Neelakantan asked his son Mohan to get him an apple and one orange. Mohan went to the kitchen to ask his wife. He knew it might not be there. Still, if one was there, that would suffice for the day. She made a wry face and told him bluntly.
“How do you expect fruits now? You know very well all the fruits brought yesterday and the day before had gone into the fruit salad. You yourself found them insufficient. Was it not so? You always invite such great foodies for parties! Was anything left behind for you or me? Now, you are asking apple–orange–banana etc. Are we having any orchard here? Your father being diabetic and your mother being sick, how can they have such sugary fruits?”
He knew very well that more than his friends, their wives ate up everything.
Mohan had to cut a sorry in front of his father. Neelakantan was taken aback. He bought fruits by dozens and gave away everything to his son and daughter-in-law. Now not a single one, not even a piece was available to his wife. She was anaemic and had to be given daily nutritious food and fruits. Knowing his son and daughter-in-law and their nature, he should have kept a few for himself.
“Okay. No fruits, alright. Go, get a glass of milk for your mother”. This time Mohan without going to kitchen or asking his wife Meena, told on his own about the milk position. All fully exhausted. His dare not make any eye contact, in stead he preferred to stare at the wall. Neelakantan somehow could not control his memories flashing back. His wife Kaamakshi, had made him run around the town for few apples to feed the toddler son Mohan. Now the same Mohan did not have time or money(?) to get one piece for his mother.
“When the fault lies squarely on me, why blame him? Have I ever mended his ways when he tried to be selfish? How can I expect him to be different now? When he was not corrected from his ‘threes’ how will he be corrected in his thirties?
He asked Mohan if Meena was going out. If yes, then she could as well be reminded to fetch extra milk. Mohan had interrupted.
“How could she bring milk for you, Appa? She is going to the Beauty Parlour. Half the day will go in that affair. And then, the dairy shop is in another direction. I can go for you. But there is only one car. It is high time we thought of getting one more.”
Neelakantan was talking about getting a packet of milk costing just a few tens, and his ‘great’ son is talking about getting a car costing a few lakhs. Who was going to buy? Was he thinking of getting it by himself? Never. This was another lesson for him from his son. ‘Self Help Best Help. If anything was required, then better attend to it yourself.’ Kaamakshi’s medicines also needed to be replenished. Why would he say that to Mohan and force him to look for excuses? But something has to be done to put an end to these.
One day he vaguely heard her cursing somebody as a ‘Pestering Nuisance’. He could not make out whom she referred to and what went wrong, where and with whom. Must be someone who needed some favours from her. He laughed unto himself as a thought occurred to him. ‘Have they ever bothered about themselves being a pestering nuisance to somebody else, when they need obligation from others?’
He could not resist his mind flooding with flashbacks for begetting favours from Almighty for a son. Poor Kaamakshi, his wife!
In their heydays, she would keep all sorts of fasting called vrathams, going to temples relentlessly, making special prayers on both fortnightly ‘shashties’, so that she would be blessed with a son. A pious lady in every aspect. Not a day would pass without elaborate rituals covering long prayers, reciting innumerable hymns, varieties of offerings, etc. She performed almost a penance. Her joy knew no bounds when her prayers were answered. Yes. She conceived and a baby boy was born. She fondly named him Mohan, and said ‘he is the apple of my eye’. Neelakantan thought now, ‘I wish she should have prayed for a worthy apple.’
Notwithstanding his selfish interests, she still believed her son to be her real asset. Neelakantan preferred not to tell anything about Mohan or Meena as she would not be able to tolerate their indifference.
This was not the first occasion for Neelakantan to know about Mohan or his wife’s dilly-dally attitude. Somehow, he was tolerating these minor pin pricks. After Kaamakshi fell sick, he almost hid all these things from her, fearing it would aggravate her sickness. Mental agony was more painful and sickening than mere sickness. But he also thought that sooner or later she must know the true colours of her great son. A sudden exposure of it might be a rude shock to her.
In front of his room, he saw both son and daughter-in-law were talking in hush-hush voice. He could clearly hear Meena asking Mohan with assertion, “Will you tell them or should I say?” Must be some high level subject. Quite likely to be a disturbing one. Neelakantan came out of his room and inquired. He did not want Kaamakshi to be disturbed. Mohan with his downcast eyes and with lot of hesitation tried to speak. Neelakantan had to coax him to spit out. Finally, the cat was out of the bag.
