Thursday, March 23, 2006

Mrinmayi and Malathi

A circular beam zoomed from the eastern skies and created a private sun on the wall. This miniature sun steadily sank in front of her, as the sun at the east rose behind her. Sweet child of mine, rocked heavily from the blaring speakers. Malathi looked at the apparent slow movement of the sinking private sun and her usual ironical lop-sided smile appeared thinking about the underlying paradox.

A few kilometers away, at Mrinmayi's house, the sun sneaked through the opening that she missed to seal last night and it basked her pale foot. She wanted to sleep endlessly night after night like how she found pleasure in swinging from one link to another on the web. She was clambering from the floor to the bed; she didn’t know when she had fallen off.

After Mrinmayi sprawled on to the bed, she started frowning as her mind recollected the closing lines of their last conversation. “Does it not hurt you just because it is your finger nail?” Repugnant assails never seemed to cease. Each one badgered the other with questions and remarks that only created conundrums for which these two would never be able to find a solution. Mrin didn’t quite know what went wrong in the lovely relationship that they had shared when they were in the same college.

Was it distance or was it that they knew each other too well that it had started to hurt? Theirs was a simple relationship and though everything between the two was so lucid, it never ceased to cause envy among their common friends.

Malathi, the plain and sarcastic lady, would pass off for any normal uncomplicated girl. But she was the kind who would appeal to a select few. Though she had often wondered what made a few people like her a lot, she never got an answer for it and each time, at the end of the analysis, she only ended up laying false definitions of herself.

Now, after about a year after college, they worked for the same office. In fact, they really wanted to get into the same organisation after their college. But the stars were not in favor of them, and Malathi took up a job in a small concern and Mrinmayi in a relatively bigger company though she got offers from bigger multi-national companies, she refused them for the sake of higher rate of growth.

Though their offices were poles apart, they always made sure they met each other in the weekend and exchange thoughts on mundane topics, small talk, stocks and shares, happenings in their streets, in the world—basically anything under the sky. It was something really simple that they had shared and they knew each other’s limits, dislikes, hate, sorrows and happiness. More than anything what worked for them was the respect that each had for the other, despite each other's anomalies, differences, and shortcomings.

Well, after a few months there were a few vacancies in Mrin’s concern and Malathi for her unmistakable intelligence, she did crack the hard nuts and landed in the same place as Mrin’s. Things were sailing smooth and looked pretty neat, until the day when Mrin's organization had asked her to travel abroad for a high-valued assignment.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

An morning in Mrin's life

Heaps of mud decorated the road of the potters. For a change, they were not to make tiny pots that shelter the grains or water from pelter. They were to be used to create edifices, where the object of over-confidence, who thinks he is the GOD, is to take shelter. In fact, the structures would themselves be ashamed of their skyscraping.

Joys of innocence spread warmth on Potters Street. The bundle of joy was from the kids who were apparently happy about discovering the wetness in the fine sand in their feet and hands on a hot morning. Four kids surrounded the mound, started digging from the four directions, dug in deep till the first two found each other's hand. Several sets of four were waiting for their turn. The winners would then team up together to play a bigger game.

Several minutes of dedicated patience was being spent on repairing a watch that stands a proof of something irreversible--a horologer was repairing his customer's watch with his object-magnifying monocle on.

Mrinmayi was aware of all this while she was still contemplating whether to attend the eleventh-day function of Satthi Amma's demise. It was a bountiful Saturday and the one that Mrin was waiting for a long time. She was to meet her friend who had just come back from Jaipur. She never knew when she grew fond of his beautiful hazel eyes and his very non-apparent dimple that other people would have to search for on his cheeks. Perhaps, even before she became aware of him. People who knew his lineage would know from whom he had inherited those beautiful eyes. It was his mother who had those lovely glowing eyes that spoke a language of its own. Like an add-on, Mrigank had an additional charm in his eyes that would make you say hi, even if you have just met once and were a reticent person.

