DECEPTIVE DALLIANCES (a fictional story)
“Just read Shankar’s email… our son’s PhD thesis has been approved”
“When he left infosys to go to MIT it was your son leaving a good job; now it is our son!”
“Well, that was 5 years ago; things have changed now… he is arriving by 4 in the evening… get ready we have to go to the Airport”
“Are we taking the Airport Bus?” asked, Revati Iyer.
“Aama (Yes,) we will rent a Innova cab at Airport to bring Shankar and his baggage” said Raman Iyer. Their car had gone to the dealers for major repairs.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
Revati and Raman Iyer had waited 5 years for this moment. Their brilliant IITian was returning home from US having completed an MS-PhD program at MIT. Revati and Raman had plans for their only son who would be 29 soon. There were many good proposals from parents of suitable Iyer brides within the community; from some who were big Industrialists too. For Raman Iyer however, horoscope matching was important. Shankar’s horoscope had matched with that of Meenakshi, an only child of Mrs Valli & Mr S S Iyer who owned an entire commercial building complex on Bannerghatta Road, Bangalore.
When he was Additional Secretary, Raman Iyer had recommended business loan from SBI to S S Iyer for starting the multi-crore ‘SS Industries’ before his retirement in 2011 from State Government Service. Since then, ‘SS Industries’ had grown big; was listed in Nasdaq as a public company with International funding coming in.
Chairman & CEO- S S Iyer’s daughter Meenakshi, was an accomplished Bharatanatyam dancer too. She was wheatish in complexion and generously built, quite unlike skinny girls from Mount Carmel College (MCC) who can fit into those teasing, hip hugging, slim fit Levis Jeans with tiny pearls & rubies around heart shaped hip pockets! Her close friend Tinu from MCC, a skinny one from a northern Indian state, would often tease Meenakshi saying… “Meena… your unmounted, unframed photograph could weigh 5-lbs; you could effortlessly use your 44″ waist belt to measure your height!” Meenakshi would curse her saying… “you should be named Meanu, not Tinu! “
Tinu had visited Revati and Raman home many times; had liked photos of Shankar in cap & gown from IIT graduation, decorating their drawing room show case. But, girls wearing multi hued scarfs to conceal their messy hair wearing translucent tops through which one could see their embroidered bra… the kind film stars Katrina or Karishma wear in Fanaa and Fizza were not welcome in Iyer household.
Revati and Raman Iyer had summarily dismissed from their mind all hip hugging slim fit jeans wearers for their only son; they would not want their daughter-in-law on high heels either. Revati was convinced that all Bharatanatyam dancers should have strong muscled bow legs to be able to stand on one leg, make that dancing Nataraja pose in the climax of a Bharatanatyam number!
Raman Iyer, himself a good horoscope reader, analyst, had matched horoscope of Meenakshi, with the horoscope of Shankar; it was a 60/40 match. Her color photos in spectacular dance poses wearing colorful pleated kanjeevarams, Punjabi Salwar & Pant suites too, had been couriered to Shankar at MIT, 6 months before.
But, there was no response from Shankar. This was worrisome for both Revati and Raman; Shankar was their only son; the Iyers had two daughters in college after Shankar; they would be ready for marriage soon. What would their close knit Iyer community think of them if Shankar did not agree with this proposal… they would worry.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
They could see Shankar coming into Bangalore flight-arrivals lounge. Wearing a backpack with a bulky PC, pushing 2 bags on a cart; he was in his usual red and white striped round neck T-shirt tucked into a pair of shabby looking blue jeans with just a large kaaja-button, with no belt, holding in place a pair of much worn trousers. He had grown a full beard, had lost weight, had gone skinnier working day in and day out at the MIT campus, Cambridge Massachusetts. Rarely he would socialize; if he ever met people of his age group it was mostly within Indian community at Boston during holiday festivities in some temple or at a friend’s wedding.
“Who is that girl talking to our son…” asked, Mrs Revati Iyer.
“Where?” asked, Mr Raman Iyer.
