The Illusive Adoption
The Illusive Adoption18 mins 225 18 mins 225
The PWD office in Gwalior had been opened for the day. The peon in the office of the executive engineer had not even taken a breather after having dusted the office furniture in the Sahib's room when the shrill from the old-fashioned bulky pitch-black telephone set startled him.
He picked up the receiver, hoping it would be the from Sahib about being late to the office today. He chuckled anticipating the luxury of a leisurely afternoon till sahib's commenced.
"Himmat speaks Sahib" he blurted out in his practiced servile tone reserved for the likes of Sahib.
But instantly taking a cue from the hesitation on the other end, he made out that it was someone other than Sahib, even none from his household.
"I speak from Tripathiji's residence" someone unfamiliar on the other side continued "Has the Sahib come? "
"No! He is yet to arrive" The tone of Himmat had changed to become curt official like now.
"There is a message from Tripathiji."
"Tell me. I am from Sahib's office only.
"It is that..... Ah well! please convey to Sahib that Tripathiji's Mrs.is no more, she expired this early morning"
The peon was for once taken aback. But before he could ask any further, there was a click on the other end. He replaced the receiver in the cradle in a jiffy and hurried out of the room to the office corridor.
No sooner than he broke the news to someone, he came across first, the demise was talk of the whole office. Each Mr.X among the office personnel went to his adjacent Mr.Y, leaving the drawers, files, or whatever as it was and wherever it was. Though a good many were feigning grief, the real motivation to most was not to miss the spice in life, such unusual happenings or mishappenings catered to get rid of the tedium of the office table work routine.
The five junior clerks had gathered around the table of the office supervisor Choubeji well before the morning tea was due to be served.
"Why Dikshit! You live closest to Tripathiji's house. Didn't you have an inkling that she was going to depart so?"
"How could we? Tripathiji used to keep himself so aloof that hardly anybody had social interaction with him" explanation came in a flat tone from Dixit, a youngster among this lot," All that most of us can say is that Mrs.Tripathi for the last many years was never to be seen outdoors, not even anywhere within their sprawling open courtyard of Tripathiji's residence.No guessing that she would be bedridden but nobody ever could know the details of her ailment.No need to elaborate why so. You all know Tripathiji as much" He finished.
"Yes! She must have been bedridden all along. The accounts in charge once mentioned that Tripathiji had approached them for reimbursement of some Ayurvedic formulations for her chronic Asthma if I remember the name like they do for Allopathic medicines" Choubeyji affirmed.
Now Guptaji another office veteran added " Choubeyji! Do you remember Tiwariji, a JE now posted in Bhopal? He joined here with Tripathiji, who is still a close friend of his. I recall it now, once he shared with us that she did suffer from Asthma ever since she got married. But she is from a very conservative Brahmin family, was averse to take Allopathic medications even if she never responded to the prescriptions from a qualified Ayurvedcharya".
"Well that explains it then as to why this Tripathiji has been so ill-tempered" another youngster Manoj added, restraining himself from a direct reference to Tripathi's missed carnal satiations.
"Yes! anybody can become so always having to support a wife being sick right from the days soon after the marriage" added Chobeyji once again in a sympathetic gesture "And they could never have any issue either"
Even in the limited social circle of Tripathi, it was not known to all that his wife,for long had become an invalid.People,whenever they spoke of the couple, shook their heads and wondered how the poor woman could go on all alone in the house, while her husband was gone to office. And Tripathi will tell them that they had arranged for a girl to attend to her during his office hours. However, nobody ever saw that girl coming or going, to or fro at their residence.
Having to live alone with suffering, the invalid wife had brought Tripathi to be a reserved, withdrawn person and to make it worse to be a cynic.
The Tripathi household had a frugal living all these years. The eventual outcome was the accumulation of a hefty bank balance by the time he reached his 40's. Timely enough, he invested the money, buying two adjacent land plots in an upcoming posh locality of Gwalior. And immediately after that, on one of the plots, he got constructed a reasonably well architected four-bedroom house. For the other one, he went for a mediocre one-bed room set, more to satisfy the mandatory legal requirement to complete the construction on a plot within the time limit after allotment by the development authority. He was planning to rent it out to some docile bachelor referred through someone in his acquaintance.However,a hurdle came.His wife started sliding down fast.Now no time and energy was left after the minimal time he was required to be in his office. After that, he had to be by the side of his bedridden,incapacitated wife.
