bell.

She checked the time. It was not even three in the afternoon. Nalini had promised to come only around seven.

She went to the door. Nalini’s face was ashen.

Sethu had also woken up.

Nalini and Sharada went into his bed room.

“I could not focus on my work. Just came to check on you.”

Nalini was not used to telling lies. And that clearly showed.

“Relax, Sethu. I’ll come again in the evening.”

As she was about to go she signed to Sharada to come out of the room.

Sharada allowed some time and then walked out of the room.

She was shocked to see a Police Inspector and two constables waiting for her.

Nalini spoke.

“Inspector, this is Sharada. Sharada, he came to the hotel searching for you. He badly wanted to see you. I had to bring him here.”

The Inspector was looking at Sharada.

“Madam, are you Mrs. Sharada Balakrishnan?”

Sharada mumbled a feeble yes.

“Did you walk out of your husband’s house on the 18th of last month?”

“Yes.”

“Did you take anything valuable from the house?”

Sharada remembered the jewels, shares and bank deposit receipts she took along with her.

“Yes. But they are all mine.”

“But you did carry some valuables from the house, right?”

“Yes.”

“I’m sorry,Madam. I have to arrest you.”

“What for, Inspector?”

“Mr.Balakrishnan has lodged a complaint that some valuables are missing from his house and he strongly suspects that you might have taken them with you.”

“But they are all mine, Inspector. I’ll give evidence.”

“Sorry, Madam, that’s for the Court to decide. Right now I have to arrest you on charges of theft.”

Sharada was shocked into silence.

“You don’t have to, Inspector. And you can’t.”

The voice startled them all. A middle-aged woman was walking towards them. She had the lawyer’s black coat over her white-coloured cotton saree.

Nalini’s face brightened.

“Thanks a lot for coming. I thought you are going to be late.”

“Don’t worry Nalini. I’ll take charge from now on.”

The Inspector was a little annoyed.

“But Madam, you are obstructing a Government servant from doing his duty.”

“Objection, Inspector. I am helping a Government servant to see what his real duty is.”

“Madam, this is an open and shut case. A theft has happened.”

“Objection again, Inspector. When a person takes her own property do they define it as theft? Have they amended the Indian Penal Code to enlarge the definition of theft? If so, they should have done it only last night. For I have not yet seen today’s law reports.”

The Inspector was annoyed. Then the lawyer now spoke in a language the Inspector could understand.

“Mr.Mariappan, I know you and you know me. I hear that your name is in the promotion list. You are going to be made an ASP soon. This wrong decision may cost you your long-pending promotion.

“Do you know that the complainant is in the hospital with a serious ailment? Are you aware that he cannot protect you any longer? I’ll personally sign a bond for this lady.

“Anytime you want I’ll bring her to the police station for enquiry. But if you insist on arresting her, remember that it will be a major news in tomorrow’s papers.

“Once that happens you can as well kiss your career good bye. It’s your call, Inspector. And you have exactly five minutes.”

The firmness and the politeness with which the threat was administered startled the wary police officer.

The lawyer took Nalini and Sharada aside. Nalini and Sharada were in tears. They did not know how to thank her.

“Nalini, she has to sign these papers right now. I am moving an anticipatory bail for her, just in case.

“But a lot of developments have taken place. I am so very excited. Why don’t you guys come to my office, let’s say, the day after tomorrow around seven?”

“We will.”

Meanwhile the Inspector had taken a decision.

“Madam, just give an assurance that this lady will not go out of town without letting us know. I fully rely on you.”

“Don’t worry, Inspector. And advance congratulations for your promotion. You have taken a very wise decision.”

The Inspector left the place.

Sharada held the lawyers hands again and thanked her.

“You saved my honour. I don’t even know your name.”

“Oh, I forgot. I am Advocate Kalpana.“

Of course Nalini and Sharada did not know that it was the same lawyer who had walked into Madhavan’s life as a guardian angel and had tried to warn him against the Vulture.




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PostSubject: Re: HE    Wed Jul 10, 2013 12:20 am

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HE - 16




Balki had lodged a complaint of theft against Sharada. He had also exerted pressure on the Police Department to arrest and humiliate her.

The Police came in search of Sharada. At the last minute the lady lawyer whom Nalini had called came to the rescue.

She threatened the Inspector of dire consequences if he dared to arrest Sharada on the basis of a frivolous complaint.

The Inspector relented.

“Madam, just give an assurance that this lady will not go out of town without letting us know. I fully rely on you.”

“Don’t worry, Inspector. And advance congratulations for your promotion. You have taken a very wise decision.”

The Inspector left the place.

Sharada held the lawyer’s hands again and thanked her.

“You saved my honour. I don’t even know your name.”

“Oh, I forgot. I am Advocate Kalpana.“

Of course Nalini and Sharada did not know that it was the same lawyer who had walked into Madhavan’s life as a guardian angel and had tried to warn him against the Vulture.

As soon as Kalpana left the place, Nalini and Sharada tip-toed into Sethu’s room. But that was not necessary as Sethu was sitting in his bed holding his head in his hands.

Nalini was concerned. She placed her hands on Sethu’s shoulders and asked him softly:

“Did we disturb you, Sethu? Are you all right?”

Sethu looked up as if he was waking up from a nightmare. His eyes were red.

“What happened Sethu? I’ll call the Doctor.”

Sethu did not speak. He just told her by signs that there was no need for the Doctor. He took a whole minute to compose himself and asked in a voice void of all emotions.

“What’s happening around me? I saw policemen. I heard heated arguments.”

Sharada and Nalini exchanged meaningful glances. Sharada was a little hesitant. But Nalini did not want to hide anything.

“Since you were sick, we did not want to bother you with all those things. Balki had lodged a criminal complaint agaist Sharada, that she had stolen his things.

“The Inspector came to Le Meridien to arrest her. I had no option but to bring him here. Meanwhile I had alerted my friend. She came at the last minute and saved the day.”

“Oh,that was your friend? Her voice sounded familiar to me. I think I have met her. Was she a lawyer?”

“Yes.”

“What’s her name?”

“Kalpana. Why are you asking?”

“Oh My God!”

Sethu almost wailed. That baritone voice was just a fading memory in Sethu’s mind. He vaguely associated that with that of a lawyer.

But when he heard the name Kalpana, the last pieces of the jigsaw puzzle fell into place. Sethu remembered the only meeting he had with her in her club. Whatever happened thereafter came to his mind as if it was happening only now.

Nalini and Sharada were taken aback by his sudden outburst. Both the ladies went near Sethu and placed their hands on him.

“What happened Sethu? Do you know her?”

Sethu was silent. Nalini could see tears running down his cheeks. Nobody spoke for the next two minutes.

Nalini’s hands were on Sethu’s shoulder. She now increased the pressure.

“I can guess that Kalpana belongs to your earlier life. She should be associated with a very bitter happening in your life, which you are trying hard to forget.

“Don’t try to bury those feelings in you, Sethu. Out with it. After all you are going to talk to two women, to whom you are dearer than their own lives.”

Sethu looked up and saw the faces of Nalini and Sharada. There was nothing but love and concern in them.

Having professed his love to Sharada, he had to reveal his past life to her one day or the other. And why not today?.

