I skipped reading the main page of the newspaper. Since Mangalyan’s success two days back, the only news the newspaper carried was about it and I was seriously fed up. As I turned the page a picture caught my eye and I turned it back again.
The picture was of the female scientists involved in the Mars mission. And one lady looked very familiar. I peered more closely. Yes it looked like Kamakshi’s mother. But then Kamakshi’s mother looked like that some twenty years back. And what was she doing in this Mars mission? And also she was a housewife, when did she become a scientist?
And then it stuck me. This must be Kamakshi herself!!
I was having a grand time in Mysore. It was the first time I was living away from my family and I was having a grand time. Yes, I did miss my mothers cooking and my fathers pampering but I was happy that I was far away from the iron discipline of my granny.
And my classmates were kind too. Most of them were day scholars. While one brought some books to read, another brought me home food and so on. While we were busy having a good time, there was Kamakshi. It was obvious that she came from a lower middle class family as she had just two sets of clothes which she wore alternatively. Her hair used to be oiled every day and plaited very neatly into two. She always brought her tiffin and whats more always got something for me because I didn’t get to eat home food. The food was a simple citranna(lemon rice) or uppit(upma) but always very delicious.
And while we would scamper away to have a churmuri(bhelpuri), she rarely did. Obviously the seven rupees a plate was expensive for her. It seemed her father who was a clerk in one of the offices was the sole breadwinner for a family of ten. So it was but natural that the seven odd rupees were a princely sum to her. Sometimes I would force her to come and have some churmuri with us. At that time she would just have soutekayi churmuri which was about five rupees. I suppose it was a bit easy for her to swallow her pride for five rupees than the normal seven rupees churmuri.
I had been to her place a couple of times. Once was during navratri and another just like that. They treated me with so much love that it brought tears to my eyes and reminded me of home.
But after that Kamakshi became distant. Reason being that she started giving tuitions. Her younger brother was a slow learner and needed some extra coaching and it was either his education or hers which could be financed by her father. Kamakshi decided to finance her own education.
One day when she was looking very weak and it seemed she would just fall, I forced her to have some churmuri with me.
‘Hey Kami’, Meena said, ‘When will you treat us, it is always us who treat you’. Meena was the one who always came second while Kamakshi was always first. Meena was obviously hurting at the fact that in the recent test, again it was Kamakshi who had come first.
Kamaskshi’s pride was hurt. While the tears hurt her, she quietly ate the soutekayi churmuri pushing it down with large gulps of water. I pounced on Meena as soon as Kamaskshi left. ‘Didn’t I say the truth, she is a free loader, isn’t she?’, said Meena
After that she became more distant. I would see her walking to college and back. Why she didn’t come by bus, I could very well understand. Maybe she had lost some of her tuitions and so was walking to and fro to save money.
After about three months she stayed back after college, came towards us and said shyly, ‘today is my birthday’
As we gathered to sing and embrace her, she announced, I want to treat you today with some churmuri, And while we protested, she took the ten of us to have some.
That day the shurmuri was extra special for it had the taste of her sacrifice.
I picked up the phone and called Datta Uncle. Datta Uncle had been my father’s PA and now was my PA too. ‘Uncle just find out from the picture in the front page of today’s newspaper, if the lady in pink saree is Kamakshi. If yes, find out her phone number and address’.
I got the reply in the affirmative some two hours later.
I picked up my mobile and dialled her number. ‘Care for some churmuri’, I asked.