Morning walk along the same route, gives you the same scenery and more or less the same people who come across and with whom you exchange greetings. One thing I have observed, If there is a slight change in our schedule, while the regulars adhere to theirs, the people on the street are now entirely different and present another opportunity to get to know more people, if you reschedule your walk that way. It may be highly productive for people who are in the business of and in search of prospective clients. I have a friend, who is an insurance agent, who walks all seven days of the week in different locations. When I asked him about this way of walking, he told me this is the best way of prospecting new clients.
On this Monday, I am no insurance agent, nowadays, but never had such an idea as told by my friend, when I was one, then I had a different strategy. Today, I took another route and walked through the streets of First Puthen street, (First New Street), having an antiquity of more than two hundred years of Tamil Brahman settlement, in and around Fort area. The First Puthen street, has approximately 200 row houses on the both sides, with wide frontage and an ambiance of togetherness and friendship in abundance, not to be missed. But this century old street still goes by the same name Puthen street, titled so, centuries ago. There are still antique buildings, many have been remodeled in tune with the change of time, but the name sticks.
The landscape and occupants of the houses on the lanes have changed but it retains the title bequeathed to us. As one born and brought up in such surroundings but at a different location, what strikes you very much is the structure of row houses, more or less, remain the same; some are wide, some narrow. The normal structure of a house in a agraharam consists of a thinnai (Verandah), ulthinnai (drawing room), Rezhi (common bed room, pooja room combined), a pavul (storeroom) in the corner, thalam (dining hall), edanazhi, (where female spend their time and take rest during their ‘periods’, and adukulai ( kitchen). And then extends to a space that has a kinar (well), and kottil (where cows are boarded). Toilet, then, used to be in the backyard. Another fature of these houses is that, if you stand at the verandha door, you can have view up to the cow shed and if that door, too, is open up to the end of the backyard.
Privacy is available to the young couple only on the first floor, which goes by the title ‘machil’. And those young- couples who are not so privileged, would yearn for some privacy from the bottom of their hearts. In verandah (thinnai), youngsters spent their leisure time playing cards, chess or reveling and celebrating the victory of their cricket team or discussing, disputing and dismissive of the put into bat decision, electing to bat, sending the wrong man at one down, not introducing spin at the right time and over use of seamers, the vital drop of a simple catch slips or the simple stumping chance that slipped through the keepers glove, a touch and go run out and a dubious umpiring decision that went against the home team. The captain when he is losing, commits only blunders and in victory, he is very shrewd and awesome. The position of captain is hard-pressed, indeed, if he leads a losing team.
What is life, especially in the eager minds, if beautiful dames, in the neighborhood are not their subject of talk? However, in this, they are very careful to see the brothers of their subject, at that point is not amongst them, sometimes avoid such beautiful girls from their talks due to their mutual respect and a sort of quid pro quo. Gossiping is an art in this parlance and exaggerations run wild, especially when these have no sentimental bearings. This may be true of all agraharams in every part of the country. I trudged along the street, as if a tourist, gobbling up each and every sight and throwing open my ears to hear some comments that I could across, while on the way.
A beautiful morning indeed! Being Monday, all are unusually busy. Women with broom and bucket of water in hand, cleaning their house front, chatting too, with their neighbor about scarcity of water in the morning and ensuring that it was not an isolated issue, by the by, proudly announcing the expected arrival of relatives in the afternoon. They keep, in a small dish, what is called ‘kolapodi’, on the corner of their verandah, with which they draw ‘kolam’ in front of their house. Each day it will be different and has some uniqueness, based on the day. However, depending on the improvisation, while the basic ‘kolam’ remains the same, it will give different appearance in different homes. These drawings attain its pinnacle of its glory on the eve of ‘Pongal” (Tamil New year Day). This is a sight to be experienced anddefinitely, a photographer’s delight.
A man was reading, much to my delight, spreading the newspaper on the ground in the open verandah, we call it ‘thinnai’, and reading more or less bend over it, the way I do. An old man, sitting in the armchair, inside the grilled verandah, watching the world slowly moving around him, with drooped eyes and wrinkles all over, may be thinking of his younger mornings, or was he ruing about that particular decision that caused his present state of affairs, I have no idea, but his face was a writ of sadness.
Many of the houses offer some service or the other. Priests available, lady cook for special preparations for ‘sradha’(a religious ceremony in memory of parents or brothers every year on the particular date, arrived as per ‘panchangam’, a religious calendar), and related functions, eateries like seva, dosa, idly and hot vada, computer peripherals, DTP services, photographers and what not, are available in this street. Tuition centers, too make its presence felt, with activity in full swing in the morning hours. Doctors of all branches of medicine, Allopathy, Ayurved and Homeopathy too, are available, as too, Advocates. Therefore, this agraharam is not merely a Brahmin settlement but a bundle of economic activity.
