Skip to main content

A quick tale 31


It was her father’s favourite time of the week - Sunday mornings. He would open the paper, skim through the news and skip straight to the matrimonial columns. He’d sit in the front verandah, sifting through every single advertisement, circling suitable ones for future reference. Once he’d read all the ads, he would retreat to his room to write letters to the earmarked advertisers. He would place a carbon sheet under a paper, draw a tiny ‘2’ on top – a salutation to Lord Ganesha and begin writing. All his letters began the same way - ‘Dear Sir, With reference to your advertisement in the Hindu dated…’

Once finished, he would remove his copy and place it in a file marked ‘Marriage correspondence’. He would then dab turmeric stains on all four corners of the original, fold it in two, attach his daughter’s horoscope and place both sheets of paper on the altar where his mother’s photo would be hanging. Later, he would take the envelopes to the city main post office – the only one open on a Sunday, weigh them, check all the details once more, say a prayer invoking Lord Rama before pushing it down the postal chute. And the interminable wait would begin.


thennavan said…
Let the first comment be mine. Nothing about this but you are prominent on ChennaiCentral today :-)
wookie said…
I like the way you have explained this sunday ritual. I liked the flow. The other stories seem too hasty.
thennavan said…
BTW, your son looks very cute :-)
wookie said…
hey thennavan I think I beat ya or did we post at the same time?
Balakumar said…
This would have to be the longest QT by you! :) Very "visual" description.

Non-related - it is amazing how ubiquitous "The Hindu" is in Tamil households.
Shyam said…
Yup, a much more leisurely tale, this :)
Anonymous said…
Is that story for 1990's?
A little out of touch with this and not sure if it is still the same

- Morpheus
PVS said…
Its still the same. Only difference is that the Internet and email has also been included in the search.
F e r r a r i said…
I can relate this to many of my uncles. Good one. As Shyam said, a very nice leisurely read :-)
Anjali said…
No idea about this ritual.They may have tried this out fro my mum and mama.As usual Ammani shines .
Very accurate description, with the pullayar suzhi and applying manjal on the four corners!!! Lovely tale.:)
Anonymous said…
A truly good one! A typical middle-class father ..
srini said…
only a father (in that situation) can understand what he is going through. indeed sometimes interminably long waits!!!
kaaju katli said…
So evocative! I could actually see this in my mind's eye. Beautifully told di!
hari said…
Hi Ammani,

I have seen many father of guys doing these rounds as well. So there are demanding females as well as males in today's world. That is fine proposition.
Balaji said…

This was the case for my aunt.

But nowadays its;; and so on and its not the fathers but the prospective brides and grooms
trv said…
i like it. the relaxed movements of the father, the prayers, the veranda..i can't find any of these now.
AF said…
Very nice one Ammani.
Its very true..

Tangent said…
A slice of life.

Shrinkwrapped. And frozen.
For a future recollection.
Chakra Sampath said…
you hav painted the scene in words.. accurate description!!
None said…
* QT template * activated.
Version QT1 sequenced! :)

RS said…
Hmm...Nice :)...thought your last line would be something like:

"He did the very same thing for six months before his daughter came back holding hands with her American fiance'".
divya said…
a picture, a post-card!! a precise thatha flashed in my eyes as this was his routine!!...been arnd here a liitle bit.....liked it!! loved the cookery blog too......cya!!
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
This, when my folks are "hunting" for me !!!! Maan , do I feel helpless @ times!
keerthi said…
"And the wait began. The wait for a separation, that he couldnt stand."

Ammani - Im Keerthi, here thru Thennavan. Very interesting blog yours.
Eroteme said…
A tale told as it is...
Very simply captured. Nice. All that rigmarole taking various forms at different stages...
Random Access said…
Very articulate..I can definitely relate this to what my father went through for my sis! And as Bala said, by far the longest of ur posts! Simple yet capturing the essence perfectly as always...

