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3. The Changing of Seasons- Grishma

May 22nd, 2017

तर्षोत्कर्षजुषा मुखेन शिशिरस्वच्छाम्बुपानादरः

The service, a sip of cold pure water renders to a mouth tormented by thirst

Subhāśitāvali, Bhaṭṭabāna

The followings on after all that interchange of musical preferences, were two immediate corollaries-

  1. Mohasumi’s acceptance of my offer of tea:


With a sigh and a small smile acknowledging her capitulation, “Okay, Didi. But no masala or ginger for me. Just plain will do.”

Our tea sessions were an experiential performance. I was part of it, and yet I was surveying it from a distance.

I would make coffee for myself, and since I like my beverages scalding hot, I would have finished mine before her tea even started to brew. She liked her drink a little too cold.

And then we would sit together. Sometimes, in silence, as I worked, and she hummed a breathy tune, staring unseeingly into an expanse.

Most times, we talked. About things that surrounded us. Marriage. Kids. Her kids.

Four in all. And this knowledge was sprung upon me in a not excessively sympathetic way.

One day, I opened the door to a young girl, of about thirteen, who asked for Mohasumi. When she came out to meet her visitor, rapid, animated Bengali was spoken and news, exchanged:

“What are you doing here?” said Mohasumi, from behind me. “I asked you to sit downstairs, didn’t I?”

“Guard Bhaiyya told me I could not sit there,” retorted the girl.

There was something very familiar about the sulky downturn of her mouth and her stubborn pixie jawline affixed determinedly on a diminutive frame.

“Didi,” squawked Mohasumi, turning to me abruptly, “this is my daughter, Rooh.”

“Oh!” I said, in automatic reply, and then comprehension sunk in. “Oh.”

I was shocked. How could this teenager be Mohasumi’s child? I had a fair idea that Mohasumi was definitely younger than me. Even if my imagination had still run amuck, I would have envisaged her with a couple of children perhaps, aged not more than six or seven at the most. But, this was a wild revelation.

Jilpi burst in bounding, thrilled at having a new visitor. Anyone who came home was most perceptibly her own personal guest; to sniff at, make friends with and drape all over.

Rooh let out the perfunctory scream, and it was Mohasumi, who helped break the ice between her daughter and Jilpi. Afterwards, mother and daughter were sitting side by side, quietly drinking the tea and Horlicks I had made for them; a pair of twins with a miniscule difference in physique because of a growth spurt albeit spanning a generation apart. Jilpi had her head on Rooh’s lap, eyes half closed in tandem with languid panting. Soporific.

When Mohasumi asked Rooh for help with some of the chores, I expressly refused to let the child contribute, much to their amusement. It was gnawing away at me, this disturbing feeling.


Meanwhile, spring, which had heartlessly donned the cloak of summer was behind us, and the bathrooms of the house were beginning to seem like the coolest lodgings with all their water pipe insulated walls. The mid-morning sessions now had cold buttermilk displacing tea. The ever increasing oppression of the shroud of heat, lulls even the most energetic being to a state of deceitful lethargy. Everything transpires at the rate of a dream-like speed. Even the tone of our conversations enjoyed the stupor of the mood, the depth of their content managing to knock the inertia only a little.

It took quite some time for me to wrap my head around the fact that Mohasumi had been married off when she had turned thirteen. And to a man who was fifteen years older than her.

This piece of information would always remain with me, dormant like a watchful predator, primed to whip its claws out and draw blood.

At thirteen, I was playing pretend sleuth with my sister, envisaging 007 scenarios in the guileless streets of devout Mylapore.

“That man in the yellow shirt looks suspicious, Partner,” I would stage-whisper into my grey pencil box, an ingenious walkie-talkie.

“Yes, Partner. He does look like a kidnapper,” my faithful eleven year old sibling would whisper back from right next to me. “What do you think we should do?”

And for days, we trained an eye on the poor man, who, to all intents and purposes, was probably just a worker at the grocery store warehouse nearby. It had been thrilling.

“My husband is a nice fellow,” said Mohasumi, between sips of her buttermilk, and giggled suddenly. “Although, he looks much older now. White hair, brown teeth because of the beedis.”

She showed me his picture on her phone. A good natured man, with a benign smile and crinkled up eyes, was looking at me through vicious scratches on the phone screen.

“He is dark coloured. See? Rooh and Akash are like their father. Samar and Arwa are like me, fair complexioned.”

Her husband worked the night shift in the maintenance department at a BPO company. And took care of the children, and the house, while Mohasumi was at work during the day.

“He washes the clothes, and cooks lunch. I clean up in the afternoon and cook dinner.”

Mohasumi had moved to Gurgaon with her husband and children, in order to pay off some debts they had incurred in their village. Selling their land was not something they had even wanted to look at as a choice they could opt for. Leaving the fields in the care of her husband’s family, they had shifted here on the advice of several friends and relatives who were hitherto apparently making it good in Gurgaon.

“I had only one condition, when we were looking for a place to stay. To have an attached bathroom in our room,” disclosed Mohasumi, a strange determined gleam shining in her eye, for a moment. “Like in this house.”

If it was pride that was lacing her words, then it should be, for she added, “I didn’t want my daughters to stand in queue with other people every day to use a common bathroom.”

Consequently, she lived further away than the other ladies who worked as domestic help in my apartment complex. And she had to travel an extra half hour by foot.

As she was leaving for the day, I gave her an apple to take along.

“The children don’t like fruits, Didi. They only eat chips and snacks,” she said.

“Then you have it,” I insisted. “You are still breastfeeding Arwa, aren’t you?”

Later I would come to know that fourteen year old Rooh was yet to secure admission at school in Gurgaon. There was also the glitch of the medium of instruction being in Hindi. Back home in their village, Rooh and the other children, learned everything at school in their mother tongue, Bengali. But, this seemingly insignificant problem would await its turn to rear its head.

Whenever I asked about her children and school (which I did, rather frequently), Mohasumi would sigh and say, “They want Aadhar card, Didi. It will take some time.”

I would nod my head as if I understood, while my mind protested against it in all forms. As a mother of zero human offspring yet, I did not know if I was in any position to give her some parenting advice. But I did stop myself from hounding her, and to be honest she even seemed less brooding than before.

For, through all this, there was this second big development, the more obvious of the two consequences from before:

  1. A strange, but not exclusively bizarre, request from her end:

“Didee? Can I listen to music when I work? I used to do that in the village.”


“In fact, I work better while listening to music.”

Was it possible for her to work better than this, I wondered.

Thus commenced the cacophonous blaring of all her favourite songs from the croaky speaker of her phone. Her playlist was forever rolling out one after another, songs so extraordinary, they were embedding themselves in my memory for posterity with consummate ease. It was astounding how such a small archaic apparatus could pack so much volume inside of it.

My father would often reminisce about something called, ‘Panchayat Radio’, from his time as a young lad in his grandmother’s village. Lack of individual household entertainment would compel the men of the settlement to gather around the central banyan tree platform for socializing and communing after a day’s hard work. The entire village would own one radio box, which a kind patron would switch on. Most women preferred to listen to it from the front yards of their own houses. Even children would go quiet after a full day’s milking of mischief.

