When we had last left off, Santhanakrishnan Venkataraman Iyer (S) had finally mustered enough courage to tell the ‘periyavaal’ (elders), “enakku ponnu kooda koncham thaniya pesanum” (I want to speak to the girl in private)”. His request was reluctantly agreed and Jayalakshmi Mahalingam Iyer (J’s) mother took them upstairs to the bedroom and just when she left the room left with a reasonably naughty “Don’t be naughty“ statement.
This was the first time S was alone in a room with J (discounting the two times that the elevator in office had been stuck between floors due to a power-cut with only S and another hot secretary (old enough to be S’s “akka“ (elder sister)). In any case, S was having something equivalent to a “locust swarm” in his stomach. He could feel the piping hot idlis, sambar and chutney performing Kathakali in his bowels, all in all S was a nervous wreck, considering that he has studied in an all-boys high school, and an engineering college which has so few girls that only the really good-looking guys (of which S couldn’t even imagine being a part of) got to speak to the girls.
J was working for a software company in Chennai for the past 3 yrs, while S was well entrenched in his job at Bangalore. Now S thought this would a nice way to break the ice, by asking J whether she was either open to getting transferred to Bangalore or quitting her existing job to find a new one. However, all of S’s worries were unfounded as J took the first initiative in starting the conversation. She started off with “ungalukku chamaikka theriyuma?”(do you know how to cook). Now this question took S completely by surprise. He probably expected reasonable questions like “ungalukku yenna hobbies?” (what are your hobbies?), “ungalukku yedhavadhu girlfriends irukaala?” (do you have any girlfriends?), “neengal yethira manikku office povael, eppo thirumbi varuvael?” (what time do you go to office, what time do you come back?). But a question like whether he knew cooking took him completely aback.
And in his lack-of-good-sense he went ahead and actually answered “o, enakku nannavey chamaikka theriyum, adha pathi ellam nee kavaley pada vendam!!!” (of course, I can cook pretty well, you don’t have to worry about it). Little did S know that this answer would lead to two things – one really good, and one really bad.
The good thing that this answer led to was the fact that this probably was the only clincher question or ‘million dollar winning’ answer that J wanted from any prospective husband. The fact that J was reasonably horrible at her culinary skills was the most well guarded secret that she and her parents had in life. For any Pattar girl not to know cooking was (and actually still is) considered sacrilege. There have been stories where poor Pattar girls have been sent to intensive training sessions to Pankajam Maami’s house in the “graamam” (read, the Kalpathi Agraharam at Palakkad) and been arm-twisted (quite literally) into learning how to make a mean “avial” and “paal-adai prathaman“. So the moment S said that he knew cooking, J knew that she could charm her way into S marrying her and spend the rest of her lifetime living off his morsels (quite literally, once again).
Another good thing about the answer that S gave was the fact that without him actually realizing it, this answer would be the one thing that would inevitably bring him together with his soul-mate that J actually was. Yes, she didn’t know to cook, but compared to the other similarities and complimentary traits they had, cooking would later turn out to be a miniscule price for S to pay.
The bad thing about this answer however was the fact that S had played his cards too early by proclaiming himself to be a “nalla chamaiya-kaaran” (a good cook) as J would go on to use this particular statement of his for the rest of his life, whenever he tried to wangle his way out of cooking a meal. Her statements on such occassions would go thus – “aana neenga thaan ponnu paaka vandhappo nalla chamaiyal pannuven nnu chonael” (but when you came to see me for the first time, you declared that you cook really well). This particular answer of his would continue to haunt him for the rest of his life.
Funnily enough after this ice-breaker question and the following answer, for some funny reason S and J felt really connected to each other. Although S had been taken aback by the question, he was extremely thankful to J for having started off what was the most uncomfortable conversation he had had in his entire life. Now that the ice was broken S went on to chat about whether J was Ok with living apart for a while until she actually got transferred to Bangalore or found a new job (whichever was earlier). They then went on to discuss tastes in music, Tamil movies, and lots of other arbitrary things. And the first uneasy silence they hit, they decided to go downstairs and convey their wishes to the “periyavaal“.
Santhanakrishnan Characters –
Since too many characters have been introduced in the stories so far, here’s a ready reckoner of them –
Santhanakrishnan Venkataraman Iyer – S – The main protagonist
Jayalakshmi Mahalingam Iyer – J – As much the main protagonist, S’s wife
Venkataraman Sivaramakrishnan Iyer – Appa – S’s father
Seethalakshmi Ramaswamy Iyer – Amma – S’s mother
Muralikrishnan Ramaswamy Iyer – Murali Maama – J’s father
Meenakshisundaram Kalyanaraman Iyer – Meena Maami – J’s mother
Mookupodi Paata – Appa’s father
Hariharan Sivaramakrishnan Iyer – Hari Periappa – Appa’s elder brother
Savithri Krishnaswamy Iyer – Saavi Periamma – Hari Periappa’s wife
Kalayanarama Sivaramakrishnan Iyer – K Chittappa – Appa’s younger brother
Krishnan Kalayanaraman Iyer – Kicha – K Chitappa’s son