Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Married Life.. (Part 4)

(This is the fourth part of the short story series. Hope you guys like it. As usual do leave your feedback and comments. They definitely inspire me :) )

Please read the 1st, 2nd part and 3rd part also.
Part 1 - Back to Home

Part 2 - US Syndrome

Part 3 - Get up..Grandpa..


It’s all OVER!! Arul sighed. He could see Anjali joining Mridula in their grandfather’s room. He looked sadly at his mom and dad.

His dad patted on his shoulders. “You did your best” he whispered. “Am proud of you, my son”

Arul forced a smile. Thuddd!! All of them heard a hard slapping sound. Arul could see Anjali walking out of her grandfather’s room happily. Mridula and the MLA’s son, Mari joined her out.

Anjali climbed up on the stage and sat in her place. Arul still stood wondering what had happened. Mridula came to the stage holding something small. Arul recognized it as a beetle nut. His eyes questioned Mridula as to what had happened.

“Grandfather swallowed this by mistake. It got stuck in his throat and he choked. Luckily Mari slapped it out his system. Grandfather is perfectly alright now” she glanced at Mari and smiled at him. He didn’t smile back. An old aunt wheeled grandfather out his room into the marriage hall.

Arul could not believe that his marriage was back on track again. Damn grandfather and his beetlenut. He took his place near his princess.

“Mangalyum thanthunanae…” the priest chanted the mantras and flowers showered upon the blessed couple.

“We have to go to the farm temple” spoke Anjali.

“Farm temple?” replied Arul.

“It is about 2 kilometers walk from our native village” Mridula chipped in.

“Isn’t this your native place?” Arul looked bewildered.

“No. Our native is a small village called Seval. We would be going there today”

Arul had no option but to agree to their proposal. He was happy that his parents would be accompanying him.

An hour’s journey in the mini-van was pretty rough. The rain had widened all the potholes. Every time the mini- van ploughed itself into a deep pit, Anjali held Arul hand even more closely. He liked it and wished the entire road was covered with potholes.

They reached the village main road. Arul asked the driver to stop and got out. The road leading to the village was a pucca road.

“Can you drive through this?” Arul questioned the driver.

“No problem sir” replied the driver cheerfully. Arul stretched himself a little and then got back in the mini-van.

Another ten minutes later, they reached Anjlai’s ancestral home. It had a small door and even smaller pillars holding the main walls and roof.

Arul bent his head as he walked his way into the home. He was amazed that the home had a row of 10 continuous rooms starting from the main door. Arul walked straight through all the ten rooms and reached the back courtyard.

He could hear the sound of anklets. Anjali and Mridula soon joined him in the backyard.

“There are snakes here” teased Mridula.

“What?” The startled look on Arul’s face told the whole story.

“Just kidding” she smiled sheepishly. She pushed Anjali towards Arul and ran through a small series of steps.

“Wait..” Anjali ran behind her. Arul just could not believe that the two sisters were playing in the backyard. He just watched two young women turn into two small kids. Strange!!

“Food is ready!!” came a loud, clear shout from Anjali’s mother.

Arul and the two sisters joined the others seated on the floor.

A big plantain leaf with many dishes adorned the floor. Thank god, I don’t have to cook anymore.. Arul smiled at his wife. Perhaps he didn’t realize what challenges lay ahead of him.

“Have you taken the umbrella?” spoke Anjali.

“We don’t need any dear” replied Arul confidently.

Anjali stared at him “It’s very cloudy”.

“We don’t need it Anjali” protested Arul. Anjali picked up the three umbrellas resting on the front cot.

Arul mentally counted the number of people coming along with them. He caught his wife hand and started walking. His mom, dad and Mridula and her parents followed them. They reached the end of the main road and crossed a small bridge over a canal.

“Usually this is very dry. It running full because of the rains” explained Anjali.

A pleasant strong breeze blew across the lush paddy fields. Arul truly was amazed by the view. A little ahead a narrow pathway led them to a farm of banana plantation on one side and a small canal ran on the other side.

As they walked a little further they could see tall coconut trees. Two people were busy plucking the coconuts. Anjali’s father quickly ran and spoke with them and got the whole gang some really nice coconut water.

“Here.. mapla..have some” Anjali’s father handed the coconut to Arul and then passed onto others. Heavenly.. Arul sipped the last drops of the water off the 3rd coconut.

After 30 minutes of walk they reached the place. Arul had never seen anything like this. It was a much desolated small temple.

“My grandfather had reconstructed this temple” Anjali’s spoke proudly. “The legend has it that a great Pandya king came to visit the Nellai-Appar koil but had to stay here overnight as heavy rains lashed through the city. He caught glimpse of this shiva linga and saw a five headed snake protecting it. He quickly built a small temple here.”

Five headed snake Arul laughed inside himself. He had no major beliefs in temples and gods but would visit temples as he didn’t want to hurt his parents or anybody else. As Anjali swept the place clean, her father dressed up the lingam. Arul looked closely at the lingam. It was a strange rectangularly shaped stone. There were some verses written on it.

