Epic Sto­ries? Ev­ery­day Sto­ries!

So what hap­pened?

Woman's Era - - Short Story - By Lak­shmi Pale­canda

Saro­jini en­tered the hall en route to the kitchen. Two men were sit­ting on the sofa there. One was her brother- in- law Raghava and the other, his son, Sri­ram, who was Manju’s hus­band. Sri­ram was work­ing on his lap­top, while Raghava was read­ing the day’s pa­per. “Cha­ran, you take your cof­fee and leave the kitchen, ” Muthu patti is­sued or­ders to her daugh­ter-in-law, sis­ter and grand­son like a gen­eral on the eve of a bat­tle. “There are two cups of cof­fee here. Which one is mine?” Cha­ran asked with the self-in­volve­ment, typ­i­cal of teenagers. “Oh-ho, Manju, you do it! Give one to Cha­ran, and the other cup to your father-in-law. I swear, the man can­not open his eyes be­fore his first cup of cof­fee.”

was con­tin­u­ing, “Wait un­til you hear about Kittu’s his­tory,” he said, ad­just­ing his bi­fo­cals. “His fam­ily con­nec­tions were very bad. His un­cle ac­tu­ally put his par­ents in jail.”

aro­jini looked ea­gerly at her sis­ter. “Muthu, re­mem­ber Ramu, our neigh­bour in the vil­lage? He took his par­ents to court, ask­ing for his share in the fam­ily prop­erty. Word in the neigh­bour­hood is that his par­ents nearly went to jail for that.”

“Chil­dren don’t re­spect their par­ents these days.” Muthu of­fered an­other plat­i­tude.

Raghava con­tin­ued. “As for Kittu him­self, he was a petty thief when he was young. When he be­came older, he be­came known in his town for wom­an­is­ing. It seemed he’d been go­ing out with all the pretty girls there. Yet this girl ran away with him and mar­ried him. She said she loved him.”

“Love!” scoffed Muthu, vig­or­ously stir­ring hot mysore pak in a big kad­hai. “In In­dia, peo­ple don’t get mar­ried for love. This idea came from for­eign coun­tries. Mark my words, noth­ing good comes when you take on the bad habits from other coun­tries. Can you imag­ine what would have hap­pened if we had loved when we were young?”

Pat came the an­swer from her grand­daugh­ter, Ran­jani, “Patti, your hus­band wouldn’t have mar­ried you. I would have had a much bet­ter grand­mother. Right, thatha?”

Raghava grinned and winked at her. But Muthu ex­ploded, “If you talk like this to me, I’ll never leave you my di­a­mond ear­rings. You’ll have to go to your hus­band’s house wear­ing plas­tic ear­rings,” she threat­ened.

Manju tensed. World War III seemed im­mi­nent. The only thing to do was to take out one of the com­bat­ants. “Ranju, if you keep talk­ing, you’ll miss your school bus for sure. Now, go take your bath,” Manju yelled at her daugh­ter.

The di­a­mond ear­rings were a hot but­ton is­sue with her also. Un­der her breath, she mut­tered, “You’re never go­ing to give your pre­cious di­a­mond ear­rings to my daugh­ter, you old hag! You promised them to me, but did you at least lend it to me even once? Never! I know what you’ll do. You’ll take them with you when you die.”

Mean­while, Saro­jini in­ter­jected, “Be quiet, Muthu! Raghava, con­tinue with your story. What hap­pened to that Kittu? Did he change af­ter mar­riage at least?”

“Yes, in a way. He en­tered pol­i­tics.”

Sri­ram sat back with a sigh. “Ah, yes, the last re­sort of rogues. Did he be­come the party leader or the chief min­is­ter?”

“He got rid of his un­cle and took over his prop­erty. Then he be­gan to in­ter­fere in his cousins’ prop­erty dis­putes. He be­gan to play king-maker.”

ha­ran spoke up, “Ha, there is only a tele­vi­sion drama called King-maker, thatha. There is no such word. You are mak­ing it up.” His cell­phone had run out of bat­tery and was cur­rently get­ting charged, hence his par­tic­i­pa­tion in the con­ver­sa­tion.

“I meant that this fel­low used his po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence to pro­mote some­one else. Two sets of cousins were fight­ing over their grand­fa­ther’s prop­erty. One set hap­pened to be Kittu’s rel­a­tives on his father’s side. So, he backed them in the fight for the prop­erty, say­ing that they were the right­ful heirs.”

“Why did they have to fight? Couldn’t they have reached a com­pro­mise?” Saro­jini asked, as she be­gan mix­ing the be­san for boondhi.

“They tried, but it was half-hearted at best. And at that meet­ing, Kittu ended up killing his own cousin for in­sult­ing him.”

“What is this world com­ing to? Why should this Kittu kill a man just be­cause he in­sulted him? They should have put him in jail for mur­der! Muthu, that mysore pak has turned out nice, hasn’t it?” Saro­jini said, ad­just­ing the flame of the gas burner.

Muthu was run­ning a knife through the hot mysore pak on a large plate, cut­ting it into per­fect di­a­mond shapes.

“Kittu wasn’t jailed be­cause peo­ple thought of him as a god.”

Sri­ram snorted in de­ri­sion. “One of those god-men, I sup­pose. All you have to do is a few magic tricks and some hyp­no­tism and im­me­di­ately peo­ple be­lieve you are a god!”

“Your story is tak­ing too long, thatha. Just tell us this. Who won in the end?” Cha­ran asked, one eye on the cell­phone.

“With an un­scrupu­lous man like Kittu on their side, I’m sure that his cousins won!” Sri­ram said, shut­ting his lap­top with a snap.

“Yes, they did, but not be­fore there was a huge fight. The other fam­ily was sim­ply de­stroyed.”

aro­jini tut-tut­ted, “I feel sorry for the other fam­ily. Poor things! If Kittu hadn’t in­ter­fered, they might have got some­thing at least.”

Her task fin­ished, her sis­ter turned on her. “Saro­jini, you are too sen­ti­men­tal. That is why your brother-in-law and his fam­ily are still liv­ing in your house. When it comes to money and prop­erty, you should for­get all re­la­tion­ships. That is the only way to sur­vive,” pro­claimed Muthu, Ms Machi­avelli.

Manju had come into the hall with a towel for Cha­ran. As she looked at her father-in-law, her brow fur­rowed. “I think I’ve heard this story some­where. I just can’t re­mem­ber where.”

“This world is full of sto­ries like this. These days, good peo­ple don’t pros­per. I won’t be sur­prised if the win­ners gave Kittu some­thing sub­stan­tial for his pains,” said Muthu with rel­ish.

Raghava steepled his

Giv­ing a squeak, Ran­jani grabbed her school bag and ran out of the house. Her good­bye sounded faintly from the door. Manju heaved a sigh of re­lief.

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