Good for the Nation

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A group of urchins had come up with a bomb hoax at the oration of the stupid politician.They executed the plan to perfection. The terror-stricken crowd ran out of the auditorium as the vote-monger politician, unaware that he is the only one left, carried out the discourse verbatim. Nature shook the building with an earth quake and took it down. A stupid politician gone and the lives of thousands of people, eagerly waiting outside for the bomb squad to arrive, saved. The bomb hoax turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the Nation in more ways than one.

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This post is written in response to the prompt “A blessing in disguise” by Shilpa Garg who blogs at  ‘A Rose Is A Rose Is A Rose‘ on Hundred Words on Saturday – Write Tribe.

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The story unfolds – The finale

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You might want to read Part-1Part-2Part-3Part-4Part-5 and Part-6.

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Manojavam’s life itself was a Dream. Not many people get to live a life so meaningful and pleasant. Infact, others can only  Dream about leading such a life.He saw a nation’s fight for freedom from close quarters and also the way it transformed after independence.

A successful married life spanning over seven decades. Children, grand-children and great grand children, oh! it was a dream alright.

He began listening to music on a gramophone and then upgraded to Sony Walkman and now he listens music in  Bose audio system. “It seems MS likes the Bose System as her singing quality is the best in it” he had remarked.

He used to make trunk calls earlier in his life, then came the landline connection and finally the cellular phone. He started with a Nokia do whatever you want with me but I will not break mobile and now he is a proud owner of Apple iPhone 5 presented to him on his 100th birthday.

When the Internet Saga began, he was more than happy to be an ever crawling spider on the World Wide Web. He read a lot about Buddha, Vivekananda, Mahatma, etc…. on it. “It is a virtual teacher” he often remarked. He read extensively about the World Wars too.

He started reading books at the City Central Library and then set up his own library and now he reads ebooks. He owns an Amazon Kindle Paperwhite. He started blogging when he was 90 years. He has a lot of followers and most of them are youngsters. Once he blogged about how nice it would be if Shakira, Lady Gaga and the likes would preform sporting a kumkum and a Mysore Silk saree. Yongsters thought it was a humorous post but he was actually serious.

He had walked bare footed throughout his schooling. But now among his collection were Nike – Air and Hush puppies.

His first mode of transport was his foot. Then came the bicycle. While the visited Bombay to listen to the Mahatma speak he had travelled in a car owned by a very rich friend of his Dad. Now Manojavam travels around in the Mercedes Benz owned by his son.

He and his wife had brought four rag-pikcers from the streets and transformed them into educated responsible citizens. He always mentioned about four of his god-given sons proudly. They too believed that the couple was their parents.

He had travelled the world around visiting places of interest to him.

But he never craved for anything. He accepted whatever came to him gleefully. The only thing he insisted was a hot cup of coffee prepared only by his wife when he used to go through the Newspaper in the mornings. On his hundredth birthday bash he was asked by one of the invitees as to whether he had any unfulfilled dreams, for which he replied ” I have been living a dream for a century. The only time I disconnect with it is when I sleep. I don’t get dreams in sleep, in fact sleep interrupts me living my dream.”

It was such a meaningful and fulfilling life. He drank the cup of life till its very last drop.

The day after Manojavam suffered a second heart attack, his dream ceased. He had left for the afterworld. A get together was organised in his remembrance ten days after his demise. Manjula was seated in the front row. One of his rag-pickers took centre-stage and read his eulogy.

” A special life has ceased. But not before teaching us how to live. Appa (father) has shown the right spirit with which we need to face life. He lived through a century and I have no doubt that the way he lead his life has inspired all of us and in time will inspire many. Sweet memories, food for thought, love for music, off the track travel destinations, people friendly and a life nothing less than a dream are some things that he will be known for. May his soul rest in peace”.

The story unfolds – Part 6

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You might want to read Part-1, Part-2, Part-3, Part-4 and Part-5.

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Manojavam was all alone in the hospital ward that morning. Manjula had gone to clarify something with the doctor. Manojavam was lost in thoughts. He was pondering over the question that his grand daughter had asked him almost ten days ago – “Why do people call you a good person?” He took out a sheet and a pen.  A meaningful childhood, a father who was also a best friend, a successful married life and a life span that just crossed a century mark, ought to make you a poet.  He scribbled –

Down the memory lane,

backwards through the path of life.

