Thursday, July 07, 2005

Arulappa Chettiyaar - Chapter 1

Chettiyaar, as he was known in neighborhood, was a crusty old man. His arrogance knew no bounds. Young children wet their pants on hearing his voice. Even the men who knew of him, would quickly cross to the other side of the road, if they happened to spot him standing outside his house. People who were new in town, initially assumed that this was probably because Chettiyar was a big don or had a lot of political clout. In fact, Chettiyaar was one of the most honest men in that town. May be that was probably why many feared him; for he was not only honest, but forthrightly and bluntly so.

Chettiyaar amma, as his wife was popularly known, was his exact opposite in personality. She was well-liked by everyone for her helpful and giving nature, her humility, her peaceful countenance and most of all, for her guts. She was a brave woman. She would have to be, having been married to Chettiyaar for these many years and not having cowed down. One would assume that such a man would have a mouse of a wife, meek and subdued, not venturing out of her domain - the kitchen. But Chettiyaar amma broke such conceptions. She was a strong person, had no problems facing down Chettiyaar if he objected to her ideas and wishes. In fact, she was the only one he was close to being afraid of. She had the run of the house and also of the neighborhood.

Chettiyaar and his wife lived alone in an old chettinaad style house - red floors, red shingles on the roof, white walls, a nice huge thinnai out front, and an open atrium in the center of their house. Chettiyaar's popular spot was a creaky old lounging chair in this central courtyard. He would sit there, reading his books or the days' paper, with the front and back doors which lined up, providing good ventilation. His wife spent most of her time helping out the neighborhood kids, giving them sweets or snacks, playing games with them or telling them stories filled with Gods, Goddesses and demons. They would sit in the backyard under the neem tree or on the front thinnai surrounding her.

Chettiyaar's daily routine never varied. He would get up early morning, go for a walk to the river, then visit his farms and mills, take a bath and have his brunch. After that, he would sit with his papers and books and mostly ended up snoring within an hour or so. This was the time the children ventured to the house to be entertained by C. amma. At around 4 in the afternoon, he would wake up which resulted in the kids scampering away like frightened birds. He would putter around his garden after a strong cup of coffee. Then he would sit on the thinnai and start his daily chants. Every person who happened to cross his vision was subject to these chants. He would ask them all kinds of personal questions, scolding them whenever he was displeased, and giving them advice on how to do things. He considered himself an expert on all matters and took it upon himself to educate his community.

Most of his arrogance came from the fact that he was a self-made man. When he was 16, he fought with his father over a trivial matter and ran away from his house. He was irascible even then. He joined the British army in Madras and since he knew to read and write, he moved on to a desk job soonafter. Luckily for him, he stuck to that job and moved around the subcontinent along with his senior officer. After independence, he started working for a big company in Madras. When he was 35, his family traced him and got him to come back to an ailing mother and was promptly married off to Malarvizhi. He settled down in his hometown, Thirukeniyur in his ancestral home, minding the family's rice mills and farms.


Speech is Golden said...

A promising beginning. How big is ur story going to be; a novel, a long short-story? looking fwd to reading the rest.

Balaji said...

nicely written. vividly brought the 2 characters before our eyes...

Munimma said...

Thanks. I guess I could call it a novella. Right now, I just have the characters in my mind, and may be a vague story line. Should have part 2 soon. Almost done.

Arvind said...

No chain and all yours :-( ROTFC

mega-serial like build-up 'oda start panni irukeenga... ;)

Munimma said...

yes Arvind. Dedicated to those who sorely miss metti oli ;-P

Uppili said...

Chetti Oli to match/replace Metti Oli...Good start. Already a title that rhymes.

I was looking for the location of this Chetti family..may be it will be revealed later. Will it be a Chetti family from a village in Chetti Raj?

Am sure you have already done some research on Chettiars to help with your novel. It is an interesting community that speaks various languages and not to mention philanthropic activities. In case you have not started your research here is a start ""

The more you know, more power to your story. If you sell it for movie rights - remember my cut.