Nitya was alive. And thank God for that. The fall had caused multiple fractures on her right hand. Some sharp object had caused a wound on the forehead and it was bandaged. The doctors ruled out any internal injury and miraculously, she along with the rest of the Nagpur group was safe.
Rumours were rife that it was a bomb that had shattered a number of compartments on the TN Express. Terrorists, insurgents, extremists… whispers soon reached a crescendo… The anger, the grief, the despair was palpable and maami just wanted to flee from the scene as soon as possible. The mother, maami and the wife in her was selfish… but there was a wedding waiting… or was there?
It was then the thought of going into a wedding without ‘anything at all’ suddenly gripped maami with fear. “Aiyyo,” she wailed, “What will we tell Gopal’s parents? How will the wedding happen? All the money, gold, silver and clothes for the wedding are gone.” The realization also shook the other members of the group who had also lost whatever they had brought along with them… and they were so far away from Nagpur… who would help them?
For the first time, it seemed as if maami had no strength left in her. After all, it was her daughter’s life at stake. She sat down on the ground holding her head in her hands and sobbed quietly. Jayati came over and said, “Maami, let us atleast get to Madras. Then we will see what can be done,”
So it was a distraught Nagpur group that got into a relief train heading for Madras. It was the day of the nischayathartham (the day prior to the wedding) and the groom’s side were to arrive at the mandapam in the afternoon as was the custom.
And who was waiting for them at the station? Maami couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw Gopal, Krishnaswamy, Baby, Ramakrishnan and Krishnambal at the station. Baby cried out loud, “Gurvayoorappa kapathitaar… (Lord Guruvayoorappa saved everybody,” and hugged maami tightly. Gopal too was in tears seeing his beloved Nitya injured but safe. Soon the group was huddled into a van with maami befuddled as to what was going on. When she tried to say something, Baby silenced her with, “Apprama peshalam… first chaptutu rest pannungo… nariya velai irukku…” (We will talk later. First eat and then rest… there’s lots of work to do…)
“Aao, Aao,” said Baby in her broken Hindi as she led the Nagpur group to the rooms inside the mandapam. And then she along with her husband, Krishnambal and Ramakrishnan vanished. Meanwhile, Archana was also trying to contact a few relatives about the possibility of borrowing money to help maami.
Around 11 am, Baby came back loaded with shopping bags. “These are clothes for all of you… and wedding saris for Nitya. I just grabbed those I thought fit… did not have much time to make choices. And for the ladies, right next door is the tailor who has promised to put her team of 10 into action… they call it one-hour stitching these days,” she said and smiled! Next she handed a jewellery box over to maami. “What’s mine is now Nitya’s!”
Maami could not believe what was going on. She was too overwhelmed to say anything. She just managed with a “Let Siva come… he will take care,” when Baby stopped her with a “We are relatives now. Nitya is my daughter. The wedding will go as planned. We are taking care of everything. We shall talk in detail about this after the ceremonies are over.”
“Manushal-kku manushal than vennam….” (helping others in need is most important), said Baby in her sing-song Palakkadian voice as she hurried to make the rest of the arrangements. Leaving the Nagpur group too choked with emotion that they could hardly speak.
The wedding went ahead as planned but in an austere manner. Siva arrived on time from London and so did VSRVV, Nitya’s best friend. Gopal willingly helped Nitya throughout the ceremony, holding her left hand tight till Kanakavalli laughingly pointed out that Nitya would have another fracture if he didn’t let go.
All was well in maami’s little world…. “Yes, thank God for that,” she thought as she locked her hands into Baby’s, the tears speaking a thousand words.
But there was still a lot to be done…. And a silent prayer rose in her heart!