Monday, November 28, 2005

A LIfe to Live

A Life to Live – Part I

“Could you explain how you can do that??” I was getting cocky.

The girl in front of me panicked. She stammered and blurted out a few words before settling down to a meek “I am not sure”.

The other members of the interview panel smiled very lightly on seeing the candidate duly put in place.
Although we were looking for an excuse to recruit the candidates, we get charged up when a candidate behaves as if he/she is doing a favour by coming to the interview.
My role was to get the candidate to a balanced state of mind from where we can work on the “real interview”. The girl in front of us was one such candidate.
As the other members continued questioning we realized that the girl was reasonably smart and could do the job if she could stop herself from overdoing the “confidence appeal”.
After five minutes of grueling, the interview was over. We thanked the interviewee and the girl went outside.

“Iam glad we have you in the interview panel”, remarked Baskar.
Our manager nodded in approval with a gentle smile.

It felt nice. My growth in this company has been phenomenal. In no time I have risen to a position where I am included in the interview panel.
Life is good.
Except for the memories of the tragedy that happened a few years back, my life was just about smooth.
I had no indication that it was going to change very soon.

We took a copy each of the Bio data of the next candidate.
I started browsing the paper rather casually until my eyes locked onto the photo of the candidate on the far right.
The name of the candidate read “Archana Stephen”.
So it was confirmed.
I put the papers down and started staring at the window facing the road.

“Is something wrong Subbu??”Bhaskar enquired as he noticed my face going white.
Just then our manager looked at me and asked.
“Is everything alright Mr.Subramaniam??”

“I..Iam………….Iam Ok.
“I mean… Can I go home now??? I think I am not feeling well” I was blabbering like never before.

The manager stared at me quizzically.
“I hope you are not joking Mr.Subramaniam”. There was a tinge of anger in his tone.
“Hey whats wrong da??” bhaskar sounded more empathized and genuinely concerned.

“No nothing.Iam not feeling well. A bit of head ache.I think I might throw up anytime.”
It was the most unconvincing excuse I had ever heard.

The manager was looking hard at me in disbelief for a while.
“Ok, Mr.Subramaniam. You can go now. Please take care of your health”.
“ThankYou Sriram”

I staggered as I got up from my chair.
“Take care da”,remarked Bhaskar as he was looking for an answer in my eyes.
He knew he would know the answer sooner or later.

I came out of the room and was struck by hundreds of prying eyes hoping to get any sort of information. The crowd got back to their curious conversation after a slight commotion.

As I was scanning the crowd as casually as possible, I saw her sitting with couple of other candidates in the sofa placed for the candidates to wait.
She was calmly listening to couple of other people who were discussing about something very seriously. It seemed that she hadn’t noticed me coming out, as she was deeply engrossed in the discussion.
She looked a bit leaner than I had seen her before and her face had a bit more maturity and refinement than what I remembered.
There was something more to the expression in her face, which I couldn’t quite locate.
If the face is the index of someone’s mind, her face was like a page with a simple and abstract design with no content.

I got down the stairs, as I didn’t want to wait for the elevator. My mind was not in my control as I was coming back home.
My mom looked surprised as I entered my home. She peered through her glasses as she was seated in front of the pooja room with a sloka book in her hand and with her lips murmuring the regular verses.
I didn’t say anything. I went straight to my room , got changed to dhoti and came back to the hall.
As I sat on the big swing that was hung in the middle of the big hall and was swaying gently,I heard my mother approaching me.
“Are you alright,I remember you were saying that you will be coming late today.” She enquired as she gave me the tumbler full of hot coffee.

I sipped it gently as I was contemplating whether to tell her or not.
And then I said.

“I saw Archana today ma”.
She stopped on her tracks as she walked to the kitchen and turned back. After recovering from the initial shock, she asked.

“How is she doing?? Did you talk to her”
and then as an after thought she added.
“How is he??”

“I didn’t talk to her ma,she didn’t see me. Only I saw her” I told her as I sipped the coffee with my eyes fixed on the TV which was switched off.

She was standing there looking at me for a while then she went back to the pooja room after taking a deep breath.

Soon I could hear her chant the hymn from the book. The murmurs soon turned to subdued weeping sound as she tried to control her tears.
My mind was thrown back to the events which made me hear the same sound from my mom.

To be continued………….

