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|by Ramendra Kumar|
"Lata can you come here for a minute?" Mr.V.K.Satyan called from his room.
"Wait 'Appa'. I can't come now. I am preparing Nitya's breakfast," Lata replied.
Nitya looked at her mother. She looked irritated. After Nitya finished her breakfast she went to her room to change into her school dress. Five minutes later as she was wearing her shoes she heard voices coming from her grandfather's room."
"Lata, I need 250 rupees."
"But 'Appa' you had taken 500 last week."
"Yes, I know, but what can I do? You know how costly my medicines are. Moreover the Doctor has asked me to take fruits regularly. The oil I use for massage is over and I also have to pay Ranga the fellow who gives the massage."
"I really don't know how we are going to manage. At this rate I'll have to dismiss the maidservant and do all the housework on my own."
Just then Nitya heard the tinkle of the rickshaw's bell and rushed outside. Later on the way to school she kept thinking about the conversation which she had overheard. She hadn't liked the way her mother had talked to her 'Thaatha'.
* * *
Mr.Satyan looked at the calendar. It was 4th of August. His son Vaasu would be coming back from tour on 6th. Vaasu was a Medical Representative in a pharmaceutical company. He was usually away on tour for most part of the month.
Nine months ago Mr.Satyan had been a contented man. He had retired as a Lecturer from a private Degree college three years ago. He had spent the money he had received from his gratuity and provident fund on his two children. More than half the amount had gone for his daughter Chitra's marriage. With the rest of the money Mr. Satyan had brought a scooter for Vaasu and a colour TV for the house. He still remembered how thrilled Nitya had been when the colour TV had arrived.
Three months after his retirement Lata had suggested,"'Appa' you were such a good mathematics teacher, why don't you start taking tuitions? Poor kids, they have to suffer a lot because of the lack of quality education - specially in maths and science. In the schools and colleges most teachers either don't have any interest in teaching or they lack the capability to teach. As a result coaching classes have sprung all over. These private tutorials have been reduced to money making ventures and the students are being exploited. If you take up teaching you will be doing a service to society."
"But where do I take the classes?"
"In this house. We can convert the verandah to a classroom. We'll buy some stools and a blackboard."
"How do we contact the students?"
"I'll take care of all that. I'll spread the word around. When they hear that you are taking classes they will come in droves. Enrolling the students, collecting the fees and other such arrangements you leave to me. You just get ready to start teaching. Appa', this will also do you a lot of good. I had read somewhere that if a person who has led a busy life stops all activity after retirement, than he ages very fast. Teaching will help you keep mentally and to a certain extent even physically fit."
"I think what you are saying is quite true Lata. But there is one thing I want to tell you. Teaching is a noble profession. I can never treat it as a business. Whatever knowledge I have is for sharing not for selling. Make sure that the tuition fee is reasonable."
"Ofcourse 'Appa'. I will find out the market rate and keep the our fee much below that rate."
Six months later Lata managed to get a hall in a nearby club on rent. She persuaded Mr.Satyan to take classes in the hall. Soon he was teaching two batches of forty students each in the morning and one batch of sixty student in the evening. While Mr.Satyan concentrated on teaching, Lata sorted out all other details like collection of fees, arrangements of stationery etc.
Mr.Satyan was quite happy with his new assignment. He had always been very fond of teaching and he was enjoying interacting with the inquisitive and bright young minds.
Things were going very smoothly when suddenly one day tragedy struck. Mr.Satyan had got up in the middle of the night to drink water when he felt a searing pain rock his body. He took a couple of steps and then fell down unconscious.
Vaasu was luckily home and rushed him to the hospital. He was shifted immediately to the ICU. Three hours later the Doctor spoke to Vaasu.
"Mr.Satyan has suffered a paralytic stroke. The left side of his body is paralysed.
"Will he able to move around?" asked Lata.
"No, Madam. His left hand and leg are paralysed. Even his ability to speak will be affected."
"Doctor is there no cure?" asked Vaasu.
"His condition can improve. What he needs is lots of exercise, regular massage, proper diet and above all will power. I can recommend a very good Orthopedic doctor who can examine him and suggest a suitable treatment. "
Mr.Satyan was discharged ten days later. Vaasu took him to Dr. R.S. Rajan, the Orthopedic Doctor, the next day. The Doctor asked Mr.Satyan to come to him for atleast a week to learn the exercises. After which he could do them at home.
Vaasu had to go on tour and the responsibility was on Lata to take her father in law to the clinic. Since he could not travel by bus they had to take an auto. For the first couple of days Lata didn't utter a word. Then she asked Dr.Rajan,"Is there any chance of him becoming normal?"
"What do you mean by normal?"
"I mean prior to his stroke he used to be very active. He was conducting coaching classes twice every day. He used to be on his feet for almost four hours a day. "
"That is quite impossible. It will need a miracle. With proper exercise, diet and massage he will be able to walk with a limp and almost regain his power of normal speech and the use of his left hand. But he will never be able to take that kind of strain ever again. In fact you should not allow him to exert. In his condition any exertion can prove fatal."
After that day Lata's behavior started changing. She began grumbling about the Doctor's fees, the auto charges, the cost of the medicine etc.
