Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Sudoku couple

This is the second story in the Bata Thatha series. The first one appeared here.

At 6 am, the Marina Beach was already teeming with practitioners of jogging, weight-lifting, cricket, beach volleyball, yoga and other sundry activities. Oblivious to all this, the Walkie-Talkies were engaged in a lively discussion on the marriage market and how it was becoming exceedingly difficult for eligible bachelors of Chennai to find a girl to marry. Polo T-Shirt lamented that parents of girls, these days, mercilessly discarded horoscopes of Chennai-resident males into the dust bin, and were on a single-point agenda of finding bridegrooms settled in the USA. “My sister", added Nike Shorts “has invested heavily in broadband, webcam and high-end computers to enable my niece to interact online and woo the US-based youngsters. She has a placard outside her house that says “Local suitors, kindly excuse, And, beware of dogs”

Bata Thatha coughed at this point, signaling his intention to speak. “Your point is valid and well taken. But, all is not lost, gentleman. I can vouch for the fact that a little bit of tact, a certain degree of recklessness and a stroke of good luck are all it takes for a local lad to get a girl to marry. Let me present the case of my wife’s cousin, Bharat.

My wife’s cousin Bharat (said Bata Thatha) did not distinguish himself academically, but was an exceptionally bright lad in many respects. He was known to complete the notoriously cryptic crossword of ‘The Hindu’ in 25 minutes on average and in 18 minutes flat on days he had had ladies-finger sambar with his curd rice. He was also a whiz kid at Quiz and could reel out the names of all the Central Asian countries (even spelling Kyrgyzstan correctly) and the capital cities of the north-eastern states of India, without googling even once.

At the time this story begins, he was not yet married as he – like all nerdy characters- was far too absorbed in his intellectual pursuits of deciphering cryptograms and unscrambling anagrams. Such of those girls he met, he found too stupid and dimwitted. He dismissed all of them with a contempt that the Mensa-types reserve for those with mere double-digit IQs.

But Cupid has the uncanny knack of directing its arrows on unsuspecting victims at unlikely places and in improbable situations. Bharat was hit by one such arrow as he was returning from Bangalore to Chennai by the Brindavan Express. As was his habit, he had picked up a book containing 100 Sudoku puzzles (hard ones) and had completed them by the time the train reached Bangarpet. Tossing the book aside, he noticed a girl, in the seat opposite, taking up an issue of the Deccan Herald and completing the Sudoku (medium) in less than 10 minutes. Impressed by this speed, Bharat introduced himself and struck a conversation with her on the nuances and the variants of the Sudoku. One thing led to another and by the time the train rolled past Jolarpet, the seed of love that had hitherto remained dormant in Bharat’s hardened heart, suddenly germinated and sprouted. Bharat realized that he was madly in love and suspected that Deepti- for that was her name- reciprocated the sentiment.

When they had got off the train at Chennai Central and had shaken off the persistent porters, Bharat, without wasting any further time, proposed to Deepti. Deepti blushed and said that she would certainly love to marry him, but, alas, her father would never agree. Like all fathers in Chennai, he was hell bent on getting his daughter married to a groom in the USA. A local lad was absolutely infra-dig and would flunk the ‘quality control’ test quite upstream in the process. Bharat had no chance whatsoever, she told him. He might as well forget her.

Seated alone at the Coffee Day at Alwarpet the next evening and sipping his cappuccino, Bharat cursed his luck. After all these years he had finally met his soul-mate but could not make further progress because her unpatriotic father viewed India-settled boys with utter contempt and had placed filters that would only let green-card holders through. If only this unreasonable father could be dragged to the Rashtrapati Bhavan and subjected to a 326-slide PowerPoint presentation by the President on the many wonders of India, it would serve him right, he muttered. Bharat looked around the cafĂ© and noted sadly that, except his own, all the other tables were occupied by couples, some holding hands, some staring adoringly into each other’s eyes and some sharing coffee from the same glass. Hell, even the fifty-something man at the corner table seemed to be having fun with a woman half his age. Damn, thought Bharat.

