Puvattur, March 17, 2007
Kishore woke up to the persistent chirping of a single sparrow at his balcony window. Unlike the pigeons that daily created ruckus outside his window in Sharjah, this little songbird didn’t annoy him. Its song served as a reminder that this morning was different. One of leisure. Today he wouldn’t encounter ready-mix concrete trucks or concrete pumps or rebars. Nor would the unforgiving desert sun scorch him.
Kishore pulled the cotton blanket over his head and sank back into the bed. He would sleep a little more. Heck, he had earned it.
For the last two years
he had been forced to cancel his vacation in favour of work.
His company had rewarded him with a three-month break this time. He would enjoy
it to the fullest.
Hours later, the scent of hot coffee wafted into his room along with the familiar smell of
neer dosa and kadala curry. His stomach growled and his eyes flew open. His
mother knew exactly how to wake him up. He dragged himself up and plodded into
the bathroom to shower.
After thirty minutes, Kishore was wolfing down
neer dosas in the kitchen. He hadn’t
even waited for his father and brother to join him, or bothered to sit at the
dining table. Instead, he sat on a low wooden stool next to the wood-burning
stove where his mother stood making the dosas. Exactly the way he used to
during his school days. The position had two advantages. One, he could
chit-chat with his mother as she worked. Two, he could get piping hot neer dosa
served right onto his plate without any delay.
Wrong move. He shouldn’t have.
He realized it only after the damage
“You are eating like you haven’t seen
dosa in years,” said Uma, his mother, as she served him yet another hot dosa.
“I haven’t. Who has the patience to make
dosa? I mostly ate burgers for breakfast.”
“But you said there were good Malayalee restaurants in Sharjah and Dubai. You could have eaten from there.”
“I could have. But who has the time?”
had no idea how hectic his days were. When the company vehicle came to
pick him up at six in the morning, breakfast was the last thing on his mind. He
would have attended at least ten phone calls by then, consulting with the night-shift
engineers or dealing with their clients. By the time he reached the site
office, there would be papers to sign and emails to send. That would be
followed by visits to their construction sites. Mid-morning, his office boy
would pop in to ask if he needed breakfast. On his nod, he would fetch a burger
from the nearby cafeteria, and place it on his desk along with some hot tea.
That was the only breakfast he had been accustomed to in Dubai. On Friday, his
off day, he would sleep till afternoon. Then he would end up at a friend’s or
colleague’s home for a pre-arranged brunch. Being a workaholic, he hadn’t truly
missed the noisy and sumptuous breakfasts at home.
“That is why I said you should get married,” Uma said and then wiped her eyes with the loose end of her saree.
God! How could she jump from food to marriage so fast? Time to flee. But the prospect of eating a few more
dosas prompted him to talk his way out of the situation.
“Please, Mom. I told you. I can’t get married now. Not at this phase in my career. It would be difficult for the girl
as well. I leave at six in the morning and
arrive back at ten at night.”
“That is perfectly fine. Your father is never at home. Have you seen me complaining? We, women, are resilient. We adapt to any situation, unlike
“Mom, what if my wife couldn’t cook?”
“It’s okay even if she doesn’t know. You need a companion to make you eat on time.”
“But Mom—” Kishore began, but Uma cut him off.
“I don’t want to hear anything. You’re not going back this time without getting married. Do you hear that?”
Kishore knew it was prudent not to argue further, especially as she might stop making the
dosas if she got upset. So, he sat there and allowed her to nag him. Once
his stomach was full, he fled from the kitchen.
He found his brother Vishal in the living room, engrossed in the replay of a cricket match. They were discussing India’s chances in the ongoing cricket world cup when their mother ambushed their peaceful get-together.
“Knock some sense into his head. Unless he gets married, you won’t be able to marry,” said Uma, addressing Vishal. Clever! She knew exactly which button to push.
Vishal immediately changed his allegiance and joined his mother’s side. The cheater. “Yeah. Get married. Clear the way.”
“You can’t get married for another two years. Who will marry you? You will need to complete your MD for any girl to consider you as a prospective husband. You get that?” said Kishore. Vishal was doing his MD in paediatrics at the nearby medical college.
“Want to bet? If I put my mind to it, I can find a willing girl tomorrow. You don’t know your brother’s star value,” challenged Vishal.
“Enough. Not another word,” said Uma, swatting Vishal on his upper arm. Perhaps she
scared her younger son might bring a girl home, just to prove his point. Then
she turned to glower at Kishore. “You are getting married this time. That’s it.
I will tell Amma to look into the matter. She has already shortlisted a
few good girls.”
A groan escaped Kishore. Her
Amma, their grandmother or Ammamma as
they called her, was Cupid himself in disguise. She was the mastermind behind
every arranged marriage in their family. Once she took it upon herself to take
away the freedom of some hapless chap, she rested only after the guy had given
up every ounce of his freedom.
But Kishore loved his
Ammamma. She was an award-winning poet and writer. All
his friends adored her because of the love she showered on them. He didn’t want
to be deprived of her company just because his mother wished her to be his
“Mom, I promise. Give me a few weeks to enjoy my vacation. After that, you may drag me to
any number of houses in search of a wife,” said Kishore. Uma beamed at him.
After two weeks, he was going on a
backpacking trip to Europe. He wasn’t going to tell
her that. Vishal cleared his throat as he knew Kishore’s plan. Would the traitor
give him away? Kishore narrowed his eyes at him. Vishal extended his left palm
towards him and then smacked his upturned right fist on it twice. He was signing
discreetly for money.
His mother had two sisters
and all three were close. If his mother declared her
mission to them, they would jump in without blinking an eye. Kishore let out a
“Give me my money. Or…”
“Go tell, loafer,” Kishore snapped. He wasn’t in a mood to fight. So, he picked up the car key and walked out of his home.
His classmate Anil was getting married the next day. To Kishore’s neighbour, Lena. One more deluded young man was getting sacrificed at the altar of love.
Time to visit him.