‘All the best Neha Adiga, remember this project paves your way into the editorial section. You won’t be given any liberty of first project. I am sure you could complete the assignment on a high note’.
She shook her frozen hands with Sharmaji and thanked him. She opened the back door of the cab as the ‘Write Right’ magazine’s photographer Ramesh Gowda opted to sit in front. She could hear her heart beat . The car started moving through the heavy bangalore traffic. ‘What a character he is?An interviewer is denied the right of knowing his interviewee here.’ She bit her nails in apprehension and murmered.
’Ramesh anna, do you have any idea about the place? Help me please.’
‘No, Neha, atleast our driver knows the place. Its a one to one between Sharmaji and him. In ‘WriteRight’ even a driver is a reporter. He’ll report if we try to know anything from him. Haha. Don’t worry, Sharmaji won’t do anything for fun.He knows the value of time.’
The car took a left turn from old airport road and the short cut road lead them to outer ring road. Neha didn’t look outside as she was preparing some general questions in her mind and recollecting the tips she learned during training sessions. The car rode through outer ring road towards K.R.Puram side and moved forward , silently, for a few more kilometeres. It was then, Neha noticed the smell of sapodillas, peeping into her nose. As she looked outside, she phewed in happiness.’Anna I know the place well,thanku chinmoy da’. She thanked the driver and he returned a smile without looking back.
’Papayas,peepals ,sapodillas and plaintains where planted on both sides of the road.’Greenary on both sides,chirping of the birds and fresh air reminds me the old Garden City which has almost perished now. You are lucky, you knew this place, Neha’.
The car stopped infront of a farm house, painted in white and blue. She got down from the car ‘Welcome both of you to my home sweet home,yes Ramesh Anna,I am luckiest.’
‘wow’,I cant believe this.’.He exclaimed.
A middle aged woman opened the door as Neha rang the bell.She pulled her red cardigan over her saree and gave a chaos smile.
‘Ma,I am here as a part of assignment.Sharmaji has put an end to all my anxieties about my interviewee,you are the one,ma.She is my mother,Malathi Adiga.’
Neha introduced her mother to Mr.Ramesh Gowda and Chinmoy Da.
Mrs.Adiga welcomed them with a soft smile.The guests sat on the bamboo chairs on the courtyard,enjoying the scenary. Mrs.Adiga came with some hot homemade snacks and steaming coffee mugs. The lights were set and Mr.Gowda’s SLR camera flashed continuosly amid the mother nature.
‘What are you?,madam’.Mr.Gowda expressed his curiosity.
’Could you hear the chirping of kids?’She asked him. He nodded and looked outside.He saw a school like building painted in light cream and brown clour. in 30 feet distance.
‘ I run that institution,’Hakki Guddi’-bird’s nest.The children are permanent residents.They stay there till their wings become strong enough to fly high in the sky,let us go there’.
Both sides of the entrance were flanked with medicinal plants,planted by the kids.They could see children occupied in farming with their gardener.The school had a big play ground for sports,and a beautiful park on the opposite side.As they moved in,they saw a creche,separate room for wards and a neatly maintained canteen.
‘The classes are run on the other wing.We have retired teachers from reputed schools as volunteers to conduct classes.That wing also contain practical labs for higher classes.The institution holds 120 kids. When Neha was 3 years old, she saw an 8 year old boy fighting with a street dog for a loaf of bread,on her way to school.She cried in fear and held her dad’s hand firmly.They came back home with the boy and she adamantly asked us to arrange his stay in our home.That was the beginning.’Mrs.Adiga was proud of her daughter.
‘come on ma, I can’t praise myself when I write the article.I’ll pass the credits to dad,let him be happy,when he comes back after the fund raising programme’.She giggled.
The mobile phone vibrated and she opened her whatsapp inbox.It was Gautam.Her eyes twinkled as she read his message’coffee at latte art sharp 6 p.m.I’ve some hot news too.Don’t miss it.The message was followed by some heart symbols’.She tried to hide her blush and looked at her mother.’I think we can wind up.We have covered everthying.I will be back by 7.30.p.m ma,I have some works to complete.’
‘You have brought her up in an exemplary way,Mrs.Adiga,credits to her father too.No one in our office knows she comes from an affluent family except our chief editor.She is such a down to earth character’.Mr Gowda congratulated her and clicked a final snap of mother and daughter.
I am no one here,please avoid my photos,I’ll give you my dad’s photos’.Neha requested.
