LIFE IS LIKE THAT

Writings of Anupama Krishnakumar

anu-story

Fiction

Insignificance

by

Posted on July 14, 2016

Lakshmanan sat on his wooden armchair near the window of his bedroom, peering absent-mindedly into the street. There was nothing momentous about the day, the world was going about its business, just like it had been doing all these years, after having relegated Lakshmanan, the great Tamil movie star of the 80s to oblivion.

Lakshmanan now lived in a decent-looking bungalow in Pudukottai, his native place, from where he had made humble beginnings as a young theatre artist whose heart was filled with dreams of going to Madras and making it big in the Tamil film industry. “Why do you want to get into the koothu business?” his strict father, a retired Tamil teacher, had repeatedly admonished him but to no avail. Nothing could uproot the young man’s desire to become a film actor. The quest had permeated every cell in Lakshmanan’s body.

Lakshmanan’s desire and ambition was not baseless. He excelled in the art and was a natural. He could move his audience to tears, he could awaken powerful emotions in his viewers, and he could make people see the purpose of the character he was playing. Every single time that he acted in a play, he would live and breathe the character, transform and become one with it, that it became impossible to distinguish Lakshmanan from the character he was impersonating. Viewers, entranced, would flock to watch a play that featured Lakshmanan. His popularity in and around Pudukottai grew steadily in the 70s, much to the irritation of his father who detested the idea of his only son stepping into what he believed was an illusory world that was nothing but a curse to those who became a part of it.

But who was he to stop destiny from taking Lakshmanan to where he was meant to go? As word spread about Lakshmanan’s acting prowess, an upcoming director from Madras who was working on his first film visited Pudukottai to watch Lakshmanan in action. Spellbound by what he saw, the man knocked on Lakshmanan’s door the very next day, only to be turned down hastily by Lakshmanan’s father.

Lakshmanan begged and pleaded with his father.

“Appa, please,” he said in a deep voice that people had come to love, “please let me go. Opportunities don’t come by so often.”

“Are you out of your mind?” his father shouted back, “I don’t want you to drown in that dirty world.”

“Appa, trust me,” he cried, “Just let me make this start and you’ll see where it will take me, where it will take all of us. I will do you proud in every possible way. I will make you live the life of a king,” he begged.

His mother too, in a very rare display of courage, tried to speak to her husband, for her son.

“Why are you chasing away an opportunity knocking at our door? Look at Laksha’s face, can’t you see the earnestness that’s written all over it?” she said, breaking down.

But it wasn’t meant to be. Lakshmanan’s father stood his ground.

Lakshmanan resigned to his fate, believing that a very big chance had slipped away, just like that, out of his hands. This is what’s written on my head, he told himself, carrying on with his job at the Pudukottai municipal office while also acting in local plays, once in a while.

Two months later, his father took ill. Lakshmanan was distraught looking at the way his stern father was crumbling, succumbing to an illness that nobody could have control over. He sat by his Appa whenever he could, trying to reassure the sinking old man that everything would be alright. Soon.

One evening, as he sat next to his father, the old man said, “You know, Lakshmana… sometimes, certain realisations come very late in life. Only when one’s end approaches, do we tend to look back at our lives and see our acts and the decisions that we took in a new light,” he paused for breath, “I was perhaps being too harsh in not letting you chase your dreams. Lakshmana, I want you go to Madras and do what you love to do. Will you?” he asked.

“Appa, this isn’t the time for talking all this,” Lakshmanan said, pressing his father’s hand. “Your health is more important.”

His father let out a feeble laugh and said, “Do what I say.”

And a week later, he died.

Eight months since the director visited Lakshmanan’s house, the aspiring actor set foot on the land of his dreams, Madras. Destiny took its course and luck stood by Lakshmanan’s side as the director, who had by then delivered his first hit, welcomed him warmly. The man ignored the tussle from eight months back, only because he was spellbound by Lakshmanan’s acting prowess.

