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Mystic smiles


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.

I continued,

‘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 sang:

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!)

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As you know, it is not my habit to interfere in a husband-wife quarrel, but yesterday, had to break my vow and speak to Kalyani, my friend Kuppu’s wife:

‘Kalyani, hope everything is fine at home now that Kuppu is working for home’, I started my conversation in a mild tone. 

‘Working for home or from home?’, there was anger in her voice, but I kept my cool.

‘Both. Anyway, you should not have asked him to get up early morning and clean the home front with cow dung water and also clean the kitchen platform the same way before going to bed. No Brahmin woman,  no Indian woman, no any woman anywhere in the world, will ask her husband to perform such a dirty job’

There was silence for a moment on the other end. 

‘Mama,  Kuppuswamy is your friend, just friend. Tomorrow you may unfriend him. Or he may unfriend for your unwanted interference in his family life or for talking to his wife without his permission. But, for me he is my husband. He my God! He is the head of this family. My interest is to take care of his health. I want him to receive the pre dawn Sun’s rays ( the words she used was ‘soorya velicham’ ) on his chest and body’

‘That’s fine. But why cow dung cleaning?’

‘In which age are you ? Don’t you know cow dung and cow’s urine have the potential to kill Corona virus?’

‘Why don’t you get that protection for yourself. Your life is equally important for the family’

‘You called  it a dirty  job. You don’t mind my doing it?  And what is cow dung? Is he not handling it with reverence while doing homam? Is he not applying vibhoothi all over his body, now a days thrice a day? 

That apart, for me, for my family, none is more important than Kuppuswamy. Come what may, I will go to any extend to protect him. He  is my life (jeevanAdi is the word’, she used)’

‘But, Kalyani, asking your husband to do cow dung cleaning——‘

‘If you were my husband I would ask you to do. My husband is my —-)

‘Jeeva nAdi’, I completed and kept down the phone .

The plight of men working from home !!!😀😀😀

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I can make anything to happen



‘Which idiot is calling me at midnight?’,  I yelled and opened the front door, eyes half closed and half opened. The huge figure wrapped in a big sari, the lady in the opposite house was there and I rubbed my eyes to make sure that it was not a dream.  Damsels from heaven used to appear in my dreams earlier but of late, only negative feminine characters of Ramayana are visiting me in sleep.  But this is not a dream, it is real.  I’m awake!

‘Meera, eami sangathi ? You?  In this midnight? What is the matter?’, I muttered, giving respect to her gender and age.

‘Pada, take me to the Saibaba maternity home’, she ordered in her hoarse voice.

‘Santhosha vartha meeru naakku cheppalaeaethae’. Oh, congrats! You didn’t give me the happy news earlier ‘

I looked at her middle part but was difficult to gauge whether she was pregnant or not as the entire front portion looked like a vadu mangai bharani, the pickle storage barrel, covered with a color cloth.

‘Not me, my daughter in law Ramalakshmi. Jeldi randi. come fast’.

I pleaded my helplessness . ‘ I’m not a doctor, not even a midwife, in what way I am going to be useful to your DIL?

I have never delivered a baby ’

‘You can make it happen. You have an obligation, nay responsibility, my Rama says. 

‘Obligation, responsibility, my God, what am I hearing! I was shocked. ‘upon God, I’m telling you, I have no obligation, no responsibility. I’m totally innocent, harmless, came here just a couple of months ago, friends m USA . I was away for the whole last year’ 

‘Don’t tell me stories. ‘I want SP, I want now’,  says my daughter in law’

‘But, for her I was uncle, while in good moods or thatha while in not-that – good mood. She never used to call me SP’


‘You too call me SP?’

‘She is waiting for you, carrying a baby ready to come out, which will happen, the moment you land there. You have to make that happen’.

Putting a shirt on, I followed her reluctantly.

‘Uncle, I’m in a critical position,’ Rama was in tears.

