Laxsha Natraj



Laxsha Natraj


The Pooja Stand Ring

The Pooja Stand Ring

8 mins

Apeksha and Preeti were chatting continuously for the past one hour. They were classmates from KG to college. They got separated after Preeti married and left Mumbai. Today, they met just by accident and naturally there was so much to talk.

Apeksha said, “Oh God I was talking all the time without offering you even a coffee. Come to the kitchen and we can talk, as I make the coffee” As their conversation continued Preeti looked around at the spacious kitchen and said,” Hey Ashu, you got a lovely kitchen” 

As her eyes wandered she saw a very artfully designed God’s temple shelf placed on one side of the kitchen. Preeti looked a bit curiously he various framed photographs, neatly packed in rows and the end of the shelf was a thin platform. A Diya was still burning there and a group of fresh heaped flowers covered the shelf. Among all this, there was a tiny plate in which a diamond ring sparkled in the light. A few fresh flowers were placed on the ring too. Not believing her eyes Preeti looked again. Yes, there was a ring there, and seemed that it was worshipped.

Unable to control her curiosity Preeti exclaimed, “Hey Ashu, there is a ring here on God’s pedestal and there are flowers on it? Do you worship a ring? Is it some divine ring or what?”

With ready coffee mugs in hand, Apeksha reached Preeti and said, “ Oh that diamond ring.? There is a big story behind it. Rather a sad one” She sighed as she gave the mug to Preeti and said, “ OK, I will tell you about that some other time. Come let us go back to the living room” She started walking ahead and Preeti followed her. As they sat down and started sipping their coffee, Preeti pleaded, “Ashu please, tell me the story. My head will burst if I don’t hear it just now”

Apeksha reluctantly started, “You remember Cheenu, my neighbour?”

Preeti laughed and said, “Of course! The lanky tall fellow who use to follow you like a pet dog? How much we use to make fun of him. Ok! what about him?”

Srinivasan, called Cheenu by everyone, was the neighbor’s kid of Apeksha and was about four years younger than her. Maybe since childhood, he had played with her, or for some strange reason, he was so attached to Apeksha, that all the time he used to be with her. Everyone use to tease him, called him ‘Sisi’ too but, nothing affected him. When Apeksha joined college he used to wait with his motorbike every day for her, to pick her up. The joke about Cheenu tailing Apeksha went around for some time, later died its natural death. Every one now recognized him as Apeksha’s younger brother. He was still in his engineering college when both girls completed their graduation. Preeti was soon married and moved away to Kolkata. After a gap of six years, her husband changed his job to Mumbai, and she landed in this town. Today accidentally both the friends met in the shopping mall and on Apeksha’s insistence Preeti came down to her house.

Preeti shook her head, coming out of rushing memories and asked, “ Tell me how is Cheenu? Where is he now? Did he still follows you here too” She chuckled remembering the past days.

She was a bit surprised that Apeksha was suddenly quiet and was just vaguely staring at her cup. Preeti moved near her and shaking her asked with concern “Hey, Ashu Why are you so silent? Has anything bad happened?” Something inside her warned her that the news was not something good. She kept staring at Apeksha who was still silent.

Finally, Apeksha started her story “. You know Preeti, after graduation I joined “Mass communication and journalism for post-graduation course. You had left Mumbai after your marriage, Cheenu used to do the same work, of picking me up from university every single day, whether it was raining or thundering. Even my own brother would not have cared so much for me” Her voice choked a bit as tears welled in her eyes. Preeti’s mouth was now drying almost imagining what could have happened to Cheenu.

 Apeksha continued, “ As I completed my course I picked up a job with a Magazine. My parents looked for an alliance and found Murali as a suitable boy. We two met and both of us liked each other. But the marriage date was to be fixed in a hurry due to some Astrologer’s idea. Cheenu, as usual, was all around helping my parents, taking care of all the planning and arrangements from hall to caterer etc.

