A Gift of Chappals by Vasantha Surya is an exquisite story written about the fantasies of children, expressing their simplicity, whims, their feelings, and their act of charity.
One afternoon, Mridu went to her aunt Rukku Manni’s house. She went there to meet her cousins Lalli, Ravi and Meena. Ravi dragged her to the backyard. There inside a torn football lay a very small kitten, drinking milk. Meena said they had found the creature outside the gate that morning. But it was kept secret. Amma had a fear that Paati would go away if she knows about the cat in the house. Ravi had succeeded by tact in getting a little milk for the kitten. The children named it Mahendran.
It was a fine breed of cat. Ravi gave a detailed account of the cat’s family and relatives. He said the cat was the descendant of the Mahabalipuram Rishi-Cat. Meena and Mridu smiled at his cooked up story.
The cat was frightened to hear Ravi’s sound. He fled from his place. Lalli was learning to play the violin. She wasn’t doing well, although the music master was trying his best to make her learn.
Mridu went up to the window. She saw Lalli sitting with her violin. In front of her there was the bony music teacher. He had a mostly bald head. He was wearing a gold chain around his neck, and a diamond ring on his hand.
A beggar came at the gate. The mother told Ravi to send him away. She was chatting with Tapi. The beggar’s voice irritated her. She complained that he was coming there every day.
The beggar was already in the garden. He had spread a piece of cloth under the neem tree. He leant against the tree trunk, waiting for the alms. Ravi told him sternly to go away.
The beggar sat up and sighed. He told that he would go away after taking some rest. The tar had melted on the hot road and his bare feet had got blisters. The children got sympathetic towards him. Mridu asked Meena and Ravi if they had got an old pair of slippers in the house. Ravi went to search. Mridu noticed a pair of chappals in the verandah. These were shabby-looking but sturdy. He gave it to the old man to wear and asked him never again to come back. The beggar blessed the children. He pushed his feet into the slippers and left in a hurry.
The music-teacher searched for his chappals in the varandah. He said his slippers were brand new and expensive also. Rukku Manni came there with Paati. She rightly guessed that it was the mischief played by the children. She was upset and angry.
She went indoors and brought Gopu Mama’s new chappals and gave them to the music-master. She apologised to the master on behalf of her son, Ravi. The music master’s eyes lit up with joy. He put them on and called children naughty monkeys. The mother didn’t like Ravi being called a monkey.
She went inside the house. She thanked God that Gopu Mama’s chappals were there. But she laughed to think how much upset would he be on his return. She declared that she would take all the blame on herself.
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Tell me about vasantha Surya author
Vasantha Surya did her high school in the US, Tamil, her mother tongue, found her before she could find it. During her travels and stints in different places as housewife and mother, she taught herself history and the languages. So she learnt German while in Germany, Hindi while in Mumbai.
Vasantha Surya has too many things to say, all at the same time. Culture, women’s rights, politics, languages, the interface between tradition and change. Issues she has taken up in umpteen articles on social reform and development. These she has meticulously bound into three big volumes.
Vasantha Surya’s translations from Tamil include A Place to Live, an anthology of contemporary Tamil short fiction, as well as novels by A Madhaviah, Sa Kandasamy, R Chudamani, Vaasanthi and Cho Dharman. She has published three books of poetry in English, and her children’s novel, Mridu in Madras, will be out shortly.
It can be short because this is very long for leaning