Rolled Monk

Tirunelveli to Tiruchi

In Paati sonna stories!, Singaara Chennai! on June 16, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Hello random reader,

Seetha was lost in the ever-changing, mottled landscape that lay outside her window. She was watching it with rapt attention when her little brother Ramu, who had just woken up, groggily asked her, “Where are we? When will we reach home?” Seetha had no idea where they were and couldn’t care less when they reached home. She loved the view and was not going to bother herself with these insignificant details.

It was Seetha’s first time on a train, without the supervision of an elder, that is. She was going back to Tiruchi from Tirunelveli, with her 12-year-old brother Ramu. In fact, this time she was the one doing the chaperoning. So no more “don’t sit like that” or “adjust your saree” or “stay away from the window”, from her conservative parents or one of those numerous uncles and aunts, who had invariably accompanied her on every journey she had made so far.

“I am 20 years old, I could take care of myself. Why, by this age, amma was probably changing my diapers”, she mused. Her thoughts went on further to curse her parents, who had forcefully taken her to Tirunelveli for her betrothal. The deal was almost made when the groom’s mother demanded more dowry than her father could deliver and the elders had to stay back for a  renegotiation.

Seetha was also supposed to stay with them but she did not want to. She wanted to get back home. She began throwing tantrums, and at one point, when she threatened to break off the entire proposal, her father decided to pack her off. “Go home, you devil. And don’t you dare utter such inauspicious things ever again”, he chided her. She did not mind. She had won, for she knew that she had to make the journey alone as all her relatives were busy with her marriage talks.

“But how will she go alone?”, her mother wailed. “She is, but a child. And in this kali-yugam nobody can predict what will happen to her”. Her father thought about it for a while and said, “You are right. I will send Ramu also with her”. Both Seetha and her mother shouted simultaneously in chorus, “No!”.

“He is younger than her, a baby, are you out of your mind?”

“Appa, I am going alone or there will be no marri…”

Seetha was broken off mid-sentence by a hard resounding slap. “Didn’t I warn you never to say such things again?”, her father growled. “Ramu, go get your things, you are going home with your sister in 2 days”, he said, and that was that.

So, there they were, in the train, Ramu, who had just gotten up from a nap, and Seetha, pretending he did not exist. “Akka, answer me”, Ramu screamed. Seetha, looked at him, angrily at first, but soon she suppressed a smile and with a sage like countenance, pensively said “We will reach home when we reach home”.

Ramu already sleepy, was beginning to feel hungry and was irritated by Seetha’s insouciant attitude. He cursed the stars for his bad luck, “but nobody said no to Appa when he was in one of those moods”, so he silently bore the boredom of this journey with Seetha by sleeping and waking up and sleeping and waking up and sleeping…

It was almost 10 ‘o’ clock in the night, when the train reached Tiruchi. Seetha was very disappointed to leave her window seat and get down, even though she had been unable to see anything for the past 3 hours. They got down, and looked about the platform. A growing sense of alarm clutched Ramu. “Where is Chandra maami?”, he asked. “Appa sent her a telegram 2 days back, informing her of our arrival and asking her to pick us up”.

“She wouldn’t have gotten it”, Seetha exclaimed gleefully. “Don’t worry little brother, I will make sure we reach home safely, even if I die in the process”, she said, scaring Ramu further. Ramu  was scared stiff, but he never missed an opportunity to take a crack at his sister. “Stupid akka, how will “we” reach home safely, if you die in the process”, he asked.

Seetha, not at all expecting this from Ramu, was impressed. She playfully tousled his hair, and in that short happy moment, Ramu’s fear subsided. They decided to get into a horse-cart, dozens of which, were outside the station. Seetha bargained for a while with one of the cart-men and finally, they got in and set off.

Seetha was admiring her own knack and talent at bargaining, thinking, “I got him to take us for 7 rupees. The 6 mile journey to Srirangam, always costs amma and even appa 10 rupees”. Then she looked at Ramu, who had fallen asleep, again. Seetha was a light sleeper and always envied Ramu who could drift off into oblivion unmindful of his surroundings. She was longing for coffee now. Home made, fresh filter coffee had always enchanted Seetha, 7-8 tumblers of it everyday was probably why she could never sleep.

She was thinking thus, when the cart stopped and their driver discussed something  in hushed voices to 2 persons passing by. Before she could crane her neck outside and eavesdrop, the men had vanished and the cart began moving again. She asked the driver, “Anna, what was that all about?”, and he gave her some shady reply.

Seetha was flustered. The stupidity of her endeavor hit her with full force. They were now entering the denser parts of the mango thoappu (grove) en-route her home. She looked out and saw a guy following them in a cycle. She remembered tales she had heard from her mother and friends about people who were killed and robbed in this thoappu at night, and girls or women who were spoiled here.

She had always wondered what those all-knowing glances meant, when her mother and her aunts discussed about “spoiled”. Now, it looked like she was going to find out first-hand and had no way out of this. She shot a furious glance at Ramu, who oblivious to everything that was transpiring, was sleeping.

“Oh! I want a filter coffee”, she groaned. “What did you say ponnu?”, asked the driver. Even his voice seemed menacing she thought, and before she could reply, he said “Ponnu, did you notice the guy who is following us in the cycle? I am scared. This is a very dangerous place in the night. Do you have any valuables on you?” She was taken aback.

“Is he toying with me?”, she thought, and managed a weak “No”, in response. The cart man heaved a sigh of relief and began driving faster. “He might probably not harm you. But kali-kaalam ponnu, who knows, he might spoil you”, he said.

All of Seetha’s doubts vanished. She realized she could trust this guy, “but can I trust him enough to ask what he meant by “spoil you”, she thought. She decided against it, and took up to chanting, “krishna, krishna, krishna…”, until they reached home.

Once home, she thanked the driver profusely, and Chandra maami, paid him 20 rupees for bringing back their “mahalakshmi” safely, though Seetha thought it was more out of her own guilt at not picking them up at the station. “I thought you were coming tomorrow”, she had screamed holding her chest when she had seen them.

The guy who was following them on the bicycle, waited for the horse-cart to leave, came to their door-step, “I live 4 houses down the street and I am your father’s friend. I recognised you in the station itself and thought the guy was going to spoil you and rob you, so I followed you to ensure nothing happened. But how could you be so careless Seetha?”, he inquired in a condescending tone.

Had such a thing happened today, Seetha would have probably shouted “What the f**k?” and would have even known the meaning of spoiled. But since it was 1946, she just fainted with frustration and relief.

So till I write again…ciao ciao.

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  1. Nice one… All your stories has got a nice flow to it … there is strange thing that most of your stories have no concluding lesson or moral, just like what most of life is, strangely we ignore the beauty of such incidents, and pretend as if each and everything should make a point

  2. hey good one! i love ta way ur stories ve a south Indian feel to it! reminds of Malgudi Days! keep ta good work goin

  3. @manyu true indeed! we always pretend everything must make a point…have a beginning, an end and blah blah blah! Whats the point? 😛

    @nisha thanks!!! u have know idea what tht compliment means to me..Hail RKN, the master!

  4. i liked the previous story better.. the darker one…

  5. Mind blowing dude….really an awesome…

    waiting for ur next post….

  6. @joel : wait for it my boy 😉

    @mag[m] : thnx!

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