Sethu started to talk.

Two days later.

Sharada was tossing and turning in her bed. She checked the time on the digital clock in the side table. It was 2 AM.

She and Nalini were sleeping at a suite in Le Meridien. She looked at Nalini. She was sleeping peacefully. At least it appeared so.

Nalini and Sharada had gone to bed only an hour ago.

The previous day was the most eventful day in Sharada’s life. Never in the past had so much happened in so short a time. She would never forget the day in a hundred years.

She remembered every minute detail connected with the day. She remembered the sky blue cotton saree she wore when she went to that fateful meeting with Advocate Kalpana.

She also remembered Sethu’s dress – pale blue faded jean-trousers and a yellow shirt. And Nalini’s too – dark grey business suit.

She remembered the long drive from Le Meridien to Kalpana’s spacious office in Anna Nagar West.

The scene at Kalpana’s office was re-enacted in her mind again and again. She vividly remembered the mild buzz of the room airconditioner.

She remembered seeing Kalpana’s clean table. She even remembered the small quote placed in the table. ‘A clean desk is a sign of a sick mind.’

Then her mind drifted to Sethu’s past life as Madhavan. He had been the CEO of a leading ad agency. She remembered Sethu talking about his marriage to Priya and how she betrayed him in the end. Sethu had also explained Kalpana’s role in preventing the disaster.

Nalini and Sharada had sat through the whole narration in a state of shock. Now they admired Sethu even more.

How can the CEO of a million dollar company be a humble masseur and could make himself available at the beck and call of ordinary men?

Only a great Master like Swamiji was capable of such an alchemy. He not only erased the name Madhavan from Sethu’s heart but also the ego that clung to that name. Swamiji was no ordinary saint. He was a manifestation of God, mused Nalini.

Nalini took Sethu and Sharada along with her to Le Meridien. She asked Sethu to stay in the hotel itself for a few days for security reasons.

Two days later when Nalini and Sharada went to meet Kalpana, they requested Sethu to join them.

“Ma’am, you two go first and discuss Sharada’s case. If she sees me then she cant talk about anything else. I will join you later.”

‘Smart thinking’, thought Sharada.

When the two ladies were ushered into Kalpana’s chambers, she was still in a state of excitement. After exchanging pleasantries, Kalpana blurted out,

“You know guys, justice has been restored in this world. God is very active.”

“I don’t get you Kalpana.”

“Ok, let me tell you what happened. Sharada’s husband Balki was attacked by a mysterious man four days ago. Balki has lost his speech.

“The Doctors say that it may take six months to one year for him to regain his speech. But even then the recovery wont be complete.”

Sharada and Nalini had to put up a great show of being shocked by this news.

“But you know, Nalini, Balki had engaged a cut-throat, crooked, villanous, kick-ass lawyer for his divorce case.

“Had that lawyer conducted this case Sharada would have been torn to pieces. She would have been humiliated and driven to suicide.

“Luckily for us that lawyer was also with Balki when he was attacked. He tried to defend Balki. The assailant attacked the lawyer so violently that he is paralysed now. The Doctors say that he will have to be a vegetable for the rest of his life.”

Sharada reached for Nalini’s hand and held it tight. She did it under the table without Kalpana finding it out.

Nalini cleared her throat and asked in a tone which suggested that she was the least interested in that person.

“Who’s he? Is he a big lawyer?”

“No, but the worst lawyer the Madras Bar has ever seen. The worst specimen of a human being. I don’t even call him by name. He is known as the Vulture in our circles.”

Nalini remembered the name and made a note to tell Sethu.

“The person who attacked the Vulture must be Lord Krishna Himself . He fulfilled His promise given in Gita, that He will be born in every yuga to annihilate evil. Vinasaya cha Dhuskritham sambavami yuge yuge.

“It is celebration time for us. Those who know the Vulture will have a greater celebration on the day he was paralysed than on Diwali.

“The Police Department also knows about the Vulture. That’s why they are not very enthusiastic to trace the assailant.”

Nalini was eagerly swallowing every word Kalpana spoke. She wanted to reproduce them faithfully to Sethu later.

Nalini felt relieved. She steered the conversation to the pressing problems at hand.

“Kalpana, were you able to get an anticipatory bail for Sharada? I don’t want that Inspector to come tomorrow and drag her to the police station.”

“You will never believe this, Nalini. And Sharada you too. You are a very lucky girl, dear. With Balki in bed and with the Vulture paralysed, Sharada’s case is now being handled by a really nice lawyer, a former colleague of mine.

“We had a very frank discussion yesterday. Balki is now ready for an out of court settlement. I got the best deal for Sharada. Balki and Sharada will file for a mutual consent divorce under Section 13B of the Hindu Marriages Act.

“Balki will pay Rupees one crore to Sharada as alimony settlement. He will withdraw all the criminal complaints filed against her. Since he has already filed for divorce we will have all the terms made into a court decree.”

“But I don’t want his money.”

“Don’t be stupid, Sharada. He is worth at least Rupees 10 crores and what you are getting is only a pittance. Actually I wanted to press for half of his wealth. But seeing his pathetic condition I didn’t want to do that.

“If you don’t want the money, get it from him and then give it to a good cause. But if you don’t accept the money, Balki will spend it only on wine and women once he is cured.”

Sharada relented.

“Please come to my club tomorrow evening around six. His lawyer will also be there. We’ll sign the papers there. Any questions?”

Sethu could not have entered the scene at a better time. As Kalpana’s secretary led him into the room Kalpana stood up as if she were seeing a ghost

“Are you… are you… by any chance.. are you.. Mister……”

Sethu let out his characteristic smile.

“Yes, Ma’am, I’m Madhavan. CEO, Ad India. How do you do, Ma’am?”

“My God? Am I dreaming or what? What’s happening? Nalini, please tell me that this is just a dream.”

“Oh, Kalpana, you are very excited. Cool down. He’s for real. Yes, he is Madhavan. Now living in cognito as Sethu, as a masseur in our hotel.”

“Really? Please have a seat, Mr. Madhavan.”

Kalpana gulped a full glass of water and buzzed for more.

“Looks like all of us can use a cup of hot filter coffee.”

Everyone nodded. Kalpana buzzed for her secretary.

Kalpana could not even talk coherently.

Sethu started narrating his story from the psychiatrist’s clinic to the Swamiji’s Ashram in Trivandrum and from there to Le Meridien.

“Well, Mr. Madhavan, I too have a lot to tell you. I will start with Priya. You know she…”

Madhavan did not let Kalpana finish.

“Please, Ma’am, don’t ever talk about that horrible woman. She’s a bitch…”

“WILL YOU SHUT UP? ARE YOU A FOOL? ARE YOU CRAZY? HOW DARE YOU TALK ABOUT PRIYA LIKE THAT? ONE MORE WRONG WORD ON HER, YOU HAD IT. ”

Kalpana was trembling in rage. Sethu was taken aback. He looked at Nalini and Sharada. They were frozen in their places.

Kalpana gulped down another glass of water. She was a little mollified now.

“Ok, I’m sorry, Madhavan. And sorry, Nalini and Sharada. At times when someone dear to you, someone precious is maligned, you cant control herself. “

Sethu was still in a state of fear.

