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“That’s all anna” she spoke to the guy at the counter and asked me to pay which I did grudgingly.
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I shot a cold stare at my co-passenger who had just screamed his lungs out. All the passengers in the train were training their guns on the poor guy who had been scared by all the stares by now. I wanted to speak to my co-passenger to calm him down, but recalling his earlier non-cordial nature, I just kept quiet. The train floated magnificently through the clouds and I soon began to doze in to my dreams again.
I rudely shook my head to remind myself to not fall asleep and be a prey to my bad dreams again. I realized now, why the ticket conductor type of person had advised me against sleeping on my journey. One quick glance around me told me that all the other passengers except my co-passenger were fast asleep. Without my I-phone to give me company, I simply stared at the white cloud outside the window.
“Did I shout too loudly?” queried my co-passenger much to my surprise.
“You definitely woke me up mate” I spoke and gently laughed off his concern with a wave of my left hand.
“Hi, I am Thyagu” he introduced himself.
“I am Ashwik” I replied back.
“I guess you would have also had a bad dream” I made a wild guess realizing that everybody had fallen asleep like me.
Thyagu just nodded his head. Silence engulfed both of us as a giant white cloud streamed past our face momentarily blinding us.
“Do you remember your dream?” I questioned him. I was a very normal person, completely disinterested in other’s life and business but the circumstances had changed now. I was very sure that he would not want to know about my life and the great relationship I had with my mother and how I landed on this train.
Thyagu let out a deep sigh. “It’s a very long story” he spoke. “And we have all the time in this world” I replied with a smile.
“It roughly started about two years ago..” he started his story.
“TG” a soft voice hissed in my ears.
Deep into my holy sleep, I shrugged off the voice and rolled over to the other side to sleep on my tummy. Suddenly out of no where water droplets trickled on the nape of my neck and glided over drenching my new tee shirt. I knew who the culprit was, but was in no mood to oblige. A minute later, I could feel her soft hands pinching my left cheek.
“SD” I yawned right into her face.
“Bad fella.. bad breath” she replied making a curious face which bordered between extreme rage and forceful pity.
Her acerbity soon gave way to a sweet smile which I had been accustomed to for over ten years.
“Beautiful” I spoke mono-syllably.
“Thanks” she blushed.
“I spoke about your dress” I teased her. She gently knocked on the top of my head with her knuckles.
I just wanted to hold her, right there, and give her a ..
“Who wants some hot ginger tea?” spoke Suja Akka, as she entered the bedroom cautioning me from doing something dramatic.
Damn you akka.. I cursed her silently. Sujatha, my elder sister had been my best friend, counselor and guide for time immemorial and she always knew what I exactly wanted in life.
“Good Morning akka” spoke
was my best friend. Our friendship had blossomed from the first day we met each
other. We played every sport known to kids, collected stamps and coins
together, fought over video games and I cleared her countless doubts in
mathematics, which she was least fond of. She was my best friend. But the times had changed. SD. SD
“Morning Sunanda” she spoke gently as she disturbed my thoughts. Akka placed the two cups of tea a little far away from me.
“Akka..” I pleaded.
“Don’t you ever care to brush your teeth?” teased SD. I blinked open my eyes and scratched my head and shook my head and presented a toothy smile.
“SD, don’t you have your last exam today?” spoke Suja Akka finally.
“Oh shit!!” I got up startled.
“What to do akka.. I was trapped by a stupid fella’s promise that he would drop me at my college.” she spoke. I had promised her yesterday that the combined strike of the auto-rickshaws and bus drivers would have no impact on her exam schedule.
“Give me two minutes”, I spoke ashamed of my memory lapse and ran in between the plastic drums placed on either side of the bathroom, which were a grim reminder of drought times in Chennai years ago.
“Let’s go” I called out to SD about a minute later. Hygiene never mattered to me as the mouth-sprays and deos did their jobs perfectly.
“Drink your tea. We have plenty of time”, she assured me.
“It’s ok. Tea can wait” I tried to take the moral high ground.
“I make the best tea on earth and you don’t want to even taste it”, cringed Akka.
I gulped the tea as if it were some poison laced with sugar. SD quickly walked down before me and went to her block of apartments. I resided in Block F while she resided in Block A, which was close to the entrance of the OMGC colony.
As I was about to close the main door, as Suja akka came running up to me.
“The keys..” she thrust her scooty keys at me. My sweetheart on a scooty, I sighed.
“I need a bike akka” I protested.
“You will get one, if you promise to tell me the truth” she spoke in a riddle. There was not even one of my secrets that she didn’t know about.
As my eyebrows embraced together, she smiled and spoke, “Do you really like her?”
I blushed and tried to snatch the keys from her. She would not let go of them that easily.
“Akka..” I bent forward to come close to her and spoke, “I love her!”
“How much?” I asked the guy selling the parking tickets. He stretched out all five fingers to the fullest extent. I searched for the five rupee coin and handed it over to him and started walking towards the ticket counter of Udayam theatre.
“Two Minnalae 5:30 show” I spoke at the counter literally shoving the people off my back. The movie “Minnalae” had just completed 75 days and was running steadily towards the 100th day.