There hardly was any room to perform the customary rituals for a Griaha Pravesh as they came to occupy the new house after it was ready. The bare minimum of the rituals to satisfy the shastra-Vidhan performed by the Tripathi couple themselves with none invited.
She did not suffer for more than six months in the new home.That early morning also the Tripathi couple was all alone in the spacious house.The end was seemingly peaceful. Maybe she had gone too weak to utter any last words.Not even a gesture to her husband.As if a wait was over, she had suffered and quite so he himself too. The harsh fact was this demise was a relief to both.
Tripathi got up from her bedside to call a neighbor to place the body onto the floor and then to initiate the customary rituals to go on throughout that day. He was prepared enough to go through it all quite detachedly.Tripathi performed all the traditional rituals and the necessary formalities a brahmin husband would,with due sincerity for the peace of the departed soul of his wife.
As was the trend in Indian society those days, the bridegroom hunters, the fathers around in the biraadri (same caste acquaintances) lost no time to seek the well to doTripathi to be a match for their yet to be married overaged daughters. And Tripathiji a tall and healthy person, his being a middle-aged widower notwithstanding, was more so in demand with his wealth and a pensionable junior engineer post in PWD.
Tripathi jumped on to the one proposal among so many when it was for an extraordinarily beautiful, unmarried girl albeit of short stature, a mismatch, he conveniently overlooked considering his own state. The name was Shweta.
Once the proposal firmed up and freezed, the marriage ceremony was scheduled for the earliest date the religious protocols and the almanac permitted.The marriage function was kept simple without much ado and with bare minimum guests and relatives from both sides.
But the joy to Tripathi from even this bride once again was short lived. She though,not having any health issues, was hardly well versed in the household tasks.Worse to be was when he found that she was somehow not ready enough to satisfy the carnal needs of Tripathi,a deprivation fate had inflicted him hitherto.He found her too cold whenever he approached her.Apparently, there was nothing wrong with her physically.He patiently waited for the situation to improve. But years went by bringing him to his mid-fifties but he never got it.One again Tripathi became resigned in life.No issue from this couple again.
Realizing that soon he will be too old without a successor to his property and wealth,he started looking for a boy child to adopt.Out of the so many,the couple settled for a four year boy from someone in relation with Shweta's mother.After having a good look at the child, Tripathi agreed to adopt the boy.Legal formalities for the adoption neither were discussed nor carried out.
The child named Manoj provided a respite from the feeling of hopelessness in the Tripathi household.However, this change for the better lasted only a few years. As the boy came to be a teenager,Tripathi, to his utter dismay, noticed that the boy had characteristics never he could have imagined in a boy from a Brahmin descent.
The boy showed no inclination towards studies.By the time he passed his 8th standard in school,he took to smoking and invariably will be in the company of lower-class boys from the nearby labor colony. Often Tripathi will be summoned by the school authorities for poor academic performance and for being short in attendance.He hardly ever would see him playing a healthy game or in the company of a boy from a respectable family.
He spoke to Shweta about it.But she showed hardly any anxiety on the issue.No commitment of a responsible mother to do anything to correct the situation came forth. Tripathi on his part was at a loss to think of any remedy for this yet another misfortune befalling to him.
Years went by and Tripathiji was nearing his retirement as soon to be his 58 years.Shweta also had grown enough grey hair prematurely and her beauty dissipated fast.The couple had failed to develop any bondage,normally seen in a married Hindu husband and wife.
Most unusual was the personality of Manoj who was growing to be an able-bodied young man but a character of a rogue.He had developed contacts with dubious characters including a local neta notorious enough to be branded a 'safedposh badmash' (a bad character in white garb).Manoj was enrolled in a college now but for namesake.Usually he will come late well into the night and straightaway would head for his assigned bedroom without a word to anybody only to get up quite late next morning.Often Tripathi would have left for his office by the time he would get up and come out of the bedroom.
Tripathi was left with no hopes from him.In fact,he had given up even seeking any remedy for him.Resignedly he had brought himself to face whatever destiny had in store for him in his old age.
But the worst was yet to come.
One Sunday after his bath,pooja and breakfast, Manoj along with Shweta came to sit with Tripathi in the living room.
Shweta opened up saying "He no longer wants to attend college as he finds it worthless to study anymore"
"Then what does he intend to do ?"Tripathi asked with a bowed head and then lifted his head and looked Manoj in his face.
It was Manoj who carried on now "I have made up my mind to do a business"
Before Tripathi could speak,Shweta asserted "Yes! That will be more useful for him"
It was obvious now that the mother and son had colluded for it.Both had planned it all.