The rest, as they say, is history. Lakshmanan became Lakshman, the star, who delivered hit after hit. Offers poured, his stardom soared, and the awards rushed to embrace the man who, the land of Tamil cinema believed, was the epitome of acting talent. The media was in awe of Lakshman, the star, and chased him for interviews. Fans thronged him at shooting spots and other public places to catch a glimpse of their matinee idol. They fervently sought his prized autographs. Lakshmanan literally felt on top of the world when he thought about how he had made his mark in an industry that boasted of legendary actors. Life couldn’t get better than this, he mused. Through all those years of his stardom, Lakshmanan wished his father had been alive to see what he had been able to achieve. His mother lived on to see her son reach the pinnacle of success and revel in the joy of seeing him marry a woman that she chose for him. Later, she too dissolved into the folds of time, carrying with her the only regret she ever had in her heart – her son didn’t have any children.

As the years rolled by, somewhere, life changed course. Nobody, not even Lakshmanan, could pinpoint exactly how and why it happened but preferences changed. The offers to act as a hero soon turned to offers where he had to essay other “less important yet productive” roles. Lakshmanan found it hard to accept this turn in his acting career, yet, with some introspection, accepted it as part of an actor’s life and chose to move on. And then, those offers too reduced to a trickle and then one fine day, the industry decided to leave him behind and move forward. Just like that. Without any regrets.

After having stayed on in Madras for a few years, trying to see if something came by his way, Lakshmanan finally decided to return to his roots and went back to Pudukottai with his wife, making up his mind to live a modest life. The feeling of insignificance hovered about him like a dull, grey cloud, that Lakshmanan battled every day to chase away. He had drunk too much of glory to accept this insignificance that haunted him. He would often stand in front of the innumerable statuettes that he had received as awards at various award functions and would particularly gaze with pride at the National Award he had won in 1985. He would often look at newspaper clippings of various interviews that he had given during his prime years as an actor.

On certain days, he would just sit by the window, like he was doing now, lost in thought.

As Lakshmanan sat, looking dreamily at the street, he heard his wife’s voice.

“Listen,” she said, “Your mobile phone has been ringing. Didn’t you hear it?”

Lakshmanan turned around, slightly startled.

“Looks like Gopu is trying to reach you urgently. There are four missed calls from him already. Maybe it’s something important,” she said.

Gopu, Lakshmanan’s manager from his acting years and a good friend, had been one of the very few people that he was still in touch with. He picked up his phone and called back Gopu.

“What’s it, Gopu?” he asked, “something wrong?”

Gopu laughed slightly on the other side.

“Lakshman anna,” he said, “I have some good news for you.”

Lakshmanan’s heart raced. He literally felt like the parched earth that rejoiced the first drops of rain after years of drought. Yet, he composed himself and asked in a normal tone, “What’s it, Gopu?”

Anna, the organisers of the CineGold Awards called me this morning. They wanted to know whether I could get in touch with you,” Gopu said, taking a deep breath.

“Me?” asked Lakshmanan, unable to contain his curiosity. “What for?”

“Well, ask anni to keep some sweet ready, anna. Here’s the great news. They have decided to give the Lifetime Achievement Award to you this year!” he screeched in joy.

Lakshmanan fell silent for a moment and wondered what would have prompted the organisers to recall this long-forgotten actor suddenly.

“Hello? Hello? Anna, are you there?” Gopu spoke nervously on the phone.

“Yes, yes, Gopu,” replied Lakshmanan, “Thank you for letting me know.”

The phone conversation lasted a few more minutes and after much coaxing, Lakshmanan asked Gopu go to ahead and give his number to the organisers.

Lakshmanan’s wife noticed the faint smile on her husband’s lips as he put the phone down. Even though he shared the news with an air of nonchalance, she knew how much this award meant to him and rushed to the kitchen to make his favourite badam halwa.

Suddenly, Lakshmanan’s life gained a purpose. He grew more cheerful, more participative, all the while pretending to downplay his happiness about the whole episode. His wife silently watched the spectacle unravel as he spent hours drafting and rehearsing his acceptance speech and choosing his best kurta and dhoti for the occasion.

