Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Faces we see ...

"Is he the same person I know ..." was the thought that lingered in Kannan's mind.

"How are you... hope everything is fine with you...? I met your Amma few months back and I was asking about you to her" Murugan Pillai's questions with a smile was the reason for Kannan to get lost in thoughts.

Kannan had met Murugan Pillai when he had to get his college forms attested by a Gazetted Officer. Priya, Kannan's classmate took him to her father for the same. A typical government servant whose life starts in the morning with work and ends with family and nothing else. He was dark skinned well oiled hair set to a style reminding of those who saw it villains of Tamil movies of the 70's, wore brown shell framed glasses, old fashioned full sleeve shirt and trousers and his smile was a perfect dental ad one. Stern orthodox and a true believer in God, Murugan Pillai was a strict yet loving father. That image remained with Kannan till he fell in love with Priya and the college affair ended up in an adventurous marriage. 

The smile and the question "Kannan ... so how are you, how are studies progressing" was only during the college days. After marriage Murugan Pillai's behavior toward Kannan was totally different. He was a doting father to his daughter and a proud father in law. The discussions they had were varied, from faith to politics, computers to office matters. 

Kannan was reminded of yet another face of Murugan Pillai during the days when Kannan and Priya were staying with Appa and Amma after marriage. Kannan was back from work for the day. 

"And she eloped with the guy next door ...Velu knows this" That were the words from Murugan Pillai, who was at home when he walked in. He was talking to Appa in a very serious tone. Kannan smiled at them and walked in from a hectic day at work. 

"And what happened to Kaveri" Appa asked.
"Oh you did not know ... she is suffering from Cancer... very critical" said Murugan Pillai.

Kannan saw a different Murugan Pillai, who was always hyper with work and home accounts and Appa was listening to him eagerly. The others were inside the house discussing the new variety of Sarees in the market and the ornament patterns that would have looked nice. Typical woman folk talk, nothing chauvinistic about it, but a fact of life.

Seeing everyone busy Kannan went to his room, changed and got into comfortable home clothes. He could still hear about the fight of Kaveri and her husband, the problems in her workplace, her medical conditions and so on, the discussion between Appa and Murugan Pillai

"Do I know her" Kannan thought for a moment.

He went to the kitchen and got himself a cup of coffee. Sipping the hot cup of filter coffee, Kannan was trying to place the relation or the common factors which Appa and Murugan Pillai were talking about. As he was walking out of the kitchen, he saw Amma, Priya and Saraswathy, Priya's mother, his M-I-L as they call it in the new lingo for Mother-in-law chatting away to glory. 

"Do you need anything" Asked Amma

That question could have been avoided Kannan thought in his mind as he saw his MIL looking at Priya and Priya looking at Amma for a brief moment. No wife  likes her MIL to take care of her son, as it is a constant struggle to prove who is better - "Wife" or "Mother". Probably the fight between women were mainly based on that one point. 

"No ...no ... I am fine... carry on" said Kannan and walked to the front room where Appa and Murugan Pillai were still discussing in length.

"And you know the guy who drives that pink Maruti" asked Murugan Pillai
"Ya" said Appa.

Kannan was still not able to figure out what was going on and did not want to disturb the serious discussion between them. 

"Pink Car!!! totally impossible... who would be driving a pink car of all the colors in the whole wide world" thought Kannan for a second and came back to the discussion. He saw Appa really paying attention. The matter would be really grave, otherwise Appa would not be listening so carefully, Kannan reached a conclusion in his mind and gave his attention too to the discussion. Murugan Pillai was seriously on it...

"He met with an accident ... he is in the same hospital where Kaveri went for her check up yesterday. She did not see him, but he saw him...."

Appa's eyes were set in a gaze at Murugan Pillai who continued.

"She will need a surgery, but cannot afford it"

Is it some charity issue, Kannan thought, but kept it to himself as he did not want to disturb.

"Krishna will not be able to help???" Appa asked.

Now who on the Supreme Lord is this Krishna, Kannan was bewildered, and getting more irritated on not able to place these people in the mental list of family and friends. He sipped the coffee which was cold, when compared to the heat of the discussion.

"Krishna won't... he gave the money he had to his lover last week" replied Murugan Pillai.

It was getting too much for Kannan to digest and he interrupted.

"Who is Kaveri, who is Krishna and what is the discussion all about ..." he broke his long kept silence.

All he could hear was laughter. Amma, Priya, MIL and FIL were laughing and Appa was laughing so much that Kannan saw Appa's eyes closed in the laugh.

"What happened... what’s so funny about someone having Cancer, not having money for treatment and accidents" Kannan asked to clear the doubts that had started eating him.

"They are to catch up with what both of missed the previous week on their favorite serial on Sun TV, the 9 O clock serial Chiththi" said Priya trying to control her laughter. Kannan also joined them in a rare happy moment.

Sharadha, Shakthi, Ramachandran, Vaidhegi, Prabhavathi, Krishna, Velumani, Kaveri, Vishwanathan, Yogi, Viji, Anand, Prasad, Marudhappan, Charulatha, Daniel were more names which Kannan got used to in the next two years as he heard Appa and Murugan Pillai discuss whenever they met. 467 episodes running over nearly two years, got many glued to it and Kannan thought only ladies get addicted to serials.... and thanked God for not being one of them.

It all ended when Priya left Kannan, owing to the looming difference of opinion between them. Four years of friendship in college, Four years of courtship in marriage came to an end. It took Four more years before the matter was to end with a petition for mutual consent for divorce in court. Kannan was on leave from his work in Dubai and came to the court for the final settlement, when the amount to be paid would be decided and all the emotions and memories would be legally erased from the minds of the couple. They would not be partners in crime called life. 

The office of the advocate who was handling the case was really busy on the Monday morning. Kannan and Appa reached the office at 9 as instructed. The junior  advocate was giving a whole lot of instructions, which Kannan hardly heard. All the hustle and bustle around him distracted his thoughts about what would happen next. The sounds of the typewriters being banged incessantly with words of dispute and settlement, the Police walking to the court with the convicts in handcuffs, the vendors selling stamp papers which would decide the fate of the people whose names would go on it, the vehicles carrying the judges to the court, who would decide what needs to happen in people’s lives hampered by legal tussle, all were not strong enough to grab Kannan's attention. 

A few minutes later Kannan saw a familiar face on a blue Vespa Scooter with its indicator showing that it was coming towards him. It was Murugan Pillai with Priya as the pillion rider behind him. The faces had no smiles. Not the smile which he had when he first signed the college forms, not the proud smiles when he introduced Kannan as his son in law to his colleagues, not the smile when he sat with Appa to discuss the missed episodes of serials, it was a frown which told Kannan only one thing

"You are the reason for what my daughter is going through now ..."

No smiles were exchanged, but the expenses laid out and discussions on how much would be the settlement money that had to be paid to take the divorce forward. As said in the famous folklore Kannan said to himself "This too shall pass..."

It was almost 10 years after the divorce that Kannan unexpectedly met Murugan Pillai in front of the temple. His hair had gone silver, but still oiled and groomed, the smile was back in his face, age had given him the wrinkles but they joined in unison to smile at Kannan as if he were a long lost friend. With a smile Kannan replied

"I am fine... thank you ... how are you uncle..."

For a brief moment in time, Kannan saw the different faces in a man’s face - a respected government servant, a doting father, a proud father in law, a happy relative, a distressed father and what is left of him after a decade. People react not to people but the situations they are in, another life's lesson Kannan learnt, that moment.

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