It was Mini’s marriage. Celebration time at home after a long time. Almost after ten years after my marriage, Mini, my niece was getting married. She was a little girl when I had got married to her Raju Mama, her mother’s brother. The marriage was taking place at our ancestral home in Chingalpet, a small town in Tamil Nadu in the southern part of India. All the relatives had started arriving –Periyamma, Periyappa, Chittappas, Chittis, Mamas and Mamis, Lakshmi Athai, Kothai…and the house filled up with nostalgia.
“The most memorable was Githa’s wedding. There were gate crashers and Govindan and I almost went from hotel to hotel buying vadas and idlis for tiffin. It was total chaos,” said my husband who remembered everything about everybody’s wedding except his own.
“Ah, that was because of all those film stars invited by Githa’s show-off father-in-law. I remember your wedding. You were the first one to have an inter-caste, love marriage…we were so excited and curious. Remember, how we all travelled by train for Raju’s marriage?” Krishnan Chittappa said.
“Oh, Raju is one lucky chap, hooked the most beautiful girl.” Madhu exclaimed.
“Oh, really!” Nimmi brought in the spice of sarcasm. “Hmmm, the only thing I remember about Raju’s wedding is our return journey. Raju had not done the reservation for our return journey and Periyappa and I travelled unreserved, sitting on our trunk just outside the toilet. I can never forget his marriage.”
Periyamma shared her only memory of our marriage. “Priya had cooked potato subzi for us which I had finished off.” Lakshmi Athai had still remembered my potato subzi.
“But Priya didn’t even know how to cook rice. Poor Raju used to have raw rice.” Nimmi made one more contribution to the ongoing nostalgia and got up to change her clothes. She wanted to go to T. Nagar for shopping. “Let me use whatever half –an-hour I get. In Delhi I don’t get the time to shop,” she said ruefully.
“When are Rajji and Atthimber arriving?” Krishnan asked.
“They will be reaching any time.” I responded.
“Poor Rajji. I don’t know why Atthimber is driving her down from Bangalore. Rajji is not keeping well.”
“Why? What happened to her?”
“Nothing. Just the usual. Age is getting over her.”
“What aging? She is much younger than me. She was in cradle when I got married to your Periappa. She is not even fifty.” Periamma said.
“Poor Atthimber. He is so dashing and handsome and has to take care of an old hag.” Once again Nimmi made her contribution to the on-going debate and left for shopping.
“Nimmi would never miss a chance to ridicule people. Spoilt brat.” Periamma was in a truth-speaking mood. “I don’t know why she has to shop even when she is here only for two and a half days. At 7.30 we have sangeet, I am sure she won’t be back by then.” Githa gave her voice of disapproval to Nimmi’s shopping.
“Hey, Meenamma…yeppadi irukkai?” (Meena…how are you?) I suddenly noticed Meena, our old maid.
“Na nalla irukkein ma. Ninga yeppadi irrukenga? Ayya yeppadi irukkanga? Na Raviya paatein amma, nalla super hero madhiri. Neenga dance pannurengala?” (I am fine, Ma. How are you? How is sir? I saw Ravi, looks like a super hero. Do you still dance?)
Meena was so happy to see me. She even remembered that I used to dance.
“Ma, neenga romba azhagaa irrukeinga ma…” (Ma, you are looking very beautiful.) Meena continued pouring her happiness. I hugged her. After a long long time someone had looked at me, noticed me.
“Hey, Rajji Vandachu.” (Rajji has come.) Krishnan announced the arrival of Rajji Athai.
“Please, someone help Rajji.” The dashing and handsome Athimber called out. I went to Rajji Athai to help her.
“Take her to the room. She must be tired now. She is no longer young and energetic, and gets tired very easily. Aging is getting on to her. She needs to rest.” Athimber was concerned about his tired, aging wife.
“Arrey, don’t bother, I can carry my luggage.” Rajji Athai said when I tried to take her bag from her. She carried her bag to the room on the first floor.
“So, how are you Priya? How is life?” she asked me while keeping her bag in a corner of the room.
“Oh, good.” I said.
“Is Raju behaving properly with you? Is he keeping you happy?”
“Yes, yes. We do have our fights and arguments but yeah, we are happy.” I said smilingly. “Let me get you some water and coffee, you must be very tired.”
“No. It’s ok. I am not tired. I will have coffee with the others after some time.”
“Ok. Then you rest for some time before all this sangeet and nach gaana starts.” Saying that I made a bed for her to rest. “Let me know if you need anything. Do you have to take any medicines?” I asked her and I walked towards the door to go downstairs.
“Hey Priya, sit here for some time. I am seeing you after such a long time.” Rajji Athai said. She was not at all looking tired. I sat next to her to talk, to gossip.
“What is happening? How is your dance going?” she asked while stretching out on the bed.
“I don’t practice dance any more but I write on dance and music.”
“Yes, I read your article on that Kuchipudi dancer. It was a nice article. You write well, Priya. I am proud of you. What else do you write? Any book in the process?” Her questions and appreciation made me very happy. “Do you know when I was in college I was very active in our college’s drama society.”
Our talk was getting more and more interesting. I also stretched out next to her for a leisurely talk on my favourite subjects – art and dance.
“You know Shivan had offered me a lead role in his film.”
“Oh really! The Shivan! My god. He is so brilliant. Then what happened?” I asked, getting a little closer to her. I was really excited. “The Shivan. My god. You are so lucky.” I hugged her. “Tell me more. What happened then? Did you work with him?”
“I had to choose between working in a film or getting married. You know your uncle’s family was a very influential family and ‘a marriage proposal from The Srinivasans, would be one that only a fool would reject’ my mom had told me.”
“So you rejected the Shivan! How could you do that?” I was shocked. It was unbelievable. Shivan was the top most, highly respected film-maker. Working with him would have been a dream come true for any artist. It was like a total loss of a dream. I hugged Rajji Athai and kissed her on her cheek. She too hugged me. I caressed her. She hugged me even tighter. I felt her tears on my shoulder. I was able to understand her loss. I shifted even closer to comfort her. I continued caressing her.
Now silence was talking. Athai and I had stopped talking. We didn’t need to talk anymore. Athai also caressed me. Her soft touch took me back in my memories. I shifted even more close to her, tightening the hug and we loosened our hug, looked into each other’s eyes. Athai put her soft lips on my lips and kissed me softly and the very next moment we were in a tight embrace. Once again she kissed me and this time I kissed her back. We kept caressing each other and our hands were moving and exploring finding the sweet spots of our body. All dead and forgotten desires found life with every touch. So many buried desires…all found a life.
Moksha… Nirvana… Salvation. That touch…
“Priyaaaa….Priyaaa….” someone was calling me from downstairs. I freed myself from Athai’s embrace to hug her once again and kissing her I got out of the bed.
“Yeah, Athai is perfectly alright, nothing wrong with her. She was missing that hug, that kiss, those caresses…that touch.” I spoke to myself while standing in front of the mirror. Athai pulled me back next to her when I went to pick up the blouse from the bed. I wanted to pull away from her but I don’t know how I slipped closer to her. She continued caressing and softly tweaking, pressing my breasts. Oh, that touch… Pleasure.
“Priyaaaa….Priyaaa…” Once again someone called my name. I pulled away from Rajji Athai. Hurriedly I tied my sari and looked into the mirror.
“That love, that touch! Rajji Athai wants more than medicine”, I thought.
“Touch. Aren’t you also missing that? That touch which soothes your evoked desires.” My thoughts surprised me.