The Twelfth Main Road from Thippasandra intersects at the Hundred Feet Road of Indira Nagar and goes straight to Cambridge Layout.
The intersection is the layover for Anasuyamma and me during the wee hours of all the six days a week.
From Thippasandra, Anasuyamma would reach the Twelfth Main at any moment, I thought while walking in long strides in surging haste from Cambridge Layout end. I must reach there before she could. My watch showed me time as twenty five minutes past five.
She came on the dot.
“Hi, Ravi”, through the pale mixture of street lights and the enigmatic dawn, Anasuyamma from afar appeared, entered the Hundred Feet Road, and increased her speed to be in pace with me. When our binary pace merged into a natural sync of equanimity, the usual question came over from her: “Who broke the discipline of time today?”
The insinuation of breaking the discipline of time according to Anasuyamma was not alone reaching behind schedule, it also meant reaching before time. She was not expecting any explanation from me, I knew. It was just an innocuous welcome remark at the meeting time.
With our equally falling long strides and strong hand movements, we walked on the Hundred Feet Road. The one kilometer distance from the intersection of Twelfth Main Road to the Airport Road went crossing Doopanahalli with its moderately crowded bus-terminus nearby. At right of the airport road junction, the low lying Domlur BDA Park lay eerie in swamp. Turning over the corner of the Park onto the airport road and walking alongside the CPWD Quarters, Domlur Shopping Complex and the Army Garage, we covered a fairly three kilometer distance on our reaching the Air Force Command Hospital. The median-less road in front of the hospital was plain and wide. There we walked over to the opposite side, to return.
Our return was in slow pace, and that made easier for Anasuyamma to talk about many of her personal matters. Once we were at the Twelfth Main Road cross of Indira Nagar, it was almost six kilometers distance we have covered.
“That goes well with our need”, Anasuyamma told me in half jest on the first day of our meeting, “we have no extra mass to shred to stretch ourselves for more than six kilometers, what do you say, Ravi?”
To my reply that in her then running mid-forties, her body did not need even half of the care she had been giving, Anasuyamma went into a visible delirium, batting fast her eye lashes. Yet she directed innuendos towards her husband:
“Body structure is going awry, why shouldn’t I protect what I have is his daily rhetoric” Anasuyamma said.
Anasuyamma’s husband was the Head of Marketing and Sales Group of a Multinational Company in Bangalore, she told me before. His firm views went well with his job, probably. No need to belittle him, calling it as his craziness.
During our slow retreats, Anasuyamma could fill her conversation with such news and information about her husband and daughter. Though I haven’t ever seen Anasuyamma’s husband, I remembered having seen her daughter Annapurna several times during the morning walk. Both Anasuyamma and I were not in acquaintance during that period. My encounter with the mornings started only a few weeks back with my wife’s early morning sermons became irresistibly cajoling to take good care of my thirty five years old physique. While walking alone during the initial period of those days, I could watch the mother-daughter duo walking either ahead of me or behind on the Hundred Feet Road. During one of those usual mornings, the woman, Anasuyamma, suddenly came over to me with a loud “Hi!” A quick introduction, loud laugh, airing a feeling that we knew each other for many years….
It followed many spot-instructions to me.
The following day her daughter was absenting.
“She was giving me company”, said Anasuyamma on that day, “Although I too throw a cigarette on to my lips and fondle it and bugle around at times that women are equal to men, in reality, Ravi, I admit I have fears to walk alone during the smudgy darkness of the wee hours. Walking after day break ceases to be morning walk with its many abhorrence. So, I was literally dragging Annapurna out of bed just to accompany me in the mornings, much to her displeasure. I made friendship with you to give her freedom. She is very happy now.”
There appeared a condition from then onwards. I have to wait for Anasuyamma once I reach the Hundred Feet Road. But, in reality many days I found her waiting for me. We fairly kept the time, since reaching behind and before schedule would have been considered breach of discipline.
Family stories were Anasuyamma’s endless rhyme every morning. Since her husband had been on constant business tours at least twenty days a month, the stories that Anasuyamma narrated to me on several occasions had the minute detailing of un-penned travelogue with the sole difference that the narrator had never undertaken any of those journeys. Her husband, as perfect as the characteristics the ilk of sales personnel quite often would display, was an extrovert and knew the art of making friendship easily. “Orissa Chief Minister called him yesterday”, she told me one day.
“Guess who’s our guest next Sunday?”
“Who?” I was a bit curious.
“ SP Balasubramanyam”.
That was another day’s news from her.
“You know what did Simon bring for Annapurna yesterday?” One day Anasuyamma put me into another guess work. Without knowing the identity of the person she was referring to, I showed a smudgy look to her! She ignored my silent waiting till I asked her, “who is this new character, Simon?”
“Simon is my husband….. Curious Ravi….you have been a studious listener I thought. Err……. about whom have you been hearing from me for all these days?” Quite a blunt indictment on me, from her. But, I thought in recollection that I had never heard such a name from her nor anything resounding so, since she referred her husband to, “my hubby” or “my boy”. And when suddenly a Simon was jumping out of her bag, how else could I react!
“So, was it a love marriage?” I was on a loud soliloquy, without making it as a question.
“Not necessarily”, Anasuyamma said, “even without any love affair, this Brahmin Anasuyamma could marry Simon, a Christian by belief, Ravi.”
