(This is the third post – a short story – of mine involving the Family of Chandru, his wife Jyothi and son Bharat.
Though they seem to be having a lot of differences of opinions, they are a very loving couple. The previous ones were titled A Wedding and A Vow…which I had posted here . )
The Movers and Packers finally left the compound. The servant went about cleaning the apartment. Jyothi was happy. She had paid a sum of Rs.500/= to the cleaner of the truck to water her Thulasi, Roses and Jasmine pots on the five day journey to Delhi. She was confident her plants would be safe.
It was seven in the morning and they were to leave for the airport to board the Madras-Delhi flight. Bharath had got up very early too, not able to contain the excitement. It was his first flight. The family took leave of the neighbours . Kamakshi Mami who stayed bang opposite their apartment, thrust into Jyothi’s hand a small brand new stainless steel dabba.
“There are three iddlies coated with chutney powder,” she whispered, which touched Jyothi’s heart and brought tears to her eyes. She was going to miss this Mami. And Mrs. Khanna next door who gave her a book “How to Learn Hindi in Thirty Days” saying-
“You’ll find this useful Jyo , as the people at Delhi speak good Hindi unlike in Bombay where it’s a mixture of Gujarati, Marati, Angrezi etc. etc. A kichidi of all languages.”
After they checked in, Chandru took Bharath to the book stall to get a few story books. Jyothi took out the Hindi book and started scanning the pages.
She had been exposed to Hindi only through movies and she could sing a few Hindi film songs too. But then spoken Hindi was a different cup of tea! She needed to know the names of vegetables, fruits, provisions…..and of course some basic conversation.
The father-son duo came back in thirty minutes and Chandru had the hue of being bugged ,shading his face.
He told her,
“I wish this boy doesn’t embarrass me like this.”
“What did he do?” Jyothi asked him, relieved that it wasn’t anything major, as Chandru did not appear like a volcano which had just erupted !!
“There was this gentleman picking a book and Bharath went and asked him whether there was a baby in his tummy !! Can you believe this? Where does this boy get these ideas from?”
Jyothi tried to suppress a peal of laughter which was threatening to erupt any moment. Luckily the announcement to board the flight came on and they walked towards the gate.
How was the kid to know that men don’t become pregnant !!
The flight was not too full, as there were quite a few empty seats. Chandru fastened the seat belt around the kid. The kid had been fed with strict instructions on behavior and had nodded his head at all that Chandru had told him .
The Air Hostess came bearing the tray of chocolates and the boy took just one. But being cajoled by the smiling lady who thrust a few chocolates into his palms, he took them with a beaming face. Chandru was happy.
As they were settling down, a huge man all of six feet, wearing a sparkling white dhoti and kurtha,two rings adorning his fingers, a glistening chain on his neck with the pendant of rudraksh, sacred ash on his forehead, sat in the middle bay.
He turned towards them and gave a million dollar smile displaying rows of teeth stained red with betel leaves.
Chandru whispered to his wife,
“Must be one of your clan!! Hope he doesn’t start any conversation.” He never allowed an opportunity to tease her on her Kerala origin .
Jyothi smiled to herself.
She knew he was wrong for once!!
She had noticed that the man while squeezing his voluminous torso into the chair, had whispered loud – “Muruga. En Appane”(My Lord Karthikeya) which was the trade mark of the “clan”( as Chandru termed )to the East of the Westen Ghats. Her clan would normally settle down with the invocation – – Krishna / Guruvayurappa / Devi /Sarveswari / Jagadhambike / Maha Maye / Bhagawathy….etc. etc.
Not that they had anything against the Peacock-Rider. They worshipped all the Gods without any bias, but invariably called out these names .Calling out “Muruga”, with a passion, belonged mostly to the Tamils in the east ( kezhakkeththukkaaRa, as her grandmother would say).
She kept quiet, though her instincts tickled her on some oncoming fun and frolic!!
The flight took off and Bharath was engrossed in seeing the clouds that the plane tore through. He seemed to love this.
Breakfast was being served and Jyothi refused her share and started feeding the kid.
“You are not eating? The flight is a good two hours and you are going to be hungry.”
“I have with me iddlies packed by Kamakshi Mami and I’ll have that. Today is Amavasai(New Moon) and I don’t want to eat old food.”
“Old food ? These are fresh ; and so what if it’s New Moon?”
“Ah ! Tomorrow if a Foreign Scientist brings out a research paper on “New Moon and effects of eating stale food on this day..” you’ll lap it up !! I believe in traditional truths , and I am not interfering with your ways, right? The other day, Mrs. Masilamani next door came home asking me if I can spare some sambhar as her niece had suddenly landed there. I met this girl. She is a food inspector with the airlines and every dish has to pass her scrutiny before being frozen. Yes. Frozen. The food is frozen by a process called “Chill Blasting” and is loaded into the flight before the flight takes off and then warmed and served to the passengers. I have no bias towards food stored in fridge, you know that. It’s just that I don’t want to eat this today.”
Chandru started digging into his tray.
“Chill Blast”—that was news to him !!
Chandru looked at her with amazement. The chirpy Hostess who had filled Bharath’s palms with chocolates was listening to this and told Chandru,
“What Ma’am says is true.”
