Thursday, 24 November 2016

Aati kya Khandala?

Granny wrinkled up her nose as if about to sneeze.
It was a sign she was going to say something I'd find disagreeable.
'Thailand is Hindu, no?'
"No, paati. Buddhist.'
'So, they have gone to Thailand for Buddhist pilgrimage?'
I chuckled.
'Young people, nowadays, are intelligent and broad minded.
'Shraman & Brahman worthy of equal veneration'.

'But, when I asked if they wanted to come with me to Tirupati...'
'Paati! Maybe some sankalpam of theirs- remember no baby as yet is forthcoming'.
'What? They told you like that is it?'
'No, no- not as such but, you know, nowadays for these high earning young couples, pilgrimage to local place seems too easy. So they take sankalpam that when God's Grace vouchsafes such and such, then only we will take the bliss of going this or that teertham.'
"Oh! Like that is it?'
Her dismayed pout disarmed me.
I became voluble. 
'See, paati, times have changed- don't you know it? Both are IIM alumni. Earning extremely well. Your San Francisco son is reckoned a billionaire, I say! Her parents too are wealthy. Just young couple are going three four days to Thailand to enjoy. What is wrong?'

'Why not they save and tie up house?'
'Paati, you don't understand young generation. They will never leave home.'
'Except for going Thailand?'
'This Puja holiday it is Thailand. Christmas it will be London. But Pongal with you only.'
'Why not Pongal also?'
'What are you saying paati? You are the one at fault.Why cooking so delicious? How anyone can ever leave?'
'Oho! Buttering is it?
'What buttering? Cholesterol problem, sugar problem. How I can butter anyone?'
A plaintive note had entered my voice.
The frail old woman had little sight left. But within her own two little rooms, at the side of this vast ultra modern bungalow, she moved swiftly and with confidence. Her maidservant- whom I still mentally called vitavai- though, by now, all my 'grannies' were widows- was going deaf. From their shouting in the kitchen I became reassured that I was going to get a proper 'ghee roast' dosa cooked in clarified butter.
But then, these old women thought I was a widower.
That's why paati could be so frank with me.
You see, I never told anyone back home I was divorced.
Instead, whatever I had madly raved was that Black Sun, the truer truth of the Truth.

My wife used to cook for me. I would sit on the sofa in our little two room flat and the mouth watering aroma of sizzling pancakes would waft its way to me. 
We both worked, but salaries in those days were tiny for young people like us whose only ancestral wealth was an aptitude for academics or arcane actuarial professions.
I should have split the household chores with her. Treated her as an equal.
Instead, when despite all our precautions, my son came along, I...
I had to earn more money
Get out of the back-office.
Carouse with Clients...

I'm not a Sales guy.
Sales guy knows how to make it up to the wife for working all hours
He knows an affordable little getaway place that will revive and restore the Honeymoon's rising sap.

Aati kya Khandala?

I never had that...what?... streak of vulgarity?
That masculine something which makes up for the miserabilist horizon of the struggling, ethnically challenged, lower middle class?
Be honest.
Shame the Devil.
I just wasn't bright enough.
Hadn't the drive.
Didn't have what it took to take from the World so as to recompense that Wife which is the Soul.

Aati kya Khandala?

A joyless desert of a life redeemed by the desertion of that spouse who
to the suttee's eternal flame consigns you too.

I didn't have the money to take her to Thailand.
But, and this is something I lied about to paati, I could have done metaphorically what her grandson was doing with his wife in Phuket in actuality.

 Thai Surgeons are expert at transferring the genitals of couples to each other. Each then experiences what the other felt at the receiving end. Young highly qualified couples, nowadays have the money, the security, to go to Thailand and swap genders for a 'long weekend'. It strengthens their relationship and makes them more, not less, attached to their grannies and parents and own culture and native place.

Enough words!- the vitavai servant is bringing me my butter fried dosa.
Paati cooked it but only that perpetually dependent child widow is allowed to serve me.
When I came here after my breakdown it was something I shouted and screamed.
I am a Hindu widow!
Not widower.
Don't talk to me of remarriage.
Let only the vitavai serve me food.

Ah! paati, don't you see!
A son is that Thai Surgeon who, once he departs with the wife you drove away,
Does to you what yuppie couples now do in Phuket by way of but play.

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