PrEm Ji





It was around eight o'clock in the morning and the Railway canteen looked almost empty. Twelve year old Ayyappa Das - a neatly dressed, bit dark, Telugu boy entered in quite happily.

‘What would you like have today?’ waiter asked.

‘One plate Iddly* Sambhar*, and two sets parcel,’ he answered coolly in an alien language... a perfect blend of Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu... (Indian languages)

Ayyappa Das carefully dipped one small iddli in hot sambhar, and started eating very slowly. It resembled a practical demonstration: how to eat!

‘Only those who know real hunger can eat like this,’ a Sergeant, belonging to Railway Protection Force, told. He was watching him carefully, from the very moment he had entered in.

‘Sir... he is seen here for the last two weeks... Nobody has any idea about him... like from where does he come... or what does he do?’ the Railway canteen owner told the Sargent in Malayalam... ‘Quite mysterious boy...’

‘Will he come tomorrow?’

‘I think so’

Ayyappa Das collected the parcel and handed over a five hundred rupee note. The boy collected the balance and left the canteen. Sergeant's face grew darker and darker.


Sixty eight year old Krishnan Namboodiri was watching BBC News, after finishing the morning duties, inside that two bedroom flat. The slanting rays of the morning Sun fell on his wrinkle-free face, which gave him an additional aura. Devaki Antharjanam, his beloved wife, was bedridden inside, as steel rods were inserted in her left leg due to multiple fractures. She needed someone's help always.

‘Thanks to painkillers,’ Namboodiri told himself as she was sleeping peacefully when he had a quick glance through the half closed door.

‘Good Morning... Namboodiri Sir,’ I greeted him warmly.

‘Good Morning... Premji... Today is a holiday for you, isn't it?’

‘Yes Sir... One of the Ministers of the State is no more’

‘That is the one and only advantage you get from a politician... that too only after his death!’ he said while laughing.

‘How is Madam today?’

‘Much better’

Suddenly a twenty five year old beauty entered in without even asking for permission.

‘Pardon me Madam... I am afraid... I don't know...,,’ Namboodiri Sir stopped abruptly.

‘Don't worry, Sir... Premji knows me’

‘Sir.. She is Ms. Sangeetha... a noted journalist by profession...,,’ I introduced her. ‘She has a couple of great stories in her credit and one of them lead to the political exile of some leaders,’

‘Please... take your seat Madam,’ he welcomed her. ‘Premji, you talk with her, and in the mean time I will prepare some coffee’

‘Thanks... But, no need of it... Sir, where is that boy?’ her voice was not that pleasing.


‘I don't know his name,’

‘O... Ayyappa Das... He has gone for tuition... without knowing Malayalam, it's not easy for him to survive here in Kerala’ Namboodiri Sir replied calmly.

‘Don't you know that child labour is a criminal offense?’ Ms. Sangeetha was getting aggressive.

‘What offense? I am his local guardian... Let me ask you a very simple question.... Who are you?’

‘I am Sangeetha. We run a non-profit organization named ‘M&K,’ partnered with Childline*. We got a complaint from a very reliable source...’ she replied, that too her temper was steaming up!

‘Will you please explain me what is Childline?’ Namboodiri Sir asked.

‘We support children... We save them from all sorts of exploitation,’

‘What kind of children?’

‘Children who live on the street with their families and often work on the street... There may be children from migrated families, or temporarily migrated and are likely to go back to their homes. Children who live on the street by themselves or in groups and have remote access or contact with their families in the villages. Some children travel to the cities for the day or periods of time to work and then return to their villages. Children who have no ties to their families such as orphans, refugees and runaways,’ she started talking quite fast as if recorded in her soul!

‘He doesn't belong to any of these,’ Namboodiri Sir declared openly in the middle.

‘Is he your son?’


‘Is he your adopted son?’


‘Do you have any substantial evidences with you now?’



‘What is wrong in helping a child?’ Namboodiri Sir was getting confused.

‘Sir... There is nothing wrong in helping a child... But, what you do now is illegal... I am so sorry... we are be forced to lodge a complaint against you,’ she told her clear-cut decision.

‘Sangeetha... Why do you want to insult a reputed man and his bedridden wife, without even knowing the truth?’ I asked

‘What truth? Premji... Such people will have a million truths to say! Everyone wants someone to relieve his or her burdens... Unfortunately children are the victims,’ there was contempt projected in her voice.

‘Madam, are you bold enough to go Hyderabad along with Premji? You can go by the morning flight... and come back in the evening flight... don't worry... I will bear the expenses...’ Namboodiri Sir asked her politely though he was burning with anger.

‘For what?’

‘To know the truth... the truth... brighter than millions of Suns,’

‘Yes,’ she said aloud as her boldness was deep hurt!


Anuradha Menon was waiting there in Hyderabad Airport with her white Maruti van.

‘Hello Premji,’ she hugged me tightly.

‘Hi Anu... How are you?’

‘We are fine,’ she then extended her hand towards Sangeetha.

‘Anuradha Menon... Anuradha Menon,’ Sangeetha stood motionless for a moment... she couldn't believe her eyes...

‘Do you know me?’

‘Yes... Madam... I admire you... from my college days,’ Sangeetha replied with lot of admiration. 

