The smell of the soil- Chapter 1
The maiden visit of an elderly couple to America
Here, my friend Swamy has landed at the New York airport along with his wife, Shyamu mami. Before occupying the wheel chairs, they raise their clubbed palms above their head to thank their family deity, for safely transporting them to the land where their son and his family live.
The wheel chair men help to retrieve the heavy baggage filled with a hundred and odd items from koorkai kizanghu to kolu bommai, from the conveyor belt and also in the immigration and customs clearance formalities. The old couple is excited to meet their son Ramu, waiting at the exit along with his wife Ramya and little son Swan. Before they enquire, “kozhanthaikala, nanna irukkela (‘Childre, hope you are fine’ is a poor equivalent) they acclaim their parents with a ‘hi dad, hi mom’ welcome and warm hug. The elders bless them and try to grab Swan, ‘vada en thangam’ (come, my sweet precious child). The little imp screams as if the motive of the intruders was kidnapping.
Ramu takes charge of the baggage dismisses the wheelchair men with a note of thanks and two 5 dollar notes. Swamy is amazed, as his strong base in Matriculation math works out the amount just parted by his son- nearly five hundred rupees more than his monthly electricity bill ! “Why so much?” he enquirers and receives the reply “It is OK, dad”. Ramya drapes her in laws with the warm jackets, she had carried thoughtfully with her.
Ramu helps his parents to mount the Nissan; they feel the glaze of the exterior, scan the interior and feel proud in that valuable possession. “What is the cost?,” the father enquires and gets the reply, “don’t worry, dad, it will become mine only after five years when I repay the loan”.
Ramya serves hot coffee, thoughtfully carried from home and then some snacks, probably idli or dosai. The elders convey their happiness though internally a comparison of the flavor of Sekaripuram Seshu’s coffee powder takes place. The little joy- bundle, looks at the new comers again through the corner of his lovely eyes and enjoys their trick of raising the tumbler inches above their mouth and the liquid dripping from it exactly into the cavity between the nose and chin . He is yet to accept them as friends, though now realizes that they were not the dragons he took them for. Fire comes out of dragon’s mouth; here liquid goes into it!
Though disturbed by the two 5 dollar notes dangling from the depth of his mind, Swamy enjoys viewing the wide, clean roads, prominent guiding posters and hundreds of four wheelers moving in high speeds, without making a single horn sound, “Rottilae oru mado manushiano illayae, Ramya ( not a single man or animal on the road )” wonders Shyamu mami.
Exposed to the chill of the waning winter, they shiver but do not fail to watch the elegance of the house prefaced by a lavish green lawn. Swamy wanted to enquire the cost of the house but decides to postpone the query when Ramya welcomes her in-laws gracing her house for the first time, with a smiling face and ‘Appa,amma, vango, okkarungo’ (please come in and be seated) .
Mami doesn’t sit but enters the kitchen and Swamy too doesn’t sit but asks the location of the toilet. “Appa, restroom is there “Ramu points his finger” Mudaallae moothram peyattum da-let me urinate, first” says the old man. Ramu explains that toilets are called restrooms here and leads his father to the place where he wanted to visit first.
“Bagavathi, thayae, en kozhanthakalai kappathu- Mother Goddess, protect my children always”, prays Shyamumami, her eyes shut in meditation and clubbed palms collected towards her chest, as she sees the deities and pictures of the gods, neatly arranged in a corner of the kitchen, along with flowers and other materials for the daily worship. She is proud of her daughter in law, an educated working girl from an affluent family, following the traditional practices and proudly and affectionately combs Ramya’s hair with her fingers, as she is unaware of complimentary phrases such as ‘ I am proud of you’. That single affectionate mild touch however, tells everything she had to say and Ramya thinks of her own mother who was no more. Sometime, we realize the real value of a possession only when we lose it and when we find a near alternative our joy is immeasurable.
”Where is our Cherunatturi’s picture?” Shayamu asks and when shown, does one more prostration, picks up her ‘mangalsutram’ hanging from her neck and takes it to her eyes as a mark of reverence to her husband and seeking the blessing of her family deity to give him a long life.
Ramya looks deep into her mother in law’s eyes when she does that followed by a remark,
“avarakkum ennodu lokam- he (my husband ) is my world- my everything. Those simple words, Ramya knows, haven’t emerged from her lips, but from a much deeper, divine soil.
“God, may I be able to repeat these words about my husband in my old age!” Ramya prays silently.
The smell of the soil- Chapter 1