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Dutiful Son

by Santhosh Menon
(Cochin, Kerala)

As usual, Madhavan got up at 4.30 am. On searching his pocket he got a

little disappointed, because there was no cigar. He thought of going outside
to have one. On hearing a continuous cough of his father who was bedridden
for the last one year or so, he went to his father's room. The home nurse
attending on him, went two days back to her native place at Calicut. He
contacted the home nursing agency and they informed him that another one
would be available within a day or two. Madhavan gave his father a
Deriphillin tablet and cough syrup. His wife was busy in the kitchen making

After a cup of tea, he went outside to buy one cigar packet. The shop keeper
and others used to have the early morning talks in the villages. Madhavan
also was in the habit of joining them. But on that day after having a cigar, he
returned home in a hurry. He asked his wife to take the Hospital kit of his
father. (As parents are aged, Madhavan and family members used to keep
Father's and Mother's dresses in separate bags which can be used in urgent
hospitalization needs).

He helped his father to the vehicle; mother also accompanied them along
with a neighbour. He started the vehicle and drove to his maximum speed
---60km/hr. They reached the Hospital within 10 minutes and the stretcher
was ready on seeing Madhavan's blue vehicle. They took his father inside
and at that time the doctor on duty, a close friend of Madhavan, was luckily
there. After 15 minutes the Doctors called Madhavan inside the Casualty only
to say a "sorry".

Madhavan was stunned to hear the word---S---O---R---R---Y. It echoed in his

mind and rewound faster than anything and within 20-30 seconds he looked
at the doctor, who took him into his room. They came out of the room after 5
minutes and Madhavan was still stubborn without tears. He whispered
something into the ears of his doctor friend and he nodded his head,
embraced Madhavan and hurriedly went to the Reception for dialing
someone. At this time, the attender came to call Madhavan. He went to the
waiting room where his loving mother was crying and the good Hospital staff
were trying to console her. Madhavan requested a friend to drop her home.
He told his mother that nothing to worry about his father and another
medical team would be examining him soon.

The friend drove his mother home, and the other friends took Madhavan
outside the hospital for a cup of tea, for a relaxation. To his surprise, on their
return, he found a number of villagers were waiting there to enquire about
Madhavans fathers condition. He repeated the same Nothing to worry
and the Doctors are waiting for an expert opinion from another team of
Doctors who are expected to arrive shortly. But the villagers were not seem
to be satisfied with his answer. The Doctor who was watching all these, told
them something and they all went after assuring Madhavan of any help, if
needed. (Please remember the incident happened around 11 years back. No
pager---no mobile phones----were there at that time in that small village.The
land phones 10 to 20 only in number ,that also in the whole village. Then we
may think how the news was conveyed to another fellow ---The mode was
simple and very simple...i e through morning chat everyone in villages in
Kerala usually wish each other in the tea shop or on the way by saying the
usual Didnt you hear? and the message good or bad is conveyed to
everyone and the news will spread like a wild fire. As such, this writer or
everyone of us may think the necessity of a Mobile phone in villages. If we
forgot to take the mobile means we will be having "peace of mind" on that
day) .

After 10 minutes, an ambulance came with 4 or 5 Doctors and they went

inside the Casualty. Madhavan was called by the attender and on entering
into the Casualty all the expert doctors were studying/verifying his father's
file. They asked Madhavan to sit there and gave him a paper to read and
sign. He signed with a shivering hand and returned it without reading. The
Doctors asked something and he nodded his head positively. They asked him
to wait outside , but his good doctor friend placed him in his duty room. (Yes,
by this time Madhavan was like a man without emotions,-just like a statue.)
Time was passing by and "every second seemed to be one hour" for
Madhavan at that time. At last, after 25-30 minutes the team of Doctors
came to the room and whispered something to Madhavans ears. One of
them even embraced him and the lady doctor said Good bye" to Madhavan,
with folded hands.

The doctor friend reminded him that his father was no more and he had
made every arrangement in his house with the help of his villagers and
friends. He even told that they informed all his three sisters (all of them were
married - one elder and two younger) and would be arriving within two -three
hours with their families. As per his advice, the time of cremation was fixed
at 3.30 pm on the same day. By this time the Hospital was full with villagers
and they were eager to hear the cause of the delay. The doctor asked
Madhavan to tell them the truth. On hearing the reality, all of them were
stunned, some of them cried, but Madhavan was stern. Eeven a drop of tear
didnt come out from his sad looking brown eyes.

After 4 pm, the body was taken for rituals after death. While doing the
karma, the last bath before cremation, Madhavan noticed something, the
tears from his fathers eyes--he didn't tell this to anyone ---but just thought
whether it was due to Happiness or otherwise. The short ritual was over by 5
pm and the body was taken to the south side of his house where the
cremation was arranged. Every one, except his family members and friends,
left and after 11pm the friends also went back to their respective houses.

Madhavan, after drinking a glass of kanji prepared and brought by the

neighbours,went to his mothers room. He called mother in a feeble voice
two or three times and she didnt respond. He raised his right hand, thinking
of awakening her by just a mere shaking--- but he was unable to do so
thinking of his father's death---She was weeping all the day and could not
sleep in the day time because of the visitors and their words of consolation,
thought --"Let her sleep" . But his mind was not peaceful and wished to
reveal something to his mother, but....but.... he couldn't. He silently lied
down on the floor in his mother's room.

Madhavan got up in the morning by hearing some sound from his father's
room. He saw all the three sisters cleaning fathers cupboard in the room and
his Military trunk box. He came to know at once that they were searching for
the belongings of their father. "They are not wrong", Madhavan thought.
Father, even though was an Ex military person, didn't believe in any
superstitions or myths as most of the military men do. He loved every one
and helped every one to his capacity. He used to say, "Life is only up to
death, and after that it may again become sand or part of this world; any
way one has to dispose the dead one at the earliest from this earth. His good
memories may be in the mind of the living, if we do some good to others
while living and we can help others even after death which means a great
thing but the dead one can't do this." A bit difficult idea may be, but that is
the truth.

The fourth day morning, sanjayanam (a ritual done with the remains of the
departed soul, to get moksha for him), was done. (Im a person who believes
in doing good things during the lifetime of our parents and looking after them
with love and care, instead of sending them to old age homes, which is
increasing today in an alarming speed. It is is more important than doing this
type of rituals.) After the Sanjayanam, which was over by 11 am, only the
family members were left at home.

Madhavan noticed his sisters urgency to get back to their respective homes,
and they were just waiting for their mothers consent. That was an Ekadasi
day and he went to his mothers room with his breakfast. After sharing the
food with his mother (they usually do like that even at his age of 50's!) he
again sat beside her in the bed, as if "greasing her palm to talk to her
something more confidently. Knowing this, she asked, Whats the matter,
son? Instead of replying in words, he began to weep silently, and seeing his
plight she also wept with him. She patted her son and repeated the question
"What is the matter. son? Tell me." As if he was waiting to hear this from his
mother, he embraced her and whispered to her ears something which his
mother could not hear clearly, but she got the point.

A complete silence was pervaded the room for some time, and then she
cried so loudly that even her daughters from other rooms and the neighbours
could hear her. They all came out wondering what had happened. Then she
stood valiantly and said loudly, Madhavan has done the right thing as per
his fathers wish. In the next moment, she began to cry, but this time they
were tears of joy, and said, Now two more individuals can see this beautiful
world with my husbands eyes!!