"Well if you both have decided it already. Where do I come in all this?"
"Why?I need capital to start the business.And you have to provide it to me" He was blunt enough and the tone indicated that he considered himself worthy of the money from him.
This attitude of Manoj added fuel to the simmering disapproval,Tripathi had been breeding towards the boy since long.
The new thing today was that it came out in open today.
He rather in a fit of rage retorted "What makes you deserving enough to demand so?"
In turn, Manoj took to threaten him "You will have to part with the amount,I need. Willingly or unwillingly is up to you"
"And what if I do not?"
"You will! " Manoj got up saying"soon you will.I will wait till this Saturday.Better for you to arrange this 4 Lakhs well in time and hand it over to Mommy"
He walked out of the main door. Soon they heard his roaring bike accelerating to the main gate.
The ensuing days had a storm in the offing.
Come Saturday the threat was carried out the same night.Both the son and the mother up against him had a scuffle and pushed Tripathi out of the house into the dark.Fortunately,the weather was not harsh those days.
The next day early morning Tripathi came mollified back to the house.With Manoj still asleep,he came to Shweta pleading
"I am ready to accede to his money demand. Today itself I will pay some advance and rest after you let me leave this house to settle in a separate house.For now, let me be into the house just to collect my essentials and leave the house forever."
He had planned it all. Shweta gave in after a bit of reluctance.Tripathi collected a bed sheet and his clothes from the cupboard in his bedroom. He stealthily concealed the keys of the adjoining one-room set house in the pocket of a trouser bundled into his clothes.After packing it all into a suitcase lying in the room,he produced a wad of Rs. 50,000 and offered it to Shweta saying" I promise to arrange for the balance money earliest possible and hand it over to Manoj in your presence."
Shweta nodded in agreement and expectedly,made not even a pretense of courtesy to him,her husband departing so.
The next day, a Monday, Tripathi confirmed the balance in his savings bank account and handed over the promised extortion cheque to the mother and the son.
Now it was open to the public that Tripathi had taken to living separated from his wife and the son in his second house. The money handover had bought him a truce.
Within a few months, his retirement from PWD commenced. Fortunately enough, all his dues were settled and a pension order initiated without any hassles.
By this time, Tripathi had got disillusioned by the family bondages, having been repetitively ditched. He decided to seek refuge in the much talked of renunciations. After much deliberations, he zeroed in on Chitrakoot.
He wound up all his liquid assets including his bank deposits except the one savings bank account in the SBI Gwalior Branch as it was registered in his PWD head office records for his monthly pension credit.
He left Gwalior for Chitrakoot, intending to settle there for the rest of his life in a small, simple, independent, affordable accommodation. Without much effort, within a few days after he arrived, he managed one.
But easier said than done.
Once the novelty of the new life routine wore off, his old affiliations to the wealth, so painstakingly accumulated by him all his life, surfaced. To satisfy these cravings, he thought of periodically visiting Gwalior a few days once every year.
So a year after being in Chitrakoot, he arrived in Gwalior one morning, opening the lock of his last lived one-room set. That day and the night went by without an incident.
Meanwhile, not unexpectedly, the so-called business of Manoj had been an immediate flop and without a speck of regret or shame on his part he again came up to Tripathi with demand having come to know of his arrival the last night.
"Why don't you transfer the house we are living into me?" he sort of yelled out straight away still standing after his entry to the only room of the house.
Tripathi this time kept his cool but was firm enough not to yield to the unjust him. Just replied with genuine cool "You cannot decide thus as to how and to whom I bequeath my hard-earned property".
Manoj was taken aback by the gentle but firm reaction from a Tripathi he had known all those years.Unnerved so, he went back without a word further.
But it was a lull before the storm.
The next day at 10 AM in the morning, Manoj saw Tripathi watering the plants that somehow had survived but were struggling to perish.Tripathi was doing so, more to keep himself busy and drive away from the negativity that had stuck to him since the time Manoj sauntered on to him the last day.
The criminal mind of Manoj generated a devilish plan,
'What if I poison the water he going to consume today" he mused."Will do the short work of this old wretched and I will get rid of this old leech sitting coiled on to his wealth"
"Uh! So much there but neither he enjoys nor is enjoyed by me so deserving the only me in the family"
The thoughts made him perceive Tripathi as the cruelest one, the one depriving him of his dues and so in his view deserved to be meted out punishment not less than death. Determined so, he got up and headed to the nearby pesticide shop to procure the most potent poisonous pesticide to execute his criminal scheme. On his return Manoj noticed Tripathi going out "He should be out for shopping, that bag it was used always for putting vegetables from the nearby market. An ideal chance to do the work now itself" he was thought assured enough.
