Seshu Mama was sitting behind me, writing “sreeramajayam” and his wife, after reciting all the slokas she had learned from her childhood, was pacing before the waiting room, while our children had gone into the Eamcet counsel hall, at Hyderabad. “Eamcet” is a competitive exam held annually, for selecting candidates for professional courses, in Andra Pradesh and “EC or Electronics and communication” is a Major, much sought after by students in the engineering stream, in view of its job potential.As I could not bear the restlessness of mami, I approached her and inquired, ”mami, Enthukku kuttipotta poonai mathiri ippidi appidi odarel? (why are you pacing like a just- delivered female cat?)”Pitchumanikki EC kidaikkanume!” she raised her hands in prayers, “oru thengai odaikkiren, Chthappuram pullayarappa!,” She vowed to crack one coconut before the presiding deity of her native village, to help her son, getting selected for the major, he sought for. Pulliar or God Ganapathi, combats obstacles and the belief is that the impediments and hindrance meet with the same fate as that of the coconuts thrown and broken to pieces, before the God.“You are offering just one coconut,” I pleaded on behalf of the God.”Increase it to three at least, please”I have seen people waiting before the surgical theaters and maternity wards in hospitals, youngsters before the interview boards and husbands before their employed wives seeking their monthly cash allowance. I too, have had some such experiences, especially, the one mentioned last. None of these had the intensity of Alamu mami’s anguish and anxiety and my prayer was that she should not collapse, in the event of Pitchu not getting selected, for the major he wanted.
Thanks to Chappuram Pulliar’s prompt acceptance of the offer and Pitchumani’s good rank in the competitive exam, he was selected for the major of his choice and when he came out of the counsel hall, prostrated on the ground before his parents, unmindful of the people around. That shows the manner in which he was brought up.
In course of time, he went to US, did his masters and secured a job with decent salary..
This is by way of introduction; the actual story starts now :
After a couple of years, the parents started looking for a suitable match for Pitchumani and Seshu mama was particular of only two things: one, there should be at least 6-7 poruthams (matching points) in the horoscopes and two, the girl should be from a vadama (a sub sect of Tamil brahamins) family only. Everyday he used to get by post, a bunch of horoscopes and he straight away discarded, those which did not satisfy the sub-sect criterion, despite several other plus points. Out of the remaining 10 or 15 horoscopes, the astrologer would clear only one or two. Those chosen few would not satisfy the requirement of Pitchumani such as that the girl should be fair, tall, slim, possessing a professional qualification, good in cooking, ability to stand on her own legs, communication skills, good in music, good in kolam drawing etc. She should be modern in looks but traditional in outlook. She should dress up fashionably for office and shopping but while at home she should wear only sari and not even chudidhar .
Several months and years passed by. Seshumama did not succeed in finding a suitable match for his son but continued his efforts, untiring. A few days before I left Hyderabad for my continental tour, he reminded me to look for a suitable match “but remember,only vadama , please”.
While returning from Virginia, after visiting the Luray caverns and other tourist spots, my son asked, “Won’t you like to meet my friend Pitch, dad ?
“Enakku pitchem parukkanda, peyem parukkanda” ( I am not interested in seeing Pitch or witch), I replied,”let us go home and relax. My legs are aching” But he insisted that I should visit his friend’s house, which was, en route and more over,”you should taste Elizabeth’s margarita” After the Italian red wine, I had a weakness for that Mexican liquor and therefore I happily accepted his suggestion.
I almost yelled ” Ente Guruvayurappa”, when I entered Pitch’s house. Pitch was none other than our Pitchumani, son of my good friend Seshumama and he was happily married to a Mexican beauty and was a proud father of two lovely kids!!
I have learned from reliable sources that even when a vadama boy marries a girl of different sub-caste, his eligibility to become a father, remains intact. I was not therefore surprised but I was terribly sad,that his father was not aware of that truth and would collapse the moment he comes to know about it.
Pitchumani, was known to me from his childhood, much before he became “pitch”. He grew in a very conservative family under the discipline of strict parents. It would, therefore be impossible for the old couple, to accept a foreign girl in the family and that too with two kids. “Pitchumani, you could have, at least had the courtesy to inform your parents about your marriage” I murmured at his years while leaving, “where is time, Perias?” he asked, ” don’t You know how difficult life is here ?”
” I don’t think that you are so busy or your life is so difficult not to find a few minutes to talk to your parents about your mischief here. That old man, keeping a dozen horoscopes in his shoulder bag walks down to the astrologer’s house, almost every other day ” I told at his face,” and turning to his wife,” Elizabeth, thanks for your hospitality; I loved your food and wine but not your honey calling me Perry ”
” You are welcome, Perias. It is my pleasure ” She replied and wanted to know, ”what is that horrorscope which Pitch’s dad carries in his shoulder bag ?”
When I returned to India, the first thing I did, was to go to Seshumama’s house and give the news about Pitchumani. I was worried that the old couple would collapse hearing the news and silently prayed that they should not suffer a heart attack. I would have suffered a stroke, had I concealed that important news from the old couple. I prepared them for an hour narrating how America has changed the life style of our children and why we should accept them as they are and not mourn for their not living as we want them to be.
‘Eatho, Kozanthai kalyanam pannikkindu sugamairukkane illayo,athu poruam’ ( anyway, my son is married and lives happily, that is all I want). That was all mami said. Her response surprised me.” Kozanthagal ivaraimathiri illathakki chevappa irukkala?”(hope that his kids are fair and not dark in complexion, like my husband), she enquired with a mischievous smile and looking at her partner with whom she had a wonderful life for the past four decades.”Nan karuppunnu therinjittuthane, ennai nee kalyanam pennikintai?”
-(you married me only after knowing that I am dark-skinned?), mama retorted and that was the beginning of a heated discussion.
I quietly withdrew from the scene when Seshumama, whispered,”he could have at least informed me that he was already married. How much money did I waste on Postage and astrologer?”
How do you explain this response ?
Parental love? Capability of human mind to accept the inevitable and absorb shocks ? Geethacharya’s ‘karmaneyavathikarasthea…? or the superficial mask of a burning Volcano?
I had no answer. But I realized while walking home that mami’s joke was planned to reduce the intensity of the lightning strike on her husband’s mind.
How thoughtful , intelligent and compassionate were our semi literate mothers and grand mothers! Often my father used to enter the house like a thunderstorm and mother used to hand over his vethilaipetty, pan-box or a tumbler of sambaram and quietly move towards the kitchen without a word !
(to be continued )
“Sa ya eshonthar hrudaya aakasa: Thasminnayam Purusho manomaya : Amritho hiranmaya: