Sunday, February 3, 2008

When the gods wait

Obsessed with grades and mathematics marks, my school had a Parent-Teacher meeting every now and then. This so that, they could assess and take stock of our progress and gauge if any of us would get a stamp sized photograph of ours published in The Hindu, when Brilliants Tutorials put up its advert.

After my disastrous Saturday tests, it didn’t take a genius to figure out that I was not going to be one of them. However, that didn’t stop Amma and Viajayalakshmi Madam, my mathematics teacher, to continue having expectations from me. The bright kids always got a hundred in maths. The average but hard-working ones got in the 90s. The ones who didn’t have the aptitude or the inclination got less than 70s. And there were some of us, who were always languishing in the early 80s.

She makes too many silly mistakes, is what Viji Madam said term after term.

Amma used to be very upset when she would get home from these meetings. Not only was I making mistakes and thereby ruining my future, I was doing that in a most silly manner. Unlike me, T Anna never made any mistakes. And when he did, it was certainly not a “silly” mistake. He would misunderstand a relatively simple question and come up with a more complicated answer than necessary. Occasionally Viji Madam would not cut his marks for mere ingenuity. But I was not being a worthy successor of this legacy and would compute the age of the father when clearly they asked the age of the son. Or, I would calculate the circumference when clearly it was a question on volume. Or, I would figure patterns among numbers where there was no evidence of such a series existing.

For most of the school years, Amma’s efforts were directed in converting me from – silly mistakes maker to mere mistakes maker.

However, it didn’t really work.

In sheer despair, Amma got in touch with Mambalam Maama – our family astrologer, thatha’s ex colleague from the Murugappa group, who now helped to match horoscopes and provide solutions to defy planetary ill influences.

Mambalam Mama, on seeing my horoscope said that, Guru – the planet of optimism and success was weak for me and that I needed to work on that to get some success. Amma was provided with a two pronged solution to win over Guru.

  • Step one was simple. Every Thursday, Amma was to visit a Dakshinamoorthy temple and offer the god a garland made out of soaked chik-peas (the kadalai malai)
  • Step two was a little more complex. As it involved that I do something. I was to recite the Hayagriva Sthotram eleven times every morning.

I sulkily refused and even told Amma that Hayagriva was a Vaishnavite god. However, she would have none of it and I was asked to recite the shlokas.

The problem was that, there was no time for sholkams in the morning. I had maths tuitions early in the morning and then Chettiar would come and pick me up to go to school. Amma came up with the brilliant idea that I recite the sholkams in my school van. However, there were a couple of problems there:
1. She could not be sure that I actually recited those shlokams
2. The other children might catch on and there might be an overload on dear lord Hayagriva’s attention

Paati suggested that, I recite the shlokams in the evening. But there was paatu class, my evening meeting with Poongothai and some TV viewing to take care of. So I used to recite them just before I went to sleep.

Amma was upset with this. For one, I was not pure and fresh enough by the end of the day and also, it was a maamiyaar suggestion.

How can you make god wait, she would mutter?

Viji Madam wasn’t the only one who complained about me. There was the paatu bagavathar who came home to teach me and A Akka, who complained about how easily I was distracted. My shlokam teacher to whom I went for Bhagwad Geethai classes also complained about how I disturbed the other fine children. Even my non-maths teachers complained about, how I never had any questions, and during the exams, I never seemed to know all the answers.

But, I survived through all of it. With a little help from Paati, who would smuggle some figs (that were bought for her, to ease her bowel movements) for me when I was sulking or weeping.

Amma and Appa have been contemplating going to USA and spend sometime with T Anna and M Manni. S and I have been encouraging them. We think that, they need the change and also might enjoy traveling to another country when they are relatively younger.

T Anna has been the good soon and is asking Amma to come and spend time with them. He has bought a five-bedroom apartment and his house is apparently now as big as his heart. He also wants Amma to teach M Manni how to make samayal like namma veedu.

Amma’s heart swells with pride at the mention of her famed white dosais and just right flavoured takali rasam.