“Its olden- golden tamil” smiled Anjali. Everybody settled around the small nandi sitting in front of the god. Anjali’s father started doing the pooja. Anjali sat directly in front of the lord and motioned Arul to sit beside her. As Arul took his seat near his beloved, he saw Anjali close her eyes and go into a trance state.

Arul closed his eyes and suddenly he could feel the soft touch of his wife’s hand. Some strange energy passed through him. He wanted to open his eyes but his whole body went out of his control. His mind went blank.

“ARUL…. ARUL… Wake up” Anjali whispered into his ears. Arul shook a little and opened his eyes expecting everybody to be crowding around him as he thought he had fainted. Everybody was sitting normally in their positions. Arul looked at Anjali and she gently smiled at him. He didn’t understand what had happened.

As they walked back, Mridula walked closer to Arul and spoke “You went blank?”

Arul was startled “How do you know?”

“Akka has powers. She meditates and she gets some strange power while doing that”

Arul nodded his head gravely understanding that Mridula also has had such previous experiences.

“She needs to be around temples” Mridula just completed her sentence when it began drizzling. Mridula quickly gave one umbrella to her parents and one to Arul’s parents and took one herself. She gently pushed Anjali towards Arul and laughed.

“Give them an umbrella” shouted Anjali’s father. Mridula smiled at them. “Newly wedded couples don’t need umbrellas”

Anjali’s father ran up to Arul and handed him his umbrella. “No sir. I am fine” smiled Arul as he handed the umbrella back to his father-in-law. He had understood Mridula point only now.

He pulled Anjali closer and took her sari’s pallu and created a small umbrella for both of them. Nevertheless they got drenched partially. I am liking this thought Arul as he kept holding Anjali more tightly with every step. She too liked it. They halted mid-way to take some shelter.

“Stupid girl” scolded Anjali’s father. Mridula mischievously smiled at Arul and Anjali and they smiled back. Parents never understand.

“Take her out Arul. See, she has been crying continuously from the time we left Tirunelveli” Arul mom advised him.

“Sure amma” Arul walked up to his wife. He could see that her eyes had bloated.

“How about going to a super movie?”

“Any movie is fine” Anjali wiped off her nose with her hanky. Arul gently pressed her head onto his chest. She clutched him tightly.

“Hold this” Anjali gave the big bag of popcorn to Arul. From the corner of his eyes he could see the superstar's name rolling out on the screen.






Arul watched the wife with astonishment as she inserted his finger in her mouth and let out a huge whistle. The people in the front row turned back to see who it was. Arul covered his face with the popcorn bag. He had never heard anybody whistle at ‘Satyam’ theatre before. Anjali sheepishly smiled.

A group of boys sitting upfront stood up and turned around “Super whistle mamae”. They whistled even more loudly. Arul was in complete shock. He looked at his wife and laughed. I have always wanted to do that. I should learn it from her soon. Anjali smiled at her, tucked her hand tightly into his and they watched the movie in silence.

Arul took his bike out the parking lot and started it. As they drove back home, they stopped at the traffic signal. Arul removed his helmet, turned back at Anjali and spoke “Super whistle mamae”. Anjali sheepishly smiled at him back.

“Can I tell you something?” spoke Anjali.

“Yeah” replied Arul.

“You drive really slowly”. Arul was taken aback by this frank reply. He had driven slowly considering the fact that Anjali had worn a heavy saree. He wanted to prove her wrong and drove as fast as he could as Anjali hugged him harder and harder.

Arul slowed his bike down as he reached near his home. Anjali got down from the bike. Arul could see that her hair badly strewn because of the drive. As Arul walked back after parking his bike, Anjali caught his hand. She came close to him and kissed him on his cheek. Arul blushed. This was the first time that Anjali had kissed him.

“I am very happy” she hugged him tightly.

“Where are we going?” Anjali had questioned Arul for the 100th time that afternoon.

“You will see it in a few minutes” spoke Arul as he clutched her hand inside the auto rickshaw.

“What happened to your bike?” questioned Anjali.

“It was my friend’s bike and he needed it. We are nearly there at our destination” Arul spoke maintaining the suspense.

“I want you to help me a little” spoke Arul. Anjali lifted her eyebrows asking him what help he wanted.

“I want to tie this black band around your eyes. I will hold you and take you inside”. Anjali wanted to protest but decided against it as she also wanted to be surprised.

Arul tied the black band around her eyes and held her and took her inside a huge hall. All the other people standing there were very surprised. Arul slowly took Anjali to a couch and asked her to sit on it slowly. Anjali wanted to untie the band but just held herself. The couch was very much like an easy chair and she slowly kept on inclining her back till her back touched the sofa. She felt as though she would soon sleep on the couch.

“The programme is about to start. Please remain seated” came the announcement through the speakers.

Arul slowly untied the black band. As Anjali opened her eyes she was completely amazed to see the night sky with a host of stars. It took her a moment to realize that Arul had brought her to the ‘Birla Planetarium’. She was damn thrilled to see all the stars and the constellations. She had started liking Arul a lot now.

After completing the show, both of them visited the museum. Strangely nobody was around there. They could see huge replicas of trains and many models of airplanes. Anjali wanted a picture of every one of them and Arul obliged. He had become her official photographer. Anjali went and sat inside every plane and train. Anjali brought Arul his childhood memories.