Where the hell was she? I wiped off the beads of sweat which had lined up on my forehead. Suddenly from the corner of my eyes, I could see a beautiful girl in bright blue chudidhar. She walked with a care-free arrogance, with her back-pack juggling behind her back. Her doe shaped eyes, her matching blue bindi, her dimple filled smile and her teeth braces made me absolutely forget the fact that I had been waiting for her in the hot sun for the last forty five minutes.
Wish I could just take her in my arms and...
“Hey jumbo” she waved at me. I swallowed the saliva locked in my throat. I agreed with her that my tummy was a little over-size and combining with my short stature made me look shorter than her in perspective. But who cared..
I motioned my watch to let her know that she was late. “You are also late” she spoke nonchalantly as she dragged me into the theatre.
“Popcorn, Fanta and..” she stopped ordering and thought for a second what she wanted more. I gave her a thoughtful look.
“That’s all anna” she spoke to the guy at the counter and asked me to pay which I did grudgingly.
“You are so sweet” she pinched my cheeks as she handed the Fanta bottle to me and we both took our seats in the air-conditioned theatre.
Three hours later, when we came out, I realized why this movie would run for more than 100 days. It was an out and out love story. She adored it and so did I. As I tried to kick start my sister’s scooty, I realized a little too late that the money I had with me to re-fill the scooty petrol tank had vanished with the Fanta and Popcorn.
“What?” she spoke looking quizzing at me.
“I spent all the money that I had got” I replied sheepishly. It was her turn to get angry. She crossed her hands and gave me a look that looked somewhat like an angry smile.
“Lets walk” she decided for me.
The 25 minute walk to our apartment from the Udhayam theatre was punctuated with silence for the first 10 minutes. “Vassegra..” she slowly started humming the tune of the chart-buster song.
“Vaseegra..” I started to sing and she gave me a sharp look. “Don’t you dare sing jumbo” she spoke meanly. She had ten years of carnatic musical experience to back her claim. I simply stared blankly at her.
“So.. You liked the movie?” I tried to divert the topic.
“I loved it man. Maddy, so handsome” she stared in to the sky. I wanted to remind her that he was married but decided otherwise.
“Wish I had seen Maddy before his wife” she spoke, as I immediately applied the brakes on the scooty shocked to see that she had read my mind.
“What?” she questioned. I shook my head. “What kind of guy would you want to love?” I spoke trying to pry more information from her.
“Tall, dark and handsome” she replied. I let out a deep sigh. Not even a single match!
“Thyagu” her tone changed into a serious one as spoke my name for the first time in our conversation.
“Who is that girl?” she quizzed.
“Which girl?” I replied. I actually knew what she meant but wanted to her to ask that precious question.
“Com’on Thyagu” she spoke half-pleading. I shook my head and smiled.
“I know you really like somebody. Even Suja akka was telling me about something”. It was the second time that I applied the brake sharply.
“What did akka tell you?” I spoke alarmed.
“Actually..” she delayed her choice of words “nothing” she finished. I let out a sigh of relief. The time had not come.
“You will be the first person to know when the time is ripe” I gave her a more confusing answer.
“Ok. Atleast tell me how does she look?” she wasn’t going to give up.
She is wearing a bright blue chudidhar and walking right next to me. “She is most beautiful girl I have ever seen” I started slowly “She has doe shaped eye, milky white skin, jet black hair, beautiful bindi” I stopped trying to gauge her reaction.
She looked thoughtfully into my eyes and smiled. “I know her” she replied. “Janavi right?”
Girls are the most brilliant species. They can solve the most complicated problem and yet fail to see what’s right in front of them.
I laughed out and saw that I was confusing her more. As we reached the apartment gates, I motioned her to move ahead, lest her Hitler dad saw both of us together.
I waved her a goodbye through the dark night as I dragged my scooty silently through to my block and parked it and started thinking about Sunanda. I loved her a lot!!
“Welcome to Heaven” spoke a deep baritone voice, as I cringed hard. I desperately wanted to hear in full the love story of Thyagu. It was such a lovely story. Did he propose to her? What happened to their relationship?
The questions had to wait as both alighted from the horse-pulled train and proceeded in a single file to the main entrance of a giant dome shaped building which was quite similar to structure of the building where I had started off at first.
A middle age man with neatly combed hair took down information from each one of the people standing in queue. Nearly fifteen people stood between Thyagu and me and as Thyagu went up to the clerk. The clerk stood up from his creaky chair and started shouting at Thyagu. A supposedly senior officer suddenly came into the picture and tried to cool down the visibly agitated clerk.
What the hell was going on? I desperately wanted to over-hear the conversation but I just could not hear even a single word except that Thyagu desperately tried to apologize to the clerk. I moved through the queue with none of the people standing in front of me having the guts to question the clerk. It was my turn to stand in front of the clerk and specify my details.
“What is your name?” the clerk spoke angrily.
“Why did you shout at my friend?” I spoke quite agitated that the clerk would shout at somebody as good a person as Thyagu.
