Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Basanthi.....A Real Reel Story::Present 3

I was always called a brave person in the college and in the village,but I realised I was no match against love.Thumping heart,weak knees and perhaps trembling too..If this was my state what would be hers.The silence was broken by her,she had passed the exams.Stretched her hands and in that was a colourful Mala of beads.Thanks giving were written all over it.Locked to her mesmerising eyes and said this was not neccessary
Basanthi :Shami (sami,a repectful word ,was pronounced by her that way )Enakku padippu solli tharuveengala (will you teach me )I want to pass SSLC.
Me :Nichhayamaga (surely)..But in the heart of hearts,I didnt know how to go about it

One or two more meetings,we decided ,apart from the night school classes we would spend the saturday and sunday for studies.The location ,of course had to be a far off place.We decided on the PICHAVARAM ,one of the most beautiful mangrove spots in the country,near Portonovo.One could simply get lost in those places,an ideal place to spend time together,of course on studies.

One major worry of mine got cleared with The zamindar of Namalaipatti deciding to marry off his daughter Thenmozhi elsewhere, since they were in a hurry..My sisters marriage got cleared and now I was free to go on with my plans.

Weekends were obviously awaited by me and it was the same for Basanthi too..a bond developing so fast we started discussing,life after college.There was a pressure on her to get married to a person from her community from Viluppuram a place not far away. So Time and Social pressure were the things weighing very heavily on us.We decided that I have to leave for USA immediately after results and then...A million questions..how and when to get married?Before or after?Will her family wait eternally for her to decide?already pressure on her since she has become educated.Exams were closing in on us and so was the decisive phase..Somewhere along the line we realised we hadnt even talked of marriage but had taken it for granted , as the inevitable.She was astounding with her studies.Her concentration level was so high that there used to be times when I yearned for her loving glances !I knew she was destained for something big.

Both of us completed our exams and were confident of our success.She had picked up English too.I got admission in one of the best University , and that meant just a few days left for the departure..It dawned on us that it would be impossible for her to get passport etc all by herself,besides the visa was a tough issue.It meant I had to confess the developments to someone who could keep it confidential and at the same time resourceful. I called on my best friend in madras,who was taken aback since he knew my family well.But his acceptance to help was immediate.We decided the best solution was to get married immediately.How ? My friend pulled in all his resources and the date in registrars office fixed .All along Basanthi was a silent spectator to the developments and silence was her way of conveying her acceptance.That was my Basanthi.For marriage she wanted me to buy her a colurful silk dress in her typical tradition,which I did.It was a sort of skirt and blouse.She looked terrific at the registrars office..All along we had not thought about the repurcursions.

I was nervous,as my departure date was nearing.Surprisingly she was confidence personified .Amazing girl.I knew my friend in Madras, was the only person through whom I could keep the communication channel on and also heavily depended on him for visa and other formalities.

My departure,settling down there etc etc all went off in a jiffy. Suddenly ,I realised,at least I had made out a genuine reason for going overseas,How would she manage.My God,I had never thought of it.Hows my Basanthi going to face the situation and the world.What sort of human being I was?always thinking of me and my family ?I wrote a long letter to Basanthi and apologised to her..She replied calmly that she had already opened out to her parents,who were shocked.But knowing her firmness on issues,including education,they accepted it.But they didnt know how to handle the situation, if she left their camp..

My friend in Madras was one hell of a guy running from pillar to post in getting things organised,visa papers ,neccessary documents,airline tickets etc and the sweetest news was she got the visa (in my hurry I forgot to ask her what dress she wore for the interview,though it made no difference) ..and her departure to the land of opportunities was fixed for August1975.I thanked my friend ,in Madras ,profusely for all the coordination ,after he put her on flight.I donno how I would have handled the situation without his help..

Basanthi landed and then on life for us had turned more eventful.