When I mentioned about vada, earlier, an incident narrated by Mr.Pradeep Sebastian, comes to my mind, who, through his column ‘End Paper’ in The Hindu, has endeared himself to the hearts of millions of readers, wrote about his chance meeting, in the January 4, 2014 issue with a celebrity author, way back in 1980, in New York City, in the vicinity of Ramakrishna Vivekanandha Centre. He was accompanying his German friend, who wanted to return a little book, titled The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, to the person who had earlier lent her.
There he met a tall man, to borrow the writer’s exact words, “slightly graying, a little hunched, and holding an umbrella in his left hand, he nodded and walked quickly towards us.” At the time of parting, his friend, Greta invited him to join them for a quick snack at a small South Indian restaurant. While declining politely, the invitation, the author, hastily scribbled on a piece of paper the name of a South Indian dish, a favorite of his, and handed the piece of paper to Pradeep, recognizing the Indian amongst them. The two words scribbled on it, in angular handwriting: Rasam Vada. The author was none other than the celebrated novelist Mr.Salinger, the great recluse, who wrote, The Catcher in the Rye and many other notable works.
Walking along, I over- heard two women, who were walking behind me, discussing their menstural dates and their hope that the probable date of their next period, do not clash with the slated house hold ceremonies, otherwise, they will be forced take in medication for postponing their natural endowment.
I heard a young mother’s yell from inside a house. “Brij, don’t run. You will slip and fall.” I understood that is a command to her young son, fresh from his bath. All most in a flash, a small boy alighted out of his house, naked, water trickling from his supple body, with a mobile in his hand. Raising it, he took a selfie. What a nice photo, it would have been, had I too, took a snap of that moment. But my only base model mobile has no such applications. The boy’s mother came out, delighted at her sons newly acquired faculty, checked it and her eyes were gleaming with happiness and I too joined to see the photo and was enthralled by the accidental perfection of the shot and requested her to upload it in the FB.
I stood in front of a house, now, bearing a big lock on the door, presumably, the occupants have gone abroad, or gone for a short outing. The house owner, an engineer, retired from a public sector undertaking was one of my client, when I was the franchisee of Asianet Cable Networks in the year 2000. Difficult to part money, he delayed the inevitable on flimsy grounds. What he could have delayed a bit longer, he failed miserably or did he indulge in that deliberately, that happened subsequently, only he knows, but surely, I was caught unawares, at the unexpected turn of events.
He would put unnecessary questions, why this channel is not available, while the competitor provides, why you are coming in the first week of every month, and finally yet importantly, how much I earn in the process. The tragedy is that he repeats the same question every month, that to pre-empt him, I answered all his stock questions, myself at the fag end of this agreement with Asianet, left him flabbergasted.
As if to cut me to the size, sitting on an upholstered chair, gently lifted his right buttocks a bit and parted with élan, a fart with a long and very disturbing noise, leaving me in stupefied at the unkindest and unexpected turn. The obnoxious smell that engulfed the room was beyond words, and this man, without switching on the table fan, took a weekly journal and waved away the smell from the vicinity of his nose, alone. “Subscription please”, I cried from the bottom of my stomach and very much understanding my predicament, immediately, paid me the subscription and with an authoritarian look, that he emitted very much symbolized an attitude, ‘my house, my fart’, forbidding me to behave better the next time.
Of the various noises produced by us, this one is the most vicious and nasty. We yawn, giggle, belch, sneeze, cough and snore and to release this one from the body, that too when you have a visitor sitting in front required a skin as thick as a hippopotamus. As fortune stood by me, I surrendered my franchisee arrangement, the following month, and never has seen this fellow ever since.
Moving on, I saw two women from Tamil Nadu, settled here for the quite some time, coming in the opposite direction, talking about their household chores and one remarked in a very high decibel voice. “Pichu’s marriage has been fixed.” I can hear it at a twenty feet distance.
At this her co walker asked about the venue of the marriage, “Hoer”? (where). I immediately understood she was from Nagercoil, a town in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, erstwhile part of Kerala, from 80 kilometers from Trivandrum. Here, those who studied in a particular college in the 70’s used give stress to alphabet ‘h’ and would pronounce, ‘hoer’ for where, ‘hoy’ for why and ‘wahat’ for what. “Most probably, it will be held here only in Trivandrum, as we have more friends here than relatives, elsewhere”. Rightly said, one loyal friend is better than 10000 relatives are. I was elated that my kindled spirit is working in my alter ego.
An amusing moment in these high tech days, too, has its share in the rock bottom strata of our society. A man who was fast asleep on the parapet of a shop-front, on spread out old newspapers, was seen, on my return, speaking, using his mobile phone, shouting to his female voice at the other end, “moll pesu, molla pesu” , little realizing that he has kept the handset on the speaker phone mode.
Two more Puthen streets, hope, will give more tonic to my pen, sorry, to my fingertips, for typing.