The Gift ( Part 8)

Arulappa

He  could not believe his ears!!  He had heard about the news through the grapevine initially but now it was confirmed!  That new Assistant Commissioner fellow Ravi Kumar was moving out of the department! Chellamuthu had just confirmed that the order had been received. The man was going to leave by the end of the week!

Arulappa, thanked the almighty for his grace. All these months, he had been very stressed about the matters that were getting unearthed in the department.  That fellow had already suspended four officers and there was no telling what  might have happened further.

But now the coast was clear!  There was no immediate replacement in sight. The Commissioner was busy with larger policy issues to intervene in the day today functioning of the department. So it was obviously going to be a free for all until someone joined. And if lady luck continued to smile on him it might take another few months before THAT happened. He skipped around his table thinking about the various possibilities!

“ I must give an appropriate gift for this fellow. After all, he has indirectly done us all a favor by leaving” thought Arulappa with a smile.

He wondered what he should give? Had to be something  worthy! Something that showed this man that he, Arulappa was not exactly a brain less moron who was only interested in taking bribes!

Ravi Kumar

Ravi Kumar IAS , was busy stacking his things into a carton before getting ready to leave for the day. He was relieved that he was getting out of this minefield of corruption.  And he was sure most of the  people here were also glad to see him go- though of course those hypocrites had waxed eloquent at the farewell function about  what a loss it had been to the department to see him go.

He was glad that he had been able to find a posting in same district where Mita was the Collector.  It was nothing  high profile – he would be Project director for a World Bank supported  water and sanitation program that covered her district and the two surrounding ones.  Hardly any work.. ! But he had had to use all the good will that he had in the state civil services to swing that posting! He was glad that the Chief Secretary liked him. It had been difficult explaining matters to him. But he had managed – family issues, his son’s behavior in school etc.  The Chief Secretary was initially reluctant ,suggesting instead that he could recommend Mitali’s transfer to the State Capital. But Ravi had hastily intervened telling him about how much she liked the district and how well she was performing there..! He had not seemed very convinced. But Ravi had persisted- after all he could not exactly tell him that his wife had left him thinking he was reading books on kinky sex  and moving to where she was posted was the only way to save his marriage!

He picked up a framed photo of Mitali and Amit  from his table and wiped it before putting it back into the carton.  He was missing both of them terribly. He knew, it would not be easy to convincing her but then his going there  would certainly be signal enough to her that he was willing to make amends- though for what he was not exactly sure!  He wished, his wife did not have such a fertile imagination!

Just as he bent down to shut one of the drawers, he heard a knock on the door.

“Saar. Can I come in” asked Arulappa

“ Yes. What is it?” asked Ravi impatiently

 “ Saar, I have a small gift for you, which I wanted to hand over to you personally” said Arulappa, extending a gift wrapped parcel towards him.

“ Look, I don’t accept gifts” said Ravi getting ready to leave.

“But Saar, you will definitely appreciate this gift” said Arulappa thrusting the parcel back at him.

Ravi, sighed! He had better accept this thing- whatever it was and leave quickly before another herd descended on him with gifts!

“ Thank you” he said putting it back into the carton.

“Saar please open it” said  Arulappa with an ingratiating smile.

Ravi shook his head impatiently and tore open the wrapping.He might as well get this over with!

His hands froze as did his gaze when he saw what was inside … There were three books- obviously a trilogy

“Fifty Shades of Grey” , “Fifty shades darker” and  “Fifty shades freed”

( Concluded)

( Fifty Shades of Grey is the first among a trilogy of  books of a category  called “erotica”. It is the story of Anastasia and Christian Grey featuring explicit scenes of Bondage, dominance and sado masochism. I am giving below the link to a post that I did in my other blog on this  http://meerareflections.blogspot.in/2012/10/fifty-shades-too-weird.html. Those are my views on the book. However you might like to read up Wikipedia  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifty_Shades_of_Grey for more objective facts on the “hero”  of this story:) )

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THE GIFT ( part 7 )

Amit

Amit sat quietly next to the driver as they drove home after the meeting at school. His parents were sitting behind.   He glanced at the rear view mirror to see if they were indeed there. The silence was getting to him.

