Joined: 18 November 2006
Joined: 23 May 2011
Joined: 18 November 2006
Modern Dress Mariamman
As her lips inched closer to mine, I could smell the mango slice juice she had had and my eyes closed on their own.
"Harish, open your eyes."
"mm... no", I refused to open.
"Are you going to open them or not?" she shook me violently.
As I opened my eyes in slow motion, my father's face at close range jerked me out of my bed. My God! Was that all a dream? He was staring at me intently. Did I blabber something? Not sure of anything, I bent my head and started folding the bed-sheet.
"Appa..?" I asked in an obedient voice.
"I forgot to tell you yesterday. Your grandparents are coming by Chennai Express now. Bring them home from Central Station." When I could get terrified with his normal voice, all my life I had made sure not to find out how he would react in anger. Would I give him a chance now? Definitely not , so as usual I nodded my head meekly and went to the wash room.
Amma handed me the coffee cup with a pleasant smile. My mother has always been a woman of very few words. Most of her conversations consisted of only her smiles. Her entire world revolved around my father, me and our house. Books were my companions until my college days. Even afterwards they became my life. Our house has a quiet and serene atmosphere. I can never ever raise my voice above a certain decibel. The very reason I am telling all this is because I can easily give in to anyone or anything and for the same reason I do not mind anybody calling me shy or introvert or timid or for that matter any other name.
It was 6:15 in the morning. I finished my coffee and hurried for my bath. Fifteen minutes later I was riding towards Central Station. After leaving my bike in the parking lot, I took out my platform ticket from the automatic vending machine, walked through the security scanner and entered the station. The electronic display showed ETA of Chennai Express as 7:35am. I think the time gap of fourteen minutes before the train is scheduled to arrive, is more than enough for me to tell something more about myself. My name is Harihara Kannan. I have completed my post graduation in Library Sciences and currently employed as a Librarian in a highly reputed Deemed University. After three years in the college, my annual income has crossed five lakh rupees. My father is also employed and as he is taking care of all the household expenses, most of my earnings go into savings. The elders for whom I have come to the station are my paternal grandparents. They are settled in a village called Andhiyur, near Gobichettipalayam. We visited them three or four times in a year. As I do not know the purpose of their current visit, I am not able to tell about that now.
My cellphone rang. It was my father. "I forgot to tell you that they are in coach S8. Couldn't you have asked me?" He chided me. I didn't protest or get angry. haven't I already told you about my nature? The train arrived sharply at 7:36. I walked in search of S8 coach. My grandparents waved through the window. I smiled and showed my happiness at seeing them. I waited till everyone had alighted and then got into the coach, helped them down to the platform with their luggage. Grandma hugged me warmly. "Harish kanna, how are you? Hasn't our grandson grown even taller?" she asked grandpa who nodded his head vigorously in agreement. Grandma has been saying the same thing every time she sees me. But I can't recall growing even one millimeter taller than my 5 feet 10 inches in the last five years. We came out of the station. After helping them into a prepaid auto, I followed them home in my bike.
After a relaxing bath, my grandparents sat in the dining hall with my mother's special hot and aromatic coffee. My father sitting humbly in front of his parents looked up at them anxiously. I realized the purpose of their visit was a mystery even to him. Grandma turned towards her husband , "Ennanga..", but grandpa was too busy to hear her, pouring the coffee into the tumbler and the accompanying cup alternately, the sound of which reverberated in an otherwise quiet house. By the time he finished his drink nodding his head many times in approval and wiped his mouth with his towel, I feared patience itself might have lost its patience.
"Do you remember Murugesu from the adjacent farm? His brother-in-law Paramasivam's wife is Neelaveni. Neelaveni's sister is studying in a college here. We wondered if we can fix that girl for our child, Harish. The girl is staying somewhere in Triplicane. We thought of visiting Parthasarathy temple, see the girl and then consult the astrologer also. What do you say Subbu?
"It must be perfect if the two of you say so." My father's complete surrender was accepted by my mother with her usual smile. I slipped into my room slowly.
"Look at our Harish blushing", Grandma laughed in delight and everyone joined her. I didn't share their enthusiasm. I couldn't care less if it was Paramasivam's sister-in-law or even Parthasarathy Himself's sister. With a thirty eight thousand monthly salary and a timid nature, I had no hope for any Chennaite girl to marry me. It must be obvious if you visit any matrimonial site. Every girl wants a boy whose salary is more than fifty thousand. Why fault the girl alone? Parents also share the same view. Anyway this has never bothered me and will never ever bother me. Do you know why? SUJI... my Sujitha. The sound of her name can fill all part of me with such warmth that I have no words to express. The best part is I have seen her only six days in my entire life and have not spoken a single word to her. During last year's cultural programme in my college, she had participated in the art exhibition. What attracted me to her? Was it her calm demeanor, toothpaste commercial laugh or the artist inside her? I have no idea but I fell head over heels in love with her. Having taken her birth date from the participants register, I even bought a card, but beyond that I never had the courage to do anything. I had it hidden inside one of my books, but it got lost somehow. I sighed deeply and started getting ready for work.
"I have an important audit at office. Amma, Aiya you two please take care of the alliance", my father left in a hurry.
"Yes athai", my mother echoed my father's sentiments.
I dropped my grandparents at the bus stop and went my way. It was around 3 in the afternoon when my father ordered me to 'take permission from work and come home immediately'. Oh my God! I was tensed. Did the girl accept this alliance? How was I supposed to get out of this mess?
The fact that there were no new faces in the house was some consolation to me. All of us sat in front of grandma like a mass before a reverend.
