The idea for this story came from my father who narrated the story line that could possibly end up being a play that was he was planning to pen.
“Anjali just called me and she has been posted in Bangalore. She is coming back home next week.” – Sudhakar said as he walked to the bed post. His wife, Nalini who was reading a Maya Banks novel set the book aside and placed a silver colored bookmark in its fold.
She grinned, showing her teeth from ear to ear and said – “This is great news. I was thinking about asking Anjali quit the job there and find one here. I wonder why she has to go up north for a paltry salary while she can find something similar here.”
Sudhakar sat on the bed and stretched his feet. “We need to clear her bedroom, and get it freshly painted. Don’t you think she would need a new computer table and a cot?”
“I was thinking about something else. Maybe it’s time for her to get married.” Nalini was looking at the floor. “She is about age to get settled down in life. If we leave it for too late, she might find her own. You know that I don’t like the dating and other baggage that comes along.”
“If you were really against dating, we may never have met and got married” – quipped Sudhakar.
“That’s the problem. If I hadn’t met you, my mother had plans to get me married off to a relative who is in the US. I could have been living there partying on cruise ships and taking frequent road trips” – she raised her eyebrows as she said it.
“That could very well be true dear. Your US husband would also be partying with bikini clad women while you toiled at home.”
In an effort to change the subject, Nalini interrupted – “when did you say Anjali is coming back?”
Anjali comes home the following week. She takes a week off from work to spend time with her family, visiting relatives and hanging out with school buddies. Sudhakar and Nalini spill the beans on their plans to get her married. Anjali is averse to the idea of bondage of marriage at first, and finally relents. A compromise is reached where her parents would do the initial screening, and the final go-ahead will be her call. She thinks it’s a fair deal given that the strings to the major decision lie with her.
Meanwhile, Sudhakar’s mother Savithri is back from her month long pilgrimage.
Touching his mother’s feet, Sudhakar says – “Amma, I have some very good news for you.”
“You still haven’t grown up. You fail to contain excitement and your patience levels are the same as always. Couldn’t you seek my blessings first, and then over a cup of coffee tell me whatever that you have to say” – taunted Savithri with a grim face. “And where is your wife? Why is she not awaiting my arrival?”
“That’s the good news amma. Anjali is transferred back to Bangalore. Nalini has gone with her to the studio.”
Savithri’s wrinkles were lost in the ocean of her face as she failed to hide the elation. “Why didn’t you tell me this before? This is no way to treat my favourite granddaughter.”
“There is something else.” Sudhakar scratched his head as he pondered for words. “We are going to find a suitor for Anjali. She has agreed.”
“Oh god! You are a master of blunders. You got married pre-maturely after seeing your wife at a sweet shop and now you want to pack off my sweetie before I can tell her about your mishaps.”
“Amma. She’s 25. I was married by then. Nalini was 21.”
Savithri raised her hand to his face and interrupted – “I told you that you were a mistake and I will not stand in your way if you wish to pass on your dumb move to Anjali.” She hurried back to her bedroom without waiting for a response from her son.”
Sudhakar knew his mother well. He knew that he was her favourite son. He didn’t mind her words as deep inside, he believed that her mother loved him and trusted his decisions.” This indeed was true and the prime reason for Savithri to opt to stay with her eldest son even though her two younger sons had not picked their brides and had entrusted their mother to do the choosing.
Sudhakar and Nalini begin the bridegroom hunt. They share Anjali’s photographs with friends and relatives, upload the profile on matrimony websites and enrol her onto local associations which help in finding partners.
Savithri stayed alone at home, while Anjali worked and her parents packed their schedules in groom search.
It was a Tuesday afternoon, midst of summer. Savithri was dicing carrots and without a warning, she felt the world around her revolve for a brief moment and blackness engulfed as though she was bagged in a thick sack. When she opened her eyes, she observed that the sheets, walls, her hand and clothes were all white. “Aah! This is heaven. I am in the clouds” – she thought. She could hear murmurs and she identified one of them as her son Sudhakar.
“How can Sudhakar be in heaven? He had gone out to meet an astrologer today. Did he meet with an accident and.” She shuddered in disbelief and saw her sons standing around her along with Anjali. She felt pain in the back of her left hand. She was needled up. She tried to move her right arm but it felt as though a heavy sack had been placed on it. She had been plastered up. “What happened to me?” – She weakly muttered looking at no one in particular.
A doctor who she had not seen standing behind her spoke up. “Ma’am you had collapsed on your kitchen floor and you had a deep gnash on your right wrist. We need to run some x-rays the next morning to check for fracture.” He moved in front of her and held her left hand inspecting the punctures made with the needle that entered her veins. “You will be OK. You seem to have collapsed due to general weakness.” Softly, the doctor let out a – I guess.
