Allegedly | Society

To Kumbakonam we go

It was a beautiful Delhi morning like any other. The sun was rising, birds were singing, uncles were laughing in the park like Ravana. I was sitting on the terrace with my coffee and newspapers, and, like every morning, getting rapidly depressed by the headlines.

I was about to jump off the balcony when my phone rang. I thought if I jumped, I would have to die without ever knowing who the loser was calling me at six in the morning. So, I decided to take the call first.

“Hello! Myself Mr. Thirugnanasambandham,” said a voice I’ve never heard before. “My father used to be deputy assistant branch manager of the Kumbakonam branch of Bank of India.”

“Oh no, no, no. You have the wrong number,” I said. “I am not Mathrubootham.”

“Sir, I know who you are,” he said. “Are you not the son of Kattabomman’s grandfather?”

“Am I the son of…?” It took me a minute to work that out. “Oh yes, I am the same.”

“In that case, talk to him,” he said. “Tell him not to travel. It’s a needless risk.”

“What?”

“I’m getting married next week.”

“Congratulations,” I said. “But what’s it got to do with my father?”

“You see, my father met your father 30 years ago at the Mandaveli branch of Bank of India when he was posted there. So, out of courtesy, he sent your father an e-invitation for my wedding. But to our shock, your father has replied saying he’s coming from Chennai to Kumbakonam to attend, and bringing missus also.”

“I see.”

“Not a good idea,” he said. “Given that they are elderly people.”

“Mr. Thirugnanasambandham,” I sighed. “Thank you for this call. But why in Guruvayoorappa’s name did you have to send them an invitation? And why are you getting married in the middle of a raging pandemic?”

“It wasn’t my idea,” he began, and gave a long-winded explanation that went on for 15 minutes. The gist of it was that it was now up to me to coax two headstrong senior citizens into doing the right thing — that is, stay put at home.

Calling father

I got father and mother on a conference call. As I had feared, they had already made travel arrangements and even booked a hotel in Kumbakonam.

“Have you guys caught madness?” I screamed. “Both of you are in your 70s. You belong to the age bracket that’s widely acknowledged as the favourite cuisine of the Coronavirus. Taken together, the two of you have enough co-morbidities to keep every specialist fully occupied in a multispecialty hospital!”

My father is generally open to reason, but on this issue, he turned out to be the moderate face of unreason, while my mother was the radical fringe.

“We will be careful-da,” Appa said. “Don’t make mountain out of molagapodi.”

“But why is it so important to attend this wedding?” I wailed. “You hardly even know the man. I’ve never heard you mention this Kumbakonam fellow before!”

“You’ve forgotten?” Appa was indignant. “He is the one who helped you redeem your PPF after you lost the pass book.”

“Wonderful. Just because a bank clerk helped you with a transaction in the previous century, you want to put yourself, your wife, your children and grandchildren at risk?”

I’ll go when I am ready

Ennada risku?” my mother burst out. “Do you know the risk of mental illness when someone’s stuck at home for seven bloody months? You think it’s better I die of depression than of corona?”

“Don’t do melodrama bringing up irrelevant topics like death.” I said. “I’m only talking of COVID precautions.”

Aaamaan, periya precaution,” Amma said. “I’ll go when I have to go. Nobody can stop it when the time comes.”

Kaadu is saying come, come, residence is saying go, go,” Appa said.

“This dialogue is way past its expiry date,” I said. “Firstly, there are no more forests left in India. Secondly, it’s not kaadu but corona that’s saying come-come, come to Kumbakonam.”

Then father played his trump card. “Even if I agree not to go, your mother won’t budge.”

“No point in going anymore,” I said. “I’ve already told the groom you guys are not coming. Your names have been struck off the guest list.”

“Who cares?” Amma said. “I want to see Kumbakonam. I’ve never been there.”

I had anticipated this. Mother was always the more adamant one, and also the bigger medical risk. Last December, her sugar level had breached Kapil Dev’s Test wickets tally. After the doctor gave her a dressing down, she became slightly more disciplined with her medication. But her fasting sugar, which should ideally have been Venkatesh Prasad, still hovers between the Test tallies of Ishant Sharma and Chaminda Vaas.

“Amma, this is Kumbakonam we are talking about, not Kathmandu,” I said. “There is nothing to see there.”

“My decision is final,” she said. “We are going. If nothing, we’ll visit the Kumbakonam branch of Bank of India and come back.”

G. Sampath is Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu.

sampath.g@thehindu.co.in

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Printable version | Oct 31, 2020 6:06:48 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/to-kumbakonam-we-go/article32868709.ece

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