Right from the way they meet, unconventionally, in a railway station, and an engaging scene of them trying hard to communicate across people in a church, the movie draws you towards them. You start living with these two young, spirited and carefree people as they start their unexpected, spontaneous romance. We laugh with them, we fear for them, we cheer for them. The young couple, bold and ambitious, both equally passionate about their own career choices and unable to “let go” of their personal goals, decide to settle for a “no strings attached” relationship. The choice of talented, bubbly Nithya Menon and Dulquer Salmaan pair adds the right amount of freshness to the film.
The film, through its combination of crisp dialogues, a well blended background music and brilliant cinematography achieves what every film aspires to do – provide an experience. When you forget that you are watching a film, when you forget the names of the actors, and that they are acting, when you forget to notice camera angles, you move into a zone where you are completely involved. Your heart races in anticipation, you unknowingly shed a tear and you smile when something nice is said. You start connecting your life with those of the characters, you start believing you are them. This is when a film becomes brilliant; when it touches you. Mani Ratnam, known for his strong hold on relationships, strikes a chord with this film. He is able to give you the experience of falling in love. The film will make you want to fall in love all over again.
If it would have been just this, it probably would have given you an one-sided view of love. He goes deeper when we are introduced to an older couple, equally lovable. The silent, gentle husband played brilliantly by Prakash Rai, who captures you without imposing his overpowering presence, yet manages to hold your attention with his simple, gentle gestures. The extremely lovable, forgetful wife, played by Leela Samson, provides the well-timed comic relief, giving us a lighter side view of the agonizing, heart wrenching disease, Alzheimer’s. The mature love between them, as viewed by the young couple and how it changes their relationship is what keeps the film moving forward. The scenes of carefree life of the young couple, their adventures in love are juxtaposed against the committed and grounded relationship of the older ones. The young couple slowly start realizing what they would probably look like when they grow older. When the romance fades away, what is left is pure love, an invisible bond that makes you love your spouse unconditionally.
Where the film wins is in the way it captures the right situations, emotions and behaviour of all its characters. You can connect to almost all the characters including the strict brother and the very talkative and suspicious sister in law. You know these people. Seeing them on screen immediately makes you smile. It retains the humour till the end and manages to create emotions without being melodramatic.
One aspect where I might differ from most others was in the way the second half looks forced. Although it takes a very long time to reach the point, there is a certain hurriedness to get to a closure. You start feeling let down as the story loses its spontaneity, boldness and tries hard to become clichéd. I felt it would have been much better to have left it as it was, without having to force a logical ending, giving a feeling that it is the only way. For someone whose dreams would have taken flight imagining the possibilities of a “live-in” relationship, the eventual, conventional end would leave them cheated. The film could have ended the way it was, and in fact, would have made it shorter and crisper. Yet, the film wins because of its smaller moments that are like precious gems strung together to make a beautiful necklace.
Mani Ratnam has definitely tried to bring in some elements of contemporary youth, the “live-in” relationship goes down smoothly, but some others like the ultra glorious life of a software professional, the “forced” video gaming theme that appears in the beginning as well as in between, some of the songs, which can be called experimental, create the unnecessary distractions to the beautiful canvas. It breaks the flow, unintentionally and you start thinking about that instead. The film would have been complete even without these, in fact, probably, would have been better.
For someone like Mani Ratnam, who has already delivered his best with Roja, Bombay long ago, it is unfair to compare his latest work with his earlier ones. This film does not in any way stand up to the high standards he has set himself by his earlier work. Yet, to be fair, it is a sparkling love story, just like its title “Kanmani”, made with a pure heart and has the right elements to touch you; Although, it might not stay with you for as long as you would expect it to.
Badanavalu is a small village tucked away between the boundaries of Mysore and Chamarajanagar districts of Karnataka. We can see this as an obscure station in the railway route that runs between Mysore and Chamarajanagar. One might miss it because the express trains do not stop here and the passenger trains stop for a few brief seconds. What may be easily forgotten as a small dot in a magnified view of a map, at closer look, has an astounding history behind its existence. The villagers, especially the elders, are full of stories from a bygone era.
In the last century, Gandhiji had visited this village. And the most interesting part is not the fact that he visited, but the reason behind his visit. Because, this was no ordinary village. Back in those days, when Gandhiji was advocating “Swaraj” and “Self-sufficient” villages, Badanavalu was a living example of one such model village. The Khadi and cottage industries Centre started by Shri. Tagadoor Ramachandra Rao was a flourishing enterprise, providing employment to the villagers and helping them produce some commodities, mostly hand-made. It played a major role in women empowerment as a majority of its employees were women, who could come and work at their convenience.
And not just the Khadi centre, Badanavalu was a leading supplier of milk, curds and other dairy products to all the nearby villages. Legend has it that, a dynamic woman named Parvathamma used to take this train everyday with her supplies of milk and curd for sale. And the train wouldn’t leave the station until she boarded! Such was the glory of this place and the people of this village. And this is what drew Gandhiji’s attention to this village. He came to experience this beautiful setup and see his dream of a self-sustained village come true.
The vast nine acre campus of the Khadi Centre would come alive every morning with the tinkling sound of women’s bangles and anklets, as they walked towards their spinning wheels. The tranquil atmosphere was broken by the welcome sound of the women’s laughter. The day would start with a daily prayer in front of the Gandhi Mantap. The various neatly constructed structures housed each unit like Khadi spinning, weaving, paper making.
Each building was decorated with its own garden with various flowering plants. The entire setup resplendent with brick walls, tiled roofs and well-trimmed garden gave a homely feel to the Centre. The hand spun yarn would go the weaving unit and any waste generated would feed the paper making unit. The paper making unit housed large machines that would process the pulp. Three living row houses served as quarters for any visiting officials and guests. The water needs were taken care by a well in the premises.
But now, this place is desolate. The once flourishing industries are all shut down, barring a handful of looms that are still managing to exist. There is a deathly silence as you enter the campus. The tree roots are reclaiming the building and towering over them.The buildings are in various stages of ruin – some which are missing tiles, some whose walls have fallen down, some that just exist as a rubble heap, each of them speaking of neglect.
The quarters look like bombed homes, with the kitchen walls still covered in soot and the door frames decorated with vestiges of dried up mango leaves; a chilling reminder of life that was lived between these walls. The campus resembles an excavation site, a chapter from a history book.
The paper making workshop looks like a ghostly hall, with huge machines now standing silently, covered in cobwebs. The place is now house for bats that rest here during the day. A small black board with production log still adoring the wall, a reminder of work left incomplete. Although the pathways to these buildings are still visible, the gardens lining them are long dried and vanished. The entire setup looks like a miniature of how the planet would looks like without its people.
The few women who still come here to work do so with their own determination and grit; driven by poverty, with nothing left to enthral or motivate them. They sit all day and spin yarn, rotating the wheel in an endless loop; their eyes glazed and looking away into a far off past. Some of these women are almost a hundred year old and have been working here for the past forty years. They have witnessed the grandeur and downfall of this place and yet, they continue to sit at their wheel, stoically, day in and day out, unmoved.
