Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Suresh suddenly remembered his Maths class where Palani sir used to route vittufy Bhuvana. He mimicked all that happened in the class. ‘Dei..nee adi vaanga porey da’, she screamed even as everyone laughed. They were planning for a koothu gathering on Saturday. Most of them were from Korattur, so it was easy. Only matter was Rekha couldn’t go around freely to guys’ home. So she was unlikely to come. Everyone decided that they would meet at Hari’s home in the evening. Post the initial mass gossip, the gang slowly and naturally split into ones and twos trying to share some jokes, intimate moments and such. Suresh was speaking with Manoj, Bhuvana and Mathangi. All the three had ganged together to ottify Mathangi. Around that time, Aarti came across the window and shouted, ‘Guys…bye, have fun. Dei Suresh..naa kelambaren da…’ ‘Hey Aarti, can you wait for 15 min. I will join you’, he said. ‘Illa da, gotto go’ ‘Fine, I will join you then’, he said and ran to grab his bag. Grunted a ‘Bye people’ to everyone in general and came out to join Aarti.
As they were walking out of the school, he asked her ‘veetuku poi ena plans?’ She said ‘nothing much’ ‘Ok in that case why don’t we go for a walk. I will drop you at your home, by walk of course. Anyway its been a long time since I tasted your mom’s coffee’ ‘Illa da, veetuku poganum’, she was trying to squeeze away. ‘Aarti, I want you to come. Please’ She relented. They took the road right opposite to their school. It went through their Naga Doc’s home. He was one of the few most visited docs in their locality. 5 minutes of silence and then he asked her, ‘So what’s the matter Aarti?’ ‘Nothing da, veetla konjam tensions. Avlo dhaan’ ‘Avlo dhaan naa…why are you on verge of crying?’ ‘It is so obvious is it?’ ‘To me? YES. We know each other far more than we care to acknowledge Aarti’ She silently nodded, a drop of tear rolling down her cheeks. She then went on to say what was happening in her life. He listened gravely. Then in a very casual manner he asked her, ‘So ipo inaangarey?’ She chuckled and gave him a tug. ‘Okay, inga paaren lady. Such stuffs do happen to everybody, though to varying degrees. Just remember family is always there for us. So accept it. Even otherwise, I am there na. So chill.’ She gave a grateful smile. And for the first time, he cried a little. So happy was he to see her smile again.
They did a U turn at the Mummy Daddy street, cut through towards Yousuf’s house and then headed towards the Church which was the backside of her home. As they entered the home he shouted, ‘Aunty, thaatha epdi irukeeha?’ Both of them smiled back. Thaatha went on to speak with him. Both of them liked to dwell a bit on Classic literature. ‘Have you read Pride & Prejudice?’, thaatha asked him. And they proceeded from that. In between he asked aunty, ‘Coffee onnum kedayaadha?’ ‘Adhu dhaan preparing’
He forgot all about Aarti. He was engrossed in his conversation with thaatha and the occasional ottifying of aunty. She had changed her dress and then came to the hall. ‘Neenga pesaradhu onnum puriyala da’, she told him. ‘Idhu laam periyavaa paechu. Unakku sonnalum puriyaadhu. Purinjukara vayasum kedayaadhu’, he replied. ‘Well said, well said’, acknowledged thaatha. Suresh then went in to the kitchen to fetch his coffee. ‘Kirti enge?’, he asked aunty. ‘She has gone for her Maths class, will be back by 6’ ‘Oh fine aunty, then I guess I have to somehow tolerate this Aarti till she comes. Better still I will have your coffee and bid adieu. Aarti overheard it. ‘Dei naaye’, she came shouting to the kitchen. Both of them were running around aunty. One trying to dodge the other. After half an hour of nice arattai, he went home.
They had known each other for the last 5 years. They were studying in the same school. Guess for about two yrs, she had changed her base and then she came back. That was probably one of the happiest moment in his life; the day she came back. Theirs was a relationship marked by subtle understanding and extravagant sarcasm. Bottomline – they knew each other, nothing else would bother them.
As he stepped into his house, his mother asked, ‘Enna da? Aarti veedaa?’ ‘Yes maa’ Not always was it like this. The first time he came late, his parents were very much worried. Not that they thought he couldn’t handle himself. But still. Nowadays if he was late to come home, they knew it will only be because he was at Aarti’s home. Nothing else would keep him away from home.
The next day he woke up early in the morning. He had to attend a Chemistry class. He slept throughout the class and came back home at 8 for his breakfast. He ate and then slept till noon. He ate and again slept. It was 4pm. He got a kick in his back. He woke up with a jolt. People were laughing around him. There was Aarti, his mother, his thaatha and Divya – his sister. They were laughing AT him. He was bewildered. Apparently Aarti had come home an hour back. And no amount of soft waking up routine could get Suresh to wake up. Finally it took a mighty kick, in fact two mighty kicks – one from Divya and one from Aarti to get him standing. He went, washed his face and came to the hall. His mother and thaatha were fussing over Aarti. Divya had left for her friend’s place. He was irritated. Yes, he was happy that Aarti was well liked in his home. But not at the cost of an evening tea. ‘Amma, tea kudungo maa. Ivaloda kitchen ku poi kooda pesalaam’, he vented out. ‘Poda pokathavane’, she replied and slowly went to the kitchen. She loved to sit down near thaatha’s easy chair. And he loved to ruffle her hair. ‘Very well behaved girl’, he always said of her when she wasn’t there. ‘Neenga mattum dhaan solanum thaatha. Ava vishwaroopam laam enaku mattum dhaan theriyum’ Even his father, who wasn’t always forthcoming in praising Suresh’s friends spoke highly of Aarti. ‘Don’t know what magic spell she casts on people’, thought Suresh.
