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Fathers of the nation

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Fathers of the nation

Kaluvakolanu Sadananda

 

“ Give me ten rupees, I will bring my sister.” Had Vinod not said these words, story would not have been there.

 

Prabhu is the son of the famous businessman Lokanadham who was flush with money. He failed in the graduation exams and hence had all the time to sit at home and keep day dreaming. Prabhu who was buying what all is sold for money, and trying to hold onto the other things in his dreams, could never imagine in his dreams also that Malati would be available for him like a banana sold for ten paise.

 

Malati is Tulasi’s daughter. She joined inter only this year. It was no wonder if young boys were mad after her, ogling at her near the community water tap as she was just entreing her youth and is very attractive. May be husband’s earning  is not enough to make both ends meet, Tulasi used  to work as a servant maid in couple of households.Her son Vinod is in the tenth class. He is not much interested in the studies but is interested in the odd jobs for people because that would fetch him some compensation.Tulasi has another daughter who is always with unkempt hair and running nose and also always running around the mother.

 

Prabhu’s heart jumped a beat when he heard those words from Vinod. He was unable to breath for a while and felt a big lump in his throat. After a while he could only mutter “What? what? What? What did you say?” and there were thousand lights shone in his face.

 

“ Yes. If you give ten rupees right now, I will bring my sister to you” explained Vinod looking down.

 

For Prabhu there was nothing more surprising than this. The beauty every youth of the village is craving for, was being so unabashedly offered to him for a consideration.

 

“ Did your sister ask you to say so?”

 

“ Why do you bother?” said Vinod, almost impatiently.

 

If something very valuable is being offered for a pittance it is business to take it without a second thought. Handing over a ten rupee note, Prabhu asked Vinod “When will you get her?”

 

Vinod kept the note in the pocket saying “ Whenevr you want!”

 

May be he thought not to delay in such an auspicious thing, Prabhu said “Ask her to come tonight itself. To my room.”

 

“yes!” Vinod went away.

 

Prabhu has a separate room on the first floor.Right from the street one could reach there without hinderance.

 

Prabhu’s amazement was on the rise as he kept thinking of Malati in such clandestine affairs. His mental state on that day was unimaginable. He expected Malati around ten in the night after the activity on the streets ceases. Till eleven he was waiting with all the sweet thoughts. After that his plight became worse. He could not sleep a wink throughout that night. The reason was, that Malati never came.

 

Vinod who used to meet Prabhu everyday with or without reason, was not to be seen for two whole days.Prabhu spent those two days ogling at Malati when she came on to the street, and waiting for her throughout the night without a wink and with all the hope. On the third day he accosted Vinod on the street corner and took him into his arms grip very friendly and brought him to the room.

“ where the hell is your sister?” then he asked.

 

Vinod was unable to answer for a while and mumbled, “ Prabhu! My sister would not come. If you want, my mother will!”

 

Prabhu felt as if something was stuck in his throat. “ Get lost you cheat! I have never seen such an errant family. You have all cheated me.” He squatted down morosely.

 

“ His sister and the mother want my money. But the daughtrer does not come. Only the mother would, it looks! What kind of people these must be?”

 

It was a fact that Prabhu felt miserable when he heard Vinod’s proposition. But his innerself ordained him to put up with the situation. With that, he decided to treat the ugly and undesirable also as precious.

 

One should only compromise a bit. Otherwise, Tulasi was not bad at all. She is lean and full. She must be less than thirty five of age.But for the couple of  gray hair  she looks all of twenty five only.

 

Prabhu thought it would be only wise to give his ideas some sort of support  when they were going wild as a wild twiners.

 

“ So your mother would come.” He said, with a resigned kind of tone. “ Alright! Tonight itself. Ask her to come to my room straight.”

 

The moon came in the night. Tulasi never came. In that waiting he felt no othrer beauty could be comparable to Tulasi. He thought she would come when it was possible for her. She never came the next night also. Prabhu was hopeless.

 

Vinod played hide and seek for four days but could not avoid the clutches of Prabhu on the fifth. Right in the middle of the street Prabhu caught hold of him by the shirt collar and asked as loudly as he could “ What have you done about your mother?”.

 

Frightened, Vinod said “ she would not come.”

