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Rudra's Disappearing Acts

Updated: Mar 11, 2022

We just celebrated Women's Day 2022. I believe that a women is and will always be superior to any gender in many ways. Her ability to bear life surpasses any emotion known to mankind.

Unfortunately, ours has always been a man dominated society. Right from the beginning of our civilization, the roles of men and women have been clearly defined. Man became the bread earner and women the house keeper, who looked after the house, children and cooked food for the family. This has roots in the times when men went out for hunting to collect food and women stayed back looking after the house.

Some societies take this practices of men superiority a step further. One of the most gruesome and cruel practice of man domination was among the Rajput community in the form of Sati Pratha. The fate of women was completely linked with the life span of a man, her husband. She had no right to live after her husband died. She was made to sit on the pyre of the husband and burnt alive. Thank god, this practice is no more.

Even in Islam, a man could divorce his wife by just saying the word Talaq three times.

In the Hindu traditions, a son carries forward the name of the family. A daughter cannot light the pyre of her father or mother. This right is reserved for sons only. Every Hindu family has a strong desire to have a son. They go on producing children until they get a son. Some even try artificial insemination to satisfy desire for a son.

In some communities, daughters were killed at birth, an inhuman and horrible practice. Now a days, a son and daughter are considered ideal family. But if second child is also a daughter, temptation for a son still remains. It is more so in rural areas, where 80 percent of our population live.

My story today is from the pre-partition era.

The family of Lala Jagat Narayan lived in Lahore, a part of western Punjab.

Lala ji's family was a traditional, respected and conservative family with firm faith in God. Lala Jagat Narayan was the head of the family. He was in service of Britishers and was a well-known man. Fond of his daily drink, he loved music and was a good cricket player.

Among his many possessions was his beloved HMV Gramophone, also called 'His Master's Voice'. A gramophone is a record player where the needle of the gramophone has to be kept on the record to play it. Lala ji was very fond of his Gramophone. He had an enviable collection of all the records of KL Sehgal, who was a new artist and had taken the music industry and the film industry by storm.

Lala ji had a spacious house where he proudly sat on the terrace every evening with his wife reciting Mirza Ghalib poetry. At times, he played the harmonium and sang romantic songs. His another favorite pastime was listening to Sehgal records on gramophone.

Despite all the riches and the luxury, Lala Ji was sad in his heart. That was because God had given him everything except the thing he wanted the most, a Son to help him attain the ultimate moksha.

The five beautiful intelligent daughters that he procreated in the hope of a son could not satisfy his yearning for a son.

Lala ji and his wife patiently went from one hopeful place to another, including Hindu temples and Muslim Shrines. They performed sacred yagnas after consulting priests and godmen. This also included distributing alms to the poor and needy.

Finally, Lady Luck smiled on them and blessed the couple with a son who was fondly named Krishna. Krishna survived for four years and passed on to the next realm.

Lala ji was not deterred. He tried again and was blessed with a son. There was much relief and rejoicing in the family. Pandits were around the house constantly. There were yagna's, Pooja's, Namkaran ceremonies and much celebrations.

The priests announced that the name of the boy should start with R. Lala ji named his son, Rudra Pratap. In Rig Veda, Rudra is praised as the mightiest of mighty, one who eradicates problems from root.

The name appears in Shiva Sahastranama and is sacred in Shaivism sect. Rudra was the darling child of sisters who were much older to him, with the eldest one being 15 years older. More than sisterly love, the girls had motherly instincts towards their only brother.

Rudra was the undisputed centre of attraction, the Sun around which everyone's life revolved. His every wish was a command for his sisters and mother.

Rudra grew to be an entitled young adult, who was too full of himself. Like a spoilt prince, his thoughts only revolved around comfort and luxury. In his young age, Rudra developed a unique and harmful habit of splurging money on his friends who always pampered him. He also developed taste for whiskey by the age of sixteen. Worse, he was also addicted to smoking. The red light area of Lahore, called the Anarkali bazaar was also a known area to him.

Rudra was tall, good looking with dusky complexion and husky voice. He was also a good singer. His friends always considered him actor material. Rudra loved to be flattered and easily believed his friends. One day, he decided to try his luck and thought, who knows, one day, I might be a big star. The entitled young man opened his mother’s drawer and took out all the money and without informing his mother, boarded the train and left for Bombay.

As the family woke up, they got the shock of their life having found the darling son of the house missing. All friends of Rudra were contacted and finally the inference was drawn that he might have gone to Bombay.

Lala Jagat Narayan and his wife visited Temples and Dargahs praying for the safety of their son. Lala ji also contacted a renowned soothsayer who predicted that Rudra might have gone westwards. The aggrieved father boarded the next available train for Bombay.

As soon as he reached the dream city, he started making enquiries about Rudra. He went to all the dhabas near the railway station, carrying the photograph of his son. At one of the dhabas, run by a Pathan, he was told that a young boy matching description in the photograph, had visited his dhaba yesterday and today. He might come again tomorrow .

Lala Jagat Narayan was at the dhaba early in the morning the next day. Towards the afternoon, the dhaba owner signalled to him that the boy is coming. As soon as Rudra reached the dhaba and ordered meals, his father came from behind and placed his hand on his shoulder. Rudra was startled and as he turned, he found himself face to face with his father. Rudra burst out crying and tightly hugged his father. Lala ji slapped his back and asked Rudra, 'do you want to go sightseeing or visit a film studio?

Rudra said sobbing, 'nothing father, just want to go home'. Rudra received a hero’s welcome on his return back home. In the eyes of his family, Rudra could do no wrong. Ever. Things were back to normal and Rudra was back to his old ways.