After drinking his tea, Aarti and Suresh went to their favorite abode. It was the place where Suresh’a anna lived. It was the nearby Anjaneyar kovil. It was a nice Saturday routine for them. Coming to this temple. And it was here that for the umpteenth time he gave a special thanks to his brother for having given him such a wonderful specimen as his friend.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Murali strolled out of the exit with his air bag, looking for her. She was always there for him. There, near the CCD he spotted her. Sneha was coolly sipping her latte. He walked down to her, ‘I am coming to see you, and you are supposed to pick me up. No signs of anticipation and elation in your face. And I see you here with your latte as if you are on a picnic?’ ‘What else do you expect?’, she retorted, ‘I cant be wasting my time in the crowd waiting for you. You wanted me to come here, so that you could save on your auto bill.’ He smiled sheepishly. She finished her drink and together they went to the two-wheeler stand. As she maneuvered her scooty out of the airport he asked her, ‘So what’s the plan?’ ‘Your choice. Where do you wanna go?’ ‘Besant Nagar’ ‘Cool’, she said and speeded off. They rode silently. It was mildly chill morning. Her flowing hair brushed his face. He loved it. Only problem was he sneezed frequently because of it.
They knew each other for the last 8 years. He first met her at the Anna campus during counseling. Both had same marks. She just outranked him by 1 or 2. They were waiting for their turn to come; along with their fathers. It was their fathers who first striked up conversation. Soon they introduced their children to each other. After the counseling, they met once again outside the campus. She had chosen to do her EEE in SRM, while Murali had gone for a Mech in ACCET, Karaikudi. And then they didn’t meet each other for a long time. It was during their 1st yr summer internship that they met each other again. Both found themselves doing their internship with BHEL, Ranipet. It was a pleasant surprise for both of them. Made pleasanter by the fact that they enjoyed each other’s company. They invariably found themselves sharing their lunch times together. Even though it was a minimum 1 hr drive from Ranipet to Chennai (at times it would take up to 2 hrs too), they preferred driving back home in their two wheeler rather than find an accommodation in Ranipet.
Post that internship, they remained in touch. At times visiting each other’s home when Murali was in Chennai. But mostly they chatted, exchanged mails and spoke over phone. They liked each other’s presence. Sometimes they yearned for it too. However all of it was in good faith. Most of all they were good friends with no ‘other’ thoughts underneath. Post engineering, Sneha went on to work with an IT company. With CTS for a year and then she shifted to Infosys. Murali went on do his MBA in Bangalore. It was during this 2 yrs time that they became even closer. Whenever he wanted to vent out his frustrations and pent up feelings, he either pinged her or called her. Regardless of what time it was..in the day..or in the night. All because of the confidence they had in each other. That they will stand by each other come what may. Their parents also understood it. So no eyebrows were raised. While Murali was the shoulder on which Sneha could always lean, she was his favorite punching bag. All her bitchings about her project manager, her work, life in general – he was there to listen to. And she was the de facto travel agent for him in Chennai. If he wanted to plan any trip to Chennai to visit friends or relatives, he asked her to get the tickets ready. Crux being, regardless of the purpose of visit, it never went without them meeting each other. There was not a single love story, not a single career decision of one that the other wasn’t privy to. They understood each other so well. Liked each other so well. And enjoyed and tolerated each other’s presence so well.
Post his MBA, he went on to work in a manufacturing company in Coimbatore. He was always a bit hatke. He didn’t sit for his campus placements. Instead he applied by himself and got recruited. The pay was just decent. But the scope to learn was immense. Despite his MBA, his heart was in engineering. By this time Sneha had hopped over to Infosys. She started out in Bangalore and by the next year moved back to Chennai. On some rare weekends, Sneha used to come down to Coimbatore. She had her aunty there. Of course it wasn’t love for aunty which made her come there. It was to spend some time with Murali. They roamed around, chatted, gossiped and then she went back…satisfied at having spent a day with no worries in the world.
It was 7.15 when they reached the Ashtalakshmi kovil. While Sneha went to ambulate the temple, he waited enjoying the morning breeze and the salted air. Then together they went and sat in the shore. The last oneyear was a tumultuous one for Murali. And she knew it. His mother had become paralyzed. He broke up with someone whom he loved dearly, but couldn’t express himself to her. And he had left his Coimbatore job and joined a company in Gurgaon. Sneha’s story was almost parallel to his. Work wise things were stable. And family was okay too. But she was coming to that marriageable age which starts pricking at the derriere of all the elders in one’s family. Not a day passed without someone speaking or bringing with them a prospective alliance. And not a day passed without her trying to articulate what she expects from marriage. Her words were alien to all around her. Everyone thought her to be too utopian.
‘Who is the next scapegoat forced on you?’, he asked. ‘Well, he is an IT guy working in Satyam. He is based out of Hyderabad.’’OK?’ ‘But he is such a bore. He either speaks of Carnatic music or about his mother’s coffee. Doesn’t have anything else to speak. Don’t know how he could have thought about marriage by himself.’ They sat silent for some time.
‘You know…I used to wonder especially when I was wooing Deepti, that this is what the ideal match is all about. Everything about us seemed picture perfect. And then things started unraveling. The more we knew each other, the more we became wary of each other. And in a quite hurried manner we broke too. Not that I regret it. But thing is, I learnt that we have got to make a relation work. There is nothing like picture perfect. You will always have the glitches.’
‘Hmm, that’s right. But you cant try and make a relation work when the starting itself is very repulsive na.’
‘Agreed. But just don’t go with any preconceived notions about how you want your guy to be. Allow yourself to be surprised by him.’
