Vasant (Spring) 2021 Stories - Ranjit Kulkarni


By Ranjit Kulkarni


Parikshit Sharma boarded the Thai Air flight from Bangkok to New Delhi. At that time, his mind went back thirteen years. It was then that he had taken the same route last. But at that time, it was the other way round. He had flown out for good from New Delhi to Bangkok. He had promised his father that he would never come back.

But today he had no choice, but to break that promise. That was because his father, Dr Madhav Sharma, had called him a few hours back with a desperate plea. He had called with the sad message that his mother was on her death bed. Being a doctor himself, he knew what was in store. He told Parikshit that she was clinging on to the last straws of dear life.

If Parikshit wanted to see her alive, he had no way but to take this flight to see her.

“13A, Straight and right, Sir,” the air hostess guided him to his seat. He called his father after he settled down before take-off.

“Dad, I am in the flight. How's Mom?” he asked. “Can I talk to her?” His father went blank. He heard a few seconds of silence from the other end.

“How should I tell you this, my dear son Parikshit?” Dr Sharma cried in despair from the other end, torn in emotion between his dying wife in front of him and his son on the phone.“She has lost her speech. She is unable to speak now, dear,” he added, sobbing into the phone. “Till last night, when I called you, she was talking. She spoke to me today in the day, too. But her treating doctor said she has lost her speech some time back,” he continued.

Then, after a few more moments of silence, in a grim tone, he added, “I don't know what God is punishing her for.”

“Arm all doors,” Parikshit heard the captain.

“Ok Dad, the flight is taking off. I will call you when I land,” he said. He relaxed back into his seat but with a mind that was not relaxed. When the airhostess got him cold towels, they weren’t enough to bring down the heat in his heart. The last he remembered asking for two more sets of cold towels was on that fateful day of his escape thirteen years back.


Dr Madhav Sharma sat watching his wife on her bed, speechless but still speaking with her eyes. A few hours back before she lost her speech, she had spoken with him.

“How long are you going to tolerate Parikshit’s crimes?” she asked with a shaky, quivering voice. “I know I don’t have much time left. Will you do one thing for me?” Dr Sharma knew that this was going to be a tough discussion. And a tougher decision for him. Both as a husband and as a father.

“You should not speak much. It is not good for your health,” he urged his wife. But she had always been a strong woman. It was he who was weaker. His son was his weak point.

“How many years should I keep myself bottled up?” she said, a tear rolling on to her cheek. “Do I not know that you have always hidden Parikshit’s misdeeds?”
Dr Sharma raised his face and looked at his wife. The tubes on her nose, the catheter pipe, the oxygen mask to keep her alive, and the machine pumping her lungs– all of them filled his heart with anguish. He knew she was hanging on to dear life only waiting for Parikshit. She hadn’t seen him for thirteen years.

Dr Sharma was not her treating doctor, but his doctor colleague who was treating her had told him to count the days remaining, perhaps hours, on his fingers.

“I know I have been wrong in hiding his crimes. Don’t let Parikshit’s misdeeds burden your soul,” he told her.

From within the mask and under the tube, he saw that she had a wry smile. She was a strong woman. Her husband was still protecting their son. She didn’t like it, like always.

“I wish you are able to unburden me, and yourself, while I am around,” she murmured. Dr Sharma moved his ear closer to her mouth. “A mother will be the last one to say that her son should be punished for his crimes. I am that unfortunate mother, and I am saying so,” she said, and closed her eyes.

Those were the last words that Dr Sharma heard from the mouth of his wife. After that, when she awoke for her last meal of the night, she didn’t speak a word. Dr Sharma called her treating doctor. He said the brain tumour is likely to have spread to her speech area. She had lost her ability to speak. Dr Sharma’s mind was filled with memories of Parikshit’s childhood and early youth. His son was a computer genius, but a misdirected one. He was a smart cookie, but in the wrong places. She was right. The doting father had failed. He had hidden Parikshit’s misdeeds that later became crimes for far too long. Was it too late? Dr Sharma could not sleep that night. Parikshit was awake in his flight from Thailand.