“Sorry again, Madhavan. “

Sethu relaxed and asked talked almost in a whisper.

“Mrs. Kalpana, do you remember our last meeting at your club? It was you who hinted about Priya. I was outraged at that time.

“I don’t have any information on her. But the way she turned the tables against me at the psychiatrist’s clinic, I thought afterall what you said might be true. She might be having an affa…”

“STOP. STOP. Madhavan, please don’t test my patience. Another word on Priya’s character, I won’t be what I am.”

Madhavan was dumbstruck now. What happened to Kalpana?

Kalpana buzzed her Secretary for a jug of cool water. Until she drank two full glasses of water she did not speak.

“Madhavan, I am not a woman of strong character. In those days, in my youth, I fell for the Vulture. I deserted my husband and in a way I was responsible for my husband’s death. But, Priya, Priya… she .. she.. is…”

Kalpana was overwhelmed with emotions. After a while she completed the sentence.

“She’s a goddess, Madhavan. She’s a goddess of love. It was only her blind love for you that got her into trouble. She wanted to see you happy at any cost. That was why she went out of the way to hire the Vulture and acquired Smart Ads.”

Madhavan was looking at Kalpana’s face.

“ Madhavan, You should have done penance for a hundred lives to get a wife like Priya. You know what’s your greatest achievement in life?

“It’s not your growth from an orphan to a millionaire. It’s not your Ad India or your business achievements. It’s Priya.

“Your marrying Priya was your greatest accomplishment. Boy, you won a jackpot there. God doesn’t make anybody like Priya these days.”

Sethu frowned for he did not understand a word of what Kalpana said.

Meanwhile cofee had come. They sipped the strong brew in absolute silence.

Kalpana wiped her lips with a tissue and started narrating Priya’s story.

“I got the first break in your case almost two months after that incident, I mean whatever happened in the psychiatrist’s office.

One of the Vulture’s accomplices was caught by the Police for an unrelated offence. He was wrongly implicated in a murder case. His name was Nathan.

“It was he who acted as the ‘psyciatrist’ on that day. The Vulture wanted to get rid of him and so he did not come forward to defend him. Through my police connections I got to know all these and stuck a deal with Nathan.

“If he squealed on the Vulture especially what he did to you and Priya, I’ll do my best to secure his acquittal

“Only through him I learnt that the Vulture staged your deaths as if they happened in a road accident. And that you escaped from his henchmen while you were being taken to Trivandrum to be sold for your organs.

“When Nathan told me how Priya was duped, I wanted to wring the Vulture’s neck with my own hands.”

When Kalpana paused for drinking water, Madhavan’s heart was close to his throat. Had he spat at that time his heart would have fallen out along with his saliva.

“You remember the only meeting we had. That was videotaped by the Vulture’s men. They then added special effects to the video. I was horrified when I saw that.

“Vulture hired real professionals to do the job. I don’t have the heart to go into all the lurid details. In short it was made to look as if we two had an affair and were conspiring to kill Priya.

“This was shown to Priya. Even then she could not believe her eyes. She wanted to confront you. But the Vulture cleverly kept her away from you, telling her that you were suffering from some kind of manic depression and that you had gone nuts.

“Otherwise you were not the kind of person to loaf around with women, especially a woman like me.

“That poor girl, that angel of love, believed his words, Madhavan.”

Kalpana tried pretty hard to muffle her sob. But failed. All the eyes were wet. It looked as if Sethu was going to burst with sobs.

“The Vulture convinced her that you required medical help and to make you visit the psychiatrist, he made her tell you that she was the one who was depressed.

“The Vulture knew the love you had for Priya. You melted, threw everything else and went along with Priya. Little did you know that the whole clinic was a set-up. And the ‘psychiatrist’ was none other than Nathan, Vulture’s man.

“Priya saw you being taken out of the room. At that moment she realised that she had been tricked. She knew only then that she had been trapped by the Vulture.

“You should hear Nathan describe that scene, Madhavan. Though that rogue was ready to kill Priya if his Boss wanted to, he was simply taken back on seeing the look on Priya’s face when you were dragged out of the room.

It was not just a pointless stare, he says. With whatever vocabulary he had he conveyed to me that he had never seen a woman so much in love with a man. Time froze for Priya at that very moment. She lost her mind.”

Now Madhavan was sobbing.

Kalpana wiped her eyes and continued.

“The Vulture got Priya admitted at NIMHANS, Bangalore under a false name. Since it was Nathan who admitted her, I was able to get her discharged. But Madhavan, for the past five years, she continues to be in a state of shock.

“She is not violent. Somebody has to feed her. Somebody has to dress her up. And take care of her personal needs.

“She doesn’t talk at all. The only thing she does all day is to write your name again and again in a note book. You know during the last five years she has filled up a whole room with those note books.”

Madhavan wanted to ask, “Where’s she now?” . He gesticulated but no words would come out. But Kalpana understood his question.

“I knew that the Vulture would try to harm her. So I moved her over to…”

Kalpana’s mobile rang at that moment. Every one was irritated. It was Balki’s lawyer asking for some details on the settlement they had arrived at. Kalpana gave the information he wanted and resumed the narration.

“Priya is in Trivandrum now. I have housed her in a secure apartment. I have appointed armed guards round the clock to protect her. I have also got three nurses and three maids to look after her. I visit her every month.

“I have had her examined by the best of Doctors. They are not very hopeful, Madhavan. But with you in the scene, I am sure, she will become normal quite soon.”

Madhavan could not speak. He folded his hands towards Kalpana.

“It’s all right, Madhavan. Taking care of Priya and helping her out is a kind of expiation for my sins. I betrayed my husband. I killed him. I didn’t know what true love is.

“I fell for that crook and destroyed my family. By helping Priya, I am sure she will bless me and make me know what true love is, at least in my next birth. So in the end, it’s all for selfish reasons, Madhavan.”

Madhavan had to some extent regained his composure.

“You should have spent quite a lot of money on Priya. I don’t know how I am going to pay you back, because I don’t have any money now. I don’t know how I am going to repay your kindness.”

“Kindness is not meant be repaid, Madhavan. Accepting kindness is in itself its reciprocation. As to the money part, I am only spending your money.”

“My money? Are you kidding?”

“I’m not. Soon after you two disappeared from the scene, the Vulture sold Ad India to a large ad company in North India. He had fabricated the documents in his favour and had transferred your shares and Priya’s shares to his name.

“I challenged the transfer and had the sale consideration frozen by the court. Since the sale consideration came in the form shares in the new company, that frozen assets are worth more than fifty crores today.

“The Vulture wanted to come to terms with me. He offered to pay a third of your wealth to me, if I opted out of the case. By then I had learnt the art of thinking like the Vulture.

“I offered a different deal to him. I told him that if we do not hear from you for seven years, then he can take the entire wealth at the end of the seventh year. Till then the shares will be in the custody of the Court.

“And till that time he should pay me Rs.50,000 per month. As I expected he jumped on this deal. I’ve been using that money for Priya. And your entire wealth is safe.”

Sethu and Kalpana were talking almost till midnight. The consensus was that he and Kalpana should go to Trivandrum to see Priya in the next two days.