They had studied together till their class ten, and they were neighbors too. The fact that, the school roll call had Mrin's name immediately after Mrig's made quite a significant difference in the rate at which they got to know each other. But then, as fate would have it, Mrin's dad had to come to Madras owing to his occupation. Mrig and Mrin were the best buddies in the whole world till then, and even after they had departed, fate had them meet at least three years once, somehow, till before college and quite often during college days. Mrigank got an admission in a college in Madras aka Chennai. He had to keep reminding himself of the name change because he was so used to the name, Madras. It is certainly true for the number of times he would have referred to the place with that name, on quite a few dozens of envelops. They wrote to each until the advent of internet and other communicate-on-the-go type of mechanisms such as sms, mobile etc.

Just as Mrin was immersed in those lovely hazel eyes, she jolted with her eyes wide open and sprang towards the wooden table where the cell phone was present. The sense of urgency was quite apparent to the fact that she was expecting a call and also to stop the tremors that the cell phone was creating thereby disturbing the clam ambience.

The cell phone displayed ‘M’. It was Mrigank.

In a jubilant voice Mrin said, “Hey!!”

Mrig, in an elaborately long intonation said, “Hi!”
The interval between the ‘H’ and ‘I’ seemed so long that you could finish speaking one long sentence in the style of disclaimers that appeared on the stocks or insurance ads on TV.

So what are you up to in Madras?

Oh! Nothin much, just trying to recuperate a bit.

“Recuperate...? Why? What happened?”, asked Mrin in a worried manner.

“There was a small accident while I was trying to get off the plane.”, said Mrig in such a nonchalant tone that you would want to shake up the person and remind them of taking the responsibility of being a bit serious in life.

And you are saying that as if you went and got a pair of casual trousers?

Hey, Mrin!

Mrinmayi just loved it when people called her ‘Mrin’, despite the fact that one of her friends made sure that she called Mrin by her full name, because of the fact that the name sounded very Russian. She was indeed right, because there was a small village called ‘Mrin’ in Ukraine, a country that shared borders with Russia.

“It isn’t a big deal, just a small scar near my eye, and on the cheek.”, said Mrigank in an amused intonation.

Oh, man!! That is bit too much. What do you mean? And now, because of your nonchalance, I am getting a bit suspicious on the adjective that you used to describe your scar. Did you say ‘small’? I am afraid it is getting a bit serious here.

Hey! No you don’t have to worry to the details of the inch of the scar. I am perfectly alright.

No, Mrig. You are staying at Shruti didi’s place, right? I am coming over right away. Don’t take this as a chance and run away from the house. I will be there in another thirty to forty minutes.

Mrin’s call ended with a ‘Stay-right-where-you-are’, in a purposely americanized and threatening intonation.

Before Mrig could say an elaborate ‘Yes Madam’ in a rhetorical manner, he heard a distinct silence at the other end.

Mrin had already hung up and had started her vehicle to leave to Bose Nagar—the place where any hermit would love to settle down in his meditation. It was such a clam place and it would be an ideal place for an early morning walk or a walk at any time of a cloudy day. She reached his place, wished the elders, and Shruti didi, Mrig and Mrin collaborated into a long pending raillery of each other and there was no ending to the roars arising from the house.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

An evening in Mrin’s life

It was just another day in the life of Mrinmayi—tall, fair, pretty, intelligent, and 28 years old. If you think that she is the protagonist of this story, you would soon learn the truth. The workload was pretty lean those days, due to the recent increase in staffing at her workplace. After many days, she got a chance to return home in that hour of the day. She decided to walk the few kilometers from the station that is situated nearest to her house.

The roads were pretty dusty due to the early evening breeze. The flowers on the floor stood as a proof of the breeze that blew and axed the flowers from its root, or rather, from wherever the breeze could spot a weak link between the flower and the tree. The fact that it was not breeze, but gushy winds that did what she saw in front of her, was slowly dawning on her, because, there were also a few fresh leaves that the wind managed to execute. The flowers from the trees decorated the road with pink, lavender and mild-orange and with strange patterns. A few yards away, there were huge, dead, ugly leaves on the road. There was constant rustle as the road was quite busy. And as she went past it, she enjoyed every moment of the rustle she heard.

Apart from all these scenic observations, she noticed that a few men, even at this time of day, were indulging in revelry after heavy intoxication. That brought a scowl on her face and transported her back to reality. But, within a few minutes, she reached home. She removed her shoes and as she was about to enter her house, she realised that her dad who was sitting in the veranda of their house was attempting to tell her something. She turned back and saw him just complete a few words.