It is heartening to see their excitement when someone visits the centre and spends a few moments with them. They greet you with toothless smiles and gestures signalling “did you have lunch” and then nodding their heads when you ask them the same question. Their voices are drowned by the constant sound produced by the spinning wheels.
With the industry unable to provide work for the villages any longer, they are faced with a new challenge – of men migrating to nearby cities in search of daily labour. The women see their husbands and sons board the train each morning with the hope of securing some work, and returning late each night, often inebriated and abusive, from despair. The railway line which was their lifeline has suddenly turned into a curse. There is no milk or curd produced now, it is bought in packets from nearby towns. Severe water shortage has left them helpless. They are now depending on the fast depleting ground water for their needs, with bore-wells drilled as deep as a hundred feet. The place is scattered with structures that look meaningless and ridiculous, even – like a huge water tank with no water, a well that is completely dry, serving as home for pigeons, electricity poles and lines that run everywhere but with nothing to carry.
But, all this is about to change. A few spirited people made this their home for the past twenty days and started a Satyagraha movement here for Sustainability of Villages. The Khadi campus was host to a large congregation of five thousand like-minded people from across the country, from various walks of life, who came here to stand for our villages; to stand for a dream called Badanavalu. Important issues were discussed and brainstormed. One could witness an atmosphere of high energy and positivity, with everyone resolving to do their bit towards sustainability of our villages. Even the tamarind tree at the entrance sprouted fresh green leaves, as though expressing its support.
Sustainability of villages, people losing their life because of migrating to cities, villages unable to provide basic facilities for them to live comfortably, Govt. policies, or the lack of it were some of the issues discussed on that day. Eminent scholars, experts in their fields, celebrities who care, activists from various sectors were part of the discussion panel. The Badanawal Declaration, blessed by Elders, senior Gandhians, proclaimed that GDP is an inadequate measure of growth, as it completely ignores human happiness; and that traditional practices like cattle herding, hand spinning and cooking should also be considered as wealth generators.
Our country, unlike western nations, has a rich tradition that boasted of villages that were self-sustained. The villagers had enough work, good food to eat and led respectable lives. But, a few industries and the lifestyle that goes with it, imported from the west, has lured people to move to cities and leave the villages and villagers ignored. We have trampled upon our traditional knowledge, shunned the grandmothers who told us these stories and burnt the land that gives us food. If we need to come out of this mess, we have to first recognize and respect our villages. We need to build a society that treats villages with respect and stop promoting the false notion we have created that “cities are rich; villages are poor”. The Badanavalu Convention was an effort to understand these and create a paradigm shift.
The people of Badanavalu had never experienced such warmth in years, they reciprocated with open doors. People came here to search for something within themselves – a true “Satyagraha” (Search for Truth) and left with a fresh mind filled with enthusiasm and new ideas. This movement gave a new hope to a lost cause; like a battered army receiving enforcements when they are at the verge of surrender. The people have something to look forward to and talk about in the days to come. And, the cycle continues.
We got this plea from Pasang Sherpa, who was our trek organizer for our Everest Base Camp Trek back in 2010. Having seen the devastation first hand, he considers it his mission to reach out to the remotest villages of Khumbu region to help the earthquake victims of the Nepal Earthquake.
———- Forwarded message ———- From: Mountain Sherpa Trekking & Expeditions <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Fri, May 1, 2015 at 8:39 AM Subject: CHARITY FUND RAISING PROGRAM To: “email@example.com” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
CHARITY FUND RAISING PROGRAM
MISSION: Nepal Earthquake and Everest Avalanche Victim Fund in order to directly help village families survive.
Tashi Delek and Namaste from Nepal.
Nepal is in major crisis and suffered a huge loss of life and property due to the massive earthquake on April 25th 2015, including a series of aftershocks that followed the main jolt. This catastrophic earthquake also caused a tragic avalanche on Mount Everest and many Sherpa guides, cooks and climbers’ lives were lost.
The Earthquake’s direct effect on the closest districts of Nepal including the capital city, Kathmandu is tragic. At the moment Nepal is crying, each and every Nepalese eye is covered by saddened tears.
The whole Nepalese community has suffered from the devastating loss of its people and properties.
Solukhumbu district is a remote district of Nepal where Mount Everest (the highest peak of world) is located. According to the recorded district headquarters of Solukhumbu a total of 21 people including Sherpa guides and porters (as per recorded date of 29th April) have lost their lives due to this horrific earthquake. Everest Base Camp has also been afflicted as a result of avalanche activity.
As a village born Sherpa from the Solukhumbu district where I grew up, who became a porter, later trekking guide and now secretary of Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN) who operates a professional trekking company in Kathmandu since 2002, I must take immediate direct action.
My heart and mind is calling me back to my homeland and its needy poor families who lost their lives due to this deadliest natural calamity ever to have hit my homeland.
Solukhumbu is remote, very beautiful and suffering however the Government of Nepal’s aid funds are not yet reaching those in need. No one is trying to reach to give sympathy and prayers to the families of the 21 deceased as a result of this disaster.
I can’t tolerate it by just watching the trouble from Kathmandu. I am a Sherpa from same district of Mount Everest, son of Himalaya and have direct association with the village people of Solukhumbu. I am feeling deep sorrow and profoundly saddened by the ultimate demise of those brave people of Solukhumbu.
Thus keeping humanity in mind, I decided to personally visit Solukhumbu during the month of May and going to meet relatives of the deceased people and help those needy families who lost their loved ones in the tragic natural disaster last week.
During my visit, I am going to provide donated money to the village people so they can buy their choice of foods, pay education fees or buy any goods they really need to survive and begin a new life.
If we can help them by cash rupees, they can use that cash for any purpose; especially their children’s education at the nearest school so the future of the children can be bright.
How transparent is my victim aids?
I am a professional business man running a trekking company; I am also one of the victims of the earthquake. My office is damaged, my house in Kathmandu and Solukhumbu is cracked but the biggest thing of my life is my family is all safe.
If you don’t have health, food and shelter life is not possible. In order to make a good life for the remaining family of the deceased people of Solukhumbu, I will:
- Visit the victims’ families myself
- I will take photos of each and every victims family I meet
- I will distribute the donated funds you provide to me
- Each family will receive equal donated funds
- I am going to thank each individual on Facebook but if you do not want to be acknowledged via social media please let me know as I respect your wishes
- I will provide a bank receipt to all fund contributors and send to them via personal email
- I will post photos of the destitute people of Nepal my Facebook to show the fund in action.
Please add me in your face book friend: Pasang Sherpa Pinasha and you can see my daily social activities regarding earthquake victims charity since earthquake happen. You also can send me questions at: email@example.com or my company e-mail.
This is not a social organisation’s fund raising campaign and no any other administrative cost involve, that means whatever the cash you can donate, that help goes directly to those desperately needy people of Nepal. It does not involve any political parties or brokers or human workers to pay, it is direct, immediate help to the people in need.
I guarantee that your every dollar will reach those people those are real victims of the deadly earthquake and avalanche.
If you have any questions about my charity fund raising program please do not hesitate to contact me via email or social media.