They drove back to WriteRight .She completed her works and left the desk by 6 p.m.She was sure it’ll take atleast 30mts to reach Latte Art in heavy Bangalore traffic,she wanted to be in time as Gautam always prefer that.At richmond road, she was stuck in a jam.It appeared like a deadlock.She parked her scooty to the side of the road and walked towards the flyover side to know the reason.She saw a crowd gathered infront of new model SUV.’I think the boy is dead’ said someone,’He is a drunkard,I have seen the same SUV that made traffic jam in Sarjapur road,last week.commented,the next one.
‘Some one please break the glass,don’t worry you won’t be in trouble,I’ll take the responsibility’.Neha pleaded and showed her ID card.A shovel was procured from the roiad workers and the glass was broken.Traffic police also reached there and cleared the traffic.The boy was unconscious.A helpinghand toook him to the hospital on his car,and Neha followed him on her scooty.
‘We have washed his stomach,he is fully drunk and will gain his concious in 1 hour.The other test reports will also come by the time..The doctor reported.
After half an hour,She thought of calling his parents.She took his phone,but it was locked.She decided to call traffic police to get his details tracked through the SUV registration number.
As she took her phone from the handbag to make the call,a middle aged man came near her.’Hello ma’am,I am Sanjay’s uncle.Thanks for the help.He never drinks,his friends have trapped him.Please don’t make it into news.’He begged.
Neha shrugged her shoulders and gave a wry smile to the man and left the place.
She reached home at sharp 7.30 p.m., and explained the whole story to her mom as usual. But she forgot about her rendezvous with Gautam. She took her phone and saw 11 missed calls.She opened her whatsapp inbox and saw 15 messages from him.The last message read ‘you were too kind to make me drink 2cups of latte art coffee for the third time’.She called him back .He didn’t pick the call.She sent many sorry messages too.Nothing gave her a reply.
She willed herself to not check her phone to see if he had replied. It had been about three days now. She hated that she was constantly checking his ‘last seen at’ status and yes, he had logged in just five minutes ago. Yet she couldn’t stop herself. This sinking feeling to find absolutely no communication from him was becoming unbearable,almost torturous.
And then, just as she sat down in her chair, her phone vibrated. With her heart thudding in her ear, she unlocked her phone and stared at the screen. Finally! It was his message.
But when she opened it and read it, she nearly stopped breathing. She didn’t know if he was joking or not. What was this?
‘I am not the same 8 year old to whom you gave life.Yes I am debted,but I am not a puppet in your hand.Let us break our relationship here,but,I’ll continue to be Hakki Guddi’s son for ever.I’ll always come there to meet your parents,my guardians’.
‘The lawyer in him speaks with arrogance.Let him be,I am not affected’.As she whispered to herself tears ran down her cheek.She was dejected to the core.
‘What happened to my princess?’Balachander Adiga,asked Neha in a Pampered voice during breakfast,on the next day.
‘Nothing dad’,the job is so hectic as I am a beginner,I’ll get into it,over the period of time’.She answered plainly.
‘How is our lawyer?Tell him this month money for Hakki Guddi got credied to the account.Kids like him are blessing to our institution’.He added.
‘We are nothing infront of him,He is a true exemplar,being a leading advocate in the city,he still finds time to come here and conduct weekend classes.’Her mother praised Gautam.
Neha stopped her breakfast and went to her room silently.As she opened the door,somebody closed her eyes and pulled her close.’
‘Gautam’,she cried in joy and hugged him tight.She slapped him softly on his cheeks.’Why did you hurt me?’She whimpered.
‘You made me cry alone in Latte art 3 times,so thought of retaliating.Sorry I was harsh,but this will help you to forget it.’He gave an envelope to her.
Her eyes lustered .’Wow!!!Am I dreaming??So this was the good news,you were about to tell me,3 days back.I’ll go insane now.An appointment with Mr.D.A.A. and that too for an interview. You know,Gautam ,he has not given interview to any magazine in India except Forbes.How did you procure this?She asked with eager.
‘Dev Da,as I fondly call him is my new client.’Gautam affirmed.‘Congrats my boy and thank you.Sharmaji will be in third world, when I show him this letter’.Neha was overwhelmed.She ate breakfast with Gautam as her parents laughed at her.
Unlike her meetings with Gautam,She reached Mr. D.A.A’s opulent home in time,with out any distraction.More than a home,she felt it was a disciplined institution.All the staffs ,from security who checked her ID card and opened the door after seeing the envelope ,to the cook who offered her a cup of hot coffee, every one did their job in a methodical way.
