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Oleen F

Drama Romance Others


4.1  

Oleen F

Drama Romance Others


A Treasure Beyond Measure...

A Treasure Beyond Measure...

13 mins 219 13 mins 219

It was a bright sunny afternoon in August, as Aksha sat on her laptop, furiously tapping away from her assignment, while also texting her friends on Whatsapp and shaking her head in time to the music blaring on her headphones. Her mom popped in, shook her head at the noise, and deposited an envelope on the desk next to her, before leaving the room. Aksha was surprised! A letter for her? In this day and age? Curious, she lowered the volume of her speaker and proceeded to look at the letter. It looked officious, her name and address printed neatly on it and with no return address. She carefully slit a side open and drew out a letter typed out on white paper. She scanned through it and then, read it once again, completely perplexed. An anonymous person was offering her Rs 5,000 if she went and helped a person set up a computer and taught that person the basic rudiments of how to use it. Surprisingly the address was a Children's Orphanage located a few miles from her place. 


"Hmmm…," she mused. This did not look like a junk letter. The address was very specific and so were the instructions. The offer was to do a good deed and being a student pursuing her graduation in Computers, she seemed to fit the bill. Rs 5000 was an added incentive. Deciding to act on it, she quickly got dressed, informed her mother, and set out on her 2 wheeler towards the Orphanage. It was an old renovated house with a wide porch in front. She could hear kids laughing somewhere inside and smell evening snacks being prepared as she made her way into the room marked 'Reception'. A funny sight greeted her. A young girl looking to be about 16 sat there, with thermocol wrapping and boxes around her. A brand new computer with a large screen monitor and a built-in CPU sat on the desk before her. The girl was looking at it as if a spaceship had suddenly landed on her desk. Aksha hid her smile as she entered. The girl jumped up and stammered out a welcome, but Aksha soon had her relaxing as she introduced herself and got around to fixing up the computer. 


The young girl told Aksha that her name was Shalini. She had been brought up in the orphanage and was now helping out at the reception. A benefactor of the Orphanage had sent them the new computer. Aksha started with the basics of using the computer and how it could be used to update the Orphanage's records. Shalini was a smart and intelligent young lady who picked up the basics very quickly. Very soon, Aksha had a little fan club around her. The lady who ran the Orphanage stood behind her and tried to understand the workings of the computer. Some kids aged between 5 and 12 also stood around gaping at the strange black box. Soon the younger kids were playing with her dupatta and her dangling earrings and the older ones seemed rapt with her explanations. Before she knew it, it was time for her to leave and she left, promising to be back the next day. The next afternoon when she visited them, she was happy to see the ease with which Shalini was now handling the device and they sat to discuss and implement the ways in which the Orphanage could put the computer to good use. This continued for a few more days, when one afternoon, Shalini handed Aksha an envelope. It was addressed to Aksha and had been delivered by a messenger. She opened it to read that she would now be paid her due and she had to meet the benefactor in person to receive it. 


Very eager to see the generous benefactor and the person who had chosen her, the next afternoon she made her way to the address mentioned in the letter. It was a charming old-style house, with bougainvillea and other flowering plants spilling over in abundance on either side of the driveway. The driveway then curved around a fountain, which had water bubbling into a small pool and a quick look showed her some colorful fish frolicking in the water. Impressed, she made her way up to the steps, where she was made to show her credentials to the security personnel, before being led to a room where a secretary bade her sit after offering her refreshments. A few minutes later she was asked to enter a door. She did not know what she was expecting, but after the colorful and riotous splendor that had greeted her outside, the room was a stark contrast. The dark wood panels on the wall seemed to absorb all the light seeping in from the windows and there was not a single item of color to relieve the gloomy atmosphere. A voice from behind the desk said, "Please come in Ms. Aksha." She gaped at the person who now stood behind the impressive walnut desk. He was tall and well built, had a strong face, but his eyes were hidden behind the spectacles he wore. He was wearing a white formal shirt with narrow pinstripes, the sleeves of which had been rolled up to show strong forearms. But what surprised her most was his age, she was expecting the benefactor to be a genial old man and not this young man with a forbidding expression on his face. She gingerly made her way to his desk and sank on to a seat opposite to him. He picked up an envelope and placed it in front of her and nonchalantly got back to typing on his computer. Unaccustomed to people being rude to her, she stared at him in shock. Looking up and seeing her still sitting there, he pointedly looked at the envelope and then at the door. Aksha refused to be cowed. "Since you already know my name," she began, "I think I should know yours too." He looked nonplussed for a second as if unbelieving that she dared to speak, but then shrugged and said, "I am Charan." Aksha continued, "Thank you Mr. Charan for giving me this opportunity to help the poor people and I just…". "I am not your benefactor," he snapped at her. "I am just carrying out his orders. Now could you please leave and let me get on with my work ?" he intoned harshly. "Boor," Aksha thought to herself as she took her envelope and walked off in a huff.


