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The next day being a working day, Ramya got up at six, had her shower, lighted the lamp before the deities, spent a minute or two in silent prayer and was ready in the kitchen to attend the morning chores. Coffee with breakfast was served to the youngsters, who awoke at 6.30, soon after they finished their shower and dressed up for office. Three lunch packets for the office goers, a small packet for the kid and lunch with normal dishes the elders prefer, were also ready, by seven. Then, she herself dressed up for office and woke up the kid, gave him a shower and by eight all the youngsters were ready to leave for work and the kid to be dropped in the pre-schhol, on the way to Ramya’s workplace.
“How swiftly and efficiently this girl works!” wondered the elder couple, though they were sad that the tender -age kid,  had to be woken up so early and sent to school.
“This is the age for him to sleep” commented in a sad tone, his grand pa. “If not now, when will he sleep ?” the same opinion the grand ma expressed in different words.
“These are common here,” consoled their friend, ” life starts early here; you will get used to it in a few days. In fact, it is good that children are practiced to wake up early and persuaded to sleep early”
“Why persuasion ?” chided Swamy, still unhappy that Swan was denied his due morning slumber.” They will automatically slide into sleep, when they are woken up so early in the morning. Did you send your child to school before he was five .?” He asked his friend.
“I didn’t and you too didn’t because they grew in a village in India” replied his friend .”If we were in Delhi or any other metropolitan city, we too would have woken up our kids by 6 or 7 in the mroning and sent to school before 8.0. And Swamy, Swan goes to play there and he enjoys that; he also gets a nap of an hour or two. There is no need for you to worry and keep your face so grim and puffy ?”
“Will they beat the kid ?” inquired the grand ma, the worry now trans-placed to her face.
“Not only the teachers, even the parents cannot slap or ill treat children here” Seshu assured. The two shrunken old faces   glistened.
” So, seniors!”  Ramu greeted the elders while leaving for his work along with Cheenu, and gave some instructions.
” Do not open the main door, come what may. Our contact numbers are neatly pasted on the wall of the fridge and call us, if needed. No need to answer commercial calls  and no need to worry, if you are unable to follow the pronunciation. Don’t venture a  stroll outside.
 Ramya or me will keep calling you once or twice.”
“Why did he say, ‘don’t open the door, come what may?’ Inquired Swamy, ” will someone enter and shoot us with a pistol, as we see in pictures ?”
”That possibility is not there in this area, which is safe .” replied Seshu. “The inside temperature is regulated by a mechanical device, which will get upset if the door is opened. More over, the cold breeze will enter in and make you uncomfortable”
“If some one wants to come in or we wanted to go and say hello to the neighbors?”
“No chance for both” Seshu clarified again with a smile sailing through his face, “none comes without prior notice unlike our place, where people going for a stroll enter, enquire welfare and enjoy a cup of hot coffee from manni’s hands or a pan-chew from your casket. Even, we came yesterday with prior notice. The neighbors are strangers for you and you cannot knock their door and when they show their face, say ‘hello’ or ask, ‘how many children you have’ ? ‘”
“Amma, you have to prepare only rice for neivediam for Appa’s Sivapoojai. I have told you how to use the rice cooker and oven and don’t light the lamp or stove.” Ramya’s instructions followed. “The lamp is already lit and it will last till evening. No need to wash any vessel, leave them in the sink. I will switch on the  dishwasher, in the evening. No need to switch on the washing machine too, just leave the soiled clothes in the basket.”
She, then  asked Swam to hug the seniors and say ‘bye’, which the kid did with elegance and love. Then , on his own, he was about to fall at the feet of his grand parents when they stopped him,  satisfaction surging from their heart that the kid was trained to follow the traditional path of respecting the elders.
“Thatha, you can take any car you want, and play.” Swan gave permission, then paused for a moment and suddenly realized that he was too liberal , came back, turned towards both the grand parents and suggested,”You take one car, the blue one and give thathi, the red one” After taking a few steps towards the exit, he returned again and looking sympathetically at Seshu, suggested, ” thatha, you too take one car, any color you like “
“Thanks ra Kanna” All the three elders attempted to hug the child but he vanished like a lightning .
” I will pick up Swan from his school, on my way back from the office and will be here by four.” Ramya told the elders, while closing the car windows after occupying the driver’s seat. ” your sons will not be back before seven”
” Ithu enna vesham da Seshu ? ” What type of dress is Ramya wearing, ?” mused swamy, alarmed at the dress of his daughter in law, after her left.
“This is how the working women dress up,” Seshu explained, “there is a dress code for every thing here. Wait for summer,you will see how men and women don,  to expose their body and not to cover it. Summer is a festival and they want to enjoy every ray, when the sun is not harsh.”
“Maha mosam” commented mami, “can’t Ramya wear a sari and go to work ?”
“Manni, that is not done; Sari is not a convenient wear to drive the vehicle or move freely up and down the elevators and escalators. More over, that is not an accepted wear in most of the offices. Do you know that the ladies here do not even use hair oil, as the customers and co workers do not like pungent smell ?”
“Pottu illai, poo illai, valai illai” Mami complained that Ramya was not wearing bangles and her head and forehead are barren.
“Mami, pottum poovaum vetchukkindu inke velilae ponal, ellarum avalaithan paruppal -if she goes out with all those usual adorations of women in India, everyone in the street and office will be staring at your daughter in law.Will you like it? ” asked Seshu.
“Vaideeka kudumbham” lamented the couple in unison, ” Viswanatha khanapatikal pon, Swaminatha sastrigal mattuppon!- daughter and daughter in law of Vedic pandits . How shameful!”
“How is your daughter in law ?” Sundaram wanted to know, “does she too don jeans and shirt, or whatever you
call   it ?”‘
“All working women are like that, Sundu” — clarified Seshu, bringing some brightness on the faces of the couple.
The telephone rang and Swamy picked it up. ” Appa,  Ramya here. I just dropped Swan in the class and he wanted  to tell  you that you can play with any number of cars . He also liberally allows you to use other toys too, if you like them. One more instruction from him- ‘vizathunkol -don’t slip on the restroom floor, as Appa was warning you yesterday. I will come and hold your hand as I did  and till then, don’t enter there’.”
The old couple pushed away in a corner, all their adverse remarks on their daughter in law’s attire  and enjoyed the affection, kind treatment and generosity of their grand son, while their eyes swelled. Even a thousand dollar cheque form their son would not have made them so happy.
Words, especially form a sincere heart and a  sweet, silken tongue of a close one , subjugate several sour feelings.
COMMENTS:
I enjoyed reading Smell of the soil chapter 7; you are highly imaginative. Words
flow like water from a falls-  pure and placid.
with best wishes
r ramabadran
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