Brown haired man in blue collared shirt and black pants listening to a smart phone ring, right hand holding the gadget, left hand inside pocket

The extended-family trip to Melkote by road had been planned well over a month ahead. 14 of us had been scheduled to go. Rooms had been booked for overnight stay.

But as the day for departure approached, many changes had to be made in the program. The hosts consisting of 6 members decided to take a separate vehicle as the attendance of the other members had become doubtful due to unexpected family problems. Later, one more group of 3 separated itself and took a cab so as to visit other places too on the way.

Finally, six of us were left. Our plans were kept in abeyance till the very last as the weather had turned highly stormy and rainy due to the cyclone VARDAH in Chennai. Nevertheless, we decided not to go the previous night but to make only a day trip the next day.

An “Innova” had been arranged. I was the first of the group to be picked up and that too before sunrise- at 5.30 am! The driver of the Innova rang me up the previous evening to confirm the pick-up and to ask for the landmarks to my place. As I had to board alone and also as I did not want to be abducted by a strange vehicle, I asked the driver for his name (which I clearly heard as ‘’Illyaz”) and  the car number. In the morning at 5.25 he gave me another call to have specific directions to my house.

Though the drizzling continued, time passed quickly during the journey chatting.

During the course of our conversation, I mentioned that the driver’s name was Illyaz. But my sister-in law who had booked the Innova contradicted me and said the name was Dinesh. We decided to ask the driver himself when we stopped for coffee. But he turned out to be a highly reticent, “mumbliferous” guy whose scant lip movements did not throw any more light on the controversy. We discussed how people change their names to suit the conservativeness of their employers, like, Bobby would become Babu, Mumtaz would become Mamta.

Well, we reached the house in lower Melkote which was to serve us our breakfast. While having  Pongal, we suddenly decided that the driver was not with us. My sister in law said she had his number (which later happened to be the Agency number) and rang up but got no response. I took out my I-phone with a flourish and offered to ring him up as I had his number from two of his calls.

As soon as I rang up the number (unknown), a voice said, “Is that Vimala Ramu?” Impatiently I bawled out, “Elli hogbitri? Breakfast gay begaa banni (Where have you gone? Join us quickly for breakfast”) and put down the phone as the Pongal was getting cold. The person sitting next to me said , ’’I think it was a lady’s voice that answered you”. Not believing him I argued that the driver might be having a squeaky voice (which probably explained his reticence). But when he did not turn up, I rang up the same number. This time the voice did not give me a chance to extend the breakfast invitation. The voice said, “Mrs Ramu, I have been asked by the SBF people to contact you as I heard you have undergone the therapy successfully” and blah, blah.  Feeling like a dork with a capital D, I apologised to her and asked her to contact me two days later when I would be back home.

I then recollected that the driver had called me both times on my landline with no caller identity.

Later when I asked the driver to write his name and mobile number on a piece of paper he wrote “Dinesh” and gave his personal mobile number.

cartoon courtesy




Bheem Singh was more of a phenomenon than a house help. Those were the days when Pahadi(hills) boys forimagesmed an integral part of every household in Delhi. Just as the Gurkhas were known for their valour and loyalty, Pahadi boys were known for their adaptability and honesty. But unlike the previous generation, the present one was smart and literate.

Bheem Singh was a mere lad of 15 when he came from the hills and found employment with Bhallas. By the time he was 25, he had become literally an all-rounder! He had learnt to cook the food in the Punjabi way and serve his employers the way they liked. He would not only wash the car and keep it shining, he would also drive the old couple around the city. He could be trusted to pay the car insurance, property tax, Electricity, Water and telephone bills in addition to other bank jobs. He would keep a strict watch on the household staff by handling all the keys himself. His personal attention to Bhallas was remarkable. He would never ever forget to serve coffee/lassi/nimboo pani at 10 in the morning and a glass of hot milk in the night. With their sons staying abroad, Bhallas used to wonder how they would have ever managed if not for the God-sent Bheem Singh, more so as days passed, they had found themselves more and more tired which they attributed to their fast approaching old age (Both were in their 60s).

This legendary Man Friday of theirs was indeed the envy of their friends. Still a bachelor, his only outings used to be a week- end movie with his cousin who worked in a 5 star hotel, apart from the annual two week visit to his native place.

Once Bheem Singh had gone on his yearly holiday to his village- a little longer this time as he was getting married. Mrs Bhalla had to attend to everything at home. Though she had her maid to assist her, she missed the morning and night drink which Bheem Singh used to serve them without fail. But surprisingly, the house work seemed to energise her than tire her. Even Mr Bhalla had brightened up considerably. He was showing interest and enthusiasm in all his activities.

One day  before Bheem Singh was to return, Mr. Bhalla decided to go through his house papers to calculate the new property tax that was about to be brought in. When he put on his specs and opened the file, he found all his papers missing. He contacted the City Corporation office but was told that the house had been made over to one Mr. Bheem Singh! Alarmed, Mrs Bhalla checked her jewellery boxes. Sure enough, she found most of the pieces missing along with all the expensive sarees and dresses.

Totally at a loss, they rang up their nephew who stayed in another part of the city. The smart and efficient young man and took charge of the situation and lodged a complaint with the police who posted 24 hour security around Bhalla’s house.

When Bheem Singh returned, he was surprised to see a sentry in front of the house who would not let him go in. Even as he was arguing with the guard, a police jeep stopped in front of the house. An inspector got down with two constables. They hand cuffed Bheem Singh and took him to the police station. On employing the usual police methods, Bhim Singh confessed. He took them to his cousin’s room in the hotel  where not only all the valuables taken from Bhallas were found, (including the house papers) but all the cutlery, crockery, linen and other items, stolen by his cousin from the hotel were found secreted in a steel trunk under the bed!

PS- Names changed to protect the privacy of the individuals.

picture courtesy