This is the ninth part of a long story.
First part of the story: Long Story 1
Second part of the story: Long Story 2
Third part of the story: Long Story 3
Fourth part of the story: Long Story 4
Fifth part of the story: Long Story 5
Sixth part of the story: Long Story 6
Seventh part of the story: Long Story 7
Eighth part of the story: Long Story 8
Prabha picked up Charan and got home. A wonderful smell welcomed Charan and her. “Grand maaaaaaa” shrieked Charan with delight, put his bag on the sofa and went straight to the kitchen. His grandmother was making Mysore Pagu. She welcomed Charan with open arms and hugged him tight.
“Oh… you have grown taller kutti (Means small child).” Vatsala said.
“Yeah! See” Charan showed her the Fortnite dance that he’d learnt. She laughed with appreciation and happiness. “WOW! That is awesome. Give me 3 mins kutti. I’ll give you Mysore Pagu.”
“What?? Coool!!” saying that, Charan ran to the bedroom to change his uniform.
Prabha kept the bag of fruits on the dining table as her eyes searched for Arun. Arun swiftly walked into the hall taking Prabha with him to the balcony. He closed the glass doors and said, “We can’t tell my mom.” Prabha raised her right eyebrow in question. Arun sat on the gardening stool and cradled his head in his hands. “I am afraid Prabha. I am afraid something will happen to her.”
Prabha squatted on the floor. “After I come back from USA, let us tell her. Not now. But you have to tell her eventually.” Arun nodded his head.
Prabha and Arun went inside the house. Arun went to the bedroom to check on Charan and Prabha went to the Kitchen to greet her mom-in-law. “Hi ma!” she said and got a greeting-stare in return. Prabha was so immune to the stares that they no longer affected her. Prabha took a Mysore Pagu and started to eat, “Sooper!!” she appreciated her mom-in-law and got more stares in return. She took 2 more pieces of the sweet dish and went to the dining area.
“Prabha! I arranged the kitchen shelves more relevantly. It was haphazard.” Announced her mom-in-law. Prabha smiled at her mom-in-law in return. If her mom-in-law was the fire, Prabha was the water. Nothing her mom-in-law did affected her.
“Have you eaten?” her mom-in-law asked her.
“No! not yet,” replied Prabha.
“Then, don’t fill your stomach with sweets. Come! Eat. You have to land in a different time zone. Keep your stomach happy”
Prabha smiled and got up to go to go and eat. She liked this side of her mom-in-law. The mom side.
Charan came running from the bedroom and picked up a Mysore Pagu from Prabha’s plate. “Grandma, I want more” he said and fell on the sofa.
“Charannnnn… crumbs… get up” shouted Prabha.
“Here!” Vatsala put some pudina chutney on Prabha’s plate. “It is good for you. When you get to California, keep drinking buttermilk. It helps with the jet lag.”
“Where will she get buttermilk ma?” asked Arun as he was bringing Prabha’s luggage into the hall area.
“You get yogurt there. Just ask and see if you get buttermilk.” Insisted Vatsala.
“Ma…..” Arun started, and Prabha interrupted “OK! Ma.. I will.”
By the time it was 6:00 pm, the luggage was weighed, closed and Prabha was ready.
“I’ve called the cab for 6:30” Arun said.
“Thanks.” Prabha said and rested her head on the sofa’s headrest. She closed her eyes and let he thoughts drift. She wanted to clear her head and give herself some breathing space. She had called her parents, talked with Shalini, talked with her mom-in-law, and talked with her son. Now, she needed to talk with her. ‘How are you?’ she asked herself. She was tired. She wanted to race bikes again. She wanted to turn on the music and just read a book. What was she going to tell her mom? What was she going to do? She was more afraid of how Arun’s news will affect the people in her life than her. She wanted to see Vishu just one more time in her life. She was already considering divorce. What will Vishva say? Will he say the right words to make her relax? Her brain wandered off to the past. She and Vishva were having snowy cone ice cream near the Thiruvanmyor bus stand. Vishva was laughing hysterically to something she had said. He tried to pay the ice cream vendor with credit card. She was happy. She was 20 again.
Prabha and Vishva; India; 12 years ago.
It was 2000. The millennium. The Y2K problem was evaded, the IT crowd was rejoicing. Few people were flaunting cellphones. They were hand-held phones without any wires. Alaipayudhae had released. And Prabha was obsessed with the songs and with Madhavan. Prabha was standing in the Engineering college selection que in Anna University. She was listening to the song “Endhendrum Punnagi” in her walkman. Most students were tensed and were praying, distracting themselves and keeping themselves busy. But that can’t be said for Prabha. She just did not care. She did not even fill the application form. She was there because her mom made her. “Want some?” asked her mother. Prabha looked at the chocolate drink in a paper cup. She shook her head and started to rewind the song she just heard in her walkman. “Electronics.” Her mom said. “The news is electronics is going to be biiiiig in the next few years. So, pick anything with electronics in it. That’s the next thing!”
Prabha increased the volume and started to day dream.
