Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A day in my life(Muthuswamy Namboodiri)


I woke up with a start. I was sweating all over. The same old recurring dream of a yakshi(spirit) chasing me. It was around 4:30 in the morning. I glanced at my watch to confirm the same. It showed 10. Damn. I banged it twice and wound it again. This antique piece had been gifted to me by my late grandfather. The dial had cracks which made it impossible to check the hands of the watch. But I had mastered the art of using this antique. Poor thing was desperately shouting for retirement but I had turned a deaf ear towards it. How could I afford a new watch when I could hardly make ends meet here in Delhi? I would send most of my earnings back home, which left me with pretty little to indulge myself. I headed towards my old tape recorder set I had brought along with me from Krishnapuram. This was my most prized possession. It had been with me right from my school days. Days when we were well off and could afford such luxuries. We were one of the first families in Krishnapuram to own one. I would proudly turn it on and play it in maximum volume. It still manages to give a decent output. I inserted the tape and turned it on. Music filled my one room setting in Mayur Sarai. My mind relaxed in the soothing music.

"Kausalyasuprajarama purva sandhya pravartate, uttistha narasardula kartavyam daivam ahnikam…Nava Suprabhatam…….."
(O! Rama! Kausalya's auspicious child! Twilight is approaching in the East. O! best of men (Purushottama)! Wake up, the divine daily rituals have to be performed.)

"Muthuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!! Muthu you fool…..are you bloody deaf to play this on full volume at such unearthly hour. Everyday I have to go through this ordeal. Enough is enough. Ufffff….What the hell Muthu anna?? God Swamy…you are impossible….Grrrrrrrr", growled Ibrahim. Ibrahim shares the room with me. Shouting at me in the morning has become a habit for him. Poor Ibrahim. Three sisters to marry off back home in Mangalapurram keeps him on toes. Toils day in and day out at the motor workshop here. Khan Saab was gracious enough to train him and accommodate him in his workshop. Good man. It was because of him that I could land a job at the Udupi restaurant opposite the School of Management in Qutab Institutional Area. I had given up all hopes of getting a job and was preparing myself to leave Delhi when Ibrahim asked me to meet Khan Saab. And here I am today. Cleaning tables and picking up leftovers at the Udupi Restaurant.

"Muthuuuuuuuuuuuu….Come out….Will you take an eternity to bath? It's already 5:30 you fool. I have to deliver the car at Tripathi's house at 7 am. Will you come out or should I barge in?", Ibrahim shouted. You had to be very punctual with all the stuff which requires water here at Mayur Sarai. The municipality water comes only from 4:30 to 6:30 in the morning and then in the evening. Evening timings don't matter to us because at that time we are slogging it out at our respective workplaces. The music was still playing. Though Ibrahim would shout and curse me for playing Suprabhatam every day, he never ever switched it off. He knew that this was one thing that transported me back to my home at Krishnapuram and respected it. Ibrahim was good at heart. After my bath, I would head straight to the Shiv temple nearby on an empty stomach and sit there for an hour chanting hymns and offering prayers. I followed this like a ritual everyday. This was one thing that had been ingrained in me at a young age. I would apologize to god for lying to my parents and keeping them in dark about my occupation here. I would again plead almighty not to send me or my family to hell for deviating from a Brahmins path and picking up leftovers and cleaning tables at a restaurant. I would confide in God all my fears and feel light at heart. I would then head back home. Selecting a shirt to work was not a tough job for me because I was never spoilt for choices. I had only two pairs which made the decision easier. I would continue putting one till the other one would dry up. Three shirts was a luxury to me. Ash smeared on my forehead, I would head to the Udupi restaurant. The place which is the reason my family sees a new sunrise everyday. The place which is synonymous to a temple for me.

