Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Party - short story

                                              Written by - K.S. Suthakar
                                             Translation by – Shiyamala Navratnam (Canada)
“Oh, Shaanthan! When did you come to Australia?”
            “Who is it, Kumaran? It is now one and a half years since we came here. How is everything with you? It must be about ten to thirteen years since you left the country, isn’t it?”
            “It is ok Shaanthan. Now we are in Dilake and you?”
            “We are at Altona.”
            “Then it is close by. What, you seemed to have stopped with one child.”
            “Yes. One is enough. I was told that everything was cheap in this ‘Laverton market’. However when you come here you realize that it is only a bunch of old hardware at very awful prices. Boiled corn is priced at one for five dollars.”
            “You have to come to our place for dinner next Saturday.”
            “Kumaran, what is the hurry now for dinner? Hello Bawaani, how about next Saturday?”
            “There is no program.”
            “Then we can come Kumaran. But one thing. Do not cook too much, please.”
            “Here is my business card. My phone number and address is there.”
                                  *                                  *                                  *                      *
            “Who was that dear? He was addressing you Shaanthan, very frequently? All those who work with you call you ‘sir’.”
            “All that was once upon a time Bawaani. Now a days even children call their teachers by their name. This was Kumaran, who comes from Naachchimar temple area to the cement factory for work. A ‘clerical’ job.”
            “Must we have meals at anybody and everybody’s place?”
            “What to do? If we need a couple of friends, we have to go.”
                                  *                                  *                                  *                      *

“Somebody is calling and hanging up. When we say ‘hello’ there is no answer. It must be Kumaran and them.”
            “Ok, Bawaani. Why are you getting so angry for that? I am very hungry. Give something if you have. I want to eat, rest for a while and then take a shower.”
            “I did not cook anything because we had plans to go for dinner. I gave some cereal for our child too. I have been drinking water and only water and waiting like a camel”
            “I do not want to go hungry without having anything and be ‘waiting for food,’ instead it would be better to have something and go. Where is our child, Bawaani?”
            “She must be playing somewhere there.”
            “Ok Bawaani. I want to tell you something. Please do not go and peep into the Kitchen and toilet in Kumaran’s place like you do in other homes and embarrass me. Kumaran is very clean.”
            “That won’t do. Kumaran may be clean. But it is his wife who cooks! I can’t digest my food if the kitchen and the washroom are not clean.”
            “Whatever, I have told you. Please do not spoil our friendship.”

                               *                                  *                                  *                          *
            “What is this dear. It looks like a palace. Have we come to the wrong place?”
            “See whether the number is correct, Bawaani.”
            “It is this one. It is this one. We have moved three places for rent. We clean the house once when we enter the place. Then we clean again when we leave. Hands have worn out cleaning other people’s houses.”
            “Be patient. We have only entered the country now. We can build one new!”
            “You said he had a ‘clerical’ job there. Have they built this house with the stones they dug over there? You and your ‘foreman’ position. I told you so many times that we have to go abroad. This ‘foreman’ never listened.”
            “Hey, look here. There is a microphone on the wall. All what we talk is going to be heard inside.”
            “All right, all right. Ring the bell.”

                   *                                  *                                              *                      *