Random Access
The search has just begun !!!
Random Access said…
And RS, u do always dream about stories, dont u? ;)

Random Access
The search has just begun !!!
Anni said…
You are right.But the time is changing now.Girls are no more scapegoats in the nuptial market.Boys are !!!
vandhiya thevan said…
I know it's a story. Still I want the father's wait to come to a happy end.
Pardeshi said…
your story sounds so real with the "tiny 2".Perhaps now it is the turn of the groom's father to go for such a hunt , as I read in a recent french edition of National Geographic that the female/male ratio in India is going down
Very insightful and so true. As already suggested, one small addition to this post. Having as your homepage and checking it every morning to see that one profile that would make your day and maybe your life, not to mention your daughter's.

You Might Also Like

Voicing Silence 1

There is no nice way of saying this so I will say it as brutally and as unvarnished as it needs to be said. I was sexually assaulted when I was ten and a half years old. While I recall the precise details of what happened that night, much of what happened in the immediate aftermath, I have little memory of. In the days and months that followed, I became increasingly angry. I would smash things, kick people, yell, scream and throw a tantrum at the drop of a hat. I was labelled difficult and called names. Rakshasi was a regular epithet and it clung to me like an dirty scent.

There were so many incidents of rage from those years and most involved destruction of some sort. I once lost a card game and went about meticulously ripping up an entire pack of cards much to the amusement of the gathered extended family. There was some other minor provocation which ended in a lovely red dress which was a gift from abroad being shredded to pieces, again to a mute audience

Word got around that I wa…

Voicing Silence 7

(To get a background on this series, I suggest you start with the first post here and then scroll up)

Headphones recommended

(Click on image for link or click here)
Written and narrated by  Abhi Arumbakkam
Animation and edit  Lucy Lee
Sound Louise Brown
Music Nefeli Stammatogianopoulu & Stelios Koupetoris

Sivaji, Jayalaitha And Us

I first noticed it when Sivaji Ganesan passed away. As someone born in the 70s, much of my growing years was marked by the rituals of Sunday evening Tamizh cinema and Friday night Oliyum Oliyum. And Sivaji Ganesan was a permanent fixture in them. Anyone who was melodramatic was a 'Sivaji' and rhymes like 'Sivaji vayile jilebi' were very much part of our book of nonsense rhymes.

So much so, I remember being fourteen and being part of the school drama team enacting a popular scene from Sivaji's Thiruvilayadal. It was a plum role that we all vied to play. Sivaji played Lord Shiva in the movie and in our minds, he might as well have been immortal. So years later, when news broke that he had died, I was in utter shock. Heck, I was not even a fan. Apart from Motor Sundaram Pillai and more recently, Thevar Magan, in every one of his movies, I felt Sivaji had outacted the entire cast. As if to tell the producers, you've paid me a lot, so let me give you your money'…

Tide - 17

Part - 17 “Are you waiting for me, Kamakshi?”, asked Padmaja a little breathless from climbing the stair case. She had never been particularly slim. But lately, she had noticed a tightening of her blouses, particularly around her upper arm that she taken to using the stairs over the lift.
“Hmm? Everything okay? Why do you want me to keep quiet? What is the matter, Kamakshi?”, Padmaja reeled off questions with mounting alarm.
“It's nothing”, hissed Kamakshi between gritted teeth guiding her neighbour by the arm away from her own door. “Come in to my house. I need to tell you something, Padmaja”.
And once inside, Kamakshi's behaviour was even more erratic. She said something about a letter and answering and now meeting someone and the man waiting for her at home.
“Where?”, demanded Padmaja.
Kamakshi silently pointed her finger at her neighhour.
“Where? In my house?”
Kamakshi nodded.
“Have you gone mad, Kamakshi? I gave you the keys in case you don't see me for days a…

What Would You Do?

This afternoon, I went to our local leisure centre to use their steam room and sauna. I had an hour to kill before it was time to collect my son and the leisure centre is across the road and I couldn't think of a better way to spend a tenner and so I went. No sooner had I settled into a corner of the steam room than I heard a voice ask me, 'are you from India?'. Yes, I nodded before it struck me that if I couldn't see the person clearly neither could he. Yes, I said. To this he (by now I could make out a dim outline of a man) volunteered in a very heavy accent 'My country Bangladesh' and then went on to ask me if I lived locally and if I was living with my family (yes and yes, I answered) and told me that he worked in a local Indian restaurant as a chef and that I should visit them if I hadn't already.

