We have a beautiful park near my house, perhaps the best in the Twin Cities. The senior members of the colony, mostly retired Professors, Scientists and others , all in the evenings of their life, all with some health problems or other, all having good credit balance in their bank account, but still grumbling, assemble there in evenings. I try to avoid them, as they never discuss about the topic of my present interest viz. ‘women and their smiles’ In fact, they never talk about women at all nowadays due to the MeToo fear.
Only once, I happened to be in their company. Due to my innocence and usual practice , I made an innocuous query about the colorful sari, a lady who passed by, was wearing.
‘Eamandi, athu Dharmavarama, Kancheevarama?’
Is it Dharmavaram silk or Kancheepuram silk(she wears)?’
For an inquisitive mind as mine such doubts, as you will agree, are not at all out of place. But, I had to face an instant attack from a co- bencher.
‘Vaayai moodum. Athu antha varavum illai, intha varavum illai. Ennodu Varam, ennodu samsaram’.
Polite translation in short : ‘shut up your mouth! She is my boon, my wife, not Dharmavaram or Kanchipuram.
((Please note that my comment was not about the woman but about her sari and he had no business to ask me to keep quiet)
I never expected the presence of a Chennai mama, there. He had landed in our colony, while I was away. Otherwise I wouldn’t have missed him, or to be more accurate, he wouldn’t have missed me.
‘I’m sorry, mama’, I said, ‘your boon is my boon too’
‘What!’, he got up from his seat, ‘tomorrow you’ll say, my wife is your wife, ngaa?’
‘Never will I, Sir, never. Your wife is your wife and will be your wife always’
He was satisfied.
Kasturi is his name, not because his wife is Kasturi, but for some reason, you and me are not bothered about.
Later, me and Kasturi became friends and he took me to his house and introduced me to his wife:
‘He is the one who complemented your sari, the other day, in our Harithavanam Park.
It was a wrong way to introduce an old man, to one’s wife, but I didn’t argue as it was too early for him to know about my attributes and achievements. I was scared that his wife would stare at me in contempt or even ask me to quit. No, she didn’t. In fact, her face turned to a Deepavali night.
‘After leaving the college, no one has commented on my sari. Pl. come inside mama, please’, invited the kind lady. Her husband didn’t appreciate the warm welcome she offered, as old men like only old women to be welcomed inside their house.
‘Komlam, actually he doesn’t deserve your appreciation as he didn’t appreciate your sari. He doesn’t even know the difference between silk and cotton. That day, you were in fact wearing an ordinary cotton sari and he was enquiring what type of silk it was!’
When attacked, even an animal won’t keep quiet, but I kept quiet, as my knowledge on women or their ware was really poor then.
But I explained my position to his wife.
‘Whether it was a cotton or silk sari, madam, you looked gorgeous in that dress. You looked Fantastic, you looked amazing. It is not the apparel but the person who donned it shone before my eyes and is shining before me, even know’
They lady was spellbound; the gentleman started shivering with anger.
‘What sweet do you prefer? I will prepare, tomorrow’, enquired the kind woman.
‘Jangiri’, I replied in a soft tone. When I speak to women, usually, my voice turns mellifluous.
Mr. Kasturi leapt before me, like a predator before its prey.
‘You think my wife was a charakku master, chef, in hotel Saravanabhava?’, he fumed.
‘Laddu is easier for me to make, mama’, said Mrs.K .
‘Welcome. Jangiri is like a wheel. Laddu like a ball’, I revealed my expertise.
‘Look, he talks about the shape and not about the taste. He doesn’t know the difference between the two. He is perhaps a diabetic and his wife has kept him a mile away from any sweet preparations’
‘Mr. K, all sweets are sweets and they taste the same’.
I replied and then turning to his wife said, : ‘all women are women but your woman is a class by herself’.
Mrs. K’s face became the New York Central Park, in the Autumn . And Mr. K’s face was like Agni nakshatram summer days, in Palakkad.
‘Mami, you are a sweet lady. You are a kind lady. Whatever you give me will be sweet, for me, as your words are sweet, your heart is sweet, your hands are sweet’
‘Let us fall at his feet and take his blessings’, Mami invited her hubby to join her. ‘He seems to be a blessed soul. Saraswathy Devi stays on his tongue. See his face. It is glowing’.
K. didn’t, probably, see any glow in my face. ‘Che!’ – that was the only sound he produced and unwilling to stay there for another minute, he moved towards the the outer gate, from where Ammalu, was entering screaming at me, ‘where did you vanish good-for-nothing old man? I was searching for you behind every woman on the street:
‘Mama, who is this woman abusing you?’, enquired anxiously the Jangiri lady.
‘All women abuse me madam. That is my Fate. You’re the only one kind to me’.
K. Came back and wanted to kick me out and Ammalu wanted to punch my nose, but the sweet Jangiri, smiled at me.
‘Don’t think she is smiling at you in sympathy. She is smiling out of happiness that another woman too is openly harassing her husband’, blurted K.
Who can decipher the width and depth of the smiles of women?
I can fly up or dip deep
To learn the sky’s width and ocean’s depth.
But to know the secret of a woman’s smile
I should be born again and again
And ask about her wear; not when her hubby is near!
Ps -in the picture, a discussion on fresh Kancheepuram saris, on the eve of two wedding in my family, in 2001.