“ Pati… are you done?” Alamelu yelled from the room next door.
“Yes Kanna… I am ready “, responded Meenakshi , firmly closing the suitcase. She had managed to squeeze in the packet of mint powder that her sister in law had given her for gas in the tummy.
She mentally went over the contents of the box…. Rasam powder, gooseberry pickle….
Tamarind chutney…. Tapioca pickle….jack fruit jam…chutney powder….instant idli /dosa packets,……ragi papads….
“Pati… please come here and help me with my packing…” Alamelu’s impatient voice forced her to go to help her grand daughter.
Alamelu had her clothes strewn around and she sat amidst piles of blouses she had got stitched by Sundari maami next door, readymade petticoats, Underclothes and stacks of Kanjeevaram sarees.”Kanna…. I have only seen your pictures in some terrible looking pants…. Are you really going to wear all these?”
“ Yes Pati… I am getting married remember? See this blue one? I will wear for my ‘jaanavasu’ this orange for the wedding and this brocade for the reception. I hope you are carrying your nine yards sarees pati……”
Meenakshi nodded but silently smiled at her own plans. For over sixty odd years, she had wrapped herself like a mummy in nine yards of ordeal. She was just fifteen when her son Kittu was born. After that, her mother –in- law (a cantankerous woman) had insisted on her wearing nine-yard saree. Her view was that a mother should be responsible and wearing a nine yards saree was a manifestation of that. Imagine carrying those cumbersome streams of silk to San Francisco! No way. She had other plans but Alamelu need not know that now. The girl was all excited about her marriage. Poor kid…little did she know that excitement of a wedding was far removed from realities of marriage! Let the girl have her dreams, sighed Meenakshi
As she helped Alamelu put away her trousseau, Meenakshi remembered her ownwardrobe. But that sufficed as the only outings were to the temple close by and the small grocery shop down the street. And now, here she was- all set to cross the seven seas (a deadly sin according to her 80 year old mother – in- law). The old woman was jealous of her going to America where she said white men and women walked naked on the street, Meenakshi wondered where she had got the idea.
“Don’t listen to her pati”--- Alamelu had consoled her….’ She must have seen Baywatch on the TV”! It was so sweet of Alamelu to insist on her going with her to America for her wedding. She had even bought her ticket! All because she adored her “pati” who had brought her up since she was barely three when her parents died in an accident. Meenakshi wiped a tear stealthily because Alamelu would chide her like Rajesh Khanna and say “Pati….I hate tears”!
Luckily, her sister-in-law, a dour faced shrew, agreed to take care of mother-in-law (all because the crotchety old woman had three gold chains and a diamond nose ring which she could swindle from). Ever since her husband died when she was expecting her first born, Kittu (Alamelu’s father),Meenakshi had lead a Spartan life.Here was her great chance to change her destiny.Nine yards be hanged! She did not intend taking any of her sarees. She had other plans.
The bumpy ride to the station, the train journey to Chennai and the long drive to the airport left Meenakshi little time to think of her future. Alamelu, God bless her, was an efficient young lady who handled all the formalities and at last, they were on their flight…away from the small town Srirangam to San Francisco.
* * *
“Pati…here we are. This is my apartment. See how clean I have kept it. Aren’t you proud of me?”
Alamelu was really a sweet child. Her love and concern overwhelmed Meenakshi as she took a quick look around the small but tastefully furnished apartment. What a change from the low roofed, dingy house she had lived in for over six decades! Girls these days have a better deal she muttered to herself and walked towards the small mantap with Lord Krishna’s idol that she had given Alamelu, when she went to study in America four years ago, warning her to stay away from the real life Krishnas!
“ Pati, let us open this MTR ready to eat rasam rice-I am famished”…said Alamelu, reaching out for the packet from the suitcase of goodies
“ No…no..Alamelu”…protested Meenakshi,”why don’t you order a pizza?’
“ Pppppati…..pppppizza?” stammered Alamelu, shocked-”what do you mean?surely you won’t eat that!”
“ Ofcourse I will child.. I am sick of rasam and rice. I want to eat all that nice stuff that I have seen on TV…I am loving it”
Totally zapped by this new avatar of her pati, Alamelu ordered a deep pan veg pizza and went to the bathroom to shower. Coming out in her bathrobe, she asked Meenakshi to wrap her saree around and wear it in the room, as the bathroom was tiny.
“ No saree child, give me a robe like yours. That is more convenient”
With her mouth open in amazement, Alamelu gave her a bathrobe from her closet. After an hour, Meenakshi stepped out of the bathroom, her wet hair framing her face and the gown hugging her figure. Alamelu had never seen Pati look so young and lissome!
Meenakshi tucked into the luscious Pizza while Alamelu watched in awe.
“ Pati…you are cool!, she squealed,”Sudhir is going to love you.You know what, I am going to pay for the SUN TV channel for you as a treat!”
“No…no…child”, said Meenakshi vehemently. ” I don’t want to see all those women sobbing and scheming and the men slapping and shouting. I want to watch Oprah Winfrey”
“ But Pati you will not understand the progarmme, it is in English”
“ Ofcourse I will! I used to get up at 5 and watch her shows every morning while your great grandma was asleep. I bought a learn English in 30 days book and know to speak and write! Wanted to surprise you because I knew you would bring me to this country sometime!”
“ Pati..you are a dark horse! Who would have thought that you would be up to all this”, gurgled Alamelu with glee. She was going to have fun with this new grandma.
“Yes child. I have come fully prepared to be a new woman, leaving behind the old Meenakshi in Srirangam.”
“ Pati.. Let us go shopping and get you a pair of trousers and shirt. What the Dickens…if you want to change, let us go full hog! I will get you a new hair cut and color and give you a great make over as Oprah says”, chirped Alamelu.
“ I am loving it” ,Meenakshi said mischievously
Rrrrrring…Alamelu went to answer the doorbell.
“ Hi Mel…lovely to see you back”, gushed Kathy giving Alamelu a bear hug ” and this is your grandma? Wow, she is awesome.”
“ Yes” stuttered Alamelu, still recovering from the shock of her Pati’s makeover plans.
“ Hello grandma… I am Kathy, Alamelu has told me so much about you but I had a different image of you! Can I also call you Pati?”
“Hello Kathy”, Said Maeenakshi in her carefully cultivated American accent,”Call me Patty”.
The evolution was complete!!