Somewhere,in late seventies I opened out to my parents about the developments and disappointment was too much for them to digest not because of my decision but more because they didnt know how to handle the social pressures which would surface once my decision was made public.They would stand isolated.My sister managed the situation so well that my admiration for her went up multifold.She had apparently convinced them not to react.She perhaps realised that our society will accept people once they were elevated in social standings.Malarkodi, very effectively sponged off the tensions of my parents in her own way and I felt her husband Avudayappan played a significant role too..Thanks to them..

The only way Basanthis family was kept informed of our well being was thru photographs and words of solace thru my friend.Understand they remained isolated in their tribe.Surely Basanthi must have felt deeply hurt but never once she showed it.

In a short time,I became the head of a major research institute and Basanthi was pursuing her studies ,relentlessly..She completed her Doctoral on topic close to her heart.Nomads and their influence on the society..Her writings hugely applauded,she became an invited speaker to many Universities.An NGO started by her,LINK UP,Networked the Nomads of various countries and made them mainstream contributers of respective societies.Books written by her were receiving accolades..

Our only child SNEHA(friendship)was growing up giving us the much needed diversion.
Then one day it occured to me when Basanthi was away globe trotting;That thought crossed my mind ..Enough was enough...With both of us busy in our own work,Sneha was not getting the attention she deserved.Made up my mind to talk to Basanthi upon her return.

Me :Basanthi,The pressure of our work is telling on Sneha

Basanthi :Amaam Shami(Yes)I do realise that

Me :I feel,one of us have to take care and that is going to me.Will it be ok?

Basanthi was adament in not accepting that decision.Having never said no to any of her demands,it was very tough for me stand firm.But finally I convinced her that her contribution was far more larger since it addressed people directly.

As years rolled by and as Sneha went away to hostel,I started devoting more time to LINK UP,the NGO run by Basanthi.

By then we visited, Madras which by then had become Chennai.The offial reception by the Government and meeting with the CM was higly publicised in the media.Basanthi was literally a celebrity and with that the social acceptability..Both our parents were looked upon in awe.Yes,over the years both the families had become close to us and no more heart burns..

And then one day it was announced that Basanthi was being awarded the famous BONEL prize for her contribution to the society.As usual I was in all excitement.Basanthi was her cool composed self,and reacted saying it was possible only because of me.I was dumbstruck.

The day of award giving was declared as 16 th of April,2008.Telephone calls from world over including from those who had predicted our marriage would fail,poured in.

On 10th April when we were to leave for Europe,had a silent prayer in our pooja room.As we sat across the dining table,and discussed many things.Finally when we came to the nitty grittys, I asked her what she proposed to wear,perhaps a very silly question.A smile from her and she walked across to her cupboard and brought out the dress. It was the same one which I had bought her decades back for marriage,a typical colurful gypsy dress,but made of silk.Both of us felt so excited and romantic too,despite the years.Rest of the stuff could be brought from India.

On my part I had preserved the beads given by her to me and Basanthi was more than happy to sport it on herself.

On that day,when Basanthi was to be given the award,we were allotted the front row.I was flanked by my parents on one side and Basanthis parents on the other.My father gave me a gentle squeeze on my shoulder perhaps meaning how much he respected my decision.Two persons I would have loved to be around,Malarkodi (my Sis ) and CU(my friend from Madras)couldnt make it.

As they announced..We invite Dr.Basanthi Selvaraju, who calls herself ,very rightly,as the Global Citizen to receiv.........

Tall,ever graceful,in the traditional dress as Basanthi walked up to receive the award ,she gave me that glance through the Orakann(corner of the eyes)which transported me back in time by decades....Oh My Basanthi !!I am so lucky.....

This is a reproduction as heard from my friend Selvaraju !!


To know more about NariKoravas and Gypsies and the exotic Pichavaram, One could browse following..of course there are many more sites !!

About Nomads and NariKoravas






About Pichavaram




Monday, January 7, 2008

Basanthi ::::::::::::::::::: A Real Story::PAST 2

As they gathered the food with happiness lit up on their faces,An ora kann paarvai(a glance from the corner of the eye )from her said it all !!In a flash they all left . I could hear their joyous singing as they walked away but something was closing in my heart!!