Sneha then talked about all the shopping that she had been doing over the last one week, the outing she had planned with her batch friends, and the movies that she had watched and was planning to watch. Murali patiently listened to all that she said – ‘umm’ing and ‘aah’ing in just the right amount to make her feel satisfied. This was an old game of theirs. Both knew that he didn’t like all these talks. And yet both were fiercely adamant to have their way. This was her way of speaking whatever she wanted. And this was his way of turning a deaf ear without actually doing it. ‘Often we speak with ourselves. At times we speak loud enough that the other may hear’
By 8.30 it started getting a bit sunny. From there they went to her house in Mogappair. Her house was just behind the DAV school. Murali always looked forward to meeting her dad. He was one cricket aficionado who if given the key, would speak non stop of matches played in the past. And Murali loved it too. And of course the Pesarattu made by Sneha’s mom was out of worldly. The family had a hearty discussion amidst all the ‘suprabhatams’ and the NDTV news in the background. Her mom was almost pleading to Murali, ‘Ivalukku neeyavadhu advice pannu pa. Endha paiyyana paarthaalum pudikala nu solraa.’ He just laughed and replied, ‘Aunty unga sandhoshathakku ava kalyanam panikanumaa..ila avalodeya sandhoshathukku panikanumaa?’ She kuttified him in the head and exclaimed, ‘Poda..neenga rendu perum orey kuttai la oorina mattaigal. Thirathave mudiyaadhu’
At 11, they went to Spencer Plaza. As they were going through the Chetpet bridge; of course Sneha the driver and he the pillion rider; he told her how nice it felt to be with her again after a long time. ‘Ya I know. Even I was looking forward to it’, she said and smiled. They went to their favorite abode – the Landmark and were browsing the books. Sneha casually asked him, ‘Have you ever sight adichufied me?’ ‘So far no. but ok nu sonaa…ipo lendhe route vida aarambikarean’ ‘Poda…you are a gone case’ They laughed. Both of them knew they were testing the waters, but didn’t want to create a turbulence then and there. They were friends above everything.
From there, they went to see Murali’s old tuition teacher in Mehta Nagar. Saroja mam was really surprised to see him. It was a long time since he paid her a visit. Seeing Sneha, she let out the All Knowing smile. ‘Mam…ungaloda unarchiya kattupaduthunga, aaruvaththa adakunga…neenga nenaikara maathiri oru mannum ila, she is my good friend. I have told her a lot about you. Thought I could make her see you in person.’ She smiled benignly at Sneha, ‘Naa yedhaavadhu sonnenaa pa? Ivanaa edhuku oru thiruvilayaadal start panraan?’ Both the ladies laughed heartily even as he gave out a sheepish grin. They chatted for a long time. One happy sad scene for Murali was that Saroja mam was more intent on talking with Sneha than himself. But he was happy too. Such nice, affectionate and ‘no strings attached’ conversation was what Sneha needed the most. What with all the pressure about her marriage and stuff?
As they were heading to Central, he told her ‘You know, I have thought a lot about you. But probably my respect for you has come in the way of me making any move to you.’ ‘Parava ila da. Nee step eduthirundhaa kooda, naa poda dubuku nu solirpen’ ‘Ada naadhaari, naa ivlo seriousaa pesaren. Nee nakkal adikareyaa’, he said and smiled. By now they had reached his train. He was heading to Bangalore. He went and bought few magazines. Then they got themselves a coffee and were enjoying it as they were waiting for the train to start. As she was about to bid good bye she told him, ‘I know you will always be there for me da. Take care.’
“Nenjai nakkinadhu podhum, Aala vidu”, he snorted.
‘Kelambu kelambu, kaathu varattum’
They waved each other good bye. A smile in their lips. A longing in their heart. Their surety in their love for the other was matched only by the doubt that the other person may not be carrying the same feeling. ‘At least I have her as my friend in my life’, he thought. ‘When will he ever understand’, she thought.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
And so it starts again…whenever you lay down your arms, they get rusted. Then when you want to use them again, you have to first remove the rust and scales..oil them…sharpen them….and then use it. So till my ammunition is worthy of your indulgence, be patient with me ;)
Today I will subject you to someone so original, so endearing, so perceptive and so very simple that you have sufficient scope to love him, hate him, admire him, kick him and laugh with him, at him and at yourself.
I had introduced him ages back in my Benz Diaires. He is the Miraasdar of Manaangorai J
Quarter had the rare ability to explain Mahabharata in a single line (Uchchi mandai la nachchu nu aani ethra maadhiri). Such succinctness – I haven’t seen in anyone. And yet, coupled to it was his trademark lollu that almost everybody appreciated his succinctness on hindsight while the present moment was always spent kicking his hind. I don’t remember a single gathering amongst our friends when he hasn’t got a beating.
And yet, he was the guy who always made the best impression amongst all our parents. He became so mum at the sight of family members, that it would be impossible to fathom what all he is capable of doing. The thing I have liked the most in him is his zero tolerance to pretence. He always had a nice way of putting things. Never will he beat around the bush.
We have spent many hours at our college canteen drinking tea and eating vadai yakking about how to replicate meaningful socialism and further employment and prosperity. The time is not far. Soon we will replicate our dreams into action. And ya, he was one of our Comrada – when it came to valathufying our dhaadi ;)
The thing I loved in him and in general liked in my Kkdi gang was the absolute lack of obligation amongst each other. It gave us the right amount of freedom to enjoy ourselves and yet realize that we have our own Chinese Room.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Kumar flung his school bag to its allocated place and ran to the tap to wash his feet. He had just returned from school. ‘Kumar, you have come?’, asked Mani. Mani was his grandfather (thaatha). ‘Yaaaaaaaa’, shouted Kumar. He then came and sat near his thaatha who was engrossed in reading the newspaper line by line through his bulging spectacles. Kumar was nibbling at his milk bikis biscuits and sipping the tea which thaatha had prepared for him. They had been living together for the last 3 years. Kumar’s parents had passed away in a rail accident.
T: So what was special in school today?