But getting over the gloom and kicking off this negative train of thought, Bharat sent an SMS to Deepti that he had decided to meet her father the next day and take the bull by the horn, an expression he felt was quite appropriate for the occasion. Deepti sent a return SMS that if Bharat had pronounced suicidal tendencies and wanted to indulge in such daredevilry, she would not stop him, but he would be well-advised to heed some of the tips that she would list out in an email shortly.

The email only confirmed Bharat’s suspicion that ‘the father’ was a weirdo who ought to have been kept in a padded cell in the interest of the public at large. Apparently, he could not be met in the morning, as he would throw up temper tantrums if disturbed early in the day; he was not available in the evenings as his piety demanded that he be at the Kapaleeswarar temple without fail at that hour; he was unapproachable when he was hungry as his sugar level tended to drop sharply; he was uncontactable after a heavy meal as it would send him into a stupor. He hated dark colours or very light shades.He would not tolerate a loud voice as it smacked of arrogance nor too soft a tone, as it was an indicator of pusillanimity. Deepti concluded the mail, with warm, well-meant, “best-of-luck” greetings.

Reading the mail several times, the thought occurred to Bharat that the description of ‘the father’ tallied with that of Hiranyakashibu’s, and perhaps, he- Bharat- was destined to assume Narasimha avatar to subdue this demon. Applying the same principles as Lord Vishnu did, he went across to the office of ‘the father’ at exactly 11.30 am, reasoning that it was not early in the morning and certainly not evening. It was not too soon after breakfast or too far away from lunch. He chose his attire carefully – he was in beige pants and a sky-blue shirt. Despite these elaborate preparations he had butterflies in his stomach and his knees felt like jelly. Saint George would have felt the same way when he set out in search of the menacing Dragon.

Anyway, love spurred him on and he steeled himself for the task. He barged into the office and was led into the sanctum sanctorum of ‘the father”. In the sunlight that streamed in through the Venetian blinds, he saw the silhouette of the old man in the act of dictating a letter to his secretary. And, lo and behold, Bharat realized that this was the same duo- the fifty-something old man and his companion half-his-age- that he had caught in a compromising position at the corner table of the Coffee Day, the previous evening.

This revelation introduced a new dimension to the proceedings and a new spin on things, so to say. The problem acquired an entirely different complexion, Bharat thought. So, this is what the pious old man had been up to every evening - making out with his secretary - when his family had believed that he was meditating at the Kapaleeswarar Temple! The snake!

For a fleeting moment, Bharat’s conscience told him that he should not stoop to blackmail, but this inner voice was quickly laid to rest. He was convinced that the circumstances definitely warranted these strong arm tactics and he was damned if he was going to let the old man get away with it. He had no doubt that if Arjuna had expressed such reservations and faltered at the start of battle, Lord Krishna would have admonished him thus, “Fruit should be thy only concern; do not worry about the methods, Go for the jugular now”.

Beguiled and becalmed, the old man gave his consent and the wedding took place at the Kapaleeswarar Temple. For the first time in the history of Tamil weddings, a Sudoku puzzle was printed on each of the coconut-betel nut bags that the guests took home. Bharat and Deepti now run a coaching class for the Sudoku-challenged and I hear reports that business is brisk. They have been blessed with a pair of twins and have named them Sudo and Doku..

So, you will agree ( concluded Bata Thatha) that a little bit of tact, a certain degree of recklessness and a stroke of good luck are all it takes for a local lad to get a girl to marry him. Not all the girls want to migrate to America.

The Walkie-Talkies continued walking, mulling over the key points that had emerged from Bata Thatha’s story.

“I must join Bharat’s school to understand this Sudoku “said Adidas Track-Pants breaking the silence, “Haven’t been able to crack the thing at all till now”


Shruthi said...