A tap on my shoulder, I realised my friends,were waiting to shut the door and go back to hostel.Everywhere it was congrats for me :Chinna Pannai What a function you conducted,Never has the hostel seen one like this..But nothing registered.That glance from her was going thru my mind again&again..

Wondering if an oppurtunity to meet her again would come I passed the days!One day my a classmate of mine, active in social service league, said he needed help in conducting an evening coaching class for students from 6pm to 9 pm.This was generally for children of hostel cooks,attendants and likewise.Almost 300 students from class 1 to 10!!Reluctantly I accepted and was alloted class 9 and the subject was History and Geography and I was supposed to be good in Maths.Dimly lit classroom had about 20 students and as I started taking the class I saw a movement outside the room.I went out and to my utter disbelief there she was standing ,listening and taking notes on a piece of paper.

I blurted :what are you doing here

She replied :listening to what you are teaching,I love history and geography..I am planning to write privately and complete school.

I could see the glow in her eyes or was it determination.She refused to come in and sit,perhaps knowing she might not be accepted in.The paper she was writing must have been picked up as a rag ..

From that day for the next 8 weeks I was a regular teacher always selecting History and geography as my subject!!and she was my pupil outside the class !!But by the moment I completed my class she would have vanished..

My annual Exams ended and for once I was reluctant to return home for the two months holidays seemed to be years.I wanted to tell her bye but she was nowhere to be seen.Even if I saw her on the street I wondered if I would be able to talk to her..The social pressure was obvious..I wanted to tell her Good Luck for her results,but i didnt know if she had written the exams too!!

The appointed day,bag baggage and all I sat in the train compartment and there she was walking down the platform, with all colourful malas and beads for sale.As she came near me, the train started moving .When our eyes met, that anxious & bewildered look in her eyes said a thousand words which perhaps would stay with me for the next 2 months or longer.

My entry in the village is always colourful,and this time too it was the same.My only sister Malarkodi,father and mother ensured that I was choked with pampering.My sister noticed the change in me and was pulling my leg as often as she could.I was restless.That ,oratthu paarvai from the corner of her eyes was too bewitching!!.I was desperate to see her.But How ? Rushed to the university,Railway station and every other place where I thought she might be,but nowhere to be seen.

A major festival,all of us including my Father visited the templetown.Crowds everywhere and suddenly she appeared just a few feet away selling Beads to the pilgrims.I was excited trying to catch her eye and when the eyes met,I thought it became misty for both of us.I realised Malarkodi had also caught the scene !!The jostling crowd seperated us and she was gone.

I realised couple of things,I was in love with her.Something also told me that I must make her succesful in Acadamics too...Why that feel.God only knows and Perhaps time would answer..Was I mad ?Was it possible? I have to make it possible..but then how?how will the family take it?especially my Father..Can I face the pressure from the society?A million questions crossed..but then I realised She would also face the same questions?I felt small,that I didnt think of her problems..Again was she interested in me ?Was it crush,infatuation or mere stupidity..another set of zillion questions..I decided I want to make it happen,come what may!!

Evening returned back to our native place.After dinner,as was the custom Father was sitting on his easy chair and I was massaging his legs.Malarkodi was sitting across and mother standing behind father.He opened the topic.The zamindar of Namalaipatti,who were many times richer than us ,wanted Malarkodi to become his daughter in law ..and at the same time wanted to know if I would marry his only girl Thenmozhi. I reacted as if I was hit by a thunderbolt,and Malarkodi did not fail to see my reaction..
Fathers booming voice continued..Enna sollareenga Selvaraju Thambi..(What do you feel about it Selvaraju )

The only thought which flashed in my mind was to buy time somehow.

Father : Enna selvaraju thambi,Badhil kaanom (Why no reply selvaraju )

Me : Thangachi ku 18 vayasu kuda aagale,naanum mel padippu padikkalaamunu ninaikkiren.Aana, Mudivu,eppovum pole neenga solrapadi than (Sister is not even 18 and I was thinking of studying more.However decision is yours )

Father : ille thambi,Neenga solvadhileyum Gyaayam irukkudhu.Unga mudivule enakku abaara nambikkai undu,Nalla yosicchhu than solluveenga.Sari ,avanga kitte solli paakkaren
(What you say is also right And I always believe your decisions are correct.I will convey our views to them )

God was kind,that day and The zamindar of Namalaipatti also accepted our views.But heart of heart I knew I didnt have much time.I didnt want Malarkodi to suffer because of my delay and decision.Prayed hard for a solution.

