Saturday, February 25, 2006

Venkat's sitution

I told you, Karma always pays. Well it did, allbeit a little delayed. Venkat who all of us affectionately called as prachanai (tam for the word trouble) came up with his classic first liner "Machi prachanai da" (Machi there is trouble). Six of us looked up instantly not bothering to conceal the cards in our hands. Rummy with serious betting money wasnt important. If "prachanai" ever was to utter those words, the reactions would have been same. We would have broken chairs, shouted choicest and ear polluting expletives and gone of running in our lungis to bludgeon whoever it is who is acting smart.

Questions generally came later. That was how our own close knit group functioned. Extreme comradire, trust. Afterall life in a faction ridden politically charged and sometimes violent college campus was no less than a battlefield.

This time, it was different. There was no resolve in venky's face. He looked defeated.

Karuppa : "Whats the problem da ?"
Venky : "Personal machi"

all of us jumped in shocked. "What the fuck personal ?". "Is this what our friendship has become ?". "I cant believe you dint trust us ?"... Conclusions were being drawn thick and fast and no body was in a mood to let that slight pass. It was no slight actually. Venky though the gang leader, we all realised was having some issue ouside of college and in our own offended brash way, we were trying to make him cough it out. We took our friendships real seriously. Wehn Bull's mom wanted some blood, we donated it unconditionally. When I lost my monthly allowance from dad, my friends chipped in. When Shyam ran away from college and was absconding, we all scoured coimbatore to locate him. It took 3 days and when we found him all of us gave him the blanket parade. In such an environment, "Its personal" wont cut it.

Venky finally relented.

Venky's sister was seeing a boy. She was just a year younger to venky and the boy (Senthil) was a rival gang leader. We all knew that boy's activities. From a very violent background and a charismatic bully of sorts. To his credit, he dint know it was venky's sister. If he had known, he wouldnt have lifted his head and seen her. None of us knew it. We all looked at palladam with the expression how-hell-did-you-miss-this ? Palladam was the maven of the group. One who collects, searches information and keeps the interests of the groups alive. He was the one who should have known but it was apparent he dint. We decided to postpone his inquiry for later and tackle the matter at hand. "Then...what happened ?", continued karupa.

Venky : "She came home yesterday crying and bruised up..." (even as we spoke he was chocking). "She wouldnt stop crying and she was uncontrollably weeping".

All of us were shell shocked.

Venky : "That's when we found out that she is in love with him ?"

Palladam was jumping in the air. Gomma, I am going to kill him man.

All of us irritatedly looked at palladam with a first-you-fucked-up-and-now-you-want-to-kill-him look. Palladam became silent quiet embaressed in not living up to his roles.

"Go on da", Ramesh said (one of the few sane voices in the group. That includes me).

Venky : "My sister was abused man!!!!... venky was uncontrollable...not sexually but physically. That bastard got drunk and beat her up outside college. She refused to go with him alone to ooty (a nearby hillstation frequented by lovers)..

This turned all of us into palladams... Raging to go and positively that day we would have cracked senthil's skull.

Venky sensed the change in situation and went on. "Hey cool it guys. There is another complication. My sister loves him more now and yesterday she threatened my dad that if something happens to him, she will commit suicide ?"

This brought a sense of reality in the gang.. Arguments followed as what kind of medival torture that could be re-enacted. Literally every approach was shot down by Ramesh, the conscience keeper of the group. A gandhian by heart who abhorred violence. But in a group with such bloodthirsty bastards hungry for revenge, he generally had little choice. For the first time in our lives, venky listened to him.
When all cacophony of "we will do this, do that" died down, Ramesh spoke up.

Ramesh : "The key thing is venky's sister. We dont care for the guy, but her sister should not end up harming herself". As we all nodded our heads, he proceeded to quizz venky about her sister's behaviour patterns and weather she was a rebel or not. I was there sitting dumbstruck at the sheer details of questioning venky was was answering. Every small thing about her likes, dislikes and insecurities were discussed threadbare. But never in a way to make venky feel vulnerable or uncomfortable.

