Words: Gurgaon, Veena, Manasu Kashtam ((Trans. Heartache. More on the term here.))
Gopinath belonged to some district in Tamil Nadu. It was hard to pinpoint the exact place. Sometimes a grandfather insisted that their roots were in Tanjavoor. Another aunt put her foot down and said it had to be Kumbakonam. Over the generations, the illustrious family had inched northwards. At some point, residing in Hyderabad. The next generation living in Bombay, via Bangalore. Some even lived in Bhopal. But they were disowned. Gopinath moved to Delhi. But much like the geographical confusion that had drowned out part of his identity, he lived in Delhi and worked in Gurgaon.
But at home he was Gobi. The miraculous Tamil alphabet, which perhaps was crafted in a moment of a need for a devilish level of simplicity, didn’t technically distinguish between a “pa” and a “ba“. Hence, Gopi became Gobi. In front of his friends, his mother would lovingly refer to him as Gobi. Over the years, Gobi got married. His wife was Aandal Anandi Oonjaloor. In sum total, they became Gobi and Aloo. As is obvious with good South Indian couples living in the North, they had a baby.
For Gobi, who while growing up had stolen books on travel and romance from his neighbour, the entry of a child was a shock. Yes, he did feel a certain level of fondness, but its shrieks and diaper changes wore him out. He must have been that small once. Once while powdering its bottom, he thought of how similar the veena was to a child’s bottom. Gently rising, like the kudam. He decided then, that his child was going to be instrument of his dreams. His child was going to grow up, have long hair, wear jeans and maybe even have a girlfriend.
This reflection on possibilities filled his heart. He was drawn again into the whirl of self-pity and reflection. It showed in his eyes, this heaviness. His mother, ever the vigilant one, asked, “Gobi, ellam okay va?”. Gobi, in that moment, thought, surely his mother must feel the same tenderness for him, as he felt for this child turned upside down in front of him. He said, “Amma, manasu kashtam”. His mother, slightly hard of hearing, asked him again. He said “Kashtam”.
In her eyes he could see concern. She rushed into the kitchen, and he heard the sounds of various objects being mixed, ground, powdered and mixed. She walks out with a steel tumbler and a spoon. Tells him, “Here, here.. I made you kashayam ((Bitter concoction of various herbs and sundry like ginger, pepper and other things. Horrendous taste usually)). Everything will be okay.”.