We have a beautiful central park in our Habsiguda colony, close to my house, perhaps the best in the Twin Cities. The senior members of the colony, mostly retired Professors, Scientists and others , all in the twilight of their life, all with some health problems or other, may be minor but get exaggerated while mentioning, all having good credit balance in their bank account, but still grumbling, assemble there in evenings.
I happened to be in their company, one evening. A lady was passing through wearing a colorful sari. Purely out of inquisitiveness and ignorance, I asked the person sitting next to me: ‘Eamandi, athu Dharmavarama, Kancheevarama?’
Is it Dharmavaram silk or Kancheepuram silk(she wears)?’
Anything wrong in that ? But, a person sitting at the end of the bench, shouted at me,
‘Vaayai moodum. Athu antha varavum illai, intha varavum illai. Ennodu Varam, ennodu samsaram’.
Polite translation in short : ‘shut up your mouth! She is not DharmAvaram, not Kanchipuram. She is my boon, my wife.
(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, though she was his wife )
I never expected the presence of a Tamil speaking mama, there. He had landed in our colony, while I was away.
‘I’m sorry, mama’, I said, ‘your boon is my boon too’,
I replied with a smile.
‘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 Iyengar is his name. A nice man. We became friends. Next day, he took me to his house and introduced me to his wife:
‘He is the one who complemented your sari, yesterday, in our Harithavanam Park’
It was a wrong way to introduce an old man, to one’s wife, but I didn’t say a word. 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, to a stranger.
‘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. Yesterday, you were in fact wearing an ordinary cotton sari and he was enquiring what type of silk it was!’. Ha, ha!
He laughed. I thought laughing was OK, but why so loudly?
I wanted to answer his laugh with a short explanation to the lady, lest she might think, I visit park only to comment on women’s wear.
‘Whether it was a cotton or silk sari, madam, you looked gorgeous in that dress. You looked Fantastic! you looked amazing! It not the apparel but the person who donned it shone before my eyes and is shining before me, even know’
They lady was spellbound; her husband started shivering with anger.
‘Mama, you like laddu or Jangiri? I will prepare tomorrow, ’ You look like Regan (Lord Ranganatha) in standing pose’
I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears. Could a woman be so kind to a stranger! Is she exaggerating my appearance or do I really look like Lord Ranganatha!
‘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. Whatever is convenient to you, Mami. Even a cup of coffee from your hands, with love, will be a boon for me’
‘OK, give him coffee with no sugar and pack him off’, her husband didn’t like her ultra hospitality to me.
‘Mr. K, all sweets are same’, I replied in the tone of a philosopher and then turning to his wife added: ‘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 thoughts 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. Unwilling to stay there for another minute, he moved towards gate, from where Ammalu, was entering screaming at me, ‘where did you vanish good-for-nothing old man? I was searching for you in every corner of the park’
‘Mama, who is this woman abusing you?’, enquired anxiously the laddu lady.
‘All women abuse me madam. That is my Fate. You’re the only one who are kind to me’
K. Came back and wanted to kick me out and Ammalu wanted to punch my nose, but the sweet laddu lady smiled at me.
‘Don’t think she is smiling at you in sympathy, warned K. She is watching whether you’ll be bold, in the presence of your wife, to praise her, as you were doing from the moment you entered’.
Hearing that Ammalu smiled.
Seeing her smile, Mrs.K too smiled.
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!)