However, a mother with two daughters can’t have it easy. And between S’s IIT aspirations and my ticking biological clock, amma felt that a trip at this point in time would be incorrect.

To add further insult to her disappointment, M Manni’s Amma and Appa decided to enjoy the hospitality of their daughter and son-in-law.

M Manni’s paati fell down in the bathroom for the third time in the last six months. And this fall was bad enough for M Manni’s parents to cut short their trip and come back to Madras.

Yesterday morning, they came to visit us, to give us a first-hand account of how their trip was and the assessment of the son-in-law.

It seems, T Anna is no good. M Manni’s Amma not so subtly or tactfully complained about T Anna and the fact that his laptop is his first wife. Or that, unlike the other fine Tamil Iyer NRI boys who help their wives by running the dish-washer, T Anna does no such thing. He also wakes up each morning and sits with his laptop and demands M Manni bring him kaapi. Once he drinks his kaapi, he leaves the tumbler next to him and M Manni needs to pick it up. He is lazy and unhelpful.

Amma was livid when M Manni’s parents left. Send him an email and ask him to call us, she said.
T Anna called early this morning, he said that M Manni was doing her poojai. So, she does poojai in the evening also, amma asked? And in spite of herself, she was impressed.

Not really, T Anna said, she does the poojai only in the evenings, Mornings she is too busy, you see.

M Manni works at the university and needs to leave home really early. So, the praying to the gods happens in the evening.

How can you make god wait, Amma asks silkily?

T Anna ho-hums and wants to know, if there has been any progress with my case? On being presented with her pet topic, Amma forgets the grouse.

But not for long. When the family ritual of the post phone call analysis happens, Amma is upset that M Manni is doing her poojais in the evening. How can she? How can she?

I suggested to amma that, in fact, she is praying when it is morning for us, so it is actually not such a bad thing.

Amma is not impressed.

I can’t help but feel amused at this. And in spite of the many packets of Hersheys Kisses, Sundried Prunes and Ziploc Bags that T Anna brings me each time, to win over my sisterly affections (like those are the things that I need); I suddenly feel kinship with him.

I also feel a kinship with M Manni and I am convinced that she is indeed the right choice for our family.

As Amma prepares to leave for the USA next month, me and S are wondering, if our sister-in-law needs to be warned?

Interesting times ahead.


Deepti said...

Heh. Not a mention of why you are away for so long? Tsk. I am glad that you have a label called Mathematics, given that you are just a little obsessed with that.

Good one.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...



Kadambari said...

Ayyo, comment moderation va? :D

Asal Tamil Penn said...

Yes. Paati reads the Blog! :D

Kadambari said...

Ah! Good.

Anonymous said...

This is the first time I am seeing your blog. You write so well. I laughed so hard while reading this post. You have an excellent sense of humor. Keep it up.Once your amma goes to USA then party time for you I guess.


Commie Comrade said...

I hope that Guru and suchlike don't trouble you any longer. Welcome back.

Amrita said...

I remember Hayagriva Shlokams too, that needed to be recited early in the morning for maimum impact! This is what Mambalam Mama asked me to do before my SATs too. I am not sure his solution varies significantly. In addition to all that, Maami made me go on a saltless diet on one day of the week. it used to feel awful. The good thing was the tengai poli we ate from Venkateswara Poli on our return. Is that karate something master still there?

Raj said...

Wonderful narration.

And, hey, the reason why you survived it all ( apart from Paati's dried figs) was because when you recited the shlokams in the night, it was early morning in America.

Prasad said...

hahahahahahahaha!!! hillarious!!!! gr8 writing...was hooked on to the post.....gr8 blog!

anantha said...

Don't worry. There were some of us who languished in the late 70s and struggled hard to get into early 80s. Not because of aptitude, but because of overconfidence, as Baby miss once said.
But my mom did not go to the astrologer. But I wish she had gone, given his tendency to prevaricate and prescribe cream biscuits as the universal "solve-all" for every astronomical anomaly involving Rahu and Kethu. And who would refuse Bourbons? Not me!
And its nice that Amma is coming to see the US of A. Mine wouldn't leave Chennai and the excuses I got were hilarious. Then I put my foot down last month and now plans are afoot for a summer visit.

