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My maiden U.S. visit – Chapter 02

Ammalu’s last minute prayer

Prof. Nandur, my daughter Aparna’s father in law,, came with his car to take us to the airport. He weighed the two suitcases and found that the weight was about 65 kilos, the maximum limit permitted by the Airline those days. Before his arrival, I had asked Ammalu to allot some space for me in one of her suit cases.

‘No,’ she said. It was a firm and final ‘No’ . ’When women  clad in colorful sari, asks for a favor, you do it instantly, blindly and smilingly, least worrying about the consequences,’  she fumed. ‘I’m am going to USA for the first time and I would like to carry a few things for our children, nephews and other relatives.  Did you ever think about it?  And should I not have enough stock of clothes for a six months – stay there? . Did you ever think about it ?’
If Prof. Nandur had not entered in, asking, ‘what is going on here, babies?’, Ammalu would have unleashed a few more, ‘did you ever think about it?’.

‘The suitcases are so heavy. What on earth are you carrying to US?,’ Nandur  enquired. Then he added, ‘it is natural. You would like to carry maximum during your maiden trip ‘.

‘I am yet to pack my things,’  I confessed, ‘these are the gifts from my friends and neighbors to be delivered to their kin in US’

I have never seen his mouth so wide-opened. ‘You are elder to me; I should be choosy in my words,’  he admonished me. ‘Sir, you haven’t grown much since your childhood. You have no perception about time, distance or money. Indians are scattered in that vast country and you think that your son, busy with his work from 7 a m  to 7 p m,  five days a week, will have time to dispatch these goods to different destinations? And why should he bear the cost?’
He had one more question. ‘And, where is your luggage, your own personal stuff for six months- stay there?’

‘paropakartha midam sareeramandi -this body is to serve others,’

‘This is not service, this is stupidity’.  He lamented.

The gate opened and entered in, my friend Kesava Varrior, an Ayurvedic physician, carrying a big bag in his hand.

‘ I would like you to carry a few medicines, just one or two small bottles of ‘arishtams and Kashayams’ along with some ‘lehyam and choornam’, to a client in Pennsylvania. They are life-saving products.  You won’t refuse them, I know, as you have a big heart’

‘Indeed his heart has vast vacant space, not his suit cases,’ intervened Nandur, ‘and your arishtams and aavam bottles can be loaded into his big, spacious heart’

‘Varrior,  my two suitcases are already full with others’ gift items and I am left with only a cabin luggage to carry my personal belongings, I explained, ‘still, I will accommodate your life- savers in my cabin luggage. Please pack them, leaving a small area for two sets of dress for me and a pouch holding tooth paste, shaver, medicines ‘

That was before 9/11 and liquids could be carried in cabin luggage.
‘Don’t worry about your dress, medicines, books and other things. I have already packed in my suitcase,’ Ammalu said.
‘I will never get a wife like you in America even if I stay there for six years, Ammalu’

‘Why in America, no where in the world you will find a woman like Amnalu madam’  Prof. Nandur commented and asked our attendant Idumbhu to load the luggage into his big Vehicle.

While the suitcases were getting loaded, Varrior reminded that I was leaving on an inauspicious ‘thithi’.
‘Pull out the luggage,’  he yelled at the professor and turned towards me asking,’how did you miss such an important point?’
‘I am not the one who ignores the thithies, stars and planets, Varrior.. I have left packs of rice and dal in my neighbor’s house, yesterday, to ward off the evil’.

Professor blinked. He never knew the existence of such tricks to fool the stars and planets, which are bent upon troubling us.

From nowhere came running  Mrs. Misra , moving heavily all the fat she had accumulated at her front and back, all these years.

‘Pick up her luggage also,’  the prof. taunted me.

Mr Misra passed away a few months before. Though we were close friends, I didn’t appreciate his wife, a widow appearing before us,  while proceeding on a long trip. It is not a good omen. But when Mrs. Misra bent her head down to touch my feet, I noticed the ‘kumkum’ mark on her head.
.
‘Bless me for a long married life. I have a fresh husband now, Mr.Sarma is his name’
‘Ye, khyaji, fresh husband, like fresh vegetable?’  I enquired.
‘Ha ji, we got married just a few hours ago. I am Mrs. Sarma now. Sarmaji is a very nice man’
‘He is, I am sure,’ I concurred with her assessment and added, ‘otherwise he wouldn’t have married you’
I gave her my blessings so that Mr. Sarma will live long,  sparing his wife the trouble of seeking another fresh husband .

‘How could Mrs. Misra so shamelessly claim that she had become Mrs. Sarma, without flapping an eye-lid,’ Ammalu commented. ‘She used to fast for her husband every Monday, every Thursday and every Saturday?’

‘She is a very practical woman’,  I supported Mrs Misra, Sorry Mrs Sarma. ‘She has no children. She needs a human companion. Otherwise,  even for buying an aspirin tablet or a sachet of milk, she has to go out herself’

‘So, she remarried for buying an aspirin tablet or a sachet of milk?, Ammalu asked . ‘Not exactly. But milk and medicines too are essential for life,’   Ammalu did not appear to have been convinced with my reply. ‘ A life-long loyalty and memory to be sacrificed at the altar of a small need ? How could she, just by moving a little finger, cast away the torrents of affectionate actions, animated debates, astronomical aspirations, symmetrical and asymmetrical thoughts accumulated through years of sharing life together ? ‘
‘But Mishraji is no more,’  I replied and I was clear about it.
‘Mere death cannot wipe away the husband-wife relation ship’
‘Mere death?’,  I asked, ‘how foolish you are! Death ends everything

‘Really? ‘  Amnalu, unusually, is in a talkative mood today. ‘Husband my die, wife may die but their relationship never dies’
‘It is something new to me, ‘  Prof. remarked , ‘I have never heard madam talking more than monosyllables ‘

‘I dislike her action, totally, Nandur garu,’ she commented and went towards our pooja .

‘Went again to say ‘good bye’ to your Guruvayoorappan?’

’No, to request Cherunetturi Baghavathi to bless Mrs. Sarma with MAngalya bhAgyam, prolonged married life’

‘Ammalu, after expressing strong reservation , you went to plead God, for her successfu remarriage! Difficult to know the  way your mind works’

‘Which husband has understood his lifemate?’

 

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