Thursday, November 16, 2006

I ask, you write 10

A wonderful variety of stories in the last one. Thank you for taking part. Here's the 10th question.

Somewhere in the dark recess of that wooden cupboard, there is a photo album. And somewhere the middle of the album is a photograph of Vaijayanti. She's leaning against a tree, looking up at something and smiling. What is she looking at? When was this photo taken?

As you well know by now, please keep your stories short and post them in the comment box. Thank you.


The Kid said...

Me first.

Some corny story about some jilt/marraige, mother/son sentiment ending with:

She was looking at a Tantex baniyan hanging from a tree, near "Anand Baniyan jettigal" advertisement banner.


Anonymous said...

It was a dark and stromy night when Vaijyanti had just returned from her Balsu Class for JEE coaching.It was one fo those busy Thursday evenings when she had to rush from school and head straight for the JEE class as more of her classmates we already indulging in the great dream of IIT:MS in US:Kalyanam(marriage) to another IIT:MS:PHD;in laws visiting first then parents during presevam(child birth). She was looking up the tree visualsing her future and comparing herself to her innumberable cousins like Lalitha,Ambika,Lakshmi,Seeta who had taken the well beaten path to so called success in downtown Mylapore.

She thought she was more than the paavadai Shattai(Half Saree) she was wearing.She wanted to do something that the other Mylapore to Manhattan Mamis had not done. As she looked up into the sky she saw the silver lining in the dark cloud and thought that the sky was her dream.

Her childhood dream was to fly and the calling had come. The passion to fly and see the small world below was her dream.

This was the moment that motivated Sqauadrom Leader Vaiyayanti known by call sign Victor to join the Indian Air Force to Touch the sky with Glory. Today Victor is the first fighter pilot of the elite Indian Air FOrce.

Do the impossible for Impossible is Nothing !!

monu said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
monu said...

vaijayanthi, the sunshine of my life....

Oh,How she loved to go out and play in the sun when all would call it scorching hot!!!!She didn't care that staying out in the Sun would make her skin a darker shade of deep brown..her mother would call out to her, almost yelling, "Who will marry a dark girl?"....

But she would turn deaf years to that, and instead look at me, me who was all of 11 years, bashful, a boy who never ventured out into the hot sun, out little town was famous me , it would be like her eyes are asking me to come and join her in her childish play...but she was just mischievously smiling at me, smiling as if at her mother's foolishness...

Foolish indeed was her mother, not knowing that even at that moment, there was one bashful boy willing to marry her.....

There was something between her and the sun...i have seen her talking to the sun, asking for a little more sunlight for that tiny plant, dying for the lack of it under the huge tree...and the plant would magically grow and smile at her with beautiful flowers....

To many, dark clouds, pleasant breeze, and a very light rainfall, as if God is sprinkling water on you, would be romantic..

But to my Vaijayanthi, the hot-hot sun, shadows of those trees in the sunlight, bright flowers smiling , that would be romantic….

And why wouldnt she like the sun? For she herself was the sunlight to some lonely plants and some lonely hearts....she had that magically quality of spreading love, like the Sun would spread its light.....

My Vaijayanthi....Foolish me...Old age is getting to me, I was just looking at the old photo of hers , of her standing under the tree and looking up...

and what were you asking me? oh yes, She was looking for sunlight for yet another tiny plant...........

Anonymous said...

Major V shankar, SC

A saavdhan..and salute to you. Great story that was...!

Anonymous said...

major v shankar,sc: that was amazing.

Anonymous said...

I thought only girls in movies were foolish enough to fall for stupid romantic gestures from guys. Why else would I encourage Ramanathan to go through with his plan of hiring a plane to spell out " ILU" on the sky above vaijayanthi's house? I wanted to capture her derisive laughter on my camera, instead I captured a smile which betrayed that she had hopelessly fallen in love. I lost her that day, but I still have this photograph to remind me of a lesson learnt.

Unknown said...

When I look at the sepia toned photograph, my seventy year old heart still seems to break into a million pieces. There she is, the thirteen year old Vaijayanti. I remember the day the photograph was taken….It was taken by Rasai athimbar, her twenty-one year old husband. I remember the joy and festivities in our home those days. Double was the joy….My sister Vaijayanti had come of age and the all the old ladies of the village had gathered to partake in the festivities….After 15 days Rasai athimbar had come from Bombay to carry our precious sister away with him. She had been married the previous year and had been left behind in her parents’ house till the auspicious time would come for her to accompany her husband. I had been just 8 years old then and had been instructed to be a chaperone for the couple…more of a spy, as I realized later in life….. I remember how I was hiding among the foliage of the mango orchard, as they both were trying to grab some private moments. Rasai athimbar told her to pose thus, looking up…he said he wanted to capture her perfect silhouette. As she looked up, she saw me and burst out laughing…. That was when Rasai athimbar clicked his old Russian Zenith camera.. I remember falling down from that height and being hauled up by the laughing couple. Vaijayanti left with athimbar the next day.I saw her six months later…widowed, tonsured, restricted into the dark crypt-like room in her In –law’s house….I have never seen her smile or laugh like that again.Though I had tried to many times once she was forcibly brought back home by my parents… Only this photograph, that she had given me to put away in the family album along with one of the couple taken in a studio in Bombay, ever reminded us of a very young laughing girl in her teens whose dreams were cruelly snatched away by a monster called typhoid.

Mugilan said...

First time here.

Fond Memories! It was a saturday I remember. I had just finished college and my parents had already started planning to get me married. The girl they had chosen was Vaijayanthi. We were neighbours and she a childhood friend of mine. As the tradition was, we had been there at her house next door to "see" her. And there she was all dressed up for the occasion. After the usual formalities, they allowed us to speak alone. Yes. Speak alone before getting married and that was in 1978. We were left alone in the garden in which we had spent time before playing and chatting, many an hour. And we were finally done, they decided upon the marriage to be held a month later. I was supposed to start working in "Chennai" next week and my mother suddenly remembered we didnt have a photograph of the girl. They did not have a recent one too. So the plan was to take a photograph rightaway and I was the only guy who knew how to use the camera, see angles and take pictures. So there I was standing before Vijaiyanthi with a camera to take a picture of her which I could carry to Chennai.

And there she was, in the garden, leaning against a tree, shy enough to face me directly for the first time, looking at something over the tree and unable to stop smiling!

The Kid said...

I was bored one afternoon found an old photo album to amuse myself with. The album itself was not too old, but the photos looked much older, in contrast to the people in the pictures.

Most were wedding pictures of my maternal grandparents. The pictures mostly were of the kanyadhanam, Oonjal and nalangu. Typical of a tamil brahmin family. My grand parents were iyer, vathima (that is like sub-sub sect) to be precise.

I was generally browsing through the pictures when I saw a particular striking picture. There was one young girl in the picture, just her near a tree. She must have been the bride. This girl had no resemblance to my grand mother.

The more I looked at the picture, the more beautiful she was. She was laughing with with her hand on her chest, over her new thaali (mangalsutra) hanging from her bright yellow cotton thread still stiff with the starch. Her huge eyes gleaming in the sun, her mouth open wide, flashing her teeth in her laughter. She was looking at something in the sky.

She was not skinny at all and her cheeks looked chubby enough for me to want to give her a gentle pinch. The vangi (armlet) that was slipping down from her blouse sleeve was squeezing her bicep. The short sleeved shirt or sattai of which only the sleeves were visible had a wide jarigai (zari). Her blouse colour was the same as her saree, which was ofcourse worn as a madisaar. Her thalappu (pallu) was hanging for just about a foot from her tummy. It was very tempting to look at her waist where a small triange of previously unexposed pale skin contrasted very very well with the thaali koorai colour (a dark maroon like a wet terra-cotta brick) of her saree.

She was standing bare foot and the heavy silver golusu (anklet) was almost touching the grass. I am sure her man kissed her shiny new metti (toe ring) over her red marudhaani (henna) tainted toe. Her right leg was actually behind her left, and her kosuvam (pleats) hanging between her legs was gently fluttering in the wind, revealing the cute cupped calf muscles. She had her other hand on her hip which is when I realized her figure was stunning. I could actually see her figure through the thick yardage. She was the sexiest girl I have ever seen and hell she did not even have lipstick.

Just then my mom interupted me from behind "She is my periyamma (aunt), and you should not be looking at elders like that." My explanation was more embarrassing than my gawp, "I was just wondering what she was looking at, amma."

lp said...

4 yr old Charan ran to me asking ," thatha,who's this akka in this picture? she doesnt look
any like paati!".i grabbed the photo guessing right, it was Vaijaiyanti, the most adorable
girl those days.
40 long yrs back,me in my wildest age,an aeroplane fanatic.How i loved to fly planes!I even dreamt of becoming a pilot.My small village has never seen planes, though in one of the rarest of rare moments, we could hear a distant "Vhrrrrrrrrr" up in the clouds.
That friday evening,another "Vhrrrrrrrrrrr" in
the sky.i vowed to capture the flying marvel in my dad's pre-independence model camera.i ran and
ran gaping up at the sky, trying to follow the sound and i clicked my camera....I missed the plane, but i sealed Vaijaiyanti in the dark film roll. Not one,but many. She stood amazed watching the plane. I stood amazed watching
her,forgetting the plane.

