My friend, Ram is an ardent fan of Jaya Madhavan, a columnist in a leading newspaper. One day he came and told me,”You and Jaya Madhavan have a lot in common. Both of you write a lot about piss and shit”. That doesn’t mean that I’m columnist. I’ve made few amateur attempts in writing and my poor writing standard is one among the list of remaining few uncommon things between me and Jaya, which Ram had decided not to mention.
Since then, I’ve read several of Jaya’s columns, mostly through Ram and I fell in love with her writing (believe me, definitely not for Ram’s reasons). Since we were subscribing “The Hindu”, a proud symbol of educated tamil Brahmin family, I never had the pleasure of reading Jaya fresh on paper. Usually, Monday morning breakfast conversations would be dominated by Jaya and Ram. Ram used to send the link of her column even before reading his office email. Every Monday, I decide to buy her daily next Sunday so that I need not be dumb, stuffing tasteless office idlis when Ram discuses in detail about her article. Whether you like an article or not, when someone else, that too who irritates you by his presence six days a week asks, “oh, you haven’t read that?”, you automatically loses the power of your presence and I hate that.
Recently I got an opportunity to win over Ram. It was an early Sunday morning and I was waiting in the bus stop for my friends with whom I had planned to attend our mutual friend’s marriage. The sky was still dark with patches of orange flashes struggling to break their cocoon clouds. A small shop opposite to the bus stop was busy with people sorting the dailies. Sundays are painful for them as most of the dailies have lots of magazines and they have to be carefully inserted. Sundays are also blissful for them as many stingy young men who generally on other days depend on office subscribed newspapers to update their poor general knowledge buy newspapers.
The first thing that flashed in my mind was that I’m going to read Jaya’s columns fresh and the immediate second thing that occurred was that I can confidently talk about it next day. I crossed the road swiftly and paused in front of the shop. The lady, busy in sorting magazines looked at me. I asked, “India today please”. She turned around and gave me a magazine. I was waiting for a daily and shocked to receive a magazine. I said, “Not this, India today news paper”. She looked at me differently, yes differently. Ptchth ‘India today’ is a weekly magazine, not a daily. Clad in decent formals, I looked like a joker to her as I, though appears to be educated, didn’t even met the basic expectation of knowledge in newspapers. I have already made the damage. Now I have two options (1) to pretend that I had actually intended the magazine only and buy it from her (2) think for a while to identify the correct daily. Both the options were not going to repair my lost image to the shop keeper. The former one would cost me a magazine and I would still be devoid of Jaya’s column. So I attempted the 2nd option; brooded for a while trying to remember all the newspapers I knew. Only name that repeatedly circled my mind was “The Hindu”. Damn this tamil brahmin pride of Hindu paper and filter coffee. I haven’t seen anything other than that throughout my life. I wanted to ask her “please gimme the newspaper with jaya’s column”, but ended up asking, “there’s some other news paper with India..”. She looked at me as if she had stamped over roadside dog shit (now, I was actually not keen for the metaphor of dog shit, but wrote it out of my respect for Ram). She didn’t expect a well educated man coming an asking a shop keeper for an English news paper without even knowing what he is asking for. My total confidence reached its avalanche limit and my inner heart felt loose like phlegm. I just wanted to get rid of the place as soon as possible. The lady took ‘Times of India’ and handed over it to me. I shared a thanking smile, hurriedly paid her and walked back to the bus stop without a second look. I’m sure she might have had a topic for her dinner “These days young IT guys… I donno what they are.. they are just a useless junk…and ….”.. (Sorry my dear unknown friends of IT; public attribute any stupid attitude of this generation to IT professionals and unknowingly I was one of the recent damaging elements).
After reaching bus stop, I thought of diverting myself with Jaya. Shit… She had not written anything on that Sunday. My entire image staked for an unwritten article. How will I cross the road everyday? Won’t the lady laugh at me every time I cross the shop? Won’t she share the joke among her fellow friends and won’t it spread to the neighborhood. I suddenly started imagining myself in the centre of the busstop and whole velachery crowded around me laughing at my lack of knowledge of newspapers.
I couldn’t stand there anymore. My friends called me every ten minutes to tell that they were on their way and would reach in five minutes. I stood there rigid for more than 40 minutes and left the place in the first bus with my friends. And for forty minutes during my stay, I hadn’t turned towards the shop.
I came home tired in the afternoon and briefed my anguish to my younger sister, when she asked “Are you referring to Jaya madhavan of Indian expre