Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Kotreshi Calling.....

Kotreshi Calling.....

He was popularly called Kotreshi, ever since a Kannada movie of  the same name had been released.
His original name Krishnamoorthy never left that stack of hay he used to rest on when he was a boy.
Even the police constable who came to verify the address as a part of his passport process had been very skeptical when the name read Krishnamoorthy, instead of the popular Kotreshi. Kotreshi's father was the village headman and his joy knew no bounds on the day the flight ticket for his son's journey to the US arrived by courier. Infact, he had almost sent the postman back-saying there was only Kotreshi and no Krishnamoorthy.

Soon, Kotreshi left for the US.He was an ambitious young lad,whose vision thankfully stretched beyond the realms of his village.He had studied hard,topped the Taluk, had gone on to study that coveted BE (though his father never wanted him to eclipse his record of passing second PU.He was very proud now-a different issue altogether).Now Kotreshi was doing what none from his village even dreamt of dreaming-set foot on foreign soil!

He settled down and after a few days of correspondence through phone,he wanted to video chat with his kin.He missed his family,his house and his to be wife-his aunt's daughter,Saavitri.He instructed his brother-a reasonably tech-savvy Vishnu who was not as talented but intelligent all the same-to set up a video call on such and such day at such and such time.He gave out a veiled instruction too "Ask everyone to be present..I mean everyone" He hoped Vishnu got the gist of it.

The day arrived.Vishnu had executed the instruction to the dot(the way he thought his brother had meant). The entire village was present to watch this technological marvel- a video call. Those who'd passed 10th recently knew a little about it. Vishnu had practised it 23 times with a friend living in Bangalore so that he was not embarrassed in front of the villagers.He prayed to God and set the call up upon receiving a missed call on his phone from Kotreshi.

The next moment,the whole village-crammed into the headman's home-let out a cheer.There he was,Kotreshi,their favorite son, live from America! He looked as though he had had a huge makeover. Gone  was the sacred ash from his forehead.He sported an empty forehead. His hair was no longer cropped and he was no longer clean-shaven.

The villagers were slowly noticing this and whispers broke out. The headman noticed this and even before greeting his son,started off "Kotreshi,where's your sacred ash..and what is this stubble you have now?And your hair looks like it's been bitten off by rats at night time..what's this son? Where's our culture? The whole village is watching you!"

Kotreshi was aghast.The whole village watching him??!! Then slowly realisation dawned and he understood how Vishnu would have interpreted his instruction. He couldn't ask that the villagers gathered be evacuated so he could talk privately to his family. He tried to be diplomatic "Appaji..there're not many temples here.The sacred ash you sent got over. Hair cut is very costly. I do it to my room-mate and he does it to me-so it's a little bad.And I haven't had the time to shave this week.Studies."

At this point a babble broke out again. "So our headman's son has gone from here to America to learn to be a barber. Our kids are better.They atleast become something better than barbers." said an old man.
"You speak as though being a barber is a bad profession.Imagine how bad you'd look without my father's saloon here.Look at what Kotreshi has become without my father tending to his hair"argued Ramu,the barber's son.The headman cleared his throat loudly and the babble died down.
"Leave it at that. Kotreshi, next time I want to see you like what you were here.I don't want people commenting unnecessarily."

Kotreshi's mother intervened. "Leave that kid alone. Kotreshi how's everything? How's food? Have you been using the lime-pickle I sent you? You've become thin..your face is no longer round.You're missing my food and father's've become a little black too. Why?"she blurted in a single breath,wiping a small tear from the corner of her eyes.Most women in the crowd were moved at this motherly outburst.
"Food is ok Amma. I miss your Raagi mudde.The lime pickle got spoilt.Sorry. I have to prepare my own food. Too much of work.So I've lost a bit of weight.

"Preparing Raagi mudde is easy Kotreshi.Take some ground Raagi and mix it with salt....."his mother began,trying to give out the recipe for the dish but was intervened by the arrack shop owner. "Kotreshi,have some beer.You'll put on weight.I've heard American beer is cheap and tasty.I heard you won't even it true?"Kotreshi might've volunteered some opinion.However,the headman shouted
"Kotreshi..if I get to know that you've touched a drop of beer,I'll commit suicide here." 

Kotreshi then called out to his brother Vishnu  "Vishnu,I asked you to call everybody. Where's everybody?" he asked. Vishnu didn't get it. 
He merely said "Everybody is here.Only the corner house people and the temple priest's family are not there."
Kotreshi then asked in a different tone-a little more desperate "That's ok. But where is everybody?" He particularly stressed that last word. Vishnu was clueless. 
Kotreshi knew the time had come to be more direct. "Where is your aunt?" he asked and then everybody knew who "everybody" was. The villagers unabashedly waited for the online romance,as though they were watching a movie at the local tent. Even the older men exchanged toothy smiles and winks,while the teens squealed silently,anticipating the next moment in curious anxiety.

Saavitri knew the call was for her.She walked to the system,with her head bent-as though it was the first time she was seeing Kotreshi. She had styled herself for 2 hours for this moment.She had put on a salwar suit for the first time-trying to please Kotreshi,the American now.As hundreds of eyes followed her,she stood in front of the web-cam.

"Saavi is that you?" asked Kotreshi in surprise.
She simply nodded.
 "You look very nice in this dress.Wish I was there.I would have...."Kotreshi checked himself just in time. But the message had reached the crowd.
"Your new hairstyle is nice"said Saavitri,not once looking at Kotreshi.
"'d you haven't even looked at me. My eyes are starved without looking at your face" This was a little too much for the crowd.Some of the women walked out embarrassed at this sweet-talk.
"Look at what I've got for you." Kotreshi now said,showing a beaded neck chain."I worked hard to earn the money for this. Do you like it?"
"Anything you buy for me is a gift Kotreshi..." Saavitri said,still looking at her toes.

"What did you buy for me?" his mother butted in. 
"Amma I shall buy you a better one soon..."Kotreshi was looking to cover up now.
"So this girl means a lot more to you now. No wonder you've become thin.You must be slogging day and night to get this girl that chain. I don't know how well she'd take care of you tomorrow! " She made sure the sarcasm was absolute in the last sentence.

Saavitri burst into tears. She ran outside the house even as Kotreshi shouted her name,asking her to come back. The crowd was thrilled at this climax. The speculation about what would happen next would be the talking point for atleast an other fortnight. The gossip was offered to them on a platter and they accepted it gleefully.

But the drama wasn't over.Even as the crowd looked on,the headman asked his wife and his sister to perform an Aarathi to his son. Kotreshi protested but was left with no choice. The two women performed the Aarathi as some women in the crowd sang. In the end, the women even applied vermilion to Kotreshi's forehead visible on the monitor.At this point Vishnu wanted to protest..but could not obviously.
This was followed by each of the villagers walking upto the monitor to say hello to Kotreshi.

Kotreshi waited till the last villager said hello to him,hoping that someone would come back. He soon realised his wait would be futile,cut the call hoping his next video call would be a lot more memorable.
                                                                                       - 6th June,2012.


  1. This was a really cute one Alok :D
    I was smiling all through the passage.
    Poor Saavi :D
    Keep it up :)