Gopalkrishna Vishwanathan was a Tamilian Brahmin and a retired structural engineer now. His wife, Subalakshmi was a pretty woman. They married each other in 1964 and had spent a major portion of their life catering to each other’s needs, raising their two children and building their dream house- a 2100 square feet, double-storied four-bedroom house in Bangalore. Subalakshmi wore clean saree and Malligai poo (the jasmine flower garland) every morning and was traditional.
“Wake-up. It’s morning. We need to hurry up today. It’s our new retirement home. We have to go and see it,” Subalakshmi was showing the aarti in her home after morning puja. The sweet fragrance of her Malligai poo with Guggal dhoop spread in the room as she hurriedly entered and left. This was their everyday ritual ever since the two had gotten married.
Their kids had moved out now and the old couple found it hard to maintain this big mansion all by themselves. So, they had bought yet another retirement house- their 3-BHK flat in a new township in Devanahalli, close to the Bangalore Airport.
Their daughter, Mridula was married in Seattle and lived there with her husband and a son. Their son, Kannan, the younger of two children, was also married and settled in Texas in the U.S.
Gopalkrishna and Subalaksmi were good parents. Neither did they ever overload their children under the burden of their expectations, nor did they pressurize them to stay with them throughout their life and cater to their needs.
“Our kids have their own dreams. We must never tell them what to do. And I am sure they are sane enough to take valid decisions. Their life should be theirs’ to deal with,” Gopalkrishna was a practical father.
When the kids were growing up, he catered to their needs, gave a separate room to each of the two and made sure that they were never devoid of anything.
Now the kids have grown up. They are well settled and earn pretty well. They took their own decisions to marry the person they loved. Gopalkrishna never became an obstacle in their life.
But Subalakshmi was different. She thought her husband did not pay much attention to the kids. He hardly even called them.
“At least ask them what’s happening in their life,” she often told her husband.
“Let the kids be. Now they aren’t your little children. They have kids of their own. They have good-paying jobs. Why do you want to interfere in their life?” Gopalkrishna often said, peeking from his spectacles and from behind the newspaper as he sat on the swing, where he often relaxed and spent hours reading paper these days, after retirement.
“Okay. But I want to keep up with my children, unlike you. I don’t want to be that parent who is just an absent figure from her children’s life. Kannan’s wife is a sweet girl. I never thought Samantha would adapt to our Tamil culture. I think a girl from here wouldn’t have adopted our culture as much she did. She calls me every weekend, such a sweet daughter-in-law. She is even better than Mridula.” Subalakshmi often said so while picking their landline and calling one of the two children.
Today, she was in a hurry. After her morning puja, she had prepared tea for Gopalkrishna who had woken up by now and was giving a quick glance to the newspaper while swinging in the verandah. The swing was an old rustic sheesham wooden dangle that he had inherited from his father and was much attached to this piece of furniture, among anything else in the house.
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“Kothu parantha is in casserole. Please cut your newspaper time today and hurry up. Take a quick bath. We need to go far. We will miss the bus. Devanahalli is far,” Subalakshmi’s bangles were clinking as she made raagi balls with both her hands, as if she has been doing it since time immemorial. The house smelled delicious from her cooking. Gopalkrishna seldom said, but he was proud of his wife.
When he had first seen her, she was a shy girl. He was awestruck by her simplicity and pure beauty. She was wearing a beautiful peach silk saree and had flowers in her hair. She did not lift her eyes even once to look at him when he had first gone to her house, but he had quickly saw her peeking from the corner of her eyes once. Gopalkrishna was a tall and handsome man and wore moustache, which made him look even manlier. He walked with confidence and was a kind-hearted man who had never taken anyone for granted. He put extra efforts in family.
In 56 years of their marriage, he had never taken his wife for granted, even once. He knew that she was a woman of wisdom and had brought him his good luck. After their marriage, they had built their dream house in Bangalore, rather early than most of Gopalkrishna’s peer.
Their first dream house was the one that Gopalkrishna planned and built on his own in Bangalore. His structural engineering had come in quite handy. They had lived in the house for more than three decades and had seen their future generation running through the stairs, banging doors, shrilling and shrieking and creating their own share of happiness and sorrows. It was a house of life- of laughter-of sorrows, but mostly of love and devotion and of their family.