“Vishvanath…” the counselor called, which startled Vishva and he got up suddenly from his seat. The marksheets and all the documents scattered down along with the empty file. His Father sighed heavily and bent down to pick all the documents up. As Vishva frantically tried to put all the document in the multi-folder, named, file. “Vishvanath Kanniyappan!!!” called the counselor again. “Dad!!!! Go and sit there. I will bring the files.” Vishva said with pleading eyes.
His father sighed heavily again and walked to the counselling session table. Vishva gathered all the mark sheets and started to check whether all the documents are in place. “Here!” he heard a voice and turned to look at a girl handing him his 10th std. mark sheet. Vishva smiled brightly and got the mark sheet form her. “Thanks..” he said. The girl giggled and walked away.
Vishva ran to the counselling table and said “Computers! Anything with computers… IT, Computer science..” The counselor looked at Vishva with a bored expression.
“Your father here says you are too rich to work. And he wants me to talk some sense into you.” At this Vishva gave a death stare to his father. His father just grunted and tried to act aloof.
“Well! My father is rich. I am not. So… Computers.” The counselor typed some words and numbers which brought in the list of colleges that was suitable for Vishva.
“Prabha! I know MGR is near out house but let us go with RCM. There are very few electronics courses. RCM has one.”
Prabha looked at her mother like she had grown horns. “Mom! I want to learn linguistics. I do not care what engineering I do. Just get the college that is nearby.”
Her mom sternly turned towards the counselor “RCM please.. ECE” “–––– OMG!!!” screamed Prabha and raised her hands dramatically.
“Look girl! I need to get you married to a good boy. Preferably one in a good job. IT is the right way now. IT brides are good in market.”
“––––– decide fast please.” Said the counselor, visibly irritated now. “ECE..” said Prabha’s mom “Linguistics..” shouted Prabha.
“Look! Your marks are good. Why do you want to waste it? You can get into a good college,” said the counselor and turned to the mother “Electronics is not that good. Go with Computers. RCM is a good college for computers.”
“Electronics! I know it will be big.” Said Prabha’s mother.
The counselor sighed and started to fill the online form.
“I will fail all subjects mom! I swear.” Prabha threatened. “No! you will not! “ said her mother, smiling.
“Your marks are a little low.” Said the counselor to Vishva. “You can get PTP college. It is in Trichy.”
At this comment, Vishva’s father chuckled. “Look! I want RCM. Is there any way?” asked Vishva. “Errr RCM is in the second band. Your marks do not make the cut,” said the counselor.
Vishva leaned back rejected. “OK! What college has computers?” “PTP, MRM, Sanjoy’s––––“ the counselor started to speak, when Vishva’s father interrupted. “Look! My son wants RCM. What should I do to get it?”
Vishva smiled to himself. He knew bringing his dad was a good idea. “Sir the only way is ‘Management Quota’.” Said the counselor.
“Fine!” said Vishva’s father. And got up to leave. “Thank you!” Vishva said with happy eyes to the surprised counselor and walked with his father.
“Here you go ma’am! Your daughter’s seat in RCM in ECE.” The counselor gave Prabha’s mom the receipt. “Thanks” she said and got up to leave. Prabha rolled her eyes and she too got up from her chair.
Two days later Vishva’s father had acquired a seat in RCM. “Management Quota” means getting what you wanted. The problem was he got a seat in ECE. The correspondent of the college told him ECE is the best group. And his son always gets the best.
“Your bus stop is Thirumangalam” Prabha’s father was saying, “You will have to catch a PTC bus to the stop and board your college bus from there.” Prabha nodded her head in response. They were sorting the Engineering ECE, first year books. There were a lot. Nothing she can’t handle.
“Dude!” these are so complicated” Vishva’s sister was saying looking at the Engineering Drawing book. Vishva grabbed the book from her and placed it inside the book bag. “I will manage.” He said. She laughed, took her Rajesh crime novel and walked away.
“You have to take all your books in the first day Prabha. That is what is given here in the joining instructions,” said Prabha’s mother. “Sure mom!” replied Prabha as she was switching channels in the TV. “What are you watching?” Prabha’s mom asked. “New channel.. Animax… It is cartoons. But they are a little different. See…” Mom and daughter sat to watch “Samurai X”. It was nice.
“Why can’t you just buy Raymond shirts?” Vishva’s mom was asking as she sorted through shirts. “Because I am not a business executive. I need something formal yet, casual,” replied Vishva. “Try these…”said the shop’s shopping helper. “These are called semi-formals. They are new.” And placed a bunch of casual-looking formal shirts on the table. Vishva looked appreciatively at the clothes. “Nice!” he said.
Prabha came to the stop at 7:00 am. The bus was said to reach the place at 7:30 am. There were few other kids in the bus stop. She was not sure if they were going to the same college. So, she quietly went and sat on the waiting spot. She took her bus fees receipt from her bag and kept it ready.
A Maruti 800, red, stopped near the bus stop and a plump guy came out of the car. He talked something with the driver of the red car and started to walk towards Prabha. He came near her and sat near the waiting spot. The Maruti 800 driver parked the car near a tea shop and got out of the car. “Hi!” said Vishva and Prabha turned to look at him. “Hi!” she said. “I am Vishva. First year. ECE.” Prabha smiled “Prabha! Same…”
Tenth part of the story: Long Story 10