Sep 30, 2008
“Your husband is affected by Bell’s palsy.” The doctor’s declaration reverberated in Mrs.Dikshit’s mind. “Bell's smile is characterized by an asymmetry caused by paralysis of one side of the face. The assessment based on house-brackman score suggests the damage is moderate and estimated functional ability is 60%. It would cause slurred speech and hearing problem. The hearing loss and discomfort may be recovered by treatment. The treatment is directed at decreasing the swelling and restoring the circulation so that the nerve fibers may again function normally.”
It was dinner time and the family members were gathered in front of the TV. All were glued on the TV serial including Mr.Dikshit. Once the food was placed on the dining table, Mrs.Dikshit called all to join for food. They responded by getting up from the sitting room except Mr.Dikshit.
The family members looked at each other.
“His hearing is out of order. God knows what he understands by looking at the screen.” Mrs.Dikshit grumbled. “Deepak, wake him up.”
Deepak their grandson went close to Mr.Dikshit and shook his hand. Nonsensical grin appeared on son Anurag and daughter in law Sneha’s face. They were struck by the fright when Mr.Dikshit was knocked down by the stroke. That was fifteen days back. The initial shock had gradually dissolved. A kind of mockery was visible in their present outlook.
All gathered at the dining table including Mr.Dikshit.
“Dad, I want to advise you.” Anurag looked at his father.
Mr.Dikshit did not lift his head.
“Dad….” Anurag sounded louder.
Mr.Dikshit ate spoonful and looked at his son.
“Why do you want to come to office from tomorrow?” Anurag continued with forceful tone. “You may take rest for some more days. I will manage the business.”
Mr.Dikshit was a stockist in food commodities. They were a dominant force in the wholesale market. The turnover in four large warehouses was in millions.
“What would I do by staying at home?” The slurry speech wobbled from Mr.Dikshit’s mouth. “I am fine. You may not worry. I am fit to run the show.”
“How long should I live like an under dog?” A displeased Anurag murmured. “He wants me to plead for every penny.”
“He should retire and relinquish the reigns to Anurag.” Sneha advised.
“The machine is broken, but still he wants to retain his power.” Mrs.Dikshit too complained. “He is miser by nature and may want to run the show even from the graveyard.”
No one had the courage to make such statements when his ears had the sense of hearing. The severe reduction in his audible range had prompted the rest to speak out without caution.
“Did you tell me something?” Mr.Dikshit looked at Anurag.
“You have been irregular in taking your blood pressure tablets and you were always worried too much on the bad debts. Otherwise the stroke would not have occurred.” Mrs.Dikshit tried to be loud. “This is what we always discuss about.”
“What can I do? It is God’s wish.” Mr.Dikshit burped.
Mr. and Mrs.Dikshit were blessed with four children. Eldest son Arun had printing press business in Mumbai. Second was daughter Anupama, living with her husband in Bangalore. Anurag was the third and after completing the degree in commerce, he had joined his father in business. The youngest Anish was in his final year engineering in an institute in Mysore.
Mrs.Dikshit vacated washed her hands and stepped into her bedroom. They had been sleeping in separate rooms since last couple of years. Her husband’s snoring noise had irritated her for many years and she finally decided to sleep unaccompanied.
Anurag and Sneha had shown clear gestures to take charge of the business. Mr.Dikshit had turned deaf and fragile. The business needed energetic hands. But once the power was shifted, would the son and the daughter in law treat her with attention and respect? She was flustered by the constant worries.
“Do not trust the children.” Mr.Dikshit has cautioned her when he was in his elements.
All she needed was a testament from her husband. If a will was written favoring her the complete rights of cash, property and business, that could make her free from stress. Mr.Dikshit perhaps had not written any will. She prudently wanted to advise him. She was unsure if he could survive for too long.
Next morning, Mr.Dikshit accompanied Anurag to the office. Anupama called her mother at 10:30 am from Bangalore. Sneha had gone to the market after Deepak’s departure to school. Mrs. Dikshit was alone at home.
“How is Dad?” Anupama enquired.
“You know he is very stubborn. Though not fully recovered, he has gone along with Anurag to attend business.” Mrs. Dikshit expressed her displeasure.
“Life is uncertain after the first stroke.” Anupama conveyed her opinion. “Do you know if any will is made?”
“I really do not know.” Mrs.Dikshit sounded helpless. “You are aware of your father’s reticent attitude. He does not like interference in his personal issues. Only God knows what he thinks.”