Few weeks later, he received a call from a popular magazine and then from a channel for interviews. Even though his mind warned him constantly not to get carried away, his heart wouldn’t listen. Lakshmanan decided to bask in this little phase of glory before insignificance returned to take charge of his life again and before the world would forget him yet again.

On the night of the awards ceremony, as Lakshmanan received his Lifetime Achievement Award amid thunderous applause and a standing ovation, he had tears in his eyes and goose-bumps all over. He absorbed every moment of the glorious episode into his soul and let it compensate all those years of insignificance that he had painfully lived through. As he left the stage, he wondered if the next time the world would remember him again would be on the eve of his death. Whatever it was, Lakshmanan knew one thing – this time he was definitely better prepared to deal with the impending insignificance.

paper-pile-298759_640

Essays

Cleaning Up, Making Space and Letting Go

by

Posted on June 19, 2016

This Sunday, pushed by a burst of guilt-driven energy, I threw open a couple of cupboards in my house and embarked on a long overdue clean-up session. I had reached a stage where I had to confront reality. I had to make space, however mind-boggling that sounded, to accommodate all things that have gained high importance in the lives of my fast-growing, school-going children.

As kids grow up, it’s a one-of-a-kind experience to realign one’s home to accept and accommodate their “things”. It begins with clothes, toys and baby cots upon their arrival and as they grow older, it’s time to make space for study tables, books and school stuff. Our home is precisely at this point now. We have a burgeoning pile of books from Nursery Rhymes to Know your “ABCs, Numbers, Fruits, Vegetables, Animals, Vehicles” books to Mythology to Mystery to Classics to Workbooks catering to the reading interests and requirements of a three-year-old and an eight-year-old. Add to this pile, boxes of crayons, colour pencils, pencils & erasers, paints, craft material, charts and every imaginable piece of kids’ stationery. Plus of course, school textbooks and notebooks. Pretty choked, in a nutshell.

Well, yes, I admit to having procrastinated this ritual of tidying up for quite a while. Call it laziness or indifference or whatever, I just about managed to squeeze my kids’ books and related stuff here and there for a couple of years. But ever since their vacation began in April, I have been swallowing the guilt crawling up my throat, every time my eyes fell upon their books and stationery. Those poor things appeared like they were really struggling for breath, jostling for space as they stuck their heads out in utter discomfort, from various places, just like humans crammed together miserably without much choice inside a crowded Bombay local.

Guilt plus the need for immediate action eventually pushed me to sit down in front of the cupboards in our study room. I began digging deep into the shelves, after having steeled myself for the tidying up business that, simply put, terrified me. Quite a few things that we had been hoarding inside our cupboards for years had to go. That was it.

When I dug out one of the lower shelves, I pulled out a whole variety of material, mostly paper-based – some that I remembered well (Oh, this, right!), some vaguely (Hmm…yeah) and some not at all (Now, what’s this?). All of them carefully preserved in folders and fancy-looking plastic covers, nonetheless, and everything belonging to me.

Out came bits and pieces of my life, from a decade or more ago, standing as proof to the person I was – from a different time living under circumstances that I am no longer a part of. I ran into project reports from my Engineering days that made me wonder about what all I had pursued and tried to shine at as a 20-year-old, without any idea about the turn my life would take a few years later. There were test papers and assignments from when I was a student pursuing a course in Journalism, including a small write-up on why I wanted to be a journalist. Then there was this resume of mine, a writer ambitiously seeking “challenging work opportunities”. I also found a colourful notebook full of notes from some press conferences that I had attended, flaunting my ID card and business cards with the pride only brand new journos can sport. This notebook also had many questions I had written down to ask people in order to write feature stories.

