Thursday, October 23, 2008


Author's Note: Generally, an impression goes around that present day generation is insensitive towards the sacrifice of their parents in bringing them up. I feel this is surfacial for I feel every child carries the impressions of parental love and affection deeply imprinted on his heart and soul.

There was a long queue in front of the elevator. It was office time and everyone seemed to be in a hurry. Anita was looking at her watch every few seconds. There were still ten minutes and yet she was worried. As soon as the elevator came up to seventh floor, she ran out of it to the amusement of some. This was her first appointment and she needed it badly. She was panting when she reached the desk of the receptionist who was expecting her.
"Hi, I am Anita."
"Welcome. I am Supriya Pant." A buxom lady, in her forties greeted her. Anita tried to regain her breadth. She whispered thanks, inaudible but Supriya understood it.
"I believe this your first job," Supriya asked her looking at her tall beautiful figure.
"Yes, it is."
"Congratulations and good luck."
Anita thanked her once again, this time it was quite audible.
"You will be working with the Chief Accountant. He expects you after half an hour. Here is your security pass. In the meantime, let me take you around."
"Thank you Mrs. Pant."
"Supriya, OK? Just Supriya."
"Thank you Supriya," she said and followed her.

Prime Movers & Builders was a top notch real estate firm with offices all over India. It was the corporate office of the firm in Delhi where Anita was appointed as practising chartered accountant. It was a challenging job with high perks but it had been a long arduous journey for Anita to reach there.

Anita's father, Joseph Kutty was a small time farmer in a village near Kochi, a coastal town in the state of Kerala. Joseph and his wife Karuna were school time friends, passionate young lovers and devoted couple. Unfortunately, Karuna died young of cervical cancer. Joseph was then in his early thirties and Anita was hardly three years old. There was lot of pressure on him from his relatives and friends to remarry. Joseph refused. He loved Karuna dearly and he considered Anita as a parting gift from her. He wouldn’t thus trust to leave her in anyone else’s care.
While walking around his village, Joseph was haunted by the memory of the loving moments he had spent with his wife. He couldn’t concentrate on anything but at the same time he was aware of his responsibility to take care of Anita and provide her good education.
He decided to sell his house and small property and go to Delhi. Some of his community people had promised to help him establish there. He sold his house and land and shifted to Devli, a small village on the outskirt of Delhi. He rented a small house in the nearby unauthorized colony and established a small grocery shop on the ground floor of the house. It was a slow beginning, the income from the shop was barely enough to survive.
Joseph worked hard. After closing the shop and putting Anita to sleep, he worked as a night watchman of the colony and he volunteered help to the church, which also ran a school for the children. When the Father of the school admitted Anita in the school, Joseph was a much relieved man.

Anita saw her father toiling mostly in one of the two pairs of trousers he had and the little girl was aware of the hard work her father did to meet her needs.
“Papa, why don’t you ever buy anything for yourself,” Anita had asked her father many a time.
“Surely, I will, just wait a little, sweet heart,” he would tell her.

Little Anita sitting in her room above the shop often dreamed of having lot of money and buying gifts for her father.
"Papa, I am not going to work in this shop. When I grow up, I am going to earn a lot of money and we will close down this shop."
"What are you going to do my child?"
"I am going to be a chartered accountant. They earn lot of money. Then I will buy clothes and gifts for you."
Joseph who doted upon his little girl was quite moved.

Joseph’s hard work was yielding results. He had extended his shop and with little help from friends added a soft drinks and ice cream counter with a telephone booth. He kept the place neat and tidy and soon it became a favourite joint of the young crowd. Joseph had now a new problem at hand. His expanding business required that he had to file a tax return.

It was Christmas Eve. Joseph had bought a beautiful dress for Anita. The young little girl was annoyed.
“Why only for me. Will you always remain in these worn out trousers?”
“Anita dear, don’t you bother for my trousers. Don’t you know this is the fashion in vogue?” He bantered.
Tears rolled down the little Anita’s cheeks. She couldn’t speak and ran in to the waiting arms of her father and sobbed bitterly.
Joseph caressed her hair and whispered, “I will buy myself a three piece designer’s suit on the day you join a decent job.”

One day Joseph told Anita, "The worst part of my work is to keep accounts and you know I have no clue of accounts. But for Jacob, I would have been outside the tax office every day."
Jacob Mathew was a young clerk in the tax office living with his parents in the neighborhood. In his spare time, he helped the small businessmen in keeping their accounts and filing their tax returns for a small fee.
"Wait until I qualify as a CA. Then you wouldn't have to depend on anyone,” Anita assured her father.