K: In our games period we played kabaddi thaatha. My team won. Look how well I played, do you see the bruise in my knees? (He wore a proud smile on his face)
T: Good, take care da. Don’t get too fond of bruising yourself. Anyone can get hurt, use their might and win. It is he who wins without much visible effort who is the champion.
They continued doing their regular work. While his thaatha was poring over the newspaper, Kumar was reading the Sportstar magazine. He was studying in his 8th standard. He had a good circle of friends with whom he used to play a lot. Everyone lived in the nearby streets only. And everyone’s mothers were very fond of Kumar. He was frank, polite and mature.
The phone rang. Thaatha picked it up, listened, grunted and then called out for Karthik. Karthik was wondering who it would be. They had just decided they wouldn’t be playing cricket today. Who could be it? He listened. He turned slightly pale. He said fine. And then put down the phone and came back to read his magazine. He was getting a bit restless. ‘What is the matter da? Who was it?’, asked his thaatha. ‘Balaji called up thaatha. It seems Priya’s father has died. Some heart attack I guess’. ‘Ohh that’s bad. What does her mother do?’. ‘She is a housewife thaatha. Dunno what she is going to do now.’ ‘ Does Priya have any siblings?’ ‘Ya, one elder brother. He is in his 12th standard.’ ‘Ok. So when are you going to go? Is it tomorrow?’ ‘Ya mostly it will be tomorrow. But I don’t think I will be going thaatha’ ‘Why?’ ‘Thaatha, she is my friend. But she is a girl. What will I tell her? And in times of grief, I can’t find anything to speak. It will be better for her if I don’t go rather than go there and get embarrassed.’ ‘Inge vaada. Come here.’ Karthik went and sat near his thaatha. Mani ruffled his grandson’s hair and rested his palm on his shoulders. ‘See child, you can even miss out on a person’s marriage on any of his happiest occasions. But never miss out on their grief. I agree you may have nothing to say. In fact the other person for all practical reason, that person may be a stranger to you. But be there. That is the respect you will be showing to the departed soul. Now go. Priya may not even notice you. But you don’t go there to get her attention. You go there to ensure that you help them with your presence’
And so the next day, Karthik took the train to Parisal. He gingerly stepped into Priya’s home. It was already a scene there. All the ladies were moaning. His eyes was searching for some known faces. There were none. In one corner of the room, he saw Priya. Her eyes had swollen with continuous crying. He didn’t go towards her. He knew he couldn’t talk sense to her now. He just waited. Stood there. Someone asked him ‘who are you thambi?’ He replied he was a classmate of Priya. Very soon, the rituals started. The kurukal was reciting something and one elderly guy was putting flowers and stuff on her dad. It was now that Karthik saw the ugly side of death. When the time came for people to lift Priya’s dad and place him on the stretcher, everyone became suddenly distracted. They seem to move outside of the house waiting for others to do the task of lifting the ‘body’. A day back he was Muthu. And now he was a ‘body’. ‘Shit’, thought Kumar. And he stepped forward to lift him up. Seeing him, few others came forward and helped put Muthu on the stretcher. He was one of the few who lifted the stretcher and walked till the graveyard and then placed him on the pyre. He didn’t go back to Priya’s place where all her relatives went. He directly went home, had a bath ate what his thaatha had cooked for him and slept.
It was two weeks before he saw Priya again. She had come to school. Students and teachers immediately came forward to offer their condolences. They then carried on with their work. Karthik didn’t tell anything. During the lunch hour, she came to him and just said, ‘Thank you Karthik. You don’t know how much your actions meant to me.’ He felt highly embarrassed he could only grunt a ‘Hmm’ in reply and then excused himself.
When he came back from school, his thaatha was just leaving for his evening walk. ‘Tea is in the kitchen. Care for a samosa?’. ‘Sure thaatha’ ‘Ok. Wait for 20min. eat it and then go to play’ ‘Irungo thaatha. I will change my dress, drink tea and come along with you. We will eat samosa in the shop and I will scoot from there’ ‘Ok fine. Hurry up.’
They went to the Saravana Samsa shop which was nearby his school. His thaatha ordered for two samosas each. This was one weakness of his thaatha. He loved snacks and food. As they were eating, Karthik told his thaatha about what happened in class with Priya today. His thaatha replied, ‘Good. But remember Karthik, you are not doing this for her thank you’ ‘Of course I am not thaatha. I just told you what transpired in class’ ‘Ok cool da. No problem. So going to play cricket is it?’ ‘Yes thaatha’ ‘Ok you carry on.’
That night when they gathered for dinner, his thaatha had cooked a kichdi with onion raita. They were watching the news while eating. ‘Thaatha, have you ever taken liquor?’ ‘What maeks you ask this question?’, thaatha replied with a mischievous wink ‘You intend to is it?’ ‘Cha cha nothing like that thaatha. Just curious’ ‘Well I had tasted it once. Probably before your father was born. I used to work along with your uncle’s father. We both were teachers in the village school. While returning we used to play cards and sometimes indulge in such cranky activities’ ‘Oho…’, trailed Karthik. ‘But my suggestion will be, you must definitely try out liquor, smoking and stuff. Without trying them out, you will never appreciate how bad it is for you. Just ensure you do this after you pass out from school. I don’t want to be apologizing to your principal for you tomfoolery’ ‘Thaatha!!! I don’t intend to do any of these!!!’ ‘Then all is well with the world J’ , his thaatha smiled.