Kalpana will commence legal proceedings to get back Madhavan’s wealth locked up in the Court. With the Vulture out of the scene, that was just a routine matter, and could be accomplished in less than six months time.

Sharada was too awed by the developments. Sethu was no ordinary masseur but a millionaire. That was in itself not a problem. But Priya was there. Sethu rightfully belonged to her.

It was time for Sharada to walk out of Sethu’s life. She no longer belonged there. Where would she go? She had been living out of a suit case for the past few days.

Now she had to find a house for herself. Money would not be a problem. But she had to live all alone. She had been dreaming a life of happiness with Sethu by her side. But that has become an impossibility now.

She was now condemned to life-long loneliness. She had lost her only love in life.

All these thoughts produced an audible sob in her. Nalini sat up and switched on the light. Sharada also sat up. Nalini hugged Sharada.

“Sharada, Sharu dear, what happened?”

“Nalini, I’m cursed to live alone. Sethu has found his wife, he has got back his lost wealth. I am now an intruder in their lives. I need to find my own way. Who’s there for me?”

Sharada was crying. Nalini held her in her arms and let her cry.

“Sharada, please understand, all of us have to face our life alone. Do you remember what happened to Sethu? On that fateful day in the psychiatrist’s clinic, he was all alone, though he had a loving wife, dozens of loyal employees and hundreds of loving friends.

“He was alone when his captors tried to smuggle him to Trivandrum to sell him for his organs.

“Each one of us is mercilessly created to be alone. We do not have a choice in that. But we do have a choice whether to feel lonely or not. You have already chosen to feel lonely. I thought you are going to be with me for ever. But you did not consider me as worthy of your company”

“Nalini” Sharada buried her face in Nalini’s chest and started crying again.

“We are going to Trivandrum along with Sethu and Kalpana. I have already discussed that with Sethu. I have made all the arrangements. We should see Priya. And we should meet the Swamiji.

“Don’t ever think that you can understand your life, especially at this time, with your ego. You need help from above.

“Now try to get some sleep, Sharu dear."




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PostSubject: Re: HE    Wed Jul 10, 2013 12:28 am

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HE - 17




Sharada had a sleepless night thanks to the sudden developments in Sethu’s life. With Priya coming into the picture, she had lost her only love in her life.
It was Nalini who consoled her.

“Each one of us is mercilessly created to be alone. We do not have a choice in that. But we do have a choice whether to feel lonely or not. You have already chosen to feel lonely. I thought you are going to be with me for ever. But you did not consider me as worthy of your company”

“Nalini” Sharada buried her face in Nalini’s chest and started crying again.

“We are going to Trivandrum along with Sethu and Kalpana. I have already discussed that with Sethu. I have made all the arrangements. We should see Priya. And we should meet the Swamiji.

“Don’t ever think that you can understand your life, especially at this time, with your ego. You need help from above.

“Sharu dear, now try to get some sleep.”

They were all booked on the late evening Indian Airlines flight to Trivandrum. Sethu was restless. He was anxious to see Priya at the earliest.

In fact he wanted to go alone by the early morning flight. But Kalpana had insisted that she should come along for his first meeting with Priya. Because of some pressing professional work she could not come in the morning.

Kalpana was also concerned about the security arrangements. She was constantly worried about the vicious propensities of the Vulture. She told Nalini not to book the tickets through Le Meridien’s travel desk.

Nalini should book the tickets personally through Internet in a secure system so that no one else knew about their travel.

When Nalini offered to book hotel accommodation for them at a star hotel which was Le Meridien’s associate in Trivandrum, Kalpana vetoed it.

She preferred to stay in a budget hotel located in a crowded area in the heart of the town. So Nalini had booked three rooms in different floors in Hotel Arya Nivas.

As advised by Kalpana, Nalini had completed the flight check-in for all the four of them through the Net.

She had chosen two seats each in adjacent rows.

Sethu, Nalini and Sharada drove to the airport in a black and yellow taxi, again for security reasons. Sethu was seated in the front and Nalini and Sharada in the rear.

During the short travel from Le Meridien to the Airport, all the three were silent, each lost in their own thoughts and concerns.

They arrived at the airport thirty minutes before the departure time. The flight was on time.

Kalpana was waiting for them. After a brief exchange of courtesies they all went for security check. None of them had any check-in baggage.

When the departure was announced there was a rush near the gate. The passengers who had waited for hours on end, suddenly felt the urgency and everyone wanted to get into his seat ahead of the others.

It was quite typical of Indian passengers to scramble towards the terminal gate in a state of irrational fear that the craft would leave without them.

Sethu had gone in first and the ladies were left behind.

Nalini walked into the craft followed by Sharada and Kalpana in a single file. Nalini had occupied a window seat and Sethu another, in the row behind her.

Sharada was instinctively drawn towards Sethu. She wanted to sit with him for the ninty-minute journey, perhaps her last chance to sit near him. She placed her hand baggage in the cabin above Sethu’s head and was about to slide beside him.

Then she thought that getting a little more close to Sethu at this time would only serve to make the parting more painful. Sethu might be preoccupied with his wife’s illness and might not even talk to her.

Sitting by his side, in any case, would only accentuate her parting sorrow.

In the flash of a second, she changed her mind, came out of that row and went to sit near Nalini.

Kalpana who had planned to sit there smiled at Sharada and went back to sit near Sethu. She had an expression of wonder in her face which suggested, ‘What happened to Sharada?’

Sethu was lost in thoughts. Only Nalini was fully aware of the small drama that happened in Sharada’s mind.

As soon as Sharada sat down by her side, Nalini reached for the fingers of her hand wove her fingers with them.

Sharada looked at the soft expression on Nalini’s face and knew that Nalini knew her dilemma.

“Sharu, I know what you were thinking. You wanted to sit near Sethu, perhaps for one last time. But then you were not very sure. You might have thought that it would only make parting even more bitter and painful.”

Sharada did not speak. But the extra pressure she exerted on Nalini’s hands conveyed her thoughts very eloquently.

“See Sharada, this is the beauty of love. Had you not known Sethu at all, had he been a perfect stranger to you, you would not have thought twice about sitting near him.



"But having loved him and now having lost him, you are tormenting yourself on this simple, mundane decision.”

Sharada did not speak. This time the response to Nalini’s words were given even more eloquently by the tears rolling down her beautiful cheeks.

Nalini dried them with her other hand.

“My dearest Sharu Kannamma, after having Sethu as my son I thought I will have you as my daughter-in-law. But with this turn of events, I am going to have you as my darling daughter.

“I had always wanted to have a girl. You are the child I could not give birth to. Will you let me be your mother, dear?”

Sharada stared at Nalini.


“How do you like the promotion, dear, from being a daughter-in-law to a daughter?”

Nalini asked her with a teasing smile.

Sharada’s sob was quite audible. She placed her head on Nalini’s shoulders and started crying.

The stewardess started a demonstration of seat belts and the oxygen masks.

The flight touched Trivandrum around half past nine. Kalpana had strictly ordered not to use cabs from any reputed cab service. They engaged a taxi at the airport and drove to Hotel Arya Nivas.