Dad was checking his emails and messages on his black berry while Mom was staring out of the window. Amit was feeling guilty now – not so much about what had happened at school but  his role in what might have perpetuated that silence in the rear of the car. He should not have told mom about how he had got hold of that book! His young mind was confused – on one hand he was irritated with his dad’s “holier than thou” attitude when it came to behavior at school, his  “lecture series” about how his alma mater demanded “decent behavior” and “excellence in academics”  and on the other hand were mom’s feelings. Had he caused some serious trouble between his parents he wondered? He hoped that it would not drive them apart. As of now, mom’s living away like this was only a temporary situation or so he had been told. He did not want this to become permanent! Despite his irritation with his dad, he wanted them all to be together as one family.

Mitali

Mitali, was still processing inside her head ,the events that had transpired in that meeting with the principal.  She could almost see that scene- Father Toppo sitting behind that huge desk and next to him a  thin young man with glasses who was introduced to them as a Father Dominic .  He was holding in his hand that offending book ‘Fifty shades of grey’

The meeting had proceeded with the usual complaint  about Amit’s behavior followed by Father Toppo giving an update about how the book was confiscated from her son. Mitali  had tried to come in at that point and say that reading “pornography” or erotic literature was only a part of teen age years. All boys were doing it. It was then that the young Jesuit, Father Dominic had launched forth on a review of that awful book! About how it was the story of a man who wanted domination as a sexual preference and  how reading something like this was the beginning of the creation of a warped mind.  He had concluded his treatise by saying that men who read such books would never grow up to respect women. He also brought in some psychological angles about  how  Amit  may be resenting  her for  being a successful woman, seeing  her as a domineering  person and was therefore drawn to books like these

Mitali let the accusation pass. She accepted the analysis but  had to restrain herself  from shouting out that it did not apply to her son! The  person to whom it probably applied was their star ex student- her  “uncorrupt”, “honest” and  “efficient” husband!!! After all, wasn’t he the person who was actually reading the book?  Amit had only chanced up on it unknowingly.

It had been shocking to hear that Ravi was into pornography in her absence.  Her internet research on the book had not provided her with such an indepth analysis of the book.  That Father Dominic had explained it very well- a story of sexual domination – the ultimate fantasy of a man who could not accept confident  dominant women!

She had always thought that her husband admired her for being a confident woman and a  tough bureaucrat. Between the two of them she had always been the one given to short temper, arguments etc.  He was the one who was quiet and silent giving in to her demands. She now realized what a false person he was! He probably hated her for all of this and was coping with it by reading books on sexual domination! She shuddered thinking about that word. My God! It was only reading that was happening now ( or atleast that was what she hoped) when would he start acting out his fantasizes?

Well, if he tried any of THAT , she would hand him over to women’s cell at the Police Commissioner’s office! She was no sexual toy! He had better find someone else for that!

And Amit, her poor boy, she was not going to expose him to this kind of influence. She would take him away with her and try her best to convince that  school in the next district to accept him. She had heard that  the principal was a relative of  Commissioner Municipal Administration. She would call him up when they reached home.  She would leave next morning taking Amit with her !!!

Ravi Kumar

Ravi could almost guess what was going on in Mitali’s mind.  Amit had told him in the morning that he had “informed”  Mom about where he had obtained the book. He had tried to broach that subject when she had arrived in the morning. But she was in no mood for any conversation. He glanced at her now. Her ears were red – a sure sign that she was angry. Her fingers were digging into the car upholstery  beside him. He wanted to take her hand but  of course, he didn’t! His wife was the most volatile and unpredictable of persons. He  remembered the first time he had tried to kiss her in college. That slap she had given him still rang sharply on his cheek!

“ Don’t try these stunts with me. If you are serious, you should speak to my father” she had said angrily. He had admired her for that and had quietly sought an appointment with Professor Mukherjee her father the next day. That interview had been well worth the tension.  Marrying  Mita was the best thing that he had done.  She was so intelligent, smart and quick witted. He admired her ability to reach out to people, her complete honestly about anything and her sense of humor!  He only wished she would not jump to conclusions so easily.

The car was just driving into their house. She got down from her side slamming the door on his face. Amit looked back worried. Ravi sighed as he got down from his side of the car. He would have a hard time explaining matters to Mita.

Amit

Amit strained his ears to catch what was going on inside his parents’ room.  He could hear the cupboard door being slammed and a suitcases being dragged about. In between he could hear his father say            “ Mita please listen to me….”. He could hear his mother speaking fast and angrily. Most of the words escaped him. All that he could hear was “ You seriously want me to believe that you found that book in a cupboard inside the Urban land ceiling and revenue department?”

Then the door opened and Mom was out shouting at him” Amit, pack your things. You are leaving with me tomorrow”!

