Madhavan was excited about Raman's invitation to visit LA. He wished his Appa could send Lakshmi's picture by Express mail, so that he could have an idea of Lakshmi before meeting her. But he trusted his Amma's sense of beauty. Her words were ringing in his ears, "Madhavan, Ponnu peru Lakshmi, and she's real Lakshmi, very charming with typical Iyengar features, big eyes, lustrous hair, sharp nose and has even a cleft on her chin. She looks very beautiful. You're lucky, Madhavan. She got residency in your place and is a US citizen . Her horoscope is excellent..what else do you want?"
The idea of going to meet a girl,that too, a beautiful doctor in LA, was quite exciting. But, Madhavan had a secret fear of being rejected. If she was so beautiful, as Amma said, she might reject him. After all, he was not handsome or smart enough for a beautiful doctor who was born and brought up in LA. He was not even confident enough to win her over by smart talk on latest albums or films. But, Amma repeatedly said Lakshmi was, like her name suggested..a real Lakshmi who was brought up traditionally, with all values in life, like respect for parents and trust in their ability to choose the right man for her. That made Madhavan more optimistic, as Madhavan was sure of impressing her parents with his humble and respectful behavior. So far, he never failed to create a good impression on the older generation. If Lakshmi's parents liked him, she could not possibly go against their wishes. Further, Madhavan knew that in a South Indian Brahmin wedding, the bride's opinion, however educated she may be, hardly mattered.
Still, Madhavan was confused and nervous. He wished he could share the great news with a good friend and seek his guidance. Though he thought of Nari, he knew he would not feel free with him. Manikkam would have been ideal. He was always his confidante. Madhavan could easily pour his heart out to Manikkam and ask for his advice. Manikkam would have given him useful hints as to how to conduct himself and what to wear, like how he guided him before the interview in Indigo Technologies. But, unfortunately, Manikkam was far away and Madhavan could not talk about all these things over the phone. Further, Madhavan was not sure how Manikkam would react to his bride - seeing, without even having the faintest idea of how the girl looked. Already his friends used to tell him that he had 'mother fixation' or Oedipus complex because of his blind faith in his Amma. So, it might be a blessing in disguise that he could not contact Manikkam before going to LA. Once the bride seeing was over, he could send an email asking Manikkam to call him, when he was free.
Though Madhavan decided against casual wear, he was not sure what shirt to wear with his jeans. So, he tried one bright blue striped shirt and a plain sky blue shirt and after looking at himself for over ten minutes in the full length mirror, he decided to wear the light blue shirt, which gave him a more mature look. After all, he did not want to look like a student, he was a respectable engineer and the light colored shirt looked more respectable. He ironed the shirt, kept the jeans and undergarments ready, so that he could get up early, take a shower and go to the airport in a taxi.
Madhavan was tossing and turning in his bed. He could hardly sleep due to the excitement. He wished his Amma were with him for this most important trip. How proud she would have been, to see her son in all the glory. Anyway, he was sure, wherever she was, her blessings were with him. Finally, when his heavy eyelids were closing off, the shrilling alarm woke him up, reminding him of his all important trip to LA. Madhavan reluctantly got up, got ready and reached the airport, just on time for the departure.
During the half an hour flight, Madhavan slept off and woke up only, when the plane landed in LA. Hurriedly collecting his bag, Madhavan walked briskly towards the Arrival launch, looking around for Raman.
Madhavan did not have to search at all. He could easily spot Raman, a medium-sized man with graying hair and hunched shoulders looking anxiously at every passerby through his glasses. Before Madhavan could say anything, Raman nodded, gave a broad grin and said "Halloo, Aren't you Mr. Madhavan? Pathiya, I can make out our boys anyday, even in a crowd. How was the flight ? Sowghyama?"
"Flight was okay, I slept off . I was very tired."
“How are your parents? Did you inform them about this visit ?
"Of course, of course, I talked to Amma and Appa last night too, they know I'm seeing you this morning"
"Good, good! Parents' blessings are very important. Vasanthi, my wife, wanted to come to the airport. Even Lakshmi might have been interested.., looking for Madhavan's reaction, Raman paused and then continued laughing aloud “Ha, ha, but I said, nothing doing, stay at home. I'll be back in half an hour with Madhavan.".
Madhavan noticed Raman's typical Tamilian accent and was much relieved that years' of stay in LA did not affect Raman at all. He sounded like a good hearted, middle class man and Madhavan was sure that the daughter, whom he had brought up, could be only simple, unassuming and uncorrupted by American ways.
‘Come, come this way, Mr. Madhavan. Please give that bag to me,” leading Madhavan to his old car, Raman tried to snatch his bag. Madhavan protested and said, “No, no, Mama, I'll carry this"
Raman was thrilled to hear Madhavan addressing him as "Mama" and he got a deja vu feeling, which made him quite at home, to converse with the youngster.
So, once inside the car, Raman started chatting freely.
"Amma and Appa must be missing you, being their only son. You did not visit India after coming here, right?”
"Where's the time mama? Firstly, I am busy with studies, then this job, actually I wanted them to visit this country. After Appa's retirement, both Amma and Appa can come for a short stay, leaving my sister Harini, with my Patty in Tambaram"
"So, your Patty lives in Tambaram? Alone?”
"No, she lives with my mama, my mother's brother, who's a Captain in the Merchant Navy. My Amma visits Patty every week and she too comes and stays with my parents often"
"Good, Good. I'm glad to hear that. Family ties are very important. I lost my mother when I was young. Saroja Akka, who brought this proposal, is more like my Amma to me. She loves Lakshmi. She was with me here in LA, recently. Lakshmi also loves her Athai '' Raman looked at Madhavan, grinned and continued, “Lakshmi speaks good Tamil, learnt Bharata Natyam, Carnatic music .. everything little, little.. but no time to pursue these after she got her Residency in Santa clara. She is very bright.. to get medicine is no joke here. She had to study hard . So, music and dance , she had to give up. Now she's Jack, no, no, Jill of all trades" Raman laughed. Madhavan felt quite at home with Raman and forgot all his initial fear and nervousness. He felt extremely relaxed in Raman's company.