The three rooms they had booked were on three different floors. Sethu stayed in the room in the third floor. Kalpana in the second floor and Nalini and Sharada in the first.

“Can we go and see Priya now?”

Madhavan asked Kalpana. She saw the time. It was half past ten.

“She will be sleeping.”

“Let’s not wake her up or disturb her. Let’s just have a look and come back.”

“Madhavan, you have waited for five years. Can’t you wait for just a day more? We’ll go there first thing in the morning. Going there now will give raise to avoidable security concerns.

“We’ll have a light breakfast in our rooms and be ready by half past seven in the morning. We have a long day tomorrow. So let’s get some good sleep.”

They all agreed to the arrangement; but could not carry out the sleeping part. None of them had a wink of sleep that night.

The next morning. Everyone else except Sethu had a breakfast of hot idlis and dosas with chutney, sambar and chilli-powder, for which the hotel had a special recipe.

There was an overdose of gingelly seed and a whiff of garlic in the chilli-powder which made it a perfect accompaniment to the soft idlis and the crispy dosas. Sethu just had a cup of milk. He could not bring himself to eat anything without seeing Priya.

All the four drove to Thycaud area in Trivandrum where Priya was living in a secure apartment.

Kalpana got down first and told the apartment security staff about their arrival. A guard accompanied them to the third floor where Priya was staying. An armed guard was standing outside the apartment.

Kalpana had had to move heavan and earth to secure Government’s permission to post armed guard in that apartment. She also had to fight with the apartment’s association for that.

The guard recognised Kalpana and pressed the calling bell twice to announce that someone known had come. The nurses and maids had strict instructions never to open the door unless the bell is pressed twice.

Kalpana walked into the apartment and signalled others to follow. Madhavan was slightly shivering as he traced his footsteps on the cool tiled floor.

“Come here, Madhavan. “

It was a two-bedroom apartment. One of the bedrooms had been converted into a sort of “study.”

Madhavan froze in his place. Others too were startled.

A dark complexioned lady dressed in light blue cotton night gown was seated on a desk placed in the centre of the room. She was seriously engaged in writing something. She was in a world of her own and the visitors did not disturb her there.

It took a full minute for Madhavan to realise that it was Priya.

There was a nurse and a maid. They greeted Kalpana. They told her that Priya had just finished her breakfast of bread, butter and jam. She had had a bath earlier and was perfectly all right.

All the eyes were now focussed on Priya. Kalpana made a mental note to order cotton nightgowns and other casual wear. The one Priya was wearing had gone old.

Madhavan was crying silently.

For right before his eyes was his wife, his love, the darling of his eyes, Priya, who could not recognise him.

Madhavan went close to her and saw what she was writing.

The ladies followed suit.

“Madhavan dear, where are you?”

“Madhavan dear, where are you?”

These words were written with a flourish in long cursive writing. Priya’s handwriting was exquisite. Had she not been practising on almost the same set of words for the past five years daily, without a break?

Kalpana started her explanation.

“I showed a whole bunch of notebooks to a psychiatrist. His inference is like this: When she is desperate to see you, she uses these words. “Madhavan dear, where are you?”

“On days she misses you but is not so desperate, she writes, “I love you, Madhavan.” On some days she is very calm and peaceful when she just writes your name again and again.”

Sharada was rendered speechless by this show of love. She was now holding Nalini’s hands.

Seeing Priya in an old night gown, Nalini was reminded of a verse by the great poet Kalidasa, when he describes the beauty of Shakunthala. Shakunthala was a celestial beauty, a woman who should have adorned the richest of palaces in the world.

But she was born a daughter of a sanyasin and was brought up by another. So she did not have the finest silks to wear. She just had the tree-barks for dresses. Kalidasa becomes overwhelmed while imagining Shakunthala in such a poor dress.

He compares her to the moon. The moon does have some dark spots. But instead of marring the moon’s beauty these spots tend only to accentuate it. In the same way the wooden-barks which adorn Shakunthala’s person only enhance her beauty.

What the tree-barks did for Shakunthala the light blue night gown was doing to Priya.

Madhavan was drinking in Priya’s beauty. She had definitely slimmed down a lot, something she badly wanted to do in her heydays. But she appeared very healthy and robust.

She looked even more vulnerable. There was a kind of glow in her blemishless skin. Her face was serene. The worries of the world no longer affected her. She had virtually nothing to be concerned about.

Her mind was filled up with love for Madhavan. There was no other thought in that broken down mind.

Kalpana signalled Madhavan to go near Priya. Madhavan went close to her.

He made one heroic attempt to call her, “Priya, my love, my darling.” Nothing but a sob escaped from his mouth.

He placed his hand on Priya’s shoulder. When Priya looked up to see who it was, she resembled a rabbit frightened by the blindening headlight of the approaching car.

Was there a flicker of recognition in Priya’s eyes? Did she find her object of love, the focal point of her magnificent obsession?

It lasted only for a second. Priya resumed her work as if nothing happened. Madhavan was upset. He now tried to distract Priya. He shouted her name. There was no response.

Then he snatched her notebook. Priya looked up. She appeared hurt. She then looked up at the nurse who was attending on her. It was like a child complaining to the teacher about the class bully who had snatched her precious possession.

Sharada came forward, snatched the notebook back from Madhavan’s hands and placed it before Priya. She then placed her hand on her. Priya looked up at Sharada. Was there some kind of gratefulness in them? No one could tell.

Priya now resumed her work.

“Madhavan dear, where are you?”

“Madhavan dear, where are you?”

Madhavan then went before the table and sat on the floor. This way he could look straight into Priya’s eyes which was focussed on the notebook.

“PRIYA, I’M HERE. I’M VERY MUCH BEFORE YOU. PLEASE PRIYA, PLEASE, WAKE UP. PRIYA, PLEASE..”

All the eyes were wet.

When there was no response from Priya, Madhavan started sobbing. Nalini sat down on the floor by his side.

“Sethu, please. You can’t bring her back to senses by shouting or by pleading. You should know better. Come, let’s leave her alone for a while.”

Madhavan reluctantly stood up.

Kalpana signalled them all to go with her to a small store room near the kitchen. There were hundreds and hundreds of notebooks neatly arranged in stacks.

“This is how Priya spent her time during the last five years.”

Sharada took a notebook at random and started to read.

“I love you, my dear Madhavan.”

This sentence filled up the first few pages. The rest of the notebook just had his name written again and again.

She took another notebook. It was the same. She showed the notebook to Nalini. Nalini could not believe her eyes.

In that moment, while standing in the presence of supreme love, Sharada’s mind was instantly filled up with a kind of peace that, as they frequently say, surpassed all human understanding.

Not that her love for Sethu had evaporated. But that tormenting feeling, that inexplicable loneliness, the insurmountable grief, had all vanished without a trace.

For the first time during the last few days, Sharada was at peace with herself. There was an added glow in her face. She silently walked out of the room to savour those feelings all alone.

An hour later a weak Sethu walked out of the room. Nalini and Kalpana were walking on either side holding his hands.

Nalini checked the time. It was a quarter to ten in the morning.

“Kalpana, is it safe to move Priya out for a short while?”

“Where do you want to take her?”

