Angkor wat

Angkor wat

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


'Aarti'? 'Yaa..' came the answer, to the accompaniment of the squeak of the door shutting. A curly haired girl in her early twenties bounced into the room, with a strong air of suppressed excitement about her.Her mother looked up smiling-
'How was it?'

'Fab! it felt like we were back in college rightaway..anyway like Suma was saying the word 'reunion' somehow suggests we passed out in ancient times instead of two years ago, so this was more of a get together really. just that..'

'ok, first get some cardamom tea, i ve warmed it, its in the kitchen'

'How 'd you know i was coming like now?' asked Aarti astonished

'You mean coming now, what is 'like now'?!' said her mother sternly, possibly for the hundredth time..'I heard your laugh at the gate..who was it, by the way?'

'Oh, that!! Pasha!' said Aarti, smiling again in memory and completely ignoring the first part of her mother's sentence. 'Guess what Ma, he s getting married'!! Aarti was grinning ear to ear.

'What??' said her mother, taking off her reading glasses. Astonishment gave way to a smile of pure pleasure.'well well!..very nice, poor man he's had enough troubles..who is she?' Pasha's troubles were no secret. He'd battled a drunken older brother at home and much financial trouble, finally landing a job as a driver in a taxi company. For many years before that he d been garden-help and odd job man in various houses including theirs, instantly endearing himself by his resolutely cheerful personality and willingness to do almost any work. Also carrying an unquenched desire to be 'educated', Aarti's mother had taught him in the evenings for a while, and he was one of the few people she'd trust to pick up Aarti from her new job at night now.

'I don't know..someone who works at that Z brand place in this mall..he actually wanted me to go today for the Id dinner at his place but i told him i m meeting Deeps, she wants me to help her pick a mehndi dress..but'..continuing enthusiastically, 'he was so funny, I asked him why he s suddenly getting married, and you know what he said?! 'just like that'! as if anyone gets married just like that!!'

Her mother smiled..'Whats the girl's name?'

'I dont know' said Aarti,idly munching on a good day biscuit from the dabba, 'I'll ask tomorrow..of course he looked v happy, but i m sure he just wants someone to cook and dress up! you know how he keeps saying he s tired of cooking and nobody notices his ties!' It was certainly true that Pasha had a penchant for rather lurid ties, which was probably why people thought it more tactful not to comment on them.

'Aarti', said her mother in an unusually grave voice, causing Aarti to look around in surprise. 'Sit down for a moment..' Her mother folded her hands in what Aarti was fond of calling her 'lecturer pose'. 'Do you know, when I adopted you, one of the few people who wholeheartedly supported the idea was Pasha? And he must barely have been 18 at the time..Amma, as you know, was v supportive, but practically nobody else was. I cant tell you how grateful I was to Pasha for confidently telling me that yes of course it was stupid to marry for the heck of it and if i wanted you, I should just adopt and be happy my way, rather than suffer in conventionality..what i m trying to say is, he s probably the last person you should accuse of getting a wife because he wants a cook!'. Her voice was unusually stern.

Aarti was abashed but couldn't turn round that easily..'Obviously Ma, I like Pasha too you know that! Just that his answer was so funny! And its Pasha'! She couldn't help another smile, albeit affectionate, as if the fact of his being Pasha was sufficient to make the idea of his marrying funny.

'Just because some people can't clothe their feelings in flowery language doesn't make their emotions any less, Aarti..try remember that' said her mother.'Its important to distinguish between sophistication of speech and manner and sophistication of thought and feeling. In my mind, Pasha is more refined than several literary people I know. He has just as much right to be in love as your Shahrukh khan does on screen anyway, and he seems to exercise the right rather less often too..' she added caustically. Mums hated her favourite movie star, Aarti knew. She felt that was an unfair dig. All the more because the main point was beginning to make her uncomfortable..had she laughed on Pasha's face..? Worse, he was so tolerant it was impossible to tell if he minded!

'Umm..mayyybe' said Aarti.

Her mother had been a mother long enough to know when to stop. 'Ok go wash up, what s that awful stain on your sleeve? Panipuri again?'

'No, pickle' said Aarti..'But Ma..'


'You think he ll feel better if I go to the dinner today'?

'Oh I don't think he d be feeling bad at all, he still thinks of you as a baby' smiled her mother

'Ok I'll go' said Aarti, instantly relieved of a growing sense of guilt. Her personality demanded immediate action, and tended anyway to vacillate between extremes of happiness and misery. 'And I 'll use the paycheck and get her something on the way'!

'What paycheck?' asked her mother

'Ooh! Didnt i tell you ?? They gave me an advance on my first salary today! I meant to surprise you', she was beaming.

'Wonderful'! said her mother, bestowing quite a queensize hug on her 6 inches taller daughter.

'Ya so now I ll get Pasha's fiance something. or maybe for the house..'

'Thats nice, but theres no need to spend it all, you can get yourself something for memory' said her mother, knowing Aarti was likely to spend it all and add more in an orgy of making amends. 'And take a jacket'!

