The Other Face
The Other Face7 mins 286 7 mins 286
Suhasini heard some commotion and came out of her house to see what it was all about. There was a big crowd in front of Bhima Rao’s house. What! Suhasini was astonished! Crowd in front of Bhima Rao’s house? He was a lonely, proud, rude and unfriendly old man, whom nobody on that road liked.
Bhima Rao came to that street with his wife Parvathi twenty years ago. He bought that house from Lalithamma’s son. Bhima Rao and Parvathi did not have children. They lived a very private life. Parvathi was very soft-spoken and friendly but not very talkative. She did visit the neighbours, when they invited her over for some puja but other than that, she hardly spoke to them. She never partook in their gossip sessions. The neighbours were all very close to each other, as they're just twenty houses on that peaceful street. They all knew each other thoroughly. But nobody knew much about Bhima Rao and Parvathi, except that they did not have children and Bhima Rao used to work in the U.S. as a professor and returned to Mysore, their native town after he retired from services.
Parvathi would invite all the women for Varamahalakshmi Vratha once a year and serve delicious lunch and distribute very thoughtful gifts to all of them. Parvathi and Bhima Rao went out almost every day but nobody knew where they went. Bhima Rao spoke to hardly anybody on the street. When the children went to his house to collect money to celebrate community Ganesha festival, he flatly refused to donate anything. When they were invited for weddings and such other happy occasions, he very rarely attended and even if he did, along with his wife, he gifted nothing. But when somebody died or had some emergencies, he would go and help them in whatever way he could. People labelled him as unfriendly and stingy.
Parvathi passed away five years ago, peacefully in her sleep. There were hardly a dozen people for her funeral; just the siblings of the two of them and their families. Though they were Brahmins, no rituals were carried out. The body was donated to a medical college.
Instead of appreciating Bhima Rao for that, the neighbours commented, “Look at his stinginess! He has donated the body only to avoid the expenses involved for the last rites. Poor Parvathi was such a gem of a woman! Can he not even spend for her funeral?” He heard such comments and thus after her death, Bhima Rao distanced himself from them, even more. He fired the maid, because he knew she would carry tales to the neighbours. Thus the neighbours had no way of knowing anything about him. Even when Parvathi was alive, they very rarely had guests visiting them. After her death, even those few guests stopped visiting him.
“What does he do with all the wealth that he earned in America? Why should he struggle? Can he not engage a maid? God knows what he eats!” The women on the street weaved their own stories.
“Maybe he is mentally ill!”
“Maybe he is too depressed and lonely.”
“Where does he go out everyday? He might be having some affair and maybe Parvathi was so quiet only because of that and died of worry!”
Suhasini called her neighbour Kamakshi. “What’s happening Kamakshi? Why that crowd in front of Parvathi’s house?”
“Didn’t you know? Bhima Rao passed away last night. But I wonder who all those children are. They are all weeping bitterly.”
The two of them went closer to the crowd to gather information. They met the other women of the street there. Kala said, “It seems these children are from a charitable school ‘Gnana Deepa’ on Nanjangud Road. That’s what their badges say. Let’s go talk to one of those teachers for information.”
“Madam, why have you brought all these children here?”
“Auntie, didn’t you know Bhima Rao Saheb was the founder of our school? He has constructed such a wonderful building on a 50-acre land. There are 2000 students in our school. All of them are from the surrounding villages and belong to the poorest families. They get to study in this world-class school and reside in such comfortable hostel rooms only because of Bhima Rao Saheb. All the facilities are totally free. Our school is 15 years old and thousands of students have passed out of our school. They are doing very well in their lives and do their bit now by donating funds and volunteering. In fact, I am also an old student of this school and I now work as a teacher here.” Tears rolled down her cheeks.
Then there were many others too with garlands. One of them was answering Suhasini’s husband, “Bhima Rao Saheb had adopted our village and he has done a lot for our progress. Today, our village can boast of its own water tank, clean streets, organic farms, comfortable and hygienic homes, a medical centre, a well-furnished school, street lights and bus services to Mysore, only because of his untiring efforts. Parvathi auntie was such a great support to him and the two of them are the Gods to us.”
Just then an ambulance arrived. The men carried Bhima Rao’s body on their shoulders with tears in their eyes and placed it into the ambulance. All of them placed wreaths and garlands on the body and offered their obeisance to the great soul. The ambulance departed and the mourners stood talking to the local residents.
“How did you know he had donated his body?”
“We are all the members and employees of the Trust he formed. Not a day has he missed coming to our office. He has donated his entire wealth to the Trust. Both of them had clearly expressed their wish to be of use to the world of science in their will and handed it over to us. Not just that, they had helped so many of their own relatives for various purposes like education, medical expenses, construction of houses, etc. But they were unhappy that none of them except Bhavana and Vasanth (niece and nephew of Bhima Rao Saheb) really understood them. They were only after their wealth and thought of methods to loot that, as they had no children. Bhavana, a doctor and Vasanth, a social welfare graduate are members of our trust and have promised to carry on their good work. They just left in that white car a while ago. Luckily Saheb had an attack while in the office yesterday and we admitted him to the hospital. Otherwise, nobody would have known as he lived all alone. He was a true Gandhian and did no harm to anybody. Our trust is doing amazing work in many fields, thanks to his vision and perseverance. We will really miss him but he has inspired us enough to fulfil his dreams.”
The residents were simply shocked. Some of them who went into that house observed how it had bare minimum belongings. Charumathi, a trustee called out, “Basava, come and pack all this stuff. You may take whatever you need and distribute the rest to your friends in your village. Saheb has said all this should be used only by you and your friends because he loved you.” Basava burst out. “Oh my God! He was my mother, father and God! How will I live without him?”
“Basava was almost like Saheb’s adopted son. Whenever he went to his village, he and auntie ate only in Basava’s house. Thanks to them, Basava’s son is pursuing MBBS and his daughter is teaching in our own school. Basava takes care of the school kitchen along with his wonderful team.” Charumathi explained to Kamakshi, who looked at Basava doubtfully.
“How come we never made an attempt to know this face of Bhima Rao? We, being his neighbours, treated him like dirt, instead of supporting him in his noble work. Shame on us”, said Krishna Rao to Narayana.
“We were so stupid to misunderstand his principles of not donating for sundry, purposeless events and giving gifts to the haves. When he had such nobler causes and larger purposes, no wonder he showed no interest in socialising with us and wasting his time. At least now, we should make amends and visit the trust soon. We shall also support his project in our own ways”, said Doreswamy,