- incapable of speaking to the opposite sex, or
- possessed by one of those women who call themselves girlfriends, but would have been referred to as keepers in a less politically correct world.
The day of the open house dawned. Those of us who were unfortunate enough to have been press-ganged into presenting research (which in my case consisted of a collection of posters which included weak anagrams, and a few words I had stolen out of the Word Power section of a Readers Digest issue from the 1950s) to children with water in the brain woke up early in the morning and made the arduous journey to college through pot-holed roads. Others who had avoided their lecturers’ eyes got away with two days spent lazing around, flicking through the television channels hoping to stumble upon some Mallu porn. There were still others, mostly of the porikki kind, who saw this as an opportunity to stagger drunk (even more than usual) into campus and ogle any schoolgirls who happened to stray their way.
It was about two in the afternoon when my worst nightmare began to unfold. I had hoped that Amar and co, tired after having consumed a full three-quarters of Kandan wines’ stock, had gone home to dream sweet dreams of dancing in the rain with Simran. But they had merely been invigorated by the best that Mr. Kandan had to offer.
Of Mr. Kandan the man, little is known. He may or may not have consorted with the prostitutes in Kodambakkam, contributed to the coffers of the DMK, or been kind to children. But of Mr. Kandan, the purveyor of alcohol, paens have been sung by engineering college students over the years. He may not have been willing to extend credit to even the most regular of his customers, but the alcohol he supplied definitely did pack a punch.
It was with a full litre of organic compounds sloshing about within them that Amar stepped into the room allotted the English department. I muttered a quick prayer, commended my soul to God and hoped I’d been following the right religion all along when I suddenly realized Amar paid me no more attention than a dog would a bone when offered a rump steak instead. He and his goons marched towards Kaveri and spoke,
‘Aey! We wanttt to see…this ejjibishun.’
Kaveri merely glowered.
‘Aena dee summa vaekapaddarae…kaami dee!!’ (Why are you pretending to be shy? Just show it to me!)
The acolytes guffawed at the double entendre.
Kaveri took them to the first poster and began to explain what an anagram was. Robert Langdon would have possibly done a better job, but given the circumstances, Professor Langdon would have been hard-pressed to keep the attention of the current audience from wavering. Kaveri, on the other hand, faced no such problem. Amar and his friends were very attentive – their eyes never strayed from her breasts even for a moment.
After about the third poster, something snapped within Kaveri. If at this moment she had taken it upon herself to kick Amar in the solar plexus, nothing would have ensued except severe embarrassment for the same (though he may possibly have gone out and ridden his Splendor over a few dozen arms and legs in revenge). But what she did was completely inexplicable.
She turned to me and said loudly,
‘Siddhu, why are these fellows troubling me? DO Something!’
Those who have seen me know I am no He-man. Us Warriers have always been cerebral people – I would probably have worsted Amar in a debate on American policy in Afghanistan, but a fistfight was another story altogether.
I squirmed, and wished I had left earlier when I had had the chance. For now, all the porikis turned towards me.
‘Dai Peterae!! Watha ingae vaada, ommallae!!’ (Yo Englishman! Fucking come here you motherfucker)
All I could mutter was a ‘Anna, enna aachu?’ (Big brother, what’s wrong?)
Amar decided at that moment to walk towards me. He placed a very firm hand on my collar.
I tried to smile one of my winning smiles. But Amar did not seem to be in the mood for winning smiles.
‘Enna da illikirae, tevidiya paiyya!!???’ (Untranslatable really, but I’m sure non-Tamil speakers get my drift)
I had always imagined that it was only in the movies that a single hand gripping the collar of a shirt could left an entire human being up. I realized at that moment that the movies weren’t lying. I squirmed as I tried to get my feet back on terra firma.
‘Annaa…’, I bleated.
‘Unnakku aval koodai enna paechu? Watha Englishillae avaltae kadala podariyaada?’ (Why are you speaking to her? Are you flirting with her in ENGLISH????)
‘Illae Anna – enakku avalae theriyaadu.’ (No, big brother, I do not even know her)
‘Honestly, I haven’t done anything. I’m not interested in her!’, I almost screamed, as my neck had begun to hurt and I was worried my shirt would be torn in two ere long.
‘DAIIIII!!! ENGLISSILAE PAESEE BAYAMPUDATARIYAA…?’ (Are you trying to scare me with your English?)
I realized that all I could do was take what was coming to me, and silently cursed all womankind in the unkindest of words. It was then that my guardian angel came through.
Robin was a porikki alright, but with me he had been a genial old soul ever since the day in the first year I gifted him a packet of cigarettes and spoke to him in Malayalam.
He walked towards Amar and said,
‘Machi, freeyavidu! Ivan namma paiyyan da.’ (Dude, leave him alone! He’s part of our gang!’ – to translate loosely. Though this is not exactly what it means. A namma paiyyan is actually a chap – usually far removed from the gang – to whom a gang member feels a patronizing affection towards. To be a namma paiyyan is quite useful, especially in situations like these.)
Amar reluctantly put me down and warned me not to even lay an eye upon her. I wondered idly, as I straightened my collar, if this disallowed me from tearing Kaveri apart into little pieces, and the little pieces into littler pieces, while laughing a maniacal laugh all the time. I decided that asking this of Amar would be imprudent. He wanted to sing Vaadi en manmatha raasa to an undivided Kaveri; not one that had been disemboweled.
I disappeared from the room and the campus as quickly as I could, and did not return till the next day whereupon I had to listen to Mrs. Peters talk for an hour of how devotion to the cause among India’s youth had been steadily diminishing since the Battle of Plassey in 1757 (where she purportedly carried the wounded off the battlefield).
But I was merely thankful that my ordeal had ended without a Hero Honda Splendor running over my forearm, and smiled beatifically as she berated me.
This story clearly explains to every pretty woman who’s ever wondered why I didn’t ask her or anyone else out. I may be free, single and good-looking, ladies, but not necessarily of my own volition. A slightly built ‘Peter’ has to make sacrifices to survive on Chennai’s mean streets.
Siddhu Warrier now lives 10,000 kilometres from Chennai, and has not seen a single poriki singing a lowe song in the last 10 months. Additionally, he has not been called Peter once during the same period. However, he is still single and cannot understand it. Pretty women are invited to rectify this sad situation by sending him an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. He additionally guarantees that he no longer lives under the delusion that the navel is where a woman’s G-spot is, and knows all about sex from watching Discovery Channel everyday.
P.S: In case you were wondering if you were safe from porikidom after you’re going steady with a woman, think twice. A friend of mine was once approached by a poriki with a request (or more precisely, an order) to supply his girlfriend for a period of six months so that he (the poriki) could have a bit of fun for himself. The poriki, being a particularly nice poriki, promised to return her clean, (possibly a little tired), and definitely-not-pregnant at the end of the stipulated period of exchange.
And no, I’m not making this up!
P.P.S: I’ve been writing a travelogue of my trip across Western Europe. I was wondering if the readers (if any) would prefer me posting it here, or creating a new travel blog for it.