Adjusting my spectacles, I looked at the clock in front of me. It was time to take my medicines. As I was taking them, I asked Gowtham,
“So… you heard about Aashima. Did it give you any semblance of clarity? “
“AT… I don’t know. The biggest takeaway for me was that my great-grandmother was an exceptional cook.”
“Deiii… Well, that is true, but nothing else??”
“AT… You said ‘stories’ and not just one story. You go at your own pace; I’ll play catch up.”
“Seri da… Well, patience is a virtue indeed.”
“AT… Is atleast this about Paati”
All he got for that question was one toothless smile.
“Like most of my stories, this too is about a girl… I’ve been blessed with meeting the choicest of women all through my life and she was no different. She was a resplendent, vivacious, cherubic firebrand. If my meeting her was a couple of years earlier or later, she wouldn’t have made any kind of impact in my life.
Her maverick entry then, at that particular juncture was nothing short of perfection.
I was just done with my education and was packed off to the big bad city after receiving a barrage of cautions and warnings from Amma. I even had to promise her a few things before I left. I hated that old guy who lived across our house for giving Amma the idea about some similar promises made by Gandhiji.
My life in Madras was when I really knew the meaning of ‘new’. My home, the city, my job, my dress, the language, the food, the people, everything was new.
I loved that added sense of belonging I had with this city that adopted me. Being in a job that I loved and was pretty good at , made things even simpler. I used to love going to work just to see that shiny name board on my desk.
“Arjun T Kurishingal“
I loved movies. I still do, but the craze back then was on a different level and I was extremely adamant on watching them on the first day and more specifically, the first show. Getting those tickets was an ordeal in itself but it was a cakewalk for me back home. But Madras was a different ball game. I had no contacts and for the first couple of months I hardly watched any movies on the first day.
Things changed when I began to stay with a colleague, who unlike me was a local. I took my time to mingle with him and his friends and the relationship was based on our love and admiration for two things.
- SIVAJI GANESAN
The First Promise was thereby broken.
So it was a Deepavali, when I finally managed to watch a movie in my style. It was one brilliant movie called ‘NAVARATHRI’. After the movie ended, I was effusing praises over the acting abilities of two of the finest actors of any generation to anyone around me.
When I stepped out of the theatre, the sun was scorching and I was half blind trying not to look at that yellow ball of fire. At the exact same time, I heard the crinkling of anklets going past me. I stopped in my tracks to see another blinding yellow moving past me to join her coterie of friends. I let out an involuntary sigh of amazement. She turned around and looked right at me. I moved away just a bit from the purview of the sun to look at the eyes that was now fixed on me.
One other sigh of amazement was on the way when the gaze gave way to a smile. A smile that actually made me forget all about the movie. A smile that made me tag along my friends while I walked behind her. A smile that made me completely oblivious to the possibilities of a sound beating. A smile that made me walk behind her aimlessly albeit maintaining a safe distance, giving us enough time to run if at all there was a chase scene. Occasionally, one of the girls used to turn back, give a spiteful look and turn around. I knew they were all smiling. I could hear their smiles. The princess in yellow never turned though. She had to be the Queen Bee of that group.
After what seemed like half an hour, the girls stopped in their tracks and invariably we did too. The princess just turned around and walked towards us. I did the same, leaving my guys behind. This felt like a scene from the Cowboy English movies.
“Eda… What do you want??”
“Duh!!! Well… what do you want?”
“Could you smile at me…? Once again???”
“Just that would be more than enough for Arjun… Arjun T Kurishingal”
“Well, if that’s all you had wanted, it is not quite enough for me… Parvathi… Parvathi R Nair”
Once again there was that effervescent smile that drew me towards the yellow princess. She left and I was stuck to my place thinking about what she had just said by trying to piece the entire conversation in my head.
Parvathi had just become My Yellow Princess.
I had broken my Second Promise.
I still was in love with my job, especially because it gave me a lot of free time which helped in finding my princess with just a little effort. A week had passed already since that day, when I was schooled in the technique of flirting. With a little help from my friends, I had gotten hold of her schedule for the day and I was there at the library, well in advance to make it look like serendipity.