As they finished eating, Mani saw that Karthik has left some of his food on his plate. ‘What is the matter? Not feeling hungry? Or not liking my cooking?’ ‘Thaatha stomach is full. I cant take more’ ‘OK, clean up the table’ Karthik then proceeded to clean the table, wash the utensils and then proceeded to sit with his thaata. He had finished his homework. There wasn’t much to do other than watch tv and then go to sleep. As they were watching the repeat telecast of the 1983 WC finals, Mani started. ‘Karthik, tell me what is the thing which differentiates the best from the rest?’ ‘Courage?’ ‘Something else’ ‘Ambition?’ ‘Well everyone has ambitions. Of varying degree’ ‘Solungo thaatha’ ‘They can easily differentiate what they know from what they don’t know. What they can do from what they cant do. And act likewise’ ‘OK?’ ‘And you didn’t show good leadership skill today da. You must have known how much you can eat. I didn’t want to yell at you then. Hence kept quiet. See if the food is wasted in your plate. It is wasted for ever. At least if you had taken only what you wanted, we could have either used it later or given it to the needy. I expect something better form my grandson da’ ‘I don’t know what to say. I will improve myself thaatha’ ‘That’s my boy’
As they went to sleep, Mani started thinking. He was 82 yrs old. His grandson was 15. He didn’t have much years left in him. There was a time when he could do work equal to 5 men. Now it was not like that. He had grown up the hard way. When he was a kid, he didn’t know from where the next meal came, he didn’t know if he would continue in the school beyond the next term because he didn’t have money to pay to the school. And yet, he scraped and came up in life. Enough to feed his children and make them take care of themselves. But what is the legacy I want to leave to Karthik? He thought. Thought hard. And then he slept a fitful sleep.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
With a steely determination Anu set forth in her task to run the business. Raju was now a year and a half old. Her mother was taking care of the kid. It wasn’t that Anu didn’t love her son. Just that she felt that it will be a greater service to her son, if she was both a father and a mother to him. And for that she has to be earning too. Day in and day out, she slogged. During this process, she realized why Karthik couldn’t slow down. Such was the passion for running the business. Their company consolidated. She ventured into the export markets. It was a hard task no doubt. From being the wife of the owner to being the sole owner. It required a paradigm shift in the attitude of the employees and the customers. Coupled to the fact that generally the industry doesn’t view women as credible source of information when it comes to anything mechanical related, it took all the patience that Anu could muster to establish herself.
Meanwhile Ashok reconnected with Lisa. He didn’t have to explain anything. She understood his predicament. He was trying his best to be more than an uncle to his nephew. He didn’t want him to feel neglected. Lisa came to Ashok’s home more often nowadays. And his mother didn’t mind too. In fact she welcomed it. Their life slowly moved forward. He still maintained his vigour when it came to teaching. Nothing would ruffle him from his passion to teach. One day while Lisa and Ashok were returning home, she asked him if he ever thought of their life together. Ashok replied that yes he had thought, but then had dropped the idea. She asked him to stop the bike. ‘May I know why?’, she asked. ‘Hmm…see Lisa, I am not ready to marry. Not just you. Anyone. In fact I may not marry anyone at all. I can’t make myself to come to that.’ ‘Insecurity eh?’ jeered Lisa in both sarcastic and hurt filled voice. ‘I don’t have an answer. Let us not speak on this further. Please’. She took a bus for the remaining distance. And he rode back in silence. That night he couldn’t sleep. ‘Have I let go of the chance of my life? She was the perfect match for
Raju grew up to be quite a lad. However, he was strangely distant to his mother. He held a grudge against her. All his friends came school with their parents. And he was accompanied by his grandmother. Yes, his uncle spent a lot of time with him. he loved his uncle more than anyone else. But something was missing. And he was not able to place his finger on that pulse. Anu did make lots of effort to connect to her son. But she couldn’t. She had lost a part of herself after Karthik’s death. She loved her son a lot. And hoped he would understand in due course of time. After all she was doing all this for him.
‘And while you were entering your 10th std, your mom had her first cardiac arrest. The work was taking its toll on her. But she carried on relentlessly. She always used to tell me, that even if Raju hates me he will atleast see in me how to carry on despite difficulties. I seriously have no regret on the path my life has taken. Maybe I should have connected with Raju more. But he is my son. He will understand and come up in life too. My parents passed away one after the other. Fortunately in their sleep. They lived a happy life. They took care of all our needs. Your grandma held you in high regards. She had a regret though! That your uncle wouldn’t get married J But it was one of those things no one could do anything about. Last year Lisa got married to a guy from her native place. He was a violinist in the church. She was happy with him. We used to share the occasional professional chat. But that thing was lost between us. She is now gonna have a baby. Why am I telling you all this? You might think. Fact is I want you to know all that transpired in our lives. The various factors which shaped our decisions. So that you wont hold grudge against anybody. Not even your mother.
She used to tell me that I was holding myself back. Maybe I was. But I couldn’t have been any different. If I turn back the clock now, I would have acted precisely in the same way in which I have acted so far. Such is life. One’s gotto live the way one’s gotto live.
I should have probably taken more interest in you. I knew for sure, you were slightly straying off the path. I had seen some cig stubs in your shirt. I didn’t mention it directly to you till today. I thought you will grow out of it. After all, we all are entitled to our adolescent follies. And I thank God, you came out of it. Your father was a great guy. We never spoke much. But we shared a good rapport. He loved your mother a lot. He instilled in her the passion to follow one’s dreams and carry it forward. You have seen him only in photos. But I tell you, he was the greatest man I have seen in my life. Anyone who knew him will vouch for it.
My sister’s health took a very bad turn. She had to be hospitalized for a week. She was advised complete bed rest. But she is of the type who would feed herself to the starving lions rather than stay at home. And thus, she signed her own death warrant. We could have stopped her. But there was no point in doing it. One must never violate the innermost self of a person, even if they run against all threads of rationality. It is their self. And they are entitled to their own self esteem.
So well here we are. You having finished your studies and hopefully ready to take care of your parents business. My teaching career is going on just fine. It was my duty to tell you all this, since I had promised my sister that I will tell you this. None of us live or lived a life of regret. Remember that. Always follow your heart. And when it comes to your family and your loved ones.. it doesn’t require them to be wearing their emotions on their sleeves. They love you through out your life..and even after their death.’