After feeding Bharath and giving him some milk, Jyothi took out her iddlies.
Bharath was looking out of the window at the sky and the earth beneath with his eyes wide open .
This was when the man in the next seat accosted Chandru.
“Aren’t you Pudukottai Chandramouli’s grandson? Panju’s and Meenakshi’s son?”
The piece of idly froze between Jyothi’s slender fingers.
“ Wow !! Finally it’s going to rain in my forest”, she told herself.She enjoyed the spicy iddlies awaiting further conversation.
“ I was staying next door to yours. Later shifted to Delhi twenty five years back. You were just a toddler then. But a chip of your mother – a very good looking lady. My wife and I were very fond of your family. Your mother taught my wife a lot of things about cooking. My wife makes wonderful Paruppu usili taught by your mother years back. I remember the pooran poli she used to make !! Aahaa !! It would just melt in the mouth. Where is your elder brother now? I think his name was Shankaran.”
“He is in the States now.”
“Oh ! That’s nice. Our son is also in the U S. And our daughter is in London. You had an elder sister fifteen years older than you- Padma , I think she was called. She left home and married a boy belonging to another cast, I remember !! What a scene it was !! Your grandparents were livid and your mother was crying for days. That was the time we left for Delhi. Where is she now?”
Chandru was getting a little annoyed – his family matters being “ discussed loud by this joker” !!
“She and her family are fine. They are in Bombay and doing very well. My brother- in -law is a very nice person and my parents visit them quite often.” He knew this might throw water over the joker’s enthusiasm in fishing for some juicy development .
“That’s good. Why feel bad, if the guy is good? After all we hear of so many broken marriages even when they are arranged marriages. If the couple is happy nothing matters. By the way, I am Vishwanatha. Your parents will remember, if you mention my name. I am staying in Vikaspuri. I have my own house. I am also a member of the Malai Mandir Temple Administration.” he said ,pulling out a calling card and extending it towards Chandru. “You must come home. Any little help or assistance, my wife and I will only be too happy to render.”
Then he turned towards Jyothi and said,
“You are from Palakkadu, isn’t it? The moment you addressed your son as “Konde”
( child) I knew it.”
You know, this little Chandru will be running around naked in his young days, with only a gold ‘‘arangjaN kayiru” (waistband worn below the navel) which had a sizeable peepal leaf pattern in front. Must have weighed five sovereigns at least .His mother’s father owned a jewellery shop and she wanted the whole world to see the piece her parents had gifted their grandson with . Ha ha ha !!! The neighbours used to call him ‘ AmmaNa Chandru ‘ (nude Chandru ) with a lot of affection . ”
Chandru was going red in the ears as all the people who were seated in the bay could hear this very vocal man and were chuckling . He felt terribly embarrassed as if caught wearing nothing but the jewel .
Jyothi was – “lovin it” ( courtesy McDonald).
“Your little son must be wearing this now. Of course, parents these days don’t let the child go undressed even from day one. How many brands of nappies there are .”
Jyothi just smiled at him.
But she remembered this ‘thingummy’ gracing her sister-in-law’s neck at a family wedding a couple of years back. Hmmm… so, that’s where it is! Something that should have legally belonged to her son !!
Meanwhile Bharath was escorted to the TOILET by a very grateful Chandru.
He needed this break ! Phew !! What an idiotic man..ruining the ambience of a nice flight !!
The sudden loud sound of the vacuum exhaust when the flush was used after the ‘watery event’ scared the kid out of his skin, for reasons known to him alone and not to Chandru. He let out a scream and clung on to his father like a marsupial !! His face had gone pale and he relaxed only when Chandru lifted him and brought him out, explaining to him that it was only a sound. But Bharath knew it wasn’t just sound and he had knowledge of the origin and source of this sound !!
As he sat in his place and got himself settled, he told Jyohi.
“Amma. What Paatti said was correct!!”
Jyothi looked at him puzzled.
Chandru sensed that the bally maternal grandmother of the kid’s had yet fed him on some nonsense.
Bharath rattled on,
“Amma – remember ? Paatti used to say that if I don’t do my potty, the demon inside the toilet would bite my bum? It was there. The demon !! It shouted so loud!! Appa lifted me just in time !! Yes Amma. True – it was there. I am not lying. And it was invisible like Paatti said.”
Jyothi hushed him up and said,
“Okay. Okay. Now you get some sleep. You woke up so early. You need to sleep.”
She did not look at Chandru for fear of being silently accosted,
“Your mother has nothing better to do than feed nonsense?”
But then Chandru also was turning the other side, afraid that she would tease him about his running around in the nude!!
Vishwanatha had gone to sleep after passionately invoking – “Muruga, My Lord” a couple of times.
Bharath had closed his eyes too, presenting a picture of a perfect angel.
Chandru pretended to sleep too.
Jyothi smiled to herself and took out the Learn Hindi in Thirty Days and started learning by heart-
“Adrak – Ginger
Bindi – Ladies finger
Baingan – Brinjal”
The basic requirement would be the knowledge of the kitchen stuff !!
“ Dhahi – curd.
Kala mirch- pepper.
Achaar – pickle.”
Her eyes started closing too.
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