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Dutiful Son

by Santhosh Menon
(Cochin, Kerala)

As usual, Madhavan got up at 4.30 am. On searching his pocket he got a little disappointed, because there was no cigar. He thought of going outside to have one. On hearing a continuous cough of his father who was bedridden for the last one year or so, he went to his father's room. The home nurse attending on him, went two days back to her native place at Calicut. He contacted the home nursing agency and they informed him that another one would be available within a day or two. Madhavan gave his father a Deriphillin tablet and cough syrup. His wife was busy in the kitchen making tea.

After a cup of tea, he went outside to buy one cigar packet. The shop keeper and others used to have the early morning talks in the villages. Madhavan also was in the habit of joining them. But on that day after having a cigar, he returned home in a hurry. He asked his wife to take the Hospital kit of his father. (As parents are aged, Madhavan and family members used to keep Father's and Mother's dresses in separate bags which can be used in urgent hospitalization needs).

He helped his father to the vehicle; mother also accompanied them along with a neighbour. He started the vehicle and drove to his maximum speed ---60km/hr. They reached the Hospital within 10 minutes and the stretcher was ready on seeing Madhavan's blue vehicle. They took his father inside and at that time the doctor on duty, a close friend of Madhavan, was luckily there. After 15 minutes the Doctors called Madhavan inside the Casualty only to say a "sorry".

Madhavan was stunned to hear the word---S---O---R---R---Y. It echoed in his mind and rewound faster than anything and within 20-30 seconds he looked at the doctor, who took him into his room. They came out of the room after 5 minutes and Madhavan was still stubborn without tears. He whispered something into the ears of his doctor friend and he nodded his head, embraced Madhavan and hurriedly went to the Reception for dialing someone. At this time, the attender came to call Madhavan. He went to the waiting room where his loving mother was crying and the good Hospital staff were trying to console her. Madhavan requested a friend to drop her home. He told his mother that nothing to worry about his father and another medical team would be examining him soon.

The friend drove his mother home, and the other friends took Madhavan outside the hospital for a cup of tea, for a relaxation. To his surprise, on their return, he found a number of villagers were waiting there to enquire about Madhavan’s father’s condition. He repeated the same – “Nothing to worry and the Doctors are waiting for an expert opinion from another team of Doctors who are expected to arrive shortly.“ But the villagers were not seem to be satisfied with his answer. The Doctor who was watching all these, told them something and they all went after assuring Madhavan of any help, if needed. (Please remember the incident happened around 11 years back. No pager---no mobile phones----were there at that time in that small village.The land phones 10 to 20 only in number ,that also in the whole village. Then we may think how the news was conveyed to another fellow ---The mode was simple and very simple...i e through morning chat everyone in villages in Kerala usually wish each other in the tea shop or on the way by saying the usual “Didn’t you hear?” and the message good or bad is conveyed to everyone and the news will spread like a wild fire. As such, this writer or everyone of us may think the necessity of a Mobile phone in villages. If we forgot to take the mobile means we will be having "peace of mind" on that day) .

After 10 minutes, an ambulance came with 4 or 5 Doctors and they went inside the Casualty. Madhavan was called by the attender and on entering into the Casualty all the expert doctors were studying/verifying his father's file. They asked Madhavan to sit there and gave him a paper to read and sign. He signed with a shivering hand and returned it without reading. The Doctors asked something and he nodded his head positively. They asked him to wait outside , but his good doctor friend placed him in his duty room. (Yes, by this time Madhavan was like a man without emotions,-just like a statue.) Time was passing by and "every second seemed to be one hour" for Madhavan at that time. At last, after 25-30 minutes the team of Doctors came to the room and whispered something to Madhavan’s ears. One of them even embraced him and the lady doctor said “Good bye" to Madhavan, with folded hands.

The doctor friend reminded him that his father was no more and he had made every arrangement in his house with the help of his villagers and friends. He even told that they informed all his three sisters (all of them were married - one elder and two younger) and would be arriving within two -three hours with their families. As per his advice, the time of cremation was fixed at 3.30 pm on the same day. By this time the Hospital was full with villagers and they were eager to hear the cause of the delay. The doctor asked Madhavan to tell them the truth. On hearing the reality, all of them were stunned, some of them cried, but Madhavan was stern. Eeven a drop of tear didn’t come out from his sad looking brown eyes.

After 4 pm, the body was taken for rituals after death. While doing the karma, the last bath before cremation, Madhavan noticed something, the tears from his father’s eyes--he didn't tell this to anyone ---but just thought whether it was due to Happiness or otherwise. The short ritual was over by 5 pm and the body was taken to the south side of his house where the cremation was arranged. Every one, except his family members and friends, left and after 11pm the friends also went back to their respective houses.

Madhavan, after drinking a glass of kanji prepared and brought by the neighbours,went to his mother’s room. He called mother in a feeble voice two or three times and she didn’t respond. He raised his right hand, thinking of awakening her by just a mere shaking--- but he was unable to do so thinking of his father's death---She was weeping all the day and could not sleep in the day time because of the visitors and their words of consolation, thought --"Let her sleep" . But his mind was not peaceful and wished to reveal something to his mother, but....but.... he couldn't. He silently lied down on the floor in his mother's room.

Madhavan got up in the morning by hearing some sound from his father's room. He saw all the three sisters cleaning father’s cupboard in the room and his Military trunk box. He came to know at once that they were searching for the belongings of their father. "They are not wrong", Madhavan thought. Father, even though was an Ex military person, didn't believe in any superstitions or myths as most of the military men do. He loved every one and helped every one to his capacity. He used to say, "Life is only up to death, and after that it may again become sand or part of this world; any way one has to dispose the dead one at the earliest from this earth. His good memories may be in the mind of the living, if we do some good to others while living and we can help others even after death which means a great thing but the dead one can't do this." A bit difficult idea may be, but that is the truth.

The fourth day morning, sanjayanam (a ritual done with the remains of the departed soul, to get moksha for him), was done. (I’m a person who believes in doing good things during the lifetime of our parents and looking after them with love and care, instead of sending them to old age homes, which is increasing today in an alarming speed. It is is more important than doing this type of rituals.) After the Sanjayanam, which was over by 11 am, only the family members were left at home.

Madhavan noticed his sisters’ urgency to get back to their respective homes, and they were just waiting for their mother’s consent. That was an Ekadasi day and he went to his mother’s room with his breakfast. After sharing the food with his mother (they usually do like that even at his age of 50's!) he again sat beside her in the bed, as if "greasing her palm” to talk to her something more confidently. Knowing this, she asked, “What’s the matter, son?” Instead of replying in words, he began to weep silently, and seeing his plight she also wept with him. She patted her son and repeated the question "What is the matter. son? Tell me." As if he was waiting to hear this from his mother, he embraced her and whispered to her ears something which his mother could not hear clearly, but she got the point.

A complete silence was pervaded the room for some time, and then she cried so loudly that even her daughters from other rooms and the neighbours could hear her. They all came out wondering what had happened. Then she stood valiantly and said loudly, “Madhavan has done the right thing as per his father’s wish”. In the next moment, she began to cry, but this time they were tears of joy, and said, “Now two more individuals can see this beautiful world with my husband’s eyes!!”

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Jun 18, 2012
by: Sneha

Good story. However, reads more like non-fiction than as fiction. There are beautifully described moments throughout. Keep writing and I'm sure this wordweaving will help!

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