‘ It is going to be Caesarian for me. My husband wants my baby to be a boy and he has gone to Tirupathy seeking Lord Venkateswara’s help. The doctor has posted my case for tomorrow morning and I need 40k before 8am.. I have my husband’s two ATM cards but don’t know the passwords. . I know two passwords but the relevant cards are not with me. The moment my husband is back, your money will be returned ‘

‘If the Baby happens to be a girl again and your husband in utter dejection goes back to Tirupathy, what will you do?’ asked the old lady. 

Wrong question in wrong time, which deserved no reply. But, the daughter in law had a reply, which shook me to my roots.

‘Shut up, mom. I’m sure my next baby will be a male and I know that SP will make it happen ‘.

While I was standing stunned without knowing what to say, Rama asked, ‘SP, will you please go home and get your ATM card? There is an ATM center right across the road’.

‘SP will make it happen’, assured the mother and asked the riksha wallah to take me home and bring me back safely.

‘And come again tomorrow morning with sweets to bless the baby, your baby!’,  the mother -to-be-soon again ordered, while I was coming out.

‘My baby?’, I turned back and asked, anger unavoidably reddening my query.

‘We too are your babies, SP’, hailed happily both the wise women! 

‘You too, my baby, madam?’, I turned my sharp eyes towards the obese old lady . 

‘Me too’, she declared clearly, loudly and vehemently .

My doubts are cleared. I can make anything to happen!

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Our Habsiguda neighbor


‘Loppudu raavochaa, can I come in, Sastrygaru?’

‘You’re already 10 yards inside my house. And I’m not a Sastry or Sanyasi, madam’

‘From the day one,  I came as a tenant in your opposite house, I wanted to ask you one question ‘

‘You came there just a few hours ago. Anyway what is that you wanted ask me? Want broomstick or drinking water? ‘

‘No Sir, you are a witty person’

‘No, I’m a dirty person to the neighbors who invade my house early morning. Your question please, old lady’

‘You’re young?’

‘You’re not old? Your question? ‘

‘I wanted to ask you why I don’t see a woman in your house ‘

‘There are three, all my wives. Sleeping in the top bedrooms.

Anything else you wanted to know?’

‘You seems to be angry . You’re perhaps hungry too. Shall I get you some food from my house?’

‘Yes, please get me chakkara pongal and chakkaravattu upperi . That is what I take for breakfast’

‘I haven’t even heard those names ‘

‘Then don’t bother me. I am waiting for an important guest’

‘May I know who he is? ‘

‘Not your concern. The visitor is a ‘she’

‘Then, I won’t interfere. I’m out of your way. Before I take leave, can I see your kitchen, please?’

‘Why not my bedroom? Why are you troubling me, madam?

On the very first day of our meeting, you have earned my dislike’

‘My intention is to say hello to your wife and not to trouble you, Sir’

‘Which wife? I have three ‘

‘No, Sastry garu. You don’t have a woman in your life. Had you one, your eyes would be glittering seeing a new woman in the neighborhood. The moisture has left your life, your heart, your mind , may be long ago,  as I can see only sand  dunes everywhere inside you’

‘Inside me? And if I’m right, you’re seeing me for the first time!’

‘Women can see the inside and outside of a man, in a matter of seconds. 

What shall I get you now, coffee or tea?’

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We create our own cages

‘Appa, no parties, no temple, no air travel’- my children’s 

‘sit inside ‘ instruction to me.  It seems Corona Yakshi’s preferred breakfast is oldies like me and therefore, I should avoid going out. 

I looked around, gazed at the ceiling, walls, swimming pool, paintings on the wall and sang a couple of lines, from a Vallathol poetry :

ബന്ദുര കാഞ്ചന കൂട്ടിലാണെങ്കിലും 

ബന്ധനം ബന്ധനം തന്നെ പാരിൽ 

Roughly means-

You may be inside a cage made of gold, but cage is a cage. 

Many times, we create our own cages! 

Yes, we do! Many of our beliefs fall into this category. Many of our dislikes , contempt of men, materials and matters fall into this category.  

In the olden days, the forced self isolation was more prevent. 

This happened long ago.