Anonymous said...

Somewhere in the dark recess of that wooden cupboard, there is a photo album.
And somewhere the middle of the album is a photograph of Vaijayanti.
She's leaning against a tree, looking up at something and smiling.
What is she looking at? When was this photo taken?

"She was a raving beauty once, a long time ago," Meena whispered.

"Whaaat?" I almost forgot to whisper.

I couldn't believe it. She had invited me to visit her bed-ridden grandmother.
I dutifully muttered my "Namaskrams" to the old lady who lay in bed.
Her grey hair was stringy and sparse barely covering the enormous bald patches underneath. Her skin was wrinkled and
sunken, typical of a woman in her late eighties. Her face was typical old-lady too, I could
not discern even a hint of former prettiness.

"Look I'll prove it to you," with that Meena rummaged around in the wooden cupboard
in the far corner of the room and triumphantly emerged with a worn out old-fashioned
photo album.

She carefully turned the pages and somewhere in the middle of the album was a fantastic
black and white picture. The woman in the picture was leaning against a tree and her
gaze was directed upward and not at the phtographer. She was indeed a raving beauty -
perhaps an old-fahioned one - but definitely a beauty.

"You remember this photo Paati?" Meena asked.

The old lady sighed. "The first and last film I made. In our days an
actress was an outcast, one with lowest of morals. But my father just
had had a stroke and there were eleven of us. So when the offer to act
came through a friend of my uncle's I quietly signed up telling no-one at home.
It was all very decent and there was no rowdyism nothing. Just hard work and the
pay I got was a big comfort." THe old lady sighed again and didn't resume.

Meena continued."When the movie was completed, my Thatha - that uncle's friend
she mentioned- married her and forbade her to act anymore.
So she's a one-film wonder - a yester-year actress and we..."

Meena's grandmother interrupted,"That day it was so hot and I had a terrible headaache.
The tree was scratchy against my back. But they shot scene after scene and the only
thought running through my head was - I'll kill that Director if he shoots one more take
- see how the camera lies - makes me look so innocent and demure," she chuckled softly.
"That's how I fooled
your Thatha all the while, pretending to wilt like a flower in the hot sun, but
secretly ruling him with a iron rod."

She fell silent again - probably reminiscing.

I looked at the photo and her face again - the years had taken their toll - but now I
could discern the resemblance.

Nothings aplenty said...

ermm..first time here so its a bit longish. next time will try to shorten it.

She knew it was there, it was only a matter of finding it. The problem with having a room full of cupboards full of old photo albums is that any given photo becomes difficult to find. And the finder’s age oftentimes, as, for example, now doesn’t help.

In her mind's eye, she could still see that image. 7-year-old Vaijayanti, looking up and smiling. She was waiting for the sparrows to come back. Over time she had made friends with them, talking to them whenever she got the chance. They had a deal, they would tell her what they saw when they flew about, and she would tell them what she saw in the house. There always was something for her to discover. Today, she had discovered that when a mirror falls down, it becomes many different mirrors, each a different shape, each showing a different her. "When they come I’ll tell them where they can see different themselves too," she thought. And so she stood, leaning against the tree, the earth turning a deeper richer brown under her feet as the blood seeped into it.

Why had she not felt the pain? Not until Ramesh anna (always with his camera!) called had she realized that she couldn’t move. Today, 53 years later, she had seen Ramesh anna again, still with his camera, and got reminded of the photograph. She knew it was there, it was only a matter of finding it.

Shirsha said...

While chatting with her elder daughter Vaijayanti the other day, her daughter suddenly asked her if she could scan and send her her chilhood photos. That was when she recalled those albums in the dark recess of that wooden cupboard. A short search later she was going through the photos and deciding which ones to scan and send her when, in the middle of one of the albums, she found a photograph of Vaijayanti in black and white. Gosh, this must be among her oldest photos, she peered closer into the photograph when she saw that Vaijayanti was looking up and smiling. She got reminded of all those photo sessions with her daughter, her first child. This one, as far as she remembered had her in a tiny salwar kameez which she herself had stitched for her darling. Once dressed she placed her against that tree in the backyard and decided to get behind the camera, when vaijayanti started bawling. It was to distract her that she had bought a balloon and given it to her to hold and asked her to keep smiling. She was all ready to click, when suddenly the balloon left Vaijayanti's hands and moved upwards, but Vaijayanti remained fascinated by that and continued smiling and thus the photo.. How it all came back to her today, thank God for photos, she said, almost aloud.