“Come Shaanthan. Come, did you find the place easily?”
“What’s news from our country?”
“What is there for you Kumaran. You have bought a home and kept it nicely.”
            “I cannot tell enough to explain about the difficulties I went through to get it. This is my wife Mahaaluxmi.”
            “Hello, I am Shaanthan. This is my wife Bawaani. This is our daughter Renu. You did not come to the market the other day?”
            “Oh Yes.”
            “Dear, I need to go the toilet. Ask them which side it is?”
            “Wait Bawaani. I have to go urgently before you. Oh, Kumaran, can I use your toilet please?”
            “You come here Bawaani. I think your child has fallen asleep on your hands. Bring her inside and put her on the bed and come. We can chat.”
            “Please show your kitchen, Mahaluxmi acca (elder sister)? Are you older or younger to me? I think you are elder! You have something on your dress.”
            “This is it. This is it.”
            “How is your kitchen is so neat and bright.”
            “This is not the kitchen we cook in, Bawaani.”
            “This was built for only for showing purposes. We cook in the garage. We cook there and bring everything here.”
            “Why, Mahaaluxmi acca, so many curries? It is so much trouble for you.”
            “I cook only on Saturday or Sunday every week, Bawaani. I pack them in small plastic bags according to our needs and keep them in the freezer. How many times a week do you cook?”
            “Seven times three twenty one!”
            “So you are at the seventh multiplication table yet?”
            “Why are you laughing acca? My husband wants me to cook everyday. How many times do you cook?”
            “There is no multiplication tables. Just three times a week. How old is your child now, Bawaani?”
            “Completed three acca. Your child is also of the same age but seems very tall. Do you give any special food? He is very chubby and plump and looks handsome.”
            “Nothing much like that. I am tall. He (my husband) is also tall. That’s why he is also tall. You are both short. That’s why the child is also short. If you want try giving some extra milk. Where is your husband? It seems that he has not come out from the toilet yet.”
            “He is slow in everything. How is your husband’s job? Does he have job satisfaction in his work? My husband is always busy at work.”
            “If you get married to educated people this is what will happen. They will be hugging on to their jobs.”
            “Mahaaluxmi acca, how much is your husband making in his job?”
            “He would be getting about 40-45 K.”
            “What is that K?”
            “Everybody says like that. I also wanted to say it somewhat differently and said it. Oh, here your husband has come.”
            “What Shaanthan, it seems that you had been washing the toilet all this time.”
            “You said it right, Kumaran.”
            “Come Shaanthan. First of all let’s have some drinks. Then only the food will go down.”
            “The food is very very appetizing, Kumaran.”
            “Finally, you have come out of the toilet somehow! I may please go to the toilet Mahaaluxmi acca.”
                                            *                                  *                                  *
            “Thanks for the meal, Kumaran. The food was very very delicious.”
            “Don’t tell me that Shaanthan. Say it to the person standing next to me here.”
            “Mahaaluxmi, the food is excellent. The rasam (spicy clear soup) is beyond any comments. Especially the meat preparation, prawns gravy, oh dear. Please give the recipes of those to my wife.”
            “Just don’t praise us too much. You are trying to slip away. Once we come to your place and eat we can also come to know Bawaani’s cooking excellence too.” 
            “You have to come to our place too one day, Mahaaluxmi acca. Then we want to take leave now.”
                                           *                      *                                  *                          
       “Hi dear, I left the cap of our child at Mahaaluxmi acca’s place. We would have only come a short distance. Please turn the car around.”
            “You are never satisfied if you do not leave behind something every time. Ok, let’s go and pick it up.”
            “What’s happening, Kumaran and his wife are burning something standing in the dark. Are they playing with some fire crackers or fire works? Our names are also being mentioned. If we go now the matter will be upset.”
            “Um, bend down. Spit three times. She had come to ask for your salary. Where did you find these people dear? Tomorrow you may lose your job. You also bend down once, son.”
            “Child is not going to understand. You just do the rotation, Mahaaluxmi.”
            “Spit on it three times dear. You are chubby it seems. Tomorrow you may have diarrhea and be on the bed.”
            “Dip it and put on the child’s tongue, Mahaa. What can I do for what his wife asked you? Did Shaanthan ask you anything? He is only my friend. What should we be doing with the cap of their child now?”
            “Keep it here. It could be useful to wipe the car or the stove. How to get a home loan it seems? It is another problem for her. We can’t be telling how hard you had to work two and three jobs with and without being able to eat.”
            “Ok, come dear, Maha.”
            “I will come in only after this evil eye ritual completely burns. See if there is any smell coming. It is a terrible evil eye.”
                                              *                                  *                                  *
            “Eh, before we could reach home after meals they are getting rid of the evil eye. What kind of people are they? In this situation cap is a not a big deal.”
            “Why dear, you are coming empty handed? It is a ‘Pokeman’ hat, you know.”
            “Pokeman? I came to know that such ‘Pokkiri Mones’ – (sons of evil) exist in the country only today Bawaani.”
            “What are you muttering?”
            “Before even we could reach back home they are burning stuff to get rid of evil eye, dear!”
            “I told you at the beginning itself! You and your people. Dirty people. Take the car. I have to tell you something. I would have told you first. If I had, what would you have said that I am splitting your friendship and splitting the country.”
            “Please tell Bawaani without talking in riddles.”
            “They had bought chicken on sale - ten chickens for ten dollars on their way to Hare Rama temple. They have cooked that spoilt chicken for us. You also boasted about the meat preparation being excellent and came. In this situation she is putting the food into polythene bags and pushing it into the freezer before we even finished eating.”
            “Owak… Owak…” (throwing up sound)
            “Another thing. When I tell this I feel like throwing up too. They did not have a place to cut the chicken they had bought. They had kept and cut it in the space between the bathroom and toilet.”
            “How did you come to know all these, Bawaani?”
            “Didn’t you see all meat splashed like rain on to the wall?”
            “You took us saying it was a party. Now we are unable to buy medicine for this vomiting. For the vomiting if we could not consult a doctor and get a prescription, we could have asked the pharmacist. Now the car is stinking because you threw up in the car.”
            “Be patient, Baawani. When I am struggling, you are also adding to the misery. I am having cramps in my tummy and throwing up.”
            “Drive fast and reach home. There is a proverb they goes like… Party or medicine. Now it is not coming to my mind.”
            “Is that so important now?”

                                  *                                  *                                  *                      *
                                                                                                ‘Gnaanam’ – May 2005

No comments:

Post a Comment