After their great time at the planetarium, they headed to the Besant Nagar beach.

It was quite late by the time they reached home. Arul paid the auto-driver and could see Anjali smiling at him.

“What?” spoke Arul.

Anjali just nodded her head. Arul closed his eyes and titled his head towards her expecting a good lip service. Anjali gently slapped his cheek, which startled Arul.

“I am tired” spoke Anjali as her eyes gleamed.

“So?” spoke back Arul.

“Carry me on your back to our apartment” smiled Anjali.

“You must be kidding me” Arul shot back.

“No… Please… carry me.. please” begged Anjali.

Reluctantly Arul took her on his back and walked home. He hoped nobody in the surrounding apartments saw this strange spectacle.

Anjali gently kissed his on his cheek as he slowly shifted her down on reaching their home. “Women always do this when they are happy” she declared.

“As you wish madam” Arul bent a royal bow in front of her. Anjali laughed out aloud.

“Amma, please tell him” pleaded Anjali.

“He will never listen to me” spoke back Arul’s mom. She was happy that this topic was being discussed now.

“Can both of you shut up please?” Arul shot an angry glance at Anjali.

“Can we not stay in Chennai?” protested Anjali to Arul.

“Anjali, it is a matter of few weeks. You will get used to US.” Arul tried to diffuse the situation.

“Why don’t you understand? I don’t want to go” protested Anjali even loudly.

“Answer my question. Can we not live in Chennai?”

“What about my job there? How can I leave everything and stay here?” retorted Arul.

“What about me and your parents? Are we not important?”

“Anjali.. Stop this topic. We are going there. If you don’t like it there, we will come back. But for once let us go there. I bet you will like that place.”

Arul’s mom winked at Anjali asking her to not continue the conversation. Anjali murmured something as she went to her room and banged the door shut.

“Where is Anjali?” questioned Arul to his mother waking up wearily. He wanted to apologize for yesterday's fight and also wanted to give her tips for the important day.

“I don’t know da. I didn’t see her from the morning. Perhaps she must have gone to the terrace”

Arul quickly climbed up the stairs and reached the terrace. He searched the entire place. No traces of his wife. He rushed back home.

“Amma, she is not there upstairs” Arul spoke hastily as he wiped the sweat off the brows. “Today is her VISA date. We have the appointment at 10 and it’s already 7:30 now”

Arul’s father came out his room. His mom explained the whole story to him.

“Has she gone back to her home after yesterday’s fight?” questioned his dad.

Arul dropped back on the couch; his mind raced fast where is Anjali??



Thursday, January 7, 2010

Get up.. grandpa.. (Part 3)

(This is the third part of the short story series. Hope you guys like it. Do leave your feedback and comments. They really inspire me :) )

Please read the 1st and 2nd part also.
Part 1 - Back to Home

Part 2 - US Syndrome

“Don’t go” ordered Arul’s mom.

“Amma, you don’t understand..” protested Arul.

“There is limit to everything Arul. Just because we allow you to go and convince her, does not mean she can speak like this”. Arul could see his mom’s head and finger wagging violently at him.

“Amma, listen..” Arul held his mom and made her sit down. “She is a very good girl. She just makes decisions in a hurry. She has not seen the outside world as much as you or me. Give her a last chance”

“My decision is final” declared his mom. “You want us to attend your marriage, right?”

Arul was taken aback by this threat. He sat there thinking what would happen now in his already fragile relationship with his parents. I have seen so many brilliant girls, so many studious ones.. but what I need is a girl like Anjali. Just a simple beautiful house wife.. He wanted to share his thoughts with his mom but decided otherwise.

He walked to the hall and saw his dad lying on the couch and watching an old movie. A few streaks of white hair certified that his dad had entered the late fifties. His dad was dressed in a white baniyan and a checked lungi. He realized that his dad was the least affected by the commotion in the bed room.

“Dad..” Aul’s dad looked at him, literally shocked. “I want to speak with you for five minutes”

Arul made his way up the stairs to the terrace. His dad got up and followed him. Arul stood near the terrace walls overlooking the main road. His dad followed him and stood beside him.

They didn’t speak for 5 minutes. Arul wanted to break the silence but did not know where to start. “Appa..” His dad turned towards him.

Before his dad could say something, Arul hugged his dad as tightly as he could. Tears flowed from his eyes on to his dad’s baniyan.

“I am sorry” he mustered to say.

“It’s ok da” his dad spoke back “It was my mistake also. I should have spent more time with you and our family”. Breaking the hug, dad looked at his son.

“I want to marry Anjali pa. She is a very good girl”. Perhaps it was just those Anjali’s eyes that were playing on him. He had left his last love, Meera, without even making an attempt to speak with her. He definitely was not going to leave Anjali just like that.

“You know about your mom” replied his dad. Arul let out a deep sigh. “But why did she refuse you now. Why doesn’t a simple Tirunelveli girl like a US MS guy with a great job?”. Arul just didn’t want to tell his dad that she had asked him to marry her sister. That’s too big an huge atom bomb for dad to handle.

“Low-on-confidence” replied Arul thoughtfully. “She does not know that she is as good as anybody. I feel that she constantly compares herself with her sister and that puts more pressure on her. I just need a simple housewife, dad”. Arul could see that his dad understood the reason.

