I spoke to amma sometime back. She is forever concerned about my well-being and the possible major mishaps that might occur during the course of the day. So I must call her at least once from somewhere. This pattern has been established since the time I have started traveling by public transport alone. Or going to places that are, well, public.
Even if I am out in Washermenpet researching a story, I have to call. If I don’t call, amma will make calls to a few important people. Including Warren Road Pattu Maami (for purposes of differentiation, as there are three of them), whose claim to fame is that her husband was the former DIG of police. Of course, he was not really a DIG or anything like that, but he had some uniform involving job and so he became - DIG. DIG Maama is rather nice. Though for all I know, he might have been an Auto Payyan. May be, that is why he is nice.
Whenever I call, amma has broadly four concerns, which are universal amma-dom things, the syntax a little different:
- Did you eat? Enough? Too much? Did the curd get too sour? Did you spill the sambhar on your dress?
- Will you get late? Will you come the ‘usual’ time?
- Do you have change (of money that is)? One rupee coins? Ten rupee notes?
- Don’t fight with anybody today. You know auto payyans, friendly co-travelers, overzealous people one encounters and so on.
To be honest the answers to all those questions don’t matter, they are merely rhetoric. It is mildly claustrophobic. But she derives all her amma-dom pay-offs as a result. And I am very conformist like anyway.
There is also a “highlight” of the day that she must share. Involving something/somebody mad/wicked/both.
Yesterday was little sister’s turn to be the highlight. Apparently she had gone to see a film, Indi Paddam called Chinnikum, amma wailed. Featuring Amitabh Whatizname. With a pony-tail no less.
We are not exactly an anti Hindi household. We all take as much pride in clearing the various levels of the Hindi Prachar Sabha exams as much as the Maths Olympiad. But watching Indi Paddams is not the best of idea.
I have been trying to educate amma and appa that it is a futile battle that they are fighting. Because let us face it, in Madras it is easier and safer for Sixteen Year Old Penns to watch Indi Paddam. Little Sister as an impressionable 13 year old had to go through the ordeal of watching obscure movie called, Vaanam Vasappadum three years ago at the then done up Abirami theatre complex. Not entirely sure why we took S for this movie, but this was just a few months before Poongothai’s (the friend and not the actress) wedding and our renewed efforts to bond. The film was based on a Sujatha novel, was meant to be a brave and progressive look at justice against rape.
The movie was terrible. And may be it was that which put S off Tamizh movies. But she also got bottom pinched by some boy for the first time. Even mild mannered she was most upset. And she decided two things:
a) She will never watch a Tamizh Paddam in a theatre
b) She hated Tamizh Payyans
And so she watches Indi Paddams. Faithfully, religiously and obsessively. In our shared room, she has a poster of that Krissh Payyan with a mask. It is konjam scary. He has better hair and skin than I do. And no facial hair. Not exactly my idea of male beauty.
When she got back home, appa gave her an earful. Like always. By the time I got back home, appa was sulking, Sister was red eyed and amma was busy watching Mekhala the just started show on Sun, featuring Metti Oli Saro.
S has IIT aspirations. She studies for some 23 hours a day. The next two years will determine if she can shatter this male bastion (in our family that is). I explained to appa that, we must not create anymore stress than all the equations and formulae that she anyway needs to master. Appa who had to drop out of college, sees much logic in such an argument.
I heave a sigh of relief and send a little prayer upwards.
In a bid to get into S’s good graces, appa changes the channel to one of those Indi Paddam music channels. Three men with funny hats, longish hair and shiny skin are dancing. One is that Amitabh Whatizname, the other is his son and the third is somebody else. Appa asks most earnestly, Addu Ameer Can daane?
As far as appa is concerned, anything that is male, sings Hindi songs, dances and has good skin is, Ameer Can. And if there are three such people on the screen, probability must be in his favour no?
When I am sleeping during the night and I see S poring over some Physics problems, I am thankful that I never have to go through what she is going through. Ever again. There is infinite joy in being mediocre.