Sakthidharan, was in utter dismay. Just slipping into retired life after more than three decades in the field of education, this morning had not been as good as he would have liked it to be.
It was about eight ‘O clock, that he heard the calling bell ring. He expected, being the first week of the month, this may be the beginning of parade of monthly payment collectors just as newspaper wala, milkwala and all and sundry walas.
It was no surprise for him and as expected a beaming, Narendran stood at the door for collecting the monthly cable subscription of three hundred rupees. Today, he appeared bit busy than usual.
Sakthidharan paid the money and soon Narendran left without his customary remarks, as he used to make, about something happening in and around the locality. Narendran was unlike many others who visit him every month because of his refined manners and was more acceptable to be invited in and to engage in small talk. Sakthi was bit disappointed that he could not share some of his anecdotes when he was in service. The hidden truth in most cases is that, while the teller is having enough time to relax and recount his memories, the man at the receiving end, especially when he is on collection mode and umpteen calls to be made, that day, would only reluctantly listen and would only try wriggle out at the earliest opportunity. Today, Narendran would have came well prepared for this eventuality and appeared more a busybody.
Sakthi was about browse his newspaper that he suddenly remembered that Narendran had left with out paying the balance of Rs.700 against Rs.1000 he had paid. He was sure he had paid a single currency note.
He called his wife, who was busy in the kitchen, “Narendran did not pay the balance of Rs.700.”, he announced gingerly, to which his wife responded rather tamely, “Just be calm, you may have put it in the table drawer or in your shirt pocket”.
This indirect missive made him more furious that too coming from his wife, he uttered, “you believe him more. He is not such a person to cheat: but you cannot believe each and everybody blindly”.
Not to lose the battle his wife added. “He has been coming for collection for the last three years. Not in any way has he behaved to think badly of him. You check again”.
This infuriated him further. “I have checked everywhere, He only came in the morning. I know his house. I must go immediately”.
To this his wife made a calming retort. “You know his mobile number. Call in that. Or call in his land line number. Both are with you.”
Sakthi immediately began the exercise. When he heard the ‘switched off’ message, he frantically tried in landline. The bilingual voice informed him the landline is temporarily out of service. This compounded his agony.
A habitual walker always, and if the situation warrants more quicker action, Sakthi had a bicycle to reach nearby spots. He pulled it out and began pedaling his way to Narendran’s house. In his anxiety he lost the road sense and an reckless auto rickshaw knocked him down. Sakthi made a evasive turn, the cycle turned upside down and he fell on the road. Soon people gathered. His whole body was writhing in pain, because of the sudden impact. Many abused the auto driver for his reckless driving. But Sakthi was too concentrated on his money in suspense than on the road. He right arm was most affected.
The news reached his home. His son reached the spot in his car. Soon he was taken to the nearest hospital. En-route, his over speeding son hit another vehicle and there ensued a war of words, between them, while Sakthi remained inside the car cursing Narendran for all that happened. The car suffered damages. Somehow, they reached the hospital.
Narendran was about to reach home that he got the news about the accident. He immediately rushed to the hospital to see his client. He saw his son who was restless and walking up and down. Sudhir heard his father’s rant against Narendran through out the way and he had taken a position.
The moment he saw Narendran, he was about to spit fire. His mother calmly entered the scene and by symbolic signs implored Sudhir to maintain gumption. Narendran was entirely in the dark about his role in the present situation, approached Sudhir’s mother with all innocence in the world asked her, “Madam, How it happened?”. He saw Sakthi sleeping deep in sedation.
With our revealing any thing that was supposed to be the cause, Sudhir’s mother told, “In the morning, soon you left,he took out his cycle to meet somebody. Then he had an accident. Soon Sudhir took him here. By the by, Narendran, may I ask you one doubt?. Sakthi Sir, says he paid Rs.1000/- and did you return the balance of Rs.700/-.?”.
Narendran was taken aback for a moment and replied, “Yes he gave me Rs.1000 . But at that moment I had no money. Then Bhaskran also came for his milk bill. That was around Rs.700/-. Saksthi Sir asked me to pay Rs.1000 to Bhaskaran and Bhaskaran paid balance of Rs.300/- to Sakthi Sir and soon he settled me also. That’s all.
She immediately turned to her son, when Narendran was gone, “Your father himself is responsible for the agony he has inflicted upon”, and told the rest. Sudhir stood dumbfounded at his father’s unnecessary rashness. A wave of regret rose in his heart and his previously fire spitting eyes welled up with tears. He rushed in to meet his father. He was aware it will pain his father more than the physical pain he was in and he walked in with a choking throat.