Madhavan settled comfortably in his two roomed apartment, which is about a fifteen minute drive from his office. As his friends in Arizona predicted, there were many south Indians in Santa Clara. The very next day of his joining, Narayanan, known as Nari, met him in his cabin. Nari was from Triplicane in Chennai and was a product of IIT Madras. He seemed to be a simple man with a similar background as Madhavan. Nari took a liking for Madhavan, as he was also a vegetarian and a fan of Partha Sarathy Iyengar, the great Carnatic musician. Nari even learnt Classical music in his younger days and had a good collection of Classical music cassettes. To Madhavan, who longed to hear some good Classical music, Nari's collection of Carnatic music cassettes, was a real boon. Nari's interest in music, his extremely religious nature, simple ways and vegetarianism impressed Madhavan immensely. Further, Nari, who listened to Madhavan's Amma's recorded songs, praised his Amma's voice to the skies. He was of the opinion that given the proper opportunities, Madhavan's Amma could have been a great musician on par with M.S. Subulakshmi. Madhavan was simply thrilled and that Monday, his topic of conversation with Amma was, Nari and his admiration for his Amma’s voice.
As Nari was living close by, Madhavan was taking a lift in his car to his office, for a couple of weeks. But once he got his pay, he thought he should go for a car. Before buying a car, he called Arizona and talked to Mak and 'Deal' Sathish and got their advice. Then that week with Nari, he went to the showroom, paid the down payment and got an emerald green Toyota.
While driving back home with Nari in his Toyota, Madhavan was lost in thought. He was mentally comparing those sleepless nights, when he sincerely prayed to get the Maruti van as a gift for Amma's small savings. At that time, Madhavan thought that that was the only way he could ever own a car. Now, he was driving a Toyota in Santa Clara. How life had changed! He could not help smiling to himself.. "What Madhavan, so silent ? What a smooth drive.. this car's really good, and I think we got a real good deal, right?', Nari asked.
"Oh, yeah, I was just thinking, hmmm.... if you could take a few pictures of the car, I can send it home, Amma'll be very happy"
"Sure, sure, I can take a whole lot of your pictures, in the Office, Apartment, in the living room, bed room, in the kitchen while you cook etc. I think, Madhavan, that would be the only way we could give our people back home, an idea of our lifestyle here. Actually, I got someone to take a video of my activities here and showed it to my family, hiring a VCR, when I went home, last time. Amma was so thrilled that she called the entire neighborhood to watch it. Nobody can beat my Amma! You won't believe it, she was showing off my pictures even to strangers. What to do? She thinks the whole world's interested in her son, huh.... Don't worry, leave this picture taking to me. I'm good at photography and even won an amateur Photographic Competition, once. So, don't be surprised when your pictures bring some great marriage proposals” Nari paused, tapped Madhavan's back gently and continued.
"Talking from experience, Madhavan. After seeing my pictures, my Amma got a brain wave and persuaded my brother-in-law to give a matrimonial advertisement in the Hindu and the response was really amazing. I got half a dozen girls' pictures, whose horoscopes matched mine. Amma even shortlisted a few Iyer girls from good families.” Nari laughed, “now, she's waiting for my visit to India, so that I can get married to one of those girls. All started with pictures, believe me”
Madhavan raised his eyebrows to show his surprise and said "You mean, you're getting married soon, Don't you think you're too young to get married"
"Come on Madhavan, I'm not young, I'm 25 plus and if I start bride-seeing and other formalities when I'm on leave this time, perhaps I'll be able to get married at least during my next leave. Amma's old now,64, she was widowed when she was in her forties. She brought me up, educated me, got my sister married to a distant
Cousin. She is now waiting in the wings, to see me settled, she's like your Amma, so attached to me, so proud of me." Then Nari lowered his voice, as though he was sharing a great secret with Madhavan and said,
"Amma's really scared that I may get hooked by some American, she thinks the world of her son, thinks the Vellakkaris are all waiting in queue for him. How ridiculous!" Nari laughed. Madhavan noticed that when Nari laughed, he shook his shoulders
up and down, giving the impression that his shoulders were laughing. That thought made Madhavan too laugh, but he had to agree, at least to himself, that Nari's words kindled that spark of marriage in Madhavan's brain too.
Madhavan wanted to ask Nari whether he had any girlfriends. After all, he was in the States for more than four years. But somehow he still could not get over his reticence, when it came to the topic of girls. Further, Madhavan did not want to spoil Nari's impression of him as a God fearing, tradition - bound South Indian, middle class, Brahmin boy, for whom the topic of girls was always a taboo. With Mak, it was different. Madhavan felt quite at home with Mak and was not very hesitant to talk about sex with him, at least occasionally.
Anyway, during the rest of the drive, Madhavan was quiet. Nari's talk of marriage made him think of his own marriage, then his first flight, pretty air hostess who was beside him at the press of a button, his first taste of bloody mary etc. Hardly realizing Madhavan's sudden silence was the effect of his talk on marriage, Nari attributed it to his new colleague's reserved nature and left him to himself.......