How you can donate/help?
BY WESTERN UNION MONEY TRANSFER
Western Union money transfer is fast, reliable and free of charge to send money to Nepal for earthquake victims. Please use my name and address below when you transfer donated funds via Western Union.
- a) Name: Pasang Sherpa
- b) Address: Kapan- 1, Kathmandu, Nepal
- c) Subject: Nepal Earthquake and Everest Avalanche Victim Fund
- d) (+977) 9851060947: my cell phone if you require
In regards to the core help for the victims of the April 25th 2015 earthquake and avalanche, every donation of your help will be truly useful and I would like to humbly request for your generous support to make a new life for the Nepalese people.
From the poverty-stricken people of Nepal, I am very thankful to you in advance and sincerely appreciate your kind help and much needed support.
Now – Kathmandu, Nepal
SHERPA, Pasang Managing Director
MOUNTAIN SHERPA TREKKING & EXPEDITIONS( MSTE) P.LTD GPO BOX No: 14444, Thamel, Kathmandu,Nepal Phone: +977-1-4435828 Fax : +977-1-4435828 Cell: +977-98510 60947 / + 977-97510 55600( 24 Hrs) E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org / Sales@guidenepal.com Website : www.NepalTrekkingTours.com www.GuideNepal.com www.MountainSherpaTrekking.com
“So have you trekked in Himalayas before?” asked our guide when I met him for the first time in Kathmandu. “No not in Himalayas, but have done some two day treks in the south of India” I replied sheepishly. “Good good. So nothing in very cold, very long?” he further pursued to my dismay. “No. No. Nothing like here” I said, my voice barely audible. “It’s okay. It’s okay” he said smilingly. Now, I wondered, was it really okay?
When I was excitedly making our list of “must see” places, Everest Base Camp (EBC), Nepal figured as one of the places in Asia. At that time, I had not given much thought about the logistics or the difficulty level of this trek. Little did I know that it was a 15-17 day trek with medium-hard difficulty level. When we (me and my bestfriend / husband) realized we have limited time and budget on our hands, the EBC trek slowly made it to the top of our wish list.
As though to validate our decision, we got a gift – “guide to trekking in Nepal” – a book by Stephen Bezruchka. This is when I started framing a mental picture of the places in Nepal, which was till then so obscure and inaccessible, only represented by words like Mt. Everest, Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary that was so firmly etched in my memory by ever-persistent geography teachers.
It was my long cherished dream to witness the tallest peak in the world. Mt. Everest stood there amongst several other peaks vying for the first place, lifting its head majestically above them all. Initially, the first human instinct, ‘It must be conquered’ did cross my mind. But the little voice inside was urging me not to. A King deserves respect; we should be going there to show our respect by spreading our arms, kneeling down and prostrating before Him. According to both of us, climbing mountains to demonstrate strength, to show we are better than them was not our way of experiencing the Himalayas. It was important for us to feel a sense of gratitude towards these magnificent creations of nature, for they have been forgiving.
Initially, the trek was only a means to reach my goal of seeing the Himalayan Emperor up close. Only after we embarked on this journey did I realize that it had nothing to do with the visuals, it stirred something more; deep within.
Lukla was to be the starting point of our trek to the Everest Base Camp. It is a small town situated in the Khumbu region of the Himalayas. The Khumbu region lies within the Solukhumbu district in Nepal towards the Northeast. Some of the world’s tallest peaks are situated in this region, including the Mt. Everest. We decided to fly to Lukla from Kathmandu in a small dornier aircraft.
It was one crazy decision to fly on this plane due to its notorious landing strip situated at the edge of a cliff; we had contemplated it numerous times and finally decided to go for it. If we landed safely, we could be one of the few privileged ones to have taken this up and would have a very interesting story to tell. If we did not make it, we would become part of the statistics. We took our seats and held our breath, the take off was smooth. Soon we were flying over lush green valleys, flowing rivers and after a while, at a distance we could spot the snow capped mountains.
“There is the landing strip!” someone shouted. I squinted my eyes to see a thin strip of asphalt the size of a little finger precariously hanging at the edge of the cliff and before I could think how the aircraft would land, we started descending. Would the aircraft align itself exactly to the thin strip? I held my breath in anticipation, it was almost unbelievable. But the pilot managed a perfect landing and everyone in the plane gave out a loud cheer.
The trek itself took us through some of the most beautiful landscapes; we were days away from our destination but we had already realized the magnanimity of the landscape. The mountains were so large that it would take us days to go around and cross over into another. We would often realize that at the end of a day’s walk (about 4-5 hours of trek) we would have gone around half a hill. We were aware of only Mt. Everest, but we realized there were several mountains that were nearly as high and equally beautiful and intimidating at the same time. On the second day of our trek, we reached a place called Topdhara where we got a picture perfect view of Mt. Everest. This image I saw will remain etched crisp in my mind; it was the first time I was seeing Mt. Everest, so far had only seen pictures of the tallest peak in the world, had heard only statistics. It looked intimidating, with its menacing peak towering high over all other mountains in the vicinity, guarded fiercely by Nuptse and Lhotse, whose edges cover most of Mt. Everest. I had expected it to stand alone, in the middle of a plain, suddenly rising towards the sky. But there were several others surrounding, it was like an entire army dressed in white, standing guard. And there can only be one King, and he was well protected by an impenetrable fort.
The trekking got progressively tougher and it started taking a toll on my body. The physical effects were noticed at first – heavy breathing, difficulty in climbing, slower pace, tireness, need to rest more often. The psychological effects were more dramatic and took time for me to identify.
We were warned about the symptoms of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) which is commonly noticed among trekkers in this region. The tolerance levels of individuals could vary, so some might be hit at a lower altitude whereas others might be hit at a higher altitude. People living in higher altitudes might be better at handling AMS than people from the plains. For me, it started with extreme tiredness, thirst and a splitting headache while we were on the fourth day of our trek on the way to Dole from Phortse Tanga. The headache got worse and I had to take tablets, but it wouldn’t go away. I lost my apetite, so could not eat much. Since I had not experienced AMS before, it was from theoretical knowledge from my reading that I could gather that I had been hit by AMS. We decided to change our plans and stay an extra day at Dole to see if the symptoms subsided. The next day, without much improvement, our guide suggested that we descend to Phortse Tanga and change our route. Our plans to climb further up to see the beautiful lakes of Gokyo just vaporized in a moment. It was hard for me to believe at first that we would not reach Gokyo, I had read so much about these lakes and had been keen on squeezing this in our itinerary. We had limited time and budged and the greed to see more in the given time drove us to have a grand itinerary. When I sat here in Dole, far away from home, with extreme cold winds gnawing at my fingertips and with a heavy head, it did not seem very hard to make the decision to descend. At that point, all I wanted was to feel a little better and the effect of the descent was almost dramatic. As soon as we descended, I started feeling better, my headache was gone and I even felt hungry.