Sangeetha was almost silent during the whole journey. It took almost forty minutes to enter into the compounds of 'Swathantra' (the freed), the headquarters of an NGO, helping destitute women and children. The tall buildings made of mud resembled the simplicity of life there. Constructions were still going on.

‘Mud is stronger than concrete... It was the building material of the past... future too!’ Anuradha Menon told. ‘Sangeetha... This place was donated by Devaki ji’

‘Who is that... Madam?’ Sangeetha asked.

‘The better-half of Krishnan Ji’

‘Who is Krishnan Ji?’

‘Yes... He only sent you here...’ Sangeetha felt somewhat guilty...

‘Premji,’ Anuradha Menon tossed the van key to me, ‘Go and meet your old friends’


‘Krishnan Ji was the Chief Editor of ‘Jwaala... the flame,’ one of the top circulated dailies in Telugu language. He was the only man who stood with us when we started saving women and children from brothels... His people protected us day and night from their gangsters... He arranged loans for us... He is our one and only surety other than God!’ Anuradha Menon told her while walking through their campus.

‘But, only very few know that’

‘Good Morning Deedi*,’ children, who were studying under a tree, very warmly greeted Anuradha Menon .

‘A very Good Morning for all,’ she cheered them up. ‘I will clear your doubts in the evening’

‘Wonderful kids... Deedi,’ Sangeetha told.

‘Very loving boys... Unfortunately, the world is so cruel at them. Most of them don't know who is their biological father... But, I am their father, mother and everything!’

‘Deedi... You didn't say anything about Ayyappa Das?’

‘We are going to meet his mother,’ Anuradha said calmly.


There... she was lying inside a well-ventilated room... her hands and legs resembled the twigs in winter... her eyeballs were like two burnt out stars... Yes... she was the star of so many 'fleshy dream nights! And not even a low-paid prostitute in India, doesn’t have the guts to ask her customer to wear a condom!

‘Banu... how are you today?’ Anuradha Menon asked.

‘I am so tired... Deedi... I can't even move my fingers,’ a pale voice escaped from a drum ribbed with two hundred and six bones...

‘See... Ayyappan has sent presents for you through Sangeetha... Cakes... Christmas cakes... We will cut them in the evening,’ Anurandha introduced her.

‘Madam, how is he?’ the feeble woman asked Sangeetha in Tamil.

‘He is fine,’ Sangeetha told.

‘Does he eat anything? Does he study well? Do you teach him? Will he come to meet me?’

‘Yes... he misses you a lot,’ Sangeetha prepared herself to tell a series of lies...


‘She is counting her days... Slim disease eats away her life like hungry maggots,’ Anuradha Menon told Sangeetha while returning.

‘Slim disease... what is that?’ Sangeetha asked.


Ayyappa Das was away when we reached his home on the very next day morning.

‘Sir... I am extremely sorry,’ Sangeetha didn't feel like talking more as her soul was bruised with guilt. She felt words were dying down at her throat itself.

‘Don't worry...  Real experiences strengthen life,’ Namboodiri Sir calmed her.

‘I know... Sir’

‘Sangeetha, why don't you write about Anuradha Menon and her NGO called 'Swathantra'?’ I asked.

‘That's a wonderful idea... Premji... Surely, I will write about our trip to Hyderabad... Sure... I will write about Ayyappa Das too,’ Sangeetha was really exhilarated.

‘I will not allow that,’ Namboodiri's voice raised above all.

‘But, Sir?’ Sangeetha was perplexed.

‘You have every right to write about Anuradha and Swathantra... that's sensible journalism... But... you have no right to write about Ayyappa Das... If you do that... that's called sensational journalism... A journalist is not a hunter... but a fighter... Do have empathy on anything or anyone... about whom you write,’ Namboodiri Sir told, with an unexpected glow on his face.

'Sorry... Sir... I understand...' Sangeetha replied with self-contempt.

‘Wrong information, shared with the public, can cripple many lives... Clarifications on the next editions do nothing!’

‘I understand... Sir’

‘Banu passed away yesterday evening, immediately after you both left her..." Namboothiri Sir told us.

'Very sad...' Sangeetha said.

'But, I am very thankful to you... Ms Sangeetha.'

'Me? Why Sir?'

'Yes... Your kind words relieved her from eternal pain...' he wiped his tears.

Ayyappa Das appeared there with some sets for Iddli - Sambhar food parcels.

A cute smile appeared on his face when he saw us.

Sangeetha couldn't stop hugging him as she felt her heart would blast into millions of fragments....

'Now, you have an elder sister too...'

Ayyappa Das didn't understand anything... He stood as an embodiment of smile...





  • L. B. Mek

    you have such a way: at tugging on heartstrings
    showcasing nuanced insight, while
    empathising with each character's point of view
    and still able to weave such an intriguing read;
    easily my second favourite
    of the write's you've shared so far
    thank you, dear poet..
    'you have no right to write about Ayyappa Das...
    If you do that... that's called sensational journalism...
    A journalist is not a hunter... but a fighter...
    Do have empathy on anything or anyone...
    about whom you write,’ Namboodiri Sir told,
    with an unexpected glow on his face.'

  • PrEm Ji

    Thank you dear friend... Thank you so much...

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