"Alright now",concluded venky. "Boss looks like this is not the first time this must have happened and for some reason she is liking it. Normally we would hate people who abuse us. I mean really abuse us. But for some wierd reason, she seems awe struck by that and is feeling asif it was her fault and not his. This in itself is a dangerous symptom".

Looking at me Ramesh adds "similar to stockholm syndrome ??" and he nods his head vigorously. Ramesh along with yours truly are one of the few in our college who have read all books in our library. Literally every book from economics, philosophy, politicsl, fiction to gmat exam papers. His breath of knowledge and analytical skills were amazing. His comprehension of situation was astute. His values of "no violence" ("unless necessary" was lateron added) coupled with all these things ultimately convinced us that this guy can untie the knotty situation without causing damage. All of us knew that in this situation brain could work it out and not brawn.

"First of all, leave her alone. Give her all the space. not more than what is normally given, but not less than what is generally given. Bring the situation back to normal asif nothing ever happened.". Venky sat confused. "Machi, understood ? just do as I say. Behave normally to her, talk normally. Dont ever act as if she is a victim of anything. Just be calm, relaxed. Dont act as if you guys dont care though. Show that you love her and you wish the best." Ok nodded venky looking terribly unconvinced.

"Do so for a month or two or three... Let her do whatever she wants within limits.Her curfews would stay the same". Ok nodded venky still confused.

"You have to do this sincierely, genuinely and consistently, because human beings can sense vibes. You cant put an act. She will know." Ok nodded venky.

For the next 3 months someone or the other will travel from college to coimbatore in the same bus just to keep a watch on her and make sure nothing happens. Ok...

"Once the term ends and she is through with her class 12 (The college I studied had a high school in the same campus and affairs between college guys and school girls were not uncommon), take her on a holiday somewhere nice and talk to her about how she feels and engage with her. She feels she is not attended at home and poor girl is seeking it outside. Further she thinks, that all this is her fault. Even that bastard senthil's behaviour. Most importantly your and your parents support system should take her away from the path of saying that I deserve him and nothing better. You touch senthil, there is no telling what your sister would do. We dont need to do anything drastic unless I call for it", Ramesh looks at Palladam giving him a stern stare.

Ramesh has mastered the art of communication, especially verbal. In a modulated voice he puts an arm on venky's shoulder and says "Machi, this is not some election issue or tamil comitteee issue. You have to handle this carefully. Do as I tell you and all will be fine", he says confidently. What we (looking at me) will do is talk to your sister and ask her how her preperations are happening. you have to act as if no one apart from your family knows what's happened. All of us", looking at palladam "will act as if we know nothing. Alright ? I will just ask her how her preparations are going on ok ?.. not now but a week later".

The plans were made and palldam firmly reined in. He along with karuppa was given the task of tailing senthil every waking moment of his college day.

That week passed of peacefully and when ramesh and I spoke to venky's sister I was really jittery and tensed. She seemed fine to me, but in Ramesh's opinion it might be a facade of comfort she is putting. Just to confuse things, he added "Oh thats healthy and normal, Most of us actually put facades because they are security nets for us to even out our insecurities. Most humans want face savers in situations to preserve our dignity. If that is denied, all of us even me are capable of taking drastic and impulsive actions. If you want decisions to go in your favour, give the other guy a tough time but always give him a face saver so that he can graciously withdraw his stance. Most ego hassels and problems happen because we dont believe in giving face savers, we want the other person to be emotionally broken because they hurt us". I looked at him awestruck "Ok Mr. Shrink, how about our group ? there are no face savers here ?". "You are right", he proceeded. "This is a controlled environment where we will be togather for 3 years. And hey if you are threatened in this group, you always have the option to walk out... isnt there a face saver, in built ?", he added with a intellectual victory writ on his face. He was spot on and man lucky we had him in the group. He never loses cool and maybe thats why none of the hotblooded turks landed up in jail.

Finally to cut the long story short, things were resolved everyone followed our roles to the tee. Paladam continued to tail senthil for the next 6 months for no apparent reason. "Hey Iyeru" (Refering in a jocular way the caste affiliations of Ramesh and me), "you go and study. What can studies give you man ? I will manage my power loom business".