Treating her Dad and Mom to a nice dinner and buying a nice outfit for herself, made her almost forget this incident, but she was irritated to find Charan's forbidding face pop into her mind at the most inopportune times. A month passed and she was delighted to receive yet another letter. It was similar to the previous letter, but this time her work was to set up a computer at an Old Age Home. She wondered if her excitement was due to the work she had to do, or the money she would receive. But the little devil in her mind whispered that it was the thought of seeing Charan again that thrilled her the most. 


So, she was prepared when she completed her work at the Old age home and approached Charan for her dues. After following the drill with his security and secretary, she sat in front of Charan's desk and pulled out a tiffin box from the bag she carried. Mouthwatering smells filled the room as she offered Charan her mom's special Aloo Parathas with curd and pickle. Charan was shocked for a second, but she guessed some long-forgotten manners were remembered as he politely thanked her, kept them aside to have later, and bade her leave. That evening she received a "Thank you" from an unknown number and was thrilled that she had made some inroads with her Mom's parathas.


The next month, after setting up the computer at the Institute for the Blind, and in anticipation of her visit to Charan, she had gone back to the orphanage and asked the kids to draw pictures of how they thought their benefactor looked like. She was convinced that the benefactor was Charan and was not acknowledging it for reasons of his own. She had loved the pictures the kids had drawn and she longed to see if this would break Charan's icy demeanor.


When she met him, she pulled out the file and could see the disappointment on his face when he saw that it was not a food box. "Note to self," she thought. "Mom's paratha's were a hit." Smiling broadly, she pulled out the pictures and placed them in front of him. At first, he just looked at them blankly. But then a laugh just burst out of him. There were drawings ranging from stickmen to old hunched men with walking sticks. Some had drawn him as the superhero Krish, some as Superman and there was one rendering of Santa Claus too. Most of them had, "Thank you, Charan Uncle." scrawled in childish letters on them. He controlled himself, thanked her politely, and as usual bade her leave. She did not push him for more. "One step at a time," she thought. She stepped out of the door and immediately stepped back in carrying the large cork board and pins she had kept outside. Without waiting for him to say a word, she quickly stuck all the pictures onto the corkboard with pins, propped it up on a table at the far end, and left. That night she once again got a "Thank you" from the same anonymous number. 


As the months passed, Aksha set up computers at the Home for the Underprivileged, The Military Veteran's home, and at the Home for Unwed mothers, amongst others. These places created a deep and lasting impact on her. She started a club at her college which collected funds and provided voluntary services to these homes. She conducted numerous donation drives and encouraged whomever she met to either contribute financially or spend some time at these homes. She continually visited all these homes and assisted wherever possible. And through this all, in a secret place of her heart, she fell deeper and deeper in love with Charan. After the second visit, she had added more touches to make his office happier. A wind chime hanging from the window, colorful throw pillows on his couch, more thank you notes on his corkboard. Though Charan was still reclusive and did not speak much, she could feel him thawing towards her. He smiled a little more in her presence and did not mind her adding some color to his office. She had fed him more parathas and also had him come over to her house for dinner. In time, she hoped, his recalcitrance would turn into acceptance and then love.