Together Raju and his uncle sat in their terrace. Watching the horizon, sniffing the Brittania smell and sipping their cup of tea. Just last week Anu had died from exhaustion and internal haemorrhage. Raju was at home. He cried for the first time in his life. And he didn’t know why. Ashok steadied him, took him through the rituals. And today they spoke. Two men, one just about to enter the cauldron of life and the other; ready to be there by his side. Ashok ruffled Raju’s hair and gave his shoulders a tight squeeze. Raju got up, smiled and said ‘Now is the melodrama over?’. They laughed together and went down to their house.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
‘You know what Ashok? Maybe you are not ready to let go of yourself.’
‘You seem to echo what my sis always tells me. Congratulations.’, said Ashok to Shantha.
‘Oh yes, you are afraid of being rejected Ashok. And hence you want to play it safe. But why don’t you for a moment think are you right in your premise? If LOVE as you always say is not supposed to be reciprocative, then why fear rejection? You anyway will continue loving the person concerned. But if however, that person accepts your love and is turn loves you back? You are not giving yourself a chance to experience true love, my son’
Ashok kept silent. He just smiled and replied, ‘I agree with the reciprocity and rejection part. Let me see if I can do anything about it. Now can we talk of something else please?’ Both of them laughed. They knew he wasn’t trying to abruptly cut her off. He seriously meant he would think on the matter.
‘What am I to do now? Go with a poster that “I am available and somebody love me” on my head?’ Ashok was talking to Anu about what transpired between him and Shantha. Anu smiled,’Idiot, no one expects that. You know better than put such idiotic questions. See, I may not be the all knowing sage. But I can tell you this. You needn’t be going around with any posters. Just listen to your heart and speak what’s in your mind. Don’t ever and I mean EVER worry about what the other person might think, everything will be alright’.
‘Oh yeah?? Well then, you suck when you are talking like this!!’ said Ashok. She laughed. Even as Ashok was talking with Anu, he was playing with Raju his nephew. He was all of 5 months old and resembled Karthik a lot. For the last 8 months, Karthik was taking care of the business. Anu stayed at home and did whatever she could over phone and net. Ashok was wary of Raju. Only last week, he had pee’d on his uncle. And Ashok didn’t want a repeat telecast. He kept Raju at more than an arm’s distance. ‘I do hope Raju doesn’t grow up like me’, said the loving uncle. She just smiled. She could relate to the agony her brother was facing. And he couldn’t even talk about it. He was actually a very sensitive guy. Just that he pretended to be the indifferent and detached type.
From Jambu Nagar, Ashok used to go to his college in his Max100. He was never good at maintaining vehicles. Even in school days, his cycle used to be like a scrap. It was no different now. He didn’t care. All that mattered was he could commute from house to college and back. All in one piece. Recently a lady joined his college as a lecturer in the English department. Her name was Lisa. She was from
Lisa had an accented way of speaking Tamil. This made him laugh always. And Lisa used to love the way Ashok used to speak non stop, once he got cranked that is. It was a Friday. They were returning from their college. ‘What is your plan for the weekend?’ asked Lisa. ‘Nothing much…will be spending some time with my sis and her kid.’ ‘Can I come to see your nephew?’ ‘Well sure. Why not?’ And so they decided that Saturday evening she would come home to see his nephew.
‘Ha ha ha….You dud. She HAD to make the first move? I pity her’ was what Anu was telling Ashok. ‘As if I care. Look Anu, nothing between us. We just enjoy each other’s company.’ ‘Well, that’s the way it was with me and Karthik too. Remember?’ ‘Don’t unnecessarily draw parallels’ ‘Ok da, don’t blushJ’
Karthik was getting busy these days. The business was booming and he was taking a lot of pressure. Anu felt for him, but then she had to take care of their kid. She suggested to Karthik that they can wilfully limit their growth for a more comfortable and stress free life. But he was adamant. Strange it is, the way in which success tends to make people want more. There is no limit to this. So when Lisa came the next day, Karthik wasn’t at home. He had gone to
Just then they received a phone call. It was from their appa. He asked them to switch on the TV and watch the news. There was a hint of anxiety in his voice. All the news channels were showing that the Indian Airlines flight from
Events happened very fast. The whole Jambu Nagar felt for Anu at Karthik’s funeral. They were the darling of the locality. Fortunately Anu had gathered her wits. She was in total command of the situation. She ensured that the funeral went on without any fuss. Two weeks later after all the add-on ceremonies were over, both Anu and Ashok were spending some time in their terrace. ‘Well…shit happens…and you have to cope with it right?’, mused Anu. He kept quiet. For once he didn’t know what to say. ‘There is still this business to be run; there are customers to be satisfied. What he started, I have to continue. That will be my way of ensuring his efforts don’t go waste. I am just worried about Raju. But I think mom will take care of him’. ‘Hmm’ was all that Ashok could reply.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
During all this, Anu finished her course and became a pilot with the Ryan Air. ‘Wow, my sis is an international’, thought Ashok. Her visits to home became less frequent. However, she said she will be back in
Anu was based out of Chennai, but as so often happens with people in her profession she was always on the move. She was home for probably 2-5 days a month. She still loved spending time with Karthik. None of what they did in their professional life had a bearing on how they behaved with each other. They were still the same wide eyed, fun loving, knowledge sharing and gossiping kids. Their parents were also happy for them. Ashok could sense that their parents were seeing some future plans in this relationship. And for once, Ashok was happy about it too. Only the two protagonists were oblivious to this. Even Ashok liked Karthik. He was the ideal material, he felt. And then it happened. Out of the blue, Anu asked Karthik if he would marry her. He started laughing. ‘I am serious you stupid, will you marry me?’ reiterated Anu. He turned serious and kept quiet. ‘Have I pushed too fast? Oh shit!!’, thought Anu. Then he replied. What he said made Anu cry. With happiness. ‘Dubuku…why asking..will you marry me?. Plain ‘Marry me’ would just do fine’, was all he said. She hugged him tight and cried. When Karthik’s mom came there to give the usual refreshments, she saw them together and crying. She knew instantly. She was after all his mother. She too hugged them and cried. Hearing their soft sobs, Uncle came to the room. Looking at them he laughed. A loud, sonorous and happy laugh and let out, ‘Bloody happy news and you guys are crying? I am going to buy some samosas. Who wants?’ Everyone smiled. Certain people just don’t change. And the world is better off for it.