 

With such coyness displayed, Prabhu lost control of himself. “ Son of a sinner! Then, why did you take ten rupees from me telling your sister’s name and the mother’s name? First return my ten rupees.I would not leave you if your mother tells or your sister tells.” He clasped the shirt collar. Vinod was in tears. People collected there. With the barrage of words from Prabhu the secret was out. Malati who was at the community tap, came to know of the matter, left the vessel there and ran into the the home. Tulasi went to rescue her son and the boy fled from there. People on the street had a good topic that evening to talk about.

 

If a man decides to die, there must have been a strong reason for that.This incident which put the family reputation on the street was a blow to the ego of Venkatadasu. He is Vinod’s father. He came home late in the evening. On finding the family prestige being beaten bare, he went furious.

 

Spitting fire he asked the boy “ Why did you tell him that?”

 

The boy was dumb.

 

“ What did you do with those ten rupees? Tell me you fool!”

 

“ I ate in the hotel. Went to a movie. Gave Malati three rupees to buy a pen, and half a rupee to Chitti.”

 

“ Was that the only way to get all these things? Instead, you could have come under a running train and died, You shameless fool!” he vent out all his ire on the unseen forces working on his son, onto his son.

 

It was clear then that the boy was next only to Prahlada when came to the strongness of life.

 

Dasu’s anger subsided gradually and the feeling of self hatred as well as pity on the son welled up in him.Dasu felt humiliated not because of the loss of familiy’s prestige. It was for the mean ideas of his son who put the sister and mother as baits for money. The boy was tired of eating the bland food at home, and enslaved to the societie’s choice of cheap entertainment. So, he was not at all wrong. How is the boy at fault if he became a broker, because the father failed in fulfilling the necessities? How is a woman at fault, if other menfolk bid to buy the femininity of the family only because the husband is unable to perform his duties well? All the fault lies with father alone. If he has any amount of blood in him and any sense of shame,self respect,ego etc, after this trouncing defeat, he should never go out into the world with his head held high. He would bury that head in fire or mud and be known as a self respecting person.

 

There was not an iota of doubt about Dasu’s self respect. His life and body were dejected about each other. To separate both of them, he collected a bottle of poison and kept in his pocket. To gain courage to consume that poison he also collected a bottle of government’s country liquor, and set out on his journey to the outskirts of the city.

 

Faultering in the darkness, he walked for three miles and stopped in the middle of the road. He hit the empty booze bottle on the road with all the strenght and it broke into thousand pieces. He pulled out the bottle of poison from the shirt pocket and held it high. Just then, like a divine vehicle sent intime for him, a speeding car screached and doddered and stopped next to him.

 

The driver came out angrily and started shouting at Dasu. “ You dumb fellow! Have you told your people at home or not?”

 

“ What if I have not told? You can go and tell isn’t it?”

 

“ You thought this road is your mother-in-law’s mango garden or what? Move aside!”

 

“ I came here to only  move aside. Run the car over me. If I still remain, Here, I will drink this endrine!”

 

No sooner Dasu said these words, the back door of the car opened. A plump and pompous body in  khadi shirt and dhoti, smelling of and showing, pulav and kurma stains, and wet stains of spilled whisky, climbed down heavily like a sack of wet meat. He is none else than Honourable Sri Namalayya who since adored in the Jatra of lost elections like a deity, blessed the electorate and lept from the constituency into the ruling position and settled there.

 

As a precautionary measure for assertaining his position in the impending flood called elections, he was once again going round the villages wooing the local leaders. That day also he toured four villages and put four leaders in his pocket. After that he was returning from a party where food and liquor flooded people, and Dasu came in the way like a he buffalo.

 

Namalayya heard his voice and reached him stuttering like a lame bull frog and looked into his face. “ Oh! Pity! You are a grown up man! Must be having a vote. Dear Mr Voter! Don’t you know the value of the vote? If you die, a valuable vote will be wasted. You should give your preciuos vote to me…..”he started  lecturing.

 

Venkatadasu could recognise Namalayya very easily. “ Father!” He lifted both his hands in salutation adoringly and said “ Why I am tearing my vote is…” and started weeping insolently.

 

Namlayya put his  hand around his shoulders and said “ Knowingly, we can not afford to lose one valuable vote. Come! We will go home and talk!” He lead him into the car.