This whole episode had taught me one great lesson – never to underestimate the power of nature’s forces. All my ambitions, ego came crumbling down and I became even more submissive towards the sublime force. I could right now look at myself in a mirror and laugh; laugh at the greed I had in packing as many places as possible into our three-week vacation without considering our mortal capacities; laugh at the way I got carried away by the impressive and tempting itinerary that our tour guides presented according to my wishes; laugh at myself drinking garlic soup religiously thinking it would help me overcome the symptoms of AMS!
We decided to let go of all our plans, throw away the itinerary and lose control of our lives. Here started the spiritual part of our journey that would change us as people and would empower us to trivialize the urge to reach our destination. This change in us would just let us enjoy every moment of our existence in this beautiful place and thank nature for letting us be amidst her most precious creations.
The headaches stayed with me for the next few days. But now the psychological effects were more pronounced. A deep sorrow, hallucinations of grasslands and home started haunting me often, a strong feeling of being homesick and a sense of indifference or aversion to most activities. By the time we reached Gorakshep, which is the older base camp (we had already crossed the 5000m mark with this), both of us could only manage to ingest a couple of spoonfuls of soup. The views got more and more breathtaking, the landscape changing dramatically from a dull brown to an icy white. We saw the Khumbu Ice fall, a large glacier that runs all the way separating the base camp from the rest of the path to the summit. This Ice fall is one of the most difficult stages in the Mt. Everest expedition, with many people failing to cross it successfully. It looked fascinating, from a distance, of course. But people who crossed and hence would have seen the deep crevices up close would have a different view altogether. But our journey would end here at the base camp; for people who would go all the way to the summit, it would be but a small milestone in their much larger and more arduous expedition.
Ironically, the base camp, although would bring us close to Everest, it would cut us away from the beautiful views of the peak that we had so eagerly sought. The peak gets completely covered by the strong and protective twins Nuptse and Lhotse. We know that it is there somewhere beyond, but we could not see it! It was an awkward moment for our guide-porter duo (Lakhpa and Dorje) as well. They just threw their bags and sat down on a rock, not saying anything, just looking away. And we looked at eachother and smiled; this was where our trip ended. No exhiliration, no hi-fives, no taking photos against the peak in the background. It was a poignant moment, we just sat there in silence for a few minutes, till our condition forced us to turnaround and start our return journey. But I was far from being disappointed, my mind was completely at peace. I was overcome by a sense of humility and respect towards these mountains. I just sat there and thanked them for allowing us amidst their territory and letting us step into their magical world, atleast for a few days.
There are several blessings in our life that we take for granted. We tend to complain about trival discomforts like a bus coming late, traffic jams, power cuts and inadequate TV channels! But we conveniently assume that we have a fundamental right over creature comforts and so easily take for granted what is made available to us mostly due to the fact that we were born in a certain place at a certain time. In the mountains, we saw people smilingly endure such harsh conditions of living – extreme cold, freezing water to wash clothes, no electricity, firewood stoves that take time to light up, unavailability of fresh vegetables, unavailability of a variety of food stuff. I was humbled to see the womenfolk working tirelessly from early morning and resting only after sundown with a hot water bath, the only luxury that they allow themselves in a day. One of the cheerful ladies, Sonam, we met a lodge in Namche Bazar was excited to know we were from India; she loved the Indian cinema. On the outside she looked like an effervescent lady who sits and watches TV, with no worries, but as we spoke to her, she opened up and told about the cold that she has to endure here as she fondly remembers her childhood that was spent in the plains in much warmer and comfortable surroundings. Another lady Dhona we met at Khumjung was keen to speak to me and know about life of women in the cities, how we lived, where we worked. She had accepted her life and did not feel she had to change anything, she was just curious to know how the world outside the mountains was.
It was so cold that it took great effort even to have a shower, which we so often forego in the city due to laziness, even with hot water readily flowing from the taps. Back in the mountains, getting a bath ready was a two hour project and even the thought of slipping out of the comfort of the thermals was intimidating. After I came back, I made it a point to never say no to a nice hot bath!
People go to the Himalayas seeking a spiritual experience. What is spiritual? Is it spreading a mat in front of the mountain and meditating? Is it visiting an ancient monastery and praying to the lamas? Is it thinking of God in every step of our journey? Is it standing at the foothills of a huge mountain and experiencing humbleness? I was not sure. While we were walking we had to exert our bodies to great limits. We had to push it beyond our normal physical abilities and cajole it to move even at great altitudes. With all my senses concentrated towards trekking, I had little chance for serious, complex thoughts like “what is the meaning of life?” “What is the purpose of our existence?” My mind was clear of any deep thoughts. It had the tranquility of a five year old. This childlike state of mind in which I went about walking, tripping on small stones, astonished at huge boulders, trotting alongside our guide without worrying about the route, the weather, place to stay was what gave me peace of mind. This banished any traces of doubt or fear in my mind and retrenched the mind to way back into my childhood where I was carefree and fearless. And to me, this was spiritual.
This was an inexplicable state of mind that I longed to be in much after we returned from our trek. The feeling that made me leave behind all thoughts of family, work, environment, world behind and pulled me from all the human flavors of envy, jealousy, sorrow and joy to a state of stillness and calm – this was what I missed the most once I was back to civilization.
We leave our footprints, sounds, smell in a place we visit that changes it in a certain way; But what the place leaves us with, the way it touches us can sometimes change us completely, like we have never been before.
(Disclaimer: may contain spoilers)
Her enchanting eyes rivet you right from the beginning – those deep, brown eyes that drown secrets and sorrow with aplomb. Haider is the untold story of the “disappeared”. Those fathers, husbands, brothers and sons who are arrested by the armed forces in Kashmir and taken away, never to be found again; a few thousands who are methodically erased from their everyday lives.
Ghazala Meer tells her son Haider “we are called half-widows here…”. They wait eternally, initially with hope that their husbands will return; then with indifference that they atleast locate their dead bodies. Poignant scenes of a wife’s praying silently for her husband to return, a son’s search for his lost father haunt us throughout the story.
Haider’s search takes him through some dark secrets of his family and sets him off on his internal journey of self discovery – from a college kid to a mature man to an insane “madman”; his metamorphosis forms the main storyline of the film.
But what towers over all this is Ghazala’s character. She is a demure wife, teaching in a school and the proud mother of their only son – Haider. She has accepted her dispassionate life in exchange for a decent living with all creature comforts. All she wants is what any other wife asks for – a loving husband who provides, a safe environment for her family and a cozy, comfortable home that she can call her own. When she starts feeling these are about to be compromised, a deep fear engulfs her and she panics. She begs him to stay away from danger; but her deepest fears come true as she sees her house bombed and her husband taken away, branded a criminal.
Left to fend for herself with nowhere else to go, she is faced with a difficult choice – to fight alone for her husband’s return or to accept the worst and take refuge in her brother-in-law’s house. She chooses the latter, knowing well that he secretly harbours a desire to marry her. This is made clear by his frequent flirting, his refusal to marry anyone else and his shameless ogling. When confronted by her son on her questionable intentions, she hides away her shame behind her anger and justifies her actions.