It was a happy wedding. In fact more than a wedding, it was like a get together. Everyone knew everyone. The major crowd was from Jambu. And they had seen these kids right from the time they were babies. Everyone was happy for them. Anu left her pilot career and along with Karthik started a company. This company was into customized low cost automation for small and medium enterprises. Both of them had enough knowledge of this field to succeed. And succeed they did. Within five years, they became the leader in automation solutions. They didn’t produce anything. They didn’t assemble anything. Their job was to look at the processes and offer a solution to the client along with what all would be the parts required to build the model themselves. In this way the clients were also happy. They didn’t feel fleeced as so often happens. And their business thrived.
Meanwhile, Ashok finished his Phd in Physics. He joined
He enjoyed teaching. And he was one of the most favoured lecturers in the college. Half the time he would be speaking of sports and movies. And even when he taught lessons, he always related them to some instances in movies and sports. This made it all the more easy and fascinating for the students. He exposed them to the latest technologies that were making the rounds. He made them think big and not settle for just a degree. He played with them in the evenings. He enjoyed and made the college life a memorable experience for his students. There was this lady, Shantha with whom Ashok was very close. She was teaching Sanskrit in the college and was as old as Ashok’s mom. He found her to be highly well read and perceptive in her thought process. In fact he was amazed when she recited some sloka from the Upanishads and related it to the Big Bang theory. He implicitly took her as his mentor and learnt a lot about life from her. She was a mother of two boys, both of whom died in a car accident about 5 years back. They would have been of Ashok’s age. She was hit hard. But she coped well. This was what she always told Ashok.
Vaasaamsi jeernaani yathaa vihaaya
Navaani grihnaati naro'paraani;
Tathaa shareeraani vihaaya jeernaa
Nyanyaani samyaati navaani dehee.
(Just as a man casts off worn-out clothes and puts on new ones, so also the embodied Self casts off worn-out bodies and enters others that are new)
One day when both Shantha and Ashok had a common recess break and they were all alone in the staff room, she asked him when is he gonna marry? Ashok said he intends to be a bachelor. She asked, ‘Am I seeing a Bhishma here? Or a confused child?’ Ashok smiled wrily and replied neither.
Shruti was his classmate. They had studied together for the last 6 years. She lived in the street next to Ashok’s house. She was beautiful, a wonderful dancer, and matter of fact in her speech. It was this that attracted Ashok the most. Her matter of factliness. Never has a word been out of place if it came from her. They used to go to school and come back together. Swinging their lunch bags and gossiping merrily. He often used to go to her home too. Her mother and father were very jovial and treated him as their own son. One more reason why Ashok didn’t want to break the equilibrium. (He often got reminded of Sivaji’s dialogue with Nagesh in
One day the earth shook for Ashok. Shruti called him aside in school and confided in him that she thought she was in love with
True to his instinct, two months after their Board exams, as Shruti was about to leave for BITS she came home to meet Ashok. She was the pride of his family. They treated her as their own daughter (What was it with parents? Treating their children’s friends as their own children? Don’t they ever understand that this brings in a feeling of brotherliness and sisterliness into the relationship?) They went to the terrace and stood for a long time just viewing the horizon. The Shruti told Ashok, ‘I hate
Even though Ashok felt for Shruti, he couldn’t resist asking, ‘If I tell you did the wrong thing, is it gonna change anything?’ He was quick to add, ‘You have your priorities, he has his own priorities. It is good that you realized this and called it quits rather than continuing this torture’. Shruti didn’t tell anything. They stood in silence. Finally she just hugged him, gave him a peck in his cheeks and said ‘Thank you’. Little did she realize what an emotional turmoil Ashok was going through at that moment. It took a monumental effort from him to resist his instincts. True to his usual self he just laconically said, ‘So is the melodrama over?’ She laughed and punched him. He said ‘Lets go down now’ and climbed down the staircase….wiping the speck of tear that came down his cheeks.
Later that week, Shruti went to BITS, Pilani.
Fortunately, Shruti’s parents too shifted from Jambu Nagar to Mumbai. This almost effectively cut off any further natural communication channel that they had. But Shruti never left Ashok’s sight. That was because she was fast becoming the most sought after model in the ad industry. She went to BITS, alright. But quite fortuitously, she was sighted by one famous cameraman when he had come with his crew to shoot a scene in the campus. From then on, the media industry beckoned. And she took to it like a duck to water. For the initial few months, Ashok’s ears used to twitch and eyes used to bulge whenever he heard her name or came across her face. But slowly, it became so commonplace and he became so..hmm….detached that nothing mattered to him. She too became an ‘object from the past’ (Just like Dhaya, thought Ashok)
Friday, August 8, 2008
How does it feel to know that you have been manipulated? By someone whom you trust? It leaves a very bad taste. But then you realize that they are your soul after all. You forgive them. In fact looking back, you fid yourself to have acted in a very trivial manner. After all who doesn’t manipulate? It differs only in matters of degrees. Still, when the person does it for a reason, you can commiserate with them. But when they do it for fun, you are left with a gut wrenching knot in your stomach. It is then that a part of you dies a silent and agony filled death. You are never the same again. Where you would have given, you hold yourself back. The bitter taste of the past experience comes forth. It really takes a monumental effort to accept that you cant ground breakingly alter other’s behaviour. But at least don’t lose yourself dammit. This would mean being prepared to be ‘used’, ‘manipulated’, ‘scorned’ and ‘ridiculed’. But at least you are YOURSELF. That inviolate part of you stays firm. You know it is easy to be good when others are good and bad when others are bad. But to be good when you feel others are bad to you; that takes immense courage. While one of them had made the leap of faith (and had started staying firm or gullible), the other was still undergoing the turmoil. This is what both Anu and Ashok were discussing sitting in the terrace. Whenever there was a power cut, the siblings used to run up the staircase and sit atop the painted ladder. From there they could see the rooftop of their school, the trees in the horizon and the wonderful, delicious smell of the biscuits coming from the nearby Brittania factory.