So there I was sitting and humming a song that reminded me of times long gone as I sifted through copies of The Hindu Literary Review that my father had carefully preserved and handed over to me. I also chanced upon copies of my wedding invitation, printouts of Personal Finance features that I had written and a big bundle of greeting cards I had received from friends and relatives right from when I turned 13. Another prized discovery was a small receipt that was tucked away in a corner and brought a smile to my face. Do you remember this, I asked, showing it to my husband. The receipt is an important piece of our personal histories. It marked the beginning of our life-long association. It was of our first-ever outing, a visit to a popular bookstore. I realised how much I had accumulated things (and still do!) for the sake of preserving memories.

I carefully put the receipt back inside. The sorting exercise was eventually about answering two questions – Which of these things do I wish to hold on to? Which ones should I let go? Cleaning up is a tough act because it’s hard to stay detached when you go through the process. There were some easy decisions and some truly tough ones. As my children ran about me, I sorted my belongings, my memories. In the end, the mission was accomplished. I cleared up space and let newer experiences and the present dwell alongside treasured memories. But what stayed on, long after the job was done, was this suspended feeling which leaves you wondering if the current moment is real. Thankfully, routine stepped in to heal, pushing one to get on with life. But only till the next clean-up act I suspect, whenever that would be.

oldslippers

Fiction

Where Have You Gone?

by

Posted on June 14, 2016

My dear slippers, where have you gone? I have been frantically trying to look for you since morning, ever since the incessant rains of the last three days showed some signs of abating. It’s a terrifying pool around me, a moving river of litter that has now become a stagnant pool. All the things that had once defined someone’s life are now floating about like withered flowers, no longer in a form that could be of use to anyone.

Did you float away thus as the rains pounded the muddy earth outside your owner’s hut? Were you happy to go away? Did you think you have had enough of this middle-aged bachelor, who for years, used you to walk around only rough, thorny and rigid terrains? Did you tire of the coarse and bruised feet of the man who never wanted to throw you out for another pair?

Did you think I kept you only because I couldn’t afford new slippers? You are right in believing so, but only partly, my tattered footwear. I had a very strange kind of attachment to you, I still do. You were one of the very first things that I had the luxury of buying out of the meagre income of a not-much-in-need cobbler. Do you see the irony of it, my gentle brown slippers? I mend footwear for a living and I am now without my own.

The rain, harsh and loud this time, used to be my friend when I was young. It washed down the tears of loneliness, despair and helplessness of an orphaned child. It held me in its embrace when I felt terrified about being alone in this big, baffling world. Year after year, the rains came unfailingly, and I grew up, untended and uncared for, pretty much like those roadside shrubs that lie soaked in dust till the rains come down on them like a blessing and turn them into a vibrant green.

But this time, the rains have descended with a vengeance. And like those shrubs that have been uprooted and thrown away in fury, I am left stranded, unable to find my roots. My minimal belongings are gone, my tool box is nowhere to be seen and you, my sole-mate, have disappeared. Tell me, did the rains hurt you? Did it sever that fragile strap of yours that I would have mended a hundred times?

The rains have been a blessing in disguise for you, I suppose. Maybe you are down somewhere, sighing in absolute relief, that you have finally gotten rid of me. Or are you frantically looking for me like I am for you? Have a pair of alien feet found you? Are you agitated about the strangeness of those feet? Are you longing for the familiarity of mine, no matter how calloused and cracked they are? Or are you happy with that breath of fresh air?

Such annoying questions run needlessly in my mind during this testing hour. But what do I do? My feet feel so uncomfortable. The stagnant rain water around them makes me squirm. Without you beneath my feet, I feel isolated, lost. Slippers are, I believe a man’s close aide; they walk the important and not-so-important journeys with you. Not all slippers can become true companions. You walked with me for eight years before disappearing last night! Can you believe it?

My neighbours are as clueless as I am as they aimlessly wander searching for the things that made up their existence. A baby is crying somewhere, the old people look listless, men and women wade through knee-deep water staring into open spaces – once where their homes were.