When Parikshit landed, he called his father. He took a cab straightaway and reached home. “I am on my way home,” he reported. “I have used my Thai passport.

There is no way anyone will know I am here,” he sniggered.

Dr Sharma shifted in his seat. His son was incorrigible.

He hurriedly made a phone call. “Yes, he has landed. He is coming home,” he said.

“Be normal. Everything is in place,” the voice on the other side said.

Dr Sharma escorted Parikshit to the room where his mother was being treated. All hope had extinguished and there was no question of taking her to hospital.
Parikshit saw that his mother was lying on her bed, not able to move an inch of her body. Her hands and legs were taut, and her neck seemed locked in position. She had her eyes open, but had an expressionless blank stare directed at Parikshit. Unable to speak, she looked like a human statue with the last semblance of life left in it.

His eyes welled up in tears when he saw his mother in this state. He collapsed on his knees and started sobbing uncontrollably.

“Control yourself,”Dr Sharma told him with a hand on his shoulders. “She only has a few hours. Let her not see you crying in that time, “he continued.
Behind Dr Sharma was the doctor who was in charge of taking care of his mother.

Parikshit stood up and went towards him.

“I am sorry, Doctor. But is there any hope?” Parikshit asked, wiping his face.

The treating doctor shook his head and crunched his lips.

“I will step out and leave you alone so that you can talk to your mother. You may not get another chance, Parikshit,” he said and left. Dr Sharma stole a glance at him and signalled that he will join him too.

“Parikshit, I will drop the doctor and be back in a few minutes,” he said, stepping out.

Parikshit fell on his knees again when he turned his gaze towards his mother. His head dropped in despair on the bed on which they had kept his mother, almost like a dead body. He saw that she was counting her last breaths, staring at him, looking through him.

His mind went back to the day thirteen years back when he had left the country in a hurry. His father had made all the logistical arrangements. But the sudden plans of his departure had flabbergasted his mother.


"What happened out of the blue? Why are you leaving, in such a sudden manner?" She had demanded an answer from him.

"I got a job in Thailand," he told her, while his father had looked on.

"It is for his career," his father had added, consoling his mother.

"But can't you go after a few days? Look at me, Parikshit. At least, let me say goodbye properly," she had pleaded.

But Parikshit had not looked at her in the eyes. After all that he had done, he did not have the guts. He was in a hurry. There was no time left. He had to leave overnight, before the police caught up on him. The pangs of that departure still hurt him as he remembered the sobbing face of his mother.

Parikshit gathered himself and saw his mother's face again. She seemed to be having an inexplicable expression, as if she is waiting for something. It looked like her soul was not ready to leave her body. It felt like the weight of something was burdening her soul, encaging it in the body. It appeared as if that weight pulled her down and led to her suffering. Unless that weight was off her shoulders, her soul wouldn't leave. He knew what that burden was.

To Parikshit, it looked like the time was opportune for him to make a confession. It was the right time for him to unburden his mother’s soul. And his. The final time for him to come clean, before bidding the final adieu. Now was the time, if at all.

But then a doubt crept into his mind. What if someone else heard it? He looked around. There was no one in the room. He peeped out to see if anyone stood close by. There was no one around.

For a brief while, he thought of checking where his father was. He couldn't see him anywhere in the house. Perhaps that was a good thing, Parikshit felt. With his father around, he may not be able to make this confession, though he knew everything. Safe in the knowledge that there was no one around, he bent forward towards his mother.

“Mom, I have to tell you something,” he began, looking at her eyes and moving closer. There was no change of expression on her face. But he knew she was listening.

"You know that I didn't go to Bangkok because I got a job," he whispered. Then he turned his head around again to check that no one was listening.
"I went there to escape from the police," he said. "They had come to know."

His mind went back again.


