He was often found outside their gate. A frail looking man probably in his fifties with a long grey beard. His hair was matted, his clothes dirty and discolored. Vaidehi, could not remember exactly when she had first seen him. Probably a year or two after her marriage and move into this house.

He had materialized one day outside their gate shouting “Seetamma, Seetamma”. Vaidehi had gone out of the house to see what the matter was. He was standing outside her gate looking at her pitifully. She asked him what he wanted. But he seemed unable to tell her anything.  Every few minutes he would look at her and say “Seetamma”.

Finally, she had gone inside the house and brought out some of the left over rice and sambar on a paper plate and given it to him. He had taken it from her gratefully, polishing it off quickly in less than five minutes. She then went in and brought out some water in a tumbler and gave it to him. He drank it and extended the tumbler to her indicating that he wanted some more. She had gone in and returned with a bottle of water which he drank thirstily returning the bottle to her.

After  that it had become a pattern. Every now and then he would appear and shout “Seetamma”  and Vaidehi would go inside and get out some food and water for him. Sometimes it would be a cup of tea. He often slept under the shade of the tree outside their gate. During rainy seasons Vaidehi was tempted to bring him inside the house to sleep in the garage but Raghav ,her husband was completely  against it!

Raghav often scolded her for “encouraging”  the “mad man”! “ You don’t know anything about him. He is mentally unstable. He could attack you”  But Vaidehi was sure that this man would not harm anyone. She just prayed that he would not show up when her husband was at home. A peace loving person of calm nature, Vaidehi did not like any arguments.

But then it is difficult to control the movements of a homeless person. He sometimes did come when  Raghav was at home. It used to irritate him no end.  . “And why does he shout out Seetamma?”  he used ask.

“I don’t know. He never says anything else. Probably this is the only word he knows. It might have been the name of someone dear to him-his mother, daughter or sister. So whenever he wants something he shouts out that name” she said by way of explanation.

Vaidehi had tried to contact NGOs working with homeless persons like him but the problem was that there was no way she could tell them when or how long  he would be there so that they could take him to their shelter . Of course, when he was
there, she herself could not take him to the NGO because she could not drive
and she was sure no auto rickshaw driver  would be willing to drive her with
him . And about Raghav agreeing to drive them both … well it was
difficult even to imagine that!

Other than these arguments about the man, life for Vaidehi and Raghav was quite peaceful at “ Chitrakoot” . An old house belonging to the 1950s era, it was the only one of its kind in the small lane. But both Vaidehi and Raghav loved the house with its small garden. They refused to sell out to the builders who repeatedly contacted them.

Over the ten years of their marriage  and residence in the house, the old people in the neighborhood began to slowly leave the locality and this world. Their
children sold the old houses and moved on and away from the area. So what remained on 3rd cross street was “ Chitrakoot”  and four blocks of
multistory buildings. A new breed of people seemed to have moved into these
brand new apartments-they moved around in fancy cars and rarely spoke to their neighbors.

It was only 6.30 PM on that day but the cloudy weather and the incessant rain made it look later than it was. Vaidehi, was walking home from the bus stop on the main road. She hurriedly pulled her bag under the shade of her umbrella and walked into the lane. She was a bit nervous. Two of the street lights were not working giving the tree shrouded lane an eerie look. When she reached her gate, she looked inside her bag for the keys to the gate.

Suddenly, she felt someone behind her. “Do not make any sound. Open the gate and walk inside normally” he said. She could feel something cold pressing against her back! Probably a knife… Her fingers trembled as she tried to open the lock. She wished she could somehow take out her phone from the bag and call Raghav.

“ What is taking you so long? Remember any tricks and I will slash your throat” he said.  Vaidehi’s heart was beating fast. If she opened the gate and led him into the house he would use her as hostage and demand money from Raghav. She was sure of that. She was thinking of some way to escape. Suddenly she dropped her bag. It took
him by surprise. She used that split second to start running. He ran behind her
and grabbed her! She was struggling to get away. She tried to scream but he had
his palm over her mouth.

Then she heard it-aROAR! From somewhere she could feel another person jump on her captor and catch him by the head! She looked around and saw her bearded friend. He was kicking the captor. But the other man was stronger. He hit back and the bearded man fell down. Blows were being exchanged. Vaidehi, ran fast out of the lane towards  the main road. She found a traffic constable and grabbed his hand

“ Sir please come with me” she pleaded. “ What is it Amma”. “Sir please please “  she said sobbing. A crowd gathered around her. She took out her phone and
called Raghav” Please Raghav… come soon. There is an emergency situation around
the house” !

People calmed her down and along with the police man she went into the lane. On seeing a crowd appear the assailant jumped across a wall and disappeared.

Vaidehi ran out to the bearded man lying on the road. His head was bleeding and he was groaning with pain. She took his head and put it on her lap. “ Some one please call an ambulance” she said.

It was  7 o’clock when the ambulance arrived. Vaidehi climbed into it cradling the injured man’s head on her lap. Raghav followed in the car.

There was stretcher waiting outside the trauma care department which took the injured man. Vaidehi followed him into casualty. “Madam, please wait outside” said a young doctor closing the door behind him. Vaidehi slumped down on bench nearby closing her eyes in prayer.

“ Madam, could you please fill in this form?” asked a hospital staff giving her a pen and a form.

Vaidehi looked at the form. The first question was “ NAME OFTHE PATIENT” .

She thought for a moment and then filled in “ JATAYU”

( Jatayu is a charachter from the Ramayana- a lesser known hero when compared to Hanuman and the monkeys who helped Ram. Jatayu was a vulture who faught valiantly to help Seeta when she was being kidnapped by Ravana. Unfortunately, he  succumbed to his injuries dying a hero’s death)


10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. KP
    Nov 05, 2011 @ 19:13:18

    The last line took my breath away.What a great end and what an apt title.
    But the story could have been abridged without losing its charm.Thanks Meera for the wonderful story


  2. R.Ramakrishnan
    Nov 06, 2011 @ 22:14:47

    Is this fact or fiction? Anyway a beautiful story. And Vaidehi is another name for Sita !


  3. Urmi
    Nov 07, 2011 @ 15:05:14

    Very beautiful story. I liked it very much and enjoyed reading it.
    You are welcome at my new posts-


  4. Sharmila
    Nov 08, 2011 @ 21:08:48

    Thanks for the happy ending … i hate sad stories ! As usual – loved reading it 🙂


  5. trupty
    Nov 08, 2011 @ 22:10:52

    nice story …twas a good read


  6. Pramod
    Nov 12, 2011 @ 11:48:48

    Modernized tale, but the grip, the sensation, that starts with the first word remains throughout. Excellent style of penning.
    Keep it up.


  7. Krishnapriya
    Nov 12, 2011 @ 23:17:58

    Very nice indeed.. it was gripping and sad.. I also like the details like the people moving forward to modern houses, the relationship with others and so on… they just prove the ability of the writer to observe!
    But I felt that the title was a give away, coz there is no other Jatayu we know of, and so, as soon as I read the title I just felt that it would end this way! but as usual wonderful narration style..


  8. Gayu
    Feb 11, 2012 @ 11:36:19

    beautiful narration….I am falling in love with ur blog…..
    First it was KP and his stories….and now its u….:)

    Keep writing:)
    and i will keep reading:)


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