My maiden US visit last chapter. Kangaroo Kamakshi.
Boarding time for the US flight was announced and BIG BEN hugged us like a big bear, clearing her moist eyes and flashing a forced smile .
” Have an enjoyable trip,” she wished us, “and soon after you are free from jet log, I will meet you there . My next meeting is at Boston”
She was about to leave when I heard a woman’s coarse voice penetrating from behind “Periasssssssooo”.
“Another devil to make you cranky,” Parau muttered seeing the approaching
woman, limping but trying to hasten her speed, “who is she ?”
“Kangaroo Kamakshi ” I replied, waving to the lady as a sign of acknowledging her call.
” I am also coming in this flight, drag my bag too,” she pushed her cabin baggage towards me and bolted. “A last minute petty purchase ”
” Should I hold the bird ?” I shouted. She screamed from the distance , ” no. just here in the duty- free shop “.
“What name is this,” Parasu enquired .
“She is BangAru Kamakshi , a familiar name in our state,” I explained,
“you know bangAram is gold. That was her parents and teachers and her
husband too during the days and nights of their romance. Then she became kangaroo.
“How?” Enquired Parasu.
“Be ready for a story,” Ammalu commented.
“This is not my story but what her husband, Maj. ( retired) Doraswamy Iyengar, told me.
Her right leg is shorter by half an inch which was not an inborn defect but acquired after wedding. While overhearing her husband’s telephone talks, she used to press her right toe, hiding behind the kitchen door, firmly on the floor and raise the corresponding heel so that she could stretch her head forward and follow the talk without missing a word. When it became a regular practice, due to the constant pressure on the right leg, it shrunk a bit in size and her leg movement resemble that of the Australian animal.
I do not usually believe what husbands say about their sweet -hearts and therefore would prefer to go by her son’s version.
‘My mother spoiled me by over -indulgence and overt display of affection . Immediately after the school bell, she used to pick me up from the school, wrap me with her sari and rush home . Her hurried action was to protect me from mingling with girls. She had serious doubts about the integrity of my father after he told her once that he had a number of girl friends right from his school days. As she protected me as earnestly as a kangaroo does, some mischievous guy in the defense colony named her KK, the first K for kangaroo. That abbreviation became so popular that we all call her with that pet name’
Her daughter in law’s version was different.
‘We used to go for movies frequently during the early days of our marriage and mother in law preferred to sit at our back seat, press the right toe firmly on the floor, raise her head, sharpen her ears to hear our conversation. If our chats were not up to her expectation, she used to swift the toes, press her left one on the floor and overhear. This exercise could be the reason for her imbalance of legs though my husband doesn’t accept my version. ‘Why should she overhear?,? he asks, ‘ I tell her everything that transpired between us, in our privacy’
KK ( let us also call her by that name for convenience ) occupied the seat vacated by BB and turned back to enquire about Parasu.
” Haven’t I met you in the Pollachi market with a board hanging from the tree under which you were sitting? Even the letters written in the board, I remember, ‘ Parasu, pakshisastram expert ?” A straight question that was.
“No way,” Parasu replied with equal firmness,” I had never sat under a tree anywhere as I am allergic to tree- shade ”
“Poi. You lie like the major, my husband. When I told him that I saw him walking hand in hand with a girl in the Marina beach, he replied, ‘how could that be, don’t you know that I am allergic to sea breeze ?’. KK told Parasu and turned towards me,
‘You know, he was a sailor for 25 years'”
“Kon hae bayya o Guruji, Who is that guruji, ?” asked Parasu, ” I would like to fall at his feet instantly”.
“Her husband Maj. Doraisamy Iyengar ” I clarified and introduced Parasu to her.
“Akkal, this is my cousin Parasu ”
” Ask your cousin whether he remembers my face ?”
” I don’t look at the face of any woman other than my wife’s,”
Parasu clarified,” I look only at their palm”
“Ivan aaruda, Periyasoo, Lakshmananaa? Is he Lakshman?,” KK joked and turned towards him,”yes, you looked at my palm only and collected one hundred Rupees for one lie ”
“Then, madam, for a hundred Rupees, you expect me tell hundred lies,?” Parasu had a point there.
I wanted to divert the topic. ” Akka, how is that you are alone. Why didn’t Major accompany you ?”
” He is busy playing golf and dancing with his girl friends ”
Major is a jolly good fellow. Fun-loving, joyous and jovial..but he is not an irresponsible husband.
” I am sure that you had some petty quarrel.” I tried to reason out.