The clock struck 12.
Parvathi in a dazzling white attire waltzed in to the library and everyone except me seemed to be looking at her direction. I had to act all non-assuming and casual. That was the day I learnt about the futilities of my acting abilities. She took her copy of the daily paper and sat across me.
I sheepishly looked up and said,
“Hey… Pleasant surprise, what are you doing here?”
There was no response
“Parvathi… Hey… How are you?”
She looked at me with a blank expression.
“Who are you and how do you know my name???”
I was too flustered to even answer properly. I left my seat and said, “Oh sorry, I must have mistaken you for someone else.”
After a couple of awkward steps, I wanted to look at her one last time. I turned around to see her hysterically trying to control her laughter. A laugh that made me curse myself for my inability to write poetry.
I went back to my chair with a determined thought to converse her up into accepting my awesomeness.
“So Ms.Nair, do you come here regularly?”
“Well, Mr.Kurushingal, don’t you know that already?”
“Arjun my boy, who do you think let slip my schedule to that nosy friend of yours?? The one who was trying to subtly enquire about it to a friend of mine???”
And there… that Laugh again.
Pushed right to the edge of no return from embarrassment, it was not an easy task to salvage the meager amount of self respect that remained.
The little bit that was left sticking to my soul got a beating soon after.
We were walking around the entire library searching for a very old book. It was getting late and even though I had enquired about its whereabouts, I didn’t want to tell her fearing that the evening would come to a close soon after.
We spoke a lot while searching for that book and after a couple of hours of conversation she must have learnt a lot of things about me because I was talking dime to the dozen to make up lost pride. I tried to redeem myself in her eyes by attempting to talk smart.
Over the entire two hours of conversation, I realized that this was a person in front of whom I didn’t have to put up a façade. She made my heart skip a beat; every single time there was a smile after a funny incident I recollected or that unhinged and unabashed laugh when I said something particularly hilarious. Even I knew that I wasn’t so humorous and couldn’t resist a smile on my lips after realizing the undercurrents in that situation.
Suddenly, she walked towards a particular row and pointed to the book at the very top. I rolled in the ladder from nearby and held it firmly. She simply held the other side of the ladder and looked at me. I had to climb some 15 feet to reach that shelf and I hadn’t quite got around telling her about my fear of heights. This was certainly not the most opportune moment for the same and I grudgingly strode up the stairs.
I prayed to all the Gods I knew and reached the top. I held the book in my hand and looked at her to confirm if this indeed was the book. She might have sensed my inhibition or was just a prankster, because she made a gesture of pushing that ladder. That act of playfulness with that flattering smile was more than enough for me to lose all sense of control.
Parvathi laughed. So did many others, but nothing except her laughter was ringing in my ears. I assumed that this was how a peacock’s laughter might sound and was proud of the new born poet in my head. Not even the librarian’s laments and cries entered my reverie. She left me underneath a stack of books with a promise to meet me outside the library tomorrow at five in the evening.
The next day I couldn’t stay for long in the office. I was too excited about the prospect of what would be our first date. I had the same level of excitement over the next thirteen days. We somehow managed to meet every alternate day in a new place. Parvathi knew Madras like the back of her hand and she took me to places that I’d never gone then.
The six dates we’d been on were as diverse and vibrant as the rainbow. I came to know a lot about her interests and wishes. Organically and gradually I got around knowing things about Parvathi. Things like her unending love for romanticism, her wish to be a globetrotter, her wish to write, paint, her utopian world, her likes and dislikes, her favorites, her peeves, her everything.
It was exhilarating to know so much about someone else and just like that I knew that this was the girl that my Amma would grudgingly approve of. There were so many things over the last six dates that pulled me towards the truly enigmatic Parvathi R Nair.
I loved so many things about my yellow princess. I could wax eloquently about her voice, her smile, her eyes, the way her hair bounced when she laughed at my jokes, the raised eyebrows when she found me staring at her a second longer than usual while she was having her ice-cream, the pout of her lips, the flushing of her cheeks when i gave her an off-handed compliment, the way her hands animatedly moved in the air while she was explaining the ideas of her life. She was so full of life that I found my own story like a dreary sub plot compared to her relentlessly entertaining movie. I was content with getting to know her idiosyncrasy and was relishing the fact that being around for her was so easy.