Although a helpless half-widow, she is fully aware of her charm and uses it to her benefit; just as she had exercised emotional blackmail with her son in his childhood, as he recollects. Torn between the love for her son and her future hope of becoming Khurram’s bride, she years for the utopia of a perfect life in the blood strewn icy slopes of the valley. Like a lioness who has lost her mate to a younger, more aggressive male, she stands by her new partner, fully aware of the fact that the new male will eventually kill her offspring.
Haider’s girlfriend and constant companion in his pursuits, Arshia is a young journalist. Their deep love for each other and their innocence is beautifully portrayed. This is in sharp contrast to Khurram’s lustful pursuit of Ghazala and their adulterous relationship. Kay Kay Menon’s convincing portrayal of Khurram marks yet another of his illustrious performances. He proves yet again what a fine actor he is. He is just Khurram during the film; there is no Kay Kay Menon. He can be seen as a “villan”, but then again, you will forgive him for just being human. Tabu as Ghazala personifies grace and beauty. Alternating effortlessly between a helpless mother and a cold, distant mistress, she forms the strong strand that sews the film together.
The film does justice to the place it has chosen as the backdrop – the Kashmir valley is shown in its pristine form in peak winter, resplendent with snow flakes, frosty lakes and vast expanses of white. The cinematography befits a large screen viewing. The scenes of blood on ice haunt you long after you have left the theater halls – an agonizing reminder of the conflict. However, the music is disappointing, considering it is a Vishal Bharadwaj movie, the expectations were a bit high.
But where the director wins yet again is in exploiting and exposing human relationships; the layers of a person, the multiple facets of a human being. Supported by brilliant actors, it only falls short in its inability to build towards a better (and less cliched) ending and the brilliant-effort-yet-not-there acting by its younger star cast which fails to evoke the necessary emotions towards the protagonist.
When the boy killed a lizard for “fun”
you dismissed it as naughtiness
When he tore his sister’s homework
you dismissed it as sibling rivalry
When he poked fun at the girls in his class
you dismissed it as classroom jokes
When he shouted at his mother
you dismissed it as teenage tantrums
When he was caught eve-teasing
you dismissed it as a transitional phase to a man
When he rapes a woman
why is it that you are so shocked?
- When you leave a room, remember to switch off lights / fans
- Do not leave gadgets on Stand by mode unnecessarily
- Always hibernate your computers, switch off monitors when not in use
- Do not throw plastic covers containing edible items, always empty them into food pits, separate out and wash the covers before throwing
- Avoid asking for plastic bags in shops, always carry your bag or shop for lesser items that you can carry with two hands
- Adjust the refrigerator temperature / AC temperature according to the weather outside
- While buying electric gadgets, always check for their power efficiency and buy the most efficient
- Buy only as much as required, avoid wastage
- While running washing machine, always load it to the maximum extent to save on water and detergent
- Try to walk distances whenever possible
- When buying items, always buy ones that do not come in with lot of throwable packing
- Do not wash cars everyday, use limited water and no soap
- Use only 20% of prescribed (or advertised) amounts of cosmetics, toothpaste, ointments etc.
- Reuse vessels during preparation and serving, do not take new plates for second servings
- Always carry a mug and spoon for coffee in office to avoid paper cups / stirrers
- Do not use AC in car when not necessary
- Switch off automobiles at every given opportunity at signals
- Use the water from washing vessels / vegetables etc. for watering plants (but make sure they do not have soap mixed)
- Carry enough vessels when parceling food from hotels
- Use CFLs instead of bulbs
- Feed edible leftovers to animals – cows, squirrels, birds
- Make small notepads out of paper, use one sided printed paper for making notes
- Print non-legal documents on both sides, two per page to minimize paper
- Print only when absolutely required, do not print any documents that can be read online / on computers
- Always carry a hard kerchief / hand towels and avoid tissues
- Do not flush toilets to the fullest all the time, only use as much water as necessary to maintain basic hygiene. Use flushes that come with this feature
- While ordering food, always order less than the maximum require quantity, more often than not it will be sufficient
- Use power saving modes in computers, electronic devices to adjust brightness, switch off monitors etc.
- Buy locally grown vegetables and fruits, avoid exotics (at least limit their use)
- Give preference to locally made products within the state / country that minimizes transport
- Be vegetarian
- Always look for handmade alternatives made locally instead of industrially manufactures, it will use lesser resources
- Buy / Borrow second hand gadgets when possible
- Give away stuff that you do not have use for, you could prevent someone else from buying a new one
- Grow your own vegetables
- Avoid calling both the elevators, one will go waste
- Take a paper napkin only when you have to use it (not out of habit) and take only one at a time
- Buy good quality, durable material so as to avoid frequent use and throw
- Run a bath (using bathtub) rarely, use showers sparingly, use limited water in a bucket for showers
- Use good quality fuel, even if they are slightly priced higher than the regular, in the long run, it will save on mileage and wear and tear
- Buy clothes that are hand woven and colored with natural dyes, these will use lesser resources and does not contribute to industrial pollution
- Opt for electronic mailers, indicate that you do not like to receive hard copies
- Use unpolished rice, it is healthier and reduces processing effort
- Turn off Wi-Fi, locator services on phone when not in use to save battery
A far away voice proclaimed “Food is ready…”
“If you could please excuse me… I know…. I hate it too, to leave such important work incomplete and take a break.”
“But even the most responsible people need to spend time with their loved ones. I had promised my mother, no matter how busy I get, I will definitely have lunch with her. And, that is one promise I cannot go back on.”
“What did you say? I am forsaking one promise for keeping another one? No, not really. I will be back in a breeze. So, make yourself comfortable while I go about my domestic duties as a son.”
I think they will wait for me; after all, they came after me this time.
“It takes a lot of discipline ma, but I always will ensure that my lunch hour is with you, one full hour, no disturbance.”
“Here, l am switching off my phone. I was in the middle of an important meeting with Mr. Sampath, you know, the movie producer. Yes, that’s right, he is the one who produced “Nanna
Ninna Naduve”. My next is with him, if all goes well.”
“Oh come on, why talk about work now…”
“What have you made for lunch today? Avalakki? Is this why I came leaving such an important meeting?”
“But today is ekadashi, so cannot eat rice, Partha” mom started again.
“Oh, now you don’t get started on all that superstitious stuff again. I am tired of it.”
She knows how best to spoil a perfect day with silly traditions.
“It is for your good only, I am keeping a strict vratha for you” she started.
“Ok whatever, see, I don’t interfere with your puja, the least I ask for is a nice little meal, rice, sambar.”
Ok leave that, now tell me how is your knee pain?” I thought changing the subject would make it a pleasant conversation over a meal
“I have to get a surgery done, that is the only way I can get rid of the pain, doctor told me again”, she answered, “… but it is very expensive, we cannot afford…”
I hated this topic, but she raised it every now and then. It was not that I could not afford it, I get a lot of money; of course lose it easily too. It is all part of life in show biz. But, a few thousands for my mother’s surgery is something I could afford. But she never understood this; she believes that we cannot afford it.
