They stopped at Dhaya anna’s thallu vandi. Dhaya was a veteran in these parts. He was a favourite of everybody, especially the children whom he used to engage in light hearted banter. What was his secret? How come children flocked to him and loved speaking with him? It was because he treated them with respect. Treated them as adults. Not condescendingly. But as equals. He was 24years old and sold roasted peanuts – vaer kadalai. Well, this wasn’t the only thing that he did. This was his evening time business. Why he did it? Just for the sheer pleasure for talking with the children. Of course he got fair dough by selling kadalai too.
Dhaya was the All in All Azhagu Raja of the locality. He was the newspaper boy in the morning. The errand boy for whole of Jambu Nagar during day time. The kadalai anna in the evening. And an expert cook in the night. Speaking of which, I forgot to mention that Dhaya also ran a Dosa and Roti shop. He cooked some of the best Dosas and Sabzis in the locality. And it was cooked and served hot – right in front of your eyes. This he did only post dusk, but well into the night.
Amit and Ravi bought a Re.1 worth of kadalai each, spoke with Dhaya anna about their match and how they very nearly won the match, but for the lapse by the goalky (this is enge ooru Goalie aka Goal Keeper) and then trudged off to their home smug with the satisfaction of having vented out their passion to an ardent listener.
Amit entered his house with the customary ‘Amma coffee’ shout. His thaatha was just getting ready for his evening walk. He liked his thaatha’s get up. A crisp white shirt, a flowing white veshti, a majestic looking angavasthram and a sturdy walking stick. His thaatha was an octogenarian but strong like an ox. He spoke to his thaatha about his match, about how he fared in his half yearly exams and about his English teacher who asked him to recite
As amma was bringing his his coffee and biscuits, he asked amma how come thaatha rattled off his dialogues so fluently. She replied, ‘Don’t forget that he was an English teacher and drama was his favourite hobby.’ Still, for Amit it remained a matter of immense curiosity, pride…and betrayal that his thaatha spoke the dialogues even before he could say what the dialogues were.
As he was watching the match between Kent and Essex being aired on the TV, suddenly the landscape changed to Swat Kats in Cartoon channel. It was then he realized that the ‘Sherni Khan’ had arrived. In came his sister Anu and in one graceful swoop took the remote from near Amit and changed the channel. This was followed by the usual sibling fight that is known to almost anybody and everybody who has had a sister with him. He couldn’t make her change the channel. He had to settle for SwatKats. But he had better things to do – eat his bowl of noodles that amma had prepared.
Anu too studied in the same school and was a year older to Amit. She was all that Amit hoped to become but couldn’t. Where she was the cynosure of all eyes for her genteelness and conduct, Amit was kept in the school only because he was Anu’s brother. Even the other day he had ‘accidentally’ beaten one teacher and was taken to the principal. And the salt to the injury (for Amit) was that Anu excelled in sports too. ‘Is there anything Anu can’t do’ wondered Amit. But then he was too much of a bumpkin to be worrying about this. The time span between the birth of a thought and its demise (within his head) was the least you could find in this world. Such was his span of attention. While this is not necessarily a good trait, it did help him to be happy.
As he was slurping his noodles, he blurted out – ‘Naa Dhaya anna aatum aaga poren’. ‘Yean da? Vaazhkai la urupadanum nu thonaleyaa?’ asked his amma.
Why was it that Dhaya, even though he was the favourite of everyone in the locality adults and children alike, was looked down upon by everyone? What was his story?