Warning: This movie is like LOC (remember the four hour movie?) and only the characters would be introduced in the pre-interval session.
Rekha and Rajan love each other very much. And because, Rajan loves his wife a little bit more than that required for a safe and stable day-to-day existence, he agrees to visit her parents for the Malayali New Year – Vishu.
Tickets are booked, and bags are packed. Actually, the packing is done by Rekha because whenever we visit Kerala, the onus of the trip is on Rekha. When it is Madurai…Rekha chills out and the onus shifts to Rajan. Note: I don`t take a lungi because I have this 9-month old dream of soiling my father-in-law`s lungi. For all those angrezis, who come to my Blog thrice, every day, a lungi is something of a man`s sari but without a blouse.
We board the S3, second class compartment of Mangalore Mail at 8.25 p.m. on the 12th of April. With half of my mallu friends boarding the same train, I had to really make an effort to gel into the crowd and avoid being sighted. Before marriage I would have traveled by air at least eight times (ok…make it four…and no I don`t figure in Jet Airways frequent flyers list). But after marriage…I am have been grounded. You probably think being grounded is ok, as long as you have your luggage with you. I kind of disagree. Perhaps, because my luggage can talk and it has a name too – Rekha.
There are two advantages of going by the second class – first, you can expect mercy-dowry. It is something like mercy-killing…wherein the in-laws give you dowry out of mercy on your financial state. Second, your father-in-law won`t ask you to lend him some money to sponsor his drinking habits.
Half way through, I know I am in Kerala. I can see red flags all over …and I also fail to register the language. We also see some Tea-making universities, churning out tea-experts. No wonder, all tea-shops in India are taken over by the malayalis.
My doting father-in-law came to the station to pick us up. Now, I am not trying to pull his leg…but because he never learnt to ride a bi-cycle, he never bought a bike…and since he never rode a bike…he never understood the way the signals work and hence never bought a car. Thanks to the day (October 18, 1951 to be precise) when he refused to learn bi-cycle riding…he brought along a taxi (white ambassador) to pick us up. Pity him or pity us…but the next two hours were spent in shopping. He wanted to by a dress for his grandson, baniyan for himself and fish for us. Guess, he was saving taxi money.
We would eventually reach the house. For a moment, I thought Rekha`s mom was not like her father…instead was good. That was not to be, when I realized for everything good that I said about the house, Rekha or her…I would get a glass of Tang. So much so, now I am addicted to it. Over the next few days, my ‘Pavlovian’ mother-in-law shifted to mangoes. Probably because the Tang tin got over. I had always known that Rekha`s mother had a Military background (four of her brothers are ex-Indian Navy men, now minting money in Merchant Navy) and that is why I did not question the beret (military cap) she had on her head. Later I would come to know that it was a dyed mop of hair on her head. It seems, she did not believe in excess make up…hence only partly indulged in it.
In my first hour itself, I met Achu – a eight class boy student…only half as tall as I am. You know how tall I am..don`t you? Though I never liked baby monsters, especially ones that were small and walked on two legs…but I could not express myself. I was forced to act as if I loved the child. The problem was…the kid got a liking to me. For the next four days we were like shit and fly. I, the shit..and he the fly. As luck would have it, there was a historical fair happening nearby and I had to take Achu. He cost me Rs 400/- only plus the taxes. Later, I would come to know that I was wrong…it was not an historical fair. It seems the people were historically backward.
I also happened to meet Pinky – a class XI student. I had to talk amino acids and peptide bonds to her. She says she doesn`t know what she wants to become in life. I try to prompt her: “Mother?” I ask. “No, a social worker,” she shoots back. And I thought all malayali girls wanted to become nurses! She doesn`t know that her state has a Chief Minister and his name doesn`t matters. She thinks elephants are actually big pigs with longer noses. And as proof, she asks me to check out their tails…small and rolled over. It is another thing that in the process, I learn elephant shit is good for human digestion (by swallowing some). She loves green mangoes…and forces me to eat at least one a day. Luckily, I am not forced to spend any money on her. But she did say she liked some place called Vega land nearby (I think some kind of a Disney Land).
The last character I met was Major Karunakaran. Quite a revelation. He is 85 years old…and still picking. Very picky about anything he sees, talks or listens. He likes me because I happen to have a military background. I maintain status quo. All those Tom Clancy novels I read come to my rescue…in the end I guess I overdo it…for this Major starts thinking I am an Army Colonel. Or it was his amnesia? Either ways I am happy because he tells me that my father-in-law used to piss in bed till he was ten years old. Now, that`s some handle I can use!
Post-interval session tomorrow.