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.