Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Transition - short story

                                                                                     In Tamil: K.S.Suthahar
                                                                                     In English: Kandiah Kumarasamy

                                           It is Melbourne.
                                           Trees on the roadsides have lost their live-green hue and looked withered in that cold evening. Shankar came back from work. He hurriedly went to the dining table, as he was very hungry. Bharathy served takeaway hot food, fried rice, brought from the Chinese restaurant. After eating two mouthfuls, he regained his lost vigour and started his useless dialogue with the usual arrogance.
“I will tell you one thing. Do not come to fight with me.”
“Why do you want to start a topic while eating?”- Bharathy asked him even though she is anxious to know what he intended to say.
“My boss, Paul Nemington, says that it is rather easy to bring up boys than girls in this country.”                                   
“It all depends on how they are bringing up their children.”
“What I feel is, it is easy to bring up girls in their immature age, but bit hard after they reach teenage. Boys are just the opposite.”
“Before your come to a decision on this matter, please find out the numeral of his present wife.”
“I do not know about those details. But his daughter has changed to her fourth boy friend. His boy is still sticking on to his only girl friend.”
“Absurd stories.”
Bharathy did not care his talk. She washed her hands and left.  
It was very cold outside. After heating the bedroom both of them plunged into the covering blanket.
Their only daughter Abi was already sleeping in the adjacent room.
Shankar’s snoring sound commenced. Sleep cradles Shankar no sooner he goes to bed. It is a gift. Bharathy? Her body sweated within the carpet bed-cover. She tried to sleep…. She tried to control her emotions…But?
“Here! Hear! Are you sleeping?”
“ I must go for work tomorrow.”
“I know. But our daughter Abi is now 8 years old”.
“Why do you say that now?”
“She is playing with children in the adjacent houses irresponsibly. She should be brought up with strict discipline.” 
 Snoring sound of Shankar started again. Bharathy shook him holding on to his shoulders. He got out of the blanket immediately and sat in front of the Television. An old Valentine program was going on.
Bharathy came and sat next to him like an itching insect. She expected him to restart the process since he has no escape. 
“Abi is scared of whom?”- Shankar asked Bharathy.
“No one.”
“No. She is scared of one female ghost.”
“Is it Akila?”
“Yes. If she sees Akila, she will urinate. I have seen it with my own eyes when Akila was here last time.”
“ How dare you call my sister as a ghost?”
“Not only your sister…”
A strong kick on the back of Shankar was a punishment; not for his remark but for his inability to understand her sign language and arrogant attitude. She went without uttering a word to Abi’s room, knowing well that harsh little words, and offensive looks are feigned love-torn tricks.

                                     *                  *                *

                                           It is now two days after Ahila arrived with her father from Sri Lanka. Ahila played with Abi and taught her Jaffna sport for girls and lessons. She told her stories such as Ramayanam and Maha Bharatham. She started to teach her to write Tamil alphabet letters and talking in Tamil language.  Ahila’s arrival started to have a grip on Abi’s world. Abi was in the third Grade – Primary. She used all methods except cane. In spite of that Abi would think of her friends. She could not control herself during such times.
“Abi!  All these years you have been playing with whom?”
“ There is a red color gate in front of our house. I go there and play.”
“Who and who are there?”
“Prem, a Tamil boy, his friends Noorjin, Kung, John, Larry, Makariya will be there”.  
“All are boys?”
“ Yes.”
“Don’t you feel shy to play with boys?”
“Mummy! I want to go and play with my friends.”- Abi tried to reach her mother, with tears.
“In future, you can go and play only on Saturdays and Sundays. On all other days you have got to be with Chithi, Ahila. Understand?” Bharathy told Abi. Abi was not satisfied with her mother’s instructions.
Abi ran to her grandfather, Krishnapillai, and plunged her face inside his laps and slept. His mind was entreated.  “Let us leave the children to live in their dreams. What is there to shut them within homes when they can enjoy fun at a tender age?”
Krishnapillai did not understand the behavior patterns of this country. Though he was a full-fledged Saivaist, he was unable to get a proper vegetarian meal.  He was fed up with the cold weather and hated mixing of non-vegetable foods. These drawbacks have changed his course. But before returning to Sri Lanka, he wanted to ease his burden and did a remarkable thing. He gave the astrological chart of Ahila to his friend, Veluppilai to find a suitable partner for her.

                                              *              *           *
                                Abi can now talk in Tamil well. She plays by herself with her doll Barbie.  She imitates life cycle of a Tamil girl with her doll, except finding a partner. After that she started to rare pets but disliked doll. Later she started to go to the red gatehouse again. After some days some girls of her age visited her house.
“Where is Abi?”
“She is unwell”
“All these days?”
“Yes. She will not come to play in future.”
“It seems she is having a long sickness!”  Abi’s friends have gone. Abi came out and sat near the front door hesitatingly.
What wrong has she done? Who could understand the wishes of an eight-year-old girl? What is the pleasure these people derive in dismantling the nest built by this tiny bird?