"Dear, Jacob is a great help. So far I never had any problem in filing the tax return. You know how complicated the tax laws are and how greedy the tax people are."
"That is because you neither know accounts nor the tax-laws."
"OK! I give up but Jacob stays until you are ready to replace him."
Anita often had such arguments with her father who resolved them all in lighter vein. Anita but knew that her father was wholly dependent on Jacob and that the latter helped him with all sincerity.

Ill luck was still following the family. One evening when Jacob was returning from church, a speeding truck overran him. Jacob who was accompanying him rushed him to the nearby hospital but it was all too late.

The people in neighbourhood knew Joseph’s store was doing well and that Anita neither had experience nor inclination to run the shop. They were curious to know her future plans. Some of them either asked her straight or they approached Jacob, who they knew was close to the family. They would come to express their condolences but come around the issue one way or the other.

“I hate these people who come to offer condolence with scheming minds. It hurts when some of them slyly suggest or try to find out if I had plans to sell the shop," she told Jacob.
"That is the reality of life, dog eating dog.”
"My father toiled hard to raise this shop. I will never sell it though I don’t know what to do next," she told Jacob.

"Anita, you are at the critical stage of your life. You must complete your CA before you take up anything else in your hands,” Jacob advised her.
"Jacob, I have hardly any choice. I can not afford to continue my studies. You know how expensive the books are. Moreover, you have to work long hours to qualify the CA examination whereas the shop needs all the time."
"Please don’t leave your studies at this stage. Let’s hire a help for running the shop. I will keep a watch over the daily transactions.
"Jacob! I appreciate your kind gesture but I am not in a proper frame of mind to continue my studies. It needs total concentration, which I find difficult altogether."
"You remember it was your ambition and your father always wanted you to become an accountant."
"I remember everything but I find myself unable to continue.”
"The best tribute you can pay to your deceased parent is by completing your studies and qualifying as a chartered accountant, which you promised during his life time."

Anita knew it and she knew her father’s soul would not rest in peace till she succeeded in achieving the avowed objective.

The last four years were tough. Anita worked very hard dividing her time between her books and the shop. Late in the night, she would go through the sales figures meticulously, which kept the new manager on his toes. Jacob stood by her all these years. There was an indomitable determination in the young girl to forge ahead. She felt that she owed it to her father. Anita qualified as CA with distinction.

Supriya was garrulous by any standard. Anita found it difficult to match her pace of rapid-fire questions. Some questions she replied well but she was nearly incoherent replying to others. She was aware of it and felt awkward but it really was helping her to get over her nervousness.

Anita was sitting before her boss. Mr. Garg received her with the air of a boss. Anita soon realized that the boss wanted to floor her with his knowledge. That in fact raised her confidence for she prided her knowledge and the self-esteem in her got over the initial inhibitions.
"I am going to let the guy have it," she decided.
Soon she was a changed person, a well-informed professional. Mr. Garg was surprised by her knowledge of accounting laws and their legal implications.
"Anita you will make a good accountant and we will make a good team," he said rising from his chair and shaking hand with her
"Thank you sir, I will do my best," Anita said, coming out of the room.

Jacob was waiting for her out side her office. He could see Anita’s beaming face.
"Congratulations, Anita. I wish your father was here today. He would have been very proud of you."
"Yes, I know,” she said and then after a little pause she continued, “Jacob, thanks for everything. You have been a great help. I remember the evening of my father’s funeral. It was so depressing and I had lost all hopes. But for you, I would have never reached this position."
"I am happy for you. Let's go out for dinner. It is on me. I want to celebrate the occasion."
Anita kept quiet for a moment and then told him, "Jacob, I am sorry I can't go out today. I have an important engagement this evening."
"What engagement?" Jacob was hurt by her brusque reply.
"May be, some other day, please."
Jacob didn't insist but he was very disappointed.
"As you wish," he said and left her outside her new office.

Anita came home, took a shower and put on the dress her father had given her on her birthday, the year he had died. Then she went to the nearby florist and bought a bouquet of roses.
Looking at the flowers she told the taxi driver,
"Please take me to the Christian cemetery."

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Kareempura is a small village in the Lahore district in Pakistan. In fact, it is the last village on the Pakistan side bordering with India. The village is known for its special variety of mangoes and basmati rice. The people there say, “If you have tasted the mangoes and basmati of Kareempura once, you will decline a royal invitation to taste it again.”
There is lot of truth in it but Kareempura’s picture will remain incomplete if it were not added here that the people of Kareempura are very warm and hospitable.

