Madhavan goes to San Diego -SILICONE CASTLES (Chapter 10: Prof. Sreedevi Krishnan)

Published on 18 October, 2022
Madhavan goes to San Diego -SILICONE CASTLES (Chapter 10: Prof. Sreedevi Krishnan)

Ranganathan was so happy and excited about owning a car. He consulted everyone, went through all the advertisements on Sunday Hindu, underlined with green ink, all the ads of 'sparingly used, lady doctor driven cars'. Though he could hardly understand how a ‘Lady doctor driven car” was any different or superior to a teacher driven or a ‘home-makerdriven car. Dr. Ranganathan liked the term “Home maker” , whoever had invented it, because it really elevated the status of “House-wife" into some covetable profession).

He remembered how Amitabh Bachchan beamed when one of the contestants in his popular TV show “Kaun Banega Karore pathy?” proudly announced that she was a ‘Home maker'. Anyway, Sundays ceased to be ‘Kathrikkai Bajji' days, as he had to spend a lot of time in the booth, telephoning the ‘Lady Doctor driven' car owners, fixing up appointments and then going with his brother in law, Raghavan's mechanic and driver to examine the car, and take a test driving too, if needed.

Unfortunately, Ranganathan was not able to make up his mind about the car, in spite of his reading all possible literature on Maruti 800, became an expert about the parts, function, petrol consumption etc and even 'interviewing' many Maruti owners in Chennai. So, the car - hunting continued on Sundays with great enthusiasm, for about 2 months. Meanwhile, Ranganathan got the phone connection, which made it possible for him to discuss his car- buying mission with Madhavan too.

Though Vasumathy was indifferent about the car, she was delighted about the phone, as she could talk to Madhavan freely now, from her own house. Madhavan called her on Monday mornings. On Sundays, he talked with his Appa, and hardly got a chance to chat with his Amma, so he made it up by calling her on Monday morning, when Amma was alone at home.

Madhavan gave her a detailed account of his studies, much awaited graduation, friends’ cooking etc, while Amma gave all the the local gossip, Patty's arthritis, Raghavan family's unusual visits to Besant nagar, Meena's sudden love and respect for Ranganathan and Vasumathy, Suganya's impressive account of her visit to Phoenix etc.

Madhavan was amused that his Amma always concluded her chat with the comment, “Aanakkoru kalam poonakkoru kalam' , (which happened to be the Tamil version or Mak's favourite saying “Every dog has it's day').

This is all because of you, Kanna. They all know your achievements, it is not easy to get a match like you- an Iyengar boy , highly educated, a foreign qualified Engineer, God fearing, extremely good natured and most responsible. As though I'm a fool not to see through their plans: they think they can lure us with their money, going to get the shock of their lives, that Raghavan, Radha and that pencil thin Meena" Another month rolled by and Ranganathan was still without a car.

Madhavan realized that, at this rate, his Appa would never buy a car and so one Sunday, he talked to him for more than half an hour, to convince him that he should go for a brand new Maruti car, which would not give him problems for at least 5 years. He argued that he would get a good job soon and then, he could spare enough money. Further, if Ranganathan did not buy a car now, there was no need to buy a car at all, as he would be retiring in another couple of years.

Ranganathan was now more than convinced about his owning a Maruti before retiring from the College; after all what was the point in driving around, when no young girls were around to appreciate their Sir's car or take a lift in it. Next week, Dr. Ranganathan, nephew of Dr. Rangachari, owner of two Rolls-Royce, during the British regime, cousin of the richest criminal lawyer, Veera Raghavan and father of Madhavan- the future engineer in the US, surprised everyone in his department by driving into the car park in his brand new, gleaming white Maruti with marigold garland and vermilion spot on its bonnet and polythene seat covers inside. Looking at the admiring glances of the onlookers, Ranganathan realized that the real enjoyment of any possession was in its capacity to invoke others' envy like the apt Onida TV's advertisement 'Owner's pride, Neighbor's envy.·

He smiled at the lesser colleagues and students, went on with his work, as though the most natural thing for him was to come in his Maruti. But, he did not forget to tell a crest fallen Somasundaram that the car was Madhavan’s belated Father's day gift. Ranganathan marveled at his own capacity to lie convincingly, taking his sweet revenge on Somasundaram.