I was sure, the house help of my neighbour, two floors down, was also probably doing a better job listening to this racket definitely not muffled by Mohasumi’s kurta pocket.

But I was not doing a great job with mine. Ideally, I would like to think that I would perform best if I just sequestered the voices inside my head. Given that we cannot all have what we want in our pitiful existences, I had to resort to insulate myself from the charms of the external chords.

I tolerated my Panchayat Radio the first few days for the want of a house so sanitized, that light reflected off its walls; radiation so viscous, I could cut it with my non-productivity. And then, I had to ask her to use ear phones, to which she consented, to indulge me; one ear off and the other on, for my sake. Her idea, not mine. I could still hear spill over sounds from the dangling pod, crackling notes in tandem with her humming.

Bappi and his psychedelic synthesized disco beats were pitching a loud revolving stage in the prime space of my dreams.

But I have to admit that some things had changed. When her grumpy ‘Namaste Didi’ transitioned to a vibrant ‘Good Morning Didi’ as I opened the door to her every morning, I would never know. But the earphone donned Mohasumi who hummed with swag was no longer the morose lady from a couple of months before.

To be continued…




2. The Changing of Seasons- Vasanta

May 22nd, 2017

इति यथाक्रममाविरभुन्मधुर्द्रुमवतीमवतीर्य वनस्थलीम्

Thus did the spring manifest itself by descending on the thickly wooded woodlands

Raghuvaṃśa,  Kālidāsa

Over the throes of morning bedlam and raucous commotions, the shrill grating of a ringtone from an old phone made itself heard.

“Nisha… Nisha… Nisha…”

“What’s that?” asked Ram, blinking up from his spread of morning papers, Quora on the phone and hot-gone-cold oatmeal.

“What?” I asked, tweeting furiously. I was armchair outraging on someone’s behalf.

“That. Do you hear it?” he replied, and bumped my foot under the dining table to make sure I caught it at the right time. “There, again.”

“Nisha… Nisha… Nisha…”

My mood shifted, and I stifled a giggle. It was Ram’s first encounter with this. I forgave him for distracting me from the national crisis I was helping resolve.

“That’s the ringtone on her phone,” I said, glancing at her over the kitchen counter.

Mohasumi, oblivious to everything but the dishes in the kitchen sink, cocked her head at that moment.

“Yes, your phone’s ringing,” I called out, confirming her suspicions.

She wiped her hands hurriedly on her dupatta, and picked it up from atop the counter.  Hunching over in a self-conscious way, she turned the other side while she snapped open the conversation with a, “Hello!? Kē?”

I was hooked to the groovy beat right from the first time her phone had rung in my presence. I had to google it to seek just what it was that I found myself humming everywhere.

Asha Bhosle croons to R.D. Burman and his disco bling genius in this song; incidentally, this 1982 movie won him his first Filmfare award for best music. And onscreen, a bevy of chorus girls venerate their badass lead girl as she rides a motorcycle onto a revolving stage, outmanoeuvring the rock-n-roll singer who then begins to tolerate her move for move, albeit with clenched teeth.

Presently, there was a lull in the house, the transitory phase between two events, where I was feeling too lethargic to embark on the second one. Ram had left for work by this time, and I was loath to open my computer and begin for the day.

On a whim, I opened the YouTube video of the song, and called Mohasumi over, diverting a fine working lady from her duties. On my phone, a somewhat peeved miniature Kamal Hassan, a very young one at that, was dancing to Reena Roy’s spunky tune, snarly smirk and all.

Much to my delight, Mohasumi’s transformed face was a sight to see.

“Kamal Hassan!”

“Yes, this is your ring tone.”

She had not heard my redundant comment. Eyes shiny with admiration, she watched rapt with attention.

“Kamal Hassan is my favourite,” she said, when the song had ended.  “Him and Jackie Shroff. Have you watched Teri Meherbaniyan?”

This was a new one for me; not the question itself, but the fact that the question was even asked. So, we were into the cinema milestone phase, were we? A pretty fast progress, I must say, for she had graduated to launching conversations with me by herself only the previous week. A handful of arbitrary proclamations now and then:

“Didi, we need a new broomstick.”

“Jilpi needs a bath. She is smelly.”

“The plants are faring well, Didi. Looks like you have been ignoring them nicely.”

The last statement has not been voiced yet. But I have come to recognize that knowing look on her face now; the look that would soon be transformed to words. And I am still familiarizing myself with getting over the conditioned surprise.

Teri Meherbaniyan?” I asked, presently. “Umm, no I haven’t. What’s it about?”

“There is a dog in the movie. He is the hero. He kills everyone for revenge.”


“Yes, you can find the video there,” she pointed to my phone.

I obliged. It was also a film from the 80s, I discovered. Moti, a black Labrador, indeed goes on a vengeance spree, bringing death to all the men who were the reason for the murder of his master and his girlfriend.

The list of videos in the search list were one more entertaining than the next. One thing led to another, and I found myself showing her bits and pieces of song videos from only the 80s here and there, not once exceeding to the next decade. Seemingly from her favourite playlists, I could tout R.D. Burman and Laxmikant-Pyarelal as her preferences. She did not know them, for she had neither reason nor time to review the music virtuosi behind these songs. She knew only the onscreen demigods, the ones who gave her those shining eyes.

“I like only these movies and songs,” she revealed. “I don’t like what comes out these days.”

Wow, here was a vintage lover. There was nothing beyond the 90s mark in her playlist, as I could see. An A.R. Rahman or a Vishal-Shekhar born in her music universe, would never go on to become what they are in ours.

I was curious and secretly thrilled about this odd choice of a time frame. I wanted to know more. So, I searched for and found what I wanted to show her, and learn if it was her favourite too. It was my jam for all the gloomy sentiments in my life, from Guide, 1965.

“So, you must have heard this too?” I asked.

Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai, cooed Lata Mangeshkar as Waheeda Rahman cavorted around with the sprightliness of a mountain goat. Aaj phir marne ka iradha hai.

I glanced at her for a sign of a shared sisterhood of emotional song choices. After a few minutes, she turned around with a wrinkled nose. Her sheepish smile was less embarrassed and more amused.

“Didee…” said Mohasumi, stretching the ‘second di’ in a melodious lilt. I would later distinguish and add to my repository, this method of her calling me, as a prelude to broadcasting any bad news. Bad, for me.

“…your taste is so old.”

To be continued…



1. The Changing of Seasons- Shishira

March 8th, 2017

शिशिरसमय एष श्रेयसे वो ऽस्तु नित्यम्

May this cool season always bode well for you.

Ṛtusaṃhāra,  Kālidāsa

I looked at her, hoping that my misgivings were not showing on my face. She must have sensed my hesitation, for she patted the other woman on the shoulder and insisted, “Didi, trust me, she is a very efficient worker.”

The highly recommended woman did not seem too ecstatic about this appraisal, and rather wore a sulky expression as she stared at the limp philodendron plant next to me.

I gave in. I was desperate because my home was bursting at its seams with the mountain load of laundry and dishes. It was summer in February, because it is Gurgaon, and Jilpi was shedding her fur like the fervent coins dropping from Mahalakshmi’s benevolent palm in the Thanjavur painting on my foyer wall.

