Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Scholarship: A Short Story

The Panchayat president stood up. Everybody clapped.

"It is a proud moment for us," he said, "that a daughter of this village should have scored such high marks in the X board exams. She has been given scholarship by the government for further studies."

The girl got up and the entire village applauded thunderously.

"Daughters are Lakshmi, their birth augurs well for the family. Today, this girl, by studying further will bring laurels not only for her parents, but the entire village." He turned towards the girl. "Amma, our hopes are pinned on you. As the first girl to have brought this village so much honour, I proudly hand over not only the letter of scholarship, but a token present from the office of the Panchayat." His eyes welled up at his own sentiments. The girl came blushing and teary eyed to receive it.

"Ayya, it is with the blessings of you elders that I have achieved this," she replied modestly, touched his feet and went back to hide in the crowd.

With a wave, the president stepped down from the dais, waving to the still cheering crowd.


His wife hid in the shadows and watched his performance. Resentment and sorrow blinded her as she thought of a fateful night.

"A girl! Is that all you can give me, woman!" he had raged. He wasn't the president back then, but his family had been well respected. "The village will laugh at me that my wife cannot beget a son."

She had cried out. "This is god's will."

He had turned on her angrily. "Don't blame god for your sins." Straightening himself, he had ordered in a cool, level voice. "Send for the midwife. I am going to inform the village that our son died at birth. The midwife will know what to do."

The woman looked at him shocked. "Don't! Don't please!"

He looked down at her with steely eyes. "You have a better plan."

She shrank back, shaking her head.

He turned and went away.


That had been 15 years back. Luckily, another child had died that night - she never inquired if the girl had been killed or died naturally.

But the babies were exchanged, and today, her daughter stood next to her foster parents, proudly smiling at the scholarship letter. The girl's foster mother looked in her direction and silently thanked her.

Acknowledging it with a slight nod, she turned away to walk in her husband's shadow.

Also read: Worshipper of Goddess;

Thursday, May 26, 2011

In High Places

"What do you think? Should we take some mangoes also?" he asked his friend.

The friend looked out. "They look yummy. The man likes mangoes. Maybe we can get some banganapalli. They look big and ripe," he pointed out.

The man pulled up at the kerbside. The two got out and walked towards the stalls on the footpath. The vendors called out, each quoting a competitive price. "You will not get such mangoes, sir," said one, taking out a mango whose aroma drew them to it. "Come here sir," another called.

Before the two could decide, there was a flurry of activity and the vendors started closing their stalls. But the Corporation van was on them before there was much progress. An official got out and grabbed a few mangoes. An assistant tested it and shook his head. All mangoes were confiscated.

"No sir, mine don't have artificial ripeners," one pleaded, but the mango didn't stand the test. Almost a 100 kilos of mangoes were packed up and taken away.

Shocked, the two friends thanked their stars for their narrow escape. "The b------s! Just to make a quick buck! No care about how it will affect the buyers!" he ranted.

The friend shook his head thinking of the men. "Just for a few hunderd bucks! Pathetic how cheap these men can get! What more can you expect from this class!"

"It's a health hazard! I think these vendors should be banned from returning, the orchards should be shut down. It is criminal! You remember how people developed allergies after consuming these last year! I don't know how the government cannot control this! Inefficient fools!"

The two reached their destination. "You have it with you?" His friend nodded.

They got out of the car and walked into the shabby office, the briefcase between them. They were shown in to the proprietor's room, who welcomed them, his face wreathed in smiles.

He put the briefcase on the table. "This is Rs 25,000, as I promised on the phone. Thank you for withdrawing your son's name from the tennis match."

The host brought his hands together and said, "He was anyway a wildcard entry...not much chance, I suppose."

The man smiled and he left, his friend on tow. "Why did you do it? If that boy wasn't good enough, yours would have won anyway , no?"

The man shook his head. "Mine is no good either. But he is very passionate about the game. I didn't want to disappoint him."

This was a poison plaguing the society that the Corporation couldn't test and confiscate.

Preserving the Innocence

We were watching the Karachi besiege. My daughter said, "I am scared! Why are they doing this? Will it happen to us too?"

"Let's hope not," I replied. But more can we say any more in today's world?

"But why are they doing this? Do they want to have power, rule over others, or others to listen to them? What is it they want?"

After a brief pause, I said, "They are just made that way. They just destroy thinking that is the only way."

"That's what," she said triumphantly. "So we can teach them not to be like that."

I paused to look at her. A chip off the block?

