February 28, 2010 @ 10:27 am
It is a late Sunday morning and I walk out to inspect the damage done by a mob of monkeys that has started visiting our area off-late. Not their fault. Their only habitat in this part of town was a 300 year old banyan tree that split apart under its own weight a few months ago. The monkeys, who earlier used to swing from one of the numerous branches of that tree to another, now have no sky over their heads. Fending for themselves from one concrete abode to another, they are now leading a life which will be in perennial conflict with man.
One flower pot was smashed to bits by them while they carried out their procession with part fear and part aggression. I move the pieces of the earthen pot to the side and greet the watchman of the neighbouring apartments.
“Where were you?,” I ask him since I hadn’t seen him around for a few days.
“Madras,” he replied back.
“To fix marriage. Of daughter.”
“Ok. All final?,” I ask him with a smile and in a Kannada that he pretty much understood.
I decide to not impart the opinion that he shouldn’t get his daughter married so early (she is around 18 years old now). But my opinions are sometimes hard to keep, so I tell him what I think of it anyway.
“What can I do? Everyone else has already committed in this meeting,” he replied back with a sullen face.
“Yes. In front of everyone, my wife agreed to the relation. Now we cannot go back.”
“Ok,” I say.
“How old is he? What has he studied?,” I venture to ask.
“He is 26,” he shot back with pride. “8th Standard pass” was his response to my second question.
“Ok,” I say. I am now thinking whether I should prevail upon this man that marrying his daughter so early and to a person who doesn’t have much of an education or career is not a good idea. Yet, who am I to decide whether this is a bad thing for the girl? There is a chance that this guy with little education may become very successful in life and give her all that she needs. I conclude that I cannot decide what is good and what is bad for others. In short, I definitely can’t play God.
“Congratulations,” I tell him.
“Thanks sir,” he replies back. “Now I need to give him a bike, he has asked for it,” he continues.
Dowry! Clearly this alliance should not go through. I blurt this thought out to him.
“What to do sir. Everyone has already committed,” he repeats this like a frequently used excuse of a late-coming student.
“Committed?,” I ask again in disbelief.
“Yes sir. People from my family have already agreed to give the bike to him,” he said.
Now something like that cannot be reasoned against, can it.
“Ok. Which bike?,” I decide to venture into other details.
“Hero Honda sir. Hero Honda Splendor,” he shoots back instantly with a smile and adds “Even if he doesn’t know how to ride a bike, we need to give him a Hero Honda.” The statement breaks his face into a wide grin, his mind perhaps taking pot-shots at a future son-in-law.
By now, the monkeys have returned from their sojourn in the next street. The watchman forgets about the Hero Honday, picks up a long lathi and chases a few of the monkeys away. But some refuse to leave, and tower over us by hanging from the cable TV wires and phone lines.
The monkeys hung around at the top, carefully skipped across the electric wires and headed straight to the kitchen windows of neighbouring homes and stole what they could through the small iron railings.
“Not all monkeys can be chased away sir,” the watchman chuckled as he threw the lathi on to the other side of the road. The monkeys, seemingly in response to that statement, threw bits of eggs and bread down onto the road. The Sunday morning was well through its mid-life by now and I cocooned right back inside home, remembering past images of me riding my bike during my college years. For the record, I used to possess a Hero Honda Splendor of course.