“Oh, yes, yes”, I said, “but more so, such marriages often bloom after love affairs in prelude.”
“Then, yes”, Anasuyamma raised a blister of laugh. The resonance of it alarmed the driver of the dark green coloured military truck that was coming out of the Army Workshop, and with a glee he protruded his head out, murmured something before he took it in. “Not one or two, twelve long years we continued loving each other, before marriage”.
Not bad, not a simpleton as I considered her to be….
She then continued detailing about the great piece of gift Simon had brought in for Annapurna on the previous day.
Many of such stories came over to me every morning, making my mornings very different, at times hilarious.
One evening, after visiting a friend at Thippasandra I was returning home and on reaching at Nehru School of Indira Nagar, I slowed down my bike. I could vaguely remember Anasuyamma telling me during our morning walk that her residence was right opposite to Nehru School.
By parking the bike on the lane, I had opened the gate of the house and pressed the call bell. Anasuyamma had never called me home, but no harm in visiting her, I pacified myself.
The door creaked and became half ajar. There stood Anasuyamma, filling the space the door heaved in. Perturbed for a moment? She had seen me only in shorts and T-shirt, and so before she would fumble with a “who?” I said:
“Not bad Ravi!” She smiled and said, “you thought I don’t recognize you? Please come on in…..”
She took me in, made me sit in a sofa and sat down right opposite to me.
“How could you locate my house?”
“With your descriptions, but this is so unplanned a visit, Anasuyamma”, I said, “while returning from Thippasandra after meeting a friend, I could identify the house, and a sudden urge engulfed me to get into, and say a hello to you, that’s all. Where’s Annapurna?”
“She has gone to Sakshi Gallery for some painting exhibitions. Simon is on tour, as usual.”
A song of wail in feminine intones wafted in from one of the rooms, accompanied by the light rhythmic sigh of Tabla.
Anasuyamma got up and went inside. When she returned, she was in her hospitality spree.
While I was about to leave, Anasuyamma said, “Come along with your wife and Swati….” Then as if something suddenly remembered, she corrected herself: “Oh, no…I will confirm about it later, because we are shifting our house, Simon’s organization is giving us a big house on lease, shortly. Bye Ravi, see you tomorrow morning.”
I revved up my bike.
The next morning when I reached the Twelfth Main cross of the Hudred Feet Road with the discipline of keeping five past thirty intact, Anasuyamma did not come. She did not come the next day and the following day too. She might be busy shifting to her new residence, I thought. Or had she gone away from Indira Nagar itself? Many days that followed murmured into me that she was not around, gone away somewhere afar.
Months passed by, almost a year or so. Anasuyamma was fading away from my memory too.
Jiddu Krishnamurthy and his ilk made my wife and me decide to avoid giving heavy loads of books to our daughter in her smaller age, and to allow her study what the nature educates a child in silence….. So we decided to send Swati to a Montessori school.
One day, with Swati, we went to the nearby Montessori school. While getting into the precincts, I got entangled into a morning dew dipping face of a girl who showed us the Principal’s room and walked past…
I called her from behind in polite intones of my voice and asked:
“Yes”, she eagered, eyes sparkled.
“Am Ravi. I have seen you many times along with your mother.”
“Mother…?” her face got obliterated.
“Yes, your mother Anasuyamma, in morning walks…”
“Oh!” Annapurna heaved a sigh of a relief. Then in a very low voice she said:
“Mother is a natural embodiment of fullness for any child. It cannot be achieved with mere claims and, more so, without ever mothering a child… can it be?”
The question was to me. Yes, motherhood is a natural transition of any woman, unparallel in nature, irreproachable in feelings. But what is the relevance of all these, here? Before I could utter a word, Annapurna continued: “Earlier too I have heard Anasuyamma was saying similar things to many people, but I have ignored all of them. And I ignored with the reason of pity for her that it was not of her fault that she remains now a spinster in life. I feel sorry for her….”
“But, where’s she now?”
“Don’t you see her now-a-days?”
“Oh, I have heard her saying that she has been going to Thippasandra area for walk.”
“Has she moved out of Indira Nagar?”
“No, she continues there itself…It is her own house”
I thanked Annapurna and made our way to the Principal’s cabin.
The following day I decided to avoid walking towards the airport road, went to the opposite direction and entered the Chinmaya Mission Road. When I turned right at the edge of Chinmaya Mission Hospital and taking the Thippasandra route, what could I get ahead to watch? With quick hand movements and long strides, Anasuyamma was walking fast, at least a hundred feet ahead of me. A youth in his early thirties, in shorts and T-shirt, was walking along with her in same pace. Anasuyamma’s loud voice and gestures were driving away the otherwise immobile cool Bangalore breeze. When the youth turned a bit to look backward, I, with my quick hand-gestures tried getting his attention towards me, quibbled aloud:
Ramachandran is an HR Professional presently based at Gurgaon and lives there with his wife Ajitha, son Shreyas & daughter Shruti.
Kunnamthanam Ramachandran (KRC Pillai) is a Malayalam writer, has written over 80 short stories in Malayalam and published two Novels. “Enigma”, the short story we publish here, as translated by the author himself, was originally written and published in Malayalam as “Durooham” .