In the doctor’s chamber, Sudhakar and his siblings are looking tense after being summoned summarily after the evening inspection. The siblings are busy conversing on what the doctor could say even when the doctor is sitting in front of them – waiting for them to finish their thought groping.
The doctor coughs loud enough to crack one of the siblings’ eye glasses and turns his attention to Sudhakar – “Your mother is weak. Of course I said this before. But, what I didn’t share earlier is that her age and this weakness put together is not an encouraging combination. You need to disallow her in partaking in any of the physical activities in the house.” Sudhakar kept staring as if the doctor had more to add.
“We ask our mother to stay away from working at home doctor but she never listens to us. She justifies that she has been doing it all her life and has stayed healthy.” The doctor cut him off – “The ECG results don’t look good either. Her heart is weak. You need to put your foot down and tell her not to interfere in the household chores.” Sudhakar turns his gaze at his brothers and as though they were working off telepathic waves, he says – “We will take care doctor.”
Nalini and Sudhakar are sitting in their bedroom after dinner the following day chewing betel leaf. Savithri was released earlier in the morning, and is in her bedroom. Sudhakar tucked her in bed against her wishes and asked her to sleep cautioning that she might be hospitalized if she didn’t follow doctor’s orders. Nalini changes the channel on TV but doesn’t seem to be caring on what channel is ON. She turns towards Sudhakar. Before she could spit the words out, Sudhakar queries, “I know what is bothering you Nalini. Amma will be alright. She will wake up tomorrow before us and will start doing the dishes. She was really pesky about leaving dirty dishes out tonight. The last thing she wants us to do is invite guests in the form of rats.”
“I am… well, not exactly worried about that. I am worried about Anjali’s wedding. I don’t want her wedding to get postponed because we are not available to take care of your mother”, Nalini interjected.
“Amma will be just fine. Nothing will happen to her. Just a couple of days rest, and she will be normal.”
“For her to rest, we need to let her rest. We have the coming few days planned for visiting various matrimony centers around the state. We will not be able to take good care of her. She will do something or the other when she’s alone at home. If something happens to her, I don’t want Anjali to miss out on getting married at the right age, and miss out on the creamy layer of possible grooms. Not to mention that I don’t want us to be the reason for something happening to your mother.”
In India, when an elder in the family or somebody connected to the bloodline dies, festivals and celebrations such as weddings are put on hold for a year. The affected family does not partake in hosting any of the Hindu festivals and all ceremonies except for those in memory of the dead.
“Let’s wait for a few more days before we head to those centers. What’s the hurry now?” – Sudhakar quipped.
Savithri grips Sudhakar’s thigh to get his attention and raises her voice – “Everything. Next month which is like 5 days from today is inauspicious to do anything holy. Anjali has agreed to get married. If we delay it further, there is every chance that she might change her stance and I won’t excuse myself.”
“Alright, let’s do one thing. I will ask my brother to take care of Amma while we are gone. I will call him first thing in the morning. I know he will agree. He has been looking forward to taking care of Amma for some time now.”
Nalini stood up charged, as though she was stung by a jelly fish. “Let’s do one thing. We will request your brother to take care of your mother until we are done with the wedding search, perhaps until the wedding. What do you think?” She moved her eyebrows like a wave in the ocean asking the question for which she already knew the answer to.
Sudhakar nodded in agreement and the night ended with a strategy being drawn to convince his brother.
“You know who just called?” Nalini screamed into the phone.
Sudhakar, in office, was taken aback. He held his cell phone little farther away and said, “I will not know dear. Do you know that Leonardo da Vinci once said that where there is shouting, there is no true knowledge. I knew it had to be true, now I am witnessing it.”
Irritated, Nalini eats her words literally, “The boy who Anjali had met a couple of days back likes her. His parents called.”
“Which boy? We are seeing two boys every day over the past ten days.” Sudhakar looks at the ceiling blinking his eyes as he searched his memory cells.
Nalini motioned something with her hand as though Sudhakar was standing in front of her, and the sculpture she drew with hands depicted the boy she meant. “It’s the one from that investment firm. Anjali really liked him and it seems that they spoke yesterday for a long time and both are convinced.”
“Oh! That one. I thought you didn’t like his father. Isn’t he the one who kept staring at you?” – Sudhakar quizzed.
“He was not staring at me. He was just looking at me funny. Yes, he is the one. The family is well off. Single child. Millionaires. Settled in Bangalore. Posh locality. Audi. What else to ask for? Moreover he is fair and looks like a film hero.”