“There, the one pushing a cart next to him wearing black leather jeans, brown leather jacket… she has a scarf covering her curly hair!” Revati whispered pointing at a fair lady walking towards them on high heeled boots.
Shankar waived at them having recognized them from a distance; Mrs Iyer thought the girl wearing scarf smiled at them too.
“Welcome home son” said Mr Raman Iyer when Shankar hugged him. Shankar touched feet of his mom Revati; Revati Iyer was in tears having seen her son after 5 years; she gave a lasting embrace.
“Dad, Mom, meet Anita” said Shankar. The Iyers were speechless. There was a moment of uneasy silence.
“Anita traveled with me all the way from Boston…” said Shankar, breaking the silence. “She is a tutor at the Boston Academy of Art & Drama… she will be leaving for Kochi in 2-days… I invited her home since she could not get her bookings confirmed for onward travel from Bangalore.”
“Oh alright, welcome Ani…taaa…” said Mr. Iyer with a puzzled expression, wrinkling his forehead… unable to guess Anita’s family name.
“Anita Joseph” said the smiling girl. “I told Shankar not to bother… I told him I can stay at a hotel near the Airport… your charming son was great company for me in these 22 hours of journey… he told me all about his PhD work at MIT… from Boston to Bangalore via New York, Paris and New Delhi. Thanks for inviting me home… “ said the cheerful girl in one bubbly monologue.
“That is fine… we do have a spare bedroom…” said Mr Iyer, somewhat apprehensive about hosting a girl, that too a casual acquaintance, who… by Shankar’s own words, ‘travelled with me’ from Boston to Bangalore.
Revati Iyer noticed a ring with a sparkling diamond on Anita’s finger. ‘Must be synthetic American diamond; may be she is already engaged to someone’, thought Revati.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
Mr Raman Iyer booked a full size Innova SUV for the four of them and their baggage, specially Anita’s, that occupied all of the trunk space at the back.
There was not much conversation during the ride back home to Koramangala township in south-Bangalore, except for a few disparaging references to the uncontrolled Bangalore road-traffic that had grown by leaps and bounds over the past 5 years.
Anita was talkative & chirpy once they reached home; she complimented the Iyers on the way they had kept their home spic and span. Hot meals awaited all of them at home; the cook had prepared a good vegetarian feast on this special night; had put an extra plate for Anita at the dinner table. The cook left around 9pm after cleaning up the kitchen. Shankar’s sisters were away at the college dorm; were expected to come home only on Sunday to meet their older brother back from Boston.
After her first meal with Revati, Raman and Shankar, Anita Joseph asked to be excused; said she would shower and rest in the guest bedroom that Revati made ready for her on the second floor. She announced to her hosts she might wake up late because of a nagging jet lag.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
Revati and Raman stayed awake late making sure Shankar was listening to all the plans they had for their only son’s future. Shankar was not warming up to their posers and proposals on matrimony related questions; ‘may be he is tired from the long journey from Boston to New York to Delhi to Bangalore’ with connecting flights to catch and layovers in between…’ they surmised.
Shankar also made a sudden announcement… “I must catch an early flight to Mysore tomorrow morning to attend a job-interview… my former Manager of Infosys has asked me to come down and see him at Infosys Training Center at Mysore.”
Shankar was shown his own room next to the spare bedroom on the second floor. Anita had already finished her shower; she went to bed early turning off lights in the guest room; she was fast asleep by the time Raman, Revati and Shanker called it a night downstairs with inconclusive arguments and many open questions on Shankar’s matrimony.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
Revati Iyer woke up early to make idly chutney breakfast for dear Shankar who had a schedule and air ticket to leave at 6.30 in the morning by taxi to catch the 9am flight to Mysore. Anita, their guest, did not wake up to greet Shankar or the Iyers next morning before Shankar left for the Airport.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
Around 10 in the morning Revati Iyer heard Anita moaning and vomiting in the bathroom attached to the guest bedroom. Revati rushed upstairs to comfort Anita. Anita just smiled on seeing Mrs Iyer in bathroom attached to the room where she slept. Anita said she was suffering from morning sickness and there was nothing to worry about. She took out two orange pills from her bags; popped them into her mouth and went back to bed.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
Iyer’s part-time cook was scheduled to come by 11 in the morning to prepare lunch; normally the cook would also stay through the afternoon to get dinner ready for the family, put the meals in microwavable storage containers inside the oven that could be turned on to keep the food warm as needed. That was the cook’s 4 hour normal routine. Staying late like the night before when Shankar arrived was unusual; he was paid extra for such extra time services.
