Submitted into Contest #97 in response to: Start your story with an unexpected knock on a window.... view prompt


Fiction Indigenous Drama

Balaram called his daughter Shilpa and told her that he had arranged for funds for her admission in the course she wanted to join. She was thrilled and expressed her tons of thanks to him. Balaram wanted her to know that it was much beyond his capacity to spend so much on one girl. So, he insisted that she should realize her responsibilities and be sincere in her studies and come out with flying colours. He also wanted to tell her that she, being the eldest, must ensure that her two younger sisters also come up well in life. But he did not say it to her. After all, Shilpa was just a teenager.

 ”Why load her with too many burdens at this tender age? There is enough time to bother about future of Savitha and Savithri.“ He told his wife Ramaprabha about his plans for their future. “I am just an autorickshaw driver. I have a limited scope to grow further. But my children should not be like me … limited to a small circle. They must grow big, soar high and of course shine well and have a bright future.”

Rama was a bit concerned about his heavy indebtedness. He had recently borrowed huge amount for Shilpa. Now he was talking about incurring further loans for Savitha and Savithri. She wanted to advise him to go slow. “No body gives loan without any security and we don’t have anything to offer as security. That apart, it is just a matter of time that these girls will grow up and be ready for marriage. What do we do then and how are we going to manage that? So, keep in mind and pay attention to that and draw your plans accordingly.”

Balaram comforted her. “Don’t worry Rama. Once Shilpa completes her education, she will get employment easily. She can earn enough for us to wade through our financial crises. I am counting on that and building these castles. Only thing is that we should still continue to be very stringent in our expenses. ‘Spend less save more.’ We must teach our children also to be frugal. Okay!”

Both Savitha and Savithri were staring at Shilpa as she was going for taking up her new course. She turned to them and in a lighter vein, quoted a filmi dialog, “You too will get your time. Your turn will be there Wait for it. (Apna time Aayega)” They too smiled back and acknowledged her ready wits. Rama also was watching the scene … the girls and exchange of lively conversations. She was happy that things were going in right direction. The girls were not jealous of each other. In fact, they were taking the elder one as their roll model. Rama told everyone. “Always remember one thing. Your father has been squeezing his tummy to fulfill all your dreams. So be conscious of his efforts. He does not want you people to forego your desires. Therefore, you have one binding duty and that is only one thing. Give your best in whatever you do.” She silently prayed for the success of her daughters. It was for this purpose only Balaram was going beyond his limits. He wanted his daughters to come up well in life. He too joined her and sent his silent prayers. He dreamt of his three girls, … Shilpa doing well in her computer coding programmes and getting honours, Savitha doing well in Fashion designing and getting recognitions and awards for her work and third one Savithri too doing her best as a teacher.  

If everything in life moves as per our plans, then what is the role of our fate? Balaram and Ramaprabha saw that days rolled onto weeks and weeks onto months. Before months would roll onto years, there was a big jolt. A bolt from the blue.

There was an unexpected knock on window. Earlier Ramaprabha had closed the door and was waiting for Balaram to come home. The girls had already come home by evening, finished their homework, had their dinner and were waiting for their father to come home. Since he was an autorickshaw driver, there was no fixed time for him to come home. But Rama had emphatically told him to give her a call if he would be getting late beyond 8-30 pm. Neither there was a phone-call, nor a text message from him. What happened to him and why was he late and that too without informing them? Rama felt her adrenal rising. Balaram had warned them a good number of times earlier, not to open the door unless and otherwise it was absolutely essential. That too particularly at night. Now there was a knock at the window.

The girls cuddled themselves to each other and were staring at their mother. Again, there was a knock at the window with a shrill voice calling her out. Rama remained silent and was gathering guts. She was in two minds whether to open the window and peep out or, open the door and see what was happening. Soon the dilemma came to an end. There was a heavy pounding of sounds on the door and some male members calling them aloud. In spite of those indistinct and mixed voices she could recognize them. Oh! They were their neighbours only. But then too she felt something fishy and uneasy. As soon as she opened the door, Vimala her neighbouring lady, clung to her and wailed loudly. “Oh, you unlucky woman! Should the sky befall on you? So soon and so sudden? Whose evils eyes have smitten you and rained curses on your family? I am unable to bear. How are you going to take this blow? Oh God! Why are you so merciless?” Her blabbering went on and on. Ramaprabha understood something had gone wrong drastically. But details were not shared. Shilpa took the lead. She stamped her foot hard on the ground and raised her voice. “What is the matter? What happened to Papa? Where is my father? Why are you all crowding here without telling us anything?”