“No, ma, don’t go for surgery, that is not the best way… try Ayurvedic massages, you follow traditions when it comes to food, why not follow ancient sciences when it comes to surgery?” that silenced her for the moment
“Ok, now I should go back to my work”
“So, Mr. Sampath, where were we?” I had to negotiate this contract today, if this slipped, by any chance, I would have to knock on doors again for work. I had to convince him that I had the right script.
“So, the hero looks into her eyes and then …… ”
He looked convinced, although, I must have gone a little overboard on the emotional part of the story. But melodrama is a vital part in any script. What if I had exaggerated it a bit, I could always go back and re-write some of the pieces.
“I think so too, Mr. Sampath, the audience will get their towels wet, not handkerchiefs. Ha ha.. ”
“Ok, sir, I shall wait to hear from you”
Yes, I nailed it, sucker will be back for more. Always tough to extract the advance from him, but I shall have to wait patiently. I can give this to my mother for her surgery, at least she will not go around telling neighbors that her son does not take care of her.
Creativity stems out of extremes; extreme happiness, extreme sorrow, extreme fear… for me it comes out of extreme exhaustion. I have to be completely exhausted at the end of the day to even be able to write a couple of decent pages of the story. I know it might sound strange, most of the writers I know need peace of mind and relaxation before they can start writing. Even my favorite authors escape to the Swiss Alps or the Himalayas to be able to write their masterpieces.
But not me, I get inspiration from extreme tiredness, when I have pushed myself to the limits. Then I open a bottle of whisky and stare outside the window, that is when I start feeling my characters speaking to me, I can almost see a different world just on the other side of the glass.
When I was a little boy, I remember telling my mom that I see people outside the window. At that time, I could not comprehend that they were not “real” people, so I would be ridiculed or reprimanded. I would often force myself to shut my eyes tightly and sleep, because, I knew I could not speak about this to my classmates at school. If only my father would have been around, I felt he would have understood. He was, after all, a dreamer, a storyteller, just like me.
All my famous stories have come out this way, during the busiest days. I push myself to the extreme limit of exhaustion, and then, in the near collapse stage, my mind clears up all of a sudden and characters that were hazy till then, somewhere lurking in the back of my mind, become vivid and come to life. It is as if I pass out and enter a different world.
I know my life itself can be a story someday, but as of now, I do not see many takers for such stories. So I stick to writing love stories, emotional family dramas that fetch the maximum price in the industry. Generally, stories come out of personal experiences, to say that I have written fourteen love stories so far, and have not found the love of my life or for that matter have not even been close to finding one might be hard to believe.
But that is the truth. I am a loner, a self-proclaimed recluse, extremely talented, at the brink of my career success but not so lucky in family matters. And why would I believe in love anyways, I have seen my parents being in love for a few years and then tearing each other apart in hate for the next few. It was so bad that, just before their divorce, they could not even stand each other’s shadow. But I stood by them; I understood that they had to separate. Quite a display of maturity for a ten year old, they said, but I was not surprised, because, I just understood.
So here I am at yet another love story, this time I am sure it is going to clinch it. My last script was a super hit, I had almost tasted success, but that sly Guru took all the credit. So much so that my name was nowhere mentioned in the credits. They changed the main character from female to male and just twisted the ending, but all along, it was my story. I had cried for a whole month, I did not come out of this room, just wanted to hide my face in darkness. But, I did not press charges; such copyright issues are common in film industry. Which is why, I just believe in my writing only, rest is not in my control. I just continue to write, get better with each script.
“Do you want to sleep all day? Wake up and do something”
ah… morning, that was ma, her usual “suprabhatam” trying to get me out of bed. She does not get it. How many times should I tell her that I am mature enough to wake up myself, I know when I have my meetings and I shall be all ready by then.
“Partha, go have bath, breakfast is ready”, she was relentless.
I dragged myself out of my bed, towards the bathroom. Mom had arranged my clothes and towel neatly and had filled the bucket of hot water, all I had to do was have bath. She pampers me to the point of spoiling me, maybe it is her way of repenting for the misgivings the divorce has inflicted on me.
“Nothing interesting on TV, how can these channels keep showing us the same old stuff” mom complained.
Mom loved her serials on TV but whenever anybody was around, she wanted to show that she was not interested in what she was watching. The unintelligent serials, made worse by frequent commercials was too poor even by her standards. Considering there was nothing better to do all day, she settled to the comfort of the (aptly named) idiot box for company.
“This director tried a movie, but it bombed at the box office, wasted considerable amount of money from producers, now he is directing TV serials” I used to give her “inside information” from the industry to alleviate her boredom.
“I had met this guy the other day, you know, that actor, Rahul, his real name is Sanjay. He was tired knocking doors of directors, finally he is on TV and look how famous he has got now.”
“They wanted to take him for the next movie I am writing the script for, but I told them he is not a new face anymore, my story needs a new face”
I glanced at mom to see if she was entertained by my trivia. She did not say anything, nor did she seem very excited, she had in fact, closed her eyes (and probably ears as well). I switched off the TV and started going through the film magazines I subscribed to, there were many, I wanted to read as much possible to stay abreast with the news. Mom always told me that there were too many that I subscribed to and could not afford it, I only told her to wait till my next big break, once I get famous, I will be appearing in these magazines and will be getting complimentary copies of many more.
I got totally busy with my story I was writing for Sampath, I got to see lesser and lesser of mom each day, but as soon as I stepped out of my home-office, she would be right there waiting for me with food or a glass of milk or fruits.
The other day I was surprised to find her in my room, dusting. “… so much paper all around… ” she was muttering to herself.
I got extremely angry almost to the point of hitting her “what are you doing here? Ma, don’t you understand that these papers are important to me… ”
Then I noticed that one of my scripts that was lying on the floor was missing, this is when I lost my temper “Who authorized you to go over my stuff? Where is my script, return it immediately… or else… ”
“What script Partha? I only found old newspapers strewn on the floor, so I cleaned them and gave it away last week… ” she explained.
“Are you stupid ma? Don’t you understand the different between newspaper and a script?” “I spend all day writing the script, and you just gave it away? so much hard work… God.. what will I do now… ”
She just looked at me dumbfounded as if I was speaking french or something… She neither apologized, not said anything in her defense. She just gave a sigh and walked away. Such carelessness, I thought.
A year later….
My movie got released today, I took my mother to the theatre, first day first show. The theatre was full, my pulse was racing and as the opening sequence started, I whispered to my mom who was adjusting her spectacle-clad eyes to the big screen and the lighting
“now the hero opens the umbrella and runs behind the girl who is ….. ” she silently listened to my half-lines, whatever I could whisper without disturbing the guy sitting next to me.
Halfway through the movie, I looked at her, tears were rolling down her eyes and she was wiping it off with the edge of her sari. The scene was not tear-jerking, in fact, to be honest, far from it, but I think she cried because she was proud of me. It was probably a very emotional moment for her to see her son’s story being shown on the big screen.
During the interval I bought her caramel pop-corn, I knew she had liked this earlier, but today she did not have an appetite. It was almost the end, she started getting up.
