Sunday, February 25, 2007
From riches to rags - III
[Naan mokkai la thaan mudipen nu mudive panneetengala? :( You're in for a rude shock then.]
Kovalam opened his eyes a few hours later. "You're awake!", squealed Deepthi, as she lunged forward to hug him. Kovalam pushed her away and removed the sheets to expose his injured leg. It was still there. Injured, but intact. His breathing slowly returned to normal and glanced up to see his father looking disturbed and his mother in tears."How did you know?", Siddharth enquired quietly."I heard Rajiv chithappa telling you about it.", Kovalam replied.
No one spoke for a while.
Rajiv entered just then. The uncomfortable silence prevailing in the room was enough to know that Kovalam found out. He went up to him and ruffled his hair. "Don't worry, da. I'm trying my best to convince the doctor not to do it." Siddharth cricked his neck as he turned sharply in surprise. "Are you crazy, Rajiv?", he hissed, rubbing his neck. "Let's try to dilute the blood clot by some other means", Rajiv implored, "Let's not go for amputation. Please?" Deepthi looked at him as if he was out of his senses. "Why are you talking like an irrational child? Didn't you hear what the doctor said? It's not just the clot. His limb has undergone severe trauma. He's got no choice." Suddenly, they fell silent again. They realised they'd been speaking in front of Kovalam. The silence became a little more uncomfortable. Finally Kovalam ended it, as he croaked "Let them go ahead with it."His leg was amputated the very next day, and a week later, Kovalam returned home. He was discharged from his duties in the Air Force for a month before they decided what to do with him. A prominent change had come over Kovalam after the amputation. The innocent twinkle in his eyes was gone. It was replaced by a cold steely look. His patience had started to wear thin, and he lashed out at the slightest affliction. The Air Force had decided to give him a desk job, and asked him to return after six months. Siddharth's company, all of a sudden, started to dip in business. Dip was an understatement. It did a double somersault from a diving board and went straight to the bottom of the pool. Deepthi had given up her job to take care of Kovalam. Their finances had taken a major hit. They were going from riches to rags. (I've seen a lot of authors use the title in just one sentence hidden somewhere in the book. There you go, folks, I've successfully managed to squeeze the title in!)But the most shocking change was in Kovalam's character. He managed to escape from home many a times, and was seen ogling at girls in the bus stand. He was even caught twice trying to make a pass at a few of them. He leered openly, and passed disgusting comments. He started to smoke again. And as if it wasn't bad enough, the cigarettes he smoked were usually stolen from some potti kadai! Deepthi was distraught. Why was he behaving like this all of a sudden? Usually, victims of major injuries were known to go into a shell. He was doing the exact opposite, and behaved in a way that was never thought possible of him.Rajiv had resigned from his Ranji team and was working extra hard to help his brother out of the hole. He had taken up a three month long assignment abroad, and as soon as he touched down in Chennai, went straight to Siddharth's house. A couple of policeman were talking very rudely to Siddharth. "This is the last time I'm letting him off", one of them said, "If we catch him again in front of the ladies hostel in the next block, we'll have him arrested." Siddharth nodded, knowing not what to say. Rajiv hung on outside till the policemen left, and entered the living room.Siddharth looked at him worriedly, racking his brain for some excuse. Rajiv cut in before he could say anything, "Ssshh. Don't bother. I heard it all." Siddharth broke down. "Why? Why is all this happening to us? Losses in business, I can bear. It's Kovalam's behaviour that's disturbing me greatly. What has happened to him? Enna aachu avanukku?"Rajiv looked at him sombrely. He shook his head as he said, "Naan idha edhir paarthen da. Indha maathiri edhavadhu aagum nu appove nenachaen."Siddharth looked at him with a mixture of anxiety and curiosity. "I do remember you trying to dissuade us from getting his leg amputated.", he said as he began to take in a deep breath, knowing he'd finally find out the reason for Kovalam's change. "But why?"Rajiv screwed up his eyes and bit his lower lip. Siddharth recognised the expression. This was the look he gave just before he quoted some ancient Tamil saying. The words rang out sharp and clear. "Kovalam ku kaal edutha avan kevalam thaane aavaan."[This is to inform you that I've gone into hiding. Do not search for me. It's an exercise in futility. Oh, and in case you didn't get it, I'm sure someone'll help you out in the comment box. As for what I said in the beginning, it was just an attempt to lower your expectations a bit! Varta? :) ]
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
From riches to rags - II
[Idhu oru U-rated blog. Ingu process description ellam solla padaathu. Apadi therinthu thaan aaganam endru adampidithaal, Moksham theatre poi edhavadhu bit padam paarkavum. Nandri.]Kovalam was an unusually bright child. Extremely sharp, he reached his little baby milestones (sitting, talking, walking, the works) earlier than most others. But his proud daddy was most impressed by the fact that his baby seemed potty trained by default! The minute he could walk, he immediately gravitated to the portable potty whenever he wanted to poop. "Did you see that?", Siddharth would say, glaring at Calvin and Hobbes (his German Shepherds), with his hands on his hips, "When are you two going to learn?"In fact, Kovalam was so bright that every time his mother got a burp out of him, she'd hear an "Echoome". "Did you hear that?", she'd ask Siddharth, glaring, "He said excuse me! When are YOU going to learn?"
