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Friday, November 21, 2014

Why we in Tamil Nadu are still unable to eradicate begging in public places?

was returning from Madurai by train, a couple of days ago. At Thiruthangal station, an adolescent boy, his hands crippled somewhat, came begging window after window, with very little success. When he knew that I was about to take out my wallet to offer him some money, he made a request to give him ten rupees so that he could eat something for the day.....................

Here you go with:"What If Our Dreams Come True! An Uncommon Meeting with Lord Siva" - Chapter 38

Chapter 38

“Where are we going to stay?” I whispered to Ambalam in a hushed tone.

He paused for a moment before he answered. “Hopefully, it is not going to be a problem. For that, we should thank our ancient rulers. Even way back from the seventh or eighth century, or, maybe, even earlier, the rulers were very compassionate to the common man. They had built a number of stone ‘mandaps for the benefit of travelers and for those who had no roof for themselves. Cheranmahadevi was formerly ruled by some of the prominent Chera dynasty kings as well as many Hindu kings like Hoysalas, Chalukyas, Pallavas, and Chozhas. You must have seen many such mandaps all over these places. But today, people don’t recognize the value of these ‘mandaps.’ Most of them are neglected now and are in dilapidated condition. I am sure, we can find one we could use.”

I nodded in agreement. I remembered our fateful experience in Brahmadesam and the secret passage from the stone ‘mandap’ near the river that led to a great treasure buried inside the temple.

When we reached Cheranmahadevi, we had no problem in locating one such stone ‘mandap’ and it became our temporary address. Ambalam had some money given by Mallika and her sister Radhika. Taking care of Ambika’s baby was not an immediate issue. We spent a few quiet days wondering how we were going to proceed further.

“I want to end begging.” I had told Ambalam several times. “But, I have no definite plan in my mind right now. But I know, the plan will emerge sooner or later. Let us pay attention to the issue and keep our focus on it.”

In the meantime, Ambika entertained us singing several prominent Hindi and Tamil film songs. She marveled in singing and I wondered, if she had the right opportunity she might be another Lata Mangeshkar. We loved her cute baby Chandrika who instantly became very close to us.
One morning, there was news that the District Collector was inaugurating some government building at Cheranmahadevi that day.  The three of us went to the inauguration ceremony. We made sure that we could easily be spotted by the chief guest.

Govind Singh didn’t fail to notice us. When the function was over, he sent people to fetch us. We were pushed into the back seat of his huge Ambassador car. He was sitting by the side of the driver. He didn’t utter a word, though his attention was repeatedly on Ambika and her small baby. I waited for him to make the first enquiry. But he didn’t.

As the car sped towards the highway that led to Tirunelveli, I asked Govind, “Won’t you like come to our residence for a while?”

Ambalam was stunned. I could see horror on his face. But Govind smiled cunningly.

“Why not? Driver! Take a detour.” He said hurriedly.

“Why don’t you show him the way?” he pointed his fingers at me.

Other than my giving direction, there was no other discussion. The car turned around on the highway, entered a side road and from there rolled into a village road that ended at the river. Govind Singh was curious, I knew. But, I didn’t say anything. When the car neared our place, I told the driver to slow down and the car came to a halt in front of our residence.
Govind Singh got out of the car looking on all sides for a house. I walked past him towards the stone ‘mandap’ and climbed a small stone step to get into the mandap. The others followed me and Govind Singh was the last to get into our residence. The driver looked on from below, not knowing whether he should follow us or not.

“Welcome to our residence.” I said mockingly.

There was an old, torn, and discolored saree that hung loosely between two pillars of the mandap decorating the hall and serving as a curtain as well as the partition between two portions. One belonged to Ambika and the other ours. A corner with a small mud stove and a few aluminium utensils scattered around it was our kitchen. A small pile of wood was stacked near the stove and a thick black smoke from the stove, paint coated the walls and ceiling. It was cool inside the ‘mandap,’ with fresh air blowing from all sides.

“Is this your residence?”

I silently nodded my head.

“Why didn’t you come to me earlier?”

“It didn’t occur to me.” That was all I could tell him.

Govind Singh turned to look at Ambika.

“I will tell you.” I now volunteered. I introduced Ambalam and Ambika and briefly gave him their stories.

Ambalam recovered miraculously from his stroke, thanks to Lord Siva. Ambika is a remarkable singer. She sings some very melodious Hindi songs.” I concluded my narration.

“Can you sing a song?” Govind Singh asked Ambika.

She readily sang the “Aaja re” song from the old Hindi film “Madhumati” of Dilip Kumar and Vyjayanthi Mala. I had by now learnt from Ambalam the names of many Hindi films and remembered the opening lines of many Hindi songs.

When the song faded away slowly towards the end, Govind Singh exclaimed, “Remarkable! I feel mesmerized!” He clapped his hands nonstop, with great enthusiasm.

