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My school friends chapter 3

 

 
Back to Govindan’s dad.
 Nair, in the cash counter could hear the dough maker’s taunts and shouted, ” I will come now to mash your head “. Then he thought for a moment, realized that it was too harsh  a punishment, which the defaulter didn’t deserve. Then he thought for another moment when the scene of his struggling with the stone pestle came before his mental eye.  He remembered his old days when his business in Salem tumbled and he landed at the Olavakkode station, having been ejected by the TTE, for traveling without a ticket. He came to our shop and offered to do any job assigned and  father took him as a server. His lavish love for cine songs and lack of swiftness made him unfit for that job. His singing Tamil drama and movie songs imitating the actors, that too  in high pitch, even while serving dishes to the clients, was not much to the liking of the others( though he liked that immensely). . My father too was a lover of dramas and used to mum songs, when the cash collection was good but Nair’s voice was so course as to discomfort the clients and even dispel them. My farther suspected that the cause for Nair’s dissipation by his former lover, a kounder woman, could be  his  clamorous out pour of love songs. But Nair rejected that version and affirmed that it was his excess fat in the body which brought the ire of the lady.   
The slogan from the stone grinder  stopped.  Nair cooled down and asked the server to provide , ‘ the sarcastic rascal a cup of hot tea with some snacks’,  before showing him the gate.  Those semi- literate shop keepers, who had come up the ladder by sheer hard work, were considerate to the fellow beings .
 ”Nair is a good man, I wanted to help him “. Appa told mother and the next day called Syed Ali, who wanted to dispose off his tea shop.
Ali demanded 100 Rupees, Appa fixed the shop for 90 Rupees and paid the advance. Soon after the transaction was finalized, unexpectedly entered Nair’s Salem lover. Nair tried to hide behind the door. While making the door at the time of constructing our house, that eventuality was not anticipated  and the door was not wide enough to conceal Nair’s frame.
 
 ‘En Raasa- my prince!’ the kounder woman rushed towards the  door. Both were apparently happy at the unexpected meeting. When Appa asked why they could not marry, she explained that she was working in the farm of a widower who had an autistic child and she wanted to look after that child.
  
” My master is old .Who will look after that innocent girl after he dies?” She asked and answered, ” I know the pangs of a motherless child and more over Siruvani is a special child needing additional attention.”  Nair was prepared to sacrifice his love for a good cause.  Then Appa told her about the tea shop Nair was to own shortly. She donated 50 Rs. towards the cost of provisions for the new venture. ‘Nair nalla irukkattum’ the good woman blessed and left a handful of betel leaves and a bunch of Erode tobacco for my father.
‘Nairae, mellama padu,” she left a parting advice to her lover,” if you sing too loudly, your wife will leave your bed and run away. “
 
“Koundathi is lying”  Nair commented after the woman left,” ‘it is the old man’s properties she is aiming at”.  
Nair’s business was picking up when Ammini, who was looking after our cattle, came weeping that her only daughter was about to abscond with a Muslim
My father called her and asked, ” are you prepared to marry this Nair? He is a good man and therefore will be a good husband” She had no objection. Nair’s cup of  joy overflew. Not only he had a shop and  a woman too. While seeing off the newly wed with a small gift, my father reminded  Nair, “remember Kounadthy’s advice”.
 
  Laxmi Amma’s affection to me was a sign of her gratitude to my father. Neither me nor my friend Govindan knew this fact then and it was therefore natural for my friend to  get jealous of me for his mother’s affection.
 
Govindan was sad that he pushed me into the muddy water but I was given the punishment. His superiority feeling because of his better height, prevented him to come to me and ‘say sorry’. He didn’t believe Annamma too. If  he tells his mother, she will punish him. Poor Govindan didn’t know what to do.
 
The other two who had  had disturbed sleep, that night,  were my class teacher and his senior.
 
Madhavan Kutty master was worried over his enquiring the welfare of the first lady of the school.  The  HM  was  worried about the baby squirrel’s escape.
  
Ocala, Florida
Oct 18, 2012   
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