A Favourable Turn
A Favourable Turn6 mins 562 6 mins 562
Mohan Kumar Thakur was the wealthiest man in the district of Manali. He owned large orchards of apples and pastures, where a large number of farmers were employed. A grand and imposing Haveli guarded by lofty and ornate iron gates and maintained by a good number of servants that stood all by itself atop a hill and could be visible from many miles away was his abode. The local residents, including the Panchayat members, stood in awe of him. However, they only respected his wealth for Mohan Kumar was known to be a highly vain and covetous man. His apathy towards the poor and the destitute and his lack of magnanimity were known far and wide. He was invited to all the important celebrations- whether they be religious festivals or marriage ceremonies but not a soul wished for him to present himself on the auspicious day. He did not treat his employees fairly either but such were his connections with the authorities in the village through the strength of deep-pockets, that even law keepers-if need be- would turn against an oppressed farmer. So outrageous was his rapacity that he even demanded tributes from the farmers, worsening their struggling circumstances.
Mohan Kumar took pride in the fact that everyone around cowered in front of the power of his affluence. Now Mohan had a granddaughter, the daughter of his only Son. He had not been able to accept his son’s bride, she having belonged from a family that could not match his status. His thus estranged son, being well educated had moved to the city as a Techie. Sometime later, a daughter was born and it was decided that they must visit his native village so as to make the old man meet the babe. Perhaps this little girl would pave the way for reconciliation between father and son. However, fate had other plans. The morning they had set out on, though initially had been a clear and beautiful spring morning, the weather had progressively deteriorated due to a sudden rogue fog creeping up the mountain paths. Poor visibility had caused a headlong collision of the car that carried them and a hurtling truck, killing all inmates of the car excepting the baby. She had been found by some villagers weeping weekly tucked safely in the arms of her dead mother. Since then, her grandfather had become her sole guardian.
Mohan, no matter how disagreeable he was towards people in general, showed ineffable love for the child. Even the most selfish and abominable do have a sliver of good left in them. Perhaps, the girl being his only alive blood, Mohan poured his affections upon her. Surprisingly, this did not spoil her. She grew up to be a sweet tempered child, displaying virtues galore. Her grandfather’s reputation did not allow her to gain many a friend, though many of the village children did wish to be close to her secretly. So warm and affable was her being that she was capable of befriending even animals. Fellow residents were amazed at how very unalike the girl’s ways were when compared to her gruff Grandfather’s.
One harsh winter, when people would have to stay cooped up inside homes for days together due to raging snowstorms, farming in the hills was impacted severely. People struggled to stock up enough food, snow destroying a lot of the crops and animals perishing due to the terrible cold. In such bad times, when destitute were being pushed to death relentlessly and even the well to do ones had trouble keeping their lives going, the little girl fell terribly ill. Several physicians were summoned. Numerous medicines were prescribed while the child burnt with fever. Despite the administration of medication, though a mere fever, it refused to subside. Mohan Kumar was at his wit’s end. He abused, begged and cried in front of the physicians but all to no avail. The child’s condition only deteriorated steadily.
One night, as the old man sat staring gloomily at the ongoing snow blizzard through an intricately decorated window in his sitting room, a faint knock was heard on the entrance door. He strained his ears and listened intently. The knock was there yet again, this one a bit stronger than the last one. Mohan Kumar edged cautiously towards the door. The knocking continued. He unbarred the door slowly. In fell a little ragamuffin. Unkempt hair, a dirt-smeared face, bare hands and feet- she must come from the shepherds’ clan, who lived higher up in the mountains and must have strayed away from her group. The ongoing storm had prevented her from returning home. The child moaned and begged for shelter. Mohan Kumar, grief and anxiety occupying majority of his thoughts, was too exhausted to show temper and relented to the ragged child’s pitiable request. He instructed his servants to take her upstairs, arrange a warm bath, a clean change of clothes and set up a warm meal for her. When all was done, Mohan Kumar went to take a peek in the bedroom where the strange child was put up and found her slumbering peacefully while his own grandchild continued to be in a fitful sleep. Worry engulfing him, he settled for the night in an armchair by his granddaughter’s bed, not knowing what the next day held for him.
Light had begun to stream into the room. The storm had subsided leaving the world outside white. Blinking his eyes open, Mohan Kumar glanced at the child lying beside him apprehensively. He touched her forehead and found it cool and soft. A sudden fear gripping him, he quickly put a finger beneath the child’s nostrils and felt a gentle and regular swoosh of air. He did not know if he should feel relieved yet. What if these were only phantom symptoms of recovery? The child’s failing health had drained him of almost any hope. He suddenly recalled the incidents of the night past. With brisk steps, he approached the other bedroom where the little stranger had been housed. Expecting her still curled up under the blankets, he found the bed empty, with no signs of it having been occupied recently. Upon enquiry to the servants, all replied that none knew when the child had disappeared.
Meanwhile, Mohan Kumar’s granddaughter began showing a miraculously steady recovery. So overjoyed and relieved was he that he decided to organize a grand celebration, inviting all the residents in his and the surrounding villages. It was said that following this extraordinary incident, Mohan Kumar was a changed man. Charity and philanthropy became his wont. However, never did anyone come across the strange little ragamuffin who had received a night’s shelter in Mohan Kumar Thakur's Haveli.