“I just have to marry her. I can handle her. I have lived with many emotional people in my life in US.”

Dad thought for a second. “It’s your life son. Think and act carefully. Otherwise you will be stuck up like me” chuckled dad.

Arul didn’t smile. He never liked any jokes about his mom. He believed that his dad was the luckiest person on planet earth to have such a responsible and beautiful wife.

“I will speak to her” assured his dad. Arul knew that the deal was done.

“I will join you at home in 10 minutes” spoke Arul to dad. As his father descended through the steps, Arul took out his mobile and called up.

“You listen to me Kalyani”

“No. At least listen to me once in your lifetime” protested Arul’s mom to his dad.

“It is our son’s life. Let him decide”

“Don’t you see his life going the wrong way?” spoke his mom.

Dad remained a little silent. “By taking a decision for him, you are not doing him a favor. If he thinks he can live with her, let him live it. Whatever the problem, he will face it”

“I am not coming to the marriage” spoke his mom firmly.

Arul dad just shook his head. These women.hmm..

“Ok. I will come” Arul’s mom could never disappoint anybody, least of it, her son.

“The flight is 1pm” declared Arul as he opened the package he had just received.

“Travel tomorrow son” advised his dad.

Arul just waved the packet he just received. “I will be in Trivandrum at 2pm and its just a 4 hour drive to Tirunelveli from there”

Arul’s mom was too angry with him to speak anything.

Dad stood up to speak something to Arul, when Arul’s I-Phone rang. Quite unusual.. Hope everything is fine in US.

“Hi Steve” spoke Arul.

“Hey my boy, how are you doing?” spoke Steve.

“Going good. Is everything good up there?”

“It is..” Steve’s voice trailed. When Steve spoke like that, it meant big trouble.

“Seeni is finding it tough to keep up with your work” Arul listened intently. “I am sorry to disturb you, but just wanted to know when you would be back”

“Steve, I have 2 more sweeks of work here. Could I come there after that?” offered Arun.

“2 weeks.. Ok. Come as quickly as you can”

“Thank you Steve”

As soon Arul cut the call, Dad spoke up “I think you should leave to US. Leave the marriage issue to cool down”

Even though Arul could see logic ingrained in his dad’s words, he knew the marriage deal was too close to be left just like that. “Just one more try dad..” pleaded Arul.

Who can defeat fate.. thought Arul’s dad.

“How long is the journey?” Arul asked the cab driver as he stretched himself and inspected the white Indica car.

“Four hours drive sir” replied the driver as he put the suitcase in the dicky and closed it.

Arul sat in the front seat near the driver. He was soon in his own world of dreams. The hour’s flight journey had been very tiring. Arul could hardly stretch himself in the small plane and it went through the worst air turbulence he had been, in a few years.

However, Arul was very much surprised by the number of people who travelled on domestic flights. After finishing the security check, Arul waited his plane to be announced. There was no place to sit. As soon as his flight was announced, people pushed each other and hurried to form a loopy line. Arul just chuckled to himself. Worse than central station..

Dhakkkkk.. Arul woke up. The car had passed over a big pothole.

“It’s been raining badly for the past few days sir” apologized the driver. Arul closed his eyes again. He just travelled on a 12 hour journey from Tirunelveli to Chennai and he was travelling back to that place again. How crazy..

Dhakkk.. Arul was familiar as to where to sound came from.

“How far from Tirunelveli are we?” questioned Arul.

“About 30 more minutes sir”

Arul rubbed his eyes off. He could see huge dark grey clouds gather on the way to their destination. He looked around and amazed to see green paddy fields on both sides of the road. The scent of rain hung through the air.

“Let us stop over for some tea” ordered Arul. The driver followed suit and they stopped at a nearby tea shop.

After few samosas and hot ginger tea, both Arul and driver were refreshed. They sped off to their destination.

As Arul paid the cab driver, he spotted the familiar huge gate. A few women from the nearby houses huddled as they spoke in hushed tones. Perhaps they want to know whether I missed my train yesterday night thought Arul sarcastically.
He looked at his watch. ‘It was 6 pm’. The sun peeked through the dark clouds.

Arul lifted his suitcase and silent prayed that this was the last time he had to convince his lady.

He knocked on the old huge door. Mridula opened the door and Arul just stood there staring at her. She immediately left inside without even inviting him. No smiles.. no hellos.. This is what I get to travelling 700 kilometers back and forth everyday..

Anjali came outside and welcomed Arul inside. Arul learnt that Anjali’s parents had gone to the nearby temple. Arul dropped off the suitcase in the main hall and caught hold of Anjali’s hand and led her to the terrace.

The breeze blew strongly across the terrace. An instant downpour was imminent. Arul lifted Anjali’s face so that he could look at her eyes. She turned her face away avoiding any eye contact.

“What is the problem with you?” spoke Arul.

“Mridula wants to marry you” she spoke coldly.

“That’s a lie. I want to marry you and you want to marry me” Arul tried to keep things as simple and direct as possible.

Anjali looked a little startled as she tried to figure out how Arul might have come to know of the truth.