Two months passed away like two years.Returned back to the temple town station and the Hostel.That was going to be my Fifth and Final year.Everyday I was walking up and down the station platform to get a glimpse of her .The uniqueness of the station was that it was flanked one side by the temple town and the other side the University.Hence it was a sort of an observation point to catch a glimpse of people criss crossing between the two places.

Finally,One day I saw her walking towards a lonely spot in between the innumerable labs of our Engineering college.Instantly I realised she wanted me to follow her,which I did .Trying to walk as naturally as I could, I didnt realise, that I was actually running towards her.There she stood between the Internal combustion Lab and Steam lab,waiting for me. I was anxious as I closed in on her and didnt know what she wanted to convey.

part 2 of 3


Friday, January 4, 2008

Basanthi ::::::::::::::::::: A Real Story :PAST 1

The year 1969..One of the most beautiful Universities of Tamizh Nadu peacefully located near a magnificient temple town .I joined engineering. I am Selvaraju alias Chinna Zamin (Younger Zamindar). I was also called Chinna Pannai (CP).Belonging to the Zamindar family on the banks of river Cauvery and 18 villages under us,of several thousand acres employing over 14000 farmers in the field during the peak harvest season.The only son,my father ,a benevolent dictator, ran the Zamin in a most effficient manner.A forward thinking man,wanted me to study so that I could incorporate the latest technology in the Zamin.

While I kept a low key profile never bringing in my background among my friends,slowly most of them started talking about the power we wielded in the district ,in a hush hush manner.Always a top ranker in the class ,Engineering fascinated me since my maths was exceptionally strong.A typical research person my professors used to comment !!In my fourth year,my friends forced me to contest an election for Mess Secretary post.Just no one contested against me and won it unanimously.

The location of the hostel was close to the railway station and bordering the campus and railway station was a no mans land,occupied by GYPSIES,popularly known as Nari Koravas .Generally nomadic in nature,they had set up tents and for reasons best known to them ,had settled down there for a few years now.The men folk carrying guns perhaps junks from First World war .Hunting around in the bushes for birds and small animals one could see them around our campus in their loin cloth and varieties of beads around their neck.Their language sounded totally alien to us.The women folk very good in making colourful bead malas used to sell them on the roads.
The hostel mess used to be one source of food for them and the left overs were generally distributed to them.

It was Hostel Day celebrations.There was competition between various hostels as to who did the function in the grandest fashion..no awards,only prestige at stake !!
One visit to my zamin ensured my fathers promise to under write the total expenses besides 100 sacks of rice,pulses etc etc,500 poultry,150 goats......This would have been sufficient just not for our hostel but several hostels put together.But I could never convince my father since he wanted his son to show his might !!
The hostel day went off with the pomp which perhaps the college had never seen ever.The food was so much in surplus and so we decided to call the representatives of the korava community and take the food .

Around 10 pm ,as the function and dinner came to a close,we opened the rear gate of the hostel mess to allow the Koravas to cart away the food.Some of them drunk were making so much noise and I got furious and went out to shout at them.As I came out,a group of 10 koravas I could spot and slightly away below the street lamp,there she was,breath takingly beautiful girl belonging to the korava group.Very tall as she was,with the head lowered,perhaps due to the behaviour of others in the group.As she gently lifted her head and locked her eyes with mine,I found myself mesmerised by the vulnerabilty of her looks,a divinity and an aloofness which made her look distinct and regal in her traditional clothes.I became numb and didnt know what took over me in the midst of the chaos there..BASANTHI,shouted one elder in the group and she rushed towards him...So she was BASANTHI,perhaps my Basanthi !!

PART 1 of 3