“Okay,” I croaked, and then cleared my throat, willing my features to form a neutral countenance. “What did you say your name was?”

“…mi,” she mumbled.

“Sorry, what?”

She finally glanced up and met my eye.

“Mo-ha-su-mi,” she enunciated.

She was willing to oblige my questions. I could manage with this, I told myself.

* * *

A filter was removed from my field of vision, the brown-yellow one that they use to portray graphic aridity and drought of physical and emotional media in cinema. I felt hydrated and fresh just walking from room to room. I had no idea that my house could actually be and look this kind of surgical clean. It assumed the appearance of having been thoroughly washed and scrubbed down; a naughty child donning an angelic avatar at the end of her ablutions. This was Day Two. And Mohasumi was a domestic goddess.

Millions of low wage and daily wage workers migrate to Delhi NCR from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal, every year in search of sunshine and dreams. Men, women, whole families journey here in the hope of being able to build something with their lives, to be able to survive just above the surface with as much dignity as they are allowed. Every day, skilled and unskilled labourers move through the matrix of an ever expanding city, many times the size of their villages and hometowns, searching for and finding employment where their needs and the specific demand of their patrons meet.

Mohasumi was from a tiny village in Malda, a district about 300 and odd kilometres north of Kolkata, and nestled on the shoulder of Bangladesh from where it is less than an hour’s bus journey away. Malda is most famous for its eponymous mango, and jute and silk. Later, when decently communicative, Mohasumi would say that it is a four day journey to her village, from Gurgaon; three days by train and the fourth by bus. Mohasumi and many like her, exchange their subsistence there for a verve in the city, in order to provide a better life for their children, and for themselves.

Meanwhile, a routine had set for us both in the first week. She would take about three hours to finish her work from start to finish, chores that my previous house-help used to finish in a matter of an hour. I was not complaining. My home was looking its prettiest in months. My offers of tea, and thereby conversations, had been refused so far, with polite firmness. And since, I had no grievances about her work as well, there was no script for a tête-à-tête.

So, I toned my excitement, only spoke to her when it was absolutely necessary. Like if the sky looked cloudy, I would plan to ask her to bring the laundry drying rack inside. But it is Gurgaon. And it rains here only when the rest of India is finished with their precipitation quota.

Jilpi also had a routine; of being progressively shifted from room to room as Mohasumi did her tasks. An exuberant golden retriever, Jilpi is that dog whom the women in domestic service in my apartment complex warn each other about. Impish and a people person, she can never resist giving these women the shock of their lives as she tries to snuggle in around their feet while they work. Overtly aware of the consequences of Jilpi’s enthusiasm, I always make sure she keeps her distance from them, at least until they get used to her size and manners.

One day, bored, whiny, and eager to meet the new help, Mohasumi, Jilpi had sneaked out from behind an ajar door. The second I heard a scream, I flew to the kitchen, heart in mouth, expecting the worst.

“Oh my God, I’m so sorry,” I gasped, my apology an automatic appeal, having done this many times before. Usually after this, I am either extricating the lady from Jilpi’s bipedal hug, or helping her out of a quadrupedal one on the floor.

Miraculously, Mohasumi, who was stroking Jilpi’s ears, looked up and gave a ghost of a smile. A tranquil Jilpi cocked her head and then turned back to Mohasumi, indicating that she continue her ministrations. I stood staring at them, my pulse ringing in my ears.

“She is a good dog,” said Mohasumi.

Jilpi agreed, and they became fast friends.

* * *

“You know, you shouldn’t give it so much water,” said a flat voice from behind me, as I lifted a wan leaf suffering from gravity, and uttered a wheeze of horror when it came off its stalk and fell down.

Brushing me aside, she stuck a finger in the pot, and pulled it out. A sodden heap of mud was sticking to her finger. I caught a whiff of fungal pungency.

“This one here doesn’t drink much,” she stated, and scraped the mud off her hand.

Her deadpan expression urged me to believe her. I was even impressed.

I found myself asking, “So, how often­­­—”

“It will ask.”

It looks like there is such a thing as killing by too much love, for after that, the philodendron plant let go of all its leaves in a day or two due to overwatering. It was too late to let the soil dry up. I was heartbroken. It was the fourth plant in a row, which had died on my watch.

I was removing the contents of the pot, when she stopped me.

“I’ll do it,” offered Mohasumi. “You have to tug quickly, otherwise it’d be painful.”

A week later, she came clutching a voluminous bag to her chest. The leaves sticking out belonged to what I recognized as shoot cuttings of pothos plant, of a variegated category. Not unlike the person who learned to swim on the floor of their house, I was a gardener who would get a 105 marks for a 100 mark theory paper. Both this theoretical swimmer and my plants were doomed to drown in practical water anyway.

“They were chopping off the excess creepers over the compound wall outside,” clarified Mohasumi, all brisk and business-like. “Now I just need to do this…”

Removing a plastic fork out from a knot at the end of her dupatta, she raked it through the soil in the pot. She was ploughing it, I realized. Such mini innovativeness.

She yanked the cuttings out from the satchel, and stuck them in the mud, at calculated distances, allowing space for the individual stalk-saplings. Some of them drooped fashionably over the rim of the pot, dramatically changing its morose demeanour.

I stared at her. What was this insouciant girl’s mysterious past? Was she a designer gardener?

“In our village, I used to work in the fields,” she said, a shy spark in her eyes. “So, I know a little about plants.”

And then, she smiled her first real smile. I slowly grinned back, lush admiration cleaving its way out through a million other questions in my mind.

Mohasumi was a farmer.

To be continued…


Variegated Golden Pothos

The Communiqué

December 26th, 2012
tags: , ,

Dear Mr. Narayan,

Three years earlier…

The first time I saw you, I must admit I was decidedly overwhelmed by your passionate talk on the company’s upholding of diligence, employee-relationships et al as the foremost entities essential for the growth of the organization and its people. I was an impressionable student in the final year of college and thoroughly at the receiving end of the smooth corporate speech associated with campus placement.

I bawled loudly on the courier delivery boy’s shoulder when I received your job offer letter. I could not begin to explain to the startled fellow what it meant to me, to work as an Associate Consultant (Software Engineer) in this company.


I know you are not chronologically equipped to even blink at this letter. I have, thereby, chosen to garner my appreciation into the neat little table below, which, I am sure, would help you assimilate the information before your computer automatically opens the next email by pre-emption.

From the company’s Vision Book aka What we are required to comprehend

What I essentially understand

Work Perseverance It necessitates absolute physical devotion to the personal laptop, the remote access control gadget & the mobile phone even during a half-a-day family road trip to Veera Narasimha Perumal Temple.
Communication It conforms to emails, phone calls, IM, repeatedly at 3:23 AM, rousing me up from an impromptu power nap when my face would have had just met the dinner plate at 3:15 AM.

Ironically, I have not yet reached a position in the hierarchy where web conferencing, VoIP and Pod casting are approved tools of interaction.

These are also some of the reasons why I am not going to do anything as disastrous as getting myself a smart phone and ruining my life further than it already is.

