Friday, December 02, 2005

An Ordinary Life 3 - Rajaraman Iyer

The first job Rajaraman Iyer ever had was at fifty-five. Until then, his wife had managed to hold things together, her 'appalam'-'vadaam' providing for his 'thayir sadam' and betel nut.
Truth to tell, her death din't even bother him for the first few days when neighbours and relatives provided food and water.
It was later, when Saravanan of the Kumbakonam Vethalai Stall refused to give him any anymore betel leaf or nut on credit that Rajaraman Iyer found himself forced to find a vocation that would pay for his limited needs, and most certainly for the betelnut. It was Saravanan too who gave him the idea, "Iyere, why can't you teach music?"
"Indeed!," Rajaraman Iyer thought to himself, "Why din't I think of this before?!"

* * *

After all, music was about the only skill he ever possessed. It is said he could identify a raaga even before he could speak. In fact, the very first word he uttered was "Kambodhi" his mother would proudly say to all those who came to see the baby. The visitors told her that her son would be a big musician one day and earn riches. She believed them until she got weary of believing them.
It was soon apparent that these visitors were not in the least clairvoyant. Talent was wasted in a dilettante; for Rajaram, music was an art, merely for his amusement. So he remained a mediocre conoisseur, visiting sabhas, reviewing concerts with others similarly employed sitting on an easy chair in his one-room house, ordering his wife to supply coffee and tiffin at regular intervals. She, however, took it in her stride, for unlike her mother-in-law, she never did think her husband would amount to much. She continued making appalams to support the family, which was anyway just the two of them.

* * *

His first pupil was Shreya, a twelve year old who had been learning music since she was five. Not that the girl had any talent for music, just a lot of enthusiasm. Her previous teacher thought it was sufficient. Clearly, Rajaraman Iyer did not think so. Sometimes he would lose his temper with her, especially when his sharp musical ear could not hear her palm slap the thigh in the right thaalam. Once in a fit of temper, he picked up his old umbrella and slammed it on her thigh. The child, initially shocked into silence by his act, soon recovered sufficiently to burst into tears. Her mother came running, followed by the grandmother and grandfather. At the end of the altercation with the family, it was Rajaraman Iyer's turn to be in tears.
The next day he sent word through the little boy at the Vethalai Stall that the lessons could not continue as he was incapacitated, having been gored by a mad bull.

* * *

As he sat waiting for his next student, news reached him that his father's aunt, a ripe old woman of 90 had passed away in Kumbakonam, leaving him half a ground of farmland, property she had inherited from her husband. After her death, it passed on to her only surviving relative, Rajaraman. He performed her last rites and sold the land for a handsome sum to the village bigman, Ratnam Chettiar.
His worries were all over as Rajaraman discovered that he would not have to work anymore. He would put the cash in a bank and live on the interest.
The kambodhi sprang onto his lips once again as he walked briskly down the temple lane, a cheque from Chettiar sitting tight in the red cloth bag stowed under his arm. In his euphorism, Rajaraman Iyer did not really see the temple bull charge at him. His ears, full of Kambodhi, did not even register the frantic shouts of bystanders to move away.

* * *

Later, at his funeral, they said he must have been happy to die with a song on his lips.


-----------------------------------------------------------
It is macabre me again. Shyam, I think I've the gallows in my mind. And Ammani, I hope this doesn't make you think I'm elitist or condescending! :)

x

28 Comments:

Anonymous Phantom said...

yep,

What a waste of life, isnt it?
But there are Rajaramans around - everywhere !!!

4:53 pm

 
Blogger ammani said...

Penmani :)
Good one again. Apologies if my earlier comments seemed a tad harsh. Kambodhi, Harikambhoji...besh, besh!

5:54 pm

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! Ramya, this was the best so far!
Have read your blogs regularly, never commented...
Shelob

7:48 pm

 
Blogger Sowmya said...

After 'Annamalai' I was really scared to read 'Radhakrishnan', but after that I was looking forward to your next one. Now I will be wary. Good potrayal of Rajaraman.

8:26 pm

 
Blogger Ganesh said...

Ramya first I thought its about musician Sir Rajam Iyer oops.

5:56 am

 
Blogger IdeaSmith said...

Beautifully written. It has been awhile since I read a story that wasn't too long, too short, too verbose or simplistic...but just right. Like this one was.

3:53 pm

 
Blogger Shyam said...

Have you moved over to the Dark Side of the Force, Rums? :) You're killing your protagonists off left and right!

10:41 pm

 
Blogger Sriram said...

Morbid - Just the way I like it ;).. nice one Rams

10:43 am

 
Blogger None said...

phantom,

yes, so true. that's the point of this series...

cheers,
ramya

2:48 pm

 
Blogger None said...

ammani,

:) hey, i'm not offended. seriously. appreciate criticism, exp from you. and hey, maybe i did sound that way. :)

cheers!
ramya

2:50 pm

 
Blogger None said...

shelob,

welcome and thanks! have seen you on suderman's blog.

cheers!
ramya

2:51 pm

 
Blogger None said...

sowmya,

hey, :) sorry about that. i really cant seem to get over killing my protagonists!

cheers!
ramya

2:52 pm

 
Blogger None said...

ganesh,

oops! but its a common name, eh? i'm yet to mail you...

cheers!
ramya

2:54 pm

 
Blogger None said...

ideasmith,

thanks!

c/
ramya

2:56 pm

 
Blogger None said...

shyam!

:) did you ever suspect i had this in me? i sure never did!

cheers!
ramya

2:57 pm

 
Blogger None said...

sriram,

hey, how are you! glad you like it!

cheers!
ramya

2:57 pm

 
Blogger The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

have really been enjoying this series. can't wait for the next one

4:06 pm

 
Blogger None said...

shofie

thanks...

cheers!
ramya

7:38 pm

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yup...regular at suderman's blog too..
cant find a mail id to reach you...
is there one where I can?
shelob.

11:17 am

 
Blogger None said...

hey shelob

you can mail me at ramya@thehindu.co.in

cheers!
ramya

8:15 pm

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

enlighten me on the purpose of the ramanujam story..this one sucks

9:50 pm

 
Blogger The Talkative Man said...

good one.
Will be posting something similar to this one but every bit of it true, check back in a few days

11:15 pm

 
Blogger asdasdhjjf said...

Hello,

So, not all stories would end up with an 'Aww - poor thing' or 'Hey! That's more like it'. There would be 'Sheesh!' too...

Thank you, truly 'Ordinary Lives'!

12:40 pm

 
Blogger Mahadevan said...

Superb. Rajaram Iyer and the Kambodhi on his lips, reverberates in my memory.

5:56 pm

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

great ramya!!

working for the hindu???

11:10 pm

 
Blogger romonov said...

thats ws great!!!

nicw tale about a carnatic buff!!

kambidhi,karaharapriya and...varali....good

11:12 pm

 
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