He credited all this to his wife, who was a woman of balance. She had saved and spent with precise sense of balance. She was an excellent homemaker and had raised the two kids traditionally, keeping both of them grounded and well-behaved. They were a blessed family of four- now expanded to seven.
Fatherhood was a great experience for Gopalkrishna. He thought he is fortunate to be blessed with two well-behaved and well-educated kids, and bringing them up was yet another satisfying experience among many others in life. He thought of himself as a happy father, and now, even a happy grandfather.
He had never found old age a burden. For that matter even Subalakshmi was contended in her life. The two were enjoying their solitude after the children had moved out. Every evening, they sat on the swing, sipping through their cardamom tea and talking about how life had dealt them their own share of cards and how well they’ve played this game.
Their life wasn’t all rosy, after all. They have had their own shares of miseries and tragedies in life. Subalakshmi had fallen into depression after her first miscarriage. Gopalkrishna too was devastated. This was their first baby and they had their dreams. The first baby was conceived right after one year of their marriage. The two felt blessed- but it was short-lived. One day, when Subalakshmi was coming out of her kitchen, she had not realized that coconut oil had spilled at the door. She thought she would clean it in a while, but had forgotten. When her foot slipped on the oil, the 7-months pregnant Subalakshmi shrieked in pain and there was no one at home.
Gopalkrishna was at work. She was shouting in pain, but was confounded when she saw blood oozing out from beneath her saree. The neighbours rushed to her and she pleaded them to call her husband.
When Gopalkrishna had come to the hospital, he found Subalakshmi unconscious and her face had the entire story written all over. Even in her unconscious state, she appeared to be in immense hurt and distress. Her tenderness broke his heart.
But the two had come out of their depression with each other’s support and love. They shored up each other and sustained the tough times of life with much care and devotion. Patience played a key role.
“There’s nothing we cannot stride over if we are together, Subba,” Gopalkrishna had held his young wife’s hand and told her one day at the swing. When she broke in his chest and cried to her heart’s content, Gopalkrishna too shed his own share of tears.
“That’s it. We aren’t going to remember the first baby like this forever. Let us commit to his memory in a positive stride and keep going.”
After two weeks, they had gone to the Mahalakshmi Temple and prayed for peace and family.
Six months later, Subalakshmi was pregnant with Mridula.
Today was the housewarming ceremony of their new home- the retirement home that was smaller than the Bangalore house and situated in Devanahalli, a small town in the Bangalore’s rural district in Karnataka. It is 40 km to the north-east of Bangalore and also the site of Kempegowda International Airport, the Bangalore Airport. There are two business IT parks here, adjoining the airport and spread over 400 acres of land.
The premises at their new house were just being handed over to the old couple and they were to go and collect keys of this flat, that they would call as their new home- the retirement home.
Subalakshmi packed the food to take along and dressed up in a nice red silk saree with gold border. She was wearing the flowers in her bun. Gopalkrishna wore yellow T-shirt and paired it with a brown trouser and shoes. He wore a gray colored khadi jacket to appear formal.
Devanahalli is known to be a monkey territory. They had known this all the while. The township that they had decided to call their home was a huge orchard earlier, which the builders had eyed. They had preserved 70% of this orchard and built a huge 130 acre new township in the rest of 30%.
Monkeys were the first dwellers of this place and had lived here for decades. Hundreds and thousands of them roamed around in the new township, probably searching for their old home. Gradually, as the humans impinged their territory where monkeys once roamed in freely, they made a sad exit and found new areas to inhabit. But they were regular visitors at the new township.
Gopalkrishna and Subalakshmi had a simple ceremony of housewarming. The builder was kind to organize a ribbon cutting ceremony and this was followed by a puja.
While the ceremony was going on, a pack of old residents- the monkeys, sat at one of the attached balconies and watched carefully. There was a glass sliding door that separated the humans and their ancestors.
Subalakshmi was alarmed, but Gopalkrishna was excited.
“Sing Hanuman Chaalisa. They will be pleased,” Gopalkrishna mocked and told Subalakshmi. She didn’t take the humour in a good taste and asked him to do something about this situation.