A Life to Live – Part II

Iam the second child for my parents, after Archana. Archana was elder to me by 4 years. Archana was the one who took care of me when I was young as my mom was diseased for fairly long time during my childhood. She used to feed me, clothe me and put me to sleep when I was a baby.
Its even fair to say that I was attached to her more than I was attached to my mom. I was the apple of her eye and she used to look for me all the time. I used to be with her always and she used to teach me everything she knew. She would even fight for me when I was being bullied by jerks. She used to motivate me a lot and would spend extra hours to make sure that I did well both in studies and other extra curricular activities.
She was brilliant in maths and she used to patiently teach me even when she had exams of her own.
Oh!! How I revered her!
I would turn to my dear Archana Akka* for anything and everything. Be it studies,sports,movies or any other thing under the sun. Being a timid and shy boy I always needed her guidance for every step of my life.

I never kept away from her even when I was advised to stay away from her by my relatives when she had become a “big girl”. I used to play the game of dice with her and her friends all the time.

She was always my dear Archana akka.
The person who can never go wrong.
The person who knew everything under the sun.
The person who will do all she can to see me happy.

My friend
My mentor
My guide
My respected Goddess Saraswathi!!

All that came to a grinding halt one dark day!!
I was studying in 12th standard at that time.
As I returned from my tuition class, I realized that our home was unusually quiet except for the screeching sound of the swing.
As I entered the home my dad was swaying fairly hardly on the swing. I have grown to know that oscillation rate of the swing is directly proportional to my dad’s mood.
I carefully stepped into the hall and saw my mom weeping with the tip of her saree pallu tucked into her mouth.
Archana akka was standing in the corner of the hall busy tearing off her handkerchief with her teeth as she blew her nose from time to time. Her head was hung low and she was facing the floor but I could see that she had been crying hard. There was a noticeable red hand print on her fair skinned cheek clearly signifying that she had been slapped by my dad!!!
I knew right then that something was terribly wrong.
After looking around for 2-3 minutes , I went to my sister and asked.
“What happened Akka??”
She looked upto me slowly and before she could say anything I heard the angry voice of my dad.
“Go to your room and study,Subbu”.
There can be no second thought. I dragged myself into my room.

After a while my mom brought me some coffee. She looked hugely shaken.
“What happened ma?” I enquired.
“You are a small boy. This is a matter better left to elders,” she said as she wiped off the tears from her eyes.

My sister left the house one week after this incident leaving back a short letter, which my dad tore off in a fit of rage.
I later learnt that she had left the home to marry her colleague who was a Christian.
In a conservative Brahmin family like mine where uttering the word “Love marriage” is considered as an ultimate heresy, she had done the most outrageous act by marrying someone from another religion.
All around us we heard jokes from our relatives about how the only daughter of a strict disciplinarian had “run away” with a Christian. Our family had become the laughing stock for the whole relatives circle. We locked ourselves within our homes and didn’t go to any community gathering fearing humiliation. My dad was never the same after this incident and he died within a year more of heartbreak than anything else.
My sister was widely seen as the demon who sucked out the life of my dad. I had to struggle a little after my dad had died, as I had to take care of my education and family responsibilities until I got a job.
I never heard from Archana and I never took any extra effort to find out about her.
I was afraid to take her name in front of my dad and after my father died I was too busy making the ends meet to worry about her.
I always remembered her as a guardian angel who was everything for me during my childhood and I always prayed God to keep her happy in the bottom of my heart.

I was happy with the status quo until I saw her again in the office today, after years.

I wasn’t sure what to do with the current situation. On one hand I was not comfortable with the fact that she was responsible for the death of my dad and on the other hand I felt she was not at fault for anything and I was yearning to see my nephew/niece if she had any kids.

I couldn’t remember when I went to sleep that day but I didn’t realize that I was to be delivered from the predicament into even more heartbreaking news soon.

*Akka - Elder sister
To be continued…………

A Life to Live – part III

I was not my usual cheerful self when I went to office the next day.
Bhaskar came running to my place and said.
“Have you gone crazy?? Why are ruining your career after putting a lot of hard work to build it in the first place. What was wrong with you? Don’t tell me you were sick. Iam not buying it!By the way,the manager wanted to see you. Let me see how you talk yourself out of this!!!”
“Shut up Baskar. Did you select anyone??”
“Yeah , Some Archana Stephen. She has quit her job in Bangalore and has come to Chennai recently. She was ready to join from today itself and we weren’t complaining!!I think she will be inducted today.”
“Where can I find her??”
He looked into his watch.

