Changes at Madhavan's Home (Sreedevi Krishnan)

Published on 21 December, 2021
Changes at Madhavan's Home (Sreedevi Krishnan)

When Dr. Ranganathan got a phone call from Veeraraghavan in his University, he was extremely happy for two reasons, One-Veeraraghavan was a well known criminal lawyer in Chennai and this call was an opportunity to establish his connection with Chennai's top lawyer. Two- this phone call gave a chance to brag about his son Madhavan's position in Arizona. He was sick and tired of Dr. Somasundaram boasting about his worthless son Sankar, his Father's day gift, a designer brief case, sent through a friend along with pictures of Sankar's engagement to a the only daughter of a very rich businessman in Coimbatore, and their grand wedding plans.

Ranganathan was so repelled by Somasundaram's boasting that, he cursed his fate for taking lift in Somasundaram's car, to avoid the overcrowded buses. After Vasumathy's outburst, provoked by Ranganathan's comments on Madhavan's first letter, he started considering his wife as another individual, though not quite equal to him. Madhavan's regular letters and money flow from Arizona too, made significant changes in Besant Nagar. Ranganathan started loosening his tight fist and allowed his wife to have a part- time servant. He also stopped his 'Koyamedu' trips to get vegetables very cheap, which had given a lot of additional burden to the over worked Vasumathy.

In order to save the perishable vegetables from getting rotten, Vasumathy had to spend extra hours at night, sorting out the vegetables, stacking them carefully in the fridge, in addition to boiling, salting and sunning some vegetables. So, he stopped buying vegetables from Koyamedu. On Sundays, he got meals from Woodlands, so that Vasumathy could watch in peace Vishu's 'Arattai arangam', Vasumathy's favourite show, soon after her talking to Madhavan from neighbor's place. Ranganathan not only controlled his urge to frown and call Vasumathy , 'Kazhutha' meaning Donkey' in Tamil, but also started talking to her, occasionally sharing some of his resentment towards his colleagues, especially with Somasudaram.

So, one evening when Ranganathan came very late from the University, a worried Vasumathy waited outside the gate anxiously. That was the first day he took the bus, instead of taking a lift in Somasudaram's car. When asked about this strange behavior, Ranganathan laughed and said "Look, Vasumathy, I can't stand that Somasudaram, who does he think he is?  Just because he has his useless son there in the States? I tell you, that Sankar is nobody compared to our Madhavan. See how he's earning even though he's only a student, not like that Sankar saving pennies in penny wraps, as though I don't know, if I come with Somasundaram in his car, I'm afraid I’ll, one day blurt out what I know of Sankar.

Yesterday, he was telling all of us, how his son sent one hundred and one roses, fresh from the garden, mind you, to the girl he got engaged to, in Coimbatore. The other day he talked about Sankar sending a silk saree and a book on Sai Baba for his wife for Mother’s Day and a briefcase for him, as Father's day present. Oh, his son's Americanization, as though he was born in America.” Ranganathan pursed his thin lips so tightly that they seemed to disappear. As though conveying his contempt through his vanished lips, he continued, "Silly fellow, I can't stand empty vessels and unfortunately not only this fellow, most of my colleagues are empty vessels. I tolerated that fellow enough, he and his second hand Maruti, you know my uncle Rangachari owned two Rolls-Royce, not one.. two! Vasumathy laughed and said, "So, you decided to come by bus instead of coming by Somasundram's car. I tell you, you're the loser, What if he brags, let him, just pretend that you're listening and then switch off your brain or go to sleep, but why on earth leave the comfort of the car trip, all the way to Besant Nagar? Buses are so crowded, that too, at this time, you won't even get a place to sit. Hope you haven't said anything offensive to Somasudaram. Remember whatever Madhavan wrote to me about Sankar, was strictly meant to explain why he's not staying with Sankar. Madhavan doesn't want us to use that information against Somasundaram."

“Come on Vasumathy, credit me with some intelligence. I won't breathe a word about Sankar to anyone. I'm only telling you all this. I didn't say anything to Somasundram. I just said that I had some work in T.Nagar area and came away. Just wait, I'm going to shock him with my Maruti car, soon.” Vasumathy's raised her bushy eyebrows in surprise.  Her eyebrows suddenly reminded Ranganathan, of Madhavan's eyebrows and he remembered how Madhavan was exactly like Vasumathy.

He said,“Madhavan looks exactly like you. They say, if the son resembles the mother , it's real luck. True, our Madhavan's so lucky." Vasumathy smiled proudly but with the same puzzled expression, she asked, “What did you say? Your Maruti car? I don't understand, Konjam puriyum pudiya chollungo..What do you mean?”"Veeraraghavan, my cousin, that lawyer, phoned me up in the university, his daughter got the visa and as you know he needs some dollars which Madhavan would give and Veeraraghavan would pay that amount in Indian Rupees to us.

Remember, I told you I talked to Madhavan last week? It was mainly for this. Madhavan said, he could spare more than 2500 dollars, which is about one and a half lakhs. Madhavan wants us to buy a car and arrange for phone connection with that money." Vasumathy was not very happy about the idea.

She wrinkled her forehead and with a worried expression said, "I don't think it's right. Poor boy, he needs money to settle down. He hasn't yet finished his studies, he has to visit India after finishing his studies. Who knows, he may even take up a job here. Doesn't he need money for all that? It's not fair on our part, to spend all his money for our comforts" Ranganathan, controlling his urge to call her Kazhutha, (He always thought, 'Donkey' the English term for "Kazhutha" is not adequate enough to refer to Vasumathy's stupidity) smiled and said, What? Settling down here? Taking up a job in Chennai? Are you mad? After all his MS coming to Chennai to work? Of course he would get married to a very suitable rich Iyengar girl in Chennai, he can't forget his roots, would visit India. But never settle down in India ..NEVER! India has nothing to offer a bright engineer like him. His place is in America. So don't have any hopes about that. Then about his money, face facts. he doesn't need this. This is chickenfeed for him. A dollar is 50 Rs now, you know ? So keep quiet! He specifically asked me to buy a car."

Ranganathan paused and laughed, one of his rare laughter and continued, “Let me tell Somasundaram that my son presented me with a car for Father's day. How do you like that?”   

Vasumathy kept quiet, her mind was in a turmoil, she was not at all excited at the prospect of owning a car, on the contrary, she was extremely sad that her son might not want to live in India anymore. He would be always in a faraway country, away, far away from her. Was he actually happy? He seemed to be. At least, that's what his letters said. Vasumathy was happy for him, but was not wholly prepared to accept that he would be always away from her, her Madhavan, her beloved son. She fought back her tears.

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SAMGEEV 2021-12-22 19:37:07
I enjoyed the conversation between Ranganathan and Vasumathy. The reason why Ranganathan avoided Somasundaram's car is interesting. The petty rivalries and envies prevalent in the middle class Indian families are well depicted. Congratulations.
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