Pannai Veetu Thirumanam

“Mohan! This is Radha! Do you remember me?”

One Sunday morning by 8.00 am I was puzzled by this voice! It was very familiar, but, I don’t remember……. Who is she?

Generally, Sunday is the ‘Kalyana Maalai’ day for our family. On Saturday night before closing the office, we will connect all the office telephones to home using call transfer. On Sunday, as soon as the first bride/groom is introduced in the T.V program, our telephone will start ringing continuously. All enquires regarding the introduced bride/groom, next shooting spot and date/ their worries regarding their son/daughter’s marriage ……..

We will be busy answering all their queries.

I tried my best but could not recognize Radha immediately, slowly I conveyed her so and accepted my defeat.

“Mohan, you will now remember me ‘I am ‘Pannai Veetu Radha’. Long back I talked with you! Just last week I returned from Dubai to our place! I happened to see Kalyana Maalai program, noted the phone no. and now I am speaking with you! How are you? What are your children doing? My son is getting married in Madras next month! My husband and I will visit you. Give the address!” She just talked without pause in ecstasy!

The ‘Old Pannai Veetu Radha’! The same excitement….same speed….! Even now she speaks as she used to speak 30 years before!!

I gave my address and invited her for lunch along with her husband and son. She immediately agreed!

Usual Sunday menu at home will be- onion sambar, baby potato fry, smashed green leaves, grated carrots, tomato rasam- along with it, I asked my wife to prepare vermicelli payasam and cucumber curd pachadi. Fried appalam and avakai pickles will get added up to the taste! Before these items are ready, let me introduce Radha to you…..

Some 30 years ago, Radha and I were among the students who learnt vocal music in Tiruvarur Mummoorthigal Sabha under Sitaraman sir. Her brother Ganesan learnt Mirudangam and her sister Shanti also learnt vocal.

‘They were the children of ‘Kangalanjeri Pannaiyar’. He owned 50 acres of cultivable land, Thoppu and so on. I still remember the way these three children used to dress and attend the class in the school.. The two girls would always wear only the traditional silk ‘Paavadai- Davani’.

Ganesan, by his very look, proved that he was born with a silver spoon. The double bullock cart would bring them to Tiruvarur on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The streets would look brighter when the carts move with them.

Though there were many students in the class, they moved closely only with me. They would come to my house, clean their hands and legs and drink coffee/buttermilk which ever was given to them by my mother. Then they would go back to their house.

They had never exhibited the ego which the children of their status will normally have. So my mother also had a soft corner for them. Only my grandmother who visited us now and then would comment, “That boy and girl do not seem to be from our caste. Others say that they belong to some other caste.” My mother just ignored it, without giving any importance to it. So Radha moved freely with my mother and me. She openly talked everything with me, without any hesitation.

Suddenly, they were not coming to school for a few days. Wishing to know the reason, I went to their house. Their house resembled the size of a small town. Such a big and spacious one! Radha’s father was sitting on the swing and chewing the betel. Her mother, on hearing my voice rushed towards me.

“Welcome Mohan! Radha’s marriage is fixed”, she exclaimed with joy. I asked,”Where is Radha?”.”She is in the garden”-replied her mother.

Radha was in the coconut grove! She was sitting on the naturally bent branch of a coconut tree. Her legs were twisting the water in the canal. Her face was dull. It did not show the joy and the shine normally associated with the girls whose marriage is fixed!

“Hello Radha,your mother told, you have been engaged for the marriage! Congrats!”


(Radha’s mother too came there by this time). “Who is that lucky groom?”- I asked

“My brother Ramanathan is the Groom. He has completed C.A. Working in Madras. My father’s 100 acres of property belongs to him. My mother is managing them all in ‘Sembanar Koil’. Can we allow all these property to be passed on to someone else? On the day she was born, it was decided that she will marry only my brother. But now, after years when it is fixed she is putting a long face. You just advise her….. but remember Radha should only marry Ram.”! Just like that, her mother pouring out the feelings, and left the place.

Why should Radha now refuse to marry her uncle? I was puzzled!

“Radha, don’t you like your uncle?”

“Mohan, this marriage is not between my uncle and me but it is between 100 acres and 50 acres. At this age You cannot understand all these things.”

Radha was not ready to talk with me any more. I was not able to convince her and bring her out of her mind. So I came back top my house.

The next day being Monday, all the three came to attend the class. As usual they visited my house too. My mother started the conversation.

‘Radha, I heard that you are getting married?’

I just inverted a pot and made my seat. Eagerly awaited Radha’s reply.

Aunty! I am just 19 by this Tamil Avani. Ram uncle is 31. There is a difference of 12 years between us. Not only that, my uncle doesn’t know even how to smile. I have never seen him smiling in all these years. He uses lot of tobacco. He has never used any kind words. I don’t like him at all. My mother is not ready to listen to me. She talks only about her promise to her mother to marry me to her brother. She concentrates more on the 100 acres property belongs to my uncle.. I don’t like this. My father is ready to leave it to my choice. But my mother is so stubborn. I am afraid to be living with him alone in Madras. What shall I do now?