Soared high suddenly the bird of happiness and familiarity.
A most agonizing awaiting it was – to have a glance of the girl whom I had never met before though she would be mine the next morning. On such occasions, pleasure and pain, anxiety and helplessness play carom in your mind and each movement of the coins, increases your heart-beat. I was as restless as a cat locked inside a house.
It was a self-inflicted, utterly meaningless, mental torture -I realize now, as we do in many cases when reason displaces emotion, although I admit that there was a charm in that waiting which I would have missed if, instead of finer feelings, reason was the master of the day. Reason has often pushed me to a corner and allowed emotions to have a hay day which did cost me heavily at times.
Every relative, close and not that close, friends and even sub-ordinate workers were introduced to my elders but there was no talk or trace of the bride. Silver, brass and copper vessels, jewels, clothes and all sundry materials to be sent along with the girl to her husband’s house were presented with unwanted gestures and explanations but there was no talk or trace of the girl who was to occupy the center stage soon. It appeared that the men and women had gathered there only to chit chat, gossip and celebrate their union and not ours.
I sharpened again and again my eyes and ears in vain, not to miss my girl’s shadow or gurgle.
”This stick for ‘kasi yatra’ was specially brought from Nagerkoil”- someone announced proudly. ” Who wants your stick, man ? ” I wanted to ask him, but didn’t.
‘Before disappointment could devastate my mood, I could hear the authoritative high pitch of my father:
“P.M.S!” he called the family head and chief host,” where is my daughter-in-law? I am seeing here, half the women population of this town but not her!”
You are so sweet, dad.
“I am just waiting for an auspicious moment to release my golden parrot.” P.M.S replied respectfully but firmly.
“I hope it won’t be very far” my father commented, “ my worry is that my son, in the meantime, doesn’t pick up a sparrow or dove and fly away. I see quite a few of them around here and for them, the auspicious time would have already started.”
“Damn with his auspicious time” Parasu decried the delay in presenting the bride.
When I asked him whether I could sneak in, Parasu replied, ” you can’t do that. you are the bride groom. Your father and other elders are still here and only your mom has gone inside”. He sat in a corner, had a good chew got up and called me outside and advised showing the compound wall. “There is only one way, a bit dangerous though” he said, “jump over that wall with the help of that hanging tree-branch. I just saw your girl pulling water from the well, behind the wall. Meet her and return quickly. The whole operation should be over within five minutes; I will wait here. But remember, I won’t be responsible for the consequence, which might be bad, if you are caught red-handed ”
l had never done that before-crossing the compound walls intentionally though purely out of juvenile and later adolescent and later middle- aged madness, I had attempted to peep through the window to know what was happening on the other side of my own house in odd hours. But now, out of sheer necessity, I was prepared to 0bey my cousin’s caring advice , instead of waiting in the hall and looking at the face of every moving object, clad in pattusari.
instances of necessity becoming excuse to justify a wrong action is aplenty in our life and in our history too. Mahabaratham war for example .
“promise me that you will not go away” I pleaded, worrying how bad the situation could go, if I were caught by some pattar who would have straight walked into his matured middle age and later to a monotonous old age without crossing through the vibrant and valuable young age.
Pardon me for my crime if you can, I did cross the Wall although with some minor bruises.
Clearing the dust and mud on my clothes, I looked up towards the well. Ah, ‘ she’ was there pulling water from the well.
I went near and whispered, gasping.
“Look here, daughter of Krishna Iyer! Excuse me for addressing you, the way our epic characters are addressed. I don’t know your pet name and the name given in the invitation card is too long. Parasu has given only five minutes for the whole operation; I can’t afford to spend two minutes out of that, for addressing you, by that long name.
“Now, let me come to the point. I have come to marry you as suggested by my parents. Though you are not my dream girl, I like you. Now three minutes are over.
You can have a good look at me. I am now turning 360 degrees so that you can have my back view too.
Say ‘yes’. I will jump over that compound wall and go back, the way I came. Say ‘no’, I will jump into this well. By appearance you don’t seem to have the strength to pull me out of the well. Four minutes are over. And, I warn you, I don’t know swimming”
She looked at my face and cooed with a mischievous smile,” I will never allow you to jump into the well as I liked the way you jumped over the compound wall. But wait a minute, please. Let me have a word with my elder sister, whose name is printed on the invitation card, before I say ‘yes’ to you. Now, how many minutes are over, athimbar( sister’s husband)?”
My arrow disastrously deviated from its object and hit at a dangerously deceptive-looking atom bomb. I had crossed the wall, expecting to visualize a lightning; but I had to listen to a thunder. Things were definitely going out of my control. I became crazy.
Then “she” came like a much awaited dawn from behind the clouds and her bejeweled hands flew a mild slap on the other girl’s face and turning towards me , she said, ” I apologize for my sister’s naughty behavior”
She didn’t have the dazzle of a cine star or the sophistication of a city girl. She was fair, slim, simple, unassuming, tender like a jasmine creeper and fragrant like a lotus flower. What attracted me most was her innocent smile, brightening her calm face. I liked her. I searched for words but failed. She had no problem, as she was not confused.
“Hope you didn’t get hurt while jumping over the wall! Why all this ‘vepralam’- restlessness and mischief?” she asked with an innocent look. “You could have straight come inside. You are our close relative and have every right to come inside the house and talk to me.” Was it so simple ?
I had to say something and I blabbered, ” as kids, we had played for an hour, my mother said”
” I was two and you were fifteen then” her voice was sweet but clear. ” so, you should remember; why ‘my mother said’? ”
I did not take it as an admonishment. It broke the egg of reservation and soared high suddenly the bird of happiness and familiarity.
“How do you feel now?” I asked her while walking together towards the drawing room where the two families had assembled.
“Feeling like a princess in a fairy tale,” she said, slowly, dreamily, ” when her prince crosses a high wall to meet her”
When we entered the drawing room, my father’s powerful eyes didn’t miss to notice the satisfaction on my face. In those days, we were not aware of the ‘thumbs up’ signal. So we just smiled.
“Chellappetty edudi-get my betel- leaf casket!” he commanded mother.
There were many messages in that command. His approval of the girl, his satisfaction in my approval of the girl and her approval of me and above all, the elation that the family name was kept up by my concurrence to my father’s decision taken without consulting me.