Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A typical conversation - Part II

It didn't take a long time to realize that we were running out of topics. The normal conversation had turned into a speechless routine after the customary exchanges.

Appa: So, how are things at your end?
Me: Good!

Appa: Are you taking care of yourself?
Me: Yes, no issues!

Appa: Eat properly, and if you need anything, let me know.
Me: Yeah, OK!

Appa: OK, I will give the phone to your mother.
Me: OK!

It was a case of the early years of my stay away from home. Beyond the usual exchanges, the conversation would gain pace once the telephone instrument was passed on to my mother.

Amma: Ennada, what are you upto?
Me: Nothing, just busy with exams and research.

Amma: Enna research? You better take care of your health. What did you eat today?
Me: I was busy the whole day, so just ended up eating curd rice and vadu maanga (mango pickle).

Amma: OK, take care of your health. By the way, that girl in our neighborhood, xyz, is getting married.
Me: What? Really? When did this happen?

Amma: It all happened in two three days. But, I am not sure whether she found the groom or her parents.
Me: Oh, OK. Who cares who the guy is!

I realize now that it is the ideal time to change the topic, and get back to her marriage prospects after a couple of dialogues.

Me: Then, what happened to the controversies in the apartment. Mr. XYZ had swindled some money from the treasury. Has the committee proved his involvement?
Amma: Yes, yes, a lot of things have happened in the last couple of days. He was arrested last night.

Me: Oh! I hope he learns after he comes out at least.
Amma: For all the sins he has committed, he will go to hell. Forget about him!

Now, I have to silently probe about the girl who is getting married.

Me: So, who is she getting married to?
Amma: Oh, he is a local guy from Bangalore. He works for one of these thousand software companies here.

Me: Have you seen the guy?
Amma: Why will I see the guy now? I will see him in the marriage.

Me: Mmmm, ok!

Amma: I saw the photos you sent yesterday. Who is that girl standing with you?
Me: Which girl are you talking about? There are a lot of girls in our school.

Mothers have always been smart, so the sudden change in the way the questions are put forth would take new turns.

Amma: Illeda, the girl who always wears Churidhars, and who looks traditional.
Me: Oh, she is Arundhati.

Amma: Is she Tamil?
Me: No, she is born to English parents, and keeping an Indian name for fun!

Amma: Why are you getting angry?
Me: What kind of questions you ask!

Amma: You are getting angry as if I am doubting you. Don't I know about you? I have nothing to worry about you.
Me: Yeah right, you have to deliver that punchline.

The last sentence conveys many things. It means, I don't want you to exceed boundaries. I want you to listen to me. By saying all these things, I am reassuring myself.

The conversation has ended!!!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009


Srinivasan got ready for the afternoon siesta after his usual laborious lunch; laborious, not because there was something special for lunch, but just that, his meticulousness always ensured that everything was laid out in front of him in elaborate detail. A few extra micro particles of salt would leave him in great despair, as though Susila had committed a grave irrevocable sin.

What have you done, Susi? He would shout from the hall, as she would disappear countless times into the kitchen at the time of serving. In spite of having been married for the last thirty six years, she would run back in panic, with a few wrinkles appearing on her forehead "What happened? Have I added more salt in the sambhar today?" Srinivasan would look up and say "Yes, the sambhar tastes like salt water today."

Oh, I thought so. I was talking with Lakshmi, and somehow, a few, more than normal, slipped out of my hand. Please adjust today. Corrective measures will be taken by dinner. She would then slip back into the kitchen, irrespective of whether she had work inside or not, before Srinivasan could utter another word. That, though, would not stop him from murmuring a few protests, "I don't understand what you talk with that servant maid. Is she here to help you in your chores or to distract you?"

Anyway, as he got up from his afternoon nap and freshened up, the postman shouted with his usual shrill voice "POST". This was a part of the routine that the husband and wife were accustomed to. Susila had the usual question, "Any letter from Anandhi?" Srinivasan immediately retorted, "I just got the letters. Wait a minute. There are a bunch of letters from the bank. I have to fill up some forms and send it back. Anyway, here it goes. There is actually a letter from Anandhi." Susila immediately left whatever she was doing, and strained her ears to listen to what her husband was about to read out. "She is going to come next week. I believe the kids are having their usual summer vacation for a month." What else does she say? Wait, is this the way to read out a letter", she shouted, and pulled the letter from his hand. You get back to your bank papers. She gazed the letter in apparent excitement, and made a mental note of the things that needed to be done before her daughter visited them.

The next few days, one could witness a lot of activities in the Srinivasan household. Susila was busy preparing vadaams(sandige/fryums), murukkus, sweets and other delicacies in anticipation of the coming week. Srinivasan did not even try to engage her in any conversation, for he knew that it would be nothing but futile. Susila was lost in her own world. It was as though, there was an added freshness in her life.

What are they doing in Sivaraman's house? Have they found an alliance for him or not? asked Susila. I don't know. There are rumours that he wants to marry a girl from another caste. It seems he is waiting for his parents' approval. Susila frowned, Oh, Siva! Siva! What is happening to today's kids?

What is the news from Ragini aththai? Her son had visited us sometime back and told us that she was not doing well. How is she now? inquired Anandhi.

Mother and daughter were sitting on the swing, placed in the center of the hall. The kids had gone to the nearby ground to play with the local pattalam (group). Srinivasan was easing himself on the armchair, listening to the two ladies talk about everything in the world. He was drowned in the happiness of the moment.

Are you practicing your Carnatic? asked Srinivasan, as though from a trance. Illa appa, it has been a long time, since I have found anything in my voice. With these little devils around me, I just do not find the time to do anything. Most of my time is spent looking after them. Srinivasan responded, "Why do you call them as little devils? They are like Rama and Lakshmana. They are your lives. What better work you have in life than to look after them. At the same time, also remember that you do not lose your interests in life."Anandhi nodded.

There is one thing in life that cannot be stopped, and that has to be the fleeting passage of time. The moments had to be left behind, the days sped past, Anandhi went back to her life, Srinivasan and Susila came back to reality, and eventually, even after many decades of existence, everything was like, as though it took place a few moments ago.

Anandhi was sitting on the swing many years later, after her parents' death. They were clearing up the house. It was to be bought by a businessman, who wanted to replace the old house with a massive shopping complex. Sathyan pulled the drawer hard, and it came out too violently for his liking. What do you do? You always end up doing these things. Why don't you show some patience? Anandhi was replacing the contents back in the drawer, when she noticed a crumpled piece of paper. She saw the smudged handwriting on the paper, and quickly identified that piece to be written by her father. It seemed like a continuation of an essay or a drama.

....there was heavy rain and lightning accompanied by loud rumbles of thunder. We were soaked from top to bottom. It felt as though the Gods were punishing us for not carrying the umbrella. It was just a few minutes away before we could be sheltered in the temple premises. The pitch darkness of the surroundings did not aid us in our walk. We were guided now and then by the flashes of lightning. We thankfully reached the temple safely. There was not a soul inside. Goddess Parvati had a radiance that could not be ignored. The wetness of our clothes left us shivering. Right at the deity's feet, we saw a child sleeping without a trace of worry in the world. We searched for her parents, but could not find anyone. We waited till morning to see if someone would come for the child. After a great deal of wait, both of us knew exactly what we wanted to do. There were no second thoughts, as we decided to take her home, and introduce her to the world as our beloved daughter, ...., the name was smudged with fresh tears.