A professor wakes up hearing knocks on the front door and opens it.  His eldest sister has arrived from a distant place by the  morning train.

His face should have bloomed as she was coming home after a long time. It didn’t. His face, in fact, shrunk. Reason-she was a widow and that day was Friday . The whole day he spent worrying about the calamities awaiting to pounce on him, due to the inauspicious thing happened in the morning. 

In the evening the sister asked him, ‘what is troubling you, my dear brother? Come on, open up your heart. I’m your eldest sister and if not to me with whom will you share your grievances?’

The fifty year old professor, placing his head on the lap of his sixty year old sister wept silently cursing himself for the devilish thoughts that overtook him in the morning. The sister who could not even imagine that her beloved brother would have despised her visit in the morning, sang a lullaby of their young days:

‘Omana thinkal kidavo, nalla

Komalathamara poovo?’

He could no more control his tears which flew down and wet the woman’s clothes. He got up and prostrated before the elderly woman without saying a word. 

He was happy that the load he was carrying in his heart could be unloaded  and she too was happy that her brother’s face brightened

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Moving water in the fish-less pool

I was pestering my daughter for the past ten days , to trace a jacket missing from my wardrobe. 

‘It’ll be somewhere, dad!’

‘Somewhere means, where ? I have searched the entire house’.

‘It’s warm outside. Why worry about warm clothes now?

‘If it suddenly turns cold?’

‘You have a dozen jackets in your wardrobe’

‘If a thief had entered the house and took away my jacket?’

‘No thieves here and if one enters, he has better things to carry away’

‘I want my jacket.  It was gifted to me by Poornima’

‘Ok, wait till Saturday. I’ll search, Appa’

Today is Saturday. Soon after up from the bed, I asked Aparna, ‘Konthai, did you find my jacket?’

‘Yes, Appa. Here it is. It was on a sofa in our patio’

 ‘Which idiot kept it there?’

‘No one except you, goes near  the pool, as the water is cold. You  sit on the bank and watch the moving water in the fish-less pool’

‘Moving water in the fish-less pool

Takes me  back, on my way to school 

Paddy fields on both sides with water

We jump into, with shrieks of laughter’

Aparna has better works to attend, than enjoying my poetry.

But I had no other work.

So, thought about my Chamikutti  athimbar’s anxious moments when his thorthumundu, short towel, was missing . He said he had, after his bath,  put it for air drying on a string in the veranda. 

He asked everyone whom he came across, searched in the hall, kitchen, everywhere but the damn thorthumundu was not to be seen.

I noticed a piece of cloth, hanging from the hip of an aunt, tagged to her ocher cloth. 

‘Oh, isn’t it athimbar’s torthumundu. How did it come to you? ‘

‘Camukkutti gave me ‘, was her cool reply. 

‘But Periammai, aunt, athimbar said he had put it for air drying and is searching in and out of the house!’

‘Mookkupodi jaasthi eattiruppan- rough meaning- he would have inhaled an overdose of snuff’, was her confident reply. 

I don’t use snuff. I don’t smoke. But moving water in a fish-less  pool makes me forgetful. 

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Warning to my young friends to be married soon:

Before leaving for your honey moon trip, decide how to address your honey. 


What made these two queens, mother in law and daughter in law to break out  into laughter ?  

My story of a just -married couple in their five star hotel suit in a honey moon night.

The story, in short:

Seshu whispered into Kunja’s ear, ‘honey, you’re my chakkaravattu upperi’

Kunja though of Kerala origin but born and brought up in USA, had never heard the word ‘chakkaravattu upperi’. 

‘You’re addressing me as Jack’s friend ?’, she enquired anxiously.

‘Oh, no. I called you as my jackfruit chips’, my sweet heart’, he explained.

‘Jackfruit? What fruit is that ?’ she asked.

Though in her ancestral Kerala home, there are three jackfruit trees,  the girl never visited the village and her question was pertinent.