Risha said...

Itz more than two decades since that day had met itz dusk , but my memory of it still shines through.Vaiju...the angel-next-door, known as Vaijayanti to the rest of the world , wore a saree for the first time.Not that she was of contemporary or tom-boy make...she was one of those delicate souls who would blush at even the slightest glance.A loud word from her is something I ve not heard of...since our childhood days.

By virtue of my profession I was the chosen one to catch a glimpse of her through my nikon.The damsel, draped in a saree,
toddled her way into my backyard and I zeroed-in on my favourite mango tree for the spot.Smile was her language and she needed no prompting on that .Just when I was done with the shoot , she looked up at the sky and smiled ...she spotted a garudan, an auspicious sight ... an good omen for her marriage under discussion.For me that spelt a beautiful memory etched on my film.

The omen was true - she is curled up in her baby-like sleep , as I flip through the album , on this warm sunday noon.

AquaM said...

I chanced upon Vaijayanthi’s photograph carelessly tucked in between the folds of the album. The memories came rushing back to me. I had lost her within a fraction of a second. Or so it seems.
Vaijayanti was a dreamer. On that particular day, we were playing outdoors. Ramesh anna with his camera took a shot of Vijayanti leaning against a tree, with a mischievous smile, as if smiling at some invisible being that we could not see. Was she talking to Yama? Negotiating terms perhaps?
Coming from her, it was not surprising. She was a dreamer afterall.
She died the next day in her sleep. All I have of Vijayanti is her photograph and some memories.

Karthik said...

I asked the same question to Paati .. She Sighed and began the story - "It was the 1940's.. We were a well off family in Bengal..This picture was taken when we were in the midst of happy times !! But (sigh) happiness doesn't last forever in life ..Suddenly the partition came and Vaijayanti who was married in East Bengal was completely cut off from us.. What followed was mindless violance, blood shed and what not .. Thousands of Hindus and Muslims lost their near and dear ones in the carnage that followed.. Well, what happened to vaijayanthi - u may ask.. She was married to a muslim merchant and during the riots that followed, the entire family was set ablaze !! (Sob)(Sniff) Well that's life my dear boy .. All i am left with is memories and this picture !!" (Long Sigh !!!)

"Aiyyo,Paati neee poitaye ...." - I wailed !! "Chinna Paati" - i corrected myself when Paati glared at me !!

Shammi said...

I have only one photo of my daughter Vaijayanti - the one that Magistrate Ramanujam ayya’s daughter Chinnu took just a few minutes before she died. She was only 7 years old. My Vaija was 14 then, the constant companion of Chinnu from the day she was born, as carefree and full of fun and mischief as Chinnu herself. I wonder if Vaija remembers the person she used to be, all those years ago…

Of course I kept telling Vaija to be careful - she was only the cook’s daughter while Chinnu was the pampered, headstrong child of a very rich magistrate. But Vaija didn’t listen… she played along with Chinnu’s wild ideas and enjoyed all the mischief-making. Children never imagine disasters – that is left to the mostly helpless adults.

Magistrate Ramanujam ayya and his wife treated us very well, especially as Chinnu was so fond of Vaija. Vaija was Chinnu’s companion and minder at the same time. They expected her to look after Chinnu and keep her out of trouble - but that was no easy job. How that girl got into mischief! Always running around, always getting into scrapes, never scared of consequences. Maybe my Vaija didn’t always try too hard to stop her because she was such a child herself, even if she was 14 years old.

That day, that terrible day, Chinnu had got a new camera and wanted to take photos from the big mango tree in the garden. Of course she was too short to reach the lowest branch herself, so Vaija lifted her up. I watched from the kitchen window as Chinnu climbed the tree like a monkey. Vaija was leaning against the tree, smiling up at the little girl.

Chinnu took a photo – and then, in one endless moment that I relive in my dreams, it all went wrong… my scream of horror mingling with Chinnu’s shrill cry as she fell headlong from the tree, the smile frozen on my Vaika’s face. That was the last time I saw my daughter smile... the shock and guilt of the tragic incident fall broke Vaija’s mind as surely as it broke Chinnu’s neck.

Anonymous said...

And after I had explained to her about the stars, why they appear to twinkle, the gases they contain, how they burn out and die, Vaijayanthi ran out into the yard. I followed her after a while and found her leaning against a tree, her eyes straying among the stars. I know what she's thinking now, "This dad is so stupid". She giggles as the stars acknowledge her thoughts.

