I have never worked more than 4 hours a day for the last 10 years. There I have said it. Is there a greater sin than this in workaholic India Inc. where employees are afraid to take even their due leaves? A much greater transgression than that is the fact that I have been in full time unemployment for half the time during the past decade. Yes, unemployed and making the most of it to further my vagabond plans! There’s nothing more repulsive to a man to see a fellow being unemployed and enjoying it! Seriously, there is no redemption for me in this sacred land!
Of course being the irresponsible bastard that I am, I hardly give these issues a thought unless and until I’m back in ‘civilized’ society. It doesn’t get more civilized than in Kerala, God’s own country, populated by the Devil’s own people. Less than a week into my stay here I’ve been ripped apart wherever I go. And go I must! The younger sibling’s getting hitched and I have to tag along with the parents for the dreaded ‘invitation ‘ rounds, where close relatives and so called friends of the family are formally invited to the wedding, which often involves meeting people I have not set eyes in a million years ! A typical encounter unfolds thus:
(All conversations translated from malalyalam so loses a considerable amount of punch and meanness!)
Host uncle/aunty: Hey I haven’t seen you in years. Mone, (son) what are you doing these days?
Pan (with a touch of pride and arrogance): I’m in the Himalayas…
H (a bit bewildered but makes a smart comeback):Oh, kollam,(good! Good!) How wonderful! What WORK do you do there?
Pan(intuitively sensing danger): Err, I just chill around, a bit of social service, helping…
H: That’s marvelous, but what WORK do you do there ?
The father now steps in…
Father: Actually he’s a bit into meditation and all that kind of stuff.
Pan doesn’t fail to notice that Father cringes a bit while giving explanation, almost as if his son is involved in the gigolo profession.
H: (with narrowed eyes sizing up Pan): What kind of stuff are we talking about?
P: He He (artificial hollow laugh trying to lighten up the mood) you know Yoga, Pranayama, and…
H: But what about your career, your savings? Is this the way responsible people live?
P squirms uncomfortably in seat yet tries to look at H with compassion as befitting a wannabe Yogi from the Himalayas !
P: See Sir, the thing there’s something in life apart from money coz you see…
H: But mone, you’re ruining your life. You know my son Thankappan, who was in the same class as you is now a radiologist in Canada. He’s happily married and VERY well settled too.
Pan thinks fondly about his dear friend Thankappan and even more fondly about his gorgeous wife.
P: Uncle, I understand. The thing is…
H: And for God’s sake you are not even married. You look so thin. How can you be otherwise when you have none to cook for you?
H now gets real excited and turns the guns on the Father, who was carefully studying a stain on the floor throughout the conversation, as if it was the subject of his Phd thesis. H really goes after him for not reigning Pan in, and for letting Pan do what he likes. You would have thought that Pan was still in his teens.
Finally the massacre is over and Pan and Father troop out of the room with hung heads with absolutely no scope for redemption in this life atleast ! Host uncle has a smug look on his face which proclaims that he’s done his social dharma.