The boy lifted his hand apart, raised  and said. ‘It is a big fruit with thorny outer layer and sweet fruits inside’

‘Am I that big and thorny?’, she got up from the bed and asked him in angry voice.  Apparently, she had no patience to hear about the sweet inner part. If I were in his position, I would have mentioned first about the sweet inner part and woukd have added, ‘like your heart ‘.  But the bridegroom, unfortunately was not me and I may not get a chance to explain.

No, I was wrong. I was in the neighboring room in the hotel and my tele. rang.

‘Uncle, come soon and explain to Kunja, what a Jackfruit is’.

‘Give me five minutes’,  I said, rushed out, bought a Jackfruit from the opposite Koya’s shop, entered into Seshu’s room, with the fruit on my head.

‘This is a bundle of thorns’, Kunja protested. ‘Am I this, for you?’

Seshu’s face sunk. 

‘Uncle can you cut and show the seeds inside, please?’

‘Why not?’, I said, placing the thorny globe on the table and rushed to collect a knife from the manager.

‘Give me a big knife, please’, I requested.

The manager gazed me from top to bottom and called the police.

‘Here is an old man. Come soon’, he requested.

‘If he is old, why trouble us now, at this odd hour?’

‘No sir, he is asking for a knife’

‘Might be for cutting areca nut for his Pan chewing . Give him’

‘No Sir, he is asking for a big knife’

The Kerala police is duty- conscious.  In ten minutes, the police van came and the inspector asked me, ‘whose throat you want to slice?’

‘Chakkadae, Sirea ! (Jackfruit’s Sir’)

‘Show me’. The inspector thought I wanted to cut Chakku’s throat. Chakku is my close friend. Why should I trouble him? 

I was hesitating to take the police to my friend’s honeymoon suit, but was forced to do that. 

Kunja  was shocked. Seshu was puzzled. He muttered, ‘Uncle I asked to get me a big knife and you brought the police here?’

‘Oh, the big knife is for you? You wanted to cut the throat of this innocent girl? ‘ The police raised the baton against Seshu’s head. 

I’m known for my crisis managing ability. ‘No, inspector, the knife is for cutting this jack fruit’

‘Why jack fruit here?‘

‘She wanted it’, I explained. 

‘She wanted now, here ?’

‘Yes, Inspector. We have a practice of fulfilling the desire of a pregnant girl, whatever it be’, my CMS (crisis management skill ) reached happily at its zenith.

‘I’m pregnant?’ Kunja screamed at me. She turned to the PC and said, ‘officer, I’m here for my honeymoon night. How can I be pregnant? This old man is bluffing.

Kunja collected her handbag and was about to shoot out when Seshu stopped her. ‘Don’t go, my chakkaravattu upperi’

I can’t blame him . That was the only word he had by-hearted to address his sweet heart.

‘Chakkaravattu upperi? ‘Evade’, where enquired the PI.

‘I will get in five minutes from Koya’s shop’, I said and rushed out. In less than five minutes, I was back with a packet which I opened and distributed. 

The PI was happy. The honeymoon couple was happy.

Then what ? 


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What happens at night, he doesn’t know !


Mothers of daughters -to -be married can be more courteous.

A friend in Chennai with prior appointment went to meet a woman in Mambalam after his son and her daughter, both working abroad, had telephonic contacts and the boy suggested his father meet the girl’s mother and proceed with the negotiation for the alliance. The present day practice is the boy and girl meet, date, decide on their wedding and then inform the parents, requesting to come and bless them. Some smart kids inform their parents only after kids are born to them! But in the above case,  the boy decided to go by the conventional path of parents meeting first. The girl agreed, on phone, as they hadn’t met face to face. 

The boy’s father, let us call him Seshu, spoke to the girl’s mother, got appointment, went with some fruits as is the custom, at the exact time prefixed .

The woman, (let us call her madam  to suit her rich appearance,) collected the fruits and directed Seshu mama: “I’m busy for another two hours.  My father in the next room will entertain you, in the meantime”.

