Malathi rolled out chapatis furiously, distorting them into African countries in her vengeance.
“Do you think she will agree this time?”, Suresh mumbled, flipping a chapati on the tawa.
“Pinnelaathe! She has to agree… such a good offer.. how can we let it go just like that…”
“But the boy’s only a B.Tech… “
“Boy’s only a B.Tech… I told you we should never have let her do a Ph.D.! How will we find someone that qualified in our community?”
Their charming daughter strolled in wearing pink nano shorts.
“Ayyo.. this girl… the Menons will be here any moment… go and change!”
“Why Amma, some special occasion?”
Husband and wife stared in momentary confusion. “Ilya mole.. but wear something decent… this is not your States… ”
“Amma, but it’s so damn hot…”
Malathi pushed the girl out of the kitchen before she could protest further.
“You’re not telling her then?” Suresh asked. He had long given up pretending that he had a say in anything.
Malathi put a finger to her lips. “Shhh… if she comes to know, she won’t even meet the boy.”
Chapatis out of the way, Malathi proceeded to fry cauliflower fritters and press them into Kleenex tissues. How she intended to get through the charade without Anitha realising the truth was anybody’s guess! In a short while the doorbell rang.
Suresh opened the door. Sure enough, it was the Suitable Boy and his mother. And Velliama and Velliachan and Elayamma and Elayachan. They looked positively aggrieved at not having brought Tommy the Pomeranian along.
“How nice to see you all… come in, come in.” Suresh peered out of the door to make sure that was all of the battalion.
Huffing and puffing, the battalion settled down. The Suitable Boy was a stringy young man with a half-grown pencil moustache. His clothes were the latest in high street fashion: three piece business suit with Bata chappals. His name was Kelappan.
“Up to what class has Anita studied?”, Kelappan asked.
Malathi glared at him with more fury than she had attacked the rolling pin.
“What class! Pee-Yech-Dee from University of California… and you’re asking what class…”
The boy threw a beseeching glance towards his mother, who was noisily crunching cauli-fritters. This was a new development.
“Mmm… uh.. my son also done engineering… Very clever boy. Gold medallist in college. Did your daughter get gold medal?”
Gold medal? Malathi coloured with shame. Her Anitha had a B. Tech and an M. Tech and a Ph. D to top, but what was the use without a gold medal?
“Where is Anitha?”, Kellapan’s mother asked. She was terribly dissatisfied with the arrangements. What ever happened to the good old days when the girl brought in tea and Marie biscuits, shyly smiling at the prospective mother-in-law?
“One minute, she’s coming… Mole,” Malathi shouted from the stairwell, “Aaraa vanne nokku!”
Anitha flounced down the steps. The would-be-mother-in-law had a heart attack when her would-be-daughter-in-law came to meet her in a T shirt and Polaroid glasses!
“Amma, there’s a lot of people here…”, Anitha whispered.
Suitable Boy’s mom took over the scene.
“Anitha moley”, (every prospective mother-in-law thinks the girl will be utterly impressed by such sycophancy) , “come sit here with me. Do you know to make sambar-paripu?”
And like a flash of Tide detergent illuminating the screen, Anitha understood. A pennu-kaanal! And no one had bothered to tell her! She leaned forward (mummy-in-law’s tummy kind of blocked the view) to the scrawny lad sitting on the other end of the couch.
He cleared his throat. “Kelappan.”
Kelappan!! Even his name was a lottery ticket!
“Maybe the guy and girl would like to speak to each other,” Suresh suggested, and the two tacitly walked to the adjoining room.
“Kellapan, where did you do your B. Tech?”
“Actually… I am diploma from Marudamalai University.”
“What? You don’t even have a degree?”
“Degree diploma… same only no?” the boy squirmed.
Anitha stared at the pencil-sized thirty something. So this was the grand explanation. Degree diploma same only no??
“GET OUT! Get out of here this minute!!”
Fortunately for her, Malathi was just as scandalised. The Suitable boy, rendered unsuitable by his lack-of-degree, was unceremoniously shown the door.
“Amme… how could you arrange a pennu–kaanal without even telling me??”
“Moley… I’m soooo sorry. That woman made such a fool of me. My son did engineering.. my son got gold medal… bloody fool!!”
“It’s ok Amma..”, Anitha chuckled, “at least you agreed to kick him out!”
“Pinne… like I’d let my daughter marry a diploma!” Without skipping a beat she added, “Moley, you know Sharada Aunty was telling me that they are looking for a girl for her nephew. How about a doctor this time??”