“So, what are your plans?” Goving Singh asked me.

“I need a piece of land and some money to begin with. I want to motivate a few child beggars to come to our ‘Home’ and begin a new life.”

“Yes, I remember your request. My recommendations are still pending with the government. This place is quite beautiful. You may start from here. Don’t worry about the authorities. I shall manage them. If anyone troubles you, just call me. Right now, I have……….” He withdrew his wallet from his back pocket, dished out a few notes and offered it over to me without even counting them.

Seeing me very hesitant, he thrust those notes into my shirt pocket. “Gosh! I just forgot! I have another important meeting at my office. I can’t take you with me right now. Please excuse me. I shall send my vehicle in a day or two. Please come over to my place and we will talk further.
There was no news from Govind Singh for more than a week. We were just idling away our time. Ambika prepared food for all of us. Mostly her preparations were North Indian. Though she spoke Tamil perfectly well, she seemed to be having a strong North Indian flair. I didn’t ask her. We had a quiet understanding and daily life moved on with the small money Govind Singh gave me. Ambalam shifted his venue of work and he brought in some more money to improve our cash balance. I felt embarrassed by his going out seeking alms.

“Oh, this is just temporary, be assured. I need to do this until our ‘Sharan’ is ready!”

“So, you have already given a name for our Children Home?”

“Yes, Sharan is an apt name. It denotes ‘refuge’ and ‘surrender,’ replied Ambalam.

One day in the mid-afternoon, a private vehicle sped past our residence, but after some distance, returned back and stopped in front of our place. The driver came out of the vehicle and told us that the District Collector had sent the vehicle for us and we were to go with him to the Collector’s residence immediately to meet someone who had come from North.
Govind Singh always sprang surprises. We all went with the driver and he took us to a huge mansion in Palayamkottai. Govind Singh’s wife received us at the door and introduced herself as Pritam Kaur. She was very informal, friendly and talked to us as though she knew us for long. She assured that Govind would be there any minute. Tea, gulob jamun, matti, and other Punjabi snacks arrived.

Half an hour later Govind Singh came in along with another gentleman who looked of the same age.

Madan! She is Ambika, the lady I talked about.” Without even bothering to introduce everyone, he pointed his fingers straight at Ambika. Ambika rose to wish him and he reciprocated with his big folded hands.

Govind Singh then turned to me and said, “I am sorry. I seem to be forgetting the niceties as usual. He is Madan, a very close friend of mine. He is in the film industry in Bombay. He is a musician. I brought him here to introduce Ambika.” and then he introduced me and Ambalam to Madan as his close friends. ‘What a great privilege’ I thought, ‘for two mendicants to be introduced as the friends of the District Collector!’

“Govind tells me that you are a great singer” Madan told, looking at Ambika. “Can you sing a song for me?” It sounded more an order than a request.

Ambika was always ready to sing. This time, it was ‘Yeh, zindagi usiki hai’ of Lata Mangeshkar from the film Anarkali. Madan and Govind Singh listened with rapt attention while Pritam Kaur stood in another corner, with crossed hands. When the song was over, I could see Pritam wiping her tears while Madan tried to control himself and Govind sat completely mesmerized.

“What a great song and what a great delivery! You sing marvelously. Your voice is very sweet. You could be an instant hit, if you were in the films. Do you want to sing in movies? Can you take audition tests? Can you come with me to Bombay?” He fired his comments and questions in rapid succession.

Ambika looked bewildered. After some time, she slowly muttered in Hindi, “I had run away from Bombay to escape my problems. I don’t wish to be back in the gutter!”

Ambalam translated this for my benefit. Ambika was looking pitiably at me. I looked at Govind Singh. He turned to Madan.

Madan didn’t seem to understand anything other than music. He shot his next question. 

“Why are you scared? Are you scared of coming to Bombay or scared of me?”

Ambika suddenly started weeping. Ambalam went to her and kept his hands on her shoulders. Ambika quickly recovered her composure, wiped her tears and said, “If you knew my story you will understand what scares me.”

Govind Singh was very quick to respond, “Amma, don’t worry about anything. Madan is a very good family friend of mine. We had studied together in our early childhood. We are neighbors in Kapurthala in Punjab. While I focused on studies, he focused on music. He is now an assistant music director and is in great demand in the film industry in Bombay. He works for some of the very famous musicians – you know Lakshmikant Pyarelal, O P Nayyar. He can bring you to the limelight and make you popular. You sing so well. As he said, you would be an instant hit. You won’t have a problem in Bombay and I shall arrange to take care of you. If it is okay with you, why don’t you tell us your story?”

I never asked Ambika about her background. She too never talked about it. I nodded to her and she began her story.


Felt interested by chapter 38 from the book?

                                  To buy the book: visit and type: WHAT IF OUR DREAMS COME TRUE! By T.N.Neelakantan on the search.

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