It was a Friday. My parents brought the engagement rings and Cheenu and his parents and some relations who had come were all appreciating the Groom’s ring. Cheenu picked up the ring and created a doubt. He said, “ I had seen Murali closely. This ring seems to be not the correct size” Then there was much argument as my parents had taken the correct measurement. 

After some time Cheenu said, “Ok, Let me see if it fits my finger, If so then it will fit Murali” And as everyone was protesting not to do so, he pushed the ring in his finger. But in his hurry to do so he pushed the ring in his middle finger, The ring got struck. As he gleefully announced, “ See the ring is not going in at all” His mother shouted at him and said,” You stupid, you are wearing it on the wrong finger. Remove it first” She caught his hand and tried to pull it out.

But to everyone’s despair, the ring got struck totally. There was a huge commotion as everyone shouted and everyone tried to give a solution. But the ring was not budging. But in all this pulling his finger got swollen and it became more difficult.

After some time one of the relatives tied a string tightly at the finger near the ring and somehow pulled out the ring. As everyone shouted at Cheenu I was feeling sorry for the painfully swollen finger of him. In all this commotion none of us noticed that Murali had dropped in for some work and quietly watched half a dram and left without anyone noticing.

That day Cheenu had to go to Delhi and when he reached the Airport he met Murali there who also had to fly to Delhi for an urgent meeting. As they waited, Cheenu told him the story of the ringing getting caught in his finger. He also told d Murali that how from childhood I was like an elder sister for him and he was too happy to make all the arrangements needed for the marriage. His frank talks somehow removed the shade of suspect which Murali had when he saw Cheenu trying out the wedding ring.

Murali noticed that Cheenu was restlessly looking at the cancelled seat for the flight etc. and on asking told him Cheenu told him that he had only waitlisted ticket. But his going to Delhi was very important for attend a meeting.

Murali said, “ You can take my confirmed ticket to Delhi as my going is not that important. I will rebook for a ticket”

Both of them went to the counter and after some resistance, the Counter agreed to cancel Murali’s ticket and issued it in the name of Cheenu. Cheenu thanked Murali profusely and walked inside the security check-in point. You know 8 years back there was no cell phone booking for tickets. Hence Murali went to another booking counter to rebook his ticket As he stood in line he heard the Delhi flight climbing high. Within five minutes a sudden commotion burst in the Airport. The announcement said that the Delhi flight, which had just now taken off, had crashed down.close to the Airport itself.

With his heart in his mouth, praying hard to every known God, Murali waited for further information. Relatives, of the people who had boarded, had already started flooding the Airport. The Sad news was announced. The plane had exploded and no one had survived the crash.

We all were divested. Our marriage was postponed by a year. Murali did not wear a wedding ring. The memory haunted him.and he was feeling guilty to see it. So the ring is there in the worship place. Every day when I light Diya I thank that noble soul for scarfing his life in place of Murali” Her voice choked.

Preeti’s eyes too welled as she said, “ Cheenu, Indeed a great man! Let God bless his soul with eternal peace” Later their conversation changed to different topics. After sometime Preeti left. 

 Murali was having his tea in the evening, Apeksha brought the ring and handing it to him said, “ So again you forgot your wedding ring in the bathroom. I kept it in the God’s platform so that I will remember to give it to you. But placing it there made Preeti think that I worshipped the ring and …” Without completing her sentence, she burst into laughter.

Murali looked at her steadily and said, “ Your classmate Preeti found the ring in the God’s place and mistook it as a worshipped ring? The way you are laughing I am sure you must have spun a long story around it and fooled her. You are a real wicked lady”

Apeksha stopped laughing and said, “ Any way Murali, Cheenu taking the flight in your place which later exploded was true. Every day my thanking him for his sacrifice is also true. Just the ring portion is not true. I added a little masala there. Anyway, I will telephone her tomorrow and will tell her the truth. Ok?” She again started laughing.

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