"What did you say, dad? I didn’t quite follow you.” asked Mrin as a response.

"Satthi amm... Satthi Amma has..." he tried to say something, but she could just witness the tearful expression and hear her dad, as if he suffered from an infected larynx.

"What happened to her?" questioned Mrin with her eyebrows coming closer and thereby creating a crest on her forehead.

"Satthi Amma has passed away." broke down her dad.

OOPS!! What happened?

"She was well until today afternoon. She had her lunch and complained of being a bit uneasy. The tenants then asked her to take some rest and put her on to the bed and a few minutes later she breathed her last breath." replied Mrin's dad. She could sense that the composure claiming its way back into his system.

What was her age?

85. Almost the age of your grandma. But when compared to your grandma, Satthi Amma was pretty healthy during her last few days.

Did you go and visit her house?

Yeah, I was there the whole day, trying to set right a few things for the funeral.

Memories of the old lady flashed her mind with her overall face appearing first, then the diamond nose stud that constantly shimmered, and then the mole on her face. She was the only person who remained with the same intensity of white shade on her hair and seemed like she never grew older than that. Mrin had identified symptoms of Satthi Amma ageing, probably, only when she complained of difficulty in climbing their two-storeyed building to meet her dad. In retrospect, she was reminded of the gap in between the front teeth, her slanted walk, the summer holidays, her grand son kaarthi, his mom—the english teacher, the long and broad wooden bench by the side of which she use to sit in the earlier part of Mrinmayi's life. Her memories then darted across to the days when she used to just wave and smile to Satthi Amma who sat at the doorstep of her house, perhaps her way of catching up with the world, whenever Mrin went past her house on the bike.

Mrin was carrying out her routine and then when her mom came back from office, she broke the news to her. Her mom was pretty much composed and took the news pretty calm as compared to her dad. Her mom asked as much the same set of questions that Mrin had asked her dad, when she first heard the news.

Her dad being the proactive narrator in their family, started telling tales about Satthi Amma. Mrin learnt, both from her mom and dad, that she was the one who first held her when she was born and that she had taken extra pain in helping him admit her mom during the day of her birth. This and a lot more stories rolled by after that.

A few minutes later, Mrin and her mom left to Satthi Amma's home, to pay homage to her. "She had borne eleven children, of which a few died and made sure she saw that every one of her children buy their own house and settle comfortably well." Mrin heard her dad's voice resound inside her ears. "She had borne eleven children and brought up the ones that survived, with utmost responsibility." Just imagine the patience and experience she would have developed in all these years!, she told herself when she heard her dad say 'eleven children...'. She knew that Satthi Amma was called so because of her last son's name Sakthi. Of all her children, she knew only a few of them, Narayanan, Giri, Vijaya, Palani and Sakthi.

Satthi Amma was staying in Kumar Street, whereas Mrin's family was staying in Ganesh Street. Theirs was supposed to have been a single street, if not for the slight bend in the place where the two streets met. Somehow, the other streets lying parallel to theirs were all just one street.

In two or three minutes, they reached Satthi Amma's house. Satthi Amma was kept in a freezer box. She saw Vijaya and Palani standing beside the transparent box, and chanting aloud some sacred verse along with some others who Mrin was not able to identify. Like how, sometimes we identify a complete song on hearing just one or two words of the song, Mrin though she was a North Indian, she soon identified that they were chanting Thiruvasagam. She felt happy that she could at least identify what was being sung, even though she wasn't able to quite empathise with those who were mourning on the loss of their aged mother.

Mrin again fell into the retrospect mode and was reminded of Vijaya Coffee, Narayanan's own coffee shop, where Mrin's mom often bought coffee powder. She remembered that ever since she has known, Mrin's mom had been grateful to Satthi Amma for having introduced coffee and teaching the art of making absolutely amazing coffee to her. She would often instruct Mrin, “Ask Narayanan uncle to grind the coffee with two and a half portions of chicory.”

She stood there, retrospected for a few minutes, heard one or two people discuss Sathhi Amma’s life and their experiences with her, and prayed to God for her sons and daughters. After a couple of minutes, Mrin and her mom left the place, each one lost in their own thoughts.