Friday, August 17, 2012

Of Gult Marriages and their elements....

Indians and especially South Indians are preys to lots of social gatherings. Come August and September and everyone who is deemed to be “settled” decides to get married. While we are mercilessly dragged from marriage to the other, our parents explain the painfully long relationship of our family with the “marriage party”. The venue is generally located in a place which is not even found on Google Maps and in a place which we don’t even consider a part of the city. Marriage gift is usually cash as bouquets are considered to be costly for something that lasts only for one day. After stopping bang at the entrance of the venue, everyone takes their own sweet time to get out of the car (after giving explicit instructions to the driver to have a hearty dinner) with other vehicles forming a long queue behind for the same reason. A lady who might have been an air hostess previously, greets you with a smile (Fake. Even you know it) and offers roses (and only roses at every wedding) to the guests. While a VIP wedding might even have door frames and metal detectors and Airport level security in place, you might get a wild card entry depending on your “face value”.

Inside is a huge commotion and sometimes it might even look like a stampede if the bride’s father thinks he’s fine with a smaller venue. A sea of starched-golden border zari sarees greet you with the additional glitter of 916 KDM gold ornaments shining away mightily in the heavy luminous lighting. While people chatter away incessantly below, those who for some reason realise the reason why they are at that particular place are seen standing in a serpentine queue to greet and bless the married/to-be-married couple. While parents pull us from one corner of the hall to the other showing us off to different people whom we have never seen or never heard of or probably would never meet again, the roller coaster ride begins. The ladies talk of how small we were when they last saw us and their very knowledgeable husbands start by asking us our names and end by giving us unrequited career advice with their kids occasionally smiling and looking as lost as you are. These discussions range from which IIT coaching centre is the best or why Infosys is not performing well now or even whether Rahul Gandhi will be the PM candidate for 2014 Elections.

After sometime you get to the dias to greet the couple along with your parents. While some quick introductions are given and you congratulate them both, it’s time for the awkward camera pose. As you turn towards the photographers, you are blinded by an array of lights focussing on you. While an assistant on stage positions the males on the groom’s side and the females on the bride’s side and tries to accommodate as many people as possible, everyone starts to click at once. In the end you either make it to the printed album or you stay in the “My Marriage Fotos” folder depending on your proximity to the family, your importance to them and their budget.

As people are judging the arrangements or deciding whether the bride or the bridegroom is the luckier one or even discussing what the bride “offered” the bridegroom for the marriage; the heart leaps towards food even though we are totally aware of what’s on the platter. The food section is a curious mix of cuisines with no logical reasoning. It usually starts with some chaat along with salads and some Chinese starters, moves to rotis and curries (paneer is quintessential) and then for some funny arrangement of Biryani and Noodles and then some plain rice with the usually bhendi and aloo curries while sambar, rasam and curd look at you. The dessert section has vanilla ice cream with either carrot halwa, double ka meetha, gulab jamoon or kurbaani ka meetha as an add on. In the end there is package of sweet pan, a cherry and a tooth pick in a zip lock cover.

After people fell they’ve had enough, they proceed to leave. At the exit is one family member from the bride’s side and one from the groom’s side deciding who should get what as return gifts to take home. The size of the package is decided the photography way; proximity, importance and budget. Everything complete, they roll out the same way they’ve entered.

The way back home is an analysis of the marriage, the people and the experience. While plans are made to attend the next wedding, we usually ask one question that’s been haunting us for the past few hours:

“So did we go on behalf of the bride or the groom?”

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Girl With The Rose

This story had begun thirteen months ago in Florida library.

Daniel finally laid his hands on ‘Gone With The Wind’, the novel which was in great demand and has been evading him ever since it caught the eye of public. As he opened the book he found dried rose petals, preserved carefully in the folds of the book, with initials ‘SM’ written in silver. The book couldn’t keep him engaged as something was disturbing him. Time and again he kept turning back the pages to look at the rose petals and the beautiful calligraphy on them. He felt an urge to meet the person and return the carefully preserved petals. The handwriting reflected a thoughtful soul and an insightful mind. On the opening page of the book he found the name of its previous owner.

Miss Sarah Maynell.

With some effort he located her address from the library registers and then wrote a letter to her, introducing himself and explaining the reason why he was writing to her. “Isn’t the reason too frivolous?” he asked himself. But then, he thought there was no harm in trying.

Soon the World War broke out and Daniel had to join the services. For one year and a month they continued knowing each other through letters. Sarah continued to be his pen friend and a major support thorough out his stint at war front.

One day he requested her to send her photograph to which she rejected. Daniel was dejected and at the same time afraid that he might lose her as a friend as he thought he crossed the line. To his relief in her next letter she told him that she’d meet him directly in person as soon as he was back from the war.

