Flanked by rows of shops, where you could buy anything from pin to plane and your dead mother to pretty brides, the narrow, garbage-filled lane called the Renganathan street, is always crowded. The street is a famous icon of T. Nagar and people from all parts of Chennai and Tamil Nadu flock to the lane for shopping, especially during festive seasons.
The lane is so narrow that even two people could hardly walk together. You need to be an acrobat as you will have to quite often jump over the uncleared heaps of garbage that block your walk on the lane. Come monsoon, the lane becomes a chaotic water grave and you need a Norah’s arc to safely sail through the water-logging lane.
One hot sunny day, I was walking behind a group of three women [an oldie, a haughty middle-aged and a short and lanky teenager]. Theirs were a sort of Moon walking; and I didn’t get even a leeway to go past them. But then, I relished trotting behind them because I was enjoying their animated pep talks, insouciant behavior and their hurling barbs at one another.
The threesome looked rustic and semi-literate; spoke in dialect. They were endlessly chatting about all and sundry things under the sky: from Adolf Hitler to Abdul Kalam; from terrorism to dentures; from micro-ovens to cow dung cakes; and from hubbies to puppies. There wasn’t a single matter they didn’t discuss.
Their talks were quite absorbing since they mostly tried to demolish the views of others on a subject. Each one of them attempted to score some brownie points over the others, showing their know-of-things were better than their accompanying friends. They continued to walk their way and I followed their trail enjoying their heckling at each other, their childish arguments and their bizarre attitude of ‘I’m OK, but you aren’t’.
“I like Abdul Kalam, but he’d look smarter if he gets his hair combed backward,” said the lanky teenager and giggled. “Shut up” protested the oldie. “How dare you talk like that about a Noble soul? Cut the crap, you, the midget” The group became silent and it seemed they were resenting the youngster’s remarks about Kalam.
But, the silence was only short-lived. Putting up a brave face, the middle-aged started talking rather proudly: “If I were the PM, I would …” her voice trailed off as she got interrupted by the oldie, who said: “I know what you would do? A woman from the ‘ankanwadi’, [anganwadi is a child / mother care center] you would cook for the whole of India. Won’t you?”
However, the middle-aged did not budge. She shouted back. Jerking herself upright, she continued: ‘If I were the PM, I would arrest all the terrorists and offer each one of them a glass of milk.” ‘Milk!’ shouted the group in chorus and looked quizzically at the middle-aged. “Don’t get confused, buddies. By milk, I don’t mean cow milk, but a glass of kalli pal [poisonous sap of the caltropis plant] and get the terrorists killed instantly. “Bravo”, the threesome screamed, clapping hands.
Now, the teenager got the podium [?]. Letting out an air of pride, she told her friends that she couldn’t wear all her jewels as her hubby was locking them up all in a bank locker. Short-lived were the teenager’s balloon of pride. The middle-aged busted it saying, “Kala, take out your jewels from the locker at least once in a month and get them polished. They are brass-coated, you know. If not polished, they may expose your family honor.” The group laughed again … laughed until some pedestrians looked askance at them.
Got worked up by the uncharitable remarks of the middle-aged, the teenager started badmouthing her with choicest expletives, calling her names and trying to attack her physically. It was with an effort, and after much talking down to the teenager, the oldie brought peace to the group.
Now, I found a walking space between the group, but I didn’t choose to walk away from them. Mesmerized by the group’s displaying of all nine kunas [traits] of human beings both in their words and deportment, I decided to walk behind them for some more time, watching them more curious and perking up my ears to hear about another bombshell they would, at any time, throw at one another.
It was time for parting for the women. All along, they did not shop anything; they’d bought only a pack of handkerchiefs for the teenager. “Take care, friends,” the oldie said as she was about to leave the group. “I’m told that a broken, out of control Russian satellite may hit the earth any time. Be on your guard. Nalaikku parkalam” [see you tomorrow]
As soon as the oldie left the group, the middle-aged laughed aloud and said to the teenager: “Poor woman! The oldie didn’t know what happened to the satellite? It had since fallen into the backyard of my house. My hubby had dismantled it, and used its scraps to put up fences around our garden.”
I stood aghast for a while and then started off laughing my heart out.
Next time, when you walk down the Renganathan street you’d better widen your eyes and perk up ears so that you may witness or hear people, walking ahead of you, may indulge in a kind of talking through their hats, entertain you and make you forget the ordeal of walking through a chaotic, messy and garbage littered lane.
Image Courtesy: Google