I chanced a look at Hannah K Lucy also (secretly) known as Kavya. My beautiful wife. I was packing up my clothes into the big travel bag. She was doing the same with hers. There was one difference between us though. I was trying hard and failing to contain my excitement and happiness, while she was making sure that I understand her bitterness and acrimony, in every single movement she made. We were bustling about the room this way for about forty minutes, pretending that the other did not exist. 45th minute, I had had enough of it.
“Kavya!”, I started in a reasoning tone.
“It’s Hannah!", was her less than courteous reply.
Sighing I made up my side of the bed and started arranging the pillows in the middle. She didn’t bother to make up her side, and just flopped on to the bed. The pillows have been sleeping with us, since all of this started. I closed my eyes, my mind conjuring up the images of the counseling session we had last month. It was during the 3rd year of our marriage that we thought something was missing in our life. I suggested kids and she gave me a look like I asked her to eat leeches. I was one of those men in Armani, who predicted the bloom and doom of Wall Street, We were modern psychics and this astrology jobs paid us real well. At 30, I had more than what every normal Indian wanted. Green card, good cash (comparison against Indian standards) and a hot shot Indian Origin girlfriend settled in the US. We were married on my 31st birthday and Kavya Oops…Hannah was 29 then. Being the guy from Madras, who was accustomed to all those grand flashy marriage galas, I expected mine to be one such event where I would show off my new wife to all the relatives I had. But things never happen as we expect them to, Do they?
Hannah threw a temper tantrum that so was unbearable that my marriage ended up as a cozy pink themed event in a chapel, followed by a booze party that made my lawn a mess. Thank God I made my parents see my marriage via Skype. They would have had a coronary attack, if they knew my lifestyle here.
I’ve never set foot in Chennai after our marriage, and as days started moving, I started feeling like money making machine that was kept under perfect maintenance by food, wine and sex. Two years down the line, my wife started noticing me and I think it was because of the drastically decreasing count of her orgasms. She did not ask me what the problem was, but within a week I was dragged into every marriage counseling centers that were scattered across New York. What the hell was I thinking? Just because she has an Indian father (and an American step mother, I might add) does not make her Indian by soul does it? She hated her father and the Country that where he was born. She was more like her Step Mother. She was an American with an Indian skin. In the end we landed at Dr.Indira Kulasekaran’s doorstep, an Indian with excellent American accent and fantastic taste in Kancheevaram silks and Tanjore art. The fact that she was an Indian made me comfortable and Hannah did not have any other way as this was the only session where I was positive and cooperative.
“Want to share something with me Rajesh?”, Indira asked me during my third session.
“Want to go back to India? There is home sick written all over your face Rajesh. There was a kind smile on Indira’s face.
Realization hit me like thunder. I’ve had enough of it. I have all I want, except home. I want to go back home.
“But how can I convince Ka… Hannah? Every time I tell her that idea, she falls sick”. My tone was despondent.
“I think I can help you with that. Why don’t you two go on a honey moon trip?” She asked winking her eye.
I was confused by her sudden change of topic and I stammered “Is Paris fine?”
“Don’t you think Chennai would be a better option?” she asked looking intent.
I think that was the first time I laughed after months. And I must give it to Indira. I don’t know what she did to convince Hannah, but she did. So here we are contemplating our honeymoon in Chennai, me thinking about the vast expanse of Marina and the wonderful morning walk. She about all the crap that she googled with the keywords "What is bad about Chennai?"
Two Days Later:
Touching the soil (okay, concrete?) of Meenambakkam airport was all one could crave for. I couldn’t stand, I was too excited. Hannah was after me, looking gorgeous in her short trousers and I love New York T-shirt. She looked at the airport with an expression that kids wear when they look at the Disney land for the first time. We were out finishing our procedures and I know Hannah was shocked looking at a couple of short trousers and sleeveless tops. There were all sorts of taxis available, but I wanted to go in an auto. Jeez … there are some things that the comfortable confine of a car cannot give you. I dragged Hannah away from the cars and walked determinedly towards an auto.
I know I was little too fair than the normal Indian colour and Hannah was downright fair and trendy , so it was not a surprise when the auto driver thought we were foreigners.
“Why the hell can’t we take a car?” Hannah hissed behind me.
“I want go in this” I hissed back.
“Sir… where going sir?” The auto driver asked, trying to flaunt us with his English knowledge.