I am very pleased to inform you that my ancient internet-devoid cell phone has finger-punched buttons that wheeze out words & numbers in the display very unhurriedly, and I quite like that.

Team Building The other day, for a change, I had swivelled around in my chair and was surprised to find my cubicle station empty. Apparently, two of my teammates had been transferred to the Chikmagalur workplace (we have a branch there?), and the third, a girl, had taken it off on account of maternity leave. I did not even know she had got married sometime in the three years which I spent nose-glued to my computer monitor.My team so far consists of the night watchman who manages my entry into and exit from the office building for all the emergency meetings at all odd hours and the client’s undying voice on the other end of the line.
Goal Orientation
  1. Short term goals: To run to the cafeteria five floors below, get myself a cup of acidic coffee and a plate of oily samosas and race back to my desk, en masse within the gap of a pause between two words uttered by the client over the phone.
  2. Long term goals: To nearly recognize my friends and family if I chance upon them on one of those rare occasions when all of us are in the state of consciousness at the same time in the same time zone.
Safe Environment The work ambiance leaves me with no doubt as to the ample security that it provides. After putting in about 119 hours of white collar labour per week, I do not get so much as a glance from any member of the opposite sex. Currently, I am so hard of hearing that my archetypal biological clock has probably got to amplify its ticking noise several fold.
  1. I get to keep my independence and the right to make my own decisions since I don’t even have time to meet any prospective suitors for marriage, forget getting married.
  2. It is funny how the client thinks I am on his company’s pay and bonus scale.

To mince words, I quit.

Yours faithfully,

Meenakshi Thothadri

Burned Out

Over a cuppa

December 19th, 2012

 Coffee Tumbler“Do you think, um…, would you like to have a drink with me?”

“Only if it’s black with two spoonfuls of sugar. I’d like to stay sober while you explain why you are not an axe murderer.”

Ah, may I take this opportunity to compliment you on the excellent choice of beverage that you have ordered to your table?

I, by the way, am a cup of coffee.

I look like it, an innocent ceramic mug/steel tumbler/disposable commuter mug/cutting glass full of equally guileless hot/cold/medium tempered liquid specifically designed to make your time spent hovering over it memorable; at least for the period that caffeine takes to rage about and settle down in your system.

But I am not. So naïve, I mean.

The instant I am set on a counter, meant to be consumed, I become privy to knowledge at once so all encompassing, it gets excruciating like being placed on a scorching stove (right, that) and you would find me just desperately waiting to be drunk.

Conversations ensue casually over my aromatic presence, while I am increasingly made aware of my support as an acoustic prop not so different from the fabric wrapped around the seating. Wafting together with my redolence are serious, funny, flaky, momentary, even tasteless talks concerning life, love, secrets, bonding, socializing, and feelings. Particularly feelings; of love, between two members of a species, caught in the tangled web woven for a basic cause along the lines of procreation on a macro level.

My vantage point on the countertop allows me to be a witness to some of the most passionate exchanges in the Eukaryotic jungle.

“I…umm, I love you! There, I said it.”

“Awesome! You get to pay for my espresso now.”


“I love you! You can sit there thinking of all the nonchalant responses in this world. But, there’s got to be an answer from your end.”

“You’ve got a point.”

Or yet

“I love you. Say something!”

“Err, Sir, I’m just the serving assistant. The lady accompanying you, I guess, has gone to use the restroom.”

My past interactions, with humanoids who imbibe me, have led me to believe in the power of persistence nonetheless. As I continue to exist in a perpetual phase of dispassion, the tenor of the colloquy above me moves through altering modes.


“I…uh, love you too.”


“What would you like to have, honey? They have the best lattes here. Especially the peppermint flavoured one.”

“Oh, anything you like. Peppermint sounds interesting.”

“It tastes way better than it sounds, trust me.”

In addition to

“Damn, I’m so sorry to have kept you waiting. Was I very late?”

“Oh, spending two hours and twenty minutes waiting outside the café, in the rain, because they refused to let me linger at a table inside during peak hours is nothing. It’s okay, my love.”

Gravity, as a law, sustains convention by holding on to everything in the manner of its own assets, thereby reserving the right to pull anything back from its roaring crescendo.

“But, but you said you’d wait a lifetime for me.”

“That was then. This is now. I can’t believe you let me be here twiddling my thumbs for ten minutes.”

Better still

“We are always arguing. It’s not you, it’s me.”

“You will never find anyone like me. I can tell you that!”


“It’s not you or me. I think it’s the universe.”



“And yes, for the record, your dental braces did bug the hell out of me back then!”

“What the..-”

Clink. Splash!

I finally break from my state of inertia as the contents of my receptacle are hurled spitefully onto the human’s face. But for the fact that the act ought to be considered as an insult, I find it curiously more comforting than being slurped into the oral cavity. In one split moment suspended in time, I experience an elation otherwise denied to me in my mundane existence.

I have arrived.

The Periodic Table of Filmy Stereotypes

August 18th, 2010

Note: Click on the Image to Enlarge.

Original Image Courtesy: Dmitri Mendeleev, 1869.

Living Together and The City – Their Story

August 14th, 2010

Disclaimer: All characters appearing in this work are a stint of fiction in all their entirety. Any resemblance despite this to real persons, living or dead, is purely miraculous and incredibly extraordinaire. And yes, coincidental.

Kindly note that this post is not meant to be offensive or rouse up riotous sentiments and be taken in the same way as it was written.


Location: B-1023, Mulberry Apartments, Mumbai.

Mood: Chaos

Word of Caution: Virginibus puerisque, Vis inertiaeFor maidens and youths, The power of inertia (why things never change).

Scene I

The scene is set to hold the living room of a contemporary apartment. Tastefully decorated in shades of black, white and beige, the condo exudes an attitude of minimalism. But the assortment of people- draped on the couch, slumped on a beanbag, arguing over the cell phone, bent over a five-page list on the coffee table, is everything that the flat is not.

The Fashionista slams her phone shut and turns around.

The Fashionista– 26, Socialite by birth, Femme Fatale by chance, Ice Princess by choice. And if it is possible to squeeze in, Drama Queen by obsession.

The Fashionista: (Annoyed, announces to the whole room) Damn these pea sized, overnight successful boutiques! I write about them in my column and they ask me to wait. WAIT!

Aaditya: (Looks up from the list, says seriously) They probably didn’t understand you when you said, “Chuck off Monam Kapoor. I write even about her.”

The Fashionista: (Asks incredulously) What? I did not say that!

Aaditya: (As a matter of fact) Then they didn’t understand you when you said, “Put me in your appointment book before Monam Kapoor.”

The Fashionista: (Defends herself) That’s ’cause she takes a whole day to decide between a pink camisole and a white one.

Her cell phone rings. The Fashionista proceeds to take the call, and moves away from the rest of them.

The Greek God finishes thumbing through a men’s fitness magazine and puts it back on the coffee table.

The Greek God: (Gets up and looks around) Okay, coffee anyone?

Aaditya raises his hand to indicate his agreement.

Malar: (Says gratefully) Black for me. Strong and one spoonful of sugar.