The Iyer’s part-time maid servant would show up by noon time; do her routines like sweeping floors, washing dishes, put out clothes from the washer for drying on a clothesline tied in the balcony. That was maid servant’s daily routine too.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
Raman Iyer had woken up early to make filter coffee and see off Shankar; the airport cab arrived on time; Raman wished his son ‘good luck’ for what Shankar termed ‘job-interview’ at Mysore. He then stepped out of the house to go to the local market to get groceries; returned home leisurely with a grocery bag full of vegetables, chapati-atta, cooking oil, fruits etc, to make sure their guest from Boston was well fed during her brief stay.
On seeing Raman take off his slippers… before he grabbed the Hindu newspaper, Revati called for a hush hush meeting with her husband. Raman was puzzled; wondered what was bothering her.
“She is having morning sickness… she vomited this morning… nauseating I think…”
“Who? “What are you talking about?” inquired Mr Raman Iyer.
“Your dear son’s guest upstairs, she could be 6 weeks pregnant,” whispered Revati pointing at the guest room.
“I will talk to her when she wakes up; thank heavens her flight is booked to Kochi early tomorrow… I will book an airport cab for her without fail today itself… once she meets her folks in Kochi our responsibility is over” summarised Raman and grabbed the Hindu newspaper.
‘Too bad Shankar had to leave for Mysore on such a day’… Raman mumbled to himself.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
The postman arrived; delivered a 9×4 size bulky white envelop addressed to Shankar Iyer PhD, c/o Raman Iyer, at their door. The letter carried their full address; had been stamped the previous day at Jayalakshmipuram, Mysore. The Iyers could not make out anything of this. Raman Iyer turned the envelop around a couple of times. Revati joined him in his inspection of the envelop.
The ‘from label’ on the white envelop read: Dr Vasudha Iyengar MBBS MD, Sheshadri Clinic, Temple Street, Jayalakshmipuram, Mysuru 570012.
‘Could be someone who knows our Shankar is here’ thought Raman Iyer; he placed the envelop on a wooden mantel piece by the staircase where they usually put away important mail.
Revati Iyer picked up the envelope from the mantel and examined it. She could not hold back her curiosity; the name Dr Vasudha Iyengar MBBS MD, intrigued her. Her memory was sharp. She recalled that a fair & delicately built lady doctor had taken the same flight Shankar had taken enroute to US when he left Bangalore 5 years back, to proceed to Boston Massachusetts.
Before boarding their flight to Boston the two youngsters, Shankar and Vasudha, had met briefly at the airport coffee shop, Revati remembered now; Vasudha was mentioning she was going to Boston to join a Residency program in Medicine she had been admitted to at Boston University Medical School. She had a charming disposition, had sparkling eyes.
She would be a good doctor, Revati had summed her up then; too bad she is vaishnavait, not a shaivait Iyer, is the other thought that crossed her mind.
“Let’s open this envelop” said Revati.
“No no, we can’t do that” said Mr Raman; “this envelop is addressed to Shankar”
“Oh come-on, you have opened mail addressed even to the Chief Minister” reminded Revati.
“I was paid to do that as Additional Secretary… this is Shankar’s personal mail”
“The envelop is just stapled at the flaps… is not glued… we can staple it back; Shankar won’t notice it” said Revati.