( to be concluded)

The Gift (Part 6)

Mitali

Mitali Mukherjee Kumar, IAS put down the telephone receiver with a sigh. Amit had been at something again! This was the third time in one academic year that she was being called for a meeting at his school. So far, it had only been with teachers but now it was the principal’s office that had called. Obviously, her son had moved up in the hierarchy of mischief.

She wished she could do something about his behavior. But  being located so far away in a district town was a disadvantage.  She could guess why her son was behaving the way he was. She felt guilty about being away from him. But then that was part of life when one joined the civil services. One could not always  be with the family especially when posted in the boondocks like this! She had explored the possibility of  a school about 20km away in the neighboring district, but they had refused to take a new student in the middle of the academic year. So she had to leave him behind with Ravi when she got transferred.

She wished Ravi would not be so serious in his dealings with their son. She could just imagine how father and son spent time together – Ravi reading his files while Amit pretended to study.  Ravi had always been a “nerd” since their days together in college. He just did not know how to enjoy himself!  How much fun both he and Amit could have, watching movies playing some games visiting friends and bonding !

Anyway, it was about time she spoke to Amit and tried to understand his version of what had happened at school. She reached for her direct line and dialed her residence number at Chennai. As the phone rang at the other end her mind went back to more mundane things. The Chief Minister’s review meeting was scheduled next week and she needed to be here to prepare for that. She would speak with Ravi later and ask him to handle this school meeting by himself.

Just as she was wondering why no one was answering her call, her mobile rang. It was Amit who was calling. Good! He was probably feeling guilty and wanted to talk.

“Hiiii hero!” she said forcing herself to sound cheerful.

“Hi” he said shortly.

“ Whats up?” she asked

“ Mom, did you get a call from the princi’s office?” he asked

“ Yes! What have you been up to? Flying rockets again or locking up teachers in the toilets?” she asked with a laugh.

“No Mom. Please listen” said Amit.

As Mitali listened her face changed! Her smile seemed to freeze on her face. What her son was saying seemed unbelievable! How was it possible? But there obviously was something to what the boy was saying..!

She put her mobile back into its case and leaned back on her chair. At one level she was shocked and at another level she was angry. She thought about what she should do!

Ten minutes and her mind was made. For starters, she needed to attend that meeting in school! Chief Minister’s review be damned! She would report sick. This was more important. It was more than her son’s misbehavior that was the issue now.

But before  that there was something else she had to do. She looked at her note pad where she had scribbled the name of the  book that Amit had mentioned.

Switching on the computer she clicked on to Google and typed “Fifty shades of grey”. This meeting needed as much preparation as the CM’s review!

( Yes there is more in store🙂 )

THE GIFT ( part 5)

Valsa and Sharada

Valsa and Sharada were friends since their school days. The friendship that had started in standard 1 had continued through college.

Sharda Srinivasan was the complete opposite of Valsa. A professor of English Literature at the University, she was as aggressive as Valsa was docile. A firebrand  activist since her student days, she could be summarized in the words “ Been there, Done that”!

Valsa was always in awe of Sharada. She admired her brains, her guts and her complete lack of fear or embarrassment  at  anything!

 Sharada on the other hand felt extremely protective about Valsa. She was constantly scolding her for not having enough confidence and being the “doormat”!

Both friends had remained unmarried- although  for different reasons. Where Valsa’s  spinsterhood was on account of her father’s imagined ill health, Sharada’s was because of her reputation! No man had had the courage to come anywhere close to Sharada for fear of being made into an intellectual pulp.

Sharada’s house was always humming with activity ! Students, nieces , nephews and aspiring  literary critics rubbed shoulders with each other discussing  books, politics and other social issues. Valsa  loved what she called “soaking up the atmosphere” in Sharada’s  home.

Today was no different!

Valsa watched her friend holding court at the centre of her drawing room pontificating on what she called “Popular fiction”.  She was saying something about how the portrayal of women in these books was terrible –reducing  them to just  physical beings.

She waited two hours for the “durbar” to end and the “courtiers” to leave so that she could bring up her little secret.

Then ,over crisp dosas and hot coffee she began tentatively to broach the subject about her “feelings” for Devasahayam.

“ And finally this Friday, he gave me an indication of his interest” she concluded with a smile.

“ Why? What did he do? Asked you to marry him” asked Sharada like a top counsel cross examining a witness in a sexual harassment case.

“No.. No..! Nothing like that. It is just that he gave me a hint” said Valsa with a blush.

“What hint?” continued the cross examination.

“He gave me a gift. Look!” she said bringing out the book and extending it towards Sharada.