The Dalal Street Executive: (Pauses to think and then speaks) White. Big mug. (Pauses) And, 2.5 spoonfuls. (Pauses again and elaborates with hand gestures) Less foam, but really thick, you know. Medium brown. Equal amounts of…

The Greek God: (Sits down amiably) Right. One black for me as well. And you heard the others.

The Dalal Street Executive glares at him, gets up from the couch and moves toward the kitchen counter. Aaditya and The Greek God exchange cheeky smiles.

The Cute Klutz: (Calls out from atop the beanbag) Wait! I’ll help you. (Follows The Dalal Street Executive)

The Greek God: (reclines on the backrest) Well, I like Monam Kapoor. She’s hot!

Malar: That’s all you look at!

The Greek God: (Grins unabashedly) That’s enough for me.

While we do a background check…

The Greek God– 27, A lower-rung Model, when not busy living off his older brother’s pay checks, graces television adverts along the lines of Zara Zara Peppermints and Bahutbadiya Detergent Bar with his open-shirted presence.

The Dalal Street Executive– 28, Perfect son, Perfect ex-student, Perfect current employee and even the Perfect tea sipper. An Investment Banker job profile couldn’t have asked for a more Perfect person to fit the glove.

The Cute Klutz– 24, Sweet and unassuming, it took her a whole month to understand why her manager baby-proofed her cubicle in the Publication House where she works as a junior copywriter.

Presently, The Dalal Street Executive and The Cute Klutz come over to the living area with steaming hot mugs of various shades of coffee.

The Greek God, fearing Third Degree Burns from an accidental cascade of boiling coffee, rushes to grab the two cups from The Cute Klutz. He hands one over to Malar and sets his own on the table.

The Fashionista, finishes her phone call and walks in from across the room. She takes the Big Mug from The Dalal Street Executive.

The Fashionista: (Sighs theatrically) Ah, I needed that.

The Dalal Street Executive: (Protests with half-emanated garble) Bu..Tha.. my coff..

The Fashionista takes a tiny sip from the mug and throws her head back in dramatic ecstasy, exposing her slender neck.

The Fashionista: Hmmm…hmm.. Nice… (Registers his floundering) Sorry? Did you say something?

The Dalal Street Executive: (Running a hand through his perfectly cut hair, smiles goofily) What? No, nothing. That coffee was for you.

Fiction– Perfect guys are absolutely perfect from their dandruff-free heads to their fungal-free toenails.

Fact– Some perfect guys do have a problem with saying the right thing to the girl they like.

Theory Established– “A Perfect Guy” is most often, a myth.

The Fashionista: Uh-huh, thanks! (Sits down)

The others snicker furtively.

The Greek God: So, how did it actually go with the family?

Aaditya: (Says dryly) It was a One Hour Drama Workshop for Rookies.

The Cute Klutz: (Curiously) Did you invite them?

Aaditya: Are you kidding? I threw myself out of the house before my mother changed her mind and pounced on me for details about the wedding.

The Cute Klutz: (Giggles) Did you tell them you guys live together?

Malar: My mother thinks we send our secret kids to school already. I doubt if telling her that we live together would even shock her. So I didn’t bother.

Aaditya: Phew! It was a weird weekend.

Malar: (Looking at Aaditya) I’m sure yours wasn’t as bad as mine!

The Cute Klutz: (Asks Malar) What happened at your place?

Malar: My brother was waiting for me at Chennai Airport when I reached. He was harbouring a misplaced idea of settling down with one of Aaditya’s sisters over here.

The Greek God: (Chuckles ) And then?

Malar: (Looks apologetically at Aaditya, and continues) It took me an hour to convince him that Aaditya’s sisters suffer from a rare kind of disease.

Aaditya gawks bewilderedly at Malar.

The Fashionista: (Stares at Aaditya doubtfully and asks) Disease?

Malar: (Speaks haltingly) Nothing big right…? Just a variation of… of Airborne Herpes.

Aaditya: (Appalled at her confession) WHAT!?!

The Fashionista: (Springing up and hastily backing away from the group, demands) What?

The Dalal Street Executive: What?

Malar: (Purses her forehead sheepishly and says to Aaditya) Sorry…

The Greek God hoots with laughter, pointing at Aaditya. The Cute Klutz gazes at Aaditya in fascinated horror. The Dalal Street Executive cautiously shifts slightly away from Aaditya.

The Fashionista: (Petrified) Now these are the things that you should really be telling!!

Aaditya: (Turns to Malar) Seriously, Airborne Herpes? Of all the million communicable diseases?

Malar: He was okay with Touch-borne Hepatitis. I needed something more drastic.

The Fashionista takes a fork from the kitchen counter and attempts to pick her evening bag from the coffee table, hoping to put as much distance as she can between herself and the unseen viral condition.

The Greek God: (Mischievously) Err…That won’t work, you know. She said “Airborne”. You’ve been here, breathing in that thing the whole while.

The Fashionista: (Places a hand over her mouth in terror) OhmyGod! OhmyGod!!

The Greek God slumps, rolls on the floor laughing his head off.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Scene II

A week later, at The Sub Registrar’s Office, Bandra, Mumbai…

The Cute Klutz: (Disappointed) I was thinking, this place…it’d be just like a movie.

The Dalal Street Executive: Like how?

The Cute Klutz: You know… With some couples eloping, major confrontations, exciting fight scenes and all that.

Malar: (Ironically) Aaditya and I are eloping, in case you haven’t noticed.

The Cute Klutz: Uh-huh. Yeah right. No one even raised any objections to your marriage announcement during the mandatory 30 day period.

Malar: (Complains childishly) Aaditya, our wedding is so not exciting at all!

Aaditya: You think!?!

He leans back in his chair and allows Malar to look at The Fashionista, who is sitting away from the others, at the far end of the waiting hall.

The Fashionista is wearing a Heavy Industrial Gas Mask and has even managed to match it with a brilliantly worked organza silk saree.

The Fashionista notices Aaditya and Malar watching her. She takes a notepad out of her small bag and rapidly scribbles something.

The Fashionista: (Holds the book up like a placard) THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!!!

Aaditya and Malar grin widely at her.

The pre-recorded voice system announces the next token number and everyone’s eyes is captivated by the number display board on the wall ahead. 306

Aaditya and Malar stand up quickly. Linking fingers, they look at each other, happy and nervous.

The Greek God: (Cheerfully) Okay, that’s us! Let’s get you guys married.

After a brief walk down a passageway, they all gather to stand in front of The Marriage Officer and his mammoth desk.

The Marriage Officer: (Reads their names from the list) Mr. Aaditya Mathur, Ms. Malar Mathrubhootham, I see you have submitted all the necessary documents.

Aaditya: Yes, Sir.

The Marriage Officer: Alright, you can sign in the register next to your names.

With a heady sense of excitement, Aaditya and Malar sign in the register.

The Marriage Officer: Will the witnesses please come forward and give their signatures?

The Fashionista and The Dalal Street Executive step into the view of The Marriage Officer.

The Marriage Officer: (Frightened of The Fashionista and her image make-over) Madam, you would have to remove your mask and show your face.

The Fashionista indicates a “Why?” with hand gestures.

The Marriage Officer: (Worriedly) Madam, I’d have to see your face because, you’d be signing on a legal document.

The Fashionista shakes her head from side to side, reflecting a “No!”.