After looking around to ensure no one was watching in their own home Raman Iyer opened the staples, took out the envelope’s contents. There were a few 3×5 size color photos of the newly inaugurated ‘Sheshadri Clinic’ on Temple street, Jayalakshmipuram Mysore, with Dr Vasudha Iyengar name painted in bold letters next to a big red cross on a glass partition at the clinic’s entry doors. There was also a hand written note to Shankar asking him to meet her when in Mysore. Raman put the pictures and note back inside the envelope and stapled the flaps back.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
Around 11, when the cook was getting busy in kitchen more moaning and vomiting sounds were coming from the guest bathroom. Revati Iyer rushed again to comfort Anita upstairs with a scorn on her face. Anita did not look amused either.
Anita was in tantrums; started shouting, ‘where are you, show up now, I will smash you to pieces, where are you, show up now…’
“what’s the matter now Anita” inquired Revati.
“That ring he gave me… it’s gone; I can’t find it… Jesus, how can I convince my folks at Kochi now!
“Get back to bed Anita… I will look around too… could be somewhere in bedroom when you threw it… I will ask our maid to look around when she sweeps the guest room.”
“I’m sorry Mrs Iyer… I am causing anxiety to all” Anita moaned some more and went back to bed.
The cook downstairs was all ears!
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
Mr. Raman Iyer was busy trying to connect to Shankar on his mobile; got busy tone every time he tried to call.
‘Shiva, Shiva… Shankara…’ were the only loud responses Raman was getting from Revati, a nervous wreck by mid-day.
The Iyers heard Anita’s mobile phone ringing in the guest room. Anita made sure the room-door was shut as she picked up the phone.
The Iyers could not hear any more noises or moans from the guest room upstairs.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
“Enna (what) should we call home a doctor” enquired Revati in anxiety.
“Consultation with our Lawyer is what I suggest; let your PhD son come back from Mysore, I will, I will…” mumbled Raman unable to complete the sentence.
“So now it is my PhD son, not our PhD son!”
“whatever, I will show who is boss in this house…”
“Enna (what) could he be in Mysore to see Vasudha! Infosys does not interview at Mysore, their HR department is right here in Bangalore.” said, Revati in a whisper.
“Appadiya (is that so,) but she is a ‘vaish.na.vait’… how can we agree… what will our community think, who will marry your daughters”?
“Does not matter nowadays… let us ship out trouble upstairs first (Revati pointed at Anita’s room); let’s consult a lawyer, if we must”.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
The long phone conversation that the Iyer’s downstairs could not hear was going on in the guest room.
(caller) “How is it going, Ani?”
(called) “I have given it my best shot, my Boston Art and Drama School Director would have given thumbs up for my acting… vomiting is not fun or easy to do, orange pills are helping!” Are you going to meet Vasudha parents?
(caller) “I have a gold ring ready… mysore silk sarees & gift packs for the Iyengar family; all that cost me a bundle at Boston; thanks a million Ani!… by the way, how much is your bill?” When should I settle it?” asked Shankar.
(called) “I will be at Kochi in Kerala for a month; if this means wedding bells for you in Mysore, I am happy I performed well… I will pitch the bill to you later!” said Anita Joseph. “If my act here does not work for you, I will give you a 50 percent discount; this trip is helping me too, I am visiting my hometown after many years… my husband at Boston can run our Jewelry store at Boston in my absence” concluded Anita.
(caller) “Thanks, Ani; but give me a hint; how much is it going to cost me!”
(called) “Boston-NYC-Paris-Delhi-Bengaluru-Kochi-Mysore-Bengalore, Round Trip:$6000”
“*Diamond Ring (with the normal discount by Joseph Jewellers, Boston, MA)——$300”
(*Ring is in bag you carried to Mysore; I have put it there when you were sleeping last night!)
“Relief on your parents’ face when I leave for Kochi… priceless, no charge!”
~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~
This is fiction, resemblance to names, places in this wedding season, is pure coincidence!
This story by the author has also appeared @creative.sulekha.com/blogs. The version here has a few edits.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
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DECEPTIVE DALLIANCES (a fictional story) “Just read Shankar’s email… our son’s PhD thesis has been approved” “When he left infosys to go to MIT it was your son leaving a good job; now it is our son!” “Well, that was 5 years ago; things have changed now… he is arriving by 4 in the evening……