A year passed and it was the day of RakshaBandhan. This year, it was on a Sunday and so the college was closed. She was suddenly surprised by a text from Charan and shocked by his words. It read, "Aksha, please come home and meet me at 11 a.m. today. Carry a Rakhi with you." She was sure that Charan lived alone. So did that mean, he wanted her to tie him a Rakhi? She tried to ask him but he just asked her to do as he requested. With a heavy heart, Aksha dressed up in her favorite outfit and went out to buy a Rakhi before heading to Charan's house. Being a Sunday, there was only security at the gate and no one inside. For the first time, Charan was at the door waiting for her and not seated behind his desk. 


"Aksha, thank you for coming," he said. "I need to tell you something important today." Aksha nodded mutely. "I know you think I am your benefactor," he continued, "but I am not. I want to introduce him to you. Come with me."

 In complete silence, Aksha followed him, not expecting these turn of events. He led her to a room and as she stepped in, Aksha recoiled back as if in horror. On the opposite end of the room, there was a table covered with a white cloth, two diyas were lit on it and a large portrait of Ram was on it, with a garland draped around the picture. "Ram! Dead!," her mind screamed, as the last time she had seen him played back in vivid detail.


 It was Rakhi day last year and they were at college. There was a rather silly ritual, in which a girl would tie a Rakhi to a guy who had a perceived fondness for her, to make him her honorary brother and deter his advances. The guy chosen for her was Ram, a nerdy thin guy in her class who hid his face behind thick spectacles. The whole class knew that Ram had a crush on her and though he had never proposed, his eyes would follow her continually. Aksha, being an only child and not understanding the sanctity of the festival, had caved into her friends' demands, and marching up to Ram had tied a Rakhi to his wrist. This was followed by a taunting cry from all the classmates asking him to give her a gift in return. He had stuttered and stammered and left the class that day. He did not come back the next day and soon they came to know that he had quit college. Aksha was very sorry and had wanted to apologize but had not seen him after that day. Until now. 


Aksha was filled with revulsion for her actions but she could not understand why his portrait was here. She turned blindly towards Charan, her eyes demanding answers. Charan nodded sadly and began his story. Ram was his younger brother by 7 years. Their parents had been very rich, but after their sudden shocking demise together in a car crash, Charan had assumed responsibility for Ram. Unfortunately, Ram had been born with a kidney problem that would trouble him from time to time. Though being intelligent and clearing his schooling with flying colors, he was very shy as he would spend a lot of time in hospitals and could not make friends easily. On the day of Rakshabandhan last year, he had a relapse and had to be rushed back to the hospital. He had spent a month there, but his vitals had not improved. He had succumbed to his illness in the first week of September. 


Soon after his death, Charan had been surprised by a lawyer's visit. Unknown to him, Ram had made him a trustee of the money his parents had left him along with clear instructions to its disbursal. Charan at that time had come to know about Aksha and sent her the letters to honor Ram's dying wishes. In a letter to Charan, Ram had said that he could not give a gift to Aksha when she had tied the Rakhi and this would have to be his gift to her.


"And in doing this," said Ram, "he has not only been a brother to you, but he also gave me the best gift of all..," He took her hand in his and held it close to his heart. "You." 


Aksha swayed where she stood. She would have fallen, if not for the anchor of Charan's hand holding hers. She could not believe that the Rakhi she had tied so frivolously, had been taken to heart by Ram. From the other side of the grave, this whole year, he had been her unseen brother. All those years in college he had not only been looking at her as a girl but had understood her passion for computers and her potential for helping others. Tears streamed down her face as she looked at his portrait, repenting for her mistake and thanking him repeatedly for turning the silly, immature girl of a year back to a mature, compassionate woman today. He had truly given her a treasure beyond measure. She lifted her tear-stained face to Ram. She could now understand his animosity towards her at the beginning and was grateful for his love and acceptance now. 


Slowly removing her hand from Charan's, she opened her handbag and took out the Rakhi. She went ahead and placed it in front of Ram's portrait. "Happy Raksha Bandhan, Bhaiyya," she said, before turning and walking into the embrace of Charan's open arms.


They held each other for a long minute, reveling in their newfound love, after which they turned in unison, their arms still around each other to look at Ram's portrait. They silently thanked him over and over for his unseen gifts and promised him to continue his legacy, together.


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