I stare at the massive emptiness that the rains have excavated out for me. My mind desperately clings to the details of my past that have been washed away, including you, my tender brown slippers. The question that keeps popping is this: Would I find you buried deep in the mud somewhere? Down the road? Near the beach? Maybe not.  The truth is, our journey together is done. And I have nothing to do but to move on.

pyre

Reviews

Perumal Murugan’s ‘Pyre’ : Intense, Lyrical and Stirring

by

Posted on April 14, 2016

Some books leave you mulling over them days after you have finished reading them.  Perumal Murugan’s ‘Pyre’ (Penguin Hamilton/April 2016) turned out to be one such. Translated from the Tamil original “Pookuzhi” published in 2013, by Aniruddhan Vasudevan, the book is an intense read.

Two things hit you hard as you read Pyre – one, a powerful love story; two, the wrath that caste can generate. Pyre is the story of Saroja and Kumaresan, who fall in love and unite in an inter-caste marriage performed in secrecy. They step into Kumaresan’s village hoping that all would end well once the initial upheavals about their ‘out-of-the-way’ wedding subsided. However, in spite of Kumaresan putting up a confident front, repeatedly stating that Saroja belonged to the same caste as theirs, the villagers’ growing suspicion about Saroja’s caste culminates in hatred of epic proportions.

For someone who has seen Tamil films of yesteryears, this isn’t a totally new story. But what makes reading Pyre an engaging experience is the way it is written. The careful and effective use of words conjure images and scenes in front of your eyes.

The gentle descriptions of the passionate love that binds Saroja and Kumaresan are poetic and leave a smile on your face. When Saroja sets foot on the rock, Perumal Murugan writes, “it touched her with the combined sensation of Kumaresan’s soft hands and his rough embrace, the memory of which made her shiver with pleasure every time she walked on the rock’s surface.” He also deftly captures the ordinariness of the life of two people by focusing on the minute details.

Aniruddhan’s translation is pristine like a clear sheet of glass and shines extraordinarily in some places. The Tamilian essence is preserved beautifully. As someone who speaks Tamil, the Tamil lines automatically form in your head even as you are reading the English translation. That’s just what happens when you read Saroja’s brother’s words of endearment, “My piece of gold…my little calf”. The Tamil words “Thanga katti” and “Kannu Kutty” dance in front of your eyes.

The characters are striking and well-etched. They have distinct qualities. You can’t miss Kumaresan’s practical nature, his quiet confidence and his jovial side. His reassurances, expectations and disappointments are hard hitting. Like when he comes home drunk one night and “the stench of arrack laid bare the extent of his inner turmoil.” Or when he worries whether Saroja will “splutter and wither like a little sesame seed.”

The strong characterisation of Marayi, Kumaresan’s mother, has the desired effect. Her stubbornness and lamentations succeed in annoying you. Marayi is also a depiction of how the mind of a widowed mother is shaped by the society she moves in.  Her hatred for Saroja cannot be missed when she says, “Here she stands on top of his grave, lush like the erukku shrub. I cannot bear to look at this plant.”

The things that the villagers say of Saroja make you cringe in disbelief. “That fair-skinned girl must have spread her legs for our Nondi!”, someone says. “Can a mother and wife ever be equal?” says another. “Yes, all ourbodies are withered, exposed to the elements. But hers is still golden. Why don’t you wrap her around your neck?” that’s a woman talking. The insinuations shock you, the sort of verbal assault meted out to a woman – the sharp tongues that wag needlessly and just how helpless a woman can be in these situations – make you squirm. And when reading Pyre, you realise how it’s not just the men but also women themselves who make life miserable for another woman. Like the old woman who asks, “Why were you in such a hurry, Aaya? Did our Nondi boy give you a little something in your womb?” The utter helplessness of Saroja, her anxieties, her regrets and the suffocation she goes through as she lies huddled inside the hut “like a dried leaf” hurt like a raw wound.

Like fireflies in the dark though, Murugan inserts little flashes of hope and joy that temper the burning tension in the story. A good instance would be when Kumaresan draws her close and murmurs, “You’ll fit within the palm of my hand.” Or when Saroja shivers in delight as he calls her “my dear…”

There’s a village that comes alive with Murugan’s words and sooner or later, you are drawn into the pages. You feel the heat and dust of poverty, witness the leer and jeer of men, sense the burning hate, see colourful soda bottles and hears hit Tamil songs from the 80s on the radio.