” He is never quarrelsome. Let him scold me, slap me, I don’t mind. He has right for that as my husband. The problem is he talks sweetly to me ”
” And to other women too, equally sweetly?”
“Exactly,” KK lamented holding Ammalu’s hand “I am married for forty years and have four children . He is a handsome six footer, fair complexioned with well -tuned muscles and also well mannered. And what am I ? An uneducated and unsocial ugly woman of asymmetrical body components! Where is match in our union?”
“There is, my dear Akka,” I explained. Otherwise your astrologer father wouldn’t have proposed and executed your wedding. When the stars in the sky are agreeable who are we, here on the lowly land, to look for physical or mental matching ?” I continued. “Moreover, it is your inferiority complex that makes your life miserable and not your husband’s attitude. I know P.K. He is a gentleman. He might occasionally glance at other women; it is not a sin”
“They all do that” Ammalu, as a good wife, supported my statement.
“You are the mother of his offspring” ignoring Ammlu’s sarcastic look, I continued. “You looked after him for forty long years and continue to do so. I am sure that he has a happy life with you”
“I am not that sure” Her small eyes were moist.”He has a number of girl friends”
“Come on. You don’t talk about your husband’s girl friends when he is seventy plus. you welcome them ” I chided her .
“Anyway, on what basis do you disparage him?”
“I overhear his tele talks!”
“See, it confirms your friend’s explanation for his wife’s deformity,” Parasu whispered.
“O.K. Let us talk something more pleasant” I wanted to change the topic, again.
“I hear that you are going to become a grandma soon. Congrats. I am sure that you are going to assist your daughter-in-law during her confinement”
“No. Venki wants Amrita to wear sari and that too in ‘madisaru’ style; The purpose of my present visit is to help her”
‘”What! You are going all the way to US to teach your daughter- in- law, the intricacies of wearing a nine yard- long sari, in the conventional Brahminical style?”
“You are right”
“And Amrita agreed for that?”
“Yes. When Venki told her that I was wearing ‘madisaru’ while carrying him and he would like to see her in that dress, now that she is carrying his child”.
“What a desire for an Americanized young man!” I murmured.
There is no purpose in prolonging the discussion. I picked up a sheet of paper and pencil from my yellow bag and engaged myself in a more sensible activity-drawing sketches of the women crew in the aircraft.
” My husband also does this,” commented ‘Akka’ viewing the sketches, through the corner of her eye.
“All sensible old men do it,” I replied, looking at Parasu. He was also doing the same thing but started scribbling ‘Sreerama Jayam’, when he discovered that I had noticed his shameful act.
“Engaveettu elikalellam Ongaveettukku pogado?’
Kuppeekalaa—-” Sang Ammalu.
I was surprised and pleased to hear Ammalu singing in a low voice, a couple of lines from my song. First time, she was appreciating my song, by imitating it.
“Ammlu, what happened?” I enquired, earnest to know the reason for the sudden change in her attitude towards the song.
“I am afraid that I didn’t close the rice dabba properly,” she moaned, ” and I noticed a rat or two in the kitchen”
” Let there be hundred rats in our kitchen and let them eat all the rice.
My happiness was limitless . “How nice of you to have sung my song!”
“I am proud of you” she said flashing a smile. “You don’t have girl friends!”
“I am also proud of you , Ammalu” I replied with equal earnestness, “you don’t overhear my tele. talks and spoil your shape!”
Arrived on the American soil. Newark airport.
Venky and Amrit also were there along with my children at the airport to receive us . They took us to a garden where we shared the food they had brought with them, when Major appeared before us neatly dressed as usual with his bewitching smile.
” I came by the previous flight just to surprise my wife after making sure that she travels in the seat next to you” He said glancing at his woman affectionately.
“But how did you know my seat details?” I enquired.
“I gave, Appa,” My son revealed. ” KK was refusing to come to US ; so we planned a project to bring her here ”
“So you dragged here for teaching Amrita how to wear sari ?” I asked Venki.
” Uncle that was again a ploy to bring mom here. Amrita somehow wanted Amma here and it was Appa who first suggested this. Amma is prepared to do anything to make Amrita happy ”
”How lucky you are KK, to have such an affectionate husband and a caring son ?”
“And loving mattupon too.” Ammalu added and gave a bit of advice to Major, “take KK too to the sea shore and hold her hand while strolling ”
” I am allergic to sea breeze, Ammlu ” He said and we all laughed.
That was how I landed on the shore of America for the first time. Who expected then that this country would become my second home!