“She should have returned from induction by now. You can find her in the seat reserved for her position. Why do you ask?? Is it something about the candidate??”
“Will tell you later”, so saying I walked towards her place.

I saw her taking out a photo of a small boy from her box and place it on the table as I entered her cube.
She looked very weak and her shoulders were slumped
She turned back as she heard me coming. She forgot to say anything, as she looked at me in disbelief.
Then the first signs of joy erupted in her face.
“Subbu!!!! How are you doing da???”
Her voice broke off as she got up from her chair. It looked as if tears of joy were going to erupt any moment.
“You have grown up so much, how come you are here??”
She asked as she ruffled my hair with her right hand.
“I work here Akka!”

I simply didn’t know what else to say. I was too over whelmed with emotions to say anything.
“My God !!!! Iam so happy to see you!! How are appa and amma doing???”
“hmmmmmmm… Akka I have to talk a lot to you. Can we go to the pantry??”

We started walking towards the pantry as she enquired about my studies and job.
As we located one of our tables and took our seats,she mentioned.
“Iam so sorry to leave you alone Subbu!!!”
I could see tears in her eyes.
“So how is appa?? Is he still angry with me??”

“We will talk about dad later. How is Attimber*?? When can I meet him??”

Her face suddenly went dull. She looked away towards the door for a while and then said.

“He has left me Subbu
“He died around six months back”
She added as she was trying to stop herself from wailing out aloud.

“What??? Why….I mean..What happened????” I was out of words.

She leaned back on the chair.

“I had told about my relationship to our parents long before you knew about it. Dad was livid. He dismissed the option without even discussing anything. But I used to raise the issue every now and then but never persisted with the discussion as Dad used to get terribly furious and noisy.
“But then Stephen got a better job in Bangalore. I realized that it was time to come to a conclusion and raised the issue one last time. All hell broke loose and there was a huge fight at our home on that day. That was when you knew about the confusion.
I realized our dad would never accept my marriage with Stephen. So I moved over with him to Bangalore where we got married much against the opinion of Stephen. He wanted our marriage only after the comprehensive approval of our parents. I convinced him that they would agree after a few months if we were married.
“Our life was heavenly for some three four months. Then suddenly Stephen got ill and was admitted in a hospital. That was when we got to know about our twisted fate.”

She paused as she tried to control herself and then continued.
“Stephen had been tested HIV positive”
I stared at her in disbelief.
“Stephen had studied in a college reputed for ragging. It was particularly serious in hostels. The seniors make the juniors do unspeakable acts to derive sadistic pleasure. One day he was caught in between a bunch of such seniors. He had to sing and dance for a vulgar song in front of them, as they were lost in drugs. One guy remarked that he wasn’t dancing well and the bunch forcefully injected him with the infected needle.”
She started weeping mildly.
“Stephen had come back to his hometown soon after this incident. The problematic students were arrested soon after that as one of the juniors had committed suicide unable to take the disturbance from seniors. He went back to the college after one whole month during which the authorities had become stricter towards ragging and he soon forgot about the incident.
“He never knew that the needle was HIV infected and he never knew that he had contracted the AIDS virus. “
“My God!! How can you be so cruel!!!” I told myself!!

Just then it hit me!!
“Akka!!! Does that mean………”
She looked at with glistened eyes and smiled faintly!!

“Yes Subbu,I have contracted the virus from him”
I felt like thousand lightnings passing through me.
My Akka has AIDS.
My only sister whom I revere as Goddess has got AIDS. My guardian angel who brightened my day is dying!!!
“My God !!!!What kind of sadist are you!!! Why do you have to punish good people??
What motivation is there to live if you keep disproving “Cause and effect” time and again.
I closed my face with both my hands!! I couldn’t face her. I could control my tears but I tried very very hard to stop myself from crying out loud.

I wanted to comfort my sister. I wanted to lend her my shoulder to cry. I wanted to serve her and protect her from the perils of the world. I wanted to cover her with my blanket of affection and keep her away from any more sorrow. I wanted to cleanse her off the depression and freshen up her with laughter!!!
I wanted to go back in time.
I wanted her to teach me maths again. I wanted her to shoo off her friends as they tease me for being with my sister all the time.
I want you akka!!!
I want you to live.
I want you to live happily.
Somehow all my words seemed to have no meanings at all!