Rudra life was disrupted when the country underwent the most horrific partition that India witnessed. Lakhs of people lost their lives. Loot, arson, rape and killing were the top news items everyday. It was the worst tragedy of the century.

Rudra and his family shifted to Ludhiana, where they had relatives. Rudra was now in the prime of his youth. In some months, another tragedy stuck the family. Lala Jagat Narayan succumbed to a heart attack.

The irresponsible and entitled Rudra was now the head of the family. To support his family, he decided to join the Air Force. Having grown up without any understanding of discipline and hard work, Rudra could not last in the Air Force for more than a year.

After some time, he joined the police force and was posted at Bilaspur. He broke his arm during one of training sessions. He informed his elder sister of this tragedy who was in Delhi. A mother figure to Rudra, she immediately packed her bags and left for Bilaspur.

So, Rudra resigned and was back in Delhi with his sister. He had now reached the conclusion that he was not meant to serve anyone, and was wasting his time looking for jobs. So now Rudra decided to start his own business. One of his friends was in shoe business at Kanpur. He sold all the jewellery of his mother, withdrew all money from the bank and joined his friend in shoe business. Rudra was sharp and had good business sense. He soon picked up the finer points of leather industry and started making good money. However, he wasted all that money in drinking, smoking and gambling. Soon, he was in debts.

To escape the debtors, he disappeared from Kanpur one fine morning without informing any one. Running away was now his super specialty. No one knew where he was. He soon surfaced in Chennai and again trapped a moneyed businessman offering him all his technical knowledge. Business again flourished. Rudra and his partner again made good money. But Rudra squandered all his money in his vices and was soon in neck deep debts.

He again performed the disappearing act. He waited for things to settle down and this time surfaced in Calcutta. His modus operandi was same. He impressed a Bengali businessman with his knowledge of leather industry and again set up a factory with his money in partnership.

Rudra again made lot of money but again could not hold on to it. Soon, he was in huge debts. By this time, Rudra was married and had four children. Yet again, he performed the vanishing act to perfection. No one knew where he was.

Respected Lala Ji's son had become a disappearing criminal.

He allowed things to cool down before surfacing in his hometown Ludhiana. He set up a shoe factory of his own with borrowed money. Rudra was now on the lookout for a soft target to join him as a partner in his factory. This time, he trapped Sagar, his nephew. Sagar was the son of Rudra’s elder sister.

A young man, Sagar had been just released from the army after completing five years tenure. Sagar was looking for a new direction to life. Sagar had applied for competitive examinations for emergency commissioned officers. As he had time, he decided to visit his uncle at Ludhiana.

As the saying goes, destiny charters your course of life and this was exactly what happened in Sagar’s case. He went to meet his uncle, Rudra Pratap, at his factory site. Rudra advised him to join his business. He told Sagar that since he was just a graduate, his chances of getting a good job were bleak.

Sagar had always respected his uncle as a father figure. He considered the proposal and decided to give it a try. If he failed, he could again try for a job. Within a week of joining his uncle, Sagar was at the factory site trying to learn the nuisances of shoe business.

All of a sudden, his uncle asked him to withdraw ten thousand rupees from his central bank account within a month of joining. He told Sagar that workers had to be paid on occasion of Eid.

Sagar was surprised. How did his uncle know he had an account in central bank? Any way he withdrew ten thousand rupees from his account and gave the money to Rudra. Work started at the factory and uncle suggested that Sagar should take charge of the retail shop while Rudra would manage the factory.

Sagar soon found out that there were not many customers for shoes and sandals. Sagar observed that ninety percent of girls and ladies were wearing cheap fancy chappals. He went to Delhi and contacted dealers of fancy chappals at Ajmal khan market in Karol Bagh. He offered them fair deal but demanded latest designs.

Fancy chappals from Delhi proved to be a big hit with college girls and ladies and sales soared in no time. Sagar used to deposit cash every evening at nearest bank branch where there was a joint account in the name of his uncle and himself. After about a week, he checked up at the bank and found that most of the money had been withdrawn by his uncle.

The money invested by Sagar in chappals was also gone. He was in a dilemma. What to do. If he raised issue in family circles, it would hurt his mother’s feelings who loved his uncle more than her own sons. When he finally raised the the issue, his mother and aunts blamed him.

It was your own decision Sagar. You went to Rudra, he did not come to you. Sagar thought it was best to quit the business and get out of this mess. He could not risk investing more money in chappals as the money could be squandered the same way by his uncle again.

Enquiries at the factory revealed that raw stock was at lowest ebb and factory could close any moment. Workers had again not been paid.

Sagar took a decision then and there only.

He made an account sheet of sale of the day and along with cash sales, left it with the wife of his. He further told her that he was quitting the factory job and leaving for Delhi. She said, I understand the situation. Please go, God be with you.

Same night, Sagar was back in Delhi.

Later on, Sagar came to know that uncle Rudra had once again, true to his character, ditched everyone and vanished in thin air. He left behind huge debts. This time, he went to the extent of mortgaging his house.

Was Rudra's behaviour entirely his fault? Should his upbringing be blamed too? Were all his behaviours a result of his bad luck?

These questions will never have an answer. Rudra was a self-sabotaging, entitled and arrogant man who cheated without blinking an eyelid.

It is intriguing to note that his sister's blind love towards their brother remained rock solid as always despite everything Rudra did.

Such is the perseverance & love of a woman.

The word Rudra is a Rigvedic deity associated with wind or storm, Vayu and the hunt. One translation of the name is 'the roarer'.

Unfortunately, this Rudra did not live up to his name, eradicating himself from the world of light and plunging himself in self-inflicted darkness.

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