“You better to be careful.” Anupama warned. “Please advise to write and legalize his testament. Otherwise later on there could be complications.”
“I will speak to him.”
“Kindly check the testament when it is ready.” She had reminded before the hand set was kept down. “Even daughters have their rights in father’s property.”
Later in the evening all the members joined for supper at the dining table.
“How was the first day in the office after a long interval?” Mrs.Dikshit asked her husband.
Mr.Dikshit did not respond.
“Be loud Mom, he can not hear.” Anurag gesticulated. “He had come only to check the accounts and funds. The rest of the time he was dozing.”
“Anupama had called in the morning.” Mrs.Dikshit presented the details.
“Why is she bothered about the will?” Sneha objected. “She is married and gone. What is her problem?”
“Even Arun was checking about the will on his brief visit during Dad’s hospitalization. “Anurag remembered. “His words indicated towards winding up the printing press business in Mumbai. It looks like he wants to get involved with Dad’s business.”
“No one wished to be a part of this rice and sugar business when the cash flow was tight. Arun was never a part of this struggle, more so due to Dad’s snappish behavior. Now he wants to return, because Dad’s condition is shaky.” Sneha was visibly upset. “I have no fear. I am telling the truth.”
“I received an email from Anish about a week back.” Anurag continued. “He too has shown the intentions of getting involved with the business soon after his final exam. If so why did he waste four years for engineering?”
Mr.Dikshit’s plate had become empty. He walked out with the assistance of the stick.
“Mom, you should take the initiative of convincing Dad to make a testament without any further delay.” Sneha’s tone was forceful. “Today if the business is running well, it is due to Anurag’s hard work and sweat. If others are trying to get in at this moment, it is not justified. Dad has to pass on his will with complete rights to Anurag.”
“Mom, you do not worry.” Anurag added. “We will take care of you.”
“It is not easy to make your Dad to understand the situation and his own physical condition.” Mrs.Dikshit replied with lack of energy. “He is not able to hear my normal voice.”
“Grand pa is gone deaf!” Deepak reacted all of a sudden.
Sneha responded with the giggle. Anurag chuckled. Mrs.Dikshit did not like grandson’s comments, but helplessly joined the laughter.
Mr.Dikshit exhibited some sort of flexibility in movements as weeks passed by. But no improvement was shown in his ability to hear. He would remain expressionless without any reaction when the pitch of the voice was low. The reaction was evident only when the tone was shot up. He was given respect with the loud voice. Insults were hurled from the low tone. Mrs. Dikshit has already pleaded her husband to make a will which could protect her rights. Anurag had also secretly begged for the testament that could safeguard his interests.
“Dad had gone to the lawyer’s office. Only the driver accompanied him.” Anurag informed one evening. “He must have made the will. We have to find out the details.”
Mr. Dikshit kept everyone in dark. The family members had no clue on his intentions. During the summer vacation Arun landed up from Mumbai. Anupama arrived with her two kids. Anish too reached home after his final exams. The influx of family members paved way to secret summits. All had their own agenda. Their respect towards their father continued when the voice sounded louder. The language turned scornful when the voice turned lower.
The time was 11:00 hours on a Monday morning. The car came to a halt outside the lawyer’s office. Mr.Dikhsit gathered his leather bag. The driver lent his support, left him at the lawyer’s office and went out.
“Why did you come?” The lawyer showed concern. “Why didn’t you call me? I would have had come to your office.”
“As you are aware my office is not safe for confidential business.” Mr.Dikshit’s speech ability was vastly improved. “You know walls have ears.”
“You have changed your testament more than seven times in last four months.” The lawyer smiled. “Do you want to amend it again?”
“You know I had gone deaf when struck by Bell’s palsy.” Mr.Dikshit explained. “But gradually I regained my audible range.”
“Did you inform the good news to your family members?” The lawyer was curious.
“No. I did not tell them.” Mr.Dikshit nodded. “Time and again I modified the testament while trying to assess the members of my family. Now I have arrived at the final resolution.”
“So do you intend to change the will once again?” The lawyer was curious.
“I would like to terminate the testament. Please cancel and destroy the document.” Mr.Dikshit made his stance very clear. “There would be no division in my money, property and business until my death and there would be no testament to demarcate the distribution after my death. This will lead to a certain disagreement and rift. That is what they deserve after my death!”