Ramakrishna Iyer, the owner of the hotel, or Iyer Saar as I prefer calling him keeps telling me that I bring in an authentic south Indian feel to his setup. My day starts off with cleaning all tables and dusting the seats. I then dust the restaurant and clean the kitchen. I bathe once again at the restaurant after this and then proceed to make the traditional rangoli with rice powder outside our restaurant. By 8 am students start trickling in. You start off cleaning tables and then graduate to taking orders within 2-3 years. That's when there is scope of some extra earnings as you land up some tips. And you land up plum tips from guys trying to impress gals on their dates. The School of management students do like hanging out here in between lectures. I have learnt distinguishing guys keen on impressing the opposite sex from the other lot. I hope this will help me when I do get promoted to taking orders. Iyer Saar is a good man. He has never slapped or hit me. He only goes to the extent of scolding me in front of customers if I get late in cleaning the tables. Earlier the abuses used to hurt, but it is fine because the customer perceives that he is treated important here. Good for the business. I used to leave my plates for the maids to attend to back in my Illam. I used to treat them very bad. Maybe God wanted me to learn. Maybe God wanted me to be considerate.

The first day I cleaned the tables, I could feel a tear trickling down my cheeks. This was my karma. But I am proud that I work. I don't laze around and am take care of my family. Any work, done with dedication is like offering your prayers to God. I don't care if my ancestors sitting up in heaven despise me for falling down to this state. I don't care if I will ever be considered an outcaste. I don't care if shuddhi is more important to them than seeing your family starve before your very own eyes. I am also doing Shanti(prayers/rituals) work that my ancestors used to do. The setting is different. The way of offering prayers is different. My ancestors used to offer prayers with flowers and milk to Gods. I do so with my work. Yes…I am a Brahmin. I will always be a Brahmin. And God will accept me with both hands when I will knock heavens doors someday. Wont he??

31 comments:

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Usha Pisharody said...

The character fleshes out really well! As I have mentioned before, your eye for detail and ambiance is very good!
Even for someone who cannot quite connect with the region and its accompaniment customs, your description would still appeal, for its utter simplicity!
Great going!

And finally : you got that definition of Brahmin right.. it isn't just a caste label, it's what comes from inside too! [I think "Brahma Jnanam" would kind of encapsulate that.. and that can come from one's Karma too!]
Nice subtle humour too! The contemporary contrasts with the customs:)

Priyanka said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tara said...

Your writing is so endearing...just for its simplicity and the honesty with which it is written. Very well written. Your characterization is really good, the trials and problems of the character and the sort of justification he gives for himself...very realistic!

"Any work, done with dedication is like offering your prayers to God....The way of offering prayers is different. "

Very well said! :) Looking forward to more days in the life of Muthuswamy Namboodiri!!

Sandeep Balan said...

@ousizch

will visit you site soon...cheers!

Sandeep Balan said...

If you say that the character fleshes out really well..then i think i have achieved what i set out for...i had concentrated more on customs in the prelude to this post and more on muthu in this one...and great to know that you liked the simplicity of the whole affair...and a pisharody stamping my definition of Brahmin is the icing on the cake..he he..cheers! your comments mean a lot...hope i keep meeting your expectations...contemporary contrasts with the customs..he he..well put...keep coming back...and keep posting your awesome stuff...

Sandeep Balan said...

oops...usha..the above comment was for you dear...he he...

Sandeep Balan said...

@priyanka

first of all a big big thanks for giving a new look n feel to my blog with the whole love n longing angle you brought in...it was like a breath of fresh air for a blog which was becoming a humour overdose n senti coated stories...i would want you to keep providing that punch you bring in with your heartfelt posts in future as well...as and when you sit down to scribble...would be more than happy to host you here...

and thanx a ton for commenting on muthu...i am glad that you liked the detailing...missed my stories..he he...will flood you with them from now...done...i dont have to say to come back...coz i know you have been pursuin my passion like a habit...am sorry to have made you an addict...he he...

Sandeep Balan said...

@tara

wow...that was one of the best comments i have received...if a reader can feel the simplicity n honesty with which the post has been written and feel good, a writers purpose is achieved...i am glad to know that you found my writing endearing...cant express how happy i am to learn that tara...it means the world to me...and the fact that you found my fiction realistic really gives me dollops of confidence to go on and on...i constantly work to achieve tht realistic looking stories when i attempt fiction...and comments like yours help me guage my efforts...would be more than happy to give you more days of Muthu's life though this was meant to be just a single day...he he...cheers tara..thanx for commenting...keep coming back...

Trinaa said...

dude! u write really well! enjoyed this story... :))

Sandeep Balan said...

@trinaa

ohhh...nice to see you here! and wow...that comment means a lot! gr8to know that you enjoyed my scribble...plus no one has called me a dude for a decade now..you brought tears in my eyes...he he..cheers!