“I will ask a question about this on Quora, the question and answer app, and tell people to suggest me what to do. I will tell them, my wife isn’t very happy with the Hanuman Chalisa suggestion.” These days, Gopalkrishna spent 5-6 hours on Quora. This was a new app, and his comrade of solitude. He had created his own family on the app and had quite a modest number of fan-following. He was a mini celebrity there. Some looked up to him as a great old library, that had interesting experiences to share, while the younger generation found solace in his stories, as if he was a grandfather narrating an old classic.
The day of housewarming went well. The house was just bare with newly painted white walls, tiled flooring and roof that had no fan yet. The electric fittings were yet to be done and the house wasn’t habitable until a few more months.
They left the puja paraphernalia behind- the bed sheets, idols of Lord Hanuman, Lord Ganesha, coconut, banana leaves, diya and bananas and oranges. The monkeys took notice.
Gopalkrishna and Subalakshmi locked the house and went back to Bangalore.
“It’s a beautiful little house, aint it?” Subalakshmi told her husband. “I am going to give a call to Kannan and tell him. And you go on and ask your Quora family what we must do about the monkeys. You were joking a lot about it. Now, amuse me with the suggestions!” She went out of the room, dialled Kannan’s number and started talking to him and Samantha.
The day went by peacefully.
Next morning, Gopalkrishna was busy framing his question on Quora. The newspaper was sitting at the side on wooden swing and the empty cup and saucer glanced from beneath the swing, in anticipation.
At 10 a.m. his phone rang. It was the security staff from their Devanahalli’s retirement house.
“Sir, the electrical contractor boys had left a tap in the kitchen opened yesterday. The house is flooded with water. It has been running all night and we noticed it in the morning when it flowed from beneath your door and gushed into the corridor. We had the duplicate key and we had to enter the house and turn off the tap water. I am sending you the whatsapp video. Please have a look.”
Gopalkrishna was alarmed and appalled. When he called the electrical contractor, he denied the charges and was rather offended. “Sir, my boys did not even touch the tap in kitchen.”
The whatsapp video showed that the water from tap had flowed down the sink since the drainage hole was filled with cement and debris, and overflowed on the kitchen platform, dripping down, flooding the floor and moving all over the new 800-square feet apartment, soaking even the new wooden flooring in the bedrooms.
Gopalkrishna and Subalakshmi rushed to the Devanahalli house as soon as they heard it. Unlike the housewarming day, the two were more alarmed than happy. Subalakshmi packed the leftover food quickly, draped the first saree that she saw in the wardrobe and Gopalkrishna had quickly changed into modest T-shirt and trouser as well. It took them 2 hours to reach from Bangalore to Devanahalli and when they reached there, the security staff and electrical contractor were already present at the site.
As soon as they reached there, the contractor was quick to deny culpability and when they all reached inside, the mystery was solved.
The contractor had tried fitting all the lights in rooms, ceiling fans, water heaters in the bathroom and exhaust fans too. He had instructed his boys to finish the kitchen exhaust fan installation, and leave. By 10 p.m. his boys were tired and had left without fitting the kitchen exhaust, leaving a fair amount of space for the gang of monkeys to pounce on the ravishment left behind from housewarming ceremony.
The gang of monkeys had entered through this kitchen exhaust opening and raided the corner of bananas and oranges. They had dragged the bed sheets, toppled the diya and one of them had climbed on the kitchen platform and played with the tap. The gang must have gotten alarmed with the gush of water and left immediately with their feasts.
The mystery was solved, but the wooden flooring cost Gopalkrishna extra amount of money, Subalakshmi’s deadly glances and over 37k views and 1.3k upvotes on Quora answer when he wrote and shared his amusement with the Quora family.
After a few months when Gopalkrishna and Subalakshmi sat in their new apartment- the retirement house- they were sipping through the cardamom tea in evening and laughing this off.
“I think, I am smart enough to write my own book of experiences now. What do you suggest, Subba?”
She got up, called Mridula on her phone and said, “Mridula, your father’s going to be the next New York bestseller! Watch out!”
Gopalkrishna laughed and picked his newspaper and Subalakshmi went on to talk with her daughter and granddaughter.