But Aarti was already out of the house.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Pink Panther

Mira was bored. The train journey had been fun, with the discovery of an equally energetic seven year old in the next compartment. Together they had got up an impressive level of noise, drawing exasperated looks from even the mildest adults around. The ten hour free for all rampage had ended with prim goodbyes executed under motherly pressure, the formality instantly transforming them from gleeful conspirators to shy strangers again..Then there had been the long taxi drive from the railway station. That had been fun, too. She was allowed to sit up front on her fathers lap and gaze out, leading to the declaration that Bombay had many more lights than Bangalore at night.Though on that she had to unwillingly agree with amma, who pointed out that she was never up at this time when home to make the comparison.

They were in Bombay for a relative's wedding. The exact nature of the relation was hard to describe in one word. 'A complicated cousin' is what Mira had heard her mother say to a guest once, and had casually repeated it in her best adult voice, drawing much laughter and fawning. Half a day was spent in exuberant marching up and down the stairs declaring 'Namrata is my complicated cousin' in the loudest voice she could muster, but now the charm had worn off. Besides nobody was paying attention to her, at best vaguely patting her when they brushed past her in their scurryings.Once she d wandered into Namrata's room, definitely the most crowded, and someone had dragged her in asking which colour nail polish she'd like. Nail polish!! Her! Her outrage had been mistaken for shyness leading to many 'so cute's', until a violent wriggle had thankfully set her free. Mira no longer wanted to be a boy, as she had desperately wanted to a year ago, but nail polish was still too blatantly feminine to be acceptable.

Forced on by boredom to more wanderings around the house, Mira'd seen a room that seemed to be always locked. Well nourished on a diet of enid blytons, her first and excited thought had been that that must be the secret treasure room. Before her imagination could be more fired, however, someone had unlocked it in broad daylight, exposing a dusty room with piled vessels, books, a large limp stuffed pink panther and a walking stick. A pink panther!! For Mira, it was enchantment at first sight. She hadnt even known they made pink panther dolls !! If you could call something her own size a doll, that is. She looked at it with more respect, albeit from a wary distance. A slight movement displaced something in the cluttered room, causing the pink panther's hand to fall on her own, almost like a salute. And Mira's whole self was transformed into a desperate desire to own the pink panther. Years of life minus the pink panther stretched achingly before her, and she refused to admit the thought. Poor thing, he looked more of a grey panther right now, with all the dust settled on him. She put him back gently and tiptoed out of the room to look for Authority. Namrata's mother seemed a good option. She found her just putting the phone down. 'Auntywho'sispinkpanther'? came out in one eager breath. 'Go Play with someone else ma..' murmured aunty vaguely, patting her and walking away. Frustrated, Mira looked around. Nobody looked like they would care about poor pink panther, she doubted anyone d even notice if he disappeared. Heart beating fast, she walked right back to the room, picked him up and marched out. 'hey'! came a voice, 'Where did you find that doll'?. It was Namrata. 'Put it back, its my old toy..You can play with it in that room if you like'. Mira was suddenly transformed from a daring kidnapper to a 7 year old facing adult unreasonableness. She hugged the pink panther tighter as her eyes clouded over. 'Can I keep him in my room for 2 days? till the wedding'?
Namrata's attention was already distracted toward a beeping phone. With a hurried 'Ok be careful' she'd disappeared down the stairs. And Mira had walked on jubilantly, the tears having magically vanished, and started the marathon task of restoring pink panther to his earlier glory with a cloth and some ribbons..three days later Namrata's mother had let her take away the pink panther. 'Namrata was v attached to it as a child, its been gathering dust for years now,take it, no need to tell her' she'd said, smiling conspiratorially. Knowing her cousin's rather abrupt mood changes, Mira had kept him carefully away from her eyes until the wedding. Which wasnt hard anyway, considering pink panther was clearly not on her priority list right then.

Amazingly, pink panther had been well cared for not just for a few years but for all of twenty years after his usurpment. There was something about having a large soft benign panther in the room..he d been friend,confidante, pillow and punching bag all in one. Mira ruffled his tuft of dark brown hair affectionately, remembering the overwhelming pleasure of wanting something desperately and then, fairytale like, getting it.'Mira'!! came a voice from outside. Mira woke from her reverie and jumped up. An elaborately dressed girl stood at the door.'Hi heroine, are you trying to be fashionably late at your own wedding'?? asked the dolled up figure. 'You look like the bride yourself' said Mira admiringly, reaching for a plate in one hand and pink panther in the other. Before the other girl could voice her horror, 'Hold him' said Mira, 'I want him at the ceremony. And if anyone objects, tell them he's my goodluck charm'. The vision recovered her voice 'You're mad!!'..then relenting..'ok, i'll put him in the front row where you can see'..'but if Sheelu aunty asks..'..the voices faded away. Pink panther sat philosophically, smothered by Estee Lauder wafting towards him from one side and a chunky necklace poking him from the other. He seemed at peace with the world..