As Arul was about to continue his long talk, rain drops pelted on both of them. Anjali caught Arul’s hands and led him to the small attic room. Soon, it was heavily raining.

Arul looked at Anjali eyes and spoke “I love you. I want to marry you”

“But Mridula is the perfect match for you” spoke Anjali.

No wonder it’s so tough to change women’s thoughts.

“Would you have said the same thing had we been married?” counter attacked Arul.

“That’s a different story. We are not married till now”

Arul immediately held Anjali close and kissed her gently on her cheek. “Are we now?” he smiled at her waiting for a volcano to burst. A tight slap in this lonely place was not that bad an option.

“You are my sweetheart” she hugged him tightly.

“Yes.. Yes.. its this weekend” spoke Anjali’s mother. She nodded and listened intently to the voice on the other end. She spoke of some marriage details.

“Maapilai..” she called Arul after 5 minutes.

“Yes amma.. We decided that the marriage would happen this weekend.”

“No amma… listen.. listen na..” that’s all Arul could speak. “Bring my suit and 3-4 shirts and trousers when you come…. No amma… I am not coming again to Chennnai.. Amma.. Amma??”

“This weekend?” spoke his dad quite startled as Arul’s mom had handed the phone to his dad.

“Yeah appa. The earlier we finish it the better”

There was complete silence from the other side. “So it’s on 28th.. Hmm..” his dad spoke finally.

“Dad, we checked it. It’s a good date to get married”

“Ok son. We shall be there in 2 days”

“Thanks appa. Convince amma also”


Arul peered closely at the huge signboard.

“Enna boss, any problem?” Arul’s thoughts were disturbed by a sweet voice.

Arul turned around to see Mridula. “Just seeing if the bride’s name is supposed to be changed” teased Arul.

Mridula laughed. “You want Trisha or Asin’s name on that?” she continued his joke.

“It should be just my name on it” spoke Anjali as she joined them.

“See, that was what I was telling your sister” Arul winked at her.

“I heard your earlier comments” Anjali gently jabbed her elbow at Arul.

Suddenly Anjali’s father came rushing towards them “The marriage will start in two hours. Please get dressed”

As Arul walked in to the huge Gayathri Devi Kalyana Mandapam, he could see about 500 hundred people sitting in there. He had never figured out why people loved attending all marriages, leaving all their work behind. Good food.. gossip place.. or a good place to search for prospective grooms and brides.. Whatever..

In the midst of the entire crowd, he could see about 30 neatly dressed people waiting in front of him. He figured out that they were all Anjali’s relatives. He went up to them and shook their hands. Anjali then took Arul to a special relative.

It was Anjali’s grandfather. The wrinkles on his face resembled the crisscrossing lanes of Chennai. He was nearly bald with only some shoots of white hair that had grown at the back of his head. Arul figured that the old man was burdened with lots of gold ornaments probably equaling his weight, which was definitely more than that of any of the ladies standing there. Perhaps he would be better off without that.

Anjali gestured that Arul touch his feet. Arul followed suit and felt a big bang on his head. Grandfather’s heavy watch had banged his head.

Arul got up rubbing his head. Damn.. The last thing he wanted to tell Anjali was what he thought about her grandfather.

Arul walked towards the changing room. Suddenly he saw a dark complexioned, thin tall guy sitting in one of the chairs. I have seen him somewhere. The MLA’s son.. What is he doing here?

Arul went near him and gently tapped his shoulders. The MLA’s son turned and on seeing Arul, got up. “Congratulations!!” he extended his hand.

Arul did not want a big scene in front of the whole crowd. He caught the MLA son’s shoulder and gently ushered him in to a hallway outside the main hall. He caught his shirt collar and threatened him softly “How dare you come here?”

“Leave him Arul” spoke a sweet voice. “I called him here”. Arul could see Mridula running up to them.

“Mridula, why is he here?”

“Arul, I promise, he will not create any problems for us. I have spoken to him”

Arul looked at the MLA’s son and could see him nodding his head.

“You better stay off her dude” warned Arul.

“Marriappan..” the MLA’s son extended his hand once again. I am threatening him and he is extending his hand to me!! “Arul Vaidyanthan” Arul shook his hand.

As Arul walked into the changing room, he could see Mridula whispering something to Marriappan in a hushed voice.

“Where is the bride? Bring her” ordered the priest.

In the midst of all the smoke, Arul sat there chanting all the mantrams. Relatives from both the sides gathered behind him on the stage.

Arul could see his brightly decorated angel,Anjali, walk towards the stage. Her purple colored saree with golden border shone brightly in all the lighting around the stage. She came and sat next to him.

He adjusted himself so that he sat more closely with her. “Asian paint?” he questioned her. She was a little aback by the question. “No.. its Nerolac” she nonchantly replied and laughed.

“A perfect Kodak moment” laughed Mridula standing right behind them.

Just then a small boy came running towards them.

“Thaata.. thaata..” he stopped to catch his breath. “Thaata has fainted. They are calling Mridula akka”

Silence loomed over the marriage hall. All the people on the stage stood shocked. Mridula literally jumped off the stage as she ran towards the grandfather’s room.

“Why are they calling Mridula” Arul questioned Anjali.