I began to think from when,

I became a good person.

My first teacher was mom,

she fed me the essence of life.

My first best-friend was dad,

who calmed my inner strife.

Then a host of people came,

nuances of life each taught.

some through doings and other through misdoings,

knowledge in my life they brought.

Buddha – the power of silence,

Hitler – the debacle of violence.

Mahatma – the pursuit of truth,

Vivekanada – the virtue of youth.

Then comes a list close to my heart,

of people who share my blood.

Their part they did play,

In my heart they did stay.

Wife – the bliss of company,

Children – the bringers of life’s harmony.

True Friends – the unconditional helpers.

Books – the non-living guides

All these people, roles they played,

In my journey, close they stayed.

They guided me till the end from the start,

I thank them every moment, from my heart.

 

As he finished writing, Manjula just entered the ward. Her interest was piqued when she saw Manojavam writing something. She sat next to him and read what he had written. When she was finished she looked at Manojavam and noticed that his eyes were fading and he was sweating profusely. It was another Heart attack. His heart was overwhelmed due to recollection of so many memories and forgot to make the lub-dub sounds. He was shifted to he ICU. As he lay motionless, Priya peeked through the small window of the door to have a look at her great grand father. “Why isn’t appajja talking to us anymore?” she enquired. “Appajja is in deep sleep dear” Manjula replied. “Then wake him up. I want to talk to him” she requested. Manjula remarked “We should not wake him up dear, he is dreaming”……………..

 

 

The story unfolds – Part 5

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You might want to read Part-1, Part-2, Part-3 and Part-4.

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The best part about Manojavam was the timing of his stay on earth. Born in 1913 he completed a century in 2013 and remains unbeaten yet. Travel , as far as Manojavam’s life is concerned, can be interpreted in two ways. One is his travel in time from the pre-independence era to the post-independence era and the other is his travel in space, not outer space but space as on the surface of the earth.

His father had actively involved himself in the freedom struggle and Manojavam continued that trend. Five years after the Jallianwala Bhag massacre, he along with his father had travelled to visit the place. His father had sadly remarked “This is what happens when man forgets that he is a human being first.” 

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Jallianwala Bhag memorial (Google search image.)

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Jallianwala Bhag memorial (Google search image.)

He accompanied his father to various south Indian coastal towns to make salt supporting the Salt-Satyagraha. He had actively participated in the Non-Cooperation movement. He had travelled to Bombay along with his father to hear the Mahatma ask the Britishers to ‘Quit India’. When freedom arrived, Manojavam had listened to the ‘Tryst with destiny’ broadcast by AIR and later joined the festive celebrations of an Independent India. But his heart was broken when his mother was divided into Pakistan and India and later when India was further divided into states. “We fought as one for one reason and now we break apart” he had yelled. 

He had lived through the two world wars. The world wars hurt him deeply. In fact, the second world war had shaken his hope. “What do they want to prove?” he had asked himself. Manojavam belonged to an upper middle-class family and could afford travelling abroad. In 1960 Manojavam along with Manjula travelled to Germany and Poland. They visited the Auschwitz State Museum, which was once the Auschwitz Extermination Camp, where Hitler had killed 1.1 million people with 90% of them being jews. While standing inside the camp with his eyes moist he remembered what his father had said ” This is what happens when man forgets that he is a human being first.”  He had read extensively about how this camp worked and how cruelly innocent people had been killed. As he walked through the place, his imagination supported by what he read brought to his mind vivid scenes of people being brutally killed. He was so much into his imagination that he felt almost choked when he stood inside the gas chamber. 

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Auschwitz State Museum (Wikipedia)


In 1965 the couple travelled to Japan. They visited Hiroshima. Standing inside the Genbaku (A-Bomb) Dome, the skeletal remains of the building that survived the atomic bomb, and looking towards the sky Manojavam had remarked “Never again, never ever again”. “The human civilisation must learn from its most heinous act.” he told Manjula who was standing next to him shocked, as a guide presented some facts.

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Genbaku (A-Bomb) Dome (Wikipedia)

In 1970 the couple ventured on a North India trip. The last week of the trip was dedicated to the chirpy romance always abundant in the couple when they toured Darjeeling. They finally topped it with the visit to the epitome of love, the ‘Taj-Mahal’.

