Before the well-laid plans were put into action, there were certain domestic matters to contend with. Maama, after being taught a few home truths along with the other men of the chawl had been chastised enough to lift his lazy finger for Nitya’s marriage preparations. It was amusing for maami to see maama poring over ‘to-do’ lists and running to the market at a mere request. Even Ramya forgot her morcha-organising buddies for the time being and whole-heartedly supported maami with the shopping and other nitty-gritties. For a wedding, and that too miles away in Madras was a huge affair. So much to pack, cartons and cartons of stuff that they had to take with them on the train.
Of course, cricket was high on the list of priorities too, not only for him but for everyone in the chawl. Sivakumar, much to everyone’s disappointment had been dropped for the first test, but had risen to the occasion in the second, where he took five catches and scored an enterprising 74. But it was in the one-dayers that he came into his own, causing his childhood idol Krishnamachari Srikkanth to comment, “This young boy has a bright future!” Six words on TV that had Siva and the entire chawl entourage to literally bloat in pride. In between all the wedding preparations, maami and her family had to endure many reporters at the door and by the end of three weeks, had gotten quite experienced at it. But what endeared maami to the journos were her forthright comments, “I never thought this ‘kiricut’ was a great idea. But I’m also glad my son is successful. Maybe in my heart of hearts, I wish he would also complete his graduation!”
And so the day of leaving for Chennai finally dawned. Maama, maami, the Krishnamurthis, Ramya, Nitya, Kanakavali, Archana, Joyda and Jayatidi boarded the TN Express on a cold January day. Sivakumar would directly fly from London to Chennai; enviably he was also the first in the family to set foot on a plane and also travel abroad. VSRVV promised Nitya that he would land a day before the wedding. Despite the tension of the upcoming event, everyone was happy as they boarded the second-class compartment and looked forward to a long train journey replete with card games, impromptu antakshari sessions with co-passengers, the neat packets of iddlis, tamarind rice, chappatis with tomato curry and curd rice and the watery coffee served from the pantry car.
After the customary change of clothes and footwear in the train, the small Nagpur group settled down and proceeded to talk loudly about the wedding. Maami dropped her usual cautious self and also joined in the conversation, proud that she was soon to pull off a wedding that her extended family from all parts of India would surely talk of, for days to come. Siva’s cricket earnings had ensured that Nitya would have a decent wedding without maama and maami not worrying over what they would do for Ramya.
But sometimes, things don’t go according to plan. And what happened on the night of January 22 on the TN Express was not what anyone had even remotely dreamt of. Something that had maami wailing, “Why me, why us?”