Kovalam breezed through his LKG interviews, handling it as if he was attending the final interview in Microsoft, and making the principal look like a fool for having used baby-talk with him. By the time he reached sixth standard, he was considered for double promotion thrice, but he spurned them all, because he wanted to be with his friends. His parents respected his decision. He was after all, their lucky child in more ways than one. After he was born, Siddharth was elated that his business was seeing a very steep increase in profits. Deepthi had more reasons to be overjoyed. Siddharth's secretary got married. She kept saying she was relieved that her friend had found her life partner, but Siddharth wondered if the relief ran deeper!
Kovalam may have surprised one and all with his baby milestones, but he surprised even himself with his boyhood milestones. (Here's a ladder.. now get your mind out of the gutter! His maturity level extends only to his emotional side. At least, as yet!) He'd already ridden a bike, broken his hand, met celebrities, tried his first (and after the bout of wheezing he endured for a week) and last puff on a cigarette. Otherwise, he was a well-behaved boy, and his teachers adored him.
Siddharth had a younger brother, Rajiv, who Kovalam loved and respected. Rajiv was a banker by profession, a new entrant in the state Ranji team, and a riot to hang out with. In spite of being such a Peter fellow when around some of his rich Sethji clients, he was an avid Tamil Literature enthusiast. Whenever he was cornered in an argument, he'd quote some ancient pulavar and twist the meaning to suit him.
Kovalam hero-worshipped his uncle. They'd often go off on long ECR rides and had visited every beach and restaurant along the coast. It was also his bike that was responsible for Kovalam's fracture, but after a quick secret pact with each other, Kovalam's parents were told it was caused by a nasty fall while playing cricket with his uncle.
Years whizzed by, and Kovalam had already completed his 12th and (yawn!) topped his school, missing out on a state rank by a whisker. A state rank, after all, is exclusively reserved for girls. The Press were impressed by his record over the years and ran a piece on him. When asked what he wanted to become, he answered "I want to join the Air Force" without any hesitation. This took everyone by surprise. Most of all, his parents.
They tried cajoling him, bribing him, threatening him and even emotionally blackmailing him. But Kovalam was not prepared to reverse his decision. That very month, he applied to join the NDA and cleared the cut. He had to then take a Pilot aptitude test and passed out in flying colours. (What's with these puns?) In very quick time, he went from transport pilot to combat pilot. He was on cloud nine. (I swear I don't put these in. Honest!)
And on a fateful day in January, his life spun out of control. During flight manoeuvres for the Republic Day parade rehearsal, his plane stopped responding midair. He knew Microsoft had corrupted his brain for good when the first thing that flashed across his mind was Ctrl+Alt+Del. He had to somehow coax the plane to crash somewhere safe before deplaning. After somehow coaxing the floating scrapmetal to nosedive towards an empty field, he ejected from the plane, with two things running through his mind.
a) that he hadn't been too late in getting out of the plane.
b) the sombu and vayakaadu concept is not very popular in North India.
The plane crashed into the field and caught fire. Kovalam landed very close to the plane and began to ditch the parachute and run for his life. The plane exploded just as he started to sprint, and a large shrapnel hit Kovalam on his leg and got wedged in. He fell to the ground, and lost consciousness.
He awoke to the sound of his mother sobbing. "Deepthi, azhaadhe.. It'll be alright", his dad was saying to her. He looked around and noticed he was in a hospital. He noticed Rajiv entering the room looking grave. Nobody had noticed that Kovalam had regained consciousness. Rajiv walked towards Siddharth, placed a hand on his shoulder and said "The doctor says his leg must be amputated."