Anonymous said...

When Vaijayanti first auditioned Abhi, in her cramped Char Bungalow apartment, he wasn't particularly impressive. Yes, he was tall and lanky, star-child, obviously pampered , well manicured, but there was no charisma, no screen presence.

I don't want to be just a clone of my father, he said. I want to be my own man. She liked that.

She made the usual phone calls. Dutta, Bhalla, Dharmesh, the usual 2nd rungers. His dad pulled a few strings. First few films flopped. But that was only to be expected. Every actor goes through rough patch. He was unfazed. She liked that.

13 flops in 3 years. It can make anyone rethink his choice of career. But he stuck to his guns. She liked that.

By then they were an item. Bandra, Vile Parle, Madh Island, Juhu. The tabloid paparazzi trailed them. Hero on casting couch! Ultimate role reversal. She took secret pleasure in those sleazy headlines. Obviously true, ofcourse. But his dad, he did not like that.

He crashed at her pad that night. I'm only doing this for my dad, you understand - he said. Ofcourse she did. Abhi and Lolo in the same breath - lots of brand value. The engagement went as planned. The media chased them everywhere. More film offers. Big big names. His dad's plan worked, perhaps too well. She did not like that.

Exit Lolo.
Exit film offers.
A few critical acclaims here and there. Nothing major. No big breakthroughs.

His dad could wait no more.
Plan B.
Hire the best Indian director.
Pump in 100 crores.
Tell the most inspiring tale ever. A nobody who became a somebody everybody desired to become.
The ultimate aspirational tale.

At a time when the heroes of the nation friterred away their screen capital prancing in pink shirts making gay innuendos, much to the disappointment of the unwashed conservative masses, here was the ultimate squeaky clean family film that grabbed the youth by their balls and shook up their complacency, so violently and yet with so much conviction they shed their fears in an instant and screamed, Yes, We can take on the world! And win!

Villager ? Bharat kisanon ka desh hai. Everybody is villager.
Visionary ?? Gandhi, Nehru, Bhagat Singh, blah blah, boring.
Winner ??? Wo kaun hai ?

Villager + Visionary + Winner ?
Why, there is only one.

Vaijayanti saw the rushes.
She knew, then, she was done for.
He knew, too.

Look, we've had a good run, he said to her that night. But every good thing must come to an end. My time has finally come! She saw, for the first time, what raw ambition looked like. And it scared her.
He had to let her go.

The film was way beyond overwhelming. It would immidiately vault Abhi to a whole new level. He would be in a universe all his own. Nobody could touch him. With this release, he would become a bigger star than his dad ever was.

But the nation's hero couldn't be seen with a loser casting director. No way! It had to be Ash. Nothing else could work. The nation needs its heroes. Losers be damned.

Vaijayanti watched the giant cutout slowly hoisted up. A 1000 feet poster, the first of its kind. Abhi would be seen from Colaba to Cuffe Parade with naked eye. Ash too.

Goodbye Abhi, she said, with a silent smile playing on her lips. Phir milenge! The pills were slowly taking effect. They found the body the next day. But her ipod certainly had a great battery life. It played the same loop, the one on everybody's lips -

jage hain der tak
kuch der sone do.
thodi si raat aur hai,
subah to hone do.
aadhe adhoore khwab
poore na ho sake...

Anonymous said...

...hey ammani, i accidentally stumbled upon your blog! really find ur idea of turning into the catalyst and triggering off stories quite cool! Here's my blog:

ammani said...

It is small. Tiny, even. No bigger than the nail on your forefinger. 'Vaijayanti, 1957' reads the faint lettering on the back of the photo that you know so well. She must be about 20 years old. Her hair is left untied and stray strands catching the sunlight. The waviness of her tresses suggests that she keeps it plaited most of the time. She smiles as if the photographer has just said something funny. She must have known him well. She wears a dark coloured saree (blue or green - you can't tell) and a matching blouse. Her hands are tucked around the tree loosely. The way she holds her neck indicates that she has had some training in dancing. Her nose is crinkled and her eyes are squeezed to a slit. May be it's the sunshine sliding through the leaves of the tree she is leaning against. May be it's the joke, you'll never know.
She bears no resemblance to anyone in your family. She's much too pretty for that. You've often wondered how the photo came to be in your house. Was she someone's lover? Someone's wife? Once you had decided to ask someone in the family about her. But somehow the question never left your throat. And Vaijayanthi remains a mysterious stranger in a sepia-toned photo from a sunny afternoon in '57.

Anonymous said...

This is very late, but that's where the response is to this prompt. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Long overdue, sorry. :]