To be continued………………

* Attimber à Brother – in - law

A Life to Live – Epilogue

“Why didn’t you tell us all this???” I asked her
“How can I tell you?? I thought I had given you enough pain already so I didn’t want to bother you guys any more!!”

“And that boy” I was reminded of the photo she was placing on the table when I went to her place.
“Its my son Suresh.My worry is about what will happen to him when I am gone from this world.” She replied.
“Don’t worry Akka , I shall take care of him. I shall take care him like you took care of me”so saying I held her shoulder with my hands as if to comfort her.
“Thanks Subbu” she touched my left hand with her right hand with gratitude in her voice


I brought her home that day and she lived with me for the rest of her life. Suresh was a delightful little kid and I could see all the brilliance of his mom in him. Incidentally that day was the last day she ever cried in her life. I made sure she got all the happiness she could have ever wanted.
I took her all the places she ever wanted to visit. I made her the best possible cuisine she might want to taste.
I bought her the best dresses and jewellery any woman could ask for. I made sure she lived a queen’s life until she died.
My sister died a peaceful death 5 years after she came to our house. Usually HIV infected people live a normal life until they are affected by any disease. Only after they get any disease they become weak and wage a losing battle, as their antibodies don’t work. That’s when they officially have AIDS. So technically you don’t have AIDS even if you have HIV virus in your system, provided if you do not any disease.
In my sister’s case, she had been infected TB from her husband so she didn’t live longer.
But before she died, she had drastically changed my life.
She made me realize the purpose of my life.

Whenever I see a destitute woman, I see the pain of my sister in her eyes. Whenever I see orphaned children, I can only think of Suresh. Whenever I see any socially challenged people yearning for company, I remember the days of loneliness my sister had to go through.
I realized that it is my duty to do whatever I can possibly do, to help the needy in whichever little way possible. I started a small organization called “Nesam*” with regular sponsors and some enthusiastic volunteers from my company.
We process educational requests, medical requests and help them with the funds we get. We have organized weekend visits to destitute homes and orphanages where our volunteers give company to the lonely and put smiles in people’s faces. I myself go to a trust, which takes care of children born to HIV infected parents.
We know that we might never be able to cater to all but that is not going to stop us from doing whatever little we can do.
I know God has given me this life for a purpose and I have identified what life I am going to live.

The End.
*Nesam – roughly translates to affection , in tamil.

16 Comments:

sri said...

I don't know who you are....but initially when i entered this site i was just thinking this blog to be just like any other usual blogs......bit it was disproved....
this article was really packed with so much of emotions and feelings. i really feel sorry for your sister.
I pray God that Suresh should get all possible happiness in this world and may God's blessings shower on him abundantly.

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Karthikeyan Rajasekaran said...

Hi CVR,
Once again a very good story from you.

-Karthik.

CVR said...

Hi Sri,
Calm down!!
this is not a true story!! :)just a fiction!! :)

rsubras said...

hi dude..long time no updates??

Srivatsan said...

well..moving story.. have one comment regarding the line "she died".. it may help to be a little more subtle.. u cld have just said "she lived happily as long as she lived"..

Vidya said...

no prizes for guessing how i came here :) ..
well written ..i was starting to feel sad for you ..then when i read the comments ..i felt relieved :) !!!
why don't you produce some movies or serials ??

Anonymous said...

Excellent CVR ... Remember me :-)

Y.S.I said...

seriously.... this blog was just fantastic...i was moved.

keep it up & keep writing

CVR said...

Thanks for the comments guys!


And Cowey!
mm

I am not entirely sure!
Sorry

But short film making rings a bell! We might have crossed somewhere on that topic!

have we??

Anonymous said...

CVR I am kowsikr - Infy..

CVR said...

Cool!!
sorry i didnt recognize the name cowey!!!

How are you doing???
Thanks for visiting and commenting!! :)

Aarthi Mohan said...

Wow!

Gladtomeetin said...

Hi, Very Good one....Reminded me of many incidents...

Happy to know from your comments that you have not gone through it !!!

Keep the Good work anyhow!!!

peri said...

Well, ur comment gives me a small relief, that this is fictional,though it touched me man.

CVR said...

Thanks guys!!
@Peri
this story has always been mistaken a s true story by quite a lot of people,think i should carry a disclaimer if i get to publish somewhere!! :-)

Sociable