Seshu said, ‘madam, I’m here with prior appointment and at the exact time prescribed by you.  I’m here to talk to you about the alliance of my son and not to get entertained by your father, who is possibly of my age or perhaps older. If you suggest, I will talk to your father about the alliance ‘

‘No, mama. What does my father know about my daughter’s requirements? It  is me, not even my husband, to decide about my daughter’s marriage’.

‘Good. You want me to come another day?’

‘No, mama. Wait for a short while. I will be back quickly’

Seshu waited and waited.  Madam didn’t call him. He thanked the old man for his valuable advice on ‘sthree dharmams’,. The entertainment was no more endurable ,as the old man had started snoring . Seshu collected his bag and took leave of the madam, saying, ‘we will meet on our grand child’s first birthday in Boston.’

Madam was shocked! 

‘Mama, wait please. Please come in. Tell me what is happening behind my back in Boston’

‘Nothing much madam. The day temperature is -4 deg. C. What happens at night, I don’t know ‘

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Musing from a Baltimore Mall

My son managed to find a chair in a big shopping center seeing me tired after making a few rounds. 

I wanted to click pictures of women of different dimensions and skin colors and hair styles and tattoos but had strict instructions from my children not to do that and land in the hands of cops. 

I got bored and mused how aging was reducing my movements.  My brain, mind, all parts of body are fit to go on a Manasarovar yAtra but my knees won’t cooperate. 

You would have observed that either at your home, office or among friends, there will be one guy, who comes forward with a negative opinion when you start something  good and try to stop your forward movement. 

After rejecting many girls suggested by his father, an young man known to me, liked immensely one girl and was about to give the thumb up signal to his father, when a friend who had accompanied whispered into his ear,’what an old name the girl is given! How will you introduce her to your friend?’

Her name was Kundalakesi!

This was long ago. A recent story:

Shanmukha Sundari ‘s mom rejected a boy outright, as she was not happy with his given name, Sundaramoorthy . But the girl, who liked him, suggested, ‘mom, I will take him as my driver ‘. 

The mom was happy. The boy too was happy. 

‘Ok, take me to the Kalyan Jewelers’,  ordered the mom.

‘Omg, why’re you driving like this?’, asked the mom unable to stay stable in her seat.

‘I don’t know driving madam. I know only cooking’, replied the young man.

‘Stop the car. You’re selected as my daughter’s husband’

Sundaramoorthy and Shanmukhasundai got married and lived long happily.

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Osthanu, Sir!


Waited behind the partially opened front door, in the early morning, to catch red handed, the culprit who steals my  flowers.  5, 10, 20 minutes passed- a hand extended towards the plant. Wanted to return to bed, if it was bangles-adorned. (Flowers are after all for whom? For God and women!) .But it wasn’t. 

Only old women are nowadays, wearing bangles and I have a sympathetic heart towards all old women, as they won’t be able to return to their young days.  Old men, all old men, will have a mental vibration unique for youngsters when they see any woman other than their life partner and during that golden moment they consider they are young.  

Coming back to the hand moving towards the plant, I screamed, ‘poda patti’.  My pure native tongue, sudda Malayalam, escapes from my mouth only for abusing others.

-get out, you bitch! Suddamaya artham- pure meaning. 

‘Attila entae eami Sir? What does it mean?’ 

Enquired the owner of the hand still active removing flowers. 

Oh, I made a mistake- the encroacher is a Telugu, not a Malayali! 

‘Get out, you dog’. That was the meaning, I wanted to tell him; instead  said, ‘Nee thalakkaya’ – your head! That is a common abuse in mana desam, Telugu Desam.

‘Anthena? That is all?’  He was happy that my abuse was mild, went out without bothering to close the gate, with a basketful of beautiful white flowers, which were to adorn my Shiva Lingam, Saligramams  and other statues of daily worship! I came out of my hide, wide opening my door, went down the steps and closed the main gate.  Now, no one can enter. 

The unfamiliar face turned towards me before turning the street corner and took my leave, ‘osthanu, Sir- will meet you again Sir- shall come again!

He will come again, I know but he had the courtesy to say that. Nice guy!