The Marriage Officer: (Stares at her queerly and then asks the others) Is she sick? Does she have any dangerous disease or something?

The Fashionista whimpers angrily from behind the mask.

The Marriage Officer is now utterly convinced and is pretty alarmed about The Fashionista’s face being unmasked.

The Marriage Officer: Madam, sorry. You don’t need to remove the mask. But I’m afraid we cannot have you as a witness. (Looks at Aaditya) We can have one of your other friends as a witness.

The Fashionista stamps her stiletto-clad foot hard on the floor, with marked annoyance. The others try very hard to stifle their laughter.

Aaditya and Malar request The Cute Klutz to fill in, instead of The Fashionista.

Post all formalities, The Marriage Officer, allows them to choose a mode of traditional ceremony to complete the wedding.

Aaditya takes the Mangalasutra out from a jewellery box. He smiles tenderly at Malar and she blushes, bows her head dutifully. Holding the ends in both hands, he puts it around Malar’s neck, fastening it at her nape, when suddenly…

Mrs. Mathur: Nahiiiiiiiinnnnn…!!!

Mrs. Mathrubhootham: Adi paaaaavvvviiiii… !!!

The Dalal Street Executive: Somebody here asked for some drama, didn’t they?

Annnddd Cuttt!!

Kadhalikka Thevai Drama – Malar’s Story

August 5th, 2010

Disclaimer: All characters appearing in this work are a stint of fiction in all their entirety. Any resemblance despite this to real persons, living or dead, is purely miraculous and incredibly extraordinaire. And yes, coincidental.

Kindly note that this post is not meant to be offensive or rouse up riotous sentiments and be taken in the same way as it was written.


Location: A rented, leaky, shack-y, nameless house, Chennai

Mood: Bi-polar & Schizophrenic

Word of Caution:De asini vmbra disceptareTo argue about the shadow of an ass.

The bony, hawk-like woman, stops pounding the wet, bunched-up towel on the gargantuan stone in the backyard and screams herself hoarse.

“Adi paaaaaaaaaaavi…!”

The biggest bubble amidst the soap suds quivers, teeters on the edge and bursts, bringing to limelight the power of her sonar radiation; quite a miracle essentially, considering her emaciated frame. One might wonder if her current mental condition could be attributed to the general cantankerous emotional state brought upon by acute food deprivation. She throws the half beaten towel aside and walks forward, every step furnishing positive encouragement to the BG music – a heartrending melody coaxed out of a solitary Nadaswaram in a recording studio.

Mrs. Mathrubhootham stops at a distance where it is possible for Malar to count the blackheads on her mother’s nose. She places her undernourished hands on Malar’s forearms and gives her a powerful shake. And she asks the Omni-usable questions.

Mrs. Mathrubhootham: (Stares severely into Malar’s eyes) How could you do this to me, Malar? Where did you get the courage to even attempt such a thing? Is this how I raised you? Answer me!

Malar: (Softly) Amma, I couldn’t help it. It just happened.

Mrs. Mathrubhootham: (Upset and at a loss to comprehend her eldest daughter’s behaviour) Amma, please talk some sense into her. Why is she doing this?

And the frame zooms in on The Sympathetic Paati – Mrs. Mathrubhootham’s mother.

The Sympathetic Paati: (Worried and secretly proud of her rebellious granddaughter) What should I tell her? She’s old enough to take her own decisions. She’s been taking care of herself for quite some time. Do you think she will even listen to you now, after so many years?

Malar covertly sends a grateful smile to her grandmother. The Sympathetic Paati winks back.

Malar: (With more conviction than before) Amma, I love Aaditya. I cannot live without him.

Mrs. Mathrubhootham: (Eyes flashing with offended anger) Malar!

The pressure cooker in the kitchen chooses that minute to emanate the third whistle. Mrs. Mathrubhootham abruptly leaves the backyard and enters the house.

Malar and The Sympathetic Paati stay back.

Enter, The Jealous Thangai. She mentally crosses off the next checker box in her hate list. Porcelain-white complexion & Beauty, Check. Popular, Check. Job in Mumbai, Check. Amazing Love-life, Check. Eligible to be murdered, Check.

The Jealous Thangai: (Sugar coating her words with diabetes-prone-sweetness) Akka, you know about Amma. Try to think from her point of view. Do you really think, all this love thingy would work in our family?

Enter Mrs. Mathrubhootham. She pounces on Malar with renewed energy, now that she has an ally in The Jealous Thangai.

Mrs. Mathrubhootham: (Addresses Malar) Learn from your sister. She’s younger and she cares about me. How can you belong to this family and yet be so selfish?

Malar: (Soothingly tries to placate her mother) Amma, I really care about you. But I care about Aaditya too. You will like him as well. Trust me.

Mrs. Mathrubhootham: (Angrily) Aaditya Aaditya Aaditya! You have only been chanting his name all this while. What do you know about him?

Malar: (Slightly offended) I know him enough to have fallen in love with him.

Mrs. Mathrubhootham: (Sarcastically) Really? Do you even know his full name?

Malar: (Coldly) His name is Aaditya Mathur.

Mrs. Mathrubhootham: (Quizzically) Mathur-a?

Malar: Yes. Mathur. He, umm..he’s a north Indian.

The Mathrubhootham backyard takes a few moments to digest this piece of spellbinding news. (At this point in screenplay, the editing team must take pains to add scenes of frozen movement of the following:-

a. Birds flying high in the air

b. Waves lashing on the beach

c. Niagara Falls)

Mrs. Mathrubhootham: (Whispers in horror) He’s a Seth Paiyyan?

Malar: (Aghast at her mother’s conclusion) Amma, Aaditya is a Punjabi. His family moved to Pune some twenty five years back.

Mrs. Mathrubhootham: (Groans in anguish) Punjabi-a? Adi paavi! Where have you kept your brains?

Malar: (Hastily tries to pacify her mother and explains) Amma, Aaditya is from a very good family. He’s well educated and placed with a great company. He is sweet, gentle and takes care of me so well.

Mrs. Mathrubhootham: (Cynically waves away Malar’s explanations with a hand) All these north Indian boys might look good. But they are up to no good.

Malar: (Voice breaks on a sob) Amma, please. That’s really not fair!

Malar walks away from the argument, trying to stem her tears. She moves into the house.

Mrs. Mathrubhootham wrings her hands in frustration and annoyance. Everything caught in the lens frame beyond this phenomenal moment, freezes. The camera slowly pans like a creepy poltergeist, taking in the entire domestic backyard. Having had its fill of the cheap detergent foam, cracked-up well, three glaciated human beings and thanking God for the lack of olfactory devices on its body, the camera then moves into the house through the back door.

A small courtyard allows light into the perennially gloomy interiors (A power cut at 9:00 a.m vouches for siphoning off a whole day’s EB). And here, a few benumbed members of the Mathrubhootham family (other than Malar), are brought into focus.

The Chimerical Thangai– Wears a nightgown. Holds a frayed version of Vogue (a 2003 issue) in hand and dreams of the lead role in Kani Patnam’s next movie, Shakuni.