Meena’s parents were likely to come and stay here for a month or so. They were expected to come in about a fortnight. Both of them had their life-style health problems. In addition, they had knee-joint problem also. Obviously, they could not go and stay upstairs. They needed to be accommodated in the ground floor bed room only which was presently occupied by Neelakantan and Kaamakshi. Mohan, why Mohan actually Meena, wanted the parents-in-law to move upstairs so as to get the room ready for her parents. Their comfortable stay had to be ensured.
Knowing fully well that Kaamakshi was not keeping well, both son and daughter-in-law wanted them to vacate the present bed room for the comfort of in-coming guests. Neelakantan did not say a word. His silence was misunderstood. Meena went away in a fit of anger. He could hear her murmuring, ‘Wretched Pestering Nuisance’. Mohan did not utter any harsh words. But he looked at his father with an appeal. Neelakantan finally broke the silence.
“Okay my dear son. We will do something. There is still some more time.”
The next few days he was very busy. Mohan saw his father’s close friend Shivaraman coming quite often. For a second, Mohan thought, “Is my father complaining to him about me?” Meena was there to dismiss such unnecessary fears.
“What wrong did we do in asking your father to move upstairs? We have not thrown them on the road. Do you know? It is going to be a lot more difficult for us to adjust with these oldies. They will pretend as highly incapable of moving and demand something or other, every now and then. For every beck and call, I have to run up and down. In fact, we are the sufferers. Why do I say we? Me and me alone! You go away to office. I am the one to slog here all alone. Actually, I thought of telling you to ask your brother in Mumbai to keep parents with him. He too has the responsibility to take care of them. But considering your mother’s poor health, I did not suggest that. Anyway, I am happy, your father did not refuse.”
While Mohan was getting dull and disturbed by every passing day, Meena was getting excited and even started counting down the days for her parents’ arrival. They had not yet fixed their travel nor announced their date of journey.
One of these days, Neelakantan called Meena and told her. “See my dear child, I am making arrangements for moving. Before then certain things are to be ensured. I will be going with this man Shivaraman and it will be quite late for me to return. Please take care of your mother-in-law just for today, by frequently attending on her. Please be tender and gentle. She cannot withstand anything harsh. Most importantly, please-please, do not tell her that she has to vacate the room. That part, I will take care.”
Meena remained silent. She could not get head or tail of what he spoke. “Was he accusing her for not taking care of her mother-in-law? Was he very seriously telling something, when Mohan was not around? What was the need for him to go out now when uncle Shivaraman was doing everything? Why the two are planning for a long outing, leaving behind his wife?’
Meena never spoke to her father-in-law directly. It was always easy to convey anything through her sheepish husband Mohan. She could not wait for Mohan to come home and then grill him with those unanswered questions. She phoned him then and then and wanted to know what was going on. She was sure something was brewing. She said to herself, “This old man cannot be believed. It is difficult to fathom and dig out what he is up-to.”
Mohan came home hurriedly. He too was caught in the mire of suspense. At home on finding everything at ease and even, he was a bit relieved. He sat by the side of his mother and waited. Let father come. Shortly his father came and with him was another man. From his very attire it was evident that he was a lawyer. Shivaraman was also there. Mohan felt something churning in his belly the adrenal shot up. “Why a lawyer with his father?” Meena too came out to see what drama was going to be screened.
Shivaraman gave a bunch of keys to Neelakantan. Soon, the stage was set for an overcast show. Except Kaamakshi all were present there. The lawyer asked the family members in stern and clear tone, to listen to him patiently stressing on, no interruption in between. All doubts would be cleared after he read out the Will that was executed on that day. All eight eyes were fixed on the lawyer and were keen to hear him read out the will.
The lawyer said that Neelakantan had made out a will and had been duly registered. Since all the assets, moveable and immoveable properties were acquired by his earnings only his discretion prevails as to what should be given to whom. He said, “It is a lengthy document. If you have the patience, I can read out fully for you. The legal terms may be confusing you. If you want me to tell you the gist of it, I am ready for that also. The will is in three parts, item number one—housing properties, (two houses), then comes cash deposits in banks and lastly jewellery and miscellaneous holdings.” Then he paused for a while looking at everyone and keenly observing their reaction.
He understood that they were eagerly wanting to know the sum and substance of the will. They had no fancy for the judicial jargons. Both Meena and Mohan felt a bit uneasy on the presence of Shivaraman, who was totally an outsider to the family. The lawyer sensing that objection, said his presence was absolutely essential. He was the prima-facie witness for the Will. Only if the will was made very-very clear to all, the witness would be able to sign.
