The Unadorned

My literary blog to keep track of my creative mood swings with poems n short stories, book reviews n humorous prose, travelogues n photography, reflections n translations, both in English n Hindi.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Kalicharan's Daughter

A week back I got a nice feedback from a reader of "Virasat" about this particular story. I'm going to translate it for my blog. I valued the feedback because the reader is one with a child that suffers from the developmental disorder called autism. In fact, according to her report, her entire family liked the story. I take it to be an indication of success of the story. Maybe, readers would like it in its English avatar.
Kalicharan's Daughter
           Kalicharan did not contract a second marriage. It was seven long years ago that his wife expired. Thereafter, during those years of abrupt emptiness, he had oftentimes felt that he should marry once again, for it was necessary to have a woman with him to take care of his household. With two children growing up, it was unquestionably a critical juncture that the family was going through. But somehow Kalicharan managed to brush the urge aside. In fact, truth be told, he did not pay attention to his needs. Now his son was ten years old and his daughter eight. And Kalicharan had taken it to be the be-all and end-all of his life to take care of his children. There lay his satisfaction and there his happiness.
           In fact it was a tragic episode through and through. Kalicharan’s had a daughter named Vani who was mentally unsound and she was not capable of playing or gambolling like other children of her age. If she sat somewhere, she would continue to sit motionless for hours together. If she saw somebody, she would gawp at him without batting her eyelash. If she started laughing, she would just laugh and laugh, with no rhyme and reason. Off and on she used to drool uncontrollably.
           Sincere Kalicharan used to think that his daughter Vani was a divine responsibility that god himself had entrusted to him. It was only by accepting the responsibility that he would exhibit his true devotion to God.
           Had Vani been a normal child then the matter would have been different. But she needed constant care. Kalicharan had a kind of inveterate fear that if he ever entrusted anybody with the task of taking care of Vani he or she might start neglecting her or even torturing her. That was the reason why he was so willingly and single-handedly catering to all the needs of his mentally challenged daughter. What was more he did not share the burden even with his own son Vishu.
           Time just crawled on as a slow-moving centipede inside a damp wayside shanty. Kalicharan had to take on the roles of both mother and father for Vani. However, his strenuous efforts did not go entirely in vain. Now Vani had become an eight year-old girl with at least some training in self-care. She had started doing her routines on her own, say for example, going to toilet or brushing teeth and combing hair or arranging her bed and so forth. It was an unforgettably arduous eight-year span in his life. Thinking of those excruciating days, a cold shudder would run through Kalicharan’s spine. He remembered how he used to remain without a sleep for nights together and guard the poor little kid for the first five years of her childhood. And there were many such memories that would rekindle themselves in Kalicharan’s mind just like that.
           Even now Kalicharan had no respite from the household chores. He still cooked meals for the family in the morning, a work that used to get over not a minute before nine o’ clock. Then he used to feed his daughter and drop her in her school. Vishu, on the other hand, did not need Kalicharan’s help to go to school. In this manner, Kalicharan could find time to go to office only after every odd work was finished at home. That was too much and definitely not to the liking of his supervisor. Kalicharan was only a postal assistant with a lot of responsibilities and his workload was not negligible. Besides, while working at his office, he could not concentrate, for he was to remain ever bothered about Vani. Fortunately, her school was at a distance of one kilometre from Kalicharan’s house. When it was noon he used to dash up to Vani’s school to take news about Vani’s health and activities. While returning home Kalicharan used to take Vani along with him.
           Unlike Vani, her brother Vishu was completely a normal child. True, he devoted himself to his studies yet the scores he managed in his exam were not to match his efforts. It was a trend that should have bothered a father, but where was time for Kalicharan to pay attention to that? He thought that in time Vishu would understand everything. He should reach his age to understand his responsibility. Kalicharan could manage some time at least on two occasions to meet Vishu’s teachers but whatever they reported him about Vishu definitely dismayed him. He cogitated, repented for his failure to spend quality time with his son but finally concluded, ‘After all, Vishu is no Vani and he needs no hand-holding. The boy should hopefully mend himself in time.’
           Time accelerated its movement, leaving behind nothing for Kalicharan to cheer about. Within next six years Vishu appeared in his matriculation exam and the outcome was no different from what everybody expected of it. He failed in almost all his subjects. And the next year when he took another attempt, he resorted to malpractice with vengeance. As he took to this path, he finally passed the exam. After matriculation, there was nothing that could have stopped Vishu, for he knew how to smoothly pass the exams that came routinely every year. In this way he acquired a Bachelor’s degree. Once he just bragged and bragged and quipped, ‘Why on earth people cram so much for the exam? As for our state, government is soon going to legalise cheating, I mean cheating in exams.’
           Here Kalicharan was not at all happy for his son’s passing the tests, yet what else was open for him to do? Anyway Vishu was achieving success after success!
           Everything was happening as per the dictate of time, but Kalicharan had no means to understand that. In his professional life, he was not able to give his best. Everything he did had omissions and defects in it and he was miles away from his ability to correct and learn. No wonder one day he was to be suspended from his service proving his own apprehensions right every inch. He was rendered an object of ridicule, a confirmed nitwit, yet the fallout was not entirely abominable. Now Kalicharan got more time to spend with Vani. The poor girl badly needed that. It was an opportunity that Kalicharan did not like to fritter away; rather he spent the time on imparting more and more training to his daughter, such as making chapattis, playing harmonium, etc. On the other hand, even if Kalicharan was not doing anything for his office, he got his subsistence allowance at the rate of fifty percent of what he was getting so far. This was an amount way too less, yet Kalicharan somehow managed his needs within his reduced income.
