Saturday, March 25, 2006

The eternal bachelor

Among the many hundreds of people who frequent the Marina Beach for their morning walk, there is a particular group of walkers referred to by others simply as ‘the Walkie-Talkies’. As the name suggests, they are a pretty garrulous bunch and known for their ruthlessness in dissecting any subject under the sun and examining it with a critical eye. They can cover an awesome range of topics, from the waist size of the girl who just passed them by to more cerebral discussions on how Nostradamus had predicted two thousand years back that humankind would be knocked out of existence by mobile phones.

One morning, the Walkie-Talkies had settled down into their rhythm when a Nike-Shorts brought up the topic of TV serials and how most of the stories revolved around mothers-in-law and how they were being projected as much-feared, larger-than-life figures. To which observation, a Polo T-Shirt added that it was a well-established rule that the mother-in-law was the central and dominant character in Indian society and her writ ran large and unchallenged . An Adidas Track-Pants concurred and cited the example of his own household where his mother ran roughshod over his wife. Bata Thatha, who had been uncharacteristically quiet so far, interjected at this point, “Gentlemen, what you say is substantially true, but there are some exceptions. Let me tell you the story of my cousin’s son, Ashok”

“My nephew Ashok (said Bata Thatha) was a mama’s boy, if ever there was one. Right from the day he was born she kept him under her thumb and refused to let him out of her grip. He was brought up as a timid boy and not allowed to mingle or play with other children in his school or his neighbourhood. He was, understandably, an object of much ridicule.

But, as was the case with all male members of my family, he grew up to be a tall and handsome young man and attracted the attention of many young girls. Ashok may have been timid, but his hormones soon started to assert themselves and he concluded, quite rightly,that he needed to get married at the earliest. An arranged marriage was out of the question, as his mother would never put in a serious effort at match-making and would even sabotage any attempt by others. So, he had to find a girl himself and somehow convince his mother to accept her. He went about this task with vigour.

The first girl that Ashok brought home was Malini, who was wheat-complexioned, long-haired and strikingly pretty. After she was introduced to his mother, they sat down in the living room, where Ashok hoped that pleasantries would be exchanged and the mother won over. At this point, his mother whispered to him “Ashok, can I have a word with you alone?” He followed her, nervously, into the kitchen, where she told him clearly, “Ashok, that girl must simply go. I don’t approve of her hair. Far too long and unnaturally black. Must have been dyed.” Ashok, though disheartened, knew that it was futile to argue with his mother, as she was known to cling to her position for ever once she had made up her mind. So, he had to reluctantly lead Malini out of the house and let her go.

The next one to come home was Shalini, who was tall, slender and with short, brownish hair. She had hardly removed her slippers and walked into the house when his mother nudged Ashok on his ribs and said, “Ashok, can I have a word with you alone?” So, off to the kitchen they went, where Ashok was ticked off sharply, “Are you mad? Can’t you see that she is terribly underweight and malnourished? Even her hair is falling off. She must, most certainly, go.” So, sadly for Ashok again, Shalini went out of his life.

The third one was Dharini, small-made, bright-eyed and curly-haired. She lasted a little longer. In fact, they had got past the introduction, exchanged small talk at the living room and had now moved to the dining room for lunch. Just when Ashok was beginning to entertain some hopes, his mother uttered the dreaded words, “Ashok, can I have a word with you alone?” So, the kitchen it was once again, where Ashok was severely rebuked, “Ashok, that girl must go, pronto. She is so short that she doesn’t even reach the top of the dining table”. Ashok again reconciled himself to his fate and had to drag Dharini out of the house and into the street. He had, to use his mother’s words, let her go.

A broken-hearted Ashok met me (continued Bata Thatha) six months back and narrated his tale of woe. He told me that he was terrified of taking any girl home and mortally scared of the sentence, “Ashok, can I have a word with you alone?” that his mother would bring up ominously as a prelude to rejecting any girl on the slightest pretext.

Though Ashok is a spineless imbecile, I felt that I couldn’t let a relative down, especially one who was in such serious trouble. Blood, as they say, is thicker than water. So, I thought it over and came up with a typically brilliant suggestion, a sure remedy for his painful malady. “Ashok,” I told him, “the mistake you have made in each case is to allow your mother to find some reason, some trivial excuse or other, to reject the girl. What you must endeavour to do is find a girl who is an exact replica of your mother in every way and bring her home. Your mother will not be able to find any cause for rejecting her”

All male members on my father’s side of the family can think on their feet and Ashok, astounded by my idea, set out immediately, in single-minded pursuit of such a girl. And, he found her! Harini was her name.

Harini was exactly like his mother in every detail- shape of eyes, height, colour of hair, complexion, you name it. She dressed like his mother did, in a traditional sari. She talked just the way his mother did- in that measured, slow, manner. Even, most of the mannerisms- raising the eyebrows, scratching the nose, etc- were similar. When she got up and walked, her gait matched his mother’s step for step.

And it worked! Ashok’s mother was cornered and overpowered at last. She could not come out with a single flaw or a single reason for rejecting the girl. Not once during the evening did she ask Ashok, “Ashok, can I have a word with you alone?”

Bata Thatha paused at this point to tie his shoelaces. The others pounced on him. Nike- Shorts said, “Your story and the happy ending only corroborate our point that the mother-in-law was the most dominant character in our society”.

Bata Thatha finished tying his shoelaces and implored the other Walkie-Talkies to be patient, “Wait, the story is not yet over. Let me complete”.

It is true (resumed Bata Thatha), that Harini by bearing an amazing similarity to his mother in looks, mannerisms, gait, etc managed to get past the ordeal. Ashok’s mother, for the first time, did not raise any objections, as rejecting Harini would tantamount to a rejection of her own self. She had to give Harini her stamp of approval”

But, at this point, Ashok’s father who had never had a meaningful conversation with him at any point in his life, tapped Ashok on his shoulders and said, “ Ashok, can I have a word with you alone ? That girl, Harini, must go. She is too much like your mother.

15 comments:

Shruthi said...

Good one! Loved the names - Bata thatha, Nike shorts, etc :) Such familiar figures ;)

Raj said...

Thanks, shruthi; somewhat like your Pyjama Tata, eh ?

chitra said...

Hyuck hyuck....too good Raj...too good :) !!

Raj said...

Chitra, thanks for the generous praise!

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

:)Loved this... Bata Thatha - Marina Beach Mr. Mulliner?

Raj said...

ramblings, yes : That was an attempt to narrate an old Jewish joke, Mr. Mulliner-style !

BLOGESWARI said...

Super!

SLN said...

Hi

Came here following a link from Chennaicentral. This was too good for me not to comment.
Now will have to go thru rest of your blog

Thanks
SLN

visithra said...

lol that was a good one came through thennavan ;)

Sowmya said...

Kadhai pramadham!!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful and informative web site. I used information from that site its great. Poker table blueprints baccarat Bmw blue book for 92 bmw Lake butler florida car accident

Balajisblog said...

Raj,

I have known you for many years now...did not know that you were such a good story teller....

Balajisblog said...

Raj,

I have known you for many years now...did not know that you were such a good story teller....

Moon said...

Great storytelling! : )

thens said...

What thennavan?wat came??