Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Mylapore Days - Story 2

Bright Clothes and Tarnished Thoughts

18-March-1997 – 06:00 P.M.

Sethuraman was not a happy man since his heart was bleeding about the riot that occurred at home that morning. Unlike the men from other parts of Madras, most of the gentlemen of Mylapore preferred getting high by circumambulating Kabali and Karpagam to immersing in the intoxication of Kingfisher and Kalyani. The middle-aged Sethuraman walked around the temple till his feet turned red and chose to disappear in the crowd that was witnessing the Vocal Performance by Balathirupurasundari. The incident which looked like a fiasco to Sethuraman refused to escape his memory. He relived those moments and chewed the words that bruised his ego ruthlessly. The ripened voice of the singer didn’t have the capacity to make the family man forget his woes. Sethuraman closed his dull eyes, opened those back in few seconds and started walking to ‘Sharadha Silks’.

18-March-1997 – 11:30 A.M.

Bagyalakshmi, the significant other of Sethuraman was busy micromanaging her scullery maid, Panjali. The mediocre housewife said, “Panjali, that’s a sari which he bought just yesterday. Today is our wedding anniversary and that’s his gift for me.” Panjali was scrubbing the dishes, but picked up the sari upon her mistress’s instruction. “Oh, maami. Wedding Anniversary! Have you prepared any sweets today?” asked, the curious maid. Bagyalakshmi sighed, picked up the new sari and narrated the story for Panjali. The homemakers in Mylapore considered the maids as their friends, but was jolly well firm about setting the expectations clearly. The maamis of Mylapore believed in entertaining the house-maids by sharing the daily affairs with them and also stated the disclaimer and warned the ladies to keep those zipped up. Mrs. Sethuraman confided in the maid and spoke her heart out. “It’s our 10th wedding anniversary today. He pestered me asking what I want this time as gift. I wonder why he asked this time, when I had to remind him about our wedding anniversary all these years. I told him that I want the ‘vaanam’ sari that Rajam has bought last week. Did you hear about that sari?” Bagyalakshmi questioned in an inquisitive tone. The housemaids of Mylapore were overqualified to substitute their mistresses in carrying out the daily chores. They were cognizant of the daily affairs and took pride in their ability to converse in broken-English. Panjali nodded her head vehemently and said, “I know that, maami. In truth, I saw Rajam maami clad in that ‘Vaanam’ sari. It’s a cotton sari, isn’t it?” Bagyalakshmi ignored that question and threw light on the debate that occurred between Sethuraman and herself. “I told him that I want only ‘Vaanam’ sari and it’s available only in ‘Sharadha Silks’. In spite of having shared all the details with him, see what he has got for me? He didn’t go to ‘Sharadha Silks’. His alibi is that he didn’t hear me properly and ended up buying this sari from ‘Sujatha Silks’. Panjali, from any angle, does this look like ‘Vaanam’ sari? It’s called a ‘Vaanam’ sari because it’s sky-blue in colour. This blue is darker than the original ‘Vaanam’ sari's blue. I’m deeply disappointed. I didn’t cook this morning after he showed this to me. In my 10 years of married life, this is the first time, when I have asked a gift for our wedding anniversary. When he has paid the least attention to my preferences, then it proves that he had bought this for the sake of it. I didn’t smear ‘kumkum’ on it and didn’t touch it when he was around. I didn’t talk to him, didn't cook and didn't go to see him off.”, told Bagyalakshmi querulously. The dagger that pierced Sethuraman deep was that his wife failed to send him off that morning, which was a tradition that all the almost every Mylapore couple followed religiously.

Bagyalakshmi left the sari in the scullery unknowingly after her whining session with Panjali when the cooker shrieked and to prepare coffee for the maid. Panjali picked up the clothes from the scullery and failed to realize that the new sari gifted by the injured husband was also a part of the worn clothes. The maid filled a huge tub with water, soaked the clothes and thunderous noise could be heard by the neighbours when she beat the clothes to drive the stains away. The sincere maid rinsed the clothes and dried those in the shared terrace. The clothes wore the look of Sethuraman’s face. They were shrunk too.

18-March-1997 – 05:30 P.M.

The lazy homemaker enjoyed her siesta, savoured her filter-coffee and climbed up to the terrace to collect the laundries. She was jarred at the sight of a ‘Vaanam’ sari in the terrace. Along with Bagyalakshmi’s clothes, a ‘Vaanam’ sari was moved by the evening zephyr. She picked the clothes and was perplexed about the strange appearance of her favourite sari. The child-like wife of Sethuraman hurried to Rajam’s house to learn if that belongs to Rajam. The cordial neighbour uttered a negative response and the ladies chatted for a while. Bagyalakshmi was bewildered and was preoccupied with her thoughts on the sari. The maid was late for her evening duty and hence tip-toed into the scullery to clear the dishes. But her efforts were turned futile by the mistress who caught her moving in and stopped her to quiz about the uncanny incident. Panjali was puzzled too and both the ladies started to search for the sari that Sethuraman gifted that morning, but their quest ended vain. After sieving the entire house, Panjali screamed in the tone that Archimedes would have employed when vocalizing his victory. “Maami, you left the sari here when we were talking this morning. Perhaps, I washed this along with the other clothes and the colour has faded after the first wash itself. You are lucky, maami! You were upset that maama didn’t get the ‘Vaanam’ sari, but this looks exactly like the one that Rajam maami bought from 'Sharadha Silks'. You must be happy, maami!” told the maid. Bagyalakshmi looked pensive, pondered about the series of events and couldn't agree more that the faded cloth looked just like her favourite. She rushed to the kitchen, put all the ingredients for 'Rava Kesari' in a huge vessel and the entire neighbourhood was filled with the aroma of the scrumptious sweet.

Bagyalakshmi appeared gay when she spread a bit of vermillion on the new avatar of the sari which her husband had gifted. She draped the ‘Vaanam’ sari and took meticulous efforts to get the folds right. The house was filled with the godly odour of the incense sticks. She hurried to the verandah hearing the call of flower vendor, decorated her braid with some flowers and continued to wait at the threshold to see her beloved partner to return home.

18-March-1997 – 06:30 P.M.

Sethuraman, the henpecked husband stepped into ‘Sharadha Silks’ that was filled with ladies lined up to buy their piece of the sari that was getting sold like hot cakes. Sethuraman, who wore a tired look picked up his wife’s favourite sari and asked two customers to ratify if that was the piece which Bagyalakshmi wanted. Sethuraman lacked the interest to return home and moved a bit faster than a snail to the counter to hand some notes. The busy cashier stamped the bill and told something that Sethuraman couldn’t comprehend since the man at the counter talked nineteen to the dozen. The gloomy husband of Bagyalakshmi asked the cashier to repeat. The annoyed man said, “We have Buy 1 Get 1 offer for ‘Vaanam’ sari, sir. Please show the bill to collect both the saris in the delivery counter.” Sethuraman smiled, thanked the cashier, collected his bag and believed that he had sated his wife’s wish.

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