Life moved on and we all moved on. Untill.

"Vasu anna" (Vasu brother), rang a voice in the middle of the bangalore railway station a full 10 years later, I was on my way to chennai. Who could that be ? could it be my cousin priya and her daughter sandy ? there was this beautiful girl standing with her luggage. I went there with a totally quizzed out look... Shalini, she introduced herself and added Venky's sister from coimbatore. Oh my god, she is now a grown up mami making me totally concious of my age. We were in the same bay and had a totally good time talking about the old days and how venky was doing. From no where she just looked up at me and said "thanks for what you guys did. Anna (refering to venky) told me later all the things that happened, bursting out into tears". "I am ok, she said consoling herself", I wonder how women can cry so easily and relieve all their stress. Is that the next step of evolution ? I felt neanderthanlisque. Dint the neanderthals become extinct ? As I looked up, no sign of tears were there. She was sporting a smile on her face and I was thiking "Hello ?? did you see someone in tears just 2 minutes back ?".

Anyways, I couldnt resist and asked her, "what was the issue ?". She took a long breath, "I was just young and he was the first guy I met. But I think those three months were the time I grew up. Now I am smarter, intelligent and hey I dont let others trample over me. Nothing serious but part of growing up you know..". I was thinking to myself, "ya ya... we can always look back and say it was nothing serious
But things could have gone wrong"..

Without my knowledge some of those words leaked out in a low mumble. "What anna ?" she looked quizzingly. "Nothing", I covered my tracks and continued. "Good, you grew out of it". She went on about the usual "what about you ?". "I have a lot more of growing up to do shalini, but you take care that you dont trample on others alright ?", I paused like a true elder giving sagely advise.

The train chugged along pretty similar to the way our lives chugged along and I was left wondering "It feels good when someone almost at the brink of falling in the abyss of continueous abuse, musters that last ounce of courage and pushes themeselves away from the edge".

It feels real good and I drew a mental smile, feeling happy that tuesday.


At 4:57 AM, Blogger Neets said...

thats a very well written experiance. you sure have a good use of adjectives.
there are few things i cant help admiring here:
1)Unity: thats something i have seen among my Seniors at college and some hostlites. people who go thru thick and thin together seem to develop a strong bond. i see men being able to bond easier that women do. unity in heterogenous and guys-only group seem to be more frequent that women-only grp. its admirable that you people stuck on together. your blessed to have been around nice people.
2)the wisdom your pal showed- Ramesh.some maturity at that age. Amazing chap. he could give a tip or two for parents today. you people can get back to him when you people father teenagers! what is he upto now? is he a shrink by any twist of fate?
3)how you ppl patiently dealt with the problem as though it wasnt Venkat's sis but your own. the care,responsibility all of you put into the situation.

true to the cliche ,' what goes around, comes around', all that you do will some how snowball back to you.
I dont know if you felt it, but shes not the only one whos grown thru that situation. eachone of you too did. and perhaps you guys will realise it when you have your own kids. its a fantastically narrated post,man!

At 5:01 AM, Blogger Vasu the terrible said...

hey neets,

We were (are) a closely knit group. Basically a response to our situation in college. When there is extreme polarisation, you realise that survival lies in being in a group and watching out for each other. Thats how we were. Nevertheless it looks silly when I see some of the shit we did. Esp real horrible ragging sessions for our juniors. That was the culture then and we just did it to be part of that.

Ya, I guess there were umpteen situations where we all could have ended up in violent ways and some sane voices like Ramesh and sometimes me kind of saved our asses.

The key thing here was the girl. there are many instances when some small psychological issue hidden and unadressed can branch out into serious trouble.

Thanks for your feedback

keep coming


At 5:56 AM, Blogger expertdabbler said...

wonderful post as usual.
makes me visualise some situations as if i saw.

why dont u try writing novels?

just curious, did u do yr course in RVS in cbe? i am a cbe guy and hance this q.

At 5:59 AM, Blogger Vasu the terrible said...

Yup... I did my course in coimbatore... 93-96.. RVS kalai matrum ariviyal kalluri...

your name sounds familiar ?



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