           Now Kalicharan stayed at home and had the chance to observe the activities of his son Vishu. It was clear to him that his son was mixing with loafers and leading the life of a druggie. When Kalicharan saw Vishu shamelessly returning home in a state of drunkenness, he felt utterly helpless and went on shedding tears in desolation. It was a moment to remember his dear old wife, as though Kalicharan was in silent communication with her invisible soul. Here Vishu would bang and scream his gut out in a state of stupor and then go to sleep. This was almost a daily happening...and it was as utterly unfortunate as that.
           And then a day came when Vishu did not hesitate to slap his sister who was only a mentally challenged girl in need of others’ compassion. For Kalicharan it was a day of agony. He wondered, ‘Was a day like this left for me to endure? Should I be just a silent onlooker of a scene like this? In case I die today what would happen to my dear little daughter Vani? Vishu is not a brother—he won't give her any respect, not even what was due to a housemaid.’
           Kalicharan’s worry reached a point beyond which it was not possible to endure any more. Now that he had stopped going to office, how, then, would he divert his mind away from his current agony? But day by day his son’s acts of misbehaviour were aggravating the situation. Kalicharan lost his ability to smother his impotent rage inside.
            One day Kalicharan had a high fever and he went to a doctor. The diagnosis ended in a shock: Kalicharan was suffering from a heart disease. And a stage had reached where a surgery was a critical imperative. If he delayed his operation beyond a month, the condition would be just irreversible. It was a grim warning from the doctor.
           It was a case of open heart surgery and the whole thing would cost oodles of money. Where would Kalicharan get that much amount? Presently, he sent an application to his Senior Superintendent’s office. It was an application from an official who was placed under suspension and so it met with a lukewarm response from everybody there.
           In the meanwhile Kalicharan got his health properly checked at a super specialty centre of Chennai. The heart centre gave him an estimate for the surgery: the entire treatment would necessitate an expense of one lakh and twenty thousand rupess only. Kalicharan came back with all his diagnostic reports and the estimate. He decided he would get himself treated but at government’s expense. He just nurtured a hope that an advance would be sanctioned by the office of the Post Master General. At the moment, that was the only way open to him.
           Days passed. There was a rapid deterioration in the health of Kalicharan. Nowadays he was not able to make any effortless movement; he just gasped for breath with every stride he took inside his house. Willy-nilly he had to entrust his application to Vishu to carry it on his behalf and approach the office of the Postmaster General. And then he waited with a lot of hope that any moment the letter containing the official favour would arrive at his door.
            At the back of his mind Kalicharan harboured a fear that he would succumb to death while his surgery was in progress. In case that happened what on earth would not come over Vani? Who would take care of the poor girl? It would be better if he did not proceed further with his plan for surgery. Even if this would keep him unwell, so be it. He would continue to take Vani’s care even in a state of poor health.
           When Kalicharan was so much engrossed in his worry whether or not he should get himself operated, he got the lesson of his life from his Vishu. That day Vishu was away and Kalicharan was busy cleaning and rearranging cupboards in his house. Even though he was in two minds whether or not to touch Vishu’s cupboard, finally he took it up. There, to his utter shock, he found his own application for medical advance lying. They were all in originals and Kalicharan did not know how to react. He thought, ‘If my application is lying over here, then what did Vishu submit in the office of the Post Master General?’
           Kalicharan was already anguished by the reprehensible behaviour of Vishu. The instant discovery made him grimly aware of the ferocity of the impending events. He was speechless and angry. ‘Why did Vishu take such a step and lied before me? Does he not like to see me getting well once again? Even if I die without my treatment, what would he gain by that?’
           Kalicharan took hold of all his papers. Soon he went out on his own to the office of the Post Master General. There he met the officer in charge of the accounts department. The officer was a helpful soul and when he came to know that Kalicharan was not fit enough to come upstairs climbing the flight of stairs, he himself went downstairs to meet him.
            And it proved to be an eye-opening trip for Kalicharan. He got the first-hand information that some days ago Vishu had come to meet the accounts officer. Instead of enquiring about the medical advance, he asked the officer to explain him some of his own doubts unrelated to this. He just wanted to know how soon he would get a job in the department after his father Kalicharan died. Further, he desired to know if the process would be any quicker in case the claim for a service on rehabilitation ground came from a dependant who was the only child of the deceased. There were a few more mischievous queries too that Vishu posed before the accounts officer, but the most interesting one was in the nature of an interesting remark:
            ‘Is the government so foolish? Where’s the big point in spending so much on an employee that is going to die so soon?’
           Kalicharan understood everything. And he was now resolved. He would have to remain alive to foil the evil designs of his own son. He would have to remain alive for the sake of his dear little daughter Vani. He would live to teach his son a lesson of his life, now that it was necessary for him to remedy the blunder he had committed in giving his son a cosy upbringing.
            After his surgery Kalicharan gained his health so rapidly that even the treating surgeons marvelled at that. In a matter of one fortnight only, he came home completely cured of the malady. Then by the end of the month an official order restored him to his old workplace. And thus Kalicharan happily found himself welcome everywhere he went.
           A confident father in Kalicharan conveyed his considered decision that now onwards his son Vishu would have to live separately. Kalicharan would not like a conspiring freeloader on his premises. In a matter of a few days only, Vishu made his own arrangement of stay away from his father and sister.
            Finding a govt service for himself was not his lot, and so Vishu had to elect a profession for himself to match his talent. Kalicharan came to know that his son with all his abilities now fully developed was going to fight an election. The attraction of the post of headman in his village beckoned him.
A N Nanda

