REVATHI BHASKER

Drama Others

4  

REVATHI BHASKER

Drama Others

The Radio

The Radio

10 mins
299


Atmaram was retiring from the mill that evening. Lala Lalchand, the mill owner and the staff had planned his farewell party in advance and had invited his family too. Atma’s wife Devi who rarely attended any function, was looking forward to this day and had neatly ironed one of her best saris and set aside the jewellery she would wear. Their son, Ayush, however, did not show any interest in attending it, but had to give in when his wife Sarla and toddler son, Abhinav insisted on going. He came back early from his office to take them all to the party.

The staff did not have to search high and low for a farewell gift for Atma. They knew Atma’s passion for old melodies and also that the radio in his house was under repair for a very long time. Even while tallying accounts, he would either be whistling or humming a song. They had therefore, purchased a radio set, and as was mandatory in those days, procured its licence too and kept them readily gift wrapped. A couple of volunteers transformed the mill into a festive hall in a very short while. The canteen boy was working on the patent order of gulab jamun and samosa, accompanied by potato wafers. As it was summer, coffee/tea yielded place to orange squash.


Though it was a reputed mill, Atma was employed as an accounts clerk as he had no qualifications in the technical field and his monthly emoluments were nothing to write home about. However, as he did not harbour any ambitions, he was content with both his pay as well as the monotonous job he did diligently day after day. To his credit, it should be said that he was methodical and sincere in his job and maintained honest accounts and was in the good books of the owner.

It was nearing 4 p.m., and Atma’s family had arrived and seated in the reception area. Lala was on his way and as soon as he arrived, the farewell party would begin. Garlands, bouquets, gift and the citation were all neatly arranged on a table nearby and seating arrangements for the mill owner and Atma’s family were made on the dais.

At 4.15 p.m., the siren sounded and all the workmen staff gathered to bid a fond farewell to Atma, the non-controversial simpleton. At first, Lala Lalchand, addressed the audience and showered praises on Atma. Then Atma and his family were felicitated with garlands and bouquets. Ayush was not at all interested in the proceedings as he did not much care for his father and his job. He felt cheated that while other boys of his age got all that they wanted from their parents, he had to content himself with ordinary meals every day and new clothes only twice a year. There was no mention of any toys or playthings at all. The family had never even seen a single movie in the theatre. Television had not entered the households and Ayush spent an unhappy and dissatisfied childhood. This temperament reflected in his studies as well and he just managed to be an average student.


Ayush would be embarrassed when his friends showed off their new clothes and ridiculed him. He had very few friends and slowly started withdrawing to himself becoming an introvert and also developed an inferiority complex. Atma did not have the time or knowledge to help Ayush with his studies, and whenever Devi tried to sit with Ayush, he would shoo her away saying that she knew nothing. Somehow, he managed to clear his tenth standard examinations and as he did not wish to continue studies, he got himself a job in a courier company.

Ayush shared no love or attachment with either parent. He would merely come during meal times, have his food and go to work or shut himself up in a room. He loathed the old-fashioned house which would surely do well with a coat or two of paint, but they could ill afford it. In some places, the plaster had peeled off and Devi very neatly camouflaged it by drawing some pattern over it.


As Ayush had secured himself a permanent job, Devi broached the topic of his marriage. He would have otherwise waited to come up in life, but Ayush was fascinated by a colleague and had fallen in love with her. He confided it to his mother who relayed the news to Atma and very soon, they got their marriage registered in a court. As living in a “dilapidated” house was below her dignity, Sarla continued to live with her mother in their home along with Ayush. The main reason which prompted Ayush to leave home was the radio. Atma was so fascinated by songs, he would change channel after channel and listen to music from morning till night. As Atma had been working in a mill for more than forty years, his eardrums had got perforated and he was hard of hearing. Though hearing aids would have mitigated the hardship, Atma was not the one to spend a “fortune” on it. He had worn an aid on a trial basis, but returned it to the company the very next day as he found it very uncomfortable. The doctor tried to convince him to recalibrate the aid, but Atma would not listen to wher suggestion. In these circumstances, when a radio arrived in the house, it was but natural that Atma spent all his waking hours, listening to movie songs in full blast. This irritated Ayush no end and he would reduce the volume of the radio, only to see that his father would go behind him and increase it. On office days, he would be spared the agony of loud music, but on Sundays and holidays it would be a pain. Devi would ask him to go to the other room and lock himself up to avoid the noise, but he would not hear of it. 


At first both Atma and Devi missed living with their son and were upset, but they decided to keep quiet. They started to live by themselves. In a way, this arrangement suited them too, because Ayush had never contributed to the family kitty at all and they would have found it more difficult to meet the daily expenses.