On an early morning after two weeks, the door of Shankar’s house was knocked. Shankar was busy getting ready to go for his work. He was surprised and got angry over the disturbance.
“These people do not know that there is a telephone service.”
Bharathy opened the door. Velupillai was at the entrance wearing the Jaffna national dress in spite of cold weather.
“Good morning! Sorry for calling without an appointment. I have come with a purpose.”
“You are?”
“I am Velupillai, Krishnapillai’s friend.  I have brought a marriage proposal for Ahila. Ahila is your sister. Isn’t it?”
“ Exactly. Please be seated. My husband is getting ready to go for work. I will attend to him and come back soon.”
Bharathy was busy. Velupillai had a glance at the setting of house and he appreciated.
Shankar came out of his room within a short time with folded hands.
“ I am about to go for work. Please talk to my wife, Bharathy. I will meet you later.”
“Very glad.”  Shankar vanished.
Bharathy hurriedly made Abi ready to go to school and told her to watch T.V.   She went and handed over a cup of tea to Velupillai and sat in front of him.
“Bharathy! I am coming direct to the topic. It is a matrimonial matter. The real beauty of a girl can be assessed only at the time she gets up from her bed in the morning. Then only I will go ahead with my proposal. First of all I would like to see your sister.”
Bharathy smiled.
“Why are you laughing, Bharathy?”
“Well, Sir! Ahila had already gone for work.”
“She had gone?”
“Of course. It is now not the world you are looking for. Actually you may not be able to see the girls in some homes even in the mid of nights. They would have gone for night shifts . I can show you my sister’s photo if you so desire.”
“Leave aside the photo. Krishnapillai told me that he has two daughters. This is a plus point.  I also given to understand that the boy is working with your husband. His name is Alahan.”
“Ahila – Alahan. It is a very good combination of name. I will find out his details from my husband.”
“It is all right finding the details. He is a promising boy of excellent disposition. He is very fair. You could donate 10 lakhs for his lips alone.”
Photos and charts were interchanged. Bharathy liked the proposal. She said that she would consult her husband and her father and give a final decision. That was happy end of Velupillai’s mission.

Astrologers gave a green light for the marriage. The astrologers examined and ascertained the benign influences of the bride and bridegroom and have given 87% marks, which include total agreement in five utmost important life-factors.
Ahila and Alahan were given the opportunity to see themselves face to face at the Murugan temple. The bridegroom walked like a lady with the gait of a swan. It may be because he may be feeling shy to see Ahila. His soft and sweet talk and winking cornered her. Ahila had a lovely face with a black ‘spot’ worn on her forehead. Alahan had an earring on his left ear. He painted his ten fingers in ten colors – cutex showing no difference between male and female. He was born and bred in this country and got assimilated to these customs.    At times his voice too changes.
Ahila was highly taken up by his personality and got trapped. While returning home Ahila was in smiles within the car. 
“Why are you laughing?”- Bharathy questioned Ahila.
“Nothing. Have you noticed the lips of Velupillai uncle?”
“Oh! You are referring to that remark?”
‘He is a blubber-lipped person. If we are to donate 10 lakhs for Alahan’s lips, how much would Veluppillai uncle have given for his deformed lips to his wife?”
Bharathy too started to laugh. But Ahila continued her laughing. Bharathy thought that her sister’s laughing may have some hidden meaning.
“Mum! Who is going to be my bridegroom?”
“We have just seen a bridegroom. He is the one.”- Shankar told his daughter.
“Daddy! You are kidding.”
                             *            *      *

                                                Shankar wanted to have the wedding of Ahila and Alahan during summer holidays. It would be convenient for all to attend, as summer holidays are long. But Alahan had requested them to have the wedding in February. He wanted to go on a world tour during summer holidays.
“After the marriage, you can take your wife also on the world tour?”
“You are not going to allow me to enjoy in peace. It is not so. I have already made arrangements. That is it.”  That was Alahan’s blunt reply.