“Yes I agree. That’s a good match. We should go with it.”
“There’s a catch.”
“There’s always a catch with the gold fish, you should tell me the condition first and then blurt out the rest later. It will be little easy on my heart.”
“He is going to work out of Germany for a year. He is leaving in four weeks time. They want the wedding to be done by then. Preferably, in three weeks time.”
Sudhakar realizing for the first time that he was standing all along since the call landed, sat down, trying to sink in the time conformities. “That will be difficult. We wanted to do a grand wedding, well planned and invite all our well wishers personally.”
Nalini acted like the oracle as though she expected this from her husband – “I have already thought of this. My club friend had told me that wedding planners can do a neat job of professionally arranging everything within a week. Now we have three. We will invite our close friends and family. The rest we will ask this wedding planner to call on our behalf. It will work, I know it.”
“We should make this work. There is no way around it Nalini. This is a match made just for Anjali. Imagine the luxurious life she can lead. And, take her daddy for a drive or two in Audi.”
“Yes. Yes. You always dreamed of a Benz and now you are getting close to an Audi, thanks to your daughter. Come home quickly. We have lots to discuss.”
Over the next couple of days, Sudhakar and Anjali meet up with a wedding planner and go through the details of their requirements including colors, shapes and designs. They wanted to be sure that the wedding is planned as though they would have done it if they had half a year. The planner booked one of Bangalore’s biggest wedding halls, and hired a popular folk band to play at the reception. Things were falling place.
With all arrangements in place, at least planned to be in place, Sudhakar and Nalini packed a kilogram of fresh sweets from a local sweat meat stall and headed to his brother’s house to share the good news.
The nurse Sudhakar had appointed opened the door. She was gorgeous and Sudhakar missed a blink or two before Nalini slapped him on his arm. Without realizing the reason for the slap, Sudhakar spurted out – “We could have taken good care of Amma at our own home. The nurse takes care of her the same way wherever she is. Right?”
Nalini now visibly upset was about to say something unpleasant when Savithri appeared at the kitchen door. “I thought you washed off your hands Sudhakar. Do you remember that I don’t generally stay here?”
Sudhakar put on a sorry face and said, “I know Amma. I was just telling Nalini that you could have very well stayed at our place. We can see the great job the nurse has done on you.”
The nurse is a little embarrassed and starts to fiddle with her analog watch as though she can see numbers that can indicate the numerology of her next response.
Savithri cuts off Sudhakar’s public display of flirtation by asking him to sit down and asks the cook to get coffee and biscuits.
Sudhakar’s brother alights from the first floor and as coffee is served, asks “Your face looks like a lotus. What happened to you?”
Sudhakar tries to open his mouth while Nalini interrupts him – “Well, he has been like this since he entered your home. I have never seen him act this way especially at home, maybe at a movie theatre a couple of times. That’s not the point. Sudhakar, you want to share the good news?”
Finally Sudhakar’s words are heard. “Yes, yes. Firstly, I have always liked to come over to my little brother’s house and today I was extremely happy to see Amma hale and healthy” – he lied. Continuing what would be a longish speech, “They say marriages are made in heaven, and I am of the opinion that marriage fixations are made in the same place too. We have found a perfect match for Anjali. The groom is a millionaire and drives an Audi.”
Nalini didn’t want to be left out especially now, “He looks like a movie actor. Fair, strongly built and tall.”
Sudhakar cutting his wife’s banter of physical descriptions – “The wedding will be held in two weeks from now. My son-in-law, huh, would-be son-in-law, is flying to Germany soon after the wedding and will work from there for at least a year. I am hoping that he might ask me to take good care of his Audi in exchange for taking great care of my baby.”
Engrossed in the physical, financial and kismet description, the couple’s banter is brought to an abrupt end as Savithri starts to show gleam. She seems upbeat, but soon it turns into a glower of convulsion. Her face starts to redden, twist and her jaws seemed like losing its alignment. Her hands stiffened as she fell back on the couch lifeless. The nurse jumps to the rescue, and shows her antics at reviving a lost soul. After sometime, she says sorry and calls the ambulance anyway.
Sudhakar and Nalini are dumbstruck. They are unsure what transpired all of this. All that they wanted was his mother to be fine. In reality, they wanted to see through Anjali’s wedding while they knew of his mother’s deteriorating health. And, the old lady who seemed to have been on the path to full vigor, died on hearing the wedding news, the news that was supposed to bring cheer, the news that was a result of some careful planning, including getting a nurse appointed to look after his mother. Fate!
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