Friday, 25 March 2016

My Wanderings - 29. Short story -12 How the seasons change

She was my friend, a neighbour and a class mate  in my  early childhood. She was very pretty and innocent  like most of the girls in our society during those days. She was almost of my age but very mature than me. Once I  slipped and fell down on the street and spoiled my clothes alongwith my arms and legs  with splashes of mud.  She helped me out by taking me to the nearest municipal tap and washed  my mud laden hands and arms. We both grew up together in the same street.  We used to play together in surrounding lanes and by lanes and exchanged toys with each other. With the passage of time  shyness took toll of our acquaintance  which stopped the  meetings  and we could  only exchange stealing  glances at each other. This was the reward bestowed on us by the adolescent age . She grew up into a young damsel and myself into a lanky youth. Years passed by with the change of seasons which were most  conspicuous  by their characteristic features  in valley. Blossoms on almond  trees with fragrant  and cool breeze of spring season, shedding of leaves by chinars and heaps of dry and  crimson coloured leaves spread all over the floor making crunchy noise when trampled under feet in autumn season  and earth evenly clad with  white and velvety sheet of snow in winter.
In the meantime I could notice that she had fallen in love with a Boy who was senior to her by few years. While taking interest in the incident it transpired that the particular boy had followed and coaxed her for many months and was successful in winning her heart. Within a short period of time  she got married to him, against the wishes  of her parents and  that was the beginning of  misfortune in her life.
After few years of her marriage she was divorced by her husband as she was not able to conceive. He latter on married another woman to create  his progeny which he could never materialise.  Now she was left with no other alternative but to shift to her parents house. Once she met me on the street . she looked very gloomy and melancholic. After enquiring about my welfare she told me that these men are a queer lot.  They first  wag their tails behind a woman and when some foolish of a woman takes pity  on them, they trample her under their feet like dry withered leaves of chinar in the autumn season of Kashmir. I could well understand the misery she might have undergone at her in-laws and now with her parents after her broken marriage and  unfortunate return.
After elapse of some time she was married again to a widower, already  having two grown up children. The marriage was arranged by her parents this time. The man to whom she married was much senior to her in age. As he did not require any more children, he agreed to marry her despite knowing fully about her inability to bear children.  Exactly after a year of her second marriage, to much of my astonishment,  I saw her again with a child in her lap which she had recently delivered. It was a male child. This time she appeared very elated and fresh like the early blossom of almonds in spring season of Kashmir.
Then we left the Kashmir for good due to the uprising and terrorism and we lost the touch completely with our neighbours. Moreover,  we never visited the place again.
It was quite recently  I  heard that her son had turned into a terrorist and  killed his father when the later  tried to dissuade him from his mission.  Then he was also killed  in encounter with army . Now she was visiting and  praying at the grave of her son   daily even in the coldest season of winter when the graves were laden with white sheets of snow covering even the grave stones as if the person lying  beneath  it, who never reconciled in his life was disgusted and embarrassed with his deeds and never wanted to let  anybody to know his whereabouts.
Unknown unlamented let me die
And no stone to tell where I lie.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

My wanderings -28 short story No. 11. A Storm in a cup of tea

It was month of July 2012 when I was holding the charge of International Banking Division at Jammu branch. We were also maintaining large number of NRI deposits which amounted to one third of total branch deposits. While dealing with deposits I had also some rich experience of observing the life very closely through various encounters with a fair mix of customers of diverse nature. Once a  NRI customer  living somewhere in Canada came along with his father, who was residing  at Jammu. He gave me standing instructions that an amount of Rs 15000 should be credited to his fathers account by debit to his NRE account every month. The instructions were fed in the system and automatically system started paying Rs 15000 to his father's account every month. The father of our customer used to visit the branch in the first week of every month to withdraw his money. His visits were so regular and conspicuous  that I missed him if sometimes, he was late by a day or two. Moreover, his authoritative disposition and intellectual style of talking impressed me so much. I would usually offer him a cup of tea and snacks whenever he visited the branch. He relished my small gesture of good will with an affirmative tone...yes I would like to have a cup of tea with you, whenever I requested  for the same after exchanging pleasantries with him. He appeared to me very knowledgeable and experienced man by his views on life and other subjects. 
The system worked well for six months or so when I received an email from his son annexed with a  scanned and signed application revoking his earlier instructions of paying Rs15000 to his father every month. As a banker I had no other alternative but to meticulously comply with the instructions of my customer. Most reluctantly I withdrew the standing instructions from the account. On the material day when  father of customer arrived at the branch I felt a little embarrassed to face him. As he came to know about the stoppage of standing instructions his face exhibited a gesture of disbelief. He began to blame us for the mistake on our part. But when I showed him the letter signed by his son, he was taken aback and sat on the chair desperately. After sometime he gained  control over  his distraught  nerves and sought for my apologies. Then he requested me to lend him Rupees five hundred so as he can purchase some essential medicines as he was thinking of withdrawing the money from his account. Most readily I handed  over him a note of Rupees Five hundred  from my own pocket with out any  hope of getting it back. He immediately left the bank with a promise to return me the money within a shortest possible time. Only after he left the bank I could notice a full cup of tea lying untouched and getting cold in front of his chair.
While I was brooding over the fate of old man, one of my colleague's who was working as Bank Guard and now retired from  services  had come to get credited to his account an amount of Indian rupees one lakh equal ant which his son living in Dubai used to send him monthly through Western union software. His son had no NRI account with us. Once he had confided to me that his son requests  him to spend the money on himself as he has observed much of economy through out his life. But he told me that he does not  spend anything from it and  keeps it all for his son . The pension which he gets from Bank was enough for  his survival. This good gesture of a son towards his father  was a streak of silver lining to bring me out from the melancholic darkness of my thought process.
After few days the gentleman in question visited the branch again and returned me a sum of Rs Five hundred which he had borrowed from me. He also told me that he has actually retired from  some public sector company, where he was working on a senior position. But he was not getting any pension from his company. However, he has got enough money as superannuation benefits from his company to 
take care of himself and his ailing wife. He however, was reluctant to take a cup of tea this time which I offered him as a courtesy gesture.
Then he naturally stopped his monthly visits to the branch. After a lapse of five or six months he again visited  the branch and sat in front of me. He was in very bad condition. He had dishevelled hair, sunken eyes and  shabby clothes loosely fitted on his frail body. This time he addressed me very harshly to the much of my astonishment. He told me that his son was sending him money every month and bank people are usurping   the same. This time he could not reconcile to any logic which I tried to put forth in my defence. He went on blaming the bank people particularly me and created a scene to the much amazement of other customers present thereat. It was very difficult  for me to control the situation. Then he left the bank hurling abuses on the bank staff. Later on I came to know from his acquaintances that lately  he had been suffering from some lunatic fits, which possess him sometimes and becomes normal afterwards.
After sometime  I again noticed him in the bank premises. I felt very scared and tried to escape myself from his attention. But he directly came to my place and began to seek my apologies for his earlier rude behaviour . I could not afford to hold any grudge against him as  Bankers are already trained with the philosophy that Customer is always right. Moreover, there were enough reasons to support his misadventure. I stood up from my chair and greeted him as usual with a smile. This time he himself asked for a cup of tea which was served to him promptly.