In 1975 they embarked on a South India trip. “The huge temples of South India are an illustration of how much our magnificent kings loved art” Manojavam mentioned with a lot of pride. Manojavam revered Swami Vivekananda a lot. He meditated on the Vivekananda Rock when they visited Kanyakumari.

After 1980 the couple were too old to plan and travel on their own. Whenever time and age permitted they travelled with the families of their son and daughter. They accompanied them to the US tour. At the insistence of Manojavam the family travelled to Chicago and visited the shore of Lake Michigan, the place where Swami Vivekananda had delivered the world famous speech on the opening session of the Parliament of the World’s religions in 1893. Manojavam had listened to the speech a million times by now and it ran in his mind as he walked around the place. “Sisters and Brothers of America” he murmured many times.

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Swami Vivekananda in Chicago (Wikipedia)

Thus he had travelled with the hopes of the country towards freedom and travelled to places he thought would  teach the younger generations a lesson on what they should not let the world become.

As Manjula flipped to the last page of the album, there was this latest photo of the couple taken on the occasion of Manojavam’s 100th birthday. The couple glanced at each other. Their faces were wrinkled but the love in their eyes for each other was still as young as in their first glance after Manjula had accidentally pushed Manojavam into the gutter. They both thought about the moment when they first met and had a hearty laugh. The laughter was interrupted when their six year old great grand daughter Priya arrived. She fondly called him appajja (father of the grandfather). “Appajja, everyone says that you are a good person and they love you so much. How did you become a good person?” she cutely enquired. “Due to the people that have inspired me in my lifetime dear” Manojavam replied…………………………

The story unfolds – Part 4

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You might want to read Part – 1, Part – 2 and Part – 3.

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Manojavam took good care of his father in his last few years. Apart from being his father he was also his mentor and above all a true friend. Manojavam, though very grief stricken due to the fact he will lose one of his best friends, was surprised at how his father remained peaceful all the time. From close quarters he had seen his uncles and aunts die too. They looked scared, sometimes acted violently and sometimes behaved just like babies as death neared them. But his dad was very different. His behaviour versus time graph was a straight line parallel to the time axis. Never ever had he seen him swerve from being absolutely normal. What surprised him even more was the fact that he looked more and more peaceful as death neared him. The inner trauma of the voluntarily retired internal organs which had served him sincerely for a long time did not affect his outer persona. Manojavam wanted to ask his father as to how he managed to be so peaceful even after knowing that he is going to die shortly,  but could not muster the required courage.

His father was quick to realise that something is bothering his son.  One day he requested Manojavam to sit beside him. He spoke “Manu, I feel that you are not your normal self. I see a big question mark in your head, but cannot guess what the question is. Please be frank and let me know what it is.”  Manojavam gathered some courage and asked ” Dad are you not scared that you are going to die. How can you be happy and normal? What is it that gives you so much peace?” His father smiled. “Manu, let us say you have no other option but to enter a haunted mansion. But you have two options either enter alone or enter with two of your best friends. Which one will you chose?” he queried. “Obviously I will enter with two of my best friends.” Manojavam replied instantaneously. “In both cases you are still scared of the haunted mansion but with the company of true friends you are willing to face your worst fears a little more calmly, isn’t it?” his father asked. “Yes” said Manojavam. “What do you see me do most of the time Manu?” his father questioned again. “You read books and mostly listen to music.” answered Manojavam. “I am a common man and I am scared of death but the company of these two friends have made me face it peacefully. In fact, when death knocks I want to befriend it too.”  Manojavam realised that dying peacefully is also an art. At that moment he decided that when he died, whenever it may be, he wanted to die peacefully. “But father, there are many genres of music. Which one should I befriend?” he questioned. “That you should pick from experience son. There is a set of natural frequencies preset in you by God or Nature, whichever you believe in.  Each one of them correspond to different moods. A given genre may resonate with the rage in you, another genre may resonate with the emotional in you, but for me, at this stage, I have chosen the genre that resonates with my soul directly.”  his father answered. Manojavam was about to ask “Which one?”, but this time he himself realised the answer. He just switched on the player and MS began singing with utmost devotion. His father closed is eyes and immersed himself in the soulful music. Manojavam too was involuntarily tugged into its deep harmony and lost his way back. He knew what he wanted to listen when death asked for an appointment.

