Thursday, January 1, 2009


Villa Seele, situated in the deserted area of west Bangalore, bore a worn out look. But that didn’t reflect on the moods of Manoj and his son Aru, who were flying kites in the garden. Both were jeering and shouting claiming their kite was flying higher than the other. Ju, was by the tea table, reading a magazine, occasionally catching a glimpse of the father-son duo’s antics.
Weekends at Seele were always like this. Seele compounded a sprawling area. It had a huge garden in front of the main door which was house to some 20 odd mango trees. The backyard had a small swimming pool and a tennis court. Though it didn’t look like a 40 year old bungalow as it was renovated just before this family moved in about 6 years ago, it could still not camoflouge the burnt look on the rear of the villa. It was a duplex structure which had the main bedroom along with the kitchen, dining, servant room and a drawing room on the ground floor, along with couple of other rooms, a family room & a guest room on the first. Manjula the maid, occupied the servants room. She has been here ever since Manoj moved into Seele. She was a devoted maid who kept to herself and in her room sooner she finished her chores. On weekends she would travel to her native.
Manoj was a very well known surgeon in Bangalore, known for his oral and maxillofacial wizardry, while his wife Ju was a Technical Architect in a leading MNC which specialized on Mobile Applications. Crippled by the demanding work and schedules, they could hardly spend quality time at home during weekdays. But come weekends, both made it a point that they spend as much time as possible at home and with Aru. Manoj and Aru enjoyed being together. The camaraderie between them was great and they loved each other a lot. Weekends was playtime for both of them and Ju also enjoyed being along with them. Both Manoj and Ju were proud parents. They both doted their 10 year old son Aru. Aru was a sprightly young boy who was looked at as an intellect in his school. He was the ‘School Boy’ for the last 3 years, very good in his studies, quite good at sports and was very well mannered.
Meanwhile, through his room window, Arun, kept staring at his dad Manoj and mom Ju who were having a great time with Aru in the garden. Arun was the more silent and introvert kind of a boy. Tears rolled down his soft cheeks but he wasn’t crying. He slowly moved out of his room to the family room. He could see on either walls, quite a few photographs of Aru either cuddling his parents or all smiles with his dad. There were only 3 photos of Arun and all were solo and those were taken in school. He went back to his room and sunk himself between books. Arun hated weekends. During weekdays, his parents hardly used to be there, often coming home late in the night. He would almost always be asleep when they returned home during the week. Manoj or Ju would just drop by the room, give a kiss on his cheeks followed by a soft cuddle. Sometimes, even if Arun was awake, he would pretend to be asleep so that he gets that kiss and touch. That used to be his only moment!
Arun enjoyed being in school. Though he didn’t particularly have any close friends, all his class mates respected and enjoyed being with him. Most of them in the school were awestruck by his wit and intelligence. There was nothing that he was lagging at, be it debate, sports, IQ or studies. The teachers and his friends, kind of gave him a sense of belonging that he yearned for at home. During weekdays, he would spend most of his time in school, playing or reading something, often staying beyond the scheduled closing time. He didn’t hate Aru but couldn’t understand why his parents couldn’t see the obvious. He often turned inside to himself and kept burying his emotions. But it seemed that he was getting into this mode more often than not and slowly he could feel the weight of it increasing. This had to give way sometime. And couple of years later, it started to show.
Slowly, Aru had started to loose the aura that he had at school. Teachers often found him either talking to himself or lost in his thoughts. They could see the dip in his interest and concentration not only in sports and studies but also in other extra curricular activities in which he once was particularly strong. His ranking in the class suffered and even the school principal had taken note of this. Soon he had an appointment fixed with Aru’s parents to talk about this.
“Dr & Mrs Manoj, Arun, had been an outstanding student & made us proud on several occasions. Be it winning inter-school debate, quiz or sport competitions or at his studies, he was always not better but the best. But oflate I have observed that he has started to loose interest in everything. My teachers have even told me that he talks to someone who they cant even see. We know his potential and we don’t want him to go off track or drift away in life. I hope you understand what I’m talking about. Its better you consult a child psychologist, so that Arun is back to what he was.”
Manoj could not fathom what he heard from Aru’s principal. “How can things turn so drastically wrong with his son? How can a once outstanding kid, turn around so much that he needed to be consulting a psychologist?” were the thoughts that were running in his mind. Manoj and Ju could not sleep that night. They both kept wondering as to where & how it had all gone wrong. Ju somehow convinced Manoj that its better they meet a child psychologist so that there is no permanent damage on Aru. They both hugged each other more to reassure themselves that everything would be alright.
It had been more than a week since Arun had started visiting the psychologist. He would visit him daily for about 30 to 45 minutes. Manoj would enquire with the psychologist every other day to know if everything was ok. Manoj felt that things were improving and soon Aru would be back to being himself. Then one day, Manoj got a call from the psychologist asking if he was free to talk for a few minutes. Manoj asked him to continue. “Dr. Manoj, I don’t know if you would believe in this. You may even question my credibility or whatever but you need to believe me that this is my interpretation based solely on my interactions with your son. Arun believes that there is a soul in your house.” There was a deliberate pause. “Dr. Manoj, since how long have you been staying in this villa?”
Manoj couldn’t believe what he had just heard. He was shocked and confused. He didn’t want to continue at the hospital. But an emergency kept him there and he returned home late. He hadn’t discussed his call with the psychologist with Ju. He had thought its better to talk at home than over the phone and moreover he was caught in the hospital. He entered the drawing room silently, placed his suitcase and jacket over the couch and went over to see if Ju was asleep in the bedroom. She was asleep indeed but what shook him was that she was sleeping with another man on the bed. He moved closer slowly to see who he was. He suddenly heard a crackling sound to his right. He hastily turned to see what it was. That woke up Ju too and she put on the room lights and asked, “Gosh! What happened? Do you need to go back to the hospital? Did you get an emergency call?” Manoj turned around to check for that other man. He was gone!

PS: Seele in German means Soul.