“Having come this far, we should meet our Swamiji, Sethu’s Master and my spiritual guide. If he sees Priya it will be good for her.”

“Where is he?”

“Near Kovalam. It will be a forty, forty five minutes drive from here.”

“OK. You three go there first in the taxi, we came here. Priya, I and a nurse will follow you in another car. I will call you on your mobile for directions.“

Madhavan went to the waiting taxi as if he were walking in sleep.

Swamiji’s Ashram had not changed much in the last few years. It was still a cluster of huts spread over the beach area.

Swamiji’s disciples all dressed in different colours were busy with their morning routines. Some where meditating, some busy with body massage and a few others were reading silently.

Sethu met some of his old friends and was chatting up with them. He learnt that the Swamiji was with one of his sanyasins in his study.

They were all waiting for Priya and Kalpana. Sharada took an immediate liking to the place. The understanding she had had about love a few hours ago deepened further in that serene ambience.

Nalini was silently observing what was happening around her. She remembered the day she walked into the Ashram crying for the child she did not have and for the husband she had and lost.

When Priya was led into the enclosure by her nurse and Kalpana, almost all the eyes were on her. Anyday Priya was not a dazzling beauty like Sharada. Sharada was very fair whereas Priya was of dusky complexion.

But five full years of constantly professing love without any other distracting thought had added a beautiful serenity and a vulnerability to her face. Priya had not moved out of the aparment often. She was seeing the sun after a long time.

Priya was carrying a notebook in one hand and a pen in another. Madhavan could not take his eyes off from her.

Sethu asked a disciple to tell Swamiji about their coming to see him. He added that they were not in a hurry and would wait for Swamiji’s orders.

They were all called in after a few minutes.

Swamiji was seated in the centre of the room, a book open before him.

Sethu and Nalini prostrated before Swamiji, followed by Kalpana and Sharada. Swamiji blessed them all.

Sharada was seeing the Master for the first time. But she felt as if she had known him in many lives. As Kalpana, Sharada and Priya were introduced to the Swamiji there was so much of love in his eyes, that Sharada was reminded of what she heard from her Dance Master.

Sharada had heard that a particular type of fish could feed her hungry young ones merely by looking at them. A motherly glance loaded with love was more than enough to remove their hunger.

Once when she wanted to portray the Goddess of Madurai in her dance, her Dance Master explained the significance of the name, Meenakshi.

The popular explanation was that the Goddess had eyes which looked like a fish, long and beautiful. The real meaning was deeper and significant.

Like that type of fish which could quench her children’s hunger by merely looking at them, Meenakshi could provide for the spiritual hunger of her devotees by a look through the corner of her eyes.

Her Dance Master had told her that unless the full import of this explanation sank deeply into her mind, she could never hope to portray the grace of that loving Goddess.

In the same way the Swamiji was providing for his devotees merely by the look of his eyes.

Sharada’s face now glowed with so much radiance that the Swamiji who was talking to Nalini, suddenly turned his eyes towards Sharada and smiled at her. Sharada was shivering inside.

Sethu, Nalini and Kalpana took about an hour to fill in the Swamiji about the developments after Sethu left the Ashram. The rapt attention paid by the enlightened Swamiji was a moving sight.

The popular belief is that the enlightened beings like the Swamiji are set apart from the rest of the crowd, by their peculiar dress, their peculiar way of speaking, their eating habits, their restraint in matters of sensual pleasures and their capacity to do miracles.

But the ulitmate hallmark of enlightenment is the capacity to listen, to pay attention to what others say without letting our minds to interfere with the other’s words. Sethu had always marvelled at Swamiji’s capacity to listen, something which is very rare to find in the world these days.

When the narration was over every one became silent. Swamiji closed his eyes for a while. He was not lost in thought and would never be. In fact thoughts get lost in him.

After five minutes Swamiji opened his eyes. His eyes met those of every one present in that small hut.

Nalini spoke to Swamiji in a reverential whisper.

“Master, Priya has lost her mind. Sethu does not know what is the path ahead for him. And this fine girl, one of the best dancers of this country, Sharada, is now left alone in her life. Honestly, Master, I don’t know what to pray for.”

Swamiji’s laughter was like that of a child.

“That’s the problem with us Nalini. We always want to pray for something. Because in the heart of hearts we still assume that God is after all a dunce with enormous powers.

“So we need to tell him what we want and what exactly He should do for us.

“It’s like ordering food in your restaurant. You pick something from the menu card and ask the bearer to bring that.

“Some customers go one step further and even tell the bearer how they want their items to be cooked. We are no better, Nalini.

“For us God is like the bearer in your restaurant.

“Let’s just pray. Let’s not pray for this or that. God is who is infinite love knows our needs better than us.”

Everyone was silent for a while.

“Will you all stay with this poor man for a day?”

Sethu, Sharada and Nalini nodded. Kalpana talked to Priya’s nurse and after getting an assurance that she can stay with them, she turned towards the Swamiji and conveyed her assent.

“Make yourselves comfortable. We’ll meet here soon after breakfast. Keep praying. Who knows we might be shown the way tomorrow.

“Sharada, my child, you had a glimpse of divine love this morning. You’re blessed.

“You pray for all of us, dear. When you pray He can’t simply sit still in His place. He’ll start dancing in joy and give more than what we can ever hope to ask for from Him.”

All the eyes were now on Sharada.





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PostSubject: Re: HE    Wed Jul 10, 2013 12:35 am

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HE - 18 Final Episode




Swamiji asked them all to stay in his Ashram for a day. He hoped that he might get some insights when they all met him the next morning.

Sethu, Sharada and Nalini nodded their assent. Kalpana talked to Priya’s nurse and after getting an assurance that she can stay with them, she turned towards the Swamiji and conveyed her assent.

“Make yourselves comfortable. We’ll meet here soon after breakfast. Keep praying. Who knows we might be shown the way tomorrow.

“Sharada, my child, you had a glimpse of divine love this morning. You’re blessed.

“You pray for all of us, dear. When you pray He can’t simply sit still in His place. He’ll start dancing in joy and give more than what we can ever hope to ask for from Him.”

All the eyes were now on Sharada.

Sharada and Nalini were assigned to a comfortable hut close to the sea. Kalpana, Priya and her Nursewere housed in a larger hut on the opposite side.

Swamiji wanted to talk to Sethu about many things. He invited him to his hut.

Sethu’s mind had been heavy with a kind of a numb grief ever since he saw Priya.

In a way he was happy because his Priya was alive and safe. He was really moved by her blind love even in that mental state.

But he was also sad because Priya could not recognise him. Now that the intial shock of meeting Priya had waned off, he was more composed.

Priya had been like that during the last five years. It now dawned on Madhavan that it would be naïve to expect an instantaneous cure.

Swamiji knew that the only way to calm Sethu’s mind was to discuss about Varmakkalai and Varmasoothiram. And that was the reason for his inviting Sethu.

Usually their discussion on moonlit nights would be focussed on the intricate aspects of that ancient science.

But on that day Swamiji was probing deep into the teaching methods and the organised body of knowledge.

Some of the statements made by the Swamiji were quite incisive.

“Many of the Varmakkalai exponents I know including my own master have denounced the allopathic system of medicine. I have heard many Ayurveda and Homoeopathic doctors condemning allopathic system vehemently.

