Sri Amma Bhagawan Sharanam
Sri  Amma Bhagawan Sharanam

LONELY II

Prologue

‘To go or not to go’ was the most challenging question Mani Shankar had been trying to answer during the last couple of weeks. He quite often compared his own dilemma with that of his favorite hero ‘Hamlet’ in the Shakespearean drama, in which Hamlet contemplates death by suicide, distressed over the pain and unfairness of life even while acknowledging that the alternatives could be still worse.

Gowri, Mani Shankar’s wife, being a permanent resident of the USA, had already left for the USA to comply with the exit regulations of that country. She never wished to be detained in the immigration over there and flown back to India. Mani Shankar continued on his valid-for-10-years multiple entry US visitor visa.

 

When he and Gowri returned to their hamlet in the southern Tamilnadu after the Mani Shankar's last escapade to Joshimat, they undertook some repairs to their village house. The repair project was hanging in the middle and got delayed as the building contractor fell ill with severe jaundice. So, he promised to join Gowri in the USA after getting the repairs completed.

 

“But, promise me. No more adventures of your own. You must remember that even I need you to be with me,” was the cautionary advice Gowri gave Mani Shankar.

 

Over the next couple of months, the repairs got completed, and Mani Shankar now had the unenviable job of having to decide about his trip to the USA. “Go man. After all, how long will you run away from your family? You are very nice to the world around you. Be nice to your family too,” exhorted his friendly neighbor Swaminathan.

 

So, Mani Shankar bought his ticket to the USA for the first week of December. Before that, there was a marriage of a close relative of Gowri that he must attend. The marriage was in Hyderabad. So he bought a ticket to Chennai and Hyderabad for travel, a week before his flight to the USA.

 

“That is an inauspicious day,” argued Swaminathan. “You can’t choose another day?”

 

Mani Shankar blinked. He had never been in the habit of looking at an almanac for planning a travel. He traveled when it suited him and when the tickets were available.

 

“You know, last time too. Your wife left for the USA on an inauspicious day, and the same day, you had suddenly disappeared to the north India. See, what had happened!”

 

‘How would I convince Swaminathan that I would never have had the finest experience of my life if I hadn’t left for Joshimat that day?’ Mani Shankar ruminated, without trying to offer any defense to his friendly neighbor.

 

A couple of days before his departure from his village, there were warnings of severe stormy weather along the southern coast, hitting especially the capital of Tamilnadu and the nearby Puducherry. On the day he left by a train to Chennai, there were drizzles all the way along his journey. When he landed in Chennai, it became a real downpour. As he waited for his taxi, he had the call from his brother. It appeared that an aunt closely related to his brother’s wife had suddenly passed away in Bangalore and that his brother had to rush there on the previous night. It also appeared that his brother’s efforts to get in touch with Mani Shankar didn’t succeed due to disruption in phone services as he traveled by train.

 

‘Look, I have left my house keys with Raju… you know, my wife’s distant cousin. You may collect it from him and stay in my place. Sorry about the inconvenience,’ his brother had told Mani Shankar.

 

Mani Shankar felt it was futile to commute to another distant locality to get the keys to his brother’s house, as, after all, the next day he was scheduled to leave for Hyderabad too. He asked the taxi driver to take him to a decent hotel nearby to the station for a day’s stay. Before he could reach the hotel the downpour became torrential, and the taxi moved at a snail’s speed along the waterlogged roads. He was fully drenched before he could check-in at the hotel.

 

The rain didn’t stop for the next several hours and he stayed put inside his small cubicle, watching TV and switching the channels, one after another. And, suddenly the power went off. The staff at the reception told him that their generator room was under the waters, and it might take several hours before the electric power was restored. But, it never was.

 

As it rained heavily, with brief intervals, Chennai roads were getting flooded more and more. When he saw the latest news on the internet on his cell phone, he learnt that the weather condition was not supposed to improve, as the storm over the sea was gaining strength closer to the coast. And, suddenly the internet connections too were cut off, and a few minutes later, even his cell phone stopped receiving signals.

No electric power. No cell phone connectivity. No communication. The city experienced unprecedented rains, which flooded everywhere. There were unsubstantiated rumors that a few lakes around the periphery of the city had breached their banks, and water was inundating many low-lying areas. He also heard that many buses, vehicles, and trains coming to the city were all stopped several miles away from the city.

 

Mani Shankar rolled over his bed restlessly, not having anything else to do. A small candle lit in a corner was the only companion. He tried to sleep, but was disturbed by the rain and winds battering the windows of his room ceaselessly.

 

When he got up the next morning he heard that the city was completely cut off due to flooding. There was a deluge, and many areas of the city were floating. No trains or buses have left the city. Nor they entered. Everything was at standstill. Even the hotel appeared deserted.

 

Mani Shankar was a lonely man. He started worrying about his flight to the USA, five days down the lane.

*****

என்னுடைய வலைப் பதிவின் புதிய பக்கம்:

கடந்த வார நாட்குறிப்பு;

என் அனுபவங்களின் மீது ஒரு கண்ணோட்டம்.

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