This short story is participating in Write Story from Picture India 2012 – Short Story Writing Competition.
That is Mahatma Gandhi general hospital. Ramana was admitted to it as his body had been burnt entirely in a fire-accident; Doctors told that it was almost impossible to save him as the wounds were very severe. His daughter Vani and his wife Malathi were standing outside of ICU room. Malathi was holding Vani’s hand and moaning. She was praying god that nothing should happen to him. Vani doesn’t know why mummy looked so tensed, but seeing her like that makes her worry. Prabhakar was also standing outside of the ICU room with his daughter Chitra’. Ramana was working in Prabhakar’s home.
After sometime, Ramana body stopped responding to doctor medicines. Doctors checked pulse and confirmed that he is died. They closed his body with white cloth and called his family inside. Ramana’s wife went inside and burst into tears. She cried a lot. Vani didn’t know what happened to her daddy and why mummy was crying like that. But tears were coming from her eyes to see her mummy crying. Her friend Chitra hugged Vani and told her not to cry. Prabhkar crunched his head with his two hands and sobbing. “I shouldn’t have behaved like that with you… you are a great man”, he was blabbering.
Few months ago….
Prabhkar was working as a forest officer; actually he doesn’t necessarily require to do any job as he has so many assets inherited from his fore-fathers. The money that he gets from those assets was sufficient enough for him to live luxury life. However, he loves nature so much, so he has chosen that job so he could spend most of his time with nature. He had constructed a house near to a lake for the beautiful scenery. When he had moved to that house, all of sudden his wife got paralysis, hence then she stays most of the time in a wheel chair. He has been giving treatment to her, but she didn’t recover fully. He has a 5 years old daughter, her name is Chitra. Since her mother was like that, and no one was there to take care of her kid, so he had recruited Ramana’s family as care takers. Ramana settled as a cook and his wife, Malathi was responsible to take care of Chitra’s mother. Ramana also has a daughter, her name is Vani. She was also 5 years old.
Initially they didn’t talk with each other, but slowly Vani and Chitra became very close friends. They used to play near the lake and spend lot time at that place. Chitra used to dress up well as per her status, but Vani used to wear normal clothes. Chitra mentioned few times to Vani as she can give her dresses to her, as she has so many dresses in her beruva. Chitra looks pretty and elegant in her manners. But Vani was not like that, though they have so many differences in their appearance, but still they had continued their friendship.
Prabhakar was an arrogant; he inherited the feudal characteristics from his fore-father as he always sees the backward-caste people as salves. He didn’t like his daughter to make friendship with a servant’s daughter.
He warned few times his kid, but he didn’t give a proper answer when his daughter asks innocently, “Why daddy I should not talk to her?” Sometimes he says, she doesn’t look pretty, so you should n’t do friendship with her. But her mother encouraged to continue friendship with Vani.
Days were going very quickly and day by day their friend-ship became stronger and stronger. One day Chitra was sitting along with Vani and eating food given by Mallanna with his own hands. That day, Prabhakar mood was not good as he has lost one of the Govt contract. The moment he entered inside home, he noticed that Chitra was laughing and eating food along with Vani. His face became red with angry and went straight to them and kicked the food plate holding by Ramana. The food was splattered across the hall.
“How dare you to feed your cheap food to my daughter… get away from my daughter… if I see either you or your daughter next time with my kid… I don’t know what I do”, he yelled on Ramana and went away with his kid.
Ramana stunned to see him like that. Vani was terrified and started crying.
“Why daddy, uncle always says don’t talk to her? I’m not looking pretty, that’s why? ”, she asked him innocently. Ramana didn’t know what answer to give her. Though the Govt is trying to eradicate the differences between poor and rich, still in many places people despise the schedule caste people. They treat them as slaves. Until there is a change in people attitude, we can’t see a real caste-less society, Ramana thought and tears started rolling from his eyes.
One day Chitra and Vani were playing hide and seek game. Chitra was hiding inside the kitchen and closed the door. Vani was looking for her in all rooms. Then all of sudden there was a short-circuit in the kitchen and sparks came from it, within no time fire started inside. Chitra was terrified to see fire and started screaming loud. Ramana was outside at the garden. He felt that there was something wrong in the kitchen. He immediately went to the kitchen front door and tried to open it. But it didn’t open. The smoke was coming from inside. He understood that the door was locked from inside. He didn’t have time to call fire-engine.
He went other side of the kitchen and jumped inside through a window. It was totally dark because of the smoke. The flames were spreading quickly ever-corner of the room. He saw Chitra was sitting in a corner. He grabbed her and ready to leave the room, then suddenly the gas-cylinder which was kept on stool fell on his right leg. That caused his leg-fracture, he screamed because of the pain. He understood that he couldn’t move, and it was too late for him to escape along with Chitra. Since he was near to window, he had thrown her from it with a full force. She fell on the grass. After that he caught in that fire. Ramana’s wife observed the fire and called the fire engine. By the time they have arrived, Ramana body had been burnt fully. Prabhakar came quickly from office and he stalled after knowing that Ramana caught in fire while escaping his daughter.
In hospital, Prabhakar realized how cruelly he behaved with Ramana and with his daughter. But still he saved his kid by putting his life in danger. He held Vani’s hand and took away from the ICU room and said, “See Vani, daddy was not feeling well… so he is sleeping… he might take few days to come home again from hospital … but don’t worry … we are all there to take care of you … I’ll buy toys and dresses for you… and even you can play with Chitra too, Ok”, Vani eyes were sparked as he allowed her to play with her best friend that is only she ever wanted.
Later Prabhakar treated her equally with his daughter. And he joined her in the same school Chitra was going. Since then Vani and Chitra were happily playing at their favorite place of near the Lake.