Soon Abhinav was born, but both Atma and Devi could hardly caress the child. Occasionally, Ayush would bring him over, when they could play with him till their heart’s content. Years passed and Abhinav grew up into a fine boy. He topped his school in the Board examinations and was his teacher’s favourite as he was very kind and helpful. Atma and Devi wished to congratulate him for making them proud and came over to Sarla’s house to meet him. Sarla and Ayush had gone to their office and Abhinav was with his maternal grandmother. 

Seeing Atma and Devi walk down the path to their home, Abhinav hurried down to receive them. They hugged each other and shed tears of joy. Sarla’s mother too came out but did not hide her displeasure in meeting them. She asked them in, merely as a formality. As luck would have it, after she invited them inside, she turned around to go into the kitchen, but slipped and cracked her heel.


Seeing her in pain, Atma took her to the nearest hospital from where he contacted Ayush’s office and gave him the message. Both Ayush and Sarla rushed to attend to her. As they would be shunting between hospital, home and office, they found it prudent to permit Atma and Devi to take Abhinav with them till Sarla’s mother returned home.

Abhinav was more than happy to be with his Dadu and Dadi. The grand-parents on their part were so excited to spend time exclusively with Abhinav, that all three of them played traditional games and hogged on the lovely meals Devi prepared.


Abhinav soon noticed that his Dadu’s radio was missing and that Dadu was not listening to any kind of music. He asked Devi about it, who said that in a fit of rage, Ayush had thrown away the radio, which got badly damaged and could not be set right. She said that he was upset at the fat bill of the Electricity Service Company, and his eyes rested on the radio. In no time he had pulled out the radio from its socket and dashed the radio to the ground. Abhinav was shocked to hear of it. He became pensive and left the scene. The next day he asked Devi if she had the keys to their house. When she replied in the affirmative, he asked her to go with him to that house just for a few minutes. After finishing her chores, she set out with Abhinav. As soon as the door was opened, Abhinav rushed inside the house and was back in a moment. They locked the house once again and returned home.

Abhinav saw his Dadu bored and listless. He walked up to him, put his hands around him and hugged him. Atma was baffled – he had never experienced such a show of affection! He was overjoyed that he clung to Abhinav as if to make up for the many years of separation! Tears of joy welled in Dadu and Dadi’s eyes. 

Abhinav gently released himself and thrust a transistor in his Dadu’s hands. He showed him the controls and also fixed the ear phones. Now Dadu could listen to the channel of his choice without disturbing anybody! Dadu could not believe his ears. The songs were extremely clear. It was to him, something like magic! The whole day Abhinav spent time with Dadu explaining each and everything. He also told him that he had set aside all his cash prizes, which were quite sizeable. He asked his Dadu to inform him when the battery cells in the transistor would get weakened as he would then replace them himself using his prize money.


The happy duo kept talking all about the transistor even while having their lunch, when they were rudely disturbed by the arrival of Ayush. “Who asked you to open the house in our absence? Do you know that the transistor and ear phones are missing?” Before he could continue any further, Abhinav cut him short saying, “Papa. I have brought the transistor and its earphones here for Dadu to use. In any case, no one was using it there – everyone has a smart phone. Dadu was upset that he could not listen to the radio as you had smashed it into an irreparable condition. I felt sorry for him that at this age he should yearn for such a petty thing, which is easily within our reach. Moreover, this transistor was awarded as a prize to me and I am sure you will not object to my gifting it to my dear Dadu.”


Ayush was speechless. It was as if someone had slapped him on his cheek – slapped him really hard. All these years, he held nothing but resentment for his parents and now, his son – his son, within a moment had brought happiness to the old parent. Coming to think of it, in what way had his father harmed him, that he should break the radio? The radio, which for his father was a treasure – invaluable as it was a parting gift from his colleagues. What right did Ayush have to destroy it mercilessly? He had always cribbed about not having new clothes like his friends, but that was only a passing phase. When he started earning on his own, nothing stopped him from buying whatever he wanted. He felt ashamed that even after he got his job, he did not help his parents financially, but on the contrary, they took care of him! 


Ayush had learnt his lesson loud and clear. His mother-in-law would be discharged from the hospital the next day. He had made up his mind. He would tell Sarla to appoint an attendant to look after her mother. The three of them would come back to his parents and live with them during their twilight years to be spent in peace and happiness. As another alternative, if Sarla’s mother agreed, she could come and live with them. As far as the house being “dilapidated” was concerned, he had decided to give it a face-lift in a phased manner which would not be too much of a burden on his purse.

Abhinav could not understand why his father caught him up – a big boy that he was and smothered him with kisses and hugs.  


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