“She is doing her MBBS”

Arul didn’t know what to do and figured out that it would be best to sit in his current position.

“Call the ambulance” Mridula’s voice filled the strangely silent marriage hall.

Anjali and Arul got up. “What are we going to do now?” Arul questioned Anjali.

“I don’t know” replied Anjali as she stepped down from the dias.

Arul just stood there motionless.. Oh no!! So close yet so far..



Tuesday, January 5, 2010

US Syndrome.. (Part 2)

(This is the second part of the short story series. Hope you guys like it. Do leave your feedback and comments. They really inspire me :) )

Please read the 1st part also.
Part 1 - Back to Home

Arul picked himself up and slowly slid the greeting card into the bed sheet. His first love failure was the last thing Arul wanted his mom to know at this time. He looked at his mom and declared “I am going to meet Anjali”

If there was one thing that defined Arul, it was his attitude of persistence. He never gave up anything without a fight. Perhaps, he faced his biggest challenge of his life after his first love failure.

“No pa..” His mom tried to stop him. My son never listens to me.

“I have to speak with her and understand her problem amma”

His mom gave a hard thought to it. She also liked Anjali and felt that Anjali would help Arul bond with their family. She then nodded in agreement to his proposal.

“But you have to change your hairstyle” smiled his mom as she walked her way out of the room.

Arul went to dressing table and peered into that large dressing room mirror. He could see what his mom had meant. He had a good physique with regular gym workouts. It was something else that bothered his mom, and now him.

A lengthy oiled hair ran down his shoulders. A big moustache and french beard were hardly the features any prospective groom would have. Mom is always right.

“Vanakkam” the pot belied barber folded his hands.

Arul too folded his hands. This was perhaps the most dirty hair salon he had seen in a long time. He was pretty much used to a blonde, Jessica, giving him regular haircuts. He considered leaving for another saloon. But considering the fact that he had his haircut in that saloon for nearly 20 years before his US journey, he stepped inside. Two tube lights shone brightly and he could see mirrors both on the front and at the back. The mirrors created a strange effect that he felt he could peer as far as into Alice’s wonderland.

He sat in one of the chairs. He looked at the barber and said ‘Size 2’. That was all what he needed to tell Jessica.

A confused look crossed the barber’s face. He politely replied in his broken English “No machine sir. Only hand and scissors”.

Arul had no choice. He just could not believe that his marriage would depend first on his changed looks, and now on the barber. He prayed to god and just closed his eyes. The barber moved Arul’s head gently to a certain position and started his work. Soon Arul could feel his locks of hairs slowly diminishing in size. He vowed to never open his eyes until the barber finished.

“You want shaving also sir?” asked the barber in his broken English.

Arul just nodded his head in agreement. After 45 minutes into the work, the barber stopped to examine his prototype model. “Open eyes sir”

Arul prayed to all the gods he knew and slowly opened his eyes. He was expecting a Ghajni type hairstyle. But to his amazement, he looked a stud. That’s freaking awesome.

“Ok sir?” enquired the barber.

Arul was too dumbstruck for any answer. He just nodded his head as the barber powdered his neck giving it his final touches. Arul got another shock of his life when the barber told him that the haircut just cost Rs50. Arul just smiled as he calculated how much a similar hair cut would have cost him in US.

“You look so handsome. My chamathu boy..” Arul’s mom spoke to him. “But you need to get your head bath first and.. and your dad has got a ticket through tatkal to Tirunelveli”

Arul eyes expressed his sense of gratitude to his father. He had never spoken to his father in a long time. His father had beaten him a lot when he was a child and Arul felt that nothing in this world merited for him talking to his dad.

“Ticket sir” asked the TTR.

Arul pulled out the ticket and a small photo fell to the ground with the picture facing the ground. As the TTR checked the tickets, Arul bent down and picked up the photo. It was the beautiful picture of Anjali that his mom had given him. One of Anjali’s relatives had given it to his mom and his mom gave it to him But now she asked him to return it to their family if she didn’t accept him.

He safely deposited it in his pocket and wondered why all the beautiful women didn’t want to be a part of his life.

He stood in front of a majestic ancestral home of Anjali. He had been too nervous in his first visit to notice any of the structural beauties of this beautiful building. It was a simple single storied building painted in black and white. An imposing gate with two marvelous white elephant statues at the sides guarded the home. As Arul stood there studying the architecture, he heard a familiar voice.

“Vaanga Mapilai” spoke Anjali’s father as he rushed out from his home.

Hmm.. He has called me maapilai.. So no problem from parents side.. I have to meet Anjali then. Arul thoughts raced fast. He had always prided himself in understanding people’s thoughts.

A hot cup of filter coffee served by Anjali’s mom tasted heavenly for Arul. His eyes searched for Anjali but she was nowhere to be seen. Noticing this Anjali dad told him that his daughter was at terrace and also mentioned apologetically that she was in pretty bad mood.

Arul walked up the 22 steep steps and reached the terrace. As he reached the terrace he stopped for five seconds to catch up with his breath. He could see Anjali sitting on a marble slab reading some book. A gentle breeze blew right across the terrace.