Once when having lunch together, Manojavam had shared this incident with his wife and his four rag-picking boys. That was the reason why they had bought him a MS songs CD as a gift. Once they left the hospital, Manajula switched on the player and MS again began singing with the utmost devotion. Manjula sat next to Manojavam gently stroking his hair. Manojavam closed his eyes and immersed himself in the soulful music. Once the CD ran its length he opened his eyes and asked Manjula to play it again. She did. She also sat next to him and opened his favourite photo-album.  As she flipped the pages of the album, Manojavam was lost in the memories. Naturally he had done a lot of travelling in a lifetime slightly exceeding a century……………………..

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I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words 8th – 14th December 2013. I have chosen to narrate a single story in parts and each part would be in response to that days prompt. Hope all of you like it.

The story unfolds – Part 2

 

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You might want to read Part-1 first.

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Manojavam and Manjula had decided that after their marriage they must, limited to their capacity, contribute to the society. Manojavam always remembered what his father had told him,”It is the failure of a nation if any of its citizens could not afford a good meal once at least a day”. He had taken this to his heart. One day while coming back from work he noticed a set of young rag-pickers loitering in the streets. His inquiry led to the fact that they were from the nearby orphanage which could not even manage their basic needs due to poor funding. He got an idea. But never did he take any step without consulting his other half. He came back home and while having lunch brought up the topic. “I saw a bunch of four very young boys from an orphanage loitering in the streets in the name of rag-picking. They are lacking basic needs and their thin frail bodies are a result of malnutrition. I know the person who is running the orphanage. Can we at least support them with one good meal a day.” Manjula remained silent for a while, which he misconstrued as her disinterest and understood that he was asking for a bit too much. But when she spoke he was pleasantly surprised. “Janu, God has given us so much. It is not a problem even if we support them with two meals a day. I don’t mind it. But I am interested in food for the brain more than the food for the tummy. I am free the entire day once you leave for work. I am a B.Com graduate too. Can I give them some basic education during my free time.” His eyes was almost moist. He felt annoyed at his narrow-mindedness and was blown away by her progressive thinking. He thanked God for the best gift he had received in the form of his wife.

The four boys readily agreed to be educated. Manojavam, due to the good name his father had, readily got permission for them to take up the annual exams in the Government School. The boys enjoyed food for thought and food for the tummy. Manojavam and Manjula both made it a point that they will have at least one meal a day along with the boys. Manjula loved cooking. She made sure she served as many varieties of food as possible to the hungry kids. Masala Dosa, Onion Dosa, Rava Dosa, Uthappam, Rava Idli, Chow-Chow bath were among the top of the mouth-watering delicacies that were served. She loved teaching them too. You need to have a hungry tummy to respect the food you eat and at the same time you need to have a hungry brain to respect knowledge that comes your way. In this case the boys had both. The couple got so much involved with these sweet kids that they postponed having kids of their own for some time. Four years rolled and these kids were ready to go to high-school. Manojavam, again due to the good name his father had, made sure these students got into a decent school in a nearby town. On the day when the kids were leaving, both Manojavam and Manjula dropped them off to the bus stand. The kids waved good-bye with heavy hearts and along with the bus their journey to the next phase of education began. Manojavam and Manjula returned back home. After an year their first child was born.

The doctor was surprised as he came in to find out how Manojavam was coping up. Manjula could read the surprise in his face and asked as to what was it due to. He said the he saw four distinguished gentlemen waiting outside as he went on with the check up. He took a pad and wrote down some new medicines and then remarked “IAS officer, ACP, Lawyer and a famous Doctor” from the town are waiting to see sir. There are many people in this part of the world waiting to meet these distinguished men, but they are patiently waiting to see sir. Is sir such a big person?” Manjula smiled and briefed about the four rag-picking boys story.  The Doctor was overwhelmed at what the couple had done. He accompanied Manjula outside to the corridor and at once all the four stood up and fell at her feet. The Doctor was shocked at their gesture. The IAS officer noticed the shock on the Doctor’s face and remarked ” Doctor, this is the lady who gave us food in more than one ways.” Manjula was overwhelmed to see her four god-given kids. She held them by hand and escorted them inside. Manojavam was awake and readily recognised his rag-picking boys. They together presented him with his favourite book. This took Manojavam down the memory lane………………..

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I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words 8th – 14th December 2013. I have chosen to narrate a single story in parts and each part would be in response to that days prompt. Hope all of you like it.

