His fingers started tapping the floor, the rhythm measured and regular. He didn't need to look at the clock to see that his wife was 2 minutes late in bringing him his breakfast. For Kalpathy Venkatasubramaniam Krishnaswamy Iyer (KV Krishna Iyer) was, if anything, a man of routine. And he sat erect, with legs crossed, in padmasana pose, the rhythm of his fingers slowly picked up speed. He didn't like to be late. He hated it more if other people made him late. Especially, if it was his wife of 28 years, Lakshmi Ammal.
KV Krishna Iyer had followed the same routine for the past 25 years. Wake up at 5 am sharp, brush, have water stored overnight in copper sombu, a bathroom routine of 'morning work', shave and bath that lasted precisely 45 minutes, sandhyvandhanam at 6, followed by suryanamaskaram, morning poojai that involved individually removing the dried flower from each of the 24 divine photos kept in the poojai-arai and replacing them with fresh flowers which the flower guy would have delivered in the morning, reading the Hindu (first page, editorial, obituaries, sports page, strictly in that order) while sipping coffee from 7 to 8 am, breakfast at 8 am, leave for work at 8.30.
The plate of steaming idlis arrived. Finally. As Lakshmi Ammal bent to serve him chutney, she winced. The years had not been kind to her back. But she knew, even before she began her well-rehearsed plea, that her loving husband would sooner let her collapse on the floor than agree to sit on the dining table for his meals. He viewed these 'modern fancies' with an emotion that bordered between callous indifference on the rare good days and vicious lecture-spewing hate on most others.
It was the same hate of modern fancies that led him to cycle his way to work, steadfastly refuse his son's offer to buy him a car. 'Work' was a day filled with journals, ledgers, petty cash balances and bank reconciliations. Or at least supposed to be. In truth, it was a day filled with two really pitiful juniors listening to the famed orator KV Krishna Iyer holding forth on one of his many pet topics - society (the glory of the caste system, the wistful reminiscence of the British Raj era, the intellectually bankrupt western influence, the evils of tobacco and alcohol), governance (the blase corruption in Indian bureaucracy), international politics (Pakistan - a nation of crooks!), economics (the US dollar is a worthless piece of paper, made valuable by the stupid Chinese...), local politics (the DMK is nothing but a bunch of godless thugs who want to finish off all Brahmins), diet (vegetarian food is the healthiest! no question about it!), films (Rajinikanth? bah, a non-actor made famous by the deranged fans! Sivaji Ganesan was the only one qualified to be an actor), sports (that Sachin Tendulkar seems to be a good chap, but Rahul Dravid is the best)...
Let it not be assumed that KV Krishna Iyer was a man who whiled away his time in office shirking work and doing chit-chat. In truth, he was too talented to be kept occupied for more than 2 hours a day by the accounting work for Rajalakshmi Industries International, which truly was involved in a global business. Of importing palm oil from Malaysia.
And his routine in office was also a set one, unchanged in the past 25 years. Coffee at 11 am, which he would drink by pouring exactly one-third of it into the second glass, twirl it thrice, sip, twirl, sip, pour, twirl, sip.
Lunch would be from the dabba with piping hot food brought by the servant precisely at 1.00, which will always have 4 containers, one sambhar rice, one rasam rice, one curd rice and one vegetable dish. The combination of vegetables in the sambhar and for the side dish for each day of the week had been drilled into his wife over the years, and he would know before opening his tiffin that the meal for the day would be vendakai sambhar and beans kari. He had a coffee again at 4, this time with 2 Marie biscuits. At 5.30, he would pack up and leave.
Just outside his office, he would stop to buy salted kadalai (groundnuts). "Innum rendu podu... enga kaalathla ettu anna ku evalo periya potalam varum!" (Put two more... In our days, we used to get this big a packet!). The vendor knew this dialogue by heart, having heard the same line for the past 3 years when inflation forced him to use a smaller magazine's paper for wrapping the kadalai.
The evening routine consisted of a quick pradakshinam of the temple on the way back, evening sandhya, dinner at 8 while pretending to listen to his wife narrate neighbourly gossip, a leisurely walk (stroll, actually) for half an hour, and he was off to bed by 9.00.
KV Krishna Iyer found great comfort in his routine. It kept his mind off the fact that his son had not visited them for 3 years now, citing leave problems and some US visa issues. Or that his daughter has not spoken to him ever since he refused her permission to marry her college crush, and she chose to walk out. Little did he know that his routine was about to be given a jolt...
PS: Yes, in spite of the Ramaiah and Julie.T fiasco, I refuse to learn my lesson and again start a story, with only a vague plot line in my mind of how to take it forward. This one will also be in episodes, but hopefully will not drag on forever.
PS1: Yes, all characters are fictional, so if some Kalpathy Venkatasubramaniam Krishnaswamy Iyer actually exists, or if any of you see yourself reflected in him, no sir, I am not talking about you. Or you. Or you, for that matter.