By Sumeetha Manikandan,
Special to The Post
Nithya, Nithya! Someone is here for you,” shouted my mother-in-law.
Ashok’s head shot up. In my three years in the US, no one had ever come here for me. He knew that Diana was my only friend here and even she had never come home.
“Who is it?” he asked me curiously.
“It is my sister Divya’s friend. I am sending a package to her through him.”
I could hear my mother-in-law interrogating him. God. Why hadn’t I asked him to come to the restaurant?
There were two people sitting on the couch. One was fair complexioned, mustached and tall and the other was brown, clean-shaven with intense eyes. He seemed to be listening to my mother-in-law patiently. He also looked vaguely familiar.
My mother-in-law was in full flow. “Where do your parents live? Where does your father work?”
She was addressing all her questions to the dark complexioned man. I caught the other man suppressing a smile, enjoying his friend’s interrogation.
“I am originally from Thanjavur. My parents are dead. I live in Mumbai.”
I entered the room and stood near the couch. He looked towards me and that is when I found out why he looked familiar.
He looked at me steadily and frowned as if he was trying to recognize me.
“This is Nithya, my daughter-in-law,” introduced my mother-in-law.
“Hi. I am Srinivas. You are…”
I knew him as Vasu. And for a moment, I was back in those sun-kissed days that I spent with him in my uncle’s house. For some reason I remembered the last glimpse that I had of him, just before he left. I was in my uncle’s terrace hanging out the just washed clothes. And I could hear my uncle cursing and shouting and the sound of a suitcase being thrown out. I looked down with trepidation and saw Vasu. He was tall, skinny and dark. He didn’t shout or scream at my uncle. He just picked up the suitcase and walked out.
“Vasu, I am Amruthi mami’s daughter, Nithya,” I told him, reminding him of the person who had become his surrogate mother during those four years we spent together growing up.
He looked surprised, shocked and also happy to meet me.
“Nithya! God, I never thought that I would meet you here…”
My mother-in-law, who had been following our conversation like a tennis match, interjected.
“So how do you know Nithya?” she asked Vasu.
Vasu turned towards her and said, “We are distantly related.”
How apt. But I wondered what she would say when she knew how distantly.
“Nithya, go get some coffee for the guests. I got coffee powder all the way from Chennai. You must have some,” she insisted firmly.
I turned and went to the kitchen. This was going from bad to worse. Fancy meeting Vasu like this.
“So you are from Mumbai? Do you live in Matunga? Do you know Janaki mami there? Everybody in Mumbai knows her.” My mother-in-law launched a rapid-fire question round, to which he mumbled some answers.
I took the coffee and went into the hall. Vasu sipped his coffee silently and seemed to be in deep thought, while my mother-in-law was telling his friend about her trip to Dwarka.
“So are you going to Chennai?” I asked Vasu.
“Not immediately. But Raghavan is leaving tomorrow. So I thought I would send it with him. Don’t worry, it will reach your mother,” he said, looking into my eyes.
“So, how are you related to her?” asked my tenacious mother-in-law.
I was about to launch into a story, when Vasu said calmly, “I am Narasimhachari’s brother’s son.”
Oh God, no. Why couldn’t he keep his mouth shut? Why did he have to blabber?
“Oh, Narasimhachari’s nephew. I have heard about you.”
There were a hundred undertones in that one comment. I looked at him. He seemed calm and poised. The Vasu that I remembered would have given it right back to her but he just looked faintly amused. He must have changed over the years.
I handed the package over to him. He was searching for something in his wallet. He took out his card and gave it to me.
“Call me when you are free,” he said. I guess he meant, “Call me when your dear mother-in-law is not around.”
About the Author:
Sumeetha Manikandan is a freelance content writer. She wrote her debut novel, ‘The Perfect Groom” as a script for a TV serial. Set against the backdrop of Mylapore’s Brahmin community, she sketches many larger-than-life characters in this novella that will capture your imagination.
This story is a excerpt from Indireads. This fictional series offers a wide wide range of romance novellas written by both men and women, for South Asian readers around the world. Read more at www.indireads.com