The hero of this story is Chodhury. Actually,he has no hero like qualities. His disposition is more like a villan. Not like the smashing Pran or KN Singh or even sometimes like Ashok Kumar of my days. He is more like Om Prakash or more aptly like Kanihiya Lal. Let me build his image in your mind.
The few friends that Chodhury had, called him Cho, not because he had looks of a humble Chinese leader but simply because he stayed in a flat which bore the number Fourteen, in Hindi Chaudah. Cho was happy to be known by that small, but, magnanimous sounding name. He did not have some of his front teeth and looked angry because of that. Now at the age of 80+ he had a good limp and an arched back. His social ways too were battered by time and his act looked villanious only because he was too stupid to reason anything. Somehow, even this role does not describe our friend, actually, he is a real Bumpkin! Like Raj Kapoor in some of his films. I recall the jester in Mera naam Joker.
He lived in a flat in our building on the second floor with his second wife. His and her children had disowned the couple after they married and did not interact with them any longer. Between themselves both were happy in each others company and life seemed to be passing by happily. The couple lived their lives aimlessly and had no ambitions that were notfulfilled by time.
One winter day Cho was sitting in the park putting his Vitamin D levels a notch higher. He was almost in a snooze mode with the sun imparting its heat into his old lazy bones. His eyes were drooping with effects of an additional paratha that his loving wife had made him eat. As he sat on the garden bench alone his walking stick slipped and fell softly to the grass. Cho made a lazy effort to retrieve it and was surprised that some one else had picked it up and was now offerring it to him. Cho took it gratefully and mumbled a sloppy grunt for a 'thank you'. But the stranger did not let go of his end of the stick and said, 'Jeete Raho, bachcha." Instantly. Cho was wide awake and through his wide eyes percieved that the stick was held by Sadhu Baba at the other end. He released an embarrassed toothless grin as there was really nothing to be said.
The Baba had another companion Baba by his side. Presently, Baba introduced himself. "I am Panchanand and my comppanion Baba is Tigaswamy. we have renounced this world and we roam the streets to make people more socially aware of nature and themselves. In Godly persuit, we need no returns, not even money." He was quite for a while and stared Cho into his eyes, Cho squirmed uncomfortably and pretended to raise himself up. The other Baba beningly put a hand on Cho's shoulder and asked him to continue sitting. Panchanand presently said, 'You have lived the better part of your life and there is a but shorter bit to live. You must live it with complete sacrifice of this balance life to your God.' He said a few more saintly lines and then concluded his advice by saying, 'Your biological father is not the same as your natural father, whom your mother had married. Hence it is appropriate to submit himself completely and disown both these fathers, instead, treat God alone as your father-your creator.' Then both Babas turned and sauntered away. Cho was flabbergasted and he not spoken a single word all along, except for the grunt. N
Now he began to wonder why his Fathers were different? Why this secret did not show in all the years that he was with his parents. Then, unmindfully he thought that of the eight other siblings, his parents had liked him the least. Could he really be the black sheep- the bastard child. His eyes became numb and his upper lip got sucked into the space left blank by his missing teeth. Cho could no longer sit around in the sun with the queer words of the Baba's echoing around in his mind. He forced himself to his feet and tottered on to his wife's presence at home.
After, some interval he formed his query into balanced words and asked his wife, 'I met two Sadhu Babas in the garden and they have planted a grave question in my mind.' The wife raised her drooping eyebrowsin response. Cho related the complete sequence in details, as was his habit while the wife heard him out without inturrupting her husband, as was her habit. Then she went about her business and came back in half an hour, this reassured Cho that she had applied herself wellto his problem. He sat up in his chair to receive her words of wisdom.
She began, ' I think the Babas were telling you to treat God as your father and apply yourself in his service, specially since your father, asa person and as the one who sired you was no longer living. Their words carry the meaning that rather than laze around you should be doing acts to please God, like, going to temples and satsang, singing bhajans, doing social service or just being helpful to people living in our society'. These were real words of wisdom, but the did not jell in Cho's mind. Cho was hung up in his thinking that it had some something to do with the parenting he has enjoyed. The reason for this biased thought was the biased attitude of his Father and the sacrifices he had made him do for the family. He did not let Cho go to college and involved him in family business while the othe siblings went to get their education where they wanted. Cho sweated it out and had to always forgo his own happiness to provide the extra buck for others comfort.
Cho rose from his seat silently and slipped on his slippers onc again and saunterd out. This time he headed towards his friend, philospher and cards partner, Pehlukhan. Pehlu stayed alone on the same floor. He had lost his wife some years ago and had a very aggressive attitude with no wife to control his ways. He had not pardoned God for depriving him of his family. His children had married and moved away well before the wife left him and had their own families, friends and worldly interests. Over time, Pehlu had built his anger towards both his children and very seldom engaged with them. Obviously, he too did not have many friends and even less-wellwishers.
Cho walked in through the open door and dropped into the only other chair in the room. In the first chair was the doubled from of Pehlu, who now looked at Cho curiously. It was not yet time to be playing cards and he took the arrival of Cho as an intrusion into his private moments. Cho began and ended his quandary without a pause. Pehlu rose and offered him a glass of some amber fluid and raised his own glass in toast. They both discussed the matter and since Cho had only emphasised his views and kept his wife's thoughts secret the discussion was purely on to either deny or confirm that Cho was indeed an illegimate child.
The discussion went on over another two glasses of fresh amber liquid and then they both fell quiet in their chairs, happily drunk. This discussion ended as usual and both slept till dinner time.
Next day morning there were two friends who were upset with the words of the twin Babas. They both descended a flight of steps and arrived at the residence of yet another friend and one of the foursome of their bridge-mates. This was Lucky. His name was Raja sahab, but for an unknown reason he was known as lucky, hence Lucky.
Lucky was a very confused guy but a do-gooder, hence he had a position of respect among the people of our society. Actually, he tried very hard to please every body and in the bargain pleased nobody. A typical case of running with the rabbit and hunting with the hound. But despite this somehow many in the society considered him to be problem solver. Both friends unloaded their minds in front of his keen looking eyes but a foggy mind behind them. They capped their version of the problem and made no mention of what Cho's wife had suggested. In fact Lucky had still been cooing his attention well after the duo fell silent. He was surprised to see two pairs of eyes looking into his own. Presently, he shook himself to show he had grasped the issue completely. He leaned back in serious contemplation.
Then he spoke. " The Baba's words can not be hollow and they have seen through times and unravelled the correct situation. There is plenty of truth in the words of the Sages. They have stated the truth of something that happened ages ago and now there is no one living to confirm or deny this'. He had spoken to defend the sanity of the Baba's wisdom who had moved on to the oblivion. Then to please the other two he searched his numb grey matter for a while, then, ' Despite the vision of the Baba, you have lived through life all these years, and now the priority is just to keep the secret to yourself and nobody will be the wiser. But then, if the issue has been revealed now there must be due action to perform penance so that the soul of both Fathers can have heavenly rest and peace'.
Then all the three friends began to chat agitatedly to find a solution to an entirely different perspective. Hours later Lucky blurted out his version of the final verdict and solution. 'The past must always be kept under wraps and each year when Shradh is performed for his Father, another must also be performed to satisfy the soul of his real Father'. All three felt happy that the problem has finally been killed and the annual cost to it was no more than a lunch for the Panditji in Krishna Mandir.
The meeting broke up with a great feeling of relief.