When My Neighbor Returned Home…

(Contd.)

Part 2

The inevitable opening salvo came from Divi.

‘Renu is upset. She doesn’t believe me when I told her that Arun Uncle brought me this bottle of ‘Yoja’. She thinks Appa brought it when he came back from US and I didn’t give her one. Tell her, Amma, when she comes home next.’

At this point, lest you suffer from the disadvantage of information asymmetry, I must tell you about Maha’s – that’s my wife – singular capabilities. Whatever may be my other faults, I am always one to give credit where it is due. Like the savyasaachi Pandava, Arjun, from our mythology was ambidextrous in firing his deadly arrows with both hands, Maha could at once watch the crucial turns in a TV serial as well as pursue a quarry on the run. Here it was much less – only a sitting duck.

‘What do men think of themselves? Poor girl. How could he do that to her? Beastly and nothing less, I tell you. I’m sure he will be made to suffer for it…Why? She is your friend from knee-high times. Doesn’t she know yet about your father?’

In a performance that IBM’s Deeper Blue would take eons to equal, Divya parsed Maha’s response and easily rejected the first part as empathy with a wronged daughter in the serial, and processed the residual as relevant to her context.

‘No, Amma, you better tell her. I’ve said all I could. It would be even better if she hears straight from the horse’s mouth.’

I wasn’t sure who was the ‘horse’ in question – Arun or I. Didn’t ask for the ambiguity to be resolved. I looked up at her for a moment and went back to the papers refusing to be drawn in.

‘The blessed ad’s. It looks more like we’re seeing a program of ad’s with serials breaking in. Now, Divi, will you quit worrying about what Renu thinks? Do you know what Raji – that’s Arun’s wife – told me today?

There was an expectant pause, just to double check if the audience was with her. I was awash with relief that I got away lightly on this occasion with the conversation veering away in some direction as yet not known.

‘Amma, how would I know unless you tell me? Did someone in our complex get a triplet? Or has someone eloped with that Ashu?’

‘Eloped?’ Wagging a finger at the TV screen, Maha’s voice rose up by a notch. ‘Don’t you see what that misguided Meenu is going thru at the hands of that beast of a fellow? Now she can’t go back to her father. That’s why I say: a woman must always keep her choices. And don’t talk any muck about Ashu – only yesterday the nice boy carried upstairs the heavy bag of groceries for me – the lift wasn’t working then.’

‘Ashu came up to our place? And you didn’t call him in?’

‘Now leave Ashu alone.’

‘When I elope with my boyfriend – and it won’t be Ashu, I’ll get your approval, Amma. That way I’ll have the thrill and I’ll keep my choices too as you say. Now don’t throw a fit. I was only kidding. Tell us what you heard from Raji Aunty.’

I didn’t issue a rebuttal of my inclusion in the audience which in any case would be brushed aside.

‘I’m coming to that if only you let me; and before I do, let me also tell you eloping is not a subject for a teen girl to talk to her mother’.

With a strong sense of foreboding I struggled to keep my eyes on the editorials.

(To be contd.)

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