"After little Harish left us at Vanuvampet bus stop, we waited and waited, but there was no bus in sight for us. There weren't many people in the stand. As we were thinking of returning home, an auto came near us slowly..." As grandma started narrating like an expert scriptwriter, the scenario unfolded visually in front of me.
Grandma is struggling between pressing her aching hips and arching her neck to see if any bus is coming. Grandpa is wiping his spectacles with his dhoti and reading each and every word from all the wall posters hanging in front of the pan shop. As per Murphy's law, 51 route number buses are moving one after an other in the opposite direction, but not one in their direction.
"Let's take an auto, Mani", grandma dismisses grandpa's plea with a stern reply, "No auto. These auto fellows charge the price of an auto as fare. We will see for some more time."
After an agonized half hour wait, an auto slowly stops by them. "It is very hot. Where do you elderly people want to go?" Grandpa is floored by the courteous voice of the auto driver.
"We are waiting for the past half an hour. We have to go to Triplicane before the girl goes to college."
Grandma is grinding her false teeth, "What is the need for so much information to the driver?"
"How much are you asking?" Grandma's stern voice humbles the driver even further.
"Usually the charges would be three hundred rupees. Your are elderly people. I am also going in that direction. So give me what ever you wish."
"No, it is better you tell the charges, now. I don't want an argument after we reach the destination", says a prudent grandma.
"Ok grandma. Hundred rupees will do."
The grandparents get into the auto. Just round the street corner, the driver stops the vehicle and asks for hundred rupees for petrol. As grandpa opens his wallet slowly, the driver can see bundle of currency notes. 'Does he ever listen? He keeps all his money in one place and exhibits it to all', only if grandpa could read the thoughts of grandma. As he pulls out a hundred rupee note and hands it to the driver, some notes fall down. The old couple bend down to pick up the flying notes. As they are straightening up, the driver comes back running.
"Aiyaa, the finance minister is killed."
"What! What!" a visibly shocked grandpa.
"Triplicane is always a riots prone area. I can't come there. Get down from the auto."
Both of them slowly get down.
"Please give me my money."
"What? We haven't even gone ten feet from the starting place. You demand more money. First give us back the hundred rupees you took in the first place", grandma is panting. The driver grabs the wallet which is still in grandpa's hand and starts his vehicle in a hurry.
"Thief, thief... someone help", grandpa comes out of his trance only after hearing the cries of his wife. A bike stops near them. The helmeted rider is a young man in blue jeans and white shirt. They discover it to be a girl after she removes her helmet. The old people animatedly describe their ordeal, she leaves in a hurry.
'Kof ... kof' I was diverted from the narration by a coughing sound. It was my grandmother coughing. She continued the story only after my mother gave her a hot sponge and honey.
"The auto came back chased by the girl and few others within minutes. The driver was given a sound thrashing. We got our money back, so we just let him go without any police complaint. You will not believe when I say this, Subbu. When your father lost his purse, I prayed to our family deity, Pariyur Mariamman. Immediately this girl came. I felt as if our own deity came to our rescue in pant and shirt. Do you know her name? Akilandeshwari", grandma was ecstatic.
"Funny, the girl is living in the next street. She took us to her house and showered us with so much respect and hospitality. The house is so beautifully decorated. It seems her parents are in foreign country and she is living here with a distant relative. I have asked her to visit us all sometime. We mentioned about Harish and she gave us her parents contact number. I have decided Subbu... Akilandeshwari should be the daughter-in-law of this house." Appa and grandpa nodded their heads vigorously in agreement. Only amma looked at me in concern.
"I can't think of anyone else other than Suji", I couldn't hear my own voice. The hall became silent. I couldn't bear to face all the four pair of eyes on me.
"Sujji... bhajji what nonsense name is that? The girl should also be as oily as the bhajji.." How can grandma be so mean? I didn't know how I became so enraged. "If at all there is a girl in my life, it will be only Suji", I screamed. I saw someone entering our house. I was so stunned to see Suji standing and staring at me. How did she come here now? Did she hear what I just said? I was sure she was going to negate my feelings. Heartbroken I slipped into my room.
"Akilandeshwari, please come inside", grandma was full of excitement. My God! So was Suji the modern dress mariamman? My heart took wings and soared up.
"Harish, are you happy with the girl of your dreams?" I was stunned by my father.
"We knew it all along. Suji had long back hinted to your mother. We were just waiting for you to express it yourself. What more happiness do we need than to see our boy settle down with the girl of his choice?" I was seeing a new face of my father. I was getting emotional.
"Sathya, can we have a treat today?" Appa walked out of the room. Amma gave her usual smile following him. Left alone we ogled at each other.
"Is it enough to just buy a card? Shouldn't it be ensured that it reaches the intended person?" Suji questioned playfully. I was surprised the missing card was with her.
"If you had opened your mouth, we needn't have wasted these many days, right?" There was so much longing in her voice that I began to feel the same way.
"Suji... do do... you...like... like mango... juice?" I asked hesitantly.
"mm... why do you ask?"
"Dream... smell... juice.." I wasn't being coherent.
"Why don't speak in such a way that I can understand", she walked closer to me and held my hand. The touch instilled a new feeling in me.
"Why speak? I will demonstrate it to you." With a new courage and bliss, I led her out of my house.
Caution : The story has some romance poosuttral. But in our locality, we have had some incidents of elderly people getting duped in novel ways like the one in the story.
Joined: 18 November 2006
Joined: 04 April 2013
Joined: 18 November 2006
Joined: 12 January 2007
Joined: 18 November 2006
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