My maiden US visit. Chapter. 9

Not a single cockroach in Hyderabad

“Your impromptu songs are innovative and infectious,” Big Ben complimented me albeit with a caveat,”though the credit goes to the cocktail of Pushpa”

“Big Ben, why don’t you sing one more song of your tribal days,” Ammalu requested.

She sang the first line of another song:

” Kathukuthi thakkai pottu kuriparpaen ammae

காதுகுத்தி தக்கை போட்டு குறி பார்ப்பேன், அம்மே! ”

“Wait!,” I yelled.” I’m seeing a kurathi holding a basket close to her middle left and a small magic stick in her right hand ready to move it over my palm. She is sitting by my side”Ammalu looked at me amusingly. “What else, do you see, Perias?” Enquired Parasu.

“A khaboolivAla woman, silver ornaments hanging from neck and ears in abundance. During my childhood a number of such nomads used to visit our small town” I looked at BB and continued, “standing on the street corners of Olavakkode they used to sell clothes by auction after the sky and land turned dark, in the light of stick- torches with kerosene fuel. The powerful flames used to project the cheap quality cloth as royal apparel attracting the low- wage earners”

“Do I look like a Kabhooli woman selling cheap clothes in the street corners, for you, Perias?” BB asked with a mock anger.

“The credit goes to———-.” I said and we all had a good laugh.

The cocktail was still working havoc in my brain and Ammlu asked me to sing her favorite lullaby, a four -liner. I was literally in high spirits and sang that moving song, slowly, in a melodious tune:

Siruvanithanniyile sernrndhuvandha sempavizhom,
Sevarkkodiyazhakan thernthedutha senkathali,
Maanagar Mathuraiyela malarnda kaodaimallikappoo,en

Marodu sernthuranghu mazhalimozi marakathamea.
சிருவாணித் தண்ணியிலே சேர்ந்து வந்த செம்பவிழம்,
சேவர்கொடியுடயோன் தேர்ந்தெடுத்த செம்கதளி,
மாநகர் மதுரையிலே மலர்ந்த கோடை மல்லிகைப்பு
என் மாரோடு சேர்ந்துறங்கு மழலை மொழி மரகதமே!

“Fantastic, Perias, what a song!” BB was excited, “I want to see my mother”
Overwhelmed by emotion, she rubbed her eyes. Ammalu tapped her back affectionately.

“This was the only song, I composed in Tamil, but it came up well,” I told BB.

“At times, a single line or a single verse or a subtle smile speak volumes”

“Where am I now, Ammalu, in kasi or Kalpathy ?”
I blabbered.

“In Kishkintha! ” joked Parasu. “You are leading a great army of monkeys towards the ocean.

Now, you are over the mountain ready to fly,” joked Parasu.

“But Parasu, how will he fly?” Ammalu too was in high spirits, though with no spirit inside. “There are no cockroaches in his seat”
“Hey, Parasu uncle, what is that cockroach story,” .BB was anxious to know.

“Shall I tell her what you did on the precious night of your wedding , Anna ?” Parasu threatened to reveal a secret but I was not in a position to say ‘yes’ or no’

“You are sure that the adventure you are going to narrate is about the previous night of his marriage?” BB asked with a naughty smile.

“Of course,” he too laughed and continued, “I took the whole family for a movie at the nearby theater, Where the Ramayanam story was screened. There was a scene of monkeys playing ‘kabadi’ game, which the innovative director had inserted into the epic story.

Kabbadi was his favorite game, which Anna learned in Hyderabad,” Parasu continued. “He was so much involved in the game on the screen that he raised from his seat, bent his arms and folded his palms, fiercely focusing his attention on the screen as if he would be joining the monkey-players any time.

Had I not pulled his hands and made him to sit, he would have jumped to the front, over the heads of those sitting there and made a big scene, much more enjoyable than the one being shown on the screen. Remember, we were not alone. There were elderly men, women and children too from both families.

The bride’s family was shocked ..”Ee kazhuverida mon entha koratchu vattundo, illa avan oru vaanarano ? ” The perplexed chami pattar, Ammalu’s grandfather, abused in his crude native dialect. “Is he an eccentric or a monkey, by birth”

”He is after all, your grand nephew ” commended a mischievous boy in the group, reminding the old man of his relationship with me and surreptitiously his own behavior.

“Am I plunging my daughter into a well?”

The bride’s father expressed his anguish and anxiety, seriously doubting the mental stability of the person who was to become his pet daughter’s husband in a few hour’s time.

“Perhaps, the Anjaneyaswamy’s spirit has occupied his body for a short while ” pacified his pious wife, who had vowed to place a garland with 1001 vadais, Anjaneya’s pet food, on the idol in the temple next to her house.

“Wish that spirit leaves his body before he enters the wedding hall,” commended her husband, krishna Iyer, the prospective father in law.

“And certainly before he enters the nuptial chamber for the first night ” exclaimed an enlightened and experienced elderly woman, Pitchu pAtty.

‘Why didn’t the bride walk-out? How did Ammalu manni agree to marry a cranky fellow like PERIAS ” Commended the ultra -modern- society bee, BB.

“That is the problem with the Indian women,” Parasu continued his narration.

“The fiancee, instead, rescued her husband- in- waiting:
‘the bench on which he is sitting is full of cockroaches. He is allergic to them”

In one stroke, Ammalu manni, dismissed the whole affair as unworthy of mentioning. And added a proverbial line which is still remembered by the whole family.:

“fortunately, there is not a single cockroach in Hyderabad, you see”

Pitchu patty, the old lady who had seen the world, remembered that single line worth a sovereign and bought a matching wedding gift – an insect- sprayer!

While handing over the gift in a glittering wrapper, the grand old lady whispered to the bride, “you can use this appliance to get rid off cockroaches in your bed room here . Dispose it off, however, before you leave for your husband’s place..”Because, there is not a single cockroach in Hyderabad, you see!”

To continue

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