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February 20, 2012

Saareera Sambandham

Chi. Rangaraja Varadhan was in a rather jolly mood that Saturday. He called on his close friend Srivatsa Malolan the first thing after waking up, much to the disgust of his mother Smt. Pushpavalli, who by this time had bathed, had her hair in a bun wrapped with a wet towel, and had finished drawing a most intricate pattern called “Kolam” that eluded her son’s wits. The Venkatesa Su-prabhaatham was in its Mangalam stage. Her protests had no more influence on her son than would a cycle bell on the Madras auto rickshaw. His father, Sri. Seshagopalan, in his wisdom, refrained from offering any advice, evidently tired of the exercise and convinced of its futility.

Malolan had no protests from anyone in his place, as he was staying alone in his small rented house. He was working in Madras at the State Bank of India and his parents stayed in Needamangalam Agrahaaram, near Thanjavur. They were looking for suitable proposals for their son. His mother was a teacher of Carnatic music, just like Varadhan’s mother. The only difference was, she could teach her son Malolan the art she knew, whilst Varadhan’s mother found it a lot easier to count the all the stars in the sky than getting her son to express any interest in music.

Merrily, the friends went to their usual haunt – the “Rayar’s Café”, a small but famous cafe, tucked away in Kutchery road, Mylapore. It is said that it had a big fan-following that included the batting hero of those days, Krishnamachari Srikanth. With the filter coffee ordered, conversation started.

“Hey Varadha, what’s up? You are so cheerful today… Any promotion?”

“Yes, yes…. Promotion is likely…… My parents are looking for a match for me and have shortlisted a few girls. I and my parents are visiting one of the girls and her family tomorrow”

“Aha, now I see why your face is bright like a fresh cut brinjal!!”

“Ha ha ha, I laughed… enough? Now listen, Jokes apart, you should accompany me tomorrow as my Maapillai thozhan”…

“Dei, maapillai thozhan is on the wedding day, not tomorrow”

“It’s fine…. You better come…..”.. “And listen, you’ll get some free food - bhajji and sojji, what hurts you?” – he added.

“Your alpa buddhi will not leave you…. Fine, I’ll come”…


The next day, they were in the girl’s home in Adayar. It was not a grand big house but a beautiful home. Well decorated with a couple of coconut trees and a floral garden, complete with a well and a washing stone.

The elders exchanged pleasantries and soon they busied themselves in discussing the horoscopes and how wonderfully they were matched.

The girl was asked to come to the hall. Nandhini, as Malolan learnt her name was, walked in gracefully, modestly but aesthetically decorated. She was a woman of graceful features and finesse. She had luscious jet black hair that extended below her hips in a perfect plait, a dusky complexion like her parents, big eyes and a dignified smile. Dressed in a green silk saree with a gold jarigai, bedecked with a golden mango necklace, golden bangles, udhiyaanam, a shiny tiny nose stud, dangling ear-rings that seemed to whisper in her ear and tinkling silver anklets. Her face, forearms and feet had a tiny ting of turmeric. Malolan, for a split second, remembered Devi Raja Shyaamala.

She performed the usual namaskarams to the elders and she gave coffee to all. It was deliberate that she looked at her toes while she handed the coffee ‘dabara-tumbler’ to Varadhan, whose eyes scanned her head to foot, in those few seconds.

Varadhan’s mother asked if she could sing, and she bashfully agreed. For the next forty minutes, the hall was filled with subtle swaras. She chose Marugelara O Raaghavaa. Experts of the art would have conceded she did extremely well in the niraval and aalaapanas, because she made it clear for even a novice child in Carnatic music that she was singing Jayanthashree and not Hindolam. The languid panache with which she emphasized the vakra-panchamam on the avarohanam was not something for the beginner. At the request of Varadhan’s mother an expert in Carnatic music herself, she sang Thaaye Yasodhaa in Thodi. Both Malolan and Varadhan’s mother were impressed by the way she emphasized the phrase P D N- D P, right at the outset, to bring the raga bhaava and swaroopam in full view, nailing it in the first 10 seconds that she was singing Thodi. Rarely would an un- seasoned singer do that. Gratified,, Varadhan’s mother asked a few questions about Mohanam and Veenaa vaadhini. Undaunted, Nandhini impressed with her subtle nishaadha prayogam to distinguish the two raagas.

Unfortunately, Varadhan was no ardent fan of music. Had it not been for the occasion, Varadhan would have found a way to excuse himself from that place and Malolan on the other hand, would have personally appreciated Nandhini.

The bhajji and sojji came, and after the pleasant meeting the party returned. Malolan’s mother had a few words of kindness and genuine appreciation for the young Nandhini along with a string of jasmine flowers which she personally placed on her plaits. It was agreed that the Varadhan’s family would write to nandhini’s family in a week.


That evening, the friends met in the café.

“So, how was the girl? You liked her?” Malolan asked.

“No.” was the abrupt answer.

Taken aback, “Why so?” asked his companion.

“She is a Karnaatakam… did you see the way she was attired? And she sings Carnatic music….. I hate classical music and all that stuff…. Already my mother’s torture for these 26 years has made me sick of that stuff….  You want me to live with it life long?” – replied Varadhan.

