MADRAS: CHAPTER NINE
He stood spellbound, speechless and dumbfounded by her beauty.
She was unaware of him watching and patiently went on wearing Kajal in graceful swipes on her bountiful lashes. Eyes like black diamonds, he thought to himself. He leaned in closer, hearing his heart race breathlessly within his chest. She was slowly getting ready in front of the mirror, so occupied in all her sweet innocence that she cared not for anything else. How piquant, he thought as she carefully brushed back her wavy locks and plaited them, then she reached out for the jasmine on the stand and lifted her hand to pin it on her hair, when with a scream, she saw Chandru and dropped the flowers and ran away deftly.
Chandru was amused and chuckled to himself. He had been back home on the brief vacation of a week to compensate for the vacation due on December for fresh cadets for a whole month he was missing out on to go to Delhi Camp. He never knew such a lovely surprise awaited him at home.
It was Meera, his uncle’s daughter, and his cousin. By Tamil tradition, he was on marriageable terms with her being her ‘athai payyan’ or ‘athaan’, which means sweetheart or husband. Chandru hummed a little tune to himself as he walked over to the hall.
Meera was sitting on the floor helping her aunt and Janani peel onions while his uncle, who’d been visiting sat on the porch playing Rummy with the neighbours. Chandru’s heart skipped a beat when he saw her again, she stared back with doe eyes and full, sweet lips and a visible blush on her fair cheeks.
“Mother” Chandru said in his manly voice now drastically changed from his voice of earlier.
She gave an audible gasp and stood weakly against the wall supported by an almost hysteric, Janani, who could not help laughing with tears of joy. Of course a warm reunion ensued and Chandru met his uncle too but Meera left quickly whenever he approached to speak with her.
She reached with trembling hands to hand him the cup of coffee, looking away unsteadily.
Chandru took his time taking it from her hands and gripped her soft hands as he did so, smiling mischeviously at her alarm.
“How are you Meera?” he asked gently.
Meera gave an unintelligible reply, her voice was so breathy and to him, it felt like some heavenly melody.
“So you won’t speak to me”
Meera looked at him and seemed unable to answer.
“Will you come for a walk with me?”
And rising from the veranda with their hands still entwined, he started to walk along with her.
“Breezy weather, don’t you think” persisted the enchanted beau.
She still hesitated and refused to utter a single word, overcome by a wave of shyness.
Chandru found it refreshing and being in a very romantic mood, paid no heed to her abashed behaviour and spoke continually to her.
They found they had left home far behind and wandered into one of the those solitary fields which are so common and plenty in a village. He found Meera stealing adoring glances at her courter. Slowly, she overcame her initial coyness and started to talk with him. They spent happy hours laughing with one another.
“You are uncle’s second daughter, right?”
“I am his only daughter”
“I was just wondering because you are pretty and I knew Meera, trust me, I did” he said and received a jab to his side from his playful sweetheart.
Those few hours they spent in each other’s company was sheer bliss. Chandru couldn’t take his eyes off of her. He made fun of her clumsy gait and found her child like annoyance and innocence so delightful after his former two years of life. She was a playful girl, only yet sixteen years of age, chubby of form and devoid of vanity in every way. She hung on to his every word, the very sight of the young couple would have melted any heart. She trusted him instantly and spoke animatedly with him, with wide eyes and pink lips agape, she listened to his army experiences. Chandru made sure to tell her only the light ones.
Meera wanted him to resign.
“Why should you go back? Do stay here” she said simply. Chandru smiled, overwhelmed by her sweet innocence.
The day waxed into evening and in the dreamy twilight, Chandru wished time would stand still as he listened to her mellifluous and soothing tones and watched the gestures of her easily excitable temper.
Chandru closed his eyes, biting hard, his lips for he found his eyes were fast dimming and becoming moist as these memories surged afresh within his breast. He was leaving home for the second time, perhaps, the final time to leave for Delhi camp.