“Velachery” I replied.
“That is 600 rupees Sir, very cheap!” The driver smiled at me.
“Anna inga irundhu Velachery romba kitta! Emathadheenga! (Velachery is very nearby. Please don’t cheat us)
Hannah does not understand a single word in Tamil, but I think she understood my tone. I was bargaining like I was created for it and Hannah was looking at me with a very odd look on her face. Well she has never seen me standing in the streets and shouting the hell out before today. We were in the auto after 10 minutes, jammed with our bags and headed home. The experience was new to her and I think I looked new too. She kept looking at me all the way home, while I had a friendly banter with the same Auto driver with whom I had cheap bargain some time back. We got down at my home and I know Hannah was impressed yet again. She was staring at our cozy villa a marvel of Ivory walls, greenery and glass balconies. My parents were not in Chennai, they had gone to Germany to visit my younger brother who was studying there, so I cannot expect any aarathi (welcome ceremony) for us. After all am bringing a new bride back home (ok, after 3 years). Surprisingly my neighbor was there waiting for us, bringing aarathi from her home.
“Heard you were coming home son!” Parvathi aunty said with a smile, since you are bringing your wife for the first time and your mother is not there, thought I would welcome you people home”. She said smiling at me, her eyes absorbing my wife’s sexy clothing. She handed over my house keys and went back, leaving Hannah, me and our beautiful home.
“It is customary in India that bride steps in with her right leg the first time she enters her husband’s home", I explained Hannah.
"You don’t have to do it if you don’t like it honey". I said keeping my fingers crossed in one side and unlocking the door with the other. She entered our home stepping in carefully with her right leg and I was doing a jig inside my heart.
"Like This?", She asked holding my hand looking shy.
"What? Did I just talk to Hannah? I tried to pinch myself as she entered my home. She started going around our home exploring each room. I took her upstairs directing her towards my bedroom. Frankly both of us where shocked looking at our bedroom. My mother told me that there was some interior decoration happening at home, but I did not expect this wonder in my room. It was all a wonderful blue instead of the green that I left behind, my single cot was replaced by a master bed, my curtains and sheets color coded with the walls. What did the trick was the beautiful disarray of the photographs that were arranged in the designer wall opposite to the bed. They were pictures Hannah and me that I had sent to my parents. Our home in US was a cozy one, made for convenience; truly the two of us did not have time to do these kinds of things to our home.
"Wow!", she said looking at our bedroom. She was feeling the soft duvet in her hand, talking softly. "Looking at this bed, makes me want to…" she said her back to me.
I hugged her from back planting a soft kiss on her neck. "Makes you want to?" I asked, my tone getting husky.
"Sleep". She said flopping on the bed with a mischievous smile. I lay down with her, not bothering to take a bath. We were dog tired to do anything, so we limited ourselves to holding hands.
"Remind me to redecorate our bedroom when we go home" she murmured drifting to sleep. I was shocked to hear that statement, but I did not lose hope. Well she is a tough beast and I cannot woo her so easily.
We slept four hours straight without any disturbance. I woke up groggy, the jet lag affecting me badly. I had a quick bath, impressed with the new bath tub that was installed. I went downstairs without waking Hannah, my tour to rummage the kitchen. I made a great cup of filter coffee for me and my wife and I was seriously surprised that I could still remember how to make it. Hannah was up when I went back, looking around sleepily.
"Mmmm… What is that?" she said inhaling the sweet aroma of the coffee in my hands.
"Care for some coffee honey?", I asked handing her a cup. She looked at me like I have grown two antlers.
"You made this coffee Raj?", She asked sipping the coffee, immersing in its wonderful taste.
“I am bad at making Chicken sausage”, I said grinning at her.
“I can manage Indian food well” I said pouring her more coffee.
“Then why didn’t you cook me Indian food before?” she asked in exasperation.
“You never liked anything Indian“, I reminded her in a gentle tone.
She did not answer, and we finished our coffee in relative silence. She took a good one hour to take bath and I was getting ready take her outside. She came out wearing her bath robe. Though that’s a sight I see almost daily, but somehow, it looked more appealing today.
“Use the walk in closet there “. I told trying to keep my eyes away from her. Odd, she was being conscious about it as well.
“Ah! Raj, Can you come here a moment?”, She said her tone uncertain. I went inside and what I saw made my mouth gape into a small O.