Sandeep Balan said...

@trinaa

sniff...sniff...still cant get over the fact tht you called me a dude..sniff sniff...cant say how happy i am! ;P

david santos said...

Great! Really excellent posting! I love your creations!
Congratulations!!!!

Ani said...

sometimes it happens..
when u see ppl like this.. u wonder what they are actually going through.. and we dont show any compassion to any waiters or bearers when come to think of it..even though its their duty..its also their dignity which one has to acknowledge..

waiting for the next part.. if there is one.. :)

Sandeep Balan said...

@david

hey...thanx a ton bro...am really glad that you like my creations...feels great to know that...hope i never disappoint you...keep coming back..

Sandeep Balan said...

@ani

yup daa...it is that which got me to write this piece...this was meant to be one post..but i think i would like to give more days of Muthu...giving in to the demands...Muthu has turned out to be too cute for my friends to end his journey here...smile smile..he he...cheers..keep coming back...

mona said...

wonderfully conceived and wonderfully written...a heartwarming story... my heart reached out to muthu... you realy know the art of touching hearts through your stories...!!!

the simplicity n honesty of the character touched my heart... its a wonderful way to approach life... your story was not only entertaining but also carried a beautiful message along with it...

all in all... thoroughly enjoyable as always... you are a gifted writer sandeep.. waiting to see you publish your book some day.. keep writing ... cheers!!!

Sandeep Balan said...

@mona

i dont have words to express how happy i am to learn that mona. It seriously means so much for me. Its every writers dream to be able to touch hearts through his/her rants. Thats the toughest thing to do coz you have to get different people to the same platform...i am glad to learn that my efforts did not go in vain...i consider my story worthwhile if it manages to touch even one heart..and it has...so i am on cloud 10(as you have already occupied cloud 9)...

book...hmmm...if people like you are willing to read my stories, then i will for sure...thanx a ton for those encouraging words..feels good that you liked it...was waiting for your comment...cheers!

Ani said...

yaaayyy thats good to know..

Sandeep Balan said...

@ani

yippeeee...yey!! hope you saw what stephen d'silva was upto on writers lounge..he he...mere se panga le raha tha..he he!

Fantasies of a Lifetime said...

lovely story , and as you said ,honest work is good work :D . . . .Great read :D. .

nivedithasperceptions said...

Superb story! The detailing is really good. Great blog you have going here... I'll blogroll you. I hope to see myself on your blogroll too! :)

Sandeep Balan said...

@fantasies

hey great to know that...and its a pleasure to have you on my blog...thanx for the comments...encouraging...

Sandeep Balan said...

@niveditha

hey..thanx a ton...good to know that you liked the detailing...dont hope...will blogroll you for sure as soon as i get back to Mumbai...dial up here in Kerala which makes the whole process painful...keep coming back...cheers!

Kartz said...

I will keep it short. Excellence and simplicity. Period. I enjoyed the way you went about writing this.

---
Greetings.

Thank you for stopping by to leave your thoughts. You maintain a neat space here. Will drop-in again sometime. I hold a number of discussions on my page. Feel free to add to them...

Peace, and have a nice day.

Kartz.

Sandeep Balan said...

@kartz

i will also keep it short...thanx n honoured. Period. ;)

Wud love to participate in the discussions held on your blog...will definetly do...cheers!

The Mind Bedouin said...

wanted to visit ur scribble page too.. and so i m here.. :) usually wen i go to some blog, i m greeted with disappointment..but u hav e real talent... loved ur characterisation.. very definite, n yet leaves a lot for the imagination of the reader.. muthu feels so real.. i love ur language too..its' indianisation and how u adapted it to fit the mood of the story..
i cant wait for the rest of it...:) hopin u wont make me wait too long.. :)

RINZU SUSAN RAJAN said...

omg...!!! wonderful stuff...reminded me of mohanlal in vietnam colony...a very similar scene happens in the movie and the same chants as well..

gooooooooooooooooooood

Anonymous said...

Hmm... you will have to scout across all of Kerala to find a Namboodiri (kerala brahmin) with the name "Muthuswamy". At the best you may find some one from the Tamil Brahmin community.

No offence meant here, but just pointing out the obvious :). Names like Parameshwaran, Sreedharan, Neelakantan etc. may sound better.

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