Having exhausted his arsenal of polite questions to ask a rank stranger, he fell silent. Shortly, I left the steam room to take a shower before dipping into…

Tide - 7

Part 7

Dear Mrs,
With regards to your advertisement in last Sunday's Hindu. My name is Mr.S.G.Santhanam. I am 65 years old. I retired in 2007 after 40 years of service in the Indian Railways. My daughter and my son are both married and settled abroad. I am in good health except for slightly high blood pressure. Last year I have undergone an operation for a growth in my retina and now my eyesight is better than it has ever been. I follow a strict vegetarian diet (no oinions no garlic) and I have managed to bring down my cholestrol levels also. Recently I have suffered from pain in my hips and my doctor has adviced me to go for a hip replacement operation which I am due to have some time in the next month. So if you reply to my letter, I can arrange to meet you before I check in to the hospital as I will have to be in bed rest for 6 weeks after my operation. I have also attached a photo of myself with this letter. This was taken before I had my new set of teeth.
Your's sincere…

Voicing Silence 4

(To get a background to this series of posts, I suggest you read the first one here, the second one here and the third one here)

Some years ago, my mother mentioned to me that she had attended my sexual assaulter's Sashtiabdapoorthy and I was appalled. This filthy beast was a pillar of the society and had had the temerity to invite my parents to its (no human pronoun for it) birthday celebration. Suffice to say I was apoplectic.

It was also around this time that the whole sordid episode of Jimmy Savile came to light and I had a thought. I began to wonder if I could take my abuser to court on historic sex abuse charges.

For days I fantasised about dragging the filthy piece of shit to court and have it look me in the eye as I would recall in graphic detail what it had done to me. Then, I would watch with glee as it lost its house, its job, its status in the society and delight in the gradual unravelling of its life.

I would have my perfect revenge. I would be able to show it that i…

Voicing Silence 2

(To get a background to this series of posts, I suggest you read the first one here)

I realised, almost instinctively that what had happened to me was not a one-off. A casual conversation with a cousin revealed that she too had been touched by the same person. She didn't give me details but all she said was, "that one, him, you know...he's a devil" and gave me an almost imperceptible nod. A secret code that meant that she knew about what had happened to me too. It was our shared language of shame, wrapped in silence and consigned to the deep recess of our minds.

Every now and then the incident would get an airing but I would almost dismiss it by making light of it. During joint studies with classmates from the 11th and 12th standard, two of them talked about the improper touching that had happened to them as children with an almost casual aloofness that I added my incident (for it was now entombed and labelled as Exhibit A in my mind) to the mix. Being abused was so…

Voicing Silence 3

(To get a background to this series of posts, I suggest you read the first one here and the second one here.)

In the intervening years since my assault, the whispers grew ubiquitous. Hushed conversations from scarred friends who all talked in coded language about what had happened to them. I should have stopped becoming angry but I just couldn't. Instead I channeled all my rage into the blows I rained on the random stranger who once groped me as I was walking past him one evening when I was in my early twenties. The nonchalance with which another pervert thought he could get away with pinching my breasts made me chase after him faster. But I could rarely sustain the rage which would blaze fiercely and frequently but never long enough for anything positive to emerge. There were no planned course of action to follow through, it was largely fire fighting on a daily basis.

And then something happened a decade ago which reminded me of what triggered my anger all those years ago. I won…

Voicing Silence 5

(To get a background to this series of posts, I suggest you read the first one here, the second one here, the third one here and the fourth here)

For years I had been wondering how to articulate my trauma. And then, a little while after I'd moved to the UK, I'd done courses in documentary film-making and had started telling factual stories. Could there be a possibility there? What purpose would retelling a personal story in all its gory detail serve? And is this what I wanted?

In 2013 I watched Yael Farber's Nirbhaya in Edinburgh to an auditorium full of sobbing men and women. I found its portrayal in all its attendant specifics and bit too real. Even the actors playing it had each suffered horrific abuse and it was their own story that was being told. It was discomfiting and I knew I didn't want to go down that route.

A year or so later, I met with Leslie Udwin, director of the documentary India's Daughter, the day
after it had been banned in India. Leslie was de…