Her hands got chilled and she was panicked.She forgot the questions and her mind became void.She calmed her nerves and took a deep breath,as she knew the chance was a golden one.
The house was a like a museum,the guest room was well arranged with imported leather sofas,and a dark blue carpet was spread on the italian marble floor.A corner shelf was decorated with the certificates and awards of Dev Da.
In addition to the business awards,he had won philanthropy awards also.Big busts of Buddha were kept on floating shelves in the other corners of the air conditioned room.Neha went near the shelf and looked at the framed certificates.Though She had already collected his details from Gautam and Wikipedia, she made a quick run through them.’Dev Anand Adiga’ ,she read his full name.’now you have one more reason to be proud,Ms Neha Adiga’.She said to herself.
Interview was scheduled at 5 p.m,but he didn’t turn up.Neha was not surprised as it was the sign of bigwig showboats.At 5.30,She saw a man entering to the room with 2 assistants.He was wearing a black suit with white shirt,the brand name was wovwn in silver and gold on the collar of his black blazer.He looked like a middle aged model,with a lacklustered face.Neha gazed at him.
‘Hello miss,you waited for a long time?’He asked softly.
‘It is absolutely okay top wait for bigshots like you,sir’.Neha replied.
‘Please avoid the usual cliche of an interview,and avoid queries about my family members too.’He said firmly.
Neha was dumbstruck.But she managed to say yes.
‘I’am proud to be an Adiga,sir,Let me inroduce myself ,I am Neha Adiga, editorial trainee,WriteRight.I am privelleged to have a session with you,experienced journalists are waiting for one such.I’am lucky.’
As she completed her introduction,the surname stuck to his ears.
‘where is your native,Ms Neha?’,he asked with eager.
‘We are from Shimoga sir,settled in Bangalore for past 40 years.My maternal grandfather was a famous business merchant,Dayanand Adiga ’
Your father’s name?
‘’Balachander Adiga’,do you know our family sir?’.She was excited by his question.
‘No’,he said plainly.’Let us start the interview’.
She asked questions one by one,somewhere mild,some where harsh,somewhere troublesome and somewhere left unanswered.Dev Da looked at her through out the interview with admiration.When she wound up on time,with a thanks he shook her hands.
She was contented in her attempt and came out of the room happily.As she was about to leave,Dev Da’S assistant gave her a sealed envelope and informed her that was for her parents.
As she reached home she saw Gautam waiting there along with her parents.She explained her experience and handedover the envelope to her father.
‘His family details are still concealed,he never allowed to touch those areas.’
‘I know it is against ethics to share what I know about his personal matter,but I’m sure you won’t make news out of it.His only son is a drug addict and his mother is affected by dysthmic disorder.’
‘It was just an appreciation letter ,nothing more’,Mr.Balachander Adiga reported after opening the envelope and passed it to his wife.She read it with tears.
‘It Is like winning 5 consecutive continuos awards for best journalist and no surprise to see Aunt’s tear of joy’,said Gautam.
At bedtime,Mrs.Adiga ransacked her cupboard to find her old journal.The book was slightly defiled and the letters where blemished in some pages.She dusted it as well as her 20 years old memories.
‘Dear,brother,you made a deep wound in our heart today. We adopted a girl against your wish.So I think the grudge is 3 years old now.We thought you will understand the joy of parenting,when your son,Sanjay was born.But it made the condition worse,as you never allowed him to play with our Neha.She is low for your status.You feared her ‘low class’ behaviour ruin him.Today, she came with a boy and wanted to bring him up,along with her.You said you hate growing your son in an orphanage ambience.It was too much for us to digest.So I made up my mind to forget you forever.As I told you,time will prove everything.’
She opened the envelope and read the letter once again’Dear Malathi,kindly forgive me,I strongly repent on what I did.I saw your daughter today and I am sure ,my lawyer is the same ‘kid’ your daughter brought home that day.You and Balachander proved it is not gene,but genuine bringing up matters.I forgot to ‘bring up ‘ my son,I forgot to spend quality time with him,I forgot to address my wife’s concerns about him.All I gave him is money and I deprived love for them.I forgot to love myself amid building my career.Today I am a failure as a parent,while you are an exemplar of the same.Forgive me,my sister.Thanks to my niece for saving my son’s life.I came to know,from my assistant,who diguised as his uncle,at the hospital,that day.She saved my image too by concealing the news.’
‘Time has proven ,I am right,in a bitter way.I repent for leaving you.A joint family of us could have given him a better life.’Mrs.Adiga wrote on her journal with a heavy heart.