The Ambitious Thambi– Wonders whether Aaditya Mathur has any younger sisters. Meet one of them and consequently facilitate the perfect passport to settle down in Mumbai.

The Romantic Thangai– Wishes hard for more Aaditya Mathurs in the world. One each for every Mathrubhootham girl.

A waft of wind blows into the house and everyone unfreezes automatically.

Enter, Mrs. Mathrubhootham, followed by The Sympathetic Paati and The Jealous Thangai.

Mrs. Mathrubhootham: (Calls out) Malar! Malar!!

Malar: (Walking out of the common bedroom, asks sulkily) What?

Mrs. Mathrubhootham: How dare you walk away while we were still talking? You have changed a lot, Malar! Especially after staying in Mumbai.

Malar: (In hurt indignation) Amma! I have not changed. I’m still the same.

Mrs. Mathrubhootham: (Lifts up a hand) As long as you were in Chennai, you always wore sarees and used that handbag that I bought you, every morning when you went to work. And now?

Malar: (Bewildered at the change of topic) Amma, that handbag got torn and was moth-bitten around the edges. I had to buy a new one. And as for sarees, I don’t wear them in Mumbai. It’s a more cosmopolitan crowd over there.

Mrs. Mathrubhootham: (Triumphantly) Aha! See, I told you. You have changed. Tell me, what’s your fascination with north Indians? Is it because of their grand makeup and fancy jewellery?

Malar: (Unable to understand her mother’s line of thought) Amma, what are you saying? Yes, they do wear lots of makeup and dress up exquisitely. So?

Mrs. Mathrubhootham: We are a very simple lot, Malar. We wear no makeup, even when we go out. We don’t even wear costume jewellery, because we’re allergic to it. Amongst us people, only villainous women can afford makeup and heavy gold jewellery.

Malar: And that is because, we don’t have the good luck of working with people like Dabhu Mepal. He makes it possible for all the women who work with him, to wear makeup and afford beautiful pieces of temple jewellery. It’s all about the choices that we make, Amma.

Mrs. Mathrubhootham: (Warningly) Malar!

Malar: Amma! I’m not really bothered about Aaditya’s background or his upbringing. All that is important to me is that he loves me and I love him.

Mrs. Mathrubhootham: (Groans in vexation) Malar! Don’t you understand? You will never fit with him or his family. You will always be an outsider. A misfit!

Malar: Aaditya will always make me feel loved and cherished. I know that.

Mrs. Mathrubhootham: (Suddenly struck by a horrifying thought) Malar, did you both…?? Are you by any chance…? Is that why…?

Malar: (Objects in embarrassment) Amma! How can you think like that? What’s wrong with you?

An awkward silence ensues for a moment or two.

The Jealous Thangai: (Half enviously) These north Indians, they eat only rotis and always wear rich Sherwanis and heavy-work sarees. They have different customs and rituals. You will feel left out, Akka.

Mrs. Mathrubhootham: What is this all about Malar? A reality programme on National Integration? Forget all this. Things such as “love” don’t work in the real world. You haven’t even known this boy for long.

Malar: (With icy calm) Aaditya and I will work something out. Something pretty realistic. Don’t worry.

Mrs. Mathrubhootham: (Furious at being disrespected) MALAR!!

Malar: That’s the truth!

Mrs. Mathrubhootham: (As a last, desperate attempt) You will have babies smelling of mustard oil!

Malar: (With an air of finality) I will have babies smelling of baby oil. Period.

Mrs. Mathrubhootham: (Irately) Malar!!

Malar: (Sadly, but firmly) Amma! I came here to share what’s in my heart with my mother and sisters. I thought you would listen to me, understand me and accept me as a woman with hopes and dreams of her own. But I guess, I assumed wrong.

Amongst us, the eldest daughter always has to sacrifice her life for the greater good of an emotionally deranged mother, a set of idiosyncratic sisters and brother and the so-called family honour. Isn’t it?

Mrs. Mathrubhootham: (Ignoring Malar, says staunchly) I will never accept that boy in this family.

Malar: (Shrugs with stoic indifference) Trust me, you don’t need to. I am leaving. There’s no place for me here, either.

Malar pulls her trolley bag out of New No 24, Old No 33, Arangetram Road, Chennai, at 5:30 p.m, with pseudo sadness and bogus fury. She gets into the taxi and closes the door after her. And breaks into a string of triumphant giggles.

Taking the call, when the cell phone rings…

Malar: (Happy and gurgling with laughter) Aaditya! Yeah, I’m done with mine as well. My flight leaves in about a couple of hours. Pick me up from the Mumbai airport at 10.

Glossary of Terms

Paati: Grandmother

Paiyyan: Boy

Thangai: Younger Sister

Thambi: YoungerBrother

Kiss Kiss Ke Love Story – Aaditya’s Story

August 2nd, 2010

Disclaimer: All characters appearing in this work are a stint of fiction in all their entirety. Any resemblance despite this to real persons, living or dead, is purely miraculous and incredibly extraordinaire. And yes, coincidental.

Kindly note that this post is not meant to be offensive or rouse up riotous sentiments and be taken in the same way as it was written.


Location: Mathur Nivas, Pune.

Mood: Tense.

Word of caution: Ubi fumus, ibi ignisWhere there’s smoke, there’s fire

“Nahhhiiiiiiinnnnnnnn…..” screeches the portly woman, eyes round and ready to pop out from their sockets. Even the colossal mass of her saree, gleaming and heavy with rich zardosi work, appears to be in tandem with her incensed scream and adds value to her seemingly strong character.

The resonance of her voice ricochets off the walls of the magnificent hall, hits the resplendent chandeliers hanging above, gets absorbed to a certain extent by the billowing curtains and increases in amplitude finally, as a flash of lightning and the accompanying crash of thunder decide to make themselves seen and heard respectively, adding to the last embers of the original sound wave.

She turns around and sets her blazing sight on him, “How could you do this to me, Aaditya?”

Mrs Mathur walks toward Aaditya. With each step (thud) forward, there is a clash of cymbals, tribal drums and somewhere in the remote jungles of Africa, a lioness fighting with a meerkat to save her little cub quite agrees with the woman’s maternal sentiments.

Mrs Mathur: (Reproachfully stares at him and proceeds to wield the IMEB*) Have you no sense of family honour? Did I feed you with milk, raise and take care of you, only for this?

The movie camera shifts its angle and sets in motion the “Expression of an Individual at the rate of Two Camera Moments per Character.

Mr. Mathur– Mild and unperturbed, he trusts his wife’s better judgement. His script has no dialogue for the next eleven episodes, although his presence is an exclusive prerequisite.

Dadi– Jaw hangs open. Glasses perched at the tip of her nose; she looks about thirty five years old. In all possibility, she might actually be.

Dada– Watches Aaditya intently. He is thinking about dinner and the hot Aloo ke Paranthe.

The Responsible Bhaiyya– Stares concernedly at Aaditya. Unblinkingly.

The Wise/All-Rounder/Cricket Mom/Cheerful/Courageous/Generous/Multi-faceted/Multi-talented/Multi-tasking Bhabhi– Distributes her shocked gaze equally between her husband, Aaditya and her mother-in-law.

