Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Vani - I

This post is written by my friend and guest blogger Karthikeyan Chandran. He blogs at Glocal View
(My attempt at fiction)
Vani closed her eyes trying to sleep. She has been tossing and turning for the last hour or so. She could intermittently hear the men outside at a distance in the hall laughing. She couldn't hear exactly what they were talking, but she knew they were playing cards. Otherwise, she could only hear the ticking of the wall clock. She was not alone in the room. Latha Athai was there sleeping next to her. Latha Athai, who has been a support to her, was too tired to allay her fears on the night before perhaps the most important day of her life.

By now, Vani was used to the darkness of the room. There was a beam of light that entered the otherwise sealed room through a crack in the window. Next to Vani's cot, near the dressing table were all the paraphernalia needed for the next morning. The Jewels, though carefully placed in the jewel box, was not concealed from prying eyes that might enter the room. Vani gazed at the red jewel box.

It was a rainy Deepavali that year. Vani who was 12 years old had woke up with her sisters by 4 am, getting ready for the oil bath. Appa had returned last night from Madras with new clothes, pattasu and some sweets. Amma for her part had made murukku. Appa, though a farmer with meagre income, had always tried his best to keep his daughters happy. The relationship between amma and appa weren't so smooth, but Vani never thought much about it. To her, Athai Latha's house is a safe haven when things weren't normal. Athai for her part, embraced the sisters as her own and treated them like her kids. Vani never understood the subtle differences and motivations for how people reacted to each other. All she knew was that Appa was closer to her, for some reason, than her sisters and that anytime she feels bad, she can run to Athai. Early that morning, after the perfunctory pooja after bath, Vani was all gleaming in her new dress. She was ready to run to athai and show her new dress. Just then appa called her in. He opened a small red box and took two small ear rings in what looked like Gold. Amma took the ear rings, placed on the pedestal with pictures of Gods from the Hindu pantheon. Vani was checking out herself in the mirror with her ear-rings. She could hear her mother in the Kitchen telling her to ,"be careful, this is for your marriage, if you lose it, you will be the one without it."

Just then, the noise from the Hall became a little louder to draw her attention away from the Jewel box. Next to it lay the Kanchipuram pattu sari. It was violet in color with designs of peacock. Vani has always wanted a Pattu pudavai for herself. Even during her sister's marriage, appa couldn't manage a new one for the sisters. She had to do with one of her mother's sari. In all the other marriages she had to attend, she was never allowed to wear any of her mother's five saris. Though she was in her teens, she had to do see her athais, periyammas and cousins from Madras flaunting their wealth with their silk saris and Jewelry. she always wanted a sari of her own so that she can wear it to all these weddings.

Latha Athai had by this time started to snore. Madras Athai was sleeping next her. Athai had come from Madras 10 days earlier for the wedding to assist in the preparations. She had problems with her knee, but that did not stop her to do any less for the marriage. Between these two, Vani saw shades of her mother. Latha athai in her unquestioning love for her, always being there for her. Yet, she could at times be harsh when Vani didn't exactly follow her instructions or wanted to have a lazy day. Vani's mother too was a workholic and expected the same of her daughters, even in their pre-teen days. Madras athai was the other side, she was a small women in size, like her mother, but she always gave the freedom to have her own space. Madras Athai, in ways complemented Latha athai.

The louder ding dong from the clock marked the passing of yet another hour. It must be 12 AM now, only 5 hours before the muhurtam. Vani wanted to go to sleep, but the more she thought about sleep, the more awake she seemed to feel. Even the men outside seemed to have packed up and slept. The thought of the men playing outside led her to think of the man sleeping in the other room. She wondered whether he too would be having trouble sleeping and what is going on in his mind.

Rajkumar was sitting on the folding chair sipping coffee, a little shy, a little scared Vani thought, because of her Grandfather. Her Grandfather could be an intimidating man, especially for unsuspecting young men, who expect a jocular old guy for a thatha. Thatha always had a temper, and never easily opened up to new people. This included the fiance of his grand-daughter. Luckily for Vani, her village had long ago moved beyond coffee giving routine of the yesteryears. She was also part the group sitting outside when Rajkumar had come to see her for the first time. She didn't feel out of place since all she could see was her relatives and neighbors. Maybe her confidence at that gathering was even more off-putting for Raj. She could surely see him fidgeting and looking for ways to be let out.

Raj turned out to be a sweet guy in the days she spoke with him since the Nitchayadartham. She didn't like his smoking habit, but she figured she can change him. He called her daily on athai's cell phone and she could speak with him for a few minutes in private. He has still not been able to break ice with Thatha. On the two occasions that he found a reason to come home to visit her, one for her birthday and one when he called on visit athai, thatha stared at him throughout his stay. He later told her that he felt like thatha might any time pounce on him and bite his head off. Vani couldn't stop laughing. This is what she liked about Raj, his charm that doesn't overwhelm, but which makes her comfortable. He made her forget her situation, made her feel special for those two minutes that she got to speak with him on the phone.

Still, as the clock ticked, she couldn't get past this inexplicable fear that started to only grow. She had grown comfortable with Raj, she couldn't say whether she was falling in love but she has started to trust him, was not enough to let her go to sleep. She needed someone to confide her fears, to get a reassuring word. She wanted to sleep for a few hours. She didn't want to wake her athai up. She knew how hard she had worked to get this wedding going. She appreciated it with all her heart. She wanted someone to understand what she was going through and to check on her at this hour. Vani, for the first time since the wedding talk began, missed her mother. More than her mother, she missed her father's reassuring presence.

to be continued...
(Originally published here.)

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Anonymous Neriz said...

I have a blog about my life in the US how my marriage is being arranged and what i think about arranged marriage vs. love marriage

November 12, 2009 11:30 PM  

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