Wedding cards were printed very beautifully from India. Invitations were sent all over. Krishnapillai had been going from house to house in Colombo distributing wedding invitation cards.  He had arranged for another trip to Melbourne.
Shankar obtained one-month leave. Abi had two-months leave. Alahan had gone on world tour. Her job was such Ahila was fully occupied with her work throughout the year. She goes by bus and comes back in car with a Tamil boy working with her. Balan Francis …… with anyone whom she met first. She was very clever. She too can drive car. She has the driving license. But nowadays it is difficult to maintain two cars! Car needs a ‘medical check-up’ every six months! But people go for medical check-up only when they think about it.
                                         There was one more month for the wedding to take place. One day, it started to rain unexpectedly. Ahila had not come home after work. Normally she gives a telephone message if she is getting late. But so far no telephone call had been received. Shankar went out to see the wedding hall arrangements, telling Bharathy that he would be late to come back. Abi was doing mathematics problems from sofa. Abi’s school had not yet started. Abi studies once in a way so as not to forget what she had already learnt.  It was raining torrentially.  Bharathy went to the kitchen to cook something hot.
There was a call-bell.
“Abi!  See who it is. It may be Ahila Chithi.”
Abi was surprised to see the scene when she opened the door. Two rain-soaked ‘chicken’ were standing in front of the door within an umbrella – smartly very close to each other – cuddling him as if she is warming up for terrible cold and rain.
“Thanks. Michael. See you!”
Michael gave an affectionate pinch on Ahila’s cheek before he left.
Ahila came inside the house fully wet, but with an embarrassing look at Abi.
But Abi too had something ‘wetting’ in her mind.
“What is this Ahila? You are soaked in rain. Go and take a shower bath and come and have a hot meal.” 
“I had more work to do to cover up several absentees to-day”
“You could have told a word over the telephone”
Ahila kept silent and went direct to the shower.
When Ahila was inside the bathroom, Abi slowly came and peeped inside the kitchen.
“Why are you looking like a ‘ delivered cat’?”
“ Not a  ‘delivered cat’ but a completely ‘wet-hen’”
“What are you talking?”
“Then go and study.”
“No mum! I have a doubt.”
“Tell me.”
“Can I play with boys after growing up like Ahila Chithi?”
“What happened to you to-day? You are talking above your age level.”
“No Mum. Today the uncle who brought Chithi in his car to our home was pinching on her cheek before he left. That is why I am asking.”
Bharathy got a shock of the worst degree.
“Abi! With whom did Chithi come to-day?”
“She addressed him as Michael”
“Is he an Australian?”
“I don’t know”
Bharathy was perturbed as to what her sister was up to; and that also just one month before her marriage. Bharathy looked at Ahila’s face penetratingly. She had a reddish mark on her cheek. Abi sat in front of the T.V. with her dinner plate.
Abi kept silent for sometime looking at Ahila.

No sooner Shankar arrived, Bharathy started to question him.
“Has Alahan come back for work after his world tour?”
“I do not know. We can give a call and find out from his home.”
“It is not fair to give telephone calls always. You had better check up at his work-place”

                                       *                   *               *

                                    Shankar used to go to Alahan’s department whenever he finds time. It was the same factory but different departments. Shankar was one of four computer specialists.  As it is he has to go to all departments and attend to necessary checking and repairs, if any. 
There was a large crowd near the ladies’ toilet in the department where Alahan was working. There was clamour, bustling, shouting and arguments. One lady got hold of a gent on his shirt collar. Several people were just watching. That lady had been pouring filthy words from her mouth. As she held him, another lady gave a thrashing to that gent. News spread like wild fire in the factory. On inquiring what had happened, it was brought to light that Alahan had entered the ladies toilet when the outraged lady was in there.
Shankar got a sudden shock of his lifetime.
“Was he drunk?”.
 Shankar was aware that he does not drink.
Consumption of alcohol and smoking were prohibited in the premises, according to the Factory regulations. Anyone found in breach of these offences might lose his job.

The Manager was coming on hearing about the incident. He took Alahan to his room for an inquiry.
Everyone in the house kept silent and avoided any conversations. The same subject had been cruising in their minds.
Bharathy started the talk.
“Shankar Darling! Father had already started his flight. The bridegroom’s party had not told about this incident. There is only ten days more for the wedding date. Ahila had already expressed her consent for the marriage. Why don’t you take a telephone call to Alahan’s house?”
“How are we to take a call? Velupillai uncle brought this marriage proposal and fixed it. Why can’t you to talk to him?”
Veluppillai uncle was contacted by phone.
“Hallo! Hallo! Is Velupillai Uncle there?”
“Is it Bharathy?  I actually just thought of taking a call to you. It appears that finding a male partner tantamount to stepping inside a muddy pool. It is my turn to tell you something about the bridegroom. But you should not take it for granted that I am complicating the matter.” 
“ Uncle! Why are you telling like that?”
“Just a few minutes back he took a telephone call to me and he has been talking…talking about some mad subject …for about an hour…. I could not follow what he means.”
“Uncle! Why don’t you tell me what Alahan had told you?”
“I can tell you if it can be expressed.  He is talking nonsense”
“ It is all right, uncle. Please tell me.”
“He says that he has now become a girl.”
“What are you saying? Ahilan had become a girl?”
 “Yes. Yes. He says that if he decides to get married he would choose only a male. He had been very independent and now he has become a girl completely.”

                                                *         *         *           *           *


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