“Allopathy has its weaknesses. But these people have missed something very important.

“Allopathy is an open system. There is an organised body of knowledge. There is a regulated method of imparting that knowledge to the aspiring students.

“Research is a continuous process there happening within a system of rigorous quality controls and a system of checks and balances.

“Name any branch of medicine, Sethu. Cardiac surgery, nephrology, neurology endocrinology, oncology, plastic surgery or diabetalogy or even dental medicine – the kind of knowledge and experience we have today is at least ten times better than we had let’s say, some twenty years back.

“But all our esoteric systems including our Varmakkalai have not grown that much. Today any student who is fit and competent can opt for a course in English Medicine.

“But can any aspirant learn Varmasoothiram just like that? He has to come to a former shrink sitting at the Southern tip of the country having one foot on his grave.

“Naturally I don’t get the best of the students. I got to choose my students from out of the rejects of the educational system.

“You came here because of your peculiar circumstances. Your coming in to this Ashram was not just a defining moment for you, but for me as well.”

Sethu was perplexed. Why should Swamiji talk about all these things, to me, especially at this time?

Swamiji then steered the conversation to something else.

Sethu retired only in the wee hours of morning. He had a perfect, dreamless sleep for two hours, a blessing that had been denied to him for more than five years.

As soon as Sharada and Nalini were left alone in their assigned hut, Nalini hugged Sharada and held her in embrace for some time.

“Sharu Kannamma, my heart is going to burst with pride. If I had become a mother in the normal way, I am sure, I could never have begotten a gem like you.

“I have never seen the Master addressing someone with so much respect and so much love. When he asked you to pray for all of us, it looked as if he was talking to his spiritual equal.

“Sharu, I did notice that change in you when we were in Priya’s apartment. Your face started glowing all of a sudden. I think very soon our roles are going to be reversed. You are going to be my mother and I, your spiritual child.

“Sharu, try to teach that love to me. The love you had in your face when you were seeing Priya’s notebooks”

Sharada tightened her grip on Nalini and was shedding tears of love and happiness.

Swamiji’s benevolence was a poweful presence in the vicinity. Nalini and Sharada had a nice, dreamless sleep. They woke up pretty early in the morning thoroughly refreshed.

One night in the Ashram had done wonders to Priya. She had a nice sleep and got up in the morning earlier than usual. She was exceedingly calm. When the nurse took her to bath she was very compliant.

She was the first to arrive in the Swamiji’s hut along with Kalpana and the nurse.

Priya was dressed in a starched cotton saree in glowing yellow. None of them had planned for a night stay there. So they had not brought any change of dress.

Swamiji had organised cotton sarees for all the women, including the nurse and a dhoti and a cotton shirt for Sethu. The women chose the sarees based on the colour of the blouses they were wearing.

The yellow saree contrasted Priya’s dusky complexion and accentuated her sharp features which made her look even more beautiful

She sat near Swamiji’s seat and started her daily routine. She was just writing Madhavan’s name again and again. The nurse saw that and exchanged meaningful glances with Kalpana.

Priya’s choice of the mantra was an indication that she was now full of peace and her mind completely at rest, though not under control.

In a few minutes Madhavan walked in and sat very close to Priya. First she showed some signs of fear. Then she ignored him and resumed her work.

‘Madhavan’

‘Madhavan’……

Madhavan was silently observing her.

Nalini and Sharada walked in. Nalini was dressed in a pale green saree and Sharada in sparkling white. Her face was even more radiant that what it was, the previous day. The whiteness of the saree magnified the serenity in her face.

All of them except Priya stood up when Swamiji walked in.

Sethu went first and prostrated before the Swamiji. Kalpana followed suit. The nurse tried to make Priya do the same. But Swamiji signalled to her not to disturb Priya.

Nalini was the next to fall at Swamiji’s feet.

Finally it was Sharada’s turn. When Sharada stood up her eyes met those of the Swamiji.

Swamiji placed his hands on Sharada’s head.

“God bless you, my child. You have suffered enough in your life. But the divine grace you experienced yesterday is worth hundred times that suffering. Many people who have been suffering for aeons have been denied that Grace.

“God chose you. Remember my child, many are called but only a few are chosen.
From now on you will have nothing but happiness. You will never have another chance to know what loneliness is.”

Sharada’s sob was a result of her overflowing ecstasy. Nalini held her in her arms.

As soon as Sharada sat down, Swamiji continued to talk about Grace.

The English word Grace falls short of conveying the full meaning. The exact word for that phenomenon is “anugraha”. No other language in the world has even an approximate equivalent for that word. Anugraha is something that comes from the above.

“God’s Grace is not a result of penance, merit, good deeds, devotion, knowledge, wisdom or whatever you want to think of. You cannot explain His Grace by means of a cause-effect relationship.

Sages who have done penance for years have been denied that grace. A small boy offering a decayed fruit to a stray dog has got it just like that.

You don’t have to work for it or pray for it. You will have to cry for it. You will have to long for it, yearn for it, with the certain knowledge that there is no guarantee of getting it.”

When Swamiji finished his small speech a few other disciples had gathered there.

Swamiji called a senior disciple and asked him to have a look at Priya. Swamiji told him that she had lost her mind and whether he could think of something by way of curing her.

The disciple bowed to the Swamiji and went near Priya to examine her. He observed her eyes, her hands, her manner of sitting, the condition of her hair, everything. Then he went nearer to read what she was writing. ‘Madhavan’ ‘Madhavan’ ‘Madhavan’

The disciple came back to Swamiji and gave his prognosis.

“Master, if we can somehow bring in her lover, her ‘Madhavan’ then she can be cured.”

Sethu wanted to say something. But Swamiji signalled him to remain silent.

“Well, my son, the person sitting near her, our own Sethu is her Madhavan. In fact he came in here five years ago as Madhavan. It was I who gave the name Sethu to him.”

“Oh!”

There was a a slightly sarcastic smile on the face of the disciple which the Swamiji did not fail to notice..

“I can read your thoughts, my son. Can you please explain them for the benefit of others?”

“Sorry, Master, for saying this. I think she has really gone nuts and is there is no hope for her. When the object of her love is by her side in flesh and blood, why should she be foolishly writing his name? Or be thinking about him?”

Everyone was offended by the rude expression.

“She is no more crazy than you or the millions of people in this world. When you can see the real God in your fellow human beings and can shower your love on them, you choose to love a picture or a stone image of God.

“Is not that idolatory the height of craziness? There are people who do not take care of their own father and mother but go to the temple to pour milk on the form of God sitting there? To the loving God that milk will appear only as water from the sewage.”

The rude disciple was looking at the floor.

Swamiji now spoke to him in a loving voice.

“I called you here not to cure her, my son. I wanted you to be cured.

“I heard that you spent two hours before the idol in your hut yesterday, when your patients were waiting for your attention. Don’t ever do that again. Please go and meditate on these words.”

The disciple left the place.

Then without any forewarning Swamiji walked up to Priya and placed a hand on her head.

“Am I right, Priya?”

Swamiji asked her in a loud voice.

