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(ARCHIVE) VOL. XXII NO. 21, February 16-28, 2013
'Pop' goes the soap bubbles
By Ranjitha Ashok

"Isn't watching a blank TV screen so much more energising than watching the soaps?"

The lines on the 'numeric representation of time' dart into place, indicating that it's 'serial', make that 'maha-episode-mega-serial' time. Now, you are aware you aren't really expected to participate; merely comply with a tacit request that you stay quiet, keeping all, if any, snide remarks to yourself, thank you very much. So you retire to a corner, laptop in place, ostensibly to catch up with deadlines. Things get off to a pretty quiet start....well, almost. Given the mega-ness of the goings-on, the TV's pretty noisy.... mostly weeping, voices at vehe-volume and what sounds like about fifty-seven cymbals going off simultaneously every now and then. But you know what's coming, and you wait. Within minutes, right on cue, he goes: Who is she and why is she shocked? And so it begins. You settle in – this is going to be fun. At first, she doesn't answer.

He (more persistent): Who is she? What did she just say? Why the shock?

She: That's the youngest daughter-in-law and she's just realised who poured the oil on the staircase.

He: Who?

She: The wicked sister-in-law.

He: Why?

She: Because she wanted the eldest daughter-in-law to fall down the staircase.

He: Why?

She (drawing a deep breath, and trying not to talk through her teeth): Because she doesn't want her to have the baby.

He: Why not?

She: Because .... (she stops and leans forward....things are hotting up on the screen – accusations-....revelations....and she doesn't want to miss the quarrelling...)

He: What are they saying?

She (making a clicking sound): Look what you did. I missed the name.

He: Whose name?

She: The name of the guy in black whom the mother-in-law keeps meeting.

He: Why?

She (sighing): Why don't you try watching? It isn't hard to follow.

He (picking up his book): Nah... not interested. Brief silence. Another clash of cymbals....

He: What are they saying? And why are they calling this one Vimla?

She: Shyamala....and it's the same girl.

He: Looks completely different.

She: Plastic surgery.

He: What? Why? What happened?

She (in one breath): Nothing happened. The regular actor asked for more money, there was a quarrel, they replaced her, then pretended that there had been a fire in the kitchen and her face was burnt, so she had to have plastic surgery.

There is a small silence as his almost painfully logical, earth-bound brain attempts to process this bit of neat scripting-around-a-sudden-setback. He opens his mouth; she raises her hand.... not as a threat. Oh no – that would be totally in violation of her saptha-padhi-fied value systems, bless her. Besides, inherently non-violent, this particular palm was never an actual menace, you recall, even in its maternal role....more an implied threat that certainly proved effective in keeping you and your sibling in line. No, this is a mere gesture. And since decades of saptha-padhi-fying have also taught him a few things, he senses the 'tone' of the gesture, and very wisely subsides. (Another 'why?' at this point may have sparked off a distressing brawl.) Silence for a bit. Then,

He: What did he just say?

She: Shakes her head, going 'shhh', albeit in a very respectful way. (Upbringing is so hard to shake off.)

He: Why is she packing her bags?

She: She's leaving her husband.

He: Why?

She: So he can be happy with his former girlfriend.

He: Does he want to be happy with his former girlfriend?

She: Well, nobody asked him.

He: Then what sense does that make?

She (sighing): It's's....oh, never doesn't have to make sense. Will you please....I really want to listen....

He: To what? The constant crying, screeching, or that loud music?

She: I really can't watch and narrate the story at the same time.

He: I haven't said a word. Silence.

A few seconds later....

He: What's for dinner? Anyway, I don't think that former girlfriend is a nice girl.

She looks at him, eyebrows raised.

He (grinning): See? I do pay attention.

It suddenly strikes you that 'loco parentis' obviously has many meanings, and a giggle almost escapes you.

You quickly suppress it.

They are still Mom and Dad, after all, your not-so-former 'bosses'. They decided everything for you – when and what you ate, when you slept; what you wore ("Sulk as much as you want. If I say 'too low', then it's too low. End of discussion,"); where you went, ("No means no....and I don't care if Girl-I-Secretly-Wish-Wasn't-Your-Friend is going too....and no, her elder brother going along means nothing....I've seen that particular elder brother...."); your progress ("You call this a report card?"), and so on. They shaped your life – receding, albeit at tiny (very tiny at times) paces, when you gradually began to take the sculpting tools into your own hands....

Somewhere along the line, unnoticed, Time had obviously been playing its sly little games. You smile to yourself, keep your eyes on your laptop....and wonder why your throat hurts just a bit.

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In this Issue

A crawl to list heritage sites
Now, a glass-fronted building in the heart of heritage!
Tamil films – alive and kicking
First Indian doctor with foreign degree
From kanji thotti hospital to one of excellence
Oh, for those gardens!
'Pop' goes the soap bubbles

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
Dates for your Diary
Babu's Toon


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