Then Someshwar, another man from neighbourhood said that Balaram met with an accident and he was taken to hospital. He was fatally wounded. There was heavy loss of blood also. The hospital pronounced that he was brought dead. The hospital generally would not entertain patients brought dead. But in Balaram’s case, those who brought him there, did not know who he was and where he belonged to. His phone also got smashed on the spot of the accident. Hence, they were hesitant as to leave him then and there and leave the place. By then a passerby identified Balaram vaguely and informed Someshwar. As per hospital’s rules, the body could be handed over to very close relatives and no other person. Ramaprabha stood speechless. Shilpa shook her heavily and said “Let us rush to hospital and get Appa’s body. Let Savitha and Savithri be with Vimala Auntie. Someshwar uncle, please come with us and help us. Amma take some cash if you have.”

The news of sudden death came as a bolt from the blue. Rama was terribly shaken. She wanted to cry. But no sound would come forth from her throat. Tears from eyes turned dry. A mysterious cloud of sorrow and grief overpowered her. Her wits and brain had bluntly stopped functioning. She was motionless. She was simply driven by others. Someshwar told Shilpa to hurry up or else the hospital authorities would dump the body in Mortuary, from where it would be very difficult to fetch the body. Shilpa identified her father’s body. Since it was a road accident, lot of formalities had to be observed before releasing the body. On seeing Balaram’s body, Ramaprabha broke down. But hospital authorities warned her to remain silent as crying was forbidden within the premises. Both Shilpa and Rama had to swallow their grief and engulf their wailing woes.

A knock at the window and things went topsy-turvy. All three girls sat down and were unable to grapple with the harsh truth. Sole bread winner – sudden death – no savings - dark future – no hope – no body to turn to – no well-wisher – A big jolt. They were afraid that they should not lose their mother as her condition was getting worse. Savithri told Shilpa to seek help from Someshwar and find out next course of action. All the time mourning, remaining idle, not attending to their daily chores, not attending schools, … all would lead them to nowhere. Someshwar told them to apply immediately for death certificate, without which nothing could be done. He got the address and contact details and asked them to proceed. He excused himself for not accompanying. He had his own worries to bother about. He too was a daily wager. He advised them that mother’s presence was essential at the office.

Ramaprabha and all three girls went to the Corporation office and met the concerned officer. Application was given. Forms were filled up. The officer turned out to be a very good guy. He patiently listened to their unfortunate miseries. He could visualize their family situation. “Sole bread winner – sudden death – no savings - dark future – no hope – no body to turn to – no well-wisher” and so on. He told his assistant to take care of their case and in the meanwhile, he enquired from Shilpa about her computer programme classes and her sisters’ school details. With just a phone call and a few more strokes on his mobile phone, he rewrote their future.

He told Ramaprabha, “Don’t worry Sister. I have paid your three daughters’ fees for their school and computer coding course. Don’t break their studies. Let them continue their studies till end. All I can do, is this much. I cannot undo your misfortunes. But I can reduce your burden to some extent. You leave with me copies of your educational certificates and other credentials. I shall ask my friends and fellows in my contact if they can help in getting some job. My personal advice to you is, don’t insist on white-collar jobs and don’t hesitate to accept any menial jobs. Whatever you may get just hold on to it. For survival, this is very essential.”

For the first time in their lifetime, Ramaprabha and Shilpa had a full view of holy God who had descended on earth to shower His blessings. With folded hands and tear-filled eyes Ramaprabha searched for suitable words to express her feelings. It was as though her silent prayers were answered. Shilpa urged her two sisters to follow her and three of them folded their hands and touched his feet. “Sir, you are God-sent angel to us. ‘Our sincere thanks’ is too shallow a word. God had closed one main door for us forever, by snatching our father. But you have opened many windows for us. We shall remain grateful to you forever.”

The officer smiled and blessed the girls and told them to extend their helping hands in a similar manner as and when they could.    

Ramaprabha could see her silent prayers being recommended and presented by Balaram from heaven above to the lotus feet of God. God unable to say NO to Balaram had answered through this gentleman. She who came to collect death certificate was now returning home, with a bountiful shower of blessing.

Silent Prayers are effective. No doubt. Proved once again.

June 11, 2021 18:49

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