Nitya’s love ‘affair’
The proclamation happened some time between 7 and 8pm when the radio was blaring songs on Fauji Bhaiyiyon Ke Liye. Just when Subedar Lal Singh’s farmaish for Raina Beeti Jaaye ended, Nitya told Maami, “Amma,Ungitta enakku onnu sollanam (I have something to tell you) fumbling with her Tamizh and switching over to more confident Hindi with “Mujhe kisise pyaar ho gaya hai!” Before the announcer could present Naik Shyam Kumar’s request, maami came running from the kitchen (where the Mysore rasam was foaming with a vengeance) and switched off the radio. “Ithe than ungalellarume kedakarathu (This is what is spoiling all of you!”) as if switching off the radio would erase whatever Nitya had just said.
When the silence sunk in… so did the enormity of Nitya’s statement. Maami sat down on the floor and said to herself, “I must remain calm… shouting or screaming is not going to do anything! I don’t want the shame of a girl from my family eloping with a boy.” With the absence of maama and Sivakumar (who were at Joyda’s to watch a India-Pakistan one-day international; where the entire men folk of the chawl had gathered for some screaming bonhomie and Jayatidi’s singharas and piping chai.) maami decided to tone down the dramatics a bit, for want of an audience. Ramya was away at her friend Rekha’s house, busy catching up on college gossip.
Nitya was surprised at maami’s calm. Perhaps it was the weekly bhajan she had just attended… she thought with a smile playing on her face. For Nitya too… had a huge suspense lurking behind that proclamation. Maami stifled the screams, gobbled a few insults and asked Nitya, “Aaru di athu? Pakkathe-atha Telengu-payyan-aa? Sirichu Sirichu mayakittana?” (Who is it? The next-door Telugu boy? Did he mesmerise you?). Nitya laughed loudly at maami’s conjectures and also at the thought of VSRVV… (yes, that was how the Telugu boy with initials longer than his name was called), mesmerizing her. Someone who shared her interest in philately. And who had a mother whose kitchen smells overpowered everyone else’s in the chawl, and who never forgot to send a dabba of spicy pulihora or gongura chutney over and that Nitya gorged on…
“No. Amma,” said Nitya her laughter tinkling like the soft notes on a tanpura. “It’s Gopal, Krishnamurthi Athimber’s friend!” “Gopal… who Gopal,” maami tried to recollect and then in a flash, it came to her. “Antha Malayalathu Payyan Aa?” (The Malayalam boy?) And in an instant her heartbeats returned to normal.
Rishinaradamangalam Krishnaswamy Gopalakrishnan aka Gopal was a Brahmin (Thank God for that!) but from a place where maami hardly thought one of her daughters would be married off to – Palakkad. For, the Palakkad Brahmins though thankfully (to maami) were Brahmins – but most of them never knew where their roots in Tamil Nadu were. Generations of them had settled down in Palakkad and were as much part of the Keralite ethos as a native Malayali. They had more Malayalam than Tamil in their vocabulary and their customs were quaint and different.
With heartbeats back to normal, maami began quizzing Nitya on where the so-called romance had reached. In an hour, she realised that it had progressed to the extent of weekend bike rides to Seminary Hills (she must quiz that Sharmila to whose house Nitya supposedly went to, for combined studies every Sunday) and chaat sessions at DP.
Nitya knew that her mother had been cornered. She would never bring herself to say no. Gopal worked in the State Bank of India as a probationary officer and had a very good future ahead of him. He was also known to the family. So what if he wore soda glasses and sang his Tamizh instead of speaking it? As for his family and the Palakkad factor, everything was manageable. After all, Pyaar kiya to darna kya?
This post is for my nephew Pratap aka Koushik aka Prabhat and niece Leela… whose roots are in Rishinaradamangalam. I love the name. And of course, for the Palakkad family I’m married into…
Pulihora: Andhra tamarind rice
Gongura chutney – chutney made of gongura leaves