Kumaresan and Saroja’s story moves at a brisk pace and before you realise, you have turned the last page. Reading the well-translated version of a stirring story has only sown the seeds of desire to go back and read the original in Tamil.

ok-kanmani

Fiction

Discussing Tara

by

Posted on March 16, 2016

“This was one pleasant surprise,” remarked Sumana, as she and Vinay made their way out of the theatre exit after watching Mani Ratnam’s “OK Kanmani”.

“Dulquer Salman as Adi was oh-so-good! What a handsome video-game developer!” sighed Sumana.

“Ah, Nitya Menen was lovely too. Tara…charming name. An architect. Fancy!” Vinay said.

“So why was the movie a surprise, Miss. Mani Ratnam Fan?” questioned Vinay, pushing his hands deep into the pockets of his jacket.

“Well,” began Sumana, “for one, it’s a Tamil film on a taboo-topic, ‘Live-in relationships’, a movie on two young people who don’t believe in the institution of marriage. That in itself is quite a deviation when it comes to the genre of romance, at least in Tamil. And here’s a film that treats its premise with such subtlety and honesty!”

“But more importantly, Tara,” she continued, “Tara was a refreshing change. Different from the stereotyped, annoying, screeching, over-exaggeratedly feminine women characters that Indian films are replete with. I am not saying she is the only one but then she definitely is one of the better-etched women characters in recent times.”

Vinay nodded, lost in thought. “Hmm…” he muttered, “I must say her costumes were damn good – elegant, intelligent.”

Sumana fell silent for a moment as they stepped on the elevator on their way down. As they descended, she couldn’t help dwelling on how, for Vinay, the first thought to cross his mind about a woman who wasn’t stereotyped was her looks – the way she was dressed.

“True,” she said, picking up the conversation from where it had paused, “I loved everything about her appearance. Her earrings and accessories, especially,” she smiled. “But what I really liked was the fact that she was not your typical size zero heroine! It’s such a respite from our ‘toned-body’ obsessed film industry today!”

“Well, Tara is also a woman who thinks clearly, speaks her mind and follows her heart,” Vinay added, as they moved away from the escalator. “That’s intelligent characterisation.”
Sumana broke into a gentle smile. She nodded. “Yes, indeed. And she’s bold. She takes the lead.”
When she said “lead”, she stressed on it unconsciously and held Vinay’s gaze.
Vinay loved the warmth of that gaze that lasted a couple of seconds longer.
“Uh, oh…” Sumana broke the strange silence, “coffee, my friend?” she asked in a chirpy tone.
Vinay casually put his hand around Sumana’s shoulder and said, “Of course…why would I say no?”
In response, Sumana held Vinay’s hand firmly and dragged him towards her favourite coffee shop inside the mall.

As soon as they had settled down on cosy brown couches and ordered two café lattes, Vinay began talking.
“So, was that the taking-the-lead you were talking about?”
“What…?” Sumana asked, wearing a confused expression on her face.
“That…” said Vinay, putting his left hand over his right and pretending to be dragged, “That…” he repeated.
Sumana knit her eyebrows and retorted, “Haha. Very funny.” And flashed a pretentious grin.
“Ok, but seriously, what did you mean?” he asked.
“I meant…” Sumana began in a steady tone, “that Tara initiated things in many ways- things that cement their relationship. It’s not just Adi!”
“As in?”
“For instance, remember that scene when they go out for coffee and ice-cream? And then they get on the famed Mumbai local train? It’s lovely, the conversation they have – the way she prompts him to speak his heart out just by repeatedly asking ‘Appram…’ till the point they reach her hostel. Did you notice the shift in her tone from being playful to sensual through the entire conversation? The way Tara’s questioning builds sensuousness into the scene? It’s mind-blowing! The icing on the cake is the woman feeling completely free to take the lead and pull her boyfriend into the room; a woman listening to her heart’s desire for making love and mind you, before the hullabaloo called marriage!”