“Partha, let’s go out”
“But ma, the credits are yet to roll, don’t you want to see your son’s name coming on the screen?”
she brushed past my seat without answering and went towards the exit, as if in a hurry. I sat there torn between waiting for credits to roll and going towards exit, I decided to sit there and wait for the credits. It said directed by Phani I clapped, it said screenplay by Ravi, then, I waited, my breath almost stopping. It said story … by … Srinivas Murthy. Not Parthasarathy, I couldn’t believe it happened again. I sat there dumbfounded. I could feel my eyes clouding with tears, I could feel my cheeks getting moist. I had this terrible urge to murder the people behind this, in a rage I got up and stormed out of the hall.
I saw her standing there, in the bus stand opposite the theatre, with an empty look in her eyes, with her tears dried and no more fresh supply to wash down the shame. I wished that the earth would open up and swallow me, just like it did in my stories, when needed. I could feel a drop of water fall on my arm as I stood on the other side of the road, waiting to cross it. The next moment, it started pouring, I tried to look at my mother, who was by now trying to cover her head with her sari pallu. The rain created a sheet between us, creating the much needed cover for the naked empty space that was created earlier. I was not sure she had seen me, but the more I looked at the frail, obscure sari clad figure, the more I started weeping.
“I shall take you around in a car ma, just wait for this movie to become hit… ” my own words echoed in my head.
But I had to cross the road, I had to show her that I was brave. I went to her and kneeled down in front of her; and in that bus stop, in front of some random passer by motorists, for the first time, she hugged me. She sat down with me on the foot path and we hugged each other and cried. The warm, salty tears blending in with the cool, fresh raindrops and getting washed down the drain.
I tried explaining to her that it could have been a mistake, they will be able to correct it in the next reel, I am sure these days with digital technology, they could even correct it the next day. I asked her if she liked the story, she did not look at me, just continued walking, we walked all the way home.
That night mom walked straight to her room and I could hear her sobbing continuously.
Somewhere around ten, I could hear her speak on the phone, she never called anybody so I was curious to over hear.
“…. Raghu… he is your soon too… ” so it was my dad she was calling.
Probably she was elated to have watched her son’s movie and wanted to share it with her husband (uh.. her ex-husband, actually).
“He has seriously started believing it… no… it’s not like earlier now… Raghu, listen to me …. ” she trailed off.
I could only hear parts of it, but seems like she was trying to argue about something.
“…. He pretends he writes script for famous writers, he even has imaginary conversations with them, sits across a row of empty chairs at his desk.. all dressed up… ”
how audacious, how can she make such irrational statements about my behavior? I listened on.
“…. Raghu, I always wanted a normal son…. you know it… I never had any great expectations from him….. I want my normal son back… not a script writer, not a famous personality…… ” and then, she started weeping uncontrollably.
“….. why can’t I have a normal son? What have I done? God…. why this punishment…. ”
“It is not that… Raghu, please understand….. it is not that simple… ”
I did not have time for such accusations, I had a bigger job, tomorrow I had to call up the producers and ask them about my missing credits
“…. It was the limit today, he took me to watch what he claimed was his movie….”
“He even told me the story while watching… of course wherever it differed, he just said they had changed it… ”
“… of course he is making it up Raghu, I could not control my humiliation towards the end…. I knew he would be heart broken seeing the credits rolling.. so I got up and walked away… ”
Oh mom, stop it, I need to sleep. I could still hear her mumbling on the phone, but I drifted off to sleep.
The Next Day
“Partha, wake up… are you going to be in bed all day?”
“Ma, come on…let me sleep some more… I was attending phone calls till late night… “
“Yes darling”, Savithri replied, as peacefully and lovingly as she always did. The tone was no different from her “Breakfast is ready” or “Go to sleep now, don’t sit on that computer”. Savithri rarely lost her temper. In fact the only time she did, was when Abhi, her elder son in a fit of rage had hit a classmate so hard on his face that the kid had collapsed. The incident had led to Savithri and her husband Raghunandan being called to the principal office. She hated sitting in front of the principal; shamefully, looking at the floor like one-of-those-mothers-who-could-not-bring-up-their-kids-right. Later at home Abhi had got a thrashing. But that was ten years ago. Abhi grew up to be a handsome young man no one could complain about. And Savithri was a proud mother.
“Ma! Ma! Ma!”.
“I am coming, baby”. While Abhi grew up to be rather silent, his younger sister Anu was the polar opposite. Right now, she cried out loud from the room because her hair-clip was missing. “Look carefully, you must have left it under the pillow or something” Savithri spoke as she searched the room keenly. Arranging the bed linen and moving the pillows aside she said “.. or you must have put it into your bag itself”. “Ma, you always tell the same thing”, Anu retorted. “And you always lose the same clip”. Both of them smiled.
“You are slowly becoming careless and losing …”
“… your things all over the place. Young girls should … ”
“… have some discipline and …”
“Maaa! I found it under the cot”. Anu was holding it like she found a gold coin under her cot. “See? didn’t I tell you that you always leave it there”, Savithri said while feeling much better about the situation. “You never told me that, don’t bluff”. “All right, all right, why don’t you quickly get ready; papa will drop you in 15 minutes”.
Savithri’s household was the synonym for chaos during mornings. If her husband putting on the daily news on TV did not contribute to the noise levels, you could rely on Anu to throw a tantrum. If her father-in-law did not complain about the breakfast then it was the maid who constantly nagged about the quality of washing-powder given to her. “Madam, my hands don’t get so slimy washing clothes at the neighbors'” she had once declared. “They are rich people; not like us” Savithri had retorted. Raghunandan, who wore his pride on his sleeve wanted the earth to cave and suck him in; he buried his head under the newspaper. It was always better that Savithri dealt with all this; he had neither the inclination nor the time.
“I want to be a doctor”, Savithri had said.
That was decades ago, when she was in school. Her teacher had asked her what she wanted to do when she grew up. Sometimes, during the afternoon when her father-in-law slept and the maid had finished her work and gone, when Savithri had the entire home to herself, she would lie down and stare at the ceiling thinking about how silly she was to even think she could become a doctor. While her eyes moistened, she thought about her journey through life. “Should I have opted not to marry?”, “Then again, did father have the money to send me to medical school?” she wondered. “Oh come on, money was not the problem … or was it?” she argued with herself. “Anu needs to get a good score in those exams”. “Why is Abhi so silent these days?” and then her thoughts trailed away.
“Why are you looking so dull?” asked Raghunandan. He meant to ask “You look like you have been crying” but avoided it altogether since Savithri was very particular about being a strong person; last thing he wanted was a situation where she would retreat into a shell. “I am not dull” came her reply. “Okay, if you don’t want to tell me, then don’t, but don’t try to convince me that you are alright” said Raghunandan almost regretting the fact that he asked; he might have as well got lost in some pending work from office instead.
“I am worried if Abhi is into some bad habits”. She was peeling away the cover from her pillow and looked away when she said that, almost whispering as the sentence ended. “What? What bad habits?” Raghunandan paid keen attention. “Like … bad habits … like” she said. “You mean he has a girlfriend or something?” Raghunandan tried to extract some humor out of the situation. “No. No. He has no girlfriends” Savithri replied a tad too seriously to that query. “Oh! now like that is a bad habit. Tell me what you meant first” he asked chiding himself not to kid with her again. “I don’t know, I don’t want to talk about it. But he has become very silent and dull. He was not like that before”. Raghunandan knew where this was going. She was starting to think her son was into some form of substance abuse, but even thinking about it caused her fear.