During his drive back from the University, he invited Dr. Vijayalakshmi, Dr. Raman, and a couple of girl students to take a lift with him. He even went out of his way to drop Raman in Indira Nagar. He was ecstatic at the whole thing; but was quite put off,when he thought of his wife's supreme indifference about the car. Even his promise to take her to Tambaram to visit her Amma in his car, did not produce the expected enthusiastic response.

What's the matter? What was eating her up? 'Real Kazhutha, doesn't know how to enjoy life and has no aesthetic sense too. I can't help comparing this useless woman with other sensible women with intelligence and taste.Look at that Vijayalakshmi, how she went on praising the choice of white for Maruti, how Nisha and Sneha admired the smooth drive while this one was silent throughout our first drive to Mylapore temple and back.

Thank God, Harini made it up by her chatter throughout. Still, Vasumathy won't even come with us to Santhi Vihar for Channa Battura. “The curd rice' I prepared, would go to waste” , her usual pallavi, real martyr. She looks at me as though I'm exploiting her son, he sent money for the car and I bought it…what's wrong? I must learn to ignore her…' thought Ranganathan and sighed deeply

That Sunday, from his Appa, Madhavan got a detailed account of the car, the temple trip, Tambaram trip, Somasudaram's envy, the admiration of his friends, Harini's demand to learn driving etc. On Monday, when madhavan talked, his Amma did not sound very enthusiastic. To Madhavan's repeated questioning about Amma's indifference to the car, Vasumathy told, “Kanna, you’ve to save your hard earned money for your future, the bus stop is so close to our house, I really don't understand why we should own a car and your appa should drive in the crowded roads, we lived happily all these years without car.

If you're here, it's different” 'I want you to enjoy all the comforts, Amma. It's time you allowed yourself little luxuries like going by car to the temple, to visit Patty in Tambaram. You should learn to relax, You say, music lessons keep you happy, so continue that. But don't slog in the kitchen making this and that. Thank God, Appa stopped his vegetable buying trips.

Appa sounded so happy yesterday..Poor thing, let him show off his car; he can even employ a part - time driver if he wants, Amma, don't worry about saving for my future. I'll be getting a very good job in a couple of months. Once I know where I'll be posted, I can plan my future. Just wait and see! Your Raja material son is going to buy a nice car, and send tickets for you and Appa to visit this beautiful country. So cheer up Amma ..Okay?"

When Vasumathy spoke, her voice broke, 'I miss you Kanna. When are you going to come? So, no hope of you settling down somewhere in India now? I thought you'll be taking up a job here, once you pass the Exam" Madhavan could sense his Amma's sadness and felt awful but he tried to cover his disappointment by laughing, as though his Amma had cracked a joke “Amma, I've to work here. With my qualifications, I can get a very well paid job in the States, not in India.

Amma, what difference it makes, whether I'm in Bombay or Arizona I still cant be with you in Besant nagar. I will talk to you every week. Once I get a job, I can fly you here once a year. Everything will be possible, distance is no problem as long as one has money. Next year, this time, for all you know, you'll be in LA, Silicon valley or New York. Amma, you'll be in great demand in the States.

You know, these Indian Americans are crazy about Carnatic music and you may even earn a lot of money here by giving music lessons. How about that?, Madhavan laughed. Vasumathy knew that he was trying to make her feel alright and so she made an effort to laugh. But, by the time he hung up she was in tears. She then walked towards her kitchen corner, closed her eyes and entrusted her favorite deity “Thirupathy'' with the task of looking after her son in a foreign country…


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Sudhir Panikkaveetil 2022-10-19 00:20:07
Good narration like a swan gliding through the water. It is nostalgic too. Reminds us of our conversation to the kith and kin when we arrived in USA and thereafter when they talked nonstop.
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