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Thadhiginathom: Part 4
- Zakir Hussain
English translation: Dushy Gnanapragasam

July 7, 2020

(Reproduced with permission)

Showers of Blessings
The day dawned like any other without any pomp. I had awoken earlier than usual on that day. My mind was restless with anticipation.

My roommate Prabhu must have noticed the difference in me when he told me in jest, "Dude, today is the last day of your freedom. You'll have to start attending classes from tomorrow."

I was worried for a moment thinking of my return to the classroom. My HOD would probably be awaiting me with pent up anger. "Shall see," I answered half-heartedly.

"Where are you off to now?"
"To Salem Junction. I'm going to receive Chitra madam."
"How long is she staying?"
"For a couple of days, I think."
"Whatever." He went back to sleep.

Prabhu was an equally hopeless devotee of Andal as I. His ancestors had migrated to Tamil Nadu from Gujarat during the time of Marathi rule. A Sourashtrian. A handsome fellow, who has named his house as 'Andal's Nest'. He and I were best friends during our college days. He now manages his own textile loom in Dindigul.

"Hey, have you showered?" yelled Senthil from the adjacent room.
"Yes. The bathroom is empty."
He walked into the bathroom with a towel on his shoulder and what looked like a brand new bar of soap, though he has been using the same bar for over three months.

"Prabhu, how is it his soap bar is always new? Does he use soap when he showers or does he just look at it while showering?"
"Dude, he does not rub the soap bar on his body when he showers. He takes a bit on his hands and rubs his hands all over."
"How do you know?"
"He told me."
"Whatever. I'm leaving now."
"They are serving your favourite Uppuma today at the canteen. Aren't you going to eat first?"

I was the only one in hostel who actually liked Uppuma. It reminded me of my childhood and of Alamelu Periyamma's Uppuma. Everyone would stand at a distance and admire the way I enjoyed my Uppuma, as if that was the first time I was having a meal in a long time. The cook too had taken a special liking to me because of this. But not today. I hardened my heart like an overcooked idly and sacrificed the Uppuma, its fragrance, and its taste. It was a small sacrifice considering the great reward that awaited me at Salem Junction.

Salem Junction was only two kilometers away from where I lived. I would normally cover the distance walking. But not today. I did not want to turn up all hot and sweaty at the train station. So, I spent the fifty cents to catch the bus. I found an empty seat on the bus and sank into deep thoughts imagining myself to be a famous artiste being received at the train station by a large crowd. (This actually did happen to me later in my life is evidence how gracious God has been to me. May your aims be always lofty.)

I looked at my watch when I got off at the junction. There was still an hour before the train arrived. I settled down with a cup of coffee to await the arrival of the train, admiring a poster we had put up of Chitra madam. Soon, the secretary of SpicMacay arrived with two rather large rose garlands. I wondered who the second garland was for.

"Good morning, Sir."
"Good morning, Zakir. When did you come?"
"About an hour ago, Sir." 
"Wow! Why so early?"
"I don't know why. I could not sleep, Sir....who is the second garland for?"
"That's for Mr. Visweswaran. He is going to be the vocalist today. Is your college guesthouse ready?"
"Oh yes, Sir. We exceeded the Principal's expectations. Madam will be impressed. We prepared seven rooms to accommodate the orchestra as well. Their meals have also been arranged."

He nodded his head in satisfaction just as a twenty-member marching band arrived. I checked my list again and this was not on it. "Zakir, this is the Little Flower Convent band. Madam is doing a lecture-demonstration there tomorrow. This was a last-minute arrangement. So, it's not going to be on your list," he explained.

I was overjoyed. Not with his explanation, but with the knowledge that there was going to be a second event with Chitra madam. As soon as the train appeared at a distance, the band started playing. This excited other passengers at the station. They might have thought we were expecting a political leader or a minister. We waited with bated breath, garland in our hands, for the goddess of dance to arrive. The coal fired train finally reached the platform and stopped with a heavy puff of soot.
(June 28, 2020)

To be continued...

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