After ten trips to the Orthopedic Clinic Dr.Rajan told Mr.Satyan,"I think you can now try the exercises at home. To help you out I'll send my assistant Pillai till you are able to do the exercises on your own."
Mr.Satyan found that even with the help of Pillai he was finding it very difficult to do the exercises. As a result he had no choice but to ask Pillai to continue helping him much longer than he had earlier thought. Pillai's visits added to the expenditure. Whatever little savings Mr.Satyan had were already exhausted. Now for even a rupee he had to depend on Lata. And she invariable grumbled. Mr.Satyan could have told Vaasu but he didn't want to create any problems between the husband and wife. He kept quiet and suffered in silence.
* * *
Nitya was very fond of her 'Thaatha'. Before his illness he would take her to the park everyday. While she played he would sit on the nearby bench and chat with his friend - Mr.Chalam who lived close by. He would keep buying chocolates, new dresses and lots of gifts for her. The first time when she won the first prize in the fancy dress competition he had brought her a brand new cycle, just like the one they showed on TV. He also used to tell her funny stories and make her laugh. But after his illness he had changed. Now he would lie down on his bed and keep staring at the ceiling.
She remembered when he had come home from the hospital she had been shocked to see him. He could not walk. 'Appa' and his friend had carried him. One side of his face was also twisted and he could hardly speak. Now ofcourse he was better. He was able to walk slowly with the help of a walking stick. His speech however wasn't very clear. She sometimes had to strain herself to understand what he was saying.
Nitya was upset over her mother's behaviour. Earlier, she used to take such good care of 'Thaatha'. When 'Thaatha' used to sleep in the afternoon her mother used to make sure there was no disturbance. Nitya was prohibited from even entering the room. When 'Thaatha' used to complain of even a minor headache 'Amma' would rush to the doctor and get the medicine. When Nitya wanted to eat anything special she would tell 'Thaatha' to ask, She knew if she asked 'Amma' would never agree. 'Thaatha' would call her and tell, "Lata can you make 'Upma' today? It is quite some time since I've tasted 'Upma'."
And within an hour hot steamy 'Upma' would be served. Nitya would share from 'Thaatha' plate and lick her fingers clean.
But now 'Amma' never bothered about 'Thaatha'. Whenever he asked for something she would only grumble. Nitya was puzzled by this change in behavior. One day she asked 'Thaatha'. He didn't say a word. He gently pulled her close and hugged her. When she looked up there were tears in his eyes.
* * *
"'Amma', Rocky is vomiting in the garden. Nitya told her mother. Rocky was their pet dog. Ever since she could remember Rocky had lived with them. He was a street dog but was very good looking and ferocious. Nitya was very fond of Rocky. He slept under her bed every day. And in the afternoon when she came home from school he would run to the Rickshaw barking wildly and waving his tail in greeting. He was also very protective. Once when one of her friends, Sridhar had given her a friendly whack on the back Rocky had immediately jumped up and caught hold of his hand. Poor Sridhar had almost fainted with fright.
"Amma what are you waiting for? Please go and see. I think Rocky is sick."
"I'll go and have a look when I have the time child. Don't bother me now."
That evening Nitya heard Amma telling the Rickshaw puller, "Mohan take Rocky and leave him somewhere. Make sure that he doesn't come back." She handed him a twenty rupee note.
"I'll take Rocky in my rickshaw after dropping Nitya home from school tomorrow."
Nitya was shocked. After Mohan left Nitya confronted her mother.
"Amma what is this? Why are you driving Rocky away? You know I love him so much."
"He is sick child."
"Then take him to a doctor."
"Don't be silly. For an old and useless dog you want me to spend 100-200 rupees. If you want we'll get another dog. I'll ask Mohan to look for a small pup."
* * *
The whole night Nitya couldn't sleep. She kept having nightmares. Mohan was taking her grandfather in his rickshaw. His hands and legs were tied and she was running after the rickshaw crying....
Next morning she woke early and went to her mother's room. The maidservant Radha hadn't yet come and Amma was sweeping the floor.
"'Amma', I want to ask you something."
"Yes? 'Amma' looked up slightly surprised at the seriousness in Nitya's tone."
"'Amma', yesterday you were telling Mohan to take Rocky away because he has become old and useless. Are you also planning to send 'Thaatha' away because he has become sick and useless? And like you were planning to get a new dog for me are you also planning to get me a new grandfather?" Nitya turned back and ran to her room tears streaming down her face.
* * *
That afternoon when Nitya returned from school she found an auto waiting in front of her gate. Her Thaatha and Rocky were inside and Amma was just getting in. Seeing Nitya Amma walked towards her.
"Nitya, 'Thaatha' was complaining of chest pain I am taking him to Doctor Rajan and Rocky to the Vet. Your tiffin is on the table. Tell Radha to warm it and serve. She then bend down and whispered in her ear," Nitya your little speech this morning jolted me. I have apologised to 'Thaatha' I hope he will forgive me." She got into the auto and as it started 'Thaatha' poked his head out and waved to Nitya.
She ran forward and put her arms around him.
"Thanks Nitya," he said and as she kissed him she found his cheeks wet with tears.
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