Standing there was my wife, with a blouse and skirt, holding a gorgeous silk saree in her hand. I‘ve seen her in bikini, but my God! This is hot!!!
“How to wear this? “She asked confusion evident in her voice.
“Well I am not an expert”, I said laughing like a loon. But I think team effort will work. Ten minutes later we were up with a tutorial on how to wear a saree, and I was touching her in the most intimate ways possible. Her attitude surprised the hell out of me. She has the habit of asking what she wants when it comes to bed, and I always followed explicit instructions. Today, something was different. She actually blushed when I gave my hot looks.
The evening found us at the Phoenix market city and I think I hit an American chord here. She was ecstatic looking at the Chanel and Estee Lauder outlets and positively swooned looking at the Starbucks. I think it was a mistake taking her there. Just when I was thinking she started liking Chennai, I reminded her about the USA. I was despondent throughout the two hour gala and we headed back home with more American products. I wanted to make sure she sees the true heart of Chennai, and for our visits tomorrow I listed out the hotspots and the required mode of transportation.
The next day morning found us in the Mylapore Kapaleeshwar temple and she was amazed by the splendid architecture of the place. Afternoon, I drove her crazy by taking her around the Burma Bazaar, Ritchie street and Parry’s corner and I tell if you have a single drop of Indian blood in your body, these places are abodes for you.
The Kavya inside Hannah soon revealed herself, dragging me through the shops, shopping her heart out. I introduced her to the heavenly chat called paani puri and I’ve seen her eat any dish so crazily. All through the journey she kept looking at me in that odd way and soon we were lost in the confines of Ranganathan Street. By the end of it, we were so damn tired and I did not have any energy left to drive my car. But I did drive my car, and we ended up in the shores of mother Marina, her waves gently soothing the hot soil of Chennai.
“You’ll love it in the morning” I said to her as we walked hand in hand on the beach. Everywhere we could see couples and Hannah was amazed looking at the umbrellas that were held up during night times.
“Why are the having their umbrellas open? “ Hannah asked looking around eating her kulfi.
“Is it gonna rain?”
I chuckled at her question, and just when I was about to answer the light from the light house illuminated the spot and we could see the silhouette of a couple engrossed in some passionate kissing under the umbrella.
Both of us gave a sheepish smile to the other and we went back home, tired and strangely elated. The pillows between us had disappeared, and we cuddled in bed, both of us feeling absolutely sure about it.
“Sleep Kavya! My dear pondatti (wife)” I said, like I always say when she is asleep.
“I love you “she mumbled but I was not sure whether it was dream or real.
The next day 6.00 a.m sharp we were at the Marina beach mesmerized by the beauty of the sea and slow rising sun. She was completely absorbed, lost to the scene. I slowly asked her the question I wanted to ask.
“So how do you like Madras?” I asked her, holding my breath.
“Chennai isn’t it?" She asked her eyes still on the waves that played around.
“Yes” I said. “Hannah!” I called her. “Answer me!”
“Kavya” she said. “My name is Kavya”.
I could not believe my ears. She continued, looking deep into my eyes.
“Two days around Chennai, wouldn’t make me fall deeply in love with it, but I can see that your heart lies here. I think this sea gave that depth to your character, the value for money here, gave you the sense of responsibility. Chennai raised you and you belong here. I could see it in your eyes. This is the guy I fell in love with. This Madharasi is whom I wanted as my husband. If Madras can give me my love back, am more than happy to spend my life here” she said her voice shaky with emotion. There were tears in my eyes when she finished.
“But your heart lies with America” I said arguing for her happiness.
“No, Raj! My heart lies with you”!
“Besides there is still some America left in Chennai. Whenever I miss it, I’ll shop my ass out in Phoenix” she said smiling prettily.
“In that case, Kavya Rajesh Kumar, Will you marry me again?” I asked taking out a box from my pocket.
She blushed and smiled looking at the ground, making it easy for me to slip the thali down her head.
“Do they kiss the bride here? She asked leaning lightly on my chest.
“Like you said Chennai has a bit of America “I said tipping her head up to meet her lips.
“But Madras is always Madras", she countered opening the umbrella.
“Idhudhan Madras kadhal di en chella Pondatti!” I talked over her lips.
“I like pondatti better than Kavya” she said closing her eyes.
The people jogging spotted the silhouette of a couple kissing passionately under a blue umbrella, Thanks to the rising sun of Marina.