It was the year 1943.
Jagir Singh was the zamindar of Kareempura. He was a happy go lucky fellow, generally amorous but generous with his subject. He liked good things of life and organized cultural activities like qawali, music and muzra in the lawns of his haveli, which was thrown open to the public on such occasions. Though the income from the zamindari was not much, Jagir Singh seldom complained.
In the winter months, the farmers after sowing ravi crop have a little respite. That is the time for social, cultural activities. In villages, the groups of nomadic mirasi tribe, the singing and dancing troupe, move from village to village entertaining the peasantry. Normally open to men only, some elderly women do sneak in or watch the performance from the roof top of the nearby houses.

Karishma was a member of such small troupe. She was young and beautiful and had a melodious voice. When she rendered gazals, men were moved and when she sang from Bhulesah, women could hardly hold back their tears.
Jagir Singh was captivated by Karishma’s talent and charm. He wanted her to stay back in Kareempura and he knew he had to pay a price for it. Jagir Singh made a deal with the head of the troupe for one thousand silver coins to keep Karishma in Kareempura. It was a fortune those days.

Jagir Singh gave Karishma enough money and a house and spent most of his evenings with her. His wife accepted the situation without much demur but his two grown up sons were not happy and they made it known to their father. Jagir Singh ignored all protests for he knew it was common those days for the rich landlords to have such relationship, which in fact was a status symbol. The family resentment came to surface again when a son was born to Karishma two years later. Jagir Singh was very happy but worried at the same time for Karishma and his newly born son.
“I should leave some property for them to survive when I am no more,” he thought and decided to give a piece of land to Karishma.
"I am giving the tract of land on the other side of the canal to Karishma. I have a responsibility towards her and her son. You will still have far more than you need. Hope you have no objection," he asked his sons.
His sons knew that their father had the legal right to do so. Moreover, it was a small piece of arid land away from the village and they still had over seventeen hundred acres of land between them.
"Do as you wish," they said with a sly smile.

Jagir Singh called the Patwari, the land revenue officer to prepare a deed transferring the land to Karishma. As was the requirement, the deed was written on a court-paper, which was then to be registered in the District Court of Lahore.
Was it because of procrastination, or was it providence, nothing can be said for sure. The fact was that the deed remained unregistered. It at times worried Jagir Singh but Karishma was happy with her son and satisfied with whatever she got from Jagir Singh.
"Allah, the merciful has placed me in to your care. He will take care of my son too," she often told Jagir Singh.

In the year 1947 India was partitioned with the creation of a new state of Pakistan. There was mass exodus of population from either side, which history had not seen before. Loss of land, property and dear ones angered all who were incited by maullvis and pundits. There were riots, arson and bloodshed of unprecedented scale on both sides of the border.
Jagir Singh was forced to leave Kareempura and along with that, his land, his haveli, his wealth, his love and his newly born son. The family decided to go to Amritsar, the nearest town on Indian side. They took all they could carry and decided to leave in the night. All movements had to be made discreetly since people in that area knew of his wealth and many envied him. He told his sons to move in separate groups and reach the army camp, which was set up seven miles from Kareempura towards Vagha village, now the international border post.

"You people go ahead, I will join you soon," he said and sneaked out of the house.

Jagir Singh wanted to give some gold coins and money to Karishma and he wanted to see his son, whom he had named Iqbaal, meaning, power and fame.
The separation was painful for Jagir Singh, as it was for Karishma. He held her passionately against his trembling body. Karishma took a black thread, which she had brought from the mosque and tied it around his arm. "Allah will protect you from all evil forces," she whispered. Jagir Singh kissed Karishma and his son several times and promised to come back as soon as the situation came under control.
“I must leave both of you in the hands of Wahe Guru,” he said handing her the gold coins and money he had kept for her in a separate packet. He hugged Karishma for the last time and kissed his son and stepped out in the dark. Karishma raised her hands in prayers for his safety.
It was still dark, but far on the horizon, there were signs of daybreak. Jagir Singh was petrified as he realized that he had very less time to cover the seven miles to safety. He heard the shrill shouts of the marauders who cried death to Kafirs. He ran as fast as his aging legs would allow him but fate had ordained otherwise. The group spotted Jagir Singh, the benevolent zamindar of Kareempura and speared him to death, on the piece of land, he had given to Karishma.
Jagir Singh’s family reached the army camp safely and they had managed to carry the gold and jewelry that once belonged to Jagir Singh. They waited for him anxiously until the army officer threatened to leave them behind. The family, unaware of the fate Jagir Singh had met was taken in a military truck to Amritsar along with other refugees. Jagir Singh’s family had a feeling that Karishma might have used some black magic to hold him back or got him killed for the gold sovereigns he was carrying on his person.