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I absolutely love your blog and find a lot of your post's to be precisely what I'm looking for. Would you offer guest writers to write content for yourself? I wouldn't mind composing a post or elaborating on a lot of the subjects you write regarding here. Again, awesome blog!

10:44 AM  
Blogger NS said...

Dear Sir ,
The story of “ Kalicharan's Daughter” really brought tears as the narration is so excellent. I feel that Kalicharan should spare some time for his son Vishu also and try to feed his responsibilities. By knowing vishu’s evil designs , should Kalicharan rethink of the goodness of Compassionate appointment. Is it our fate to tolerate such vishus as our policy makers ?
Even though the climax is quite natural and creating a great sigh to readers , I personally think of change of mind to Vishu to look after his sister and father by realizing his past misdeeds will lead me to good sleep. The story “ Kalicharan's Daughter” is not like a story at distance but a happening of just neighborhood

The victory of a creator is ensured in this story. Really good readers will become more passionate on reading this story.

Thanking you for this very nice post, sir

--------- N.Subramanian Tirupur

10:38 AM  
Blogger A_N_Nanda said...

Thank you NS. I just thought, in retrospect, that I had unconsciously tried to project a father with motherly compassion. There is another point: Living against all odds is the human triumph but allowing others to live when death out of neglect is so imminent needs superhuman courage and conviction. In this society even parents fail to fulfill this human liability in case they have underdeveloped children. This is a grim truth though.
Thank you, once again, for your nice words.

9:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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2:20 PM  
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3:07 PM  

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