Hari said...

Good One. Entertaining. But I guess you overlooked the fact that "God" was always written with a capital G! Working with "The Hindu" right?! ;)

Anonymous said...

You write very well. My sister-in-law's family visited us a while ago with a long list of compliant about my brother too! :D And I felt rather happy.

I liked the way you linked up the past and present.

Keep posting more often.

- Karunya

Angry Mumbaikar said...

I don’t know why a twit like you has comment moderation. It is so insulting to the rest of us when loser’s like you comment moderate. Bloody Tamilians! I wish Raj Thackeray will throw all you guys out of Bombay as well. At least, North Indians are better looking.

Asal Tamil Penn said...

Freeya vidu.

Dilip said...

Angry mumbaikar seems so funny? What does comment moderation has to do with tamilians?

Hayyo, ennikku than indha racuism ozhiyumo!

Nevertheless your blog is lovely. You write wonderfully.

madrasi said...

good one!

should be one roller coaster ride for M Manni with Maamiyar visiting the US.

keep them coming :)

@angry mumbaikar -- when we throw all the dirty northies (yucks!)outta madras it will be one clean city...

Sriram said...

Not upto your usual standards.

GettingThereNow said...

Fun post! Yep, I guess warnings are in order otherwise poor M Manni won't know what hit her :D

maxdavinci said...

fantastic post! it is so difficult to laugh silently in the office!

been a long time, and was worth the wait!

Thinking of it, I wonder how my mom will react when I get married....


Toxi said...

Been meaning to ask you this. What happened to Poongothai?
And is the synopsis done?

Kamini said...

Interesting times ahead, indeed! Eagerly awaiting the report of your Amma's visit to T Anna and M Manni's abode. Hope we will not have to wait as long as the gods!

Kubla Khan said...

Hoo Haw. Kubla Khan misses you. Come back soon.

Anonymous said...

What happened to Nilu, Avataram and other such fucktard loonies?

Fishy said...

hey i think ur amma should be really happy that your so called- not perfect bharadwajas are making God wait for less than 24 hrs. Here i am married to a BWjan..who has kept him waiting for few months i suppose. Unless we went to saravana bhavan which is luckly just opp to mahalakshmi temple.

Btw, in all righteousness.. warn/share tips m manni about the big M(mamiyaar).. Could be a good way to pleaaase.. God. Do good and say good ....... to manni.

Anonymous said...

@ angry mumbaikar: I LOVE you. Raj Thackarey should let the Big B and focus his attention on Vidya Balan and Sunil Shetty. At least, Hindi cinema will be free of bad actors.

@ ATP: most upseeting that there is no manni and you sandai! :)I heard Viji Madam got some award a few years back.

James Mylaporean said...

@ angry mumbaikar : It is time for another Varadaraja Mudaliar to appear and teach you ghatis a lesson.Nobody invited you. Go away - to a Ghati blog site.

Anonymous said...

For an Asal Tamil Penn, your Blogroll is too elitist and off-beat.

It is clearly skewed towards upper class, snooty and privileged folks. None of the son of the soil variety.

But what more to expect from a rich Aiyangar kid?!

Dilip said...

Anonymous : Are you telling people here that "Aiyyangar's" are not from this soil? You really must be smoking a lot of weed to say that. If you base your arguement on the basis of the Aryan invasion theory, the christian missionaries who invented it have accepted that its a cooked up story, so you should try something better.

Yes this article deals with the (so called) upper class family stuff that happens. If you don't like it you should stick to Blogs of Karunaanidhi and Jayalalitha who write true son of the soil stuff from a dravidian perspective. You have no reason to crib here, clearly you don't fit in.

Kadambari said...