“Come on, any girl would dress up like that for a formal meet up first time. And what makes you averse to her if she knows Carnatic music? I am sure she will not force it down your throat. Let me tell you, the way she handled Mohanam and Veenaavaadhini was simply breathtaking…..”

“Please, please, please, now don’t start your raasika varnanas…. I saw your face when she was singing, and I knew this was coming….. Ah, you and my mother are of the same type”

“I am sure you could talk to her about this. Why don’t you call her office and talk to Nandhini for an hour? You know which school she teaches in, don’t you? If you reject her after all this formalities, how will she feel? Don’t you think it’s cruel on her if you make her wait for a week and write so?”

“This’s not the only reason I don’t want to marry her. My tastes are different. I want to marry a woman of fair complexion. And she is too short for me. I want a modern and beautiful woman I can take with me to my office parties”

Seeing that his mind cannot be changed, and that it was his life, Malolan withdrew – “Ok, it’s your wish. I do not see any reason personally to say no to her, but if you feel this is not the type of girl you would like to spend your life with, you can say so. I just felt bad for the girl”


A couple of weeks rolled by. A polite letter was sent to Nandhini’s parents despite disapproval from Varadhan’s mother. We do not know the contents of the same.

Malolan’s mind was occupied by Nandhini and her wonderful music.

He did not like the way Varadhan rejected Nandhini. If it was her darker complexion that made him averse to her, he did not have to visit her home in the first place. He had seen her photographs earlier. Carnatic music was an added excuse. But there’s no use in talking to a man who values Sareeram over Saareeram. And to be fair, Nandhini was not devoid of Beauty. People versed with Saamudrika Lakshanam would agree that she was a most beautiful lady of Padmini Jaathi, her complexion notwithstanding.

It was during one of those evenings he was thinking in these lines, did he get that idea. But he wanted to ask Varadhan first.


“Ah come on Malola, damn it, why will I mind if you approach Nandhini? Why do you ask me? If you like her, go ahead my friend, you will be a good fit. Both of you are avid lovers of Carnatic music and sudha karnaatakam cases. I wish you the best! I thought of telling you the other day, but did not, as I thought you may not feel good about me telling like that”

Malolan was happy.


It was a Saturday evening, in Parthasaarathy Temple. Malolan was standing near the dwajasthambam. He recognized Nandhini from a distance and went up, to greet her. Like most meetings of its kind heralding a great journey together, it was a shade awkward to begin with.

“Hello, Nandhini, how was your day so far?”

“Hello, Mr. Malolan, it was good so far. Thank you. How was yours?”

“Very good, indeed. Thanks….”

“You said you wanted to talk to me. I was wondering what you may have wanted to talk to me….”

“Your singing was great the other day, Nandhini. The way you sang Thodi was impressive.”

She smiled. “Thanks. I did notice you enjoyed the music, I am happy that you liked it”

“I am a connoisseur of Carnatic music, Nandhini, I learnt from my mother for 16 years….. Your handling of Mohanam and the nishaadhams to jump to veenaa vaadhini was great. So was your Thodi aalapana…… ”

“Wow. That’s great, Malolan… I knew you enjoyed my music, but didn’t know you discern so much! Am pleasantly surprised….. great to meet another person who loves music…..  I learnt for 14 years. My guru is Shri. Aandaal Iyengar”

“Thanks; That’s good”

“Nandhini… Music apart, I am sorry for my friend’s actions….”

“Ah, it’s ok, Malolan. That’s very nice of you, but to me, there was not much wrong in what he did… I may not have been the right type of woman he’d want to spend his life with….. Plus, this is not new to me….. Four people have done the same quoting my complexion as a reason… they have their rights to choose a fair girl, if they want to, don’t they?”

“Hmmm…… But I felt a little bad for his actions…. Didn’t you feel bad, Nandhini?”

“Thanks for your good heart, Malolan. I felt sad the first two times, But by now, I have learnt to accept life as it comes…… I do not feel bad. I have started to vent my love and emotions into my music. I love my Kalyanis and Thodis….. They keep me company…. I am sure there’s a man born for me, and he’d come in my life when he has to. So why worry? But thanks for your concern, Malolan. Even the other day, I knew you would be a nice person, which is why I agreed to meet you here…..”

“I wish you all the best, Nandhini… I pray that you’d soon get a man who loves you and your saareeram, with a sumptuous knowledge of the intricacies of Carnatic music”

“Thank you…… Same from me, Malolan. I wish and pray that you will get a woman who shares your passion for music, and loves you. You deserve a good life…. It’s getting late for me….”

Malolan thought Nandhini blushed a bit as she said that.

“God Bless you Nandhini, and I think we should meet again”

“May blessings be yours too! Yes, if you wish so, we will meet again….. Take care!”

Nandhini walked home……

Malolan walked to his home…… On the way, he stopped at the post office buy an inland cover letter. He had to write to his mother and tell her that he had found his bride.


vishvanaathjee said...


Desi Woman said...

-Nice story. Bajji and sojji made me smile.

bdharmal said...

Thanks :).... Flavour of the 70s......