 

Car reched his palacial building and he lead Dasu by hand straight into the bed room. Dasu squatted on the carpet. Namlayya hanged his sandals where he was to put his cap and threw the cap under the cot and said “Now! Come on!”

 

With folded hands Dasu narrated the incident. All through the narration he was addressing Namalayya as father. At last he said “I May be a poorman. However, poverty does not mean lack of food and clothes alone. Have you noticed this poverty eating away the brains of the people like a caterpillar  that eats leaves, my father? Is there a poverty which is worse than that? What kind of a father am I who could not prevent corruption of my sons mind? Just for this reason my father! I have decided to die. I am dying. Father, I am dying of shame…..” He rested his head in between his knees.

 

 While listening to those words Namlayya poured out imported whisky into two glasses, kept them on the teapoy, and settled himself on the cot like a bulb containing mercury. “ Don’t you worry. In the coming elections, we would declare a new moment against poverty. Leave that matter to us, empty the glass and go to sleep.”he pushed the glass towards Dasu.

 

Dasu could suddenly make out who were the real reason for the corruption of peoples minds.

 “ Father! Don’t drink! Wait amoment!” so saying he pulled out the bottle from his pocket and placed it on the teapoy. “ It’s not me who should drink this poison, my father! Ask me why! I am not a duffer who has left his wife and children to their fate. I am not even upto any unscrupulous act in their interest. If what I earn is not enough and their minds go corrupt, I am not to be ashamed….” Dasu opened the bottle and emptied it into the other glass.

 

“ Then father!  The responsibility is with the father himself! You are the fathers. We are the children. You are my father. You are my wife’s father. To my daughters and the son, you are the father. Who else, if not, you the father, our saviour?  But then, as father, what is it that you have done? You have enhanced immorality. You have enhanced corruption. Enhanced poverty. Enhanced waywardness. Enhanced prostitution. Enhanced liquor. Enhanced shamelessness. Enhanced the prices of the food grains that we eat.Enhanced the price of the cloth that we wear. Enhanced the price of the books that my son studies.In the name of donations you have enhanced the college expenditure of my daughter. Enhanced unemployment and unrest.Enhanced the blood thirst of the employees at all levels. Enhanced thieves and the chances for rich people to make gold out of our poverty. Enahnced inequalities. Enahnced all that is undesirable. I can’t now recollect but you have done a lot. You have seen to it that we don’t get the fruit of our own labour.  My father! All these things together, worked on my son and corrupted his mind. Father! He is your son.Then are you not ashamed of him?

 

Namlayya kept quiet for a while and said “ When you tell so many things, we also feel like feeling ashamed.” No sooner he finished the statement, Dasu handed him the glass in which endrine was mixed.

 

Namlayya was motionless for a minute. Lifted the glass a bit and stopped in doubt. “Dear voter, Sir! We can never deny your word. But not now. Let us win this elections also. Then we will be the first in those who will consume endrine.” He left the glass on the teapoy and in a jiffy emptied the other  glass. He got up and brought a currency note from the shirt pocket, and said “Dear Voter Sir, Please, you don’t die! Here, Take this ten rupees and throw it on that boy’s face”

 

Namalayya thought that was a tenner but infact it was a hundred rupee note.However, what does it matter to Dasu if it is a ten rupee or a hundred rupee note? “ If you yourself are not ashamed, why do I die my father? Keep those ten rupees, but would you be kind enough to grant me a wish?” he said.

 

“ Ask for it!” by that time Namalayya was almost loosing control on himself.

 

“ You hit me twice with the chappal from your feet” Dasu brought the chappal hanging from the hook on the wall.

 

“ Aah! What kind of a wish is that?”

 

“ When I am asking for it, why do you hesitate?”

 

“ Tell me! But why are you asking me to do that?”Namlayya was  in real doubt.

 

“ The first one is for my vote to you in the last elections, My Father!” Dasu said.

 

“ Is It? Then, why is the second?”

 

“ Because in this elections also I am going to give my vote to you, The only father who can rule us!”

 

“You never mentioned” Namlayya lifted the Chappal happily.

 

Symbolising the political confusion, the cap was lying helpless where the chappals were meant to be.

 

 

*******

 

 

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