Priya looked up from her work. She looked shocked. She looked at Swamiji for a while. She looked at everybody in the room.

Her eyes rested on Madhavan’s face for a long time. Then she resumed her work. Swamiji went back to his seat at the centre of the hut.

Now every one in the room was looking expectantly at Swamiji. They wanted the Swamiji to show them the way which he did in very plain words.

Is not the way clear to you all? Sethu has got back his wife. They can start their second innings. Priya has to be treated. Sharada has found a mother in Nalini. And to Nalini she is the daughter she badly wanted to beget. Do you need a Swamiji to tell this?”

They all had expected Swamiji would say something like that. But not in that bland, lifeless manner.

“What are you waiting for? You wanted a cliched, typical, “they lived happily ever after ending” to your life-story. You have got it. Now go your separate ways and please yourselves.”

Nobody moved. The silence there was deafening. Even Priya had stopped her writing and was looking at the Swamiji.

“If we try to solve our problems with our ego, if we refuse to seek help from the above, our solutions will only be like this.

“Many times in our lives we devise a solution for our problems with our little brains and then ask Almighty God to help us in working out the solution.

“We want Him only as a servant with a very low IQ to carry out the decisions made by us.

“With the all-loving, omnipotent God, the only sensible thing to do is surrender at His feet totally and absolutely, praying, ‘Thy will, not mine, be done.’ ”

Swamiji looked at Sharada and smiled. Priya’s glance was fixed on Swamiji’s kind face.

Swamiji continued.


“Madhavan, Priya, Nalini, Sharada, Kalpana..why did your life-paths cross?What made you to meet each other? What’s the thread that connects you all?

None of you are infallible. You had your own share of sins, weaknesses and moral foibles. But in each one of you there is and there has always been a dominating trait of goodness. The aura of goodness that surrounds each one of you is so strong that I can almost touch it.

“It is the curse of this century that good people rarely come together. But if they do then they become a great force to reckon with. When there is the required critical mass of goodness then God throws Himself over to that side.

“Goodness is not about numbers. The Pandavas were 5 against a hundred Kauravas who had an army several times larger than theirs. But the Lord was on their side and the victory was theirs.

“Like the Pancha Pandavas, you are also five standing firmly on the ground of benevolence. And you five have to travel the path ahead together not for your good but for the good of this world. From now on you will be together till time shall be with you no more.”

A disciple walked into the hut to ask something from the Swamiji. But seeing the perfect silence, the expression on Swamiji’s face, he retreated without leaving a trace.

“Sethu, I am sure you remember what we talked yesterday. About having an organised body of knowledge and a professionally run institution for spreading Varmakkalai and Varma Soothiram.

“You have the money. You have the expertise. It’s high time that you start a large institution that will teach Varma Soothiram, the ancient science of Tamil medicine to all the aspiring students.

“Nalini, you came crying to me, that you could not become a mother for a single child. You are destined to become the mother of thousands of children.

“As part of the institution Sethu is going to start, you are going to run an orphanage. From out of the orphans of this country you are going to create thousands of Madhavans.

“You will spread the message of love, you will show the force of love and reclaim a generation that is losing itself to materiality."

“Sharada, my child, what Sethu is going to start is not just an Institute. It is not even an institution. It is a movement. A great movement. And Sharada you are going to be the spiritual force behind the movement.

“Many movements have failed because they did not have a strong spiritual backbone. And you, Sharada, are the spiritual backbone of this group, and of the movement.

“Dancing is the most beautiful expression of love and the shortest route to spiritual glory. You will teach the men and women how to dance for the Alwars Pasurams, for Thiruvasagam, for the songs that make people melt in love for their Creator and for their fellow beings.

“Kalpana, you went astray earlier in your life. But what you did to Priya and Madhavan, what you did to contain evil, has more than compensated for your earlier tresspasses.

“You need not feel guilty anymore. A mamooth movement like this needs someone strong like you, someone who has her head in the right place.”

Priya was still looking at the Swamiji. Nobody knew whether she heard or understood what the Swamiji said.

But there was a kind of longing in her eyes, which deeply disturbed Madhavan. Instinctively he placed his hand on her shoulder. This time Priya did not resist.

Madhavan asked almost in a whisper, ” Swamiji, Priya…..”

“The only power that can heal her wounds is love. From now onwards she should not be left alone even for a few hours.”

“I will be with her all the time.” – Madhavan volunteered.

“Your love is great, Sethu. There is no doubt about it. But that love is not enough for Priya.

“Sharada has to be with her all the time. The love that Sharada has in her now, can do miracles. That love alone can burn the insanity in Priya’s mind.”

There was a look of wonder in Nalini’s face. Swamiji understood her question and answered it.

“All the five of you are going to live together in one big house. It will be one large family. And your family will soon expand to include thousands and thousands of people.

“I foresee a great future for this movement. Mark my words, my dear children, you are going to change this world. You are going to show this materialistic world, what real love is.”

Was there a flicker of a smile in Priya’s face? Madhavan was not sure. But he was sure that she was already on the path to recovery.

All the five of them were virtually sobbing in happiness.

Nalini was the first to speak.

“Master, please suggest a good name for our movement.”

Swamiji turned to Sharada.

“Sharada, I know the name has already come into your mind. Please let others know.”

Sharada stood up and walked towards Priya. She sat very close to her and placed her hands on her shoulders.

When Sharada’s hands touched Priya with utmost softness, Priya shivered.

Without taking her hands off Priya, Sharada addressed the Swamiji.

“Swamiji, it is this lady who taught me the real magic of love. And there is enough of love in her name itself.

“Since this movement is going to spread the message of love, through Varmakkalai, through its care for orphans and dancing, I suggest that we name it PRIYAM.”

“Marvellous, my child. Simple, elegant and befitting.”

Everyone started to talk at the same time. All were happy and wanted to express their happiness one way or the other.

When Sharada looked lovingly at Priya and smiled, Priya smiled back at her. It was the slightest smile possible. But to Madhavan it appeared as the greatest improvement in Priya’s condition.

Swamiji was watching the drama unfolding before his eyes with happiness.

After sometime Swamiji and others walked out of the hut. The rays of the morning sun fell on them all. There was a sudden spurt of showers.

And a sprawling multicoloured rainbow appeared on the horizon contrasted by the grey clouds. The rainbow heralded the success of love, of their movement, PRIYAM.





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Anjali

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PostSubject: Re: HE    Wed Jul 10, 2013 1:25 am

Dear Arun

I am happy with the ending. Priya is not in her senses but I am sure with Madhavan beside her the days are not far away. I am happy to know that Sharada is not left alone and also very glad to know that Nalini has got a meaning in life other than running a Five Star Hotel. You have lovingly put all the lonely souls together. Life is not just me and my love, it is all lone souls together can make a better family than a family of husband, wife and kids.

I am very contended with the ending, I have no reason to rave or rant.

Arun, I loved the ending. I am dancing jubilantly. I did not want you go give each of them a different bend. This is perfect, what more a reader like me can ask for. Worth the wait with all the twists and turns.






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Jenelia



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PostSubject: Re: HE    Sat Jul 13, 2013 1:01 am

WELL DONE ARUN....
FANTASTIC STORY.... Like a Star @ heaven 
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