“Is it all clear to all of you? Can I proceed now? The house where you are all present belongs to Neelakantan and it will continue to stand in his name only. Other than his wife, there is no dependent for him. Only with his permission others who are not dependent on him, can stay in this house. Those staying here will hereafter be considered as unauthorised occupants.” No sooner it was told, Meena got violent and got up with a thumping stamp. Neelakantan looked at her. From her lip movements he felt she uttered something. Did she say ‘Pestering Nuisance?’ He could not make out. The lawyer cautioned her and signalled her to sit down.
The lawyer then continued. “There are some more clauses about this house, which I will tell you later. Regarding housing property number two situated at …” He read out the address and paused. He took the bunch of keys from Neelakantan. He proceeded further saying the second property belonged to Mohan and strictly meant for own occupation. Not for business, not for sale, not even for rentals. He looked at Mohan and Meena and told them “the earlier the better it is to vacate this house as you are expecting guests.” But they were keenly wanting to know what was in store for the younger son. If he was given better facilities or more valuable assets? If by any chance he was getting more, then it would be difficult for them to contain themselves in bounds.
Then lawyer proceeded with other parts of the will. The next one was about cash deposits in the banks. An amount almost equivalent to the housing property given to Mohan was earmarked for second son, Lokan alias Lokanathan. It was in the form of fixed deposits. Upon their maturity, he was free to use the amount as he pleased but certainly not before.
Last portion was about jewelleries and miscellaneous assets. Those items would continue to stand in the name of Kaamakshi. Then the lawyer announced that anyone having any doubts or any other objections on the will, could raise them. Both Meena and Mohan had their own mixed reactions, but could not object. Meena felt that Logan had a freehold on the deposits and he was permitted to use it the way he wanted, whereas, not a single rupee was given to them for spending as they pleased. They were more bothered about what Lokan got and they totally ignored the value of what they got.
Lawyer, looking at the two—Mohan and Meena asked, “If there are no questions from them, the will can be construed as final. It can be completed with signature of the witness. Mohan then raised a pertinent question. “My parents are pretty old. How can they live here all by themselves? Till now my wife Meena was taking utmost care of them, untiring and undaunted. As per this will, if we have to vacate, how can they sustain themselves? I am worried.”
While Neelakantan was pained to hear this, Shivaraman had to struggle hard to hide his feelings and control himself. Neelakantan directly looked into his eyes and spoke with strong emotions. “Yes, my dear. You both took extra efforts to take care of us, -- untiring and undaunted. Your mother considered you as the apple of her eyes. She got all her apples that way. Oranges were never sour to her. They were always sweet as she possessed her son as sweetest treasure. When I asked for a glass of milk, you said the milk dairy shop was not on your route. Was it so difficult to bend a little and take a small step for her? In stead you were asking for a car for your use.” He panted.
But continued. ”Haven’t you heard of the proverb ‘Where there is a ‘will’, there is a way? That’s why, I had to resort to this. You got a wife exactly matching and going with your sentiments. I must admit and should admire at your cordial and harmonious relationship. Without least hesitation you could brand us as ‘Pestering Nuisance’ and you say you are worried about us. I brand you ‘Utterly selfish’ – both of you. It’s no use in finding fault with you now. I am to be blamed. I have not imbibed good virtues in you. I had not corrected you. I did not groom you properly. What I sow I have to reap. I left you to propel yourself to attain your selfish goals. Have you ever spent one rupee, your own money for others? But you had least hesitation in taking anything and everything from others. No grudge, no self-respect.’
He took a glass of water and continued his sermons. “Don’t worry. As a dutybound father I cannot leave you in the lurch. That is why I purchased a house in my name and gifted it to you. You can stay there with any number of guests, hold any number of parties undisturbed and unperturbed. But, note that hereafter, you both have to live within your means. Better late than never for leading a life of dignity. Don’t expect any support from me. Only then, you will learn. As for us, we are getting a tenant to stay upstairs, who will be our care taker as well as care givers. They are looking for an auspicious day for performing house warming. That was one more reason for you to vacate soon. ‘The earlier the better’ as the lawyer told you. If I don’t mention a word or two about my friend Shivaraman, I will remain doomed forever. For the last so many days he had been working tirelessly. Truly undaunted and untiring. I am overly indebted to him.”
By saying so he became emotional and held Shivaraman’s hands and broke down in tears. Shivaraman patted him and comforted him.
Neelakantan told Mohan to use the car time being but urged him to return the keys. Or else, as a father he would be at his door steps.
Who knows to hear the same old words, ‘Pestering Nuisance’!!