“You know Savithri, I really don’t think so. He is a smart boy and responsible, probably it’s just the work pressure. He just started working right; all that must be getting to him” he replied, trying to ensure that her fears do not take control of her senses. It was a sensitive situation and the last thing he wanted was for her to go and ask him something like this directly. “But you know what, I think you should speak to him” she said. “You hardly speak to him these days, I have noticed. I at least talk to him in the morning when he eats his breakfast here. You are always reading that newspaper or watching TV. I don’t know when those news channels will run out of money, at least you will have time for others”. “Ah, now its all my problem” Raghunandan said. It was not long before that conversation ended in bitter silence and both of them went to sleep, or at least pretended to. Staring into the darkness above both of them wondered about how to bring this up with Abhi.
“… your time is not good right now. All kinds of misfortunes await you. Shani is …”
“Appa, could you please switch off that TV” Savithri told her father-in-law who stared at the screen where an astrologer spoke to people over phone. “Shani it seems” she muttered to herself as she carried a hot Dosa towards the dining table where Abhi sat staring at his plate. Raghunandan sat next to him reading the newspaper. Savithri nudged her husband lightly as she walked past him. Raghunandan had completely forgotten the discussion from the previous night and looked at her and asked “What?”. These were moments that she hated. “How can he act so dumb, like he does not know. Whole night I was thinking about this while he snored away” she thought and walked away.
But he seemed to have remembered, because she heard him from the kitchen. “So Abhi, how is work?” he asked. “Ok” came Abhi’s reply, after what felt like an hour of silence. “Are you happy with work? Do they pay you well? Do you want me to ask Venu-uncle for openings in his company?”. “Dad! did I tell you they pay me bad?” Abhi finally spoke. “No”. “Did I tell you that I want a change of job?”. “No”. “Then why don’t you leave me alone”. When Savithri came out with another Dosa she found the dining table empty. Abhi had left for work and Raghunandan sat in the living room staring at her with the it’s-all-your-fault look in his eyes. “Ma”. It was Anu, and Savithri knew this episode ended here for the day.
“Where are you off to?” Savithri asked. Her husband and son seemed to be wearing their little used sport shoes and getting ready for something. Both of them looked sleepy-eyed but nevertheless spoke high-spiritedly. “Me and Abhi decided to go for morning walks from today. He did not agree first, but now he seems interested. After all he is my son” Raghunandan declared as the “my son” part invited certain looks from Savithri. “my son, yes of course when he is in the mood to say that”. Still wondering about the turn of events she moved to the garden to pick some flowers for her daily puja. “If not anything, at least he might get some time to talk to Abhi about his dullness” she thought as she plucked the best-looking flowers.
“Savithri, you make the best garlands”. “Savithri aunty this chutney is super”. “Savithri-akka the rangolis you draw are the best in the neighborhood”. “Savithri, no one has served me like you did during my illness”. Everyone seemed to shower praises on her. But yet, during most of the day she spent time thinking that she was somehow inadequate and was destined to do larger things in life. Although she never really concluded what those larger things were and why she could not attain them. “I am happy if my family and children are happy” she once told and forced herself out of a vortex of depression that she feared would consume her.
“You need to start behaving like a lady, Anu. Sit properly” Savithri spoke rather loudly for her usual self. “Ma, I sit like this all the time. I think you are angry with dad, so you are taking it on me” Anu said. Since Anu was right, Savithri did not want to accept it “Just because you sit like that till now does not mean you can always do. You need to behave; especially in public”. “But Ma, where is the public now? Come on!” she replied as she walked away into her room. “This girl will not understand” she told loudly enough so that someone heard, at least her father-in-law who sat with the small transistor to his ear. Her father-in-law, as always, never contributed to domestic communication.
Sarojamma was her name; Savithri’s mother-in-law. “A very kind woman” Savithri always opened conversations about her mother-in-law with that sentence. And she was not lying. When Savithri walked into this household, Sarojamma had tears in her eyes. Savithri never understood why but cried along and that is how they had bonded. Much later, she heard stories of Raghunandan’s little sister who had passed away while on a school excursion; a trip to the banks of Kaveri where the river had claimed her in a freak accident. Sarojamma had been waiting since that day for another daughter to take her place. “We cannot have a family without love and affection for one another” Sarojamma had once told her. “I understand” she had replied. The Savithri of today was very different from what she was when she was newly married. The only thing she did then was shadow her mother in law in the activities around the house and when she got a nod or a nudge from her, she retired into the room with Raghunandan. “What a timid lady!” Raghunandan had thought.
This was only till Sarojamma had suddenly succumbed a jaundice related infection. After his wife passed away, her father-in-law had turned into a very silent persona due to depression. Savithri hesitantly picked up the reigns and started taking care of the entire household. Nothing was left to abandon, every detail was looked into. Who gets breakfast when? Who likes what? When are the bills paid? Are we due for paying taxes? Do we need to fix the plumbing? “How much work!” Savithri sometimes exclaimed. Then again she liked it. In a weird way she had found her purpose. “Life does not come on a silver tray for everyone” she remembered Sarojamma’s words.
“Abhi likes a girl in office” Raghunandan chose what he considered a safe time to tell this. Savithri had almost got sleep and her eyes were shutting off. “What?” she replied drowsily. “Abhi likes a girl in his office, and he wants to marry her”. Savithri got up and sat on her bed, then without even asking any further questions she raised her eyebrows and straightened her lips and seemed to conclude something. “Oh. So that is it. I knew it was a girl. Poor boy must have got trapped” she said. “Hey, don’t claim things. You never thought it was a girl. In fact you thought he was onto some kind of drugs or something” Raghunandan corrected her stand. “Drugs? When did I say drugs?” she replied. Raghunandan did not pursue the matter since it was pointless with her. She probably just wanted him to handle it, and he had done it. Morning walks gave him ample time with his son where these things could be discussed in a man-to-man fashion. He was a proud dad.
The next morning Savithri declared “No chutney today, have some pickle instead”. Abhi stared at the plate. Raghunandan did not look up from his newspaper. It was Savithri’s childish punishment for both father and son because she was being kept out of this. “Ma” It wasn’t Anu for a change, it was Abhi who now held his mother’s wrist tenderly before she could get away into the kitchen. “She is a nice girl. You will like her. I was worried about telling you, that’s all” he said. “Okay. fine. Invite her for Ganesha Habba, but strictly with her parents. Dad told me they know already”. Savithri said as she moved away into the kitchen to wipe her tears. She was unsure if she was happy or sad.
Raghunandan and Abhi left for work. Anu retreated to her room. Father-in-law was sleeping in the living room. Savithri sat at the dining table humming a devotional song. “Thank god that is resolved” Savithri prayed to her deity. Finding absolute peace with no one to disturb, she decided to make some sweets for the Ganesha habba.
“Maaaa”. Anu wailed.