YayTP YayTP, When you do that last post of yours, let it not be about shlokams, but on Maithreem Bhajata. After all, singing that helped you more than any shlokams illaya? :)
Damyata, Datta, Dayadhvam
Some Eliot also makes an apperance. If that doesn't seal the elitist accusation, nothing else will.
Is it Iyengaar or Aiyangaar?
BTW, do the inherited LP's have the recording of that too? :P

Dilip said...

Kadambari : For a person who has no entries in his blog you talk too much. Nevertheless, what's wrong with being an Aiyengar/Iyengar. Which penal code states that being born in a particular caste becomes a criminal offense?

Ennamo "Elitism" athu inthunnu pesara? Loose'a nee? Where the heck does this blog claim a particular set of people being elite over other sects? Point one sentence or word please? It merely discusses the funny practices and attitude of a particular community, the parents and the children.

The problem you have is not with any elitism that you accuse of but merely the fact that you did not have such funny ass things happening to you in life when you were a kiddo! Its called jealousy! Go read the dictionary and then come here and talk of elitism.

Anonymous said...


Dilip: Kadambari would be a her.

Anonymous said...

You may want to check your apostrophe usage.

I noticed at lease a couple plurals in your archives that had an apostrophe.

Examples: Tam Brahmin's, plural's, and such like.

In my olden days Hindu would not tolerate these!

Kadambari said...

Thanks ma. Orrey the touched! :) Hope the troll trouble is sorted out soon.

Anusha said...

Heh. Mad woman.

Nivedita said...

Thank you, kiddo. I think, we have sorted it out by now. Let me know if there are any problems.

Deepti said...

I am deeply hurt that Kadambi got to read the Blog and I didn't!

anantha said...

Yaay The is Pack!

Kamini said...

Thank goodness you're back! You had me worried for a few days; I had no way of contacting you to request you to "invite" me to be a reader. I hope everything is sorted out satisfactorily. Brickbats are the price you pay for fame and good work!

Lucifer said...

I'm a happy BOMBAYite. yo angry mumbaikar... its funny that u like raj thackeray...the height of his ambition is to give all jobs at Malls to maharashtrians!! hahaha... good stuff. i see you guys have hiiiigh aspirations. maybe he should start a chain of MMIMS - Marathi Manus Instt of Mgmt Studies so that you guys can get all garbage disposal jobs also... at the mgmt level.
and @ anonymous... there is nothign wrong with being a rich aiyangar kid... better than being a rich son-of-the-soil who gets all the benefits of the quotas and free TVs in TN!

buddy said...

nice blog!

raju4u said...

They call u a rich Iyengar Kid....
But nowhere in your Blog there is an indication that You are Rich.

Your mom let off your brother too easily...why did she not get him to answer to the complaints...

Fuzzy, the Ducky said...

What a sweet blog? Believe me I had no idea that someone's life could be just like this. I loved the fact that you have written so matter-of-factly keeping almost nothing away.

I'll keep reading your blog, if nothing else .. tips like

"Unlike the other fine Tamil Iyer NRI boys who help their wives by running the dish-washer"

should help me score some points with future maamiyaars!!

Fuzzy, the Ducky said...

p.s. I learnt about silent laughing in the office today as well (just as maxdavinci did above)

"Patti reads the Blog!"

That line should be bronzed and put up in an Advancement of Technology Museum! I can't tell you how high my eyebrows went when I read that.

kaushik said...

ah!! silly mistakes....always used to get them from teachers....only appa and amma did not think so!!! I used it as an escape route, -'illa 'ma, silly mistake panniten, and amma would say, how can a mistake be silly, if u are not silly :(

You have a nice blog, really liked reading it....


sush said...

Hey can you tell me how exactly the Hayagriva slokam goes? :D

Im enterting 12th now......and need ALL the help i can get with math!

My family is math-obsessed you say the three magic words are "centum in math"

Rukmani Ram said...

I pray when I go to bed, which is usually around 3 am. Is that making God wait? Or waking God up too soon?

Love the way you write!