The memorial

The contractor was in a pensive mood that day. He wondered if it was the heat of the Bangalore summer or the noise from the machines whirring nearby and people going around clonking with no attempt at subtlety that was causing it. Probably all. The previous day had been the thithi of his father. He didn’t remember much of his father. He had passed away early from a snake-bite when he was just a child, but had left behind a sizable and profitable estate which took care of his family comfortably. The contractor had done well with the land, but it was never enough. He also had to play second fiddle to his older brother. The city had also beckoned with its riches. So there he was, lording over his men in the Bangalore summer as vehicles went by looking at his work with hope.

He could sense his father lurking around his thoughts that day and was pretty worried about it. It hadn’t happened to him before. After all this wasn’t the first thithi. He was also putting on now, and had just gone into his forties. Maybe it was the age, that he was thinking more in terms of his mortality and all. His uncle had been urging him to go visit his family deity in Nanjangud and pray for a long and healthy life. “This is when you need to start planning for your old age health wise and start giving up worldly pleasures and surrender to Nanjundeshwara” he had said.

He wondered what his father would have advised if he were alive today. He never lived to see his own forties, so it was hard to tell. But he had left behind a good legacy. The estate had been in shambles when his ailing grandfather had given up care of it and let it go to the dogs. His father and uncle had taken it up and turned it around. Eventually that’s what made the difference between being on the streets and living comfortably. And thank God there were no feuds with his uncle, brother or cousins. His family was still close-knit and managed to get under one roof more often than not. He prayed that the next generation would also carry on the same sense of familial bonding.

Suddenly he felt a pang of guilt, at having forsaken his father’s legacy and having come away to the city, lured by its riches and glamour. There had to something he could do for his father, to keep his name around. But naming something in the city after his father would not be such an easy thing. He had to shell out quite a lot to get this contractor position itself. Maybe he could do something in spirit, without the name explicitly and watch the people of the city respect him in some way as they passed by it. And then, he hit upon the idea!!

It pleased him a lot. It was so simple, and he couldn’t believe he hadn’t thought about it earlier! But he had, and that’s what separated him from his village-folk relatives. He called out to the tired and annoyed looking worker “Oye, come here with that cart of tar you’ve got!”

Narasimha Murthy was having a quiet lunch at home. It was quiet in the sense that his wife wasn’t trying to talk much to him. It was too much effort to make oneself heard over the din from the road-tarring outside. On one hand he felt like tearing out whatever hair was left over, and on the other he was happy his wife wasn’t nagging him about having agreed for a lower rent on the house above. She never seemed to understand his repeated pleas that good tenants are hard to come by.

After a heavy lunch, he stepped out to see how much of the road work was done and if there was any hope of completion and a peaceful nap that afternoon. He took one peep out at the sudden activity in front of his gate, and with a look of shock cried out to the contractor “Gowdre! What is this?! Can’t you see there is another hump just 10 feet away?!” he was scandalised!

“And they are of the same height too. What purpose are you solving here?!” he screamed, agitated and also trying to he heard. The contractor looked at him annoyed. Without answering he turned around to look at the older hump which he had tarred over, careful not to add to its height. He assessed his own hump next. There were a few moments of deep thought before he realised what he had done!

“Oye, where are you going with the cart?” He screamed at the worker. “Add an inch to this hump at the top, don’t bother about its sides, we don’t have so much tar to spare” he instructed before walking away while Mr. Murthy kept screaming away at the top of his lungs, careful not to slip in any expletives.


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