Read: Gora;  or does the solution lie only in destroying: Raktabeeja?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

TV Debut

This morning, Star Vijay telecast snippets from a program held in the US, in San Diego.

It was a moment of double pleasure for us.

The troupe that sang had my 11 year old niece Namu singing with her teacher Revathi Subramanian and other students. It was part of invocation songs sung by the group.

The second moment of joy was when the students sang the song "Vasantha Nagare". The lyrics have been penned and the music composed by my dad, Sri G. Sampath. My mom recorded it at my home and I mailed it to my brother in the US, who passed it on to the teacher to train her students. The song is dedicated to Besant Nagar Pillayar temple and is set in Ragam Vasantha.

What can children gift their parents? Only joy. I think, for my father, this must have been the greatest day after the day he released his CD with nine of his compositions. He has penned 25 songs, and his only desire was to see them being sung. Finally, two years back, he made a CD - Hari Samarpanam - with Chitravina Ravikiran helping with the music and the singers.

Two of his songs on Shiva - 'Kumbheshwaraya' and 'Kapaleeshwarena' have been choreographed as Padams by a dance teacher in Neyveli. I have myself performed to the second song.

What makes it special is that all his music knowledge is from listening and no formal training. An example of this love is my name - Meera, named after MS's rendering of this role in a movie.

His love for Sanskrit is another abiding passion that he has intertwined with his interest in music in these 25 songs.
Just now, as I was looking for a link to the review of the CD in the Hindu, I stumbled on these links: and

The Hindu review at:

Also find three of the songs from the CD at:

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Misfit

Mama crow looked at her nest with pride and puzzlement. She remembered laying eggs, but somehow, the number didn't seem to tally. She stared at her eggs and found one slightly off colour. She panicked and dreaded what sins of hers had caught up and caused this mismatch. Her eyes kept darting to that one. What would Mr. Crow say! All her fault, of course.

She sensed him coming, and promptly sat on the eggs, pushing the odd one out well between her feet, away from his eyes. Hopefully, when the chick came out, it would all be fine.

"My turn on them. Take a break," Mr. Crow said kindly. Mrs. Crow felt nervous but didn't want to make her discomfort obvious. "A minute more," she said and tried to unobtrusively bury this one under the others as Mr. Crow kept a watch.

She perched up on the edge of the nest and saw her clawwork. She hoped he was as distracted as always and just as turned towards the nest, gave him a string of instructions. He plonked himself on the eggs irritably. "I know! I am not a baby!" he grumbled.

She flew away, wondering when he would notice and what she could say.

When she came back, he seemed upset. She pretended everything was okay and waited for him to say something.

As she served the worms, he said, "Errr....honey... You remember I told you I had an odd cousin?" She looked up. "I...I think we have a similar one in our lot."

Her wing flew to her beak. "Oh my lord!" she said. He nodded gravely. What sin had they committed. She leaned against him and he said gently, "Don't get too upset, maybe this one will not be so bad."

They waited and slowly the day came when all would be revealed. With pride she saw her eldest one come out, then another, then another. The last one, the strange one, remained. She wished Mr. Crow would come.

When he landed, her joy was tinged with sorrow. They watched together as the tiny black fledgeling broke out and opened its pink mouth, squeaking in a strange language. Mrs. looked at Mr. and saw he was shattered. He nodded slightly: yes, this was just like his cousin.

Mrs. Crow cried, Mr. Crow held her. "God has given him to us. We will do as best as we can."

She nodded.

When feeding time came, she gave him the first mouthful, wondering if he would ever be able to survive in this world. As he grew, she saw how different he was, singing a strange song, in a strange language. Who will understand him when she was dead? She was forlorn. His black body made him close to their Raven cousins, but the contours were all wrong - a small head, a long tail and the strange call. She tried not to think about it.

She saw him grow, and her fears grew. When he flew out of the nest, her heart went out with him.

She would have probably been less upset had she known that he was a normal cuckoo child, abandoned by a dejected cuckoo mother who had nowhere to go, her scoundrel lover having abandoned her; that the cuckoo mother had found the ready-made nest and dropped her egg in, hoping whoever owned the nest would be kind enough to bring up her child.

She would have been more upset at being taken for granted, at being loaded with an unwanted burden of an extra mouth.

But her greatest upset would have been that she had wasted precious minutes worrying about a perfectly normal child, different maybe from hers, but normal still. She would have preferred to give him a more normal childhood had she but known.

Also read: A Framework for Children

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