The story unfolds – Part 1

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Manojavam was going to die a natural death and anyone knowing him personally wouldn’t  misconstrue it as an overstatement if one stressed ‘natural’ again. After all, he was 100 years old and almost, slowly, inching towards 101: just like how a cricket batsman would momentarily slowdown and take a new guard after scoring a century. They say wisdom grows with age, and his certainly did. The gleaned wisdom over a lifetime had sought refuge in the abundant luminescent white hair, the many undulating morsels of cheek muscles bravely protruding out from in between the wrinkles and the intensely deep eyes that had seen the tortuous journey called life, uninterruptedly, for ten decades. His six year old great grand daughter Priya, who was mad about her great grandpa, was told that he had gone into deep meditation. That was the best possible way Satish, her father, could make her understand the medical condition of her great grandpa.

Manojavam’s wife Manjula, a nonagenarian, was eagerly waiting for him to recover. Never during the 70 years of their marriage life, had she seen him so helpless. A month before he had walked three kilometres to a government office to officially confirm that he was alive and collect his pension for the month. While coming back he also had bought fresh vegetables from the market. He entered the house and sat on a chair. He had cheerfully asked Manjula for a glass of water and as he held it in his hands it slipped and both Manojavam and the glass hit the ground hard. It was a massive heart attack. The doctors were surprised that he could survive the ordeal of the surgery. The doctor, clearly disappointed at Tendulkar’s retirement, put it very aptly when he remarked “It is like 90 year old Sachin Tendulkar successfully facing the wrath of the 24 year old Dale Steyn”.  He had just been shifted to the ward. As Manjula sat next to him, caressing his hair, with her eyes closed and head resting on the wall, her inner eyes were busy screening the memories of the yesteryears.

The scene that was currently on was the one when she first met Manojavam, which, by the way, was an accident in every sense of the term. Manjula was then 19 years old and also an L-board rider of her new bicycle. When she rode, people got confused whether she had a problem with balancing or balance had a problem with managing her. But somehow she managed to achieve the required displacement. They say things get done smoothly only on two occasions, one when there is perfect understanding and the other when there is perfect misunderstanding. In her case, it was the perfect misunderstanding between her and balance that got the job done. But her joyous rounds on her bicycle were marred with unfortunate incidents of poor people accidentally subjected to the impulse which would bring the joint momentum of the cycle and its rider immediately to zero. On that fateful day Manojavam was nominated by God to be subjected to such a treatment. He was dressed impeccably that day. White shirt that would make any modern day detergent bow down in shame, dark grey bellbottom pants that would leave Rajesh Khanna under a spell of jealousy, a tightly wound leather belt and a neatly polished pair of formal shoes. He was about to attend his first interview and was waiting for the bus. He placed his file on the platform beside him and bent over to tie the loosened shoelaces. The next thing he knew was that four or five people lifted him from the gutter adjacent to the road. An infuriated Manojavam, after cleaning up, walked towards the culprit gathering the choicest of words but instantaneously turned dumb when he noticed the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen offering the most convincing of apologies. He thought that if eyes could talk so beautifully then what about the lips that were yet to break their silence. She uttered, according to him, the most romantic “Sorry” and rode past him. As she left, he felt lighter by about 300 grams. Why wouldn’t he? She had stolen his heart. That evening both of them thought about the beautiful little story that God had written keeping them in mind. But little did they realise that God had indeed planned a saga, and the incident that day was only the prologue. After three weeks Manjula had found the right “balance” in her life, as Manojavam would walk along and hold the handle of the bicycle as she rode. Manojavam never dared to walk past her; he already had experienced the outcome first-hand, but always would walk along with her. Little did they know that God was teaching them the mantra leading to a  successful marriage. After seven months they had decided, with full acceptance from both families, that they were ready to take the “SEVEN PHERAS”. When he was about to tie the nuptial knot, both looked at each other. She could feel the deep love for her in his eyes. His eyes were so intense.

A sudden movement interrupted her thoughts and she at once came back to the present. He had regained consciousness and was looking right at her. The love for her that she saw in his eyes had not diminished even by an iota. His eyes even now were so intense. “Janu, how are you?” she asked as tears rolled down her eyes. “Manju, I want to eat the Masala Dosa that your prepare the best” he remarked. She smiled and nodded. Food was one of the reasons why their bonding was so strong …………………………..

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I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words 8th – 14th December 2013. I have chosen to narrate a single story in parts and each part would be in response to that days prompt. Hope all of you like it.