Parvathi made me realise the beauty in the littlest of things. The importance of appreciating the innate awesomeness in everyone. She taught me to find the goodness in everything and that the most important thing to do in a person’s life is to fall in love with oneself. One must a live a life that is content and fulfilling. I felt rejuvenated around her and i knew that slowly, steadily and definitely, the more I knew about Parvathi, the better I started feeling about myself.
The sparkle in her eyes when she looked at me, that laidback laughter and the ease in her conversations was enough evidence of her liking towards me. I was never a good actor and could never hide the fact that this was a mutual admiration. I was in love and knew that I had to be the one to say it to her. However progressive she seemed to be, there was no way that she would speak her mind out to me regarding this particular matter of the heart.
I thought of telling it to her right from the second date when were on the bus to have an ice-cream near the beach, but somehow I was so mesmerised by the wind blowing through her hair, that a silent admiration seemed the right way. The following dates like the tram ride to her school, the boat ride towards the sunset, the cycling on the most serene roads of Madras, that walk in ankle deep water to a particularly amazing temple gave me a lot of opportunities in a platter. But everytime I went close, everytime I wanted to hold her hands and look into those eyes and speak the words that I was sure both of us wanted to hear, there would be some distraction. It used to be in the form of the blaring of horns, the reaching of our destination, time running out, her smile, her laugh, her fake anger, her starry airs, her high handedness and my voice getting all squeaky when she moved a bit closer to me.
Finally, I had to man up and do the right thing. I decided that the seventh date is the charm and I’d be the one taking her out unlike the previous six dates. I wanted to take her to a place she’d never been before. A place which would remain our special place, the place where we spoke our hearts out, the place where both our futures would intertwine and become one. I knew the perfect place. I knew the exact spot where our destinies would join paths. I was ecstatic and was proud of my ingenious plan.
I spoke to a few of my colleagues and made them pull a few strings in exchange for a couple of bottles of our loyal friends. It was the Fourteenth Day and our seventh date. I went to the nearby saloon and got my hair done like my matinee idol. Then adorning my favourite White Shirt and blue striped pants, I went to our place of rendezvous. I had a letter neatly tucked in my pocket and practised my dialogues in the mirror at my home.
I ran the entire scene in my head once more methodically just like my literary hero, Sherlock Holmes. I’d take her to the place, blindfold her, make her trust me and walk the Fourteen floors to the terrace of the tallest building in Madras. I’d take out the flowers secretly hidden behind the door, stand behind her, open her blindfold to the view of the sunset, turn her around, hold her hands, manage to look into those mesmerising eyes of hers and finally tell the three words both of us wanted to hear.
I reached the place a little behind schedule, it was due to my over indulgence with the Holmes Mode. I walked there with my Hat on and searched around for her. I couldn’t quite place her whereabouts for quite some time and I started getting all worked up. Channeling my inner Holmes was proving to be futile and after a dedicated search around the premises for more than an hour, I found someone closing my eyes from behind. It had the familiar fragrance of happiness and the softness which I so craved to feel. I gently pulled her palms away and turned around with my eyes moist and a beaming smile clearly exuding the sense of relief and happiness in my mind.
Fourteen minutes later, I was in the terrace of the highest building in Madras, strewing the petals of the flowers into the sky, LAUGHING my heart out at the events that had just unfolded over the past few minutes. I thought I’d be heartbroken and crestfallen after the jolt that I had just received. But surprisingly, all I did was to laugh like never before. I never knew my laughter sounded so good either, the silence around the sunset being intermittently disrupted by it.
I almost broke my third promise.
Technically I did cry, but it was out of laughing so hard. What else could I do when I turned around to see my yellow princess… my Parvathi… all smiling, uttering the following words,
“Hey…. This is Balan… Balan K Nair… My mora cherkan (fiance types) and this here is my very good friend Arjun… Arjun T Kurishingal… Actually, he’s more than just a friend… he is like the BROTHER I never had. “