Friday, December 14, 2012

Tide - 27

Part - 27

The woman Padmaja spots in the far corner of the music hall looks familiar. The hair is the same as she remembers, only it has grown wispier and more threadbare in the intervening years. The woman wears a saree that seems to have been hastily draped like a giftwrapper that's too big for a small parcel - bunched up here, crumpled there. But did someone just refer to her as Dr. Gulati? Padmaja hears the woman's throaty laugh and that clears the last of her doubts about her identity. As if on cue, the woman too recognises Padmaja and quickly peels away to get closer.

“Padmaja! How are you dee?”, Sudha demands hugging her.

“Sudha, how are you? You're now Dr. Gulati?”

“Yes, Punjabi husband. Kept the name, lost the man. You look the same.”

Sudha is a professor of Anthropology at a University in Delhi and she is in town for a conference with her American friend Brad.

“Come visit me in Delhi, Padmaja. My project will be over soon and once Brad goes back...”

Seeing Padmaja's raised eyebrows, Sudha elaborates.

“It's not how you think it is, with me and Brad. I can't handle anything permanent, you know.” Her voice softens, her mind easing from the frenetic present to a distant past. “Padmaja, you are one of the few people who remember the old days, how things used to be. As I grow older, I find myself missing that. Come stay with me.”

There is a pleading earnestness in her eyes as she grips Padmaja with both hands. The screeching microphone signals the beginning of the concert. The friends exchange contact details, promise to stay in touch and settle into their places.

Padmaja sinks into the comfort of her seat and closes her eyes to the strains of the thambura.

“Excuse me, is this seat taken?”

Reluctantly, Padmaja opens her eyes to see a man - bright white cotton shirt, veshti crisply fresh, horn-rimmed glasses that subtly scream wealth - standing beside her.

“No, it's free.”

On stage, Sanjay Subramaniam begins his alaapanai in Kalyani. For once, everthing in that mercilessly shrill city is still.



Subha said...

Loved the end.


Manali said...

I did not understand the end.

AKM said...

Was reminded of the times we would await the latest Ananda Vikatan or Kumudham for following the serial stories : )

Sundaresan said...

I can totally relate to this....been fighting this battle with my family that i am not lonely justbecause i am thanks for reflecting thoughts of people like me..

Vivek said...


Can you explain it a little more? I did not understand the end. Why the change?

ammani said...

Thanks all. There isn't much to explain other than what I've written already.