It was difficult for him to describe Anjali as downright beautiful. She was very slim and that made her look taller than what she was. He could notice that the flowers that would normally adore her hair were missing. She was differently beautiful. Perhaps it was just her beautiful eyes which resembled Meera a lot.

He walked up to her and wished her. To his amazement, she turned her head away. She’s got real attitude problems. Arul was very much taken aback by this. He understood that it was time for some silence.

He quietly walked a little away from Anjali and gazed at the railway tracks that ran behind that home. Beyond the railway tracks, beautiful green fields spread far and wide. A passenger train passed through the tracks. I have always been respectful to all the women in my life but this is damn too much.

As Arul turned around to leave the place, he saw Anjali stand before him with folded hands. Tears streamed from her eyes. Arul felt bad for making a quick decision on Anjali. Perhaps she had a problem. Perhaps we have to talk it out..

Before Arul could say anything, she spoke. “I cannot come with you to America. I cannot leave my family, friends and my beautiful city.” That sounded like a nice argument to Arul. He had had his apprehensions when he started for that strange land.

Arul wanted to convince her and opened his mouth again to speak but Anjali continued speaking more. “Please don’t convince me. I have heard many things about USA. I don’t want to come there.”

Arul just crossed his hands and looked into her beautiful eyes. Anjali started to speak again but Arul raised his hand and she stopped.

“Would you allow me to speak?” Anjali smiled sheepishly.

Arul continued “If you don’t like US, its fine. We can settle in Chennai.” Anjali smile widened more.

“But.. But just give it one try” Arul had presented this sales pitch many times to his clients and he had a very good success rate in it. He had thrown a pretty good bait and waited for his catch.. Anjali’s decision. Dilemma and anxiety gripped Anjali.

She went back to her marble slab seat and sat there. I have got her. Arul went and sat beside her. He caught her hands softly “You will be my princess dear. Your happiness is my happiness”.

She looked at his eyes and knew that he might never come back from US. All women know that men lie.. but they still like it.

She just smiled at him. He smiled at her.

“Mom.. Hello..” He lost the connection. He tried to call up again and cursed the bad mobile connection.

Damn.. bad mobile.. bad connection. He looked angrily at his age old mobile. It showed no traces of any signal or life.

“You can call from the landline” offered Anjali’s father.

Suddenly the landline rang. Anjali picked it up and spoke happily for about two minutes. She called Arul and told him that it was his mom.

“Amma.. “ that’s all he spoke, the rest of it was just him listening as to how the marriage celebration were supposed to happen. He looked at Anjali. Women communicate so much faster. Just two minutes and she had told my mom everything.

She was talking excitedly with somebody on her mobile. How can only her mobile work??

“I have to leave now” spoke Arul to his future father-in-law. He never wanted to be perceived as a person who overstayed.

“You have just come. Stay for a day more” spoke Anjali.

Arul just could not refuse such an offer. He nodded his head and it was in synchronization with all the heads nodding around him.

“No aunty.. I just cannot eat anymore..” Arul spoke as he loosened his belt. Just a simple reaction of eating too much good food.

“Eat well mapilai” Anjali’s mom kept more food on his plate. I am going to die. He looked pathetically at Anjali to save his somehow. She just winked at him.

Not having many options, Arul reluctantly started to eat when he heard a beautiful voice interrupt his lunch.

“Is this the way to feed our guest?”

Arul turned back to look at the voice and felt something sweet being thrust into his mouth. He just closed his eyes. A sweet piece of laddu.. Awesome.

He opened his eyes to look at the beautiful girl who fed him that. She was much more sweeter than the laddu. Anjali introduced her sister to Arul. She was much fairer and definitely more beautiful than her sister. God always shows the most beautiful things a touch late.

“Mridula..” she extended her hand for a handshake. Realizing that Arul had his hands and mouth busy, she smiled sheepishly.

As Arul settled on the big oonjal after the sumptuous lunch, he looked at Mridula. She was Anjali’s sister but in no way resembled her sister. She was way too beautiful and studious. She studied at a famous university in Thanjavur and he heard that she sang amazingly well. I have made my choice for my life partner and I better stick to it, as he felt really attracted to Mridula.

“I heard you sing well” Arul offered to start the conversation.

Mridula just smiled. Anjali spoke in between like always “Wait for the evening occasion!”

“What’s special for the evening?” Arul just imagined another round of damn good food.

“That’s a surprise” laughed Mridula.

“Alaipayuthae.. “ started Mridula and the crowd fell silent.

It was a huge crowd at the Nellai-appar temple. The crowd swayed mesmerizingly to Mridula’s voice. She continuously increased her voice pitch and ended each song on a feverish pitch. The crowd roared in applause each time a song finished. Arul clapped his hands as hard as he could. He had never seen such a performance in his lifetime.

Mridula sang her last song and got up with folded hands. As she climbed down the stairs, tens of hundreds gathered around her. Soon, Arul could hear another performer take the stage but he was no match for the awesome singing abilities of Mridula. Arul could see the crowd slowly melt away. Pretty disheartening if I were the singer. Unmindful of the people leaving, the singer continued.

Where is Anjlai.. Arul’s eyes searched for his girl. Somehow all he could see was Mridula and the crowd around her.