Priceless!! Absolutely loved it! :)
Those little touches lend so much fun to it - ladies finger sambar, Kalam's PPP, and the Hiranyakashipu analogy was wonderful :D
Cannot stop laughing!

Casement said...


President's powerpoint presentation vida matennu adam pudikreengale! If he comes across your blog accidentally, he is going to invite you for a presentation to personally find out what is wrong with it.

I am in awe of this Bharath dude. 25 mins average Hindu crossword is like AMAZING:)) avanoda number kadaikkuma?!

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

i agree with shruthi - vendakkai sambhar was a lovely touch :D

Deepa said...

Came here through desipundit, Bata thatha reminds me of the oldest member in the PGWodehouse golf series. Delightful! Looking forward to more of the series.

Manasi said...

Amazing post! Lovely humor too.
Read your blog and must say its simply wonderful.

Raj said...

Shruti,Shoefiend : Every time I had a Maths test, my mother used to make Ladies Finger curry. Good for the brain, she used to tell me !

Casement : You are right. President's PowerPoint Presentation is Plusultra's Pet Peeve

Dreamweaver : Thanks and yes, I have tried to borrow the style from Mr Mulliner and the Oldest Member stories of PGW.

Manasi, View from the fareast. Thanks for dropping in and for the nice comments.

Priya Sivan said...

Imagine what will happen if they try sun-doku and wordoku :))

Anonymous said...

LOL!!I feel very sorry for Sudo and Doku.:-(

Anonymous said...

Found chennai imitation of Wodehouse (Bata thatha) very interesting but it clearly tells us why Wodehouse is not easily imitatable. The first story is the better of the two because the second relies entirely on a coincidence -- father having an affair and susceptible to blackmail. The hero does not have to devise a scheme at all and depends on the coincidence. What wd have been interesting from the story point of view -- how does he set up meeting with the father, how he actually goes about blackmailing him, is just not discussed. Incidentally, 'Sudoku' plays no part in the story. It could have been a novel or a magazine or even idly sambar at Bangarpet instead of a game.

Coming to the first story, it is a little better but nothing can disguise the fact that it is a joke with a single punch line 'The girl is too much like yr mother' which has been expanded to make a story. Wodehouse doesn't write jokes. He has stories in which there are twists and turns and not simply gags. Take, for instance, the golf story 'Rodney has a Relapse.'
Rodney Spelvin is a poet until the love of a good woman transforms him and he writes detective stories. But he returns to poetry when they have child Timothy -- poetry about Timothy Bobbin. Solution devised: get naughty boy to tease Rodney's son mercilessly for getting 'soppy' poetry written about him. Twist: Instead, mischievous boy wants his own father to write poetry about him!! Situation serious and matters getting out of hand because Timothy is also becoming unbearably sweet. President's Cup is coming up and Rodney temporarily preoccupied with it instead of with poetry about buttercups, daisies, fairies and Timothy. Match commences and at crucial point Timothy disturbs Rodney with question about flowers and pixies and makes him botch easy shot. Rodney loses match but he spanks Timothy hard on his bottom. Rodney's wife 'grieves as mother but exults as wife'!!
But you have got the tone quite well.
Polish it..I also like the man/mustache post too

Raj said...

shpriya, sowmya and Queer : Thanks

Anon : I must confess that I am pretty kicked by the fact that someone thought my posts worthy enough to merit a critique. Thank you for the detailed review and the suggestions.

Far be it from me to try to imitate PGW. All I have tried to do is fit my pieces of absurdia into the format of his Mulliner stories (bar regulars such as Scotch-and-soda, Gin-and-Tonic starting on a topic, Mr Mulliner picking up the thread and narrating a related story about a nephew) or the Oldest Member at the Golf course.

However, I see the point that you have made and will give it a shot ! Thanks again

Wild Reeds said...

Nice story.
Cool blog!

Anonymous said...

woodhouse is one of my favourite authors and u r indian touch woodhouse stories are too good.....pls post more of the bata thatha stories.