Read Act-I here.
Act-II: A Revelation.
Ramaiah slowly sipped the extra sweet tea at the local tea kadai, seated across Bangarappa and Mayandi. Try as he might, he couldn’t get the girl out of his mind. “Macha, ava yaaru, endha ooru, yethuvume teriyadhu, enga poi thedarathu?”, Bangarappa reasoned, taking a long drag on his bidi before offering it to Ramaiah. (“We don’t know who she is, where she lives... how do we search for her?”). Ramaiah sighed wistfully, realizing that in a village where people hid their daughters in their homes till they got them married off, chances of sighting the girl of his dreams again were pretty slim. For in spite of the villagers’ best efforts, he and his gang knew the names, ages, and approximate vital stats of most of the local girls, and he was sure she wasn’t from his community. Every local girl her age would visit the local Vinayagar kovil, and there wasn’t a girl in the village whose thanni kodam hadn’t been toppled over by the gang before the elephant idol got any abhishekam. There had to be a way. Somehow. Anyhow.
There are certain inexplicable instances when Life seems to hand you a little gift out of nowhere. Some call it divine intervention, some, little coincidences. Nobody knows for sure. As Ramaiah polished off the last molaga bhajji on the table and was about to crumple the paper, something caught his eye. “You are born a sinner. Let Jesus lead you to salvation”, it proclaimed, beneath the photo of the local preacher who everybody knew only as Father. But what had held his attention was not the headline or the Father’s mug, but a picture captioned “Join our choir group.” Or rather, a particularly cheerful face leading that choir. A face that he had fallen in love with in a single glance. A face that had haunted his dreams and rendered him sleepless for the past week.
“Enna maapi, Shakila padama?”, Bangarappa asked, seeing his friend gazing intently at the piece of paper. (“What bro, photo of Shakila?”). Ramaiah didn’t respond. His usually sharp mind had gone a bit numb, reconciling to the fact that the object of his affection was, gasp, a Christian! Maybe, he can talk to his father and convince him. It would be difficult, extremely so, but then, wasn’t he his father’s favourite son?
Mayandi snatched the paper from him, glanced at it, and at once, his hands started shaking as he screamed, “Dei, venaam da. Idhu yaaru theriyuma?” (“Hey, forget it. Do you know who she is?”).
“Julie Thomas Arputharaj”
Silence. Stunned silence. Ramaiah’s world had turned dark. Very dark.
All thoughts of convincing his father evaporated in a flash. No, he would be thrown out of the house, cut up in two pieces. Madasamy Mudaliar valued his family honour too much to allow such a blasphemy. His head reeled.
“It... It can’t be...”
“It is. I know her brother, Jacob. Semma rowdy. He knocked out two of my teeth just for looking at her in the street once.”
“Oh, but you told me you fell down a ditch and broke it?”
“What else could I have done? As it is, your families are at loggerheads. If I had told the truth, there would have been another round of unnecessary fighting. I’ll have my revenge when my time comes, I don’t want families to go to war for me.”
“I’ll tell you what, all these Christian girls look alike. Let’s go check out whether she is the same girl”, Bangarappa broke in at last. He hated to see his friends so downcast.
“What do you mean, go check out? Are you out of your mind? If they come to know who we are, they’ll bury us in the cemetery next to the church!” Mayandi spoke in a strange voice, mixed with fear and excitement.
“I’ll go. You two stay here. I don’t want you guys to be in any danger because of me” offered Ramaiah.
“Twenty years of friendship and you think we’d let you go alone?”
And the three friends hopped on to their motorcycles and sped towards the church.
(to be continued)