He spotted Anjali sitting in front a small statue, skillfully threading the flowers. He sat near her.

“Can I help you?” he offered his help.

Anjali smiled at him. She taught him how to do it. Waste of time.. Arul thought to himself.

About 10 minutes later, Anjali gave up. Arul just smiled at her and could see her focusing hard in her jobs. ‘Anything to be offered to GOD had to be done with complete concentration and focus’ Anjali had told him.

“Did you like my singing?” Mridula spoke as she came running towards Arul and Anjali in her green silk saree with gold colored layers on it. It was as if the goddess of voice had herself landed on earth. She looked even more beautiful in her gorgeous dress.

Arul opened his mouth to speak but could hear Anjali’s voice “The second song was very slowly sung and the third one was just ok.”

What?? Just ok? You must be kidding.. Arul tried to control himself. “She was pretty good” he muttered under his breadth.

Both of them heard it and that brought some cheers to the downcast Mridula.

“Shall I show you around the temple?” offered Mridula.

Arul looked at Anjali. “I have to finish this flower garland in 15 minutes. You should go with her”

“Come.. Come..” pushed Mridula. Arul got up dusting off his jeans. Anjali could see her fiancĂ© and her sister walk off together. She didn’t like it.

“You won’t believe it, this temple was built 1000 years ago. God appeared in the king’s dreams and ordered him to build this temple… and this place..” Mridula continued as Arul was lost in his own thoughts as to how Anjali would perceive him with her sister. He knew clearly well that she didn’t like them to be together.

“Which world are you in?” spoke Mridula as she snapped her fingers over his face. Arul came back from his thoughts. I am standing with one of the most beautiful girl I have ever seen and I am having to think what her sister is thinking about us. How strange..

“Nothing. I was awestruck by the architectural splendor” lied Arul. As they walked past the beautiful arches and statues and hordes of Lord Shiva’s Lingams several people came and spoke to Mridula. Arul guessed that she was very famous in that place.

A small boy ran up to her and gave her a piece of paper and asked her to put her autograph on it. She gladly signed it. The small boy took the piece of paper and gave her a small photo upside down on her palm and ran off. She upturned the photo and tore it onto two pieces. Arul stood there shocked by the sudden change of events.

Suddenly from the shadows emerged a slender dark youth. A pure white body-tight t-shirt and branded black jeans fit him perfectly. He took the autographed paper and held it to his heart. Mridula turned her head away in a sign of disgust. Arul got mentally ready for a fight. He was not pretty sure whether a temple would be a right place for a karate fight. Given his long association with the craft he was confident that he could pin him down in 10 seconds.

Suddenly the person disappeared into the same shadows he had come from. Glad that he didn’t have to fight, he picked up the two pieces of the photo lying down. Joining them together he could easily spot the slender youth along with Mridula. He just could not help but notice the difference in color spectrum between the guy and Mridula. He held the photo up to Mridula and raised his eyebrows questioning the authenticity of the photo.

“He is my classmate. We had a photoshoot last year with all our batch mates. He has just blown up both of our pictures and created a new photo”

Arul was satisfied with the explanation. He had always wanted to get things clarified as soon as possible. He started to walk when Mridula clutched his left hand and held it closely to her head.

“I am afraid. He is MLA’s son and capable of doing anything. I want to somehow get out of this place. Perhaps to Europe or US..” her voice trailed off. Arul was struck hard by these words. Why is she mentioning about US to me.

Arul asked her to sit down. He sat beside her. He could feel Mridula grabbing his hand even more tightly. She was much tensed up and her mind, very agitated. Arul in a fit of reaction placed his hand on her temples and gently pressed it three times. He would do that whenever he was tensed.

“I feel much better now. I get so… so tensed up seeing him. I hope appa and amma don’t get to know of this”

Arul nodded his head. “Shall we go? Its getting late.”

They reached the entrance of the goddess’s temple and could see Anjali praying. As soon as Anjali opened her eyes she could see Arul walking towards her with
Mridula’s hand clutching his hand. Jealously bit her.

“They make a lovely pair” spoke Janaki aunty standing beside Anjali.

“He is the person I am going to marry” spoke Anjali coldly. Janaki aunty was taken aback. Anjali moved a few steps towards them and stared at Mridula. Mridula slowly released her grip and then let go of Arul’s hand completely. “Let’s go home” Anjali declared.

“How is she?”

“What do you mean how is she? You have seen her right” protested Arul to his mom.

“Ya ya.. but tell me her character. Is she your type of girl?” continued Arul’s mom
not wanting to let her son off the hook so easily.

“She is.. amma.. and I have nothing like my type of girl amma” stressing on the last few words of his reply.

“If you like her, that is great with me” declared his mom as she got up to leave, muttering why her son does not even want a small conversation with her.

Arul hated to discuss his personal things with his parents. ‘Generation Gap’ was how he put it.

His mobile rang. It was Anjali’s call.

“Hello darling!!”

“I don’t want to marry you” spoke Anjali.

Arul froze. He didn’t want a repeat of the situation that he thought he had just successfully solved. “What? Why?” A stream of sweat ran down his temples to his cheek.

“Mridula wants to marry you” Anjali banged the phone down.

A mixed feeling ran down Arul’s spine.