When the day finally came for him to return from war, they scheduled their first meeting at Grand Central Station.

“You’ll recognize me by the red rose I'll be wearing on my lapel”, she wrote.

Grand Central Station was filled to the brim with families, friends and well wishers of the soldiers returning home. There was a lot of hoopla and people were brimming with excitement. The station was colourful and soulful, making the home coming for the soldiers very grand.

In the train, the boys bid adieu to each other, saying a silent prayer for the ones who’ve sacrificed for the country and thanking God for having kept them alive. They promised to stay in touch even after returning home.

The train pulled into the station and swarmed the already crowded station. Daniel stood up from the bench, straightened his army uniform and studied the crowd looking for the girl, whose heart he knew, but whose face he didn't- the girl with a rose.

He then saw a young woman walking towards him. She was long and slim. Her blonde hair fell back in curls from her delicate ears, and had shiny blue eyes which perfectly complimented her pink cheeks. In her pale green suit she was like spring time come alive. Daniel walked towards her entirely oblivious of the fact that she was not wearing a rose. As he crossed her path a smile appeared on her lips and she murmured 'Excuse me’?

He took one step closer to her and then he saw Sarah Maynell, standing directly behind the young woman, well past her forties with greying hair tucked under a hat, pale and gentle looking with weary grey eyes and with a warm and kind smile.

The lady in green suit was walking away quickly. Daniel felt as though he split into two; so keen was his desire to follow her and yet so deep was his longing for the woman whose spirit had truly enchanted him.

He didn’t hesitate as he walked towards the old woman with his fingers gripping that small worn blue book that was to identify him to her. He knew that this wouldn’t be love, but something more precious, something perhaps even better than love, a friendship which he must be and is very grateful.

He squared his shoulders, saluted her and held out the book to her and said “Hey, I'm Lieutenant Daniel, and you must be Miss Maynell. I’m so glad that you could meet me. May I take you out for dinner?”

He then closed his eyes for a flash of second bearing the truth that he missed the girl in green suit forever.

The women's face broadened into a tolerant smile as she said, “'I don’t know what this is  about. The young lady in the green suit who just went by asked me to wear this rose on my coat and said that if you were to ask me out for dinner, I should tell you that she is waiting for you in the restaurant across the street.”

He gently smiled and that was the beginning of not just a love story but a saga…..


Original story by Purnima Gayathri

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Clean Shave

Trolls say “A call from an unknown number is always exciting and shouldn’t be missed”.

Just when I was about to drop my phone into the deep tunnels of my kurta, it started vibrating. A call from a known number would have gone unanswered as I was in hurry, but the fact that it was a call from an unknown number set the decision making lobe of my brain into action. It had a strategic decision to make between racing against time and the excitement of answering a call from an unknown number. A series of situations were explored in the head in those few seconds as the thumb was oscillating between the red and the green buttons.

“What if it is an issue of national importance?”

“Did I suddenly become famous on twitter?”

“What if……………..”

Before my RAM batch processed the questions, fate took over as it was in a hurry to screw many other lives.

“Hello”, I paused.

“Rey Mama. Where are you?” said a familiar voice.

“Who’s this?” I asked, realizing that the call is of no use and I’m no hero.

“It’s me man. Listen, I need Rs.15,000 urgently. Can you arrange for it?”

Usually people would care to exchange some pleasantries if they were calling a person after a gap of 6 years. But this guy didn't.

“Dude, you are calling the wrong person. Don’t you know that I’m unemployed?”

“It’s urgent man. Dad’s on a ventilator and it is a critical situation. I could only think of you to call. Please do something”, he said in desperation.

That was a situation from which you wouldn’t know how to escape. And being the nice guy that I was, I didn't even think of an escape.

“I’ll have to think man. 15,000 is way out of my league. Also I’m out of town. Give me some time and I will get back to you."

Usually I would have got on with my joblessness by completely forgetting the call. But the fact that  someone’s father was in such a tender situation and that I could arrange for some help kept buzzing in my head. After some quick thinking I called up another friend and asked him to advance Rs.5,000 on my behalf as that was all I could afford from my savings.

Satisfied with my help; I patted myself and got busy. Just after three-quarters of an hour I got bombarded with series of messages and calls from the guy, who apparently couldn't derive help from other corners.

I was unable to convince him that there was nothing I could do to arrange the remaining amount. Just when I was about to give up, I called up another friend and explained the whole scenario to him, expecting him to either pitch in some money or arrange for some help. He remained silent after listening to everything I said.

