Friday, July 08, 2005

Arulappa Chettiyaar - Chapter 2

Read Chapter 1 first.

Malarvizhi ammaiyar had a younger brother, Rajendran, who had lost all his farming lands due to mismanagement and unhealthy living. He would sometimes visit them in the hopes of free abode. As soon as Chettiyaar caught sight of him coming towards their house, he would start rumbling. The sight of Rajendran, in his dirty veshti, faded shirt, plastic slippers and the yellow cloth bag under his arm, not surprisingly, incensed the Chettiyaar to great heights. He had a voice like a cannon, even a whisper carried over several feet. So there was no way Rajendran could not hear the tirade. Chettiyaar amma was used to his rambling ways and ignored it completely. Rajendran would suffer through it for a few days and leave in a huff, only to return after a few months and the cycle would repeat. Everytime he left, the old couple would get into a fight, with ammaiyaar getting angry over his behavior and Chettiyaar being glad about the good riddance. And this was not just with his wife's relations. He did that even with his own people. His second cousin, once visited him in the hopes of sponging off a loan for his daughter's marriage. He had barely opened his mouth to ask when he was routed out by Chettiyaar's endless tirade against him. It was another matter that Chettiyaar did send over some money for the wedding. It was his nature. Very few people knew his soft core. He definitely hid it well under his crabby exterior.

He had this habit of putting down people without even making an effort to do so. If someone informed him that they had built a house, he would find faults with its location or construction or something else. His attitude extended to one and all without bias. Once, Saroja, who was ammaiyaar's friend, came looking for her. Chettiyaar was extremely upset at having his siesta disturbed. Fully knowing who he was talking to, told her that ammaiyaar had gone in search of that crazy old crone Saroja, That poor lady left hurriedly, with tears in her eyes.

He didn't leave the local vendors alone. He would go to the market to buy groceries, pick what he needed, give the vendor half of the cost and walk away, ignoring all the protests from the shopkeeper. Mobile vendors, selling bananas or vegetables avoided his house like the plague, if they caught sight of him on the verandah. If they were caught unawares, they invariably lost to the old man, who never bargained. He would take what he wanted and give them what he felt like.

What was surprising, was the people around him tolerated all this. They would always say, that is his nature, what can we do. There was one person, other than his wife, whom he never yelled at. That was his sister's daughter, Meenakshi, who lived on the next street. She had special privileges with her uncle and lots of times, people used her as a go-between, when they wanted things done by him. She had helped the mill workers who needed an urgent loan, the temple's annual festival, public facilities and so on. She visited him every evening on her way from the temple. She would give him the temple prasadam and sometimes sit next to him and chat until her mother came looking for her around dinner time.

Meenakshi was a naive young small town girl. When she was 17, she fell in love. Unfortunately, she was gullible enough to fall for a good-for-nothing fellow from the neighboring town. When her parents heard of it, there was a big showdown. They literally put her under house arrest. Chettiyaar came to know of all this when he didn'tsee Meenakshi for 2 days in a row. He went to her house, and berated her parents for acting so harsh. To everyone's disbelief, he was all for the two getting married and he eventually got his way. Fortunately for Meenakshi, the young man she married, was genuinely in love with her and took it upon himself to lead a more productive life. The whole town talked about this surprising act by Chettiyaar for years afterwards.


Arvind said...

:-) interesting...innum, chettiar'oda kids pathi varave ille...anga dhaane irukku twist ;) ?

Balaji said...

hmmm... getting interesting :)

Uppili said...

My apologies... I re-read your Chapter 1 and found Tirukeniyur... Now, I need to see where that village is....:)

Munimma said...

Upps, let me know when you find out ;-)