Sharada pulled  up her specs from the chain dangling down her neck and peered at the book.

“ Fifty shades of Grey.. Wait.. the name rings a bell” she said getting up to go to her study as Valsa waited anxiously to continue with the conversation.

“Valsa.. this is really fishy. Look at the book review that was done by one of my students for her gender studies course” said Sharda as she walked back to the dining table, extending a typed document towards Valsa.

“But what has that got to do with this. The book may not be very well written but isn’t it the thought that matters” asked Valsa getting irritated.

“Valsa,  you stupid girl. When will you learn? This book is the most insulting thing that a man could have given a woman. It is the story of a man who wants  a woman to sign a document agreeing to be his sexual slave!”  said Sharada increasing her voice by a few decibels.

Valsa stared at her speechless! No, it couldn’t be! Why would Devasahayam do something like this to her? Her eyes started filling with tears.

“ Now wait, don’t cry. It is not surprising that he should do this. You say he is a widower. God knows what his relationship with his wife was like.  Guess now that she is no more, he feels like experimenting with sex and ofcourse, you have the right psychological profile to be the subject of something like this- helpless, docile..” said Sharada getting angrier by the minute.

Valsa could control herself no longer. She started sobbing loudly.

“Valsa, Valsa, how many times have I told you not to be vulnerable to such things. It was okay when we were twenty but now, you cannot afford to be like this” said Sharda hugging her friend.

“ Tell me what should I do” asked Valsa through her tears.

“Listen to me..” said Sharada

Father Toppo

Father Toppo SJ was   mentally exhausted!  He was praying fervently to the almighty to help him get through the day without losing his cool. What he had heard today from two of his most senior teachers was enough to turn  the few remaining hairs on his bald head grey!

The day had begun innocently enough until the end of the short break at 10.30AM when  the art teacher, Miss Valsa John had sought an appointment with him. A quiet lady who generally retreated into the background whenever she was in a staff meeting, he was surprised she wanted to speak to him about “something very delicate and personal”

Convinced that it was some female health problem he had granted her time, mentally thinking up of excuses about how to ward off questions on  extended leave. The mid term exams were due and he needed as many teachers as he could for invigilation.

But what Miss Valsa John had told him was beyond his wildest imagination! He had listened to her  disbelievingly before summoning the accused – Mr. S. Devasahayam.

His biggest shock came when his most senior teacher in the school admitted to what Valsa had narrated. Then began, a grueling one hour session when he had had to interrogate the fellow about his intentions.

After an emotional hour of angry words and tears, he had gathered the complete story. He was amazed that Devasahayam had behaved so irresponsibly! Thirty years of dealing with adolescent boys should have taught him something!

Tcha!! And imagine he had passed on something he had confiscated from one of the boys as gift to a lady!

Father Toppo was now inclined to believe Brother Dominic the librarian who often said that Devasahayam was severely lacking in imagination!

“But I need to close this issue quickly” he said to himself, coming back to the present. He did not want rumors to start spreading in the school. He was sure that his PA, Philip who was an extremely nosy man had created his own version of what had transpired behind the closed doors based on the little he had heard while he was eavesdropping outside.

“ For starters, I need to talk to that boy’s parents” he said reaching for the intercom.

“Philip, could you please inform parents of Amit Kumar of class 9 B that I want to meet them on Thursday afternoon” he said .

He put down the phone and gazed out at the school courtyard.    How he longed to go back to that tiny vocational training school at Palamau in Jharkhand! As the principal of that school he had had a fairly simple life where his problems were limited to teacher and student absenteeism. But this high profile school in a metro that the order had transferred him to was playing havoc with his blood pressure!  The Maoists lurking in the jungles beyond that school in Palamau were nothing compared to the complex problems that managing this school presented to him!

He looked at the offending object – the book and reminded himself to ask Brother Dominic to give him some background about this kind of writing. He needed the information in order to be prepared for that meeting!

( to be continued 🙂 )

The Gift ( Part 4)

Devasahayam

Devasahayam was very irritated! He was the class teacher for class 9 B which had some of the most notorious students in the school. And he had  just found out that he had been made the staff coordinator for the secondary section – which meant that he  was now responsible for all sorts of stupid administrative stuff!

He wished the management  would relieve him of these additional responsibilities and let him just concentrate  on the academic part of his job.

He opened his desk inside the staff room and looked at it helplessly! It was cluttered with answer sheets and notebooks that were yet to be corrected. And he had to finalize the question paper for the  mid term exam due next week.