He parked the bike then and there, with the pesticide pack,entered the open plot to the backyard and found the underground tank where the municipal water supply will be stored to be pumped up to the overhead tank for use through the taps throughout the day after the supply of municipal water was over till next day. He removed the heavy cast iron lid from the tank.The tank lid was still lying unlocked after Tripathi had got the Tank cleaned the previous day on his arrival here. The bottle having emptied into the tank, he confirmed the tank water not to have the pesticide odor obvious enough lest the plan be foiled.
'Tripathi should be bidding good to this world by post-lunch once he consumes it, the thought in the devious mind of his,made him chuckle.
He came out and picked up the bike and retreatedt to the adjoining premises mother and the son dwelled. Now it was a wait to get the imminent news.
There certainly was a commotion in the afternoon when Kamla the kaamwali while washing the dishes on the kitchen sink noticed Tripathi suddenly vomiting profusely by the side of the bed he laid on. She rushed out shrieking.Tripathi was rushed to the hospital and to the utter dismay of Manoj, he survived by sheer chance that Tripathi had Kamla in the house.
The police case having been registered for an attempt to murder, a competent police inspector was assigned to investigate the case. Almost immediately as first, interrogation commenced to the mother and the son. Both were grilled the next day morning itself as Tripathi had revealed it all to the inspector about the threats from Manoj once he was fit enough to make a statement in the last evening.
The way interrogation conducted,it was to unnerve Manoj. Late-night he absconded.The inspector now sure of him to be the culprit, had no problem tracing him at the village Manoj was adopted from.
One startling obnoxious fact that came out there and now hot news in Gwalior around was that Manoj was none but an illegitimate child born to Shweta many years before her marriage.The real father of his was made to run away from the village even before Manoj was born. It was never known where and how he was now.
Coming to know this dubious past of his second wife,Tripathi had one more woe added to his ill-fated existence in this world.
The case,was investigated with rare competence by the police and so proved to be an open and shut case.The court sentenced Manoj to 12 years of rigorous imprisonment. The high court upheld the sentence.All notorious contacts including that of the local neta,Manoj often boasted of, proved not only useless to him but facilitated firming up the charges against him,this being an added proof of the sort of character he was.
Mother could also have been implicated.But a heart turn inTripathi somehow made him rather defend her while in the hearings.She was let off.But Tripathi now having learned it all about her was averse to keep a relationship with her. He filed for divorce from her. In return, he bequeathed his posh property to her.
As it was a long drawn affair.He never could return to Chitrakoot and gave up the idea altogether.The legal proceedings still going on, he came to realize that he was not the one to renounce it all.
But still one more was in store for him.This time his own doing.
The smartphones had come into being now. Somehow he came to know that it provided easy access to whatever you like to have for time pass.So he purchased one. Tiwariji, one old and the only one to maintain a friendship with him, also had come to settle in Gwalior after his retirement. Both will meet him at least once a week at a public park. He helped Tripathi learn the preliminaries of using the smartphone.
But one-day Tiwariji came to know that he developed an addiction to watch Porno on his smartphone.Tiwariji, a Kanyakubj Brahmin, now could not have Tripathi as one to have even a scant relation with,not to even think of his friendship.He receded from him. Now Tripathi would contact him once in a while only on phone.
As it so happened one late night at 11.55 PM while Tiwarji was asleep,the shrill of his mobile ring made him shun his slumber.He was stunned enough to have the name of Tripathi on the phone screen at such an odd hour.He picked it up,preparing himself for a disastrous incident with him.But to his bewilderment, he found that Tripathi while on a Porno site had attempted to contact a call girl enticed by some popup.But being a novice user he had been connected to Tiwariji.
The cost of that wrong unintended call was too much for Tiwariji.He scolded Tripathi in no uncertain terms then and there on phone. And also warned him never to contact him again.He hanged up.That very moment put the contact number of Tripathi in the blocked list.
Within a few years, there was news of Tripathi.He had died ailing in the private ward of a Hospital.Finding none to attend to the ailing Tripathi,some saint had arranged for the disposal of his property. He only used his influence to make the hospital authorities accept the proceeded money from the disposal as a deposit to treat and finally cremate him.
The troubled soul had finally been relieved.