It had been 5 years since Dhaya was found dead in the park. His neck was slit. His wallet was empty. Some petty thief, high on cocaine had murdered him. All for a few hundred bucks. There was a smile writ across Dhaya’s face. In his last moment, all he could think of was ‘No Regrets’. He was satisfied. His turned out to be as freaky and inconspicuous a death as anyone could have imagined. This pleased him at the time of his last breath. Not much tear was shed though, barring his family. In fact after the initial days of trauma, Dhaya’s family was happy that he was liberated from his self inflicted penance. If anyone missed him, it was the children in the locality. But God has blessed children with such impatience, inquisitiveness and a taste for life that very soon Dhaya turned into a ‘news from the past’ even for the children.
Ashok was now in his 12th and Anu had just joined the
And now in the terrace, while they were yakking – Ashok could sense Anu was disturbed. ‘Okay spill it’ was all that he said. Both knew instantly what he meant. They never needed to beat around the bush. ‘Can I make the cut?’, asked Anu. ‘Well if you don’t think so, you can always come back here to do your BSc, Engg or anything else’, retorted Ashok. She fumed, ‘I am asking you for a boost in my confidence and you tell this?’. He calmly replied, ‘Everything is within you Anu. Getting confidence and all those bull shit are just a way of massaging your ego.’ ‘Thank you dear brother, THANK YOU’, she said and laughed. He laughed too and together they sang ‘Hum hain rahi pyaar ke’ title song at the top of their voice. They hadn’t skirted the issue. Both realized that they were born to be the best and that it was upto them to realize it.
The next day, Anu went to meet her childhood buddy Karthik. Both of them went ot the same school. He was the nerdy type and the jolly type put together. He went on to join IIT-M. he took up Mechanical Engineering. His father worked for a glass company as a line supervisor. His mother was a housewife. He was their only child and their pride. They chatted from morning through night interrupted only by the regular refreshments given by Karthik’s mother. Just like in the school days, even now they had a lot to discuss. He was interest to know how the aircraft functioned. She wanted updates on the hunks in IIT. They spoke of their teachers, their friends, and the latest development in tennis. They also had the time to develop a physical working model of the aircraft’s wheel mechanism. It had a ball joint and a retractable lever.
Any stranger watching them would have thought them to be sharing a romantic relation. Truth was, they never had time to think of any such things. They simply had too much to do, too much to speak. Karthik’s father dropper Anu home. The happiness Anu felt that day was indescribable. There was that wonderful void in her heart, which is common to those who have shared their everything – joy, sorrow, dreams, fear..everything. While Anu was having a ball with Karthik, Ashok was busy spending time with
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Hmmm having come home at , have been watching Zabardast Hits and SAvsEng alternatively. I am in a half euphoric and half moody state. Such moodiness reminds me of those long forgotten school days when I used to spend my times as if in a solitary confinement. I am in a mood to yak and unfortunately have no willing ears that would listen. I am now feeling hungry. Maybe will go an cook in a short while. Could be something simple such as noodles. Don’t have the enthu to cook anything better. In case any of you haven’t read it yet, please do try out ‘Crime and Punishment’ and ‘Brothers Karamazov’ by Fyodor Dostoevsky. These are plain masterpieces. I really wonder what all Fyodor must have experienced in his life to come up with such a fantastic stuff. You know, he also wrote a book called ‘The Idiot’. It was supposed to be inspired by a scene in his own life – having knelt down to face the firing squad with a blindfold around his eyes, he was the next to face the bullet. All before him had been shot dead. Just when the call was to be given to shoot, someone came running. The tsar had supposedly pardoned off Fyodor. Speak of escaping death by a hair’s breadth. But what intrigues me is, what would had Fyodor looked forward to in his life post that pardon? I mean he had literally come to terms that in the next second he would be one with the Dead comrades. And the next moment he is granted pardon. Its almost like a binary transition. Straight from zero to one. Just that in real life, when we are dealing with emotions; how much ever hard we try it is difficult to deal with only extremities and no transition in between. But if that’s the way people are….well..that’s the way people are. Cant do anything about it.
You know….back in school and karaikudi, whenever I used to feel like this, I used to go on a loooong cycling trip. Focussing only on my thighs and the pressure that gets created there. Guess focusing on something different than what is actually eating you, eases you a little bit.
There were these times I spent with Srik and Pakki. I dunno what I will be if not for them. There are lots of things which different people do. And which seems very enticing to you. You might go on to think why not go and do that? Maybe you will be as good too. Nothing wrong in thinking that. But there should be somewhere that you draw the line. You have gotto realize that having given your best efforts, people are best in what THEY do. And not in what OTHERS do. So while we enjoy seeing others excel in their field, let us try channelizing that inspiration in excelling in our own field. While my Benz diaries was running its course, I had enjoyed a lot. And as so often happened in my case, I have hurt a lot of people too. I was too brazen those days. A heart felt apologies to all those people.
There was this presentation I attended yesterday. It was given by Dr.Aravind from
Such is life. There are certain things you like to do. And certain things that you have to do.