Karishma and her son Iqbaal were left in Kareempura. A couple of days later, she learnt of Jagir Singh's fate. She saw the rotting corpse but there was nothing she could have done for she herself was suspect in the eyes of the locals. Her heart ached for her lover and benefactor who she knew had staked his life to secure her future. She went to the village mosque and prayed for his soul.

The government of Pakistan decided to allot the land belonging to Hindu and Sikh families to the Muslims arriving from India. The piece of land Jagir Singh had wanted to give Karishma still remained against his name in the revenue records and therefore included for distribution amongst the refugees. Karishma’s protest and wailing didn’t help. Faiz Ali a prosperous farmer of Kareempura, who envied Jagir Singh, connived with the land revenue authorities and got the land allotted to his cousin, who had migrated from India.

Ten years. Karishma had used all the gold and money that Jagir Singh had left for her. She now worked as a housemaid and her health was failing. She often told Iqbaal the stories of the good days she had spent with Jagir Singh.
“Son, I may not live long. We have lost the land that your father had left for you. Learn some craft to earn your living.”
Iqbaal would but retort and swear at Faiz Ali. He was annoyed that Faiz Ali had usurped his property in a fraudulent manner. He had turned a rebel, no one in Kareempura wanted to employ him.

Iqbaal started working as a barber. Shaving the beard of his clients, he often fancied running it down the throat of Faiz Ali and his children.

The land deed that Jagir Singh had signed was not traceable for several years until Iqbaal requested the land record munsif who was his regular client to help him in the matter. Several other men of the village also told the munsif that they were aware of such deed.
The papers were finally located under a pile of old records. Faiz Ali but argued that since the deed was not registered in the district court, it had no validity. The court accepted this plea and that closed the matter for all time.
Iqbaal was frustrated. “There is no justice in this world. Justice is what you can get for yourself and I am going to do that,” he vowed.
It was not very long thereafter that Karishma died, leaving behind Iqbaal to face the world alone. During her illness, she talked of her youth, of her admirers who stayed back until daybreak, listening to her songs and she talked of the land that Jagir Singh had given her. When the funeral was over, Iqbaal vowed to take revenge.

Iqbaal was a tall lad with broad shoulders. He supported a beard and wore a turban like Jagir Singh, the former zamindar of Kareempura. People laughed at his back and some mocked at him. Iqbaal was but impervious.
It was a wintry night. The sky was clouded and people were tucked in their quilts other than those who had to use canal water for irrigating the Ravi crop. Iqbaal knew that that night it was Faiz Ali’s turn to use the canal water. He was standing outside his thatched cottage, waiting for him with bated breadth.
It was Imtiaz, Faiz Ali’s elder son going towards his fields. He stalked him as the track passed through a mango grove. That was the spot Iqbaal had chosen to kill his victim. He increased his pace. The hatred that raged in side for years was about to burst like a volcano.

“I want to shoot the bastard from the front. The son of a bitch must know that it was I, son of Karishma who killed him,” he muttered.
Suddenly, he heard Imtiaz Ali shouting, “I am dead… I am dead… a cobra has bitten me. Some one please save my life.”
Iqbaal jumped close to Imtiaz who was lying on the ground pointing a torch light at his ankle. Imtiaz saw blood oozing from his ankle.
“You sure it was a snake?”
“Yes, I saw it.”
“Don’t worry, you will be all right," Iqbaal said tearing a piece of cloth out of his turban. He twisted it with his hands, tied it tightly above Imtiaz’s ankle and sucked it hard and spat the blood on the ground. He repeated it until he felt giddy. All this time, Imtiaz was looking at him dazed.
A little later, Iqbaal dragged him to the edge of the canal.
“Put your foot in the water and let the blood flow. Have a heart now. Nothing will happen to you. I will go to the village and send your folks.”
Imtiaz had regained his wits and he was feeling better. Then he realized that presence of Iqbaal at that place and hour was strange but providential.
“Iqbaal Bhai, don’t you think Allah the merciful only sent you here at such an odd hour to save my life?”

Iqbaal looked at him and smiled wryly. And then throwing the pistol at Imtiaz he said, “You know, I had come to kill you.”