Sumana paused a bit and continued with a dazed expression on her face.

“And…she flirts beautifully. So does he. But it’s a nice thing to see a woman flirting with ease. Almost like it’s an art. She revels in the joy it brings,” Sumana said smiling to herself. “Ah, she is a woman of today’s world.”

“Ha,” she suddenly said loudly and checked herself by pretending to focus on the latte. “It was also good to see a little bit of role reversal,” she continued, winking at Vinay. “I really enjoyed the way she teases him playfully.”

Vinay grunted. “Come on, don’t tell me. I feel for Adi! The way she scares the shit out of him! The way she tells him with an all-serious expression – shall I ask my mother to come over? To talk about our marriage? I can imagine what a guy who doesn’t want to commit to marriage would feel in an instant like that! And the visit to the gynaecologist’s clinic! A man’s nightmare! After giving him a nerve-wrecking time, she reveals that the ‘reports’ she is carrying are actually plans to renovate the clinic and not scan reports! Too much!”

“Really?” asked Sumana, with a hint of sarcasm in her voice. “Why should boys have all the fun…all the time?”

Vinay shook his head and sighed. He didn’t exactly know how to counter that.

“Vinay,” said Sumana, “Being a woman like Tara is more an exception than a norm even in today’s world. It’s still not easy for many women, no matter how educated they are, to talk openly about ‘not wanting to get married because you have to follow your husband wherever he goes’ or pronounce ‘I want to have a good time by living in for as long as we feel comfortable or till other personal preferences demand us to move apart.’”

“Well, it isn’t easy for men either,” said Vinay with a smile playing on his lips.

“Perhaps. But not as difficult it is for women. We have this whole ‘sanskari naari’ baggage on our backs! The conversation between Tara and Adi’s Sister-in-law when she discovers their live-in arrangement comes to my mind. Did you notice that she questions only Tara on what’s happening with her and Adi? Tara is justified in asking back – ‘you could have asked this question to Adi too.’ Why is it that the woman is always held accountable in such things or for that matter, anything from the decision to have a child to raising a child to a street harassment to rape?”

“Point taken,” said Vinay, gently swirling the tall mug between his palms. “But Tara takes it in her stride. She doesn’t let it affect her. And that’s good, isn’t it?”

Sumana smiled. “I see you are seeing what I am seeing, Vinay. But it isn’t just enough for the woman to take things in her stride. Perceptions have to change too.”

“But Sumana,” he said, “didn’t everything look a little too easy in the film? There was no stiff resistance per se except for some agitated questioning by the families, the Sister-in-law’s retort included, and Ganapati Uncle, the man who lets Adi in as a paying guest and eventually does agree to let Tara stay with Adi in the same room! Do you think it’s possible for someone like you and me? Isn’t reality even tougher?”

“True in a way,” replied Sumana. “It’s a pity that reality is not so easy. We love to complicate things! Yet, aren’t films about dreams too? A projection of the kind of people we wish to see! We can’t rule out the possibility of existence of such people. There may be only a handful of them. But they are there. Tara again, is not fiction. There are some women like her today but not many. The hope is that the society lets many more like her bloom. Not just in the context of live-in relationships or marriage, but generally – women who can live by their choices without being judged. My only grudge against Tara’s characterisation is the sudden emotional fragility and change of attitude towards marriage. I wonder why she had to give in when they were moving away.”

Vinay placed his mug down pensively.
“Maybe we will soon have a film in which a woman will say that she doesn’t want her relationship with a man to be justified through a marriage. Maybe she will just let it be,” he spoke.
“Well, maybe,” Sumana responded, “a film that shows a woman who is strong enough not to succumb to social pressure, for anything.”

She looked into Vinay’s eyes.

The words literally rushed to Vinay’s mouth. “What about us, Sumana?” He wanted to ask her. But then, something told him, he should just let this moment be. No, not now. Not this day. For now, Tara, Adi and Latte would do. The rest….as they say, could wait.