“ Where on earth is it”.. he mumbled to himself rummaging furiously through the odds and ends inside his desk for that half finished test paper. The violence with which he ruffled through the contents of the desk let out a cloud of dust which made him sneeze!

“Tchah! I am becoming like these boys. I need to clean my desk” he muttered to himself as he set about removing the contents and arranging them inside his desk. He moved the dustbin close to the desk so that he could tear and throw away unwanted  things- a cartoon of himself , a note with some cryptic message, a strange contraption made with a stone and rubber band designed to injure someone, a couple of paper rockets! Most these items were confiscated from the brats that he taught- each day increasing the loot.

His hand suddenly encountered something solid. He moved it around a bit and pulled it out.

“ Now what is this?” he wondered.

“ Ofcourse this is the book that I got off that rascal Amit” he told himself.

Well, what was he to do with this? Should he throw it ?

“ No it looks too new to be thrown into a dustbin. Should I give it to the library” he thought.

But he immediately dismissed the library option.   He disliked the librarian-a new fangled young Jesuit who thought he was intellectually superior to every other person in the school including the principal. He had often had arguments with him about reducing the number of library periods and the library budget so that the boys could spend more time on their studies. And the books he wanted to buy… not classics like Dickens or Biblical stories but books written by some unknown South American authors which cost a bomb!  He was not going to help THAT fellow !

He wiped the chalk dust off the book and looked at it deep in thought. What was it that the boy had said this book was about?

He suddenly had a brainwave! “Yes, I know who I can give it to. I will gift it to Valsa” he told himself with a smile.

Valsa

She sat down on her desk and wiped her face with her handkerchief. It was a hot day and it was too bad that the art classes were scheduled for the afternoons – just before the end of the day!

Valsa John was the only female teacher in the entire school. A forty eight year old woman and a graduate in fine arts , she had joined the school as an art teacher, twenty five years ago when this was the only career option available for the course she had majored in.

A spinster by choice, she had spent a large part of her working life caring for her father who had emotionally  bullied her into believing that he was just a step away from death. But that step was obviously a very long one because he lasted eighty years before he reached the pearly gates.

An only child who had lost her mother early in life, the death of her father left her very lonely and emotionally vulnerable. This job that she had was not exactly exciting as none of her students were even remotely interested in her classes and the management almost made it out that they were preserving her position as a sort of token appreciation for the number of years of service that she had put in.

She regretted her lost youth and often wondered what would become of her in her old age. She often found herself sharing her fears with Devasahayam – the only one among her colleagues that she liked. During the last five years after Devasahayam had lost his wife, they had become closer.  The boys made a lot of jokes about them and sometimes Valsa wondered if that was the cause for this crush that she seemed to have developed on him.

Whatever it was, she would certainly welcome it if he reciprocated her feelings. But the man was too dry and practical. He never noticed if she wore anything new. Why, it was only after a lot of blatant hinting that he even wished her on her birthday. But she did not mind that. He was a nice man and rather well preserved for someone who was approaching retirement!

She looked at him fondly as he gathered his things, getting ready to leave for the day. The bell had just rung and there was a lot of noise outside.

Should she ask him if they could have a juice at the shop near the end of the road as they walked home?

Just as she was contemplating how to ask that question, the object of her fancies brought himself to her desk.

“ Oh Devasahayam Sir. Ready to leave for the day?” she asked with a smile.

“ Yes Valsa. Can’t stand a minute longer of this brats. They are getting worse by the day” he  said with a sigh.

“ Neither can I sir. But what to do. This is our job” she said gathering up her bag getting up from her chair. Today, did not seem like a good day to ask him for that juice date. He was bound to be at his grumpy  best.

She had just reached the door of the staff room when he called her

“Valsa” he said tentatively

“ Yes sir” she said turning back.

 “ I have something for you. A small gift” he was saying. In his hand was a grey colored book.

Valsa could not believe it! He was actually giving her gift. She could feel her fingers tremble as she took the book from him.

“ Thank you. But what is the occasion?” she asked

“ Oh.. nothing just like that. Thought you might like something like this” he said with an awkward smile.

Valsa could hear her heart sing. This was definitely a sign! So what if it took him so long to make that move. He had finally done it!

She stuffed the book into her bag making a mental note to meet her friend Sharada over the weekend and discuss this! Sharada was more worldly wise. She knew how to interpret these things better than she Valsa did!

Valsa almost skipped along the steps towards the gate holding back that song in her heart. “Fifty shades of grey” like her hair and his- what an appropriate title for a gift!

 ( to be continues)