The Immature Bhaiyya– Wonders whether the next door neighbour would be willing to play cricket with him on Sunday afternoon, now that Aaditya has more pressing matters on his mind.

The Evil Bhabhi– Mouth twists in an angry pout. Having been previously chosen as the prospective bride for Aaditya by the Mathur family, she was later forced to marry the second brother for reasons completely forgotten by the story/screenplay team.

The Scheming Chachi– Eyes slyly reflect a silent celebration. Her mind runs wild with the aspect of further updates to her secret agenda. One brother down, two more to go. And pretty soon, the entire family property transferred safely to her children.

The Furtive Chacha– Lost in thought about the second wife and family that he has stashed away in a town apartment in Nagpur, he is not too fascinated by Aaditya’s exertions.

The Blah Cousin– Pretty impatient at the moment, she wants to get back to her crocheting. There’s a new pattern that she is dying to try out for her tea cosy set.

The Mean Cousin– Smiles at her mother in telepathic reply.

The Wannabe-Model Cousin– Too highly strung to be bored with the proceedings, she twirls a lock of her hair around a finger and dreams about the latest modelling contract glorified by her shady agent.

The Funny Cousin– Watches the scene interestedly, with a mischievous smile on his face.

Aaditya– Yearns to break down the fourth wall and talk to the audience. But instead, chooses to humour his mother.

After pivoting 395 degrees and catching the expressions of even the bunch of nephews, nieces and the family dog Bunty standing around in a circle with the rest of the inmates, staring at Aaditya and his mother, the camera finally pants for breath.

Aaditya: But Ma, I fell in love with her! I did not deliberately attempt to sabotage the family honour.

Mrs. Mathur: (In a pained line of attack) You fell in love with her! That is enough. We allowed you to go to Mumbai, because you wanted to work there, independently. And look what you’ve done!

Aaditya: (Stifles his impatience with difficulty) Ma, listen to me. She is a lovely girl. You will like her. She will fit perfectly with us.

Mrs. Mathur: (Acute indignation at his implication makes her heart skip a beat and her heavily decked bosom heave) How dare you suggest such a thing Aaditya? Are you even my son?

The Scheming Chachi and The Mean Cousin exchange knowing looks. Mr. Mathur looks on with a slightly bored expression. The Responsible Bhaiyya is about to intervene, when The Wise Bhabhi stops him.

Aaditya: Ma, please!

Mrs. Mathur: No, Aaditya. Today, you have hurt me and brought me unbelievable amount of pain. I never expected this from you.

Aaditya: (Sighs inwardly and says aloud) Malar is a beautiful and an intelligent girl. It’s not fair you’re not even giving me a chance to talk to you about her.

Mrs. Mathur: (Places a hand over her heart) Hey Ram! What kind of magic has that girl woven over my youngest son?!? (Narrows her eyes and looks at Aaditya) You want to talk about her? Fine, talk! But let me die in peace after that.

Aaditya: (Winces slightly at his mother’s words) Ma, I don’t have any intentions of hurting you. I really love Malar.

Mrs. Mathur: (Suddenly lunges forward) Malar?! What kind of a name is Malar? Where is she from?

Aaditya: Uhh, Err… She is from Chennai. She’s a Tamilian. And Malar, by the way, means “Flower” in Tamil.

The whole house grows silent at this sudden turn of events. The collosal hall with the bifurcated staircase might actually be uninhabited considering the hushed anticipation of the small crowd.

Mrs. Mathur: (Grips her head dramatically and moans aloud) Hey Ram! She doesn’t even speak Hindi? What is wrong with you Aaditya?

Aaditya: Ma, I never said she doesn’t speak Hindi. She knows Hindi and speaks quite fluently too.

Mrs. Mathur: (Closes her eyes and sways slightly) I think I’m already dying. I cannot believe my son is the person to bring dishonour to this family.

Aaditya is alarmed and gently handles his mother and makes her sit down on the couch. Turning around to Kaka (the family cook), he asks for a glass of water.

The Evil Bhabhi: (Smirks slightly and asks with fake innocence) Aaditya, you said she is a south Indian. She most definitely must be dark skinned. Tsk tsk, poor girl, that’s her fate, what to do? She probably uses all the coconuts along the coast to thoroughly oil her hair and maybe eats only curd rice. Do you really think she will fit in our family?

Mrs. Mathur: (Shocked beyond speech, groans helplessly) Hey Ram! She eats only curd rice? Aaditya! Why are you doing this to your parents in their old age?

Aaditya: (Pacifies his mother anxiously) Ma, she doesn’t eat just curd rice. She loves North Indian food. Really! And she’s an amazing cook as well. (Looks at The Evil Bhabhi and replies coldly) She’s a beautiful girl, dark skinned or not. And she’s got gorgeous hair, quite unlike your salon whipped one.

The Evil Bhabhi blinks, smarting under the sharp retort.

Mrs. Mathur: (Reels under an impulsive revelation) Wait a minute! Did you both…? Is she…? Is that why…??

Aaditya: (Protests in embarrassment) Ma! No way. How can you even think of such a thing?

The Scheming Chachi: (With pretend concern) Aaditya, our culture is different. Our rituals, habits, everything is different from hers. How can she adjust with us?

Mrs. Mathur: Does she even believe in God? Or is she an atheist? Do they wear Mangalsutra or finger-ring in her family?

Aaditya: Does that all matter? All that is important to me, is I love her and she loves me back.

Mrs. Mathur: You idiot! You’re blinded by the so-called love. All these things are very important. She will never fit in our family! Never!

Aaditya: (Straightens up in anger) Alright, that’s it! I’ve had enough! I came here to make you all understand how much I love Malar and how much I want to be with her. But all I hear about is how shameful an act that would be. I really want to know how marrying Malar is going to bring dishonour to the family. Actually, on second thoughts, no, I don’t want to know!!

Mrs. Mathur: (Stands up in anger) Aaditya!

Aaditya: (Holds up a hand calmly) Ma, please! If fitting in this family means wearing heavy georgette, zari sarees and make-up that would make a man run for his life, burdening necks with pure gold and 18 carat jewellery, visiting the beauty parlour thrice a week to repair broken fingernails and condition eyelashes, then I am glad my Malar is not going to fit here.

The entire Mathur family mutes the volume for the second time in the evening. Even Bunty flops down on the floor, morose and unhappy.

Mrs. Mathur: (Voice trembling with restrained fury) I forbid you to bring that girl to this house, Aaditya.

Aaditya: (Flippantly) Very well, I won’t. Goodbye, Ma. I don’t have a place in this house either.

Aaditya Mathur walks out of his house- 15, Vihar Road, Pune at 4:45 pm in the evening, with feigned disappointment and mock anger. An hour later, when he hits the Pune-Mumbai Expressway, he chuckles mischievously over the phone.

Aaditya: Malar! I’m done with mine. How’s it going with yours?

Glossary of Terms

IMEB: Intravenous Maternal Emotional Blackmail

Dadi: Paternal Grandmother

Dada: Paternal Grandfather

Bhaiyya: Elder Brother

Bhabhi: Sister-in-law

Chacha: Father’s younger brother

Chachi: Father’s younger brother’s wife

Protected: Ursa Ultra Major

July 30th, 2010

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