The Red Diary-Part 2

The lines at the two cash counters were getting longer. Srivalli noticed this from her desk in her room. Sumangala Foods was getting a lot of attention via Instagram and there was a sudden increase in footfalls lately. Geetha and Visalakshi, busy billing at super speed, were really efficient at handling crowds but Srivalli felt she should not keep shoppers waiting. So she went to the third empty counter and booted the computer to start billing.

“Hi Srivalli….Quite a busy day right?” enquired a customer. Srivalli glanced at Shalini, who sported snow white hair but a youthful face with twinkling eyes.

“Hi Shalini…How do you manage to look so bright and fresh even at the end of a long working day?”

“I work with young children, you know?” Shalini remarked. “Perhaps their joyful energy influences me as well.”

Srivalli, while her hands worked on billing the products replied, “We have a fresh stock of the Cranberry Rasam Mix, did you pick it up for your daughter?”

“Nope, this time I’ll give the Karamani Rasam Mix a shot. I believe Athai would adore it. It might evoke some nostalgic memories for her!”

Cooking was a passion for Srivalli and Sumangala Foods was her dream come true. Very soon they would be celebrating their 6th anniversary. Hadn’t been an easy journey. Started during the pre covid days, just when things started to look up, the world shut down due to corona virus. Today, thanks to some targeted marketing and smart pricing of the products and of course the unique, gourmet kitchen products which Sumangala Foods stocks, the business has become highly profitable. Sumangala Foods was featured on the cover of Mangaiyar Thilagam magazine last month.

Srivalli ensured that the shop carried a range of traditional South Indian food items, along with ready mixes, pastes, and powders, as well as contemporary fusion culinary items like Avocado Thuvaiyal and Apricot Vathal. There was a demand for these fusion products among younger customers eager to explore something innovative. The phone rang just as she billed the last customer. It was Kumar.

“Shall I come now to pick you up? Are you done?”

“Yeah…Will be ready in 5 minutes”

“We are going to Sundays for dinner, remember?”

“Yes of course…Already decided what to wear…”

Sundays, a swanky new restaurant was in a quiet residential area in Annanagar, not far from where they lived. As they settled down, Srivalli noticed that the place was almost full, for a weekday. An avid cookery expert herself, she eagerly scrutinized the menu while a friendly waiter approached their table.

Later, while savouring a spoonful of Tiramisu which both of them were sharing (having one full dessert was downright sinful for both of them, both being borderline diabetics) Kumar opened the topic about Mr Maine.

“I happened to read your old diary today…” Kumar began.

“Which one, My School days one? I was looking for it that day!”

“No, 1984. Your college days’ diary”

“Yes. Glorious days. You know what…. we had the semester system without internal assessment and we generally opened our text books only on the eve of the exam. The fun we had….Did I tell you about the time when a few of us escaped from college for a cultural event…?”

Kumar looked at Srivalli’s happy face and asked, “I read just one incident. Very Interesting….Tell me…what happened to  Mr. Maine?”

“Who is that…We did not have any lecturer in that name..”

“No…not a lecturer…”

“Oho…You mean that fateful day when I was called to the Princi’s office? It was the eighties and that was the norm those days to check out prospective grooms and brides. Phew, I was the talk of the college for days! Was teased mercilessly by my friends.”


“And what…My pic went to that boy and I got to see his picture. But he, I think his name was Gopal…he wanted to decide only after seeing me in person. He had left India only recently, and he had said he could take leave only after 6 months. Amma replied back to them saying that she will not wait for one prospective groom. And If any other suitor comes asking, she will just go ahead..”

“And luckily I came along meanwhile…”

“Yes! Seems so long ago, but Amma used to tell me about every marriage proposal which came along. Crazy days. Some days, people used to pop in at odd hours and amma would shoo me upstairs..”

They walked back to the car. It was almost midnight and the city was quiet.

Kumar’s phone buzzed.

Arvind their 29 year old son came on a video call.

“Hi appa  and amma. Happy Anniversary! Guess who I have with me..”

“Hi Arvind…Was just expecting you to call. We are just coming home after having a great dinner. Tell me who is there with you..”

“Meet Chaya. I have spoken about her many times and now you get to see her.”

Chaya, a pretty girl with short, curly hair, bright eyes and wearing a white dress came into the call.

“Hi Aunty and Uncle… Nice to meet you..”

While they drove back home, they happily chatted away about each others’ lives. Chaya seemed quite talkative and an extrovert. She was working in Arvind’s office. She was born in the USA and her parents immigrated there in the early eighties.

Srivalli hoped that this new friendship would lead to marriage. She didn’t want to ask any questions, but could make out that Arvind really liked this Chaya by the way he looked at her.

How things have changed…Typical arranged marriages with formal girl seeing functions have all become passé! Srivalli’s thoughts went to the day when Kumar formally came with his parents, Uncle and Aunt to see her. They did not speak a single word. Just had a glance at each other. That’s it! They had to decide. Whether it was Yes or No!

Kumar was asking Chaya about her parents. Srivalli became attentive.

“Uncle, my parents live in Maine. My father is Gopal Vasudevan and my mother is Kaveri. My dad is a tamilian and my mom is from Coorg.”

“What’s your Dad’s name…again?” asked Srivalli

“Gopal Vasudevan Aunty.”

Srivalli and Kumar looked at each other and smiled.

In their minds they were thinking…”Mr Maine?”

Srivalli remarked to Kumar while they were walking towards the elevator to go to their 18th floor apartment.

“Some people come into our lives for a reason. Some people come, go away and come back but for a totally different reason”

“Yes, I get you. Chaya has sent me Gopal’s number. I think she is serious about Arvind. Let me call him right away…He might be at work now”

“Let me text amma and see whether she is awake”…thought Srivalli.

“Amma..are you awake..? “

Her mother is a night owl!

“Yes…are you back?”

“Yes ma…Tell me…One quick question…Remember that wedding proposal when I was in college…a Boy from Maine, USA…what was the boy’s dad’s name…?”

“Ippo edhukku dee pazhaiya kadhai ellaaam…” Why do you want to talk about old stories now?

“Illa ma…its going to be a Pudhu Kadhai (new story) now”

“Gopal’s father’s name was Vasudevan. You know he is related to your chithi’s anni. That anni lived in Tirunelveli…and her father was the one….”

“Ok OK ma…Will tell you why I asked tomorrow morning. It’s late…you sleep.”

“You woke me up and now you say…sleep. Ok Good night. Send your anniversary pictures”

“Sure ma. Will do. Good night”

Kumar was already on the phone with Gopal. He was laughing at some joke, seemed comfortable as though he knew him for years.




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