“Son, mind your business. You really don’t know what crime he has committed.” he hissed sharply trying to control his simmering anger.
“Sir, from the blue band I see on his hand, I believe he must have also lost somebody he preciously loved.” I made a wild guess.
“Yes” spoke the clerk thoughtfully, perhaps appreciating my wild guess. “But you don’t really know how he came here or which precious person he lost?”
“Sunanda” I made a wild guess again recollecting the story that Thyagu had shared with me.
“You must have discussed in the train” spoke the clerk in a more cheerful voice. “But you don’t know how he came here”
“Perhaps he must have had a heart-attack like me when he lost her” I made an even more random guess. I just didn’t know where these were going to take me.
“That’s true but not in the way you think.” spoke the clerk smiling pleasantly at me.
“I don’t understand sir” I spoke timidly.
“Thyagu must have told you that he loved the girl. Did he tell you that the girl rejected his proposal of love?” spoke the clerk.
I just shook my head. “How could the girl have rejected his love when he was so madly in love with the girl?” I questioned the clerk.
“Ah!! That is the same question he asked the girl and when, even when after repeated proposals the girl did not accept his offer, he called her to a location outside the town and strangled her to death”. The clerk’s last few words knocked the winds out of breath.
“He then cried desperately over her body and had a massive heart-attack and now stands right here, before us” the clerk finished the story as I shot a cold stare at Thyagu who had sunken low into his chair.
I gave my details to the clerk and went and sat beside Thyagu. “You didn’t tell me everything, buddy” I spoke harshly.
“I was just about to tell you man. I really didn’t plan to kill her. It just happened in the spur of the moment. I really loved her” he tried to pacify me with his side of the story.
“Ashwik” the clerk called out as I went up to him. “Take the door to the left and keep walking straight till you find a big tree in a park.” he instructed.
I followed the strange instructions and reached the big tree situated right in the middle of the park. The amazing tree had nearly twenty or more different types of fruit hanging from its leaves. Suddenly I felt a hand touch my shoulder. I turned around and stood gapping at the person standing in front of me.
“Amma” I spoke and bear-hugged my mother. Amma gave me a huge hug and kiss on my forehead.
“I am sorry amma. I acted selfishly and took care of my needs only. I didn’t take proper care of dad and you” I spoke fast, trying to push out my thoughts. “Please forgive me for my all sins” I begged her.
“Ashwik, you are the best son any mother can dream off. You worked very hard and sent enough money for your dad and me to have a peaceful life. I was a little disappointed that I was not able to see you towards the end of my life. But you have a family to take care off. I have seen you now and I do not wish anything more in my life.” Amma spoke with much jest and vigor.
“Can I place my head on your lap like the old days amma?” I spoke with tears in my eyes. Amma gently sat near the huge tree and placed my head on her lap and started singing an old song that she used to sing in my childhood days to make me sleep.
“Can I borrow your son for a second?” spoke a distant voice. Both amma and I were startled to see goddess Kaligambal as she walked up to us. Amma and I stood up with folded hands amazed at the sight.
“I have never seen such a mother and child relationship in a very long time” she spoke with a smile. “Ashwik, can I have a word with you?” she requested which sounded more like an order.
I walked a few paces with the goddess leading the way. “Can we speak here?” I spoke not wanting to leave my mother off my sight.
The goddess laughed again. “You are such a good child and so is Thyagu”. I cringed on hearing that name again.
“Don’t cringe, son” the goddess spoke. “He also loved a person as much as you did. While, I certainly would not appreciate the way he acted, I cannot take yours or his life for your actions of love”
“I am going to send you guys back to earth” she declared as I suddenly remembered why only both of us wore blue colored bands on our wrists. “Look there” she spoke as I saw Thyagu stand in front a girl as she repeatedly slapped him and then cried out aloud, cursing him for ruining her life.
“He certainly has repented for mistake and so have you. So it is time for you both to go back home” she spoke as I turned to walk towards my mother to give her a final hug.
“However, as you are the best son any mother can dream off, I will grant you a constrained wish” the goddess spoke in a riddle.
“You can take your mother back with you to earth..” she spoke as I jumped up in joy, “or..” she explained the other option that I had.
I stood there stunned and confused at the biggest decision I was to take in my life.
“Ashwik!!” cried out Saraswati. I felt my soul being gently placed in my body as I coughed roughly gulping in copious amount of oxygen.
“Thank God, he is alive” spoke Saraswati with a huge amount of happiness and excitement.
I turned around to find my lifeless form of my mother in the ice-box. I looked towards the entrance of the bedroom door, where two unknown people had just come in. Thyagu and the girl, who had scolded him for ruining her life, folded their hands towards me as I stood up on my feet, albeit a little weak.
I had chosen the other option of saving the girl’s life at the expense of my mother.
I slowly removed the ice-box cover and gently bent down near my mother and kissed her on her forehead and whispered in to her right ear, “I LOVE YOU AMMA!!”
Uyirum Neeyae, Uravum Neeyae,
Ulagam Neeyae, Thayae!!
(You are my life, You are my blood,
You are my world, Dear Mother!!)