Kovalam closed his eyes and drifted off again.
[The next part will conclude the story. Promise! And it'll (hopefully) be very short.]
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
From riches to rags
Siddharth had it all. Cars, real estate (with a capital R! No poramboaku valaichu puttings..), a very high paying job, a loving wife, two gorgeous German Shepherds, loads of good will and a lovely secretary. To top it all, the wife and the secretary were good friends. "What more could a man want?" was the chief refrain of all those who knew, admired, and even envied him.But he knew what he wanted. A child. He and Deepthi* were in their late 30s, and were not getting any younger. They wanted a kid, and fast!*(yes, his wife. What did you expect? A baby with his secretary? Coming to think of it, why would he want an almost 40 year old secretary?!!)Siddharth decided to take a break from work. (It pays to be the boss of your own office) He entrusted his staff with all the responsibilities and told Deepthi that they were going on their second honeymoon. He'd already chalked up the itinerary, a 3 month trip to all the honeymoon destinations, from Switzerland and France to Darjeeling and Lonavala. Ambience does matter! (no pun intended)"It - in - ary.. I - tin - ary.. I - tin - rary.. I - tin - er - ary... Aargh! How do you pronounce this damn thing?", Siddharth spat. "I-tin-uh-rer-ee", Deepthi, looking up from her laptop, said with a smile - the kind of patronising smile that one usually gives to a baby monkey as it struggles to peel a banana, "Seriously! How do you call yourself a globe-trotter?" Siddharth raised an eyebrow, "Ok, Miss Know-it-all. Stop rubbing it in."Deepthi got up to pack her bags and exhorted him to do the same. "It takes me hardly 15 minutes", Siddharth grumbled, as he got up to pack. His gaze fell on Deepthi's laptop screen as two words caught his attention. "Dictionary.com" and "Itinerary".Three months whizzed by as the couple had fun in every conceivable way. (Pun intended this time!) A massive suite in Paris, a cottage in Switzerland, a room with a breathtaking view of Venice, a restored building in Rome, deluxe accommodations in Darjeeling, Shimla, Nainital, Lonavala and Ooty, they experienced it all. "Ambience", thought Siddharth for the hundredth time, "it always does the trick."They were back in Chennai, and a month later, realised nothing had changed. Deepthi resigned to fate, but Siddharth was distraught. The doctors had given them a clean chit. What could be wrong? Siddharth wanted one last shot. He knew he was resorting to desperate measures when he booked a cheap hotel in Mahabalipuram. Deepthi gave in to his demands.The long drive along the ECR helped raise his spirits a bit. He had started to sing along with the music player. "Aaaaasshhiiqqq Banaayaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa", he hollered, as Deepthi smiled and wondered who was worse - Himesh Reshammiya or him. They were passing through Kovalam when something caught her eye.
"tere bin suni suni hain baaaaaaaaahein"
"teri bin pyaasi pyaasi nigaaaaaaaaaahein"
"tere bin bin asar meri aaaaaaaaahein"
"YO GOAT THROAT!"
"tere.. err.. sorry.. enna?"
"Inga oru kovil irukku. Pogalaama?"
Siddharth wasn't an atheist. He wasn't a regular temple-goer either. He couldn't find a reason to fuss and consented. He looked for a place to park his car and hoped the music player and tyres be intact when they return.
It was a newly constructed temple, and Deepthi entered her Bhakthi Pazham zone. This greatly amused Siddharth and the corner of his mouth curled upwards in mirth as he saw his wife smear a great deal of kungumam and move her lips rapidly in prayer. Deepthi caught the expression and raised an eyebrow as if to ask "what's so funny?". Siddharth shook his head and whispered "nothing!", as he continued to smile at his wife who had a big red circle on her forehead, fresh jasmine on her hair, and a t-shirt that said "Too Hot To Handle".
As they walked back to the car, Siddharth ate a little bit of prasadam, and almost choked - as respect stopped him from spitting the prasadam out, and the taste, from swallowing it. "This is bitter!!!", he spluttered, his eyes welling up as a result of the assault on his taste buds. "Murungakka Kesari", said Deepthi, with a twinkle in her eye, "It's a speciality here!"
Less than a year later, they had a baby boy. And without any thought to the amount of ragging their child would go through later in life, they named him "Kovalam", honouring the place that made it possible.
[the story hasn't even begun yet! :) I love build ups, I really do. To be continued...]