“So what do you think you can do?” I asked him, with a sense of victory which a sales guy has after selling the Dictionary.

“Can I have his number first? Looks like I have his old contact number”

“Sure. And how are you going to arrange the money? Mind you, there is no compulsion. Just do what you can”.

“Well, I’m not giving him anything. I have to demand my money from him. He’s been evading me for a while”

“You want to ask him now?”

“Even you wouldn’t mind if you knew what happened”

“Please surprise me”

“Well, I gave him money after he told me that his father died.”

I stood frozen as his words pierced my head. It was my official entry into the cruel and unethical world with a slap across my face by reality.

After hanging up and realizing that my savings account was back to its original tally, I got a SMS from another friend to whom I have earlier passed on the message. It read:

He contacted you for money? Tread carefully man. Few weeks back when I wasn't home, he came and told my mum that he hurt his kidney in an accident. I only hope that this one is genuine.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

When Nature Beckoned

It looked somewhat familiar, the huge white building which could easily pass off as a very well preserved palace if not for the board in front of it which read ‘Director General of Police, Chennai, Beach Road’. The road on which the Chennai Thambi was driving looked unusually wide and clean. The footpaths were wide and you could see calm people strolling up and down; some trying to lose weight, some dragging their crying kids along and some trying to pep up some romance by holding their hands.  The air smelled of salinity and the even the hordes of vehicles travelling up and down the road at that time didn't seem to matter much.

I was at a beach. Rather, The Marina Beach.

It was a visit to the sea shore after what seemed to be ages. This was a place, which never seemed to ‘modernise’, which in a way, was good. The guy with a small oil lamp, selling peanuts for a fortune was still in the dark corner so that his customers could not see the quantity he was selling them; the lady with her son selling the sugar cane extract was still moving the toothed wheel with her hand and spuriously telling her customers that the ice was clean; the guy selling the balloons was right in the middle of the human ocean selling his wares, encouraging the unlucky one’s to cry; the couple in the beach were tactically pushing people to shoot more balloons with the air rifle with the husband loading the pellets and the wife replacing the ‘fallen targets’; the chat vendor with the halogen lamp on his cart played the chef preparing the orders while his assistant kept running helter-skelter serving; families fulfilling their weekend promises; and the many couples finding solace in the clam and dark corners of the beach.


I started walking towards the sea. I removed my shoes as I stepped into the sand, to feel the warm and sinking sensation of the granules on my feet which were losing their heat to the pleasant evening climate. The air smelled of the marine life, the noise of the human activity really didn’t seem to bother. There was that sound from a distance which was always inviting, a roar of unlimited energy; the un-rhythmic but equally pleasing expanse of water.

As I inched closer to the shore, memories kept flooding me. Particularly the ‘We’ll go home once the waves stop!’ dialogue of my sister the first time we took her to beach. I paced, as it was my time to treat my senses to a long pending indulgence.

Run Boy Run.

And there it was! Camouflaged in the darkness of the night, sparkling under the heavenly light, it was monstrous in its might, sinister in its looks and welcoming in its beauty. The waves produced the music which no technology could equate and no Bach could equal. The sound of triumph, the heavy bass from the invisible woofers, the famous song from the ocean which is always played worldwide, and the sway of populace to the nature; well, I was indeed attending a live music concert from the front row.

The waves from distance looked like they were charging, like a cheetah which starts running upon spotting its prey, leaping into the air in between its alternative thrusts on the ground, before finally pouncing upon its victim. The first touch of the waves was pleasant, with the water being warm and the reminder of small wounds on the feet burning due to the salinity in the water. The sand right beneath the feet was swept away, making me dig my toes deeper into the soggy sand.

The waves pounced upon one another, some checking the progress of the advancing waves and some adding to the flow. The beach sand by then was sticking to my legs, something that would make us unpleasant guests. People around played, screamed, got wet, clicked, pulled and some walked along the coast. The heterogeneous moods tuned well to the homogenous atmosphere.

Ah! Bliss.

There was a moment when I closed my eyes, submitting myself to the nature and my flow of thoughts and listening to the continuous rhythm, when the sound seemed to pause, as if God had listened to someone like my kid sister on the beach so that she could go home. That moment there was a small panic, as if I had been experiencing a beautiful dream and a fear that it might turn out to be false.

Time passed quickly. I gathered up myself to walk back into realty and the cruel world where man, since he started taming the wild animal, took up his next target to tame the nature; exploiting everything from the life inside the ocean, the salt in the water, the oxygen in the atmosphere to the sand on the beach, unknowingly destroying himself in his foolishness to quest to claim supremacy.

There are miles and miles to go before I sleep………in peace.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Silence Please