That day, the police had got information that he was 'Soloboy', the pseudonym he used for his cybercrimes. He had got clues that they had detected all of his crimes. When he traced them, he saw that they had left signs that he was in trouble. He knew they would get him. It was only a matter of time.

Like he had done since being a child, he had approached his father for help at that time. “Dad, I need your help, one last time,” he remembered imploring his Dad. He knew his father would help him. He knew his father was weak.

“Don’t tell Mom,” Parikshit had warned Dr Sharma.

Parikshit was sure his mother will not let him escape. She was an iron woman, who knew the difference between right and wrong. She didn’t tolerate nonsense, even by her own son. But his father was too attached to him. He knew that his father couldn't resist his son.

A few years before his career as a cybercriminal took off; he had collected money from someone. “He claims to be a potential buyer of defence secrets,” he had told her. “The best part is he has given an advance,” Parikshit had rejoiced only to see a frown on his mother’s face. But his father had turned a blind eye. That was the start.


As he sat in front of his dying mother, Parikshit had tears flowing from his eyes.

“Mom, I have erred a lot in my life. It is not your fault Mom. It is fully my doing,” Parikshit held his mother's hand tight. He looked at her blank stare. Was she listening?

“I am a cybercriminal. I have committed many crimes against the nation. I have stolen defence secrets and sold them for money.” Parikshit went on with his confession putting his head on her palm. “I ran away to Thailand to save myself. I ran away for my career as a cybercriminal,” he said. He felt he heard something and stopped.

“Please forgive me Mom. Don't burden yourself with it,” he said and started sobbing.

He looked up to see if his mother showed any reaction. She showed none. He felt her breathing slowed down. Her eyes seemed to have lost the light in them.
Parikshit looked around.

“Doctor, can you come here?” he yelled. “Doctor? Nurse? Anyone around?” he ran helter-skelter in the house and shouted.

There was no one in the house. He dialled his father’s number.

“Dad, come here. where are you?” he howled. “Mom...I think..” Parikshit said, pointing to the lifeless stare of his mother while on the phone. “She is staring at me.”

“Parikshit, be calm. Sit down. Have a glass of water. I am just coming up,” Dr Sharma said and signalled to the doctor and the two men with him that it was time.

“Have you got what you wanted?” he asked them in a heavy voice.

“Yes, we can go up now,” they said and rushed up. “We will wait for your signal.”


Parikshit sat in silence for a few seconds. He went close to his mother. He was certain she was gone. Teary-eyed, he said, “Bye Mom. I am sure now your soul will have peace.”

Three men and his father, Dr Sharma, entered the house behind him from the main door. One of them was the doctor treating his mother. The other two he didn’t know.

“Doctor, my Mom…,” Parikshit shouted in a choked voice.

“Yes, step aside please,” the doctor said and went close to his patient, checking her pulse and eyes. Parikshit waited for the doctor. “I am sorry, she is no more,” he said. Parikshit shed a tear. So did Dr Sharma. It was almost a relief. He embraced Parikshit tight. After a few minutes, Parikshit saw that the other two men were still waiting.

“Dad, who are these people?” he whispered in his father’s ear. Dr Sharma turned his gaze towards them and signalled to them with his eyebrow. He pointed his palm to Parikshit.

Parikshit didn’t understand what was going on. He looked at his father. Dr Sharma turned his gaze away and stared silently at the ground.

“Oh.. my.. God.. Dad?” he howled.

“I am sorry Parikshit. I had to do this for your Mom,” he said and went and sat next to his wife’s dead body.

One of the men removed a device that played a recording of Parikshit's confession. He pointed a gun towards Parikshit. The other handcuffed Parikshit and said, “Hello Soloboy.”


Ranjit Kulkarni from India has published short stories, articles, and novellas. His work has appeared or forthcoming in Literary Yard, Indian Periodical, Academy of the Heart and Mind, Potato Soup Journal,Setu Journal; and a collection of his short stories is due in 2021.


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